Spring Baskets

When I originally bought these baskets, I thought they were cute and sweet, and oh-so Pottery Barnish at a fraction of the price. Then I spent years trying to store them, wishing I had merely made fabric baskets like our Halloween trick or-treat bags which could be easily folded and packed away.

This year I did finally make new liners for them to replace the old ones. I had something different in mind, but my children liked the spring colors with white polka dots. With cloth liners, there is no need to even consider the horrible plastic grass we had as kids (not that you would anyway).

Reusable baskets, cloth liners, and carefully thought out items to place in them can change a potentially commercialized holiday into a simple one full of memories. We kept that in mind for our Ostara celebrations this year as we continually aim toward voluntary simplicity. Want to simplify your spring baskets? Check out some of these simple ideas:

  • Skip the mass marketed pre-made baskets and go for something you put together yourself. Personal touches make any gift better.
  • While natural baskets may be what we grew up with and can definitely be used year after year, they aren’t your only options. Think outside the box or even in a box.
  • Skip the candy, or at least the majority of it. Who needs that much sugar? Rather than filling the basket full of sugar filled confectionaries (mmmmm….Peeps……), look for more meaningful items to fill the bulk.
  • Consider something spring themed. Share your own childhood with items like bird whistles and hand knitted bunnies that take you back. Choose something that grows with your child and the season. Next year, when we are in our new house, I plan on putting packets of seeds for the kids to grow in their very own garden plots. Some gardening tools would go perfectly with that.
  • Looking for some more filler? Choose something that you would use anyway and needs to be replinished, such as art supplies. Sidewalk chalk is always appreciated by my children this time of year, when winter is over and we are spending more time outside, as are the ever popular bubbles. Try some outdoor supplies such as a compass, magnifying glasses, or something else for your spring explorations.
  • Keep it simple. Kids like it better that way.

Life Gets in the Way

Photo by Raj

In the past few months, I have been guilty of not doing something I had every intention of doing, and then uttering to someone that “life gets in the way.” I’ve been stressed out. In fact, last month I was so stressed out that I could feel the stress buzzing through my body, I broke out in fever blisters, and I picked up my stress vice – soda. I felt like crying at thet time. I wasn’t juggling everything very well and would have been greatful to take a nap and wake up to find all of my obligations taken care of (minus my family, of course). I’ve had to slow down, cut things out, take things one at a time, and work on dwindling my list. I had to tell people “no” when asked for a favor, help, or whatever it was that I normally find myself wanting to help people with.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself contemplating what it is I really want to accomplish, what I want to do with my life, what I want out of life, and how my stress and obligations fit into that. I remembered uttering the phrase, “Life gets in the way.” Sure, things come up; it’s a part of life. What exactly is life getting in the way of, though? Isn’t our ultimate purpose right now life and how we live it? How could life get in the way of….life?

That was the point when it finally felt like I was making a dent in my list. I had lost focus somehow, allowed other things to get in the way of life, and stressed myself out in the process. Certainly, I had no control over some of those things, but I do have control over how I deal with them and I have a lot of control over what I choose to allow into my life. Remembering that little fact seemed to take a large weight off of my shoulders, and I am working toward getting back to living my life the way I want – not running around ragged trying to do everything for everyone. Life doesn’t get in the way of other things; we allow other things to get in the way of life.

Happy Boxing Day!

Photo by Rob Howells

Boxing Day isn’t celebrated much in the States. It started out long ago as the day when wealthy land owners would give supplies to their workers for the following year. Hundreds of years later, the day has turned into a day to think of others – those who are less fortunate or who are in a lower position. Whatever one’s take on it, it’s a great day to give to others and declutter some things that you don’t need.

We plan to look around our house today for items we no longer need. Boxing Day is the perfect holiday for an obessessive declutterer (ahem!). It’s also a way to start the coming new year off right, with fewer things to take care of. I also plan to set up an official donation station in our garage in order to keep the donations going out in a timely manner all year long.

Balance

Photo by Murray Barnes

Balance is a continual process. In order to stay balanced, we must be constantly shifting and adapting to even small changes in the environment or situation. When something changes, we must also change in order to maintain our balance. If we don’t, then not only do we lose our previous balance, but we tend to topple down the other side. This is true not only in regard to our activities and the busyness of our lives but with our relationships, including those relationships with our children. When our children are out of balance, we need to step over and help regain that balance rather than spiralling down, out of control.

Mitten Strings for God

Mitten Strings for God

When I first heard of Katrina Kenison’s book, Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, I mentally brushed it off. With such a title, I expected the book to proselytize religious beliefs. When the book showed up in my mailbox from the publisher, I picked it up with apprehension, and found I was pleasantly surprised.

There are a handful of religious references in the book, but Kenison mentions them only in context to her life and never comes out and says anything definitive about what she believes. There is no expectation or proclamation of what the reader should or should not believe. Instead, the book is about simple living or voluntary simplicity.

We live in a world that is rushing about in search of something. If we just slow down, we would see that what we are looking for is right here. “Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry” is an accurate description of this book. As mothers, not only is it important that we slow down to enjoy our children in the short time we are with them; it is imperative that our children have the opportunity to slow down and figure out who they are. This is a fabulous book for anyone who wants to cherish their children and live a life of meaning.

Take your time reading the book. Reflect on where you are at in life and where you want to be. Cut out the things which are detracting from the life you truly desire. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: A copy of the book was provided by the publisher.

The Art of Writing Thank You Notes

Photo by Amy Gizienski

When I was a child, my mother stressed the importance of writing thank you notes. If someone was thoughtful enough to spend their money and time thinking about you, shopping for or making a gift, she explained, the least the recipient could do was take a minute and write a thank you note. I took that message to heart, and now long after my mother is gone and I have four children of my own, I am passing on the art of writing thank you notes.

It seems to be a dying art. Many would say that is due to the increase in technology. We have so many forms of communication available that actually writing a thank you is unnecessary.  I don’t think that is the real reason for the few thank you notes written in this day and age, though.

As a society, we’ve lost some of our mindfulness. No longer do we focus on the thought behind the gift, whether it’s physical or of a service nature. There seems to be an underlying attitude that people are entitled to gifts, which couldn’t be further from the truth. So, a quickly murmured “Thank you” at a party is considered sufficient.

However, there is more that goes into gift giving than handing over some requisite merchandise. That is true for me, at least. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about what gift I should give and then search out the gift, spend time making it myself, or put a lot of effort into doing something for someone. While I do not feel entitled to a Thank You note, they are greatly appreciated.

The topic of forced “thank yous” came up with our local parenting group a few years ago. I am on the side against forced “thank yous.” I see no need to teach my children manners by being rude. Modeling manners has worked quite well for us. as our children have begun signing and then speaking “thank you,” it has been genuine and heartfelt. I think this also plays into society’s lack of writing thank you notes. If a thank you is just an obligatory reaction to an obligatory gift, there isn’t any need to continue with the obligations. However, if a thank you is a heartfelt expression of gratitude for the thought someone extended us, then that is often better conveyed in a written note.

I started writing thank you notes with my children early on. Even young children can draw a picture, write a scribble, or make a handprint. As they grew older and their capabilities increased, they asked to take over more of the thank you note writing process. Whereas my youngest can scribble next to my written messages of thanks, my oldest can write his thank you notes on his own now. My children have learned over the years how to write thank you notes by observing us write thank you notes of our own. It only takes a minute and it is something that will serve our children well.