Sunday, November 29, 2015

Daily Diptych: A Smattering of October

Alright guys, this is where my daily shooting all fell apart. So sad. I forgot my camera on a trip, lost my lens cap so that I couldn't throw my camera in my purse, and just got too busy with client work. So many lame excuses. But this was our October:

My current favourite scarf.

And my scarf stealing child.

Sunny still smiles like she wants to eat the world.

I volunteer for hot lunch at school once a month. My favourite baking partner helped me make cookies for the school. (oatmeal chocolate chip. It's kind of healthy, but with chocolate so no one knows).

At the Kindergarten Halloween Party.

I tried to get them to stay still so that I could get a good shot of the wings I made them. But just like real butterflies, they were speedy and elusive. This is the best I could get.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Why I Chose to Not Homeschool My Child

When Ria was three, I didn't send her to Preschool. I didn't see the point, I was home with her and she was learning like a sponge. She got lots of social time with other kids, so...why would I pay for preschool?

That's when people started asking me if I was homeschooling my kids (not if I was going to, but if I was. And no, I wasn't, they were 1 and 3!).  Over the next couple of years many people asked me that some even assuming that I would homeschool them.

I didn't fully understand why I seemed like such a homeschooling mother. I suppose it's because I tend towards being counter-cultural, and I have many...opinions. However, I had always been building my freelance work with an eye to work more full time when my kids were in school. Homeschooling is a full time job on it's own, and not one I had ever seriously considered.

Until Ria got closer to starting kindergarten.

I felt this nudge on my heart. And it wasn't telling me to homeschool specifically, but it was telling me that I was making decisions on my own. Human decisions. I wasn't asking God, because I had a plan and I didn't really want it changed.

So I spent a month in prayer, and I carefully considered our schooling options.

We don't have any private schools in town, or any alternative programs to choose from (except French Immersion), so that option was out. It was homeschooling or public school.

If I homeschooled, I could tailor my kids' educations to what they needed to work on and what their passions are. Very tempting. We do know a couple families who homeschool, and I'm sure I would meet more, so there would be a support there, and some community.

I'm not a big believer that public school is the most efficient way to teach children. I don't like the idea of all those hours spent indoors, sitting in a chair. I feel like there is not enough emphasis on the skills that would make healthy, successful humans.

There was also just an urge to keep them home and safe. I had a terrible time in elementary school, and most of what I remember about kindergarten is being bullied. I didn't want to put any of my issues onto my children, but I can't deny that it was on my mind.

All of that, and I still decided to send Ria to public school.

My concerns kept getting knocked down. I was worried that she wouldn't be moving enough. Well, I still think there is too much sitting at school, but kindergarten has more movement than the other grades, and we've been walking to school most days which about 30 minutes. I'm seeing both the girls gain endurance and strength since school started.

I was worried about her socially, but that's just silly. Ria isn't me. She makes friends with an ease that I envy.

I was concerned that she wouldn't have any Christian friends at school (our church friends all go to other schools in town). Well, half a dozen of her classmates families have recently started attending church again, just in the past year. God is doing something here, and I'm pretty excited about it.

It all comes down to community. I don't want to raise my girls in a bubble, I want to raise them in a tribe.

And our school? It's not perfect, but it's a good school. Parents are encouraged to participate, and the batch of kids Sunny's age all think they belong their already (and they do, as they go to Strong Start there, a parented preschool program.

It's not perfect, but that's not a reason to stay away. It's a reason to get involved and fight for the things that I would like to happen. I'm on a team to build an outdoor classroom and garden and I am so excited to be shaping the school in a positive way.

So, we are settling in to this new stage. Trying to shed our hermity ways a bit and learn to live in community with others.

We're doing public school. For this year. With this child. And it's good.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wildlife Centre in September

Time to get caught up on my personal photos! These were taken on the last day of September on a gorgeous fall outing with my brother and niece. The most exciting part of the walk were the woolly bear caterpillars, who were doubtless all traumatized after our visit.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Minimalist Living with Kids

Hello my friends, I wrote some posts on minimalism near the beginning of the year, but I never really gotten into the issue of minimalism with kids.

As a reminder, my definition of minimalism is to have just the right amount of things. Not too few so that I can't do what I need to, not too many so that I have to wade through them to find things or waste too much time on cleaning and upkeep. I want to have the baby bear amount of possessions.

Just right.

Unfortunately, like most of us, I have too many things. And my kids? They also have too many things. I know that a lot of people find the idea of minimalism appealing but they wonder how you can do it with kids. I mean, they accumulate a lot of stuff. There's not just the toys, and clothes, and my personal weakness, the books. There's also the "collections" of rocks and feathers and twigs. There's the crafts that come home from preschool and school. There's the dang birthday party favour bags full of dollar store toys.

Even if you only buy your children the basic necessities, they will magically transform it into too much stuff. And they will claim to Love every single holey pair of leggings and snail shell in their room.

So what do you do? Are you a mean parent if you start throwing their precious treasures away?

I have a confession to make. I came to minimalism through my kids. I didn't start with my own kitchen gadget hoard or the extra pile of novels in the basement. It was the girl's toys. I just couldn't take it anymore. But do you know what? I have never had them cry about it. They are always excited to have a fresh start and are happy to help me.

I'm going to go into more detail about some of our systems in later posts, but here are some tips for helping your kids make peace with minimalism. My girls were 2.5 and 4.5, respectively when I got started with this. If they are too young for these ideas to work, I'm guessing you can just clean out their room while they are distracted somewhere else.

5 Tips for getting started with Minimalism with Kids

1. Explain the purpose first
Why are we getting rid of things? Tell them about the benefits. Explain that they have a lot of stuff. Reassure them that you are not even thinking of getting rid of their most precious things (no, Orangey the teddy bear is not going anywhere, I know how much you love him!). Explain that with less things they will be able to find the toys they want more easily, and that they won't have to spend so much time cleaning up.

For us, The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need was a really great way to start thinking about this (ironically the BB Too Much Stuff book is much less helpful as they just organize most of their possesions into labelled boxes). I love books because it gives small children a frame of reference for a concept, and allows you to talk about it calmly and in advance (instead of yelling about all their crap when your house is covered in toys and crayons).

So talk about it in advance, and help them to understand the benefits to them.

2. Let them choose what to keep (within reason)
I generally do a pre-sort of their belongs and get rid of anything broken, outgrown, or know sticks and twigs. Then I set aside things I know that we will keep. The things they clearly love and use often (and there still might be too many, I'll speak to that in my item specific posts later).

When dealing with toys this leaves me with a strange assortment of toys from Mcdonalds (confession), some very special craft projects, some plastic get the idea. I put them all out on the bed and they each get to pick five (but pick whatever amount works or you) the rest I chuck or thrift, depending on what it is.

They are happy because they got to choose what to keep. I try very hard to be neutral (instead of "but are you sure you don't want to keep the orange necklace?")

This also works well with clothes (pick your three favourite dresses, pick your five favourite shirts, and so on)

3. Set boundaries
Confine the craziness. My girls love to have "collections". Usually rocks, sometimes leaves, sometimes sparkly things. I recently bought them each a little dollar store treasure box, and if it's in the treasure box, they can keep it.

This was also because Sunny tried to keep her very favourite rock in her glasses case, with the glasses.

Similarly, they love to draw, especially Ria. I give them washi tape to hang up their art and the rule has always been that at the end of the day the art has to be on the fridge, on the wall in their room, or in the recycling.

Recently I decided that the craziness was still real and they no longer have art on the fridge (things fell off whenever I opened it), and are both confined to a clearly defined sections of wall in their room.

I explained why we were doing it, they got excited for a fresh start, and then got to choose what to keep. (but I snagged my favourite discards to scan).

4. Tell them where purged items will go
With this, I again sometimes reference that Berenstain Bears book. Are the items going to someone younger (bonus points if it's someone they know)? Maybe the thrift store so that someone who doesn't have as many dolls can enjoy it? Are you selling items so that you can buy them something new (old winter boots to put toward this year's winter boots)?

Talk to them about it, let them have closure. And if the item is just going into storage (clothes that are between their sizes, toys that are going into a rotation), it's good for them to know that you aren't just throwing it away.

5. Accept that this will require maintenance
The other tips were for helping your kids adjust, but this one is for you. This is not a one time event. You need to work de-cluttering and reorganizing into your routine every season at a minimum.

Clutter is going to creep back in (unless your kids never draw, or go to birthday parties, or school...maybe if they stay home and watch tv all day every day?). And things wear out and are outgrown often, especially with babies and young kids.

The more you get into this habit, the more on-board your kids will get as well.

So how do my kids feel about minimalism?
I'll talk more about toys in another post, but I will say that when their room is a mess and we are all cranky about how long it's taking to clean it up at night I will say "I think you guys have too much stuff, we need to go through your toys" and usually I get a sigh of agreement and a "yes! This is taking tooo long to clean!"

Because really, who likes to clean their room all day?

When they have less clothes, they get to wear their favourites more often, and I won't tell them to go get changed as often (due to rips, or things not fitting well).

Minimalism has just as many benefits for kids as adults. Don't feel guilty for "imposing" it on them, help them to see the ways it makes their life easier. And know that you are helping your kids to take better care of their belongs and grow up a little less entitled.

So many reasons to teach kids about minimalism.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

State of the Blog: November 2015

I'm not sure if anyone cares about all this, but I feel the need to post an update and explain why I stopped writing on my blog, and why I'm back.

At the beginning of 2015 I started up my blog over at Book Cover Bakery. I was really trying to be consistent with my posting schedule over there and I was pouring a lot of energy into learning about business and the indie publishing industry. I just couldn't manage that while posting over here, the split focus was stressing me out and I just sort of stopped blogging here.

But I didn't stop learning things that I wanted to share here, and they've been building up inside of me, waiting for me to have the time to write again.

And while I enjoy sharing photos here, friends have been mentioning lately that they miss my essay style posts (which was encouraging, because sometimes bloggers can feel like we are just talking to ourselves).

So I'm back. In the past, when I've felt like I have a lot of things to share, I've been known to post three times a week for a month and then stop. That's terrible! I'm going to commit to posting every Saturday for now, and we'll see if I can maintain that while still writing weekly over at my other blog.

If I do recipes at all, they will continue to be sporadic. I love cooking, and I love talking about food and nutrition, but I'm not really cut out to be a food blogger. It's a lot of work doing the photo shoots and recipe creation isn't my favourite thing (I rarely make something the same way twice, and I almost never measure when I cook). If I make something that you really love or are curious about, let me know and I'll see what I can do about putting a recipe up.

What about the Daily Diptych? My friends, I was doing so well until the very last month. I took a photo every day from Nov 1 2014 to sometime in early October. I was counting full shoots on some days where you wouldn't see a DD post. But then in October it all fell to pieces. I fully forgot one day, then I took a trip to my parents and forgot both my memory cards! And then I just called it quits.

It was so hard in a month where I had cover art deadlines and multiple client photoshoots. I would have kept going, but with missing those days I just decided to give myself a pass. It was a really good 345 day project.


People have said "you could just do another month now!" But I don't want to. I need a break. And I want the time and mental energy to write. So as my dear cousin Leslie is always saying "Grace not Perfection".

Obviously I'll still be taking and posting lots of photos (and get caught up on the ones I've taken!). And I certainly won't cross off the idea of doing another daily photo project, I love them. But not this month, thanks.

So that's the state of the blog for now.  I have a lot of things I'm excited to share about health and photography and minimalism.

It's good to be writing again.

PS. I probably should have posted this one before my last post about Anxiety. But I really wanted to get that one out in a timely manner as this dark time of year can be a rough one for people with mood disorders.