NatureAmy

caring for creation while caring for family

Month: January 2017

Why my kids don’t have many toys…

OK, OK, this makes me sound like the Grinch.

I promise, my kids have plenty of toys, they really do.  However, compared to most families we know, regardless of income, my three kids don’t have many toys.  But before you start donating all your unwanted toys to our house, let me just clarify – this is completely intentional…

There really are two main reasons we don’t have a lot of toys for our three (soon to be four) children,  The first is that about two years ago, I made the very intentional choice to severely cut back on our belongings.  This was not a sudden decision – it was actually very gradual and you can read about it here.

We live in a small house, so we don’t have a play room.  Our living room is naturally where the kids play. During that time, our living room went from looking like this – home of all the toys…

Our living room at Addamay's first birthday party.  This was after we started decluttering, but before we found a solution to toys stored in our living room.

Our living room at Addamay’s first birthday party. This was after we started decluttering, but before we found a solution to toys stored in our living room.

to this.

Our living room in a rare moment when there are not Lego creations in progress.  We've done some rearranging since the previous photo, as well.

Our living room in a rare moment when there are not Lego creations in progress. We’ve done some rearranging since the previous photo, as well.

Where did all the toys go?  Well, a lot of them were donated.  The rest mostly live here on this one bookshelf in the hallway.

The November Minimalist Challenge - getting rid of stuff - NatureAmy.com

Toys accumulate so quickly if you have several kids. This was our shelf after decluttering this summer.

We also have a big box of Legos, a Lego display small bookshelf in the kids’ room to keep their creations, and a few things in our large pantry and garage that act as a toy library.

The second reason we don’t have many toys is because when my two boys were little my sister Ella read the book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Dr. Kim John Payne.  I have since read it, but when she read it she went into great detail about his philosophy on toys and play and I was absolutely fascinated by it!  (My sister and I spend a lot of time on the phone together each week and like to talk about anything and everything!)

I started to implement some of Dr. Paynes strategies then – the first one I embraced was that toys should not do anything for the child. Toys that do too much squelch the imagination – so out with the noise toys!  Yes! (I really was looking for any reason to get rid of that stupid singing alphabet caterpillar!)  Instead, we stick to “old fashioned” non-electronic toys, like blocks, Legos, Play-Doh, and wooden trains.

And do you know what we’ve found?  Our kids play longer, fight less, and enjoy the toys they have more when they own less.  Too many toys can be overstimulating for kids.  But when we purposefully pare down what they have to play with – keeping only their favorites and the ones that use the most imagination – they are actually happier, calmer, and more content.


Dr Payne’s research is really quite amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to simplify their children’s lives.  His prescription to his clients to simplify their children’s environment has helped with behavioral issues, ADHD, and anxiety, among other things.  In most of his case studies, the children’s symptoms disappeared entirely! He suggests that most people need to reduce their children’s toys by about 75%.  He uses the following guidelines to reduce the toy clutter:

  1. Get rid of broken toys- pretty simple
  2. Get rid of “fixed” toys – toys that don’t trigger the imagination (character toys from TV shows or movies fall under this category)
  3. Developmentally inappropriate toys – is this too mature or too immature?
  4. Annoying toys – if you can’t stand it, he gives you permission to toss it.  I love this one!
  5. Complicated toys, battery operated toys, toys that break easily.
  6. Commercial toys – ones that you were pressured to buy because everyone must have it.
  7. Toys that cause the kids to fight or interact unhealthily

So what toys do we keep?  Toys that encourage the imagination.  Think blocks, dolls, dress up clothes, craft items, wooden trains.

I love watching my kids create their own little worlds.

I love watching my kids create their own little worlds.

Your son doesn’t need a police car with a real siren – he can make the noise himself!  She doesn’t need a doll that cries or talks or poops – her imagination can do that very well.

My boys do occasionally beg for toys they see their friends have.  For instance, they really want bullets for their Nerf guns, but I won’t get them for them.  (I tossed them all a couple years ago.) You see, when we had bullets, they spent more time trying to find them and asking me to help them find them than they actually spent playing.  However, I know they can spend hours playing with their toy guns fighting off imaginary bad guys in some elaborate story.  But if they have to stop to find Nerf bullets, the game stops.  I’m sure you have similar stories of how your kids imaginatio

n has just stopped because a toy does too much.

The toys that made the cut at our house:

Legos

Mega Blocks

Magformers              

Some of the toy cars and trucks and racing tracks

Wooden trains and tracks

Bean-bag animal stuffed toys (these are a surprising hit and the kids can play for hours in their animal world)

Play-dough – I make my own play-dough and we use a variety of tools to play

Melissa and Doug Castle Blocks and knights and dragons

Melissa and Doug puzzles

Marble Run tracks

Pirate ships

A few toy guns and foam swords – nothing realistic looking

Baby dolls, baby carriage, clothes, and accessories

Toy kitchen, toy table/chairs, cookware, food, picnic basket, and tea pot

Dress-up clothes

Art and craft supplies – these live in our homeschool room

Children’s books and board games – these live in the closet

When I write it up like that, it does seem like a pretty long list, but it does include three kids of different genders, ages 2-8.  Plus, it mostly fits on one IKEA shelf bolted to the wall in the hall.  I keep a few items, like our toy kitchen and large trucks, on the back porch.  And a few items are stored in the garage or our large pantry.

Our toy kitchen and table live outside in the rain and sun, but it works well for our small space and mild winters.

Our toy kitchen and table live outside in the rain and sun, but it works well for our small space and mild winters.


Does anyone else get Toy Story guilt when you donate (or toss) a toy?  Oh my goodness, that movie has scarred me for life!  LOL! Nevertheless, I bit the bullet and tried not to think too much about it when I donated Buzz Lightyear! Sorry, Buzz, but hopefully you’re getting played with at your new home!toy-story-3

I also am that mom that usually does not include her kids in the donating decisions.  I don’t know about your kids, but mine go into full blown hysterics over the thought of giving away ANY of their toys – even toys they have NEVER played with!  However, if I donate the toys I know they don’t play with anymore while they are asleep, they are not upset by it.  They usually don’t even notice.

On the couple occasions that they have noticed something missing, I explain that I gave it away to a kid that didn’t have many toys so they could play with it.  Sometimes, a couple tears were shed by my 6 year old who is very sensitive, but he got over it quickly and was happy to know it went to a good home.

If there are toys that I’m not sure about, I often move them to a shelf in the garage.  Sometimes I will add them back into the toy rotation.  Other times, if they are forgotten for 6 months or more, I donate them.


So, what do you do about toys at your house?  Are they taking over or have you found a good balance that works for you?  I’d love to hear about it!

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Why We’re Switching to a Home Birth

In my last pregnancy update, I hinted at a big change in our birth plan coming up.  As you can see from the title, we’ve decided to switch from a hospital birth to a home birth.

I have always wanted a home birth with a midwife.  My mother had four of her five kids at home with a doctor or midwife.  I was her first home birth and I love the pictures of her and my dad and newborn me snuggled up on the bed, cozy and comfortable at home.

I’m a homebody, an introvert, and I hate hospitals.  With my three previous hospital births, I have always requested an early release and have checked out of the hospital about 12 hours after giving birth each time.  I just want to be home, in my own bed, being cared for by my mom.  No nurses coming in at all hours.  No loud sounds from the hospital coming through the walls.  No uncomfortable hospital beds.  I want to be home.

I love my bedroom - it's bright and cheery, uncluttered, and it makes me happy. I can't imagine a better place to give birth!

I love my bedroom – it’s bright and cheery, uncluttered, and it makes me happy. (This post was a perfect opportunity for a mini-tour!) I can’t imagine a better place to give birth!

I also love the relationships that you get with a midwife.  I’ve had midwives for my last two hospital births and they were both great.  However, I delivered with a midwife group, so there was very little, if any, prior interaction with my midwives.  My mom developed a wonderful friendship with the midwife that delivered my little sisters. I crave that.

My husband and I had discussed paying out of pocket for a home birth before we knew we were expecting this little one.  He was completely supportive of the idea. However, I felt somewhat selfish and guilty for spending all that money on what I wanted.  We could use that money to help pay off our school debt faster. We could use that money for a family trip to Disneyland.  I knew what I wanted, but I couldn’t get over feeling selfish about it.

I love my poppy print!

I love my poppy print!


My husband has good insurance coverage with his work and we are very blessed by the generosity of his employer, but we are limited to one insurance group and hospital.  (Not the hospital based birth center that I’ve delivered my last 2 kids in – which I loved.) I’ve been happy with my care and our family doctors, however, I have had many friends deliver at the hospital we have to use, and I know that it is NOT my ideal birth environment.

I’ve had a friend who has had two of her births at that hospital all-naturally, so I was encouraged that it was, indeed, possible.  She had to fight a bit and sign some liability forms, but she was able to get the natural birth she wanted.  So, I was prepared to fight to make the situation work.

However, a couple weeks ago, I decided to call to make sure that everything we thought was covered by our insurance plan (which said it covered all prenatal appointments, etc.) was actually covered.  I learned that although all my appointments, labs, tests, etc were completely covered by our insurance before meeting our high deductible, the actual birth was not.  We would have to pay our full deductible before they would cover the rest of our labor, delivery, and hospital fees.  So, I learned, that it would actually be significantly cheaper for us to pay out of pocket for a home birth instead of using the hospital.

I was really excited! The search for a midwife started immediately!

I love this verse from Song of Solomen 8:6

I love this verse from Song of Solomon 8:6

We live in a more rural area, so finding a midwife that delivers here, even when only a couple months pregnant, can be a challenge.  But I had the additional challenge of finding a midwife that delivered locally AND had availability in just TWO short months!  After making a lot of calls, I finally found a midwife team who could take me.  I set up a meeting with them the following week.

Before the meeting, I prayed that God would give me a feeling of peace if this was the right place for me.  In previous pregnancies, I’ve met with providers before that I was not comfortable with.  I couldn’t tell you why, but I had an uneasy feeling after our meetings.  I didn’t want that to be the case with this meeting, but I prayed for God to make it abundantly clear to me.  And it was.

The two midwives work together, are licensed and certified, of course, and have birthed over 1000 babies between them.  The meeting was relaxing and peaceful.  Addamay played happily and I talked about my previous births and why I wanted a home birth.  I felt comfortable and at complete peace with the situation.


Now it’s time to get serious!  In the next few weeks I’ll be ordering the supplies for my home birth kit, picking up one of the birthing tubs that they provide for their clients, and generally getting everything ready for our birth!

I'm planning to make my bedroom prayer corner my birth place. The table and chair will move temporarily to make room for the birthing tub.

I’m planning to make my bedroom prayer corner my birth place. The table and chair will move temporarily to make room for the birthing tub.

I’ve had friends tell me I’m brave for not having the option of pain relief during labor, but really I’m not worried about it at all.

God created women to give birth.  It is completely natural and something that women have been doing since the beginning.  I’ve given birth completely drug free twice already and my third birth was my easiest yet.

Of course, some women have high risk pregnancies and really should give birth in a hospital setting.  I, thankfully, do not fall into this category.  I have very easy pregnancies and somewhat easy births (not counting the useless interventions in my first birth).  I don’t think any birth is exactly “easy”.

I am not afraid of not having an epidural.  I’ve given birth with an epidural and without – I much prefer doing it without – but, that is a post for another day…


So – that’s our big news!  I’m so excited that I’ll be finally getting the home birth I’ve always wanted!

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My THM Pregnancy: 32 weeks

With the holidays, I have fallen behind on my blogging to spend time with my family. This also means that I’ve fallen behind on my pregnancy updates! It’s been 9 weeks since my last one!

As far as my pregnancy goes, these last couple months have been mostly uneventful. My checkups have all gone smoothly, my tests have all been perfect, and my doctor’s only complaint has been my weight gain.

A bump picture from our family photos at 25 weeks pregnant.

A bump picture from our family photos at 25 weeks pregnant.

Unfortunately, I seem to be one of those pregnant women, who no matter how healthily they eat, still gain about the same as my other pregnancies. I was hoping, since I eat THM now, don’t eat sugar, and stay on plan most the time, that I would only gain 20 lbs, instead of my normal 40. However, I am definitely on track for gaining 40 lbs again.

I could be really upset by this, or I could choose to be happy that my baby is growing well and that I am healthy. I’ve decided to choose the latter. However, I was really annoyed at my doctor for bringing it up! Who wants to hear that they’re gaining “too much” weight, right? Not me!


32week_wimpAm I a Pregnancy Wimp?

This pregnancy has brought more heartburn than my others (maybe this baby will actually have hair????) and it’s made me realize that I’m a total pregnancy wimp. I know many women who have heartburn almost constantly during pregnancy and I only have it occasionally. However, I HATE it! I would seriously rather go through labor than a night of heartburn that won’t go away.  I admire those women so much for putting up with it for months! You are true pregnancy heroines!

Another thing that makes me a pregnancy wimp?  I usually sleep really well, even in pregnancy, but when I don’t – I’m a complete grump!  I know many friends who have aches and pains and trouble sleeping much of the 40 weeks, but for me, missing one good night of sleep is frustrating.

I finally had to break out my pregnancy pillow – my Snoogle. My husband hates it – he’s not a fan of the big pillow wall between us, so I try not to use it. I didn’t use it in my 3rd pregnancy at all. But, after several nights of waking up sore, I decided I needed it again. It did the trick! I don’t need it every night, but when I’m feeling especially achy, it helps me get a good night’s sleep.

Real life trying to take blog pictures at my house! Addamay trying to drag me away and some laundry in process down the hall...

Real life trying to take blog pictures at my house! Addamay trying to drag me away and some laundry in process down the hall…

Now, if I could only get my 2 year old to sleep consistently through the night, I would have no night time complaints! Please pray with me that she starts sleeping solidly every night before the baby comes. She has been my toughest sleeper. All my others slept solidly through the night from 12 months on (often 9 months), but she is inconsistent. Some nights she sleeps just fine – others, not so much!


My growing bump at 26, 30, and 31 weeks!

My growing bump at 26, 30, and 31 weeks!

We had some exciting changes to our birth plan come up, but that is news for another post!  Can’t wait to tell you all about it soon!  Any guesses as to what it might be?

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My One Year Blogiversary: What I’ve learned from my first year…

Today is the 1 year anniversary of starting my NatureAmy blog and what a year it has been!

I started writing to have an outlet that was just mine.  For the first time since becoming a mom almost 8 years before, I was switching from working part-time to being a full-time stay at home mom.  And although I was happy about that, I wanted an outlet that was just mine.

amy_addamay2016As much as I love motherhood, it can become all consuming – so much so that I find myself needing an outlet that is all my own.  When I taught college classes part time, that was a great outlet. However, after 3 kids and full time homeschooling two of them, working outside the home, even for only 10 hours a week, was too much.  So I became a full-time SAHM and started a lifestyle/mommy blog.

And I’ve loved it!  It’s been a hard year for me emotionally, but being able to write about it has been very healing.  I’ve also found that writing is so much like teaching.  I’m a teacher and encourager at heart and I’ll never get away from that.

I’ve evolved from writing two or three posts per week, to taking two months off from writing in the summer, and eventually settling in at posting about once per week.

family2016I wish I could write more consistently – I love reading bloggers who post several days every week – but I realized that that is not realistic in my current season.  I’m homeschooling 1st and 3rd grade, keeping up with a very independent toddler, and about to add a 4th baby to the mix.  My husband works 80 hour weeks during the school year and we try to keep everything running smoothly at our house (emphasis on TRY – it is far from smooth most weeks!).


So… just for fun, let’s look at some of my stats and most popular posts this year.  I have been blown away by the visitation and love that this site has received the last 12 months!

Total site visitation: just under 50,000 – I can hardly fathom that number!  I know for many more popular blogs that is a monthly or weekly stat, but I am humbled that my blog has been visited so many times!

  1. My most popular post is my Weeks Worth of Trim Healthy Mama Camping Meal Ideas Camping with THM: A week's worth of on-plan menu ideas - perfect for a family camping trip - NatureAmy.com
  2.  But coming in just slightly under it is my Healthy Blueberry Scones Fuel Pull recipe – Downton Abbey inspired.  All my scone recipes are popular (and yummy) but this one tops them all.Downton-night-1
  3. My third most popular post is my personal Trim Healthy Mama Testimony.beforeand-after-thm

Enough stats – personally, my favorite three posts (even though they don’t rank so high in post views) are the following.

  1. My very first blog story (after my introduction post) – Glitter in the Snow.  I love this touching story about how our kids are the light and hope in this dark world.Does the darkness of the world seem to be too much? Here is some hope - some glitter - in the dark. - Natureamy.com
  2. My testimony about not having a testimony – When you feel like you don’t have a testimony…  The Facebook shares of this one really humbled me.When it seems that everyone else has an amazing story to tell of how God saved them from disaster, but you've been a Christian forever... But you DO have a beautiful testimony of God's faithfulness. -- NatureAmy.com
  3. And finally, our family tips on hiking with little kids – or how to NOT carry them the entire way…Tips for hiking with little kids, without carrying them the entire way. Written by long-distance backpacker parents who love to hike! NatureAmy.com

Some things I’ve learned that have pleasantly surprised me:

There is a wonderful and supportive world of bloggers out there that I never knew existed!  I’ve made friendships all over the United States, and even some beyond, with women who also blog.  I’ve never been one to have digital relationships before – everyone I was friends with on Facebook I actually knew in person – but I’ve found a kinship with these women and it has really blessed me!

Instagram is a very surprising place.  I never had an Instagram account before I opened my @amylovesnature page.  I’ve found it to be a great tool in the blogging world and have formed most my friendships with other bloggers through it.  It is also a much more pleasant social media outlet during political season!

E-courses can be a valuable connection tool.  I purchased an e-course from Natalie of At Home With Natalie about blogging.  It has been a very valuable tool.  However, the thing I found most useful is the connections it has brought to other like minded bloggers.  I use her Blogging E-course for Moms.  And she often has discounts!


So, overall, I’ve learned a lot this year.  But I’ve also learned to find my groove, be completely and unapologetically myself, and not focus on page views and site stats.  I’ve made a little bit of money (enough to pay for a replacement part to fix my nice camera), gotten overwhelmed by statistics and numbers (my post on why I don’t want a successful blog speaks about that one) , and eventually stepped back from it all to find a place that works for me.  Rethinking what it means to be successful in the blogging world when you want to encourage simpler living and consuming less.

Maybe someday I’ll be a “successful” blogger with really great site stats and viral posts who makes enough money to support my family… but for now, I’m happy where I’m at.  God has blessed me so much in this journey so far and I’m happy to be along for the ride!

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