Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I always thought that I would have made a good hippie

Here I am in probably 1976 with my friend Kelli K.  I loved that wallpaper.  Please note the plaid PANTS. 

Well, I was born in the 60s and all, 1966 to be precise, but I was a little young to be hitting Haight- Ashbury during the Summer of Love. 

I did have parents who LOVED folk music though and I remember many, many nights as a young child as we listened to Peter, Paul and Mary, Woody Guthrie, The Kingston Trio, The Limelighters, Simon & Garfunkel, and The Mamas & The Papas on my parents LPs on the big console stereo.  My older brother is only 18 months older than me, and my younger sister didn't come along until 1970 (and my younger brother didn't arrive until 1977.) So for those first few years (my parents married in 1964), it was just the 4 of us.

No, by being a young child of the 60s, I would not be able to be at protests or travel around in a VW bug.  My first memory (at almost 3) is my mom picking me up and putting me in front of our big TV and saying "This Is Important." It was July 20th, 1969.  (Do you know what was so important?) So I was alive for some of the big events of the 1960s, including the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.  And I was alive when Richard Nixon was elected. (And when he resigned.)  But I didn't really know anything about it until I was in junior high and high school, many years later.  And although I was alive during much of Vietnam War, I didn't really realize it.  In fact, by the time I really "knew" about the Vietnam War, everyone acted like it had been so long ago. But I didn't get to wear those cool dresses that the women wore in 1960s or the gloves or the hats.  I didn't get to  wear flowers in my hair.

No, I was a child of the 70s really.  And still too young to do things to "change the world." As a kid, we did talk about not littering. A lot as I recall. (Anybody else remember "Give a hoot, don't pollute!") But there was little else that I remember about any other social and culural issues of the 1970s.

The kids weren't listening to folk music then.  They listened to stuff like Bread. (Not my parents, of course, we were still listening to folk music at home.  Although my parents had added the folk country singer - John Denver - to their collection.) We sang "Time In A Bottle" at one of my chorus concerts.  And then at the end of the decade, kids were listening to stuff like - disco.  Thankfully, for a very short time, and thankfully, before I really became a teenager.

The only 70s fashion that I wore was LOTS of plaid. (At least I wasn't the only kid. When you look at my school pictures from elementary school, it is a big sea of blue/orange/purple/green/red/pink plaid.) At my elementary school anyway, we weren't wearing bell bottoms or halter tops. More like Toughskins jeans and polyester plaid shirts.

And so by the time I was a teenager and a young adult, it was the 1980s.  The 80s were NOT a decade like the 1960s.  Or even the 1970s.  It was all about technology. And money. And NOT doing things the "old fashioned way." It was about being better than the next person - in one way or another.  It was about excess and greed. 

But even though I had my collar up and had a boombox, the 80s didn't fit me.  I was, even back then, into wanting to fight for what I believed, but I seemed to be the only one who didn't agree with the "older" generation.  I still wanted to be like the Lorax and but my friends just laughed at me.  I fit more in the naturalness of the 1960s and the back to basics of the 1970s, but I couldn't find hardly anyone who was like me. 

And so, eventually, I mostly gave up.  I did, however, very quietly, very personally, protest against the things that didn't fit me in the 1980s.  And the 1990s.  And I read.

And things gradually changed. Oh, not back to the 1960s or the 1970s. And I don't think that is bad either.  I, and my family, still have plenty of technology in our lives, mostly for the good.  And my daughters sometimes wear skinny jeans (I, thankfully for the general public in my city, do NOT. LOL) But I see that spark in people coming back where they are willing to fight for what fits THEM- and I mean all kinds of people from all ends of the political spectrum.  I see people who care about the land again and their food and where things come from.  I see people who want to have less.  I see people who want to know how to make things and not just always buy things.  I see people who do things because they are passionate about it and not because it will make them the most money.  And I see people trying to do more to HELP each other and not just look out for themselves.

And I'm trying to teach my children the good from this time.  I want them to realize they can have a voice.  They can question the status quo.  I want them to be able to look at all the options that they have in these times.  I want to show my children that even during times of economic struggle, there is much good. I want to show my children that I am willing to do what I am passionate about and that they can too. I want to show my children that there are things that we have now that can make their lives easier and bring us closer.  I want to teach my children to fight for what would do the most good for the world,  and not necessarily because it is part of one side's agenda or the other.

And I make them listen to a little "Puff The Magic Dragon" now and again too. :)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Went to the library today

I haven't been for awhile.  My kids were having, uh, fine issues.  One child, who shall remain nameless, had to do several hours of babysitting to pay off the fines, and is currently "on a break" from borrowing from the public library. 

So I went today AND I went by myself.  I like our public library a lot, and I enjoy taking my kids, and we've done numerous activities there over the years, but  I also do like just taking my times and searching the stacks for books that I like. 

Anyway (have you ever noticed how often I say anyway?) here is what I ended up checking out:

1 - Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint In The Kitchen by Kate Heyhoe

2 - The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns Can Change to Sustainable Practices by Sarah James and Torbjorn Lahti

3 - The Homeowners' Handbook to Energy Efficiency by John Krigger and Chris Dorsi

4 - Home Almanac: Maintaining Your House Month to Month by John Gates

5 - Give It Up: My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno

6 - No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and our Way of Life In the Process by Colin Beaven

7 - Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability by David Owen

8 - Surburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream by Andres Duany

9 - Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter

10 - EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want by Frances Moore Lappe

11 - The Handmade Home: 75 Projects for Soaps, Candles, Picture Frames, Pillows Wreaths & Scrapbooks (A Country Living Book)

12 - The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons by Amanda Blake Soule

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What I couldn't live without

And I'm not talking about stuff like my family, my friends, my beliefs, and all that.  Maybe I'll have a post like that on another day, but not today.  Today is about STUFF. 

I like to consider myself a minimalist.  I've recently discovered, however, that I wasn't quite as much of a minimalist as I thought I was.  I went through some old boxes and folders and bookcases and I gave away/sold/recycled/threw away 12! bags of stuff.  And there is still quite a bit here, but I am getting closer to what I feel is really the stuff that we need/use/like, etc.

And speaking of living without stuff, I had an experience with that when my husband and I were fairly newly married. 

We had been married for 8 months and we were living in a two bedroom apartment here in Normal, and I got a job offer in Chicago.  We knew that I had to take it because a) it was in my field; I had been working as a receptionist since we got married.  Not that there is anything wrong with that profession, but I had a bachelors in technical writing, and had recently finished a year in a masters degree program in English, but couldn't find a job in training in Normal (a somewhat common theme over the years - In the 16 years since this time, I have been able to work as a trainer here in Normal for 4.5 years of it.) b) I was working as a receptionist (yea, I know I said that) and Mr. Simple had an graduate school assistantship and that was it for our income.  Can you say "living on love?" So we decided that we needed to be bringing in more income and we could do that if I took a job in Chicago and Mr. Simple found one in Chicago c) Mr. Simple's mom lived in Chicago and we could stay there until the lease was up on our apartment in Normal so we didn't have to pay double-rent for 4 months.

So we moved in to his mom's place, but she ALSO just lived in a two-bedroom apartment.  We still had to pay rent on our other place for four more months.  So we decided to just leave everything back at our old apartment besides the clothes that we needed, and that was about it. We would come down about once a month to our old apartment and stay for the weekend, etc.  Whenever we came into our old apartment, it amazed me that I had a whole apartment full of stuff and there wasn't one thing that I recalled missing while I was living in Chicago.

(Oh, and in case you are wondering about that timeline, we lived in Normal from 1995-1996, Chicago from 1996-1998, Springfield and then Decatur from 1998 - 1999 and then we've been back in Normal again since 1999.)

Anyway - -

Here are the things that I would have a hard time living without now.  Things I use everyday.  Most multiple times a day.

1 - Cast iron combo cooker.  I use this most days at least once, and sometimes twice a day for cooking.  And I'm turning into quite a foodie lately, and I really like to cook, and I recently bought some new cookware, bakeware, and utensils, and cookbooks and I love it all.  But if I could only have one thing from the kitchen, I'd take that.  Although I do like my new chef knife an awful lot.

2 - My smartphone.  I know.  Two years ago, I just had a "regular" cell phone.  I rarely texted. I never checked my e-mail from my phone.  But as I increased my freelancing, and after I moved the the preschool from the family room downstairs (which is also where the desktop computer is) up to the living room, I had no way to check my e-mail during the day, and my smartphone let me doing that.  I found it so much easier to text the daycare parents than calling them to just ask them a quick, simple question. And although the photo quality leaves a lot to be desired, there have been times when I had my phone with me and I didn't have my camera, and I was able to get a shot that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to get. I also use it as my alarm clock.  And as a timer at swim meets.  And to entertain Super sometimes.  :) I really wish the screen was a little bigger though.  And that iPads were less expensive.  :)

3 - Laptop.  Mr. Simple and I bought a laptop a few months ago.  We use it for our businesses (Mr. Simple, after years of working in media relations and public safety, now owns his own business and does interior house painting. I do freelance technical writing & training and I do Simply Living In The City.)  It has been really helpful to have something so portable, especially since we are both using it, and especially during my transition from daycare provider/freelancer/owner of SLITC to "just" freelancer/owner of SLITC because it enables me to use a computer.  I can take it to meetings if I need to and I can use it during my SLITC classes if I need to.  Oh, and we gave the desktop computer to the kids, and the laptop has fingerprint scanning to log on, and only Mr. Simple and I have fingerprints that are registered, so I don't have to share the computer with my kids. Ever.  Priceless, I tell you. :)

4 - Lined Crocs.  I know.  Not what you expecting. Mr. Simple bought me these at the beginning of winter and I thought I wouldn't use them.  I wear them almost every day.  They are like being able to wear slippers, but more like a shoe.  I'm not embarrassed (although maybe I should be :) ) to wear them in public, but I would be if I was wearing slippers.  And they keep my toes warm when I wear them, which for me, is like foot nirvana.  I've had "regular" crocs before too that I wear in the summer, and although I like them, I really love these for fall/winter. Of course, the fact that we have practically NO snow here this winter probably makes me love them more than if we had had 12 feet of snow this year. 

5 -  Local cream and milk.  I love, love, love being able to make my own butter and my own ice cream and my own yogurt.  It is so easy and it is so fresh.  And we can add whatever we want.  It is so cool.  I make butter in this food processor, yogurt in a yogurt maker like this one, and I make ice cream in this ice cream maker. 

6.  My water bath canner.  I used that thing All.The.Time in the fall.  I like my pressure canner too, and I like freezing things and I like drying things and I like vacuum packaging things.  But if I could only have one thing for preserving the harvest, I'd definitely take that canner.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

So Lent begins today, and

I'm not going to do 40 days of Lenten posts this year.  I've tried that the past two years, and I always end up with something going wrong (computer breaking, family sick, etc.)

But I have been thinking about what I want to do with this year during Lent.  I like the idea of having 40 days to do something.  40 days is not so long if it is something hard to do and that you don't really want to change, but long enough to start making it a habit if it is something you want to change. 

And I don't know if I am actually going to "give something up" this year.  And I'm not going to make sure and do something something specific every single day.  I am going to be a little more gentle with myself and go for something a little more open-ended. 

Here are some things that I've thought of doing for the next 40 days:

- Trying to get to bed earlier at night.
- Doing some walking outside each week
- Finding a time to do something special with each member of my family
- Reading more
- Writing more
- Making time to do something with a friend or two
- Trying to pause before I start speaking when I'm annoyed
- Cooking more
- Working on a business plan for both my freelance writing/training business and for Simply Living In The City
- Starting some seeds indoors

I'll report at the end of the 40 days to let you know how my "Gentle" Lent went this year.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Finally - 2011 in Photos

January 2011 - After the HUGE blizzard.  We were snowed in for 3 days.
February 2011 - Random phone pic of the kids
March 2011 - Jelly Bean at one of the exhibits at The Magic House in St. Louis
April 2011 - Mr. Simple does does the radio broadcasts for the local arena football (and basketball!) team.  Here is a picture of the team in action. They are the red/white and blue blurs. :)
May 2011 - Flower bridging from Juniors to Cadettes.  These girls have all been together since they were Daisies in Kindergarten! Jelly Bean also bridged from Brownies to Juniors.
June 2011 - Super diving in at one of his first races of the Swim Season.  2011 was the first year that all three kids did Swim Team and they had a great time.  Go Sharks!
July 2011 - Jelly Bean acting silly at one of our many summer backyard cookouts.
August 2011 - The kids getting ready for their first day of school.  First time they have all gone to public school too! Flower started 6th grade, Super started 1st grade, and Jelly Bean started 4th grade.
September 2011 - At Bass Lake, IN.  They always have a costume party for the Labor Day kids party.  This year, Super was Batman and the girls were cowgirls.
October 2011 - At Sugur Creak Nature Center.  We have been to their Autumn Festival for the past 4 years, and I hope we continue to go.  It makes me feel like Fall has really arrived when we go here.
November 2011 - Well, this picture was actually taken in October, but I wanted to include it, so here you go. :)
Christmas 2011 - The three cool kids

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why do I garden?

I've talked about gardening several times here, and if I wasn't so lazy, I'd link to all the posts, but I won't.  But I've gardened every year since I started this blog, although that first year, it was just a very small area (like 2' x 3' space) here at the house. 

I've also mentioned that when I grew up, my parents gardened.  From the time I was 11 until I left home, my parents had a HUGE garden.  It was almost a 1/2 acre, and it also included about 8 fruit trees. I didn't love working in the garden back then.  It was something that we did because we were asked to do it.  I don't remember ever just wandering out there to weed or even just to grab a handful of raspberries.

So when I thought about gardening, I thought about that big garden, and I didn't want to do that.  And then, for some reason, I don't remember, Mr. Simple cleared that little patch in 2007 or 2008 and I grew a few things.  Mostly herbs.  And they all grew.  Like magic.

And the next year, my sister asked me to garden with her at a plot - it was 15 feet by 20 feet.  And we planted.  And things grew. Like magic.  (Well, besides the peas.  For some reason, I never had good luck with peas at the garden plot.)  And I grew things at the plot the next year too, and that year, it ended up that I had the whole garden plot to myself.  And things grew. But so did the weeds and it was all on me.  It was great to have all that space, but it was a lot of work too. 

So last year, I did square foot gardening here at the house. And things grew. Like magic.  And there were almost NO weeds.  And it was close.  And I was able to grow as much food as I did at the plot (well, not as many tomato plants, but I was able to watch the tomatoes better, so I ended up with almost as many tomatoes anyway.)

I don't have that much space dedicated to gardening at my house, but what I do have is very productive.  I do spend quite a bit of time dedicated to gardening at the beginning of the gardening season - picking the seeds, preparing the soil, building any new beds, etc. But the thing that I love about square foot gardening is that from that point on, the time I spend in the garden is sort of up to me.  I certainly don't need to dedicate an hour a week to weeding.  And I can harvest the minute that things are ready and I get food in more manageable batches that way.  And I can just sit outside and watch the butterflies and bees and the birds flying around.  I can sit in the sun and enjoy just being outside.  I can take the food and freeze it for days like this in February where there is no fresh produce available, but I can cook up a batch of green beans from the garden from last July.  I can take the herbs inside, and dry them so that I can add them to my (homemade) tomato sauce for the spaghetti tonight. 

And sometimes, on a bright June morning, I'll go outside just to grab a handful of strawberries too.

Love that.

And so that's why I garden. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Balance, it is a tricky thing. It doesn't take much, and then it is all of sudden, all on one side and none on the other.

I fight for balance All.The.Time.  And even when things are in good balance, I still long for the things that I can't/don't have time/talent/ to do.  It certainly doesn't help that I'm a pretty black & white person either.  And it doesn't help that I have a tendency to compare myself to others and see how I'm doing much less & not as well as others appear to be doing.

I try to focus on OUR version of Simple Living and I try to keep things in the kind of balance that seems to work for us.

* Our version is square foot gardening at my house, in my smallish yard.   Our version is one where I focus on food that we will eat, food that I can preserve, and food that will grow in the space limitations. Our version is one where I will use broccoli and cabbage on the side of my house for "landscaping."

* Our version is trying to eat whole/gluten-free/dairy free foods while still struggling with a child who would prefer to eat fast food. Or pop tarts. A child who doesn't like spaghetti. Or oatmeal. And struggling with a husband who doesn't mind eating like this sometimes, but maybe not all the time.  A husband who struggles with not being able to just find something that he doesn't have to fix when he only has 20 minutes before he needs to leave.

* Our version is trying to eat whole/gluten-free/dairy free foods while struggling with trying to find the time to cook things from scratch.  To remember to soak the beans the night before.  To remember to thaw the chicken. To have time to do the chopping, the stirring, the simmering, when it would be so much easier to just buy something ready-made. Our version is one where I plan menus so that at least I have a place to start and it seems less overwhelming.

* Our version is where I buy almost all of our clothes at thrift stores, and rarely have time to sew any clothes. Our version is one where I have time to sew pajamas and Halloween costumes. And headbands. And blankets.

* Our version is where I didn't have time to crochet my kids' cute sweaters and hats until they were too old to wear cute sweaters and hats.  And a version where I didn't learn to knit cute sweaters and hats until they were too old to wear cute sweaters and hats.  But our version does include lots of crocheted dishcloths.

* Our version is one where we are always struggling with money.  More specifically, the lack of money.  And the never ending question of how to best spend the money that we do have. 

* Our version includes making most of our cleaning supplies out of baking soda and vinegar, but still buying dishwasher and sometimes laundry soap.  Our version includes making our own bar soap, but for now, still buying shampoo and conditioner.

* Our version is buying local and seasonal food, but not being able to afford to buy as much meat as I'd like. Or as much organic produce. Because of that lack of money thing again.  And that question of where to best spend the money we do have thing.

* Our version includes some nice wood bookcases. And quality kitchenware. Our version includes wood toys and cloth dolls.  But our version includes LOTS of cheap furniture.  Our version doesn't include organic mattresses. Or organic bedding. Our version includes Legos. And Rescue Heroes.  And two American dolls.

* Our version is one where we have space for play outside and art supplies and games and musical instruments, but we also have a TV. And an Xbox. And a Blu-ray. And a desktop computer. And a laptop. And a netbook. And a smartphone.

* Our version includes us doing lots of walking/biking, etc. and our city has many resources that are close to our house.  But our version also includes two cars and neither is a hybrid.  Our version includes us using a car most days for one reason or another.

* Our version includes no wall or shelf decorations/knicknacks, etc.  Our version includes donating things that we aren't using. Our version includes recycling. But our version also manages to have plenty of "things" in our 4 bedroom 2000 square foot home.

* Our version includes having children that are involved in lots of extracurricular activities - Oldest is in several school clubs, Girl Scouts, a youth choir, and a church youth group.  Middle is involved in competitive swim team practice 4-5 times a week, a library program, Girl Scouts, and a children's choir.  Youngest is in swimming lessons, a library program, and children's choir.  Summer is Swim Team for all of them. 

* Our version has included homeschooling and public schooling and various combinations.

* Our version has included me working a couple of mornings a week doing preschool, 5 mornings a week doing preschool, 5 mornings a week doing preschool and working 20 hours a week in the evenings, and 5 days a week doing preschool/daycare/homeschool.  And 5 days a week of doing preschool/daycare/homeschool AND 15 hours a week of writing/training and 10-15 hours a week working on SLITC. 

* Our version has included time when I didn't do a Simple Thing for 3-4 months because Simple Living seemed too hard.  Our version has included times when I was even more Simple than we are now, but it seemed too hard.

So if you see me, and think that I have it all, I don't.  If you think I live a balanced life, well, I might be then, but it might be out of whack the next day. And it is OUR balance too. Other families might concentrate more on certain things and less on others, and that is o.k.  And I need to remind myself that it is also o.k. that our balance isn't other people's balance too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Well, if money grew on trees

Well, I'd do a lot of things, but if there was even a little extra money, I'd re-do my whole kitchen this spring.

But since, alas, there are no money trees, and I doubt that there will be unexpected money arriving from anywhere else, we will just have to deal with what we have budgeted for this year. 

You may have noticed me complain a couple (hundred) times about my tiny kitchen. And hopefully by next year, we will be able to knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and at least open it up a little bit. And maybe make it look something like this:

But knocking down the wall, and getting new cabinets and countertop will have to wait, at least for now. Hopefully, by next year. (Can I just say that I LOVE the blue paint? Oh, and the light fixtures.  And the white cabinets. )

However, we do need to replace most/all of our appliances this year. When we moved in, there was a range, an over the range microwave, and a dishwasher that came standard with the home.  Standard, in this case meant very, very bottom of the line.  We probably should have upgraded to begin with, but we had other things that were more important to us for upgrading/adding, like wood flooring in the dining room, and sod and fencing in the backyard.  We had also recently bought a "new to us" vehicle, and had recently had Jelly Bean.  So we went with the "standard" appliances.  We did, however, purchase a refrigerator, and while we didn't get the top of the line, it wasn't bottom of the line either.

Fast forward 10 years. Now, to be fair, we also didn't plan on living here for 10 years.  5 years.  Max.  But then I lost my job. The housing market tanked. We were concentrating on getting out of debt.  So if we had known we would have been here this long, at the very least, we would have replaced the appliances before we sold our house.  Which we thought was going to be 5 years ago.  But anyway, here we are, 10 years later.  Our dishwasher hardly runs and has several pieces that have broken off and that makes it very difficult to slide the racks in and out.  There are only two burners that work on the range.  The seal on the oven door came off. The touchpad on the microwave stopped working about 6 months ago and so we can't use it, even though it would run if the touchpad wasn't broken.  The fridge is actually fine.

So we are looking to buy new appliances, and because we can't make the kitchen any bigger (even if we do make it more open) and so we have decided to go with new, stainless steel appliances so that when/if we do sell, at least we can list in the description that we have "newer stainless steel appliances." LOL Which is the one reason that we are thinking of also replacing the refrigerator because our current fridge is white, and we can get a a package deal discount on all four appliances. 

I have been, of course, researching like crazy for months on what to get.  We still can't afford the top of the line, and in our house/subdivision/tiny kitchen, it doesn't make sense to get top of the line anyway.  Our kitchen will also only accommodate a traditional freezer over fridge combination, so that will make the refrigerator less expensive but it does also limit our options because not everyone makes that type of fridge in stainless steel.  On the other hand, I am leaning on keeping the fridge because it does work well and I don't like to replace just to replace.

We are hoping to buy them in March or early April.  I will take a picture of them when they arrive!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It is Valentine's Day and nothing says Valentine's Day like


I'm all about lists lately, so I'm making a list of things that I love. 

1 - well, of course, my family.  Mr. Simple, Flower, Jelly Bean, Super.  What would I do without all of you? And of course, little Christopher too.  We love and miss you! And my mom and dad, my sister and two brothers.  And my in-laws and other extended family.  Big Hugs!

2 - My friends.  Too many to list here.  But so many of you have helped me in so many ways.  And if you think you've never helped me, trust me, you have. If nothing else, you've helped put a smile on my face, and trust me, some days, that is HUGE.

3 - I'm loving my new kitchen stuff! I've got quality knives for the first time in my adult life.  I always thought that spending money on knives was silly.  And a waste.  I plan on having these knives for the rest of my life and I'm glad that I finally invested in something.  And the stainless steel pots and stoneware.  I've used that stuff daily since I got it.  How did I live without it??

4 - I love Netflix.  I know. It sounds funny.  But I love that I can watch old TV shows, some of which I never watched the first time around, and all without commercials.  And my kids love Netflix too.  And all for less than $10 a month.  Love it!

5 - I love wool.  It helps make winter bearable.  Well, almost.  But it certainly helps.

6 - I love to run.  I'm saying this here to remind myself.  I haven't run in way too long.  Running has helped me so many times.  It has made made me strong. It has given me somewhere safe to go when I had nowhere else but to that place I go when I run.  It has helped me see so many beautiful things in the outdoors. 

7 - I love to cook.  I didn't used to.  In fact, I used to dislike it.  Quite a bit.  But now, I get a big kick out of taking ingredients and putting it together and making something yummy.  I also love that you can make something at home that tastes way better than something that you buy at the store.

8 - I love Swiss Miss hot chocolate.  Sorry, it had to be said.  And York Peppermint patties.  And Diet Pepsi.  I'm all about whole, natural foods, but I love these things in all their processed glory too. :)

9 - I love writing. I love training.  Funny how you love something more when you have been away from it for a long time and all of a sudden, it is back in your life.  But I'm also loving learning how to combine in it my life today.  And that includes working around my family.  And combining with Simply Living In The City.

10 - I love my life.  Today anyway.  LOL.  No, really.  There have been tons of times when I didn't.  Lots of days when I felt like things were unfair for me. And they were. I've had my share (and sometimes more) of bad things happen.  And things are far from perfect too.  Our money situation isn't perfect.  My kids aren't perfect. I'm not perfect. But I'm at a place where I'm happy and grateful and looking towards the future.

Monday, February 13, 2012

So this weekend

Whitney Houston died.  She was only 48.  I listened to her music, often, when I was so very young, but not.  (I was just starting college.)  I'm not going to discuss anything about the circumstances of her death though, and I am wish her family comfort and strength during their time of loss.

However, her death has brought up something that has been something that I've been dealing with for years. 

Maybe it is because my first funeral was for a little girl who was 8, just like me at the time. Maybe it is because my dad had a very major heart attack when he was 38 and I was just 11.  (He is still alive though.  Amazing, really.) Maybe it is because the Boy died when I was 18.  Maybe it is because I went to a dear friend's daughter's funeral when I was still in my early 20s.  His daughter was just a year old and died of SIDS. 

I don't know.  But I've been thinking about death, specifically my death, for a long time. 

Like in an obsessive sort of way.  Like when I get in the car, I wonder if this is going to be the time that I don't come back home.  Like when I write things on a piece of paper, I wonder if I should throw it away so that nobody sees it after I'm dead.  Or if I should clean my house that morning because if I don't, maybe I'll die and the EMTs and all my friends and relatives would come over and see what a slob I was.

I must say, The Boy did both help and hurt this kind of thinking.  I think, honestly, it was mostly the beginning of it.  The little 8 year old girl.  It was sad, and awful, but she had been sick for awhile with cancer and so there seemed to be a reason.  The Boy - it was just being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  I'm sure that there were things that he had regrets about, but he also had to know that he had done much to help so many other people.  He had almost an annoying habit of wanting to help everybody.  He always wanted to make others feel good about themselves (well, except for the time that he broke up with me.  For a year.  I guess he got over it then.  LOL) He was also so funny.  He could make me laugh, even when I didn't want to.  And most importantly, he could make me see that there was more to life than the little tiny detail that I was stressing about that really wouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things.  He taught me that true friendship was more important than most things.  He taught me a lot.  And then he died. He was almost 20.  Much too young to die.

And so it began, probably, way back then.  At first, I was just thinking about death in terms of "I just want to die so I can be with him." or "I better be perfect so that I can be with him." or "I just want to die because I am so tired of being without him." or I just want to die because I'm so tired of hurting."

I didn't die that first year afterwards though.  The 2nd year afterwards, I tried.  Not in that way, but I lived a pretty self-destructive life that next year.  I'm still amazed that I survived. 

And then there were "the lost years" as I call them.  I am in contact with ONE, yes, ONE person who I knew over the next 5 years.  (Well, that doesn't include my family.  Who thankfully put up with me.)  I was sad and lost and destructive and lonely. For 5 years.  I remember thinking back then that I couldn't believe that this is what life was like.  It seemed like living like this for another 50 -60 years would be nothing short of torture.  But I didn't die then either.

And I then I moved.  And I met people. And I did things. And I was happier.  But I still thought about Death.  More than the usual person, probably.  I told a friend around this time "I think I'll probably die before I'm 34."  I hoped that I would at least find someone else to love before I died.

And at 28, I did find someone.  And we got married.  And 4 months into our marriage, I almost died.

Mr. Simple was driving and I was talking to him.  There was a stoplight coming up, and it was yellow already, so he slowed down and was coming to a stop and then all of a sudden, I noticed we were spinning.  And then there was glass everywhere.  And I couldn't really move.  We had been hit from behind when we were almost stopped by a semi-truck that was going 65 miles (which was at least 20 miles more than the speed limit) hour.  He tried to go around, and ended up smashing into my side of the car and the seats fell back on the crumpled part of the car, and I came down, on my neck on the headrest of the car, which was now bent at a 90 degree angle.  They thought I'd broke my neck.  But I didn't.  I just stretched all the muscles in my upper back and neck area so much that I needed physical therapy for a year.  But I didn't die then.

But my thinking got worse for a few years after that.  I kept thinking that I would die - falling off the train platform in Chicago, or in a plane crash.  Or something way more random like a bucket falling off the window washer's platform from 40 feet up and landing on my head.  I know, it is funny.  Sort of.

And then I become a mother.  And even funny ways of dying don't seem that funny.  No mother wants to miss seeing her children's lives.  No mother wants to leave her children, especially when they are young. And I've known women, women who got cancer and died. Or women who were in car accidents.  And so when I think of dying, it is almost painful now.  Now I don't want to die.  Ever.

I know, after all these years of thinking that I will die young, then I'll end up dying at 90.  And I know, that at 45, I'm not as young as I used to, although still young enough.  And maybe, I should spend more time thinking about the good things that I've learned from all those I know (and even don't know) that die young.

1 - Try.  You may be able to reach goals that are higher than you can imagine.
2 - Always tell people that you love them. 
3 - Forgive. 
4 - Laugh often. 
5 - Don't take the small things too seriously. 
6 - Don't put things off. 
7 - Be honest.
8 - Help others. 
9 - Smile and say Thank You.  Often.
10 - Have Fun, Do Good.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

All good things come to an end . . .

No, I'm not stopping blogging here. 

I'm closing Montgomery Academy. 

This is a big deal.  I started Montgomery Academy way, way back in January of 2003.  I started it because I didn't have enough money to send Flower (3 at the time) to preschool and I decided to teach her at home, but I was afraid if it was just here that I wouldn't do it.  Or at least not consistently.  So I begged asked a couple of my friends to send their 3 year olds over and I would teach them for 2.5 hours on Tuesday and Thursdays.  I had decided to use the Montessori Method and from the time I started, I fell in love with the method.

And the first year was great.  I figured out so much about how to be a preschool teacher, what seemed to work, what didn't, what I needed to buy, what I didn't, etc.  And during that first year, word spread like wildfire. 

By the time we opened in the fall of 2003, I had to offer two sessions, a MWF session and a Tues/Thursday session.  And so that the kids could get real practice with their practical life skills, I started offering lunch too.  I had 11 kids that I was teaching that year, including Flower.  We had so much fun that year. We had the "Jelly Bean" schedule that year too where the moms would rotate who got to watch Jelly Bean (she was almost 2 by this point) during preschool time so that I would be able to devote my attention to the preschool kids.  And Jelly Bean has always been, uh, a little busy, so it worked out well to have her have her own thing and for me to be able to concentrate on teaching. We had our first set of siblings this year (a pair of sisters that were 18 months apart, but one year apart in school - they were also our next door neighbors, so this was extra fun!) I also started offering Summer "camps" that year where we would spend a week talking about a certain topic.

The third year (fall of 2004) I took off during the fall because Super had just been born.  We spent the fall just hanging out with just the 3 of us - Flower was newly 5 (but missed the school deadline), Jelly Bean was almost 3, and Super was of course, newborn.  But we started up again in the January of 2005.  Jelly Bean was joining us by this time too.

Fall of 2005, Flower was off to Kindergarten at public school, and Jelly Bean was at Montgomery Academy in earnest.  That year was a little smaller, and I just offered a MWF class. But it was a fun class, and we had a sibling that year of one of the original group. 

Oh, just as an aside, in the history of Montgomery Academy, we have had a very small percentage of boys.  I don't know if there were just less boys in my circle of friends and to those that I was referred to, but out of the 50 plus children that I taught over the years, less than 10 were boys.  And often times, there would be just one boy a year. 

Anyway, we were up to Fall of 2006 by now.  Super was a little less busy than Jelly Bean and I was getting better at managing a toddler with preschoolers, so he usually hung out with us too. I was starting to feel like I really knew what I was doing now. We also had another set of (girl!) siblings this year.  We were back to a MWF and a Tues/Thurs group. 

Fall of 2007, Jelly Bean joined Flower at public school (Flower was now in 2nd grade and Jelly Bean started kindergarten)  This was a great year.  Most of the kids in this class knew each other from church and other contacts and it was a really close group.  And I'm a sucker for preschoolers singing anyway, but oh my goodness, this group was especially cute.  And then, this year, I added daycare.  At first it was just one 3 year old student.  But it was the beginninng of a transition for Montgomery Academy.

In July 2008, I had someone else ask me about daycare - this time for a newborn.  And another person ask about their 3 year old.  And I said yes.  So by Fall of 2008, I had 3 full-time daycare children along with one of the girl siblings (her sister went to Kindergarten) that stayed sometimes in the afternoon too. The newborn usually slept during preschool time and otherwise just hung out with us, so it wasn't as hard.  Plus I'd often had a newborn of my own that I was managing while doing Montgomery Academy, so it wasn't that hard.  But now I was working really full time.  I had 3, sometimes 4 children (in addition to Super) that I was watching in the afternoons, plus preschool only children in the morning, some MWF and some Tues/Thursday.  If it sounds confusing, it was! Oh, I also started homeschooling Flower that year!

Then Fall of 2009 brought the most change of all.  We started homeschooling - in a serious way.  We had Montgomery Academy Elementary - for Flower (who was in 4th grade) and Jelly Bean (in 2nd) as well as my sister's children (in 5th and 3rd).  Thankfully, my sister also came over LOL and she would teach the homeschoolers in the morning and entertained the toddlers (the now 1 year old full time daycare child plus she had a one year old herself) while I taught the preschool age kids.  Then the toddlers/preschool kids would nap in the afternoon while I taught the homeschoolers in the afternoon.  I started watching another sibling! - this time the sibling of the original daycare child and it was another newborn. It was a crazy busy year, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.  It was really wonderful to have the opportunity to teach both preschool and elementary and I got to know my sister and her children even better.

Fall of 2010 was another big year of change - but in an opposite direction.  Flower went back to public school for 5th grade and Super went to Kindergarten.  I also still had the original newborn, but he was now a big 2 year old! I had two 2 year olds start that year too - both full time.  I was homeschooling just Jelly Bean that year.  And I had the newborn too, although she was now 1.  And I had no preschool only children that year.  In the spring,  I had another set of (girl! 3 and 1 years old) siblings start. I was, after all these years, still using the Montessori method, but we really started using the Waldorf method much more this year too.  And after blogging regularly at the Montgomery Academy blog for a couple years, I basically stopped blogging over there.  I had our routines and things that we did almost every day/every month and it just wasn't that interesting anymore to blog when so little changed.

And now Fall of 2011.  Just a few months ago.  All of my children went to public school.  It was the first since I'd had children (and stopped working outside the home) that I hadn't had at least one child at home.  I started to think about Montgomery Academy. A lot. I had started it, really, to enable me to be with my children. And now, all my children were in public school.  I had one preschool only child again,, The girl siblings (now 4 and 2) were full-time, but just on MWF.  And the original newborn that was 3, and the second newborn who was 2.  But Mr. Simple had lost his job in June.  I decided to keep Montgomery Academy going, at least for one more year.

And then Mr. Simple started his own business.  And then I started Simply Living In The City. And then my friend asked me to do some freelance training. And then someone else asked me to do some freelance writing.  And then I started to plan to do even more with Simply Living In The City.  All the while, I was still trying to do Montgomery Academy.  Oh yea, and be a mother to my children.  And I was failing pretty bad at that one.  I was so busy with Montgomery Academy or with my businesses that I couldn't volunteer at their schools, I often couldn't take them to their activities, heck, I often wasn't getting dinner on the table. 

It was a mess.  So I decided to take a week off at the end of January and do a lot of thinking/meditating/praying, etc. But I already knew the answer.  It was time to close Montgomery Academy.

So Friday March 2nd will be my last day as a teacher/daycare provider at Montgomery Academy.  It is with a lot of sadness, but quite a bit of excitement as I start on this new path. 

Thank you to all those who entrusted your children in my care over the years - either as a teacher or daycare provider or both.  I have truly loved the experience and loved being with your children.  I wish you and your families nothing but the best in the future. 

And who knows, maybe you'll be able to say "You know that famous author/presenter/teacher who does Simply Living In The City? My child went to her house and did preschool!" Just kidding.

Mostly. :)