Thursday, May 30, 2013

Taking a Break, By Force If Necessary! Part 1 of 2 {Plain & Simple}

In our home, we have two main sanity-savers - daily quiet time and weekly Sabbaths. I'll write about our quiet times at another date (soon!), but today I wanted to talk briefly about our practice of making Sundays our family Sabbath times.

The practice of Sabbath is an Old Testament command of God for the Israelites - the command that every Sabbath day should be a day of rest that would be dedicated entirely to the Lord:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11)
Modern-day Christians are divided in opinion as to whether the practice of Sabbath ended with the new covenant of Christ, or is still applicable to Christians. But regardless of whether Sabbath is or is not commanded, it is still good! God created and commanded the Sabbath because it was good, so it is still a beneficial practice for those who choose it, regardless of whether or not it's a requirement.

DH and I have wanted to practice Sabbath ever since we got married ten years ago, but we never made it happen until this past year. And the reason for our repeated failure was that we made Sabbath conditional - "If we get everything done by Sunday, then we'll take a Sabbath."

But the problem, of course, is that one is never officially "finished" with all that one has to do, thus Sabbath that is practiced conditionally never happened for us. We always had something that needed to be done, and so we went week after week (and year after year) without ever making our Sabbath goals happen.

However, this past year we have finally made Sabbath a reality! This may or may not have anything to do with our family's preoccupation with watching "Fiddler on the Roof," but the truth finally sank in - to make Sabbath happen, it simply has to happen - regardless of whether or not we're done with everything we want to accomplish. It just is when it is, not when it might be convenient!

We've really enjoyed the practice of Sabbath, and we plan to continue it. Here are a few things that we have tried as we work to construct a meaningful Sabbath observance:

Sundown to Sundown - We modern Americans think of a "day" as "when we get up till when we go to bed," but acting upon the Biblical precepts of "sundown to sundown," we have made our Sabbath 6:00 p.m. on Saturday to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

This has worked much better for us than the "Sunday Sabbath" practice, and we really like it. As moms know, the success of any day begins the night before with preparation for the coming day. So Saturday evening really belongs to Sunday, and Sunday evening really belongs to Monday. Using the sundown-to-sundown concept has been very useful, because Sabbath begins when the day is winding down and looking toward Sunday, and Sabbath ends just as we need to ramp up preparations for Monday morning, Plus, it's fun to begin Sabbath as the sun sets!

Sunday Worship - This is a no-brainer, but Sunday is set aside for church and worship of the Lord. After all, that's one of the main purposes of Sabbath practice!

Sabbath Rest - One of the other huge components of Sabbath is a God-commanded rest. Isn't that awesome? God cares about our need for rest. Thus, on Sabbath, we refrain from extra work. Daily things continue on - meal preparation, dishes, laundry, diapers, etc. - but extra things like housecleaning, deep cleaning projects, personal projects, shopping, etc. all come to a halt. This is a wonderful break for me! Even though my Sundays are nearly as busy as other days due to the needs of the family, it is wonderfully freeing to have a day when I can look at the floor and think, "Wow. The floor needs washing. But I'm not going to wash it and I don't have to feel guilty about it! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha!" Then I can go sit down and read a book (for approximately 30 seconds until one of the children needs me).

Family Time - We try to do Sunday afternoon family outings whenever possible - to a park (or, during the summer, Bass Pro Shop!) or some such place, or go for a family walk. We try to aim for a super-simple dinner so that I am not stuck in the kitchen and we can focus on time as a family. (As a matter of fact we do this almost every night, but we try to be especially intentional about it on Sundays.)

Nixing Screen Time - This is something that I am trying, that is, a screen-time black-out for 24 hours each week - I do not get on the computer (unless I forget!) during Sabbath hours. It's wonderfully refreshing, though sometimes difficult, and I'm hoping to continue this.

We are not super-strict about Sabbath, though we do our best. It's been a wonderful practice to introduce to our family, and we hope to continue it. If your family practices Sabbath, I would love to hear about different ways that you implement it in your home!


One other note: For my own sanity and to rescue much-needed planning time, I am currently on a Facebook and Blog Reader break! Thus, please feel free to let me know if anything big happens in your life (that I'm missing on Facebook) or if you create a new blog post! (I'm trying to check friend blogs individually, but I am sure I'm missing some posts.)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Decluttering, Part 1 of 100 {Plain & Simple}

Decluttering is a subject that I could talk about forever! It is one of my favorite pastimes, not to mention my instinctual method of stress relief. Whenever I'm stressed, I will automatically start diving into cupboards and drawers and throwing things out. The more stressed I am, the more brutal is my treatment of our poor cupboards. And that's a good thing, because our family still has way too much stuff!

That being the case, I thought I'd put a few posts on the subject into this "Plain and Simple" series. There's a lot to say, but I'll do my best to keep it brief.

I'll share my basic principles and strategies of decluttering at a later date, but for the moment, I'd like to talk about one particular subject: decluttering children's books. 

I hear a collective *gasp* - "What do you mean? Get rid of BOOKS? Are you nuts?" 

Well, normally - no, I don't like to get rid of children's books. They're expensive to replace, and so very important in a child's life. I always want to have good collections of books for every age group - a truth evidenced by the fact that at least three walls of our home are completely covered in bookcases!

But lately I'd noticed that our collection of books for young children had become so crammed and cramped that it was difficult to get books off the shelf. In fact, the sheer volume of our books was keeping our kids from reading those books because they were so difficult to access!

It was definitely time to pare down. 

But what to get rid of? I ended up going through our collection three or four times, getting rid of more each time. And here are the types of books that ended up getting the axe:

Books that teach bad words or attitudes - There are certain words that we don't allow in our home, even though they're often found in children's books. And there are lots of books out there that (intentionally or no) teach really bad attitudes - and kids easily pick those things up from the example in books or film. For example, we found that "Thomas the Tank Engine" materials were very problematic in the horrible attitudes and conversations that they modeled (a lot of name-calling, poor attitudes, rude statements, etc.). I gladly tossed all of those books! There's enough of a challenge in parenting without intentionally importing materials that teach bad behaviors.

Poor quality books - There are two seemingly contradictory truths in children's literature: (1) It is very difficult to get published as a children's author, but (2) There is a plethora of really poor quality children's literature on the market. How those two truths intersect is beyond me, but it's true - there are just a lot of books out there that aren't worth our family's time. Almost any book from the grocery store or dollar store falls into this category, as well as plenty of others.

Books about kids' TV characters - I sometimes question whether or not these books actually have human intelligence behind them - they are so bad. It's incredible. Besides horrible art and non-existent storylines, they are usually marketing shows and products, and creating desires for more and more TV viewing - never good. Some book series are mixed - the original series by the original author (like "Clifford" or "The Magic School Bus") can be good, but the books which were made from the TV shows are mediocre at best, and often plain awful.

Bad quality Christian books - There are great Christian books out there for kids, but like secular books, some can be just awful. I got rid of one such book that I've been meaning to read to the kids for years, but just couldn't stomach the poor quality.

Good books that are never read  - There are some books out there that are decent quality but are simply never read. Examples: Lots of ABC books, or collections of poems and prayers for infants, etc. They're cute, but there's no point in giving up needed space to keep unread books.

Books I've never liked! - My mom saved nearly every book from my childhood. While I'm grateful for this, she also saved (unknowingly) all of the books that I never liked, as well as the books which scared me to death. (You remember those books? The ones that made you shiver, and which you hid at the back of the bookshelf so that you wouldn't have to see them?) I still give an involuntary shudder when I see some of those books. Then it hit me - why am I keeping books that I never read to the kids, and which still freak me out? Bye-bye, scary books! What a freeing thing to see those go out the door to Goodwill!

Books that are easily available - If we can easily get the book from the library, and it's not a beloved classic or good quality book that we want to have in our collection, then out the door it goes. Children's informational books are often in this category, especially the less-than-stellar ones.

Books handed out at events - Coloring books from the fire station, books from fast-food restaurants, poor-quality informational books given at events... Goodbye!

Educational books - School-type readers and uninteresting "informational" books. Like educational toys, they get the axe.

Gross books - I have no idea why, but some authors seem to think it's actually a good idea to write gross-out books for kids. Things like "What's In Your Nose" or other wonderful topics. These go straight into the trash, as I have no desire to curse other parents by passing them on. Ditto to any books with inappropriate topics, language, or writing of any sort.

Now that I've gotten rid of several boxes of books, we have a bit of breathing room on our shelves, the children are enjoying pulling books out and reading them, and our collection is much more sane and manageable.

How do you handle children's books?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When Good Intentions Go Bad

Having had a lot of curriculum-choice angst lately, I decide today to sit down with my husband during  our daily coffee time and get more of his counsel on the subject.

When that time comes, I grab my notes and my homeschool notebook and sit down. Before I can even say a word, we hear the one-year-old crying - up from his nap waayyy too early. After twenty minutes of unsuccessfully trying to get him back to sleep, I admit defeat and return to the living room with the addition of a toddler who, due to lack of proper nap length, is extremely cranky.

Try again.

Have you ever tried to have a curriculum consult with an irritable toddler underfoot who is determined to cause every kind of trouble? Oh, goodness. We try to distract with toys.

Try again. 

After a few minutes, I realize that said toddler needs a new diaper. Break for new diaper.

Try again.

Toddler is simply ramping up the crank. Break to get toddler a snack.

Try again.

Toddler decides to eat his snack in massive handfuls, gags himself, and throws up on the carpet. That's a new one. Break to clean up toddler and clean carpet.

Try again.

Toddler resumes former levels of crank. Second baby is now up, and extremely cranky. After realizing that I am trying to shout my questions across the couch to DH, all while trying to deal with two cranky babies, I give up in disgust.

Today has just been one of those days. Thank goodness that God's mercies are new every morning. I'm looking forward to that!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Our Schedule for the Coming Year!

I thought you all might be interested in our schedule for the coming year! It's not super-fancy (like this one from Erica at Large Families on Purpose - wow!), but it is a start! 

With this schedule for the coming 2013-2014 school year (similar to last year's), we have three children - one student (1st grade) and two babies (1yo and 3yo with special needs). My husband is on this schedule too, since he is home right now, but I have blanked out most of his schedule so that you can focus on my schedule and our school schedule.

[Click on image to enlarge]

A couple of notes about our schedule:

- This schedule is more of an "ideal" than an "actual." In other words, it focuses as a guide, a routine, and a goal, but it never actually happens exactly the way it is on the schedule. Life happens. Babies, especially, take a toll on the schedule (diapers, fussiness, messes, naps, etc.). So just in case you're inclined to be impressed and intimidated... don't be.

- One major challenge for me right now is working on wake-times and bedtimes. 

With wake-times, I all-too-often succumb to the temptation to let the kids sleep later... because I can get so much done before they get up, and almost nothing after they're up and the daily whirlwind begins. I'm doing my best to push this back to 7:30 a.m. (I know, that's late for most families, but for us it's a big improvement). I have experienced how badly we run behind when the kids sleep late, and I don't like rushed school days. My eventual goal is probably 6:30 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. for wake times for the kidlets. Unfortunately, I know from experience that I need to be up at least one hour before the first child, more if I want to get any extra work done - as I said, it's a work in progress.

We also tend to let our kids stay up very late. I always start nail-biting when I hear "My kids are always in bed by 7:30 p.m.!" because we are usually barely starting on bath time by then. I know that those kids usually have to be up early for public school, so it's a bit different, but are still late-to-bed with the kids, which translates into absurdly late bedtimes for DH and myself as well. 

One other challenge is our evening schedule - we are always behind. Yikes! 

As you can see, it's a work in progress! I also know that things will have to tighten up as we add additional students - though thankfully we have a few years!

I hope to write soon about the importance of quiet time in our schedule - that is the true sanity-saver around here, and we couldn't function as well as we do without it. 

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please leave a comment!

And now... off to vacuum! Have a wonderful night, all! 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Joys of Curriculum Planning!

When two homeschooling moms meet, you can count on the conversation following a pretty predictable path. "Oh, you homeschool? That's awesome! So do we!" And within the following thirty seconds (usually less), one or the other mother will burst out with:
"So, which curriculum do you use?"
Thereafter follows an intense and frenzied thirty-minute-minimum conversation in which the two mothers compare curricula, detail which curricula they use, have used, and plan to use for each of their children, and usually branch out into philosophical comparisons of the different homeschooling methodologies, and which they prefer and why.

Any husband or child so foolish to interrupt said conversation will receive a hard stare and a firm, "In a minute, dear!" before the mom dives back into the conversation.

Though I may seem to be exaggerating, I'm really not. Curriculum is a huge discussion topic for home educators, all the more so because there are hundreds if not thousands of curriculum choices on the market today. Combined with the fact that (almost) every family combines many different curricula - different by subject and often by child - there is a dizzying array of choices.

(This did not used to be the case in the early days of home education. I have one (wonderful!) home education book from the 1980's which states something like, "When it comes to curricula, you have two main choices: A Beka and Bob Jones Press." I still laugh uproariously when I come to that sentence, because modern-day home educators could spend their entire lives evaluating curricula and still not come to the bottom of the choice lists.)

Unfortunately, though there are many awesome choices on the market, I am someone who does not do well with too many choices. I tend to become anxious, frantic, and guilt-ridden when confronted with all of the choices out there.
"Oh, no. She uses such-and-such curriculum. Maybe that's THE ONE that we should be using instead of what we're doing now. Maybe we need to switch. Oh dear God, what if I'm using the wrong curriculum and ruining my children forever? (*insert nervous nail-biting episode*)
Thus, curriculum choices are an anxious matter for me, and not something that I particularly enjoy. I much prefer having choices made and sealed. When I ordered our math curriculum this week (spending an exorbitant amount on it, I might add, none of which counts for tax write-offs), I breathed a sigh of relief. No more worrying about math choices! (Now it's just down to language arts.)

With that in mind, I thought I'd share my current basic curriculum outline with you all. It is extremely incomplete, and nothing is set in stone. At this point, it changes on a weekly if not a daily basis - it's a work in progress. But this is a general plan that we are working on (and working on improving). If you have any questions, fire away... and if you more-experienced home educators have any suggestions, please share them! (Really. Bring on the suggestions.)

Here it is!

[Click to enlarge image.]

I am currently planning on starting the 2013-2014 school year a week from tomorrow (June 3rd). This is something akin to utter madness, as we are going to have a crazy month of family visits, birthday celebrations, the AFHE home education convention, and other insanity - not to mention the fact that we will not have our language arts curriculum until the home education convention (we are planning to make a final decision and purchase there). However, to make our plan of an "April Summer" happen, we simply have got to start soon, or it's not going to happen.

I'm hoping to share lots of our plans between now and then!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Is This "Summer Break" Thing?

Summer break. 

I've been dreaming of it for months. That far-off, mythical time when we'd be done with our home education for the year, and when I'd finally have time to get to all the projects I wanted to complete - decluttering, deep cleaning, planning for next year's lessons. 

Apparently my delusion is widespread, because I am starting to see "plans for summer break" posts all over the homeschooling blogosphere.

But I'm now three weeks into "summer break," and folks, I'm here to tell you... there ain't no such thing. 

Or if there is, I'm really missing out. 

The problem, of course, is that home education is only a very small percentage of my daily duties. Every thing else - child care, baby care, laundry, cooking, cleaning, church, errands, outings, dishes, etc. - goes right along merrily, forgetting to respect the fact that I am supposed to be on this long-awaited summer break! But nooooooo. Life continues, and so does the somewhat frantic nature of trying to keep up with daily duties and activities, regardless of whether or not we're doing lessons. And for the most part, all of the tasks I had planned for the summer are not happening

And so, more experienced home educating mamas, I'd like to ask you, in all seriousness: 

What is this "summer break" phenomenon, and why does everyone keep talking about it when it doesn't exist? (Or rather, how are you all getting so much done with a houseful when I am failing so miserably to make progress with only a small family to care for?)

It sounds facetious, but I'm serious. Really, ladies, fill me in on what I'm doing wrong. I had oodles and oodles of plans for the summer - especially decluttering and planning for next year - but I am seeing days and weeks go by with only tiny and painstaking progress made in either area. 

And really, though my list of summer planning tasks seems (to me, a novice) overwhelmingly long, I'm only planning for one student in the early grades. Goodness only knows what state I'd be in if I were lesson-planning for a houseful! (Hopefully that will come with time.)

When I saw this article, which lists about five million things that the author is planning to do during her children's homeschool summer break, I almost cried. Whatever she's doing, it's different than what I am currently able to make happen during summer breaks. 

{Please chime in, experienced home educators!}

Another source of frustration during the "break" is that I don't so much have a list of things to do as a list of decisions to make - curriculum decisions. And being that I am a person who doesn't do so well when there are lots of choices (and there are thousands of choices out there), I am quickly approaching the hair-pulling stage as I try to determine curriculum choices for our first-grader. 

My primary puzzle is over Language Arts. Should I do it at all in first grade? If so, which one? I'm thinking of Alpha Omega's Language Arts LifePac (based on Erica's recommendation at Large Families on Purpose), but there's also a friend's recommendation for First Language Lessons, along with about a million others. 

If I ever disappear mysteriously, look for me in an over-the-border insane asylum, where you'll find me banging my head into walls and muttering, "Language Arts curricula... Language Arts curricula..."

But I digress.

Besides that knotty problem, I am also trying to make a host of other decisions (thankfully phonics and math decisions are already made):

- Should we try to teach any sort of formal history, literature, or science, or just continue with informal reading? If and when we start formal teaching, which curricula should we choose for each? 

- When, if ever, do I want to teach spelling?

- What extra-curriculars, if any, should we choose?

- Do we want to keep trying to do notebooking? How do we make that work? (For all the praise of notebooking that I've heard, I have found precious little about the actual technicalities of making it work.)

- Whenever I do choose a language arts curriculum, what additional curriculum will we need to fill in the gaps? (Some L.A. curricula teach spelling, composition, grammar, etc.; some don't.)

- Which home education style do we want as our focus - textbook, unit studies, Charlotte Mason, etc.? (Yes, I'm still enough of a beginner that I don't have that figured out.)

- What about the extras, like art?

- When should we start piano lessons?

- Should we start Spanish next year?

- Do we eventually want to include Latin in our curricula?

- Should we consider classical education choices? 

These, and many other questions, are currently swirling around in my head, making me into something of an emotional wreck. Though I am doing my best to bring my questions to the Lord (rather than running back and forth mentally like a rat in a cage) and consult my husband about them, these questions are driving me batty. Primarily it's about language arts, but the others are pretty problematic as well. 

And so, dear readers, that is my ongoing summer break - having no time for any major projects, and driving myself nuts with all of the questions I need to answer. 

Ah, the joys of summer. 

One thing that has become abundantly clear is that I do indeed want to make next year's summer break to be April. Much as I am trying to work on contentment with living in Phoenix weather (when my heart is aligned with the weather of the Pacific northwest), I do not enjoy getting outside in our broiling  valley summers. I would much rather use the summers for hitting the books and take our breaks during the temperate times of the year. With that in mind, I hope to start our school year at the beginning of June, so that we can be done in time. 

Again, more experienced mamas, please feel free to fill me in with your wisdom, experience, and advice! 

One of our summer projects completed - our new compost bucket!

It's Time to Protect Arizona Midwives & Homebirth Rights!

Hello out there, dear readers...

As most of you know, big changes are coming down the pipeline in Arizona regarding licensed midwives and client rights for homebirths.

These changes are not good ones. In fact, they are disastrous. If the current proposed regulations go through, (1) Arizona midwives will no longer be able to practice safely, due to (among other things) a removal of their ability to carry and administer life-saving medications (such as pitocin for postpartum hemorrhage), (2) homebirth clients will lose the right to informed refusal of state-dictated prenatal, intrapartum. and postpartum procedures and tests, and (3) many additional restrictions and requirements will be added to homebirth midwifery that will prevent midwives from practicing and serving their clients well, and which will restrict client access to safe homebirth midwifery services.

Even I, who have had three safe and uncomplicated homebirths, will most likely lose access to legally-attended homebirth should these new regulations pass.

You can read an excellent summary of what's going on here.

You can leave your comments here.

Please take a minute to follow the above link and leave comments regarding these regulations. You do not have to be an Arizona resident or homebirth client to leave comments, and all are appreciated. Please remember to keep all comments calm, polite, and evidence-based. Flinging accusations or being rude or argumentative will get us nowhere.

Regulations will take effect on July 1st unless changes are made.

Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Happily Releasing Unnecessary Expectations! {Plain & Simple}

This post wasn't a planned part of this series - it just came to me randomly while I was showering a few evenings ago!

Here goes...

One great source of stress in my life (and, I expect, in the lives of many others) is the great morass of self-imposed expectations that I carry in my heart but cannot fulfill in my life. I'm not talking about the essentials (morals, health, real responsibilities), but simply those non-essential social expectations which I have voluntarily taken upon myself to fulfill (but cannot).

All of us choose, in many ways or few, to conform to various societal expectations. And many of these are very good things (like choosing to wear clothes or adopt a moral code). But sometimes conforming to non-essential societal norms can put unnecessary stress on us when we are trying to live up to something that we cannot do - to something that is not true to who we are.

I should again make it clear that I am not suggesting that people throw away morality, ethics, or culture as a whole - just that we should examine non-essential cultural expectations to see if they are benefiting or harming us.

I have found that as I get to know my true self, I can choose to jettison various self-imposed expectations, and it is very freeing - and a very important part of the pathway toward simplicity!

Here are just a few non-essential cultural expectations for which I have chosen the "opt-out" option:

Crafting - I am in awe of those ladies out there who scrapbook, decorate, and are otherwise brilliantly crafty. I love to admire their handiwork. But at the same time, I am simply not (for the most part!) a crafty woman. I do not have the creativity necessary, nor do I have that inward urge to create. But for many years, I have carried the guilt of that expectation. I should scrapbook. I should sew for fun. I should make homemade Christmas cards. And etc.

But the truth is that I have neither the desire nor the need to be crafty. And furthermore, if I do have any spare time, I would much rather spend it, say, scrubbing the floors with bleach than I would making hand-woven hazelnut-dyed wool rugs from fibers that I collected and spun myself. Bleach is just more my kind of thing.

Releasing that expectation was wonderful. So was throwing away all of my "should-do" clippings from Martha Stewart Living that I'd had tucked away in a folder and which had been on my conscience ever since. 

Martha Stewart, meet the round file. 
Pursuing the 'Do - When I was younger, I wore my hair in a braid or a bun... and loved it. But I always felt the social pressure to have a complicated, sculptured, modern hairstyle. And when I graduated from high school, I immediately cut all of my hair off and spent the next ten-plus years very unsuccessfully trying to learn to do a styled hair-do (the type that involves a hair dryer, a curling iron, and gobs of expensive hairstyling products). I never enjoyed it and I was never any good at it.

Recently, though, reality has slapped me in the face. I like plain hairstyles! (Or perhaps I should say Plain hairstyles!) I love the practicality, the quickness and lack of expense, and the look. Why am I trying to live up to an expensive cultural expectation that I don't even want?

In other words... bring on the bun! For good. And this week, I finally tossed the last expensive gooey hairstyling product in the trash bin with a firm "Good Riddance!"

(Okay, I did hold onto one bottle of hairspray. I don't know why. But I'm guessing it'll hit the trash bin too in the next week or so after I release my last emotional tie to the stuff.)

There is great freedom in releasing unwanted self-caused expectations that are tying us to unwanted standards.

(My current plan is to become the sweet little old lady with a cotton print dress, apron, glasses, and wispy grey hair tied up in a knot. It's so adorable I can hardly wait!)

On the way!
Home Education Perfection - Round about August, something starts to turn up in the blogosphere... homeschool mothers posting pictures of their drop-dead-gorgeous homeschool rooms! AAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Now seriously, these homeschool rooms really do make me drool. I love them. I really, really, really love them.

But again... this is not an area in which I am skilled. (Having lived in our house for over four years, I hung our first picture... three days ago. Seriously.) It's also not an area on which I want to spend my time. (Again, the bleach is calling my name.) Furthermore, not being artistically gifted, I could never life up to the high standards set by some of the homeschooling mama-geniuses out there, so I would live in a constant state of envy, guilt, and disappointment should I even try.

Even more importantly, a beautifully-decorated homeschool room is not essential to a good home education. There are things that are essential to good home education - routines, real books, accountability, etc. - but a gorgeous homeschool room is not one of them. I can produce successful kids sitting at the kitchen table with no decorations whatsoever (my current plan). I could also have a beautiful school room... and still fail horribly as a home educator. But a beautiful room will not make or break our home education. If it's something that a homeschool mom wants to do, then that is wonderful! Post pictures and let me drool over them. But it's not something that I need to do as a requirement to be a good home educator.

So, instead of beating myself up over this ("You should have a beautiful school room too, you miserable failure!"), I will stop the guilt, accept that it is not my bent, and enjoy the beautiful school rooms that all you genius-mamas produce... vicariously.


Hopefully I'm making myself clear in this post! I'm not proposing that we become lazy, that we drop our morals and ethics, that we make excuses, or that we lay around all day saying, "It's just not in me to do such-and-such!" What I am suggesting is simply that we find out which non-essential self-imposed expectations are dragging us down, and that we choose to replace them with more down-to-earth guidelines for our personal situations.

Here are a few more self-imposed expectations that I have decided (or hope) to drop:

- We must always eat off of real plates! If I use paper plates, I'm cheating! 

- I must update my blog every day or two, or I'm a failure as a blogger! 

- I need to decorate for every season and holiday! Perfectly! 

- I need to do complicated unit studies that cover every subject under the sun and which are so successful that the kids are begging for more! (May I say.... HA!)

- I must bake my own bread, preserve all my own food, raise farm animals, and keep up with all of my other duties simultaneously and perfectly!

As they say in Hypnobabies.... "Release." Works for childbirth, works for unnecessary self-imposed expectations.


Which expectations have you imposed upon your heart and your life that would be better released and forgotten? I'd love to hear about it!

Our latest family picture, just for fun. Don't you love how helpful the 3yo was being? 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Health & Safety Curriculum!

One of my many-many-many projects for this summer was to write a health & safety curriculum to use for our home education plans next year.

I know that there is a lot missing out of this curriculum (feel free to add, folks!), but this is a basic outline of safety skills that I want to impart to our children. 

Feel free to borrow!

(You will notice that outdoor skills are geared toward the Southwest... every area will have its own animal and/or hazard list.) 


Safety & Life-Skills Curriculum

1. Personal Information

- Full name

- Phone number

- Daddy’s cell phone number

- Address

- Parents’ names

- Birthdate

2. Personal Safety

- If lost… look for a woman.

- If lost in a wilderness area… sit down and wait for us to find you.

- If someone says “Don’t tell this to your mommy or daddy,” immediately go tell your mommy or daddy.

- If someone ever tries to touch your underwear area, or to touch you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable… immediately go tell mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- If someone you don’t know comes up to you and asks for directions… leave right away and find mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- Never get in a car with someone you do not know. Run away and scream if they try to make you get in a car or go with them, and go right to mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- If you are walking and a car pulls up next to you, turn around and go the other direction – and go right to mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- If an adult asks you for help (to find a lost pet, etc.), leave right away and go to mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- If you ever feel uncomfortable, leave and find mommy or daddy or a trusted adult.

- How to call 911 – mechanics of dialing, what information to have ready.

- Always tell mommy or daddy where you are going.

- Answer the front door only if it is someone you know, or if mommy or daddy says that it’s okay.

3. Practical & Household Safety

- House fire – How to get out of the house; don’t hide in the house.

- Fire – Stop, drop, roll

- Earthquake – Duck and cover

- How to use a fire extinguisher

- How to turn off the gas main

- How to turn off the water main

- How to turn off electricity to the house

- How to turn off the water to a toilet

- How to change a tire

4. Outdoor Safety

How to deal with…

- Snakes

- Scorpions

- Cactus

- Spider

- Streams and stream beds

- Lightning


What would you add, readers?

* Later note: See reader additions below!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dealing With the Crazy in My Head {Plain & Simple}

Before starting, I want to make another book recommendation... a new find that I absolutely adore, "The Simple Living Handbook: Discover the Joy of a Decluttered Life" by Lorilee Lippincott (see her blog here). It is an awesome book with so many good ideas and new ways of looking at things! Thoroughly recommended - go check it out! (But not from the library... at least until I've finished it.)


And now to the subject at hand.

There are many ways to simplify. Decluttering the house, turning down the noise, unplugging from the electronics. Those are all important, and I'm planning to touch on some of those in coming weeks. But the most important place to simplify is a place that is not so easy to deal with.

It's inside my head. That crazy place that screams, "You're not moving fast enough! Go! Go! Go!" That place that keeps me going at a frantic pace, even when I'm outwardly calm. That is the place that needs clearing and decluttering.

Apparently I don't project a particularly frantic image, because I am constantly receiving the most surprising compliments on my calm demeanor.
"You handle parenting with such grace."
"You deal with things so calmly!"
"Wow, I wish I could keep as calm as you do with such a busy life going on."
While I'm always pleased to receive such comments, I'm afraid that the reality is too often quite different. Most of the time, my mind is frantically busy making to-do lists and stressing out over details, plans, and the much-too-busyness of being a mother, homemaker, and home educator to three boys.

Should I chance to have a few minutes of time to finally get something done, my mind looks something like this:
"Okay, I've got a few minutes - if the baby will just keep sleeping, maybe I can get something done. God, please let the baby keep sleeping! Hurry, hurry, hurry. Faster, faster, faster. Oh no, I need to do [A], [B], [C], [D], and [E], and there isn't possibly enough time. Go, go, go! Oh no, I forgot about [F], [G], [H], and [I]! Dear God, I'll never get it all done!"
I'm stressing out just thinking about it!

So here's the thing. My life is busy - true. My life is very busy - true. But a lot of the stress that I feel is stress that I am putting upon myself purely because of the craziness going on in my own brain. It's self-imposed. I am doing it to myself.

And that's where the comparison to the Amish comes in. The Amish people (and our ancestors from the Old World, to whom the Amish may be compared) do not have easier lives or lesser workloads than we modern Americans. If anything, they have harder lives and heavier workloads. (Just try plowing a field with a horse some time!) Yet with all of that, their lives are much calmer, their communities are much healthier, and their life-pace is much slower and more measured, as opposed to the crazy-busy pace that I maintain in my head regardless of how busy or non-busy I am.

Like most of us, I am used to frenetic levels of activities - constant to-do lists and deadlines, an over-stuffed schedule both within and without the home, and the constant dangling carrot of more-more-more productivity that we've been taught is the Holy Grail of modern life. Go, go, go. Faster, faster, faster. Move, move, move!  

We do it to ourselves. I do it to myself. But I don't want to do it any more, and I'm working on stopping.

But how do we stop the ingrained mental habits of a lifetime? It sounds simple ("Just calm down!"), but it isn't - because it's our status quo, our automatic habit, our addiction to mental stress. And switching to a slower pace of life is going to take a lot of practice.

When I realize (approximately fifty times per day) that I am operating in my usual frantic-rushing-crazy mode, here are the three steps I am working on:

(1) STOP - When I realize what I'm doing - making myself crazy by screaming at myself to go faster-faster-faster! - I stop! I force myself to stop where I am, mentally and physically, and I pause to re-set my mindset and my activity level.

(2) BREATHE - I physically slow down my breathing, and as I do so, I try to slow down my thoughts and set my mind on something positive (instead of worrying frantically about political or spiritual issues), and breathe slowly so that I can calm down the crazy that's otherwise going on in my head.

(3) SLOW DOWN - Yes, that's right - I physically slow down my movements. Instead of frantically scrubbing dishes and tossing them in the drainer, I'll slow down and force myself to enjoy the process and to feel it and do it calmly. Instead of racing through the house trying to get chores done faster-faster-faster, I'll slow my steps and make myself take a saner pace.

The habits of a lifetime aren't easy to break - but it's worth the effort. Why? Because all of the external work that I'm doing to declutter my house (and I'm on a roll right now with that!) won't matter if I can't tame the raging beast within my own mind.

Stop. Breathe. Slow down.

I think many of us need to escape from the bondage of "faster is better." We may technically get more done (though that's doubtful), but we enter into a dreadful mental bondage that enslaves us to a schedule that we can never keep up with and which makes us miserable and constantly stressed-out. It's worth the work to escape from that slavery.

Who wants to join me? 

Have a wonderful Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Our Life: The Mother's Day Edition

Because every mother deserves a flower on Mother's Day... Here ya go.

Isn't it heart-warming?

Actually, I told my husband several years ago to PLEASE stop getting me flowers. Of any kind. Ever. I can't stand to watch the poor things die, and I'd much rather have something else - like a book. Or plastic storage boxes. Mmmm... plastic storage boxes.

My dream world would be to wake up surrounded by these wonderful creations. 
But this year I did end up with a flower! However, after four hours out of water plus the tender ministrations of a curious toddler, it looked pretty sorry (see above). When we got home, we put it in water - and then laughed till we cried.

Happy Mother's Day!

(Or Mothers Day. Or Mothers' Day. That question has driven me to near-insanity more than once. Whatever it was, enjoy it!)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Introducing Our Wee Slimy Friend (WSF)

Recently a sweet friend blessed me with a kombucha starter, also known as a SCOBY (a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), and thus I have joined the community of kombucha-brewers! Hurray for lactofermentation!!

Kombucha, like yogurt, kefir, pickles, kimchi, etc., is a lacto-fermented product that produces a wonderfully-powerful dose of all-natural probiotics (beneficial bacteria), and can be an awesome addition to one's diet, especially in a day and age when most products that were formerly probiotic have now been nuked (i.e. heat-treated for shelf-life), thus eliminating the beneficial bacteria that we all need.

Can kombucha help nausea and vomiting of pregnancy? Maybe. Read about some possibilities here. However, the truth is that any steps to improve one's health can't hurt, and it's always good to do anything to bump up one's health before facing the monster of hyperemesis.

Because I am doing a low-carb diet, I am letting my kombucha do a longer brew, to allow the colony to consume more of the sugars. This makes the resulting product much less sweet and much less pleasant to drink (my weird-stuff-loving husband won't touch it), but I'm actually getting used to it! Now I'm thinking of brewing even longer to kick the carb count down lower, so we'll see how that goes. (If you brew it for a shorter time, this stuff is awesome - and I don't even care for tea, as a rule!)

Every time you brew a batch of kombucha, your mother SCOBY will produce a baby SCOBY, so there are always plenty of SCOBYs to go around. Grab one from a sympathetic friend and brew away!

(If you end up with baby SCOBYs that you can't give away, add them to your garden or compost pile for extra bacterial goodness!)

My first brew with the WSF - I have made two more batches since then. 

Directions for Making Kombucha Tea

Use a 2-4 quart glass container. All utensils should be clean, but don’t use antibacterial soap (can mess up the SCOBY). If you want to disinfect, rinse with apple cider vinegar.

Pour boiling water halfway up your container. Add 1 teabag per quart and let steep 20 minutes. Stir in sugar (1 cup per gallon, or ¼ cup per quart).

Add cold water to fill (leave room for SCOBY and starter tea) and wait till water has reached room temperature.

Add reserved SCOBY and tea (reserve about 6 oz tea per gallon).

Cover with paper towel and rubber band and place in dark location for 6-10 days. Less time = sweeter taste. More time = less sweet taste, more vinegar. Label with desired bottling date so that you don't lose track!

Bottle in clean glass containers. Strain if desired. Will carbonate, so cap loosely if you don’t want carbonation to build up. Will last in fridge for quite a long time!


Facebook Group for Hyperemesis Moms of Arizona!

Just a quick note for Arizona hyperemesis mums... There is now a Facebook group specifically for us! Please join us and help make this a vibrant and growing community of HG moms who can meet to share support and local resources:

HG Moms of Arizona

See you there!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Plans and Projects for this Coming Summer!

Before I get started, we want to send our prayers and best wishes to our friends the {name censored for privacy} family, who are today embarking on another great adventure! We hope to hear great things, you guys!

And now, back to the subject at hand!

Now that we are officially on summer break, I have about half a million things that I wish to accomplish before the next school year starts up!

Unfortunately, the phrase "summer break" is a bit of a misnomer. Although the academics do take a break, the children and the house do not. So I'm not sure how all of this "free time" is supposed to magically appear for me to work on summer projects!

Regardless, I do have a bunch of things that I'd like to accomplish. And so... here they are!

Over the coming couple of weeks, I would like to...

(1) Make Pen & Paper Record Sheets - For (1) crafts, science experiments, and activities, and (2) field trips. This past year, I found that keeping records on the computer does not work for me, simply because it lures me over to the computer waayyy too often, after which I wake up 30 minutes later and find I've been mindlessly surfing Facebook. Not good. I really enjoyed moving my daily checklists from computer to paper, and so I'm going to do that for the rest of my records as well.

(2) Buy Curriculum - This will be math and possibly Language Arts.

(3) Plan Chores - After discovering what a huge job it is to assign and check up on chores, I now understand why some parents cop out and just do the work themselves! But that would be a grave disservice to our children and our family, and I'm not going to do that - so I need to get on chore planning for next year. Hopefully this will get easier as I get used to it!

(4) Toddler Teaching Time - I want to work on: (1) Blanket training - I've never tried it, but it sounds like a smart idea. (2) Sleep Issues - Okay, I have to admit it. I have a 15-month-old who still nurses to sleep. I have sinned, I have sinned!! And now, of course, the question is how to get him to get to sleep by himself, and in his own bed. Suggestions, anyone? Please? (3) Training to come when called - Right now, if I called our little dude while he was headed out in front of a moving car, he would keep right on going. So teaching him to come when his name is called is something I really need to get on, because this guy is mobile.

(5) Work on Our Daily Schedule - This is mostly done - now to implement it better! Especially needed is work getting to bed at an earlier time and getting everyone up at an earlier time. An hour both ways would be good.

(6) Write Life-Skills Curriculum - This is done; it just needs revision. I'll post when it's finished!

(7) Clean Out Homeschool Notebook & Set Up For Next Year - In process.

(8) Chore Charts - See above - after I get the chores assigned, I want to make cute displays to post. Or at least moderately cute... without a laminator, there's a limit to the amount of cuteness that I can wield around here (*sob*).

(9) Make New Weekly Checklists for First Grade - Taking off handwriting, adding a couple of things...

(10) Get a New Poetry Book - Now that we've worn "The Llama Who Had No Pajama" into the ground, it's time to find something equally awesome! Any suggestions?

(11) Sketch Out Year's Schedule - Breaks, start and finish dates, etc.

(12) Print Various Forms We'll Need - Checklists, schedules, catechism, records

(13) Spend Time Working on Master Book List - My book list is currently about eighty pages long, and growing every day! I'm having so much fun with this.

(14) Finish Last Year's Record-Keeping - Pretty much done!

(15) Set Up Book Cases in Second Bedroom - Lord, have mercy. We'd better start praying now.

(16) Declutter - Yum. Love this. I could do this all day, every day.

(17) Work on Various Decluttering Projects With DH - Going well! DH is making great strides in shedding his pack-rat tendencies. I still can't get him to let me ditch my wedding dress, but we're making progress.

(18) Various Yard & House Projects - A compost pile (done!), clearing out the garage, working on the garden - you get the picture.

And the biggest one....

(19) Pray About Curriculum Choices - Primarily for Language Arts, but also for history, science, and everything in between.

I think that the curriculum struggle is a big one for most parents who home educate. There are so many choices out there, and most of them look good. Then there's also the issue of when to start each subject, what general approach to take, and a million different details that are all knotty and complicated to understand. Hopefully this will get easier as we continue on in the journey, but it is one that has consumed my mind for at least the past three years.

I'd love to hear what your plans are for summer break!

Church with two babies, one of whom is completely OUT! 

An HG Blog to Follow!

Several weeks ago, I met a new HG blogger, Wendy, and I planned to introduce you to her after my blogging break. At the time, she was suffering from severe HG and was on bed rest with multiple complications (Mallory-Weiss tears and a twin who didn't make it, among others) and family medical issues going on at the same time.

Since then, tragically, she has experienced the loss of her baby at 20 weeks, and is currently recovering from going through a stillbirth. We are grieving with her family.

I'd love to encourage you to check out the blog of this amazing family. They have seven children, run a farm in Virginia, and educate their children at home. Having read this blog for about a month, I have already run across lots and lots of shared interests and beliefs, and I am enjoying getting to know her. I think you will too!

Contentment Acres

Also, feel free to drop in just to leave some encouraging words to a mama who is grieving the loss of two babies after suffering severe HG for months on end. She is truly a warrior mama.

Especially take note of her latest post, which is absolutely amazing. She ends:
"All through this, I have felt the Lord asking me: "Do you still love Me? Will you still follow Me?"
"And my answer is a weary "Yes, Lord. You are my Father. No one loves me like You do. You have fearfully and wonderfully knit me together. I am so precious to You that You know the number of hairs on my head. You know every detail about me and nothing in my life escapes Your notice. You gave Your own Son for me. Knowing the depth of Your love, I know that all of this heartbreak and pain has served a purpose that will bring glory to Your Name. I am broken, bruised, battle weary, and begging You for a break, but I am still a willing vessel for Your work in my life'."
Spiritual maturity like this blows me away. May I some day attain fully to that level of awareness, gratitude, and trust.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Introducing a New Series: Plain and Simple!

Although I didn't know it, I started my new series a few weeks ago when I wrote about how much of a blessing it was to go from two cars down to only one vehicle in our family.

The conclusion from the above, of course, is that simplicity brings peace. We believe that getting rid of modern amenities (or our mounds of personal belongings) will make our lives miserable, but often they bring unexpected peace and joy.

And that got me thinking. Why is modern life described as hectic, frantic, rushed, over-busy, insane, crazy? Why do families no longer eat meals together, spend time together, or even know each other? Why do we live in a whirlwind of activity and constantly feel stressed and exhausted?

By all logic, it ought to be the opposite. After all, we have automatic and mechanical devices of every sort that are supposed to ease our burdens and take care of various jobs for us. Life is supposed to be easier in every way.

But it's not. 

Instead, we are more stressed-out, sleep-deprived, and exhausted than at any other time in the history of mankind, and it's only getting worse. We all know that.

On a personal level, I have made efforts to avoid over-commitments in our family. And although we do educate at home, I have only three children (and only one student at the moment). Our life is not that busy, by comparison.

But I still feel stressed. And hurried. And rushed. And constantly tired and over-committed. 

I want to stop that. Though I will always have more work than I can ever accomplish, I need more peaceful head-space. I need to rid myself of the mental, spiritual, and physical clutter that can wear me down, make me irritable and snappy, and deny me the peace I need.

And that's the purpose of this new series! This will not be an exhaustive or organized series - just a note-by-note writing down of the little things I learn along the way. Some of the things I have learned so far will seem a bit wacky, but I'm going to write them down anyway. I'm looking forward to sharing with you!

Part of what I share will stem from my ongoing study of the Amish culture. I am passionately fond of the Amish people, and I go through periodic spurts of studying their society, religion, and lifestyle. One of the things I note often about the Amish is their simpler and calmer way of life. Do they miss out on Facebook, the internet, and indoor electricity? Yup, but they kept the much more important things that our culture has jettisoned - deep and abiding faith, strong families, and tight-knit communities that support each other for life.

I'll be quoting from a couple of books on the Amish, among them:

I'll also quote from one of my favorite books, "The Handbook of Simple Living" by Lanet Lohrs. Though I disagree with many (most) of the spiritual tenets of this book, she has written one of the most complete and thorough guides to simple living, covering everything from dish-washing to housing choices.

I'd like to add an important note before I begin writing: This series is not intended to make anyone feel judged!
"She got rid of her automatic banana peeler, and I didn't! I know she's judging me!"
Yes, that is exactly not what I am trying to do! I am working on simplifying my life, and I'm going to share what I'm trying, and what is working for our family. But I am not expecting readers to go out and follow what I do! This is a discussion, a journey, and a process. It is not meant to make anyone feel badly, nor am I expecting everyone to try the same things I'm trying. Comprenden ustedes? 


I'm looking forward to sharing the journey!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hello Again! (And Various Spring Adventures!)

Hello, everyone! I'm back! I've had a nice blogging break and am excited to be back in the blogosphere.

I'm still trying to work out the internet-time enigma in my life. There are so many tensions to resolve - such as...

(1) The internet can be a source of inspiration, godly counsel (depending on where you hang out...), great ideas, fellowship, and fun. But... it can also be addictive, a huge time-waster, and a destroyer of in-person relationships and genuine community.

(2) Blogging is a source of fun and relaxation for me - I love it! But it can also be a source of guilt, another time-waster, and can actually lead me to neglect the family about whom I am blogging!

Thus, I am trying to work out those various truths in my life and figure out how to make the internet and blogging a constructive part of my life, and not a destructive or addictive part. (Tips, anyone?)

I am excited soon to be bringing you my new series, Plain and Simple, in which I will be sharing snippets of my ongoing journey to simplify my mind and my life. This is not a lifestyle that I have perfected and am now ready to spread amongst the less-enlightened (!), but rather a simple sharing of what I am learning along the way. It's an exciting journey, and I hope you'll join me (and share your own journey with me as well!).


In the meantime, we have had a busy spring! Today was our last day of kindergarten for the 6yo, meaning that we have now completed our first official year of home education! This is such an exciting milestone for me! I know that more experienced moms in the audience are snickering at the simplicity of this (only one student, only a few subjects, etc.), but it's a huge accomplishment in my book - especially with a child who is emphatically not academically-minded!

I want to start first grade as soon as is humanly possible, simply because I want to make March-April our "summer break" next year, and we have some heavy-duty catching up to do time-wise to make that happen. However, I also realize that we all really need a break. That being the case, we'll take at least this month off, and then see how soon we can get started.

In the meantime, I'll be doing a lot of lesson planning, as well as attending several curriculum sales and the homeschool convention in June.

Reminder for local parents: The May 13th registration deadline is coming up for this year's awesome convention! Don't forget the first-timers' discount and the free pre-convention mini-conference!

I'll be sharing some of my plans for the coming year, and I'm really excited to talk with you all about those plans, get your input, and hear about your plans!


This past month or two has been full of field trips!

When we first started to homeschool, one of the (many-many-many) intimidating things about the idea was the thought of having to plan field trips. Frankly, I'm really not keen on that. However, I need not have worried! The various organizations of which we are a part (MOMS Club International, Cub Scouts, and two home education support groups) all plan multiple field trips a month - and so rather than having to scramble for field trips, we are often overwhelmed with more than we can handle!

When you add in the family outings and family field trips that we create for ourselves (the local Jazz Festival, etc.), we easily have one or more field trips per week.

The wonderful thing about home education is that field trips become not "that thing my kid is doing," but an adventure for the whole family that immediately becomes a set of wonderful memories that is incorporated into our family culture. It's an absolutely wonderful part of home education!

Here are just a few of our field trips from the past month:

Backyard Camping Trip, complete with breakfast al fresco after the fact!

It's just remotely possible that the kids' hour of play on our air mattress was responsible for DH and I waking up on the floor. 

Waiting for breakfast!

Yes, the man is on a cell phone. It's called "roughing it."

Our city's Jazz Festival:

If I look slap-happy, that's because I was beyond exhaustion at this point

Usury National Park - we had absolutely beautiful weather!

Going on a snake hunt! Though DH and I have found snakes here in the past (before we had children), DH and DS have been so far unsuccessful.                

Chilling in the stroller! 

Snagged by the camera 

A local airport:

Our local cardiology museum (put on by the American Heart Association):

This was an excellent museum - great hosts, and a beautifully constructed facility. They were very helpful and took a vast amount of time to work our huge (100+) group through the museum.

However, not only did I have two extremely fussy babies on my hands (plus at least one exploding diaper), but I was extremely frustrated by the nutritional information that the museum was pushing as "heart healthy."

I've got to give them credit - they had excellent displays on subjects like smoking, calling 911, and heart disease, and it was a great museum overall. I'd recommend it. Sort of. But if our family ever goes back, I'll stay home and send DH there with the kids!


The Boyce Thompson Arboretum, one of our favorite places!

We were taken on a "Plants of the Bible" tour, which was excellent - unfortunately, we could hear almost none of the narration as the group was so large and we were usually at the back! I'd love to go back with a smaller group to hear it again. Next year we hope to go back for all of their homeschool days rather than just the last one!


Open House at another local airport:

We're getting known by these umbrellas. Just listening to peoples' conversations as they pass us is hilarious! (But the umbrellas work, which is more than I can say for the stroller's sun shades!)

A completely random moment of hilarity. 

At the controls! 

In the flight simulator. 

He loved getting to climb in plane after plane all morning! 


On our zero-budget of the moment, we have to skip field trips that cost money. And there are a lot of field trips out there that are very pricey - $7-$10 per person, which really adds up quickly. I've had to say no to quite a few field trips over these past months based on the cost.

However, all of the above field trips were free or "nearly free" (i.e. less than $10 for the whole field trip)! So it is entirely possible to maintain a busy field trip schedule even on a less-than-ample budget.


Although we probably won't be able to fund any sort of summer vacation this year, we do hope to host lots of visiting family members as well as attending summer events and enjoying the pleasures of the season. Additionally, my husband will be taking an awesome course, "Fathers Leading Families," and we are very excited about that opportunity.

What are you all doing over the summer?