Photo Credit: Owen Duncan
We played in puddles with our dog today; five of us, ages seven to...much older, and the dog was the star of the show. Our dog LOVES puddles. Today was one of those sticky, humid, warm days with even warmer rain, and not a bit of thunder or lightening. It was delightful. Gus, our dog, pounced around, running in and out of puddles in a circuit, trying, to nip at the huge rain drops in between splashing. My son took pictures, my youngest daughter danced and laughed, and my youngest teenage son ran around with a trash can lid over his head since we seem to be short on umbrellas around here. Our house eats umbrellas, so you know to never bring your very best umbrella when you visit. The dog was soaked...drenched. We toweled him off twice, but it was not enough, and he shook the rain all over the kitchen, several times. No one cared the least bit, although startled cries always go out when you are in the shake zone and getting sprayed indoors. Warm, rainy summer days are one of my all time favorites, and when they arrive on a quiet Sunday afternoon? Well, that is all the better...How did we all end up splashing in puddles? You see, we were on our way home from the food store when it started to rain, good and hard. "Gus would love these puddles", I said to the kids. Immediately they begged to take him on what we call a puddle ride -- a coveted summer car ride splashing through puddles in the streets. He is truly adorable with his love for puddles, so much so, that he cried when we got home again. That's when we decided to let him out to run and play in the heavy rain. He was having so much fun we couldn't resist but to join in. Simple joys-- they are truly the best and most memorable. Finding delight in a warm, summer rain and making a family memory together...all part of balancing simplicity. I hope you can find joy this week in something simple. True delight in warm sunshine on your face or a cool breeze through a window. Each morning when I take Gus outside, I purpose to notice something beautiful and smile about it. Discover some simple joy, and maybe even bring your dog along for the fun...
Photo Credit: Evan Duncan
Our family's nutrition could be best described as: slow moving, forward progress, with an 80/20 mindset. We eat our best about 80% of the time, and don't sweat it the other 20%. We all prefer to eat a healthy, balanced diet with low sugar, no antibiotics, and organic whenever possible, but there is a kicker: four of us are lactose intolerant, two of us have Celiac Disease, and one has Crohns disease. Therefore, there are times I need to have a gluten free, dairy free, nut, corn and seed free, low fiber meal. Yeah. It's crazy. Due to the restrictions, I need to plan ahead. I also prefer to keep it simple. Though I love to cook, and consider it one of my most enjoyable hobbies, I only find it enjoyable when done at a leisured pace, and preferably when I'm not constricted to a kid's palette. So, generally 30 minutes or less is an ideal amount of cooking time. Before I can start a simple and balanced meal, I need to know what I am making AND have the ingredients in the house. This is what works for me with some examples of our favorite meals included.
First I try to do the following:
1. Have a stocked pantry with different pastas, broths, rice, granola, oats, etc.
2. Find frozen options that work, and keep them in the freezer (e.g., organic chicken, wild fish, fruit for smoothies and veggies).
3. Use good spices to change it up and add flavor.
4. Create a meal plan each week/month (see below for examples).
5. Grocery shop once a week for everything. Put your list on your phone so it is always with you!
For meal planning I follow the same general ideas each week
1. Pasta night
(Spaghetti and meatballs, Chicken parmesan, Ravioli, Baked Ziti, Baked Macaroni and Cheese)
(Tacos, Enchiladas, Burritos, Ultimate Nachos, Fajitias)
(Grilled chicken or fish with pita, feta, cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes in any form or fashion)
4. Salad night
(Ceasar Salad, Cobb Salad, Taco Salad, Quinoa Salad, Wedge Salad)
5. Panini night
(Bread, rolls or wraps filled with leftovers, lunch meat, cheese and veggies. Get creative!)
6. Pizza night (my favorite night)
7. Leftovers night
(Side note: I desperately want to learn how to cook Indian food. We all love it so much, but I only know how to make one dish!)
We probably eat the same 25 meals over and over...life with kids. At least I could cook these recipes in my sleep! I also made a list of 7 general breakfast choices to keep in the house, as well as 5 school lunch choices so that I don't forget to keep those items stocked week to week. Here are my family's favorites on that front.
Egg Bagel sandwich
Waffles with Fruit
Pancakes and bacon
Granola and yogurt/almond milk
Muffins and smoothies
Scrambled eggs with toast
Oatmeal with fruit and nuts
Turkey and cheddar sandwich
Roast beef and Swiss sandwich
Chicken ceaser wrap
The basic general gist is "don't try to reinvent the wheel" every week. Switch it up with more generalities and have fun in a thematic sort of way. A stocked pantry, menu planning and a food list on your phone will help tremendously. Happy eating!
Photo Credit: Owen Duncan
I used to live my life where at a certain point in each given day, I was done, simply done. Whatever was left unfinished was left until the next day, and I HAD to stop and rest. This usually happened after dinner with dishes, toys, and undone tasks scattered everywhere. All day, I never stopped, never took breaks, and was in a constant state of "Much to do! Much to do!"
I do still tend to get every minute out of every day; not necessarily with tasks, but with whatever I deem most important in each given moment. Sometimes that is sitting on the kitchen counter chatting with kids, and other times it's checking things off the mile long mom list I have yet to ever finish (although, my general rule of thumb is that people come first whenever possible). However, I have come to learn that resting is so important. Pressing the pause button, vegging-out, putting your feet up, porch sitting. Pausing is a priority in my day. Everyday. Where I used to go non-stop all day until I collapsed at the day's end, I have learned there is a better way to push the pause button. Taking break-intervals actually helps me to accomplish more! I realized that I was so overwhelmed by my own to do list that I was afraid to stop and recharge. By allowing my fear of something being undone or my list getting out of control, I ran my batteries down till they were empty. I also found that if I ever did stop that I had a lot of trouble restarting, or even moving for that matter. Realizing when you need to pull back and stop DOING will actually enable you to DO more! So, I am making some new areas of my life priorities and also using them as break intervals from constant work. Quiet meditation in the morning, exercise before work, green tea in the mid afternoon and extending our dinner time together to sit for a minute and share our days are a few break intervals I am currently enjoying. The first few days and weeks I actually had to schedule these new habits into my day. I was used to just rushing from thing to thing. Learning to pause throughout my day is helping me lower my stress, and believe it or not, I am getting SO much more done. Try out some other kinds of relaxing breaks for yourself! Massage, hobbies, or doing something that you love are a few, and the list is endless. Be purposeful to spend some extra time on the weekends to recharge. I am learning to reward myself every day with something refreshing so that I can not only be recharged to complete my work, but I am happier, less stressed and making my values my priorities. On the weekends we are carving out longer periods of time for rest and fun instead of using our days off only to pack out even more to do. So, make time for rest. Pause your day so that you don't miss what is most important in life. Take time to get balanced.
Photo Credit: Owen Duncan
"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
― L.M. Montgomery
I repeat this phrase to myself almost everyday. However, this particular morning I awoke to a sink and counter filled with dishes, a mountain of laundry still to fold, and more toys OUT than IN their nice neat hiding places. I knew I had a workday filled to the max and about 10 free minutes before I needed to walk out the door. I felt frustrated as I realized that lately this had become my "normal" morning. I remembered a trick I learned that said to spend 10 minutes tidying up as fast as you can. I had A LOT more than 10 minutes of chores and little motivation, but I figured I'd go for it. Believe it or not, that 10 minutes got me cleared-off counters, an empty sink, and a tidied-up family room. I was surprised to see how much I could actually get done in so little time, and it felt great leaving the house in a mild state of sanity. I felt a small bit of wind catching up into my sail. I would have to remember that trick in the future. Then I started to wonder if I could get the younger kids to do the same "race the clock" style straightening. I mean, we DID still have all that laundry to put away! That night after dinner I told them they needed to fold and put away their clothes before any screen time and added that I would be up in 10 minutes to inspect. I shooed them all upstairs, and I got busy with the dinner dishes so as not to wake up to all the chaos again in the morning. It probably took more like 15-20 minutes, but it all got done. Finding something to motivate you and get that wind in your sails when you have chores to do -- and little time to do them -- can mean a great start to the day for everyone. I mean, there is something to be said for having a clean coffee cup and a pair of socks that you can actually find in the morning, am I right? By "racing the clock" that morning I had found the motivation to get SOMETHING done, and in fact, I was surprised by how much got cleaned up. By asking for help from the kids that night and motivating them with "no screen time until it's done and inspected," I had the wind I needed to fill my sail to do another sink filled with dinner dishes and finish the day out well, AND my coffee cup and socks were waiting for me in proper spots the next morning.
Photo Credit: Owen Duncan
Have you made the awesome decision to declutter your living space? If yes, then recognize that decluttering involves 3 actions.
Re-homing or putting away things that you use frequently, that you find useful, or that bring you joy.
Giving away or discarding things that you do not find useful or do not bring you joy.
Storing away items that you use infrequently or have fear of purging.
Today, I am writing about the reason, or mindfulness, behind fears you may have in regards to purging items with which you feel you cannot part. These are items in your home that you do not use or find useful and that do not bring you personal joy.
So, lets begin by asking ourselves the following question: Which of these fears best describes why you can not discard this item from your living space?
Fear of NEEDING it again someday and being without it? Provision.
Fear of WANTING it again someday and not having it? Ambition.
Fear of MISSING it someday and feeling the loss of it? Sentimentality.
After honestly determining which of the above fears best describes the why behind your attachment, then ask yourself what decisions and solutions can you come up with to overcome these fears so that you are not giving time, energy, money or space away to these items/things?
If your answer was fear of need-
If you haven't needed this item for years, the chances are you can handle and cope with a situation in which that item would not be in your possession. For instance, if you have a crock-pot that you haven't used in 2 years, and you needed one for a recipe, then you could borrow one from a family member or friend. Owning is not the only way to solve a need for provision. There is borrowing, renting, or choosing to do without.
If your answer was fear of want-
If you once used or found joy in an item, and you no longer do, but you fear you might want it again someday, or you have desire to want it again someday (ie. clothes that no longer fit but you WANT to fit into again), you can still replace those feelings of fear of loss, or feelings of ambition, with a decision to let it go. For example, you can find joy in the thought that someone else could use it and enjoy it as you once did (for instance, a set of golf clubs), or you could give yourself a time limit for your goal or ambition with that item (for instance, the clothes that don't currently fit but hopefully will one day).
If your answer was fear of loss-
In the case of sentimentality, there are different fears that can arise. Maybe someone gave you something that you do not find useful or joy in, but you are afraid that the person who gave it to you will be angry if you do not keep it. You can talk with them about it and share your gratitude for the item, and then give it back to them or give it away to someone else who would use it and find joy. If you feel that person requires or needs you to have that item, explain to them that you love them very much, and that the item itself isn't what defines that love, but instead they themselves are what means the most to you. In the case of your own sentimentality, you can take a picture of the item or say goodbye to it in a moment of pause and then replace the feelings of loss with joy that someone else might be very happy to have it.
Sometimes during the process of decluttering we hit a road block. You might feel paralyzed over what to do with an item -- even though you don't use it, or find joy in it, you can't seem to part with it. Using mindfulness to think about the why behind keeping it or asking yourself what fears you have in purging it will help tremendously to keep the process going. It also helps you to feel lighter and have no regret that it is gone. In the end, there is peace, joy, less stuff to house, less stuff to dust...and who wouldn't love that?
Photo Credit: Owen Duncan
There are so many wonderful, valuable aspects of each person's life, areas of importance to which we might give our attention and time. I have about 12 areas that are my most important. These are: spirituality, family, friends, home, fitness, nutrition, working, community, environment, learning, writing and pausing. Some of these priorities are rather easy to manage and some are so big I could never begin to list everything they entail. All of these areas in my life are important, and they are all priorities to me. I attend to and spend time focusing on each one of these areas everyday in different ways. For instance, under the area of home I have home maintenance, chores, errands, pets, landscaping and cars, just to name a few. Spending time attending to each area above requires so many things in and of itself. I need to be organized, healthy, motivated, and sometimes selfless. There are times when I do well and times when I fail miserably and, though I may not fail in all areas on any given day, I do find that if one of the areas is neglected, then it affects the others in some way. So, the most important things in life to me, those that I hold most dear and that need my attention, also require that I am constantly pursuing them to the amounts each one is due, and habits are the fuel that drives this pursuit. Taking the time to be strategic and analyze your most valuable areas in your life will help create the building blocks for the change needed to replace bad or unhelpful habits with good ones. In my own life, I am constantly problem solving how I can give the due attention to what I value most, because I find that I am FAR from giving that due attention to most of those areas. One example is that I have wanted to exercise daily in some way for years. I joined gyms, bought dvd's, tried classes and walking the dog, but nothing ever seemed to stick. The only free hour of my day was 6:30-7:30 am, and I was stuck at home during that time. For numerous reasons that hour of the day did not work for me to exercise. I am not a morning person, and I found I spent that time watching the news, which tended to set my day off on the wrong foot. So, I struggled, failed, and struggled some more. It wasn't until I realized that I could replace a bad habit of not exercising with the good habit of exercising by making a radical adjustment to my day. I literally changed my business hours to start an hour later and I worked an hour later into the afternoon. This gave me a much later hour in the morning, before work, to exercise. I adjusted. Though it seemed like too huge of a task to change my business hours, I valued exercise enough to pursue it despite the discomfort of changing times with clients and working all of that out. Not only did this free me to pursue exercise, but it gave me another hour of my day with which I could be intentional towards something else I valued. My 6:30am hour became a time for reflection, reading, spiritual meditation and pausing before the onslaught of lists and calendars and schedules came running in to find me. Just replacing an hour of my afternoon that I wasn't using wisely, with an hour of work gave me an hour of exercise, and in turn I found an hour of quiet refection to start my day. Replacing one bad habit with a good one trickled down into so many other areas. Of course, there was a period of time when adjusting to a busier afternoon and sore muscles from the gym was a bit stressful and unpleasant. However, having that quiet time in the morning was worth the adjustment, and replacing my bad habits with good ones began to feel wonderful after only a few short weeks. I also had some help with accountability as I have a friend who encourages me to meet her at the gym each day, which has helped me to stay on track with my good habits. For years the changes I needed to make seemed insurmountable to me. It wasn't until I replaced my bad habits with good ones and made the adjustments I needed (with some accountability and encouragement) that I saw real change and felt amazing because of it. What changes do you want to make in your life with your priorities? Where do you see your values a little out of wack? Pick one this month, and work on replacing some bad habits in your day with good ones. You may just see, as I did, that it trickles down into the rest of your priorities, fueling the change needed to pursue the values that are most important to you.
Photo Credit: Owen Duncan
It's August....The corn is high, and I drive by it countless times a day going here and there, back and forth, filling our last days of summer with fun and family. I'm savoring every minute; we all are. None of us want to make any plans as it's our last few hours together before Sunshine -- nick name for our oldest daughter -- goes off to Europe for a study abroad. Frozen yogurt, iced coffee trips and games of Scrabble are all we can think about. It's all about family right now; at least that's what I wish. I wish I could ignore the chores and the back-to-school errands like you do when you are on vacation and filling your days with board games and food and sleeping in. And honestly, for the most part, I am straining to do just that. I am amazed at how my kids are content with the best parts of life. Eating food together, sharing stories, teasing and spending time. It didn't used to be like this. I spent MANY summers driving 6 kids to different camps, swim lessons, days at the pool, and never ending outings. What has changed? We seem to all be getting more boring. I worry: am I doing enough? Are they doing enough? Everyone around us is in a scurry. But we are sitting out on a porch swing in a tree. Talking. Teenagers. Hanging out together as a blended family, and that's how I know we are blessed. It's not always this slow, but I get to savor these lazy, hazy, long days for now, and I'm seeing that we are finding time for more of these with each passing year, learning to invest in what makes us the most happy -- being together. In fact, this fall, the kids are participating in fewer after school activities than in any year to date. It's also the first fall ever that I'm not having an anxiety attack managing my calendar. We are choosing less, signing up for less, but we feel like we have SO much more. I take a deep breath, and then another, not because I'm stressed, but because I'm savoring the simple and the beautiful. I'm feeling like life is balancing itself, my value chart is adjusting in all areas, and I am feeling peace.
Photo Credit Below: Owen Duncan