Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Stepping Stones vs. Core Values

We've found that parenting with simplicity in mind is sometimes, well, complicated.  It requires intentionality, swimming against the current, doing things differently than what is currently practiced in mainstream parenting.  It's a mindset that doesn't come naturally to our plugged-in, Western society.

Even amidst making decisions for our family that we feel are in line with our desire for a simple home where our true values take precedence, I have discovered that it's easy to get lost in the details of those decisions instead of focusing on the values that I'm really trying to get to in the end.  That's one long sentence.  Let me try to explain.  Here are some of the parenting choices that we have decided on for our family, all of which (in some form or another) fit with our value of simplicity:

  • Exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months
  • Cloth Diapering
  • Elimination Communication
  • Baby led weaning
  • A "montessorian" approach to toys
    • A few, quality toys that encourage exploration and creativity
    • No electronic toys
    • Involve your child (yes, even as young as 1-2 years old) in real-life work (which is the best kind of play for them!)
  • A capsule wardrobe approach to clothes
  • Plus more that we are still figuring out... 
While I may choose to write a few specific posts on some of these decisions and why they fit into our approach to simplicity, that is not the point of this post.  The point is that I have often spent hours upon hours, days even, researching and reading about these subjects.  Buying and reading books, researching on the internet, etc, etc.  Sometimes I will get so sucked in to a topic, that I forget/choose not to connect with Ansel.  I forget/choose not to read my Bible or spend time in prayer.  I forget/choose not to exercise and make healthy eating decisions.  I forget/choose not to spend enough time outdoors.  Sometimes I truly forget and a gentle reminder from Barry or God or another source points me back in the right direction.  But, let's be honest, most of the time it is a choice that I am making.  In an effort to make the best decision about parenting choice "x", I have neglected what Barry and I consider to be our core underlying values:
  1. A vital, living, daily relationship with God
  2. Meaningful connection and closeness as a family
  3. Service to those in need around us
  4. A healthy, active lifestyle
  5. Spending time in nature
These are the areas that I should be spending the majority of my time and energy developing.  While some of the stepping stones listed in the first list can contribute to our core values, they do not and can never act as a substitute.  A family may choose to use formula, disposable diapers, potty train at 6 years old, feed purees until age 3, have a roomful of plastic, electronic toys, and a pile full of mismatching clothes and yet still be doing a better job than we are in promoting authenticity with God, family, and the world around them.  Barry and I have seen this many times and it is always a wake-up call to us.  How incredibly tragic it would be to arrive at old age and realize that we failed to  accomplish the most bedrock of character building tasks in our children.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Baby steps

Sometimes the simple joys of life feel the best. For instance, watching Ansel walk and later on start to run has to count as one of the best things I've enjoyed in all my life. Ansel started with a few uncertain toddles and has now graduated to a repertoire of jigs, jumps, and freestyle patters notable for their improbable variety, daring, and often spectacularly unsuccessful execution. Without question though, he is learning to walk and run at what seems to me an astonishing speed, all without apparent effort, self consciousness, or even very much obvious purpose. He is simply learning to do something he was designed to do. The process is not easy, but natural and fun all the same.

I wonder if we would all be better off approaching life the way Ansel is learning to walk?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

real life simplicity

Disclaimer: this post is written by a sleep deprived medical resident working the night shift and is likely to contain gross errors of grammar, spelling, and logic, not to mention unpardonable sins of style.

Simplicity is cool these days. Peruse pinterest (or look over your wife's shoulder while she peruses hers), or observe the preachings/postings of minimalists on social media or just think of your coolest possible friends who (of course) have embraced simplicity and minimalism at least in part.

Then there is our home, where Christy and I are busily doing what bunnies do best: we have Ansel speeding towards his 2nd birthday in October and his younger sibling slated for arrival the month before. Meanwhile I am working my way through Internal Medicine Residency at Dartmouth, Christy is being a super mom, and we are both working on remodeling our house and yard. I need to pain the trim, spackle/pain the ceiling, fix the fence, paint the fence, order more fill and topsoil for the yard, put windows in the basement, insulate the basement...the list really does go on and on. We also try to be involved in our local church, teaching Bible study or giving a sermon here and there. Oh yeah, and we are also the church-school treasurers (Christy does most of the work to be honest).


What does our model of simplicity home look like? I should really take some pictures  But just imagine our table at breakfast time. Ansel is grinning gleefully as food traverses between his plate and his mouth, or just as often, every imaginable and unimaginable remote corner of the table and surrounding floor. The living room, which had been "reasonably" clean prior to his pre-breakfast cyclone of activity is now a minefield of blocks, books, daddy's tools, mommy's credit cards, a pot lid, an open bottle of lotion, a random piece of string from who knows where, and some very important bolts for fixing the picnic table, now scattered across the room.

We love it all. Our lives are enriched by the fullness of our days, the endlessly varied topography of our living-room floor, and the shrieks of laughter and love from our precious little boy.

Where is the simplicity in such a life? It's a good question. In one sense, we feel an acute need for much more simplicity both in our time and space. Yet there are moments when I feel certain we are getting things right--when we pile into our aging Toyota Camry to go cross-country skiing together instead of cleaning the house, when we stay up talking in bed after Ansel has finally gone to sleep, when we make maple candy on the last snow of the season.

I guess my point is just that simplicity is not a Zen garden, a gorgeous tiny-house, or a neatly folded and ruthlessly minimized wardrobe. Simplicity is a means to an end, not an end in itself. No doubt, we try to get rid of stuff on a pretty regular basis that doesn't "spark joy", we actually do fold our laundry in the approved neat-and-oh-so-organized recommended fashion, we limit the number of toys Ansel has to a few quality ones, and so on. We also try hard to limit our time commitments--I stepped down as a local elder at church, for instance, so that Christy and I could work on the school board together rather than me going to a church board and her to a school board on separate days.

For us, simplicity in real life is aiding us in our ability to prioritize what we value most. We have some room for improvement but we are also enjoying the stage we are at and trying not to get so caught up in the idea of simplicity that we lose sight of what really matters.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

It's been a while..

Christy and I have talked several times about getting back into blogging here but we just haven't managed. Something really clicked for me when we were talking about blogs just last night though: one of the reasons we don't blog anymore is that we tend to waste time on the Internet. Sure, we are also incredibly busy. Finding time to keep up with just the bare minimum demands of life is often challenging. And yet if I invested the Internet time wasted on news stories, sports, Facebook and just general mindless web surfing into blogging, I'm quite sure that a regular stream of blogs would be the result. I really do have the time to do this, in other words. And why not? 'Twould be a much better use of my time, that's for certain.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Living Fences

I found this neat post today on Mother Earth News about how to build living fences.  I think the concept is really ingenious; definitely something I would like to experiment with once we have a place of our own!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Will You Bee My Honey?

I've gotten more interested in honey bees lately.  They are so vital to our livelihood.  Did you know that   a majority of the bees needed for the agricultural sector of America are shipped in from outside sources?  That seems so crazy to me!

I recently found this neat plan for a bee garden.  I would love to do something like this when we have our own little homestead.  This comes from Susan Brackney - author of Plan Bee.  You can visit her website here.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Green Onion Pasta with Asparagus

We've been making our own pasta lately and it really transforms Italian eating.  I have been singing its praises ever since Christmas, when we got our pasta press.  If you have one sitting in a dusty cupboard, dig it out!  If you don't have one, this can be made by hand but it is a bit more labor intensive.

We made this delicious pasta last week and I wanted to write down a few notes about it before I forgot.  This is less of a "recipe" per se and more of some general guidelines.

Spring Pasta With Asparagus

The Pasta
Green Onion Pasta (devised and crafted by Barry!)
(We use this basic recipe.  The key to eggless pasta is to use semolina flour and knead it a lot!  A KitchenAid works wonders here!  You can add a lot of seasonings to the pasta.  This time we added about a cup of chopped green onions.  Often we'll add herbs, garlic, sundried tomatoes, etc.  The possibilities are endless!)
The Toppings
Steamed asparagus spears
Zest of one lemon
Slivered basil leaves
Carmelized onions
The Dressing
Juice of one lemon
2 TBSP olive oil (I added in a dash of truffle-flavored olive oil as well)
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning