Sunday, February 7, 2016

Christmas 2015

Yes, I realize I'm just now getting around to posting pictures from Christmas on this here neglected blog of mine.

What can I say? Christmas came and went(well, "came and went" is a bit relative, as we had at least five different Christmas celebrations this year.)

Then January was full of trying to get back into the swing of things and trying to keep my New Years resolutions of being more organized/getting up earlier/ being a better wife/mother/ and homeschooler.

And now here we are. Tomorrow Lily will be turning six (sob!) And in a week it'll be Valentines Day.

But since this blog is more a place for me to document our families memories and stories than anything else, I figure posting about Christmas almost two months later is still better than not posting about it at all.

So, here we go.

Christmas Eve of 2015, will forever be locked in my memory as one of the most special and sweetest days with my kids.

This year we did "Secret Santa" with the kids. We had never done anything like this before, and weren't sure if the kids would be able to keep who they were buying for a secret, but as far as *I know* they did.

After we got home from church, we told the kids they could open their gift and find out which brother/sister had bought for them. I don't know why, perhaps it was because I was so excited for them to open their bigger gifts on Christmas morning, but I was so surprised by how genuinely excited everyone was to open their gifts from each other.

There was so much excitement, and shouts for joy over opening the five dollar gifts they had picked out for each other, that I can say with absolute certainty that this will be something we will do for many more years to come.

And as if that wasn't enough to make my heart want to burst with joy, after everyone had opened their gifts from each other, Lily announced that she had a surprise for everyone.

She walked back to her room, and a few minutes later she came out carrying a big box full of presents only a five year old girl could have wrapped. Then she handed everyone, including Erik and I, a present that she had made each of us. She told me later that she had been working on these presents since the Monday after Thanksgiving and had been trying to think of things everyone would like that she'd be able to make.

She made me a pair of earrings out of construction paper, scotch tape, and Frozen stickers.

But, the best gift that she gave of all though was the one she gave Erik. The last time we had visited my mom and dad, she had insisted on bringing home a trophy leftover from my gymnastics days. I had honestly forgot all about it until she pulled out a heavy bag and handed it to Erik.

Sure enough, she had given him the trophy, along with the explanation that,"Daddy is the best daddy ever...and it's hard to think of anything to make for grown men!"

After that, we read the Christmas Story from Luke 2, put the kids to bed, and then got to work setting up all the presents so that they'd be ready for the next morning.

Being Santa is exhausting, I tell you.

But it is oh so worth it.

Christmas morning, after the gifts were opened, and the french toast casserole was ate, we spent the rest of the day just hanging out in our pajamas and playing together. I'm not always very good about sitting down and just being with my kids, so it was nice to just relax and watch them enjoy their gifts.

I hope the rest of you had great Christmas too!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

That time the Squirrel Dropped Dead

One Saturday morning, a month or two ago, while I was putting away laundry and the kids were playing outside, an ecstatic Anna came rushing into the house.

"Mommy! Mommy! You have to come see! It's so amazing! The squirrel that I was talking to up in our tree, fell down, and now she's laying next to me and playing with me!"

(Before I go further into this story, let me just briefly explain that Anna is our one true animal lover in this house. Every spring when the birds, rabbits, and squirrels start appearing in our yard, she sits under our tree in the back yard and talks to them and even names some of them. Her favorite this past summer was a barn swallow that sat in our tree chirping that she named Mrs. Cheep.)

Anyways, with that in mind, I'll admit that my kids come inside excited to show me anything remotely different that they've found in the backyard, and there are times when some could consider my enthusiasm and interest somewhat....lacking. 

This time though, I suppose, there was something about Anna's excitement-not to mention the fact that she was insisting that a squirrel of all things was laying next to her- that I stopped what I was doing immediately and followed Anna outside.

And wouldn't you know, there most certainly was a squirrel laying conked out in the grass right where Anna had been playing.

Immediately the urge to yell "Squirrel!!" at the top of my lungs and rush everyone inside came upon me. That and the overwhelming desire to not let anyone outside until Erik came home from work and let him "take care" of what appeared to be a dead squirrel laying in the middle of our yard.

But my kids had completely different reactions.

"Oh, mama, can we keep him?!"

"Mama, I think he's sick can you go get him some medicine?"

"Mama....did he die? Is he going to be all right?" asked Anna.

"Oh, I think he'll be all right,"declared Lily,"we just need to give him food and water!"

All the while I'm thinking, "You guys. Seriously. This is a dead animal. And it almost fell on your sister's head. This is disgusting, let's get in the house, and wait for daddy to get home."(Insert clenched teeth.)

But, I'll admit that seeing them get so concerned about something was pretty sweet, so after I told them not to get too close to the squirrel, I begrudgingly let Anna, Lily, and Jack fix him a plate of food and a cup of water.

Then they prayed for him, and Anna sang him a song.

And then, finally we went inside, washed our hands, and waited for Erik to come home from work.

The only problem was that Erik wound up having to work longer than expected, and ended up having to spend the night where he was working. But since it was a beautiful day outside it didn't feel right to make the kids stay inside all day.

So, finally, I went out to the back yard mentally preparing myself to have to pick up a dead animal out of our yard. But to my delight, the squirrel was gone!

Did a bird pick him up? Did he just simply take a hard fall out of a tree and get knocked out for awhile? I have no idea.

All I know is that my kids were overjoyed that the squirrel was probably all right, and that they(at least in their minds) had helped him recover.

And, really...that's all I need to know.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

How our Family of Seven Saves Money(but still has fun!)

My husband and I often laugh about how our kids are going to give us such a hard time when they grow up and they realize all the things we did to save money on things.

I mean, seriously though, when it easily costs 30 dollars to go to a fast food restaurant, you learn to get creative.

We do Bookit! and Read to Succeed in order to get free six flags tickets every summer.

We love our local library.

We belong to a homeschool co-op that allows us to get discounted tickets to events and cheaper classes at the Y.

I make a lot of food from scratch, and we buy most of our groceries at Aldi.

We've dressed our kids(and ourselves) up as cows for free food at chik-fil-a.

We've taken advantage of happy hour at Sonic many times, and when they run their special for 59 cent corn dogs, we are. so. there.

But, really, that's just the tip of the iceberg of the things we'll do to save some money but still have fun together.

One of the funniest things we did was this past summer. Some friends of ours had invited us to a local water park that their parents' church had rented out. At the last minute, however, our friends weren't able to make it. But did that stop us from going to a free night at the water park? Even though we weren't going to know anyone else there?

Not even a little bit. ;)

Honestly though, some of our favorite things to do as a family is to pack a picnic and head to a local park or go on some local bike trails. 

On the rare occasions that we all do go out to eat, our kids know that they are usually going to have to get water, and that happy meals are reserved for special occasions(grandparents in town, birthday, etc.)

But even though going out as a family can be a lot of fun, there's also plenty of fun things you can do together at home. 

With the cooler weather coming on, we love to pop some popcorn, drink hot chocolate or cider and have movie nights as a family(we just put a sheet down so we don't make a huge mess everywhere.) Since some of my kids are so young, we don't play board games too much yet, but I definitely foresee our family having many game nights in the years to come.

Sunday nights are a favorite among our kids because we usually eat a big batch of pancakes for dinner. And then, because pancakes are clearly not a special enough treat(ahem), my husband instituted the idea of having a special desert on Sunday nights. We try not to give the kids a ton of sweets throughout the week, but I'm pretty sure we make up for that on Sundays.:)

Then after we've had desert(and gotten the kids hyped up on sugar...) we go into the living room and the kids have a dance competition. Sunday nights used to be the only time we'd let the kids play video games, so we used to have the kids have a dance off, and whoever won(which a lot of times we'd just say everyone wins) would get to take an extra turn playing the game. Sadly our xbox broke last month, so we haven't been able to continue this tradition, but hopefully we'll replace it one day.

There are so many ways go out and give your kids fun memories without having to break the bank to do it.

What are some of your favorite ways to have fun on a budget?

This post was inspired by the people of personal capital. They offer some great, free wealth management tools if you're looking to track your finances.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Homemaker's Friend Planner Giveaway!!

Planning ahead has never been my strong point.

Oh sure, I like daydreaming about the days, weeks, and years to come, but when the time comes to actually sit down and plan for them, my brain just kind of shuts down from all the details.

Besides, I tend to like to be flexible. I kind of like not always knowing what or where we're going each day.

However, this year I have started to realize I can't just "fly by the seat of my pants" and expect our home school days to run smoothly. Especially not when I'm trying to homeschool three different kids, keep up with two preschoolers, and manage a home.

Thankfully the kind people at Homemaker's Depot graciously sent me one of their homemaking planners to review. They are also generously offering to give away a 2015 and 2016 planner to one of my readers here.

The Homemaker's Friend planner is divided into seven different sections(year, month, pages to plan each week, a place to plan specific projects, a section for personal contact info, and shopping lists to take with you.) Each day also has a place where you can write down your menu plan.

If you'd like to win this beautiful, easy to use planner, enter below! You can also follow Homemaker's Depot on Pinterest here, or subscribe to their newsletter here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

5 Ways I Plan to Enjoy the Homeschool Year

This coming school year, I will have three kids in my official homeschool. All of them will need my help and undivided attention in just about every subject.

Factor that in with the fact that I have a four year old little boy who is obsessed with all things loud, and a two year old who sees it as his main mission in life to destroy everything in sight.

And of course, I still have a house to keep semi clean, laundry to do, and meals to make.

Oh, and still be a loving wife and mama.

Somebody hold me.

Now, to be fair, I realize that I am being a tad over dramatic(just a tad!)

But I will still admit that the thought of homeschooling this year has been seriously intimidating me. 

Because, these last few years I have come to realize something very profound. hard!

That's not to say I regret our decision to homeschool, or that I'm doubting where God has led our family in this area. Just because something is hard, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, right?

Coming to the realization that this is going to require a lot of hard work on my part, is actually a good thing. And it's caused me to evaluate some ways that I can try to enjoy this coming school year.

1. As much as I can, I will pick a curriculum that excites me. Last year I made the mistake of ordering school books based more on other people's recommendation than on my own teaching style. I'm not a super organized person, so any curriculum that has a bunch of tiny pieces that goes along with it is not going to work very well for our family. I am also not a very crafty mama, so buying books with a heavy emphasis on crafts isn't going to work well for me either.

I decided to evaluate what I actually enjoy doing with my kids and ordered curriculum based on those preferences.

2. I will stick with the curriculum. Confession time: I am a curriculum junkie. I'm constantly second guessing my decisions, and comparing what I'm doing with what my friends/mentors/strangers on the internet are doing with their kids.

Last year we did a program called classical conversations(I also tutored for it.) I also found an older edition of Adventures in My Father's World for a really low price so I bought that to go along with our CC. The problem with doing that(for me at least) was that I was constantly stressing myself out trying to keep up with both schedules. This year I'm going to try and keep things as simple as I can. This year, unless one of my children is really struggling and legitimately needs me to try something different, I'm vowing to stick with what I decided on at the beginning of the year.

3. I will continue to institute daily quiet times. My kids have had to take naps(or rest times when they grew out of naps) their entire lives, and it has been an awesome blessing for all of us. Sometimes I feel guilty that we do this, but honestly, we all benefit from a little alone time each day.

4. I will remember that this is a privilege.  A few years ago, I had a conversation with another homeschool mom that has always stuck with me. We were discussing all the issues that go along with homeschooling when she said,"Really, I think I need to just put a suitcase by the front door to remind myself that one day my kids will grow up and won't live here with me forever. Ten years from now, it's not going to matter if they learned a certain math concept in a day or if it took them an entire year. The thing that matters most is their heart, and letting them see that you're always going to be there for them.

Spending all day with my kids and being able to give them a Christian education is a blessing. This season of life isn't going to last forever, but I will always have a relationship with my kids. I want to remember to embrace this time in my life.

Not only that, but I have a supportive husband who helps with school when he can, and takes the kids frequently so I can plan(or just so I can have some alone time.)

5. I will make time to refresh my soul. Some days my kids wake up before my alarm and by the time nap time arrives I hardly have any space in my brain to study scripture. Sometimes I let these facts of life excuse me from spending time in the Word. Truthfully, on those days, I might not be able to spend as much time as I'd like reading and praying, but I can certainly get creative in making it work. My kids can be taught to have their own quiet times while I have mine.

And on those days when I really need to dig a little deeper into something(and drink my coffee in peace) I can give myself grace to turn on Netflix for a few minutes while I retreat back to my room(the kids will survive!)

Ultimately though, I can't do any of this without remembering to rely on the Lord's strength. As I have prayed and thought about this coming school year, this verse keeps coming to mind:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

That's my plan for trying to enjoy the upcoming school year. I'll let you know in a few months how it's working out. :)

What are some ways that help you enjoy homeschooling?

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Monday, August 3, 2015

14 days of Dinner Inspiration

Does anyone else ever feel like dinner time sneaks up on you? Or as if you’re just making the same things over and over again?
Recently, I’ve been feeling as though I’m in a cooking rut, so to speak. And while I have a pinterest board full of recipe ideas, most of them, when I start to really look at the recipes, sound a little too time intensive for my season of life.
With school getting ready to start, I’ve found that it’s extremely helpful to have a simple menu plan that can last me for two weeks...
Read the rest over at Raising Homemakers!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Surviving a 12 hour road trip(with no DVDS)

Last fall, when Erik and I started telling people we were taking the kids down to Florida, we were met with a variety of reactions.

We were told everything from,"That's so awesome! You guys will have such a great time!" to the surprised, slightly bewildered questions of,"You're going to take five kids to Florida? Like...alone, and stuff?"

But, probably, the most common question we were asked was if we were going to take our van on a 12 hour road trip. Seeing as how it's a twelve year old van, this was a perfectly legitimate concern, er, question.

When we first started planning our trip, we actually were planning on taking our trusty old Odyssey down to Florida. Erik's plan was to do a bunch of work and updates on it before we left, and my plan was to pray it all the way there and back. ;) But, as luck would have it, my mom and dad decided to buy an almost brand new van this past year, and graciously insisted that we borrow it for our vacation.

Their van was perfect for our trip, not only is it a bigger van(that actually seats 8 people, instead of 7 like ours) it was also very dependable and got great gas mileage. So when people heard we were taking my parents van instead of ours they would say,"Oh well, that's great! Is there a DVD player in it?"

But when I would say that,"No, there isn't a DVD player in our van or their van," I'd be met with more blanks stares and questions of how we were planning on doing such a long trip.

Now, let me be honest, and say that I was nervous about how this trip was going to go too. I'm not anti television, by any means, and my kids definitely enjoy watching their shows. I will also admit that the trip, particularly the last two hours on our way down to Florida, was a little rough with children-and parents- just wanting to.get.there.already.

But, thankfully, we were able to come up with a plan, that made taking a 12 hour road trip with five kids under the age of seven go fairly smoothly.

1. Buy some new coloring books/sticker books, and hand them out over the course of the trip. The Friday before we left, I made a dollar store run, where I stocked up on several activity books for the kids. I also splurged a little and bought Jack, Anna, and Lily an Usborne sticker book.

2. Pack special snacks and pass them out throughout the trip. For us that meant that fruit snacks, goldfish crackers, and teddy grahams were being passed out frequently. :)

3. Make your car as comfortable as possible. Our van was pretty much packed to the brim, but we gave each kid their blanket and their favorite stuffed animals to try and keep them as comfortable as we could.

4.Audio Books! We love audio books around here, and we are blessed to have a library that carries a great selection. Some of our favorites have been, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Sign of the Beaver, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

5. Tell stories to them about when they were babies, about when you were little, and make up some silly stories with them being the main character. This was something that just randomly happened on our drive, we started telling one of them a story about when they were babies and it quickly turned into more stories about when each of them were babies. My kids especially love it when we make up stories about them(i.e. Once upon a time there was a dinosaur named Maxosaurus and he loved to give Princess Lily rides to South Dakota. My kids really like South Dakota for some reason. Also, as you can see from the above story, I may lack a little bit of creativity when telling my stories.)

All in all our trip to Florida went really well, and now that we are home I can admit how surprised I am that it went as smooth as it did. ;)

What else would you add to this list?

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