Simple Saturdays

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Simple Saturdays + 3…4…5…

The Polar Vortex has had some dismal effects this season…delaying spring for starters.  However, with every lemon life gives you it is best to make lemonade–or perhaps in this case lemon snow cones!

With so many school snow days the Saturdays have actually seemed to string themselves into never ending weekends, which in many cases would be a blessing; however, these blessed moments can become exhausting when cooped up indoors for days at a time with young children.  This winter has tested our creativity as a family.  “I’m bored,” has been uttered a fair amount of times, yet we have persevered through this “long winter” and entertained ourselves on a shoestring budget.

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Ways to Spend a Simple Saturday (or Simple Snow Day…Simple Ice Day…Simple Sleet Day…Simple Rain Day…)

Puppet Theater

Do you have a coat closet?  If you do, you have a puppet theater.  Empty out a closet.  (You’ve got time–look at the weather outside–you’ve got plenty of time.)  Using old curtains or sheets you can fasten these items to hangers or the wooden rod in the closet. (I looped the tab tops of the curtains over the tops of hangers and hung the hangers on the wooden rod, so the kids could easily slide them to open and close the theater curtains.)  Stuffed animals, character slippers, dolls, socks, or even band aids can become hand and finger puppets.  Are the kids struggling to come up with a play for their new theater?  Not to worry–read a few short stories aloud that can be acted out.  Soon imagination will take over, and you will have a mini Globe Theater in your coat closet.

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Cooking

My children love to cook, but on more evenings than I’d like I’m in a hurry to get dinner on the table–I can’t always wait for my little chefs to catch up with measuring and mixing.  Recently, I have had more hours at home and my little chefs have assisted in making “healthier” muffins and other “treats.”  Not only do we have quality time during our cooking or baking–I often can throw a math lesson in to boot!

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Head to Your Digital Library (or Your Home Library)

No need to head out of doors if the weather is making travel unsafe–most libraries have audio and digital books that can be downloaded from home–these offering include children’s book.  Don’t forget your own home library.   Our family visits the library regularly, and we sometimes let those books on our own shelves spend too much time up there–these long days are a great time to revisit old favorites.

Play in the Snow (Indoors or Outdoors)

We may think the snow will always be here. (Spring will come–I saw my daffodils poking out from beneath the ground–I whooped for joy.)  Take advantage of the last of winters offerings and play in the snow.  Last week we enjoyed a simple Saturday/Tuesday making snow people, snow villages, a snow volcano with bubbling lava (food coloring, baking soda, and vinegar), and a snow Stonehenge.  If it is too cold outside, bring the snow inside.  Grab a bowl of snow and add food coloring for a beautiful effect or make miniature snow people (cookie trays work best for this messy project).  If you don’t want to bring the snow in take a lesson from your local preschool teacher–“fake snow” (otherwise known as shaving cream) on a cookie tray or vinyl table cloth will keep kids occupied for ages.

Cuddle, Rest, Take a Nap

How many days on this earth do you just get to sit or rest while holding the ones you love–take this simple day to do just that!

What do you like to do on a simple Saturday (or snow day)?

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A Discussion With My Daughter (about owning quality stuff)

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I want a Hudson Bay point blanket.  Some individuals may be disheartened to know that this simplicity blogger longs for a blanket derived from wool (and I do apologize for offending), but I am human and to err is my way.  Both sets of my grandparents owned Hudson Bay point blankets–moths had eaten them in spots but I didn’t mind.  To crawl under their heaviness was warm, comforting and to me felt like love.  During a winter spent in Canada I admired and desired a Hudson Bay point blanket even more–North American winters can be cruel and again these blankets spelled love.  I promised myself despite the blanket’s expense, I would buy one with the knowledge that it would be owned for a lifetime.  My grandparents’ household economies often meant quality over quantity–this was the norm for their generation–a Hudson Bay point blanket was a common item in many households as a result.

Today, I own a synthetic blanket–it has lasted over ten-years, but it is thin in spots and falling apart at the edges.  I told my young daughter about my desire and plan to save for a new or used Hudson Bay point blanket.  She knows that we are a household that has a “stuff rule”–one comes in only when one goes out.  This keeps things balanced (most of the time).  So she understood a need for a new blanket and the future exchange, but when I explained to her that I will never likely buy another blanket this baffled her.  For my child’s generation products don’t last.  Very often superfluous stuff (and even the necessary) is made with planned or built-in obsolescence–a product is designed to have a limited use or life.  Nothing lasts.  This statement is the opening to many philosophical conversations, but as a consumer it is just depressing.  If you live a life as a minimalist, seeker of simplicity, or even as a smart consumer you can suit up and battle this “nothing lasts” ideology to a degree–buy better.  It may cost more up front but there is lasting value in these type of purchases.  The Amish know this secret and often upgrade on important items used for working and living. Their culture treasures antiques for their beauty, quality, and their future monetary value.  For our current consumer culture this idea is not evident–we spend our dollars buying more and more until our homes bulge and our savings dwindle, but we often do not open our wallets and look clearly for any type of lasting value.

I did some morbid math, and since I plan on living to nearly 100 I’ve got 60 good years in front of me.  The cheap synthetic blanket was still a “quality” blanket and costs around a hundred dollars today.  If the inflation rate for the next 60 years remained at around 3%, and I bought a similar blanket to the one I have now every 10 years during these next six decades–I would spend about $1,800 on blankets and use up six blankets worth of the earth’s resources.  The Hudson Bay point blanket is looking like a good investment at around $500 to $600.  What is more these blankets maintain some of their value, and can become family heirlooms.

Stuff is never going to be my cup of tea, but I do need a cup and tea on occasion.  When I do shop I plan to buy with quality and beauty in mind.

Have you made any “lasting” purchases?

 

Why I Fought the Tree and Am Grateful to Have Lost (…almost)

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Photo Courtesy of  FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

It has been my belief since I was a child that a tree is best left growing in a forest.  I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Trees were my comfort and my friends–they were giants and magic–a place where I just knew fairies and folklore lived.  As an adult, I understand their necessity in a world built of wood-frame houses and one that has not gone paperless (yet), but for today that argument is not really my point (sort of).   

As you can imagine, it is difficult for this adult to put a Christmas tree up in her home.  I tried the fake tree and then swiftly removed it (and felt guilty for the waste of resources), but I have young children and most fake Christmas trees contain large amounts of lead.     For a couple years, we decorated a large living plant and I was delighted.  However, this doesn’t suit the rest of the family anymore.  My daughter was in tears this year over the thought of not having a Christmas tree and since we don’t have a rent-a-tree program in the Midwest we had a decision to make.  I tried to convince my family that we should purchase a large potted Norfolk Pine–they were less than impressed.  “We might as well decorate the plant again,” were their unhappy replies.  Finally, I relented and we took home a very small fir–not very old were my thoughts and not a big giver of oxygen.  My family was pleased; I felt like a murderer.  …And don’t get me started on the carbon footprint left from transporting this tree (our local tree farm had a fire a couple years back and so we have only big box stores to buy trees from…the shame was unbearable).  Does a child ponder this ecological devastation–NO–the tears from earlier were forgotten.  My tears were silent.

I am not the only parent who has had this problem.  There is a famous story about Teddy Roosevelt’s children sneaking a small tree into the White House when the patriarch of the family refused to have a White House Christmas tree.  Trees were meant to be preserved and grow in the forest.  Sound familiar?  Teddy let the children keep the tree–we are all weak when it comes to our kids.

Yesterday, when the day felt heavy and tired–I tiptoed upstairs to a darkened room that is the temporary home to our tree and I plugged it in.  With the stroke of lights the heaviness left and only beauty remained.  A sacred mixture of the natural and the remembered stood before me–every ornamentation holds a story and my children had dressed this tree so gingerly and lovingly.  This is not a mere tree but a Christmas tree–it is our Christmas tree for this another special year.  “Silent Night” began playing on the radio downstairs and then I remembered the sacredness and the grace of all the Christmases past and I whispered, “Thank you Christmas tree.”

May serenity and peace find you this season–Merry Christmas.

What Kids Really Want for Christmas

It is simple really–all they really want is your time.

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And yet we are living in this age of information.

What is the weather going to be like today?

Where can I get good Chinese food?

How is the situation in Syria?

What is (insert name here)’s status on FB?

What is the Kardashian crisis this week?

Why is the sky blue?

All of these questions can be answered almost immediately through our phones, tablets, and computers.  As a result (myself most definitely included) we get distracted and forget what is most important in life.  Time  is something we can’t make more of, yet we spend it things that give us the least joy and satisfaction.

Have you ever watched a family in the park? The kids are playing on the swings and the parent is checking email on a phone.  And we judge them…until we notice we have just checked email on our own phone.  I have read countless journal entries and papers by students that highlight either the good times a child had when a parent was fully present in an activity or ones that express their desire to spend time with an actively engaged parent.  My daughter’s schoolwork is no different.  She consistently writes about the times I have read to her before bedtime.  A tradition that started in infancy but lately has fallen away because I have become distracted with a need to check email and complete other work.  Lately, I’ve asked her to read a story to her brother instead.  She does it reluctantly and sadly.  I in turn feel guilty and nobody is truly happy with this change.  Was checking email really worth missing those 20 minutes of precious time with my children?  Undoubtedly the answer is no.  Even with this, I continue to make a choice and process trivial pieces of information on a computer screen (most of it is not worth reading), and I skip reading Polar Express to my kids this season.  I get a technological high and my kids too little of my undivided attention.

This Christmas it is time for me to set down the tablet, to not send that text, to not read the trash that pops up on Yahoo! and instead spend this precious time with my kids.  Let’s start a parenting revolution–play a board game, color a picture, bake cookies, go for a walk, and enjoy a “Silent Night” with your children.  That is what they really want for Christmas–your time!

How do you spend quality time with your children?