2019 Goals First Quarter Update

 

It is hard to believe that it is the middle of April already! The arrival of April means that we are a quarter of the way through the year. I thought that would be a good time to look back over my goals for the year and see how I was progressing and what I needed to change to help me achieve those goals.

First, I am thrilled to say that I am rolling right along with my reading goal. I doubled my reading goal from 12 books in 2018 to 24 books in 2019. So far, I have read Book Girl, Becoming MomStrong, Uninvited, Just Open the Door, Girls Club, Building Family Ties with Faith Love and Laughter, Get Your Home Office Organized, and since the beginning of April I read Capital Gaines. (I want to note that I read the hard copy but I did notice that it is free on Kindle right now.) I enjoyed that book even though it is not in my normal reading genre. It was a nice evening read and very motivational. I am also continuing to read The Organized Homeschool Life, which is designed to done one week at a time. I plan to finish Caught Up in a Story and The Journey that Saved Curious George this month.

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A few of the books I just finished and those I’m still working on.

I have done reviews of several of the books in the list above and I won’t repeat those here but I wanted to take a minute to talk about Building Family Ties with Faith, Love, and Laughter. That was a book I found at a yard sale one day and decided to give it a try. I had not researched it or seen it talked about before. I am so glad that I picked it up. It was an easy read that was full of great ideas for building strong family ties. This is an area that my husband and I prioritize and it was great to have some encouragement and easy to implement strategies. The author talk’s about many components of building family ties from family mission statements, adding laughter to your lives, family dinner tables, and even serving others.

We set a family goal of de-cluttering 1,000 items from our home. That sounds like a crazy number but we are at 800 and hoping to make it to 1,000 by the end of the month. We haven’t even gone through our attic storage area yet, so I think we will set a goal specifically for that area and work on it after we are finished with the 1,000. It is amazing how motivating it is for the children to color in the blocks for each thing that they de-clutter. They are also finding it easier to keep their rooms clean with few things taking up space.  I got the idea here but chose not to track it in as much detail as she did. We didn’t keep track of what we got rid or or where it went. We simply printed out charts that had blocks numbered up to 1,000 and colored in the block each time we got rid of an item. We did not count actual trash that we threw away each day or food that we consumed, but broken toys, toys no longer played with, old magazines, dishes we didn’t need, clothes that were too small or no longer worn, and other similar items have all added up quickly. It is amazing how quickly things seem to collect in our homes and I’m grateful to be de-cluttering and lessening the visual clutter as well as the time and effort it takes to keep things tidy. ( I also want to note that there is a big FREE de-cluttering challenge coming up! I will be sharing more details on April 23rd so stay tuned.)

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One of Our Latest Hikes: Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Another family goal was for each of us to walk/hike 100 miles this year. I joined the NC State Parks 100 mile challenge and had planned to track our hikes and walks. I can say that we have not hiked as often as we hoped due to many local trails being closed due to hurricane damage, but we have been walking more often and have recently been able to get out and hike a few different trails. Now I just need to remember to track those miles. I have been very slack about tracking the miles, but I am hoping that with my renewed focus, the warm spring weather, and our trails reopening I can get to work on this goal and still make 100 miles by the end of 2019.

I have been continuing to work on my goals and focus of being still with God and being present with my family. I honestly, love the progress I’ve made at being able to walk away from the to-do list and spend time just playing with my children at some point each day.  My two youngest and I have been getting outside four or five mornings a week to take a walk or just play int he grass. I have also enjoyed playing catch with my oldest son.

I started out the year spending some time each day copying out scripture verses and felt that it was a great way for me to spend time ‘being still’ and focused on God. With some changes to the baby’s schedule that sort of fell to the way side but I am working on changing up some things so that I can still get that time. I have also gone back to reading my Bible and doing a devotional on my phone. This allows me to do it quietly in my bed before the children wake up. My children seem to have little alarms in their heads that wake them up the moment I climb out of bed to try to have quiet time, so being able to have that time without getting out of bed is ideal.

All in all, I still have some work to do but I am pleased with the progress that we have made toward our 2019 goals. I am looking forward to reading even more good books, getting out on the hiking trails, and spending more time focused on the things that are important in my life. Have you taken the time to evaluate how your year is progressing? What things are going well? What do you need to work on?

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

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This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies

Schoolhouse Teachers is also offering a great sale! If you want to give it a try, your first month is only $1 or you can get an entire year for $111. My daughter is getting ready to use a photography class from our subscription to help her learn more about her new (to her) camera.

April showers

Free Makeover Your Morning 5 Day Challenge! This is a great way to help re-focus and get your day off on the right foot.

Harry The Happy Mouse (Free on Kindle)

Illustrated Would You Rather Book (Free on Kindle)

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Real Life Fitness and a FREE workout video!

I recently asked on my Facebook page how many people were struggling to make time for fitness and physical activity. A whopping 83% of respondents said that they struggled with finding the time to be physically active.  I am not writing this from the perspective of a fitness guru or expert. I struggled with this for a long time and in all honesty I still am not where I want to be but I’m making progress. There is no realistic way that I can spend hours a day working out at this stage in my life, but I can do little things that add together to make up a real life fitness plan. Slowly but surely, I’m moving forward and regaining my health and my strength.  I could not have done this without the help of Fit2B and their great online fitness program. I needed something I can do on my time, in small increments, and while my children were playing at my feet and Fit2B provided all of that and more.

*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

Fit2B Sale

5 Minute Routines

Fit2B offers over 200 different routines in varying lengths and intensities. I have been most thankful for their five-minute routines. Many mornings I get up and I know that I don’t have thirty minutes for a full routine, but most days I do have five minutes. I can at least get my body moving and start the day out right. If I go ahead do that quick routine, I find that I tend to be more active during the day. Many days I can do two or three of the five-minute routines in the morning before the children need my more focused attention. Those routines tend to break through both my excuses and the reality of my busy mornings and help me to be active.

Tummy Safe

After four children and years of unsafe abdominal exercises I was had significant damage to my abdominal muscles and a diastasis. You can read more about my journey with that here, but I was very happy to find this program that provides exercises that help me safely strengthen my core.

Real Life Routines

Some programs require lots of time or lots of equipment that in my current life stage just is not a good option. Fit2B uses mostly body weight exercises with a few hand weights (though she will show you how to use household objects to replaces the weights if needed). She even has workouts that show you how you can use your time in the kitchen to get in a workout. I love how well it just flows into my real life so that I do not have to sacrifice time with those I love most in order to get in a workout.

Mommy and Me Routines

When my babies were little even a five-minute routine often seemed like too much to manage. In the times they were napping I wanted to get a shower, take my own nap, eat, or play with my other children. The mommy and me routines were the perfect solution. I didn’t have to wait until the baby was napping to get in a quick workout. I could do a workout that safely incorporated baby so that I could combine my workout and baby playtime. Fit2B has several great options for mommy and me routines.

Workouts for the Whole Family

Unlike the regular workouts, the Fit2B kids workouts are much less structured and more about getting children moving and active. Beth at Fit2B was generous enough to share this sample workout that provides a movement for each letter of the alphabet. These are fun and silly ways to get kids moving. We especially enjoy these workouts on those cold or rainy days when it’s hard to get outside to play. The children can do them by themselves or you can join in with them. These also work great to incorporate physical education into your homeschool. I encourage you to give this one a try and tell me in the comments which letter was your favorite!

Right now Through April 1st Fit2B is having a huge 40% off sale to celebrate Beth’s birthday! I encourage you to check out their program to see if it might be a tool to help you with your struggle to fit fitness into your everyday life. No traveling to a gym, no purchasing expensive equipment, no need to find a baby sitter. You can get an annual membership for less than $90 during this sale and that covers your entire family.  If you prefer you can even purchase smaller series of specific workouts. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments.

P.S. If you need a great health course for your daughter I did a post about their girls course and it is also on sale right now!

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Getting Our Mornings Going: Quick and Easy, Protein Packed Breakfasts

Recently, I realized that our  morning routine had gone out the door and we needed to get it together. I realized that breakfast was a bottleneck for us but I was not sure how to fix it. My son has always done better with a high protein breakfast and my husband wants nothing to do with oatmeal. So we typically cooked a full breakfast each morning: eggs, meat and potatoes, egg casserole, pancakes with bacon, etc.  For a long time this worked well for us, as my children were all early risers and would help make breakfast each morning.

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However, between busy schedules, late nights, and sleeping a bit later in the morning, it just was not working anymore. It was getting to be later and later when we finished cleaning up the kitchen from breakfast and got our school day started. While one of the things I love about homeschooling is the flexibility to set our own schedule, these late mornings were causing us to be rushed to finish up and do things in the afternoons. I really wanted to be able to go ahead and get our school day started by about 9 am so that we could comfortably be done before our afternoon activities. This also gives us much needed free time for outdoor play and activities.

I brainstormed breakfast ideas with my family. I asked my readers for ideas for easy and fast protein packed breakfasts that were low glycemic index and did not involve oatmeal. I added the ideas to my meal plan and gave it all a try. I have found several ideas that we really love, and we have some other ideas we still need to try out. Daylight Savings Time threw our mornings off a bit last week, but all in all I am seeing a marked improvement in our ability to eat breakfast, clean up the kitchen and get our day started by ‘on time’.  I may add to this list in the coming weeks but I wanted to go ahead and share what has worked well so far. You will notice that some of these are made ahead, some cook fast, some were prepackaged, and others take longer but do not require a lot of hands on time which means we can be working on other things while breakfast cooks.

Frozen Breakfast Burritos

We tried two different versions of frozen breakfast burritos. I found a brand of premade breakfast burritos that were on sale buy one get one free so I decided to give them a try. The price was very reasonable with the sale (about $1..17 each) but we found that they really didn’t suit the tastes of my family. We also tried making our own frozen breakfast burritos and those were a big hit! We will absolutely be keeping those in the rotation.

To make our own we simply scrambled up a dozen eggs with a bit of milk, a touch of salt, and some cheddar cheese.  After cooking the eggs we sliced some additional cheese and placed a slice or two of cheese into each tortilla and then a scoop of eggs. We folded up the tortilla and wrapped it in foil. You can refrigerate these for a couple of days or freeze them. When you are ready to use them, simply take them out of the freezer, place on a baking sheet and cook in the over at 350 for about 20 minutes or until hot.  You can add salsa and sour cream that day if desired.  These were very nice because there was very little clean up and only about 2 minutes of hands on time that morning.

Instant Pot Breakfasts

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We found this recipe for an Instant Pot sausage, egg, and potatoes breakfast and were excited to try it. The first time we tried we followed the recipe. We found that our family did not really like the sauce. I adapted the recipe by using water or broth instead of the sauce and found that it was much more to our tastes. We also skip the bell peppers because not everyone in my family likes them.  We really enjoyed it with those simple changes. I timed myself and it took me six minutes of prep work in the morning to get it started. This was cutting the potatoes, onion, and sausage and putting everything into the instant pot. It took about 30 minutes start to finish to get breakfast on the table, but only those first six minutes and then a minute or two to put it onto plates are active time. I could set it to start and then work on getting the little ones dressed and ready for the day. There was lots of protein and it was delicious.  My husband and son added a bit of Cajun seasoning to their potatoes to give them a little added kick.

We also found that we could boil eggs in the Instant Pot to eat that morning or for eating throughout the week. These are an easy way to add protein to any breakfast.  They also work well as an easy high protein snack.

Egg Molds

Scrambling eggs really doesn’t take all that long, but somehow it always seems to make a big mess and take longer than it should to clean up in our house. It also takes very attentive focus so that they do not burn. Egg molds solve this attention problem and clean up easily.  You simply scramble your eggs and mix in whatever add ins you would like to mix into them. This could be veggies like spinach, peppers, squash, or onions. You could also add in small bits of meat like ham.  Then ladle it into the molds. You can stack two molds on top of each other and cook them at the same time. This breakfast idea uses the instant pot for hands free cooking. Place one cup of water in the bottom of the instant pot, put in the rack and then place the egg mold on top. If you are using two egg molds be sure to place them off center of each other so that the top one doesn’t sink into the molds of the first one. Then cook on high pressure for 8 minutes. We often added toast, fruit, or english muffins to round out breakfast on egg mold day.  To speed up the process even more you could mix them up the night before, place them in the fridge with the lids on and then in the  morning just take the lids off and put them in the instant pot.

Waffles

When I think of waffles, I do not think of a speedy breakfast. If we actually make waffles from scratch in the morning, it can take a very long time and due to the grains and syrup, they tend to be high on the glycemic index. However, my children love them and I wanted to find workable options.

First, we searched and found a couple of brands of frozen organic whole grain waffles. The whole grains lower the glycemic index. Then we looked at our toppings to see how we could improve those. Instead of maple syrup we used agave or yogurt and my son adds peanut butter to his for extra protein.  These were supper fast and easy but a bit pricier than homemade.

The other option that we found was to make and freeze our own waffles. We can use a whole grain waffle recipe, add in a little protein powder and make yummy healthy waffles. Making waffles can be a messy ordeal but it doesn’t make any more mess to make four batches than one batch so you can make enough for three or four breakfasts all at once. We tend to do this on a morning that is not rushed but you can also do this one evening and freeze all of them.  Then just pop them in the oven for a few minutes when you are ready to enjoy them.

Breakfast Casserole

This idea is one we have been using and perfecting for a while now. It does take quite a bit of time to cook so you do not want to make it fresh on a morning when you are trying to rush out the door. However, it is an easy recipe to double and it does not take very much ‘hands on’ time. You can mix up a large one the first morning or even the night before. We use twelve eggs, a pound of sausage, eight ounces of cheese, two or three shredded potatoes, a bit of milk and salt and pepper to taste. I also like to add vegetables depending on what we have available, particularly squash or broccoli. Bake until the eggs are cooked through (about 40-45 minutes). Then we eat half of it the first morning and store the other half in the refrigerator until later in the week when we warm it up for a second breakfast.

I hope you find these ideas useful. I am still testing out some options for muffins, breads, and even a healthy ‘pie’ that might be good options to make ahead and have for breakfast. I will share those in another post next month. Please remember that I am not a medical professional. These breakfast ideas work for us but if you have questions about health and nutrition please consult your physician. I would love to hear about your favorite high protein breakfasts.

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

 

Deals and Freebies

Free Makeover Your Morning 5 Day Challenge! This is a great way to help re-focus and get your day off on the right foot.

Harry The Happy Mouse (Free on Kindle)

Illustrated Would You Rather Book (Free on Kindle)

You ARE an Artist Clubhouse Membership

What God is Teaching Me About Hospitality and a Book Review

I love showing hospitality to people. I think it is a combination of gifting from the Lord and training from my wonderful southern family. Being hospitable was all I’ve ever known from holiday family gatherings, church socials, parties, and social visits. I spent my childhood watching my grandparents and parents feed people and invite them into our lives. When I went away to college my dorm room became a place where I could show hospitality, from late night conversations, chocolate to heal the emotional hurts, and band aids and Tylenol for the physical pains it was a place where people gathered.

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However, somewhere around the time that I became a working mother with two small children I became so overwhelmed that simply stopped being hospitable. It was not an intentional decision, my plate was full and I didn’t think I could add anything else to it. I was juggling work, children, and church and did not see time for including hospitality into my life. I always felt like the house needed to be cleaner, I needed more time, and I was too exhausted to be social after a long day.

Fast forward a few years, I now have 4 children and I work from home. It would still be really easy for me to feel like I didn’t have time to show hospitality. However,the reality is that not only is it a gift from God, it is a command from God that we show hospitality. This does not mean that we are all required by God to thrown big elaborate dinner parties, but in our own ways we are all commanded to be hospitable.

About two years or so ago, God started really showing me that I needed to be using my gift for hospitality more and that I did not need to wait for everything to be perfect or to host elaborate gatherings (though I do love a good dinner party) in order to demonstrate hospitality. God put several books into my life to reinforce His desire for me to be hospitable. The Life Giving Home and The Life Giving Table by Sally Clarkson, A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman (full review), and most recently Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt.

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In addition to books, God gave our family an opportunity to show hospitality to hundreds of relief workers in the after math of Hurricane Florence. I certainly would not wish the disaster on anyone and the days and weeks afterwards were challenging. However, it has provided us with the opportunity to show hospitality, outside of our home. First on a daily basis, and now several times a week we have the opportunity to cook meals and provide for the needs of workers who have come into town to help with the disaster recovery. The details of that opportunity really deserve their own blog post and I will be writing more about it soon, but God really used it to show me that there are many ways of being hospitable.

While we still have several months of relief efforts ahead of us, that ministry is winding down and I had been wondering what God might have in store for our family. Both my husband and I have a desire and a gifting for hospitality but we both sometimes get overwhelmed in the day to day of life and forget to be intentional about hospitality. I found the book Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt and was given a copy for Christmas. This book was such a blessing for me in helping to confirm so of the things I was feeling and to offer up ideas and insight into ways that we could be more hospitable as a family.

One of the things that I loved most about this book is that she talks about hospitality from the view point of a family. It is very important to us that our children be a part of our hospitality efforts. We know that if we want them to grow up to demonstrate hospitality they need to have seen it modeled and participated in it while they are still under our roof. From the time they are old enough to color pictures and put silverware on the table our children begin to help us serve others. I loved how Jen shared not only how her children helped them to show hospitality but also the effects that it had on them as they got older.

She goes into multiple types of hospitality in various chapters in the book. Everything from pot lucks and dinner parties to inviting her son’s college friends into their home on the weekends. She even goes into topics such as hospitality through adoption and hospitality in hard times such as illness or death. She talks about how they showed hospitality on a nearly nonexistent budget when times were tight. It was such a great reminder that hospitality isn’t just having people over for dinner (though that is a wonderful way to show you care).

At the end of each chapter is a section called Elevate the Ordinary. These little gems are simple suggestions to take things a step further. Ideas like saving money by purchasing your paper products at after holiday sales, using a simple mason jar and fresh cut flowers to decorate for free, creating family traditions, and ways to make your home one where the kids want to hang out.

Whether you are just get started in the world of hospitality, or if like me, you just needed some fresh ideas and encouragement to jump back into that ministry, this is a wonderful book. This book can help you make your life and family culture one of hospitality.

What are your favorite ways to show hospitality? What areas are you struggling in or would you like to see tips on?

Hospitality Pineterst

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies

Free Makeover Your Morning 5 Day Challenge! This is a great way to help re-focus and get your day off on the right foot.

Harry The Happy Mouse (Free on Kindle)

Illustrated Would You Rather Book (Free on Kindle)

Foot Prints Across the Year

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I thought this turned out adorable but in hindsight I would not use a black background.

Children grow up so fast and it really is true that the ‘days are long but the years are short’. As the mother of a 12 year old I can tell you that the years fly by and I’m sure that will become even more a reality as he continues to grow up and gets ready to leave home. I am blessed to have four children ages 12, 10, 4, and 10 months and I want to make sure that I utilize the perspective that comes from having older children to really enjoy the moments with all of them. This doesn’t mean that every moment is going to be fun or that I’m going to be any less exhausted (teething anyone?) but I want to make sure that I capture the memories while they are at each new stage.

*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

When my oldest was a baby I thought I would always remember with vivid clarity each moment, each new accomplishment, each different stage, but time has a way of making some of those memories quite blurry. I think this is especially true for busy moms that have so much going on with just keeping the house running and making sure everyone is clean and fed. I wanted to be intentional about watching the baby grow up even in the midst of the hustle and bustle so I decided to create a keepsake each month that would remind me how much he was growing.

Each month I’m going to do a foot print project that goes along with the month/season and at the end of the year I will have a fun collection and be able to see how much his tiny feet grew over the course of a year. My four year old LOVES anything related to paint so he will probably also participate although I don’t expect to see as much of a dramatic difference in the size of his prints. I may use his hands instead of his feet. I had originally thought about using hands for both of them, but attempting to make a hand print using the 10 month old taught me that it was not the best plan.

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The hand print did not turn out well as he did not want to relax his hand.

I hope to be able to create some kind of book or keepsake at the end of the year to commemorate the growth.  While you have the paint out and the children messy you can even create a duplicate project that you can send to grandparents or other relatives that might enjoy the keepsake.

For January I found this footprint snowman that was super easy to complete. For the baby I just helped him make his foot print and then I finished the project. I let my four year old see the example of this cute snowman project using a hand print and he loved the idea. However, I made the mistake of leaving him alone with his hand print and his new paint sticks and the results were not quite was I was expecting.  We may try again later this  month with a little more guidance.

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If painting isn’t the right fit for you, you could do some other fun craft, a series of pictures, or a program like Qeepsake which sends you a question each day to answer and create a journal of memories. I hope this post encourages you to have fun capturing memories of the hectic but wonderful time when your children are small and growing and changing rapidly. I would love to hear your ideas in the comments for how you record those memories and mementos.

foot prints across the year pintrest

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Make meal planning easier with done-for-you meal plans and a variety of recipes that will keep your menu full for years with the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle. Get recipes for every type of eating style for $37 during this 6-day sale!

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

My Snowman Paul is Free on Kindle and many others in the series are less than $1.

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Are you looking for a free Bible study that your whole family can enjoy? The Proverbial Homemaker is offering up a study of James that is FREE for a limited time.

Join the FREE Get Active Inside Challenge!

Over the course of 5 days, we’ll discover ways to allow physical activities indoors, get your child’s energy out when it’s too ❆ cold ❆ to go outside & keep your kids busy so they’re not bored and asking for cartoons.

 

Be Still and Be Present: Week 4

James 1:17

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James 1:17 probably is not the first verse that comes to mind when you think of the Christmas season. Most people thing of the story of the birth of Jesus as told by Luke or Matthew.  However, during this time of gift giving and receiving it can be so easy to lose sight of the true gift of the season. Sure we know that Jesus is the reason we celebrate, but do we really live that out both in our hearts and our actions?

I want to spend the next week really focusing on all of the gifts and blessings that are in my life. We celebrate not just because Jesus was born but because he died for our salvation. No matter the stresses and frustrations of today, the gifts not yet wrapped, the child who is sick, the dinner that isn’t going to cook itself, the house that still needs to be cleaned; we celebrate because Jesus became flesh and was born to a virgin in order to die for our sins. When I put things into proper perspective there is so much for which to be thankful and joyful.

For many of us the next few days will be busy and it may seem that we do not have time to ‘be still’ but I encourage you to try very hard to carve out a bit of time each day to focus on Him. Sing hymns as you travel to visit family, read the story of the birth of Christ together on Christmas morning before you open gifts, pray over each person with whom you exchange gifts.  You may not be able to hide away and have thirty minutes of uninterrupted time but you can still take a few minutes to focus on the reason that we celebrate.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17 (NIV)

 

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Sometimes our best laid plans just don’t happen. We had some fun times and did some great things this week, but other things did not go according to plan.  On Friday my four year old woke up with a fever. This is never a good thing but was made worse by the fact that Friday was supposed to be a fun day out with friends.  After much deliberation on my part, he stayed home with my husband and I took the other three to meet up with our friends.  This time of year can be hectic and it was nice to spend an afternoon hanging out with friends and enjoying fellowship with no obligations. We tried a new burger place, had some yummy cupcakes, and then spent a couple of hours at the aquarium where most of us have memberships.

It would have been very easy to decide not to spend the day with our friends due to all the things on my to-do list. I could have said that I was too busy to go and no one would have argued with me, but sometimes we need to put the lists aside and just spend time with our people. My first priority in ‘be present’ is my family, but I also need to take the time to pour into my friendships as well. Friday we were able to ‘be present’ not only as a family but with our friends.

We have not yet done our graham cracker nativity scenes because I want to wait until my son feels better so that we can do them together. We did do some more puppets because he has decided he is really into the puppets. Another activity that we did this week with our 4H club was a five senses activity with these blooming tea balls. It was fun for all ages and simple to do. It is also easy to adapt for one child or a group of children. I simply unwrapped one of the tea balls and had them look at it, feel it, smell it, and listen to it. Then we dropped it into a pitcher of very hot water and they watched it bloom. Once it had steeped they were able to taste it.  It would make for a nice low key activity this week after the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

If you didn’t finish all the fun crafts and activities that you wanted to do, do not despair Tuesday is only the first day of Christmas. I have found that the days following Christmas often bring a slower more relaxed pace and we can enjoy those activities without the pressure of long to-do lists hanging over our heads.

Take some time this week and ‘be present’ with your immediate family and if you can with extended family. If you are not close enough to visit for the holidays maybe you can spend time with neighbors or use technology to virtually visit those that live far away. Take the time to bake the cookies, get on the floor and play with the new toys, read the book, or just sit and chat.

How are doing with this challenge? I pray that it has blessed you and brought you closer to God and your family. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. While this challenge may be wrapping up, it is my hope that you will continue the habits of ‘being still and being present‘ into the New Year.

 

Be Present Resources:

Blooming Tea

Free Printable Nativity Coloring Pages

Hands on As We Grow (If you have young kids and struggle to come up with easy activities to do with them, this maybe a great resource for you. She has some free challenges, e-books, and a membership plan full of great activities that are easy to implement.)

 

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Amazon is doing it again! $5 off $20 Book Purchase. Use Code GIFTBOOK18. If you aren’t sure what book to buy you might want to check out this new book by Sally Clarkson that is on pre-order right now: Girls’ Club.

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

My Snowman Paul is Free on Kindle and many others in the series are less than $1.

Be Still and Be Present: Week 3

Joy

 

Some weeks ‘Be Still’ is much harder than others. It felt like last week was a lot of ‘go, go, go’.  It was a really busy week for us as a family, with our business, and our church volunteer obligations. However, I’m pleased to say that my goal of being still didn’t just ‘disappear’ out the window as it has in the past when things got too busy. Using the app on my phone to do my devotional and spare minutes here and there to be intentional about prayer meant that I was able to spend some time focused on Jesus each day.

*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

Sometimes I think God uses a variety of ways to reinforce that which he is teaching us. This week he used the lesson I was teaching to our middle school students to reinforce that focuses on Jesus in this season is the key to true joy. When I focus on myself and what I want or need it is easy to be disappointed. Maybe we didn’t get to do some fun activity I wanted to do, maybe I’m not going on a cool vacation like my friends, maybe money is tight and I don’t put everything under the tree that I would have wanted. If I am focused on me those things are disappointing and frustrating, but if I turn my focus to Jesus it is much easier to be joyful over what I do have, eternal life, because he came as a baby to grow up and die for my sins. When our focus is on what we have because of Jesus the joy flows naturally. It may not erase all of our problems but it will bring joy to our hearts.

Over the past couple of weeks we have focused on peace but this week I want to focus on joy! John 15:11 tells is that our joy may be full in Him and I want us to hold on to that promise this week and focus on Jesus and the joy he brings. You may still have sadness or grief in your life, there still may be stress and frustration, but if we focus on Him there will also be great joy.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 15:11

 

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We had a lot of fun this week as I was intentional about ‘being present’. Some things were small and some a bit more time consuming but all time well spent. We had the privilege of stopping at two large light displays this week on our way home from a field trip. The first one we rode though and enjoyed but the second one you can get out and walk through. The baby was asleep so it was just me and my three older children. We all enjoyed it, but the excitement that my four year old had for the experience was amazing. I have seen these lights every year for the past 12 years and while I always enjoy them I had forgotten just how amazing they are to those that are not familiar with them. My four year old had forgotten being able to walk through them last year and was absolutely enthralled, running for display to display squealing with joy. Looking at those lights through his eyes brought me to a new appreciation of that great display and I loved making those memories with the children.

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I mentioned last week that my four year old wanted to do a puppet show. I had planned on printing out puppets and doing a show with him. I found these cute printable Christmas puppets and we colored them but then he and his siblings decided to change things up a bit. They ended up using some nativity masks that we have and doing a show together depicting the nativity story. It was cute and hilarious.

Another fun and easy project that we did this week was making Christmas tree garland out of noodles and paint. It was so easy because we simply put noodles and paint into ziploc bags to cover them, let the paint dry on the noodles, and then the children could put them onto a long string to make a garland. Check the blog later this week for a quick tutorial of this fun activity.

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I used to have grand plans and dreams of us baking and creating our own gingerbread house.  I’ve come to realize that in this stage of our lives that just is not going to happen. My oldest has an intolerance for food dye and so we cannot use most commercial kits. Some years I get a chance to go to Trader Joe’s and pick up a kit that he can eat but with the closest one being two hours away that does not always happen. Luckily I have found a variety of tutorials for cute little graham cracker nativity scenes that are lots of fun, easy to make, and I can accommodate his food restrictions. This is one of the family activities that I hope to do this week. I will link to a couple of different ideas for these in the resources below.

We are also going to spend some time this week making cards together to give to friends and neighbors. I have already sent out our ‘official’ Christmas cards but I know it will be fun for us to share homemade cards with some people that are close to us and a good time for us to spend crafting together. We can all work on them and spend some time talking and listening to Christmas music while we work.

How are doing with this challenge? I would love to hear about the progress you are making or the challenges that you are having so that I can try to help you overcome those. I pray that this challenge is bringing you closer to God and your family.

 

Be Present Resources:

Edible Nativity Scene

Another Simple Version

Gingerbread Nativity

Hands on As We Grow (If you have young kids and struggle to come up with easy activities to do with them, this maybe a great resource for you. She has some free challenges, e-books, and a membership plan full of great activities that are easy to implement.)

 

 

Sign-Up Here For Be Still and Be Present Weekly Emails

 

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

Amazon is doing it again! $5 off $20 Book Purchase. Use Code GIFTBOOK18. If you aren’t sure what book to buy you might want to check out this new book by Sally Clarkson that is on pre-order right now: Girls’ Club.

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

My Snowman Paul is Free on Kindle and many others in the series are less than $1.

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines (Review)

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines

Some days my life feels like a whirlwind of diapers and deadlines: from my wonderful eight month old baby to a four year old preschooler who is so very sweet and super inquisitive, a ten and twelve year old to homeschool, hurricane relief volunteer work, and this blog which I love but that takes up many hours each week. When I was offered the chance to review the Balancing Diapers and Deadlines course I debated on whether or not I even had time to do the course, but I knew the content sounded like it would be very beneficial in this current life stage.

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The course was created by Lisa Tanner Writing and is done in a self- paced online format. The course consists of six regular units, plus an introduction and conclusion.  Each unit has four to eight lessons, each set up as a post that you read followed by an action step. Some of the action steps can be done immediately and some require a bit more time. One of the action steps included e-mailing the author to check in with your progress. She was very helpful and responsive to my e-mail when I completed that step.

As I mentioned before, I was very concerned about time when I started this course. I was hoping the material would help me save or better use some of my time, but I also was not sure when I was going to even find the time to complete the course. Thankfully, the course was set up in small easy to complete steps that made it simple to fit around other obligations. Reading the lessons generally took less than ten minutes of my time. The action steps varied between just a few minutes and projects that took longer and needed to be completed over several days. The self-paced feature of this program was a huge plus because when I reached lessons that were not areas that I struggled with or maybe did not apply to me I could skip over them or move quickly through them. When I reached areas that I need to focus on, I could take my time and complete the action step before moving on to the next lesson.

She covered a variety of topics that would help you use your time more productively without shortchanging your children. This included meal planning, sleep, using small chunks of time, chores, productivity boosters, and including your family in your business. While a few of her ideas were more specifically related to writing or blogging from home, most of the course would be beneficial for any work at home job. She titled the course Balancing Diapers and Deadlines but she included tips for all ages of children and even some specific ideas for children with special needs.

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I think my favorite section was the last unit when she shares ideas on boosting productivity. The lessons on using ‘think time’ and ‘making spare minutes count’ were really beneficial to me. I’m still working on implementing some of those ideas but I can see how they will help me be more efficient and cut down on wasted time. She had some great downloads in this section as well as a couple of the other sections that you can use to help you as your work through the course and moving forward. In addition to the course and downloads, she often linked to other blog posts and resources that could help you with each step.

While there were some units, like meal planning, that I did not need because I was already doing those things there were others that were very beneficial. If you feel like you need to do better about maximizing time and balancing the diapers and deadlines, I recommend checking out this course. Investing a few hours into this course may save you many more hours down the road. To see what my other Review Crew members thought about the course check out the link below.

 

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines {Lisa Tanner Writing Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Healthy Mom Healthy Children and A Giveaway!

*Some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links see below for more information. *

fresh-start

In high school I was an athlete. Everyone saw my height and assumed I played basketball, but I lacked the hand-eye coordination to make that a good fit. I loved to swim and enjoyed competing in an age group team before swimming on my high school team. I also competed on a summer team. In order to stay in top physical condition out of season my coach had me join the cross country and track teams. This meant I was training during all four seasons and I stayed in great shape. I’ve never worn a size 2 (at least not since I was a toddler) but I was healthy and physically strong.

Fast forward a few years (we won’t do the math to figure out exactly how many) and four children and staying physically strong is more difficult. I no longer have as much free time to devote to physical fitness and I have small children that constantly need my time and attention. It had become quite easy to put exercise on the back burner and not take care of myself. I was also struggling with diastasis recti, which greatly affected my core strength.

I knew that I wanted to be active and involved with my children. I thought some of the problems that I was dealing with were unavoidable after having children. However, I learned that I could heal my diastasis and found Fit2B to help me exercise from home in the limited time I had available. These programs are great because they understand the needs of busy moms (and dads) and they provide exercises that are safe and effective for folks that have a weak core or are recovering from diastasis. Even if you have never struggled with diastasis recti but are looking for an easy convenient and affordable option for gaining strength or staying healthy this is a great program.

I use the monthly membership program to give me lots of options, including postpartum classes, regular exercise classes, baby and me classes, and even kids classes that my children can use on days when we can’t get outside. I think one of the things that I love most is that in the workouts I learn tricks and movements that I can use in my day to day life. In all honestly, I don’t always get the chance to do a workout nearly as often as I’d like to. However, I have found many movements that I can daily to help build strength. They even have an entire workout that shows you how to make use of the time you spend doing chores in the kitchen.

They also offer various courses that you can purchase separately. My daughter is working through the Fit2B Girls Ecourse which is a great program. Today I have the privilege of being able to offer you the chance to win one of their Foundational 5+ courses. “This course contains 14 Lessons designed to reboot your fitness, starting with your core. A total of 9 different routines are included in the lessons that are meant to be done once a day or every other day over the course of 2-4 weeks.” Each lesson is only 15-30 minutes long so they are easy to fit into a busy day.  Enter below (it may open in a new tab) for a chance to win and let me know your favorite way to stay fit and healthy!

 

We have a WINNER! Congrats to Holly J. (You should have an e-mail with details)

Resource Library and Affiliate Disclosure

When you sign up for the Schoolin’ Swag free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.

Resource Library 

This post may contain affiliate or referral links, including Amazon affiliate links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.

Deals and Freebies!

 

Make meal planning easier with done-for-you meal plans and a variety of recipes that will keep your menu full for years with the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle. Get recipes for every type of eating style for $37 during this 6-day sale!

Exciting news from All About Learning Press this week! They are coming out with a full color edition of levels 1-4 All About Reading and to celebrate they are hosting a $1,000 giveaway! We use All About Spelling and are hoping to use All About Reading next year with my son who will be in Kindergarten.

My Snowman Paul is Free on Kindle and many others in the series are less than $1.

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WriteShop

 

Are you looking for a free Bible study that your whole family can enjoy? The Proverbial Homemaker is offering up a study of James that is FREE for a limited time.

Join the FREE Get Active Inside Challenge!

Over the course of 5 days, we’ll discover ways to allow physical activities indoors, get your child’s energy out when it’s too ❆ cold ❆ to go outside & keep your kids busy so they’re not bored and asking for cartoons.

 

Why I’m Educationally “Pro Choice”

doorsI’ve been mingling in homeschooling circles for quite some time. I’ve found that homeschoolers can be among the most opinionated and adamant people on the face of the planet. It’s true. The same resolve that helps us remain committed to our cause can make us prickly and caustic when considering the choices of others. And it can get very ugly. I want to say a word about that.

We love the freedoms we enjoy in our country. Right now, we still have the freedom to choose how we’d like to educate our children. What we seem forget is that the same freedom which allows one person to homeschool (in whatever style they like, as long as it meets state laws ), also gives another person the freedom to choose the public school, or a private school, or a charter school for their child. That should be a unifying idea. But it’s often not. Because we like to think we are right, and if we are right, then it only follows that we are right about everyone else’s kids as well. Like it or not, that can happen.

I’m enthusiastic about homeschooling…most days. 😉 I’ve changed our approach and methodology several times. Switched up our curriculum more times than I can count, because the “sweet spot” keeps changing as our kids change and grow. I’ve considered the public school option a few times (I’m pleased to say our current location has a very small, conservative school with a low teacher/student ratio that is ideal if pursuing this option), but God keeps calling my heart home. My heart.  It’s what’s right for us right now.

Here are the facts:

  • You are the parent of your child.
  • You know your child best.
  • You know what your home life, schedule, financial situation looks like, to make an informed decision.
  • You know what type of environment will help them thrive.
  • You know where your kids are at spiritually, and what will best help them to grow. I’ve seen some kids positively bloom in a public school experience, while for others it was disastrous.
  • You know whether you would thrive as a full-time home educator. Many simply don’t. And that’s okay!
  • You know what type of approach is going to best match their learning style.
  • You are prayerfully responsible for this decision. No one else.

At Schoolin’ Swag, we have parents who have chosen homeschooling as the option for all of their children. We have others who have some at home, and some in a brick and mortar school. We have still others whose children are all being schooled outside the home, and the parents wish to have resources to be actively involved in extending the educational process into their home environment, or need resources to support the academic approach they’ve selected. For instance, asking in the group for ideas for a science fair project that isn’t yet-another-baking-soda-and-vinegar-volcano. 😉

We welcome all of the above. We do not tolerate criticism of any approach. We are not “my way or the highway”. Some don’t like that, and they leave to find a more targeted group for support. Squabbling doesn’t help the cause of education. We are all in this together, in the best interests of our children, helping them to love learning.

I have friends all across the globe, successfully educating their kids using all of the paths mentioned above. I love and celebrate them all. This mom thing is hard, and tiring, and sometimes worrisome.  We really should be supporting each other. We can all get a bit “barracuda” if we choose to, whether the issue is schooling, breast feeding, vaccinations, teaching cursive, having sleepovers, consuming red dye and high fructose corn syrup…the list goes on and on and on.

I think the defensiveness comes from not having our own personal mission statement formulated. Do we know why we are doing what we’re doing? What is the basis of our choices? We have to be well grounded in the whys. This will help us. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Rom 12:18)

Make your choice. Rest in it, friends.