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Sunday, August 31, 2014

What I'm Reading...

Hannah enjoying some playing at the park. Unlike her brothers, she's not scared of getting dirty.

Look Up To Someone. I loved the quotation that started this post: "Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." (Becoming Minimalist)

The Preschool Years: Turning Mommy Guilt Into Mommy Grace.  I think I have had all of these questions and doubts over the past month or so, so this was really encouraging! (1+1+1=1)

5 Things I've Learned About Myself As An Introvert.  I pretty much could have written this post.  I sat and nodded through it as I read. (Andrea Dekker)

A Rich Life With Less Stuff: The Minimalists At Tedx. If you want to see a brief talk on minimalism and it's positive effects on your life, watch this video. (The Minimalists)

The Spending That Makes You Happy.  As we work on spending less and paying things off, we've been evaluating what we spend money on.  Some things have been worth it. Many have not. Figuring out the difference is helpful.  (The Simple Dollar)

Kathryn's Release From Social Media Compulsion.  I'd love for this to be my perspective.  It's definitely a work in progress right now. (The Art Of Simple)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Books I've Read: August 2014

There may be an extra book in this stack, because I thought I might get ambitious and read it.  Didn't happen, but I plan to read it during September!  But look, actual paper books!

Eve by Anna Carey. I read this book on my phone using my free trial of Scribd.  This was a pretty quick read, another dystopian fiction story.  Ninety-eight percent of the world has been wiped out by a virus, one that was not really explained well - where did it come from? how did it stop? was it cured, or did the surviving people just hide for long enough that the virus died? Girls are basically made into breeding machines to repopulate the earth, and Eve finds out soon enough to escape.  She started out really naive and by the end of the story she got better, but overall she was a little dumb.  The book kept me interested enough to want to find out what happened in the next two in the trilogy.

Once by Anna Carey. I read this book on my phone using my free trial of Scribd.  Stop the presses! I actually liked the second book in a trilogy the best!  I think a big part of this was that there was a twist in the story about a quarter of the way through that I wasn't expecting.  I love when books surprise me!  This moved the story along pretty well, although there were a few slower parts in the middle.  Overall, a good book though.

Rise by Anna Carey.  I read a paper copy of this book from the library.  This was an okay conclusion to the trilogy.  I kept waiting for something to happen, and it finally did in the last two pages of the book.  I wish that thing would have happened sooner.  (Is that vague enough to be spoiler free?)  This one got a little bit long for me in the middle, and then the end felt really rushed, like the author was just checking off everything that needed to be wrapped up without talking about any of it too much.  Overall, I enjoyed this trilogy though.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.  I read the paper copy of this book that we bought from a local bookstore.  I've heard a lot about Dave Ramsey's methods over the past few years, but this is the first time I actually read his book.  We started our total money makeover on 8/20/14.  We are hoping to have our $1,000 emergency fund saved within a month, from leftover money from Jesse's paycheck and from selling stuff around the house.  Right now I'm excited about doing this, and Jesse is too, but I know it will be a long way to the finish line, so I'm glad that this book has success stories interspersed with the steps, because we'll need the reminders during the hard times.

Sugar, Salt, Fat by Michael Moss.  I read the paper copy of this book that I got at the airport on our Paris trip.  I finally finished it! This book was divided into three sections, one for each subject in the title.  Each chapter focused on a specific company or product, while also expounding on problems with the category as a whole.  I liked the combination of stories and anecdotes with facts.  Like in the chapter on Lunchables, in the fat section, I learned that "nearly one in four American adolescents may be on the verge of developing type 2 diabetes or already have it."  Scary facts, but facts nonetheless.

I think one of my favorite quotations was this one though: "There is a class issue at work in processed foods, in which the inventors and company executives don't generally partake in their own creations."  If that doesn't tell you something is wrong with our food systems in this country, I don't know what does.

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. I read a paper copy of this book from the library, but I plan on buying my own copy at some point.  (And technically, I only finished the first two sections, but the third is high school, and as of now we're not planning on homeschooling for that)  This has been called the "homeschool Bible" by some, and I understand the distinction after reading it myself.  While this book doesn't say "do this for this amount of time for this year", it does provide several options for curriculum, as well as numerous supplemental sources, plus examples of schedules, examples of methods, and suggestions for how to include different things in the homeschool year.  It also weaves in a basic understanding of what it means to classically homeschool, which is more or less what we're planning on.

I like that this book was broken down into three sections (grades 1-4, 5-8, and high school) and spoke to what should be learned during each period.  I liked that there were several options for curriculum given for each subject/grade level, with enough of a description that you can still control what and how you learn, but you don't have to wade through the endless possibilities that exist from starting an online search when you know nothing.  Overall, this was a really good resource, and one that I'll be re-reading probably every year when I'm planning what to do next.  My only wish is that I had had more time to read, budget, and plan for this year, but I think we'll still do okay, and I have lots of ideas for next year!

Book Total for this month: 6 books read. Total this year: 19 books read.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Who I Am

It was the summer after 8th grade, and my family was taking the Disney World trip down to Florida.  We were waiting at the airport, and I watched her walk past.  Clack, clack, clack.  Her black heels slapped the floor with each confident step, her carry-on rolling behind her, her Starbucks in her hand.  She was calm and ready to take on the world at seven in the morning.  She exuded ease and self-assurance, and I wanted to be her.

Fast forward fourteen years, and here I am.  I am not a successful businesswoman, flying across the country to whatever important meeting or conference is taking place this week.  I am in the midst of baking muffins and changing diapers, reading stories and finding lost toys, planning math lessons and telling Bible stories.  It's not quite the same.

But I do have something in common with the woman at the airport.  It's taken me years, but I'm comfortable in my own skin.

A lot of the lifestyle choices we've made are not the usual.  I'm passionate about feeding my family real food, about teaching my children at home, about the importance of having space in my home and my life.  These ideas aren't for everyone, and it can be hard to explain and defend these choices to people who don't do the same.

For a long time, I've looked at being a stay-at-home mom as "what I'm doing for now", with the idea that there would always be something else to follow.  What that is, I've never been too clear on.  All of the roles I fall into as the believer, wife, mom, chef, financial manager, teacher, helper, maid are the things that fill my life, that make me me.  I've read that you're not supposed to identify yourself by what you do, because if that were to go away, you would still be yourself.  And that's true, I suppose.  But I also think that what we do does define us. It does shape us.

Will I always be the stay-at-home mom? Probably not.  But right now, that's who I am.  I'm not just a stay-at-home mom.  I'm not settling for this while waiting to move on to something else.  This is what I'm doing.  And I really enjoy all of the different hats I get to wear.  It's not a life full of Christmas-card-worthy updates (unless you are excited to hear how many times I've put the books back on the bookshelf today).  But it's my simple little life, and I like it.

One of the things that drew me to this woman in the airport was how sure of herself she seemed.  And while I may not be a career woman jetting off somewhere anytime soon, I do have that.  I'm confident in myself, and in my decisions.  I know what I like, I know what I'm good at, and I'm starting to embrace that my life is not in a state of "for now".  This is my life. This is who I am.  And I like it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A-Z Of Bookish Questions

My friend Wesley posted this trivia list on her blog the other day (go check it out for lots of good book reviews), and I thought it was lots of fun.  I enjoy filling these out and reading them, and hopefully you do too!  Here's your useless Katy trivia of the day...
The books I read sometimes look like this...

Author you've read the most books from: Probably Lisa Scottoline.  Back in high school I read every book she had out at the time.  I know there are several more now.
Best sequel ever: I tend to read trilogies, and I usually don't like the second book.  But I liked Once by Anna Carey (review in my end of the month books post later this month!)
Currently reading: The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer; Sugar, Salt, Fat by Michael Moss, and The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.
Drink of choice while reading: A good cup of coffee.
E-reader or physical book: I like both, for very different reasons.  I like the feel of an actual paper book.  I like e-readers for their convenience, space-saving capabilities, and the amount of free books that are available. But I've also started using the library weekly again, so there's pros to both.
Fictional character you probably would have dated in high school: Tobias aka Four from Divergent. He reminds me of my husband.
Glad you gave this book a chance: War and Peace. It was a huge task that took me I think 6 months to finish, but it was full of such strong characters.
Hidden gem book: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.  I read this in one sitting at Barnes and Noble during my college days, and it stuck with me.
Irritated by: Books that drag out the middle of the story just to wrap everything up in two pages.  Pacing, people.
Just finished: Eve, Once, and Rise by Anna Carey.
Kind of books you won’t read: Smutty romance and 50 Shades of Grey.
Longest book you've read: War and Peace. 
Major book hangover because of: Harry Potter. I definitely wished for that series to keep going when it was done.
Number of bookcases you own: One! And of that one five-shelfer, I have three shelves devoted to fiction, one to non-fiction and photo albums, and two for kid books.  And if you can add, you'll realize that's six shelves - we use the top with bookends too.  But that's our limit!
One book you read multiple times: I don't re-read too many, but I've read all of the Harry Potter books a few times, and the first couple of both the Anne of Green Gables series and the Little House on the Prairie series a few times. One day I will actually finish those series...
Preferred place to read: A coffee shop
Quote you like from a book you read: Live like no one else so you can live like no one else. - Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover, which is fresh in my mind.
Reading regret: I wish I had more time to read! But I also know that I sometimes choose to do other things instead, which I'm working on.
Series you started and need to finish: Anne of Green Gables. I started early this year, made it halfway through book 5, and got distracted by other books.
Three of your all time favorite books: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield for the story, Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman for the writing style, and The Seventh Princess by Nick Horn from my childhood (and I still have it!)
Unapologetic fangirl for: Young Adult fiction.  Most of the fiction I read comes from the teen section.
Very excited for this release more than all the others: I don't keep up on new books enough to know what's coming out.  I'm usually years behind, but at least I have the benefit of not having to wait for sequels!
Worst bookish habit: Getting caught up in a book during the kids' naptime, and then continuing to read all afternoon while they interrupt me every two seconds, instead of putting the book down and coming back to it later.
X marks the spot: I have a ribbon and button bookmark (read: kid-proof) that I use most of the time, and I also use a part of a box from a bakery in Paris. 
Your latest book purchase: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. 
Zzzz snatcher book: I can't remember the last time I was bored with a book.  I'm usually pretty good at picking things I want to read.  But if I ever really don't like something, I'll put it down for awhile.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What I'm Reading...

This week we've been reading through Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover, and we're starting at the beginning, with getting our $1,000 Emergency Fund.  That means gathering lots of stuff to sell!  On the right was my first pile, the "easy stuff" to find.  We have so much stuff!

How To Live An Exceptional Life, Even When Life Doesn't Feel Exceptional. "There is a backstory. Practicing and packing. Preparing and praying. Failing and trying again. And again. And again."  The exceptional stories we hear have a lot of work in the background, work that is full of unexceptional details. (The Art of Simple)

Why Today's Kids Need To Know Nursery Rhymes. My mom, who teaches preschool, has told me several times that the majority of her students don't know any of the nursery rhymes that she teaches until they learn them at school. They're important! (The Measured Mom)

Nine Strategies For Fixing Common Budget Problems. Pretty sure we've hit most of these already, and I'm sure some will come up again. (The Simple Dollar)

My Stress-Free Homeschool Planning Method. I do like to have things all set up, but I may switch to a checklist method to try it out after the first couple weeks are through. (Life Your Way)

The Pictures We Hang On Our Walls. "The pictures on our walls invite us to something better. They remind us of a life lived on purpose with meaning. And they call for us to focus on the very things that make us human." (Becoming Minimalist)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Our 2014 Homeschool Curriculum

I'm nearly ready to start our homeschool year.  And by "nearly ready", I mean I still don't really know what I'm doing, but I have resources for most of my subjects, and a few things specifically written out, so that's something, right?  I think because we don't officially have to report this year since Jonah is not at the age limit of 6 for Wisconsin, I feel a little bit more at ease about jumping into things and seeing how it works as we go.  This is major progress for my Type A planning personality, by the way.

Here's what we have planned to use for this year.  I am guessing at least some of this will change as we figure out what works for us, but this is at least where we are starting.

One of my big resources is Wittenberg Academy, a free classical Lutheran homeschool curriculum.  This is their first year, so it will be kind of cool to see how it all works.  They use public domain (meaning free) resources and pdfs, and the curriculum is all set up for you as long as you are registered.  We won't be using all of the subjects, because I have some things I wanted to do differently, but we will use this for some subjects.

Bible Stories, Memory Work, and Hymnology.  This is actually the one thing I don't have fully figured out yet.  You'd think the pastor's wife would be on the ball with this one, but no.  We are using Wittenberg Academy for some of our other subjects, and I expected them to have a Bible History section, but I haven't found it yet.  So I'm still looking into that.  We were going to do Christ Light, but it's kind of expensive.

For Memory Work, we will be starting On My Heart, and I will also be picking one hymn to work on each week.  Most will be seasonally appropriate, or something that we will be singing in church soon (as the organist, I have all the ins on what's coming up).

Math. We are starting out with the math on Wittenberg Academy, which is a 3-day-a-week setup.  I will supplement this with activities and worksheets that I find online for free.  It seems really basic (it is Kindergarten math after all), so if Jonah ends up flying through it really quickly, I may still look into ordering Saxon, which is what I originally planned on.  However, free won out over $60, at least to start.

Reading.  For learning letters, we are using Letter of the Week, which I found awhile ago and really liked, and then it was also recommended by a teacher friend, which is a bonus.  The only sad part for me is we have a black and white printer, which means some of the materials I'll have to print, and then attempt to color to make them pretty.  I'll supplement this with other letter-appropriate crafts and projects I find online.

We will also be reading a lot!  I'll be using reading lists like this to find books that reinforce the letter of the week.  We're also going to be doing a chapter a day of some longer books, starting with Stuart Little.  And finally, we'll have other more factual books available that go with our science units.  Plus, Jonah and Matthew each pick out 2-3 books for fun each week at the library.  Read read read!

Handwriting. There are tons of free resources out there for handwriting practice.  We'll be using some of these each week to go with our letter of the week.
  • Letters of All Sizes from The Measured Mom. This will be our introductory page each week to get used to writing the letter.
  • Alphabet Tracing Worksheets from Itsy Bitsy Fun. This will be practice for writing uppercase and lowercase of each letter.
  • A-Z Beginner's Handwriting Book from CurrClick. This one has the letter, a short word, and a space for drawing a picture of that word.
  • Bible Based Handwriting Curriculum from Frugal Homeschool Family. This one starts with letters, moves on to Biblical names and words, and eventually to Bible passages. It was on a special free promotion last week, so I picked it up!
I like A Reason For Handwriting, especially because there are Bible verses that go with each letter, but I chose not to do that this year for two reasons. First, I have enough other free resources for now, and second, because the Bible verses don't start until the next book anyway. We may revisit that for next year.

Science. Right now my plan is to do units on different topics.  I do also like the science included in the Wittenberg Academy curriculum, because it includes Biblical stories and principles in it, so we will probably use that too, as it fits in with the topics.  Our first unit will be Oceans, ending with a field trip to Lake Michigan toward the end of September (that's as close as we get to an ocean in the midwest, but we'll talk about the differences too).

History.  I looked into Story of the World, and I really like it, but I think it may be just a bit over Jonah's head, and since it's geared toward starting in 1st grade, we're going to wait on that until next year.  Our history this year will focus on holidays, plus other random little tidbits as they come up, like learning about Johnny Appleseed during the month of September.

Art. Our art projects will go along with our Letter of the Week, Science, or the season.  For little kids, there are endless amounts of project ideas online, and I like to think I'm creative every now and then, so we should have no issue coming up with these!

I think that's it!  Right now I have my first month or so mapped out with lots and lots to do every morning of the 5-day week.  We won't do it all.  I'm at least realistic enough to know that.  We may end up shifting into a 4-day week if 5 days gets to be too much, especially with doctor appointments and grocery shopping and household things.  But for now, this is the plan!  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Diapers and the Walgreens Well Beginnings Brand

Last week we ran out of overnight diapers.  I knew that it would be a few days before I had money in my Amazon account from Swagbucks to order more, so it was time to try something different.  I put Hannah in a Well Beginnings diaper from Walgreens and crossed my fingers.  And it worked! It lasted the whole night without leaks.  
The last time we tried store brand diapers for overnights, it did not go well.  We had leaks by the wee hours of the morning, unhappy kids, and tired parents.  This was definitely better.  These diapers have lots of great features, like a wetness indicator on the smaller sizes and a stretchy waistband, but my favorite feature is the price.  These diapers are $8.99 for a jumbo pack, but they're on sale quite often for less.  If you follow this blog, you've seen them several times in my weekly coupon posts.
Well Beginnings is Walgreens' brand for all your baby product needs, from diapers and wipes to baby wash to formula.  I have always been a firm believer that store brands are just as good as name brands, and this brand has the quality products to back me up.  For more information on all the products, you can check out the Well Beginnings website, or the Walgreens Facebook page.

We don't use disposables all the time, but when we do, I like to know that they're up to the challenge.  And saving money is always a plus!

Some links in this post are affiliate links.
Disclosure: I received a Well Beginnings sample pack and coupons from Moms Meet as compensation for this review.  As always, all opinions are my own.