Radical Good News

Have you heard the good news about one? No? Well, here it is. One is enough.

I know, I know! It’s weird and it rails against everything that our current culture is trying to convince us of. It goes hand-in-hand with the news that you are enough, but we’ll get into that another time. Right now it might be tricky to accept that one is enough.

One what? One car! One mortgage! One kid!

Oh, I’m sure that last one got your attention, but let’s start at the beginning here. We sold our second car after I quit my banking job so that we wouldn’t have to pay for insurance on it. There was no car loan attached to it, so having it sitting in our driveway wasn’t hurting anything, exactly, but it wasn’t helping us in any way either. We put minimal gas in it since we rarely drove it, but when we went from two incomes to one, things needed to change. And fast.

So we sold it! And it was awesome and suddenly we only had to pay insurance for one car and that was really, really nice.

I’m sure most people out there are in the same boat we are of having to have a mortgage. Unfortunately we didn’t have the cash on hand to buy our house outright (hopefully next time!) so we pay monthly for our home. As normal and accepted as this is it really stinks! The worst part of it is that many people have not one mortgage, but two – the second in the form of either a traditional mortgage or a home equity line/loan.

When I was in banking we were strongly encouraged to make a lot of HELOCs (home equity line/loans). They’re fast, easy, and have a wonderful collateral in your home. Also – the rates on home equity lines are variable and nothing is better for the bank than the ability to raise rates on money owed to them. Anyway, a lot of people who applied for and received these loans weren’t using the money for life or death situations. They were financing boats, vacations, additions to their homes, or even things like motor homes. In fact, we were encouraged to ask customers if they had any interest in updating their homes. If they did, boom, sounds like you need a HELOC.

No, no you don’t. I’m here to tell you that I think a second mortgage of any kind is not a great idea. Oh, sure, there are arguments for them and wonderful reasons that you might really need the money, but because you want a bigger kitchen? Or to go to Hawaii? Let’s all take a deep breath and think about it.

Ok, now for the doozy. I’m convinced, as are some other like-minded people, that having one kid is fine. In fact, it’s more than fine. It’s awesome!

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The end.

No, I’m kidding. I do want to delve deeper into this in another post though, so here’s the skinny of it.

Only having one child is not for everybody and, in fact, isn’t always an easy decision. But now, with C almost 5, I want to tell you that it’s pretty nice. Even though she was not an easy baby it was very hard for me to give up on my dream that I’d always had of having multiple children. (My body giving out was part of the reason we don’t have a second child, but we could have pushed through that with medical intervention.) I remember talking to Bruce when C was almost two and getting him on board with having another kid. Even then there was a small voice in the back of my head questioning if that was the right decision for our family, but in true bullheaded fashion I plunged ahead.

Although we live below our means and hope to not spend nearly as much money raising C as common thought assumes we will (around 250K plus college!) kids are still expensive. They cost money and they cost time. This fall C will go to kindergarten so we won’t have her preschool bill to pay, but there’s still insurance and food. We hopped onto a hand-me-down train as fast as we could and have spent a grand total of under $50 on clothes for her this far, but not everybody is as lucky.

Having one child means funding one college account. It means the occasional meal out and spur-of-the-moment trips to get ice cream. Most importantly, it means undivided attention and the knowledge of a secure future for her.

Is one enough for you? That’s the question you’ll have to ask yourself. Dig deep. Convention screams at us everyday that more is better and that more will make you happier. Challenge that assumption. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right. I feel like people are moving away from the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality and it makes me so happy to see. Find your happy and live it.

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Today’s Grace

I have found that – as much as I adore my to-do list – I tend to give it enough power to dictate the mood of my day. I love seeing little x’s next to each of my tasks and find an incredible sense of relief and accomplishment at the end of each day when I have completed all of the “necessary” things.

So what happens when I don’t?

Yesterday was the kind of perfect day that seems to only come around once in a while. C and I spent hours outside together. We ran around, picked flowers, weeded, and played Eye Spy while watching the clouds go by. She swang, rode her tricycle and scooter and sang while I weeded (some more. This time with a glass of wine while I did it.). For part of the time though, I knew that the laundry was about to be done. It was the last thing on my to-do list and I really wanted to put an x next to it before Bruce got home.

Our dryer is in the garage and I heard it buzz right as C asked me to watch how fast she could ride her tricycle up the hill. I paused. On one hand I really wanted to check off my final task. On the other…

I gave myself grace yesterday by leaving a basket full of clean laundry sitting by the dining room table. And what did I find this morning? It hadn’t moved, and neither did the world fall apart. Life kept on just as it had – or perhaps even better. Bruce came home, we ate dinner and tucked C into bed. I walked past the overflowing basket no fewer than a dozen times last night and didn’t bat an eye.

We need to give ourselves the gift of grace every single day. Every interaction you have with another person is a chance to show them grace, forgiveness, and love. What I sometimes forget (and maybe you do, too) is that I need to show myself the same compassion that I am happy to show others. Unfolded laundry will not ruin the day. Nobody is perfect, and leaving a basket of clothes to do another day does not reflect on who I am as a person. I would never be angry with Bruce for choosing to play with C over folding underwear and I need to give myself the same respect and compassion.

This, of course, is easier said than done. But I would bet that in the course of an average day everyone has the chance to give themselves grace more than once. I challenge you, and myself, to accept the grace offered. Let the laundry wait. Serve brinner instead of a fancy meal if you just can’t cook anymore. Paint your toenails and take a bubble bath. Take care of yourself and treat yourself how you’d treat others (the new Golden Rule).

Kids: Less Stuff, More Time

Disclaimer: I won’t pretend for one moment to be an expert on children. We have one daughter and I have worked as a preschool teacher for six years and I still definitely have not seen it all. With that in mind I’ll tell you something that works pretty well for us: the great outdoors.

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It seems like every day I’m bombarded with information about what I should be doing with C. This comes, for the most part, from well-meaning parents at work or church. Karate? Art? Swimming? T-ball? Preschool time at the library? What do you mean there are days you don’t leave the house during the summer? What do you do with C?

Phew. What do I do with C? Well, we read, paint, snuggle, and build. Then we bake, play outside, ride bikes, and run. C loves to exercise with me and chase the dogs around the back yard. Last summer she perfected climbing our giant mountain laurel. She helps plant potatoes, weed, and pick vegetables and fruit. We love to can and dehydrate and she’s in the thick of it. When it’s raining she’ll throw on boots and grab her umbrella and go find huge puddles. There is nothing wrong with structured activities. When C gets older I’m planning on giving her piano lessons. But not yet. She’s 4.

Some of my fondest memories growing up were taking the dog and heading out into the woods behind our house for a few hours. The only rule was that if my parents called my name I’d better come running.

So we instituted this same rule with C. She knows that she’s free to spend all afternoon stalking birds, digging holes, and climbing trees as long as she comes when we called. We always send a dog (or two!) out with her and keep an eye on them from either the window or the garden. The best thing we’ve done since buying this house was having a fence put up. It was expensive but worth the peace of mind.

Unfortunately, the amounts of toys and activities that a child has seem to be the new measure of their happiness. This morning we’re going to a birthday party for one of C’s friends. To prepare her for the inevitable present-opening envy we had the “stuff” discussion. The gist of it is this: Your friend will be opening a lot of gifts today. I know that they will look really cool and you might want them, but don’t envy his gifts. Do you need anything? Do you want anything?

She answered “no” to both of those questions. Now, whether or not she remembers her cool-headed answers in the excitement of the party remains to be seen. (She sure didn’t when she was picking out a gift for her friend and wanted one too because it is so cool and I don’t have one what do you mean it’s not my birthday??) But Bruce and I both believe that kids don’t need as much stuff as everyone thinks they do. Rather, they need time. Time outside, time to play by themselves, and time with people who love them.

In C’s world she sees all the new shiny things her friends have – backpacks, lunchboxes, Frozen gummies – and she has to struggle with being happy for her friends while at the same time being grateful for what she has. This is difficult! As an adult it’s also easy to have a pang of envy over friends’ new toys – the Xbox One, a fast car, the whirlwind trip – but we have the benefit of understand that our financial goals are more important than keeping up with the Joneses.

Gratitude is something that both Bruce and I both practice every day, and it’s no different for kids. We like to talk about what she’s thankful for each day and about how blessed she is to have all the things she has – a house, food, a family who loves her, and – yes – toys. Is the process perfect? Not by far. But I think we’re making headway. And hopefully, when all is said and done, we’ll have a raised a child who values experiences over things and understands how amazing our world truly is.

Appreciating the Daily Things: An Ode to Our Roof

We had a tree fall on our house towards the end of December. We were in the middle of an awesome thunderstorm when suddenly the house shook more than usual with a crack of thunder. I woke Bruce up and we rushed outside with flashlights and found a tree. It had fallen on our roof, taken off the eaves along the whole side, and landed on the ground/fence/hose. Luckily nobody was hurt, but C did spend a handful of nights with my parents while we had her room dried out. (Three times. We had to have her room dried out three times!)

We had already been in the market for a new roof since our old one had sprung a few leaks, but the tree expedited the process. Thank goodness for good insurance, because a month later we were sitting pretty under a beautiful new roof.

We learned a few things during this time that amazed me – especially how much we took our old leaky roof for granted! I have never been more thankful than I am now that we live in a home with a solid roof over our head. Even before the tree fell when it was leaking, causing Bruce to climb up into the attic during every rain to adjust buckets and plastic sheets, we were still kept (mostly) dry. Looking back on the whole process (tears, wine, and wanting to shake our insurance company included) I learned a couple of really important things.

1 – It’s easy to get accustomed to less-than-steller conditions. C’s room had a massive stain on it and sagged for over a month while we waited to have it fixed. Our fence is still crushed as we try to get a reasonable quote on repairing it. We had insulation hanging from the ceiling during this whole time, and water poured in through that hole each time we had a hard rainstorm. At first, these were all eyesores and I grimaced every time I saw them. But, as time went on, I noticed them less and less. Suddenly I looked past them and they stopped bothering me as much. It’s amazing, as humans, how quickly we adapt. What I learned from this is to repair quickly! The longer things sit broken, messy, or out of place, the easier is is to allow them to stay that way.

2 – I am so, so glad to have a house that keeps us safe and dry. Admittedly, I’ve cringed during the last few wind/rain storms we’ve had – because I know how horrible the whole experience of getting your home fixed is – but not worrying about rain coming into our home? Awesome. Knowing that limbs may fall on our house but unless it’s a giant tree again nothing bad will happen? Such a blessing. The size and location of your home stop mattering as much as soon as you realize that the importance lies in its ability to keep you safe and dry.

3 – Having family nearby to help with a child is quite honestly one of the best things ever. Without my parents being happy to let C sleep at their house multiple nights we would have been setting up an air mattress in the living room and letting her sleep in our bed. Obviously this would not have been the end of the world, but in terms of comfort and familiarity, nothing beats grandma and grandpa. Looking back, returning to my hometown after college made sense at the time. I love the mountains, didn’t want to be in a big city, and was able to find a well-paying job. Now that we have C and are a little older I’m able to see how grateful and happy I am to have my parents nearby. Not only are they people too, but they’re really awesome.

I wouldn’t recommend waiting for a huge tree to fall on your home to practice gratitude for the often overlooked things (like a roof!) in your life. It’s amazing how, if we slow down and look around, we truly are surrounded by huge blessings.