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Monday, September 15, 2014

Quick Project: Organizing My Side Table

One area of our house that I have claimed as my own is this side table next to the couch.  It's kind of my command center for hobbies, devotions, homeschool planning, and whatnot.  And it was kind of a mess.

Before:
 
Here's how it looked a few weeks ago.  Pretty typical, stacks of books and stuff, with overflow onto the couch.

Middle:
In the middle, a week or so later, not much had changed, except a few of the books got switched out for new ones.  Also, my devotion book always ends up near the bottom of the stack, which is a minor annoyance when I want to pull it out at night.  And I usually knock some of the books down when I turn the light on.  One of the big rules of organizing is to look at how things work well (or don't) and fix the problems.

End:
Okay, so not too much has changed.  But I put away some of the extra stuff, got my book stack down to one pile of to-be-read books, and my devotion book has its own spot so I shouldn't run into issues there any more!  Also, my red bag on the floor, which keeps migrating slowly around the table in these pictures, is a blanket that I'm knitting.  I work on that at night while Jesse and I watch random tv shows on Amazon (currently watching season 2 of The Wire, which is not as good as season 1).

And the green bin is library books that fit with our homeschool studies for the week.  More about that in a post later this week!  What quick organizing projects have you done lately?

Menu Plan September 16-30

I went shopping on Sunday afternoon.  It was nice, because I got the luxury of going by myself, but it was crazy hectic, because everyone shops on the weekends.  I like shopping on weekday mornings much better.  The good news is that I'm on track to be under budget this month!  Yay!  I haven't been for the past few months, but I've been very intentional about it this month and it's working.

Tuesday, September 16
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: BLTs (we have these a lot during tomato season because they're so good!)
Dinner: Gluten Free Spaghetti

Wednesday, September 17
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Crockpot Ham and Bean Soup, Baking Powder Biscuits

Thursday, September 18
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Leftover Ham and Bean Soup and Biscuits

Friday, September 19
Breakfast: Winter Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Chicken Enchilada Chili
Dinner: Oatmeal Pancakes

Saturday, September 20
Breakfast: Leftover Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Leftover Chicken Enchilada Chili
Dinner: Crockpot Beef and Broccoli

Sunday, September 21
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftover Beef and Broccoli
Dinner: Pinto Bean and Ground Turkey Taco Salads

Monday, September 22
Breakfast: Eggs and Sweet Potatoes
Lunch: Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions, served over rice
Dinner: Taco Salads

Tuesday, September 23 (Jonah's 5th birthday!)
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Leftover Italian sausage
Dinner: Fried Chicken (from the grocery store deli), Homemade Macaroni and Cheese (with gluten free pasta), and Chocolate Cake, at the birthday boy's request

Wednesday, September 24
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Baked Potatoes with Ham, Broccoli, and Cheese
Dinner: Stuffed Peppers

Thursday, September 25
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: Hot Dogs, Apples, Carrots
Dinner: Black Bean Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries

Friday, September 26
Breakfast: Zucchini Apple Carrot Muffins
Lunch: Pizza Smashers (pizza sauce, pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, and cheese between 2 slices of bread in our sandwich press)
Dinner: Chicken Fajitas, Refried Beans (from the freezer)

Saturday, September 27
Breakfast: Leftover Zucchini Apple Carrot Muffins
Lunch: Refried Bean and Cheese Tortillas, Apples, Baby Carrots
Dinner: Crockpot Jambalaya

Sunday, September 28
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Leftover Jambalaya

Monday, September 29
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Chicken Barley Soup, Biscuits
Dinner: Fish Fillets, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Tuesday, September 30
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Leftover Chicken Barley Soup and Biscuits
Dinner: Planned Dinner Out

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What I'm Reading...

It's been a busy, busy week for us.  We had our normal school and daily routines, along with my birthday on Thursday, lunch with friends on Friday, and a few extra meetings and errands to top it off.  Combined with some growing pains with Jonah about having school time before playing, I'm kind of glad the week is done!  Here's what I found to read this week...

Ten Strategies For Staying Motivated Toward Your Financial (And Other) Goals.  These are all really good tips. (The Simple Dollar)

Nursery Decorating Tips From A Mom Who's Done With Babies.  My favorite was the tip about the floors.  You don't realize how much time you spend there until you actually have the kids. (The Happiest Home)

Can Children Still Run Free In 2014.  I think the answer is no."What does it mean about our culture when I am more worried about whether something bad will happen to ME (for letting them go to play unsupervised) than I am about whether something bad will happen to my children?" (The Art Of Simple)

7 Important Things Slate Misses In Its Attack On Home-Cooked Meals.  There's a nice Luther quotation in here that I hadn't heard before, but it describes the role of serving your family really well.  And overall a really good response to an article that I just can't relate to at all. (The Federalist via Life Your Way)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What I'm Reading...

This week we started school!  The boys were very excited to see what I was doing the night before, when I started hanging a few things up.

Two Questions You Need To Ask If You Want To Make The Most Of Your Life. Basic, but good. (Money Saving Mom)

The Four Stages Of Financial Independence.  This reminded me a lot of Dave Ramsey. (The Simple Dollar)

Starting The Year Right. A good reminder for the start of the school year. (Simple Homeschool)

How To Homeschool With Little People In The House.  We're still working on this one.  Sometimes they want to be included, sometimes they want to be distractions. (Vita Familiae via Simple Homeschool)

Our Year Without Groceries.  This sounds really cool! You would definitely need an ample supply of local sources though. (Let's Gather via Money Saving Mom)

When You're Tired Of Being A Stuff Manager And Want To Enjoy Living. I like the description of being a "stuff manager". (A Holy Experience via Organizing Junkie)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

September Goals

With school starting this week, and a lot of other things popping up to take care of, I've had a goals list in my head, but not typed up.  And with how scatter-brained this pregnancy is making me, I should really get my goals written out before I forget them all...

Parenting:

  • Figure out a good order for homeschooling subjects.  We've tried a couple different ways, and there are some subjects that are more of a "fun" time or "break" time than others, so I'm trying to alternate those with the more structured ones.
  • Continue to teach Hannah to use a spoon.  Slow going with this one...
  • Make sure to spend some one on one time with Matthew.  Between Jonah getting school time and Hannah making sure she as the youngest gets her own "mom time", Matthew sometimes gets left out.
Personal:
  • Read three books for fun.  After all the reading I did this summer, three might be an ambitious number unless I really focus on setting aside time for it.
  • Clear whatever doesn't sell on the garage sale sites out of our bedroom by the end of the month.  I can only trip over the pile for so long.
Food:
  • Stay on budget!  The first half of the month is looking pretty good so far.
  • Decide what foods to compromise on and how to do it.  I've been making things like tortillas and crackers from scratch the past few weeks, and I appreciate the cost savings and the health factor, but it takes time.  It makes messes.  It's not exactly fun, especially with everything else I have going on.  So I need to figure out what is going to stay part of the food routine and what is going to have to wait for now, especially with Elizabeth coming soon.
  • Find a good homemade specialty coffee recipe.  I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to coffees and drinks, and I want to try several to see what's yummy and what's not so good.

Friday, September 5, 2014

On The First Week Of Homeschool

We did it.  We made it through the first week of homeschooling.  And I have mixed feelings.

I want to be more excited than I am.  In my mind, we were going to spend a minimum of 3 hours each day learning.  Jonah would happily go from subject to subject, completing all of his work, asking questions, and wanting to learn more.  I know, I know, that was all very silly of me, but sometimes I get so carried away with my plans of how things are going to be that I forget that reality rarely follows plans.

The first day we finished our lessons after just over 2 hours.  I asked some of my homeschooling friends, is this right?  Should we be done already?  Did I miss something?  2 hours is fine, they said.  You're still learning throughout the day, even if it's not as structured as that specific time you sit down and call it homeschooling.  Besides, it's kindergarten.  Most of the learning happens just from living life.

Jonah was not as curious or as excited as I expected either.  He did the work, some of it begrudgingly, and tried to get out of some of the things he didn't like as much.  "Maybe I'll just finish this later, Mom."  I let him get away with that, once.  I don't want to push too hard and make him dislike the things he already dislikes even more.  But the work still needs to be done.

I forgot math today.  We got through the rest of the subjects, and later on, while I was at a doctor appointment, I realized we skipped math.  The one subject Jonah is the best at and is flying through, and makes him feel super smart right now, and we skipped it.

The kids have always loved doing projects, and we had two days this week with projects that involved painting.  Yes, painting.  With a three year old and a four year old, while the one year old runs around trying to grab things off the table.  I don't know why I did that to myself this first week.  Maybe because I thought it would be fun for the kids and that would be worth it.  They lasted for two minutes the first day.  The second day they made it seven minutes.  That's less time than setup and cleanup took me.

All this to say, the first week had its challenges.  But we also had good moments.  Jonah can count to 30 with no problem.  He can hold a writing utensil correctly now, something I thought was going to take weeks if not longer to correct.  The kids love to read.  They know the first 12 books of the Bible by heart.  Jonah can remember the basic plot from our chapter book from day to day.

These are the successes I'm holding onto.  This is not going to be easy.  I'm still figuring out how to include teaching and preparing in my day to day life, along with all the other household things.  Most days I feel like there's not enough time for everything I want to do, and I have to remind myself that my free time doesn't always win.  It doesn't always lose either, though.

We are learning the balance, bit by bit.  Who knows what we will learn next week?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Menu Plan September 1-15

I made these Vanilla Cheesecake Baked Apples (and pears too, in my case). They were delicious! I may have eaten the entire plate by myself in one sitting...

This past week I also attempted to make tortillas for the first time using this recipe.  It actually went pretty well, and I plan on continuing to do that when we need tortillas, since it's pretty easy and a lot cheaper than buying a pack from the store (plus the ingredients list is a lot shorter!).

Here's the plan for the first part of September.

Monday, September 1
Breakfast: Chocolate Zucchini Muffins and Apple Zucchini Muffins (made with all oat flour so they're gluten free)
Lunch: Leftover Mushroom Barley Soup and Biscuits
Dinner: Black Bean Taco Salads

Tuesday, September 2
Breakfast: Leftover Zucchini Muffins
Lunch: BLTs
Dinner: Black Bean Taco Salads

Wednesday, September 3
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Hot Dogs, Homemade Mac and Cheese
Dinner: Chicken Pepper Bake

Thursday, September 4
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: Turkey Bacon Wraps
Dinner: Coconut Chicken Soup

Friday, September 5
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Turkey Bacon Wraps
Dinner: Coconut Chicken Soup

Saturday, September 6
Breakfast: Eggs and Sweet Potatoes
Lunch: Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions over Rice
Dinner: Oatmeal Pancakes

Sunday, September 7
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftover Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions over Rice
Dinner: Chicken Fajitas, Crockpot Refried Beans

Monday, September 8
Breakfast: Eggs and Bacon
Lunch: Taco Soup, Tortilla Strips
Dinner: Chicken Pasta with Peas (using gluten free pasta)

Tuesday, September 9
Breakfast: Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftover Taco Soup and Tortilla Strips
Dinner: Cobb Salads

Wednesday, September 10
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: BLTs
Dinner: Cobb Salads

Thursday, September 11 - my birthday!
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: Chicken, Black Bean, and Mexi Rice Bowls
Dinner: Cheeseburgers, Sweet Potato Fries, and Black Bean Brownies with Frosting

Friday, September 12
Breakfast: Southwest Frittata
Lunch: Leftover Rice Bowls
Dinner: Chili

Saturday, September 13
Breakfast: Southwest Frittata
Lunch: Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes
Dinner: 7 Layer Casserole

Sunday, September 14
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftover 7 Layer Casserole
Dinner: Chili

Monday, September 15
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Sandwiches, Soups from the Freezer
Dinner: Bacon, Egg, and Cheese on Biscuits

I took a look at all of the recipes we've eaten lately (plus a few we'd forgotten about) and tried to find the cheapest ones that still fit with our diet nowadays (aka gluten free or gluten free adaptable, lots of veggies and protein).  Since we're trying to save money, I'm really trying to stick with my grocery budget, something I haven't done very well with the past few months.  We'll see how this month goes, but so far we're on track!

I'm linking to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.