October 31, 2014

THE ROARING 20s: MY NEW FAVORITE PHOTOS

Halloween has never been the joking matter at our house.  My kids are very serious about what they dress up like, they would much prefer pieced-together, Goodwill costumes opposed to a store-bought one, and they Google photos of their costume focus for authenticity-sake.  I'm not even joking.  Yes, this started with me, but I've created three little monsters--literally.  My boys have been asking to be 20's gangsters for months, naturally making Sophia a flapper girl to accompany their idea.  Gangster sounded a little too mean for my sweet boys and since my idea for Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, and baby Jean-Baptiste was overruled, we settled on "dapper gents of the 1920's and their flapper sister."
 
Naturally, costumes this classy called for a fun photo shoot and when I saw two cars by the side of the road for the 1920s proudly displaying themselves at a church festival car show, you better believe I squealed in there to track down their owner.  Men with their cars are definitely happy to oblige, and in no time at all we had a photo shoot on the calendar.
 
Again with the authenticity, my kids are pretty awesome.  We looked at photos of Scott and Zelda and other 20s fat cats and noted their serious faced photos.  They were amazingly eager and we finished our hour-long session with smiles and a treat trip to Sonic. 
 
These kids are pretty stinkin' awesome.  I give you, my sweet babies, the Jazz Age version...
 
 




















 








I'm so pleased with my sassy little guys and molls.  Definitely some memory-making photos to save for someday. You might remember our Sherlock Holmes photo shoot from two years ago.  So much fun.

Happy Halloween, y'all.

xo

October 30, 2014

SIMPLIFYING THOUGHTS

 
Writing has always been an incredible way to decompress, to vent, to express myself and to learn more about myself and this month has been no different.  We have talked so much on simplifying our homes and school this month....and last, but definitely not least, Simplifying Your Thoughts.  (I'm cutting my series a day short, but for good reason...you shall see tomorrow!)   To end our series, I want to talk about something that often gets overlooked when we're working on simplification: to simplify your thought life. 
 

Simplify your thoughts

We can clear our counters like nobody's business.  We can slim down our calendar and create special memories in it's place.  But when it comes to ourselves and what's going on in our own heads, we seem to stop there because the outside stuff is just easier, right?  Simplifying our thoughts to me, just means cutting out the fat that clouds up the good stuff...bad stuff being worry and fear, jealousy and comparison--good stuff being joy and contentment, gratitude and peace.
 
What should we simplify, or cut out, in our thought life and how do we do it?? I am certainly NO therapist, and of course it's always a struggle to keep the bad thoughts away, but these are some tried and true things that have worked for my close friends and myself.
 
  • Start a joy list.  I seriously try to do this every single day.  I have even had my kids start doing this.  Try it when you sit down with your morning coffee.  Have a notebook just for your joy lists and list at least ten things that are making you happy that morning.  Here's some examples from mine the last few days: a fun photo shoot with my kids// dinner out at the Biltmore// checking big things off my list// friends coming to visit// Vera taking long naps!// non-chips nails.  Just list the littlest things if you're having a hard day.  There's always something to be grateful for.  After a while, feelings like comparison and jealousy melt because you have an entire arsenal of amazing things that you've taken the time to acknowledge. 
 
  • Play the What If game.  If you struggle with a lot of fear and worry, you need to do this whenever fear and worry pop into your head.  Believe me, I do this whenever I have a sick feeling of worry and it works every single time.  Look at your worry and ask what if to every scenario you can think of with this worry.  What if I'm not doing a good enough job homeschooling my kids???  Well, I can order a standardized test to get an idea of how they're doing by comparison to other kids.  It could also help me to see what areas he/she is struggling the most.  What if he fails the test?? I can reevaluate the curriculum we're using, call my friend that's a seasoned homeschooler and get her opinion, and/or hire a tutor if we need to.  What if we can't afford a tutor??? We can look at our budget and see where we can skim.  Maybe use a little savings or cut out piano lessons for a few months.  What if a tutor can't help him/her??? We'll find another one and keep looking until he gets the help he needs.  Bottom line, we're all ok...we will find an answer sooner or later. 

    I know there are things that are extremely serious like illness and death.  But those are not usually the things taking up space in our thoughts.  It's usually the things that we can sort out by What If's.  Try this next time.  Believe me.
 
  • Shut it down at night.  Give yourself some real wind down time at night.  For me, watching TV right before bed makes me think more, which is always a bad thing.  The phone is also a BIG no-no for me at bedtime.  I will find myself on some random person's IG feed looking at each of their 2,545 photos and staying up too late for nothing and then usually letting my mind wander to who knows where.  Back in January I took a long break from social media.  Since then, I haven't slept with my phone by my bed.  At all.  Seriously I think this has been the most freeing thing (clearly I need help).  Leave your phone in the kitchen.  It's ok to read an actual book instead of FACEbook.  For me, reading helps me zone out and gets me in a sleepy mood.  Whatever you need to do to totally shut down at night when your fears and worries seem to arise, do it.
 
  • Refocus.  Sometimes our fears and worries can be remedied with a plain ol' refocus.  Do something for someone else, get the focus off yourself.  Get a new hobby.  Volunteer somewhere.  Keep busy.  Stop honing in on that one thing filling up so much of your brain and refocus on something else. 



Making room for the good thoughts

When we stop with thoughts that are consuming and draining, we create so much space for better, more productive thoughts.  We have space for:

  • dreams
  • aspirations
  • ideas
  • gratefulness
  • ways to help others
  • listening more deeply to those we love
  • growing
  • peace
  • contentment with our lives
  • joy
  • love

On our last day of this simplicity journey, I just challenge you to really pay attention to what is taking up space in your head.  Clear that clutter.  Make room for the good.

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I have had such a blast with you this month.  Thank you for reading along and for all your input and encouragement.  You are the best readers.

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SIDENOTE: I'm starting a new newsletter starting in November! Sign up below if you'd like to receive it.  Even if you're already an email subscriber, still sign up because the email list is separate.  I am really excited about doing this!! The monthly newsletter will be almost list a magazine with monthly themed ideas, projects, recipes, book ideas, and more.  Every month will be a little different, so stay tuned for that.  Sign up below!!
 
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This post is part of a 31-day series on simplifying our homes and schools. 
To read from the beginning of this series, click here:
 
http://www.aliciahutchinson.com/p/home-school-simplified.html


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October 29, 2014

WILL THERE EVER BE BALANCE?

 
 It feels like we've had such a productive month over here, right?  We've covered so much ground in our personal lives, our homes, and our schools about simplifying and gaining back some of the control in our lives we may have lost by our "yeses" on repeat.  I feel good about what we've accomplished here.  Things may feel a little less cluttered in your home, a little more calm, and a lot more simple.  But we're always looking for that one last thing...balance.  Isn't this something we're always striving for, no matter our age or how many kids we have?  Balance is the universal goal for most women, the thing we want to make us feel better about what we're doing all day.  But is balance even attainable in all honesty?
 
I've told you how busy things are in  my neck of the woods lately.  Despite the simplifying I have done, there's still a good amount of crazy happening here.  I knew this was coming and I did try to build up my ammunition as best as I could, but with all the circumstances and planning, I still got hit square in the teeth yesterday.  Everything was just off and overwhelming and I was angry and weepy all day.  It ended with me sitting by myself in the corner of Starbucks hide-crying over my notebook and my computer.  I texted my friend, who knew all the circumstances, told her I was crying in Starbucks and asked her to diagnose what the hell was wrong with me.
 
Her response:
You are overworked,
overtired, overwhelmed,
overbooked, over saturated from people,
over emotional about everything going on
and so your cup runneth over my dear...with tears.
 
Ya, I guess that pretty much covers it.  So no, right now I feel not much balance, despite what I've done to try to get ready for a busy season.  Then I wonder when the pendulum will swing back to the place where things feel better, but then, really...when do things ever just feel normal?  So...then the question remains, will there ever be balance?  I don't really think so, you guys.  I think this is something we will constantly search for and miss, but I do think there's a remedy. 
 
I think the way to get our Balance fix is simple: simplicity.  (sorry about that one)  But yes, simplicity.  Life is notorious for throwing a wrench at us, but keeping things simple--in every aspect of our life--is our guard against the wrenches.  I guess I look at it this way, the less complicated things in my life are, the less there is to mess up when the wrenches start flying. 
 
So there, I give you permission to stop striving for balance...you'll probably never fully achieve it anyway.  Keep things simple, and when you feel the pressure life gives, you can get texts like the above and at least feel good that it wasn't self-imposed. 
 
Carry on, brave ones.
 
 
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This post is part of a 31-day series on simplifying our homes and schools. 
To read from the beginning of this series, click here:
 
http://www.aliciahutchinson.com/p/home-school-simplified.html


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October 28, 2014

DOING TOO MUCH FOR OUR KIDS?



 Since the beginning of this month we've been trying to simplify.  We have demand after demand that cannot be edited out, like feeding our kids or doing math.  But we also have a whole list of extras that can in fact be edited down--simplified.  That editing process made me wonder about something though.  How many of those things on our "Yes List" are for our kids?  Things like soccer, baseball, Lego Club, and Monday Morning Playdates.  How many of these things do they even want to do?  And how many are filling up our days simply because we cannot tell our children "no."
 
To me it feels like society has entered into this type of parenting that works only in our child's immediate pleasure.  It seems almost cruel to say no, to let them learn the hard way sometimes, or to let them loose at a game.  Everyone wins, everyone gets everything they want, and "no" is a bad word is not necessarily the message I want my kids to hear.  Sometimes the answer is no and we're all better for it.  We don't even have to have a reason, sometimes the answer is jus no.
 
I wondered if some of what is complicating our lives is just simply because we cannot tell our children no to what they ask for, and if your kids are like mine they are forever asking for things.  Definitely we should be observant of our child's gifts and interests and involve them in things of those natures, but saying yes to every whim they have is not only stressing you out, but it's spending extra money, and crowding up your calendar. 
 
Today assess your day and how many things that are filling your head.  Is it your kids? If so is it because you can't tell them no to certain things?
 
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This post is part of a 31-day series on simplifying our homes and schools. 
To read from the beginning of this series, click here:
 
http://www.aliciahutchinson.com/p/home-school-simplified.html


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October 27, 2014

CLEAR THE CLUTTER


 
Cluttered house, cluttered mind. 
 
That's really so true, isn't it?  You could live in a house that really isn't clean but it is uncluttered, so it appears cleaner than it really is.  That's the thing about clutter--it clutters everything around it, even in our minds.  For me, I can't sit down to do anything relaxing with a bunch of clutter around me.  Kids' messes if they're playing doesn't bother me, imagination trumps clutter, but a bunch of papers stacked up, piles of shoes by the door, dishes stacked in the sink...that will get to me really fast.  I know I'm not super anal and I know I'm not the only one who feels like this.  Here's a few ways to combat clutter even in the worst spaces in our homes.
 

Clearing the clutter

 
1. Keep your counters clear.  This is a place where, at my house, it becomes super cluttered really quick.  Mail, pens, forgotten toys--it all ends up on the counters.  Put as much stuff in your cabinets as you can and keep them clear.  They get full enough on their own.  Then when you are ready to bake or do something messy, it's already clean and ready for you.
 
2. Keep mail under control.  My mail goes three places: magazines go to the living room where I keep a small reading stack, things I need to read further goes on the desk, and the rest goes to the trash...right away.  Mail stacks up so fast...and causes ugly clutter.
 
3. Keep the stairs clear.  Raise your hand if you have a pile of stuff at the top or bottom of your stairs to go the opposite direction.  Me.  Ok, so this spot just needs to keep clear.  Ask your kids to take anything that belongs to them up or down every time they go that way--and then put that item away! It's magical what can happen when everyone chips in.  If everyone that passes that pile of stuff would just take it in the direction they're going, there would never be a stack. 
 
4. Keep shoes in their places.  Everyone needs a spot for their shoes.  A cubby, a shelf, a basket...whatever.  Come up with a good system for your doorway to keep shoes picked up.  Nobody likes tripping over shoes as they come in the door.
 
5. Wake up to clean.  Every night before you go to bed, declutter.  Makes sure the main spaces you're going to see when you get up are cleared off.  I'm convinced this helps your day go better.  Really.  Think of how you feel if you wake up to a stack of clothes to put away by your bed. Or a sink full of dirty dishes.  Yuck.  Nobody wants to wake up that way.
 
6. Declutter after lunch.  It seems like at our house the morning gets messy.  I don't know how this started, but every day after lunch and after I lay Vera down for her nap, I take a few minutes to put dishes away and declutter.  I send the kids on their way to put away any stray school books or toys and clear the kitchen counters again.
 
7. Contain desk clutter.  It's hard to work at a desk that's a mess.  Use a clipboard or a box or a file to keep all the unpaid bills in to wait until bill paying day.  Have a place for all other papers.  Use some fun organizational baskets or containers to keep your desk pretty and neat.
 
8. Laundry clutter.  I am not good at this.  I will get all our laundry done and leave my basket of clean clothes there for the next laundry day.  Fail.  What we really should do is put those freshly laundered things into our drawers right away.  Piles of clothes look so messy...must get better at this.
 
This should get you started on clearing the clutter in your home.  I need to get busy now!
 


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This post is part of a 31-day series on simplifying our homes and schools. 
To read from the beginning of this series, click here:
 
http://www.aliciahutchinson.com/p/home-school-simplified.html


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