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I wouldn’t exactly call my kids deprived, though sometimes their peers stare goggle-eyed when we tell them things like we have one TV,(OK – two. But the master bedroom one is parents only, switched on every blue moon or so) and that in the living room, away from where we dine. And, every dinner? Together.

These same kids are further shocked to find our laptop is pretty much business purposes only, no internet, few games. (I love my phone plan/library Wi-Fi. It has opened writing doors long shut to me.)

Not to mention the one Wii without blood and guts fest, limited turns, and strict homework first policy. The actually having to ask before play.

Clothes are purchased not for label but for wear.

And the thrift store price.

Free is also a great bargain.

No cell phone of their own or any handheld gadget for that matter.

We have invested in the last year or so in a couple of bigger ticket items, but with the express purpose to fuel some passions each have (we are raising a pack of creative performers).

And, yet, even there, old school tends to reign.

Oldies and parodies appeal over much of the current music scene.

TV from an antenna leaves us out of the loop on what the latest greatest show is or who a lot of actors are.

In their book, Gilligan is tops.

No Hulu. No Netflix.

Movie theater? Big event of maybe once or twice a year, when we can find anything decent.

Reading is a must every night. Some love it so much they get up early to cram more in.

We do church and they are encouraged to pursue what we can afford, but being rich in home time is as vital as being rich in activities.

Speaking of…

The activities they come up with from their fertile imaginations boggle the mind!

Elaborate, few props, expressive dramatics.

Or, they create the most intricate engineering marvels with just a handful of building materials.

Artistic beauty from a little paper.

Board games are tops. As is helping with dinner.

Or someone in need. We don’t always have a lot to give, but we try.

I know I risk sounding like a braggy minimalist mom.

I don’t expect all to live like this or get it.

Some will. Some won’t.

Honestly, I write all this and fear my own uncoolness. And wonder if life’s gone and sophisticated itself out of reach.

And, yes, sometimes,there are some sad little faces to contend with when I tell them something is not in our budget.


And, if I wallow in woe-is-me’s, I imagine my beloved children coming to me one day and saying, You never gave us anything we wanted.

And, then, they’ll buy a small fleet of cars and enough antiques to fill ten flea markets like my dear old eccentric uncle to make up for it.

And, yet, deep in my heart, I don’t think this will really be so…

Because, perhaps, this life lived on a frayed shoestring was exactly as God intended.

It forces us to get creative, stick close, make our own fun.

To say, “no” on occasion to inconsequentials.

To say “yes” more often to those things which matter.

To not be so slick in design as this fast-paced culture around us, seeking to grow up the young in a flash without the substance that teaches HOW to be grown up.

To miss out on things perhaps best missed out on, and to not miss out on those things we will look back upon as vital.

The love.

Of family, of Christ, of our fellow man.

Of course, we dream of being able to do more. What we wouldn’t give to give the kids the better end of the deal!

But, as I ponder this, I can’t help but feel as though we have the better end of the deal already.

A wad of cash does not a loving parent make, after all.

Give me unsophisticated old school any day if it means we are gaining this worthy brood I see around my table at night.

I hope my kids will grow up to say the same, that the pure and simple always satisfies.

Because, honestly, though their little peers are goggle-eyed, there is one or two I have caught also looking just a bit wistful, too.

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Marisa Ulrich

Marisa Ulrich is a mom of four, two autistic, two “typicals," living in one of those great old fixer-uppers in rural Kansas. She is in a blessed second marriage with the handyman of her dreams. Her writing has appeared in Autism Parenting and Zoom Autism. Her first book, Broken Cookies Taste Just as Sweet: The Amazing Grace of Motherhood, Marriage, and Miracles on the Spectrum is set to debut July 19th via eLectio publishing. Join her ongoing thoughts on Facebook, and online at

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