Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fall On My Face Homeschooling

I had a conversation today with some college friends, the Demmes, from . Since having children and falling wholly off the blogging bandwagon, I somewhat reticently mentioned that I was thinking about blogging our very soon upcoming homeschooling adventures, but was afraid of falling flat on my face for all the world to see.

Cassie-Marie replied "maybe that's what someone needs to read."

She was so right.

I know my limitations too well as a parent, and I know that teaching my children will require skills, talents, and virtues that I do not currently possess. I'm not incredibly patient. I yell sometimes. I'm selfish sometimes. I'm not as disciplined as I'd like to be, nor up-to-date on curriculum design nor learning philosophies. I'm not flowing with cash to pay for really nice textbooks or online courses.

But I do love learning. I love sharing the things I'm learning with those around me. I love creating fun and stimulating environments. I also have the benefit of being thrown flat on my face in front of the world, where I have to receive with humility from God those things I lack.

So I'm dusting off the old MMDA and sharing with my readers. Watch me fall on my face now, before I even get started.

And, with any luck, I'll stay here.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Busting the Productivity Busters!

What holds you back from accomplishing your household tasks? As I was working today to catch up on some much-overdo tidying, I tried to notice the things that threatened my productivity:

That overwhelmed feeling. You know the one. 
I looked up from the bed, where my cooing little baby was happily playing next to me, and thought "the time is where on earth do I begin?" Everything was in disorder, and the further I looked around the house, the more disorder I found. A week of contracting had meant a week of no cleaning, and all was chaos. So, I decided to do the Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball method...and pay off my loans...I mean, pay off my house. Hey, it got me debt free, so I suppose it could get my house clean, too. The idea is that you start with your smallest debt/room, and add momentum as you move to bigger jobs. So, I tackled the bathroom. If the mess gets overwhelming, I'll just go stand in the bathroom and breathe for a minute. This room is done. I can keep this up.

As soon as I got some momentum going, I felt like I was going to die if I didn't eat something. The fact that my toddler was happily munching away on a delicious looking and smelling banana didn't help. So, I worked on...with a peanut butter-coated apple wedge in the other hand. Crisis averted.

Photo Credit:

Now I'm on to my bedroom, and it's mostly clothes. We don't do much in the bedroom and the kids don't play in there much, so it's mostly used for dressing and sleeping. After the bed was made, the clothes were really about 95% of the mess. Then it hit me:

The urge to start a major reorganization project
My closet is great. It holds our clothes and junk well. The only problem with closets is that we only have about 12 feet of closet space in our whole house, lengthwise, anyway. So, I'm never satisfied with how they look. I'm dying to revamp our closet space and get rid of about 50 things that live there, but I have to channel my inner Aragorn and say to the closet, "There will come a day when the strength of man prevails. But it is not this day. This day, we tidy!" So, I stayed on task, until...

The baby 

This little guy is incredible. He crawls, he leaves a hurricane in his wake, and he yells at me when he feels ignored in favor of a pile of laundry. And he was tired, so he began the call. I heeded the call with attention and a moment of play, then went back to my task. The call resumed. Finally, I decided to set him a few feet from me on the floor with a blanket and a toy while I spent 3 minutes hanging up the last of my clothes. He yelled at me the whole time, but did not die. After 3 minutes, I picked him up and rocked him to sleep. Mission accomplished.

I don't have a cell phone because we live in a place where there is spotty service at best. We used our phone so rarely that even having it seemed ludicrous, but I know that most people are on their phone screens a lot. My screen weakness is my desktop, but thankfully the toddler was watching 45 minutes of animated vehicles being washed in a car wash. Zzzzzzz. Most days that I am doing housework, I may put on some quiet music, but otherwise, the monitor and the TV must be OFF. Otherwise, I'll get sucked in.

The Phone
I am an introvert. I don't call people, unless there's something I need to communicate or organize and it cannot wait any longer. I may make 1 phone call a day. I may still manage to spend 1-3 hours a day on the phone because of other people calling me (between work and family). That, surprisingly, wasn't an issue this morning, and I went nearly 4 hours without anyone calling in. It was a beautiful thing.

Once you identify the barriers to success, it's a lot easier to keep up that momentum and get to the place you need to be. What are you trying to accomplish? Figure out those barriers and get to overcoming them! 

Friday, February 6, 2015

What is Your Simplify Habit?

If you do a basic search on the word "declutter," you will find thousands of incredible ways to simplify your home, life, and mind. There are articles that have simple beginner steps, lifestyle changes, and boot camps to get all the accumulated junk under control. 

When I first discovered decluttering, it was like the heavens had opened and given me an excuse to finally release all the things I was holding onto and displaying simply because Great Aunt Thelma gave me that when I was 5. I remember Great Aunt Thelma fondly and am so glad that she was part of my childhood, but that doesn't hold any real value to me. It can bless another life and find love in another home. And all the books I saved from college...they won't be read in the next 20 years. They don't need to stay. 

I found that the more I released, the more I discovered that I had. I couldn't throw away, give away, put away fast enough to keep ahead of having two small boys and a treasure trove of hobbies. And heaven help if I tried to get rid of anything of my husband's. I made the mistake of listing his old ninja turtle stocking (after all, the man is 30) on a Facebook sell group for $3. Thank goodness no one bought it, because he was devastated and I later saw on Ebay the same item listed for $45. With shame, I tucked my head down and put the stocking back in the container labeled "David's Childhood" and learned a valuable lesson from the look in his eyes: be sure your decluttering mission doesn't infringe on someone else's heart. I had deemed something precious to him as worthless, then discovered it had value not just to him, but to others as well. 

In this journey to have less stuff, my motto has been, simply: decimate. The idea of giving a tenth is pretty biblical, but this is a bit more Roman in origin. When an army was conquered, occasionally a nice leader would line up this poor, beaten army and count off and kill every tenth man. It taught the army who was boss, in a way none of those poor surviving soldiers would ever forget. It's a bit brutal, but its impact is real. See, simply having less stuff doesn't really mean anything, just as having more stuff doesn't mean anything. It's that pull that stuff has on your soul. It's the energy you spend caring for, dusting, moving, organizing all that stuff, when it could just as well leave and make space for what informs your existence. So I decimate. When looking at ten things, which one goes? If I have 100 things to clean up, suddenly only being responsible for 90 is an improvement already. But to decimate means more than free space. It's a statement of who is in charge here, the stuff or the person. Taking control of all this junk is a mental thing, not just a physical one. 

But if you're not into slaying rampages (and I don't suppose I would blame you for that), there are a wealth of other great ways to get in a decluttering mindset. Here are a few that have been beneficial to me:

Flylady--Back when I had no kids and marginal self-control, her baby steps gave routines that would help me conquer the task of daily home maintenance. I don't agree philosophically with some of where this goes (FLY=fully loving yourself, the idea that you have to perform to value yourself is a bit off-putting to me, though I hope she means that you will love the you that is more disciplined)

31 Days to Living Intentionally Simple--My friend Rachel is a pro at systematically decluttering and gave me some great tips as well as taking a month every year to drastically reduce clutter.

One In, One Out--This principle is simple and life-long. If you bring a new thing in, let an old thing go out. This keeps stuff on rotation and keeps it moving through your life.

-365 in 365--For one year, get rid of one thing per day. That's over 300 things GONE with only one thing per day leaving! This might be a great starting point for those who need big change but have no time to make big changes, or simply have a hard time parting with things.

Three Boxes--the 3-box system is great for on-the-go types. Label the boxes "Trash," "Donate," and "Relocate." Find a new place to put your relocate stuff, junk or give away the stuff in the other boxes. You can go section-by-section in your house, and this tool helps you to decide where all the stuff goes. Right now, I have a section of my bedroom and back porch dedicated to "Yard Sale" and I'm merrily piling those areas high with stuff to send to a yard sale. 

Systematic--Pick up your calendar and think of all the spaces you'd love to go through, organize, and declutter. You can go as big or little as you like. One day could be "Utility drawer" and another "Bedroom closet" or even "sock drawer." You could work for a week, or on days you have off, just be sure to systematically go through each space and claim it as your own. 

SO...what's the declutter habit that fits you? Which ones have I missed? Comment away!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pro Tips!

Holidays can be a real pain for budgets. Those who budget but don't have an awful lot extra to spend on get-togethers and celebrations can also feel the pain that comes when everyone else is spending and it looks like they're having the good times. It's hard in that moment to feel ahead to mid-January when you won't have a credit card bill to stare in shock at. 

But here we are. It's January and time to look forward to tax season and the two next holidays are Valentine's and St. Patrick's Days. And I stumbled upon a moment of genius at the grocery store this month to get me through two more holidays of celebrating on da cheap. (photo from a google search)

Tis the season for the grocery store to get rid of their Christmas inventory, and this festive little critter was on sale at our Kroger for SEVENTY-FIVE CENTS A BOX. So, I bought two. The red half is in the oven to make a romantic red velvet cake, and the other half is staying in the box until March, for St. Patrick's Day cupcakes.

I scored a few other baking things as well. Cinnamon, chocolate chips, pumpkin spice stuff, all of it leaves the shelves as soon as its holiday is over. I paid half price for most of it. Keep an eye out a week or two after the holidays and stock up on baking goods then. It's also a great time to get inexpensive decor to put up for next year, if you have margin in your budget for that.

Commenters: What baking scores have you made in your after-holiday shopping? 

Friday, January 16, 2015

An Experi-Mint! Oh, dear, that horrible pun

I love mint. As a child, my grandmother would pick from the mint that grew like a weed in her front yard and would boil, sweeten, and ice it to make fresh, green mint tea in the summer. I now use it dried in my echinacea, mint, and lemon balm tea for when we have colds or sore throats.

Most people will tell you that it is super easy to grow, and tends to take over like a weed. I'd have no idea about that because I can't keep it alive. I have killed every single mint plant that has come into my possession. So, as a last-ditch effort, I'm going to try to root some from the cuttings you can buy at your local grocery store. I put a little rooting hormone in the glass with water, and have it sitting in a brightly-lit window. I put six more mature sprigs in the red pot with rooting hormone at the base of the stem, and fresh potting soil on it. That one will sit on top of the computer where it will be away from small child interest. I want to know if either method will work better, if any works at all. If neither, my local Lowe's is getting some business from me buying another set of plants, to see if I can keep them alive.

Comment with links to good mint-growing, mint-starting, and mint recipe websites. :) Good luck, and I'll probably edit this post with an update when I get some results.

The mint in the pot died, but the mint in the water grew beautiful roots within 2 weeks and transitioned nicely into the pot. It is sitting in the bright windowsill enjoying the sunshine with its new herb buddies: sage, thyme, and rosemary, all from a $0.99 "poultry herb blend" similar to the mint stash. I bought some more mint, but that had all been chopped into tiny pieces, so I'll just use it for cooking. I'll update again with those herbs' results. :)

When the gardening bug strikes early

I have a serious illness. I don't know the name of it, but it causes me to get the itch to garden every time the weather warms past 50 F. Since I live in Zone 7, that means mid-January. Mid-January is no time to be gardening. In fact, it is a better time to be doing things like drinking hot cocoa and preparing for our snowy season, which tends to start in February.

But we crazy gardening types have a recourse. You don't have to have a cozy day to start gardening planning and preparation. Pictured above is my garden prep so far, besides putting in my overwinter plants (onions and garlic and my echinacea seeds that I harvested last year).

I have a rough sketch of my space (Top Right) with all the plants in their spots. If you make a garden design plan, be sure to keep a copy for next year so you can rotate your crops, especially those nutrient-hungry legumes and potatoes.

I have my clothespins (Right Center), which will be snapped to wooden skewers and used as plant markers. In the big picture, you can see one of last year's survivors that I'm reusing. Because it is a pain to dig through a bag of those things while you're planting, I have snapped one to the seed packet that is relevant to it, and that should help me to keep up with them. The fading happens pretty quickly, but by the time the information has all washed off of the skewers, the plants should be recognizable.

All of this is coordinated through the planting guide (Bottom Right) that lists the types of plants, any companions they should have, and when to plant them. I highlighted early and late planters. I was so stoked that peas apparently are cool with being planted as early as February, which will give me something to do the next time the bug strikes. I will move the start indoors babies to the big garden after the soil gets tilled sometime in mid-to-late April. I share a garden plot with two other families, and I can't wait to fill the beautiful space with flowers, herbs, and veggies to cook, eat, can, freeze, and share!

Monday, January 5, 2015

This is what happens...

...when there is so much amazing that it encroaches on my sharing ability.

Our little home has been pretty busy lately, but I've felt that niggling feeling in my fingertips that I need to keep writing, if not to help me remember it all, then to simply give these thoughts expression. And the only way to make it happen is to simply write, if only for a few minutes while your sunny side egg and rice cools off. This is how the magic happens: on a new gaming keyboard with 6-key rollover and a cool little green light on the front. The clicky sounds are soothing and inspiring.

SO, today's gift to the world:

My mother-in-law introduced me to sunny side egg and rice when I was pregnant with Raiden. It sounded horrible, but tasted wonderful. For the pregnant/nursing mom, getting all the nutrition from the brown rice and the (preferably local, pastured) delicious eggs and dash of cheese was essential. All this not to mention how quick it was to make.

The key is to keep your rice on hand. Brown rice takes a long time to cook, so you want to make a big pot and keep the leftovers in the fridge. Then, all you have to do is fry an egg or two until the yoke is almost set, add a little cheese or beans for flavor, and you have a lot of protein very quickly. When I was pregnant with Raiden, I had this breakfast down to 2.5 minutes start-to-finish to make. I'd put the egg on first, then scoop about 1/2 cup of rice to heat in the microwave, flip the egg, add the cheese, get the rice, remove the egg, and be done. The protein curbed the nausea and the complex carbs kept me full longer.

*Note: if you're pregnant, make sure your egg is hot enough to kill any listeriosis critters that might be lurking about. Only about one in 6 million eggs are contaminated (if memory serves), but it's worth noting nonetheless. My OB told me to make sure the food was steaming hot.