30 May 2011


Happy Chaos

Tis the season for dirt, sweat, and oodles of fun.  Bath time is a necessity pretty much every night.  There's a hole the ground where the kids are excavating (tonight The Girl found a snail while chilling in the hole).  Life in general is somewhat dissolved.  It makes my heart happy.  Even though in normal circumstances I feel claustrophobic when random stuff is strewn about and mud gets tracked across the floor.  

But not right now.  Right now is different.

It's summer.

And it won't last forever.  And some day my kids might not want to play outside All Day Long.

So, bring it on.  Mess up my house.  Mess up my carefully crafted routines.  I don't mind.


25 May 2011



Cleaning.  A most ironically dirty word.  I have much more important things to do, and yet the urgency of having a clean house trumps most of those other things.

Over the years I have relaxed a bit with my obsessiveness; however, I still get a suffocating feeling in my chest if I walk in to a huge mess.  

Some things are easier to overlook than others:  I feel much better in the morning if my kitchen is cleaned the night before.  Although it would be nice and ideal if the toys are put away every night, if I have to choose something to leave out it's usually a toy.

And with 3 kids, a husband who travels, a part-time job, and various other responsibilities, it is overwhelming and paralyzing to try to plan a chunk of time to clean.

And so I maintain.  

Now, maintaining, at first glimpse, seems like cleaning non-stop.  But it isn't.  It is much more effort to clean a dirty bathroom than to keep a clean bathroom clean.  

Although I have a cleaning schedule, it is really my way of maintaining a clean space.  And it happens whenever I have a spare moment.  Which is hard to predict in my life with a 2-year-old.

What works?
Quick touch ups for a couple minutes at a time, in the spirit of fly lady.  

Seriously, what do you do?
  • I wipe out the bathroom sink with a rag every evening when I take out my contacts
  • I sweep the kitchen dirt into a corner while I am cooking dinner (I leave the broom over the pile to remind me to finish the job)
  • I rinse the dishes as soon as they are done being used, to avoid dried on goop that must be scrubbed
  • I pour toilet bowl cleaner into the toilets at night, swish it around with a brush, but leave it soaking all night long
  • I pick up the toys 3 times a day.  Some say waste because they'll get pulled out again; I say it keeps things manageable and keeps The Girl interested in the few toys we have.  She also helps me as much as she can.
But really, this isn't a cleaning blog or post.  It's a simple life blog and a stress-relieving post.  Doesn't that sound like something we all want?

24 May 2011

Almost there

So...I forgot to post this yesterday.  Old age I guess.  Anyway, I am excited to find this close to my home:
I had been on the quest for raw milk, and while it isn't completely raw, it is fresh, not homogenized, and local.  And in a glass bottle.  And nearly the same price as the regular stuff in the grocery store.

Although, I have to say that the "regular stuff in the grocery store" is way better here in NL than anything we've ever tasted; one thing done well here is dairy products.  But man oh man my family cannot get enough of this fresh whole milk with the cream on top.

I'm telling you, fresh unprocessed food makes eating fun.

22 May 2011


Prone to Hysteria

Have you noticed that nothing is news until it's NEWS!!!!! ?

Every story is some late-breaking expose alerting us to some hidden danger.

When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, I was of course fearful.  We moved to NL from Japan, and we still have many friends there.  I was worried for their safety, and of course worried about the nuclear plant.

But then I  got a little angry.  The American news stories were nothing like what I heard from my friends.

I'm not pretending there's no situation.  I'm just sick of moving from one crisis to another.

It made me realize we (in general) like drama.   Even if it means the story is inaccurate.

At my husband's work, guys like to tell stories.  The unspoken rule is that the story should be 10% true.  10%!!!  What?!?

There are many problems with all this drama, but for me, right now, the biggest one is that it makes me tired.  Seriously.  Who has the time or energy for dealing with all these emergencies?

Real life is dramatic enough for me.   I feel grateful for my normal, crazy fun family.

Well, and for the fact that I live in Europe and don't have direct access to the American news media.

19 May 2011

Just One Thing


Last week I was sick.  Sicker than I've been in a while.  I knew I was headed for bronchitis or worse, so I made a plan.  I cancelled everything.  I put the house cleaning on hold.  I put rice on and pulled out food from the freezer.  I slept when my daughter slept.  And I got myself better.

It took me a long time to realize that taking care of myself allows me to take care of my family.  I read a fantastic book called Boundaries (When to Say YES When to Say NO to Take Control of Your Life)
which really helped me put things in perspective.  It made me realize that saying no is not necessarily selfish, and that establishing priorities makes it possible to do the things I am called to do and be the person I need to be.  I understand now that no one else can decide what my priorities are.  I am responsible for myself, and for the sake of myself and my family, I must take a stand.

This does not just apply to physical strength.  My spiritual health is just as important.  Jesus Himself provided an example for establishing boundaries.  When he was weary, He retreated to a quiet place.  When He needed spiritual food, he found solitude and spoke to His heavenly Father.  He didn't let anyone talk Him out of what He knew in His heart that He needed.

I've been learning these lessons for thirty-three years, and I'm just starting to get the hang of it.  But hey, I hopefully still have at least that much time left to practice.

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28 NLT

16 May 2011



Asparagus is an event here in NL.  But check it out!  White is the new green, apparently.

How do they make the asparagus white?  I'm glad you asked.  Asparagus turns green once it's spears break the surface of the ground and get chlorophyll from the sun.  Farmers here cover their fields in rows of sun ray-blocking sheets of opaque white plastic, and the tender spears get pulled from the ground before seeing a single second of sunshine.

Why do they make asparagus white?  Good question.  Chefs swear white asparagus is completely different from green.  Maybe my tastebuds are majorly unrefined, but I have yet to taste a difference.

14 May 2011

Tis The Season

As part of our family's mission to consume less, be responsible more, and eat real food, I have been making a concerted effort to buy seasonal produce from local sources.  I have dubbed all of Holland local, as well as Belgium.  I make exceptions for things as far as Spain.  This is not a hard and fast rule, but I figure the more local things I buy, the less I'm supporting the huge cost (time, effort, quality, etc) of transporting bananas from South Africa.  I am missing my bananas, though…

So, just as I was getting really tired of cabbage, witloaf, and potatoes, spring happened.  And now we're up to our knees in asparagus, spinach, and lettuce.  Cucumbers are coming in, but they're still from the greenhouse.

Our own lettuce and spinach are almost ready for harvest.

It's easy for me to do this for a couple of reasons:

1.  Every town center has a weekly open air market
2.  Every vendor displays both the product for sale and where it came from
3.  My kids love to help me garden

Farmer's markets exist all over the USA also.  That makes it considerably easier to find seasonal local produce, because for the most part, that's all you can find.  However, sometimes you see stray avacados that some vendor has brought in from somewhere else.  If you are fine with it, then don't worry about it.  But if you would like a more accurate picture of the growing season, I recommend the vegetannual created by Barbara Kingsolver.  I realized as I read her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that I had a lot to learn about the annual growing season.  Growing up with access to any produce all year long does that to you. 

But again, I spout all these noble and lofty goals and save the real reason for all this effort for the bottom.  
Consuming less is great.  Simpler living is fantastic.  Cost savings of seasonal produce is significant.  But, if none of those reasons existed, this one alone is worth the effort:

fresh, seasonal produce tastes better.  Mealy hothouse tomatoes are gross.  Juicy deep red summer tomatoes are heavenly.  It's a fact.  Vegetables I never liked before are suddenly addictive. 

Just one more reason I.  LOVE.  SUMMER.

11 May 2011



I like to purge.  But my kids do not.  I mean Really. Do. Not.  They keep things I would absolutely categorize as


It drives me insane.  I have this nice calm house, peaceful, tidy.  

And then I catch a glimpse of my boys' room.  How are they even related to me?

My oldest is really The One with the difficulties.  The younger one just rides the bandwagon.  But the oldest really has a hard time parting with stuff.  

We recently discussed how if you sell some of your things, you make money and room for new things.  He was all about it, and walked around and around and around looking for something to sell.  But he is so attached to his things that it ended in tears.  

Don't think I was forcing him to sell stuff.  I wasn't.  He wanted to, but he couldn't bear to part with anything.

I understand to a point - we move around so much I'm sure he wants as much comfort and stability as possible.  I try really hard to give him his space and his stuff.

But we only have so much space, so sometimes I have to take action.  Here's what I do:

Their room is their own space.  They can keep what they want in there.  I do occasionally go through it looking for trash (no food or gross stuff allowed in there...the trash is almost always paper or cardboard discarded from some creative project), but most of the time I leave it alone.  They are expected to clear the floor when I ask them to, and they must find places for their things.  If they can't find space, then we talk and work out a solution, but so far this rarely happens.  They do have a play area with community toys, which their sister also has access to.  But theoretically, the stuff in their room is special or too small for her to play with and so stays out of her reach.  Although this is becoming increasingly difficult as she can now open doors...

Toys left downstairs after bed will be confiscated.  They are pretty good about this rule, so really only cheap freebies are the ones left out, and I am happy to throw those away.

If we really get overflowing, or if I notice games or toys that have been neglected for a while (or outgrown), they get moved to a hidden place in the guest room.  I keep them hidden for a month or two. If, in that time, one of the boys asks for a specific toy, I magically find it, and it goes back into rotation.  If it doesn't get mentioned, it gets donated.

Does this sound cruel?  Bear in mind that the kids get toys as gifts at least twice a year for birthday and Christmas.  Add into that the fact that the boys are very close in age, so any gift received usually gets shared between them, and we have a steady stream of new toys and games coming into the house.  They buy their own as well, so almost always whatever toy or game I donate is never missed.  

As for the toddler, I just rotate toys between the small box in her room, the small box in the playroom, and the two small boxes downstairs.  I pull out anything she's outgrown whenever I do the rotation.  Every time I do it, she looks through the box as if it's all new.

As I weed out the neglected toys, I am slowly introducing the concept of donation or selling things we no longer need.  The concept is clear, but the practice is still difficult.  We're working on it.  But for now, this system works, so we'll stick with it.

I would like to add one last note, mainly for my dear sweet husband.  I do not ever go through his things, ever.  I'm still being blamed for a t-shirt mishap 10+ years ago, so I don't want to run the risk of being framed for a crime of purging when something shouldn't be purged.  Love you!

08 May 2011


On Mothers

I'm not one for sentiment.  I didn't pay much attention to the fact that it was Mother's Day.  Well, except that I sent something to my mother.  But my point is that I didn't dwell on the fact that it was Mother's Day for me as well.

Until I saw the absolute joy on the faces of my kids as they told me Happy Mother's Day and gave me their homemade gifts.  It was amazing.

I understood that Mother's Day is for me, but it's also for my kids.    They get such happiness from being able to do something special for me.  They love to show me that they love me.  And it's amazing to witness their utter delight when I make a huge deal of the construction paper flowers or clay necklace they made.  just.  for.  me.

To all you mothers out there, may you see they joy that your children receive from making you smile.

02 May 2011


The Real Story

Last week was a great summary for me of the past few years of my family's life.  But I have to be honest here.

I'm thrilled with the way we've gotten responsible for what we've been given.

I'm happy that everyone is on board with our healthier eating habits (although the kids would never turn down a happy meal, if given the chance)

I'm excited that we live in a place where one car and access to fresh local food are possible.

I feel better about the fact that I can let The Girl help me clean (because she has to do everything her mama does) without worrying about her ingesting poison or breathing toxic fumes.

But the real reason this all began...my primary motivation for making these changes...

is also the name of this blog.

I just couldn't handle the thought of shuttling between 10 after school activities while scarfing down fast food and doing homework in the car.  I was overwhelmed keeping track of all the cleaners, paper products, and disposable containers and keeping them stocked in the house.  And I hated not really enjoying what I was eating.

I needed an easier way, so I could enjoy my life and my family more and worry about our house and schedule less.  

I needed less chaos and more simplicity. 

I'm pretty sure I found what I was looking for, so I think I'll stick with it for a while.