The Reality of Downsizing

We are going from a 2,133 square-foot house to an RV with a square footage of around 315. That means six and a half of our rigs can fit inside our house!

We are a homeschooling family of four with two boys, so we’ve accumulated a lot of stuff over the 11 years we’ve lived in this house.

And that’s all it is: stuff.

For Mama and Papa, it’s not very difficult letting go of things, although we are storing sentimentals and a couple of pieces of furniture for our future house down the road, but it is proving to be a challenge for the boys.

“But this is so small, it won’t take up much space!” we’ve heard dozens of times, so that small item would actually turn into a large item.

“But I forgot I even had it, and that’s why I never played with it!” they’ve declared regarding many items as they go through their seemingly endless toy bins and storage cubes.

“But I might play with this later!” we’ve been told about more toys than we care to mention.

When something has been long forgotten about, has been broken and turned into an item “I might use later,” or is clearly too young for them and there’s something else that does pretty much the same thing and is age appropriate, it’s time for it to go.

The reality check of all of this, though, is just how much stuff has been accumulated!

Action figures, toy guns, puzzles, games, Legos, K’Nex, Vex, Hex, science project kits, random balls, stuffed animals, coloring items, fort-building sheets, stuff, stuff, and more stuff! Yet, half of this “stuff” they’ve simply forgotten they had!

But do you know what they haven’t forgotten?

Places they’ve visited. Campgrounds we’ve been to. State landmarks they’ve seen in person. Time with family members. Playground-hopping days. Fishing excursions.

We can ask them where they went three summers ago, and they can tell you!

Ask them what they got for their birthday last year, and their response is, “Um, I don’t remember, but we had so much fun with our friends at Andretti!” (Andretti is a local amusement park with laser tag, rides, an arcade, and go-cart tracks.)

Stuff.

And we put so much emphasis on “stuff.”

Unfortunately, we’re guilty of it, but that’s something else this experience it going to help us with. We’ll have no other choice but to let go of more than 80% of what we have to make room for our much smaller home. And we know that, over time, even things we’ve elected to hold on to for now will be let go because it’s just taking up space.

We’ve already decided that, down the road, when we do get another house, it will be a lot smaller than this one. We want land, for homesteading and a tree house and a backyard zip line…

We want to have more experiences and far less “stuff.”

You can’t take it with you when you go, and nobody will remember or talk about what you had when you’r gone, but there will be memories about things you have done and who you did them with. People will remember the way you treated them. Your kids will remember if you spent more time working and cleaning up than doing things with them. One way or another, memories and experiences live on.

There’s more value in what you can’t hold than what you can.

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Three Months Later…

It’s been three months since Mama ‘Skiy’s pacemaker implant, and she hasn’t felt this well in years!

She is often asked not only how she feels physically but how she also feels about it emotionally.

First and foremost, she and Papa were terrified at the idea of her getting a pacemaker, and the decision was not an easy one to make or something we took lightly. After all, pacemakers are typically something people need well beyond fifty or sixty years old, right?!

Apparently not.

One of our nieces had heart problems from birth. She’d had multiple surgeries and several heart attacks. Sadly, just a few years ago, she had one heart attack that turned out to be fatal.

And she was a young mother.

So it actually knows no age. Something can go wrong with any part of the body at any time, at any age, and for no apparent reason. Regardless if the individual is a newborn or just two months shy of turning 37.

No medically-necessary surgery is one that’s desired, but sometimes that’s the only solution. We asked if Mama could simply go on medication, change her diet, or do something to correct the problem or help prevent the issue from happening again. There was nothing that could be done except the pacemaker implant.

Still, leading up to the minutes before her surgery, we were constantly reminded what a mistake we were making, how her life would forever be limited, that there had to be another hidden problem and the doctors didn’t know what they were doing because all they are interested in is making money.

There are still some that don’t seem to understand this was probably the most difficult decision we’ve ever had to make. In no way was it easy, and in no way did we take it lightly.

Believe us: our cardiologist tested for every imaginable and unimaginable possibility. Every.Single.One. And he even consulted another cardiologist, listened to the concerns and advice of a family friend that also happens to be a surgeon, and really did everything he could to try to make it so Mama didn’t need a pacemaker.

But an easier solution just wasn’t in the cards.

Yet we still receive negative comments and criticism regarding the choice we made, but none of that matters to us.

Mama is still here, Mama has healed, and Mama feels better than she has in a long time.

Case in point: she loves thrill rides and roller coasters, but before the pacemaker implant she stopped going on certain rides because so much anticipation would build that her heart rate would increase and she couldn’t breathe. Just a couple of weeks ago she managed to go on two of those rides, for the first time in years, and when she got off she was ready to go again!

And let’s not forget about those horrible and painful heart palpitations…now gone.

The pacemaker has leads that attaches to two chambers in her heart and will emit an impulse if her heart’s natural pacemaker hasn’t done its job. An added bonus is that the pacemaker helps her heart rate increase a little during times of exertion or excitement.

So tell us again, how was this a mistake?

Oh, the scar? We love tattoos, and scars are tattoos with better stories. The story of our little titanium friend TJ is pretty freaking great.

All those limitations? Well, to be quite honest, she in no way has any desire to compete in Mixed Martial Arts, lift over her head the equivalent of her own body weight or more, or hug a huge magnet. Seeing how those are her only limitations, we’re pretty sure she’ll live her life her way.

And what about the battery life? Well, yeah, that part sucks. It could be as soon as eight years and as long as 14 years, but she will need regular precedures to replace the pacemaker and leads. Those batteries last a long time, but it’s also the technology in the device that also needs upgraded. The leads attaching the pacemaker to her heart will wear and go bad over time, so those will need to be replaced as well. Ultimately, though, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, followed by the month or so of recovery.

By the way, that’s another reason her cardiologist wasn’t crazy about giving Mama a pacemaker: at 37 years old, that’s a lot of pacemaker replacement procedures to go through during her lifetime.

We’re not going to worry or think about that right now, however.

After multiple ER visits, dozens of scans and tests, and years of fearing something was truly wrong with her and not understanding why no doctor could help, we finally feel like we’ve found both the problem and the solution. It’s not what we wanted, but at least we finally got an answer and a fix.

And no, we have no way of knowing for certain if Mama’s heart would have restarted on its own in the ER or if such a pause could have led to cardiac arrest…or worse. This pacemaker will prevent that pause from happening again, which it likely would. The last thing we want or need is for her heart to stop while she’s driving or while we’re off gallivanting in some evergreen forest or snow-covered woods again.

It’s too bad if her pacemaker or scar bothers anybody else. We couldn’t care less.

Mama got a new lease on life three months ago, and her heart won’t stop like that again.

More To Do, Less To Hold

Two Christmases ago we were gifted a Disney annual pass by Papa ‘Skiy’s parents. The year 2015 was full of visits to the Orlando theme parks, and we had a blast.

When our passes expired, we chose not to renew them because it was too expensive and there were still things M ‘Skiy was still too small to do. Also, there were several things under construction that wouldn’t be completed until 2017 anyway. So we bought a Sea World annual pass for 2016 that included the waterpark Aquatica.

Sea World is nice, but the waterpark is amazing!

This year we decided to surprise the boys with Disney annual passes again. On Christmas morning, after they saw what Santa had brought and opened the few gifts we had gotten for them — mostly stuff for camping — they ventured out on a scavenger hunt that finally took them to an envelope with a paper inside informing them we would again be going to Disney in 2017.

This pass was different, though. Not only did it include the four main theme parks, but it also included the two Disney waterparks…and none of us had been to those yet!

So, yeah, many will think: “Whoopie! Disney! *Yawn*”

And honestly, we weren’t fans of theme parks ourselves.

But in 2015 our opinion of Disney changed. Expensive, yes. Crowded, quite often. But it’s additional family time spent together, and the service and treatment visitors receive are outstanding. You feel like a guest, not a customer.

In a period when the generation has become entitled and downright lazy, pacified with electronics, jam-packed extracurricular schedules, and “stuff,” we don’t mind theme park visits anymore. It’s another place to go and something else to do.

And we’ve always been more about experiences, not material things.

We do a lot and go many places together, and we’re not rushed or overwhelmed. We can’t slow down how quickly our boys are growing, but we can fill our days with memories and activities with them. Our shelves don’t hold trophies and our calendar isn’t jam-packed with this commitment and that event, and we’re okay with that because it doesn’t matter to them either.

We’re not rushing through life. After all, we’re not going to get out alive anyway, so what’s the point?

On those lazy mornings when they want to crawl into bed with us and just cuddle, we can do that.

On a random evening or weekend that we suddenly feel the urge to ride Expedition Everest, watch a fireworks show, or explore the tunnels on Tom Sawyer Island, we seldom need to worry about something on our calendar stopping us.

Expensive? Perhaps, but when you consider what we’re not spending in dues, fees, uniforms, and school supplies, there’s a good chance we’re still spending less than most.

And again, we’ve included our boys in these decisions, not made those choices for them. D ‘Skiy wanted to take Taek Won Do, so we signed him up. After he advanced to the next level, he asked if he could quit. He didn’t like being required to be someplace on certain days, at a certain time, and he didn’t like hitting. We didn’t push him and we didn’t sign him up for another month. M ‘Skiy enjoys playing tennis, and we’ve asked him if he’d like to take lessons or get on a league, but he said no, that he preferred just playing tennis with us, and that’s what we do.

As homeschoolers — well, unschoolers — our schedule is pretty relaxed. There are certain things Mama requires they do during the week because it’s required by the state, but we also take them to activities like a four-week-long Ninja Warrior obstacle training gym class and the annual Maker Faire Orlando, and we travel and camp a lot. These are things they enjoy and more we can do together as a family.

Many believe our sons should be on a more regular or tighter schedule. We disagree. They’re kids! Let them enjoy this care-free time of their lives. Halfway through their teen years their lives will become busier and more hectic. Fifteen years of actually being a child isn’t going to ruin them for life.

Kids are not little adults. They’re little people. What’s the point in over-scheduling? Why give them more stuff, just to toss it aside after a couple of weeks and forget about it?

Now, our kids have toys and their fair share of stuff. But these are things they love and play with almost daily: K’Nex, Hex, a Yamaha keyboard, popsicle sticks (yes, popsicle sticks), board games, rollerblades, archery supplies, tablets… And once we notice they stop playing with or they forget about something, we phase it out and donate it.

However, we much prefer going places and doing things, namely together.