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Simplicity, stress and other relative things

It’s been nuts in my house since late summer. That’s when my husband and I decided to act on our long-nagging desire to shake things up by paring things down. Things, literally, as in possessions. (It’s been non-stop Craigslisting, Freecycling and donating around here.) But also things in the greater cosmic sense: stress, expenses, responsibilities.

We’re trading our big old house for a loft in a former warehouse downtown. My husband just started a new job close to the new place. We’re ditching the second car. More being. Less doing. That’s the idea, anyway.

We have several months yet until we move, and plenty more to do. So when Tess wanted an ice-skating party for her 8th birthday, it was a huge relief. We’ve run the gamut on parties — from small home celebrations to a “Little House”-themed bash in a log cabin — but this year, the simpler, the better.

So we rented our city’s outdoor rink. Everyone brought their families. And we celebrated our Winter Solstice girl on a clear, gorgeous late December day. No gifts, no favors, no elaborate party fare. (And I’ve been known to put the “labor” in “elaborate.”) We collected donations for the city’s animal shelter. I made snowflake gingerbread cookies (on sticks! using a variation on this recipe). We had clementines and water and hot cocoa. And everyone had all kinds of fun.

Hot cocoa story: We ordered from our local grocer. They make it on-site, then pour it into those nifty to-go boxes with spouts, the ones that stay hot for a few hours. And because I asked (and paid a few extra bucks), they were happy to sub local organic milk for the milk they usually use. Some people see that as fussy. I see it as simple. Asked. Accepted. Who ever said this stuff has to be stressful? (It doesn’t.) 

On that same note: Before she settled on ice skating, Tess lobbied for a party at a local indoor play center. And so I called and had one of those conversations I often have. Me: “We’d like to bring our own food, please.” Play center staffer: “Do you have a concern about allergies?” Me: “No, we just don’t eat the kind of food you serve.” Staffer: “Outside food is against our policy (followed by an explanation that blamed a non-existent state law).”

Well, that led to a phone call with the owner, and wouldn’t you know it? Easy-peasy. After I explained that we don’t eat the highly processed junk they typically serve (OK, not in those exact words), he offered to get whatever food we wanted and prepare it in their kitchen. I was all set to order fruit and veggie trays when Tess changed her mind. But I like knowing that’s an option for the future.

BTW, all this rightsizing and rethinking is why it’s been so quiet on Spoonfed the last several months. But that’s not part of the simplification. Quite the opposite. I’m hoping these changes free up even more time for blogging and the thinky pieces I like so much. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep things lively over on Facebook (where I get my micro-blogging fix). And look for a new post next month that will help get Spoonfed back on track.

Happy 2012, all.

Spoonfed is on Facebook. You’ll find links to blog posts, news and commentary on raising food-literate kids, questions and comments from readers, voices, viewpoints, the works. Stop by, like the page, chime in, spread the word. (Thanks.)

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{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Meridith January 9, 2012, 12:44 pm

    I love the idea of no gifts for kid’s birthday parties. My daughter (4 years old) has her birthday in November and it’s really disgusting the amount of stuff she gets between that and Christmas (I’m a part of the problem, I know). But I was thinking when she’s older and having parties with her friends it would be nice to just say no gifts. What a relief as a parent to get an invitation that doesn’t involve trudging to the store to pick out a toy for a kid you don’t really know and have no idea what they already have/want.

  • Meridith January 9, 2012, 12:45 pm

    Also, I’m dreading the whole “no outside food” policy. I understand that they are a business and that’s how they make money…….but, I don’t want to feed my kid garbage. Ugh!

    • Christina January 9, 2012, 12:47 pm

      But, Meridith, you don’t have to! Ask!

      • Meridith January 9, 2012, 1:15 pm

        Oh yes, for sure. But I feel like I will kind of be forced to lie about an allergy in order to get my way. We don’t do meat/dairy/added oils so there are few places that could even accomodate (to my standards anyway). I hate feeling like a pain in the butt, but when it comes to my kid there’s nothing I wouldn’t do. :) Even lie, I guess!

        • Christina January 9, 2012, 1:42 pm

          Meridith, I didn’t lie about anything. I simply explained that we don’t eat the kind of food they serve. (Not because of allergies, but because of ingredients.) He was very accommodating. That’s my whole point — we often tend to worry unnecessarily. Sometimes all you have to do is ask. It doesn’t have to be stressful!

          • Meridith January 9, 2012, 2:52 pm

            You’re right – I’m letting past experiences taint future ones that haven’t happened yet. Thank you for the perspective (and attitude) check! :)

  • Terri January 9, 2012, 1:00 pm

    Minimizing! Yay for you! Seems like people who eat real food end up decluttering and vice versa…the two go hand in hand. I would love to hear more about your journey, any difficult decisions to get rid of something? how did you handle Christmas? And VERY nice to know that the bouncy places would accomodate your request for non processed food. I have been to a few of those parties and it is just disgusting what they serve.

    • Christina January 9, 2012, 10:18 pm

      Terri, that’s the funny thing. We have shed an incredible amount of stuff, and we don’t miss any of it. None! The more we ditch, the lighter we feel. It’s very liberating. There haven’t been too many sentimental moments, except with a few of my daughter’s things. And so I just went with my gut and kept those. But, overall, we’ve been pretty ruthless. Christmas was definitely lower-key than usual, and my husband and I skipped gifts for each other altogether. But Tess was still one happy kid come Christmas morning.

  • Kira January 9, 2012, 1:11 pm

    I’ve been missing your posts… I was going to drop you a line to see how things were going and then this showed up! Glad to see things are progressing toward simplification for you. (I’ve been shamelessly filling the lists over on the re-use-it forum today, myself.)

  • Alissa January 9, 2012, 1:31 pm

    I love the idea of simplification, and the no-gift birthday! My daughter’s birthday is in December, and between that, hannukah, and christmas, she doesn’t even know what new stuff she has – all it’s done is add so much clutter to our house. At least we got lucky and had her party in a place that didn’t provide any food, so the menu was all up to me :)

  • Bethesda Locavore January 9, 2012, 10:34 pm

    Good for you! Both for the asking about food and the downsizing. I hope you post updates on your downsizing/move …

  • Mary January 12, 2012, 9:18 am

    This is so inspiring! I am looking forward to reading about your process of this big move to smaller. Lead the way!


  • Justine @The Lone Home Ranger January 18, 2012, 10:26 pm

    We went with the idea of three gifts from Santa this year (something to read, wear, and play with), and it ended up being a great idea because our tree was still crammed with gifts from relatives. My daughter turns four in April, and I have been wondering what to do about the presents and goody bags. She doesn’t know the difference yet, so I’m happy to be able to start off on the right foot. Thanks for blazing the frugality trail.

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