This is my first of many Words with a Wild Child post; is what I am calling my interviews with fellow humans who I admire for the beautiful and badass lives they are living.
First up and just in time for back-to-school is Lori Ruiz, a fellow Wild Child and true Mother Earth Mama who is dedicated to raising wild children. Lori and I met when we weren’t much older than her youngest child is now and were close friends until we lost touch after high school. We had the chance to reconnect via Instagram, and her feed (@mrslorir) is perhaps one of my favorites. Below you can read Lori’s answers to the questions I asked her—about minimalism, homeschooling, and what her (and a van named Sandy) did this summer.
Hometown: Grand Junction, CO
Current Town: Austin, TX
Occupation: Stay-At-Home Mom
Married? Yes—8 Years to Dallas
Kids? Evelyn- 6, Copeland- 2 & Baby #3 (Due in October)
the Good Stuff
It seems like you and your husband are big on minimalism. Is that true? Can you talk to me about what inspired you to live a more simple life?
Yes, we are! Our journey to minimalism first started out of necessity—we didn’t have extra money to spend on extra things. After getting married I started to become increasingly frugal. Frugality almost became a hobby of mine, whether I was shopping for clothes, groceries, or furniture. Somewhere along the way I discovered minimalism. I was first introduced to the idea wandering around Pinterest. I quickly fell in love with minimalist design. It was elegant and beautiful and something I could do on a budget. After that I was introduced to the minimalist lifestyle movement through books like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, and Simplicity Parenting by Kim John. I also stumbled upon The Minimalists podcast.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
My life is richer with less. This includes less money, less clothing, less scheduling.
“Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be
useful or believe to be beautiful.”
I can live (and enjoy living) with very little. I wasn’t sure just how little until we took a six-week trip across the US in our camper van this summer. We brought with us only the necessities, and I can’t, for the life of me, think of any “materials” that were missed…maybe a good raincoat and a hot shower?
The hardest thing to let go of?
Furniture. I love some of the pieces we have found over the years. However, we plan to move into an Airstream full-time next year, and hauling furniture to our temporary apartment in Austin just wasn’t practical. We currently have our mattresses on the floor of our rooms. We grabbed some freebies from Craigslist to furnish our place until we make our transition. We currently have a table with two chairs, an (ugly) wing back chair, a wicker end table, and a desk. I miss my mid-century furniture! It’s currently staying with my parents…I haven’t officially “let go”.
You guys homeschool your kids, right? Why did you two make that decision?
I’m just not satisfied with the education that I received. I had decent grades but I never really cared about what I was learning. I can honestly say that I don’t think I actually read one assigned book (unless Spark notes count) in its entirety throughout my entire high school career. I want my children to LOVE learning and LOVE books.
“The question is not how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education but how much does he care? And about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set?
And, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”
I also want my kids to have the chance to be kids for as long as possible. There’s so much out there for them to experience while they are still young and innocent and full of wonder.
And who is Charlotte Mason?
Charlotte Mason was a British educator at the turn of the 20th century. She believed that children should be provided a wide “feast” of subjects and be introduced to “living” ideas. Her thoughts on education have encouraged many educators and homeschooling parents to turn away from traditional textbooks and dull curriculum. For example instead of reading from a textbook about the Civil War we might read a biography of a Civil War soldier. The idea is to gain an emotional connection to whatever you are learning that way the history becomes “alive.” You are much more likely to gain that connection reading a foot soldier’s tragic real life account than reading a few paragraphs and memorizing some dates.
Also, I notice a big part of that education (according to IG) happens in the wild. Is that to do with Charlotte? Why do you feel like this is so important?
Charlotte Mason believed that children, especially young children, should spend between 4-5 hours outside every single day. Looking back on my own childhood, my fondest memories came from playing outside. Even as a new mother I remember my mom advising me to take a fussy baby outside. Babies aren’t fussy when they are outside. I don’t know why. It’s magic. I’ve also observed this calming effect nature has on children when my daughter and niece play together. When they are inside, all they do is bicker, but get them out of doors and their imaginations go wild. I’m not sure how to fully articulate what it is exactly nature does to my soul, but I know it’s valuable and probably one of the deepest treasures we have been given on this planet. John Muir has so many wonderful things to say about man and nature; this and one of my favorites:
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
Speaking of the wild…you and your husband built a camping van right?
Tell me about how that came about and what you did with her this past summer.
So, maybe 3-4 years ago Dallas and I discovered AirBnB. That somehow led to discovering the tiny house movement, people living full-time in Airstreams, and, eventually, we found the camper van movement. We knew we wanted to travel more. But a tiny house was just too big, and an Airstream required owning a vehicle to haul it. We wanted to be able to camp throughout the summer in as remote locations as possible without going full on tent camping.* So anyways, we got a smoking deal on this Ford Econoline camper van (Thanks, Dad!), and knew we had to hit the road. Beginning in June, we took off towards the East, stopping in Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and came back around through Colorado. We then headed West through Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Wyoming. It was hands down one of the best experiences in my life thus far.
*I want to be a tent camper…Dallas does not.
What was the best part of that experience for your family?
Pushing the kids and myself to do some challenging hikes. I mean the struggle is REAL when one of you is six-months pregnant and the other is carrying your 18-month old up a steep incline for a couple hours. But we did it!
The worst, or perhaps, the one thing you don’t miss about #vanlife?
Pregnant and no air conditioning. Enough said.
Favorite thing you saw/experienced?
Hiking up Mount Rainier. The VIEWS…I mean you can see Mount Hood in OREGON from Mount Rainier in WASHINGTON. Also, it was our most challenging hike, so it felt so good to get up there in the middle of July where there was still snow on the ground.
What does the future look like for you?
Are there any projects or hobbies you’re working on?
I notice you still paint quite a bit…
Right now, the plan is to have this baby and just relax in Austin until spring. Then we plan on moving into an Airstream full-time, and we shall see from there. We just started the school year, so that’s been keeping me busy for now. I wish I had more time/motivation to paint right now, but I don’t. Instagram is the only creative outlet I have going at the moment, and even that has slowed down quite a bit. I’ve been spoiled with all these breath-taking landscapes that make for super easy shots all summer, and now that we’re here in Austin, I’m kind of baffled at how to capture the beauty here. That’s my next challenge—trying to take my iPhonography to the next level. I’ll probably start focusing a lot more on human subjects and a little less on nature.
the Questions I Ask Everyone
What is one thing you make sure you do every day? Get outside.
What was the last great book you read? What the Robin Knows by Jon Young
Last thing you bought for yourself?
I just bought a big grey poncho for fall from a thrift store!
Song you can’t stop singing in the shower?
Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun (It’s a nursery rhyme. )
Words of wisdom?
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” John Muir (again!)
Stay tuned for more Words with a Wild Child posts; coming soon: a yogi who loves the mountains, a mommy blogger with many talents, and a photojournalism grad student!