Family.

Whether it’s by blood or not. Family is family.

We can all define family differently. Some of us include really close friends in our inner circle we call family. Some of us strictly stick to blood.

Either way. Family influences us, listens to us, values us, and unites. The family is a pod of people who have similarities that pull together and differences that make us each unique. I come from an amazing and unique family, I am creating a crazy little family and I have a couple of amazing friends who are considered family.

Traditionally, Italians are close AF. We take sticking together to a whole other level. So you can imagine what my family felt and thought when I decided to move out west to start a subset family of my own.

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My Little Subset B 

In the moment the idea of leaving them never really phased me. The fact was, the internet changed the idea living so far away, and Skype made coffee dates a reality despite the distance. On top of that, I was in my early twenties and realistically I wasn’t thinking about much other than myself.

Hindsight is such a weird thing. Now that I am a mother of three, hindsight often rears its ugly head. I try really hard not to be one to look back and question…as I really strongly feel like I make decisions in the moment to build a better me, even when I make mistakes. Every once in a while though, hindsight pops up.

My parents. I know they were happy for me when I moved and I know they see how happy we are in our life here now. We live far. We live like 5-hour flight far. My mom. Hindsight. I wish I would have taken some time to talk to her about leaving. I didn’t. I was just living in the moment. Then my brother followed. Double blow to my mom and dad.

Italians stick together. It’s like this weird unwritten rule. You don’t leave the nucleus.We did and in hindsight, it’s still the best decision I made but as a mom, more then ever, I know why it’s important for me to visit home and spend time with my family.

Cousins are more like ‘born to be best friends’ in our culture. Hindsight. UGH. I wish I would have been more reflective of their feelings about my leaving. I just didn’t think about it. I figured they would come visit me and I would keep in touch via text messages and myspace. Slowly but surely most of them went on to live their lives and so did I.

Cousins in my family…we were together every weekend. Through the good, the bad and the ugly…my cousins were there. They share memories of a past that are so precious and beautiful. A past that makes me, me. So I reconnected and have made the effort to ensure I do more than just send an update on my life every once and a while. Almost weekly now…. I listen. We chat. They share. I listen. I give advice when it’s asked for. I ask for their input. I make an effort. We remember and we lean on each other.

But the fact is, I am so far and in difficult times it’s so hard to be away. I have to find creative ways to be a support system, an ear, a friend, a daughter. I try and so do they.

So this season…maybe there is some family out there you have been meaning to connect with but haven’t had the chance. Why not? We can’t honestly give a good reason most of the time. But here’s a good one, you never know what tomorrow brings. So pick up the phone. Send them a text. Write them an email. It’s going to feel so good to hear and connect with someone you love. I promise.

Gift yourself time to be present this Christmas. It’s better than any THING you will get this season.

Sending my love and thoughts this holiday season to everyone back home,

till the next post,

moveplaymom.

Navigating The Holidays (as a minimalist or not…)

Recently I have been asked by quite a few friends and followers about gift giving and receiving. So with the holiday season quickly approaching, I thought I would take some time to give you some ideas and my thoughts around approaching the holidays with more intention and less stuff. This post I am sharing ideas on how to minimize the stuff!

 

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Ridiculous amounts of gifts like this. I did this? WHY?

 

The holidays were always celebrated in a grand way growing up. My parents would always go above and beyond to get us whatever we had on our list and then some. I remember every year, walking down the stairs on Christmas morning, and finding a colossal amount of perfectly wrapped gifts.

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If you were to ask what I got at Christmas, I couldn’t tell you for the life of me. Every year my mom made us write a list and took us to see Santa at the Cavendish Mall. I mean, sure, I remember the times I got a bike, a computer, and my ‘real’ Doc Martens; but all the other “stuff”…I can’t. I do know I was excited and happy every Christmas morning. However, as a kid, I don’t think it would have really mattered how much I got. I think the quality mattered more, “REAL”…Doc Martens…especially as I got a little older.

That brings me to my first tip for you. Quality versus Quantity. When considering gifts, you don’t need to fill the stocking with a ton of junky little things. You can skip the dollar store scrappy stuff, the knick-knacks from the front counter at indigo and the stickers or erasers your kids don’t really want. We all are guilty of it. Trying to fill the tree with copious amounts of THINGS! (all wrapped to perfection).

Instead, you can try this…over the last several days, I have seen this idea come up on several blogs. A cute way to manage gifts for your loved ones or children. Tip #2

  • Something they want
  • Something to read
  • Something to wear
  • Something they need

Maybe 4 gifts aren’t realistic for you yet and you want to do a few more…you can just double up on some of these above. You can ask your children to consider this when writing their lists to Santa.

When it comes to receiving gifts from friends and family, I know it can be difficult to speak up about not wanting more toys, clothes, toys, toys, clothes…TOYS! Here’s the thing….you get to decide what comes into your house and what doesn’t. Communicate to your loved ones that you don’t want more stuff, instead, you can ask for – Tip #3

  • experiences! (swimming lessons, Skis lessons, dinner gifts certificate)
  • season passes to things like the zoo, the science center, the museum
  • movie tickets
  • food (wine, cookies)
  • donation to a charity of your choice in your name

These can add huge value to our lives without bringing in more stuff to our home, STUFF that we don’t really need. 

If you can’ have this conversation with certain family members or friends, and you know you are going to get swamped with toys and clothing (grandma). Well,  you get to be in control of what to do with the gifts once they are in your hands. You can have your child decide to keep the new item and let go of something old. You can donate new toys to a local charity or hospital. You can take the clothing down to your local goodwill for a family in need.

However, I highly recommend that if you feel strongly about not bringing more stuff into your lives, I would just be honest with the people around you and consider having a conversation and suggest purchasing ideas like those listed in tip #3.

Last Christmas, when we had slowly just started on our minimalist journey, we decided to get away and provide the kids with an experience during the holidays rather than a bunch of gifts. We took the boys to Banff, on a horse-drawn carriage through the Rockie mountains and cross-country skiing. It was so magical and the boys still talk about our getaway to Canmore, Alberta. My parents and my little brother and his wife joined us a few days later. My parents used that opportunity to provide the boys with more fun in and around Canmore! It was the best!

For me, growing up, the holidays were celebrated with my enormous Italian family. We ate an elaborate amount of traditional food dishes, (we took the feast of the seven fishes to a whole other level).

There was a lot of music, singing, karaoke and a gaggle of instruments that often made their way into the hands of family members just after midnight.  (mostly intensified by the homemade wine, amaretto, and grappa)

Those were the best memories I have of Christmas. The amazing food.  The silver chalices my Nonna would take out just on Christmas Eve. The traditions. The singing of every single Beatles song ever recorded. The baccala fish (cod). Visiting with other family members at midnight. Monopoly games that went all night long. The passion. The love. The laughs and the tears when we were missing a loved one. During our triumphs and darkest moments my family still pulled together to celebrate. That was Christmas. not the gifts.

We need to make the holidays less about the consumer-driven ridiculousness and more about the moments and traditions.  Whatever you might be celebrating, if you approach it with intention and love, the memories will be unforgettable.

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In the famous lyrics by The Beatles (all I can hear right now in my head is my dad, his cousins and a barrage of friends singing….)

“Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love”

till the next post,

moveplaymom

 

 

Children and Minimalism – My top 10 fav super versatile toys

Alright, to all the parents out there, I know you are going to love this post. Whether you are are looking to simplify the toys in the house or you just need help figuring out what toys are REALLY worth spending money on. This post will hopefully help.

Because let’s be honest, we have all been there as parents, when you look into your child’s play bins, and all you can see is endless amounts of plastic junk toys that have become one, big, mess.

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This post comes from more than just being a minimalist mom but also from many years of experience working with young children. I am bringing you MY top 10 toys according to the experts at AKIDEMY preschool. If you live in the Calgary area you may be familiar with our preschool.

AKIDEMY is founded on the belief that children have an innate desire to explore, play and learn, and are naturally competent and capable learners. Akidemy believes that intentional play with the use of loose parts and the right equipment will help children to develop socially, emotionally and cognitively. You can learn more about this unique program by visiting here:  AKIDEMY  or visiting the AKIDEMY FACEBOOK PAGE

These toys will guarantee lots of exploration, curiosity and wonder time for your children. They are easy to store, easy to maintain and will provide lots of opportunity for rich play. These toys are great for young children (under proper supervision) and I will even go as far to say that you could use these toys for older children ages 8-10.

I swear that if you even had just these 10 things in your house you could get SO MUCH PLAYTIME out of this simple inexpensive list. Let’s look at the list first and then I will show you how you can set these items up for endless ways to play, create, imagine and learn.

So let’s get started!

  1. A basket of people and animals. You could easily pick up a small rattan basket and fill it with a handful of little wood people and/or animals. (land animals, dinosaurs, water animals etc.)
  2. A small rattan basket of cars and trucks (firetrucks, police cars, roller, digger, dump truck, garbage trucks)
  3. A storage container or Tupperware to store Kinetic Sand
  4. A storage container of Lego or Duplo (depending on the age)
  5. A quality set of wood building blocks
  6. Play-dough and cookie cutters and not the store-bought kind. You can make a no-cook play-dough at home in under 4 minutes. Make a batch and store in a container in the fridge for up to a month! The best ever recipe is here: BEST EVER NO COOK PLAY DOUGH
  7. A container full of colorful Gems or rocks (you can find these at Micheals)
  8. Craft supplies basics– pad of construction paper, glue stick, Elmer’s glue, pair blunt tip scissors and a pack of fine tip markers.
  9. A set of play food with cutlery and dishes
  10. A palette of watercolor paints and some different size brushes (I love the Ikea ones!)

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Whether your child is 3 or 8 the set up would be similar when prepping a play activity for your child. My 9-year-old will still jump in on the play with his younger brother. Of course, he has different interests so this is something he will outgrow but the above toys and equipment are so open-ended that it allows children of all ages to engage with the materials in meaningful and creative ways.

I would highly recommend buying your child a tray to work on. This will help you set up, create boundaries for materials. (so it doesn’t end up all over the floor)

You could combine equipment to set up an invitation to play; as we like to refer to it at AKIDEMY. Here is a list of some play ideas that will take five minutes to set up and 5 minutes to clean up but will provide lots of quality play time.

  • Set up a tray with kinetic sand and trucks. Extend this play next time by adding gems and rocks.
  • Set up a tray with play-dough and cookie cutters. Extend this by adding a small container and a spoon.
  • Set up a tray and place a few sheets of white paper, your watercolor palette, a cup with just a little water and a paintbrush.
  • Set up the kinetic sand with the animals and add gems or rocks for some fun dramatic play!
  • On the floor set up, the pretend food with dishes and cutlery. Extend this by adding a recipe book, a pad, and pen (so they can take your order!)
  • Set up your tray with your craft supplies. Allowing your child to explore with glue and scissors (effective supervision would be needed for younger children handling these materials)
  • set up the lego bin on the table and place your child’s tray there, put some pieces on the tray to invite them to come build and explore.
  • Set up the wood blocks on the floor. To extend block play you can add the people, cars, or animals!
  • Set up the play-doh with a pair of blunt or plastic scissors (Crayola make a great starter pair of plastic scissors) Allow your child to explore cutting play-dough. This is a great way to practice scissor skills at home. To extend this add gems and rocks.
  • Set the plates and cutlery with the playdoh to create their own food ideas! you could extend this play by adding household items like a cupcake tray, ladle, a pot, etc.

you can also change the sensory products (sand and play-dough) and use things like

  • lentils
  • water beads
  • water
  • water and soap
  • rice
  • dry beans
  • shaving cream

just add your cars, your people, utensils…whatever! I can guarantee your little ones will have lots of fun!

till the next post,

moveplaymom.

Children and Minimalism?

Is it easy explaining minimalism to your children?

Nope. It’s not.

BUT…I think because of my character, passion to help others learn, my educational background and my philosophy in teaching, it doesn’t seem impossible to try. I never tell them that this is going to be something they have to adopt. I just want them to learn the principles and let them decide for themselves if they feel like this is a path they want to join me and my hubby on.

How did we start? Well…they participated in the big conversations we had, they watched documentaries, we listened to podcasts (the practical minimalists and the minimalists), we had discussions and reflected through art and writing and when we started to pare down our things, they were included in that process.

I have three boys.

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My fifteen-year-old has a better understanding and grasps the concepts of why it would be beneficial to live a more minimalist lifestyle. We have always encouraged him to think outside the box. When we started the move towards this lifestyle, he took interest right away.

He came around to it on his own when he was ready. A few months ago he came down with a bag full of clothing for donation. Completely on his own, he decided he didn’t need all the clothing he had, most of which he had outgrown anyway, and that he wanted to work on a simple capsule wardrobe. Interesting….

As for his room, when we went through the moving process, he donated or got rid of a ton of things he was holding onto like, books, DVD’s, pictures, art, school stuff, and toys.

Next year, at this time, our fifteen-year-old will be filling out applications to University or College. We have had many conversations about doing something that he will love as opposed to something that will give him a lot of income. Through his business courses in high school and our conversations following books and podcasts we listened to; he has decided (completely on his own) that saving money and not spending it on useless items was a good way to live. For example, did he really need a car at 16? the cost of the car, the insurance, the gas….why? For what purpose when we lived in a city with great transportation.

He also has been thinking about starting to save now for a house or condo. I know what you are thinking…that’s crazy! being only 15, well 16 in a month, and saving for a house?Personally, I admire his thinking and I think it is smart. I wish my parents would have encouraged me to do the same.

Lucky for him, we have been putting money away for his education. Had we not, student loans wouldn’t be an option. We discussed how he could easily save $10,000 a year during his 3 years of high school and that that would cover his tuition for his post-secondary. (this is something he also picked up after listening to the minimalist podcast – episode 98) However, we got the school tuition covered through monthly RESP contributions, so instead of saving for school, he’s saving for a home – smart kid.

Then there are the principles of investing in real friendships that add value. We encourage him often to reevaluate his relationships and we encourage him to hold onto friendships that add value to his life. Investing in real relationships have helped him choose good friends. Friends that we can trust, which is important to us as parents, that he has good people in his inner circle. He isn’t interested in the social limelight or the need for attention that most teens find themselves wrapped up in at his age. I credit all this to the hard work the hubby and I have put in as his parents, but more so to the young man he is growing into and the decisions he’s been making.

My two tiny humans…

My middle son is nine. He sorta gets it…My youngest is five and he didn’t get it until I actually wrote a story and made some drawings to go along with it. I know what you are thinking, that was such a teacher thing to do, but hey, it worked!

honestly, I think what helped my two younger boys really understand the concept of minimalism was to show them. Whenever I tackled a new project I included them in the process. We talked about the steps and letting go of things we didn’t need. Where our stuff would go and how it would help another family if we donated it or sold it.

It became much more real for them when we applied these rules to their toys. Together we tackled the years and years of toys we had accumulated. Sure enough, by seeing me and how I paired down my closet, our kitchen, our kick knacks and hand me downs; by the time we got to their stuff, they were experts.

Now we have a rule, If they get something new – something old has to go from their current collection of gadgets and toys.

Here is where we are. My boys don’t have a ton of toys or the latest gadgets but I have to admit they spend a lot of time playing with what they do have. They also spend a lot of time together out in the green space playing and using their imagination. I can hear them playing make belief; pirates, monsters, and captains of their own adventures.The kind of play that allows them to engage in self-expression, act out their knowledge and share their emotions. The kind of play we did as kids. I encourage them to feel their boredom and to figure it out. They do.

So back to our main question…Children and minimalism? I think children are brilliant. I think that they are much more able to adapt to new things. I think that if you show them and include them, they will learn. Have them participate! Have conversations and listen to podcasts or watch documentaries with them. I can’t promise that they will be into it or grow up to be minimalists, they might not, but I don’t see any harm in including them and introducing them to the ideas of minimalism.

till the next post,

moveplaymom.

 

A conversation with my boys…

So many people often ask me how this movement towards a more minimalist lifestyle has affected my kids or what my children think of the whole pairing down and simplifying.

The fact is that children are so adaptable. Unlike adults, children haven’t necessarily accumulated a ton of things or stuff. They have what they have because of us. Adults are more set in their ways. Adults have a harder time letting go.

My goal is to help my boys understand what the benefits are of living a life with more intention. I want them to understand the value of money, the value of relationships and to appreciate every single thing that they purchase and bring into their lives.

I thought I would share with you a conversation that I documented of my two older boys. On our way home from an errand, we were listening to The Minimalist podcast. The episode had a young teenager sharing her experience as a minimalist. When we got home my oldest had some questions about being a minimalist. My middle guy joined in on our conversation. I thought it would be neat to document….So here we go.

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Dom: I like what that girl said about being a minimalist and saving for her school and stuff. How does it feel like for you?

Mom: I feel like it has brought us so much clarity. I feel a lot lighter. Daddy and I feel like we take more time to focus on our family and friends. That we really think about purchases we are making. Building this house we are a lot more reflective and careful about what we are doing and what we are going to bring into our new home. I can keep going on all the positives. What about you?

Dom: Getting rid of things we don’t need and bringing only things into our life that adds value has been really eye-opening. I used to want to spend my money on all kinds of stuff, but now I stop to really think about it.  I think about what my priorities are now and how I want to travel instead or go to a concert.

Anthony: You know mom, all we really need is a bed, shelter, clothes…but not a lot of clothes. We need lights. We need happiness…oh and each other! Everything else now is just stuff.

Mom: What makes you happy?

Dom: Hanging out with my friends and girls.

Mom: Not funny.

Dom: I am not being funny. haha.

Mom: What else?

Anthony: Hmmm I like to go to hockey and skateboard. That makes me happy. I like to spend time with you and dad and Stef and Dom, that makes me happy too.  Oh! Oh! and I like to play video games. and I know you don’t like that I do, but I do. You know if you didn’t limit it, I would be even way happier!

Mom: not happening.

Dom: I am happy when we spend time together as a family. I like that.

Mom: And girls apparently.

Dom: yes…haha

Mom: If you could get rid of 1 item right now, what would it be?

Dom: Well I have two boxes of books that I have already read. I probably won’t read them again. I won’t bring them to the new house. I can definitely let those books go.

Anthony: well I have these really ugly striped shoes you got me, those, for sure.

Mom: I love those shoes!

Anthony: I don’t. I could give them to someone who needs them.

Mom: I like that. I like that you thought of that too. That makes me proud.

Anthony: Ya. I know.

Dom: I could donate the books to a library.

Mom: Ya that’s a good idea. We can look into it. So why do you think people have so much stuff? What would you say to those people now that you have come to realize you don’t need so much stuff to be happy?

Anthony: People like to spend money so I would say, stop spending money. You will be rich!

Domenic: I think people like to spend money on things that make them feel socially accepted. They spend money so they can fit in. I would tell them to be happy with who they are and to hang out with people who accept them for who they are.

Mom: You guys are pretty smart.

Anthony: I know!

Mom: You are so humble Anthony….Ok, What I want you to do is draw me a picture of what a minimalist lifestyle looks like. You think you can do that?

Anthony: I can try, but it’s hard….

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The boys went on to draw some pretty cool art. Anthony made a house and he said inside was simple and he had all these boxes sitting outside the house and that was messy. Domenic made a more complex drawing with someone selling items they didn’t need and taking that money to pay off debt and then using saved money to travel.

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it’s pretty amazing what our children pick up. It makes me so excited to continue on this journey and watch my boys grow up. proud mom here!

till the next post,

moveplaymom

 

Mom.

Mom.

Being a mom is a full-time job. Being a mom and a business owner is a balancing act. Being a mom and a business owner all while renovating a new home…..hmmmmmm

Today we took possession of our new place.

I was so ready to get my hands dirty and start ripping the house apart as soon as we got the keys at 1 pm. My boys were even more ready! Most people would keep their children far far away from a job site like this. All the risk and danger!? Right?!? I mean most parents would never give their kids real tools and teach them how to use them.
We did.

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After all, this is their house too. We wanted them to have a stake in it.  Sure there is a lot of risks and yes it is VERY dangerous, however, I am trying to align my belief that children are capable and competent with my parenting. Which isn’t always easy. I knew this time I had to trust that my 2 younger boys who are 5 and 9 could do a lot while being cautious and listening to instructions. They deserved that respect and trust.

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We gave them tasks we knew that they could handle. We taught them how to use the crowbar and hammer. We talked about being safe and watching the nails. We sent them off to rip out hardwood and cork….and they did AMAZING!

My nine year old helped me to remove all the baseboards, carry out old doors, rip out the old carpets and old cork flooring. My five year old went around removing all the carpet tack strips.

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We spent five and a half hours working, ALL OF US. To my surprise we got a huge chunk of the demolition done. Most people would hire a demo team. Instead, we saved a ton of money not only by doing it ourselves but by giving our more than capable and competent kids the opportunity to help out. We accomplished a huge task together, as a family.

I might be a busy mom and business owner but turning this house into our home is going to be such a fun ride with my little team.

till the next post,

Moveplaymom