Gearing Up

I know most of you don’t want to read this, but I can’t help myself LOL.

I’m gearing up for back to school. :-)

We’ve been out for four weeks and five days, and have 8 weeks and 1 day to go till our first day of school.

HOWEVER

This is not the “praise Jesus school is coming again, get this kid outta my hair” kinda gearing up (a la Jen Hatmaker) no, that will come later.  No, this is much more the “yay back to school shopping, new crayons and bouquets of sharpened pencils” type gearing up.  I was the weird (maybe not so weird, someone back me up here) kid that loved to go back to school shopping.  I have brand loyalty to office products and school supplies.  I was the one who emptied and reorganized my backpack three times a day every day the two weeks before school started.  I was the one who couldn’t wait to wear the new school clothes we’d picked out and purchased.  Didn’t matter if it was going to be 85* the first day of school (and we didn’t have AC in the sticks) and all the clothes we bought were for winter – I was wearing those new outfits.

So, I guess it should be considered normal for me (especially as a homeschool mom now) that I’m selecting and buying curriculum (and wishing I’d started at least a month ago).  I’m organizing supplies (and said curriculum) and our school room.  I’m lovingly washing uniforms and hanging them up – heck I may even iron them.  More importantly (at least for us) I’m starting to make minor changes to our day to already start easing us into the schedule we will have to assume when school starts.  I’ve started using my alarm clock again (even if it’s set to 7 or 7:30 rather than 5:45).  I’ve started showing Inara what our schedule for the day will include (without associated times).  I’ve started encouraging her to do some “school” type work (sumer bridge activities as well as reading and handwriting practice) on her own.  In another week or two I will make this time mandatory as opposed to optional, as well as slowly moving wake up times up so that over the next two months we ease into the 6:30 and 6:am wake-up times.

I’ve also started mentally comparing our schedule from last year and thinking about what changes or adjustments will need to be made.  Is there anything specifically for our home study times that needs to be added or removed?  Are there things for our class study days that will need adjusting since I won’t be baby sitting on those days this year?  Over the next few weeks I’ll observe and mentally register, then a couple weeks before school I’ll actually plan out how our day will work, and type up a schedule.

This is our schedule for the end of the year two years ago (made April 2013) and is the most recent picture/screen caption of one.

This is our schedule for the end of the year two years ago (made April 2013) from public school.

This was our routine by the end of last school year (March 2014) at our University Model School.

This was our routine by the end of last school year (March 2014) at our University Model School.

 

I use an excel spreadsheet that was a blog download back around 2009 from a blog I can’t remember and don’t even know if it is still active.  It’s customizable and includes worksheets for families up to three kids, and I love how simple it is to map out our normal routine with it.  Sometimes it makes me feel exhausted looking at it though.

I realize that not everyone is going to put rigid structure in their day (and honestly we don’t follow these to a T but they do provide a reference and I find when I do follow a printed out plan for the day, no matter how loosely, our day goes more smoothly and is more productive.

HOWEVER

Kids in particular thrive on boundaries, structure, routine, and predictability for the most part.  SO, I would strongly recommend figuring out a routine to aim for if you have kids of school age.  Odds are a natural routine already exists within your day, you just need to take the time to observe it and firm it up.

I was talking to a friend earlier (well, it was really a one sided conversation and I might have gotten a bit preachy – sorry friend :-D) about this very topic and with the same/similar advise, and realized it’s something that would benefit a lot of families, especially new school aged families and ESPECIALLY new homeschool families.  So I decided to share with everyone. :-)

 

Trust me when I say, this type of planning, a firm routine, scheduled days, all of it REALLY isn’t my strong suit in fact for the first SEVERAL years of Inara’s life I actively rebelled against it (and I’m still never going to see eye to eye with the firm boundaries of baby wise and the like, I’m way to attachment based for that, which is cool, everyone has their thing) refusing to schedule naps or feeding times or anything.  The results were both chaotic, but revealing.  A natural flow showed up in our days when time was left to it’s own devices.  So, buy about age 3 I started setting it up on paper.  I didn’t really change anything in Inaras routine, I just wrote it down.  And if you’re a family without that structure at this point, I’d recommend doing the same.  Just observe your days for a week or two, then write down what you observe as a loose schedule.  From there you can think about (and talk with your spouse or kids) about what changes you think may need to be made to make for a better flow, or to set you up for a smother transition into a school year.

So, anyone have any other tips or suggestions related to this?  Any more seasoned homeschool veterans or those with bigger families have other suggestions that have worked well for you and your families?

 

We will talk more in a couple weeks about setting up your actual *school* time and options for organizing the teaching and learning of stuff, but in my mind your general daily schedule, and your school time schedule are actually different – again, maybe I’m just weird that way. :-p

We have a BATHROOM!

A little history.

We bought our house in July of 2006, with the plan that it would be a starter home 5-10 years max.  In the eight years since, we have simply outgrown subdivision living, and our interests have outgrown our land.

I was five months pregnant with Toby, and we felt like we needed to be in a house, and after having several sold before we could make a move on them, we finally found this house and bought it.

We settled, and we didn’t have a great real estate agent.

But, we had a house.  It had a nice pool, it was on a big lot for a subdivision, and we moved in.

From the get there were lots of things that needed attention.

Nearly every room in the house needed at least a paint job, many needed more than that, but I wouldn’t call it a fixer-upper, just in need of some TLC, and our personal touches.

So we thought.

When we came to look at the house the 2nd bathroom looked like this:

 

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Yellow 4″ square porcelain tile in the shower, yellow walls on three sides with a fourth wall white, a sponged on fish border, dark pecan wood cabinets and medicine cabinet that had been stained over with blue.

It was… not our taste.

We painted it all white with yellow and blue spots lightly added in, painted the woodwork a bright medium blue, and replaced a fish theme with a rubber ducky theme.

Somehow this is the only picture I have of that:

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Not even 6 months after this picture was taken, we discovered there was a problem.

Water had been leaking behind the wall of the shower for some period of time, and the drywall was rotting.  Tiles were starting to fall off the shower surround.

With the help of a couple guys from our couples bible study, Chris tore the shower and tub, and really half the bathroom, down to the studs, and then he chiseled out (by hand!) the saltio tile from the floor!
And there it sat, for nearly 5 years.

Until last month, when a tub went in!

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We hired a friend of ours who is a contractor to do the tub, cement board, and tile work – and the stuff that goes with all that.

He did an AWESOME job.  Seriously, if you’re in the area and you need work done, contact Jacob Clyde – the guy can get stuff done, and it’s GREAT quality work!

After Jacob did his part, the rest was up to us.

But, I’m SO SO happy to say – it’s done now.

We put the finishing touches on it TONIGHT!

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A reaction on a theme: miscarriage, child-loss, still birth

Depending on the circles you travel in, you may have seen this blog post floating through your news feed on Facebook:

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I’m not going to lie – it’s taken me at LEAST a week to read all of this post. The first few times it appeared in my news feed I skipped it entirely, a couple more times I opened it and read a paragraph or two, but finally I’ve read most of it.

As a mother with three babies in Heaven, a son and a daughter who are both named and discussed in our family, and another baby we never new long enough to name but is still a child of ours. Let me tell you some of the things mentioned in this post that I heard outright some word for word, some a variation on the theme:

“An aborted baby could have been the next Einstein or Bach or Mother Theresa. A miscarried baby was probably damaged goods.”

“An aborted baby was killed against God’s design. A miscarried baby fulfilled God’s plans.”

“An aborted baby was a real person, and should have the rights as such. A miscarried baby was not a real child — naming them really is kinda weird. Speaking of weird . . . counting them in the line-up of your children? THAT’S weird!”

“An aborted baby should always be missed in this world. God had created them for a purpose, no matter what health issues they may have had. A miscarried baby was meant for heaven — and we moms should just be so thankful we have a baby in heaven, and should not grieve the loss of their place on earth. After all, they never TRULY had a place on earth, did they?”

“An aborted baby could never be replaced. A miscarried baby can always be replaced — “Oh, don’t worry, hon — your time will come again. You’ll have more. Just relax and trust God. You’ll see.”

“An aborted baby’s mom should know exactly what she’s missing out on if she has living children. A miscarried baby’s mom should not grieve that loss, but instead, should just be thankful for the lives of her living children.”

I’m not even joking friends. People, some close friends, some perfect strangers, have straight up said these things to me. Some of them while I was STILL IN THE HOSPITAL!

Chris and I have walked this path in a way that others tell us is very different.  We have chosen to celebrate our children while also mourning their loss.  We are open and transparent in our hurt, in our joy, in our journey.  None of that means that you get to

1) tell me that my child is less a person because they never took a breath

2) tell me that I shouldn’t name my child because they were delivered already in heaven

3) tell me that I don’t get to grieve the same way someone else does because their “real” kids have died and my baby never lived.

4) tell me that even though I can no longer have kids there is always adoption so there is still hope that we can continue to expand our family.

5) tell me that the lives of the children already in heaven are any less important than Inaras, that I should grieve them less or consider them lesser because they were delivered into the hands of The Father instead of their father.

6) you sure as shooting don’t get to tell me it was probably for the best, that there was probably something WRONG with my child!

Most importantly

under absolutely zero circumstance

will I EVER

EVER

allow you to take my loss

or the loss of any other parent

and turn it into a political action point.

It isn’t often that I comment on things like this, but let me just tell you.  Taking the photos of a persons angel and pointing out that this is what another woman is choosing to abort is wrong.  It is just plain WRONG – and I will call you on it.  I have held my babies, I have named my babies, I have loved my babies.  All my babies are my kids, and I know other parents who feel the same.

I will never ever wish for someone else to walk even a single step in my shoes, but there are times that I do wish people would stop, and look around before they open their mouths.  Sometimes I do wonder after a family experiences a loss if it makes them realize that things they may have said or done in the past were extraordinarily hurtful not helpful.  Sometimes I wonder if the people who have said these things to me will ever realize that they have only heaped coals on a fire of fierce pain.  That they have ripped off a scab that has taken YEARS to develop on a wound that will never be healed in this life.

I value this one woman, and her honesty, and bravery in calling people to the carpet.  I value that others are reading her words and taking them to heart.  I just wish more of the shares I see on Facebook were because they wanted to offer help and healing and not because they wanted to point out the flaws of society.  No one will ever ever understand the pain and hurt that happens when a life is lost until it is their own child, and as I said I won’t wish that on anyone ever.

However, I’m just saying, there’s a way to be a person…

Menu Plan Monday – Two Week Plan Part 2

Yes, I know it’s Wednesday – lets ignore that fact OK. Thanks

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I wanted to follow up last weeks post with a bit more info from our most recent (Friday) cooking session.

This was our finalized menu plan for the two weeks worth of prep:

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Classic Foil Packets

Balsamic Roasted Chicken Thighs

Texas 2 Step Soup

Crock Pot Rotisserie-Style Chicken

Macaroni and Beef

Chicken and Pasta in Pesto

Crock Pot Cashew Chicken

Fall Pork Chops

Black Beans and Brown Rice (V)

Tex-Mex Shepherds Pie (V)

Tacos (V)

Pizza

Fried Rice

Bolognese Sauce

So after shopping and everything, we gathered at Erin’s house ready to get started.

Groceries are unpacked

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Step one is always veggie prep – anything that needs cut, chopped, diced, sliced, or pre-cooked is added to a master list which is generated mostly from the shopping list and recipes:

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Once that is figured out, the prep list is placed in a common area and we both dig in with whoever needs to happen.

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Random tip: put the onions that need to be diced or minced in a vitamin with some water pulse a couple quick times and you’ve got your onions done!

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Once everything is prepped the recipes start getting put together assembly line style.  Unfortunately once this “real” work started my picture taking stopped.  Essentially most of our items get frozen in ziplock bags.  Anything that can be precooked is, anything that can be premixed is, casseroles that need to be layered get put together right in our casserole dishes and frozen that way so all we have to do is thaw and cook.  Our main goal is to do as MUCH as we POSSIBLY can on this one day so that when the time comes to actually feed our family almost everything is done.  We may have to cook some pasta, we may have to dump bags of ingredients into the crock-pot or rewarm things in the oven, but for the most part everything is ready to go.  We’ve even pre-cooked rice and frozen it for things like the fried rice and the black bean and brown rice dishes.

As we finish each dish – they are placed into their freezer dishes (gallon sized bags mostly) labeled with a family name so we know who’s is who’s and the dish then they go in the freezer until they are all divided up and I take mine home.

That’s really it.  It takes us all day (I think we cooked for 12 to 14 hours this week) but I’ll happily sacrifice one day twice a week in the company of a good friend to feed my family healthy home cooked meals with little to no effort the rest of those two weeks.

Be on the look out – in March my menu plans will feature plant based meals or meals that can be adjusted easily to be plant based.  With lent right around the corner, and my husbands cholesterol results in, it’s been decided that we will be removing animal products from our meals for the month of march and following a whole foods plant based diet like the E2 diet, Happy Herbivore, and a bit of the Daniel Fast.  Erin’s family (to my knowledge) will not be joining us on our meat free March so meals will still have the ability to include dairy, eggs, and meat as well for all my omnivore friends. :-)

Menu Plan Monday – a two week plan, and another Plan to Eat review.

MPMcustom

 

You may remember back in July, I shared that I had started to use the site Plan To Eat for my menu planning.
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Well, I still am and I still love it.  Since October though something even cooler has been happening, and I’ve been meaning to post about it and obviously I still haven’t.

See, I have this awesome friend – Erin.  In september my awesome friend, and her awesome family moved into a new house after being in a state of unrest and unsettled for nearly a year as they sold their home, started building a new house, ended up backing out of the home they were building because of complications, and then found this house and moved in.  Their awesome new house has an amazing kitchen.  Anyone see where this is going?

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Well, since October we’ve been getting together every two weeks after pay day (both our husbands work for the same company, so they have the same pay schedule which is handy) and cook enough meals to feed our family for the following two weeks.  It’s been AWESOME.

Our family at least has cut back on spending, and going out to eat over all, and when we are finished each time Erin and I both feel accomplished!  This friday is cooking day, so with any luck I’ll remember to take some pictures and I can show you how we’ve been doing the cooking.  For now though I’m going to tell you how I’ve been planning meals for two weeks at a time.

It all starts on Plan To Eat.  I go through all my recipes and pick out approximately 14 that will become our dinners for the following weeks.  If Erin has anything she or her family are wanting either she sends me a recipe and I import it, or we do some googling to find a recipe that will work (or that we think will work) and import that.

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One of my favorite things about Plan To Eat, is that from the recipes you plan, it automatically creates a shopping list from the recipes!

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So, I take that list and review what I have on hand in my pantry, and what I need to get – anything that needs to be purchased gets added to my master grocery list (I have a downloaded version of this list that I have edited over the years to reflect how and where I shop).

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So, we do our own shopping, buy what we need, and then spend an entire day cooking while our four girls run around, play, and generally create the chaos kids are known for all over the house.

 

After we are done cooking, both our families hang out, spend the evening together, and then we all crash at their house.  When our food comes home with us the next day, I put it in our deep freezer.  Here’s my favorite part and it’s taken me a while to figure out.  Once I put everything in the freezer I have to keep track of what’s in there, and have the recipes handy for anything that needs liquid (broth, water) added before cooking since we don’t add those before freezing them.  This is what I’ve come up with:

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I added a place on my freezer where I write down whats in there (the black lines are in sharpie so they don’t come off, everything else is dry erase and comes off easily).  I hang the recipes with a magnetic clip right there next to the list for easy finding (I move and file them once the meals are cooked, so only meals that are in the freezer are hanging in that recipe group).  When I take a meal out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge (it takes about two days in our fridge to thaw them, so there are always two out at a time, one for the day of, and one for the next day) I put a little mark next to the list so I know what’s out to cook.

So, now you can see our menu plan for the week – tonight we are having Martini Beef-less Tips over Lemon Pepper Pearl Couscous, and tomorrow we are having Baked Ziti.

The best part of cooking together is that we both get to try things we may not have otherwise tired.  We are learning to adapt recipes for their omnivore family and our more leaning toward herbivore family so that everyone still gets their dietary preference, as well as we are figuring out how to adjust recipe sizes since I’m only feeding 2 adults and 1 child and Erin is feeding 2 adults and 3 kids.

My favorite part though is the camaraderie of another mom in the kitchen, our families spending time together, and the memories we are making.

 

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Hard lemons

Sometimes it’s hard to chose joy.

Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the good.

Sometimes it’s hard to find the silver lining.

Sometimes it’s hard not to break down and cry.

Sometimes it’s hard to rejoice in any circumstance.

Sometimes it’s hard to make lemonade from life’s lemons.

Sometimes it’s hard not to grumble, and complain, and whine.

Sometimes it’s hard, just plain hard.

Sometimes it’s hard to find the balance.

Sometimes it’s hard because there is no balance.

Sometimes it’s hard to face down the giant because you can’t see God standing behind you.

Sometimes it’s hard to not throw your hands up and quit.

Sometimes it’s hard not to wallow.

Sometimes it’s hard to be vulnerable and transparent, because you feel like all you have to say is complaining about something.

Sometimes it’s harder to be open and honest because the good feels like bragging.

Sometimes it’s hard to rejoice in the little stuff when all you can see is the big stuff that stinks.

Sometimes it’s hard because you lose sight of the focus.

Sometimes it’s hard because thats exactly what you need, and where you need to be.

Sometimes it’s hard not to grab someone by the shoulder and shake them because you can see exactly what there problem is and why don’t they just fix it already.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the plank in your own eye because you’re focused on the speck of dust in someone else’s.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say, when to say it, or when to just keep quiet.

Sometimes it’s hard because it feels like your body is working against you.

Sometimes it’s hard because it feels like everything is against you.

Sometimes it’s hard because you feel like you’ve lost it all.

Sometimes it’s hard because you have.

Sometimes it’s hard because you just want to rest, but God’s not finished with you yet.

Sometimes it’s hard simply because it should be.