The Gift of Gift Cards

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This is one slightly harried mom’s perspective on gift cards-and how they are absolutely fabulous to receive as gifts.

I know a lot of people feel like gift cards are a cop out, a last minute, “crap, I didn’t get anything for so and so-let’s just grab a gift card.” We’ve all been there-as participants on both sides-so this does happen.

Low denomination gift cards are also becoming a standard generic “Thank you” gift for a variety of businesses. Big or small, from church to chain foods, nothing says “Christmas” to your employees/volunteers like a $10 Starbucks card (oh wait, they don’t celebrate Christmas. MY BAD. Chick-fil-a, then).

But for me- the mom who is wearing holes in her jeans and various toddler blessed grime on her 5 year old sweaters-gift cards are a blessing. A beautiful, intentional, amazing thing-and here is why.

First- Christmas lists. Christmas lists as a child involved huge toy magazines, a variety of colored writing utensils, and convoluted ranking systems that required several drafts before perfected. There was price consideration, bedroom space allocation, whether your sister asked for the same thing contemplation-it was complicated, people, and I had allllllll the tiiiime in the woooorld to finish it (Ok, not entirely, lists have always been due by October 1st in my family-a rule that does get bent on occasion but not by much).

Now I have two exuberant boys who are rough and tumble-VERY rough and tumble. My brain is exhausted by the boo boo kisses, the ongoing argument in my head of whether I should put them both in helmets, the clashes of will, plus meal planning, laundry, dishes, workout, cleaning, grocery shopping… Now you want me to come up with things that I want for Christmas in a timely and organized manner? Ha. Haha. HAHAHAHA

Gift cards, y’all. I want gift cards. Or for you to just get me something. I can tell you vague information about what I’d like at some point, but I don’t have anything I am really craving unless you count the desire for a full time cook and a maid. This year I was smart and had started creating an Amazon wish list any time a random “Oh, that’d be nice” thought crossed my mind, but don’t be prepared for anything fancy. The only thing (besides the cook and maid) I really want for Christmas is a butter dish. Yes. A butter dish.

Second-restricted shopping. There are a few stores that I would LOVE to be able to shop at (online, of course, I dislike in store shopping) but anytime I’m like, “Oh THAT’S cute.” at a Zulilly Ad on facebook or “Ooo, I love the color of that” to my friend’s Instagram selfie, or even the random wistful, “Someday I’d like to wear more dresses then pants” I switch back over to writing my list for groceries, contemplating things for the boys, and generally ignoring the shopping impulse altogether. This is good for our budget, and I truly enjoy being a stay at home mom, and I don’t really mind wearing the “momiform” everyday, and, and, and…  gift cards to specific stores slice through all of that. If I get a gift card to Athleta-I am the only one in my household who can wear those clothes! ME. I have to shop for me. There is no way to negotiate, I am held hostage by a gift card, and it is my contractual obligation by accepting the gift to utilize the fullest amount

Lastly-experience. I loathe physically window shopping-seriously one of the most pointless exercises ever. My husband hates questions like, “What would you do with a million dollars” because it is all fruitless speculation until you get a million dollars. I don’t mind fruitless speculation because I know the odds are it’ll never happen so it takes the pressure off. He, however, likes to window shop. What is the point of dealing with bad parking, crowds and the assorted smells/looks/accidental physical contact, a hundred thousand items you aren’t in any way interested in, while looking at things you can’t afford or aren’t going to buy any time soon. What is the point of acknowledging you maybe would like that thing just to not get it? What is the point of reminding yourself habitually that you can’t have nice things?

Ok, the last part might be a bit of an exaggeration, but still. Window shopping=exercise in pointless aggravation. But give me a gift card, force me to shop at one store, just for me, online, money in hand so to speak…. Oh man. During that golden nap hour I can peruse the pages, tabbing, selecting, comparing-knowing that in the end I MUST get something. It is bliss. It lets me step away from being a mom and just do something simple for the pleasure of doing it. There is almost a pang of regret at checkout because the experience is over, I have done the shopping, I have used the gift card.

Honestly, that last point is pretty much my favorite part of gift cards. I like the actual transactional part of buying something. You could probably get me a gift card to Lowes and I’d enjoy it just as much. I like spending money, and gift cards let me spend money and forces me to spend it on myself-the person in my household I am least likely to buy anything for.

So don’t knock the gift card as “unfeeling” or “impersonal”. It’s what I really, really want for Christmas.

Cade: Version 2.5

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Two and a half years. Whew. That’s just weird. I feel like I should really stop calling him a toddler-because he doesn’t toddle any more (if he ever did). No, my little man full out runs. And climbs, and jumps, and slides, and swings… From thundering down the hallway on hands and knees to climbing playground apparatus that 4 year olds are cautioned away from by other parents- Cade has maintained his on the go, gotta move energy. We take a walk after dinner on the sidewalk in the neighborhood. It’s a quarter mile to the playground and Cade runs it. And runs most of the way back. Sometimes we pick him up for parts of the way back-but that’s usually because he’s already run so much back and forth between us that he’s probably run over a mile already. His language is increasingly easy to understand, and his concepts get more and more involved. His imagination has taken off and I LOVE it. From building “rocket ships” with his blocks, to giving us imaginary money to buy imaginary things, to the silly, goofy conversations we have during the day. He really is a small boy, not a toddler. He has the grasp of basic logic “If I do this, then this should happen” and tries to twist his understanding of concepts like sharing to suit his needs, “I want that! Share that with me!” (No, you may not have Daddy’s power drill…) *grabbing Zane’s water* “Zanebug is sharing with me, mommy.” (Mhmmm, I’m not sure Zane is doing so voluntarily..)

He is also fully in the two year old phase. Every boundary presented is tested. And tested again. And again. And again. Then he goes to bed, wakes up, and REPEAT. Somedays I feel like he spends most of his time either on the wall in time out or with me “talking” with him about emotions and what they are and how to react appropriately, and no, there is never a good reason to hit your brother in the face with the tape measurer…

BUT my little Caderade is such a sweet, sweet guy. He is all about the hugs and kisses-and not just for himself! If Zane falls Cade’s immediate response is, “MOMMY! Zanebug got a boo boo! Pick him up and kiss him!” He tries to get Zane to calm down if he cries at night. Granted, it’s usually by shouting, “CALM DOWN, ZANEBUG, CALM DOWN!” which isn’t super helpful, but if I go in and tell him to sing a song instead he’ll tell me in the morning, “I sing songs to Zanebug in bed to calm down!” He also always wants to help.  ALWAYS. It gets very hard to think of tasks for him to do, but that is pretty much his favorite thing ever. He’s been, “helping” Brian change out a few light bulbs in the cars and it is ALL he wants to do all day long, “Help Daddy fix his car? Help fix cars? Go outside and help Daddy fix car? Help fix Daddy’s car outside?” It’s like he thinks if he just rearranges the words in his question he may get a different answer. One of the easiest ways to redirect him if he’s whining is to ask him to help do something. Now, it has to be a task that is toddler enjoyable (like, take your underwear to your room) and not toddler boring (put your shoes in the shoes box). I don’t make the rules, so sometimes I suggest the wrong task and we have meltdowns, but hey, that’s life with a two year old.

Since putting him and Zane in the same room the interaction between the two of them has increased. As in, there is more deliberate playing together and less of Zane just ruining whatever Cade is trying to play with. Cade loves to feed Zane and bring him his water, and today he came right up to Zane’s chair, stares intently at Zane, and goes, “Zanebug not talking.”

Not yet, little man, not yet. But when he does I’m sure y’alls conversations will be both the highlight of my day and drive me crazy.

OH! And the singing. Cade loves to sing. He is currently on an, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” kick-but don’t be misled, it isn’t *just* the Itsy Bitsy Spider on repeat. Oh no. There are variations. Sometimes he yells it, sometimes he sings it very slow and monotone, sometimes he shouts it choppily-like a rap, sometimes he whispers it, sometimes he uses the tune but fills it with nonsense words, sometimes he uses accents (of what languages I’m not sure), and sometimes he combines all of the above techniques. The only thing he insists on is that it is, “DOWN came the sun, and dried up all the rain and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the WATER spout again.” There is no convincing him that the sun comes UP or that the extra WATER in front of spout does not belong. He tells me, “No mommy, you are singing silly words again!” Silly mommy.

I think that’s all for now. I have a billion conversations that happen that I want to record, and I forget them before I manage to write them down, sigh. I’ll try to be better about it, I love the way he thinks at this age. 🙂

Be Back Soon, Mommy

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I went to an OCF meeting tonight while Brian watched the kids. When I came back Cade greeted me at the top of his voice with his words tripping all over themselves to “Come see my tower I built for you!” So I sat and played with blocks, I snuggled a super cuddly Zane (who, incidentally, now does this thing where he smacks my chest or neck and goes, “Mama!” and then burrows his face into me-so. stinkin. cute.) and I enjoyed the few minutes we had before bedtime.

During the course of our block play, Cade wanted to go to the kitchen to get his “rocket ship” block formation that I had set on the counter (out of Z’s reach). The kitchen and living room share a wall, so he had to leave my line of sight to get his rocket ship. This followed.

“I’m going to get my rocket ship, mommy, I’ll be back soon.”

Me: “Ok, bud.”

Takes a few steps towards kitchen. Stops, looks back at me, “I be back soon, Mommy. I be right back.”

Me: “Alright, Cade. Go get our rocket ship.”

A few more steps-now into the dining room area. Then a step back towards me, his body language torn about leaving my view. “I’ll be back soon. I’m going to get my rocket ship in the kitchen, mommy.”

Me *trying not to laugh*: “I’ll be right here. I’ll wait for you.”

Cade: “OK” two steps towards kitchen, then turns, “A hug and a kiss before I go.” Runs over and wraps his arms around my neck and gives me a biiiiiig kiss. “Ok, be back soon Mommy.” Almost makes it into the kitchen, see’s Zane in the hallway entrance, “A kiss and hug for Zanebug, too!” Runs over and gives a bemused Zane a hug and a kiss on the forehead. Finally runs to the kitchen to retrieve his rocket ship.

I love my sweet little Caderade.

El Paso

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So I mostly want to forget about the actual trip-maybe after a few weeks I’ll go into greater detail. Or maybe not. Essentially, it was pretty gosh darn awful. I don’t know how we would’ve survived without my parents coming down to help, from my mom riding in the car with me and two very unhappy toddlers, to dad helping rearrange the packing again, ( and again, and again) to the babysitting while Brian and I escaped the chaos for a bit to get food or check out the possible house or whatever. Cade’s vomiting was replaced with diarrhea he couldn’t control so he ended up in a diaper. Zane just gave up on pooping-and sleeping-entirely. Both boys did really, really well all things considered-but really, really well for a 2.5 and 1 year old in the car for 20+ hours really, really sucks.

About a day after my parents left (having been with us for a week to facilitate this adventure) Zane pooped 5 times in less then 48 hours. He is clearly feeling better.

Cade, however, is still adjusting to this new house, new place, new routine, new room, new EVERYTHING. He asks for his old house daily, he asks for August and Bebe (Vera) to come see his new house or to go to theirs, Grandpa and Grandma K skyped last night (Brian’s parents) and Cade had a mini meltdown because he, “Want to go meet them!” and was devastated when I refused to hop in the car that instant and drive us over. :/ He now sometimes says he like his new house, so we are making progress, but it’s going to take some time.

Brian has completely given up on finances. He’s totally done even trying to make a budget at this point, we just need to be cheap-which is impossible if I am to fly with the kids back for Christmas.

I don’t even have time to figure out how I feel. I like El Paso so far. For one, the view here is beautiful. I really like how enormous the sky looks facing east over the scrubby desert scenery, and to the west-a 10 minute drive from our house-are the Franklin Mountains. I thought I’d miss trees, but nope. I love the exposed, open feel, and the striations in the rock are lovely. Our house is also a lot nicer than the one we had at Rucker. The kitchen is wider AND the washer and dryer are not in it. Score! Much nicer stove, smaller fridge unfortunately, but a bit more counter space and cabinets a thousand times better then the sticky, paint slathered monstrosities we had previously. There is so much to do here, too. Plenty of places to run errands in and malls and I’m sure there are kid friendly places to explore. The commissary is unimpressive. Their produce selection is smaller-big bummer-it is mostly a thousand different BBQ or cilantro flavored everything down the aisles. Yaaay, Texas. The drivers are nuts, and at first the way the highways and frontage roads were laid out were completely confusing. But within that first day of driving I was already figuring out my way around (HUGE shock for me, I still got turned around in Dothan after living at Rucker for over a year). So whoever designed the road system must’ve been ADHD because it makes sense to me. The exits, the mandatory U Turn lanes, the parallel roads, the merges-I got this. Nobody uses blinkers, everyone is going 10 over or 15 under the speed limit, crossing 3 lanes of traffic to get to an exit in 400 feet is normal, half the population is incapable of correctly using an acceleration lane-but nobody honks.

So, house is nicer, city is interesting, view is fantastic, but that’s all I’ve got. I am loving all this time with Brian after over a year of him being gone at flight line or squirreled away in his office studying- but I know he’ll go back to work and I’ll be back to full time mom solo. I’m living mostly in the now. I’m excited about a lot of things, and there is plenty to do around the house to keep me busy-but I’m sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. The friends I made at Ft Rucker were keepers, and I’m going to miss them a great deal. I’m also even further away from most of my family– although closer to my younger sister than I have been in years!

Anyway, kindof a scattered update, but there you have it. We are officially in Texas (more like Mexico). Tonight I am going to attempt to make friends at an OCF meeting. Eek.

Tickle, Tickle, Tickle

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Cade is a rambunctious little man, and since I remember all to well what it was like feeling like my emotions were entirely outside of my control, we work hard to come up with ways to express what he is feeling and find appropriate outlets. No hitting, pushing, elbowing, headbutting, squashing, tackling, kicking, or poking other people (usually Zane) is the rule we struggle with the most.

If it’s an action out of anger it’s a definite Time Out and I remind him to call ME when he needs help with Zane and I’ll try to fix it. It get’s exhausting, but he is doing a much better job of calling for help when Zane sits on his Duplo tower instead of clonking Zane in the head with a brick. Though if I don’t respond quick enough all bets are off. Buh.

Often he just gets so stinking excited during play so he’ll chase a madly giggling Zane down the hallway and shove him. Then he gets time out. Ten minutes later repeat the scenario except he remembers not to shove him at the last minute and instead elbows him. Time out. Repeat the scenario with any of the above “no no” verbs and that is pretty much our day.

I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out an acceptable way of channeling his energy, but it struck me about a week ago that I kept telling him things in the negative, “Don’t do this, don’t do that, if he’s crying you need to STOP.” without giving him an acceptable positive alternative like I do with everything else.

He’s gotten better at “I calm down! *deep breath* 1,2,3,4,5” but only if I threaten him with a Time Out, the stinker.

When he’s feeling really excited he has the option of clapping or giving him self a big hug (instead of screaming, shrieking, and/or hitting things).

When he wants to play chase with Zane he is allowed to “tickle”.  I took the time to remind him to be gentle and if Zane cries he needs to stop, but he was thrilled to finally be allowed to DO something at the end of the chase. And this is where it gets cute. Cade says, “Tickle, tickle, tickle!”  repeatedly and wiggles his fingers in that pseudo pinching tickle toddlers do as he chases Zane down the hall. Yesterday I realized that the nonsense syllables Zane was spewing in between giggles wasn’t nonsense.

My 1 year old says, “Uh oh”, “duh-duh” (bye bye)….. and “tickle, tickle, tickle.”

Sweetness

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Mushy post ahead, you have been warned.

Teething has been pretty rough on us lately. Cade is getting his two year molars and he went from a happy, silly little boy with the occasional tantrum/meltdown to a highly volatile mess, crying for forty plus minutes at a time over things like, “My bread broke in half!” I’m not exaggerating the time or the excuse, it has been very, very, frustrating the past two weeks. We’ve got one back molar breaking through the gum, and one hovering right beneath the surface-I have a feeling this is going to take awhile.

But this morning I flick on the monitor to check to see if he’s awake and he’s playing underneath his blanket. I go in to get him and he’s all smiles and giggles, talking about wanting, “FIVE MMMahs!” (oatmeals) and something about “Zanebug” and I don’t even know-typical toddler squirrel chatter. Usually he stands up in his crib and demands I pick him up the second I enter the room, but for whatever reason today he remained lying on his back, content to giggle from there. I asked if he wanted me to pick him up and he went, “Not yet!” complete with finger point (a favorite phrase and gesture of his) then he said, “I want a hug!” So I leaned over and scooped my arms beneath and around his little sleep warm body and he wrapped his arms around my neck and articulated very clearly into my ear, “I love you very much, mommy.”

It is hard to have a bad morning after that.

A Year.

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Happy Birthday Zane, you amaze me. I was able to spend every second analyzing every move your older brother made from newborn to a year, but you, you I’ve had to sneak peaks at out of the corner of my eye. You, my little man, are a game changer. Every time I got to snatch some uninterrupted time with you, every ten minutes of play, every book we’ve read, every late night nursing session we had, you’ve struck me anew with the force of who you are. A second child, yes, but a first and only of you.

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You wave bye bye now. Sometimes you just stick a hand up in front of you like the standard “man wave” of greeting, other times you get the full hand and wrist action wiggling around. You recognize words like “outside” and “eat”, “bottle”, “more”, “all done”, “playground”, “swings”, “mom mom’s house” and “diaper” (which has you hightailing it in the opposite direction) to name a few. You are a complete ham. The way you grip the edge of your highchair and pull yourself so your belly slams into the tray and your butt lifts up an inch out of the chair so you can fart cracks me up every time.

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You love snuggly things. You are SO GREAT at hugs-wrapping your arms around my neck and squeeeeeezing-and you’re trying to figure out kisses. You hug the stuffing out of your plushie toys and enthusiastically belly flop every time I put pillows on the floor.

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You are also my practical application baby. While your brother throws himself at the world repeatedly to see if he can bounce off of it, you meticulously examine everything you come across. I can see the wheels turn in your brain as you touch, poke, pinch, stomp, smear, taste (oh how I wish you wouldn’t taste so much), chew, lick, throw, smack…and then repeat.  You even repeatedly put your head on the ground to peer at the world upside down through your legs. You like to make wheels spin and will turn toys over to do so. You aren’t so much into digging in the dirt, but you appreciate eating the flowers. You love playing with anything that rolls. You love your brother and are a cranky butt until I get him out of the bed in the morning to join us, but you aren’t intimidated by him. You hold your own, maybe even a little too well at times (I forsee several fistfights in my future, sigh).

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You say “Mommomomom” and mean me and it makes all the warm fuzzies glow-even though you’re more apt to do it when you’re upset. You lift your arms for “up”. You sign “more” and “all done”. You LOVE highfives and playing pattycake, and you’re an enthusiastic hand clapper. You mimic everything your brother does, you even put yourself in time out.

I love you. I am floored by how fast this year has passed by and how much you can do. You’ve been walking since before 9 months, but now that your a year old I guess I have to officially retire your “baby” moniker. You aren’t a baby, you’re a toddler. You’re rapidly becoming a little boy. You’re my Zanebug.

Birthday at the Beach!

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Brian has a four day this weekend, so we decided to celebrate Zane’s 1 year Birthday a week early by spending some much needed quality family time on a ROADTRIP!

We headed out to Eglin Airforce Base to check out the museum and then the plan was to drive to Destin to visit the beach. Well, we got sidetracked on our way to Destin by a beach entrance right off the road we were on and decided that was close enough, haha. And it was fabulous!

First, the museum. Now, Cade isn’t even 2.5 yet, and Zane is just a year old, so the museum was almost completely over their heads. BUT I want museums to be a normal part of our “adventures” especially as the military life is going to toss us all over the country so we’ll be able to visit a fair smattering of them. So while both boys were thrilled with the trainer cockpit they let kids climb in, and we practiced making “pew pew” noises in the gun room (Zane thought this was hilarious), it was a quick visit.

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We practiced a lot of inside voices, I never managed to completely read a placard outloud, we learned new words like, “propeller” and “atomic bomb” and what little I managed to actually view was intriguing. Including a very not politically correct painting on the side of one of the bombers when you first walk in.

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Glad the boys weren’t old enough to ask questions…

Moving on, after some strawberries we piled back into the car in search of a beach. They were a bit cranky-what with the two hour drive in the car already and Zane only taking a 30 minute power nap-so I did what any mom does, and fed them cake. Since we were celebrating Zane’s birthday, albeit a bit unusually, I had made a cake the night before. I chose a lemon poppyseed pound cake because, honestly, I LOVE it. It is SO GOOD. Now, it is definitely not clean eating, but it is always available to fill up my 20% “dirty” eating, lol. It’s made with half a cup of butter and a full cup of sugar, so it’s basically delicious. ANYway, the cake cheered them right up, we found a beach a lot closer than driving all the way to Destin, and we trooped out of the car to introduce the boys to some sun and surf.

Cade went to the beach around 5 months old, but this is the first time he’s been where he was really aware of what was going on. Thanks to books and TV, he had a good concept of what a beach was, and since I mentioned it yesterday he had been saying, “want to go to the beeeaaachhh” pretty much all day. His first comment was that the sand was slippery (on the boardwalk) and then he quickly dissolved into slurred gibberish punctuated with excited MOMMY! MOMMY!’s. He was just beside himself, he LOVED it. He told me after running into the water and back out, “I won, mommy, I won!” Me: “What did you win?” Cade: “I won the water! ALL THE WATER!” ….I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain that we couldn’t take the ocean back home with us…

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Zane, poor guy, was so tired by the time we hit the beach, but he perked up with his typical analytical self the minute toes touched sand. Their was pinching, and shuffling, squeezing, poking, kicking, flinging, and finally tasting of this fine white stuff all around. He was less impressed with the ocean, cautiously sliding on his belly down the gentle slope to the water the first time (cracked me up, it was like he was preparing to get off the curb-except he slide on his belly for over a yard down a very gradual slant) and then figuring out he could crawl in and out of it just fine. He did a few splashes, seemingly just to confirm his theory that yes, this was water, and yes, it behaved the same as water in the tub, before he went in search of more sand to eat and a seagull or two to stalk.

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We spent about 40 minutes on the beach before calling it a day and heading home, arriving back at the house around 3pm which allowed for a more typical afternoon routine before bedtime. All in all, it was a really great day.

My little Zanebug will officially turn 1 on the 12th. Today I was talking with Cade and he called Zane a baby and I said, “No, Zane is not a baby anymore, he’s a toddler.” Oh man, I had a brief moment. I wouldn’t trade these years for the world.

“…headed, I fear, to a most useless place.

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The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.” -Dr. Seuss.

Cade has been on a “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” kick lately, so random lines will float through my head throughout the day. This particular line describes our current situation perfectly.

The military waiting place.

We were waiting for verbal orders so we could start planning on where we were headed next. Then we got them! Fort Bliss, Texas, here we come!… Most likely, anyway!

So we jumped into action, researching houses, figuring out what needed to be done, trying to scrape together some holiday plans. I went and got the paperwork to turn in our “Intent to Vacate” housing here and contacted the housing office in Bliss. For about 36 hours Brian and I have chatted and clicked and called and texted, hastily compiling a sketch of our next duty station….aaaaaaaannnd now we’re back to waiting.

Waiting on actual orders. And before that is the notification of “request for orders”. Verbals are “Hey, this is where we think we’ll send you!” RFO is “Hey, we actually asked to send you to this place!” and then Orders are, “Get to this place by this time for this long. Period.” SO between verbals and orders the place and time could change. And no, I don’t have any idea how frequently duty stations are changed after verbals, some say frequently, some say infrequently, who knows. But it COULD change. Which means we’re stuck.

Waiting.

Again.

Waiting is the hardest when waiting on someone ELSE to get a move on things. And although I am by no means eager to leave (I love it here!) I hate being in limbo. Some people delay ripping the bandaid off, I’m a “there is a bandaid? GET IT OFF RIGHT NOW” type of person. I don’t even care if the wound is healed, I know it’s going to hurt to remove so I want it done immediately so I can get over it. In a nutshell, I’m antsy.

I’ll probably try to find a few more things to pack that we can do without for a few months until I know for sure where and when we’re going….sigh…

A Lot About a Little

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I’m living the dream, you guys, in so many ways. I am joyfully married, have two beautiful children, loving and supportive siblings/parents/in-laws, we’re financially stable…I am richly blessed. Which may be why over the past few years Brian and I have been increasingly indifferent towards “things.”…also, you move once or twice and you get tired of hauling around stuff. 😛 In any case, we send a bunch of stuff to Goodwill every time we move, and recently we’ve purged even more. My wardrobe, his movies, even our books have been scrutinized (gasp! Don’t worry, we got rid of duplicates only, haha). I’ve gotton rid of half completed projects, all of my fabric, half of my “crafty stuff” and more than half of my clothing. We’re slimming down the amount of things we own and we are so much happier for it.

Obviously, the biggest “stuff accumulator” is “the boys”. From toys to clothing to gadgetry, children compound the stuff problem. I finally had had enough about a month ago, as I struggled to find the living room carpet under all the accumulated crap strewn over everything. It was too much. Since I had already started packing things for the move, I decided to try an experiment. Over two days I went through all of the toys and packed up all but 15. 15 total, not 15 each. I moved the changing table out of Zane’s room and arranged the toys on the shelves for easy access. I figured if the boys went nuts I could always unpack a box of toys, but I was hoping to give it at least until we moved to our next duty station (hopefully in October).

Their reaction was significant, especially from Cade. The afternoon I packed the final box and displayed the surviving toys Cade played with one of his toys he hadn’t touched in weeks for a solid 15 minutes. To this day, he plays with his toys, focused, calmer, engaged. He used to flit from one to the next like a demented humming bird jaw forward and teeth clenched as he fought the impulse to just do something. Now the time he spends spazzing out running and flailing has been halfed and his temperment improved. Inside is overall calmer.

Now, it ain’t perfect. I’ve still got two rowdy boys on my hands and the chasing and wrestling and crazy play has definitely not disappeared completely-nor do I want it to! However, the lack of toys certainly hasn’t made anything worse and has, to my mind, actually made playtime much more enjoyable and Cade is present when he plays instead of flaking out. I think he was just honest to goodness overwhelmed with all of the toys he had. I also put all of the musical instruments in a box and pull them out 4-5 times a week post nap while I’m cooking dinner. The novelty and noise making potential has done wonders for keeping them occupied while I’m cooking, plus I like making “music time” a treat to encourage interest.

Both the boys are outdoorsy anyway. Zane has already started running to the door and smacking it, looking over his shoulder at me to make sure I’m getting the message when he wants to go outside. I’ve removed quite a few of the outdoor toys and am continuing to purge the outdoor space-again with zero negative fall out from the boys and a lot more space to actually play under the carport.

It has been fantastic so far. I am loving how easy it is to pick up the living room. I’ve been able to maintain a vacuuming schedule with little fuss, and tidying the toys up at night takes seconds. Neither Cade nor Zane have toys in their rooms which keeps those spaces as predominantly for reading and sleeping and makes them a lot tidier as well. Cade has a bookshelf in his room, Zane a book basket, and there are two more book baskets in different cornors of the living room. Cade and I play make believe just fine with the toys we have available-and frequently improvising with forts out of blankets and kitchen spoons as swords, etc, and as long as Zane has a car or ball he’s pretty much set. I’ve acquired a toy here or there and simply exchanged it for one of the no longer played with ones on the shelf. The occassional swap like that keeps the boys entertained and I’m toying around with creating a “Finding Place” to leave a new toy once every few weeks to spark different ways of play.

All in all, this minimalist experiment is working really well and I find it faith affirming. Our needs are met in abundance, and we thoroughly enjoy the things we own-but they are not the center of our lives. 🙂