Living a Simple, Intentional Life | Pt.2 Toys

Rowan's Nook | Jenloveskev.com

Ever since I wrote the post a few months back about living a simple, intentional life I’ve wanted to share more about how we’ve been working on that in our house. I was so encouraged by all the comments and emails I received from readers and friends (thank you!) striving for the same things in their own lives. It really seems like it’s a common goal for so many of us. Over the past 2 months I’ve majorly purged our house. There seriously has not been a drawer or closet untouched. We have a huge pile of things for a garage sale and have taken countless trips to the goodwill. Man I loved knick knacks a little too much. Anyways, I wanted to start a series on here talking about the different areas that I went through and purged/changed/reorganized to reach our idea of a simple, intentional life.

Today we will talk about toys, but over the next few weeks I would love to talk about the changes I made to our closets, our food choices, our calendar/time, and decorating. Hope you will join along and share your own tips in each of these categories.
First up:

TOYS!

Boy, Oh boy! I can’t escape a trip to target without having to bring Rowan up and down each of the toy aisles. She always asks me when we walk in, “Momma, can we just go check on the toys and make sure they are all still working?” Nice try kid. The reason I picked toys as something we needed to change was because I felt like they were taking over. I don’t say any of this as a way of passing judgement on anyone. This is just how I felt for our house. I don’t like getting caught up in the idea that kids need lots of toys. They don’t. At all. In fact, I believe that too many toys hinder how kids play. I also don’t want Rowan and Finley to think they need toys to have fun either. I’ve never been a big fan of the big ol’ plastic, loud noise making, breaking every 2 seconds, million of parts, fill your house with clutter kind of toys. I stood pretty firmly when Rowan was a baby but over time they just accumulated. You can’t help it. Birthdays, christmas, etc… Every time you turn around it’s another holiday that presents are being given. I am always grateful, but there comes a time when enough is enough in my opinion. I looked around our house at the beginning of the summer and thought we have waaaaay too many toys and the kids play with literally 20% of them. That’s when I went to town on the toy room, their bedrooms, our toy dresser and donated about 75% of everything.

Kev and I sat down and came up with a new game plan when it comes to toys in our house. We talked with each of our parents and asked that for Christmas and birthdays they really try to limit what they give the girls. We suggested that what we would really love is if they gave a gift of an “experience” instead. Bring Rowan to the science museum, Disney on Ice, or the ballet for example. Something that would create a wonderful special day for the grandparents and the girls to share together. Rowan will talk about something like that for months and months, when a toy would interest her for like a week maybe. Some of you may think that is harsh or no fun but I really just didn’t like our parents wasting money either.

As far as the toys I did keep, I narrowed down the toys to 5 different categories. If it didn’t fall into one of them, wasn’t well made, or well loved by the girls, or a toy that I felt enriched their play it was donated. Our toy categories are…

1. Dress Up/Imagination play:

I kept all our dress up clothes (Melissa and Doug have the cutest outfits) and I created a little dress up chest with all the accessories. We have the Melissa and Doug Puppet theatre that the girls love as well. They use all their stuffed animals as “puppets” and love to put on little shows. We have a cute B. Doctor set the girls love. We also have a great kitchen set with lots of Melissa and Doug food pieces. Rowan’s favorite is her Kid Kraft dollhouse, I feel like that is the one toy we’ve bought her that she still uses almost daily. I keep a little basket next to it that houses all the dolls, figurines and furniture. She doesn’t use any one set of dolls for the house. I’ve seen a big ol’ party up in there with Barbies, My Little Ponies, Princess Sophie and Minnie Mouse.

2. Art and Craft Supplies:

In my opinion you can never have enough art supplies. We have loads of markers, paper, coloring books, scissors, glue, glitter (ugh), goggly eyes, pipe cleaners, ribbon. etc… Don’t get scared if you are not a crafty person. If you have the supplies out for your little one to create- they will create! They are so creative without even trying. Sometimes I like to have a set craft in mind for the girls but most times I just let them go at it. Love seeing what Rowan will come up with. If you do feel like you need a lithe help in this area, we love the Alex Toys Craft boxes you can get. It’s a great place to start!

3. Puzzles/ Building

Rowan loves puzzles. We especially extra large floor puzzles, but man she is good at even teeny tiny piece puzzles. She works so hard at them, it’s pretty darn cute. We also love legos. I just bought her first set of real legos. We’ve moved on from duplos and we had the best time this morning building silly animals with them. We also love these bristle blocks and then my absolute favorite are the Haba blocks. Rowan has this Janod circus set and it’s about the cutest thing I have ever seen. We also love this Janod alphabet puzzle.

4. Musical Instruments

Any real musical instrument is ok in my book. I not a huge fan of the fake kid ones out there, I don’t mean a miniature version of the real one, I mean the ones were you press a button on a “guitar” and it plays music sort of thing. That’s not really teaching anything about music. One musical toy we do absolutely LOVE is this Symphony B. Music Toy. I find myself sitting and playing with it well after the girls are done. It’s so fun.

5. Books

Books! Books! Books! I will never say no to books. I always want our house to be full of books to read and look at. I want them out and accessible to the girls and not just tucked up in their rooms either. We have 2 separate areas for their books downstairs on our main floor. I always want them around as an option for something to do.

We organized all the toys and created a few little areas of play around our house. Our basement has most of the imagination play items. We do a lot of our art projects over at my craft table. We have Rowan’s Dollhouse set up in our living room. In the family room we have a little chalk drawing area as well as all the puzzles and blocks stored in the drawers of the dresser. Our goal was to have things accessible but to not take over the house. I wanted it all scaled back and for everything to have a home. And you know what? Removing more than half the toys actually has made the girls play with the toys more. They can find things, aren’t overwhelmed, know how to clean up better, and are more creative with less.

How to you handle toys in your house?

Here are some photos of our play areas. Nothing fancy or styled for pinterst just real life how we organize our kids toys.

Toy Dresser | Jenloveskev.com

Toy Baskets | Jenloveskev.com

Rowan's Dollhouse | Jenloveskev.com

Basement Play Area | Jenloveskev.com

Craft Room | Jenloveskev.com

p.s. I didn’t mention any super specific toys for Finley because she honestly doesn’t want to play with anything other than what Rowan is playing with. She loves all the toys mentioned above just as much as Rowan.

Biking Adventures + Birthdays

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I had plans of just writing a simple post about our bike adventure. However, something about looking at these photos on my birthday made me feel so much more. I turned 32 yesterday. 32. yikes. I loved turning 30. It seemed like an awesome mile stone, 31 was ok because it was still close to 30. 32 though? Not sure how I felt about that one. The weeks leading up to it and I kept thinking “ugh I don’t want to be 32, I still see myself as a kid” (not that 32 is old by any means- just the idea of getting older). I woke up yesterday to the girls jumping on me yelling happy birthday and you know what, it didn’t matter what age I was turning. This was my moment. My reality. I wouldn’t care what age I was turning because I wouldn’t change this. These sweet girls, this stage of life, the good and the bad, all the lessons I’ve learned, my husband who is only getting more handsome with age, the hardships, my dear, dear friends. Just everything that is going on. I wouldn’t change any of it. We all go through life differently and hit different life stages at different ages. Some get married young, some get married later on. We can have kids, start careers, or celebrate life milestones all at different times. We all do it on our own timeline. I don’t think we should put the pressure on ourselves to fit into some standard life timeline. We should enjoy our own, however standard, accelerated or delayed you might feel it is. We should enjoy our moments, our lives, our years wherever they may fall on the timeline. I love birthdays. It’s such a great day to celebrate a year of life. The hardships you may have gone through, the laughs and tears you may have shed. All of it is good. Kev gave me the sweetest of days yesterday. Starting with a big breakfast out at my favorite place, a beautiful drive out to our parents in Massachusetts, seeing family and then an evening without the kids in one of my favorite places. Boston holds so many memories for me. I loved every minute of last night with him. A date with him will always be hands down my favorite thing. It’s so nice to shed all the hats you wear day to day and just be the 2 people you were when you fell in love. Life is busy and it’s nice to slow it down for each other. To get to talk, hold hands, and just be silly. It was a very happy birthday.

Ok. Back to bike adventures. Looking at these photos makes me smile. What a fun and crazy adventure. We have these beautiful bike paths around us that go on for miles and miles. Over labor day we decided to pack up our new bike trailer and head on a bike trek. We packed up all kinds of snacks, a picnic blanket, got the girls ready and off we went. We didn’t plan out our time very well though. We were all so eager and excited that we biked way, I mean waaaaaay too far in one direction before we decided “hey, maybe we should turn around.” When we did turn around we realized just how far we had gone. It was a looong way back. One that the girls were not too happy about. Whooops. #parentfail. Oh well. We pushed through, and when it got just a little too rough on everyone we stopped and had a delightful little picnic (hello golden hour!) by the river. It gave us enough energy to power through to the end. hahahha. We did really have a great time though, the girls crack me up in their helmets. Our new bike trailer is seriously the best. So much easier than the bike seats, plus the girls were playing and talking together the whole time. Our bikes are so old and crappy. Would love to update our bikes at some point (love this one!).

Anyway, No matter where you fail on your timeline, be thankful! Sometimes when I am in the thick of a meltdown (like the tail end of our bike adventure- both girls were screaming. Kind of embarrassing as we passed all the other bikers) I can find myself wishing time would speed up to the next stage of life. The one where the girls are a bit older and can be a bit more independent. But than I look at these pictures and I can’t help but laugh and just see all the love and fun we have. Even through the crying, the sleepless nights, the no time for myself, pushing aside other passions, this is my moment on my timeline and I am fully embracing it. It will pass and it will pass quick (although I know in the thick of things it does not feel like that). I know this year for us is going to be a crazy one, but I am going to make 32 a great year for myself just by being thankful for all that comes my way.

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^^ Finley thought this was about the funniest thing ever. She kept yelling “moooore”.

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*This post was sponsored by Wayfair, Best insulated backpack for picnics | Wayfair, Picnic blanket | Wayfair, Rowan’s Helmet | Amazon, Finley’s Helmet | Similar, My Romper | LOFT, Kev’s TShirt | DIY, Smart Planet Eco Lunch Containter | Amazon, Finley’s Dress | Little Hip Squeaks

Let’s Chat Stitchfix

I’ve been using Stictchfix for about a year now. It’s total novelty but I kind of love it. In case you don’t know what it is… You fill out a style profile all about your personal style. Your likes and dislikes, etc.. and then they match you with a stylist who once a month will pick out 5 items for you. They arrive at your door and you get to try them on, see what you like, buy anything that catches your fancy and return (in an easily pre packed envelope) anything you don’t want. Not every box is a winner. The more specific you are and the longer you do it the better they get though. You can link to certain fashion pinterest boards, ask for certain items and let them know of upcoming events to help them pick out the right items for you. I don’t get to the mall all that often with the girls so this is just a little extra treat. Some boxes I’ve kept everything and there have been a few boxes where I’ve sent back all 5 items, but usually I end up keeping 1-2 items. It’s so fun opening the box and seeing what’s in there!!

Give it a try!

Here are my 5 most recent items…

stitchfix2

I ended up keeping the black skinny jeans and the tank top. The denim jacket was cool but I already have one, and the red blouse was really fun but I am trying keep my closet a little more neutral this fall. The skirt was horrible. Blah! Totally not my style and so unshapely. I didn’t even want to try it on. In my notes back I wrote I would love to see more denim, dresses, plaid button ups, and sweaters for fall. I’ll let you know what they end up sending next month.

*this is not a sponsored post although the link is a referral code. I will be going on a little Stichfix trip in the next month but this post has nothing to do with that nor was I asked to write about them.

A Weekend In Quebec City

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Last weekend we packed the car and headed north for a few days of exploring, adventures and running. I love signing up for marathons in cities I’ve never been. That way we get to travel and explore the area as well as run the race. It’s a double win! I was only running a half marathon this time but we decided it would be fun to take the trek up to Quebec City to run. It was a little bit longer of a drive than we had hoped for (almost 8 hours) but we all survived. On the way there and the way home we stopped for a good hour at a playground to let everyone stretch their legs and have some fun.

Quebec City was beautiful! My most favorite place in the world is France, so this is about as close as you can get with out crossing any oceans. Love the charm, the language and the history of this Canadian city. There was so much to explore! We barely scratched the surface, we sure tried though. We walked EVERYWHERE on Saturday. Maybe not a good idea when you’re running a race the next morning, but what are you going to do? We loved all the little alley ways, beautiful architecture, cobblestone, huge green lawns, and exploring the walls around the city. We stayed at the Le Chateau Frontenac. What a beautiful hotel! They had some great views and a lovely rooftop terrace to enjoy. It was a great last hurrah for the summer!

My race went well. It was extremely hot and totally not my fastest race by far but I finished and got my medal to add to the wall. More on the race in another post.

Happy Monday everyone!

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Weekend Links

Why do holiday weekends always mean retail sales? I don’t really get it but I am not complaining either. I was pretty excited when I got the Loft email this morning about their 50% off fall items (including LOU & Grey!!!) this weekend. I may or may not just ordered some great basics to transition into fall. Here are my favorites…

loftweekend

Lou & Grey Maxi | Easy Tee | Lou & Grey Romper | Shirtdress | Spacedye Zip Pocket Dress | Camo Skirt

I few of my other favorites from around the web…
1. Loved this post about breastfeeding. Had me crying I was laughing so hard.

2. With Fall on the horizon I’ve been on the hunt for cute sweaters. Love this grey one with subtle heart, a cardigan with striped sleeves and this super cute sweatshirt.

3. Best cover of a song ever! Mates of State can do no wrong in my book. Love them.

4. I may not be going back to school but I am pretty obsessed with all the cute backpacks out there. Love using a backpack for a purse. So much easier! How cute are these… 1 | 2 | 3 | and of course a little girl one as well.

5. Julie is so dang cute! Loved this post. So glad they moved a little closer to us. Road trip!!

6. This tart cherry frozen yogurt is on my list of things I NEED to make before the summer is over.

7. We have been traveling a lot lately and this weekender bag from Everlane is hands down the best travel bag ever. I am head over heels in love with it. It holds so much and just looks so cool. I can’t get enough of Everlane.

8. Monica has a new site! It’s great and you should check it out and subscribe if you don’t already. So much fun, wisdom and sweetness over there.

9. I have some travel coming up this month. I am headed to San Francisco for a fun little trip and then I am speaking at the Influence Conference the end of September. I have been looking for some cute (not tOo high) heels that I could wear with jeans and not kill my feet. Love these black and leopard pair. Look pretty perfect to me!

10. Speaking of Influence Conference!!! Who’s going?? I am super exciteD but don’t know a lot of people going. Please let me know if you are going, would love to meet up! Also tickets are only on sale until the end of this weekend! Better grab one quick. It’s going to be an awesome time.

11. Nordstorms is having 40% off sale this weekend. They have great items in the kids sections. Check it out!

12. We recently bought this b&w american flag tapestry for one of our walls. I had my doubts I would like it but oh man! it’s so awesome. Totally completes our living room.

Hi, I'm Jen!

Welcome to my personal lifestyle blog. It features topics such as motherhood, family life, fashion, cooking, and all sorts of adventures. I hope you enjoy what you find!

Jen Loves Kev
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