The Carrot

From time to time, when I am grocery shopping I will drop my kids off at the PlayLand housed within the store. I used to be skeptical of these rooms but once I was familiar with the childcare providers I realized they genuinely care for children and are very careful about safety. I drop my 4-year-old and 2-year-old off and have one full hour of sanity during which I grocery shop in peace. It’s the small things sometimes.

When I first began taking my kids to the PlayLand they would leave with a sticker and coloring sheet in hand. A few months ago they started giving out a balloon to each kid as they left. When we got to the car-my groceries, two children, their stickers, coloring sheets, and helium balloons-I now had the pleasure of juggling not just the groceries and children into the car but also had to take care to make sure the balloons didn’t fly away. At one point I remember wrapping my son’s balloon around the head rest to get it to stay in place.

This is ridiculous, I thought. I’m not going to accept the balloons next time. But when it rolled around I felt guilty denying my kids the balloons. Every other kid was getting one and now they knew that this was part of the routine and I would have to deal with their disappointment in expecting this. Plus, in some sort of backwards upside down world it makes me appear ungrateful. You’re not going to let your kids take a balloon? 

This last time after I signed my kids out-stickers, coloring sheets, and balloons in hand- the attendant then handed me a coupon for a free movie rental. My initial thought was that’s nice and then I had an immediate sense of defensiveness. What do they think? They need to bribe me to get me to come back?

Ultimately, the meaning of our relationship is now undermined because it isn’t enough for me to just trust them. It isn’t enough for me to look her in the eyes and say thank you. It isn’t enough to pick up my kids and see that they were treated well. Now, it has become about a token, a reward, a carrot, rather than the graciousness of appreciation.


There is a time to admire the grace and persuasive power of an influential idea, and there is time to fear its hold over us. The time to worry is when the idea is so widely shared that we no longer even notice it, when it is so deeply rooted that it feels to us like plain common sense. At the point when objections are no longer even raised, we are not in control: we do not have the idea; it has us.                                                                                                                Alfie Kohn, Punished By Rewards

I’ve recently been paying more attention to the use of rewards in our society. This topic of using rewards is startlingly blatant and dangerously overused. My example above is about a situation in the community but I’m learning that token systems are a typical method implemented in our schools to ‘motivate’ kids to complete their work. I’m deeply disturbed by this as I believe it undermines the enjoyment of learning. I don’t have the answers to our education problems but I am at a loss as to how this is so pervasively acceptable.


Project 333 at 33. My first attempt at a capsule wardrobe.

Welcome back to Going On Growing. It’s been a while.

I have been taking some time to focus on family but am coming back because I have a new project brewing and I wanted to share it with you. In honor of my 33rd birthday this month I’m giving myself the gift of Project 333. Project 333 comes from the blog Be More With Less, authored by minimalist Courtney Carver. I have followed her blog for quite some time now always eyeing Project 333 from afar but not being quite ready to take the challenge. The premise is that your closet consists of only 33 items that you wear on a regular basis. Every 3 months you rotate essential items in and out, such as a warm sweater in place of a summer tank. Rules can be found in the link provided above but main points to know are:

1. This is meant to include clothing you wear when you step out the door to go somewhere (work, friends for drinks, date nights, etc.).

2. Pajamas, lounge wear, workout clothing are not included.

3. Purse, sunglasses, jewelry, other accessories are included.

4. You don’t get rid of everything else you own. Maybe some of it, or a lot of it, but the rest goes in a box. If you get desperate, it’s there to comfort you and let you know everything will be okay.

I’ve been afraid to take the leap because it is so limiting but I know without a doubt that the clutter I’ve cleared out of my life previously has made way for greater things. I’m positive this project will do the same for me.

Here is my closet:

Capsule Wardrobe spring 2014_1


Capsule Wardrobe spring 2014)2

I have two challenges to work around. First, I love color. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a capsule wardrobe with so much color. When minimizing this was challenging because I really don’t have a base wardrobe to build upon. However, this is what I’ve been wearing so it must work! Second, shoes were surprisingly difficult to choose and I’m not sure I love what I ended up with. However, my goal was to not spend money to complete my wardrobe so here it is.

My exceptions:

1. I am not including accessories but will still limit them. Because I’m trying not to buy something and because of my color issues excluding these allowed me the flexibility I needed to make this transition. In time I hope to add these into my 33.

  • sunglasses
  • earrings
  • bracelet
  • necklace
  • purse

2. I work one Saturday a month at a hospital. I put on scrubs and my clunky Danskos for this and only this day every month. These are not included.

3. I will attend my brother’s ordination into the Catholic priesthood (equivalent to a wedding) next weekend and for this I’ll wear a fancy dress and shoes not included in here.

Lastly, and my favorite part is that this has helped me see gaps in my wardrobe. I would like to incorporate more skirts, scarves, and belts into future wardrobes. I lack completer items which tend to pull outfits together. For now, my current wardrobe will do.

I’m way more excited about this project than I thought I would be. Here goes nothin’ and thank you Courtney for inspiring me to make yet another change in my life for the better!

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

When I’m not repeating this too shall pass to myself as my daughter is smacking her little brother over the head with a box car, simplify has been my mantra of choice. I think my husband might start soliciting neighbors for conversation of another sort if I continue to talk to him about it so I’m taking it to the blog.

A friend recently moved her family of four from her just-far-enough-out-of-town-that-I didn’t-see-her-all-that-often house to a new location right downtown. It is superb. After visiting her in her new digs this week I took an enviable glance at the kids toy room. She and her husband have always seemed to have an understated and in control amount of toys in their house. The kids play with unabashed fervor but when it’s time for clean up it seems to be done within minutes. (I’m guessing she would disagree with me on this one but I’ll go ahead and let her know that’s how it appears.)

I would love for this to be true in our house. And I believe it can be true.

In an interesting twist, the last time I cleaned up the toys the kids haven’t touched them. Six days it’s been. All the toys are sitting along the wall lined up waiting patiently. But right now running back and forth on the couch seems to be entertaining enough. (And dangerously enticing. The one year old has taken to swinging off the back onto the hardwood floor. Be still my beating heart.)

To make matters even more challenging I will admit that many of the children’s toys I love. The Melissa and Doug fruit and vegetables, dress up outfits and accessories, and the large-and-in-charge Green Toys trucks are great. I can’t get rid of those! Don’t even get me started on all the beautiful hand me downs we’ve received from ever so generous family members.


In addition to my personal vendetta against stuff I’ve been further inspired by a few articles and posts I’ve read and how getting rid of stuff truly enhances the quality of life.

Why I took my kids toys away from the blog Living Well and Spending Less

Zero Waste Home

Becoming Minimalist


After cleaning out art supplies and books. I still look at this and want it emptier.

I find that I tend to make arbitrary choices in deciding how much stuff I’m willing to keep around. For example, my art supplies needed to fit into the cubbies next to my desk. No more storing extra in the closet or on top of the cabinet. These were just the parameters I set for myself because of the space I had in that room. Arbitrary but in my mind necessary. I have an idea as to the space I will allow for the toys but I know it’s going to be very hard to stick to it.

The bin for toys downstairs.

Toy bin for downstairs.

I’m wondering if you have any further suggestions for how you simplify and then keep it that way. For now, I’ve set a garage sale date as November 23rd. Here goes nothin’.

Out of My Comfort Zone

I believe being uncomfortable from time to time is healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I like a routine. Daily patterns that serve to keep me on track and a bedtime that doesn’t push the early morning hours are my warm blanket but I have certain fears that I think need frightening.

For example, I’m irrationally scared of water. I think it stems from growing up by the ocean where the undertow took a few lives every year but I can be found playing it safe even in a calm and peaceful lake. I’ve realized I like to challenge this fear and do crazy things like kayaking or water skiing. It’s exhilarating to prove to myself that I can overcome. That it will all be okay.


Before heading off to college I remember telling myself I wanted “no regrets.” There may have been a few unimportant decisions I regretted in college such as the 15 pound Doc Martin shoes and overindulgence at the frozen yogurt machine but for the most part I did it right.

However, when I think back on it all there was one big regret. During graduate school we had to find, apply, and interview for our internships independently and I had done so, making sure to include my highest hopes position and a back-up, just in case. When I got a call from a skilled nursing facility, one high on my rating scale, I happily accepted. However, a week later the university hospital telephoned. This was my highest hopes probably-not-achievable position and one for which many students competed. I asked for some time to make a decision because I had already accepted another.

Uinta Mountains

In the end I declined. At the time I was satisfied with my decision but looking back, I was intimidated. The hospital internship involved severely impaired patients of which some would probably die. It also involved work with tracheotomies which in my field is the only way you could actually harm or even kill a patient. The true wrinkle was that it involved a presentation to the entire rehab staff which included the medical director of the program and a few physicians. Public speaking is my Mt. Everest and that coupled with my inexperience in my field got the best of me. Sadly, this was the true reason I turned down the position. And I believe the loss of this experience set me back. To this day I am insecure when working with tracheotomy patients and I deeply regret not gaining that learning experience when I had the opportunity.

Fast forward seven years. Moved, married, two kids. After having kids I decided to be a stay-at-home mom for a few years. During this process I’ve learned new things about myself of which I had no prior knowledge, one of them being that I like to write. I started journaling, began a blog (thank you to each and every one of you who follows), and have been to a couple of writing “drop-ins.”

I’ve also discovered that writing scares me a bit and this is so perplexing to me. I desperately want to tumble out my thoughts and share my stories. But that’s when the rock in my stomach forms. I get nervous and think no one will be interested in what I have to say. I couldn’t decipher why I was feeling this way and then it hit me: I care if I fail. I would love for my writing to be more than a hobby but nothing in my past has told me I’m a writer. But why not? I’m capable of putting words on paper and in this there is hope. Possibility.

This coming week I’ll be attending my first writing shop and am anxiously awaiting the experience. I’m going to enjoy the challenge and seeing if it takes me beyond this keyboard and into unknown territory. No regrets.

Sunrise over Monterey.

In the end, running from your fears always catches up with you. In my second pick internship, the scapegoat one, I experienced everything I was running from: public speaking, tracheotomies, and sadly, dying patients. I survived it all and I’m an improved clinician as a result. We are made better for stepping out of our comfort zones. It prickles the skin and tingles the nerves but what would we be without something to propel us forward and push those limits?

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone lately?

The Bunny Sticker

When I was in 3rd grade my mom gave me a bunny sticker for Christmas. This wasn’t any ordinary bunny sticker. It was a huge bunny sticker. The bunny looked old-fashioned with lines defining it’s tufts of soft white fur, pink undertones along the ears and small grey strokes for the pads of the paw. In my sticker collecting career, which I took very seriously exemplified by my categorized sticker binder, this was the God of all stickers.

As I admired it in my hands on Christmas morning my mom warned, “Make sure you use it for something really special. It was expensive.”

It would not fit in any of the pages of my sticker binder so I found pieces of cardboard, slid the sticker between them, and with tender care placed it in the bottom of a drawer. There it would patiently wait for its moment of truth.

And there it did patiently wait, for 15 years. One summer after college I was summoned by my mother to clean out my drawers in my old room. Under a stack of old English papers, a few letters from friends, and long forgotten memorabilia, there awaited the bunny sticker. It was well preserved, still adorned on it’s original piece of shiny blue paper. There had been times when I thought of using it: a binder in middle school, scrapbook of growing up, or within the cover of a favorite book. Each time I weighed the options and each time decided it wasn’t the right moment. There must be a higher calling for the bunny sticker.

Instead of being proudly displayed my prized sticker went to waste.P1000158

So I say to you all: Stop waiting for moments of perfection when the present is staring you in the face. Use that bunny sticker, ask for that raise, or follow the higher calling. The ball is in your court. Use it.

Have you ever used your bunny sticker? Or not?