Slow down and breathe

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With age 29 coming up for me in a few months, I have a some thoughts. For several years, I made lists on each birthday of the things I wanted to do and experience in the coming year. Often most of them didn’t happen—many times I carried them over to the next year, and the next. It’s not because I didn’t care enough to go after these things, it’s just that priorities tended to shift as life went on, with all of its unexpected twists and turns.

I’ve spent my 20’s primarily having and raising babies, as well as building a business from scratch, and often simply hoping to get all of the bills paid and put food on the table. All of these factors made things like international travel feel like a pipe dream. It is okay though. This doesn’t depress me because I know there will be time and resource for all of that in coming years.

My current everyday existence may appear less glamorous and exciting, but it is its own awesome adventure. This whole life-with-littles thing, it’s a get to. I get to be the one watching my beautiful children grow, day by day. I get to teach and love them, comfort and guide them; I’m witnessing their “firsts” and helping set the foundation their entire lives will be built on. And then I will get to see them spread their own wings and make their own amazing lives, and I’ll look back on these precious, fleeting days and I know I won’t wish that I’d gotten to travel more, or that I’d spent more hours hustling to build my career. I’ll just be glad for all the time I spent fully present with them—holding, listening, teaching, loving. This is something I aim to keep in mind constantly—may I always put this above all else, above “busy” and above work and above the to-do list. May I not allow “getting things done” to ever keep me from taking the time to pour into my kids with patience and grace. 

Europe will still be there in 10 years. So I’m not making a birthday list of things to check off during this final year of my 20’s. There will be no “30 Before 30”.
Instead, there’s this: whatever is happening in the current moment, whatever I am doing at any given time, may I be fully IN that. If I’m drinking a cup of coffee, may I notice and savor the flavor, the aroma, and the smooth feel of the mug in my hands. If I’m feeding Eaden, may I hold her tiny hand and look into her eyes rather than my phone. If I’m reading aloud to my boys, may I cuddle closer and put all other things out of my mind, enjoying the story along with them. If I’m in a conversation with someone (child, or adult) may I look them in the eye and focus solely on what they’re saying. May I notice things, pay attention to the details, and live in gratitude for all of it.

How often are we so busy that we even resort to attempting multiple tasks at once? We’re so pulled in multiple directions that we’re becoming incapable of focusing on just one thing, and in turn we aren’t giving our best to anything at all. In Teaching From Rest, Sarah Mackenzie writes,

“There just isn’t a way to steep yourself in this moment if you multitask your way through it. With the exception of automatic behaviors such as walking and talking, our brains can only attend to one thing at a time. What we usually think of as multitasking is actually task switching, and it is both an inefficient and ineffective way to work.”
and further—
“By definition, to be efficient is to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. But relationships don’t flourish or grow that way. Relationships need time, spent lavishly.”

We all too often prioritize efficiency over relationships, even though we know that people are always more important. Doing things differently requires intentionally going against the grain of our overly fast-paced culture, and unlearning the deep-seeded mindset we have learned from it. I recently came across a blog post on A Cup of Jo on “single-tasking” or “mono-tasking”. It was a great post, and yet I find it a little bit crazy that an entire new buzzword has been created for the concept of focusing on one thing at a time. Our cultural tendency to glorify “busy” has reached such an extreme that we now see simply doing one task at once as a novel idea. How often, when you ask (or are asked) how someone is doing, is the answer almost automatically some version of “Oh I’ve been crazy busy!”? I feel like this is almost always the case. It’s basically expected. Most of us live in a constant state of stress and rushing. We have paid steeply for our frenzied pace of life, in the form of chronic stress, anxiety, severe health problems, disconnected relationships, and a shocking inability to focus well or work well on anything.

For me, this is all the more evidence for the need to step off the crazy train and intentionally create slowness in my life and that of my family. Not only despite it being countercultural, but because it is. I want my children to know the art of just doing nothing, and the magical creativity that comes from boredom. I want our home to be a place to breathe—one of peace and unhurried life. I want to be able to honestly say that the pace of my life is not too much, because I’m living it at human speed and am leaving enough margin to actually breathe.

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my constant reminder.

Some further reading on this that I’ve enjoyed:

Discovering the Joy of Single Tasking
Read This Story Without Distraction (Can You?)
Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace
Faster Than the Speed of Life

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Seeking Simplicity: (Baby) Clothing Edition

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So out of the simple clothing posts I’m writing, this one is obviously the most fun, because tiny baby girl clothes are just the best! Ever since I found out I was having a girl, it’s taken a bit of self control not to overspend on adorable things for her.

Eaden is blessed to be the recipient of some beautiful hand-me-downs from my best friend’s daughter who is about a year older. They’re destined for greatness together, these two, so clearly it makes sense that they share a similar personal style:

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(Sidenote: the above picture was taken in March, and Eaden has so much more hair now! It’s nuts! I didn’t fully realize until I saw this.)

When approaching what to purchase for Eaden, I aim to limit it to a few simple and high-quality items in natural materials. For the summer, I love Burt’s Bee’s organic cotton camisole onesies, paired with some bloomers. I found a couple pairs of ridiculously cute handmade bloomers from Wee Vintage Baby. They’re perfect with the onesies or a little tank top or t-shirt.

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My other favorite for her is rompers. Classic, sweet, cool enough for the summer heat, and nothing beats the simplicity of a one-piece outfit! These two are from Peek and Numero 74.

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For scoring amazing, quality items that are gently used and super affordable, the Kidizen app is wonderful! Purchasing pre-loved clothing rather than new leaves a much smaller footprint on both the earth and our bank account. I also sell some of the things she outgrows, sometimes for exactly the amount I bought them for!
I’m fully aware that shoes are completely unnecessary for my crawling infant, so these leather t-strap sandals were sort of a petty splurge purely for my own amusement. (We all get to do those things once in a while, right?) Aren’t they precious?! I won’t be buying her more shoes until she walks though.

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We also have a few super sweet dresses, some headbands, various onesies, and footie pajamas. And a swimsuit, which also isn’t really necessary, but look at it! (below)
I believe a little bit of superfluity is alright here and there—it keeps things fun!

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She has two drawers- one for clothes she currently wears and one for things she’ll likely grow in to in the next few months.

Simple, and sweet. (Because getting dressed shouldn’t be complicated!)


Previous posts on simplicity:

The Process of Simplicity

Seeking Simplicity: Clothing Edition (Mine)

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What We’re Reading

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May 2016 will go down in our family history as the month that Seth fell in love with reading. Before, he saw it more as work and rarely chose to try it outside of our school time. But all of a sudden something clicked and he has been enjoying it, and therefore getting substantially more adept at it very quickly. As a lifelong lover of books, this brings me so much joy. He turned 7 in February. I have no idea what the expected timeline is for reading in public schools. I’ve made a point of not really paying attention to it, because I know that there is so much evidence that early reading in no way leads to any advantage later, and in fact is likely to lead to more academic problems and less interest in reading for pleasure in later years. I knew that he would start when he was truly ready, since I provided plenty of material and opportunity. Seeing that actually happen, and seeing him choose to sit down with a book in his own free time, makes me so proud of us both. He is my first homeschooler after all- sort of my guinea pig- so it’s so nice to see that what we’re doing is working in a tangible, academic sort of way.

I too have been reading much more than I used to. I’ve made a habit of reaching for a book instead of turning on Netflix during my evening “chill time”, and this not only feeding my mind and filling my thoughts with such great things that are affecting my life in wonderful ways, but it’s also been so good for my sleep patterns. I’d heard for years that screen use in the last hour or two before bed negatively affects your sleep, but actually experiencing it has been so interesting. Last night Manny and I watched Game of Thrones together, and I had trouble falling asleep for the first time all week.

Anyway, I thought I’d share the books we’ve been enjoying lately, because I know I always love hearing what others are reading.

me:

One thing that has always been true about me is that I can’t just read one book at a time. Maybe it’s some sort of reader ADD? There are just so many interesting books, that any trip to the library (or to Amazon.com) leads to multiple books at once. But each eventually gets its time in the spotlight.
My main squeeze over the past week has been The Way of the Happy Woman by Sara Avant Stover // This book has been so timely and so, so good for me. It’s about health, and connected living, and doing the things that are good for you and make you happiest and most balanced. Which is so necessary because it means more to give to those who need us. I’ll probably write a whole post about this book eventually.
And now I’m about halfway through Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert // Creativity beyond fear—need I say more. I love Elizabeth Gilbert.
And these, I’m gradually making my way through, picking them up here and there for short bouts of inspiration:
Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
How to Be a Wildflower by Katie Daisy // lovely visual inspiration
The Parent’s Tao Te Ching by William Martin // I read a page or two at a time for some quick conscious parenting inspiration. It’s so full of widsom.
and
Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle // One of my favorite authors of all time, writing about faith and art. I’ve been reading this little by little as a devotional of sorts.

 

homeschool and family read alouds (for Seth, age 7 and Isaac, age 4):

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman // a beautifully illustrated guide to nature
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White // our language arts and literature book at the moment, guided by Brave Writer
The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook by Clare Walker Leslie // a great month-by-month guide to observing nature
The Action of Subtraction by Brian P. Cleary // I love this “Math is Categorical” series for bringing math concepts and funny poetry together. Seth enjoys them and they make a great supplement to our math. We found them at the library.
Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late by Laura Overdeck // Another way to add some fun to math, and encourage critical and mathematical thinking. We do one of the word problems together every week or so.
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey // this was a childhood favorite of mine—I love McCloskey!
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
(countless other picture books get pulled from our shelves daily, but these are some recent favorites)

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seth (age 7):

Frog and Toad Together
by Arnold Lobel
The Solar System by Emily Bone
A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik
Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
The Magic Tree House (book 4) by Mary Pope Osbourne

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What are you and your kids reading right now?

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Seeking Simplicity: Clothing Edition (mine)

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I wrote a post about simplicity last week, and the next day had a conversation with a friend about spending and budgets, thoughtful purchasing, and the guilt and shame that can sometimes surround spending money, especially on ourselves. For me, this has always applied especially to clothes.

I don’t consider myself a fashionista. I’ve never had the money to be one anyway, and it simply isn’t a priority for me. I don’t care about trends. I have my own taste that’s mostly unaffected by whatever is “in” at the given moment, I’ve always simply tried to wear what makes me feel good. For years, most of my wardrobe came from Target, sometimes Nordstrom with some Gap and American Eagle here and there. I very much appreciate good design and beautiful things, but felt like I couldn’t afford to splurge on good quality items. Most of my purchases were pretty impulsive and unplanned. I had favorite items that I wore all the time, but many things sat in my closet rarely being used at all. And then there were the things that clearly were just of such poor quality—I found myself replacing tops with holes and pilling, or stretched-out jeans, far too often then should be necessary.

As I began to dive more into the concept of simpler living, I frequently encountered the concept of capsule wardrobes, and of thoughtfully planned clothing collections built over time with pieces that are well-made, high quality, classic, and will last over many seasons and years. This was usually accompanied by talk of where clothing comes from and how it is produced. It turns out that cheap clothing usually comes at the cost of severe social injustice and environmental harm. There is an entire “slow fashion” movement focused on ethically made, high quality clothing. For some reason it has taken me a while, but I’ve finally begun heading in this direction. I’d like to share the experience here for anyone interested.
Please note that I do not consider mine to be even close to a true capsule wardrobe. I’ve read that by definition that would consist of 30 or fewer items (including shoes and possibly even accessories). I’m not there, and I’m not sure that’s even my goal, but I do want more simplicity in my clothing collection, as I believe it will streamline the process of getting dressed as well as eliminate clothing clutter and storage issues.

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First, during our big initial decluttering process, I rid my drawers and closet of everything unneeded. This included items that were stretched out, worn out, stained or torn beyond repair, as well as anything that simply didn’t make me feel good wearing it. I tried on everything I hadn’t worn in a while, and if there was just something off about it and I knew it was bound to sit unused for another six months, out it went. It’s amazing how many things I kept holding on to with a “just in case” mentality (and that was the same all over my house, not only with clothes). After all of that , I was finally left with the things I actually wear, and actually like. From there, it’s simply been a matter of identifying the holes in my collection or the pieces I’d like to eventually replace with a nicer, higher-quality version. And even the best-made things eventually wear out over time, so I plan to make replacements as needed.

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My skirt here is from a great little second-hand Instagram shop @hobbsgeneralstore. They post new inventory most Fridays. This sling from Kantha Bae is one of my favorite things for Eaden! Photo is from our family session with by friend Bianca Thomas (biancavalentim.com).

Each season will vary a bit, but not too drastically in South Florida, so I’m approaching my entire wardrobe as a whole, not as much by season, though since it’s currently May I don’t plan to add a jacket or sweater any time soon.
Here’s what my clothing collection consists of right now:

-4 pairs of jeans
-3 pairs of soft, light “boho” style pants
-3 pairs of shorts (2 denim, 1 soft printed)
-10 tank tops (I wear tanks nearly every day, including for workouts and the beach and as a base layer under sheer tops. Most of mine are still the cheap ones from Target, but I’m gradually replacing them as they wear out, while also narrowing down to no more than 7. Everlane makes my favorites.)
-5 basic t-shirts (and I just pre-ordered this one, which I’m pretty happy about!)
-2 nicer tops that can dress up a little
-4 tunic-type tank dresses, for pairing with jeans or leggings
-2 other dresses- one floor-length black and one for looking somewhat professional when needed
-4 skirts (which I don’t wear much, but can’t seem to part with)
-4 (I think?) long-sleeved shirts
-6 sweaters (3 cardigans, 3 pullovers)
-1 winter jacket
-Lounge and workout wear (I’ve probably got too many pairs of leggings, but I live in them at home, and for yoga, and also wear them under tunic-length items sometimes or as pajamas if I’m chilly. Versatile and so comfy. In this category is also a small handful of tops that I only wear for sleep.)
-1 swim suit
-Underthings (Nursing for the third time around meant new bras, as none of my old nursing bras were in any kind of usable condition when we pulled them down from the attic. I chose Cake Maternity, and they’ve been my favorite ones yet. I have 4 nursing bras that I rotate. Undies are pretty much all simple cotton, nearly all the exact same style in various shades of black, blue, and grey.)
-Shoes: 9 pairs, which really still sounds like too many. My beloved Birkenstock sandals are my go-to, but they’re getting older and I was feeling that they looked too grungy and casual for certain situations so after months of inner debate I purchased these from Olukai. These are well-made and comfortable, and will go with practically everything I wear. I wear sandals year-round, probably at least 80% of the time. I also have a pair of Teva flip-flops for the beach, to avoid messing up the leather of my other sandals. The other pairs consist of a pair of Toms casual sneakers, Merrel barefoot trail runners, regular Asics running shoes (which don’t get out much these days, thanks to those Merrells!), a pair of crocheted black Toms classics which are almost exclusively for shooting weddings, a pair of boots, and a pair of sparkly and awfully uncomfortable flats that I wear only for the very rare dressy occasion.

Making that list was quite a bit more difficult than I’d expected, but I think that’s pretty much everything. It may have been overkill to catalog my entire closet for you, but I think it’s a good foundation for future posts on this topic.
I would like to pare this down even a little more. I think I held onto some duplicates (especially tank tops and loungewear) because I was afraid of not having anything to wear in between laundry loads, but I’ve found that having fewer items to wash makes it pretty easy to wash more frequently. I’m getting into a habit of putting a load in each morning, and folding the one from the day before at some point during our morning school time.

I’ve made a few purchases recently and feel that I won’t need anything new at least until after the summer.
– I mentioned the “Wild + Free Mama” tee above, which is from my favorite homeschool inspiration source.
– I also just bought a pair of light-wash cropped jeans (see photo) from Nordstrom’s Treasure&Bond line. I honestly wish I’d sought out a brand that is more focused on ethical production, but I did like that at least a portion of proceeds is given to charities. Here’s a list of more ethical jeans brands that I’m curious about for the future.
– And finally, my new sandals (see above)—Olukai has an outstanding commitment to the environment and their community in Hawaii.

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Homeschool overview, Grade 1

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My last homeschooling update was in the very beginning of this journey, when we were still just figuring out how. Now we’re coming to the end of our second year! And I’m still figuring it out, definitely still learning each day, but I’m happy to share where we are, where we’ve been, and what’s working for us right now. One of the beautiful things about home education is the flexibility and the way it can be customized for each family, each child, and each season of life. (If you’re curious about why we chose homeschooling, I wrote about that here.)

Currently Seth is 7 (+4 months) and in first grade. This year was so full of ups and downs. The adjustment that accompanies adding a third child into the mix is no small thing. The first six months or so after Eaden’s birth in September (and let’s face it—that last month  or so of pregnancy, too!), it was basically survival mode. We sometimes skipped days, even weeks, of formal “school”. At times doing just one day of schoolwork in an entire week felt like a victory. I went through times when I felt so much guilt, and so much worry that he’d get “behind” and that we weren’t doing “enough”. I was just. so. tired.

But guess what? They learned a ton anyway. Seth kept progressing in his reading, handwriting, and math skills, even when we we’re spending a lot of time teaching it. His reading fluency astounds me (because it seemed to happen so suddenly) and he got there because he wanted to be able to read things. Handwriting was similar, along with telling time and understanding measurements. Math comes up naturally in our lives on a daily basis. He picks up a ton of science facts simply because he’s curious. Beyond those basic academics, he’s become more capable and independent (he made me scrambled eggs and did the dishes the other day!) and knows so many random and interesting things. He is constantly learning. I understand and appreciate the unschooling, child-led learning philosophy so much better now than I ever did before. Kids will learn, naturally and without force or even much guidance—it actually works! (Here’s a great article I read recently on this topic.) Overall though, we like at least some structure and planning, and I got to the point where I felt ready to return to a school routine. Eaden is 8 months old now, and yes life is constantly still in flux and we still have some sleepless nights and tired days. And I’m working more again, which adds another interesting element to the mix. But we’re doing schoolwork more often, typically four days a week for a couple hours a day, and we’re really enjoying it- which is so important to me!

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We’re going to be schooling through the Summer, to keep this momentum going. I’ve been reading about the Waldorf philosophy and I’m feeling so drawn to aspects of that lifestyle and hoping to learn to incorporate some of it into our lives. There is a lot of focus on creativity and beauty, as well as on rhythms (daily, weekly, and seasonal), which I feel we need pretty deeply. I’ve noticed that without any structure we’re too scattered and chaotic, so I want to bring some grounding routine into our days. For preschoolers, the entire “curriculum” is basically stories and songs, and letting them play freely and participate in the life of the home and family. I love that, and am looking forward to applying it with Isaac and eventually Eaden. I’ve learned so much through this series on Waldorf-inspired preschool at home. I’ll share more about all of this (and how I’m approaching preschool with Isaac) once I get a better handle on what I’m doing, but I will say that I’m pretty excited about it! I’m just starting to incorporate a slightly more Waldorf-inspired approach (or maybe Waldorf and Charlotte Mason hybrid) into Seth’s language, history and science lessons by having him create journal pages that are a combination of painting and writing- copy work either from what we’ve read or from his narration as told to me, directly onto an illustration he creates from the material. These will all go into a binder, either laminated or in plastic sleeves, creating a nice record of what he’s learned over time. (I got this wonderful idea from Jodi’s Mockabee‘s recent contribution to a Wild and Free bundle.)

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So on to what we’ve been doing this year! Right now, Seth’s Grade 1 work consists of the following:

Brave Writer for language arts and writing
Quiver of Arrows is a literature-based language arts curriculum and we’re loving it! We’re nearly finished with Charlotte’s Web now. I like the way it ties spelling, grammar, literary elements and copywork directly into the text of a really great book. We’re also about to start doing the projects from Jot It Down!, which is a project-based creative writing program.
We also do some memorization, written on our blackboard (door)—poems or verses taken from books such as The Child’s Garden of Verses. Sometimes I just pull out a book of poetry and read, and I’m hoping to create little more of a daily ritual around it. Brave Writer recommends poetry tea times, and I love that idea. It sounds peaceful, but I wonder how it would actually go with my two boys!

The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading for reading and phonics
Along with early readers from the library and our own collection. Some of his favorites have been the Piggy and Elephant series, Dr. Seuss, Frog and Toad, the Little Bear series, and Bob Books.

Math Mammoth for math
We also play math games—Seth is loving 4-Way Countdown right now—and he learns and practices so much math in everyday life, through clocks, money, measuring, and counting in various situations. I purchased the Loving Living Math e-book recently and am hoping to learn more ways to bring math conversations into our daily lives. In our Waldorf circle times, I’m planning to teach skip-counting songs to help prepare for teaching multiplication. Overall, I want them to see math as fun, interesting and relevant, which is something I never really experienced as a child.

Science Lapbooks from Elemental Science for science
We’re currently working through the solar system, and will likely move into a long and involved study of plants after this, along with medicinal herbs, foraging, and gardening. I can’t wait, and will definitely post about it once we’re there!

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We also do nature study for science. In late 2014 I started a local nature homeschool group, “Wild + Free South Florida”, and we meet weekly. Much of what we do is free play, but always in natural areas, and the kids are constantly finding and studying animals, bugs, birds, rocks, plants, etc. They learn through being immersed in nature, and from each other. Sometimes we will then further research a specific thing we saw, and draw it in our nature journals at home. The boys are also part of the Wild Explorers Club, and work through assignments and earn badges, which they absolutely love.
Speaking of Wild + Free, I can’t stress enough what an amazing source of information, encouragement, and inspiration the international W+F community has been for in homeschooling. I’m so grateful!

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Beautiful Feet Books – Early American History Primary, for history
This is a great history curriculum based entirely on wonderful, engaging literature rather than dry textbooks. I’ve always preferred learning history this way, through the perspective of a person living in that time period, so this immediately drew me. We’ve started with the first half of the Early American History pack and are gradually making our way through. Sometimes I revise or skip certain questions in the teaching guide to better fit my worldview, but the books themselves are great.

Teach Them Spanish, grade 1 for foreign language
My mother-in-law, whose first language is Spanish, works with Seth each week. We bought this book so she’d have a guide on what to work on. Isaac picks some of it up as well, through observation and in everyday communication with my husband’s grandmother who only speaks Spanish. We’re incredibly lucky that our kids get to spend time native speakers, which is truly the best way to learn a language!

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Art
Our days are full of art. They have free access to almost all art supplies, which can be messy but leads to a lot of child-led creativity. They cut, paste, fold, paint, and draw.
We also attend a pottery class each week, so beautifully taught by my friend Lani of Avenue Pottery (I photographed her gorgeous pieces for her website!). Seth has developed quite a talent for the wheel, and I love it too! Now we’re hoping to have one of our own someday.
Seth asked for a loom for his birthday after seeing some giant ones in a fiber arts shop in Asheville this winter, so we purchased a wooden lap loom for him. He’s still working on his first piece—he’ll work for an hour or two one day and then let it sit for a couple weeks before picking it up again, but he really enjoys it and focuses so acutely when he’s working. He also loves to finger knit, and has his own balls of yarn that he frequently pulls out to make chains with. He really wants to learn to crochet and keeps asking me to teach him, so we’ll likely attempt that soon

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As I look through this list, it’s really only part of the picture of what homeschooling is for us. The curriculums and books we use are only a small part of what we do. Most of the time, our kids play. They play at home and outdoors, with toys and sticks, household objects and cardboard boxes. They imagine whole worlds and stories to play out. They are enjoying being children, and it is beautiful. They play, and they also observe us, their parents, as we work and care for them and the baby and our home. They help with cooking and cleaning, and are gradually becoming able to do those things on their own. They ask me literally two thousand questions a day. When I don’t know the answer, we look it up together. Sometimes an entire day of school will be focused on something Seth asked about—we ditch everything else and follow his interest (because we retain best what we’re actually interested in learning anyway). And then they play some more. And in the process, they are learning incredibly valuable things that no school curriculum could ever teach them.

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The Process of Simplicity

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I think I’ve held back from writing here very often because I haven’t known where to begin. There are so many topics I want to write about, and yet none that I have polished and totally figured out. I’m curious about so much, but rarely an expert. But rather than getting overwhelmed and running away (again), I’m going to just pick one thing and talk about it. And then another, and another, without having to map out some kind of organized game plan ahead of time. (That’s probably what most bloggers do anyway. I most likely overthink it.)

So today, simplicity is on my mind. I feel like it’s become a somewhat overused term. It’s thrown around a lot—”live simply” or “I’m simplifying”—but what does it mean? Personally, when I consider the idea of simplicity I picture an all-encompassing lifestyle, steeped in an appreciation for the beauty of everyday moments. I envision a home that is fairly minimal, but more importantly, contains only what is useful or beautiful (and hopefully both). I desire to carefully consider what we bring into our home, and what we keep here. I want quality over quantity. In a culture as materialistic as ours is, possessions are definitely one of the biggest obstacles to a simpler life. But there is so much more to it than only stuff. It applies to the way we spend our time, the way we eat, the way we treat illness and what we clean our homes with. My goal is not only to declutter, but to create an atmosphere in my home that is simple and peaceful and makes space for joy, creativity, movement, and the pursuit of knowledge.

We have come a long way in this area, but still have so far we can go. It is a process, and happens on a continuum. Every time we’re faced with the option to bring another new thing into our lives, we can exercise simplicity. Do I need this? What will it add to my life? Will I still want it in a week? a month? a year? Is there a version of this item that will last longer, work better, or be more aesthetically pleasing? How was it made—where, and by whom? These are all questions I aim to consider when making purchases.

This has meant moving away from plastics and disposable items, and choosing to pay more, once, for something that will last rather than opting for a cheap item that will break or wear out.

Along with seemingly everyone and their mother (am I right?) I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by Marie Kondo last year. In case you aren’t familiar, this book takes you step-by-step through the process of editing down the things you own, based on the simple question “Does this spark joy?” So I read this, and then proceeded to “Konmarie” our home, and over the course of a few weeks we carted off about two pickup trucks worth of stuff to the local non-profit we donate to (which gives directly to the families of farm workers in the area—I prefer this option over Goodwill/Salvation Army because I know these things are being used by people in need). We also discarded several large black trash bags of unusable items like broken toys, clothes worn to rags, and so so many bottles of expired or half-used cosmetics and toiletries from under the sink. It was absurd. It was rather shocking to see that we’d been holding on to so much that we didn’t need, want, or use anymore.

That whole process definitely made an impact on me and caused me to consider our habits of consumption. But I’m still training myself, and unfortunately I’ve still purchased/accumulated some things since then that ended up being mistakes. Like I said, it’s a process. Every few months or so I get the “declutter” itch again, and I sweep through the house collecting items to get rid of. As the seasons change, some toys stop getting played with, some books are outgrown or could serve someone else much better, some clothes are just not getting any love and therefore not earning their place in the drawer or closet.

I recently thoroughly enjoyed reading Simple Matters by Erin Boyle. I think every once in a while I need a good infusion of simplicity inspiration in book form. This one is just beautiful, and has me thinking all over again about the beauty and quality of each thing we own, and the social and environmental impact of it’s production and eventual discard. And so the process of creating a more peaceful and minimal home and life continues. I’ll keep you posted.

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hello. i’m still figuring this out.

lanisplants-1And by this, I mean life. motherhood. business. health. homeschooling. marriage. everything. For some reason today I felt the need to start with a blank slate, and for some reason that took the form of a blog post in my mind and here I am in this sorely neglected little space, full already with thoughts from former versions of myself. I felt like coming back to it, making it new again. what will this be? where will it lead? is blogging dead, irrelevant, obsolete? why do I need this when I can just post all my thoughts all the time on instagram? I honestly have no idea. But I feel inspired to be here, and to start, and to write for myself at the very least.

If you’re reading this, welcome, and thank you. I’ll be back soon.

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A Health Update {Hashimoto’s, pregnancy, fertility, and food}

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It’s been quite some time since I’ve talked about my health here, and I know some of you might be curious how things are going with treating my autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) naturally, and how it has affected my pregnancy.

Quick background: I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in summer 2013, after years of not being able to find any answer to why I felt completely awful so much of the time. This diagnosis lead to massive changes in my already “healthy” diet. Over the previous years I’d been vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, avoided processed and refined foods, done detoxes, and yet still had very little energy and got debilitating headaches more days out of each month than not.

Once I learned the root cause of all of these problems, I was quite determined to learn to manage it naturally and very much wanted to avoid the need for any medication. I began researching a ton and found that much of what I’d always known to be true in the realm of nutrition, actually wasn’t (at least not for every person). In the midst of all of this I was also trying to conceive our third baby, and after 1.5 years of trying was diagnosed with PCOS. I learned that hormone balance depends on an abundance of healthy fats, and that I needed more quality proteins to help keep my blood sugar stable. I was told to avoid gluten, as it increases inflammation for people with autoimmune disease, and as I dug deeper I found that same to be true of legumes, sugar, dairy, and grains in general. All signs pointed to a grain-free, primal (paleo) diet, and I decided to give it a try.

I haven’t eaten any gluten at all since January 2014, and permanently quit dairy and corn a while after that upon seeing so clearly how much they affected how I feel. I rarely eat sugar (refined white sugar, almost never) or legumes, and I have gone many stretches being completely grain-free. This has been such a huge change, and definitely not always easy. I miss lentils and bread, but when I think about how I used to feel when eating them frequently, it really doesn’t seem so bad.

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So back to pregnancy. After over a year and a half of trying to conceive, even with all these dietary changes my progesterone was still low, so I was put on a natural compounded progesterone. We found out in late June of last year that I was pregnant, just weeks after starting the hormone treatment. At 8 weeks, it ended abruptly in a miscarriage. I don’t know, and will never know, if Hashimoto’s was to blame at all, but after it happened I became a lot more careful with my diet, avoiding inflammatory foods and increasing healthy fats and veggies. In January, after more months of overusing pregnancy test strips and wondering if it would ever happen, once again I was faced with two little pink lines. This time felt so different though. The anxiety that had surfaced after my miscarriage attacked with a vengeance, and I fought it every day with prayer, faith, and essential oils. When I passed the 8-week mark where I’d been last time, and especially when I reached the 12-week mark where risk is considered much lower, I began to relax. Twelve weeks happened to come almost exactly when I’d been due with the one we lost, which was bittersweet but also healing for me. With the second trimester came the end of my constant nausea, and I entered the phase of truly enjoying this pregnancy.

My morning (read: all-day) sickness in the first 12 weeks made it basically impossible to stay as strict with my diet as I had been. I still avoided gluten, sugar, dairy, and most legumes, but added some grains back to save my sanity. Protein-rich foods often made me feel ill by simply thinking of them. Even now, I’m eating rice or a piece of millet bread here and there, and simply trying to listen to my body and discern what it needs on any given day. Sometimes that’s a big green smoothie with kale, pineapple, mango, coconut milk, banana, avocado and coconut oil. Sometimes it’s sweet potatoes, or raw coconut oil chocolate, or some eggs or grass-fed beef. Most of my cravings have been along those lines, though sometimes it’s for things like donuts or ice cream and I’ve had to find creative healthy ways to satisfy that!

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Pregnancy can affect thyroid problems pretty drastically at times, and for the first time I have needed a low dose of thyroid medication. I don’t love being on it, and am hoping to be able to stop after baby comes, even if it means getting even more strict with food for a while. I truly believe that the body can heal itself, but I don’t want to do any experimenting with thyroid levels while I’m pregnant.

Despite that, this has overall been the best I have ever felt while pregnant. I have more energy than I remember having with the boys, much fewer headaches, and most significantly much fewer digestive problems. My first two pregnancies involved almost constant tummy issues—painful indigestion practically ever time I ate—and now it’s pretty rare and usually directly linked to slipping up and eating something I shouldn’t (like some corn chips, hummus, or peanuts).

Supplements are also pretty important when growing a human, and must go far beyond a simple prenatal vitamin.
I take a prenatal multi recommended by my nurse practitioner (who treats my Hashimoto’s). It contains methylfolate instead of the standard folic acid, which is absorbed much more readily by my body.
My other dailies are: fermented cod liver oil (one of the very best sources of essential fatty acids and vitamins A & D), a quality probiotic, curcumin (turmeric capsules, for inflammation), a special thyroid supplement from my nurse practitioner, and a magnesium/calcium drink.
I also use various essential oil daily according to what I need. One of my favorites is the Gentle Baby blend, which is specifically for pregnancy and babies. The book Gentle Babies has been a great resource for figuring out which Young Living oils can be used while pregnant.

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I think that just about covers it (for now anyway). What a wild ride this has been! I’m so thankful for all the knowledge I’ve gained and help I’ve received that has helped this pregnancy along so far and helped me grow the healthiest baby possible, and feel as well as possible so I can enjoy every moment of this. Now at 24 weeks, I am deeply aware of the magic of being her home for these months, her nourishment and protection. Every kick and squirm I feel is so very precious.

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they are my heart

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They are my heart. They fill my cup and simultaneously empty it. Motherhood is tough and messy, beautiful and vulnerable and absolutely amazing. There are moments of greatest joy and deepest ache, bliss and utter defeat often in the same day.
Today I’m sporting a bruised eye and nose from a toy thrown at my face yesterday (because I would let the 3 year old watch Netflix on my phone. yes really.)
This morning I woke before they did—a habit I’m trying hard to form—and brought my cashew milk hot chocolate back to bed for quiet time alone. Yet not really alone—this new life wiggles and kicks inside me and I feel the reality that she and I are the most connected we will ever be in our lives. That truth breaks my heart in the most wonderful way. I want to savor every minute of this.

I’ve been wanting to start writing here again for a while. I hate to make any promises, but I will say that I have the desire to do so and am going to give it a shot. I have so much I want to share, and am a perfectionist about photos to go with posts, and often I know it’s going to take so much time that I end up posting nothing at all. But really I have things to say. So I’ll just begin, and see where it goes.

Instagram has functioned as my daily blog for a while now, but it is fleeting and I crave something with a bit more depth and permanence. Yes indeed I am pregnant with our third baby—a girl! (I hadn’t shared that tidbit here so now it’s official.) We are so filled with joy. Nearly 23 weeks now, and after a very nauseous first trimester I have been fully enjoying this time, soaking it in and trying not to rush because it’s likely going to be my last pregnancy.

I’ll be back soon ;)

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kombucha

kombuchaSomewhere along my journey of learning how to heal naturally from Hashimoto’s, I began hearing about the many benefits of fermented foods and drinks. They are loaded with probiotics, and aid in gut and immune health.

Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea and contains beneficial acids and enzymes in addition to probiotic cultures. (more on its benefits here!) It’s fizzy and can be slightly sweet depending on how long you ferment it. The first time I tried it years ago, I absolutely hated it. I think it was mostly that the flavor was so unexpected, and when I finally tried it again I didn’t mind it much. Now I actually really enjoy it.

Making it at home beats store-bought in both price and freshness. It’s really easy and doesn’t take a ton of extra time. The easiest way to start it is to ask around and find a friend who can give you a scoby (the kombucha starter culture, which is very strange looking but totally non-threatening, I promise. It’s name stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”. Yum!) Scobies are always growing new top layers, so it’s great to give pieces away to friends interested in starting their own brew!

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Once you have a scoby, which should hopefully come in about a cup of starter kombucha, you’ll also need:
-1 gallon of filtered water
-5 bags of green tea (or 5 teaspoons of loose leaf- some people use black tea, but it has to be one of the two; herbal won’t work the same way)
-1 cup of granulated sugar (don’t use a substitute here- the scoby “eats” the sugar during the fermentation process, so you don’t end up consuming it)

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1. Bring the gallon of water to a boil, remove from heat and add the tea. Steep for a few minutes and remove bags or strain loose tea.

2. Add the sugar and stir. Cool to completely room temperature (heat will kill your scoby).

3. When the sweetened tea has cooled, pour into a gallon-sized glass container (like a really big mason jar—I just use two, and I have two separate scobies. This fits better in my little kitchen. Cover with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band and let the jar sit in a dark corner at room temperature.

4. Let it ferment for at least a week or up to a few weeks—it will get less sweet and sour towards the end. Taste it, and when it seems right to you, remove the scoby and all but a cup of the kombucha and pour into glass containers (mason jars or these bottles work well). Save the reserved liquid to start your next batch. Store your kombucha in the refrigerator. You can drink this as it is, or you can continue to ferment it for a couple more days in bottles in the fridge—just add in any fruit you wish (fresh or frozen- some good options include berries, ginger, or pineapple), and be sure to burp the bottle each day to release the pressure. After a couple days your kombucha will be fizzy and delicious, and you can strain out the fruit and return the kumbucha to the bottles and keep refrigerated. It will keep for up to a couple months, but I doubt it will last that long!

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