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Sunday, July 27, 2014

What I'm Reading...

Today is our 7th anniversary.  It is amazing to me how much we have grown and changed in the past seven years.  I wouldn't trade them for anything!

The Homeschooler's Little House On The Prairie Site Tour Guide. I don't think I've ever read completely through this series (although I've read the first four or five books several times).  We went to the pageant in Walnut Grove one year when I was younger, which was fun, and all of the sites listed here look cool! (Simple Homeschool)

Enough Is Enough. "But we already have enoughOnce we train ourselves to recognize this truth, we are freed from the pursuit of more, we are liberated from the bondage of discontent, and we begin to experience true freedom in our lives.(Becoming Minimalist)

Inconsistent.  I agreed with so much of this post. I am most definitely inconsistent too. (Holy Hen House)

How I Learned To Care Less About My Family And More About Myself. "Why does he get to sit on the internet for hours at a time? Why does she get to play on her DS and I can't? It's obviously not their faults, they do their best. But they are lucky in that there is a balance for them between caring for themselves and caring for others, and they are awesome because they can both do it flawlessly and without any effort. I, on the other hand, cannot." (Offbeat Home And Life)

Nine Questions To Help You Unclutter Your Recipes.  The one that especially struck me was the one about keeping recipes that you will never use for sentimental reasons, because I have a recipe box mostly full of my Grandma's handwritten card that I keep for that reason. (Unclutterer)

Friday, July 25, 2014

On Why We Are Choosing To Homeschool This Year

Now that we've officially decided to start homeschooling, several people have asked me about our decision.  Here's my answer.  We chose homeschooling because we don't have a Christian day school at our church.  The closest one is about 10 minutes away (not super far, but figuring out dropping off/picking up with other kids could get tricky), and I'm not sure of the cost, but it would cost something.

We aren't set against public schools by any means, but the focus there is so much on getting ready for tests, and starting that so young that it just seems to me like I'd rather start teaching my kids a joy for learning right away than have it drilled into their heads that they need to learn these things to pass a test.  It also allows us to include "Jesus-y" things like Bible History, hymnology, and memory work that wouldn't be in public school.

And I can do it.  Several of the bloggers I follow write about homeschooling, along with other facets of life, and some of my friends homeschool.  From the examples I've seen, and from what I know about myself, I can teach my kids.  I know them better than anyone else knows them.  I can give them semi-one-on-one time (or at least one-on-three or -four time), which is a pretty good ratio, I think.

The hard part here is that, as an introvert, I know I need a certain amount of time each day to myself.  A few minutes in the afternoon for a cup of coffee and some mindless Internet scrolling do wonders for my day.  That will be a challenge for me to work around.

There's also that whole "having a baby in November/December" thing.  I'm hoping that by then, we'll at least kind of have a routine, and subjects at least partially prepared ahead of time, so that we can keep going without taking a break.  But if we need to, one of those benefits of homeschooling is the option to choose your breaks.  So maybe we'll take a big Thanksgiving break and a shorter Christmas break.

Obviously there are pros and cons to all the schooling options, but those were the big ones for us. Cost. Distance. Love of learning vs. reiterating facts.

So now I move on to planning.  Planning is hard.  There are so many options online, which is both good and bad, because starting out is overwhelming trying to pick things, but once I get my basics covered, I think finding supplemental stuff will be really fun.  And luckily I know a few people who are farther along than I am who have been giving me great advice and guidance for figuring some things out.

From here on out, I hope to update periodically with what we're doing, and how it's going.  This first year will definitely be a learning process for all of us!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Prayer, Positive Thinking, And Gratitude

I remember the first time Jesse asked me to pray with him, out loud, just the two of us.  I almost started giggling as he spouted off what sounded like a very formal, very "church-y", prayer.  He was studying to be a pastor, after all.  When he was done, I asked him if he always prayed like that.  He does.

Maybe that's normal for you, but for me, most of the time, my prayers are big long conversational rambles to God.  I talk about life, about my struggles, about things I hope for the future.  And I make sure to always start with thanks.  

This was not always habit for me.  For a long time, my prayers were mostly my complaining to God about things that had happened differently than I wanted, and wishes for things to change.  And then I read one of those "cute" little quotations that went something like this: "What if all you had tomorrow were the things you thanked God for today?".  I get the idea.  And even though I think the quotation is too broad, the meaning is perfect.

So I start my prayers by thanking God for being my Savior. That's pretty important.  I thank him for my husband, and for each of my children.  And I try to think of a specific thing for each person, whether it's something they did or said, or a new accomplishment, or a lesson they taught me - because they teach me all the time.  There is always something, usually more than one something, to be thankful for, for each one.  

And I eventually move on to general thankfulness for things that happened that day, or requests for everyone to please sleep well tonight, or prayer requests for friends or family members, or whatever else comes to mind.  But the thankfulness comes first.  

Since this happens in bed with the lights out, sometimes I drift off to sleep mid-prayer.  My rambles take awhile, and I am easily distracted by other thoughts.  But that's okay too.  I usually at least make it through my thanks, and even if I don't, God knows my thoughts.

Maybe not everyone reading this is religious.  Maybe you don't pray.  But I think this way of remembering the good things each day, this act of being thankful for specific people, for specific things from that day, is a perfect way to end any day, even the hard ones.  It puts me in a positive mindset for peaceful sleep, for waking up to start a new day at an earlier time than I might like.  It helps me remember that even though things may not be perfect, there is so much good in my life.

My prayers won't ever be mistaken for those recited in front of a church.  They might even make Jesse laugh if he were to listen to them. But they help me focus on the important things, the abundance of good in my life. And they remind me that I am so blessed.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What I'm Reading...

I like to include the kids' art as part of our decorating, because it's cute, and it makes them feel included.  This week I finally put up a few big ribbons with some push pins, and attached their pictures with some extra clothespins.  Easy to put up, and easy to change out the creations!  Both Jonah and Matthew are just starting to draw things on their own - happy faces, suns and clouds,'s so cool to see the way they put those things onto paper!

The Problem With Little White Girls, Boys, And Voluntourism. This was an interesting take on charity/mission trips that I never really considered, but is probably really accurate. (Huffington Post)

Confessions Of A Non-Classical Reader.  I won't say I grew up reading the classics, but now that I'm an adult, there are many I can check off my list.  But I've definitely read my share of fluff too!  It's a good balance. (Simple Homeschool)

Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing....Poorly?  You won't get anywhere without taking some risks and failing a few times. (The Happiest Home)

How To Build A Successful "Shopping Hierarchy".  I know that if I start my grocery shopping at Aldi, and then move on to Walmart (especially with price matching), I can usually get the best prices for most things.  (The Simple Dollar)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Weekly Coupon Shopping

This week I made use of a lot of app rebates, through iBotta, SavingStar, and Checkout 51.  I mostly use these if something pops up that I'm already buying. I just scroll through the offers before I toss my receipts, and scan accordingly.  Occasionally, though, I do plan to get some of the deals in addition to my normal shopping. This week was a mixture of both of those.

Along with our regular mid-month grocery shopping, I was able to use a few coupons to get some deals:
  • 2 Naked Juices: $2.78 each. Used two $1/1 printables, and submitted for $2.00 in iBotta rebates ($1.00 for each one) = paid $3.56/2, got $2.00 back.
  • 2 Farmland Bacon: $4.98 each. Used two $1/1 printables (zip code 85254), and submitted for $5.00 Walmart egift card rebate here (which you can do twice, so I'll probably do it again next time!) = paid $7.96/2, got $5 gift card back.
  • Angel Soft Toilet Paper 24 pack: $10.97. Used $0.55/1 printable, and submitted for $0.25 in Checkout 51 rebate = paid $10.42, got $0.25 back.
  • Bar-S Hot Dogs: $0.88. Submitted for $0.25 Checkout 51 rebate.
I was excited for this week's Walgreens deals, because they included the Starbucks Iced Coffee, which I recently tried and really like!  
  • 2 Kellogg's Cereals: $1.99 each. Used two $1.50/1 printables (Kellogg's Rewards redemption) = $0.49 each!
  • 4-pack Starbucks Iced Coffee: $3.99. Used $1/1 printable = $2.99.
  • Starbucks Iced Coffee Single: $1.99. Used $1/1 printable, and submitted for $1 SavingStar rebate = free!
  • 2 Nestle Crunch Girl Scout Bars: $0.39 each. Used $0.50/2 (SS 7/13/14) = paid $0.28/2!
  • 6 Stride and 3 Trident Gum: 3/$2, get 2,000 points when you buy $6.
  • 1 Coke: $1.69. Bought this for a friend since it has her name on it.
  • Total spent: $13.11, got back $1 SavingStar and 2,000 points.
We've been having some issues with absorbency and stink in our cloth diapers, which regular Tide is supposed to fix.  Here's hoping!  Otherwise, we normally stick to the free and clear detergents.
  • Reese's Cereal: $1.88. Used $0.60/1 printable, and submitted for $0.50 SavingStar rebate = paid $1.28, got $0.50 back.
  • 3 Kleenex 85 ct.: $0.99 each. Used $0.50/3 (SS 7/13/14), and submitted for $0.75 iBotta rebate = paid $2.47/3, got $0.75 back.
  • Tide 40oz.: $4.94. Used $1.50/1 printable = paid $3.44.
  • Also used $6.50 in ECBs = paid 1.07, got $1.25 back!
Other Coupon Shopping:
  • Kwik Trip: Used $1 off gasoline coupon I got via text. I also submitted my receipt for $0.25 back for tomatoes and $0.25 back for bananas from Checkout 51.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On Feeding A Gluten-Free Child

Shortly after we started feeding Hannah food from the table, she started having digestive issues.  Without going into too much detail, she had a hard time pooping.  After following her diet more closely for a few weeks, I narrowed the problem down to grains, although I wasn't positive which ones.

So we eliminated.  For about two weeks, we cut out all grains.  Then we added back in oats, with no problems, and rice, with no problems.  We added back in whole wheat products, and there were the issues again.  So we eliminated them.

I've spoken with our pediatrician about this before, although we hadn't done any elimination diets yet at that point.  She pretty much told me to try what I want, and report back next time, or sooner if we had bigger issues.  I don't think this is a full-blown allergy, because there would be other issues and reactions.  And since we've eliminated gluten, I don't think we can test for an allergy or intolerance, unless we add it back in (unless I'm mistaken about how that test works?).  I plan on talking to the doctor again at our next appointment in a few weeks, but in general, simply eliminating gluten from Hannah's diet seems to have everything working fine, so I don't necessarily see a reason to test right now.

So how does that work in our day-to-day life?  In this case, I'm thankful that we have been eating fairly close to the Paleo diet at least part of the time, because those are all foods that Hannah can eat.  The times that we do have something different, such as the turkey wraps pictured above, I will give Hannah the filling/toppings, but not the tortilla (or the pizza crust, or the pasta).  If that doesn't seem like enough food, I'll add an additional fruit or veggie.  Since we only have those items a few times a month, it hasn't been that hard to adapt her plate.

Breakfast is a bit more of a challenge, since I do like to include baked goods once a week, plus cereal once or twice.  Sometimes I'll feed her eggs or oatmeal while the rest of us have the others, and we have tried a few of the gluten-free cereals like Chex, which seem to be fine.  Soon to be tried: oatmeal pancakes!  I have my tried and true recipes for pancakes and waffles, so I hadn't really looked for other ones, but baby girl should get to enjoy those too!

All in all, it's a bit more work to make sure we always have something around that Hannah can eat, but her tummy is much happier, and that's certainly worth it!

Obviously, I am not a doctor, and none of this should be taken as medical advice.  I am simply sharing what works for our family at this time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Menu Plan July 16-31

It's time for another menu plan! I usually ask everyone if they have any meals they would like to eat this time around, and try to incorporate those.  This time Jesse actually stole my notebook and filled in several days for me!  I shifted them around a bit to fit better with weekly produce shopping, but that was a nice break for me to not have to do the whole thing!  He also made sure to inform me of the weather forecast, since the last few times I haven't looked and we've had soup on some rather warm days...Here's the plan:

Wednesday, July 16
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Ham and Bean Soup, Easy Cheesy Biscuits

Thursday, July 17
Breakfast: Leftover Muffins from the Freezer
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Leftover Ham and Bean Soup and Biscuits

Friday, July 18
Breakfast: French Toast (with strawberries if I remember to thaw them)
Lunch: Turkey Bacon Wraps
Dinner: Roast with Potatoes and Carrots

Saturday, July 19
Breakfast: Baked Strawberry Oatmeal
Lunch: My 10 Year High School Reunion Picnic
Dinner: Leftover Roast with Potatoes and Carrots

Sunday, July 20
Breakfast: Leftover Baked Strawberry Oatmeal
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Chicken, Poblano Sweet Potatoes

Monday, July 21
Breakfast: Eggs and Leftover Sweet Potatoes
Lunch: Area Pastors Picnic
Dinner: Eggplant Lasagna

Tuesday, July 22
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Leftover Eggplant Lasagna
Dinner: Black Bean Burgers, Chips

Wednesday, July 23
Breakfast: Eggs, Bacon, and Sweet Potatoes
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Chicken Fajitas (Mix is already in the freezer)

Thursday, July 24
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Homemade Macaroni and Cheese, Hot Dogs
Dinner: Crockpot Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions, Rice

Friday, July 25
Breakfast: Yogurt, Homemade Granola, Fruit
Lunch: Chicken, Black Beans, Mexi Rice
Dinner: Fish Fry (we haven't been to one for at least a few months)

Saturday, July 26
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Leftover Chicken, Black Beans, and Mexi Rice
Dinner: Leftover Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions, Rice

Sunday, July 27
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Quesadillas
Dinner: Dinner out for our 7th anniversary! We might even get a baby-sitter...

Monday, July 28
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Chicken and Black Bean Taco Salads
Dinner: Sausage, Egg and Cheese Sandwiches on these Biscuits

Tuesday, July 29
Breakfast: Winter Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Leftover Taco Salads
Dinner: Chicken with Mushrooms and Tomatoes

Wednesday, July 30
Breakfast: Leftover Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Mini Pepper Nachos (this time with a chicken and black bean mixture)
Dinner: Homemade Pizza - Chicken Bacon Ranch Mushroom

Thursday, July 31
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes
Dinner: Pancakes, Eggs and Bacon