Barefoot Running!

A short post for today, but I am very excited to get running again.  I have tapered off since March, when I exercised almost every day, mostly running.  I just started reading The Barefoot Running Book and I can’t wait to get started! I have never really enjoyed running, and I thought this new twist might help, plus I love the minimalist reality to it. Bonus… the author is from Grand Rapids, MI! Here is a link to the book if you want to check it out.

3 Initial Surprises of a Stay-at-Home Dad

I was really looking forward to getting some big projects done around the house once I was a stay at home dad. I thought I was going to have all this extra free time. That shows you how much I knew going into it. You would think that since my wife had been home for the last 7 years, I would have a pretty good idea how she filled her time. Not a chance. I really had no idea. Here are 3 of my biggest surprises (so far):

  • Time: Or, more accurately, the lack-thereof. I am amazed at how quickly each day goes by, and how little time I actually have to work on projects or do meaningful things (like blogging) that don’t involve my kids.
  • The Mundane: One of the things I loved about youth ministry was the variety. Every day looked different. Staying at home can be that way too, except every day has a lot of the same as well. I am amazed at how much time is taken up by food (either making it or going to the store to buy it) and cleaning. It seems like I do dishes 12 times a day. I was not prepared for this at all. Back when we didn’t have kids, I did a lot of the cleaning around the house. I cleaned the house once a week on my day off. If I did that now, with 3 kids, our home would literally be a disaster.
  • Restlessness: Most of the people I talked to beforehand seemed to think I would be really restless as a stay at home dad. The truth is, I’m not at all. I really enjoy it. I get to spend a lot of amazing time with my kids. Today, for example, I noticed one of my daughters had a bit of a hard time throwing. It was a nice day out, so we grabbed some baseball gloves and headed out to work on her throwing motion. She loved it. In about an hour, she had improved a ton. Usually, it would be hard to focus for that long on just my daughter with my 3 year old son around as well. However, he was fascinated by my ability to throw a football over the house, so I just kept doing that while he ran after it. This allowed my daughter and I to focus on playing catch, while we also got to laugh every time he came back around the house and wanted to do it again.
By the way, is there a better term for this gig than Stay-At-Home ____? The bank called it “Homemaker” when we re-financed our house. I like that even less. Any suggestions? I need to get some business cards soon, so I should get this figured out…

The Camper Van

A good friend of mine just bought a new (used) camper van:

He’ll use it for awhile, really enjoy it, and then he will probably sell it for a profit.  That is just the way my friend does things.  He knows a good deal when he sees one, and he doesn’t hesitate.

Me on the other hand, I think about all the variables and then a few extras just for fun.  How much will it costs to maintain?  Are parts easy to find?  What typically goes wrong with these vehicles?  What if I don’t like it, will it be easy to sell again?  I won’t bore you with how long the list actually goes.  Bottom line is, by the time I answer 1/3 of my questions, said item is usually long gone.   Oh, and you don’t even want to know the list of questions (and anxieties) that go through my brain once I actually own something like a camper van.

I did have one once.  A VW Westy.  Ohhh… she was a beauty.  In theory I miss that Westy.  Anytime I actually look at one on Craigslist, though, my wife reminds me how much I worried about it.  She is right, too.  Still… I never should have sold it!  What I should have done, instead, is learn to enjoy it and take the ups and downs as they come.  I may have had to put some serious money in that van someday.  The thought of that reality kept me from really enjoying it while I had it.  That’s really my only regret about my VW Westy.  That van was meant for epic camping trips.  It’s a shame when we let anxiety over something we can’t control rob us of having a good time in our sweet camper van (or insert what your anxieties are keeping you from enjoying).

Either way, I hope my friend enjoys his sweet new camper.  These days I am content with a pop-up (no engine that might need to be replaced someday).

 

Switching Roles

Last June, when I decided it was time to leave my previous youth ministry position, my wife and I both touched up our resumes and sent them out to a few places.  Since we had kids, my wife had been a stay-at-home mom and I had worked as a youth pastor.  By profession, my wife is a speech pathologist.  She had stayed current in the field by taking several small part time roles over the years.  We knew that in order for me to take another position in youth ministry, it was going to have to be a perfect fit.   So we had a hunch that we would be switching roles.  And as it turned out, that is what happened last August.

As I prepared for my upcoming role as a stay-at-home dad, I was most worried about cooking.  I wanted to take a large role in the cooking so that when my wife got home from work she could play with the kids.  Only problem was… I had hardly ever cooked.  However, I am always up for a challenge and I love learning new things.  So when September 1 arrived, I dove right in.  At first, it was a bit rough going, but I gradually started to pick things up.  I still have a long ways to go, but I am unbelievably more comfortable in the kitchen now than I was just 8 months ago.  Necessity is a great motivator!

I was thinking about this whole transition when we got home from church today.  My wife had wanted to go for a walk, and when I checked the radar it was obvious that rain was about 45 minutes away.  I told her I would take care of lunch so she and the kids could go for a walk.  As I started cleaning up and getting ready to cook lunch, I was really enjoying myself.   That is when it really hit me.  Just  a year ago, I didn’t want to step foot in the kitchen unless I was getting ready to grill or cook pancakes.  Now I actually enjoy cooking and I am looking forward to learning more.

Oh… and feel free to leave a comment if you have a great recipe for me to try!

An Unlikely Source

This week has been a bit of a struggle.  We don’t have anything big going on,  but sometimes the small stuff can add up.  I have felt a little under the weather all week, and it seems like I am in a constant battle with my 3 year old.  This morning was no different.  I headed over to my Dad’s house around lunch time just to get out of the house.  My kids happen to be listening to “Little Town on the Prairie” in the car.  As we drove home from my Dad’s, this story was an unlikely source for putting my “rough” week into perspective.  The quote came from “Ma”:

This earthly life is a battle.  If it isn’t one thing to contend with, it’s another.  It always has been so and it always will be.  The sooner you make up your mind to that, the better off you are, and the more thankful to your pleasures.

The “battles” they were dealing with on the prairie just might have been a little bigger than seasonal allergies and a rowdy 3 year old.  I rewinded it to listen a second time.  Makes you think…

Time to De-Clutter!

After Tuesday’s post on clutter, I have been getting motivated to start tackling some of the clutter around our house.  We try to live a minimalist, suburban lifestyle, if that is indeed possible.  We not only try to limit our purchases, but we also try to get rid of things on a regular basis.  It is an ongoing journey to try to live as simple as possible.  I am amazed, now that we have a family of 5, how quickly stuff accumulates.

On Tuesday, I was mostly thinking about how our computers get cluttered, and then I started to look around the house and realized that we have some work to do!  Today I tackled the garage.  It is nice and clean, with a pile of stuff ready to be donated.  It feels so good to get rid of stuff that I no longer need or use.

Over the rest of the month, I really hope to gain some momentum (not for the sake of the blog… but just because I need to!) on de-cluttering the rest of the house.  After the garage, its time to get to work on our two basement storage areas.  I still have everything from moving out of my office in one storage area, while the other has been loosing space quickly after the holiday and birthday seasons.  It’s safe to say this is going to take longer than the garage…

The garage was mostly my deal, but the storage areas will have to be a whole family project.  I am always surprised at how our kids get into this process.  Even they know that we have too much stuff!

Life Skills and Blogging…

Day 2 in my attempt to blog every day this month.  One thing has been consistent with my Embrace / Refrain project:  each month I am trying to learn and better myself as I work at self discipline and pursing better practices for life.    Today I read a fantastic post from Joshua Becker over at Becoming Minimalist about the life skills he has learned from blogging.  The post is worth a read, but here is the list minus decsriptions:

  • Writing.
  • Risk-taking.
  • Being Entrepreneurial.
  • Networking.
  • Selling.
  • Taking criticism.
  • Being observant.
  • Reading.
  • Promoting others.
  • Promoting self.
  • Balancing.
If I gain skills in half of this list over this month and the rest of this project, I’ll consider it a huge success.

 

Clutter

Lately, I have been helping a few friends get their computers up to date and running smoothly.  As I have done this, I have noticed something.  Computers get cluttered.  Quickly.

For some reason I often think that computers actually simplify our lives and help us de-clutter.   We can get rid of files and organize things in lists and spreadsheets (super fun).  We don’t even need to own real CD’s or books, right?  Truth is, computers often just add to the clutter.  I am beginning to think of my computer in the same way as my basement storage room.  If I don’t re-organize often and stay on top of the clutter, things can get out of control in a hurry.  Files, pictures, music, videos, apps, calendars, address books, backup files, backup disks, backups for backup discs, etc…   Add on top of that the reality of smart phones, tablets, and keeping everything in sync, it can become a huge headache.  Despite huge leaps forward in technology over the last 10 years, keeping everything straight and organized is only getting harder.

Typically, that is when my friends call me.  They need help cleaning up their Mac, getting it to run faster, and keeping everything in sync.  Aside from the technical aspects of syncing and a general knowledge of the many options there are for various applications and tuning up a computer… this mostly just takes time.   It’s eerily similar to cleaning up the basement storage room.  You need to take each box and decide whether to get rid it, use it, or file it away and keep it in the storage room.

Lately I’ve been thinking this applies to my schedule as well.  When I first switched to the stay at home dad gig, I was utterly amazed at my open schedule.  I still find myself a bit giddy on Sunday night when I just sit down to watch a TV show (instead of being at Youth Group), but I am amazed at how much my daily schedule has filled up.  More clutter.

I do a pretty good job of keeping ahead of the clutter on my computers.  My basement and my schedule might be different stories.  So… how do I stay ahead of the clutter, whether in the storage room, on my computer, or in my schedule?  How do you?