Call the Babysitter, 8 Date Night Ideas To Pass Off as Your Own.

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As I mentioned before, we plan a date night out at least twice a month for mommy and daddy alone time. Since we are not only paying for anything involved in the actual date we are also paying for a sitter to watch our little ones while we get away to play. With all the cash we end up dishing out for an evening we make sure to take full advantage of the opportunity for freedom.

Last week we were able to get out of the house on a last minute date that would last 5 hours. A large amount of that time was used in trying to decide what to do. We relied on a list of past dates to fall back on.  To help out fellow readers in the dating idea arena I figured I would share our best date night expeditions as spring flourishes and love fills the air. Plus, though dinner without kids is always nice, sometimes it’s boring and gets to be the same old thing.

1. Rock Climbing: This is a favorite of ours. It not only burns calories from yummy dinners but is an activity that has a foundation on communication and trust with your partner. As you work through each wall you and your date communicate on footing and rope support since each of you are in charge of supporting the other through a pully system.

2. Cooking Class: As avid Food Network watchers and lovers of food we are always looking to try new dishes and techniques in the kitchen.  We took a class given by an executive chef through Cooking Skills Academy. It was awesome as we were able to execute, eat and doggie bag three different meals. Classes range from pastries to sushi to basically any foods your stomach and heart desire. We bought another class on discount to head to some time this summer.

3. Educational Speaker: I loved school and therefore I love listening to people talk about what they know. My husband, though often playing critic, enjoys learning from watching. By combining these loves we often find ourselves at events that are speaking engagements. Recently we attended one on health, diet and nutrition presented by journalist Bill Kurtis and Dr. Brian Dixon at the local college. We learned a lot to better our family, enjoyed one anothers company and it sparked lots of couple conversation on our ride home and after. In educating ourselves we opened doors to communication in our relationship.

4. Arcade: The pictures above were taken during my birthday celebration (where some drinks were involved) after we spent many tokens and hours on old and new arcade games. Lucky for us there was also a photo booth to capture our date and love.

5. Old School Bowling/Miniature Golf: With having a competitive man it’s easy to convince him to play any game especially one that involves him talking about how he is left handed. Hanging out at old school bowling alleys and put-put terrains makes us feel like were teens again, not to mention the people watching at these venues is fantastic.

6. Thrift Store Hop/Antiquing: As most of 30-somethings, the DIY bug bit us long ago too. We spent this Valentine’s Day hitting resale and antique shops looking for steals, deals and unique pieces not to mention old ass games from our childhood for our kiddos like Bed Bugs and Twister.

7. Get Physical: As I have shared before I am a lover of yoga. Because of this love and because my husband loves me we often hit up classes together when I successfully convince him too. We even went as far as attending a fitness resort for a three day weekend where our days were filled with instructor led classes, green foods and fresh air.

8. Spa Me Baby: We discovered spas during our honeymoon seven years ago and fell in love with massages and assorted treatments. My husband spent many hours in pedicure chairs during our pregnancies where we were free to relax and indulge in conversations of our future babies and lives. Eventually we found ourselves a nice couple massage this past Thursday making the date a success.

As for the future and to keep things interesting, we hope to attend the opera some time this year. We also just scored a Groupon for extreme trampolining therefore a date full of laughter and jumping is in our near future.

Happy dating and keeping marriage and yourselves interesting!

***(Discounts for most of these can be found online or through sites like Groupon.)

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My Husband is a Cheater, but I didn’t leave him.

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My husband is a cheater. 

My husband is dating, living, sleeping, and having sex with a woman that is organized, eats kale and no grains, spends her free time cleaning or planning trips to a foodie restaurant, spends less than 30 minutes out of the 24 hours in a day on her appearance, falls asleep each night at 10 pm and believes yoga and coconut oil to be the remedies for all aliments and problems in the world. I like this woman very much but he didn’t vow to stand by her side through all of eternity.

My husband is a cheater.

My husband married ME 6 years ago. He married Brooke Plesek, who was disorganized, drank too much coffee/alcohol and ate too little, spent weekends being unproductive in bed while watching crappy television, stayed up late for no good reason, spent two hours each day on appearance and woke up each morning to hit a cardio machine at 5 am. The woman he is seeing is not the woman he married.

My husband is a cheater.

When I married my husband six years ago his favorite meal was one on the McDonald’s value menu, spent Sundays watching sports, lived in jeans and sweatshirts, thought laughing at videos on break.com to be a hobby, found sleep to be the answer to everything and had a carefree attitude about life in general. I married Erik Halperin.

I am not a cheater.

The man I am dating, living, sleeping, and having sex with is a man who’s favorite meal is one on the McDonald’s value menu, spends Sundays watching sports, lives in jeans and sweatshirts, thinks laughing at videos on break.com to be a hobby, finds sleep to be the answer to everything and has a carefree attitude about life in general.  I am seeing Erik Halperin.

My husband the cheater is disorganized, hates kale and might as well bathe in grains, spends his free time avoiding cleaning, takes 30 minute showers, falls asleep at the drop of a hat and believes yoga and coconut oil to be tools of black magic and Voo-Doo. So what is he doing with this health crazed tramp who thinks having a lazy Sunday is antiquing in a quaint neighborhood gem?? It’s because he is married to her …. that tramp IS ME.

From what research gathers, the above observations would mean we have grown apart and our marriage is doomed. But I took a backwards approach to analyzing what attracted me to my husband in the first place, which today are attributes I can find incredibly annoying at times. Here is what I found …

What if rather than making love to a Big Mac he ate green foods and swore off sugar? Instead of watching sports all day on Sunday he cleaned baseboards in the kitchen and completed the latest DIY project on Pinterest? Or rubbed dry shampoo into his hair to make it one more day without washing it? Instead of sleeping he stayed up to finish the last few pages of a book he found terribly written? What if rather than having a carefree attitude about the small things in life he tortured himself over the thought of everything from the plastic our food comes in to what type of husband our little girl will marry in 25 years? And finally, what if he turned into a bat-shit crazy bitch if he didn’t fit in yoga into his morning routine? I would probably leave him 🙂

Yes, I still wear makeup for my husband.

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Let me first acknowledge that many will read this post out of anger or stop reading midway out of complete disagreement. Also know that I am fine with that, I’m not writing for approval. I’m speaking to those that understand.

I still wear makeup for my husband.

I’ve known my husband since I was 19 years old. I have been married to him for almost seven years.  He has seen me with child or as a mommy for almost six. He has been witness to my evolution from sorority letters with short skirts to suit jackets with pencil skirts to maternity elastic tummy panels to, now, jeans and flannel shirts. He has seen lingerie, old ratty t-shirts, too snug bathing suits, fancy dresses, risqué Halloween attire and weird comfy non matching athletic wear.

After all these seasons of life and all these changes I still seek to catch his attention as if I were still 19.

I still wear makeup for my husband.

Of course through these transformations from undergrad to professional to wife to mommy there have been many, MANY days where showers are not a priority, makeup is a delicacy and anything besides a pony tail needled through a baseball cap is more than my mind could take BUT I still seek to turn his head.

I shouldn’t be surprised because it was such a point of importance while we were dating. I found triumph in him admiring my looks. Now older and wiser, I know marriage and a strong relationship are so much more than just outward appearances but I do know that it still includes being desired by the one that swept me off my feet so long ago.

Believe me my husband is not shallow and his love for me is unconditional, but I also know that he notices when I wear a skirt or when I wash and curl my hair. I put the effort in for not only myself but also for him.

Being a mommy makes this effort a million times harder than it was my junior year of college. But I truly believe that it means a million times more to him AND me when the effort is made. It makes me feel like a million bucks when I have my nails done, hair washed, makeup on and an outfit that requires a real bra and not just a sports bra.

I still wear makeup for my husband.

Mommy’s 12 Rules to Simplifying Spending.

moneySimple Plan: Part 4 of The Year of Simplicity.

We find ourselves with excess when we end up spending our money purchasing it. Here’s my 12 step program to stop the spending that’s resulting in the excess.

Budget and Track ~ Meaning simply know your income, know your expenses. I do this through utilizing Mint.com. When I set up my Mint account I went through our past bank statements via online and tallied up costs. I took those costs and divided them into the following categories with sub categories when devising our budget: Auto & Transport Bills & Utilities, Education, Food & Dining, Home and Kids. Subcategories consisted of examples such as Gas & Fuel, Babysitting, Mortgage, Nicor Gas and so on. Every other day I log on to review our transactions checking that our budgets are in line with where we are spending. Mint offers a wide array of uses for managing your funds as well as providing information on ways to save and achieve money goals. Once you are aware of your budget and spending, stay accountable through the habit of reviewing your transactions on a regular basis.

A.B.P.A (Always Be Planning Ahead) ~We all know the birth dates of our loved ones and the holidays that require gift giving and entertaining. To avoid spending excess amounts of money on guests and entertainment, plan ahead. Buy candy on clearance after Valentine’s Day for Easter baskets. Hit the after Halloween sales for stocking stuffers. School supplies are always needed in the month of September it’s just a matter of A.B.P.A in order to not spend a load of cash on pencils and paper. Think ahead to what you’ll need throughout the year, always planning leaves you prepared to save cash. I knew I would be doing a Mickey and Minnie birthday cake for my twins, when Aldi had black cake frosting on clearance after Halloween for $0.49 it was the perfect buy. Always be planning ahead to save money but also be reminded to not get carried away and buy EXCESS of an item, think simple not extravagant.

C.Y.D.I.M. When going through your expenses ask yourself “Can I do it myself?” ~Rather than paying someone to mow our lawn or tend to our landscaping we do it ourselves. Instead of taking our vehicles to the car wash we make it a family event and wash them in the driveway. Rather than paying someone to clean your carpets head over to Loews or Menards and rent a Rug Doctor and burn some calories doing it yourself. Though I love a good manicure and pedicure, it’s something that I now treat as a special outing since I’m pretty good at doing these myself. These are just a few examples of C.Y.D.I.M, each is different for each family depending on your talents and abilities. I know that coloring my hair lays in the hands of a professional so I spend the money on it but hemming pants is something that I can handle rather than paying an outsider. Local libraries also provide speakers, answers and assistance for issues dealing with government, tax, health, business and automotive, just to name a few. Pinpoint what you can do and what you NEED to spend money on, adjust your spending to match.

Unknown Benefits ~ many savings can be hidden right in your wallet and home. Take a look at what your credit companies offer in regards to partnerships with retail and restaurants for savings on your spending.  Check your memberships as well, I discovered discounts unknown on our AAA membership for all sorts of items and entertainment just by logging on to the website and taking a peek. A subcategory of unknown benefits is Loyalty Programs ~ almost every company seems to have a loyalty program, it’s just a matter of signing up for them, utilizing them and then cashing in on your rewards. As I shared in Trick or Treat,Whatdaya Know Joe? Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have reward programs that offer free coffee, the same applies to Walgreens, CVS, grocery stores and other service providers giving away money and goods for just swiping a tiny card when checking out. Even my massage therapist offers a reward program where when you receive 10 punches on your visit card a free massage is rewarded. The same goes for hair salons, many offer a loyalty program for free or discounted services. Often “loyalty programs” go beyond what is advertised, sometimes building a relationship with a provider or retailer will result in savings in the long run so be sure to smile at, bake up some holiday cookies for or refer to them by name when visiting your favorite establishment.

The Three F’s, Fun For Free ~ Get imaginative and informative. Having fun doesn’t need to cost money. Start using your biggest expense, your home, as the ground center for fun and experiences with your family. Pinterest offers an endless black hole of craft ideas and DIY projects to do at home with your kids or just your honey. I’m a huge fan of the library. Look into your local library for story times, craft hours, speakers and the endless amount of free books, ebooks, music, DVDs and other media at your fingertips. My library also offers the Museum Adventure Pass, using your library card to receive admission or a special discount at participating area cultural destinations. Start thinking not only out of the box but also back to the basics. Just last night we had a picnic in front of the fireplace with the kids, checked out a free movie from the library and popped a bowl of popcorn for our own personal family night entertainment.

Coupons and Groupons ~ Coupons save a ton of cash. Clip them and file them in a coupon envelope or any other easy to grab holder when menu planning and thinking about outings. Manufacturers, restaurants and many retailers send free money to our door steps through newspaper, mail inserts and online clipping. To avoid excess buys focus your couponing on items you need and buy on a regular basis, for example the items your children consume ungodly amounts of. Whenever Erik and I are planning a date night out we search sites such as Groupon, Livingsocial and Amazon Local for deals where we can save some cash since we are already paying a fortune for someone to sit on our couch while our three little spawns are fast asleep. It also gets us to try new restaurants and entertainment venues that we wouldn’t have thought of.

Amenities and Utilities ~ Figure out what you need and what may be excess. One giant leap of simplicity we have yet to make is dumping the cable provider and opting for online streaming (through Hulu Plus and Netflix) or other methods of watching the few television shows we watch regularly. I’m just trying to figure a plan to slowly wean myself off Food Network and HGTV.  Once you know what you need, it may take a little work but shop around to make sure you are getting the lowest price from providers. Once you identify the lowest provider check out their customer programs. For example, Nicor is our provider of gas, going into the winter we knew that we are lovers of fireplaces and would be using ours a lot. We made a call to Nicor to educate ourselves with their programs and which offered the best incentive where we received the most but spent the least. Through some calculating we found that it would be best to sign up for a fixed rate for the year, this way we could run our fireplace all day and night not worrying about the excess costs that it might incur. We found that our cable provider has a partnership with AAA that offers a discount on service and our cell phone provider has a partnership with my husband’s employer that also offers a discount.

Grocery Shopping ~ As I touched upon in our plan for Simple Eating, first check your pantry and fridge for what you have, then build a weekly menu plan around those items, then head over to your grocer ads and coupons for which deals you can pair with manufacturer/store coupons that match items needed for your weekly menu plan. A little puzzle solving results in spending the least amount of money on your store total for what you NEED. Service providers and retailers aren’t the only companies with loyalty programs, many brands offer the same. Both Pampers and Huggies offer points for purchasing their diapers that you can later exchange for other goods such as toys, magazines and gift cards.

Think Before You Buy ~ Anything over $50 is required a week think over period. If after a week of thought and the item is still needed then the money can be spent. A week not only diminishes impulse buys but also allows for shopping around to find a better price if the item ends up being purchased. Which leads to the next rule …

Buy used or discounted when able ~ Search sites such as Craigslist, Ebay and Facebook garage sale sites for large ticket items like snow blowers, large toys and appliances. Children’s consignment sales are not only good for selling items but also for buying items.  Kids run through toys and clothes like Kleenex, buying previously used keeps the spending and excess in check for little ones. Many household needs and decor can be found new or slightly used at Goodwill and local thrift/resale stores.

Use and Abuse Wisely ~ We are really bad at the common sense stuff so I’m going to go over this rule (even if you are rolling your eyes as you read it) in order to remind myself to practice what I preach. Turn the lights off in rooms you aren’t in. Don’t leave cell phone chargers plugged in when not in use. Turn off ceiling fans when not needed. Run your dryer, oven and dishwasher during the day during cold seasons while running them during the night during the warm seasons to counteract the amount of air conditioning and heat needed, which results in saving on spending. Wait till the dishwasher is completely full before running, same goes for the washer. Unplug vampire appliances that in reality don’t need to be plugged in 24/7 – like toasters, coffee makers, humidifiers,treadmills, guest room televisions or infant sound machines.

Memberships or Sneaky Money Stealers?  ~ Take a long look at your memberships/subscriptions such as gym, Crossfit, food of the month clubs, online courses, food co-ops and those clever box subscriptions (such as Conscious Box, Birch Box and Stitchfix). Are you using them to their full potential? Are you and your family benefiting from them or are they just costing you more money? For example, right now a gym membership doesn’t make sense for me. I have a treadmill, an elliptical, yoga mat and plenty of workout DVDs at home and through the library as well as streamed via online. All this is for free and I don’t have to pay $50 a month to benefit from it. Plus I know the work it takes to get all three kids and myself to the gym is more stress than pleasure. We once belonged to a food co-op but it made more sense for us to head to the farmer’s market on Saturdays to pick out our own choice of fresh foods. Another fun but excess spending was my subscription to Conscious Box. Though  I liked receiving it in the mail monthly, I couldn’t use most of the items that were in the box due to my Paleo lifestyle and sensitive skin … so we cancelled it. All of this stuff that we sign up for becomes excess when we don’t use it or truly benefit from it. GET BACK TO THE BASICS. I have to remind myself that the human race has survived without having groceries delivered to our doorstep, an online personal stylist that sends pricey clothing pieces or forgotten online courses that we swore we would use to better our children.

Tick-Tock.

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Cluttered time with excess distraction creates a frazzled mind. So wouldn’t simple time without distraction result in peaceful minds??

Let’s un-clutter our time. Let’s get back to the basics. Let’s simplify what takes up the tick-tocks.

Fact: 83% of us don’t let an hour go by without checking our phones. Yikes. Talk about information overload. Talk about wasted time. Talk about EXCESS distraction.

Emails, Facebook notification and Smartphone alerts:

To avoid wasting time on emails I’ve done an email subscription diet, cutting off the excess that is eating up my time, even if that time consists of clicking a delete button after scanning a subject line because after all seconds add up. Since January 1st I have been dumping emails in the Spam bucket and unsubscribing from email distributions. Since I don’t plan on buying any clothing, toys, kitchen gadgets and related children items for the next 6 months I unsubscribed from all retailer emails. Any type of coupon/deal notifications I reviewed as to whether I really needed them and if I did I changed my notification emails to once a week rather than every day.

I applied the same diet to my Facebook account. I went through my personal settings and changed my notifications to the slimmest I could without completely unfollowing a company or individual. I changed what I receive emails about in regards to Facebook to “Only notifications about your account, security and privacy,” why do I need an email if I am checking my account anyhow? I cleaned up and said goodbye to companies, bloggers and “friends” that didn’t benefit my life or intelligence and un-followed and de-friended those who were unnecessarily cluttering my feed.

As a stay at home mom Smartphone alerts are un-needed. Aside from my ringer and text alerts it’s unnecessary for me to have a ping or a ding to let me know if I have received an email or a Facebook comment. Think about it, each time you get an alert you pick up your phone, light up the screen, check the alert and then mindlessly begin trolling your Facebook feed, surfing the internet or pick up a game of Candy Crush. Needless to say, pings and dings have been dismantled.

Television and the Internet (always connected, never unplugged):

So in terms of watching television I rarely get to watch anything unless it’s after 8 pm. I’m not too worried about the amount of television the kids watch and I’ve come to terms that during football season the games are constantly on. However what I am interested in changing is the amount of television that Erik and I watch when we are finally alone and having adult time. Our usual routine is to set up camp in the living room and make our way through our DVR’s programs as I fold laundry or do article prep and Erik checks work emails and filters through ESPN on his phone. I’ve also figured out that while I love our open concept living area, I do not love how the kids zone out during meal times if the television is on. So here’s the plan Stan:

*No T.V. on during meals.

*There are 7 nights to be accounted for. Prior to kids Erik and I played a lot of board/Wii games, watched a lot of movies and even did yoga together on the nights we weren’t out on the town, it’s simply time to incorporate these all again. To get back to the basics. The only way to really make this work is by planning ahead. Each week we will take a look at our schedules and make a plan to avoid excess television watching which means instead of picking up the remote we pick up a game, a movie or a yoga mat. Friday nights we have deemed Family Nights which means inventing something fun to do with the kids at home and also a movie with Braxton. This leads to the next rule:

*No phone zone. If we are going to be with one another it needs to be fully and not half ass. Half ass meaning in the same room but on a phone or a computer. We’ve tried this before and we are going after it again … the NO PHONE ZONE box. During family time, 6 pm and on, the phones go in the box. I’ve taught Brax to call both Erik and I out if our face is stuck in the soft glow of our phones. Erik and I have agreed to hold one another accountable as well.

I’m currently in the middle of trying to figure out the right schedule and set of rules that works for my computer use. Blogging makes it slightly tricky but I KNOW I need to be more aware of my time plugged in and when I need to unplug. My morning ritual for the last four years has been a cup of coffee while checking my emails, Pins, FB feed and posts before the house wakes up for thirty minutes. So I’m for sure keeping Internet time first thing in the morning. For the rest of the day, on days that I do not post on The Funny In Mommy Blog, I am allowed Mommy Internet time at 10/10:30 am, 12:30/1 pm, 4:30 pm, 7 pm and 9 pm.  Yesterday I timed myself on looking through emails and mindlessly trolling Facebook at 7:33 pm. Upon finishing, the clock read 7:41. That is 9 minutes and I didn’t even answer an email or post on Facebook. Say I take 9 minutes each time I log on. That’s a total of 45 minutes added on to the 30 minutes in the morning.  Final time consumed by the internet: An hour and fifteen minutes a day which equals out to 19 days per year. Do the math on your use, where are you at??? If I am using that much time I better be making sure what I am using the internet for is intentional. I also know that I use Facebook to keep connected with friends/family BUT rather than logging on to do so I’m going to take that time to either text or call a friend/family to connect.

People and “assumed” obligations:

This is simple. Simply ask yourself if there are people or “assumed” obligations in your life that are taking up time AND making you less than anything but happy??Could you be spending this time elsewhere that would be bringing joy to your life? If you do identify some of these individuals and activities, simply make the effort to remove them from your life. Yes, easier said than done but taking baby steps to freeing yourself of these time eaters will soon payoff. We must constantly remind ourselves of what simply really matters and devote our time to these people and activities. Pursuing our passions and experience life with loved ones makes our existence more meaningful. And meaning is what we want our time to be about, NOT EXCESS.

 

Simple Plan: Part 1

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The feedback about the Year of Simplicity is an inspiring one. It turns out that there are a lot of other crazy ass mommies and daddies besides myself and Erik ready for the simple life too. For those apprehensive about making the leap, just remember that this isn’t about deprivation it’s about all the excess that comes after our needs are met. It’s not about leaving ourselves yearning it’s about becoming more fulfilled through our relationships with others and our inner selves. Stuff is just stuff.

I figured dividing our action plan into a number of different posts would be best for me and for readers. After the final post of the action plan I’ll share some pictures to document the simple household that we are now striving for.

On today’s list: Purchases, Stuff and Toys.

Purchases: If we have all this crap how do we stop acquiring more of it? Simple … stop buying it.  All the stuff we have is in great shape, there’s nothing we are in need of. We have clothes on our backs, a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and a loving household. There’s been so many times and things that while out and about we have mindlessly bought. A sale here, a deal here, a coupon redeemed or an opportunity to stockpile, it all adds up. Erik and I are guilty of just buying because of the money we believe we are saving. We are also guilty of purchasing toys and more stuff for our kids randomly and aimlessly.  Eventually all this stuff becomes forgotten. Rather what isn’t forgotten are the experiences and bonding our family comes to encounter through interacting with one another and not through the stuff we acquire. Moving forward we are looking at each purchase in regards to how it will benefit our family or individually and not on how much money we’ll save by the deal we think we are getting.

Stuff: So much stuff.

I’ve made my way through every closet and room.

The laundry room is now a laundry room holding only cleaning products.

Counters have been wiped clean and decorative pieces minimized. Kitchen cabinets and drawers have been purged of any items that are no use to our family and donated to Goodwill. We were this couple that constantly bought all these gadgets to cook with. After taking a cooking class this summer we found the only items we really need are a pair of tongs, a peeler, a sharp knife and a good spatula. Goodbye to garlic smashers, veggie dicers and meat slicers. The insane amount of Tupperware, pots and pans we own is just that, insane. Also purged and donated. How many coffee mugs does a household need where only one of the five humans living within drinks coffee? According to our count, over 20. Needless to say some of these mugs will be finding a new home.

Linen closets full of sheets, towels and blankets. I figure we have three beds so we need one pair of sheets on each bed and one for changing purposes. Right now the twins are in cribs, I’m not sure what bed size they will have in the future, but more than likely it will be full size so I’ve kept the full sets and donated the rest. We have about two thousand bath towels and wash cloths, these too were purged and donated, I mean does one family really need 17 baby wash cloths??? I think not.

I took a look around the house, I mean I really TOOK IN the view. I took in every knickknack, picture frame, decoration and child craft made and decided what needed to go and what made sense to stay. What needed to go went and what made sense to stay was cleaned and placed in a thoughtful spot.

I’m not sure if I thought at some point I was going to be opening my own drugstore/beauty counter out of my home but the amount of makeup and beauty products I found stashed away in my bathroom was revolting. It was purged and thrown out. What was old, a bad color or poor quality was pitched. What was new and higher quality was kept and organized into drawers and containers. In the year 2015 I refuse to buy any product that I can just derive from coconut oil. If any of you need some tips on my favorite beauty go to here’s a link to an article that I had published on my beloved coconut oil. Medicines, vitamins and essential oils were also checked  for dates and quality then purged and thrown out.

Toys: So far I’ve managed to sort through it ALL prior to Christmas donating a large amount to our church and boxing up the rest to be sold during the twins children consignment spring sale. I’ve also stored some away in order to change it up once in a while as the twins get older. I’ve organized it all into different sized containers and cubby holes.

We’ve also been working on the “put one toy away before dragging another out” with the kids to keep the chaos to a minimum. We have also decided to limit any toy purchases to holidays and birthdays to keep the number down and to make current and future toys “special.”

Many toys have also been replaced with a new focus on our craft cabinet filled with everything under the sun in order to execute an idea thought up by the small mind. The craft cabinet is made up of crayons, markers, paints, stickers, glue, glitter, play-doh, cookie cutters, paper, old cereal boxes and paper towel rolls, felt, scissors, coloring books, chalk, puffy paint, noodles, food coloring, pom poms, old fabric/shirts and pipe cleaner.  Another toy replacement is the library corner where there are books of our own stored and where the kids keep the books they pick out on our weekly library trips. I still read books I can hold in my hands and I believe my kids should too. There’s nothing like having a little one sit in your lap as you read them a story and they turn the pages with their little fingers. It creates a bond and fattens the imagination.

After learning our lesson of 4 years of birthday parties we have come to the conclusion that birthday parties past the age of one can be budget and energy depleting. The sheer cost of finding a venue to facilitate the celebration and hold a number of little energy bursting bodies is a small fortune. Then there is all the toys and stuff your kids receive through the kind act of gift giving. We’ve decided that birthdays will be better spent experiencing things, like a day trip to the city with special visits to museums, favorite restaurants or exciting attractions. I’ve read over and over that from the time we are young we remember and benefit the most from the interactions and relationships we experience with others and not the toys that we receive. The money saved??? Throw it into a college fund, your little ones will be more grateful for that than the latest Paw Patrol toy.

That’s today’s simple learning lesson. Hopefully it sparked a fire under your ass to get moving in the direction of simple.

Look for future “2015 Year of Simplicity” posts relaying more of our action plan. Subjects will include Time, Technology, Clothes, Spending, Food and Self.

2015, Year of Simplicity … going rogue.

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Basically the goal for the Halperin family is living simply in 2015.

The idea for 2015 came from my recent read of We Have Met the Enemy. To sum up the book, it’s about how we are living in a culture of excess of everything. Excess of spending, eating, sex, technology, drinking, tattooing, sleeping, gambling and so on. Everything that we should be doing in moderation is now offered to us 24 hours a day with literally the push of a button. In the past we, as a society, were able to count to ten between our impulse of desire and actually being able to act on it. Today our self-control isn’t allowed that ten, rather we are offered everything in the blink of an eye from processed fast food to a cashmere sweater to a hooker. We are now a society brimming with excess and suffering because of it.

I began to look around the house and it was true, we were living in excess. Too many toys, too many clothes, a pantry full of food waiting to be used, bookshelves adorned with unread books, closets busting at the seams with old sheets and forgotten outerwear. Kitchen cabinets and drawers fattened with cookware and gadgets that were used once and then forgotten. A dusty crawl space full of decorations, melted candles and misfit stuffed animals.

The Halperins are also guilty of being bit by the ever blood hungry and growing tech bug. Every hour of our days was touched with technology. Televisions, Smartphones, tablets and computers – always connected and never unplugged. These things rapeing us of our time and focus. I’m pretty sure at the end of our lives no one will be saying “Gee, I’m glad I reached the end of my Inbox” or “My greatest accomplishment was that Candy Crush level” or “My Facebook friends are what have mattered most.”

What if we got back to the basics, stripping our house and lives of the excess? Removing the focus on the stuff in our lives and start focusing on one another and the relationships that hold meaning instead. Relationships with our own persons, one another, family members and friends. Expanding our minds and experiences past the little black screen held in the palm of our hand and offered at the drive-thru window.

For the last month I’ve been entering the phrase “2015 the year of Simplicity” throughout daily conversations in our home. My frame of mind a little different this year as I wrapped packages and decorated our home. With Christmas celebrated and the new year on the horizon, the opportunity arose for Erik and I to tackle a plan of simplicity, together, for 2015. We devised an action plan and some goals to go along with the Year of Simplicity. A plan of attack that addressed things not only found in our closets and what we were pulling our wallets out to buy but also what was taking up the minutes of our lives and filling our bellies.

As a symbol of our year of Simplicity is the red candle you see pictured above. This candle was stashed away in our basement forgotten about. Erik bought it on clearance even though we had no use for it. We really can’t keep candles lit with the kids because they are constantly blowing them out, plus I’m reading all these articles about the toxins found in such “smelly” candles. Not to mention we could have put the $1.99 towards something fun with the kids or a date night out. So to kick off the plan of attack on simplicity we lit the candle representing the excess in our lives and how we plan to “burn it away.”  It now sits in a box waiting for the holiday season of 2015, that’s when we plan to bring it back out. We’ll light it again to solidify the year and to see if we conquered the simple life.

Today I’ve shared my vision of a simpler life and year. Tomorrow I will share with you the action plan in making that vision a reality!