Christ-Like Minimalism

Christ-Like Minimalism: Toys

Oh dear, this post is difficult.

For those of you without children, you probably won’t be interested, and I’ll see you next time.  For those of you with children, here we go.

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An Oxymoron

Does it seem like an oxymoron to anyone else, to put the three words Christ-Like, Minimalism, and Toys in the same sentence?  Uh, yeah.  Because it is.

Nevertheless, as Chesterton reminds us, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”*  So, we have too many toys.  Let’s look at the situation and see what we can do.

It’s Complicated (i.e. An Excuse)

First of all, we need to acknowledge that this is a complicated situation.  I can think of four reasons why this is so.

  1. We practically live in the Arctic Circle, therefore we need some toys, lest we die of boredom while we’re trapped in our houses for ten months of the year.
  2. We homeschool, therefore we need some educational toys.
  3. We don’t own a traditional TV, therefore we need some board games and the like.
  4. Our extended families are generous, and we do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

That said, we need to learn detachment, and less is always better.  Nobody wants their children to be greedy or have an attitude of entitlement.  So in our household, we have a simple rule:

If something comes in, then something goes out.

Let me illustrate that.  If Grandma makes a quilt for my son, then another blanket in our house goes out.  If my little girl gets a doll for her birthday, then she must give one of her previous dolls away.  (Or she may give the new doll away too.)  If a new game comes in the house, then an old, unused game must be given away.  Ect, ect.

In order to do this, one must have already purged to a point where no more is needed to give away.  For example, you must determine how many of each kind of toy your child actually “needs.”  If Suzy has 15 dolls, then that’s likely too many.  Find a number that hurts just a little and go with it.  Then when Aunt Sally gives her a new one, she must choose.

In our house, we decided two dolls per girl.  This has worked well, and the girls get it.  But even two dolls per girl gets to be a lot.  We have four girls after all!

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Here are the girls’ dolls.  We are actually one doll short of the maximum allowed.

So just what do we keep?

It depends on what you call “toys.”  There are really two big categories:

  1. Educational books, supplies, and games
  2. Toys that tend to be age and/or gender specific

Educational Supplies & Things

This first category has such things as books, puzzles, circuits, art supplies, coloring books, play-do, and games.  These things are all great to have on hand.  But again, one doesn’t need hordes and hordes of them.  In fact, you’ll go crazy if you don’t limit the amount of puzzles or coloring books you own.

And there are ways to cut back too.  In our house, we don’t have markers or watercolor paints.  I detest them.  So they’re just gone.  We do have, however, a small container for crayons and a small container for colored pencils.  And these containers are located where everyone can access them.

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Here they are.  And the middle cup is for pencils and erasers.  That’s it.

Fortunately I have a closet in what we call our “Homeschool Room” where we keep most of these things.  And that’s just it, everything must have a place.  If it doesn’t have a place, then likely you should just get rid of it, or something else, so that it does have a place.  This is so important because then your children know where things go and can put things away properly.

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Closet.  Top shelf has play-do, circuits, and a game.  Next shelf has some homeschool curricula.  Then there are cubbies for the children’s school work with trays above for completed work.

Back to Toys

This second category I will break down into Boy Toys and Girls Toys.  But first I’ll just say that we really have a preference for toys that can be manipulated, like legos.  (Although one can have too many legos, as we learned last year.  Click HERE for that one.)  These kinds of toys are far more likely to get used in our household, so these are the ones that have survived our many purges over the years.

So, I took an inventory of what we own, and I’m embarrassed.  It’s a lot.  Nevertheless, here you go.

The Boys:

  1. legos
  2. trains and wooden train tracks
  3. nerf guns (I hate them, but my husband loves them)
  4. a marble run
  5. a couple trucks, tractors, and balls

The Girls:

  1. legos
  2. dolls, a few doll clothes, doll chair, 2 doll beds
  3. my old barbie dolls
  4. dress-up clothes
  5. some fake food
  6. some paper dolls that they made on their own.

And that’s it.  Well, actually, the girls have one stuffed bear and two stuffed bunnies.

What have I gotten rid of over the years?

We have gotten rid of a lot of toys over the years, and the children have never missed them.  It’s funny how that works.  For example, we got rid of all our electronic toys a few years ago.  These were annoying contraptions that required batteries.  One was a leapfrog device, another was an alphabet computer thing, another was a talking Elmo stuffed animal, etc., ect.  Good Riddance.

But there are many other things that have been tossed too.  I mentioned earlier that we don’t have markers or watercolors, but I also got rid of construction paper.  I hated the mess.  Instead each child gets their own spiral bound sketchbook.  This way they have paper, which is thicker than normal paper, and it stays in their notebook, unless they tear it out.

Now of course, if I have a child that is interested in making something particular that requires a certain material, I will purchase that, if it’s reasonable.  For example, my eldest daughter took an interest in learning calligraphy, so I did buy her 6 calligraphy markers and calligraphy paper, which she keeps in a special place.

A few other things we’ve gotten rid of are stuffed animals, except the three mentioned above, and an entire box of army guys and trucks.  These things were just never played with.  Of course if your children aren’t playing with certain toys, get rid of them.

We’ve also tried to cut back on Big Plastic Toys.  For example, we used to have a big kitchen set, and I hated the amount of space it took up.  While it did occasionally get used, it wasn’t generally for its purpose.  Rather, the boys used it to make forts because it made for a nice, tall wall.  We got rid of it.

We used to have a racing car track.  Gone.  We also had a big, plastic basketball hoop.  Gone.  Plastic barn and silo.  Gone.  And then there are the baby things that I hated because they took up too much space.  High chair.  Gone.  Baby Swing.  Nope.  Extra baby gate.  Nada.  Nursing pillow.  Don’t need.  In fact, babies need a lot less than most people think!

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This is all we have for baby toys.  And it’s probably too much.  She’s just as happy chewing on stuff from the kitchen cupboards, as she is with this stuff.

Conclusion

We still have too much.  I never even mentioned that outside things – ice skates, rollerblades, balls and bats, ping pong table, bikes, and wagons.  Seriously, have you ever taken an inventory of every single toy you own?  It’s an eye-opener.  It might be a worthwhile activity, if you’re trying to determine what stays and what goes.

I don’t claim to have all the answers.  I do know that for our family, and for my sanity, less is always better.  We’re always trying to cut back, but then also, not to take so much in.  Anybody else have a few thoughts or ideas?

 

 

 

*It comes from Chesterton’s book What’s Wrong with the World.  Click HERE for a great little article on it from the American Chesterton Society.
Book Review

The Apocalypse: Book Review

Many of you sharp readers are aware of my admiration for Michael O’Brien.  It is no secret that I consider him one of the most talented and brilliant fiction authors of the last 100 years.  I’ve read most of his work, and I can’t praise it enough.  Seriously, you need to read him.  I recently highlighted his book Strangers and Sojourners, but if you’ve never read him before, you might also consider the widely popular Father Elijah.  You won’t regret it.

The Apocalypse: Warning, Hope & Consolation

Today, however, I’m going to highlight a lesser known work, a nonfiction piece, which was recently published by Wiseblood Books.  It’s The Apocalypse: Warning, Hope & Consolation.  (Click HERE for it on Amazon.)

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This book is a collection of talks, short essays, and selected readings all pertaining to the End Times – the Great Apostasy, the confusion in the Church, the Antichrist, Jesus’ warnings, etc.  And for O’Brien, this thing is short.  It’s only 161 pages long.

So, why read it?  I’ll offer you two reasons:

  1. The End of the World will happen.  Jesus says so in the Bible.  No, it’s not for us to know when, but it’ll happen.  O’Brien’s book explores that.  Many in the Church would have you ignore the Sign of the Times.  Of course (do I need to say this?) O’Brien in not a sensationalist, but rather a realist.   Just what is going on, on a Supernatural level?  He has a few provoking thoughts.
  2. Have you noticed the mass exodus of Catholics leaving the Church?  (This problem isn’t just a Catholic one, by the way, it goes for all Christian denominations.)  O’Brien’s best chapter is The Great Apostasy.  Here he tackles the difference between apostasies in the past and the Great Apostasy that is now taking place.  For example, O’Brien writes,
    “A civilization that has known Christianity (and is now largely ignorant about how dark paganism can be) is choosing to go back down into the swamp…”

    This chapter is so awesome.  O’Brien quotes G. K. Chesterton and Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman and Christopher Dawson and Joseph Pieper and St. Paul and Jesus.  You need to read it.

Lastly, I Came Across This the Other Day

Here’s the latest Gallup Poll on Mass attendance for Catholics.  Yikes.

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Some 70% of Catholics attended Mass weekly in 1955.  Today?  It’s closer to 39%.  What the hell happened?

As a reflection, just think of what has happened in the Church since 1955…  We’ve had the complete stripping away of our once beautiful churches.  Latin has been thrown out.  High altars have been ripped out.  Gregorian chant is almost nowhere to be found. Religious Sisters shunned their habits.  Ember Days are gone.  And Catholics know more about their favorite sporting teams than their own faith.

You can’t tell me something isn’t going on.  Michael O’Brien thinks so, and I’m inclined to agree with him.  Wake-up, people!  And go read his book.

Call Me Catholic

I Am Mad.

Usually I like to keep the content of these pages positive, but I have to speak up, if only once.  So today, if you’re not interested, I’ll see you at a later post.

I am angry about the Homosexual Church Crisis.

I am angry because of all the silence from the bishops.*  Those of you who may be following what’s going on in the Church know what I’m talking about.  The inability of our bishops to do or say anything helpful is supremely frustrating.

Lately my husband and I have been watching Dr. Taylor Marshall on YouTube, and he’s making a lot of sense.  But just yesterday I came across Fr. Mark Goring, and I think he nailed it in one of his recent videos.  Click HERE for it.  You’ve got to watch it.

No really, like right now.  It’s only about 6 minutes long.

Now I know that Bishop Strickland of Texas spoke up at the USCCB conference, but did my bishop, Bishop Kagan?  I don’t know.  Did yours?  I tried contacting my bishop’s office, asking if he has released any statements, but I got no response.  I tried searching our diocesan website, but I found nothing.  Just more silence.  (Please, somebody, correct me if I’m wrong about this.)

Are there any priests speaking out about all this terrible business from the pulpit, for the laity to hear?  I did hear one good homily when the McCarrick Filth first broke a few months ago, but I haven’t heard anything since.  It’s like the Elephant in Room.  It’s the biggest issue of our day, and nobody wants to talk about it.  Meanwhile, the liberal media bashes the Catholic Church on all sides.  What are Catholics to believe?

I don’t want the same old solutions to these sordid problems.  I think it was G.K. Chesterton who once said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.  How are meetings, meetings, and more meetings helpful?  Especially when Rome, i.e. Pope Francis, ties everyone’s hands and won’t let anybody do anything.

Not that that matters.  Did you know that two-thirds of our bishops voted to not have McCarrick investigated at the USCCB meeting last week?  Two-thirds!  To my unsophisticated mind, that means that only one-third of our bishops in the US are worth anything.  Jesus’ words in Luke 18:8 ring loudly in my ears, “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  My goodness, bishops, speak out!

Meanwhile, the confusion only gets worse and worse.  Priests, I beg you, start speaking out from the pulpit about this.  We want to know what’s going on, and we want to be shown the path to Eternal Life.  Give us the hard, moral truths.  We want it!  LifeSiteNews gets it.  Click HERE for their latest article, quoting Msgr. Charles Pope.

The rest of you, sign up for a weekly Holy Hour and go to Adoration.  And even though I don’t remember the last time I heard a priest speak about Confession from the pulpit, I’ll say it –  go to Confession!  Today, if possible.

And pray for our cardinals, bishops, and priests.  And especially for our Holy Father.  May this terrible Homosexual Crisis be dealt with soon.

 

*I just came across a video highlighting the few, the very few bishops who did say something at the latest USCCB meeting.  It’s painfully short, but nevertheless, these men are the Heroes of the Day.  (Along with Archbishop Vigano.)  Click HERE for it.

Call Me Catholic

October 7th & the Battle of Lepanto

Happy feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary!  This feast has a rich history, which I do not have time to relate.  (Click HERE for it at New Advent.)

However, many of you may know that this day was originally named Our Lady of Victory to commemorate the naval victory of the Christian fleet over the Turkish fleet in the gulf of Lepanto in the Adriatic Sea in 1571.

Every October 7th our family reads G. K. Chesterton’s famous poem, Lepanto.  If you’ve never read it before, give it shot!  Chesterton covers this historic battle very well, and it reads like a marching army.  We love it.  May God bless the souls of Don John of Austria and Pope Pius V!

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The Battle of Lepanto.  Artist unknown.  It sits in London now.  Can you see the different flags?
Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday: Ham, Again?

How was your week?  Here are a few highlights from mine.

  1. Someone once gave me a good piece of advice: Never, ever talk about or show pictures of bowel movements on your blog.  Now, this is sound advice, and I had every intention of following it.  Until this happened:
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Yes, that is poop running down her leg.  She apparently doesn’t mind and is having a good time.

2.  When my 4-month-old did this, I had two choices:  1.)  I could sit down and cry.  Oh, the agony of cleaning up this mess!  Or, 2.)  Go, get the other children, and show them just what their baby sister did and have a good laugh.

I did the latter.  This is real life, after all, and it’s messy.  (The older children thought it was hilarious, until I had them scrubbing onesies and seat holders.)

3.  Someone else also gave me another really good piece of advice:  Never, ever share stories or pictures of your children that could potentially embarrass them when they are older.  Mea culpa.

4.  Sometimes on this blog I show pictures of what I’ve cooked for dinner.  This week, I’m not going to show you because we had ham three nights this week.  Yep.  Baked ham the first night.  Bean and ham soup the second night.  And noodles and ham the third night.  We’re out of ham now.  Maybe we’ll have hot dogs tomorrow night.

5.  I’m rereading G. K. Chesterton’s Everlasting Man.  Here’s a sample:

“The very fact that a bird can get as far as building a nest, and cannot get any farther, proves that he has not* a mind as a man has a mind...But suppose our abstract onlooker saw one of the birds begin to build as men build.  Suppose in an incredibly short space of time there were seven styles of architecture for one style of nest.  Suppose the bird carefully selected forked twigs and pointed leaves to express the piercing style of Gothic…Suppose the bird made little clay statues of birds…”

His point is that we’re different than the animals – gloriously different, in that we create.

*My emphasis.

 

Book Review

G. K. Chesterton and St. Francis: Book Review

St. Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton

The other day I picked up a G. K. Chesterton book that I hadn’t thought of in ten years: St. Francis of Assisi.  I remember enjoying it then, if only understanding a 1/3 of it.  Now, that I’ve reread it, I understand more.  I love books that one can return to, because there’s such great depth.

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G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936).  Intellectual Powerhouse.  Catholic Convert.  Terror of Heretics.

My problem ten years ago was that I had little understanding of the history of the Church, and that’s the great strength of this book.  Chesterton doesn’t just start by saying Francis Bernardone was born on a rainy day in Assisi in 1181.  Nope.  He devotes the first couple of  chapters to describing the world in which St. Francis was born.  He answers such questions as, what was going on in the Church?  Or, why was there a great need for a man like St. Francis anyway?

St. Francis of Assisi is just as relevant today as when it was published in 1923.  In fact, it is probably more relevant as our culture has completely forgotten its roots, and if it remembers St. Francis at all, it remembers flowers and birds.  Nothing really of the man Francis – of his uncompromising holiness.  He didn’t just preach to birds and admire the flowers.  No.  This was the man who willingly embraced a leper because he wanted to overcome his cowardice.  This was the man who walked straight into the heart of the Crusades and demanded to speak to the notorious Sultan to tell him about Jesus Christ.  This was the man who bore the Stigmata and asked to be moved to the bare ground to die upon, in nothing but his hair-shirt.

Chesterton does an excellent job of startling our drowsy senses into wakefulness with this book.  He clears up our dull and hazy vision to reveal a truly great saint.

If you’re in need of a good nonfiction book, get this one.  But be warned, even though it is meant only to be an introduction to St. Francis, I found it helpful to be somewhat familiar with a basic outline of St. Francis’s life, as Chesterton seems to take that for granted.

Chesterton for Kids

If you’d like to introduce Chesterton to your children, check out these excellent readers put together by Nancy Carpentier Brown.  My children love them.

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Nancy Carpentier Brown takes G.K.C.’s Father Brown series and adapts it for children.

Want More For Yourself?

There is an excellent magazine that my husband and I have been enjoying for years.  It’s called Gilbert!  Perhaps some of you may be familiar with Dale Ahlquist?  He’s the publisher and editor.  Subscription to the magazine comes with membership to the American Chesterton Society.  I strongly recommend it.

This magazine features various essays from Chesterton and other current writers such as  Dale Ahlquist, James V. Schall, and my favorite, David Beresford.

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Here’s our latest issue.  This magazine is truly a gem.  I look forward to it every month.  (Even though I think there are only 8 issues a year…)

If you’ve never read Chesterton before, begin now.  And don’t be intimidated by him.  Many start with Orthodoxy or his Father Brown series.  Both are excellent.  If you love fiction, go with Father Brown.  If you’re a lover of nonfiction, go for the former.

4 Parting Smidgeons

  1. Since I’ve recently mentioned Evelyn Waugh on these pages…Chesterton wrote a scorching review of one of Waugh’s early books, Decline and Fall.  (Waugh wrote that book prior to his conversion.)  At the time, Waugh thought it was hilarious and put Chesterton’s condemnatory remarks on his 1929 Christmas card.
  2. After Waugh’s conversion, he became great friends with Hilaire Belloc, who happened to be best buds with Chesterton.  I’m not sure, however, if Waugh and Chesterton ever met.  (If anyone knows the answer to that, drop me a line.)
  3. In England, the Church is investigating Chesterton’s life with a view for opening his case for canonization.  This is only the very beginning stage of a long, long process.  Read about it HERE.
  4. What’s my favorite Chesterton book?  Everlasting Man.  And I recommend THIS copy because it contains Everlasting Man, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Thomas Aquinas – three of my favorite Chesterton books.