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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Books I've Read: November 2014

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  I read a paper copy of this one from the library.  This was supposedly a book that makes everyone cry, so I figured as a very hormonal pregnant woman I didn't stand a chance, but I read it anyways.  And I didn't cry.  So apparently I'm heartless.  It was an okay story, although some things were pretty predictable, but I didn't necessarily think it was anything too special.  That being said, I'll probably still rent the movie at some point, because I really want to see the crazy author dude.  He was my favorite character by far.
Say Goodbye To Survival Mode by Crystal Paine.  I read this on my Kindle.  I don't remember if I bought it on sale, or if it was a free one at some point.  I have way too many unread books on my Kindle.

This book has a lot of helpful tips about creating margin in your life, breathing room so you can not stress out/burn out, and a lot about setting your priorities and goals and then living toward those.  It's all good stuff in theory, but I don't think it's necessarily as easy to implement as it's presented in the book.  Still, it was good for me to actually formulate a list of my priorities, and to try to work towards things that line up with those.  I'm pretty sure I'll be in "survival mode" for the next several months anyways, but it will be good to revisit this book once I'm not there any more.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I had bought a paper copy of this one awhile back and finally got around to reading it.  I'm a sucker for books that say "for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent" because I liked those.  This one was actually a pretty good story, with lots of interesting characters and plot lines.  I got to the end and I was still really confused, but since it's the first in a trilogy, I'll allow it.  About the only thing I didn't like was the made up slang.  If you're going to have a character cuss, just do it.  "Shuck it" is just kind of dumb.  But hey, there's a movie out this year (did it come out already?), so something else for me to watch at some point!

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner.  Since I was intrigued by the first one, I immediately ordered the other two books in the trilogy from the library, and I was lucky enough to get them within a week.  Score!  The second book wasn't quite as exciting as the first one.  I didn't necessarily like the new characters, and until I get an explanation for the betrayal, I feel kind of like Thomas.  I accept it as part of the story, but I'm not happy about it.  I'm hoping the third book wraps everything up nicely, because this one just brought more questions about how this whole world works and the purpose for everything.

The Death Cure by James Dashner. This review will have spoilers, because I don't have a vague way to say things about this book.  So this book was full of more problems for Thomas and the other main characters. They have the worst luck.  I assumed since it was called "the death cure" that they would find a cure, especially since that was what they had been working on the whole trilogy.  And then the ending happened.  There's no cure, so this group of people escapes to some paradise and the rest of humanity will eventually kill each other off.  What?

So. The first book in the trilogy was action packed and I liked it.  It went downhill from there. Too bad, because this started out as a really well thought out dystopian world, which is better than most.

Book total for this month: 5 books read. Total this year: 28 books read. I may or may not have a books post next month. We'll see how the month goes...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Iron Craft Challenge #23: Cozy

It's been awhile since I participated in an Iron Craft challenge.  Things have been pretty crazy around here.  But this one fit perfectly with something I needed to get done anyways.  Matthew needed mittens.  And it has snowed a few times now here in Wisconsin, so I figured I should probably get this done.  

If I've learned anything about kids and mittens over the past 5 years, it's that mittens need to be easy to put on (no straps, velcro, buttons, etc.) and it's best if it doesn't matter which one goes on which hand.  The less for me to do, the better.  Especially when I'll be bundling up a five year old, a three year old, a one year old, and a baby this winter.  I don't have time to figure out which hand is which.
I traced Matthew's hand on a piece of paper, and then drew a seam allowance around that.  I cut out my pattern, and then each hand on two colors of leftover fleece from a different project - red for the inside, Cars for the outside.  Matthew picked the colors.  I didn't even attempt to get the Cars pictures lined up pretty, because I didn't want to.  The kid doesn't care.

I hand sewed the four layers together for each mitten, except for the bottom, obviously.  I flipped them right side out and he tried them on.  They fit, but the wrist area was pretty loose.  So I grabbed some elastic from Hobby Lobby (on sale!) and sewed a strip of that in each one as well.  I've never worked with elastic before, and I was still hand sewing, so it could have been better, but they're done!
I think he likes them.  They're definitely handmade, and there's a few things I learned for next time, but overall, they turned out really well.  And aside from the 50 cent elastic, they were free!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What I'm Reading...

This is going to be my last "What I'm Reading..." post for awhile.  If she's not here beforehand, baby Elizabeth is scheduled to be evicted on Wednesday.  And we're moving to Iowa next month.  So...let's just say that I'll probably be back next year. But on the plus side, I finished pretty much everything on my "before Elizabeth" list!

The 10 Commandments Of A Family Road Trip.  This post had me hooked at "this road trip may be a vacation for your kids, but it isn't for you." (Simple Homeschool)

10 Things I Gained When I Gave Up All My Stuff.  (Becoming Minimalist)

10 Tips For Managing Sensory Play. (Apparently I was on a "10" kick this week)  Sensory play is important but makes me cringe. (The Measured Mom)

5 Tips For Reading Middle Grade Novels With Your Kids.  I have definitely seen this with some of the read-alouds we've done already.  Stuart Little was too descriptive for being our very first one.  James and the Giant Peach was phenomenal. (Simple Homeschool)

The Art Of Keeping A Journal.  I used to journal, and I sometimes miss it. (The Art Of Simple)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

What I'm Reading...

On Friday, the boys learned about cleaning the toilets.  They chose this instead of "regular school", and it seemed like a good substitute to me, because it means I didn't have to do it!

How I Stopped Yelling At My Kids..And How It's Changed Our Home and also 9 Practical Ways To Yell Less And Love More were great reminders this week of something that I've been trying to work on (and failing a lot).  (Money Saving Mom)

The Gift Of Resentment.  We have some days that go really well, and other days that certain parts of school are such a struggle.  We are definitely still finding our way, but maybe I just need to let some of it go. (Simple Homeschool)

Killer Uno: The Best Non-Drinking Game Ever.  This sounds fun! (Offbeat Home & Life)

The Rhythm Of The Season.  I liked the style and the message of this whole post. (The Art Of Simple)

Reminders.  I don't have a ton of these, although one of my favorites is still my "Sing in the Rain" wall hanging I made at the beginning of this year. (Holy Hen House)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November Goals

I'm trying to go easy on myself this month, because it's baby month!

Personal:

  • Clean the two bathrooms.  Because of my pregnancy pain and mobility issues, this hasn't happened as often as it should. But I'm hoping to get one really good deep clean of both of them in this month.
  • Finish at least one set of plastic canvas letters (pictured in this post) for Christmas presents.  I'm up to the letter Q as of writing this.  Each letter takes 45-60 minutes, so it's quite the project.
  • Finish reading two books.  This will meet my reading goal of 25 books for the year.
Parenting/Homeschooling:
  • Have a baby! 
  • Make "My name is" laminated traceable cards for the boys for school so they can learn to write their names.
  • Finish making the lower case bottle cap letters. I've had the last 9 caps saved for a few weeks and just haven't sat down to do them.
I've also been working more on decluttering and organizing things around the house, finishing little projects, and basically wrapping up as much as I can before Elizabeth is born.  I want to keep doing that too...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Menu Plan November 1-15

I feel like I just did a menu plan and it's already a new month.  Maybe it's because grocery shopping is so much more of a pain now with my sciatic nerve issues that it just takes me that much longer to recover.  I should only need to do it two more times before baby is here though!

Saturday, November 1
Breakfast: Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Bars (these were actually really bland, which is too bad, because they sounded good!)
Lunch: Chicken and Black Beans with Mexi Rice
Dinner: Chicken Pepper Potato Bake

Sunday, November 2
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Leftover Rice Bowls
Dinner: Tilapia, Mashed Potatoes, Corn

Monday, November 3
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Soups from the Freezer, Sandwiches
Dinner: Sour Cream Ground Turkey Casserole (with gluten-free noodles)

Tuesday, November 4
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Ham and Bean Soup, Biscuits

Wednesday, November 5
Breakfast: Eggs, Bacon, Sweet Potatoes
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Ham and Bean Soup, Biscuits

Thursday, November 6
Breakfast: Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
Lunch: White Chicken Chili
Dinner: Southwest Frittata

Friday, November 7
Breakfast: Blueberry Orange Muffins
Lunch: White Chicken Chili
Dinner: Chicken and Mushrooms, Maple Glazed Carrots

Saturday, November 8
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Chicken Mini Pepper Nachos
Dinner: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Sunday, November 9
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: PB&J or Turkey Sandwiches
Dinner: Stuffed Peppers

Monday, November 10
Breakfast: Winter Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Hot Dogs, Carrots, Applesauce (Jesse will be at a meeting all day so easy lunch for the rest of us!)
Dinner: Jesse's birthday dinner - BBQ Pork Ribs, Potato Wedges, Corn, Paleo Pumpkin Pie

Tuesday, November 11
Breakfast: Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Ham and Split Pea Soup
Dinner: Oatmeal Pancakes, Applesauce

Wednesday, November 12
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: BLTs
Dinner: Ground Turkey and Pinto Bean Tacos on Homemade Tortillas

Thursday, November 13
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Baked Potatoes with Bacon, Broccoli, and Mozzarella
Dinner: Chicken Fajitas on Homemade Tortillas

Friday, November 14
Breakfast: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Lunch: Coconut Chicken Soup
Dinner: Cheeseburgers, Sweet Potato Fries

Saturday, Novembr 15
Breakfast: Eggs, Bacon, Toast
Lunch: Coconut Chicken Soup
Dinner: Fish Fillets, Potatoes, Green Beans

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What I'm Reading...

I love this little girl's smile!

Three Kinds Of Expectations.  Expectations are one of those things that Jesse and I talk about fairly often, and it really helps to know what someone else is thinking. (The Art Of Simple)

The Empty Container. "If [life] were an empty container, with limited space, what would you put in it?" (Zen Habits)

Self-Care For The Highly Sensitive Parent.  I'm not completely "highly sensitive", but there are a lot of things that apply to me.  I know I do much better if I have some calm time to myself each day. (Simple Homeschool)

Updated Beliefs. Food for thought... (The Minimalists)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

October Goals Update

October has flown by!  I didn't make a lot of progress on some of these goals, but I also think part of my problem was that they weren't all very specific and trackable.

Parenting:

  • Have patience with all of my children.  Work in progress, but the days I'm more aware of it, I usually do better.
  • Figure out where to put clothes for baby Elizabeth.  I didn't do this yet, but the bin of 0-3 month clothes is organized and easily accessible, so at least I'll be able to pull them out of there.
Personal:
  • Read three books for fun. I finished two and am in the middle of two more.
  • Keep myself on self-imposed partial bed-rest.  I'm surviving.  I can accomplish a lot sitting down, and I'm working on being better about asking for help.  Just a few more weeks!
  • Finish color-coding some of my organ music.  I have one section left, which will hopefully get done this week.
Food:
  • Make a plan for freezer meals for after Elizabeth is born.  No plan, because our freezer is really full right now with bacon and applesauce.  
  • Stay under budget!  We were doing well for the first half of the month.  The second half not so much.  We went over.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Books I've Read: October 2014

I got on the really long hold list for three books at the library.  And of course, they all came in the same week.  I was able to finish two of the three, and I still have a couple weeks to finish the third, so I should get through them.  I was hoping for one at a time though.

Four by Veronica Roth.  This is the companion book to the Divergent trilogy, which I read early this year and really liked.  I enjoyed that this one gave a bit more depth to the character of Tobias, but I think I would have liked it more if I had read it right away after the other books rather than 8 months later.  Still, it was a quick easy read that brought back some of my favorite YA characters.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I expected to like this book.  I wanted to like this book.  And for probably the first 2/3 or so, I did.  But the ending left me unsatisfied, and a little bit disturbed.  It wasn't so much of a conclusion as I had hoped (is that vague enough to be spoiler free?).  The writing was really good, and the plot was mostly fast-paced, which kept me wanting to find out what happened next.

I think part of my problem was that none of the main characters were particularly likeable.  I wasn't necessarily rooting for any of them.  But I still didn't like the ending.

I am also about 2/3 of the way through Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine (of the blog Money Saving Mom), which I have on my Kindle.  It's a good read, and something I think I'll need a refresh on in about 6-8 months when I don't have a newborn and I'm not truly in survival mode.  So far it's been a good reminder of what my priorities are, and making sure to cut things out that aren't as important right now, even if it's hard.

Still to come, The Fault in Our Stars.  Hoping to read that one next week.

Book total for this month: 2 books read. Total this year: 23 books read. My goal for the year is 25, so I should be able to hit that with finishing these last two, if nothing else.  Yay reading!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What I'm Reading...

I realized last week when putting together the What I'm Reading post that I didn't take any pictures that week.  Not a single one.  So when I saw the "One Day" challenge on Instagram (#OneDayHH), a challenge to document all the little details of one day, I knew that was the perfect solution to get back into taking some pictures of life.  It was a lot of fun, and I got several good ones.  The picture above is a sneak peek at a Christmas present I'm working on...

The Five Love Languages Of Homeschooling.  I love the concept of the love languages, and this post does a good job of showing how you can use your child's love language to help with homeschooling. (Simple Homeschool)

Pushing Past The Terrifying Dip In Motivation.  This is definitely where we are with the total money makeover right now, so we might have to try some of the things here to get us back on track. (Zen Habits)

How To Stop Clutter Before It Even Happens.  This post (and especially her description of collecting scrapbooking supplies more than actually scrapbooking) inspired me to do a massive toy and craft supply purge this week.  (I'm An Organizing Junkie)
5 Simple Bible Study Habits.  I think the hardest part for me sometimes is just getting started.  I've definitely used the "I don't have a good devotion book currently" excuse before. (Holy Hen House)

3 Ways Simplifying Might Save Your Sanity.  Another good read about how less is more. (Simple Homeschool)

Worms Eat My Lunch.  Vermiculture is actually something we've talked about doing, but haven't gotten around to getting yet.  (Kitchen Stewardship)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Homeschool: Learning Shapes And Counting

One of Jonah's favorite ways to learn is by using toys.
We make our letter of the week with Legos, and we often use cars for counting.  This week we took that to another level by combining counting with shapes.

I used painters' tape to make several of the shapes we have already learned on the floor.  (As far as I know and have experienced, painters' tape does not damage carpet in any way, but please test it out yourself before you make too many lines/shapes)
Then we put the same number of cars in each shape as the number of sides it had.  Both Jonah (age 5) and Matthew (age 3) enjoyed doing this.  Hannah (age 1) enjoyed disrupting her brothers' counting as much as possible and moving the cars.  Afterwards, they ended up playing with the cars and the shapes for quite awhile.  All in all, this was a fun quick way to review our shapes!

I am linking up to Tot School.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What I'm Reading...

At The Heart Of Homeschooling. "If our homeschool has any hope for success, I must maintain my heart for my children." (Simple Homeschool)

Pre-emptive Answers To Your Questions About My Apparent Wheat Allergy.  Having dealt with Hannah's gluten intolerance for several months now, this post made me laugh. (Offbeat Home & Life)

But A Breath.  I can so relate to the "preggo problems" described in this post.  (Holy Hen House)

Holly's Story Of Shedding The Excess Stuff.  I think having every family member pick something to get rid of each day for a month sounds like a good idea. (The Art Of Simple)

My Thoughts On Intentional Free Time (And Why I Don't "Sleep When The Baby Sleeps").  I usually don't sleep when my kids do either, unless I'm really tired.  I'd much rather have a few moments to myself to relax or get something done. (Andrea Dekker)

The Latte Factor: 8 Ways We Often Overspend. I'm much more likely to overspend bit by little bit than all at once.  (Becoming Minimalist)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Menu Plan October 16-31

I got a chance to go through several gluten-free and allergy friendly ebooks earlier this week, so we're trying several new recipes from those (marked with a * below).  They all sound good, so here's hoping they taste good too!

Thursday, October 16
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Out to Eat
Dinner: Cobb Salads

Friday, October 17
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Out to Eat (yes, we went out 2 days in a row.  I'm pregnant. It happens.)
Dinner: Cobb Salads

Saturday, October 18
Breakfast: Eggs, Squash, and Mushrooms
Lunch: Pumpkin Chicken Chili
Dinner: Dinner with Relatives

Sunday, October 19
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Pumpkin Chicken Chili
Dinner: Ranch Chicken and Potatoes Casserole*

Monday, October 20
Breakfast: Eggs, Sweet Potatoes, and Bacon
Lunch: BLTs
Dinner: Italian Quinoa Soup* (we've never tried quinoa before!)

Tuesday, October 21
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Chili, Cornbread
Dinner: Sweet Potato Zucchini Frittata*

Wednesday, October 22
Breakfast: Leftover Frittata/Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Chili and Cornbread
Dinner: Mini Turkey Loaves, Broccoli

Thursday, October 23
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: Leftover Mini Turkey Loaves
Dinner: Black Bean Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries

Friday, October 24
Breakfast: Baked Strawberry Oatmeal
Lunch: Sandwiches/Soups from the Freezer
Dinner: Chicken with Zucchini, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes; Mashed Potatoes (I'll make extra mashed potatoes for the soup for Saturday and Sunday)

Saturday, October 25
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Mashed Potato Soup
Dinner: Mexi Beans and Rice

Sunday, October 26
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Mashed Potato Soup
Dinner: Ground Turkey and Pinto Bean Tacos

Monday, October 27
Breakfast: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Lunch: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Dinner: Chicken Fajitas

Tuesday, October 28
Breakfast: Eggs and Leftover Muffins
Lunch: Mini Pepper Nachos with Black Beans
Dinner: Oatmeal Pancakes

Wednesday, October 29
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Pizza
Dinner: Crockpot Beef and Broccoli

Thursday, October 30
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Southern Chicken Stew and Biscuits

Friday, October 31
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftover Southern Chicken Stew and Biscuits
Dinner: Fish and Fries

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On Pain, And Waiting, And This Season Of Life

My due date is 42 days away.  Still a little more than a month out, but I am counting every day.  For me, honestly, any time in November would be fine, although I expect I'll make it to Thanksgiving or close to it.

For the past 22 days I have been in almost constant pain.  While I'm sitting down, it's more of a dull ache.  When I stand up, it goes up a couple of notches.  After about 2 minutes, my right foot starts to go numb and I have shooting pains down my entire right side, alleviated only by sitting or lying down.

It's hard.

Today I had a physical therapy appointment, and got a support belt and some stretches to do.  It's only been a few hours, but I can feel a bit of a difference.  I can manage to fold two whole loads of laundry instead of part of one.  I even did the dishes without taking a break.  Such little things that even a month ago were just taken for granted as part of my day.

Whether or not the therapy helps, I'm adapting.  I've learned just how much I can do while sitting down.  All the veggie chopping?  Happens at the dining room table now.  Most of the school work?  The table, the couch, the bed.  And I've actually become better at utilizing the time I have, because I know that when I start to do something, I only have a few minutes to get it done.  And then I take a break.  I go back and forth between a task that I have to stand up for, like getting dinner cooking on the stove, and something I can do sitting down, like writing out my menu plan or balancing the checkbook.

And it hasn't just benefitted my productivity.  I'm starting to give the kids more responsibility.  Instead of doing everything myself, Jonah now puts most of the dishes away.  Matthew can put the laundry in the basket.  Even Hannah helps pick up some of the mass of toys she's gotten out.

These are good things.  And these are the things that are pushing me forward.

Part of me wonders if this is God's way of preparing me for life with four kids.  I know that will be hard.  I know there will be many times when I will question myself, when I will feel overwhelmed with all I have to do.  But then I can think back on these months, of all that I managed to accomplish little by little.  I can give myself the grace to take breaks.  I can (hopefully) be able to move without pain and so rejoice in that movement that even the mundane chores will seem easier because of it.

One more month.  (Okay, one more month plus another week or two).  I can make it, day by day, bit by bit.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What I'm Reading...

Jonah ran his first race yesterday, a mile run/walk.  He even finished third in his age group!  I am so proud of this little boy!  Also, he's already five and he's accomplishing things that I have never done myself.  That is both motivating and frightening to me.

What You Own, You Carry With You.  Much more important than worksheets and facts. (Simple Homeschool)

Why Play Dough Is Important.  I think I need to print this out and stick it in the box with the play dough supplies so I remember as I'm peeling bits of pink and yellow out of the carpet. (The Measured Mom)

7 Beginner's Steps To Gluten-Free Survival Mode.  We did some of these right away, but this would have been a life-saver of a post to read when we first started going gluten-free with Hannah. (Kitchen Stewardship)

A Simple (Powerful) Hug.  I've actually been trying to do this more when my kids get on my last good nerve.  It helps! (Holy Hen House)

Focus On A Few Things You Can Actually Make Happen. "Dream up a few things. Not a lot. Then make them happen." (Life Your Way)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Menu Plan October 6-15

Because we were gone last week, I'm a bit late getting the menu posted for the first half of the month.  While we were at Jesse's conference, we did a mixture of eating out and eating in our hotel room.  I brought the crockpot along for two meals (beef and broccoli and a big batch of chili), and we also bought sandwich ingredients and snacks while we were there.  That helped us keep things a little bit cheaper, and it worked really well!

I made the beef and broccoli mix ahead of time and froze it, so it stayed nice and cold on the way there, and then I just stuck it in the fridge until the next day.  The chili came out of cans.  Easy peasy!

For more on how I menu plan, check out last week's post.  Here's the plan for the rest of the beginning of October:

Monday, October 6
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Hot Dogs, Fruit
Dinner: Veggie Spaghetti

Tuesday, October 7
Breakfast: Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Chicken Salads
Dinner: Oatmeal Pancakes, Bacon

Wednesday, October 8
Breakfast: Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Chicken Salads
Dinner: Ham and Bean Soup, Easy Cheesy Biscuits

Thursday, October 9
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: BLTs
Dinner: Ham and Bean Soup, Easy Cheesy Biscuits

Friday, October 10
Breakfast: Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal
Lunch: Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ham, Mushrooms, and Mozzarella
Dinner: Chicken, Maple Glazed Carrots

Saturday, October 11
Breakfast: Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Lunch: Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions over Rice
Dinner: Mini Pepper Nachos with Ground Turkey

Sunday, October 12
Breakfast: Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Lunch: Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions over Rice
Dinner: Cheeseburgers, Sweet Potato Fries

Monday, October 13
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Chicken Enchilada Chili
Dinner: Chicken Bacon Ranch Mushroom Pizza

Tuesday, October 14
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Chicken Enchilada Chili
Dinner: Egg and Cheese Biscuits

Wednesday, October 15
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Cheese Tortillas, Fruit
Dinner: Veggie Stir Fry

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

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What I'm Reading...

Jesse had a pastors' conference over in Bloomington, MN, so we tagged along.  Even though I can't walk much with my sciatic nerve pain, we were able to hang out by the Lego store and build a couple times.  The kids loved it!

My Homeschool Isn't Working. Here's a sentence that really got me: "I have been communicating - perhaps not so secretly - that 'school' is this dry, lifeless event full of worksheets that we must plow through." I know I feel this way sometimes, that school is just something to "get through" and to check off the list, and I know it comes through to the kids. (Vibrant Homeschooling)

On Being You.  Being comfortable in your own skin is harder than it sounds. (The Art Of Simple)

The Biggest Reasons You Haven't Changed Your Habits. This post has good advice for making good habits stick by telling you what NOT to do. (Zen Habits)

This Is How I Know I'm A Writer. "This is how I know I'm a writer, because I can't read or watch or observe without thinking about writing." (Gidget Goes Home)

The Importance Of Having A Cheat Day.  I've done cheat days with food in the past, but I never thought of it in terms of school. (Simple Homeschool)

Nested Cards: Extreme(ly Organized) Letter Writing For Your Loved Ones.  This is such a fun idea for when you're not going to see someone for awhile. (Offbeat Home and Life)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

September Goals Update And October Goals

September Goals Update:
Parenting:
  • Figure out a good order for homeschooling subjects.  I think I have a pretty good handle on the order for now.  I'm still debating spreading some subjects out to an afternoon session, so it may change again.
  • Continue to teach Hannah to use a spoon.  She's still good with me feeding her, and she will occasionally pick the spoon up, but she has no clue how to use it.  We are really baby stepping with this.
  • Make sure to spend some one on one time with Matthew.  We've gotten in some extra snuggles, but I still need to make more of an effort on this.
Personal:
  • Read three books for fun.  I read two, and I would have finished a third, but I had to return it to the library. 
  • Clear whatever doesn't sell on the garage sale sites out of our bedroom by the end of the month.  It's still there.
Food:
  • Stay on budget!  Done!
  • Decide what foods to compromise on and how to do it.  I'm trying to keep track of which meals from our standards take less time and effort to prep, and also just not making things like crackers, because they drive me batty.  Tortillas have actually gotten pretty easy to do now that I've made them a few times, so that's cool.
  • Find a good homemade specialty coffee recipe.  I ended up getting good deals on bottled coffee, plus I got some other coffees for my birthday, so I haven't had the opportunity to test too many yet.  

October Goals:

Parenting:
  • Have patience with all of my children.  This is an ongoing struggle for me, and it's something I've been trying to work on.
  • Figure out where to put clothes for Elizabeth and get the first sizes out and ready to go. Baby month is next month! (assuming she comes more or less on time, of course)
Personal:
  • Read three books for fun.
  • Keep myself on my self-imposed partial bed rest plan and hope my pain gets better.  I've had really terrible sciatic nerve pain throughout this pregnancy, but it has flared up in the past couple of weeks to the point that I need to constantly take breaks to lie down or I can't move.  It makes life interesting, to say the least.
  • Finish color-coding some of my organ music.  I have been making little highlighter marks in the upper corner of the page for each song so I know if it's good for preservice, postludes, communion, or weddings, so I can quickly find what I'm looking for. 
Food:
  • Make a plan for freezer meals for after Elizabeth is born (part will come out of this month's budget and part from next month's budget).
  • Stay under budget! This just needs to be a goal every month.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Books I've Read: September 2014

The bottom book is a phonics/reading curriculum I'm planning on using next year, The Ordinary Parent's Guide To Teaching Reading.  I read through the information in it, aside from the actual lessons, and it looks like a keeper!

Secrets Of A Successful Homeschool Mom by Jamie C. Martin.  I got this short ebook for free for subscribing to Simple Homeschool.  This was a quick read, but full of good advice and encouragement for just starting out to homeschool.  My favorite part was actually the Appendix, which gave a short description of each of the main homeschooling styles, all in one place, plus resources to read more about each one.  I will definitely be referring to that again to find more to read (you know, in all my spare time).

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.  I read a paper copy of this book from the library.  The theme of this book was that reading aloud to kids will save education.  The book was divided into two parts.  First was the "why", all the studies and reasons reading aloud is good, mixed in with interesting anecdotes.  My favorite story told how there used to be "readers" in cigar factories, whose entire job was to sit and read to the rest of the workers who were rolling cigars - anything from newspapers and magazines to novels.  This section was a good mix of facts and stories, and everything was backed up with end notes, if you wanted to see where the information came from.  Really really thorough.

The second part of the book was a bunch of lists of what the author deemed "good" read-aloud books for various age levels.  I actually didn't find this section as helpful as I expected to.  I wrote down a few suggestions, but overall I didn't necessarily find a lot for right now.  Maybe when my kids are a little bit older?  Since I agree with the idea that reading is really important, overall I thought this was a good book.

I also started reading Gone Girl and then went to renew my library copy and someone else had placed a hold on it. Bummer! So I'm back on the wait list for that again. The first sixty pages or so have me intrigued.

Book Total for this month: 2 books read. Total this year: 21 books read.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Quick Project: Organizing Homeschool Supplies

Now that we've been doing school for about a month, I've been figuring out what works (and what doesn't), and what we need in terms of storage.  I also got some new baskets and bins for my birthday, so it was time to organize the homeschool supplies! First I gathered everything on our bed.  I like to gather things for projects here because it forces me to deal with them before I go to sleep...
I had started sorting some of the things out into the new colorful baskets already, so this actually only took about 20 minutes to get everything figured out.  Most of the bins and baskets found a home on top of my craft supplies (where hopefully Hannah won't be able to dig in them too much).
The big red bin holds my planning stuff, extra folders, and little workbooks.  Some of the file folders also have different categories of manipulatives in them, like laminated play doh mats, or letter disc mats.
Next to my laminator is the stack of bins.  The red one on top has some of my extras that I'm working on, as well as some extra school supplies like note cards.  Red is the color for "Mom's stuff", meaning the kids stay out of those ones.
Green has different manipulatives for learning letters, like our foam alpha builder blocks and the milk cap letters I made a few weeks ago to go with our disc mats.  Blue has math manipulatives, including some shape blocks and dry erase number tracing cards.
On the floor is a box of extra art supplies.  These are special supplies, so they stay in our bedroom.  We also have a large box of papers, markers, and crayons in the living room, which are always free access.  The bin with the white cover has all the paints.

Peeking into some of these pictures is the stack of library books.  I try to order books a week or so ahead of time for the letter we are studying, so I always have some for next week stacked up, and then a stack of the ones we're done with until the next library day.  That way we have current ones in the green bin in our living room.  These are the ones we pick from every day for reading time.
Now that everything is at least somewhat organized, we only have the everyday stuff on the dining room table, which is nice for me, since I prefer a cleared-off space.  That's just our calendar folders, my lesson plan binder, a Bible, our read-aloud book (currently James and the Giant Peach), and anything I've pulled out for that day.  Everything else is put away.

I think this organizing went so fast because I've been planning it out in my head for the past few weeks.  I'm glad to have a spot for everything!  What quick projects have you done lately?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

What I'm Reading...

We took our first homeschool field trip this week, to Lake Michigan, to finish up our science unit on oceans.  This is as close as we get.  The kids had lots of fun playing on the beach, which we had mostly to ourselves!

Your Resources For A Natural Health Season.  Links to lots of good posts with information on how to treat illnesses naturally.  Pinning this one for sure! (Kitchen Stewardship)

The Homeschooling "String Theory".  "Imagine that you are connected to your child with an invisible string.  When things are going well, you can let that string out..." (Simple Homeschool)

Christianity And Minimalism. This post got me at the line "I've been an aspiring minimalist for about seven years now" because I am very much an aspiring minimalist. The author went on to make several good points about how to live in a world of "stuff" as a Christian too.  (Holy Hen House)

15 Strategies For Eating Well And Avoiding Take-Out During Busy Seasons.  We are definitely in a busy season right now. (Keeper Of The Home via Life Your Way)

I Need To Stop Measuring Success By How Many Friends I Have.  I don't have a lot of real-life friends right now.  And I'm mostly okay with that.  But it's weird.  (Offbeat Home And Life)

When Your Day Is Hi-Jacked.  I've had several days like this recently.  What a perfect reminder to turn to God when the days get hard. (Kari Patterson via Simple Homeschool)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Homemade Granola: A Recipe Update

I first posted this recipe way back at the beginning of 2011, and it's time for a few updates.  This is still our family's favorite granola recipe, and I usually make a batch every other week or so.  Since then, I've tweaked the recipe a bit, although the basics are still more or less the same.  

Ingredients:
  • 6 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup nuts (we almost always use almonds, because they're the cheapest)
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed (optional - this was in the original recipe, but we don't usually have it so I usually do without)
  • 1/4 brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon 
  • 1 cup melted liquids* (see  below)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional - I leave this out a lot and can't really tell much of a difference)

*For the liquid part of the recipe, use any two of the following:

  • Melted butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Peanut butter
I usually do about half and half, and it truly is whatever we have at the moment.  Butter and honey is my go-to combination, but the others are also tasty, and each ones gives a slightly different variation on the flavor.

Directions: Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In microwave safe dish, melt liquid ingredients together.  Stir into dry ingredients until coated.  Pour onto two cookie sheets, and bake at 300 degrees F for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so (once you get to 25 minutes, start checking every 5 minutes so it doesn't burn).


We love this granola and have it with yogurt for breakfast once a week, plus for snacks.  One of my recent favorite ways to eat it is with a handful of craisins and some milk, like cereal.  I think it tastes like Kashi GoLean Berry Crunch, one of my favorite kinds of cereal!  Only, you know, much cheaper...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Weekly Coupon Shopping

I think I need to change the name of this post, because coupon shopping is not so much a weekly thing any more.  I still use the occasional coupon when it's something we're buying anyways, but the massive deal shopping I used to do has become pretty much a thing of the past.  The reality is that most of that stuff was extra.  It was fun, we used it or ate it, but it was extra.  So it doesn't happen too often any more.  Still, I do occasionally find deals on things we need.

Walmart
 I bought a few other things on this trip for school, but I got two packs of diapers, since we'll be spending a few days out of the house in about a week and a half and we don't do cloth diapers away from home.


CVS
I went to CVS this week solely to spend some of my birthday money on coffee.  Because I could. And it was definitely a good deal! Coffee is my favorite thing to splurge on.

  • 2 Starbucks Frappuccino 4-packs: $4.99 each.  Used $4/2 printable = paid $2.99 each.
  • 2 Starbucks Iced Coffees: 1 free with each 4-pack purchased, will get $1 SavingStar deposit back.
  • 1 Starbucks Refresher: $1.50, get $1.50ECBs.  Used $1/1 printable = paid $0.50, got $1.50ECBs.
  • Used $3ECBs from previous trip = paid $3.56, got $1.50ECBs and I'll get $1 SavingStar.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How I Menu Plan

I have been doing some form of menu planning ever since we got married, a little over seven years ago.  But my menu planning has evolved quite a bit since those days (think a list of three or so "helper" dinners, split between beef and chicken, with a random recipe thrown in).  Here's what I do now.  This might seem complicated, and it kind of is, but I know myself enough to know that if I don't write everything down, I'll miss something or forget to buy something, so this is what works for me right now.

The first thing I do is figure out the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners we will be eating for half of a month (the top half of the page above).  While I'm doing this, I check out our family calendar so I know if we have any appointments or special plans that might affect the food prep for the day.  Like Sunday lunches, for instance.  I know that we don't get home from church until lunch time, so I usually plan leftovers or sandwiches, or I know we'll end up going out to eat because the food isn't already done.

Once the meals are filled in, I list some of the repeated ingredients at the bottom of the page, and the amounts needed for each recipe they appear in.  This is the most recent addition to the menu plan, and it has helped me a ton in making sure we don't run out of eggs or cheese especially, but also all the other ingredients. It also lets me know if I'm going to end up using too much of a pricier ingredient, so I can adjust the menu if I need to.

After I list the repeated ingredients, I use another page to do my weekly prep lists.  This list is all the veggies I need to chop for each meal, meats to portion out, and extras to make, like granola or birthday cake.  Anything with a star next to it means something I can do right away and freeze.  I love this method of freezer cooking, because it means 2 hours or so of work in the first couple days, and a lot of "dump and cook" meals later on.

The third page of my menu plan, which I didn't take a picture of, is the actual shopping list.  I divide it into sections like the store - produce, meat, dairy, etc.  I copy the totals from my repeated ingredients section, and then add everything else I'll need.  We almost always have a second smaller grocery trip about a week in to get some of the fresh produce and eggs, so I write that down right away too.

It's complicated, yes.  It's not fancy and electronic, but I'm definitely a pen and paper list girl.  But this is what works for me.  It means we have food for every day planned out, plus the same rotation of snacks we usually have around.  It means I know what has to be done, and when.  And it saves my sanity when I can't remember where I put my shoes, much less how much cheese is supposed to be in tonight's dinner.

How do you menu plan?

Iron Craft Challenge #19: UFO

This is the challenge I have been waiting for: the unfinished object challenge.  My nesting pregnant brain of course immediately thought of about seven different things I could be working on, but I thought it was only fitting to finish the unfinished Iron Craft project from way back in January, challenge #2.

Behold, the finally finished plastic canvas magazine holder!  Even with working on this project for the past week or so, I still didn't quite finish it by the deadline of yesterday for the challenge.

But after spending all day yesterday celebrating my oldest's fifth birthday, I was tired.  So I finished it this afternoon.  All told, this project probably took me 40 hours.  That's crazy.  Most of it was while I was either watching tv at night with my husband, or, in the case of this week, listening to several hour-long online seminars about various aspects of healthy living.  Those came with an ebook bundle I bought last fall, and they were from January-February of this year.  I guess that's another unfinished project checked off the list?
The magazine holder isn't quite as sturdy as I had hoped, but my magazines are also all wonky because they've been shoved all folded together in a tiny nook under my side table, so I'm hoping that as I get more recent issues, that problem will fix itself.  The magazine holder fits nicely next to our library book bin in the living room.

Now to continue to work on my knitted blanket (in the red bag in the picture above), which I started when Matthew was still in my belly (he's three).  A crafter's work is never done!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What I'm Reading...

We had some excitement this week, when the wood cabinet warehouse across the street caught fire.  The boys were thrilled to watch several fire trucks come to put the fire out.  Luckily, no one was hurt!

I actually didn't get a lot of blog reading done this week.  Between school, food prep, and a wedding this weekend, I just ran out of time.  Still, there were a few good ones that I managed to find.

Use For Apple Peels.  This might come in handy if we end up going apple picking.  I'd like to do that and make a bunch of applesauce.  Now I have something to do with the peels too! (Little House Living)

Why Memorize Scripture? I know the point of this post was about memorizing Bible passages, which is awesome, but all the talk about memorized piano pieces from years ago made me happy too. (Holy Hen House)

3 Things To Declutter When You're Finished Decluttering. Good advice for if and when I ever feel done...(Organizing Junkie)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Using The Dishwasher Helped Me Change My Perspective

I have had a dishwasher for the past two years.  Before last week, I could count on one hand the number of times I actually used said dishwasher.  And before you think I'm crazy, I'll add a little bit more.  Doing the dishes is one of my least favorite chores, second only to cleaning bathrooms.

So why didn't I use the dishwasher more often?  I think a lot of it is that my mom, who likes doing dishes, rarely uses hers.  I grew very accustomed to seeing her finish dinner and go right into doing the dishes, so that's what I've always done.  And for a long time, there weren't that many dishes, so I figured it would be just as easy to wash them by hand.

But slowly, we started going from a small sink full of dishes to overflow on the counters and stove, to the point where I was washing dishes twice a day just to keep up.  Not fun.

I've felt really busy lately, like I have way more to do than I have time.  And Elizabeth isn't even born yet.  I know how life with a newborn is.  I can only imagine what life with a newborn and three other kids will be.  Plus homeschooling, cooking food, cleaning occasionally, and keeping up with church activities.  There's already too much on my plate.  My metaphorical plate of course.  Never mind the one in the sink.

I knew something needed to go.  So I started to evaluate.  I can't give up playing organ; I'm the only person who plays.  I can't stop cooking food; my family might revolt after about three hours.  I needed to save some time.  And so, as I was scrubbing yet another pot at the sink, it hit me.  Use the dishwasher.

Does it magically take all my busy-ness and stress away?  No. Not even close.  But aside from the rinsing and loading, which I don't mind that much, it saves me time.  It's one less thing I have to worry about.  And as a bonus, by loading dishes after every meal, I don't have cluttered counters or an overflowing sink.  Visual clutter gets to me, so anything that helps with that is wonderful.

I still have to hand wash a few things at the end of the day.  But what once took a long time now only takes a few minutes.  So this has me thinking: what other things have I been doing differently than I need to?  Where else can I save myself time and sanity? Just because I've always done things one way, doesn't mean I need to keep doing them.

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.