My 7-Year-Old Minimalist

Playing children clip art

Slightly revised and re-posted from April 2013

It’s hard to find writing done by people who have raised their children minimalistically.  I remember searching through articles and blogs, looking for success stories.  What I mainly found, at that time, were pointers for getting your children used to the idea that you were adopting a simpler lifestyle.  I wondered if we were doing the right thing, by actually raising our child counter-culturally, from birth.

My research led me to write this post, about the benefits of simplicity, for everyone.  Throughout my minimalist journey, I have corresponded with many minimalists who have successfully raised their children this way, “before it was cool.”  It was heartening to hear so many success stories, and not one negative.

So, here we are.  My daughter is 7 years old.  She has attended public school for 4 years.  And she doesn’t own a television (although she does watch Netflix when she is sick,we occasionally have a family movie night, and she loves her Wii), has rarely watched a Disney movie, has been given equal access to “boys'” and “girls'” toys, and enjoys a hot, homemade dinner every night.

What surprises have we seen?  Plenty!

  • Beanie does know all the names of the Disney princesses, through osmossis.
  • She has a VERY strong love of reading.
  • Beanie has excellent problem-solving skills, and tries to find solutions on her own, before coming to us.
  • She hates it when people are doing anything threatening to children in movies (She especially hated “Brave” when she saw it at a friend’s house–she couldn’t finish it!).
  • She also gets mad when characters in movies talk back to adults.
  • She does not really recognize ownership–and she prefers other children to toys.
  • Beanie definitely prefers living on the boat, and talks about it frequently.
  • Her play is 50/50, as far as “boy” activities and “girl” activities.  She’ll play with toy trucks, while wearing a princess costume.
  • She is comfortable entertaining herself.

I would say, at this point, raising our daughter minimalistically is working out well.  What have your experiences been?

Are you working toward a simpler lifestyle?  Then I would love to share your story!  Please submit your original (not published anywhere else) story about how you are simplifying your life.  You don’t have to be an extreme minimalist–I would love to share stories of people who are just starting out of their journey.  If your story is selected to be featured, you will receive 50% off the the Simple Living Basics E-Course, after any other discounts.  Send your story to brosselit@gmail.com . 

New to Simple Living?  Then check out our Simple Living Basics e-course.  There are plenty of discounts available, and it will be an investment in a lower-stress more focused lifestyle!

Why Do We Judge?

Shortly after we got married, one of my friends had a baby.

While I enjoyed watching her parenting journey, I was pretty certain I could do better.  She was lucky her child had a good temperament, because she wasn’t strict enough.  Her child wasn’t talking super early, because she was clearly doing something wrong.  Maybe she wasn’t reading to her?  Talking to her enough?  Whatever the reason, I would definitely do better when I had my kid.

Then, my other best friend had her baby.  And–lo and behold–she wasn’t fast to talk.  Obviously because they were doing *something* that I wasn’t seeing.  Pushing her too much?  Too much television?  Nothing I would do, for sure.

There were more.  The relative’s child with autism?  The school system and labeling.  The friend whose kid had behavior problems?  Not enough attachment parenting.

And then along came the Bean.

I breastfed her 22 months.  She co-slept.  I read to her from the beginning, sang to her.  No television until age 2.  We did everything “right.”

And she crawled at 12 months.  She didn’t speak in complete sentences until age 6.  And she potty trained the same year.

So was this a slice of humble pie?  Not really, because I don’t think that my “judging” was due to a character flaw of any sort.  However, I do think that my judging had nothing to do with the people being judged–it had everything to do with my own fears.

Recently, I’ve seen this story shared on Facebook.  Again, although I don’t know the whole story, I think that the mother doing the “judging” had her own issues.  I’ve learned a lot about the judging and “advice” we give other people, whether it involves parenting, minimalism, or something else.

Beanie

What have I learned?

  • I learned that I judged others to assuage my own fears.  This is what I was doing when I judged my friends.  I was terrified, after years of teaching special education, of having a child with a disability.  I wanted to believe that it was possible to avoid having a child with a delay.  Autism, especially, was my biggest fear.  If there were some magic techniques I could use to avoid this, I would.  So, of course, I was given a child with autism, and a severe language delay, so that I could learn and understand.  I judged out of my greatest fear, which in the end was nothing, meaningless.

Beanie 2

  • I learned that I judged because I doubted myself.  It goes back to elementary school.  We criticize those who are making the mistakes in the areas where we have the most doubt.  Will I read to my child enough?  Will I discipline properly?  I don’t know the answer now, and I certainly did not back then.

 Beanie 5

  • I learned that I judged because I was trying to find my identity.  Parenting–like junior high–is made up of cliques.  Will you be a sleep trainer?  A natural parent?  I wanted to be “crunchy,” in order to define myself and find support.  So I became fiercely critical of those who were not.  Who would dare use formula?  Eat fast food?  For shame!

Beanie 6

So when you find yourself judging, understand that it is not a character flaw, but a doubt you have within yourself.  Be curious with your own mind.  What fears do you have?  How are you doubting yourself?  How are you trying to define yourself?  Because your “judgements” are all about you, not about the other person.

And what about the times you feel judged?  What about the times when people make comments to you?  First off, understand that those comments are all about the commentor, not about you.  And second, why do they upset you?  They would not, if you did not have doubts.  What doubt did that person “step” on?

Look deeply, and you will see that judgement, as a concept, is just a fancy name for misunderstanding.

Time for Some Resolutions!

DSC_0058[1]

That’s right.  I’m rocking it old school this year and making resolutions.

For the past two years, I’ve chosen a one-word theme, in lieu of resolutions.  Two years ago, it was “love.”  At that time I was just learning to accept love from those around me, and my mind was beginning to entertain the notion that I might be deserving of it. 2013 turned out to be a year of big changes, and I learned about love in so many different ways.  In fact, love has continued to be my guiding light, and it really could be my one-word theme every year.

My word for 2014 was “surrender,” and this was also very appropriate for the year.  In accepting myself as I am and in accepting life as it is, I’ve been able to grow more than I ever knew I could.  Surrender is really just an extension of love.

And so love will be my focus once again, but I will be making some concrete goals to guide me through this journey to love.  In 2012 I made 5 resolutions.  While I wasn’t perfect in meeting these goals, they did lead us closer to creating the lifestyle we wanted.

At that time, my goals were to eat less poison, get off the grid completely, generate one plastic shopping bag of garbage per month, put together a 12-piece wardrobe for myself, and have Christmas shopping done by January 1.  Some of these goals can be elaborated upon to help me meet my goals now, some of them are not irrelevant, and some are things I will work on later.

These are my resolutions for 2015:

1.  Lose 35 pounds.  Weight-loss had eluded me for years, but this will be the year I make it happen.  I’ve learned that willpower is a limited tool that can be counter-productive in the end, so I will be relying on other strategies.  I will work on staying organized with my meal planning and food preparation–and this includes delegating and using convenience foods (such as pre-made salads) when life gets in the way.  I will also look deeply when I am wanting to snack, so that I can learn to address the emotional need that is leading me to overeat.   I will join the gym that is walking distance from the marina, and begin attending classes there 3 times a week, eventually moving up to 5.

2.  Amass $10,000 in savings.  Living on Breaking Tradition is great, but we will eventually want something with a more comfortable layout.  Our plan is to save up for a center cockpit boat, which we will live on until we are ready to cruise full-time.  Then we will need something faster and more practical for long runs (our dream is to get a cruising catamaran!).  I don’t have a great history with money management, due to disorganization, feeling mentally overwhelmed, and fear of knowing our true financial situation.  There is less pressure now, so I am going to take baby-steps to get more comfortable in this area.

3.  Develop small income sources outside of my job.  If we’re going to cruise full time, we will need income.  We won’t need as much money as I make now, but we will need something.  So I will be experimenting with ways to make money through my writing.  I’m piloting an e-course and will try self-publishing, simplicity coaching, and other creative ideas.

4.  Spend structured time with Beanie.  My happiest memories have been of outings and art projects with her.  I actually joined Pinterest, so that I can find more potential activities!  My ultimate goal is to do an activity with her everyday, but we’ll start with 3 times a week.

5.  Do something social once a month.  I’ve always felt like establishing community was important, but the truth is that I’m kind of shy about actually getting together with people IRL.  So this year, I’m going to do something with a friend–have them over for dinner, go out or coffee, etc. once a month, at the very least.

January is an excellent time to start new habits, and I will be updating you on my progress on each of these goals, at least once a month.

May this be a new year where we all learn to love ourselves better!

Snowball Fight in Adventure Field

Sometimes, we just have fun.

We’ve got a structured evening routine, here on Breaking Tradition, but it does leave room for fun and games.

For example, yesterday, I came home and read with Beanie while dinner cooked.  Then, after I ate, I got her started on “homework,” which meant writing a letter to a friend in Michigan. Then, after piano practice time, we played rhyme Dominoes.

After that, we had an hour until shower time.  What were a mother and daughter to do?

Well, we headed out to “Adventure Field.”  There are two good-sized grassy areas in the marina, and Beanie has named them Adventure Field and Chaos Field.  Last night, she wanted to go to Adventure Field.

We couldn’t find her ball, so we brought a bag of cloth “snowballs,” made by one of our friends in Michigan.   A fun (and funny!) evening ensued.

DSC_0101[1]

DSC_0099[1]

DSC_0102[1]

DSC_0103[1]

DSC_0104[1]

DSC_0105[1]

DSC_0106[1]

DSC_0107[1]

DSC_0108[1]

DSC_0108[1]

DSC_0110[1]

I hope your October is treating you equally as well!

 

First Day of School,Take II

School has always been something Beanie has loved, even with the number of times she has been the “new kid.”  She has always gotten excited about going, and she has always chattered endlessly about her friends and about science class.

But this year, something changed.

DSC_0076[1]

Beanie has always gotten into mischief, but she started getting bad reports daily.  And her behaviors went from “normal” trouble-maker limit-testing, to hitting and screaming.  Instead of talking about her friends, she made up a bunch of imaginary friends.  She still enjoyed doing her homework and going to piano lessons, but she began throwing tantrums when it was time for school.

With her ARD meeting coming up (those are called IEP meetings in the other 49 states), I had a lot of correspondence with her case manager.  I learned that Beanie was screaming in class nearly everyday, in spite of the added supports and sensory diet they had her on.  She was needing an aide 4 hours out of the day, instead of the 30 minutes she had needed before.  And the kids were less interested in hanging out with her, due to her screaming.  And all of this was affecting her academically–her reading level dropped from a level F to a level B.

I have to admit I was nervous.  I knew that this was not the best situation for my daughter, but what would be? She really wouldn’t benefit from a resource room, where she would go for smaller reading, writing, and math classes.  She’s not very far behind academically, and this wouldn’t solve the problem of The Rest of The Day.

And she really didn’t belong in a life skills program, which would be a special class just for kids with autism, where she would learn cooking and other independent living skills.  This wasn’t the place for a kid with above average intelligence.

And she certainly wasn’t going into a behavioral program, where she would copy the misbehaviors of her classmates.

Those were the three options I was familiar with.  And I knew that the resource room was the only  one I would be willing to entertain at all.

DSC_0077[1]

So I was worried, but not surprised, when her principal called me.  She took a long time preparing me, which only increased my nervousness and defensiveness (which I suppressed quite well!).  So imagine my surprise when she told me about a program I had never heard of!  Their district has a self-contained classroom for kids who have severe speech and language disorders.  Beanie would be in a class with no more than 5 kids, would get lots of one-on-one time with her teacher, would learn her academics but really focus on getting caught up with her speech, and would be worked back into general education classes, until she would eventually be ready to return to her neighborhood school.

All of my defensiveness was replaced with the question, “How soon can we start?”

DSC_0078[1]

Beanie was hesitant to visit the classroom, but once she saw the puppets in the “break” area and the stretchy therapy swing, she was sold.  Since Beanie is above grade level in math and science, she would be in a general education class, with support, for those subjects.  She would also go to P.E., music, and art with her general education class.  She would work on speech,  reading, writing, and social studies with her special education class.  The speech therapist would come into the room to work with her and the other students, and the class would visit the large motor lab on a regular basis.

Beanie met her special ed teacher, her aide, her general education teacher, and her speech therapist.  She then led everyone on a search to find and meet the principal.  And she charmed every one of them.

Beanie rides the bus to her new school, but it gets her home in time to make it to her piano lesson on her old school on Wednesdays.

So how did her first day of school go?  Beanie came home with a very good report and a smile on her face.  She couldn’t wait to tell us about her new friend in her class, and she was eager to go back.

DSC_0079[1]

And thus, the charmed life of the Bean continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Day Excitement!

The first day of school has always been exciting for Beanie!  Even though she’s done it four times now.

Onto the bus for Head Start when she was 4…

Now'r School 069

 

In Grand Haven the weekend before she boarded the Head Start bus once again when she was 5…

splashpark4

 

Getting ready to ride a bigger bus to kindergarten, when we lived in our apartment in Clear Lake…

DSC_0030

 

This year, however, there were some changes!  Beanie would not be riding the bus through Clear Lake Shores

Somebody's excited!

Somebody’s excited!

 

DSC_0042

 

DSC_0043

 

DSC_0044

 

DSC_0045

Don't worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

Don’t worry, she took off her life jacket when she got there!

 

DSC_0047

 

DSC_0048

 

DSC_0049

 

DSC_0050

 

DSC_0051

 

It’s only a couple blocks (less than a mile) from our marina to the school, and we thought bicycling would be easier and quicker than riding the bus or dropping her off by car.  When we get a dinghy, there is a canal that ends across the street from the school, so she will probably arrive by boat then.

Beanie had an excellent first day.  This year, she is in a co-taught class, like she was in preschool.  In kindergarten, she was in a general education class, with an aide who came to work with her for 30 minutes each day.  Her teacher and case manager recommended inclusion for her this year, so that a special education teacher or aide would always be in the room, though not specifically to work with Beanie.  That way, Beanie could get the one-on-one time she required, without being stuck with a certain time period where she got the extra support.  So she is in a general education classroom, with the same expectations as the other kids, but there is also a special education teacher in the room.  (I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but I spend the majority of my day co-teaching as a special education teacher at the intermediate level).  She will also continue to get OT and speech.  I think this will be perfect for her!

As for Beanie’s opinion?   I think her joyful rendition of the school song spoke volumes.

The Quest for the Chickenpox Shot

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The week before school starts is a crazy time.  I’ve been getting back into the routine of waking up and leaving every morning, packing my lunch, attending training sessions, looking at my caseload, preparing lessons, meeting with co-teachers, and setting up a classroom. It’s definitely a time when I write fewer blog posts and rarely check in on Facebook!

And then, on Wednesday, it occurred to me that I am not the only one in my family who will be going back to school.

Sure, I took Beanie’s IEP over to her new school, as soon as their office opened.  And I wrote their special education department head a lengthy e-mail, explaining all of Beanie’s idiosyncrasies.  But I hadn’t bought a single school supply.  And I hadn’t taken her to get her booster shots.

Vaccines are complicated for us.  When she was 13 months old, Beanie ended up in the hospital with a reaction, after getting the MMR, Chickenpox, and three other shots.  After that, we decided (with our new doctor’s blessing) to only give her one shot at a time, and to space them at least a month apart.

This plan worked well.  She got a slight fever for a few days after her MMR booster, but nothing as serious as what we had encountered the previous time.  Everything went wonderfully until only the Polio and Chickenpox vaccines were remaining.  When we showed up at the doctor’s office to get these, they were out of both.

They continued to be out of both everytime we came in, for a year.

DSC_0003

When we moved to Houston, I forgot about getting the boosters, until it was mentioned when I signed Beanie up for school this year.  Students can be sent home on the first day if they are not up to date on their shots, so I wanted to take care of this right away.

The first issue was getting ahold of Beanie’s shot records.  We had lost our copy in the move, and her school records were in limbo for some time.  On Thursday, I called and learned that they had arrived at our new school, so I came in and got a copy.  After working until 6:00, doing home visits, I rushed home and scooped up Beanie, life jacket and all, and drove her to the clinic, which closes at 8:00 on Thursdays.

We made excellent time, arriving at 7:30.  On the way there, Beanie found her smelly markers in the car and gave herself a cat face.  She decided that she was Meowth, the Pokemon.

I darted into the clinic, with Meowth still wearing her life jacket, and handed the receptionist our shot records.  She eyeballed us skeptically, then said that those two shots were the only two they didn’t have in stock. Frustrated, I asked if there was anywhere we could go, and she produced a list of clinics in the area that would accept our insurance.

One clinic was nearby, so we drove to the high rise building that housed it.  Beanie squealed in excitement, and whispered, “It’s a hospital!”  It’s been a few years since her frequent hospital visits, but Beanie still remembers how much she loved that place.

We ran into the building, only to find that the clinic was closed.  As we made our way across the parking lot, and into the neighboring CVS store, Beanie yelled, “I need to go to the hospital!”

CVS had neither shot in stock, but the pharmacist recommended Walmart and Walgreen’s.  The Walmart was a block away, so I plopped Meowth (still wearing her life jacket) into a cart and ran inside.  After a long wait, the pharmacist said they were out of the shots until the next afternoon.

Walgreen’s was across the street, and they had the Polio but not the Chickenpox vaccine.  However, their pharmacist told us that we needed a prescription to get shots from a drug store.

So, admitting defeat, we headed home.

As I drove past Beanie’s school, I slowed down and considered stopping to find out who her teacher was.  I decided against this, as it was 9:00 and we needed to be getting home.  However, my pause attracted the attention of the police officer in the parking lot, and he pulled out behind me and followed me to the marina.  As soon as we were in the gates, he turned on his lights.

The very polite officer introduced himself and, after verifying that I wasn’t a criminal, wrote me a warning for a tail light being out.  This made Beanie’s day, and she couldn’t stop talking about the police officer who “rescued” us!

So back to the drawing board.

DSC_0066

On Friday, I made my way down the list of clinics.  The clinic in the “hospital,” had the Polio shot but not the Chickenpox vaccine.  The health departments on the list did not accept private insurance, but they recommended the Redi Clinics that happen to be located in HEB grocery stores.

I Googled Redi Clinics and made my way down that list.  After encountering a few that did not have the Chickenpox vaccine, I found one that was getting a new shipment that afternoon.  I figured we were golden!

I got home at 5:00 and promptly called that clinic.  They were out already!  I was finally able to locate a clinic two suburbs over, that had both shots.  Scooping up the life jacket-clad friend (no cat face this time!), we pointed our Volvo toward Friendswood.

Beanie was fascinated to see a doctor’s office in the middle of a grocery store, and she anxiously awaited her shots.  (She had been practicing with her Doc McStuffins doctor kit).  We were in good company–the waiting area was overrun with kids waiting to get shots.  We bought a soda from the nearby check-out and enjoyed it until we were called.

Beanie was beginning to lose heart, when the nurse finally called her name.  While she eagerly took her place on the examining table, and readied her leg, the doctor showed me Beanie’s shot record, as well as the immunization requirements for Texas schools.  It turns out that Beanie does not even require anymore Chickenpox boosters!  After all that….but I was relieved, since she had a reaction last time.

After learning that Beanie was tipping the scales at a whopping 41 pounds, it was finally time.  Beanie got the shot in her leg, since she’s still so tiny.  She gritted her teeth, then smiled when she got her band-aid and a sucker from the “big girl” box.

As we were leaving, she yelled out to the doctor and nurse, “Thank you for the shot and band-aid!”

shot