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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Quick Tip: Put Stickers On Your Washer and Dryer

This is my washer.  Next to each dial is a little sticker by one of the settings.  This means that my six-year-old and four-year-old can do their own laundry.  Mostly.  We're still working on measuring the soap.

But they know how to load the machine, and after checking to make sure each dial is turned to the right sticker, to push the start button.  Same with the dryer.  A four-year-old might not remember to wash his clothes in cold water on the cotton cycle, but he can match the knob with the sticker.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Life Lessons From The Kids

"I can't do this, Mom! It's too full.  There's not enough room for everything."  I looked at the magnetic board overflowing with characters.  When Jonah was trying to put every single piece on the board, he was right.  There wasn't enough space.

And it got me thinking.

This is how my life is too.  When I try to do every single thing, there's not enough space.

I explained to Jonah that it might be more fun if he just picked a few of his favorite pieces, and put those on the picture.  They would have enough room to shine in the picture, and he would have more fun.

The same is true for my life.  If I pick just a few of my favorite things, and leave space, those things shine, and I have more fun.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Iron Craft Challenge #2: Hearts and Flowers

I've been eyeing all the tissue paper flowers on Pinterest for some time, so I decided this was the challenge to make some for myself.  I went with Valentine's Day colors for a bit of cheer for our dining room table.

I used the tutorial for carnations here.  I colored the edges with a maroon Stampin' Up ink pen and a pink highlighter.  Both worked fine, so there really is no need for anything fancy.  And I raided the kids' craft supplies for a few coordinating pipe cleaners.
A cheerful Valentine's Day decoration: done!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weekly Goals: January 31-February 6

Jesse snapped this picture of me reading to the kids earlier this week.  Pretty much sums up life these days.  I love when he catches these moments!

Last Week's Goals:
  • Start reading Luther and Katharina. Done!
  • Test at least one new muffin recipe for the new book. Done! I made lemon blueberry, but I need to work on the lemon part of it a bit more.
  • Continue my KonMari of craft supplies.  Not done.  My dad actually brought us a big box of papers and markers from cleaning out his office.  So I think that may have been a step backwards (although it's not backwards if you'll actually use the things, right?).
This Week's Goals:
  • Test at least one new muffin recipe for the new book.  I'll either retest the lemon blueberry, or start testing chocolate peanut butter banana. Or both.
  • Do the February church newsletter.
  • Meal plan for the beginning of February, including our annual Superbowl Appetizer Dinner.
The Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now (as inspired by this post):
  • Homeschooling flexibility.  We've taken several unscheduled days off already this year, and I love having the space to breathe.  To catch up.  To do "life" things instead of "schoolwork" things.  It's happened a lot more than I expected it to happen, and there's a part of me that feels like we're behind with each day we take, but then I remind myself that freedom from a strict schedule is part of the reason we chose homeschooling.
  • Sticky note tabs.  I've been using them to mark up books, to hold places in my organ music for church, and even occasionally in my planner if I need to mark a list.
  • My ONE THING category in my planner.  Even if nothing else gets done and the day is a disaster, I have my one thing of peace and respite in the day.  
  • Bulletproof Mochas (my recipe here).
  • That it hasn't been too frigid to send the kids outside to play in the snow pile.  They have way too much energy for inside!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Kids Life Skills List

You all know me and my lists.  My newest list endeavor is something I call the "kids life skills list".  I was feeling overwhelmed by thinking about all the new things Elizabeth will be learning in the next year: getting rid of her pacifier, drinking from a sippy cup, using a fork and spoon, sleeping all the way through the night (hopefully), and on and on.

Then I thought about multiplying new skills times four kids, and all of a sudden I had too many things going on in my head.
So I stopped and made a list for each child.  Now instead of having everything in my head, even the things that we aren't working on right now, I can just focus on the next thing.  This is inspired a little bit by David Allen's Getting Things Done, where the point is to get everything out of your head and into your note-taking system, and then just dealing with things as you need to.  I don't use the system, but I think that this is a helpful way to glean an idea from it.

Jonah and Matthew are learning how to wash their own laundry.  Hannah is working on getting dressed by herself.  Elizabeth is just about ready to move on from learning to use a sippy cup to the next thing, which will probably be using a spoon.  (We already got rid of the pacifier.)

Because we're working on just one thing, I can focus a lot more.  I know we will eventually get to everything on the list, and if I think of new life skills I want the kids to learn, I just add them to the list and keep working on what we're working on now.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Books I've Read: January 2016

Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie.  Having already watched the three-part video series where Sarah walked through this book, I kind of knew that I was going to enjoy it.  So I ordered a paper copy of this book back when Amazon had a coupon code last month.  The basic premise of this book is that teaching from a state of rest doesn't mean that there is not work involved, but instead that you have an attitude of peace, trusting that you when you work diligently, God will take care of everything else.  Simple in theory, but it takes practice to actually do it.

I found myself constantly nodding and underlining and making notes in the margin as I read, so I'll just share a few of my favorite quotations from the book.

On relationships: "By definition, to be efficient is to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.  But relationships don't flourish or grow that way.  Relationships need time, spent lavishly. Homeschooling is all about relationships, and relationships just aren't efficient."  This is such a struggle for me, relationships vs. productivity, and it's something I'm really focusing on this year.

"We must...decide what is true about how we operate best, then base our homeschools on those truths, playing to our strengths and providing for our weaknesses."  I've found this to be so true - I'm really good at planning things, and if I try to fly by the seat of my pants, nothing happens, because I can't function day-to-day without a list of what needs to get done.  Even when we deviate from the list, we still accomplish much more than if I had just said my plan was to "do the next lesson in each subject".  I don't work that way.

And finally, a few ideas that I've found because of Sarah's blog, which are also mentioned in this book:
  • Looping, which I actually use for my own chores more than for school, but the idea is awesome!
  • Commonplace book, which I've just started, but love having all my favorite inspiring quotations and things in one place
  • Morning Time, which we don't do yet, but which I've seen and read a lot about and we may start at some point.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  I borrowed this one from the library, because I saw it pop up when I was searching for a "quiet" book for letter Q week for homeschool.  This was one where I found myself nodding a lot while I read, because I'm very much an introvert.  I really enjoy pop psychology books like this, where there's a lot of information, but it's mixed in with anecdotes and stories so it doesn't feel so heavy.

I did think it was kind of funny that Cain spent about half the book talking about extroverts, but it makes sense to compare the differences between extroverts and introverts.  She also talked a lot about the "extrovert ideal", that American culture really values a lot of extrovert tendencies, which is pretty accurate in my experience in school, work, and such.

Another interesting tidbit for me was her discussion on Free Trait Theory - the idea that while we have certain personality traits that are our default and preferred behaviors, we can act outside of those traits "in the service of personal projects".  If you have something you really care about, you can behave the opposite of what you prefer to work towards that thing.

And finally, a quotation, because I can't write a book review without a quotation:
"We all write our life stories as if we were novelists...with beginnings, conflicts, turning points, and endings.  And the way we characterize our past setbacks profoundly influences how satisfied we are with our current lives.  Unhappy people tend to see setbacks as contaminants that ruined an otherwise good thing ('I was never the same again after my wife left me'), while generative adults see them as blessings in disguise ('The divorce was the most painful thing that ever happened to me, but I'm so much happier with my new wife'). Those who live the most fully realized lives - giving back to their families, societies, and ultimately themselves - tend to find meaning in their obstacles."

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund.  I got a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.  I picked this one because it sounded interesting, and it was October, so I figured I would read it before Reformation and it would fit.  And since you're reading this review at the end of January, you can see how well that worked.

I think I was a little bit discouraged by the length of the book, because at 380 pages, it's fairly long.  But it was actually a really fast read once I started - it only took me about four days.  Historical fiction is one of those categories that I almost always enjoy, but I get really confused about what's accurate and what's not.  So I appreciated that the author included a little note in the back about which characters and situations she completely made up.  I still feel like some may have been a bit embellished, but overall that was helpful.

The book got just a bit long-winded for me in the middle.  Obviously knowing history, I knew that Katharina and Luther were going to end up together, and it felt like there was just one too many hiccups.  Again, I'm not sure if that was just the author taking a bit of liberty with the story.  Otherwise, this was a good love story with just the right amount of excitement.

I don't expect I'll make it through another book before the end of this month, so I'm posting my book reviews today.

Total books for the month: 3.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

When You Let Go Of Stuff, Except You Don't

As I've posted before, I've become a big fan of the KonMari method of decluttering as outlined in the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  So far I've gone through clothes, and books, and papers, and I'm on to the miscellaneous.

But here's the problem.  The bins of clothes still sit in our entryway because the money-minded trying-to-pay-off-debt part of me wants to sell them rather than donate them.  We took some books to a used bookstore for credit, but the ones they didn't want are still in a crate in the garage.  We went through the boys' Legos, and weeded out some of the less-played-with packs so they don't have so many, but the unwanted ones are still in a box.

I've gotten rid of things, except I haven't really.
I've tried setting dates.  If I don't sell this by __, I'll take it to the thrift store.  And then I ignore those dates.

The good news is that we're not using any of the stuff I've "gotten rid of".  The bad news is that it's still in the house.

Why can't I let go of this stuff?  Why am I letting it take up space in my house?  Why am I so bent on making pennies off of things instead of just clearing them out and enjoying the space?

I don't have answers for any of this.  I think part of it is I'm hoping that putting it out there will motivate me to actually take care of the stuff, even if that means taking over part of the garage to store things until we can have a garage sale (because January in Iowa is not prime garage sale season).  If nothing else, maybe I'll make someone else feel better about their efforts.

Tell me I'm not alone.  Have you started decluttering and then stalled on the actual getting-rid-of-it part?