Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Settling Down.......But Wait!

This is a sure sign that things are settling down around here..........I'm adding more animals to the family!  Well, one is temporary since we are just babysitting him until the weekend.  He arrived today.  Out came the camera so I could capture his uber cuteness.  The other new little monster I'll blog about when she gets here this week - she's an entirely "different animal"!

The last one is kind of artsy, don't you think?  Bunny butts are cute.  He's a 6 week old Flemish Giant rabbit whom we are watching over until Friday; then he'll go to his newest and bestest home.  Flemish are the largest breed of rabbits and in my opinion, have the best personalities.  They are a lot like dogs and will follow you around, come when called (sometimes - even I don't always go to the source when I am called) and generally make your life more happy.  They can grow to about 20 pounds or so, so you need adequate housing/space for them, preferably not in a wire cage since they are so heavy and can develop sores on their feet.  They do well with a fenced off area and a small dog house, love the winters and don't cause much of a ruckus.  Some loyalists keep their pet Flemish in the house and provide a dog door for their comings and goings.  They live only about five years, which is rather sad.  Just like giant breeds of dogs, they burn out quickly with their mass.

We'll enjoy him while he's here, that's for sure!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lest You Think........

That I have dropped off the face of the Earth, not so!  Summer 2012 has come and gone and as usual, much has transpired around here.  Here are some of the highlights, the last one of course, being a BIGGIE:

1.  We successfully raised our Great Dane puppy, Cobus, to his almost 12th month without any major human injuries, although there were a few close calls.  I'm still sporting knee scars from the time he dragged me across the garage floor when I was wearing shorts.  He's a big goof and we love him dearly.  Most of the time.  He's the 'cow-like' creature in the photo below.  Here he was about 6 months old over the summer.  He sure does like his walks and hikes!  Great Danes are HUGE sweeties.

2.  We pulled the trigger at the end of May on a major kitchen overhaul to the tune of knocking out walls, pulling down the ceiling and bumping up into the attic, installing brick floors and basically starting from scratch.  I'm not certain yet as to whether all the stress is worth it, but I am certain that it's going to be a good working space from which much good food will flow.

And yes, that's Chewie, one of our goats, in the kitchen.  He decided to wander in and inspect the work, to make sure it was up to his standards.  He also had a nibble of the paper on the sheet rock before Max could corral him and convince him to go back to the barn.  The pint-sized Chihuahua also had a thing or two to say about having a goat on the scene.

It's mid-September and we still have a ways to go, but the cabinets are now installed, so it's mostly detail work that lies ahead.

3.  Max's dad and aunt did an almost 500 mile bike ride through the Rocky Mountains this summer and Max and I served as volunteers for the tour.  It was a week-long adventure of which the coolest moment was seeing a mountain lion!!  Wish I had a picture of him for you, but I don't.  He jumped out in front of our van as we were traveling between aid stations near Bayfield, Colorado.  I was stunned at the fact that we actually saw a mountain lion!  He was big, beautiful and I wish him well out there doing what mountain lions do.  Hopefully he's not eating any people; we did see lots of deer nearby, so maybe he's doing just fine.  Max had a great time schmoozing with the riders at the aid stations and handing out food.  He was really in his element!

4.  Max turned 13.  Enough said!

5.  Finally, the biggest announcement...........we enrolled Max in seventh grade in a small charter school.  Gulp.  Gulp again.

That was pretty much his reaction for the first week of realizing he was going back to school, but over a month in now he is rating his days as an 8 out of 10.  A spot opened up in the 11th hour at the school and we decided to try it.  In the end, even though I still LOVE and believe in what homeschooling offers a child, I felt Max needed a little gentle exposure into the real world and what the school was offering seemed to be what I was looking for.  I do not feel like he has been thrown to the wolves - more like he is co-mingling with a group of kittens at this point.  The gentle peer pressure has served Max well - he's doing his homework without being nagged, he's taking willing showers (!), and he's generally being cooperative when it comes to doing what the teacher asks him to do.  He likes his classmates, is very good friends with one, in fact, so this all has made for a very positive experience to date.  

I feel a little weird posting this news to my ever-passionate homeschooling blog, but even after all the angst I felt about sending him, my intuition is telling me we made a good choice for this year.  Homeschooling his 4th, 5th and 6th grade years was a tremendously successful undertaking.  I am most happy that he got so much open-ended time to be creative and to follow his interests during those years.  I treasured having him home and watching him make connections, watching him mature.  I have had a blast researching all the neat things available to aid in learning; hence my blog!

Even my mom said homeschooling him during that time was a good choice.  He has so many interests and has had time to pursue them.  He is considerate, easy to hang out with and he loves animals.  He had some breathing room to just be.

I am still going to continue to post about interesting schooling items, thoughts, and reflections, if you'll still have me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Moms Get Schooled, Too

If at the beginning of our homeschooling journey three years ago someone had tugged me into a corner to whisper a certain truth about homeschooling, my lesser self would have balked, pursed my lips together and shook my head in disagreement.  Actually, I probably would have been nicer and would have feigned a wan smile and found someone else to talk to at that little party that I just now made up.  What that person was telling me was sheer nonsense and it grated against every fiber of belief in my system about how kids learn.  It would have really rubbed me the wrong way.

Good thing experience teaches us to open our minds and cast out for broader perspectives!  This has been the hallmark of my 40's for sure.  I have done more tweaking of my tendencies and knee jerks than ever before.  Vestiges of the old me are scarcely recognizable, which is a very good thing.  I was kind of uptight then and a follower.  Now I stop to listen to a more authentic voice that has been honed over time.

I believed then that kids needed to be taught.  They needed to be schooled in a rather systematic fashion in all kinds of subjects; that the teacher had to put forth a great effort to get material into a child's knowledge base.  Kind of like applying a force in physics.  As we've worked through these last three years, it is with much fascinating irony that I realize most of the time it was me being schooled in what was really best for Max.  Just because I'm his mom, doesn't make me an expert on what is best for him.  How humbling!  He's the expert in that realm and it's my job to pay very close attention to his leanings.

This spring I have loosened the screws substantially and have let him BE.  We still tackle math every day (and that is getting way better for all concerned); we read, discuss, ponder, sometimes even argue.  He sticks his nose in books and walks away with appreciation for character development and how books magically create movies in your head.  He continues to idolize Dr. Who, so I've picked up a few detailed items regarding the making of the series for him to study.  He has developed a fascination with how Nerf guns work and has systematically dismantled his entire arsenal to study the plastic and wire innards.  He has modified many of them and rebuilt them so they shoot their little darts farther and faster.  He tells me he finally understands the trigger mechanism of the Nerf gun.  He wants to "mod" this, "mod" that.  He needs a workbench.  

I have zero/zilcho interest in Nerf.  But I have much interest in watching him get utterly absorbed with his hands, his tools, and his brain.  What I normally would have deemed unworthy of learning, I have now come to adore its value.  Left often to his own whims like this, he grabs onto something and works it over in his brain.  More and more space has been carved out for these adventures and it's here that some very real and valuable learning is taking place.  It is definitely not taking place on page 127 of his math book!

I've blogged about this subject before, have pointed out the benefits of slow parenting, of leaving breathing room for your child whenever possible.  Homeschooling affords that opportunity.  Of getting off the treadmill of driven education and just plunking down somewhere to bask in the presence of something worthwhile.  Ever so slowly handing over responsibilities for an education to your child.  Let him or her deem which path is worthy.  It is downright amazing to witness.

We've come a long way in giving him the responsibility for learning.  Some with John Rosemond's help, some with Max deciding that he's capable and even willing.

The next time I go to a party, I'm going to find that newly-minted homeschooling parent and whisper the truth (as I see it, anyway) into that person's ear.  I wonder if she'll hang around and talk to me!  

Friday, April 13, 2012


Not much blogging lately.........but that can be my pattern sometimes, if I turn my attention to other matters.  We recently leveled our front yard on kind of a whim, so I've been slowly bringing it back to life.  And the new puppy, Cobus, just passed his 6 month birthday this week.  He is grand and wonderful and a total love bug at 90 pounds.  Puppy classes and basic obedience have been very good for us.

Still homeschooling, still trying to have some structure.  We've been easing up on the number of subjects we're tackling, mostly concentrating on math, science and reading.  He's reading The Hunger Games right now, pretty much because we feel we have to!  I'll read it when he's done.  We're also working through a fun book about physics, learning about quarks and gluons and the ever-evasive Higgs boson particle.  Stuff we didn't know!  That Large Hadron Collider thingy in Switzerland is neat.

Math consists of multiplying and dividing decimals, figuring percentages, and word problems.  We're going to stick with three pages a day through most of the summer so that by the time we hit 7th grade, he should have had good exposure to the basics, including Cartesian graphing, probability, basic data analysis, ya da, ya da.  Mathematicians Are People, Too and Brain Pop help to make math real and more fun.  Plus, figuring out what 20% off of a Nerf gun equals has pretty much proved useful to him.  He actually said, "finally!  Something in math I can really use."  It was worthy of a facebook post for me because it so describes his reaction to math overall.

The highlight of the last few months has been the discovery of the BBC's Dr. Who series on Netflix.  WHAT FUN!  It's such a quirky show.  Max covets it, if that's the right word.  Better yet, he ABSORBS it.  David Tenent is my favorite as Dr. Who.  Max much prefers Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor.  He is now the proud owner of two sonic screwdrivers from Amazon.  Coolest gadgets.  Not sure if all this qualifies as schooling per say, but it certainly has been an imaginative adventure and it demonstrates that you can sure think out of the box and get fantastical if need be.  Some clever writing and great adventures through time and space.  And darn it, you do get attached to the characters.  Brilliant, I'd say.  We are waiting with baited breath for them to continue work on the series since we've reached the end.  

The other attention-getter has been the Science Channel's How It's Made series.  And last but certainly not least in Max's mind, is the computer game called Mine Craft.  He spends a bunch of time building houses, towns and cities with his friends.  I didn't originally feel it was such a good use of time (and still maybe sort of don't), but I have seen him learn to use the editing software Gimp and create his own texture packs all on his own.  Then he figures out how to upload them and install them into his program.  Then he figures all sorts of other stuff out.  I do appreciate its level of creativity (some people do amazing things with the Mine Craft software), so let him play.  It's something he cares about and has invested himself in - which is so interesting to watch!  If he cares about it, he'll almost self-teach.  I guess that's what unschoolers talk about, huh?

So, even though I don't feel like we've been pressing the school thing over the last month or two, he is still actively taking in his world and figuring it out.  Some directed by me, some self-directed.  In all honesty, he gets way more out of the self-directed stuff.  I wish as a beginning homeschooler that I had trusted that possibility more.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Complimentary Books

Max's dad came home the other night after his ride home while listening to NPR and wrote down two titles on a piece of scrap paper for me to investigate.  I got a Kindle Touch for Christmas, so went hunting and was able to find one of the titles and downloaded it.  The other we got our hands on in another manner and have started reading it.  Here are the two books that are said to go so wonderfully together:

Visit NPR to read more about why these books resonate for children and adults.  These two were written more than sixty years apart, but the theme they tackle is a bittersweet one that is always timely, one that should be pondered upon and discussed.  Two children along with their families move to a new land hoping for a better life only to come face-to-face with trying to adjust in a new world while still longing for the freedoms (literally and figuratively) of their old worlds.  Told through the eyes of two children, each tale covers some weighty themes such as loss, adversity, discrimination, the meaning of family, fear, remorse; but they also tackle sticking up for what's right and forgiveness and making amends.  In The Hundred Dresses, taunting, teasing and bullying are all pertinent subjects to be mulled over with a child.  

I can't yet say much about Shooting Kabul because we haven't cracked the cover yet (or, rather, turned on the gizmo to begin reading).  We are halfway done with The Hundred Dresses; it is designated for children ages six and up, so the reading is pretty straightforward and it will go quickly, but I feel it is one worth reading together slowly and purposefully.

NPR has good monthly recommendations for books via it's Backseat Book Club.  You may wish to bookmark their page, follow along with some of the books and pose questions about the book together that can be submitted to NPR.  At the end of each month some of those questions will be answered by respective authors on NPR's All Things Considered.

Listening to NPR just makes me feel good - like I'm in good hands.

Update:  A few days later we are about five chapters into Shooting Kabul and both of us are following along eagerly; I went back and edited this post a bit to help it better reflect this story, too.  Wow.  The Kite Runner would be an excellent adult book to accompany this read to help understand the forces at work in Afghanistan, to conjure plenty of imagery of what once was a beautiful, nostalgic place, and to contradict racism and stereotyping.  There is room here in the world for ALL of us.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pinterest - Tool and Stress Reliever!

I am really big on visual stimulation in the form of design.  In the other room, just around the corner, is a room full of bookshelves which are full of magazines and books, which are full of design ideas.  It's a reference library of sorts for my brain and I go there often.  I get weak-kneed and woozy at the prospect of having a very large design/project board, one that I can mess with, change at will, stand back and look at.  One that covers an entire wall!  A huge wall.

We've recently bulldozed (more or less) our front yard without a plan, really.  I think this kind of approach is fun because it's so 'dangerous'!  What I mean is, it's fun to push the envelope and see what can be created just by going with it.  So far we've erected a wall for an enclosed patio and I've fiddled with some ideas using rusted metal, stone and wood here and there.  I lay awake at night and think up interesting gates, retaining walls and earthy elements.  And I scan, scan, scan for ideas.  About fifteen years ago we purchased a new fridge for a kitchen (in a different house) and discovered it was about two inches too wide for the space after it was delivered.  Instead of sending the fridge back, we ripped out the cabinets, tore up the floor and redid the kitchen on the fly.  Budget be dammed!  Well, not really.  It was a tiny little kitchen and we did all of the work ourselves and dug for deals.  New cabinets, tile floor, tile counter tops and low and behold, the fridge slid right into its new space!  I found an old church pew which we cut in half, stained purple, and used as benches for a small table my husband built using wood from an old water bed.  It was exciting and crazy and thankfully it turned out well.  The experience helped us to not be afraid of taking a sledgehammer to a wall or ripping out an old built-in china hutch or turning the master bedroom into the exercise gym for a little while.  I love stuff like this and have learned not to fear design projects - they can be incredibly stimulating and you never know what you might discover.

Hence, since Pinterest has popped up on the screen scene, I've been cheering its usefulness both as an organizational tool for ideas (like a giant project board!) and as a place where I can burn off some stress by drinking in all the color, flowers, patterns, nummy food and layouts.  Pinterest has some clever schooling ideas floating about, too, so have been paying them some heed.  Five minutes of Pinterest can reset my lagging clock.  If you haven't wandered over to check it out, click on the link above and see what you think.  There are lots of teachers who create boards, especially the teachers who are working with younger grades and trying to make their classrooms mind-growing spaces!  You never know what little gems you might stumble on for your homeschooling endeavors, not to mention the fantastic food, charming decorating ideas, winsome pictures of puppies and kittens, explosions of color in art.............don't say I didn't warn you.  Set a timer!  Enlist help from a friend or significant other to help you limit your time on Pinterest!  Hah hah - enjoy!     

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to Get Your Kiddo to Do His Work: Part II

No doubt parenting is one of, if not THE, most challenging undertakings we humans experience.  Good gravy.  Just when you've got them figured out, they dive headfirst into another developmental phase, rendering you either a step behind......or simply speechless!  Max is a really good kid - sometimes crusty on the outside, but soft in the middle.  He doesn't step too far out of line usually.  Drawing that line and clearly pointing it out to him - I didn't fully appreciate how to set a solid boundary with my own child, even though I certainly should know better; in an earlier rendition of me, I had much experience working with families and children as a therapist/counselor for several years.

As mentioned in Part I of this post, we were butting heads about doing schoolwork in a timely fashion or even doing schoolwork period.  Gradually I found myself "managing" Max's day and hounding him to sit down and do his work; I was just the sort of person you wouldn't want to work for - a micro manager!  Yuck. A clear assignment of responsibility didn't exist because I was too busy rescuing him and assuming much of said responsibility for his actual learning.

I can search the ends of the earth and locate awesome materials from which to learn from, I can bring in all sorts of books and websites and clever curricula - but it's not MY job to invest the energy to engage his brain with the materials.  That's his :).  And he's just beginning to figure that out!

John Rosemond (see thoughts about his book, Ending the Homework Hassle in Part I) offered some saleable points that hit home with me.  I had to figure out a way to place the brunt of the responsibility for Max's education on his twelve-year-old shoulders; in doing so this might be the very best action I can take as his parent.  If I don't teach him about choice and consequences, who is going to?  How is he going to fare out there in the big world if he's perfected some self-sabotaging habits?  I also needed to remove the "school issue" from the center of our family.  It was getting far too much attention from all of us.  I "got it" while reading Mr. Rosemond's words and decided to act upon his suggestions.

It took two weeks to read, digest the information, and formulate a plan to apply to our situation.  I'm calling it The Wonder Plan!  Hopefully it will work wonders.  Beginning January 2nd I implemented the wonder plan, much to Max's dismay.  Things were a'changing and he was really hoping I'd relent and turn back into his old trusty Mom - the one who was predictable and permissible. Hah!  I toughened up (in a gentle but firm way) and have been practicing being calm and assertive.  Cesar Milan would be so proud of me!  I'm so proud of me!

I sat down and wrote out some daily expectations for our kiddo.  Here are some examples included in our Wonder Plan:

1.  Remarkable child is responsible for completing all schoolwork assigned to him each day.  (Novel idea!)  

2.  Wonderful child will complete all school-related work issued by his adoring mother by 5:00 p.m. each day (you pick the time that works for your family best; I'm going to wean him down to 3:00 p.m. over the next few weeks and keep it there; no more of this finishing up math over an argument just before bedtime!)

3.  Intelligent child can manage his time as he sees fit.  Breaks and fidgets and time with animals are allowed; iPod, computer time, phone conversations with friends or other electronic distractions, however, are not.

4.  Less-stressed Mom will not remind you about school stuff.

5.  If the work is obviously rushed and/or sloppy, it will be reassigned to amazing child the next day on top of all the new assignments.

6.  Grumpy child will not issue whiny noises about schoolwork.  

After nailing down the expectations in clear writing, THEN, I figured out what his preferred daily lifestyle consists of (very important!)  If your child is anything like Max, he or she probably enjoys things like:

time with friends 
computer play 
maybe an allowance 
permission to spend that allowance 
a reasonable bedtime.........

and wrote them down, labeling them as 'full privileges'.  Sounds like a place you'd want to hang out - in full-privilege land!

Let's say you present yourself to your place of work at 10 a.m. or later each morning, when you are expected at 8 a.m.  Your boss is going to pull you into his or her office eventually and probably hand you a pink slip, which would cut off your paycheck, which would in turn affect your LIFESTYLE.  Mr. Rosemond's approach is to impact the child's preferred lifestyle if certain expectations aren't met.  Brilliant.

SO.  Each night I write up the assignment sheet I expect Max to tackle the next day and put it in his folder.  He's to consult it in the morning and figure out how he's going to get the work done.  If any of the work involves me, he's to come seek me out and figure out a time when we can work together.  At 5:00 I check his work and see if it passes muster.  If yes, he's awarded an "X", a "check mark" or similar for the day - we've been using paw prints!  




In between two and five paw prints I worked out gradually increasing privileges as you go up in number of paw prints.  Ultimately, it's my job to enforce the level of restriction, which means I have to be on my game and be paying attention.  I even created a little cheat sheet to help me remember.  I know, pretty anal, but I have enough things packed into my head already!

Three weeks in and I am seeing definite improvement.  It certainly hasn't been without conflict, but I am much better about not reminding him about his work.  He is MUCH better about getting it done in a timely manner because he's figured out that I'm serious about that whole restriction thing. :).  It's very motivating.

This morning after waking him up, I found him at the table working on his math assignment.  I almost stopped in my tracks and let my mouth fall open, but didn't.  Just quietly smiled and went on to make breakfast.

In essence, no more rescuing, pleading, nagging, arguing.  I have felt a humongous weight peel from my shoulders and I've witnessed no less than a miracle as he begins to accept responsibility for more independent work.

We still read a lot together and play various games and do experiments together, but the bulk of his learning now rests in his lap.  I don't wish to kill the fun or put the kibosh on child-led learning, so it will be a balancing act to keep it fresh and fun.  I teach as I see he needs it, demonstrate some problems, find great materials, pay attention to what he's interested in, and encourage a broad view in his education. WHEW.  It took some reading, some thinking, some incorporating, some planning, some typing, some informing and a healthy dose of "I can do it" pep talks, but the plan is proving itself in the pudding.  I really like this pudding.

Much less stress.  Much less grumpies.  AND HE'S LEARNING on his own!  Easily verifiable with problem checking, retells, discussion, etc.  

I HIGHLY recommend a read of John Rosemond's Ending the Homework Hassle if you find yourself in a similar stressful place where your child isn't doing his/her work.  I am so grateful for his sound advice and can-do attitude that we can in turn pass on to our kids.  Win-win.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

How to Get Your Kiddo to do His Work: Part I

On the surface all appeared well - homeschooling was going great!!  We've been at it for over three years and have figured out much together.  It's been by far the best lifestyle change we've made as a family and if all goes as planned, we won't be heading back to regular school - ever.  Yes, good overall and I was certain we were on the right path, but lurking below it turns out we were harboring a little monster in our midst - a very clever and wily twelve-year-old who didn't want to do his work by himself.  He really didn't want to do his work, period, and he'd do just about anything to squirm out of it; it was a daily struggle to get him to complete a school-related task.  Fascinating to watch from the outside, surely.  Some would have pointed and smirked, "can't she see it??"  I could certainly sense it, but didn't yet have the wherewithal to comprehend the whole picture.    Kuddos to him for being so smart and crafty about getting his needs met, but this mama had reached her frustration limit!

Little by little I've morphed into one of those dreadful micro-manager-type moms when it comes to school work.  A recording device would be an excellent tool to tally exactly how many times a day I said phrases like these: "Max, do your work";  "get started on your math";  "put that down, buddy, and get your butt over to the table - you've got work to finish up";  "we're leaving in just over an hour; have you done your reading?";  "Dad will be home shortly - let me see how much you've finished."  Over and over and over until of course, the words became nothing more than background noise; I was wasting precious energy dollars on trying to spur him into action or keep him on task.  The words were not backed up by any consequences on my part and morbid frustration descended upon me like a heavy blanket.  Every day we woke to repeat the cycle, but not much changed.  I kept my head up and kept forging ahead.

Do you hear yourself saying these same sorts of things to your child?  Are you hanging over him urging him on to the next problem?  Can you leave the room and trust that he'll stay on task?  Does he follow you or get distracted and start playing with the dog or his Legos?  Does he stretch his school work out until bedtime?

Over the holiday break I made it my sole task to problem solve our situation.  I knew something needed to be done, but wasn't exactly sure what to do!  Help was needed to tease it all apart, and I wished to consult someone who was good at big picture stuff.  I'm notorious for swimming in the details and not looking up to see where I am, constantly bumping into things.  As luck would have it, someone mentioned an approach recommended by John Rosemond in his book, Ending the Homework Hassle.  Do you ever think that the right book is set before you just when you need it?  This one arrived with perfect timing.

I took a rational step forward and invited Mr. John Rosemond over to tea!   More or less.  "We" carried on with a lengthy one-to-one session focusing on restructuring the way school work is to be handled from here on out.  Truth is, Mr. Rosemond didn't really pop over - I downloaded his book on my Kindle and kept my nose to the grindstone until the very last word.  When I looked up again, somehow the situation had promise of a resolution, the sky looked brighter!  Nothing like a hefty dose of clarity to help a girl find her way.

I know that Max is more than capable of being an independent worker.  The responsibility for his school work needed to be set squarely upon his shoulders, and therein was my task - to hand the work over to him and let him manage it. It's not my job to do his work - it's his.  It's my job to look after the house, the animals, the finances, the food, and all the other myriad stuff that comes with being a mom.

Stay tuned to see how we've faired over the last two weeks...........I think we're on to something!  Certainly has taken a different sort of skill set on my part and I had to take time to organize a program, but the outcome is looking promising.  I'll share what we're doing in my next post.  In the meantime, if you are experiencing some of the same struggles as a homeschooling parent, by all means get your hands on a copy of Mr. Rosemond's book for information sake and let's share some experiences!  If you've reached critical mass in the frustration department, remain calm - there's hope!  :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Does it seem to you that everyone is decluttering their spaces right now??  I've noticed the comments sprinkled about facebook, have heard the whispers floating through the breezes nearly every place I go, and have certainly entertained the urge to turn every mountain into an anthill myself.  It used to be that January was the month for turning on the exercise habit.  It seems that organizing or getting rid of excess material possessions is the new buzz!

Well, I'm on the bandwagon and am quite serious about this endeavor to get out from under the weight of STUFF.  Rather than organize everything once again, I'm getting it out of the house.  Already the kitchen has been culled by over half of its contents - it's so great!  I went ape right after Christmas and emptied out most of our plates, silverware, glasses, wine glasses, mugs, gadgets, small appliances........ we are now the proud curators of 8 dinner plates, 8 bowls, 10 glasses, 5 mugs and enough complimentary silverware to get us comfortably through our daily meals.  It is with excited relief that I tell you - I can now keep up with the dishes and the kitchen looks great!!  Not much on the counters, room to move, room to cook, room to breathe.  It's divine.

Accordingly, there is a ginormous pile of donateables and saleables in the "other" room, one that I don't frequently have to visit, thank goodness.  The plan is to continue to pile things in there and then determine what goes where in the lineup of non-profits, charities, Freecycle, Craigslist.  Just tackling the contents of the kitchen has had a tremendous impact on my idea of what's important.  An ice cream maker is not important to us (because we have not used said ice cream maker in well over a year and it is just taking up precious space; perhaps someone else will place more value upon the ice cream maker, use it weekly and love it); I'm fairly certain that one needs only one vegetable peeler, after all, and twenty five potholders are just plain too many.  It was rather shocking to dump out the drawers and empty the cupboards of all the items crammed into each one.  How did it all accumulate??

Basically, I wasn't a very good gate keeper over the years!  All those little purchases have added up to one big psychological anchor which I feel strongly compelled to lighten.  Today while at drum lessons I sat and listened to a conversation between two teenage girls sitting on the other couch in the waiting room.  They were exclaiming over a website one of them had found that sold discounted designer dresses and how awesome it was.  I was having a very hard time relating - probably due to me trumping them by twenty five years in age and also because I've been fixated on paring down lately.  The thought of hunting for and purchasing a designer dress left me empty because I don't need it.  Yay - I'm evolving!

Here's the perfect book to read about culling your material possessions.  It's thoughtful and brimming with sound reason.  I haven't yet argued once with her in my head; she's very convincing:

The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

Not to worry.  You won't be living in a home with two pieces of furniture and nothing on any flat surface anywhere to be seen - it's not like that.  It's more about keeping things for the right reasons (and her suggested reasons are thought-provoking) and working to protect the space around you.  When you aren't distracted by the clutter around you and the maintenance that clutter demands, then, and only then, can you give most of your energy to the people who matter in your life and to your creative energies.  This makes sense to me!  Walking into our kitchen I feel GOOD.  It's a room I can handle - sounds weird, but it doesn't make me tired.  Try it!!  Just with a drawer or a small closet. 

The only materials I am not compelled to cull are all of the homeschooling books, games, objects that we've collected.  They hold a certain value and I'm not willing to part with much there yet.  We also haven't tackled the Legos or the Bionicles, but don't need to anytime soon.  They bring Max umpteen hours of creative play and fill him up.  His Power Rangers and any extraneous Duplo blocks, on the other hand, are on their way out!

Happy culling if that's what you've been up to lately!  Check out Francine Jay's book and some of her other writings - a really nice way to begin a new year.

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