Monday, May 10, 2010

Making Do

Living aboard a sailboat is an ongoing lesson is simplicity. Now there is nothing simple about boats and boat systems. But our limited space and amps challenge us to constantly rethink convention.

Zach loves to cook and play chef. He has since he was a tyke. Of course, it seems in any household these days a play kitchen is a must have item for the wee ones. Whether it's the big plastic kind that rings and buzzes, or the insanely beautiful and insanely expensive wooden ones that are labeled "heirloom" to ease the blow of the price tag... neither would fit anywhere in the boat. So from an early age his "play kitchen" has been the galley (the regular kitchen). He's always been right along side me, making a complete mess, sabotaging my recipes, and dumping ingredients all over the counters. 
(Both of these photos are about age 1 1/2) 
Sure dinner takes longer sometimes and clean up is always a bear, but we get it done. When he's not playing in the real kitchen, he often makes "food" out of other toys. Kukui nuts, acorns, shells, and rocks become food without a second thought, proving once again that although hand knit or wooden play food at $6 a pop are gorgeous, they are not necessary for natural, open ended kicthen play.
(My kitchen boy has grown, but he still wants to be in the thick of it. I let him play with the stems and ends of greens I was using. And of course, now he wants to use the knife, which is fine by me.)
(Making "fairy soup" out of stems and ends)

The same dilemma popped up with painting. Paint boards and beautiful little glass jars in a hand crafted wooden holder are all well and good, if you have $50+ to spend on one slice of art supplies. I put off trying wet-on-wet watercolor painting for the longest time because I just couldn't stomach the expense and the space taken up by the "proper" supplies. So I found high quality water colors and thick water color paper on sale at a local art store and imrpovised the rest. Rather than a paint board, we're surrounded by wooden planks afterall, the dock and the picnic tables around the marina. And I've got plenty of small glass wear items for holding paint.
As for the brushes, you wanna hear something strange. We have found all of the paint brushes we own. I don't know how or why, but everywhere we go, we stumble upon orphaned paint brushes. And the paintings turned out just lovely.

I am not going to pretend I don't go the distance buying nice, quality toys for Zach whenever I can, but like all families we pick and choose. With Zach's birthday around the corner, it's easy to get caught up in beautiful castle sets like these for my knight loving child (look ONE piece of the castle is $100), but then I see him create things like this....
and this...
or this...
And it makes me realize we don't need a "play castle" to play castle.

It's so easy to blog surf and get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses. And even when the Joneses are naturally minded, crunchy, Waldorf inspired, thrift store loving, crafty, do-it-yourselfers... that doesn't mean they or anyone NEEDS all that stuff. Regardless of where it comes from or how it's made, it's still "stuff". I try to book mark items for a long, LONG time and see if we can do without or improvise or substitute with what we already have before deciding to buy something. For us, we'd rather spend the money on travel or experiences and of course getting the boat ready to sail away. Because being together and seeing the world means more than being surrounded by things, even beautiful things.

19 comments:

Lily Boot said...

This is a wonderful post Cindy! I love, love, LOVE how living on the boat so shapes your life in such a positive way. And I totally agree about the kitchen and the food and the paint and all. The best growing and experiencing and learning is done with the real stuff. The other is all just icing. This is a bit rich coming from me with sheds and garages full of stuff - but I really do relate with what you're saying about keeping up with the earthy, crunchy Joneses :-) I have fallen down the rabbit hole of trying to make lots of things so that I have lots to blog about - utterly ridiculous. Might as well be going to Target and just carting the stuff home! And since being seriously limited in my going out abilities and with what I can carry, I've found I'm so much more conscious about not needing stuff, and thinking about what I can use at home. Really good, thought provoking post - just 'cause our thoughts are "pure", doesn't mean we aren't "consuming". And I am so looking forward to you heading off - ah - it will be the ultimate armchair travel for me and I know you'll take me to wonderful places :-)

Pomegranategrl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pomegranategrl said...

Those are the most magical castles I've ever seen. Who needs ones made by someone else's imagination? Besides, his magical castles stow. :) (edited for spelling error)

Nicole said...

Great post! Thanks for the reminder that often less is more. :)

Joy said...

Thanks for writing about this! I struggle with it too. Just because we can afford it doesn't mean we SHOULD afford it. I want my kids to treasure what they have and I want what they have to be good quality. But I want them to develop creativity in using what they have. Not to mention with 4 kids getting b-day and Christmas presents, if we overdid it, we'd run out of room fast, even in a house!

Cassandra said...

Love this post and the goodness coming from it. My husband and I were just sighing over toys, determining what we could let go of, and what the girls actually play with. We're going to be doing some serious simplifying very soon. It has helped that I've made a tradition the past couple of years of making their Christmas gifts, and since we don't watch T.V., they don't see all the consumerism junk there is out there...

Lilia said...

This may have been my favorite post in a long time. It's so very true. I find myself constantly conflicted with wanting more stuff that I don't particularly need... even if it is natural, homemade, or inspiring. Thanks for the refreshing post!

momma rae said...

beautifully inspiring post. thank you so much!

Gwynneth Beasley said...

Your son would be getting much better experience with being creative than people who have a toy for every occasion! We have the play kitchen and all the wooden fruit and vegies a child could want and my kids ignore them and raid the real kitchen for proper supplies. You've saved yourself some money!

Redbeet Mama said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am guilty as charged - but I have improved greatly.

The more we live without the more we live within.

Namaste, Nicole

frantically heidi said...

Wonderful post. I find that the more my daughter has, the less she actually plays with. It's overwhelming.
As far as a play kitchen goes - you might be interested in this tutorial for making a kitchen playmat - for those times when you might not want to use the galley. Here's the link: http://balancingeverything.com/2008/11/28/roll-up-kitchen-playmat-tutorial/

Red Charlotte said...

He is quite the artist! Those are fantastic creations.

Heather said...

I'm so glad I stumbled upon this blog -- this post eloquently summarizes so many themes that resonate with me too.

abbie said...

you know, for the past few weeks I have been trying to get rid of excess. That "stuff" we think we need, hold onto, but never use, and have never loved. It is actually work getting rid of stuff. Wouldn't it be easier to not have acquired it in the first place? Other commenters are so right when they say, just because we can doesn't mean we should. I wonder sometimes how much do I deserve to consume? And how much am I actually consuming? Shouldn't I only take that which I need?

Anonymous said...

playing catch up after a busy stretch of days....

what a beautiful post cindy!!!

i absolutely love peeking into your world and seeing how you keep the waldorfy feel alive wherever you are with whatever resources you have.

my husband and i have started looking differently at our living space and seeing it's limitations not as a burden but as a blessing and it feels SO wonderful to consciously choose a more downsized lifestyle.

my son just had his fourth birthday and we asked our family members to chip in on one special gift rather than showering him with lots and lots of "stuff". it was an amazingly positive experience and i am in the process of pulling together and "experience" gift for my daughter, who like zach, will be turning six next month!

~erin
http://www.eringoodman.com/blog

Little Lovables said...

his castles are wonderful! I agree alot with this, my boys have more fun collecting acorns and sticks and building with them than they do with fancier things most of the time.

christine ~ ourdayourjourney said...

yes you are so right, travel and experiences and being together. i love seeing z as a little guy in the kitchen :) i actually did not have my oldest in the kitchen with me at 1 1/2 yrs, but my little guy (almost 1 1/2 year) wants to do everything his big sister does so he's already in the kitchen.

Mud Mama said...

Right on! I love your kitchen helpers!

I have so many pictures of what the kids make on their own with the open ended things I give them - or they take! Its a great reality check for me.

Nicola (Which Name?) said...

I linked here from your comment on Marina's blog (A Small Tribe). She put it well and you put it well!
Thanks for the reminder of not needing to keep up...I get the gorgeous natural toy I wants and we have very few of them. We have loads of handmades. Many by the kids! ;)
Nicola

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