Friday, December 12, 2008

A little break from the Simple Talk

There is a subject that I think about quite a bit, but I rarely talk about it on this blog. And that subject is children.

I have three children. There are each wonderful and wacky. Are they perfect? No. Am I a perfectly wonderful mother? No. But it doesn't change the fact that for many years, I wanted to be a mother of not just the three children I have blessed with, but at least one, and possible two or three more.

My road to being the mother of any children has not been an easy one. I didn't get married until I was 29, and then I had difficulty getting pregnant, and I had a miscarriage before Flower, Jelly Bean's pregnancy was full of scary complications and bedrest, then another miscarriage, Super's pregnancy was also spent with some time on bedrest and then he was born with a true knot in his cord (but thankfully, it didn't cause any problems), and then another miscarriage in 2006, and Christopher's stillbirth in 2008.

I find myself looking at women who have four, five, six children and my heart aches for the children that I lost. My heart longs to have more children, to be able to have another baby in my arms, another baby to take care of and another baby to teach me more about what life is really about. My heart is broken because I will never have any more children.

But it isn't that I don't love the children that I have, and I often feel bad for the time that I spend wishing that things had been different instead of taking that time to do something with my children, or learning something to be a better parent to my children. Sometimes I feel like I'm not being grateful enough for what I have. Sometimes I feel like it is time to just accept the reality that I do have. Sometimes, I know that I am not being the mother that I could or should be, and that if I had more children, I would be even worse.

And then Flower draws me a picture, Jelly Bean shares a chocolate bar, and Super laughs his wonderful laugh. And I feel so happy.

Life is never what you expect it to be, for worse AND for better. Life is all about learning about sorrow and joy. I've had my share of both.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Busy day

We had Jelly Bean's first basketball game this morning. Everyone had fun, and JB even scored a basket!

Then we went to the local Museum of History (housed in the old Courthouse). Wow! What a great place! We had a wonderful time, and plan to go again. Today it was Christmas at the Courthouse, so there were crafts on each floor, music, and Santa in addition to the normal exhibits. We also got to go on a carriage ride. It would have been fun, but it was SOOO cold.

Then Flower had a Christmas craft party to attend, and Jelly Bean and Super napped. After they got up, I did my Town Day of shopping, although I concentrated on doing shopping at Walgreens and Kroger with my coupons.

I don't do a lot of coupon shopping because I find that I can do better by buying the store brands or shopping at Aldi's, but this week, there was a lot of coupons for things/brands that I use anyway, and I ended up getting some great deals. It took me awhile, which was a pain, because uh, I hate to shop. It wouldn't be cost-effective, but it would almost be worth it to me to pay someone to shop for me. But I was pretty excited about my deals. I ended up getting $20 off my original $35 at Walgreens, and $50 off my original $125 at Kroger. So I ended up saving $70 and only spending a total of $85. I could have done better, I'm sure, but it isn't worth it to me to do all the things that the hard-core couponers do.

I grocery shop at Aldi's for my stockpile and things that don't need to be name brand. I shop at Kroger for the other grocery items. Since I shop often at Kroger, they send me coupons on at least a montly basis, and often they are coupons that are specific to the items that I regularly shop for. And then, I will occassionally use a manufacturer coupon from the paper or the Internet. At Walgreens, I use the coupons from flyers/rebate book, etc., and manufacturer coupons.

I probably won't be posting much for the next few days. Mr. Simple is having surgery to repair a torn tendon in his shoulder on Monday, and my sister is having major surgery (liver resection) on Wednesday, and I'll be watching her girls for the next couple weeks.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A look at the Simple Schedule

I've put some of this information in my Daily Routines post and my Daily Chores post, but here's a look at what our schedule looks like. Now, this is a guideline, and things don't happen at exactly the same time every day. Anybody who has children, particularly an infant, (I don't have an infant, but I watch an infant Mon-Thurs from 7 am to 5 pm) knows that children have their own ideas about doing things on an exact time schedule.

Anyway, here's what our daily schedule looks like:

6:00 I get up and start my daily routine (read scriptures, pray, shower, get dressed, check calendar/lists, eat, and clean bathrooms)
6:45 Wake up the girls and they do their daily routine (pray, get dressed, get breakfast)
7:00 Wake up Super
7:15 Baby (he is 6 months old) arrives
7:30 Jelly Bean leaves for school on bus
7:30 Play with baby. Unload dishwasher.
8:15 Daycare child #1 and #2 arrive.
8:15-9:00 Children play. Feed the baby.
9:00 Daycare child #3 arrives. Preschool child #1 (or #2 depending on if it is MWF or Tu/Th) arrives.
9:00 Preschool and Homeschool begins.
9:00-9:15 Reading Time
9:15-9:30 Writing in Journals
9:35-9:40 Morning Snack
9:45-10:15 Line Time (singing/fingerplays, helper jobs, story, lessons)
10:15-11:15 Work Time (preschool has free choice and Flower has a list of things that need to be done that week and she can pick the order that she wants to do them in. She doesn't usually finish in the hour and works again in the afternoon for another two hours. She also does Reading & Copywork when the preschool children are doing reading and Writing.)
11:15-11:30 Outside or Playtime in the playroom. Baby eats.
11:30-11:45 Lunch
11:45 Super leaves for Pre-K
12:00 Preschool child and Daycare child #1 go home
12:30-2:00 Daycare child #1 and #2 take a nap. Flower finishes school and does some cooking, sewing, woodworking, etc. Do Routine job for the day. (I don't do Town Day during the week anymore. I do it on Saturday.)
2:15-3:00 Baby Eats. Children play.
3:00 Jelly Bean and Super come home.
3:30 Daycare child #3 goes home. Baby eats solids.
5:15 Baby and Daycare child #2 go home.
5:15 Dinner. Kitchen jobs.
5:45-8:00 Times when we have various activities (but not every day). Family Time. Daily Chores.
7:30 Super goes to bed
8:00 Girls go to bed
8:00-10:00 Work on lesson plans for the next day or free time.
10:00 I do my evening routine.
10:30 I go to sleep.

More Advent ideas

Here's a list of books from Bella Dia that lists some Advent books that are about Santa and Winter, etc. She also lists crafts along with her book list, so be sure to go over and check it out! Go to Bella Dia and then click on Christmas Book and Activity Advent from the category list. Maybe next year we will do some of these, but I don't think I'd ever be organized/ambitious enough to do this every day of Advent.
  • Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
  • Winter’s Tale by Robert Sabuda
  • Petunia’s Christmas by Robert Duvoisin
  • The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
  • Santa’s Toy Shop by Al Dempster
  • Baker’s Dozen by Aaron Shepard
  • Santa’s Snow Cat by Sue Stainton
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess
  • Night Tree by Eve Bunting
  • Santa Mouse by Michael Brown (This book is from my childhood. I need to see if my mom still has her copy and see if she will let me “borrow” it for awhile.)
  • I Like Winter by Lois Lenski
  • Frosty the Snowman by Jack Rollins
  • Lights of Winter by Heather Conrad
  • Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth
  • Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Trees by Robert Barry
  • A Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Christmas Hat by A.J. Wood
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  • The Christmas Humbugs by Colleen Monroe
  • Carl’s Christmas by Alexandra Day
  • Ollie’s Ski Trip by Elsa Beskow
  • The Shortest Day by Wendy Pfeffer
  • Buying Mittens by Nankichi Niimi
  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore and illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Being Thankful

I have a couple of posts in the works, including my December Themes one, but until I get them done, here's another quote from Laura. ("Thanksgiving Time" from Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Family Collection.)
----------
Father had laid in a supply of provisions for the winter and among them were salt meats, but for fresh meat we depended on father's gun and the antelope which fed, in herds, across the prairie. So we were quite excited, one day near Thanksgiving, when Father hurried into the house for his gun and then away to try for a shot at a belated flock of wild geese hurrying south.

We would have roast goose for Thanksgiving dinner! "Roast goose and dressing seasoned with sage," said sister Mary. "No, not sage! I don't like sage and we won't have it in the dressing," I exclaimed. Then we quarreled, until Father returned, - without the goose! To this day, when I think of it I feel again just as I felt then and realize how thankful I would have been for roast goose.

This little happening has helped me be properly thankful even tho at times the seasoning of my blessings has not been such as I would have chosen. (Amen to that, Laura!)

"I suppose I should be thankful for what we have, but I can't feel very thankful when I have to pay $2.60 for a little flour and the price still going up," writes a friend, and in the same letter she says, "we are in our usual health." The family are so used to good health that it is not even taken into consideration as a cause for thanksgiving. We are so inclined to take for granted the blessings we posses and to look for something peculiar; some special good luck for which to be thankful. We are nearly all afflicted with mental farsightedness and so easily overlook the thing which is obvious and near.
-----------
Super, like many young children, has a tendency to list in his prayers many obvious things that he is thankful for (the sky, the dog, our house, his fire trucks) and I think that young children, as usual, are more in tune with the true meaning of things.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Advent Activities

The last few years we have been celebrating Advent. I'd heard of Advent before that, but it isn't formally celebrated in the church that we attend. But I really liked the idea of doing more to remember Christ during the Christmas season, so I started looking in books and on the Internet. There is a TON of stuff out there. I'll list some of the links that I've found or used, but there is lots and lots of stuff out there, and you may find something that fits better with your family.

Primarily, we do one Advent activity (making ornaments for our Jesse Tree) during the week, and a different/more Advent activities on Sundays. We light an Advent candle during the activity each evening.

Like I said, we are making ornaments for a Jesse Tree. (Here's a link to a children's book about the Jesse Tree.) Most people make/buy a separate tree, and hang the Jesse Tree ornaments on them. We tried that last year, but it didn't work well for us. So this year, we are not going to put up any of our Christmas ornaments until Christmas Eve, and just put our Jesse Tree ornaments up on our Christmas Tree. You can buy Jesse Tree ornaments or make them from felt, embroider them, etc., but what we are doing this year is drawing them. We light the Advent candle for the week, and then we do a scripture reading, and then each of the children draws something to represent that event, and then we put the ornament up on the tree. Here's a link to the scriptures that we are reading and the main concept and a suggestion of what to use for the ornament.
Super's ornament
Jelly Bean's ornament -
the circle in the middle is the Earth
Flower's ornament

Small Steps

I always have big goals, and I want to accomplish them - like the next day. I'm not a very patient person overall, but particularly when I'm driven to do something. And what inevitably happens is that if I can't accomplish my goal in a few days or a few weeks, I give up and don't do it at all.

But Rhonda from down to earth reminds me that small steps are best and that it will be worth it in the end.

What I'm saying is that taking small steps is the way to a brighter and simple future. Small steps are easier and less scary than grand gestures and if you make a mistake, it doesn't matter, you just fix it and move on. But the great thing about small steps is they lead to other things. They open up possibilities and show you that change is achievable. And if you follow the path those small steps open up for you, you'll turn a corner one day and know you're living simply.

Other small steps you might like to consider are: slowing down and taking time for yourself - even it's in little bits and pieces; growing some of your own food; baking from scratch - bread, rolls, sourdough, cakes, muffins etc.; reading your electricity or water meters; cleaning your teeth with salt or bicarb; shampooing your hair with bicarb; using a cotton shopping bag; making your own shopping bag; using cloth table napkins; keeping chickens; decluttering your home; making do with what you have; taking shorter showers; talking to your children about conservation - ask them what they know, they might surprise you; using a Diva cup, homemade pads or non disposable nappies/diapers; reusing; repairing; recycling; smiling, opening your windows (in warm weather); opening up your heart (all the time); talking to your neighbours; supporting local growers and traders; spending time with your family and friends; learning how to knit and sew; cutting back on what you spend at Christmas; growing herbs or fruit; and making a commitment to change and live the life you want instead of what is expected of you by your family, friends and neighbours.

Some of these things I've been doing awhile, and some I've been workin on this year, but my goal is by the end of 2009 (so that gives me a little over a year) that I'll be able to say that I've made improvements in all the small things that Rhonda listed. I have a Plan for 2009, but more on that near the end of the month.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Daybook - December 1st

I'm actually posting this on Monday!

Outside My Window ...
Snow, snow, snow! We had our first snow over the weekend.
We cleaned up the yard on Friday, and I'm so glad.
***
Towards rhythm and beauty ...
I'm grateful for the rhythm that our days have, especially now that I teach preschool and watch children every day. It makes things more predictable and calmer for us all.
***
I am thankful for ...
my family. We had such a nice time during Thanksgiving working together and being together.
***
From the learning rooms ...
For the preschoolers, lots of new things out on the shelves. I always put new things out at the beginning of the month, and I also have some seasonal activities out too. For Flower, she is working with her new book, Usborne Book of Peoples of the World. We've also re-vamped her schedule so that she works on every subject every day Monday through Thursday and has Friday off for working on sewing and cooking projects.
***
From the kitchen ...
We are done eating Thanksgiving leftovers. We are having Chicken, Brown Rice & Vegetables for dinner tonight.
***
I am wearing ...
a blue sweatshirt that says Pfizer, Groton, CT that I got about ten years ago when I was visiting my good friend, Wendy who works for Pfizer.
***
I am creating ...
caps for the Caps to Haiti project and more Christmas presents.
***
I am going ...
to stay inside today. The snow is beautiful, but I don't feel like venturing out on to the roads today.
***
I am reading...
High Spirits.
***
I am hoping...
that everyone enjoys their Christmas presents.
***
I am hearing ...
quiet again! Super is at his first day of Pre-K this afternoon, and the two girls that I watch are both sick today, and the baby is still on vacation.
***
Around the house ...
it looks a lot like Christmas! We decorated outside on Friday and inside last night. We also cleaned the house on Saturday, so the house looks clean AND festive.
***
One of my favorite things ...
is doing Advent activities with my children.
***
A few plans for the rest of the week ...
It's a busy week - Jelly Bean has Daisy Girl Scouts tonight, and basketball on Tuesday and Thursday, Flower has 4-H on Thursday, and I've got a church activity on Thursday. I still haven't figured out how we are going to get to all of those places on Thursday.
***
Here is picture thought I am sharing ...

Daybook created by Peggy at http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Daybook - November 25th

I've seen these daybooks on other blogs, and I've thought about starting to add it to mine, but never have. Also, it is supposed to be done on Mondays, and today is not Monday. So I'm not going to commit yet to doing this every Monday yet, but I'm going to give a try today . . . and on a Tuesday.
***
Outside My Window ...
It is sunny, windy, and cold. I really need to clean out the gardens and the annuals from the front. There are a few toys and pieces of outdoor furniture that needed to be gathered up and put in the garage.
***
Towards rhythm and beauty ...
I am grateful for the rhythm of the seasons. I've really tried to embrace each month and appreciate the earth and how everything in it is growing and changing every day. I'm looking towards Thanksgiving to appreciate all that I have in my life and all of the wonderful things, and people, around me.
***
I am thankful for ...
the lesson that I've learned this year that people do care about me. I was never sitting around and wondering if they did, or trying to figure out how many friends I had, or anything like that but it has been illustrated to me over and over again this year that my family and I are in people's thoughts and hearts, and people show it to us through their actions.
***
From the learning rooms ...
For the preschoolers, it is letter sounds, counting pumpkins, and creating things out of materials on the art shelf. For Flower, she is on her 2nd month of studying the Ancient Greeks, and wants to do more. She started building a replica of the Trojan Horse yesterday. And lots of painting, drawing, cooking, and reading. And math, because I ask her to.
***
From the kitchen ...
I am happy that the pantry is mostly stocked, and that we should be back to our full three month supply by Friday. I am grateful that my children love to eat soup in the fall as much as I do.
***
I am wearing ...
a periwinkle hoodie, t-shirt, yoga pants and slippers. I usually dress a little nicer, but I've been feeling under the weather for a few days, and I wanted to be warm and comfortable.
***
I am creating ...
lots of Christmas presents! We are making or buying homemade gifts this year for Christmas. It has been so fun to see the children's creativity!
***
I am going ...
to Jelly Bean's school in a little while.
***
I am reading...
a little from all the books listed on my November bookstand over there. I read primarily non-fiction, because I enjoy it more, but also because I can read from lots of different books at one time, and because I can read in little snippets. When I read fiction, I have to stick with one book at a time, and I have to read it all in one sitting. Fiction just doesn't in my lifestyle right now.
***
I am hoping...
that I will find more peace in my life.
***
I am hearing ...
the quiet. The baby that I watch is off with his parents for the holidays, Flower is at choir, Jelly Bean is at school, and Super and our other little friends that I watch are sleeping. This is a RARE moment of quiet.
***
Around the house ...
I am trying to get the house straightened up. I've been under the weather for a few days now, and I've been doing essential tasks only. But this afternoon, I did manage to get Super's room and the playroom tidied up today, and the laundry into one area.
***
One of my favorite things ...
is teaching. I used to be a trainer, I teach at church, I teach the preschoolers and Super and Flower, and I try and teach all my children every day to be a good person and live a good life. Teaching brings me joy.
***
A few plans for the rest of the week ...
Getting ready to go out of town on Thursday, working on lesson plans for December, working on gifts, trying to get back to feeling better, and making a dr. appointment for myself.
***
Here is picture thought I am sharing ...

Super chasing bubbles




Monday, November 24, 2008

I Heart Goodwill

I would love to have my family wear 100% natural, homemade clothes, but it is just NOT going to happen around here anytime soon. We are on a very strict budget and it does not allow for purchasing even enough 100% natural fabric to make our clothes, not to mention, that I do not have the time to do it. So the next best option for me is to make sure that we are reusing clothes, and so I buy 90% of our clothes at Goodwill. I honestly don't shop often for myself - I have mostly have enough in my existing wardrobe, but when I have a need, I will always look there first.

Oh, and I should say before I go too much further, that I really try and limit the amount of clothing that we have. It makes it so there are less clothes that I need to buy, and less clothes that I need to wash, and less clothes that I need to store. I usually go with the 7 rule - 7 shirts, 7 pants, 7 sweaters, 7 underwear, 7 socks The girls tend to have a mix of 7 skirts and dresses. For shoes, I do 1 pair of gym shoes, one pair of dress shoes (one for spring/summer and another for fall/winter), and Super usually has two pairs of dress shoes (one black and one brown), and one pair of boots. The season before, I look to see what each child has and what they need, and put it on a list and carry it in my purse so that if I'm out, I can look for what we need so I don't end up with lots of bottoms and no tops or whatever.

Back to Goodwill - I usually hit Goodwill once a month, generally the first weekend, but not always. I do spend at least an hour there. I will look through the housewares and add to our cloth napkin supply, look to see if they have any bedding that we need (I want to get flannel sheets for everyone. So far, I've got one set.), then I look through all the trays, baskets, wooden items, vases, etc. for preschool. I find the BEST stuff for preschool here. Then I look at clothes for the kids, shoes for anyone, clothes for me, and then the children's books. I've really filled out the Montgomery Academy Library this way too. I've found some classic, out of print, hardcover books here. I almost felt bad as I paid them under 50 cents for it since I knew that it was worth much, much more.

We have other thrift stores here in town and I probably should check them out too, although I think that for right now, it does suit our needs to just do thrifting once a month. I think that if I shopped more often than that I would end up buying things that I didn't need.

I also try to do my part to donate to Goodwill too, or at the very least to give our clothes and other things to others that can use them. I'm hoping that if I keep giving, that I'll keep finding great stuff. So far, my theory is holding true!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving Farmer's Market

I go to our local Farmer's Market, held outside in the town square, almost every Saturday from May until October. I've been missing going out and looking at the vegetables, touching them, trying to decide what I want to eat this week, looking at the flowers and spices, talking with the farmers. Well, I saw in the paper that they were having a Thanksgiving Farmer's Market today from 10 am - 2 pm held inside the sports coliseum, so of course, we went. We had a great time - we saw many of the "regulars" and a few new people. We tried samples of local cheese, roasted brussels sprouts and chestnuts (YUM!), chicken noodle and minestrone soup, and pumpkin almond bars.

They were selling turkey, beef, chicken, eggs, spinach, apples, sweet potatoes, potatoes, salsas, ornamental and squirrel corn, garlic, turnips, honey, and cheese and there were several craft/art tables too. I came home with ornamental corn (I mentioned that I was a preschool teacher, and I use the corn as a tweezing activity. I wasn't looking for him to give it to me for free, I was just having a conversation, but then he said to just take as much as I wanted for no charge! I took two and thanked him!) honey, garlic, eggs, and sweet potatoes. I was tempted to get some cheese curds, peach salsa, and a pair of earrings, but I resisted the urge.

So while still basking in my naturalness, I decided to go to the mall. LOL. Those people that know me know that I'm not a big fan of going to the mall, but I wasn't in the mood to go home yet, and it was close and it had been a LONG time since I'd been to the local mall. I ended up getting some great deals - a plum pullover sweater at JCPenney for $3.43 (with tax) and 4 shirts and a pair of socks at Old Navy for $5.82. When I can get those kind of prices at the mall for new clothes, then I don't feel quite as guilty for spending the money and shopping isn't quite the torture that it usually is for me.

I must admit that I went shopping a few weeks ago and it WAS pretty tortuous until right near the end when I ended up in Gap Kids (which I haven't been in in probably 5 years) and I was looking at the clearance rack, and they also had an additional 30% off that day. I ended up buying 9 pieces for $60.03. It is all for the Simple Kids for Christmas presents. I felt pretty good about that deal too.

So in case you are worried that I live a completely natural, simple, organized life all the time, I don't all the time. I'd like to do a better job with it, and I write about it here to motivate myself, and to write down the things that we are doing in case it can be helpful to anyone else. But I have days when I'm stressed out, days when I'm completely disorganized, days when the house is a mess, and days when I don't feel like cooking, and days when I am crabby. Hey, I even went to McDonald's today!

Friday, November 21, 2008

OK, if I want things to run well around the house

I simply need to get my children to help around the house every day. My children are 9, almost 7, and 4. They are all old enough to help around the house, even Super, although he needs closer supervision usually and sometimes a little assistance, and LOTS of positive encouragement.

Here are our DAILIES:

Everyone
  • Make Beds
  • Tidy bedroom

Mom

  • Wipe bathroom sinks/counters/toilet
  • Wipe Kitchen sink/counters
  • Plan/Cook Dinner
  • Tidy learning room
  • Vacuum a main room (either the Family Room or Living Room)

Flower

  • Vacuum a main room (whatever room Mom isn't doing)
  • Tidy a main room (alternate between Family Room/Living Room)
  • Kitchen Job (either set/clear the table, unload the dishwater, or sweep the floor)

Jelly Bean

  • Dust a main room
  • Tidy a main room (whichever one Flower isn't doing)
  • Kitchen Job

Super

  • Tidy shoes
  • Sweep the entry way or Clean windows
  • Kitchen Job

We tend to stay with the same daily jobs for awhile, but I know that many families change it weekly or monthly. We tend to change every other month or when it seems time.

Menus - An Important Part of Stockpiling

I think creating a monthly rotating menu is key to storing food. Most of the food that I stockpile is not ready to eat, so I need to be able to have a variety of things that I can make, and I don't do well to just make it up on the fly. It also helps me so I rotate through the food that I have. I have a montly menu (link to it in the documents section) of just general items.

Then, weekly, I get more specific (like if I list Chicken for lunch, I decide the week before what I'll make with chicken, like Chicken Noodle soup or whatever.) I look at recipes (I generally use Betty Crocker and Pantry Cooking and a few of recipe handouts that I've collected over the years. I look through the pantry, cupboards, freezer, etc. to make sure that I have all the ingredients for the recipes (at times, I will need to buy a vegetable or spice that we don't generally have on hand, although I've been known to substitute instead of buy something else.)

I try to cook things the night before, or get it thrown in the crockpot, or at the very least, set out the meat to defrost. Some days I do better at this than others, but I'm always grateful when I do. This month, I haven't been so good at doing this, and my family has had spaghetti or eggs or pancakes more often this month, and we have also eaten out once, which we REALLY try to avoid. Things just go smoother all around when I cook ahead of time. Sometimes it is just hard for me to remember that the night before when I want to relax, but I'm always kicking myself the next day at 4 pm when I've got kids coming and going, and we are trying to get ready to go to one of evening activities.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Updated the Simple Blog list

Just a quick post to let you know that I added some new blog links to the Simple Blog list. Check them out!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

3 months worth of food or stockpiling - updated with pics

A couple of years ago, I started getting interested in living a more self-reliant, provident life. Up until that time, I had never had any extra food or other supplies around our home. I never thought that we had the money, or more importantly, the space to store extra items. I have a small, compared to most American homes, kitchen, with a small pantry. I used the pantry to store dog food, larger pots, light bulbs, etc. Things that needed a home, and I decided that the small pantry was a good place to store them. But I decided that if I was going to live a more self-reliant life, that I probably needed to be able to live for longer than a couple of days off the food that was in my house.

A view of my kitchen from the back door.
Pantry door is behind the back door.

View of the pantry door - to the left of the dishwasher.

So I cleared out the pantry and found a new home for all of the things. Next I cleaned out a linen closet that I wasn't really using. And I started storing food, or as people tend to refer to it these days, I started stockpiling. My first goal was a week's worth of food, and then a month, and finally 3 months. I've seen people a lot of people who build their stockpile with coupons and spending very little money. I didn't do that. I'm not saying it is a bad way to build your stockpile - I just knew that it wouldn't work for us. Part of the idea to moving to a more self-reliant, provident life also meant eating more natural, simpler food, and many of the coupon items were for ready-made boxed food, food we didn't eat, or for name brands that I could get cheaper when buying the store brand.

So what I did was make a list of the vegetables that we eat on a regular basis (corn, peas, beans, and carrots), the fruits we eat on a regular basis (applesauce, pineapples, tomatoes - diced and sauce, and peaches), meat/protein that I could buy canned (chicken, tuna, beans), pasta (we like elbow, egg noodles, spaghetti, and penne), cereal (we eat oatmeal) and other things that I would need to build meals (brown rice, chicken and beef broth) condiments & sweeteners & sandwich stuff (ketchup, maple syrup, honey, peanut butter, jam) baking supplies (flour - wheat and white, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa, chocolate chips, yeast, vinegar, molasses) spices (minced onions, basil, oregano, garlic powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and Worcestershire sauce.) and paper items (toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags.) For vegetables and fruits, I buy about 2/3 canned and 1/3 frozen.

Then I went to Aldi's to price out the items, and to Kroger to price anything that I couldn't find at Aldi's. I tend to buy almost everything for our stockpile at Aldi's, and then do my weekly shopping at Kroger and just a few items that I couldn't find at Aldi's. Weekly, I buy milk, eggs, and yogurt, some of my produce (I limit it to two types of vegetables and two types of fruit), and some meat if it is on sale, and generally chicken and ground turkey. I buy my organic produce at a natural food store.

Then I made a list of each item and how many I needed to have a three month supply (or a week supply of dairy and produce) and then a bunch of sheets that had the same items listed but a blank quantity. Then I can just look at the shelves and decide how many of each item I need to re-stock and write it in the blank spot. Then I take the sheet with me shopping so that I know how much to buy (I can also then, if I really want, figure out exactly how much I'll be spending on food this month. I did do this the first couple of months, but now I can pretty much tell how much it is going to be.)

I use the pantry upstairs to hold a couple weeks of canned food and the linen closet for the rest. I store the paper products in the garage, and the frozen vegetables/frozen fruit and baking supplies in the freezer. I also keep a month worth of meat in the freezer (8 pounds of ground meat, 8 pounds of chicken breasts, 8 whole chickens, 8 turkey breasts.)

The pantry closet - almost all of the contents are pictured here

This is the linen closet - about 2/3 of the contents are shown here.
There are two shelves not shown in this picture. This closet is narrower but the shelves are closer together and more shelves available, so I can get more in it than in the pantry.

I have another large closet (10 feet deep x 8 feet tall x 5 feet wide) in the basement that is currently holding our seasonal decorations and out of season clothes. In the next year, I plan on finding new homes for those items and putting shelves up allow one wall, and storing wheat, pasta, honey, and water. I'd also like to store the dehydrator, canning supplies and a hand grinder down there, as well as anything that I end up canning.

Of course, as always, this is just what is working for us, and you may come up with a totally different system that works better for you.

But if you think can't do it, really, you can. I had thought about it for years and always had reasons why I couldn't do it. And then one day, I decided to try. I started small, and then gradually built it up. I also concentrated on just the essential items for our family. My family wouldn't enjoy eating tuna fish every day for three months, but we would eat it once a week. I didn't get an endless variety of things either, just our favorites.

And although I do try and keep it stocked, there are times that it isn't kept completely stocked because we need grocery $$ to fix the car or get someone new shoes or whatever. (Right now, I only have a two week supply of corn and carrots. I had let the supply run down a little bit and it cost a little more than usual to replinish it, and I only had a certain amount that I could spend to build it back up. However, I should be able to get them restocked too next week.) It helps us to be able to accommodate those little bumps that appear out of nowhere in the budget, and I don't have to worry about not having enough money to feed everyone that month. It also helps me to be able to realistically budget our food money since I know how much each can/bag, etc. costs and how many I need to fill in.

Tomorrow, I'll add pictures of my pantry and my "food closet" (which is what the kids call it LOL). And in a day or two, I'll try to add a copy of my food lists. And in another post soon, I'll talk about my monthly menus. This is an intregal part, for me, to having a three month supply. It doesn't do me any good to have all this food around if I don't have a logical plan of how and when I'm going to use it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More November Lists - In Season Foods and Provident Living

Sorry - I meant to do this last week, and it just totally slipped my mind and now all of a sudden, almost half the month is over.

My goal is to only buy fresh produce that is in season. Some months (like December through March) that gets trickier than others. Also, my kids like to eat bananas and they don't grow well here in Midwest, U.S.A, so there are certain exceptions. But like I said, it is the goal. Next year, I also hope to do more canning so we can eat local fruit and vegetables that were picked when they were in season. particularly during the winter monts. I meant to do canning this year, but didn't have the time or the $$. Another goal to put on my list . . . (Boy that list is getting long! LOL).

I also buy organic foods, but only if they have had high pesticide load. I will put an (O) to the right of a particular food if I buy it organically.

Also, keep in mind that this in-season list is only valid for Midwest U.S.A and your in-season foods may be different. I found this list through the local county extension office's website, so you may want to check with your local county extension to find out the in-season foods in your area.

November In-Season Foods
  • Apples (O)
  • Bell Peppers (O) (I don't actually buy these. My family does not like peppers, and I do NOT buy food if my family does like it. We have enough food that we do enjoy that I don't waste my money buying food just because it is in season.)
  • Garlic
  • Greens
  • Horseradish
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Potatoes (O)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Spinach (O)
  • Squash
Provident Living - November
  • Literacy: Volunteer to read at a local school
  • Education: Continue Reading plan
  • Career Development: Conduct mock interviews
  • Resource Management: Create a digital (document and photo) inventory
  • Health and Physical Fitness: Learn about disease prevention
  • Social and Emotional Health: Learn about communication
  • Food Storage: Week 1 - salt, Week 2 - vitamins, Week 3 - chocolate chips, cocoa, vanilla, Week 4 - oatmeal

Thursday, November 13, 2008

So is anyone joining me on the Caps to Cap-Haitien project?

Remember that December 10th is the deadline for the caps. And with Thanksgiving coming up, the time will go fast.

Our goal is still 25 caps. They are VERY quick to make up, and you can use repurpose t-shirts or use t-shirt jersey that you may have on hand.

Also, if you don't want to make hats, they are also accepting receiving blankets now too. Go to the Mama-To-Mama website to get the specifics about the blankets.

Martinmas and Veterans Day


From Wikipedia:

"St. Martin's Day (or Martinstag or Martinmas) is November 11, the feast day of Martin of Tours, who started out as a Roman soldier. He was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold.
That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clothed me."
Click here to read more about how different countries and faiths celebrate Martinmas.

We celebrated Martinmas by reading Boxes for Katje - I really want to add this book to our own collection - and giving clothes away to some friends and to Goodwill. We also made some homemade lanterns. I had planned on having us glue tissue paper inside of the jars, but well, that didn't quite happen. But we did put some homemade beeswax candles in the jars and lit them.

For Veterans Day, we talked about the connection to wars and soldies in the Boxes for Katje book, and we talked about different wars and how soldiers help us have freedom. We spent quite a bit of time talking about the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

Next year, we are going to have goose for dinner too. We have Scandanavian ancestors and I thought it would be a nice connection to our heritage to add that to our Martinmas celebration. Of course, I've never cooked goose before. I'm hoping it isn't much more difficult than a turkey.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Our daily routines

In my housekeeping binder, I keep a list of our daily routine for each day of week. In my binder, the document is about 10 pages long, but I'm going to try and keep it short and sweet here. I got many of my ideas from Large Family Logistics and then changed things to suit our family.

Daily - Morning Routine (Me)
  • Read Scriptures
  • Pray
  • Shower
  • Change Clothes
  • Check Calendar
  • Check Daily List
  • Prepare Breakfast
  • Clean Bathrooms

Daily - Afternoon Routine (Family)

  • Do Daily Chores
Daily - Evening Routine (Me)

  • Prepare the kitchen for breakfast
  • Check Calendar
  • Lay out clothes for tomorrow
  • Read Scriptures
  • Pray
Monday - Laundry Day

Sort, wash and dry with the following categories:
  • Whites
  • Grays/Lights
  • Red/Pinks, etc.
  • Blue/Black/Darks
  • Light Towels
  • Dark Towels
Tuesday - Kitchen Days

Do the following chores every Tuesday in the kitchen:
  • Wipe appliances
  • Clean stove hood
  • Clean top of stove
  • Organize and clean one drawer
  • Organize and clean one cupboard
  • Organize and clean one pantry shelf
  • Remove counter clutter and wipe counter
  • Clean out refrigerator
  • Clean top of refrigerator
  • Scrub kitchen sink and faucet crevices
  • Scrub dish drainer
Wednesday - Office Day

  • Balance Checkbook
  • Pay Bills
  • File Papers
  • Plan Menus
  • Plan stops for Town Day
  • Plan Lessons
  • Do any Internet Work
  • Write a letter to a friend
  • Clean desktop
  • Clean one desk drawer or cupboard
  • Put books in order
  • Gather library books
Thursday-Cleaning Day

Morning
Instead of making beds, strip them and take the sheets straight to the washer. Do any nappers’ bedding first and remake the beds as soon as the bedding is done.

Afternoon
Do regular Daily chores and dust and vacuum each room. Remake sheets with clean sheets. Reward with a break and a treat and then do deep cleaning.

Deep Cleaning
Focus on one Focus Area at a time. Write them on your calendar.
Do all the tasks in an hour.

Week 1
Dining Room & Kitchen – Clean all surfaces.

Week 2
Bathrooms – Clean corners, cracks, and crevices. Entry Areas – Wipe down the walls and clean in the corners, etc. Straighten bookcases.

Week 3
Bedrooms – Straighten closets and drawers.

Week 4
Living Room and Family Room – Clean inside couches, under tables, behind furniture, etc.

Friday - Town Day

The night before
Lay out clothes and shoes for everyone.

The morning of
Load the crock-pot so you do not have to worry about supper. Everyone has to use the toilet before leaving. Plan the most necessary stops first so if the little children begin to meltdown, you can cut your losses and head home.

Eating
Try to eat at home or pack sandwiches and stop for a picnic somewhere.

When you get home
Put any little ones down for a nap first. Have the older children unload the bags while you put them down for nap. Then everyone else goes to Quiet Time.

Put freezer and refrigerator items away. Put everything else away. Get your salad veggies washed. Cut up the dry stuff and toss. Cut tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumber and other moist items at each meal. Rest.

The Next Day
Balance the checkbook again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yes, I'm so lucky

Super: Mommy, I love you.
Me: Are you sure?
Super: Yes, I love for 5 years.
Me: Just 5 years? How about a million years?
Super: Yes, I love you for a million years.
Me: Thank you! I love you for a million years too.
Super: Mommy, you are lucky.
Me: Yes, I am. (Tears welling up.)
Super: And Mommy, I'm lucky too.
Me: (Gives him a hug to try and hide the tears)


I haven't always felt lucky in life, and I certainly haven't felt very lucky this year. But Super is right. I'm so lucky to have him - and all of my family and friends. Love to you all for a million years.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More about my binder system - Household Managment Binders

I posted about my binder system in this post. In this post, I will go into more detail about my Household Management System binders. I, of course, have to credit Dawn for getting me started on this idea. I use a file crate system in a similar way to her system, but my household management system is somewhat different. As always, it is important to tweak anybody's system to fit your family's needs.

I'll try and get some pictures up soon, but until then, here is my household management binder system.

Suggested Binders for a Household Management System

In addition to my Household Management Binders, I also have a file crate. The crate contains 52 weekly folders, and 4 seasonal folders and some of the household binders. I use one file folder upstairs to store the activities and invitations for the following week, and I also put things in it that need to be filed downstairs. Then on my planning day (Wednesday), I transfer the things for the next week and I file the things from the past week. I store my Household Management binders in a variety of places and I listed here where I store them.. In my binders, I have lots of page protectors and I place the information in them usually instead of printing and three-hold punching the things for each binder.

Planning Binder (stored in tote bag)
To start your Household Notebook, begin with the basics: planning and time management. I put in my monthly calendars, any additional schedules, seasonal activity lists, my file folder, journal, etc.

Faith Binder (stored in church bag)
This binder contains church magazines, proclamations, brochures, handouts, talks, etc.

Phone Binder (stored in phone book drawer)
The Phone Binder is a place to put class rosters, take-out phone numbers, club directories, emergency phone numbers, etc.

Family & School Binder (stored in file crate)
Family is where the heart is--and deserves its own binder. This binder tracks information needs of family members and family life:

  • personal information page for each family member
  • clothing sizes tracker
  • master occasions list (birthdays, anniversaries)
  • gift suggestion list
  • birthday party ideas
  • recommended Web sites
  • list of DVD/videos to rent
  • list of books to read
  • library information


Families with school-aged children will want to add a school divider to hold:

  • school schedules and holiday list
  • lunch menus
  • carpool schedule
  • school information page
  • school reading lists
  • summer programs information


Housekeeping Binder (Stored in file crate except for chore checklists)
The Housekeeping holds information central to house and home. Cleaning, entertaining, decorating and household storage information are stored here. Consider these ideas for the Home Management divider:

  • household cleaning schedule
  • seasonal chore checklists
  • children's chore checklists
  • home inventory
  • home decorating ideas
  • party planners
  • car maintenance schedule
  • stain removal guide
  • recycling locations
  • home storage inventory
  • yard sale checklist

Food Management Binder (Kept in the kitchen)
In the kitchen, this binder helps plan meals, create menus, and track inventory in pantry and freezer. Use this section to hold grocery shopping lists and price lists, weekly menus, etc.

Money and Finance Binder (Kept in file crate with the exception of the bills/purchases list)
Use this binder for information to help keep track of household finances with budget pages, inventory sheets and household information. Here are some examples of the kinds of information that can be included behind this binder:

  • budget/spending record
  • bills to pay
  • credit card list
  • online service/online account information
  • home inventory
  • insurance information
  • utilities/services directory
  • warranty information
  • vehicle records

Health and Fitness Binder (Kept in file crate with the exception of food journal)
Organize family health care with a Health and Fitness divider. Have a medical emergency? Grab the Health and Fitness Binder on the way to the Emergency Room. Visit to the pediatrician? Use this section to record illnesses, medication and medical history. Types of information to file in the Health and Fitness binder include:

  • food journal
  • first aid kit checklist
  • medical information sheet for each family member
  • emergency directory
  • medical authorization form
  • prescription drug record
  • insurance information
  • pet health records

Travel and Activities Binder (Kept in file crate)
Time for fun! The Travel and Activities binder covers the extra-curricular activities that make life worthwhile. Hobby, church, club, sports, volunteer, vacation and travel ideas are included here. These sections will vary from family to family, but here are some ideas:

  • picnic planner
  • travel packing checklist
  • before-we-leave checklist
  • camping checklist
  • vacation idea list
  • house-sitter information sheet
  • PTA newsletters and rosters
  • Scouting or PTA materials

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November Themes

November isn't my favorite month (that has to be October I think) but I'm starting to enjoy it more. The weather is getting cool, but not as cold as winter yet, and there is so much good food to be eaten in November. I always have a big Thanksgiving feast for preschool, and I look forward to it all year. We even sometimes get "alumni" that come and it is wonderful to see children from years past. We have a pear tree out in front and we still have many leaves left on the tree, but they are finally turning colors. I'm sure that all the leaves will be off by the end of the month, or even more likely, by the end of next week. Anyway, here are the themes and activities that I have planned for the month.

NOVEMBER

From the Latin word, novum, meaning “nine”. November was the 9th month of the Roman calendar.
Flower: Chrysanthemum
Birthstone: Topaz
Zodiac Sign: Sagittarius (November 22-December 21); Sagittarians are good-natured and friendly. They are interested in everything and everybody.
Weather Report: On November 20, 1979, a blizzard struck Cheyenne, WY, producing 19.8 inches of snow in 24 hours.

Iroquois Prayer
We return thanks to our mother, the earth
Which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams,
Which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs,
which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases.
We return thanks to the bushes and trees,
Which provide us with fruit.
We return thanks to the wind,
Which, moving the air, has banished diseases.
We return thanks to the moon and stars,
Which have given to us their light
When the sun was gone.
We return thanks to our grandfather He-no,
That he has protected his grandchildren from
Witches and reptiles, and has given to us his rain.
We return thanks to the sun,
that he has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.
Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit,
In whom is embodied all goodness, and who
Directs all things for the good of his children.



Nature:

  • grey skies
  • frosty, brown grass
  • bare trees
  • rabbits
  • geese
  • crows
  • cut cornfields
  • squirrels
  • mice
  • wind
  • dark afternoons
  • turkeys
  • the Full Beaver Moon (13)

Food:

  • apples
  • winter squash
  • pears
  • oatmeal
  • hot cider
  • hot chocolate
  • pies - apple, cherry, pumpkin, berry
  • turkey and all the trimmings
  • homemade cranberry relish

Special Days:

  • National American Indian Heritage Month
  • Daylight Savings Day Ends (2)
  • Election Day (4)
  • Martinmas (11)
  • Veterans Day (11)
  • National Homemade Bread Day (17)
  • World Hello Day (21)
  • National Game and Puzzle Week (23)
  • Thanksgiving Day (27)

Home:

  • verify that the pantry and 3 month supply of food/supplies are stocked
  • verify that there is an adequate (perhaps 3 month! LOL) of Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate with Mini-Marshmellows Hot Chocolate
  • prepare the car for winter and holiday travel
  • inspect/replace holiday decorations
  • finish Christmas gifts
  • clean carpets
  • write/assemble Christmas cards
  • clean dining room and clean crystal, silver and table linens
  • stock medicine cabinet with cold and flu medications


Stories:

  • In November by Cynthia Rylant
  • Apple cider making days by Ann Purmell
  • My goose Betsy by Trudi Braun
  • Squawk to the moon, little goose by Edna Mitchell Preston
  • The way home by Nan Parson Rossiter
  • Catching the wind by Joanne Ryder
  • Black crow, black crow by Ginger Guy
  • Mousekin's Thanksgiving by Edna Miller
  • The Turkey Girl : a Zuni Cinderella story by Penny Polluck

Field Trips:

  • nature center
  • polling center

Crafts/activities:

  • sewing
  • crocheting
  • paper weaving
  • lanterns for Martinmas
  • pinecone people
  • clearing out the garden and planting fall/winter plants
  • a grateful tree

So I know how to sew and crochet and such

but I've never big on making actual "crafts". I wasn't very good at things involving glue guns and acrylic paint and it would drive me nuts when I had to look at things and see all my mistakes. Plus, I've always been a minimalist, even before I started down this simple living path, and so I didn't like having lots of little "crafty", useless things around the house.

I've always looked at sewing/weaving/crocheting, etc. as more of a skill and something that I can do that can bless my family and help us be more self-sufficient. I also have never been one to do a lot of "crafts" with my children. I am a big fan of clay and paper and scissors and ribbons and yarn, but not necessarily having a project that they had to put together in a certain way. I've taught my girls to fingerknit and Flower knows how to handsew and machine sew. I looked at these "crafts" as a way to spend time together as a family, a way for them to learn practical skills, and a way to them to do things in an organic, natural way.

But I've been reading the SouleMama blog for over a year now, and have considered putting her book in my Amazon cart on more than one occassion because her definition of crafts seemed to be more in line with my idea of crafts. Well, Amanda has just launched a new blog called Mama to Mama.

Here's a quote from her introduction on Mama to Mama:


There are so very many reasons why we craft. We craft out of necessity, we craft out of love, we craft for pleasure. And we craft, sometimes, to bring a little peace to our lives, to our hearts, and to our everyday moments. Taking that just a step further, we can - and do, like so many crafters before us - turn our crafting into peace for the world beyond our homes. The simple act of creating something with intention and heart - for someone in need, can have a beautiful effect on the lives of others. We can, indeed, do something to create a more just and peaceful world...all with the simple, mindful and crafty work of our hands.

The first project is the Caps to Cap-Haitien Project: A Partnership with Konbit Sante, that will provide newborn jersey caps to be distributed in Safe Birthing Kits in northern Haiti. The project is to make hats out of t-shirts or cotton jersey material. She provides the hat pattern on the website.


What a wonderful way to repurpose all the unworn t-shirts we have around here, and the pattern is simple enough for Flower and probably even Jelly Bean to do. And Super can tie the knot on top.

Our goal is to make 25 hats - including one out of the material that I was going to make a sleeping gown for Christopher. It seems right to use it for a hat for another little one.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween - Simple Style

I'm actually not a big fan of Halloween. I don't like the ghoulishness and goriness and the excessive amounts of candy that my children get, but we do still celebrate it here. I leave the fall decorations out as long as possible, and then go pretty basic with decorations. The wood pumpkin on the table I painted YEARS ago, but it gets pulled out every year for Halloween week. The tablecloth goes out that day. It was given to me by a relative. We got the little pumpkins when we went to the Montgomery Academy field trip.

And here is Super, Jelly Bean and Flower.

The girls saw the costumes at Goodwill for a $1 each and asked if they could get them. I said "Sure!" The skirts were given to the girls for dress-up a couple years ago. Oh, and they are Broadway dancers, not ballerinas, in case you were wondering.

Super's coat (and yellow rain boots, not seen in photo) were actually on sale last year at Gymboree, and it was his winter coat last year and rain boots this spring. The hat was part of a dress-up kit that he got for Christmas last year.
Total spent for three costumes: $2 and NO time. Simple.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What are you cooking lately?

We've been cooking a lot of pumpkin things - a couple of kinds of pumpkin bars, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup. And a lot of gingerbread cookies. Flower loves to make gingerbread cookies (Betty Crocker recipe) as soon as autumn starts. I picked up the Wilson leaf/acorn cookie cutters last year on clearance.


Another one of our fall and winter favorites is Chicken Noodle Soup. I never use a recipe for it. I just throw in a bunch of chicken broth (or water and chicken bouillon), egg noodles (up to the level of the liquid), some minced onions, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, canned chicken, and a cup of whatever kind of frozen vegetables we have around. Boil until the noodles are soft and the vegetables aren't frozen. It is super simple, and I always have the ingredients on hand, and my family eats it up. Can't beat that.


We are also getting back into hot breakfasts - oatmeal with maple syrup and brown sugar (only from scratch for us. We love real maple syrup.) pancakes and waffles. Mr. Simple made chocolate chip (with mini chocolate chips) pancakes last night for dinner, and Flower is going to make us pumpkin pancakes this weekend. Oh and my sister brought us yummy chili a couple nights ago too.

So what are you eating lately?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How to get happiness - according to Laura

(Taken from "Favors the Small Farm Home" in Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Family Collection. This was Laura's first published article, originally written as an address to a local farmer's club meeting. On this occasion, though, she was too busy to give the speech herself, and so she sent the text along for someone else to read. The editor of the Missouri Ruralist was in the audience, and liked what he heard. He decided to publish the article, and got in touch with Laura. And so her life as a writer began.)
"There is a movement in the United States today, wide-spread, and very far reaching its consequences. People are seeking after a freer, healthier, happier life. They are tired of the noise and dirt, bad air and crowds of the cities and are turning longing eyes toward the green slopes, wooded hills, pure running water and health-giving breezes of the country.

A great many of those people are discouraged by the amount of capital required to buy a farm and hesitate at the thought of undertaking a new business. But there is no need to buy a large farm. A small farm will bring in a good living with less work and worry and the business is not hard to learn . . . I am an advocate of the small farm and I want to tell you how an ideal home can be made on, and a good living made from, five acres of land.

Whenever a woman's homemaking is spoken of, the man in the case is presupposed and the woman's home-making is expected to consist in keeping the house clean and serving good meals on time, etc. In short, that all her home-making should be inside the house. It takes more than the inside of the house to make a pleasant home and women are capable of making the whole home, outside and in, if necessary. She can do so to perfection on a five-acre farm by hiring some of the outside work done. However, our ideal home should be made by a man and woman together. First I want to say that a five-acre farm is large enough for the support of a family. [A] great part of the living can be made on that size farm from poultry or fruit or a combination of poultry, fruit and dairy.

It used to be that the woman on a farm was isolated and behind the times. Now rural delivery brings us our daily papers . . . The telephone gives us connection with the outside world at all times . . . Circulating libraries are scattered through the rural districts . . . The interurban trolley lines being built throughout the country will make it increasingly easy for us to run into town for an afternoon's shopping or any other pleasure.

Yes, indeed, things have changed in the country and we have the advantages of city life if we care to take them. Besides we have what it is impossible for the woman in the city to have. We have a whole five acres for our backyard and all outdoors for our conservatory, filled not only with beautiful flowers, but with grand old trees as well, with running water and beautiful birds, with sunshine and fresh air and all wild, free beautiful things.

The children, instead of playing with other children in some street or alley can go make friends with the birds, on their nests in the bushes, as my little girl used to do. This little farm home is a delightful place for friends to come for afternoon tea under the trees."

I would so love a little five-acre farm home. It is my goal. I'm hoping to have one in the next five years. I hope that all of my friends will come out and have some of the eggs, fruit, and milk from the Simple Farm and spend some afternoons under the trees. Until then, I'll try and find ways to be as self-reliant as we can, and get out in nature as often as we can, and be as happy as I can here in the city.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Our Trip to St. Louis

We live about 3 hours from St. Louis, MO. When we were first married, we would go down every year for our anniversary, and we have done a couple of trips as a couple since we had children, but for some reason, we had never gotten down there with the kids. We finally went this weekend with the whole family. We had a wonderful day, and we have plans to go down in a couple of months to see the Science Center and the Arch. It is so hard for me to pick just a few pictures from our day, but I'll try. We went to the St. Louis Zoo and the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

At the front of the Zoo. You can't see us very well, but the leaves are finally starting to turn around here.

We sat on the front row at the Sea Lion show.
A bunch of monkeys escaped from the Primate House.

You could get so close to the penguins and the puffins. It was amazing.

Doing our own March of the Penguins

Super looking at some big fish


The Botanical Gardens is made up of several different gardens.

Here are the three little Simples on the throne at the Ottoman Garden.

A butterfly on a flower.

Jelly Bean in the Woodland Garden

Feeding the fish in the Japanese Garden

A view across the lake in the Japanese Garden

Mr. Simple's Karate Kid impression
I can hardly wait until we go again. If you are within 3 or 4 hours of St. Louis, I would highly recommend going for a visit. There is so much to do, and many of the activities are free! My kind of price!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Doing Less?

I started blogging here because I wanted to talk about how I want to live a simple life with my family. But I'm starting to think that I'm all talk and no action.

For example, I heard a talk (Julie Beck, "Mothers Who Know" Ensign, November 2007) about a year ago about mothers. One of the things that the speaker said was that mothers who know do less -"They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all." I thought to myself - Yes, that sounds right to me. It fits in with my plan of living simply. Not to mention, we just don't have the money to do many outside activities.

But yet, we seem to have enough to have cable TV with many channels and a DVR recorder. Now we honestly don't watch it much, and the children don't watch anything but educational television, but we do watch it some. And the cable company is not stupid either. They offered us a "great deal" if we packaged our phone service, our cable modem, and the cable TV all together. But if we decide to drop any service (like the TV) then the prices for the other two services go up to more than the three together. So we keep it because it costs us less than if we didn't have it. And so we watch it. I can rationalize all I want, with any number of excuses, but we should still probably be watching less/almost none/more selectively and using that time doing something together.

However, although we could be watching TV, the thing that is really making me think lately is that we are doing too much. It started out innocently enough. The girls were both in girl scouts and meet a couple of times a month. Then Flower started going to church activity for girls that meets twice a month. And then Flower and Super wanted to do swimming lessons. I couldn't afford private lessons, but we could do parks and rec lessons, and it is only $25 a session. Oh, yea. Make that $50 for both of them. Oh, and a session is a month, so it will be $50 for November. And $50 for January. And $50 for February. And since Flower is homeschooled, it is extra important to me to have her get some exercise. Swimming is twice a week. O.K., busy, but we are managing. Oh, yea. it wouldn't be fair if Jelly Bean didn't do anything. So Jelly Bean is doing basketball. For $60 a session. At least a basketball session is two months instead of one month. Basketball is twice a week. Thankfully on different days than swimming. Flower wants to do 4-H. It's only once a month. It's o.k., I say. And Flower really should be learning the piano. She's 9 and hasn't taken lessons yet. But we can't afford it.

And that was when I thought "Can we afford what we are already doing?" Not necessarily financially, but in terms of the time that we are spending outside of the house? Do we need to do all these activities at once? And we need to do all of them right now?

Julie Beck told mothers the answer up there. I don't need to and probably shouldn't choose it all. So why do I always feel like I need to? Why do I feel am a bad mother when I choose less? And why can't I enjoy myself more when we do less? Because it always sounds good in theory to spend time "reading, laughing, singing, talking" but the reality is that my children fight. A LOT. And I can only stand so much togetherness before it erupts into me yelling and separating them and then there is no togetherness and I'm left feeling like a failure.

But again, I need to give up the excuses and just do it. Live with less. Do less. Because the benefits, one day, will be worth it.

The Nature Center In Autumn

On Saturday, we went to the local nature center for their autumnal fetival. There was scarecrow-making, s'more making & cider, bubble wands, a number of booths recreating life from the 1700s (woodworking, tradesman, blacksmith, quilting, etc.), an observatory, the nature center building, the imagination grove (an area for children with a stream, a watch tower, a log cabin, trees, etc.) , and the pumpkin salon (you could decorate a pumpkin with things from nature)

This nature center has a celebration every season and we try and get out there for each celebration, as well as get out there just to go to the center and walk the trails. The nature center is about 20 minutes from our house, and it is always good for the kids to be able to get out and really roam in nature. Our home is part of a new (6 years old) subdivision where the houses are close together, and there aren't many trees, and small back yards, and lots of white plastic fences. So I try to get my children out in nature as often as I can. Our community has a trail that goes through town, and most of it is wooded, and we are less than a mile from it, and so we try and get there when we can, although we should use it even more.
Anyway, here are some pictures from the day:


Super in the straw


Jelly Bean trying on the scarecrow head


Jelly Bean and Super standing by the scarecrows

Flower doing bubbles


Super chasing bubbles

The kids in an old canoe


Watching the basketweaver
Eating s'mores

Flower watching doll-making
Jelly Bean looking at antlers at the nature center
Flower looking at feathers with a magnifying glass


Flower in the cabin at Imagination Grove


Monday, October 20, 2008

Provident Living - A Way Of Life

The wisdom of living providently has been recognized since ancient times. Joseph encouraged the Egyptians to store grain during the seven “fat” years against the lean years to come. From the ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop, comes a fable about the ant and the grasshopper, which illustrates in a very simple way the principle of provident living. In time of plenty, the grasshopper took no thought for what he might need when the winter came. But the ant worked busily, preparing and providing for a time when food would not be so plentiful. The ant could look to the future with confidence, while the grasshopper—if he thought about the future at all—could only hope for the best.

But living providently is more than just putting aside food for future need. It encompasses all areas of life. If we want to face the future with confidence and peace of mind, we must prepare ourselves in six areas: literacy and education, career development, financial and resource management, home production and storage, physical health, and social-emotional and spiritual strength. When we strive to prepare in each of these areas, we can enjoy peace of mind as we face the uncertainties of the future.


This quote is from an article that was published over 20 years ago. It was published when many people thought that it was "radical" to store food or at the very least silly, and a waste of time, space and money. Now it seems like storing food is the new "hip" thing to do.

But this quote says two important things - First, we need to store during times of plenty so that we aren't caught unprepared when things change. So hopefully, people have been storing food for the past few years, and aren't trying to start now during this time of high food prices and an uncertain economy. Second, provident living isn't just about storing food. It is a way of life. We need to focus our lives on building skills in many areas, not just food storage, so that we can live a more self-reliant life.

I meet with a small group of women every month. The name of the group is "Women Living Wisely" and we discuss/learn about different things from each of the six areas. We have talked about food storage, but we have also learned about yoga, stress management, ways to increase our creativity, quilt-tying, organization, adult education, and crocheting, just to name a few. I'm still a long way from being self-sufficient, but it has been helpful for me be able to meet with other women and learn from them and take small steps toward that big goal.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Visit to the Pumpkin Patch

We went to a pumpkin patch on Columbus Day. They had pumpkins, of course, but they also had a playground made out of hay bales, animals to pet, a trike race track, and a corn bin. It always makes me laugh how we live in a city of 150,000, but yet we can be out in the fields in less than 10 minutes.

Flower and her cousin - I love the harvester in the background
Super and his cousin (my sister has kids that are the same age as my kids, plus she has an adorable little baby daughter)


Flower on the haybale playground


Jelly Bean in the corn


Group shot - My kids, their cousins, and a couple of friends

The requisite silly shot - I always tell them if they do a nice one, I'll let them do a silly one.


Friday, October 17, 2008

It's Nice To Be Nice To The Nice

(From M*A*S*H, I've seen every episode at LEAST four or five times.)

Today, Mr. Simple came home at lunch time. I was hosting playgroup, and so there were many children running around, as young children are known to do. Mr. Simple said that he would just go out and get some lunch. I asked if he would pick me up some lunch too, although I was mostly joking. I wouldn't have minded if he did, but it wasn't necessary. I was going to be serving lunch to the children soon, so I could just eat what they were eating.

But Mr. Simple did bring me back lunch. And he brought me back a tasty green salad with grilled chicken. But the best part was the peas. Rarely are there peas in a restaurant salad or even on most salad bars (are they still called salad bars anymore? That term seems so 80s or something.) I know, because I look. Because I love peas in my salad. (And if you haven't tried it, you should give peas a chance. Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

So I'm sitting here eating a yummy salad given to me nicely from nice Mr. Simple. Thank you, Mr. Simple. It was nice.