August: getting back to simple living.

As a family, we've decided to take the month of August to simplify our lives even further, to cut back on spending and get back to the simple, wonderful things that make life worth living. We've already been eating cleaner thanks to our first completed Whole30, which we're both continuing to do for the most part.  But now we're feeling led to tackle other areas like TV/movie consumption, financial spending, and just how we spend our time in general. 

Technology is helpful, but I don't want our family to be defined by it.  There are so many other things that are important to us: embracing time outside in nature, savoring the simple gifts of childhood like reading books together, making crafts, digging in the dirt, and running through a sprinkler.  I want my children to be able to find ways to play on their own (or with us) without a TV, phone, or Kindle being involved.

Here's what we've committed to for the month of August:

No TV/movie/Netflix watching at all.  Let's be honest, this is probably going to be the hardest on mama, not because I like to watch TV (I rarely do), but because I absolutely use TV/Netflix as a crutch to keep my 4-year-old busy when I need a break.  I'm pretty stringent about her only watching shows like those on PBS Kids or other classics like Richard Scarry's Busytown, Little Bear, and Strawberry Shortcake.  And I'm not some kind of supermom who thinks I should be able to parent 100% of the time without using media, but I do think we need to cut it out for a month just to take a step back and re-evaluate.  This will open the door back up to more creative play, more often.  For instance, our babysitter Rachel who comes twice a week has a strict no-TV-watching policy while she's with any kids she's babysitting.  You wouldn't believe the creations she and Luci Belle come up with - a "dollhouse" made of cardboard and recycling scraps, a secret hideaway made from a carseat box, and a super hero tissue paper cape.

No technology while eating, nursing, or bathing.  We've gotten into the bad habit of answering texts while at the dinner table and allowing our oldest daughter to eat her lunch while watching a show.  I've picked up my phone to check Instagram while nursing as my precious wide-eyed 6-month old is looking up at me playing with my hair.   And the other night, I took my phone with me to take a bath.  Seriously?  This is not okay.

Cook and share meals at home.  We haven't been eating out much since Whole30, but this will also eliminate the several-times-weekly trips to Whole Foods to get my daughter pepperoni pizza from the hot bar.  We know how to make an awesome homemade crust ourselves, so instead we're going to have a fun pizza-making fest here at home and freeze them for later.  Or spend some time on the patio at our own business, Urban Acres, and eat some of our awesome artisan pizza.

Be outside. Yes, August is absolutely sweltering in Texas, pretty unbearable unless you're near water.  So we're either going to find water, just sweat it out, or hunker down inside.  I'd like to see more family walks this month, then a run through the sprinkler when we get home.

Read more books.  After the children are in bed, Steven tends to veg out watching a movie on Netflix, and I join him mindlessly or work on some writing/creative stuff.   At the same time, I have, like, 6 books going and can't seem to finish any of them.  I hope to fix that in the month of August!  And I know my husband will benefit from getting back to reading more.

So here are the books I'm currently reading that I'd like to finish:

Um yeah, so 7 books.

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We've already started preparing Luci Belle for a month without TV and have been talking about all the things that are better than it, anyway.  Tonight, we're making a list of all the things we're going to do in August instead of watch shows.  I can only imagine the ways this is going to change our family.

And I don't know if this is weird, but I actually feel giddy about this.  Probably because it stirs what's deep in my soul, what I want my life and family to be about, and what I know is healthiest for us. 

They say that "transparency creates accountability," so now that it's out there, there's no turning back.  August, let's do this!

Simple living: thankfulness frame.

I've seen the blog posts circulating about how excessive Pinterest-surfing is causing moms to ignore their kids because they're too busy pinning at every spare minute.  And I get that, as I have to be careful not to retreat to my computer instead of engaging with the people in my home.  Anything can be taken overboard and abused.  Personally though, I have to say that many of the simple, creative ideas I've seen on Pinterest have actually helped me engage with the people in my life more.   This project is one of them.

First, I saw this idea on Pinterest, and then a sweet friend gave me a cute gift wrapped in burlap, and I thought I could repurpose it for this simple project. Who doesn't love burlap?  I wrote on a 5x7 frame with a white paint pen, framed the burlap, and in literally less than 5 minutes and $0 spent, I had this:

The idea for this frame, which is now perched on the dresser in our bedroom, is that my husband and I would use it to write notes back and forth to each other in the form of thankfulness. The notes are written with a dry-erase marker and easily wiped off.

Practicing thankfulness is one of the most important things we can do every single day.  For me, taking a moment to write or speak thankfulness is the difference between spiraling into a sea of chaos, resentfulness, and entitlement vs. peacefully surrendering my life and seeing the multitude of gifts I already have.  Yet, it's something I easily forget.  Every single day.

Writing on the thankfulness frame encourages me to search for something to be thankful for, even when I don't feel it at that moment.  And a bonus is receiving encouragement by what my husband writes.  The other morning after he had left for work, I found this:

Sigh.  I do love that man.  He knows me, he sees what's important in life, and he'll take two seconds to write on a picture frame to put a smile on his wife's face.  I've always wanted our home to be a place of beauty and peace, and it made me happy - and thankful - to know he sees it that way too.

So, I encourage you to make a thankfulness frame - for yourself or even as a simple gift for a friend.  We can all use a little more thankfulness in our lives, can't we?