Monthly Archives: January 2012

Simplicity Parenting – Bunk Beds

January always feels like a very long month in our home, particularly this year. It’s partly because I’m always gearing up for the year ahead and setting our goals in motion. It’s also because we are still celebrating…we have 3 birthdays in January (Hubby turned 42, Girly turned 3, and our Big Guy turns 6 today!). Our goals and celebrations seem to have merged very fluidly lately with us working together to further our “simplicity parenting” process.

Even though I hadn’t yet read Simplicity Parenting last year, I spent a post writing about how simple I tried to be in birthday gift giving (previously about our family gift policy). In hindsight, I realize that I didn’t even need to purchase as much as we did…the flashcard puzzles were barely touched, and I haven’t seen the soccer ball in almost a year.

This year we took it down another notch, and gave the kids a bunk bed. It wasn’t itself a cheap gift, but it did turn out to force us to really refocus on simplifying their bedrooms. Our Big Guy had asked for bunk beds since I was pregnant with Girly, but during Thanksgiving he got booted into his little sister’s room for our family guests…but then he didn’t want to go back to sleeping in his own room. They continued to room together so well that we soon agreed that if they could keep it up until their birthdays, we would buy them bunk beds.

Now Girly’s old bedroom only has a toy tower, bookcase, and dress up chest (we plan to set it up as a guest room soon…). The new shared “kids’ room” has their dressers, lamp, kids’ CD player, alarm clock and a closet with games in it.

Admittedly, even after two weekends of gutting their rooms (and another putting together the bunk-beds), I know that I still have work left going through the toys in the tower…most of which they haven’t played with in months! I purged many of our board books, but I still need to take another look to cull more unread books…it is emotional to let go of those original baby books, and I plan to hold on to a few…

Our kids really didn’t balk at getting rid of anything, there were naturally a few items they became temporarily enamored with again, but I just let them play until they were done and then scooped it into the give-away.

The kids were thrilled when we finished assembling the bunk beds. It kind of feels like a new era for our family, and we’re all happy to have simplified living space.

Otherwise, the only gifts we gave this year were a few really beautifully illustrated Irish/Faery tales to replace the classic board books. They got some needed sneakers/cleats. They also got a world/U.S. map to decorate their new room. Plus, Girly got to pick out sheets for her new bed.

Have you simplified your child’s space?
Do your kids bunk together?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Maybe Baby…

It may seem strange, but after the initial shock of my father’s passing softened, I suddenly had the urge to have another baby. It wasn’t in sorrow, but in tears of joy. I felt like my heart had been broken open and I needed a place to give my extra love. Suddenly, deciding to  only have two children based on environmental ethics felt like I was limiting myself.

Admittedly, the logistics of it had to do with money. Knowing that I would be passed down family money, I contemplated what I could do to satisfy a legacy. My grandmother would have loved for me to have more children…she always joked, “You know, they are cheaper by the dozen!” She had three children herself, but came from a well-off family with seven children. My grandmother was proud of me for going to college and getting Master’s (and she always pushed that in this day/age that I should be able to support myself, just in case), but she also thought I work too long of hours. She worked long hours herself until she had a family (and remembered her hourly wage for every job she worked until she passed away at 94), but she  lived in a different era, and shook her head at the idea of getting two little ones dressed and out the door by 7 every morning. 

So, back to the baby decision…

Well, when I brought up the idea to Hubby he was less than enthusiastic. While he had pressed me for a third just a year earlier (which I thought was way too soon), he suddenly felt he was too old (he just turned 42). Or maybe he thought I was just making an emotional decision (which I was…). At any rate, we’ve come to a place of peace with our equally balanced household.

But I still can’t help but think that if I lived in different economic era that I would be quite happy with more kids. Finances simply does play into our family planning these days, whether families want to admit it or not. E ven if we had decided to have a third, we had only ever talked about the possibility in the context of having at least our older in grade school so we could afford  expensive child care . I know an  acquaintance, whose husband owns a small bike shop, who decided to not have another child based on the fact that they felt they couldn’t afford it while his shop was getting off the ground and she was staying home to take care of their son and assist on the business. 

How much has your family finances played a role in your family planning?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Kiva Lending Experiment

I’ve written several times about Kiva’s micro-finance lending, and how it gives money a whole new meaning for hard working people around the globe. With my recent inheritance, I’ve decided that I can afford to do more.

So, on new year’s eve I found 10 entrepreneurs, farmers and hopeful home-buyers who were gracefully requesting loans to help raise their family fortunes and lent them each $100, for a total of $1,000 in loans (plus another $100 as a donation to Kiva). Now our money is helping people in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, Tajikistan, Palestine, and previously in El Salvador, Senegal, Peru, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It feels amazing to be able to lend a hand to help people reach their family financial goals around the world. Even if I never personally see the impact, I have no doubt that my generosity is making a difference.

I also contacted Kiva and asked about whether they can find more partners for environmental projects (tree planting, renewable energy…). They replied the same day and have been working on developing more loan partners with green goals, so I look forward to supporting those in the future.

Oh, and BTW, I just had my second blogoversary (1/10/10)! It personally feels like I’ve been writing for much longer, but in other ways, it feels like I’m just beginning. In my first year it felt like I really was able to voice my goals and achieve many of them. Our dream of saving to travel to Denmark was worth all the effort, and I know this wouldn’t have been possible without this blog. Yet, this second year has been more personally challenging to stay motivated, but I really did miss writing during the fall and it feels good to get back to “tip tapping” as Hubby likes to call it 😉 

On a related note, while I initially intended to earn some extra money from this blog, it honestly hasn’t happened yet. I’ve earned less than $200 in two years, which doesn’t even cover my wi-fi bill. I’m not planning to spend a ton of time trying to get advertisers, but I have decided that anything I earn will go toward Kiva loans.

Lastly, a word of thanks to my friends and readers. I know many of you don’t comment online, but I’ve appreciated your personal encouragement throughout my blog writing. It means a lot to me. 

Have you started lending with Kiva?
Use this link to lend your first $25 for free!

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

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Fridays “Free”

I wrote a while ago about our Flex Friday schedule and how it saves us both time and money. It means long days (7:30-5), but it gives us every other Friday off.

So, when I started considering how money could improve my life, my first thought was more free time. During the fall I reduced my schedule to 36 hours per week, which is still technically full time, but means that I now have every Friday off. It’s meant that I now drop off and pick up our Big Guy on Fridays (Hubby does so almost all the time otherwise.) I’m also able to get some exercise, and a hodge podge of family tasks and errands.

I couldn’t agree more with Huffington Post editor Laura Rowley, “The company that can  create jobs where a woman can work from 8:30 to 2:30  is going to win and win really big.”   The  Huffington Post article  also discussed a  study finds that being happy at   work becomes less important to women’s overall well-being when they have pre-school children , possibly because this changes working mothers’ priorities.”

While I enjoy my current position and am committed to my career, I also feel like creating more of an equal balance for my family is essential. Now that I have a 4 days on and 3 days off I feel like I’m really able to make the most of my time in both places and give more of myself.

Do you have a flexible schedule?
Is it worth it?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Portland Hill Walks

Happy 2012!!!

Our new year’s celebration was pretty mellow, Bailey’s and decaf in bed talking about our family schedule for the east coast new year. A fter having survived the flu, it was wonderful to have beautiful winter weather for a long family walk .

One of our favorite family activities is talking long walks together, self-narrated by Laura Foster’s book Portland Hill Walks . She developed a series of walks to guide you to the best vista, learn about the local history, and enjoy previously unexplored areas of Portland. It’s taken us a few years, but we’ve almost completed every walk in the book.

We started doing our hill walks when our Big Guy could fit in a Kelty pack. Now, at almost 6, he can regularly walk 5 fairly hilly miles (with lots of water and snacks). Girly still uses her chariot, our faded and beloved Zooper stroller, which we’ve put at least a hundred miles on. She’ll walk for stretches, but it’s honestly still easier to cart all our water bottles, extra layers, dollies…

While getting some fresh air outdoors is our main objective, I’ve found that it has given us a deeper sense of place. We remember the quirky history Foster has researched and it has certainly gotten us away from doing the same repetitive park trip weekend after weekend. And there are often parks along the way to take a play break. Usually our walks end up taking us 3-4 hours, and sometimes we’ll grab a bite to eat at a local place, which Foster often includes in her guide tips too.

I bought Foster’s Portland City Walks book for Hubby for Christmas, and I imagine we’ll have just as much fun on those adventures…

Have you discovered Laura Foster’s walks?
Which one is your favorite?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.