Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Resource Review- Down Came the Rain

This week's resource has nothing to do with finances, or time management. At least not directly. But it's one that I think is important for all women to read, or at least be aware of the issue that it addresses. I'm recommending that you pick up a copy of Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields.

After baby number five was born, I was really struggling with my emotions. (You can read a little bit about my story here.) This book was recommended to me from two different sources. So I finally broke down and picked it up. Then I let it sit in my bag for a few days. It wasn't until after I had been to the doctor that I felt brave enough to give it a read. What I read was a story of excrutiating pain as Brooke describes her journey to first become pregnant and then to enjoy her mother hood.

She writes in such a way, that I now feel as if we're friends :) It's an easy read- I read the whole thing in one long afternoon. It can be emotional at times, as she describes the pain and emotions that she was feeling. She also does a really good job of explaining what her husband and close friends and family were seeing. It would be a good book to read so you can recognize the signs of post-partum depression not only in yourself but in a woman you love.

However, if you are currently struggling with post-partum, I hesitate in offering this as a resource for you. I read this book after I had been to the doctor. My fears had been confirmed and I was diagnosed and treated (read about my treatment here). Two days later as I was reading this book I kept thinking, "well maybe I'm not so bad, maybe I don't really have this." Can you believe it? part of the struggle is in the depression itself, you don't really think it's that bad. And even Brooke describes a very scary time when she took herself off of her medication. Another factor is that her depression was very acute and dramatic while mine was the weight of impending doom always hanging over me with a few moments of anxiety and a panic attack mixed in.

Understanding post-partum depression is important for women everywhere. Some of the new things I've learned is that it can hit at any time. While you're still pregnant, several months after giving birth, when you stop nursing...pretty much any time there's a potential for a hormonal imbalance! Get the knowledge you need to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Read this book about one woman's struggle and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Monday, March 29, 2010

School Time

A couple weeks ago I shared about our morning routine. I think that doing the same thing every morning has offered my children some stability. Every day looks a little different, but we try to start out the same. Here's a peek into our school time.

I found a great resource from World Book of what they should know at each grade level. I would love to be the kind of mom who could take that and teach my kids very naturally throughout the day. Unfortunately, I no longer have the brain power to be able to do that. There are plenty of resources out there, though, to help me teach my kids in a manner that fits us.

Reading/Language- I think it's pretty important for kids to learn how to read. Once they can read, they are able to find out anything they want to. But my boys hated sitting still long enough to get this very basic knowledge into them. I read a great book by Ruth Beechick (A Home Start in Reading) that helped me to see that reading is not the all there is. It's more important to teach kids about the world around them (science) and allow them to build a thirst for knowledge. Once I stopped pushing on the reading, things really improved.

Math- I am perfectly comfortable teaching my kids their math without needing a text. We do word problems in the van while running errands. We play counting and simple math games while setting the table. But math is so sequential that I was afraid I would miss something. So, we have a text, but it's more for me to see what they should be learning than it is for them to work from. I'm discovering that while my method is teaching them their math skills just fine, they don't really understand the written equation- we'll work on it :)

Each of these topics takes about ten minutes per child. Usually the kids are all playing on the floor. I'll call one over to me and we'll do a lesson from their book. Recently, Zachary's language lessons have involved drawing pictures of each season, so all the kids did that with him. Or I'll be working on patterns with Veronica, and the boys will want patterns, too. More often than not, I'm even folding laundry during this time, as well! It's pretty laid back, but I like the structure that the books we have chosen give us. For these lessons, there's little to nothing to prepare ahead of time. This makes it easy for Daddy or Grandma to do a lesson, as well.

Bible Study- We're always doing something different for this. Right now we have a Character Building curriculum that we're really enjoying. Sometimes we just read through a whole Bible. Other times our unit study is more Biblically based and we have a lot of projects that we're working on. Our favorite of all time was reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible.

Unit Studies- What about everything else? Science, history, geography, etc. We have chosen to immerse ourselves in one topic at a time and study it from all angles. There are many great programs that offer unit studies. We are currently using Konos. The units are based on character traits and are multi-level. All the kids study the same thing at the same time. Many times during the school year we don't do this part and just check out stacks of library books. It serves the same purpose- to introduce the kids to a variety of topics and to enjoy the learning process. Using Konos is my way of being intentional about choosing the topics and projects and the other method is the kids picking out what they're interested in. Both are valid methods of teaching and we utilize them both.

Right now, Bible study and unit studies are done altogether. Crafts and science can be done by all the children- each to their own level of skill and understanding. Some things we've already covered twice and I anticipate covering them again. The baby needs to learn about Adam and Eve and how weather works, too!

Add in a little playtime and doing a couple chores and it's lunchtime! My how the day flies by. How do you structure your day? Do you do any structured activities with your kids?

Menu Plan Monday

I usually love having meals together with other families. Whether the menu is planned out, or it's just a regular ole' pot luck, I love them all. I love weddings and graduations parties. Pretty much anything that means I don't have to cook for my family. :)

One of the worst parts about not eating dairy because of baby is having to avoid food of all sorts that I have not cooked (and I barely trust that!). I don't know that I have a point to all this complaining, but it has certainly made me more conscious of the food issues that other people may have and has altered the foods I bring to events, even when I'm not nursing a baby. Now, when I have a brunch to attend, I bring a hot item that doesn't contain cheese. When it's my turn to bring snacks, I'm opting for fruit salads and peanut butter on celery sticks. And when we have a pot luck to attend, I bring along a sandwich.

This past weekend we went to a wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony, but I kept wondering what would be served as the meal. It turns out that I could safely eat about half of it, so I was fine. (I had a granola bar along, just in case!) This summer is probably going to be filled with church potlucks and picnics since we are putting the finishing touches on a building and everyone is looking forward to doing that sort of thing. (I am not.) What do you do when attending an event where you know you won't be able to eat the food? Any tips for me?

Monday- Tuna Casserole (mine made separately without cheese)
Tuesday- Roast
Wednesday- Fried Rice
Thursday- Sausage and potatoes
Friday- Pizza Night (mine made without cheese)
Saturday- Leftovers
Easter Sunday- Dinner w/family

Check out more menus at orgjunkie.org

Friday, March 26, 2010

Yoplait Giveaway

March is almost over, how are you doing on your New Year's Resolution's? I didn't make any this year. I was a little busy with the new baby. :) But I have hit the point in post-pregnancy weight loss where I'm no longer losing weight quickly and easily. If I want to lose any more, I have to do something pro-active. 

That's why I was so excited when My Blog Spark and Yoplait offered to send me an "Outsmarting Temptation" gift pack plus a coupon for a free yogurt sample. I love the lunch tote that is included with this pack. It's so pretty I want to use it for more than just lunch! And the journal will be very helpful to track my eating habits. It gives me a place to record the foods I eat and it's nutritional content. 

I have to say that Yoplait has done a pretty good job with their yogurt's in the past, and their new flavors seem to be a great alternative to a sugary, fat-filled dessert. Red Velvet Cake and Blueberry Pie are two of the offerings on the menu. (Check out all flavors and get a $1 off coupon here.) Unfortunately, with baby's dislike of anything dairy, I won't be able to try these flavors any time soon. But my family is sure to like them!

I am pleased to announce that My Blog Spark and Yoplait have given me the opportunity to share a gift pack with one of my readers! One lucky winner will be selected at random. You will receive a Yoplait Light "Outsmarting Temptation" gift pack, which includes an insulated gourmet lunch tote, a food journal and a travel utensil set. 

Leave a comment as your submission along with a way for me to contact you. A winner will be announced at noon on April 2, and you will have 48 hours to respond with your mailing address. Leave a separate comment for each submission.

1, Leave a comment with what flavor of the new Yoplait Light you'd like to try.
2. Become a follower or subscriber and leave a comment letting me know. [How to become a follower: click the link on the right of the blog that says "follower" to follow using blogger. Click the link that says "subscribe to posts" to choose another reader.]

A winner has been announced!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to Get a New House Without Moving

I love my house, really I do. We live across the street from a park. We have a living room and a tv room, which is pretty cool. The bedrooms are HUGE. It's about fifteen years old, which means that we don't have a lot of repairs to make. But it also means there's not a lot of character. We have a townhouse, which is great because it takes about forty minutes to mow. But it also means there's not a lot of room for the kids to play.

Periodically, I look at houses that are listed online and I dream about moving. I love seeing the different styles of houses, and what the lay-out is. I would love to have some land for the kids to run and have some animals and a garden. I can become quite discontent with what I currently have and where we live.

Recently I realized what it is I like about looking at those pictures. I love that they're all clean! The paint isn't in need of a touch-up. The dishes are all done. The toys are all put away. The table tops are not buried under mountains of stuff. There are not boxes of more stuff piled in corners. I had a revelation. I don't need a new house, I need to get the junk out of the one that I have! A new house appeals to me because of the thought of everything being fresh and clean. Well, I can replicate that here!

So I have been on a mission this week. The kitchen is being cleaned and organized. Stuff is being thrown out. (I have done this to the kitchen before, so this was an easier room to start with.) I will progress through each room until all of my stuff has been gone through and determined if we really need it. I'm dreading the closet that goes under the stairs and the decisions that will need to be made with that stuff... But I'm looking forward to a clutter-free home. Here is the main "working" counter. You can see how cluttered it was in the above picture behind my son's head. :) I moved my mixer and blender under the cabinets and got rid of a few items that have been stored (and not used). It's actually been fun to clean up after dinner this week!

I'm excited to see where this takes me and my family. Already, the kitchen feels lighter and airier. It's pleasant to be in there whether I'm working or resting. I can't wait for that calm, relaxing atmosphere to overtake my entire home! Do you have any other tricks for making your house the home you want to live in? I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Resource Review- Fix-It and Forget-It

We all have to eat. Most of us have to cook. I once heard a speaker refer to her crock pot as her "hand maidens" (from Proverbs 31). I have a desire to use my crock pot more, but typically make the same four things over and over again. The Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook series offers a little bit of help when it comes to finding quick and easy meals for your crock pot. 

This book is divided into the typical sections that cookbooks are divided into: Breakfasts Foods, Breads, Soups, Main Dishes, Vegetables, and Beverages are a few of the chapters. Each chapter contains recipe submissions from folks around the country. There are also tips for using your slow cooker interspersed throughout. 

I love that most common recipes have several submissions, allowing me to find one that works for me and my family. The recipes are easy to follow with common ingredients. The meals are hardy and filling. 

This book is a handy tool for getting out of that crock pot rut. The are available spiral bound, which I highly recommend. Mine is not and it's binding is very stiff and hard to keep open. There are several more titles in this series, including 5 Ingredients, Diabetic Diet, Low-Fat, and Entertaining. Grab one today!

Do you have a favorite Slow-Cooker recipe or cookbook? I'd love to try it out!

Menu Plan Monday

We have quite the varied menu this week. It changed from my original plan when I was at the store and saw how good and fresh the bok choy was. And the cabbage was so cheap, I had to buy a head and figure out what to do with it! So here's our plan for the week!

Monday- Bean Burritoes
Tuesday- Pork Chops and Potatoes
Wednesday- Corned Beef and Cabbage
Thursday- Chinese Dumplings and Rice
Friday- Pizza Night
Saturday- Brats and Chili Dogs (Birthday Party)
Sunday- Eat What You Want Night

Check out orgjunkie.com for more menu ideas.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How We Start Our Morning

So You're Thinking About Homeschooling: Second Edition: Fifteen Families Show How You Can Do It (Focus on the Family)I recently posted a review of the book So You're Thinking About Homeschooling. I love how the book is designed with each chapter giving you a glimpse into one family's life. It helped me see that there are as many ways to homeschool as there are reasons for doing so. I hadn't started, yet, but found these illustrations to be very liberating. We didn't need to say the Pledge of Allegience every day for school to be happening in my home. I think that we have a pretty laid back approach to schoolwork. Many days we don't pull out our books at all! But my kids are learning and growing in all areas of their lives. So, here's a brief look at how we get the morning started.

When Zachary was smaller, he woke up before 6:30 every morning. Thankfully, that has passed! My kids wake up around 7:30. Each morning they need to get dressed and clean up their room before breakfast. This means picking up pillows, animals, and blankets that fell off the beds during the night and putting jammies away. When everything is in order, they can come downstairs for breakfast. Afterwards, everyone cleans up their own dishes and is allowed to play for a little bit.

We start our mornings off with Bible time. During this time, the kids are being trained in the discipline of having a daily time spent reading the Word and praying. Everyone sits with a Bible and all is quiet for twenty to thirty minutes. I spend some of my time training Eleanor to sit on her blanket and some of my time handling whiny kids and some of my time reading my own Bible. Afterwards, everyone shares something they learned from the story they read. Usually, these have been more content-related, but I'm hopeful that as they get into this habit and get older they will be learning life-changing lessons from their Lord. Sometimes, I'll read a story to them, as well. We're reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible for the second time (best Bible ever!)

From there, it doesn't matter where our day goes, we have started the day on solid ground. We have a varied schedule that includes book work, projects, and field trips...but I'll talk more about that later. Establishing a morning routine is important not only for my own sanity, but also for the children to know what's expected of them. It's so fun to watch Eleanor run to the Bible shelf when I announce that it's Bible time, and Zachary is making his own reading spot, of course it's under a table!

How do you start your day with your kids- whether or not you homeschool? What are the things you think are most important to teach your children?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Go Green, Use Cloth

The big buzz phrase right now is "Go Green." Everyone, everywhere is finding new and interesting ways to be kinder to our environment. I find it interesting that most of what we're doing as a society is simply stepping back to the way things were one hundred years ago (or so). Luckily for me, there are many ways to Go Green that are actually helpful to my budget.

My firstborn son is about to turn seven. I can hardly believe it. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were painting the baby's room and picking out names. We had many decisions to make during that time. One decision we made was to use cloth diapers. We thought it would save on our monthly expenses and we even decided to wash them ourselves rather than hire a service

Plastic Headed Diaper Pins - White - 4 packThis was before it became all the rage to use cloth diapers. It took forever to find a store that sold diaper pins! Of course, now there are a lot more choices in both diapers and diaper covers available. We do use disposable diapers when we are out and about and for overnight, as well. I typically spend less than $5 per month per child on diapers. We recently had our fifth child. We have been primarily using cloth diapers for the past seven years on about two children at a time. Oh, the money we have saved!

I have turned old diapers into cleaning cloths. After diapering five children, sometimes that material just gives out. We rip them in half and store them in buckets under the sinks. When it's time to wipe down the bathroom, that's what we use. No more sponges or paper towels for many of the jobs in my home.

Hemstitch Dinner Napkins White 1 DozenAnother place to use cloth is napkins. It's just as easy to set the table using cloth instead of paper. In times past, we have left one napkin per place on the table throughout the day. We keep a basket in our kitchen for dirty towels and rags, and we just toss these in there after dinner, ready to be washed with the next load.

Going Green in your home doesn't have to be a budget-killer. Take one thing at a time and make the switch. You'll soon see how easy it is to do, and you'll never buy paper again!

For more tips and ideas check out Works For Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Resource Review- So You're Thinking About Homeschooling

Are you thinking about homeschooling? Are you wondering what it looks like? Wondering about how much work it is? The costs involved? This book by Lisa Whelchel is a great place to start.

So You're Thinking About Homeschooling is not a book about curriculum choices or scheduling your day. It's a book that gives a great overview of what it could look like to homeschool your children. Each chapter is designed to give you a glimpse into the day of one family. You learn why they made this choice and what motivates them to keep at it. You learn about different curriculum options, but not the details of it. You learn about how it can look in a variety of situations. If you think you know what it means to homeschool, this book can help shake up some of those ideas and help you think outside the box.

I love Whelchel's writing style because you really feel like you're walking beside her as you visit different homes. This was my first introduction to her work, and I began reading her other books, as well. All are great reads! She passes along information and, in some cases, Scriptural truths in a manner that makes you feel like you're chatting with your best friend.

Have you read this book? What did you think about it? What's one book you would recommend to someone thinking about homeschooling?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I write out my calendar for a month at a time. I'll make little changes as we go, if we have meals with friends, don't have leftovers, run out of something, etc. But sometimes I hit the wall. A day comes and I just don't feel like making what's on my calendar. I'm so used to following it, that I have a hard time coming up with something else. Today was supposed to be chili, but it's been in the 50's all weekend and I just don't want chili tonight. I need something in my crockpot or quick because we have a late afternoon commitment on Mondays. So, I have no idea what I'll be making tonight- probably just the chili that's on my calendar! What do you do when you don't feel like eating what's on your schedule?

The plan for this week:
Monday- Chili???
Tuesday- Date Night! Quesadillas for the kids
Wedensday- Venison Steaks, potoates, Veggies
Thursday- Red Beans and Rice
Friday- Pizza
Saturday- Sausage and Potatoes
Sunday- Eat What You Want Night

Check out other menus at Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Kashi Krazy

I love Kashi products. The cereal, the crackers, everything. What I love even more is how often they have coupons out! Recently, Vocalpoint sent four coupons- one free product and three $1.50 off coupons. Plus, they had $1.50 off coupons available on their website.

Well, this was the week to use those coupons. Target has Kashi snacks on sale for $2.59. Buy four and get a fifth box free. Here's what I did to score five boxes of crackers for less than two bucks. I bought five boxes. Used free product coupon and for $1.50 off coupon. Plus Target took off $2.59 for their promotion.
5 boxes @ 2.59 = $12.95
4 $1.50 coupons -$6.00
2 free products - $5.18
Total spent = $1.77

And I haven't even been to the grocery store yet this week. I'm looking forward to the Post and Old Orchard sales at Super Saver this week. Get coupons for Post here and for Old Orchard here for a great deal. Have you scored a great deal this week?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Works-for-Me Wednesday- Discount Groceries

Don't think you have the time to cut coupons or search for dinners? Think it's too much work for not a big enough reward? (I'll talk with you about that later!) But for now, know that you can STILL save money on groceries. There's a resource lurking right around the corner that you may not be aware of- the clearance rack!

WHAT?!? A clearance rack at a grocery store!?! I know, surprised, right? At the back of many stores, kind of hidden in the hallway to the "employees only" area, there is often a section of items that are marked down because the boxes and cans are dented. Last week, we found a jumbo pack of diapers there for $3.00! It wasn't opened, not squished- we gladly took it! At another store, I found McCormick spices marked down to a quarter! and not expired or dented or anything! I snatched up all they had :)

Some places are lucky enough to have whole stores devoted to selling dented merchandise. I haven't found one in Lincoln. (If you know of one, please tell!) But I have found good deals at Alps (27th and Y). This is a great place to consistently purchase generic items for less. They often have brand name items, too. I am also loving the Bread Outlet at 48th and Old Cheney. You can get bread that's marked at about half the price of the grocery store. Yesterday they had too much bread and marked it all at $1.00 per loaf. They have mostly Sara Lee and Earthgrains products.

So, those are some ways to save money on your grocery bill without cutting a single coupon. :) Have any other ideas for me? Check out other tips at Works For Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Resource Review- Sink Reflections

Sometimes I wish I had a housekeeper. The amount of stuff that we have to keep picked up is often overwhelming. And cleaning bathrooms used by little boys is a dirty job. We have talked about the possibility of hiring a college student to come in and help at different points in my motherhood. But eventually, I decide that I don't want to give up anything else in our budget to pay for it. That means, that I need to find a way to better manage my household in order to maintain some standard of cleanliness that we can find livable.

One book that has really helped me to get a handle on my housekeeping has been Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley. She takes this monumental tasks of keeping a clean home and breaks it down into pieces (called Baby Steps). She helps you build one habit at a time until the jobs that are required become natural.

The title "Sink Reflections" comes from Baby Step #1- Shine Your Sink. When my sink is all shiny and clean, my morning starts out so much better. It's like a big smiley face is waiting for me in my kitchen. It drives me to make the rest of the kitchen as clean and sparkly.

Each and every chapter covers another step in helping you get a handle on home maintenance. Everything from that kitchen sink all the way to laundry and paperwork are covered. her principles are the driving force behind my cleaning schedule and goals. I'm sure there's something in here for you to draw from, as well.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

This morning I started at my March calendar. The meals are all blank. I didn't feel like planning a menu. I have a freezer full of meat and vegetables, a pantry stocked with rice and potatoes. Surely just having the food in my house would be good enough, right? Thankfully, I came to my senses. I remembered why I plan my menus. Sure, I can coordinate menus and shopping lists and make avoid last minute trips to the store. But I'm also eliminating that 4:00, "it's time to think about dinner and I didn't defrost anything" rut. I started slapping some meals on the calendar, and actually ended up filling in most of the month! It only took three minutes and I will avoid all sorts of headaches later. Without further ado, here's my menu for the week.

Monday- Leftovers
Tuesday- Roast with potatoes and veggies
Wednesday- Pasta and bread
Thursday- Fried rice
Friday- Pizza night
Saturday- Grilled Chicken, 
Sunday- eat what you want night.

Check out more menus and planning ideas over at orgjunkie.com