Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Schedules and Charts

Please don't be intimidated when you see all of these schedules and charts.  I'm not a "live by or die by the schedule" kind of person.  I'm flexible, my house is still not perfectly clean when visitors drop by unexpectedly, and I wasn't always this "detail-oriented."  The more children I have and the more we tackle (like homeschooling and extra-curriculars and moving) the more important having a routine and schedule becomes.
Our My Father's World curriculum and K-Math book from Amazon have not arrived yet as I had hoped.... so for now, this is my school plan.  When it arrives and I look it over and become familiar with it, I will need to tweak this a bit to incorporate MFW.  But for now, this is the plan.  I used two blank-calendar printables off the internet and taped them together above the homeschooling table.  Devo is short for devotions, which is what I call the Bible lesson.  Grat. Journals are the Gratitude Journals we started doing last year, where the kids draw a picture each day in their notebook of something they are thankful for.

My husband was a little shocked by how much I wanted to accomplish in a day until I explained to him that many of the things on here take 2 minutes, 5 minutes, or 10 minutes.  In fact, everything on the schedule can be accomplished in 2 hours on a good day, 3 hours on a day with crafts or a lengthier "hands on" time.  That leaves plenty of time in our day for playing outside, going to the park, visiting friends, doing household chores, etc.
My mom saw this in the Oriental Trading catalog for $13 and asked me if I wanted to buy it.  It's great for teaching the kids the concepts of months, days of the week, etc. 
For a while, I tried index cards for household management, and after that daily to-do lists and a home management binder.  Then, for the last year it was a bit of just doing what had to be done and cleaning where it was needed.  However, after moving to a huge house, I realized it would be good to have a chart just to glance at daily or at least a few times a week to make sure that things were getting done.  We used to have 1 laundry hamper which we all shared, now there are 5, with another to come when baby joins us.  So, it's nice to have this chart, reminding me what needs to get done to manage the chores at home.  A lot of it is just habit, like making the bed each day or bathing the kids on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday night but some of it is new for me, like having a guest room bathroom to clean and an entryway to vacuum, etc.
This Melissa and Doug Responsibility Chart is awesome for teaching kids to do their chores.  We've had it for a couple of years now and it's been a wonderful tool.  From 7:00-8:30 a.m. we work on eating breakfast, getting dressed, getting morning chores done, and then at 8:30 a.m. we start school.  When we do our chart, we are usually looking back a day.  So, on Monday we will talk about whether or not they whined on Sunday, made their bed yesterday, or used their manners all day, etc.
My weekly menu plan is just a magnetic pad I got at Walgreens for $1 last year.  Once a week, as I'm planning my weekly shopping trip, I'll write down 7 dinner ideas and then shop for ingredients for those meals as needed.  Lunches are usually leftovers or sandwiches so I don't even plan those out unless I have a special event and breakfasts are usually cereal, since my husband prefers it over a hot breakfast.  I try to always keep pretzels, popcorn, crackers, or fruit and cheese on hand for the kids' twice daily snacks and I don't usually plan out side dishes as we usually have frozen veggies, bread, salad, or fruit as dinner sides.  Each day I choose which of the 7 meals fits my schedule and mood/cravings and make it.  Menu planning at it's simplest!  As you can see, this week I had tuna sandwiches planned for one meal and then realized we had frozen hamburger patties in the freezer and decided those sounded better!
This planner, $1 in the Target dollar section, is where I manage all other areas of life.  Again, I'm not someone who lives for my schedule and checks it constantly.  Many a day will go by without me needing to look at it.  But for family and friends' birthday reminders, lists of people I need to write thank-you notes to, financial notes, dental and prenatal appointments, reminders of which pregnancy week I am on, extra-curriculars like homeschool swimming, AWANAS, or just super busy days where I have 10 things to do and need a place to write them down, this is the spot!  Some people use a wall calendar for this kind of stuff, but I prefer to have mine portable so I can take it on planning trips to the library or wherever I happen to be doing some month-at-a-glance planning in the house.

Monday, August 30, 2010

1st Day of School at Home

More to come this week on our homeschool curriculum, schedule, classroom, etc.........

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Confessions of a Tired Mom

Many of my friends assume I'm a "supermom." In fact, one of the first things I hear out of people's mouths when they ask where Ali is going to school and I tell them she'll be homeschooled is, "I could never do that!" or "You are amazing!"  I then feel obligated to launch into a defensive discourse on how I actually enjoy teaching, like the whole organizing and choosing curriculum stuff, and find this area to be a gifting while mentioning that they have many gifts that I don't have in order to try to dispell the "I'm More of a SuperMom Than You" myth. 

In spite of the fact that I am a homeschooling mom and happen to enjoy bulk cooking, baking, sewing, and keeping a blog, I'm the furthest thing from "supermom."  Being a mom of three has never been harder for me.  Pregnancy has always been the most tiring condition I have found myself in and especially in the last trimester;  this time around is no exception, made worse by low iron levels.  Naps?  The very idea is a joke for anyone with more than one or two kids!  My in-laws' just left after a 5 day visit and though they got tons of projects done on our house, it's not easy having company and keeping them fed many times a day, especially when you are hot and tired.  Justus, my only child who takes naps, just started cutting his naps in half for no apparent reason and also seems to be coming down with a cold,  my husband has been consumed with projects on the house in addition to working his regular physically-draining job, and I have found myself doing more than ever before with our move this summer, which has left me feeling like a single parent much of the time. 
In reality, many days I find the weight of motherhood to be CRUSHING.
I hover in a strange state between adoring my kids and feeling so blessed to be a mommy and savoring cuddle-time with them and yet being so sick of them and feeling like I am not able to have 30 seconds in my day where someone isn't calling, "Mommy!!!" or needing wiped, or a drink, or their hands washed, etc.  Sometimes I hide from them in my big house and let them wander around the house looking for me for a few minutes just so I can have a moment's peace.  Sometimes I turn the baby monitor off upstairs because I can't bear to hear any more screaming or whining from one of the boys and don't know how to make him stop and just go to sleep.  Even though I am firm in my reasons for homeschooling, I am often envious of my friends, most of whom have chosen public school this year, as they get a break from their active children while they are at school all day.  If I had the money, I would definitely hire a nanny to watch the kids for at least a couple hours every day during this stage of life! 
I know that a huge part of my frustration with motherhood and my kids is pregnancy fatigue and hormones, but that doesn't make the days of whining, fighting, crying, messes, etc. any less difficult to handle in the meantime as I await my body's return to normalcy.  I empathize with and understand why some of my mom friends are tempted to drink alcohol, cry uncontrollably and drown in depression, or enroll their kids in as many programs as possible to survive this thing called "being a mom."  I often look for an escape from the kids too, whether in a book, surfing facebook, in a sewing or photography project, in a TV series on Hulu, etc. 

So often I think moms are afraid to admit how they really feel because they don't want to give the impression that children are a burden to the world around them and they feel the need to hide behind their joys and successes so that they can "measure up" to others who seem to be incredible moms instead of admitting that this is the hardest job they've ever had.  But we need each other and the depth of friendship that comes when two people realize that they're in the same boat!  Which is why, amidst the tips and recipes and homeschooling ideas I share on this blog, I feel the need to periodically remind you, my readers, that I'm human and going through a lot of the same frustrated feelings that you are dealing with!

I'm selfish, I'm sinful, and I desperately need God's strength to mother well.
I'm weary, worn-out, and lack the wisdom I need to lead these little ones.
But He is faithful, even though I rarely am!
And our Lord provides the strength and grace we need to get through the most difficult stages of mothering...and life.

If you, too, are in a difficult season of mothering, know that He cares and wants to carry that burden for you and lead you as you lead your little ones.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Disciple's Renewal

One of my favorite prayer/devotional books is called "The Valley of Vision."

I love these lines, taken from the prayer, "A Disciple's Renewal"

O my Savior,
Help me.
I am so slow to learn,
so prone to forget,
so weak to climb;
I am in the foothills when I should be on the heights,
I am pained by my graceless heart,
my prayerless days,
my poverty of love,
my sloth in the heavenly race,
my sullied conscience,
my wasted hours,
my unspent opportunities.

Make it my chiefest joy to study Thee,
mediate on Thee
gaze on Thee.

Give me increase and progress in grace
so that there may be
more decision in my character,
more vigour in my purposes,
more elevation in my life,
more fervour in my devotion,
more constancy in my zeal.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Justus is Two!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Yard Sale Bargains!

25 cents for a beautiful skirt and top in my size!  Will be perfect for next Easter!
50 cents for these wooden blocks for our homeschooling resource closet!
I was only going to buy a few of these but then got to thinking they would make amazing gifts for grandmas and grandpas this Christmas if I filled them with pics of our new baby!  I also thought they would be a great craft thing for us to do at my Pregnant Moms Party I'm having this fall.  We can write notes to our baby and put pregnancy pics in them, etc.  I got 13 (all still new and in their original packaging) for $4.
A brand-new little picture frame for Katrielle.  I'm going to hang it above the changing table in our "nursery nook" area of our bedroom.
Our bedroom walls are bare.  This beautiful find will display a wedding pic nicely.
$2 for this wall-hanging for our dining room
25 cents for this lovely vase!  If you know me well, you know I'm a sucker for pottery, it's so pretty!
25 cents for this cute little dress for Ali!

Hospitality Hints

Amanda writes:

Jason and I like to have people over after church, but I am not a naturally organized person so it is difficult for me to have a meal ready for after church. Could you share ideas on what you make that can easily be put on the table after church? What kind of preparation do you do before hand to make things go smoothly?

What a great question!!!  One of the biggest challenges a homemaker faces in opening her home to others is what to serve to folks and how to get it all ready in time, especially if she has small children.

Here are some of my tips:

*Start small--if you are new to this, then consider hosting a dessert and simply serving pie or cookies and coffee or tea or having friends over for an afternoon snack.  If you can afford it, order pizza from Dominos, often they have $6 pizzas or buy one, get one offers.

*Choose a simple meal that you know is tasty and that doesn't take a lot of time to prepare

*Take as many short-cuts as you can--while my homemade butterhorns are really tasty and simple to make and someday they will be a staple for guests, they still take more time than buying a loaf or two of french bread from the local grocery bakery and this tired, pregnant Mama-of-4 doesn't have time to spare.  For $2 I can have the bread done just by grabbing some on my weekly shopping trip.  Simple!  Ice-cream or popsicle bars, which are usually on sale in the summer are a quick and easy dessert for a crowd if you don't have the time to bake something up.

*Don't expect too much out of yourself.  It can be easy to think you need to do this or that for company but I try to remind myself that the point is fellowship, not perfection.  If I hadn't invited this or that family over, they would probably be rummaging through the fridge for leftovers right now.  So, me serving ice water instead of fancy lemonade or expensive pop, and serving spaghetti and salad is an improvement over what they would have been eating otherwise.  And even if it was just sandwiches, chips, and fruit, it would still be delightful, because food eaten with friends always tastes better!

*Learn the art of crockpot cooking.  Crockpots can be lifesavers on Sundays as you can leave roasts, chicken noodle soup, or chilis in them and they are ready to eat when you return from church. 

*Casseroles--the easiest Sunday dinners I make involve making a casserole the evening before and popping it into the oven as we're leaving for church.  Just be sure to use a low temp, like 300. 

*Baked potatoes--a while back I talked about how we got into a habit of serving baked potatoes to company since money was tight with my husband's wrist injury.  Most people enjoy a baked potato if you have various dressings or fixings they can choose from to put on top.  Potatoes are very inexpensive and you can leave them to bake on low in the oven for a couple of hours while you are at church.

*Keep in mind what works best for your family right now.  I have 3 kids who are solid-food eaters and don't take morning naps.  When I have an infant, I doubt we will have many people over for lunches because it will be a nursing frenzy when we get home.  However, if the baby tends to sleep better in the evening, we may start having people over on Saturday nights.  If your kids are in total meltdown mode after church each week, you may have to wait a year or two until it's feasible to do company for Sunday lunch.  Try going to an earlier service, if possible, or pack a high-protein snack to give your child at church so they aren't quite so hungry after church.

*Consider doing a potluck.  Every family brings a couple of dishes to share.  Then you only have to make two things (both of which can be store-bought if you are strapped for time) and there's lots of variety.

So, Amanda, here are a few ideas to get you started for prepping your hospitality meal:

Chili, Cornbread, Fruit Salad, Tortilla Chips and Salsa, Ice Water

Saturday: Buy all ingredients, make up the fruit salad and a pan of cornbread
Sunday morning:  Throw chili ingredients in the crockpot (don't forget to turn it on! =)
After church: Set table, fill pitchers, pull out the salad, dump bag of chips in bowl, serve chili

Lasagna, French Bread, Jello salad, Lettuce Salad, Iced Tea

Saturday: Make Jello salad and refrigerate, prepare lasagna and put in fridge, wash lettuce leaves and bag up, prepare the iced tea, purchase french bread
Sunday morning: Pop lasagna in the oven, prepare the salad (or wait until right before serving if desired)
After church: Pull lasagna out, set table (with company's help), slice up the bread, put the salads and tea on the table

Baked Potatoes, Rolls, Corn, Ice Water, Oatmeal cookies

Saturday night:  Fill several small bowls with various toppings: shredded cheddar, bacon bits, sour cream, chopped chives, butter, etc.  Put in fridge.
Purchase rolls and frozen corn.  Purchase or make cookies.

Sunday morning:  Wash and poke potatoes.  Wrap with foil if desired.  Pop them in the oven on 300.  Put the corn in a microwaveable bowl and refrigerate.

After church: Pull potatoes out of oven.  Put all the topping bowls and dressings on the table,  Throw the rolls in a basket.  Microwave corn while your guests are filling water pitchers.  Serve cookies after the meal.

I really hope this helped Amanda!  Thanks for asking!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Hospitality isn't just opening your home.....it's opening your heart.

Ever since God gifted us with an amazingly huge home recently, we have been inviting different families, usually two at a time, over for Sunday lunch after church.  Our goal is to invite just about everyone we know from church over at least once in the course of the next year.

Is it hard work?  Yes!
Is it tiring?  Sometimes, especially during this season of my life!
Is it worth the effort?  Absolutely!

Though we are anxious to show our friends what we've done with the place, in part because the changes are so dramatic, and in part because many of them helped us clean this house,  it's not about US, how clean our home is, how good the food is, how many things we have.  It's about blessing others with the blessings we've been given and letting them into our lives that we may encourage them. 

I learned a long time ago that it doesn't really matter how clean your home is, or what kind of food you fix if you are kind and interested in others.  One poor missionary family with 5 kids used to invite us over all the time for meals.  Sometimes the fare was antelope sausage or deer steaks and sometimes just cheese quesadillas or basic sandwiches.  But those meals were wonderful because of the conversation and fun of being included in the family.  They were the most hospitable people, even if they didn't have much to share.

As I "make our new home a haven" I want our home to be a place where friends can laugh and talk, hang out for hours, and feel loved and welcome.  I want my children to learn hospitality and help me with preparations for guests.  Usually the meals I make are simple and without a fuss.  I'm also planning to make many of our future gatherings potlucks so the workload is shared.  It's nice having a clean home on Sunday and not just be "letting things go" as we can be apt to do on the weekends if no one is coming over.  It's fun to see the kids get super excited about the company that's coming each week.  It's great to get to know folks better in an informal setting as it can be difficult to visit after church while chasing little ones around.

In what ways are you growing in the area of hospitality?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Freezer Cooking Inspiration

Here is a great link for finding recipes for freezer cooking.  I will try to post some of my favorite freezer recipes soon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Preparation for Baby

It's that time of life again when I make my big list of things to accomplish in the last trimester before baby arrives.  I'm piggybacking off of the ideas I posted when I was preggo with Justus.


*Throw a "Preggo Party" for all of my pregnant friends to come over one night and work on a craft for their baby-on-the-way.

*Throw Justus a "semi-truck birthday" party in 2 weeks for his second birthday.

*Throw Jeremiah a "snake birthday" in mid-September, 2 months before his real, 4th birthday.

*Have at least 30 meals in the freezer.  My plan so far:

Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole-2
Chicken Brocolli Rice Casserole-4
Homemade Frozen Pizza Kits-3
Roast Beef and Mashed Potatoes-2
Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup in the Crockpot-3
Green Chili Burritos-4
Tuna Casserole-3
Plowman's Share-2

Plus, have 5-10# of cooked hamburger frozen in .75# bags for tacos, pizza, nachos, etc.

*Make up lots of homemade dry mixes (pancake, waffle, pizza dough, cookie, wheat bread, taco seasoning, cream soup mix, etc.)

*Stock the cupboards with crackers, granola bars, nuts, etc.

*Freeze some cookie dough or cookies, muffins, zucchini bread, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, and butterhorn rolls.

*Buy a few months' supply of toilet paper, Clorox wipes, kleenex, and baby wipes and have plenty of laundry soap made up.  Have a month's worth of paper plates ready.

*Buy the kids a little gift to help them feel special with the event of a new baby.

*Sew Katrielle a minky blanky set.  Got the purple minky fleece new at a yard sale (3 yards for $3) and plan to make her a "ducky" blankie just like her brothers have, with an extra, just like they have, for keeping in the closet for when the current one is dirty, lost, etc.

*Choose a middle name for our daughter.

*Have a homeschooling routine in place and the fall semester planned out for Ali regarding goals, school lessons, field trip plans, homeschool swimming schedule, etc.

*Borrow lots of childrens' movies from friends so we won't be borrowing them the library and having to remember to return them on time in the tiring post-birth days.

*Rotate my kids' clothing from summer clothing to fall/winter and unpack the hats/mittens/gloves and store in the storage downstairs for when the snow flies.  Store summer clothing in boxes in the garage or shed.

*Make or purchase cute thank-you cards to have on hand in case we get baby presents or meals from folks, etc.  Dollar Tree has some really cute and inexpensive stationary!

*Birthday cards ready to mail for friends and relatives with fall birthdays and gifts done, wrapped, and sent out to MN in advance with my in-laws for my nephews', sis-in-law's, and father-in-law's birthdays.

*If 30 week ultrasound reveals that a C-section is still probable, borrow 3 books through inter-library loan on C-section advice and recovery and read prior to my surgery.

*While I still have plenty of time after baby comes for Christmas shopping and Christmas newsletter/baby announcement, I may plan out a list of Christmas gift ideas for family members and start my Christmas newsletter.

*Bug Josiah to make me a stool that Justus can use to climb into his crib by himself in the event that I have a C-sec.

*Tentatively plan childcare for our older 3 when we are in the hospital for baby's birth.  Discuss with my mom whether or not she will take off of work to watch the kids or attend the birth.  Discuss with my husband how many days off he will have and what we will do for post-birth help if our moms aren't available and I'm recovering from surgery.

*Read through our Miracle of Life book often with the kids so they will understand better how a baby lives in utero and discuss the changes that will come to our family with a newborn's arrival.

*Have the guest beds all made up and rooms ready just in case we have unexpected company.

*Start the pages for Katrielle's scrapbook and finish Justus' last two pages on his baby book.

*Set up our second monitor so I can speak to the kids downstairs when I am upstairs as well as hearing them downstairs.  (Can you tell I'm trying to avoid the stairs more?)

*Put kid bowls and cups in a lower cabinet and train Ali and Jer to be able to set the table for every meal and snacks too.

A few weeks before:

*Wash the carseat carrier and swing out and get carseat loaded into the back of the van.

*Pack diaper bag and hospital bag.

*Wash bassinet linens and blankets one more time.

*One last decluttering of the toys downstairs and kids' clothing so we have less clutter to manage when baby comes.

*Buy lots of batteries for the camera.

Already done:

Diaper stash for the first few months  Thanks to my friend Tracy who gave me lots of diapers her daughter outgrew too quickly and a great Amazon sale on diapers.

Baby clothes newborn-5T are sorted, and all the 0-6 month stuff is ready and washed and folded!

Bassinet, changing table, and clothes set up in our bedroom

Asked every friend I know who had a C-section to give me tips and share their experiences

Teach Ali how to get Justus out of his crib in the mornings and bring him up to breakfast.

Kids can get themselves drinks of water, thanks to a fancy fridge with water/ice option

Half done. Organize all Christmas decorations and things in the garage so it will be a snap to decorate for the holidays, even with a new baby.
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