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How an Easter Dress Taught Me About Gratitude

03/25/2015 05:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2015
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"Oh no, I haven't gotten a new Easter dress yet!" my oldest daughter exclaimed from the recesses of her bedroom closet.

We were smack in the middle of the Great Closet Cleanout, which happens approximately once a week since my children are fond of throwing their dirty clothes on the closet floor, then sprinkling clean clothes and used towels from the shower on top just for good measure.

I wondered for a moment why that thought even crossed my daughter's mind. I don't think I've ever bought her an "Easter dress" in her life, mostly because I don't buy stuff unless we need it and I like to think of us as minimalists. Also because I'm cheap.

But as my daughter organized her closet full of dresses and claimed to need another one, I realized we were far from minimalists.

We're drowning in a culture of excess, to the point where the only problems that could even exist in my kids' minds are first-world ones.

During summer vacation from school, the kids and I take a pretend "trip around the world," learning about different countries in an attempt to keep young brains from atrophying. During the week, we "visited" Mauritania, and we got a book from the library about what Mauritanian kids do all day.

I have to admit that the contrast made me feel a little sick.

My kids have so many toys, books, games and dress up outfits that we have to rotate them in and out of the attic. The Mauritanian kids in the book played with little cars they fashioned from wire hangers and pieces of tinfoil -- toys they literally made out of trash.

A popular children's game in Mauritania, just like here in New England, is soccer. But while my children get chauffeured to the field in our air-conditioned Kia and enjoy a snack brought by the coach at halftime, the kids in the book were playing barefoot in the dirt and kicking around a ball made out of plastic shopping bags.

Most of the time, I try not to think about this too much, because when I do, it disgusts me. Not just because we have so much, but because we're constantly complaining about it.

Last summer, a friend and I took our kids to the lake and watched them splashing around while we commiserated about how impossible it all is: the cooking, the cleaning, the dropping off and picking up. And that part about helping our kids grow up to be halfway decent people, too.

When there was a lull in the conversation, I said jokingly, "Well, let's just lounge on the beach and complain about how hard our lives are." We laughed, and the conversation turned to other things.

But really, I've got no excuse to be unsatisfied. Yes, my floor is covered with crusty noodles and splatters of dried spaghetti sauce from last night, but it means that I have a floor. And walls. And a roof.

It means I have enough food to feed my children and extra to spare.

Most of all, it means that I have five beautiful, healthy kids who don't have to worry about anything bigger than what they're going to wear on Easter Sunday.

And that is truly something to be grateful for.

Jenny Evans is a perfectionist, a night owl and a Mormon mom of five who makes jokes at her own expense and blogs about her messy life with a houseful of kids at Unremarkable Files.

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