Lessons in Motherhood and rewarding good behavior

Lessons in Motherhood and rewarding good behavior

As a [mostly] stay-at-home mom, these four kids are my whole world…and they require TONS of my time and energy, which is bad because I’ve been sleep-deprived and short-tempered for the past two months.

Now that I’ve had my fourth baby, I can confirm that my favorite Jim Gaffigan quote is 100% correct…

I’m not kidding, folks. It’s been rough.

The Parenting Problem

Specifically, I’ve been struggling with correcting bad behavior [or in other words, getting my kids to do what I want them to do].

Until recently, our method was simple: disobedience or other bad behaviors resulted in a time-out or the loss of a privilege [treat after dinner, screen time, special activity, etc]. But it has turned into me constantly threatening the kids with consequences that end up being consequences for me too – which only makes me more upset.

I began to feel like I needed to switch to motivating with positive reinforcement. Otherwise, it feels like I am constantly taking things away from them – or threatening to do so.

But I didn’t know how to make the switch. It wasn’t like I could give my kid a cookie every time he or she did something kind or obeyed right away.

This just a random recent picture of the kids being cute – DON’T BUY IT! 😂

The A-Ha Moment

It suddenly occurred to me one night as I was trying to get my kids to lay quietly in their beds that by changing my wording, I could turn the consequence into a reward.

So instead of saying, “lie down and be quiet or you’ll lose your video tomorrow,” I said “if you lie down and stay quiet, then you’ll get to watch a video tomorrow!”

Strangely enough, it worked.

So now, instead of saying, “pick up your room, or you can’t go outside,” I say, “everyone who helps to pick up their room will get to go outside to ride bikes!”

Instead of saying, “if you don’t finish your dinner, you won’t get ice cream,” I say, “if you eat your last three bites, then you’ll get to have ice cream!”

I’m not sure why we always resorted to threatening a punishment when we could have just changed our phrasing and offered a reward. Nothing we are doing has changed. We have just changed the way we present the choice to them.

It’s too early to tell whether I’m actually getting more consistent good behavior from the kids, but it’s already making me less crabby.

Rewarding feels so much better than handing out [and enforcing] consequences. Now I don’t always have to be the bad guy.

Another one of the kids looking all innocent…

The One Caveat

Of course, this doesn’t work after a bad behavior has already happened. There are definitely times when a consequence is necessary, but a lot of parenting is trying to motivate kids to behave better and I don’t know about you, but my kids are much more motivated by rewards than by threats.

In general, my kids are great. Of course, they have their moments, but I’m not trying to make it sound like they are always terribly behaved. But as they grow older, I am facing new behavioral challenges and I often feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.

Any and all advice in this area is appreciated!

😁😁😁

Karis

Plastic Free July 2019: My Failures [and Successes]

Plastic Free July 2019: My Failures [and Successes]

No one is perfect, right? 🤷‍♀️

Seriously, though, I’m glad this plastic free business is not about perfection. Our take-and-toss society makes living without any plastic nearly impossible [especially if you have kids] and single-use plastics are EVERYWHERE.

Image from UN Environment

And old habits die hard, folks. But I am slowly making new, more sustainable habits.

Overall, I’ve been doing great with my zero waste goals. I went so far as to not buy anything at all on my entire 12 hour drive to New York…WITH FOUR KIDS! If you have ever taken a road trip with children, you know how tempting those drive through nuggets are so you can toss them into the back seat to keep the kids quiet. But I just couldn’t face the waste.

My three-week-old baby on her first road trip. ❤️

As far as Plastic Free July went, I did pretty well for the month – but, to my embarrassment, I made some rookie mistakes.

These were my commitments for the month:

Refuse plastic straws and disposable beverage cups. For the aforementioned “New York or Bust” road trip, we didn’t buy any drinks. Our one stop for dinner on the way home was at Panera where we brought in everyone’s water bottles and refilled them. We ate out of real dishes with real utensils [one of several reasons that I am a Panera fan]. We also took our own water bottles when we went to Chuck E. Cheese for Evangeline’s 5th birthday.

[Failure #1] BUT when Brett and I went out for a date night and ended up at a local ice cream chain, Brett’s sundae came in a big glass bowl with a real spoon and my low-calorie smoothie came in a plastic cup with [egad!] a plastic straw. I was literally half way through the smoothie before Brett pointed out that I was drinking out of a plastic. I was so concerned about the healthfulness of my choice, I totally forgot to think about the plastic.

🤦‍♀️

Bring my own reusable container for restaurant leftovers. The only restaurants we ate at all month were Panera and Chuck E. Cheese, as I mentioned above. For Panera, we had no leftovers, but at Chuck E. Cheese we had about a whole pizza leftover [Failure #2] and, of course, I forgot to bring a container. We ended up carrying the pizza home in styrofoam.

🤦‍♀️

Since then, however, I did remember to bring a few reusable containers when we went to Red Robin…but of course we had no leftovers. There must be a Murphy’s Law about this…

Buy only plastic-free groceries. Oh man, this was tough – especially when blackberries went on sale for $.88! But I stuck to my commitment and didn’t buy a single thing in plastic packaging all month. [My husband might have – but let’s not discuss it.] I even stopped an employee at the grocery store who was putting handfuls of loose green beans into plastic bags and asked if he could just put them straight into my reusable bag. He looked at me like I was crazy, but he did it! Which made me very happy because I LOVE green beans and my grocer always sells them in plastic bags.

Well, everyone already knows how much I care about this stuff [and I still end up using plastic sometimes] but for all you “no-big-deal” folks out there, here’s why single-use plastics are a big deal.

So that’s how my month went. Anyone else have confessions to make???

Karis

The birth of my baby [and the end of an era]

The birth of my baby [and the end of an era]

On June 7th, I gave birth to my fourth baby – a beautiful girl. We named her Eleanor.

She was born in our living room surrounded by family and friends.

It was the perfect conclusion to my childbearing years. The most precious part of the experience was having my first born there to witness her sister enter the world.

I still can hardly believe that five years ago I gave birth to my first baby and now I’ve given birth to my fourth and last baby [knock on wood].

I feel as though I’ve been pregnant for five years straight – and, in fact, I pretty much have been, since I became pregnant for the first time in October of 2013 and I haven’t experienced a full calendar year without being pregnant since.

As wonderful as my children are, I’ve never enjoyed being pregnant so I couldn’t be happier to leave all the morning sickness and swollen ankles and weight gain and hip pain and not being able to eat sushi or drink wine BEHIND ME AT LAST.

Anyway, all that to say that I haven’t been posting because I’ve been fully consumed with newborn life – nursing around the clock, rocking the baby for hours on end, and changing what feels like a gazillion diapers. All in addition to the job of caring for three other toddlers.

Sheesh.

But I intend to be back. I may not be writing, but I’m still busy zero-wasting and making everything for scratch and rethinking how we shop, etc. If nothing else, having another baby [my first since going green] has shown me how much the zero waste movement is missing resources for parents and children.

But more on that some other day.

I think there’s a diaper I need to go change…

🤱🏼🤱🏼🤱🏼

Karis

Semi-Annual Book Reviews

Semi-Annual Book Reviews

At the start of 2019, I resolved to read two books per month – one fiction and one non-fiction.

Here are the books I’ve read:

[The star ratings are for my own amusement and only reflect how much I personally enjoyed reading the book.]

January

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This is one of those classics that I hadn’t read previously – so it was time. My favorite part of the book was actually the opening paragraph which contains great advice and is quite profound.

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.‘”

7 by Jen Hatmaker

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This book restored my faith in fundamental Christianity – to a degree. I already wrote a whole post about this book: Environmentalism isn’t just for Liberal Tree-Huggers. If you consider yourself to be a Christian, you should read this book.

February

I Want It by Jill Soloway

⭐️ ⭐️

I randomly picked this book up at the library. An interesting memoir, though not what I expected – it challenged how I view the transgender issues our country is currently grappling with.

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This book has been on my list for a long time. While I don’t agree with everything Harris writes [I am not an atheist], I do agree with many of his observations about religion in America.

The Kite Runner by Kahled Hosseini

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I LOVED this book! It’s much better than the movie – read it!

“Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.” -Rahim Khan in The Kite Runner

The End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias

⭐️

This book was written in response to Sam Harris’s book above (Letter to a Christian Nation). Unfortunately, Zacharias comes off as an emotional kid who has had his feelings hurt. He also commits the same mistakes he accuses Sam Harris of committing. The truth is, both books were written for the people who already share their worldview. Neither will be effective at changing the others’ mind – so why did they even bother?

The Unstoppable Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Antonia Felix

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This is a FANTASTIC book. This woman has become my hero for being just plain brilliant and for dramatically improving the rights of women in America. [The documentary, RBG, and the movie, On the Basis of Sex, are also great.] Ginsburg’s story impacted me so profoundly that I almost named my baby Ruth…almost.

“In striving to drain dry the waters of prejudice and oppression, we must rely on measures of our own creation – upon the wisdom of our laws and the decency of our institutions, upon our reasoning minds and our feeling hearts. And as a constant spark to carry on, upon our vivid memories of the evils we wish to banish from our world…May that memory strengthen our resolve to aid those at home and abroad who suffer from injustice due to ignorance and intolerance, to combat crimes that stem from racism and prejudice, and to remain ever engaged in the quest for democracy and respect for the human dignity of all the world’s people.”

– Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Amen.

This woman has restored my faith that someday America may be great again – not because our economy is booming and our unemployment rate is low. Not because we have abundant wealth and prosperity, safety and security – but because we once again are concerned for “the human dignity of all the world’s people.”

March

Pussy by Regena Thomashauer

⭐️

I stumbled upon this book in my search for works on modern feminism – and it is just plain weird. I think Mama Gena might really believe that the source of life is in her who-who. Of course, she prefers to use the “p” word…

To each their own, I suppose.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Another great book! Fiction, though loosely based on a true love story that is both terrifying and inspiring.

Weconomy by Craig and Marc Keilberger and Holly Branson

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This is a great book that taught me to use my current sphere of influence to impact the world. For a year, I had been begging Brett to move to a clothing retailer that is transparent and committed to ethical and sustainable practices, but this book showed me how he is able to use his position in his current company to encourage the business to be more socially and sustainably minded. And I have realized my own responsibility to use the spaces I have been given [my part-time job and my children] to make a difference in the world.

I learned so many other things from these three leaders in the charitable world. You really should read this book!

A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This book was a gift from my cousin and I am so grateful for it because it really helped me to understand the people around me so much better. I highly recommend this book for everyone who wants to help end poverty here and around the world.

Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

An easy read – I think I read it in one afternoon – but I don’t really understand the point. I wish I had read it in school and could have benefited from a classroom discussion.

April

Posture Alignment by Paul D’Arezzo

⭐️ ⭐️

I’ve had this book for a long time as a resource for my personal training clients, but never read through it. While it contains useful information, it is boring. Not my favorite read this year – but I did have a client with some posture alignment issues shortly after reading it and recommended many of the corrective exercises in this book.

The Rough Guide to a Better World by Martin Wroe and Malcolm Doney

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This is a free ebook [read it here] that was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). In only 112 pages, there is a TON of information here about how to help end poverty in our world. The issues facing developing countries are complex and challenging, but we are not powerless to help. This little book showed me the importance of fair trade, charitable giving, volunteering, and even eco-tourism [which I had never heard of before].

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I picked this up because it is on Emma Watson’s book club list. I can’t believe I had never read it. There is a lot of beauty and wisdom in this story.

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.” – The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Now I have to watch the movie.

The New Homesteader by Bella and Nick Ivins

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

While it was fascinating to read how the Ivins have turned this beautiful property into a self-sufficient Homestead, the best part of this book is definitely the gorgeous photography!

How to be a Woman by Caitlyn Moran

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This is another book from Emma Watson’s book club list. Caitlyn Moran is hilarious – and I listened to her reading it on the audiobook, making it even funnier. Sometimes it really does suck to be a woman [ok, more than sometimes], but this book helps. Though I don’t agree with her definition of feminism [or some of her other viewpoints], I like her unapologetic style.

101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This book is super practical and makes waste reduction super simple. I already wrote about the book here: My 34 Ways to Go Zero Waste.

“In today’s world, one of the most radical things you can do is find contentment.”

101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg

The Backyard Homestead edited by Carleen Madigan

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Riveting reading – just kidding. But a super useful resource that was so educational I will have to borrow from the library again when we get ready to plant our garden or raise chickens or make our own cheese.

May

The HIIT Advantage by Irene Lewis-McCormick

⭐️

This is a textbook about using high intensity interval training for women. I read it for my personal training recertification. First of all, I learned nothing new. Secondly, there was absolutely nothing gender specific in the book. Third, there shouldn’t be anything gender specific because HIIT workouts are the same for male and female. 😡

Thirst by Scott Harrison

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

LOVE this book! What an inspiring story about an inspirational non-profit working to provide access to clean water to everyone in the world! I am proud to be a supporter of this organization.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

One of my favorite books on childbirth [and I have ready MANY]! A must read for any woman who is even considering having a baby.

Letters to the Church by Francis Chan

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I have a lot of respect for Francis Chan and I am grateful for this book which I hope will help to change the American church.

“We must stop creating safe places to hide and start developing fearless warriors to send out.”

– Francis Chan

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Another book on Emma Watson’s book club list. It was strange and not my favorite. I like my fiction to have deep philosophical themes – but more about love and peace and good virtues – and less about a creepy future dystopia. Maybe that’s just me. 🤷‍♀️

June

Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This book was fascinating – and terrifying. I’m afraid to buy any clothing ever again… but that fear leads to greater resolve to make more intentional, informed choices when it comes to what’s in my wardrobe. We shouldn’t want to be willfully ignorant.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I have to admit, I got impatient during this book [which is sad because it is short]. But the payoff in the end was worth it. There are several great themes and lessons in this story.

“When you’re on a journey to fulfill your personal legend, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it.”

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

And from now on, I will refer to my life’s purpose as my “personal legend” because that sounds cooler.


Wow – that was a long list. I doubt I’ll be able to read as much now that the baby has arrived. But these first six months of 2019 have been very educational for me and I have even enjoyed the fiction books!

Happy reading!

📚 📚 📚

Karis

Plastic Free July 2019: My Commitments

Plastic Free July 2019: My Commitments

Plastic Free July is here and [of course] I’m participating! I’ve already been avoiding single-use plastics for a year and have made my stainless steel water bottle, cotton produce bags, and reusable shopping bags a normal habit…but I still have struggled with avoiding the plastic that comes with take out, fast-food, and even dine-in meals.

So these are my three commitments to reduce my single-use plastic waste this month [and hopefully forever]:

Refuse plastic straws and disposable beverage cups. Even though I really hate plastic straws, I do occasionally end up with them in my [or my kids’] drinks. So this month, I am committed to not buying beverages out at all. We will just bring our reusable water bottles and drink water when we go to restaurants. [It is healthier anyway!]

Bring my own reusable container for restaurant leftovers. I have yet to bring my own container to a restaurant for the leftovers – and with four little kids, we ALWAYS have leftovers. So, this month, I will keep a reusable container [or two] in my car for this purpose.

Buy ONLY plastic-free groceries. I’m pretty good about this, but not perfect. I never use the plastic produce bags and I always choose the loose produce over the bagged options – but not all foods can be found package free at my grocery store. My kids love grapes and they always come in a plastic bag. I love berries, but I can’t find them without plastic packaging either. I often end up compromising on some of these items. So, this month, I am committed to doing without any food that I can’t find plastic-free. But it won’t be much of a hardship because I LOVE pineapples and apples and watermelons.

I hope you are joining the cause this month!

What are your commitments?

Let’s save the oceans together!

🌊 🌊 🌊

Karis

Why I Choose Minimalism

Why I Choose Minimalism

It took me almost 30 years to fully recognize and acknowledge that I was born into privilege – and for the past two years, I’ve struggled with what my responsibility to the world is as a result. The answer, in part, is minimalism.

But first, let me back up and explain…

I was born into a white, middle-class, American family. For most of my childhood, my father was a pastor of a large church in Flint, Michigan. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. I have four siblings. My parents loved us and provided a wonderful life – full of family time, vacations, extra-curricular activities, medical care, a beautiful home, all the food we could eat, gifts at Christmas and birthdays, private education, help with paying for college, even braces for all five of us. Basically, we had everything we could possibly need provided for us. There were also intangibles like all the words of affirmation, hugs and kisses, training in important life principles like money management, hard work, perseverance, and kindness.

I enjoyed one of the most privileged lives a human being can have in this world – filled with safety, security, health and love.

And man, did I take it for granted…

Despite how great my life was, I spent most of my growing up years saying that we “weren’t rich.” I have literally said that countless times. I guess I thought my parents weren’t wealthy because we didn’t drive expensive cars or wear name brands clothes or eat at expensive restaurants like some of my friends did.

Then as an adult, I had the same perspectivethat I wasn’t wealthy despite living a life of total luxury where I wanted for nothing. Yeah, I still don’t drive expensive cars or book vacations at Disney World and we live on one income in a wealthy Chicago suburb – but I will never again be foolish enough to think I’m not wealthy.

Why is it that the American middle class is so set on denying their own wealth? Everyone is looking at the small percentage of people wealthier than themselves, rather than the 3 billion people less fortunate. When I switched my perspective to intentionally noticing all the needs in the world, I became more and more aware of my own wealth.

What is more, I had to acknowledge that I hadn’t done anything to deserve being born into the family that I did – any more than those born in difficult situations deserved their lot in life.

This caused me a lot of guilt.

But guilt that produced action. Because I no longer felt that it was acceptable for me to live only for myself and my family.

But I was also very conflicted. On the one hand, I want to enjoy a comfortable life and provide nice things for my kids – but on the other hand, how do I justify spending all of my resources taking care of myself and my family when people are literally dying from preventable causes around the world? And what exactly constitutes “taking care of my family”? Where is the line between “needs” and “wants” in this consumerist society?

I began to struggle to justify any purchases outside of legit needs like food and medical expenses for my family. I feel guilty buying another shirt when my closet is already full of shirts that I don’t even wear. I feel guilty buying a fancy appliance for my kitchen when some simple elbow grease will do the job. I feel guilty throwing out food because I “didn’t feel like eating it,” when people go hungry all the time in this world. How can I spend $50 on decorative throw pillows for my couch when I know that I could pay for two months of education, food and medical care for a child in Uganda at that price?

The natural result was minimalism.

Minimalism, to me, means living with less, so I can give more.

Many people consider minimalism to be “extreme,” but it’s not. The materialism in America is extreme. The way we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that we’re not rich is extreme. Minimalism is just the natural byproduct of recognizing our wealth and privilege in comparison to the rest of the world.

Minimalism has freed us from materialism and a love of money and has freed us to prioritize things that matter the most to us – family, travel, and most importantly, giving to causes and organizations that are working towards a better world for all of us.

For me, minimalism was my path to a more intentional, fulfilling life. But it may not be the answer for everyone.

The big question is not “are you a minimalist?” but “what are you doing to change the world?”

🌎 🌍 🌎

Karis

Happy [Belated] Birthday to my Blog ðŸ¥³

Happy [Belated] Birthday to my Blog ðŸ¥³

On May 28th, this blog turned 1 – on the same day that I turned 32. This past year has been the most transformative that I have experienced in my adult life. This blog has been a place for me to share how my family and I have changed our views, values, and lifestyle in favor of simplicity and authenticity.

Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

This has become my life’s motto. And this past year has been all about learning more so I know better, so I can do better.

So, in honor of the blog’s first birthday, I wanted to recap all the changes [to our lifestyle and also our perspective] that my family and I have been working on over the past year.

Minimalism

The changes we have made started with an interest in minimalism. I had grown tired of chasing the “American dream” of wealth and success, which seemed to equate to bigger homes and fancier cars and more stuff, while meaningful relationships, time with family, concern for the less fortunate and other social/environmental causes are ignored. I was anxious for a simpler, more intentional life. I was wanting our life to be about a greater purpose than satisfying our own desires for more.

So, minimalism taught us to purge what we own down to things that are essential or truly appreciated AND to refuse all the excess that society is constantly telling us we “need.” We played the 30-day minimalism game and between Brett and I, removed 930 items from our home.

Mindful Consumerism

My interest in minimalism lead me to Cait Flanders’ book, The Year of Less, which was so impactful that after reading it, I started this blog to document all the ways I intended to end my own mindless consumption.

I began asking myself whether I really needed something before buying it. I continued to purge our stuff without replacing any of it. I committed to first do without, then use what I have, then buy used – and only when all else failed, to buy new.

Slow Fashion

Around this time, I watched the documentary, The True Cost, which describes the fast fashion industry and how the American demand for cheaper and faster clothing is wreaking havoc around the world. I couldn’t believe that I had never considered the wastefulness of my own clothing habits before or how harmful my “take and toss” mentality truly was to the environment and to people around the world.

As a working middle class American, I had always prioritized buying cheap clothing as a way to “manage my money wisely” and thought of myself as some sort of martyr for never buying expensive brands and always shopping the clearance rack in the service of frugality.

Wow, I was so wrong. I am happy to say that I have finally learned to appreciate my belongings enough to spend what they are worth – and I now care enough about my fellow humans, no matter how far away they live, to pay whatever it costs to protect their rights.

Zero Waste

From there, I stumbled upon the zero waste movement, which I had never heard of previously. On a whim I picked up the book, Zero Waste, by Shia Su from the library. I had no idea how significantly this book would change my life.

This book gave me confidence to reduce my waste [it really is so easy!] and opened my eyes to yet another sad side affect of our constant consumption: waste.

Seriously, the waste problem in America is huge. I don’t know why more people aren’t concerned.

So I started trying to reduce my family’s waste. We began recycling, composting, and bulk shopping. This became a passion [bordering on obsession] for me that led to so many other important changes for my family like eliminating processed foods, making most of our food from scratch, and purchasing our first CSA share. It has been a process, and we still are not storing our trash in a mason jar [that is not a realistic goal for us anyway], but we have made HUGE improvements. We only take out one 4 gallon trash bag per week and we have even reduced the amount that we recycle significantly, needing trash and recycling pick up only monthly [or even possibly quarterly] now.

Ethical Shopping

Next, I committed to ethical shopping by supporting brands that are concerned about sustainability and fair, ethical treatment of all members within the supply chain [animals included].

This one is tougher because it is hard to know whether a company is ethical or not and requires research which requires time, but it’s not so bad because we don’t buy very many things, so purchases can be thoughtfully and intentionally made with our values in mind.

Yes, I am boycotting Wendy’s. Yes, I pay more for Fair Trade coffee and chocolate and bananas. Yes, I adore Patagonia.

Simple Living

Then I began to focus on eliminating some of the distractions that caused me to always feel like I never had enough time. We moved our only television into the lower level. I started using the “screen time” feature on my iPhone to limit my time on certain apps. I turned off all notifications on my phone. ALL of them. If you call me and I don’t physically have my phone in my hand, I won’t know it until I actually open my phone app…which I do every couple days. I’m harder to reach, but by responding to texts and calls and emails on my own time, I am no longer a slave to my phone.

The kids and I began spending more time outside after I read the inspiring book, There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, by Linda Åkeson McGurk.

We started having a Monday movie night with the kids as their only screen time for the week. I simplified my cleaning routine to improve efficiency so I don’t have to spend a lot of time cleaning. We purged A TON of toys [with the kids’ help], which cut back on the chaos of living with three toddlers.

I also read Slow by Brooke McAlary which was full of inspiration for living a more intentional and less frantic life.

Giving Back to the World

Last, but most importantly, we rearranged our finances to prioritize giving to charities that we believe are doing good around the world. I wish I could be the one doing the good myself, but at this stage in my life, I am chasing toddlers all day and working part-time, so I am prioritizing what I can do, which is give money to those who will use it to help people. I look forward to volunteering regularly and giving back in other ways in the future, as I believe that this is one of our most important purposes on this earth – not to merely look out for our own interests and our family’s well-being, but to care for the less fortunate and fight for a better world.

But, more on that another day.

I am looking forward to improving in all of these areas and more over the next year.

Karis