Thursday, August 17, 2017

18 Years...

We celebrated our 18th anniversary on August 7 with a special family day at the League of NH Craftsmen's annual fair at Mt. Sunapee.  We've talked about going for the past several years, as we have a furniture-making friend who always has a tent there, but we'd never managed to make it happen.  We decided this was the year for it!  It was such fun to look around at all the different handmade goods...so much beauty and creativity in one place.  We appreciated the artisans who took time to talk to us about their work, and the sweet woodcarving lady who made little woodburned signs (for free!) for Julia and Josiah.  And the man who came over and gave Ari the little wooden car, "just for being such a good girl"...there are some truly kind and giving people in the world and I'm pretty sure many of them are craftsmen (and women).  :) 
Julia and Josiah were also interested in trying their hand at making bowls in the pottery school tent, so we splurged a little and they took a lesson.  They had so much fun!!  The girls who were teaching them were amazing with kids and so patient and helpful.  I'm so glad I got pictures.
 
And later in the week, we were finally able to have a seafood dinner date, just the two of us. :)  So thankful for 18 years with my best friend!





Habits, Homeschool Planning, and Good Books

Wow, it seems like much longer than just over one week ago since I last posted!  I'm happy to say that I'm feeling less overwhelmed with things now, and have been able to mull over some things and actually have time to write some stuff down on paper (the way I process things best).  I thought it would be fun to share a bit in a post, in the hopes that it may help someone else, too!

First of all, a dear older friend of mine took time out of her busy life to sit down with me and talk through some strategies and ideas for the coming school year.  We discussed ways to streamline things like laundry, schoolwork, meal planning, blogging, etc, and it was really helpful.  But what she encouraged me to focus on was what I wanted to happen in the 30 minutes before we start school each day.   And that would be....everyone needs to have breakfast, complete their chicken chores (which only takes a few minutes, usually), be dressed and ready for the day.  I'd also want to have a load of laundry started, dishes loaded in the dishwasher or sink, and a plan for supper that night.  Obviously, I want to be up and ready myself long before then, but this is a place to focus my attention of what needs to happen before we jump into school.  After that, we will focus on the rest of our morning...the school things we can do together (which is a lot of stuff, this year, as I am changing some things), a short break, and then more schoolwork till lunch.

Just a day after that brainstorming session, a Kindle freebie popped up in my FB feed, and I immediately went and snapped it up. It's a little book called Life Management for the Busy Homeschooling Mother.   And let me tell you, if you are a homeschooling mom and struggle with the life management part like I do, you NEED to get this book.  Seriously...go right over there and grab it!!!  As of this posting, it's still free for Kindle (and you can read Kindle books on other devices, too.)
I'm only a little way into it so far, but what I've read makes so much sense to me and is exactly what I need at this moment.  One thing I've struggled with, with other home/life management books, is that many of the authors are not homeschooling moms.  They have those 8 or so hours during the day while their kids are at school to accomplish daily chores and grocery shopping, etc. (unless they work outside the home, of course.)  This lady is a homeschooling mom of six, and she gets it!  The whole first section is all about the importance of building habits, and then she goes into the whole morning routine thing.  Now, you may not find anything "new" or "earth-shattering" in this little book, BUT it may be just the boost you need to help you build some good habits.  One thing I have especially struggled with since having Ari is getting to bed way too late (because she was not a great sleeper for so long), which was "easy" for me in some ways since I'm naturally wired to be a night owl.  However, it's really become apparent that to get our homeschool days off to a good start, I need to become less of a night owl and more of an early bird. ;)  My days run so much smoother when I am up and ready for the day before the kids!  So, Habit #1 for me is going to have to be getting up early and starting my day off on a good note.  I  may need lots of coffee to accomplish this...we shall see. ;)

I hope to post more another day about my plans for the coming school year.  There are some things we're continuing from last year, math books that we haven't finished yet, etc.  There are also a few new things we'll be trying, and this year I am FINALLY going to get my act together and use the Brave Writer program as our guide for language arts (for all of the big kids).  I've watched a bunch of videos, listened to podcasts, even attended a summer "camp" seminar with helpful info, and I'm excited.  I think we can do it this year, and make it fun!  We dabbled in it before, but I was trying to do too many other language arts programs along with it.  This year we are ditching most of those (aside from a little extra grammar for Josiah, who hasn't had as much as Sam and Julia) and focusing solely on the BW program.  

And finally, here are a few other good book recommendations...  One book I got last year was Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace, by Sarah Mackenzie.  
LOVE this one!!  I will note that she writes from a Catholic point of view, but other than a few quotes from people past or present, there is no Catholic theology in the book.  It is a hugely helpful, encouraging, soul-filling little book and well worth the investment.  I plan on it being a yearly read prior to beginning a new school year.  Or even a mid-school year read!

{On a similar note, Sarah Beals at Joy-filled Days has a wonderful post about planning for fall...she references Teaching from Rest, as well.  I've met Sarah in real life and she is a Godly woman who has a true gift for mentoring younger moms through her blog!  If you're not already reading there, check it out...I think you'll be encouraged!}

I'm also slowly working my way through For the Children's Sake, by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.  So far I'm loving it, though I haven't had time to read far yet (too many books, not enough time!).  
Over the past few years, I've come to realize that I lean much more Charlotte Mason-ish than classical in my homeschooling philosophies, and I believe this book will be really helpful as I continue to work out what my goals and desires are for my children's education.  It's hit me this summer as I plan, that Sam is going into 8th grade, and after that (gulp!) I'll only have four more years of school with him.  So I really want/need to solidify my goals for how and what to teach.  

Another great little book I finished just this week was a birthday gift, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, by Gloria Furman.  This is not a homeschooling book, but a wonderful resource for pointing moms back to the Gospel and our need for it in our day-to-day living.
Yes, my birthday was in early April and I just finished it. ;)  But not because it was hard to read...I just took my time!  There were so many good nuggets of truth in this book, and I look forward to reading more by this author!

Finally, a "bonus" which isn't a book...but I can't say enough good things about Pam Barnhill's Plan Your Year homeschool planning kit.  If you use a complete open-and-go curriculum that is already all scheduled for you, then you probably don't need this system (and that's great)!  But if you're like me and you're using several different things and trying to figure out how to make all the pieces fit together into one schedule, trying to keep track of which resources you're getting from different companies, etc....I'd highly recommend it.  I bought it several years ago when it was a bit cheaper, but the great thing about Plan Your Year is that you get lifetime access to the materials when you purchase.  Every year Pam updates the calendars for the new school year, and she often adds new forms for various other things, so there is a bunch of useful stuff to choose from!   Besides school planning forms, there are also some household forms and other stuff just for moms, and all of it is so pretty.  Plus, it's not just the forms...there is a whole planning guide ebook that you can print out to walk you through how to plan your school year.  I'm working my way through Step 7 right now, and I've found it really helpful.  Anyway, just wanted to share...I know most of you guys probably already have your plans made and ready to go, but maybe someone out there would find this useful, so I wanted to talk about it a bit! :)


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Time to plan

I'm having the hardest time with feeling scattered, unfocused and distracted lately!  While I would definitely not say I'm living in survival mode anymore (thank you, Jesus!!), I'm not thriving as I would like.  I'm well aware this is a "me" problem and I can't blame it on anyone else, but I've been trying to figure out why I seem to be struggling so much more than I used to.  There are several conclusions I've come to, but one thing is that the last time I had a toddler, I only had to homeschool (and think about/plan school for) one older child.  Big difference, right there.  While we've taken most of the summer off from school, it is never far from my mind, as I work on planning for next year, and it gets more challenging as the kids get older.

Another thing (brutal honesty here) is that I get way too sidetracked by social media and that can become a huge time-waster for me.  I know I'm not the only person who struggles with this, but all the same, I think it may be time for another Facebook fast!

I also get sidetracked in general very easily.  Whether it's a kid interruption, or noticing another chore that needs my attention (and thus forgetting to finish the chore I was already working on), I tend to lose focus and get distracted from my purpose.

And here's the thing: there are all kinds of time management tools and classes and seminars, etc. available online, but then I run into the problem of actually finding uninterrupted time to read the articles and attend the classes.  I am struggling with finding time to sit down (in a quiet place) and make a good game plan for school, for the same reason.  But....it's time.  Time to figure out a good way to plan a time to...PLAN!

Here are some things I need to focus on planning:

  • Menus (weekly or biweekly)
  • School terms and a yearly big picture
  • Habits (for health and fitness, housekeeping, etc.)
  • Chores and routines for the kids
On the plus side, I'm happy to say that my Happy Planner is still being used weekly, and almost daily, and I'm still finding that super helpful for the daily to-do's.  It's just the broader scope of things that I'm having more trouble with.  And while I've greatly enjoyed the flexibility and downtime of the summer, the part of me that loves and craves routine is looking forward to the fall and having more of a schedule.  But we still need to fit in a bit more adventure to our summer before it's over!

Anyway, please bear with me on this very rambling, thinking out loud post.  Sometimes it helps me to get things out of my head and onto "paper" (or screen), and this need of finding time to plan has been much on my mind lately.  I'd love to hear any tips you may have on planning, staying focused, organizing kids' chores, etc!  And I hope to put up a more interesting post in the next few days. 😊

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Banner serendipity

A few years ago, I made this fun summer banner to decorate with, using leftover scraps from some aprons I had made.  I put it up on the hutch this summer, and it just occurred to me that it coordinates nicely with the banner on my new blog background...too funny.  Serendipitous! 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The playground seems to have shrunk

I took the kids to the local park/playground for the first time in several years, and suddenly all three big kids looked so...big! And the slides looked small. Thankfully Ari is still little and she had a blast. But Julia commented, "Mommy, the park doesn't seem quite as much fun as it used to..." It's a little sad that I have big kids who are starting to outgrow the playground! But they still had fun, and we had the place to ourselves today, while probably most smart people are at the beach. :)
Summer is a good time to slow down and savor the moments, both little and big, but it's also causing me to notice more just how fast the kids are growing up. Sam has grown at least 4 inches since last September, and is only 3 inches shorter than me. When I stop and consider that Josiah is now the same age Sam was when we took our trips to Battleship Cove and Plimoth Plantation (four years ago), well...it's just a little crazy! I am extra thankful that God gave us Ari, so we will still have a "little kid" for a while...but yes, I know it'll still go by too fast with her, too. It is sometimes exhausting to deal with the toddler challenges, but super fun to get to explore and discover things with a little one all over again.
So now the big kids zip all over the playground "making a Star Wars story," and the little kid zips around doing her own thing or joining in with them. I sit and watch, slapping mosquitoes now and then. (The playground may have shrunk, but some things never change.) It's a beautiful day to savor one of these little moments.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Finally!

Okay, I think NOW I have the new look of the blog how I want it.  It took some fiddling to get the header right, but I'm pretty happy with it!  I found this background that I love more than the barn one that I tried yesterday.  It's just right for the look I want at the moment.  I wanted to brighten up the page, and this background is perfect with the picture I chose of the kids!!!  I love how the girls' clothing in the picture coordinates with the banner colors (totally unplanned!) and how the white peeling paint siding of the background matches the white siding of the camp behind the kids.  That camp, which belonged to my grandparents (and was their first home!) is right next door to our house, so it also works perfectly with the theme of my blog. :)  Which makes me happy!

I had to change the blog template to a different one to make a larger header work.  I'm not quite as fond of the page look, but it's not that much different and I think having a bigger header is a good trade-off.

It may sound strange, but messing with my blog design has inspired me to post more.  Maybe having a fresh new look was just the nudge I needed. :)  Now to see if I can attract some of my previous readers (or some new ones)!!

Friday, July 14, 2017

A little construction

I got a little carried away this evening and changed up my blog design and header a bit!  I felt like it was time to freshen things up.  I'd love to hear opinions...anyone?  I'm not totally sure if I'll stick with this change for a while or not, but it was fun to play around with it. :)

Popping in...

The problem with setting goals (at least blogging goals) is that I feel super guilty when I don't meet them.  Yeah, like that little goal of posting here once a week...you know, the one that lasted for about 6 weeks, and then I didn't post anything from the beginning of March until now?  And then I feel like I'm so far "behind," and there are so many things I missed...Sam's birthday and our Ohio trip and VBS at church and, and, and... Then it's hard for me to jump in and just post SOMETHING!  But anyway, here I am...popping in to say hi to anyone who might still have my poor neglected blog in their newsfeed somewhere. :)  I'm not even going to recap the past few months right now, I'm just going to ramble a bit for a few minutes and see what happens.

It's chilly here today, in the low 60s.  This is pretty rare for July!  We've had a pretty rainy/cool summer so far, with just the occasional day or two of hot, muggy weather.  I can't say I mind the cooler weather, though it would be nice to see the sun a little bit more often. ;)

And I also want to know WHY summer goes by so crazy fast?!  June didn't seem too bad, but July is flying by like it's out of control.  I have/had so many things on my to-do list for this summer, and there are still lots of them I haven't had time to tackle yet.

I'm sure everyone is eager for some kid pics, so we'll start with Miss Ari:
 This girl cracks me up so much sometimes!  One day she was tired and decided to lie down on the couch with her...blender?!  I posted this on Facebook with the caption, "What? Doesn't every girl snuggle with her blender when she gets sleepy?"
Another day this happened while I was vacuuming...she actually took a pretty long nap like this! 
Ari is now 2 years and 8 months old.  (Just another example of how time goes by crazy fast.) Everybody tells you the days are long but the years are short, and it's all too true!  She is becoming such a big girl these days.  I had two goals for her for the summer: get her potty trained and get her weaned (yes, she was still nursing once a day...longest I've ever gone with any of the kids!).  Well, I'm happy to say we have tackled both and accomplished both, before the end of the summer!!!  Yay, Ari!!  Oh, she still has the occasional little oopsie in her undies, and I still put a diaper on her at nights, but she usually wakes up dry.  I'm so proud of her.  It feels so good to have her at a more independent stage, and it also feels SO GOOD to finally be getting a full night's sleep almost every night!!!

The big kids are all having a good summer too.  I had planned to keep them going with some schoolwork, but that lasted until almost the end of June and then we took a break.  It's all good...we'll just jump back in where we left off in a few subjects and start fresh in others.  They did their CAT (academic testing) the last week in June and that went pretty well.  It's nice to be taking a break from school for a bit, although I am already in planning mode and have that on my mind a lot.  I will have an 8th grader this coming year, which means high school is looming, and THAT makes me a bit nervous!!  Here are a few random pics from this summer:

I got my hair cut in June, and later that week I bought a flat iron to play around with.  It's been fun to straighten my hair on occasion, and I can also make curls with it!  I like playing with curls on Julia...so pretty! :)
 When we got back from Ohio in mid-May, the bugs had just come out and they were BAD.  Julia was not impressed!  One weekend we worked on the flower garden and got it looking beautiful for summer.  My bleeding hearts were gorgeous this year!
 A little collage from one Sunday in May.  I received the beautiful bouquet from my secret sister at church!  Also, this was my first time doing a bun in Ari's hair...she and Julia loved having matching hairstyles. :)
 We got new chicks after we got back from Ohio.  Ordered 18, they sent 20, and 1 died, so we ended up with 19.  We had them in the house for a couple weeks till they got too big and stinky, and the kids had fun with that!
 Julia and Josiah each ordered 4 chicks of their own (different breeds)...Julia brought some of hers in her room to snuggle a few times.  I think she wished they would stay little longer!  
 We had a lot of rain/flooding in our area the weekend of July 4th.  We dressed up for the holiday for church that Sunday and got a few pics in front of the flooded river.  Down there where the flagpole is, there is a little amphitheater where the college does outdoor plays sometimes, and it was pretty full of water.  The church kids had actually been playing games down by the flagpole at VBS the week before!
 Less shadowed pic, but the sun was in their eyes!
 Family selfie

With that I will stop for now, because I have a kitchen in great need of some attention!  I'll try to post again soon.  Oh, it's felt so good to sit down and chatter a bit!  I hope all of you are having a wonderful summer so far!!


Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Just a little chatter :)

Hello there, blogland!  I'm so bummed that I've missed two weeks of posting.  I have so many posts swirling in my head, but I just didn't make the time for writing anything the past couple of weeks.  Hopefully I'll have time to update a bit more this week.  I figured I would put up a quick post tonight since I'm waiting for Ari to settle down (she keeps getting up and needing to be put back to bed).

Yesterday we took a little trip south to visit the closest Bass Pro Shop to us.  Fun!  I was picturing it bigger, like a Cabela's, but it was smallish.  But still with lots of neat stuff to see.  Ari especially liked the big fish tank, and we had to keep going back there again and again to visit the fish. :) The other kids liked it too, and of course Sam and Jim had fun looking at guns!
 I took this picture of Ari napping sometime last week.  I STILL love watching her sleep...she is so cute anytime, but just so beautiful and peaceful when she's sleeping!!  I still adore her pointy elf ears, too. :)
 Last week I bought fabric!  Time to motivate myself to sew, after a long time away from it.  This print will become an Easter dress for Ari and matching skirts for Julia and me.  Can't wait to see how they turn out!  I'm happy Easter is later this year, so hopefully it'll actually feel a bit springy for a change!
 Ari's hair gets really crazy when she plays on the couch... Jim was able to capture a bit of the static in this pic.
 I've just completed day 3 of a Whole 30.  (More about that in a future post--coming soon!)  I've been buying a lot more veggies because of that.  This was some of my grocery haul last Friday...
 Josiah had fun decorating his punching balloon as a Bad Piggie. :) I love how Ari ended up in the picture, too!
 Not sure how well this next one will show up, but I thought it was cool.  We had friends over for supper last week, and Sam took this panoramic pic with Jim's phone.  It was interesting to see a wide shot of our living/kitchen area!
Well, I think Ari is finally down for good, so I will sign off for now and go get myself to bed.  Hopefully tomorrow I can post about Sam's birthday!  I hope you're all having a great week. :)