Lifestyle Design for the HSP

I have a mustache.  No, not that kind.  I’m a mustachian, meaning I subscribe to the philosophy of Mr. Money Mustache. Which is this: save a huge portion of your income (50% or more if you’re a badass!) invest that money wisely, and then retire early while living a humble but fulfilling life doing whatever you love to do.

I came upon his blog 6 months ago when I was finally ready to make radical changes. I was already disillusioned by the fast-paced, materialistic lifestyle that is considered “normal” in southern California (hence this post).  I had already decluttered my house and my schedule pretty drastically.  I had already come to embrace my highly sensitive nature, and the idea that taking care of myself meant saying no to many things-  obligations, social media, mindless consumption, etc.  This led me to the question- what do I want to say YES to?

My answers:  family time, deep (face-to-face) friendships, my Christian faith,  nature and healing, peace and quiet, .

Mr. Money Mustache’s blog has inspired me to make design my life around these YES’s.  If my family can get off the rat wheel, be freed of the bottomless pit of consumerism, allow our money to work hard for us, then we are truly free to design the lifestyle we want (and need).  It’s like hippie meets savvy investor.  This mustache suits me well.

So here is our dream… In 3 years, you will find me on a 5 acre plot of land living in a small guest home (or tiny home or yurt- TBD) while building our dream home.  Joe will take a 2 year sabbatical to build our straw bale house, but we will all help, including the kids, because it will be the world’s coolest homeschool project.  We will grow much of our own food, raise chickens, the whole deal.  After that 2 years of building, Joe will either work a computer IT job remotely from the comfort of our homestead, or start a completely new career doing one of the many things he’s amazing at (too many to list.).  Of course, there are many steps in between.  You can read this Mr. Money Mustache post for the basic steps we’re taking.  

My message to HSPs who feel trapped by a certain lifestyle,  who long for a simpler life that engages all 5 senses without bombarding them, maybe it’s time to dream big and jump off the wheel.

 

 

My Christmas Don’t-Do List

Everyone has limited time, energy, and resources.  We can’t do everything.  Sometimes it’s hard for us conscientious folks to let these things go, especially if they are objectively good things to do, or things that our culture deems important.  Or even things we’ve done every year in the past but don’t have time for this year. That’s why a “Don’t-do” list can be so freeing- by giving ourselves permission to not do some things, we can do other things very well.  This 2016 holiday season has been easy as pie.  My “Don’t-do” list is a mile long.  My “To-do” list is pleasingly short.  And yet everything feels nicely balanced in our household.

My Christmas Don’t-do list *

  1. No Christmas lights on the exterior of the house.
  2. Not a lot of decor inside the house.  We do the basics- a paper banner, a tree, stockings.  I just don’t like the clutter.
  3. No Elf on the Shelf or Santa.  In our home, Santa is a lovely folk tale that none of us take seriously.
  4. No Christmas shopping at malls/stores.  What few presents we buy all come from online stores.
  5. No pretty gift wrapping.  It’s butcher paper with sharpie doodles over here, which I like to think has it’s own special charm 🙂
  6. No Christmas cards.  Never have, never will.  But I do love receiving them.  Very hypocritical of me.
  7. No daily advent calendar activities.  I don’t like the pressure.
  8. No Christmas cookie bake-off.  We eat paleo, so the cookies take twice the effort, twice the cost, and taste half as good.  Not even trying this year.
  9. As evidenced in  the picture below, I don’t clean up pine needles.  I just let em fall and fall.

My Christmas Must-do list…

  1. Nightly Weinachtspyramide lighting ceremony.
  2. Buying a fresh-out-of-the-ground tree the day after Thanksgiving.
  3. Impromptu dance parties in the kitchen at least 3x a week.
  4. Making our own ornaments. This year was salt dough sculptures, and I finally caved and let my kids use glitter for the first time ever.
  5. Low-maintanence magnetic advent calendar.
  6. Almost nightly Christmas devotionals.  If we skip some nights, no biggie.
  7. For our kids’ gifts, we are trying the “something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read” thing.  It was so easy to shop for them this year, and we actually used our charter school funds for the “educational” toys.

*Don’t do lists are very subjective.  We will all differ in our priorities and values.  Please don’t think I’m telling you not to do any of those very  good things.  And please forgive me if my daughter tells your kids that Santa isn’t real.  I have sworn her to secrecy, but we’ll see how that works out.

 

My Toddler Scratches Other Babies

When Matteo scratches or pulls the hair of another child, it fills me with so much anxiety and shame.  That sting of embarrassment as the other parent tends to their injured child and tries to hide their  shock.  That deep feeling of disappointment as I think “Matteo, you’re so much better than this! What is wrong with you?”  Or worse, “What did I do wrong as a parent? Did I fail in some way?”

It all started months ago at the park.   The first time he scratched a cute little red-head at the park, I was shocked to see a “mean streak”. I can’t remember my reaction, but I’m pretty sure I made the scratch a very big hooplah.  Clearly this wasn’t effective because he did it again.  And again.  In the church nursery, at the playground, in the library play room.  Always with kids his size or smaller, when they seem to enter his territory or show interest in something he’s playing with.  What started out as an occasional defensive scratch or hair-pull has now turned into a habitual and preemptive strike anytime a little one comes near.  It’s gotten to the point when I dread seeing babies or young toddlers at the park. I’m tempted to high-tail it home.

We HSPs are pretty good at seeing patterns and consequences.  If we’re the anxious types, we tend to imagine worst case scenerios.  That’s what I did- I imagined that Matteo’s behavior, if unresolved, could lead to serious aggression and even violence down the road.  Maybe he’d be a bully!  This talent for forward-thinking causes me a good deal of anxiety.  But thankfully, it also motivates me to action.  I’d rather take this problem too seriously than too lax.  It always baffles me when people only tackle problems after they have turned into crises.  That’s not really the HSP way.  It’s certainly not my way. When it comes to parenting, I’m a nip it in the bud kind of girl.

So I came up with a game plan. But first I did my research.  I turned to the parenting expert I admire most, Janet Lansbury.  One of her podcast episodes (My 2 Year Old is a Bully) was exactly what I needed to hear.  She said the most important thing you can do is remain unruffled.  This scratching behavior makes sense to Matteo. He’s not a “bad child”, nor am I a “failure.”  He’s trying to communicate something with actions.  I need to answer him in a way that will take away this need to scratch.

  1.  Notice a pattern.  Matteo scratches or pulls hair when a young, small toddler gets in his space, looks him straight in the eye, or tries to touch him or something he’s interested in.
  2. Figure out what he’s communicating.  What I think he’s saying is, “I don’t like when little kids are too close.  It makes me feel scared and I don’t know what they’re going to do, so I will protect myself because you haven’t protected me from other smothering or aggressive toddlers in the past.”  In the past, I should probably have spoken up to parents whose children were violating his space, but the people pleaser in me really really really didn’t want to do that.  I tried to make it no big deal because toddler aggression is just a part of life.   But  my lack of response when he was clearly uncomfortable has caused him to strike first before others can hurt him.  When I look at it that way, his scratching and pulling is actually quite reasonable.  But of course, it’s not acceptable.
  3. Try to prevent the aggression.  I pride myself in letting my kids loose at the park to discover things on their own. I never wanted to be a helicopter parent.  But because Matteo is feeling scared and vulnerable in these situations, I probably need to shadow him a little more, even keep him in the carrier at times if he’s showing me he’s overwhelmed.  I may even opt out of social engagements and stay home a little more until he’s ready to face little ones.
  4. If he does scratch, I will calmly restrain him by holding down his hands and say, “Grabbing hair hurts.  I won’t let you grab hair.  We need to be gentle with our friends.”  Then take him somewhere else where he’ll have his own space.  The goal is to sound calm, unphased and confident, even though inside I’m probably freaking out.  I just need to practice that calm demeanor, and hopefully I can internalize it.
  5. I don’t believe in forcing aplogies, but I will check in with the other child and say sorry on Matteo’s behalf.

You guys, it feels so good to have a game plan.  How do you handle biting, scratching, and other aggressive toddler behaviors?

I also found this article super empowering.

Update 12/22:  My game plan is working, or maybe the phase is just passing.  He is scratching much less often.   And I’m responding with the calm, unruffled confidence of a mom who is in charge.  So yay me!