Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Minimalism and Toys + a possible BIG move

I'm sure you have been hearing about it everywhere: minimalism. It is the newest fashion, it seems, to live with less. Where before the American life was all about bigger and more, now life is about having less.

I am not a naturally tidy person. I genuinely wish I was, as my life as a homemaker would be about 500x easier, but I have to struggle every day against my tendency to ignore clutter. I have become quite good at getting rid of things that are no longer needed or loved, and the idea of minimalism intrigues me.

I have even adopted some minimalist tendencies, purging excess everywhere I can. I spent an hour the other day (a very precious hour, as all 3 children were sleeping) going through my clothes and purged a good number of items that either don't fit or don't get worn.
But I find that some people take minimalism to an extreme that I just am not ever going to go to. You see, I enjoy a beautiful home. I enjoy decoration, paintings on the wall, decorations on the shelves, etc. I feel like those things are what make a house feel homey. Some people, including several people I know, prefer to take minimalism to the point of bare walls, little to no decor, etc. To each his own in that, but it is just not my thing.

Another area of minimalism that intrigues me, but which some people take to an extreme is when it comes to toys for children. Don't get me wrong, children don't NEED toys. And I think the grand majority of children have way too many toys, to the point that it surrounds them with chaos.

But I feel there is a good compromise to be had. I recently read a blog about keeping house and the woman said that her children only own 1 toy: some blocks. That's it. I was a little blown away by that, but I quickly understood how she was able to own a blog about keeping a house tidy, as my house would be SO much easier to keep clean without toys in it! I couldn't help but admire her ability to keep the kid clutter to a (serious) minimum, but at the same time I wondered if my children would end up with backlash hoarding tendencies when they grew up if I followed her example.

I guess I'm just not an extremist in most things. I try very hard to eat healthily and organic, but I am actually drinking a Mcdonald's milkshake as I type this (hangs head in shame). I am all about a tidy home, but not to the point of allowing it to take up all of my time with my family. I love the idea of minimalism, but not to the point of it become an idol in my life.

So yeah, I am paring down my belongings, because I really don't want to be surrounded by excess things I don't need or enjoy. Not to mention that having less means it takes less time to clean. I want to have less toys in our home, but ones which my children love and encourage them to learn and thrive. But I'm not going to be extreme in those things.

Last week we had an incident with Victoria where she refused to clean up her toys. She is required to clean up her toy area, which is our dining room off the kitchen, before bed every night. But she decided that day that she was going to refuse to clean up. After addressing her disobedience, I made it clear that her refusal to clean up her toys meant she would lose them.

So, my husband and I took 20 minutes and emptied her toy room. We moved all the toys into our basement, and honestly, Victoria didn't seem to care all that much. I figured she would care a whole lot more in the morning when she realized all of her toys were gone.

But the next morning, she still didn't seem to care all that much. She told me matter-of-factly at breakfast that she lost all of her toys because she didn't clean up.

I decided that she would get her toys back one by one as she asked for them, and her keeping them was under the condition she clean them up after using them. So here we are 8 days later, and this is what our toy room looks like:
A play house and the furniture for it (in one of the bins), a doctor set, blocks, dress-up trunk, and a cupcake game. She seems perfectly happy with these few toys right now. I think I have decided to keep the number of toys in the room at this amount, and I will rotate it every 2 weeks. So next week I will put all of these toys away and bring out the same number of other toys. Then I will probably get rid of everything else.

The major issue we deal with when it comes to toys is that our large extended family is always showering our kids with them! They receive toys for birthdays, Christmas, and pretty much every other opportunity they see our children (all of our family lives out of state). It is very sweet, because I know they are trying to show love to our kids since they don't get to see them very often, but how many toys does a kid need?!

So I've just told them that I am working on paring down our toys, and even told them about taking the toys away and slowly reintroducing. This will hopefully lead to less excess. I've also started asking people for non-toy items for the kids when they want to buy a gift: a pretty new hooded towel and bubble bath, a pair of shoes, a pass to our local kid's center, or any other fun experience. These are all things I've been mentioning as options other than toys.

But again, I am not going to be extreme about it. If my daughter gets a new toy, I am happy to let her play with it, but the condition is that she clean up after herself. I've noticed that she is much better at cleaning up after herself now that she has fewer toys. It's almost like having more toys was overwhelming to her.

This whole topic has gone to a new level recently. (Prepare for massive topic shift)

My husband came home from work a few weeks ago and asked me how I would feel about a big move. He was asked by his boss if he would be open to doing a 3 year stint in Japan. My husband said he is interested, and now we are awaiting the official word about whether we will be going or not.

This would be a pretty extreme move, obviously. It would entail selling our home, our cars, and a lot of our stuff, as well as storing everything we'd want to keep. It will be a big move, but it would be an awesome opportunity, both professionally and personally.

I have lived abroad before, for a year each in Finland and Brazil, and for 2 years in Turkey, so I am familiar with the difficulties in adjusting to a new culture and learning a new language. This would definitely have some more challenges as we will be going as a family, but I actually think that will make some things easier. Children are great catalysts for meeting people and getting involved in a community. But there would be some challenges as I would be alone all day with 3 small children in a foreign country while my husband is at work all day.

We will know for sure probably within the next month or so, but we do know that as of right now my husband is the only one in the running for the position. So right now we are just praying for God's will in this.

In the meantime, I am in this weird limbo place where I am almost afraid to buy anything, as we could be doing some extreme purging and downsizing quite soon. So I am using the possibility of Japan as an excuse to reevaluate our belongings. If I don't love or use something enough to either store it for 3 years or take it with me to Japan, then I don't really think I should keep it. So I've been keeping boxes in nearly every room to put items in that we won't be keeping. It has been a great exercise in minimalism for sure!

What are your thoughts on the whole minimalism topic? Do you tend to be more of a minimalist or a collector, or do you fall somewhere in the middle like me? 

Do any of you have experience living in or visiting Japan?

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Few Favorites Right Now

Life really does seem to pass on hyperspeed. I was talking with my 13 year old nephew the other day about this exact thing. I said when I was 13, I felt like life went by so slowly. It always felt like FOREVER until my birthday! But I told him that it is so true what they say, life just starts going by so quickly and before you know it, years are flying by.

With that in mind, I am aware now of enjoying little things. Of taking 10 minutes out of my cleaning frenzy to sit down and play pretend with Victoria. Of trying not to do anything until I finish my warm cup of coffee (I learned this one the hard way after drinking one too many cold cups of coffee at 11am). Or of taking a few moments to savor the sweet unique laughs of my babies. Sometimes it is just stopping to acknowledge the convenience of something that is making life with kids more enjoyable, or that has made mom-life a little bit easier. 

In no particular order, here are a few things I am really loving right now:

How Victoria always loves to dress like this. 
I know this stage is fleeting, especially for a serious child like Victoria. But it was such a funny moment for me when I asked her to get ready to go to the store and found her dressed up in her dress, crown, and necklace, and putting on her gym shoes (sans socks apparently). 

My Lenny Lamb Ring sling,
which my very active baby, Charlotte, who literally jumps and bounces with energy all day, absolutely loves to be carried in. She will rest against me in this for as long as I am content to carry her. 

My Birkenstock Mayari sandals
This is my second pair of these sandals, and this time I got them in patent white. My first pair was black and lasted me 3 years before breaking a few weeks ago. I wore them almost daily as weather permitted, and absolutely loved them. I bought them originally because someone recommended Birkenstocks for their arch support. They can be a little pricey, so I bought mine from oversees (usually German) vendors on eBay. But the arch support is unparalleled (I routinely walk miles around the zoo in these) and they last a long time, so I think the price is worth it for the quality. 

My hydrangea bushes
This year we have completed so many house projects, and one of them was a complete landscaping of our yard. One of the things we planted were some hydrangea bushes, and I have been diligent about watering them. The fruit of my labors have been gorgeous blooms like these, which I have so many of that I always have some in a jar on my kitchen table to enjoy. 

Mind you, I was not super excited about it when I found it. In fact, I called Victoria over and showed it to her and asked her if she did this. She responded with a sweet smile and shining blue eyes and said "yes, I drew special circles for you, mama." MELT. I did explain that she isn't to draw in mama's Bible, but what started out as an annoyance has since turned into something I quite treasure. I imagine I will look back on that page in 2 Corinthians many times throughout my life and think about the special gift that is my Victoria. 

Double shopping carts
Only a handful of stores carry shopping carts that fit two children in the basket like this. I am of the opinion that every store needs them! Grocery shopping with two babies that can't walk and a toddler is SO. TOUGH. Most of the time I don't even attempt it with the kids because logistically it wouldn't work. I'd have to push two carts around the entire store by myself: one full of kids, one full of food. But these carts! They are amazing!

A grandparent bought us this wagon as a combined Christmas gift for the kids, and it has been such a blessing. It has three seats (The back is slightly wider than the front) to accommodate all of our kids, but also has seat belts to keep the twins in check and a removable canopy to block the sun. We have just started using it regularly, as the twins are finally old enough, and I've been enjoying taking them on almost daily cruises around the neighborhood. Victoria cheers in excitement every time we go. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Twins and Sanctification

I was never the woman who wanted twins. I have told people that before and they have looked at me like I said something I shouldn't have.

But here's the thing. I am child #4 to a woman who really didn't think she could handle 4 children. She told me that the entire time she was pregnant with me, she cried, wondering if she could handle it. She felt stretched to her limit and battled post-partum depression with each of her pregnancies, so she just didn't see how baby #4 was going to work. 

I never took offense to that story, because I knew how it ended. My mom didn't think she couldn't handle having a 4th child, yet her and I have ended up being so incredibly close. She not only survived baby #4, she rocked it! She was (and still is) the most wonderfully attentive, kind, selfless mom I have ever witnessed. And what a blessing that I got to be hers! I thank God, truly, all the time for it. After my husband, she is my best friend.
Me and my mom, who turned 28 the day after I was born
I know how my mom felt about the idea of a hypothetical fourth child, but I also know that she feels very differently about me now that I am here. 

The same goes for my twins. I am just so thankful that I have them now, and I cannot imagine life with just a Charlotte or just an Analisa. I never wanted twins, and often said flippant comments like "I'm open to having a big family, just as long as they come one at a time". I see now that was probably not an edifying thing to say....but I said it and felt it before I had my twins. 

However, the experience of having twins has been one of the most sanctifying experiences of my life. So much so that I feel like almost daily I am being brought to my knees.

I have always wanted to me a mom, but there was a time before I had children when I wondered if I would be a good mother. I was selfish, especially with sleep. I have always been a "sleeper". My mom says I used to beg her to take naps. I used to get physically ill if I didn't get a decent amount of sleep. I wondered if I was up to the selflessness required in those first few months when babies require regular nightly feedings.

I am happy to report that I have survived that part of motherhood, and while I still love my naps, I also feel like waking up with my babies has been much easier than expected. My body has even gotten used to it. 

Having twins has pushed the selflessness of motherhood into hyperspeed for me. Having one child is difficult, because, for most of us, we are being pushed to a level of selflessness we have ever experienced before. And with the addition of a second child, that gets pushed even further, as we try to juggle the needs of children at multiple ages. But the progression gets to happen gradually with the addition of each child, as we slowly change and lose our selfish tendencies in the face of our children's needs. 

With twins, I feel like this whole gradual progression when into hyperspeed. I've been running and running and running. I used to scoff at moms who would claim they had no time to shower or put makeup on. I mean seriously, it only takes a couple minutes (I think I even have a blog post about that on here somewhere), but then I had my twins, and I discovered I not only didn't have time to shower or put makeup on, I was having trouble simply finding the time to eat properly. It was crazy, especially in the first few months when my husband was also working 7 days per week, to find myself going days on compete auto-pilot, floating from one day to the next. I had friends come over and ask me if I ever sit down, to which I usually replied "not that I can remember". 

Things have settled a bit. I am finding more time to put makeup on and get into things like this blog (hello everyone!). My children's schedule now allows me a few moments each day to sit down. 

The thing is, though, that I would never have been able to handle the demands of toddler+twins three years ago, when I was preparing for my first child to be born. I was so selfish and I didn't even realize it. And honestly, a bit of selfishness, when it leads to a shower, isn't always a bad thing! But I don't think I could have handled the sheer exhaustion, chaos, unending grind that my life has been the last 9ish months. 

But you know, I would not describe these last 9 months as bad at all. Hard, yes. Exhausting, an underestimate. But they have been some of the most wonderful months of my life as well. My heart and my life feel SO full, and God is somehow lending me His strength to get through this. I am finding a humble confidence (if there is such a thing) in seeing that I CAN do this with God's help. His strength is shining through ME, the woman who never wanted twins! And look! I'm doing it! He's doing it through me! It's a wonder and a miracle and one of the most humbling experiences. 

I have realized that I can't do this on my own. I often wonder how women without faith can function as mothers. Because honestly, if I didn't know Him and feel His strength bracing me as I take on this whole motherhood thing, I would never be able to make it. I'm sure I'd have had a complete break-down by now. But no! He is making this happen through me, and it is wonderful and humbling. 

So while I never thought I wanted twins, I really needed them. I had some major idols in my life I needed to overcome (a full night of sleep and vanity to name a few), and God has used these two little beings to make me into a woman who lives to serve. This is the season of life I am in right now, one where my babies require all of me. There will be a time in the future for complete order, full nights of uninterrupted sleep, long showers and relaxation, but right now I have these little humans to care for, and doing that has pushed me to a level of spiritual maturity and dependency on the Lord that I have never previously experienced. 

So someday I will tell Charlotte and Analisa about how I never wanted twins. And I will tell them how God, in His mercy and all-knowing grace, gave me twins and used them to sanctify me, making me more like His Son. I am so infinitely grateful that He knew better than I did, and gave me these two little girls. 
Charlotte left, Analisa right

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Everything in its Season

Hello friends. I am so sorry I have taken this long absence. I didn't intend to take such a long time away initially, but the Lord has been pressing on my heart that I need to reprioritize. Sadly, that has meant that I am putting some things on the backburner, and this blog falls into that category.

When I started Corner of Joy, I was a newly married woman with no children. And while my posts became a little more sporadic once I had my first child, having the twins has made just keeping up with daily tasks a huge undertaking. Yes, I know there are these amazing mamas out there with 10+ children who somehow are able to find a few minutes to blog, but it seems I am not one of them. 

My husband just went through a season of working 7 days of week for almost 7 months. Until recently, he only had 3 total days not working this year so far. It has been crazy, and I'd like to say I walked through that season with no complaining, but I didn't. I was more exhausted and stressed than I have ever been in my entire life, and I knew that I needed to simplify life as much as possible just to keep some sort of sanity and joy in my home. 

I watched a video recently that talked about creating a priorities list in your life, and learning to say no to things based on those priorities. It doesn't necessarily mean I am saying no to things because they are bad, it simply means that there are some things that do not fit into this stage of my life. I am saying "not right now".

Based on the priorities I've outlined for myself, I've had to say "not right now" to quite a few things: pretty much all hobbies like sewing, playing music, recreational reading, and blogging. I now have the freedom to say yes to things like Bible time, beginning homeschooling my daughter, keeping my home clean and organized, finishing house projects, and becoming a leader in my MOPs group. The only real hobby I have been able to hang on to is exercise, and I'm clinging to that one tightly with both hands!

That said, I am missing blogging quite a bit, and have been brainstorming on some changes that will allow blogging to fit into my new life with 3 little ones. I am not gone forever from this platform, but I am having to say "not right now" for a bit longer. 
I am always sad when bloggers fall off the map, as I grow to know and love them and their families. So with that in mind, let me share a little update about us. 

My twins are 7 months old already (!!!)
Charlotte and Analisa
Charlotte is two pounds lighter than her younger twin, but she is very spunky and full of energy! She is trying so hard to move (I am actually watching her try to crawl as I write this). Analisa is so smiley and sweet, and doesn't care as much about moving around as she does interacting with people. Both babies are so mild-mannered, and I feel so blessed to have settled into a new normal where I am not always running around like a chicken with my head cut off with these two. 

Victoria will be 3 in just a few weeks. 
We have entered a more challenging stage of parenthood, as she is beginning to challenge established norms and rules. I am learning to pick my battles (how many times she changes her clothes every day=less important, how quickly and thoroughly she obeys=more important). She is into everything princess right now, and more often than not she is dressed up in a play dress and fake crown of some sort
She is the best big sister and oldest child that I could ask for. She is so helpful and loves making her sisters laugh. I worried when I was pregnant that she would not get enough attention with twins around, but she has never shown any jealously towards her sisters. 

I am settling back into a normal routine after the craziness of my husband's work schedule. It was awful, guys. I was a stressball and constantly felt like a impatient bear. I had so many moments when I thought "THIS is what those wild-eyed, messy-haired, yoga-pant-wearing moms must feel like!". 

But, as I said, things are settling down and I have my husband home more. We have also hired a girl from my church to help me with the kids Monday mornings so I can accomplish herculean tasks like putting away laundry (it is now normal to have anywhere from 3-5 baskets of clean laundry hanging around my house waiting to be put away). These things and the babies getting older and a bit more predictable have helped me get my head on straight, 

Some days I feel like I am just trying to keep us all alive, and I am sometimes shocked to have accomplished it!
No makeup, messy hair, but we are surviving
So I promise, I will be back here. But for right now I am doing what I need to be doing here: wife-ing and mom-ing. I love you all and am continuing to pray for you.