Thursday, June 9, 2011

Children Help Simplify Life

This afternoon I had a fifteen minute phone call.

That's it.

I didn't leave the planet. Or even the house.

I sat on my floor (where I'd been cleaning) and had a phone call. My two toddlers were running around, pretending to be good.

I hung up the phone.

I walked out of the room.


"What's that?"

By the perfect shape of the circle cut out of the Children's Bible Title page, I could only guess that my 3-year old had been working on his cutting skills. Though not pleased with his choice of art material, I was pretty impressed with how well he'd cut out a circle.

Where did he get scissors?

He pulls a pair of kid scissors out of his pocket. CONFISCATED.

I finish the cleaning in my room, ignorant to what awaited me.

I casually walk into his room to put something away. I don't even remember why I walked in there anymore.

All I saw were shreds of yarn... and what looked like doll hair. Quick scan. The yarn belonged to my childhood cabbage patch doll. *gasp* Wait a minute. I'm living someone else's life! Haven't I heard this story before? Kid cuts your favorite childhood doll's hair. I'm sure I've heard it before... dejavu.

My son walks in. "Who else's hair did you cut?" I ask him. He whimpers. He picks up a little mermaid doll (also from my childhood). She sports a new fashionable look- hair cut nice and spiky-short toward the top, left long in the back. Hmm... doesn't look too bad in a pony-tail.

Son on timeout, I walk back to my room. What's that? A dollar-tree cowboy hat being shredded by the super-human strength of my 2-year old daughter. Or the weakness of the dollar-tree cowboy hat quality. Either way, it's in pieces.

Okay, there are two ways to look at this. Maybe more.

1. My kids are crazy, scissor-stealing thieves who are trying to destroy every precious thing in my house before they aren't cute enough to get away with it.


2. My kids are helping to simplify my life. Get rid of half the things in my house, right? Isn't that our goal. I can cross off "Get rid of cowboy hat." Yes! I can also cross off "Tear out title page of children's Bible." Shoot, while I'm at it, I can cross of "Cut half the hair off the dollies."

I've found that #2 has become much more my perspective these days. Oh, you broke that dish? One less dish to clean! You shattered my beautiful candle holders? Two less knick knacks to dust!

Apparently my children are entering the developmental phase of learning to cut. Hopefully from here on out I can pick what they cut... and what we get rid of!

In the meantime, thanks for simplifying my life, kids!

p.s. Here's a parent who encourages other parents to let their kids cut their doll's hair. Wish mine had asked first like hers did!!!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Heading to Germany

We had no idea when this blog began that we would be making this announcement today.

We are joining the staff of Black Forest Academy in Kandern, Germany- leaving June 2012. BFA is an international Christian school for children of missionaries, military families, business folk, and local Germans.

How ironic that God would lead us on this journey of living on used things, simplifying our lives, using our money more wisely... not knowing that He'd be taking us half way across the world to minister to His precious children!

How much more precious the theme verse of this blog is: Keep your lives frree from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you."

I'm sure the reality of those beautiful words will only grow into a greater treasure as time proves the love behind it.

That being said, here are more of the details I'm sure you are wondering about!

Kandern, Germany. The next
nearest cities are in
Switzerland and France!
Our church has a missionary family already there, the Carreys, who will be back in the states the very year we go! Jeremy will take the fifth grade teaching position and then potentially move into the Middle School in the following years. I will be raising our kids, writing, and supporting Jeremy and our mission in Kandern. Eventually, I hope to become the counselor for staff and students. This is only my aim once my young ones are in school. And yes! They will be attending BFA as well! Corban's first year (Kindergarden) will be in German!)

Our Pastor and his wife (and family) spent about 7 years at BFA, fulfilling various roles. This is how we were initially connected with BFA.

Now what? Well, we have no idea! We have a training with the sending agency, Teach Beyond, the third week of June. We imagine we will know much more then. We will be support raising soon- and trust that God has all of this worked out for us in advance. We plan on renting out the house, selling just about everything we own... and going for it! Jeremy will blog next about this process for him... how God is affirming this decision over and over... and all of the really neat things this has meant for him as the leader of our household.

Join us in praying through all of the details, PLEASE! And any great fundraiser ideas :) We will be putting together a newsletter, so let us know if you'd like to receive it!

Looking forward to sharing this journey with you!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How the Pantry Challenge Went...

We did it! Today is the first of June. Payday was yesterday and I went grocery shopping!

Dorina's help with my pantry was so inspiring. I'd almost venture to say that we had more goodies around than usual because I had ideas. I made blueberry muffins (Simonian Farms had a BOGO on blueberries and then gave me an extra one with my total purchase!) and granola. The granola (pictured right) was a HIT! That's made a permanent place on my pantry shelf and for very few dollars! No more luna bars for us!

I made wonton chicken cups with Chinese Fried Rice. We had green bean casserole, home made pizza (with whatever variety of cheese I had left in the fridge, most of which were NOT mozzarella. The pizza had a cream of mushroom sauce which ended up being REALLY yummy!

I used left over wonton cups for lunch the next day. I filled them with peanut butter and served with sliced apples.

I also made bread for sandwiches since we were out. Saturday we ALL had pb&j on our home made bread. It was SO good. I finally found a recipe that my bread-maker can actually manage! Check it out here.

It was definitely rough to start- but such a fun challenge to figure out how to feed my family until payday! The last couple of days included a trip to visit my husband's sister in the Bay area. She was sooo generous! She let us crash her condo, made us breakfast, got a couple of our meals out on the town... and was just all around wonderful! She made our final days even better! Hopefully the small tokens of appreciation that we left behind will keep the invitations flowing! :)

As I said in my last post... Dorina would LOVE the challenge of giving you meal ideas for your pantry too! Just leave a comment on her blog (including your pantry's ingredients) and she'll send you a list of meal ideas too! I couldn't make every recipe with every ingredient... but I was able to make them with what I had. In fact, there are a couple of meals on my meal list for THIS week that carry over from our pantry week. Praise God!

Comment on Dorina's blog here:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Pantry Challenge- Feeding Your Family With What's Left

We are making progress on "halving" our home! It's almost June... halfway to next January and I have a LOT more to do! But there pressure usually only motivates me.

On that note- we've also discovered that May is an exceptionally long month and our food budget is at zero. Our refrigerator is a sad reflection of our end-of-the-month financial status as well. Bummer.

Fortunately, I have amazing friends. One in particular. I can rattle off a list of ingredients and she can respond immediately with meals I can make with those ingredients. Seriously.

Rather than hog her incredible ability to make meals out of random pantry items and keep her to myself- I decided to share her.*
          *See my P.S.S.S at the bottom of this post to see Dorina's free special offer to do the same for you too!

Her name is Dorina. She has a blog and you should follow it: Health-full: join us on our journey to eat, play, worship God and live life more fully. She's amazing for a million other reasons, but I'm going to focus on this one for a minute.

This is my evidence of her incredibleness. Tonight I texted her the contents of my pantry (I'm a little ashamed of some of my pantry's inhabitants, but the reason they are still in there is because... well, they aren't all super healthy- this is my disclaimer!)

Here's what I sent her: Green chilis, canned chicken, cream of mushroom, lots of different beans, tomato sauce and paste, coconut milk, ramen, rice, various flours, noodles, corn meal, bread crumbs, chili beans, wonton wrappers, edamame, applesauce, pumpkin puree, honey, peanut butter, instant oatmeal, marshmallows, raisins, green beans, raw and brown sugar, flax, lemons... stuff like that.

And that's pretty much it. My fridge is nearly empty. I have 1/2C coconut oil left. 1/4C butter. Sad.

This was her response:

  • Casserole: Chicken, beans, mushroom soup, bread crumbs on top or corn meal

I should mention that her response came sporadically, with lots of excited "ooohs" and "ahhhs" and smiley faces. She even offered to send me direct links to her blog for the recipes. Uh-MAY-ZING.

My brain DOES NOT work this way. It sees a list of really random things. Hers sees meals. I LOVE IT.

So follow her blog. She even has a whole section on the Pantry Challenge... living off what you already have. (Trust me, she knows from experience!)

In our family pursuit to live simply, holistically, and abundantly, we have found the area of food and eating to take a primary role... as a stress-causer and stress-reliever!  It's usually only a stress-reliever if you have access to amazing friends like mine. Now you do. Follow her and your pantry will never be the same!

I'm off to plan some meals for our week! I suddenly feel less stressed about it and a lot hopeful about getting us to June 1st with the food we have, as little as it seems! If you need me, you'll know where to find me. HERE.

P.S. She's also an incredibly talented children's author and has the cutest book called Cora Cooks Pancit (complete with recipe!). While you're following her blog, you should buy her book. Just sayin' :) 

P.S.S. You can follow her here too :) @GilmoresinHaiti 

*P.S.S.S. Dorina just read my post and offered her talent to you all too! Leave a comment on her blog listing your pantry items, and she will send you meal ideas too! What a bargain!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Still Moving Ahead :)

Okay, so even though I haven't posted anything since February doesn't mean we've quit!

This is really hard work! The hard part is finding the time. Sheesh. It feels nearly impossible to do wtih two toddlers around, which is always. I wish my playroom still looked as nice! My son has been "napping" in there (i.e. reading every book on the shelf, emptying the three bins of toys, and coloring in all of the coloring books).

Regardless, we are moving forward! (pray for me! :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A playroom half full!

We did it!

I couldn't have done it nearly as well without Jeremy's help. We had three baskets/bins.  One for "get rid of it," a second for "put it away" and a third for "sell it."

Before the night was over, we had removed over half of the toys and furniture from the room AND made $40! Seriously, I put a couple toys on our Clovis Yard Sale Yahoo group and our organizational toy bins. The same woman came and bought them all. THEN, I asked what else she needed and proceeded to GIVE her as many other toys as I possibly could! It was great knowing that our things were going to such great use AND I had helped earn $40 for my husband to buy the sprinkler heads and screws he was hoping to purchase to finish some gardening projects. Yeay! I love how it all works out!

My kids have already been playing in our playroom again... its so... stress-free! So much less stuff! AND, the mess they left behind was not anything like it usually is! My 3 year old took a nap the first day after we cleaned. He was surrounded by tons of books. He just didn't want to leave. Love it! I can tell this is going to be a super fun adventure.....

My kids enjoying our new stress-free playroom. One book shelf. Two corner shelves. Three bins. Thats it.
Enjoying some time in his clutter free playroom with some books! A reader!

Purging in Action!

Okay, I had to stop just to tell you... WE ARE DOING IT!

I've been avoiding the playroom for ... well, since my last post. It overwhelms me. I had plans to do it this weekend. I walk in there and.. walk right back out. I have a personal attachment to many of the things as well.

WELL, I asked Jeremy to help me... and now we are doing it! It IS possible! Stay posted on how my playroom ends up.

P.S.  the kids are napping!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's a GO!

I'm not even sure I finished the statement, "Jeremy, I think we should get rid of half..." when he agreed. I knew he would.

What surprised me was my oldest daughter (10 years old). I ran the idea by her and SHE was all for it too! Well okay!

My three year old? Mmmm, not so much. Well, he's not sure anyway. He's kind of just going with it at the moment. Patiently. He likes to process and mull on stuff before agreeing. But in the end, I know he'll do it.

I think I was a bit ambitious. I secretly (or did I say it publicly too?) thought I could get it done in a day. Or at least half a day. YEAH RIGHT!

Since my last post I have successfully gotten rid of HALF of the clothing of my two toddlers. Thats about it. And maybe 1/6th of our kids books. Actually, the clothing was a big chore. I mean, HALF of all of their current clothes and maybe even OVER half of all the stored clothes. I've taken them in two loads to a new consignment store in Clovis called A La Mode Clovis. I made about $30 on a bunch today. I'm going to be taking the rest of the clothes to a consignment SALE in March. Hoping to make some money on these! And, giving some to friends too.

Never got to the closet.

Too bad I started in February.

It can be done!!! I'm already feeling more free... just knowing it will be done!

I've gotten some really neat feedback. One of my friends sent this message to me on Facebook today:

Hey Marcy, just reading this, but I want to encourage you in this. We left Fresno at the beginning of Feb and are about to embark on a long term(1 year+) family roadtrip through Europe. Anyways, to make that happen we had to purge heavily. From the photo of this blog post:
We fit our whole life in a 8x5 trailer (only about 2/3 full). It took a lot of work, but I did what you are doing. Got rid of half of our things, then got rid of half of what was left and so on. We have friends who have been traveling long term, each family member with only a carry on luggage. We won't be that sparse, but will only take what our luggage allowances allow for. (we'll be shipping our van and buying a travel trailer once there)

Anyways, purging is so freeing, especially when you can pass things off to someone else who can use them.

How cool is that????? I love that!

Here's another link that was sent to me:

Love it! Keep sending me all of your fun stories, your commitments to join me, and anything else you think relates!  :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Goal for 2011

Well, its already half way through February... but I think I finally have a goal/resolution for 2011.

I'm hesitating to call it a resolution. Perhaps its my 2011 challenge.

Whatever it is, it certainly falls in with the theme verse of this blog:

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

Boy do I need to hear that again today!

Anyway... this is what I'd like to do. I'd like to get rid of half the stuff in my house this year. I'd actually like to do it this month. I have a new AMAZING job working from home (hence my unusually long blogging-silence :) and I have even LESS time to keep up with all the "stuff."

I don't know what this looks like yet. I only know that I'll be starting in my closet. I haven't even run this by my family. I suppose my next blog will consider their thoughts. I'm pretty sure my husband will agree... and probably start with my childhood toys :) 

What do you think?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Resolution- Whats Yours?

Here I am, January 13th, and I still don't have a New Years Resolution for this year. Not a cool one, anyway.

We will continue on the path of buying used as much as possible. That was a great experience.

And of course I've got the typical: get organized, weigh less, run more, and read the Bible in a year :) Those are all great, but I really want another something unique.

Any thoughts?

Do you have any New Years Resolutions???

Leave your suggestions or resolutions in the comments. Id LOVE to hear them!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Second-Hand Christmas

Well, I promised a post on how we did Christmas on a buy-nothing-new budget. Here it is! And its only... almost three weeks after the fact? :)

To start, I must say that my love language is Gift-Giving. I best express my love for others by giving them little tokens of thoughtfulness... usually items that *click* when I see them... because of some personal joke, funny story, or its just them. Not any gift will do. It can also be a card or a note... something that says, "I was thinking of you while we were apart."  Equally, I receive love on this same level. My poor hubby.

Anyway, our resolution really put a good challenge on my gift-giving heart! But alas, the many thrift stores in our area and the craftiness of my husband made for an amazingly... second-hand Christmas.

We had decided in the past that we would give our children three gifts each: something they need, something they want, and a surprise. We want to love them with "things" but not overdo it. We also don't want to lose sight of the true purpose of Christmas... the giving. The Gift. So off I went to find gifts for my kiddos. Here's what we got.

For my 1 1/2 year-old daughter:  Amazingly enough, I found my little darling a baby doll cradle new in its box at Neighborhood Thrift. Hello??? It had never been opened! Here she is playing with it after we screwed all of the pieces together. At this very moment, around ten baby dolls are sleeping in it... at once. :) Very communal!

We also got her a little stuffed horse (compliments of her 3 year-old brother) and a nutcracker from Target. I had searched nearly every Thrift store I could find for nutcrackers and couldn't find a single one! Apparently people keep these. We went as a family and saw the Nutcracker Ballet this year... so I really wanted some token to remind them of that experience. It was only $2 and they each got one.

My three-year-old son got some clothes (hand me downs from friends) which happened to have some of his most favorite characters: Disney's Cars and a Dinosaur. He was thrilled. He also got a moose stuffed animal from a thrift store (that he had picked out), a kid's tool box (from my MOPS group), and his own nutcracker. He seemed to be the most excited of all my children for his nutcracker. In fact, it followed him around for a bit. 

My ten-year-old daughter got a nutcracker, a BUNCH of clothes (all from thrift stores, but many will new tags still on them). She was ecstatic. She also got a Book of Classics for Girls from Usborne Books and More. I bought this new at a home party from Consultant Cindy Rowland. She offered a fund-raiser party (which I hosted) to raise support for my dear friends, the Gilmores, who are moving to Haiti. They are going with Christian Friendship Ministries. So even though I bought it new, it was to help raise money for friends. Can't pass up a chance like that! My daughter also got a tea-set, new in its box, from the same thrift store mentioned above. She had attended a tea-party birthday party this year and loved it. Finding this tea set was perfect!

My eleven-year-old son also got a nutcracker, a Book of Classics for Boys (for the same fundraiser), a ton of clothes, and a Yoda, new in its box from a thrift store. It was amazing how many new things I found at thrift stores! My kids could hardly tell their gifts were "used!"

For other family members, my husband made really cool bird houses from an old fence lying in our back yard. They were AWESOME. And I don't think I took a single picture. Ill have to go find one and post its picture here. We also gave some cool goodie bags filled with ingredients to make certain meals... for example, a bag with all of the dry ingredients for chocolate chip cookies, or a soup, or hot chocolate, or cornbread... with a recipe. Its like a meal or snack in a bag. They were super fun to make and even more fun to give away!

So its possible. Aside from the $2 nutcrackers from Target (which may end up on the "consumable" list, everything was "used."  The best part was that my kids were thrilled! They loved their gifts!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Last Day or First Day?

Merry Christmas!  Or rather, Happy New Year!!!  Today marks the end (or is it just the beginning? *wink*) of our 2010 New Years Resolution. WE MADE IT!!!!

I can't believe that an entire year has passed since this crazy idea spawned in my thoughts. It has been such a cool experience!

Over our Christmas holiday we visited family in Arizona. One individual was so interested in our resolution! He couldn't figure out what we would do if we had to buy new shoes during the year! It was kind of funny... but only because it made us realize that, in some respects, social class or upbringing can really frame your opinion of this endeavor! My husband and I come from two different backgrounds in this respect... and that has always been fun and interesting. Anyway, this individual made the point that shoes are a matter of health and need to be appropriate for your foot. Thats true. But I don't generally go through more than one pair of shoes in a year! Or even a couple years! I suppose if your particular feet required specialized shoes that would be considered consumable...

A number of things struck us during this experiment, some of which I'll list here.

1. Okay, how wealthy is our country??? We have SOOOO much stuff that we have to rent mini houses to STORE all of our stuff? I don't know about your city, but we have a Derrel's mini storage on nearly every corner! There may be even more of them than Starbucks!  Anyway, not only do we have so much stuff that we have to store it.... BUT we have so much stuff that we can sell it a SECOND time! Its not enough to sell our stuff once... we sell it multiple times: yard sales, thrift stores, consignments stores.  My friends in various countries around the world would fall over with a heart attack if they knew how much stuff we have!

2. Letting God meet our needs was so cool! It was interesting to see what things He thought we needed. It was also a blessing to see Him give gifts... things that we secretly wanted... that He would provide in some form or another. It just reminded us how much He is our Father... and not just a distant, cold, unconcerned Master. Rather, He shows Himself a personable, relational, loving Dad who loves to give good things to His children. What a warm truth to rest in! Clarification: we also definitely believe God distributes money and uses that, in many respects, as a way of meeting our needs! It was just neat to see Him do it in His time and His way as opposed to us just running to walmart to meet our own needs.

3. We met so many cool people! Conversations occurred that never would have if we'd just gone our own private way. We also discovered many gems of thrift stores in town. My favorite, of course, is Neighborhood Thrift on Palm/Olive. Not only do they run a really great operation, but they seriously work to serve the community and make things available to lower income families... both through job opportunities and affordable items. LOVE the mission behind that store.

4. Our kids, each at such crucial ages, picked up such valuable insights throughout the year. We had an amazing Christmas (a future post) even though many of their gifts (the ones from us) were "second hand." (You'd be surprised at how many gifts I found for them brand new in boxes but at thrift stores! That was always exciting.

So many other things learned and experienced that we are still processing and will share as we formulate their significance in our lives.

Will we do it again this year? Yes and no. It won't be a formal "New Years Resolution" but we will definitely continue to buy as little as we can new. Why not? We gleaned such wonderful things! On the other hand, I won't feel guilty for buying something new if I just can't find it used! (Like a snow sled, which may end up being my first purchase! :) Regardless, we hope that as you've journeyed this with us, that you have been inspired in some form to consider "things" for what they are, the great wealth of our nation, and the ways that we can help to conserve and give back!