Thursday, March 01, 2018

March Habits and Goals

So, since I didn't get a February post up about habits and goals...let's make sure it happens in March! ;) 

For a recap, last month I decided to focus on drinking water for a personal healthy habit.  I was shooting for 72 oz of water per day, and I did really well for about half the month.  I found a good water tracker app for my phone and kept up with the water goals long as I remembered to record stuff in the app.  It kept me motivated, knowing I only had so much left to go each day.  Then...I slacked off, kept forgetting to record my water intake, and basically bombed the second half of the month.  Sometimes I'd get to lunchtime and realize I hadn't had a drop of water yet that day...nothing to drink other than coffee.  Oops!  So I think I need to refocus on this goal in March, and I'm going to kick it up a notch by making exercise more of a priority, too.  I did fairly well in January (isn't that the way it goes with starting a new year?!), but in February I only recorded 4 runs on the treadmill, and no other specific exercise.  No wonder my jeans have been a little tighter... :(

I have a personal goal this year of running/walking (combined) 200 miles.  So far I'm up to 24 miles (including today), which isn't bad, but isn't as far as I could be, for sure.  In March I'm setting a goal of 20 miles, and would love to do even more than that.  I also want to get back to doing my workout DVDs a couple times a week, as I see better results in muscle definition when I use those.  Summer's coming, which means short sleeve/sleeveless weather, and I'd kinda like my upper arms to not be so jiggly!!

Another goal I have set for myself is to read 40 books this year.  Last year I started using the Goodreads app, which was really fun and motivating for me.  I decided to track not just the books I read for myself, but the chapter books we read together for school, too.  I set a goal of 30 books last year, and ended up reading about 35, which was encouraging!  Granted, the majority of them were read-alouds for school, but I think about 1/4-1/3 of them were personal reads.  So far this year I'm up to 8 books total, 4 in each of the first 2 months.  I'm excited about that, and glad to be doing better with making books a priority again!  (More about what I'm reading in a future post...)

In February I also realized I still need lots of work in building that waking-up-early habit, as well as making my daily quiet time a habit!  The past few months have been rough with lack of sleep (that seems soooo much harder to deal with, the older I get!) and I struggled to get up before the kids, many days.  So that's one of my goals again for March...getting myself up by 6-6:30 each day (earlier is better, but this is a good start), so I can have that time in the Word, and hopefully exercise before the kids get up too.  It makes my whole day so much smoother if I can be ready for the day and not put off exercise or devotions till after school, because then it usually doesn't happen.  Now that Ari is starting to get back to sleeping better again, and it's getting light out earlier, I think this should be easier.

As far as goals/habits for my home (word of the year!)...the main thing I want to zero in on this month is menu planning.  I have been terrible at that over the fall and winter, and I know life would flow much more smoothly if I had a good plan every week.  I also want to utilize my crockpot more on the days we are out of the house a lot, or need to leave the house early for church.  I've also really gotten away from using my Happy Planner, except for school, and I want to get back to that.  Just last week I missed an important deadline because while I'd written it down in my planner I forgot to, you know, actually LOOK at the planner that day!  (Thankfully it all worked out okay...but it could have been a problem!)

So, to condense it are my March goals:

  • Wake up by 6-6:30 every weekday (today was a flop because my phone died in the night so my alarm didn't go off...oops!)
  • Drink at least 72 oz of water every day
  • Run/walk 20 miles and incorporate exercise DVDs twice a week
  • Finish 4 books
  • Make a menu plan every week
  • Make a to-do list in my planner daily (and check said list!)
I think that will give me plenty to work on this month!  How about you?  Do you have specific goals for this month?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"The Pause that Refreshes"

I started a post back on February first...seriously, I did.  It was called "February Goals and Habits" and it was about 2 sentences long before I got distracted and never got back to it.  Arrrgggghhh!  WHY do I have such a hard time prioritizing blogging, which is something I enjoy?  Anyway, here's me, being determined to write at least one post this month, and since it's the last day of the month, this will be it. ;)

Years ago I read through the Mitford series and one line stayed with me... the mayor, in talking about the town of Mitford, commented that "Mitford would like to be the pause that refreshes."  I love that.  And I've been thinking I don't have enough of my own "pauses" in life!  This week, though, has been a bit of a pause, and I'm enjoying it.  Our schedule since last summer has been pretty jam-packed.  As the kids get older we have more activities than we used to...although we still have very few activities compared to most of our public school friends!  But one thing we have prioritized over the past year and a half is swim lessons for the three older kids.  Because they are in two different levels, we have lessons on both Mondays and Tuesdays.  This means a trip into town (15 minutes each way) twice a week, plus usually another trip at some point to do a full grocery shopping for the week.  Then every couple weeks or so I've been trying to take Ari to preschool storytime at the library, and/or moms' group which meets at a local church.  I feel like it's good to give her some social time with kids her own age, since she's the "caboose" in our family.  :)  These events fall in the middle or end of the week, plus we have prayer meeting/kids' club at church on Thursdays.  So, all that to say that most weeks, we are out of the house for something almost every day.  Again, not a busy schedule compared to many families...but busy, for us!  But it's a season, especially with the swim lessons, and we have wanted to keep them going with that as long as possible, since once you take a break it's really hard to get back in...they have a long waiting list.   Anyway, this week is school vacation here in NH, and this week (and last) have also been a break between swim sessions, so I've been thoroughly enjoying the extra staying-home time and it feels good to catch my breath a bit in this "pause."  I even menu-planned on paper for the first time in months!!  While we are still doing most of our schoolwork, we are taking a spontaneous break from our together read-aloud time in the mornings, which has actually felt really good.  It's everyone's favorite part of school (mine, too!), but sometimes it's nice to change things up and this has been the right week for that.  Jim's been home, we've been sugaring, and the weather has been so beautiful that we've wanted the kids to be outside playing and helping as much as possible.  Taking time off from a little bit of school has allowed for that, and it's been nice.

And to bed for another pause that refreshes.  I hope to put up another post before the end of the week, about my goals/plans for March...let's see if this one actually happens!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My Word(s) for 2018

**note: I wrote this post several weeks ago, meant to go back and polish it/add to it, and kept forgetting.  I decided instead of striving for perfection, I'm just going to hit "publish" and get it out there!! I hope to post later this week about the habit(s) I want to focus on in February. **

I've been mulling over what word to choose for my "word of the year" and having a hard time narrowing it down!  The trend in the blogger world these days is to choose one word that you'd like to define your year, and I've enjoyed doing that for the past several years.  Last year's word was thrive, as I came out of a season of "survival mode" (hello, newborn/infant years after many years off!!), and I feel like I made good progress toward thriving instead of surviving.  Another year I chose the word love, and still another year I chose two words, intention and worship.

This year I've once again decided to go with two words that I hope will define 2018: habits and home.  Over the past few years, but especially last year, I've realized that habits are something I really, really need to zero in on.  When I have good habits going, my life runs more smoothly, I have more energy, and I feel more productive.  Conversely, when I fall out of those habits (whether it be exercise, getting up early, keeping up with the dishes...), then things feel all out of control around me and I get more stressed, and am not really a fun person to be around!  I also see the need to work with my kids to build good habits in their lives, as well.  So, habit(s) was one word that stuck out to me, but I wasn't completely sure if that was THE word I wanted to choose for my just seemed kind of...I don't know...boring? (Sorry, mom, I know that's not your favorite word! ;))  But then on Sunday it hit me...another word I could use in conjunction with habits, and together they would form the theme I really wanted to focus on this year: home.  You see, I had already decided who to choose for a literary mentor for this year, and it's Sally Clarkson...and the first of her books I'm reading is The Life-giving Home.  And thus, as so many habits involve home, and the keeping of it...and another thing on my heart is opening my home to others (another "h" word: hospitality!) seemed the perfect choice for my second word of the year.

I can't wait to see what will happen in my heart and home as I focus on these two words!  I also want to pick one habit per month to work on.  It makes sense to me to just babystep my way to better habits, although of course I hope to work on more than one thing at once...but just put my biggest focus on one, if that makes sense.  And January is for getting back to basics in the most important area, a daily devotion/quiet time.  I want to make sure I spend at least a few minutes every morning in the Word and prayer, so that is my habit for this month!  My secondary habit (but one that closely ties into the devotion one) is getting up earlier every morning.  My sweet friend just lent me her copy of Hello Mornings by Kat Lee, which I am so excited to read and gain inspiration from!

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Snowshoeing and sledding

Yesterday we finally got some "warm" weather (20F feels warm when you've had zero and below zero temps tor a week!), so we all took advantage of it and spent the afternoon outside.  Jim and I snowshoed around our woods, and the kids went sledding.   Ari tried out snowshoes for the first time, too!  She had fun in the driveway, but wasn't a fan of the deeper snow.  Here she's glowering at me because she didn't want her picture taken! 😉

Jim got some neat pics of the brooks near our house.  There were some really neat frost patterns and ice crystals.

The old outhouse at the camp next door...looks like this winter has been kinda hard on the roof! 😂
Looking toward the lake across the road.  This is the only time of year we can see much of it.
Us 😍
Snowy selfie!
Beside the brook, looking up through the woods toward our house.
Layers of cool!
Sledding wrecks. 😉
Happy kids
Miss Ari!
Jim came back to the house to get the macro lens for his phone, and got some really cool close-ups of the ice crystals.  Here are some of the best ones.

I can't get over the beauty in the tiniest details.  Evidence of a master designer! 
These ones are really neat...

I'm glad we got these pics yesterday, since today we're getting another snowstorm.  The kids have been out playing in it all afternoon, and our neighbor friends skiied over again to play, too.  It's so beautiful...we have tons of snow already and it's only early January!  I will probably be tired of it by March, but for now I'm loving it.  So glad we live in a place with four seasons. 😊

Monday, January 01, 2018

A fresh start...

First of all, happy new year!!

Second of the maybe three people who might still check my poor, neglected blog, hello!  Obviously my grandiose plans of regular posting went out the window (again) once we started back to school in the fall.  Maybe someday I will come to accept that I simply cannot do all. the. things! ;)  In the we are at the start of a new year, and of course that brings with it new goals and plans of how I will (maybe?) make time to post little snippets now and then.  I miss it. 

I've been working on goals for this year, but only in my head so far.  Tomorrow I hope to make time to sit down with pen and paper, and actually write some down.  And then, copy them here to make them "public" (again, to the handful of readers who may be here, ha!). 

Our new year is off to a good start.  Today we did a bunch of post-holiday/pre-having-company housecleaning!  Jim even dragged the big ladder inside and vacuumed the ceiling fans and beams and other dusty spots around the walls/ceilings for me...what a HUGE blessing that was!!  It's been bugging me for a while, but I can't reach our high ceilings without a ladder, so it's one of those things we only get to once a year (or less).  So even though the *whole* house isn't completely sparkling, just looking up at those dust-free fans makes me smile!

In the afternoon we had friends over for a playdate/supper, and it was nice to catch up with them.  Even though we live in the same town, we don't get to visit often due to our different work/school schedules, so I was glad this time opened up.  It was a nice way to start 2018!

Over the past month, I participated in a photo-a-day challenge on Instagram, which was so much fun.  I actually *completed* the challenge, too, which kind of surprised me and made me think that maybe, just maybe, I could be successful at regular posting on my blog again, somehow.  (Although it's a lot faster to throw up a quick picture and post on IG or FB than to take time to write something with a little more substance.  Ah, the love-hate relationship with social media!!)  Anyway, we'll see what happens, but for now I'm just happy I had a few minutes to chatter here.  I hope your new year is off to a good start!

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 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.'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. 😊