Summer Rhythms! (Free Summer checklist download!)

Hello there, friends!

I had a tab working on these already when a friend posted about how her summer checklist with her kiddos is working wonders for their rhythm… and I was like, “I need to hurry and finish these so we can get the benefits, too. Ha!

I’ll be honest; I’m not going to “stress” over whether or not this get fills out completely each day. That’s the great thing about charts and lists and things like this: they are meant to serve you, NOT you serve them.

Can we say that a little louder for those in the back?!

Lists are made to serve you, not you serve them! ๐Ÿ˜€

Anyhoo, I hope you enjoy these freebies. I’ve made 2 versions: the list we will use over here with what we are planning on doing, and then a blank list for you to customize what you need with what’s essential at your house. Print out as many as you need; laminate them; do whatever you like. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m probably the only homeschool mom on the planet that doesn’t have a laminating machine. I stick my lists in plastic sleeves and use wet erase markers (which I totally prefer over dry erase, so my kids don’t wipe it off by accident with an elbow).

Download, save and enjoy! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Prefer pdfs over images? Here you go!

Start your summer with Mermaids and fun!

Does your kiddo love a good under-the-sea story? With the summer NOW HERE (HOW did that happen?!), I thought it would be fun to make a little list of fun mermaid-themed things to do.

Let’s not call it a “lesson plan,” because that might sound too much like school, okay. ๐Ÿ˜‰ For the sake of the post, we’ll name it Mermaid Day. (Sidenote: did you know that there is actually an International Mermaid Day? Oddly, it is March 29. Seems like that could have been a little better thought out and have a summer date, no? Anyhoo.)

I like to keep things organized a bit, so let me follow the structure I have used for my other themed days (like Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day).

language arts

There are so many stories you can enjoy on Mermaid Day. Of course, you could go the classical “Little Mermaid” route, a la Hans Christian Anderson. (I adore the illustrations in this book of Anderson’s works…) But there are other books that would be fun to read and listen to as well. I’ll link a couple below!

Mermaid School
How to Catch a Mermaid

The fun things about these read-alouds is that you can use them to spring board some fun activities. With Mermaid School, you could encourage your children to create their own kind of Mermaid (or anything!) school and go! And of course, with How to Catch a Mermaid, you can give the kids an array of supplies to design their own mermaid trap!

(If you’d rather have copies of the books instead of youtubing it, try your local library or click to order your own: Mermaid School. How to Catch a Mermaid.)

cooking/snacks

Just this morning, my 2 year old wanted me to fix her lunch. At 9:13 am.

Surely, I’m not alone in this, right?

Anyway, we know that snacks and summer go hand and hand, so why not have fun and make them Mermaid themed?

Here is a fun idea!

Although this video is focused more about making this for a party, there’s no reason why it can’t be used for Mermaid Day, right?

ARTs & Crafts

Take some time to learn how to color or draw a mermaid or two! Here are three options that can work well for Mermaid Day, depending on how old your artist(s) are and what they feel like doing. ๐Ÿ™‚

Want a plethora of mermaids to color? Check out my Mermaid Coloring Book on Etsy. ๐Ÿ™‚ You can print out a book for each kiddo, or just print a variety of sheets to color on throughout the day or summer! Click on the image below (or click here) and it will take you straight to it… with an additional 25% off. Because Mermaid Day. ๐Ÿ˜‰

If your younger kiddos want to take a step further and learn to draw a mermaid themselves, this is a fun step-by-step video that will let them do just that.

Buuuut… let’s say you have some older kids and the other two options aren’t their thing. This video offers more advanced drawing instruction and creates a much more “realistic” option. Just note: her final sketch has a mermaid whose arm placement is strategically around the chest area… but you still see some skin. If your family is not comfortable with that or drawing your own modifications to your own drawing, then just skip this next video. Or at least preview. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now, if you want to go ALL in for Mermaid Day in the craft department, you can make your own mermaid tale. A post from IKATBAG has a great step-by-step article on how to make a mermaid tale that can be walked in. Definitely check her out if that’s something that you think is something you’d love. Click on the image below to be escorted to her post. ๐Ÿ™‚

closing thoughts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Of course, the list here is NOT exhaustive. For PE, you could always go to the pool and do mermaid relay races. And there’s always movie night, pulling out your Mermaid Popcorn, and watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid and using a fork to make a fun hair-do.

Regardless of what activities you choose, I hope that Mermaid Day might prove to be so fun that you make is a tradition every single summer. โค

Homesteading school

The end of the school year is fast approaching– if you don’t school year round, that is.

We actually do over here, in a very modified way. We finish up our main yearly curriculum and then jump into a theme that helps unify our summer learning a bit. No structure at all doesn’t work well for us right now… and that’s okay.

(A little caveat: We actually just got back from a “end-of-year” celebration trip to the “Historic Triangle” in Virginia– Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. It was so great to wrap up Cycle One of our Gentle Feast learning this year. In history, we studied the discoveries of the Americas, indigenous peoples, and the first settlements/colonies. With Jamestown being less than 8 hours away, it seemed like a great way to see history, and not just read about it. I was amazed at how much my 2nd grader retained from our readings! Williamsburg and Yorktown were a little out of her knowledge-base at the moment, but both places definitely set the stage for this coming year of Colonies through Revolutionary War through George Washington. More on all of this later!)

Back to summer learning.

Last summer, we did Gather Round’s Oceans unit as our main summer “spine.” It was fun and we liked it… and I seriously considered doing GR’s Human body unit this summer for a while.

Instead, I’ve landed on to doing my own kind of thing: Homesteading school.

We are going to take the summer to learn about life skills, survival skills, safety skills, and how people used to live back before we had a lot of modern conveniences. I think these skills aren’t something that should just stay in the past– for a lot of reasons.

(That’s another blog post sometime, I think.)

So, to go along with these skills, I wanted to find some living books to support and enrich us.

Enter Little House books.

We haven’t read them together as a family yet, and I think they will definitely fit the bill with what we are trying to accomplish together this summer.

Because we are all eclectic Charlotte Mason-y over here, and my daughter has asked to start learning how to write and practice cursive, I decided to go ahead and make us some copywork pages to go along with it.

And then I decided that I might as well have a print version of the copywork as well, since J occasionally likes to do letters as well (I don’t push it, since he’s not 6 yet… but if he wants to participate, I don’t discourage him).

Something my girlie likes from a handwriting books she did back in Kindergarten was when copywork was paired with a coloring or drawing/thinking prompt, so I included that in the sheets that I put together as well. Take a peek!

Click here to be taken to the FREE download!

I’ve decided to go ahead and make a page where I will put any samples, pages, etc. that I make as we learn and go along this summer. I’m even making resource of songs that are included in the books for my husband to make simple piano arrangements of! So excited about that. (#perksofacomposinghusband)

If you are interested in downloading Little House and Homesteading freebies, seeing where to get entire downloads and getting ideas to incorporate in your own family, feel free to check back on the Little House/Homesteading Resource page! It’s a work-in-progress right now, but I can’t wait to see what it grows into!

Also, if you have any cool resources, ideas, or have done something amazing with either Little House or Homesteading, I’d LOVE to learn from you! โค

making rotating curiosity work for YOU

I’ve always been a little jealous of people who have “a thing.”

You know, THEIR thing.

It’s the thing that they always do and are ohsogood at. It’s “the thing” that they do or create or whatever that’s just a part of them. A significant slice of their identity, if you will.

Me? I don’t really have a “thing.” I’ve always been more of a “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” type.

When I went off to college, I had the hardest time picking a major– not because I didn’t know what to do. No no. It’s because I wanted to DO IT ALL.

I was almost a humanities major, but I ended up not being because I heard that “no one gets a job with a humanities degree.” (I’m not sure if this is the case or not; all I know is I was kinda scared at the idea of not being able to get a job after college, so that statement was definitely a deterrent to my dabbling in all the things for four years and getting a degree in it. )

Anyhoo.

Last fall, while I was lesson planning for the speech club I coach for, I happened across the idea of rotating curiosity… and all of a sudden, my dilemma in college (and in my life, actually) started making a lot of sense.

Rotating curiosity is what happens when a brain– maybe your own– gets fascinated on an idea, project, etc. You dig in, researching all the things. Starting all the projects. Buying all goods. Painting all the paintings… whatever it is. Depending on how long your brain is fixated, you will pour time and attention into this new things for about four to six months… and then?

The curiosity starts to level out to a non-exciting plateau… that is, before another idea/project comes along and revs your brain back up.

Off to research, plan, and implement all over again!

Now, some people might rotate a bit faster than others; there’s not necessarily a “set time” to be curious on one set thing. But no matter how fast or how slow, it is there– an ebb and flow of new things to think about and (perhaps) actually do.

Once I realized that rotating curiosity is actually”a thing,” and not just some weird deficit in myself, something began to shift in me.

You see, I always felt badly that I couldn’t just “stick to one thing.” Or be an expert on a *certain* craft. Or really be proficient at a *certain* art or communication subset. I would tell myself that maybe if I would just not move on and be consistent for more than a few months, maybe I could actually become really, really good at something.

However, rotating curiosity itself seems to be a sign or symptom of a type of of people– people who love learning and who aren’t content to just pass by a hyperlink that says “for more information about <<such and such>>, click here.” One could be said that rotating curiosity makes me– and people like me– experts in the process of education: being exposed to an idea, researching it, analyzing it, applying it. Basically, we bloom taxonomy our whole lives, ad nauseam.

And yes, I just used “bloom taxonomy” as a verb. Sorry about that.

(By the way, if you just looked up or clicked on that taxonomy link… I want to say hello there, fellow rotating curiosity friend! Ha!)

I think the best thing about learning about rotating curiosity and its existence is how influential it has been in helping me accept a part of myself that I have struggled with for a long time.

So, instead of fighting it or feeling bad about it, I decided to take some time to analyze how I to use this cycle to my advantage.

Let me share some ways in the past few months I have embraced and worked with the advantages of rotating curiosity in my life… and maybe how you can use them in yours.

Allow whatever your current fixation is to anchor your day in enjoyment.

Let whatever it is that you are currently “in to” be this nice reward you give yourself throughout your day, especially if you are facing tasks you don’t like or are in the midst of a monotonous season. For instance, around Thanksgiving this past year, I started painting peg dolls. (If you don’t know what they are, feel free to go down that really cute, free-play rabbit hole.) I painted Native American and Pilgrim playsets, and then used my momentum to jump into Christmas season and paint Nativity sets. I filled my Instagram feed with peg doll accounts and loved the inspiration of seeing cute wood toys and getting ideas from different faces and animals… until I didn’t. So, I unfollowed the accounts once I got tired of pegs and put my supplies away. Right now, I’ve rotated onto crochet, and 4 baby blankets later… can feel the passion waning again. Once I’m done with my current project, I’ll put it away and move on to something else. And that’s okay. Because I’ll know I’ll be back.

That leads me to my second tip in using rotating curiosity in your favor.

Use your current fixation to go deeper into the topic and add to your skill set.

I find that I tend to rotate through creative cycles. I crochet, and then I get tired of it. I paint, and then I get tired of it. I handletter, and then I get tired of it. I embroider and felt… and then I get tired of it. You get the picture. Here’s the thing though– I always come back. It rotates back around, and when it does, I take it one step further. I learn a new painting technique. I try a new crochet pattern. I learned a new way to shape or space my letters. Take advantage of your curiosity cycle to become a little bit more knowledgable about what you are interested in each time. That way, eventually, you will become a “jack of all trades, a master in SOME.”

Third…

Find out what type of fixation is good for you to use as an anchor.

For instance, I love writing and reading– but don’t use those as an anchor of enjoyment for me right now. Why? Because I like to do both of those things uninterrupted. Once I’m in an “idea playground”– whether because I’m writing or because I’m infatuated with someone else’s words– I don’t like being bothered. In fact, I can get a tad grumpy if I’m interrupted 100 times. This tendency doesn’t serve me or my children well during the day… so I just avoid it, and leave idea playgrounds for when the children are in bed/aren’t around. Podcasts and audiobooks are also in this category. Meanwhile, I can answer 1,000 questions and crochet another row of a blanket at the same time… so that works for me.

And last, but not least…

Unleash the power of rotating curiosity on something that you are already doing… that you can’t rotate out.

Let me give you an example. Back in March of last year, I started toying with the idea of sourdough bread making– in fact, I got curious about it. <<Insert buying an authentic sourdough starter from San Francisco here.>> I read a ton of articles, got myself a basket or two– and off I went. Here’s the thing with sourdough, though. It becomes a little bit on-going. Unlike a crochet hook and a skien of yarn, I can’t just tuck it in a basket in a closet for months and instantly revive it when I feel like it. Nope– it’s a little bit like a pet or one of those Tamagotchi pets from the ’90s. You have to feed it, and deal with it’s discard. And if you forget to do either one of those things– it’s not going to make it.

So here I am, a year later… still making sourdough.

One year is a pretty long rotation of curiosity for me– and to be honest, it did start waning. But I didn’t want it to. So what did I do? I started rotating my curiosity in various ways about making bread itself. I rotated through scoring designs. I rotated through various recipes for the sourdough loaf itself. I started figuring out how to tweak it for dinner rolls. Right now, I’m fiddling with how many cool things I can make with the discard INSTEAD of just dinner rolls and boules. With each rotation, recipe, scoring design… I get a little bit more proficient. My bakes improve. My repertoire of what I can do with fermented goop discard becomes more and more useful and creative.

So there they are: 4 ways YOU can use the power of rotating curiosity to your advantage. I hope they help shape your thoughts as you use your unique gift. And if nothing else, I hope that’s exactly how you see rotating curiosity now– a gift that keeps you a curious, life-long learner.

โค



The Big Four

Imagine: I’m not sure if you celebrate “pi/pie day”– but if you do, you know it is going to sneak in soon on 3/14! It happens to fall on a Sunday this year, so making a pie might include my husband, so that’s exciting because he’s a much better baker of desserts than I am. Maybe with his touch, we can pull off one of the creative pie crusts in this So Yummy youtube video clip! Also, I think it would be so fun to tap into your kids’ imaginations by cutting out some paper into large circles and have them design their own pie crusts and transfer that idea from paper to an actual crust!

I don’t know about you, but I simply love the “individual pie” idea around the 7 minute mark!


Encourage: If you don’t follow Jami Nato on Instagram, you should. She’s an amazingly funny and deep individual. Her stories crack me up… and her posts touch my heart. I’ve had the privilege of seeing her speak in real life, and her authenticity and humor are just delightful. She’s walked through deep waters and did not drown, and uses her experiences and stories to encourage women on their journeys in marriage and motherhood. Give her a follow and see for yourself! I particularly needed the perspective she offered in this post at jaminato about growing babies and making memories in the young, exhausting years.

Educate: Are you looking for a made-for-you lesson plan for St. Patrick’s day coming up? Go ahead and take a peek at this post from last year that I put together. It covers ideas to touch on Language Arts, Cooking, Music & Art, and even Physical Education by learning a few Irish jig steps!

Enjoy: Sometimes, a wonderful way to infuse enjoyment is by just making something you do every single day feel a little extra special. That’s exactly what Beth at charcutiesforcuties on Instagram does with her kid-friendly, fun-themed food boards. Her Dr. Seuss “green eggs and ham” idea was so very fun– and simple! Go visit her and check out her other fantastic meals!

the holiday of everyday.

Enjoyment.

We talk about how learning (and life) should be a delight… and often we think that involves huge, elaborate plans or trips to amusement parks and Disney World.

But enjoyment displays itself so beautifully in the minor momentsโ€” in the time we take to embrace the little things.

This week was full of enjoyment for us over here! First of all, E wanted to do lots of Valentine’s day crafts– too many for one day. So, we spread them out and did one a day while doing our reading and morning time. Insert mornings of valentine heart paper chains and paper hearts and homemade heart poptarts and valentine making… all leading up to “I love you” fondue-– our yearly Valentine’s day tradition.

homemade raspberry jam pop tarts. warning: lots of flour went everywhere during the making of these 3 hearts. hahaha!

I don’t know about your kiddos but mine like small bites, sticks, and dip… so “I love you” fondue has been and continues to be a hit. I mean, sure, some strawberries were lost in the pot of chocolate… and the toddler ate the cheese like soup… and my table looked like a Pollock painting ๐Ÿ˜‚, ..but the giggles and memories and the comfort of this simple tradition brings up a spring of gratitude every year.

My best enjoyment.

BUT there was another holiday we celebrated this week, in the midst of all that brought enjoyment over here, especially to my 5 year old boy!

We celebrated National Pizza Day! (which for your future pizza-loving pleasure is February 9th. Mark it down!) It’s one of those silly random holidays that most people ignore… but man. Why ignore National Pizza Day when it would bring a day of delight to your buddy?

For breakfast? We used hashbrown patties as a base, used gravy as a sauce, added cheese, and used cut up bacon as “pepperoni.”

For lunch? We used homemade pitas, spaghetti sauce, and cheese and made our own little pizzas “lunchables.”

For dinner? You guessed it. This time, we ordered pizza. (Which we rarely do.)

J, my buddy, was in HEAVEN all day long! (And no worries– the pizza was rounded out by lots of cut-up veggies, fresh fruit, lalalala. ๐Ÿ˜‚)

If I wanted to take it a step further into it’s own educational celebration of pizza, we could have delved into the origins of pizza, variations of pizza by location (in Europe and/or in the US), how to divide a pizza into fractions, etc., etc. So many things you can do!

Maybe next year.

This year, we just had fun eating more pizza(ish) foods in a day than we do all month. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Having each day be a holiday would be a bit much, I think. BUT making more days holidays than we currently do would be a delight.

In case you are wanting to add some more holiday fun and enjoyment into this month, let me drop some lesser-known holidays down below.

Feb 15MondayGumdrop Day
Feb 16TuesdayDo a Grouch a Favor Day
Feb 17WednesdayRandom Act of Kindness Day
Feb 18ThursdayBattery Day
Feb 19FridayChocolate Mint Day
Feb 22MondaySingle Tasking Day
Feb 22MondayBe Humble Day
Feb 23TuesdayInternational Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day
Feb 24WednesdayTortilla Chip Day
Feb 26FridayPistachio Day
Feb 26FridayTell a Fairy Tale Day
Feb 27SaturdayInternational Polar Bear Day
Feb 27SaturdayNo Brainer Day
Feb 27SaturdayWorld Sword Swallowers Day
Feb 28SundayPublic Sleeping Day
taken from https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/fun/

I’m eyeballing “Random Act of Kindness,” “Chocolate Mint,” “Tortilla Chip” and “Tell a Fairy Tale” Day. In fact, I have a brand new fairy-tale themed game that would be perfect to whip out for telling any fairy tales!

I’ll leave off with a quotation from Julie Bogart, the author of The Brave Learner. She talks soooo much about enchantment and celebration: โ€œEnchanted education and living are all about small surprises of happyโ€”scattered, littered, peppered throughout garden-variety days.โ€

What surprises will you scatter in your week today– for your kids AND for you?

โค

The Big Four

Imagine: When this crossed my feed, I instantly fell in LOVE! Kelli, at well_oiled_farmhouse did a collaborative embroidery piece with her daughters that turned out just GORGEOUS! What a great way to be creative and create a memory, a story, AND a beautiful piece of textile art!

Encourage: I love this post by give.them.beauty on Instagram about having faith while we are waiting lessons and knowledge to grow. (Also, love that she connects this to sourdough starter/bread!)

Educate: One tool that I love for my own personal development, as well as for learning over here is my subscription to Scribd. I know that there are other free services (Hoopla, looking at you), but Scribd has a TON more bestsellers and audio options on there than what I find on the free services. We currently use Scribd for two of our school read alouds, and I play audiobooks from it while we are in the car. There’s a super delightful audiobook of a collection of stories by Julia Donaldson (author of the Gruffalo, etc.). They have fun sung narrations after each story, and the reader is fantastic. (I tend to be super picky about readers and can argue with them in my head about how they interpreted a line or character, ha!) If you have Scribd, include the stories in read aloud time… and if you don’t have Scribd, take a look at it. You might find it super helpful! (Get a free 60 days trial if you use my link!) If you have Audible or just want to check out the recording I’m talking about, here’s a pic to help find the right one. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Enjoy: This tidbit adds to what we were talking about above, but let me tell you about what we did just the morning. Our family is down to one car right now (a LONG story that includes a windstorm that felled a tree on our SUV and other odd circumstances), so we all load up to take my husband to work OR stay at home all day long. Most days, the husband takes the car and we just stay home, because pandemic. Today, we have music lessons in the afternoon, so I need the car today. It’s been raining for 40 days and 40 nights over here (#jokingnotjoking), and this morning was the first in FOREVER that the sun actually shined. The kids immediately began BEGGING to go to all the parks within a 50 mile radius since it was sunny and we actually could go somewhere. However, it is hovering at freezing, and there is standing water everywhere. In other words, we can’t go to the park.

So what did we do instead? Something we never do.

I went through a drive thru, and ordered 3 different kinds of breakfast biscuits and some hashbrowns. We went home, where I made a charcuterie board of it all, along with cut up fruit, and we had a breakfast tasting. The kids ranked their favorite sandwiches and we put juice in tea cups. Mood lifted.

Now, excuse me as I go and use a hair dryer on my lawn to speed up this drying process… ๐Ÿ˜‚

Big Feelings. Bigger Help.

Last week, we chatted a bit about clearing clutter to make room to parent well.

I want to continue that conversation this week.

Let’s start with an “incident” with my oldest.

I won’t go into details, because first, they aren’t that important… and secondly, they are more her details than mine to share anyway.

But let’s just say, E was feeling some big feelings, made a poor choice that shocked ME, which then made me have to take a step back before dealing with the situation. Because without that space for a minute or so, my own big feelings would not have handled the situation well at all.

I think any parent can appreciate what I’m talking about.

In the past, I probably would have just called the problem what it was and go ahead and dish out/allow for the consequence to come on in… but not this time.

This time, I followed some of the talking points that Dr. Becky mentioned in some posts/stories on Instagram. And it played out surprisingly well.

We started off talking about feelings… and how there isn’t such a thing as a “bad” one. Saying this point blank to my daughter made her mouth drop a bit. We talked about how feelings can FEEL bad, and how we can do wrong things with them… but the feeling itself? It is a messenger. It is something our bodies and beings have to let us know that something doesn’t feel right or isn’t right about a situation. Maybe something we believe is important isn’t happening. Or maybe something we feel shouldn’t be happening is. Our bodies let us know. Our feelings come up to tell us something is off. They tell us to pay attention– and it serves us to listen to what they are saying.

More specifically, our feelings conversation focused on anger– because that was the big feeling that provoked the choice that shouldn’t have been made. And whereas anger itself isn’t bad, because even JESUS was angry, we can choose to use that feeling to hurt ourselves and other people– which isn’t right. We talked about how, the next time her big feelings get too much, she should find me and tell me and we can figure out what to do with that big feeling together.

(Pain point: I soveryoften feel my children’s feelings and take them on myself, so that makes big feelings suuuuper hard for me to work through with them. But that’s my own thing to work through and clear out.)

My 8 year old isn’t the only one in the house who has been on the struggle bus recently.

<<cough>>

This 30something has been having her own big feelings recently.

Lots of big stressors makes it easier for my personal triggers to be mashed and throttled. And Lord bless them, my kiddos can mash and throttle those buttons. What normally I feel I have the grace and ease to handle, with big stressors… I don’t anymore.

Right now, we have been hitting car troubles, financial troubles, family issues, etc., + the whole “the pandemic still isn’t letting life get back to normal and it’s been a whole stinking year now and can’t this thing just stop already” thing.

All of the big things hitting at once, merged with the chronic pandemic fatigue, taps on an underlying lie that I fall into the trap of believing all the time: that if I have hope, or have gratitude, or take a breath or rest or really feel happy– somehow, it invites bad things to happen.

Now, I KNOW that’s not true. I KNOW it’s bad theology and my Jesus doesn’t work that way. But it’s a struggle.

All of this conversation and thinking and processing brings me to Thursday. I’m driving E to piano and she brings up an incident where she had a big feeling. And we started talking it through and pulling it apart a bit. As we finished the conversation, she heaved a big sigh and said, “It was a big feeling, and I didn’t like feeling it.”

“But did it show you something?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “And what it showed me, I guess that was good.”

And it was behind that steering wheel, as I was getting into a median for a left turn, I heard it.ย 

That Still Small Voice that whispers in your soul Epiphanies so beautiful that a breath escapes your body.

All my life, I’ve heard it, and if you are a Christian, you’ve heard it, too… so let’s just all recite Romans 8:28 together:

“All things work together for good…”

We know it’s true because God says it true. And we might even know its truth more personally, versus in the abstract. I do. I’ve seen it. Some of the hardest road and trials I have personally faced I can look back at now and see God’s Hand in it– though it looked invisible at the time.ย 

But that life experience doesn’t change the fact that I still wrestle with my faith sometimes. I’ve never really had a hard time believing that God is Sovereign. But His Goodness? THAT’s what Satan and the fallen world likes to cast shadows of doubt on.

But you see, it is His Goodness that is my Epiphany.

Maybe, just like feelings aren’t necessarily good or bad… our circumstances are, too. We are so quick to label big circumstances that make us feel “bad” as bad themselves and rush to write off the value in them. We silence them and push them away because we don’t want to “feel” their “badness”… and instead, miss why we have them in the first place.

What if circumstances, like feelings, are messengers? And what if, instead of fighting our feelings, or rejecting and regretting what’s happening in our lives, we accept it all for what it is, know it has a purpose… and trust that when we have a hard time (because we will), we can and should reach out for Help.

What’s so wonderful about that Help, is that unlike our feelings and circumstances which come and go, ebb and flow…

Help is Ever Present.

โค

The Big Four

Imagine: This week’s creative outlet isn’t connected to the kids. Note: the Big Four are just as necessary for mommas and caretakers. In fact, the term “mother culture” hits on this, and I’m a big fan. This week, I’ve taken a few minutes here and there to learn and practice a new crochet stitch and am making it into a blanket. I’m almost out of skeins, so will need to grab a few more this week. Read why making blankets is actually an anomaly for me, and why I’m glad I’m actually enjoying it this time.

Encourage: As this post has touched on, the main way I’m encouraging my kids is by working through my own Big Feelings and helping them handle theirs better. If you haven’t checked out Dr. Becky, I totally encourage you to!

Educate: We are starting a unit on fairy tales, and I’m super excited. We read East of the Sun to the West of the Moon this week, and it was the first time *I* had ever read it. E loved it. I read it aloud and do voices and all that (thanks, speech degree!), but here’s a video/reading of the story from the Blue Fairy Book. As with most fairy tales, there’s some things that strike adults as kinda weird, but kids are like, “no big deal.” Life’s funny.

Enjoy: To celebrate a new unit, we got a new game! We haven’t played it yet, but I’m heard great things about this one! Can’t wait to break it out tomorrow!


Making room to parent well

Relish Kitchen Organizing - Lake Zurich, IL, US 60047 | Houzz
(Not my actual kitchen. But it’s pretty, isn’t it? One day… one day…)


The kids were finally asleep and I meandered into the kitchen.

The next day was baking day, and since we do sourdough bread that needs some extra time to do the whole “natural leavening” thing, I decided to make the dough so it could rise while we slept.

However, before getting all the flour out and the starter and bowls down from the cabinet, I do what I always do before I make bread:

Clear the counters. Wipe them down.

It isn’t lost on me that in order to do something well, you have to clean up the clutter first.

I mean, you don’t technically have to, I guess. You could just put the ingredients down and around the dishes that need to be put away and the garbage that didn’t make it to the trash can yet.

But baking that way is stressful– it takes twice as long and adds way more problem-solving. Good luck not having to move 1,000 things to get to the measuring cups with doughy hands. It seems like the more you avoid cleaning, the more mess you actually make.

As I was wiping the counters down, it dawned on me.

Parenting well requires the same kind of effort.

People didn’t tell me that parenthood is basically re-realizing all the triggers you have carried from childhood. Maybe you were braver than me, or smarter than I was, but as I turned into an adult, I just kinda stuffed these memories and triggers away, thinking that since I was “grown-up,” I didn’t have to deal with those pesky thoughts and feelings anymore. I dug a hole and buried them deep, people.

So imagine my surprise when, as a parent of small persons, I find those thoughts and feelings resurfacing, cluttering up my mind and meddling in my own emotions… all while wanting to help guide my own kids through how to handle their own big feelings and hard things.

(It doesn’t help that I have a hard time just letting their feelings be THEIRS instead of turning them into mine as well… #workingonthat.)

I’m guilty of wanting to make them and shape them into what they should be– when I’m finding I have no room to do it well. My own clutter and junk are in the way.

Right now, I’m in the midst of reading about feelings and parenting and re-parenting. I’m hearing things for the first time about how to actually handle feelings– both my kids and my own– instead of stuffing or shaming them away.

I actually had a bit of an epiphany about feelings and circumstances and Sovereignty the other day. But I’m still processing that; hopefully, it will find some words and come in another post soon.

This week, I simply want to lay the groundwork for that bigger thought by encouraging you, whether you are a parent or not, to analyze what mental and emotional clutter is making it harder to accomplish what you need to.

Throw away what what doesn’t serve you anymore. Clean up and put away what you need.

It’s the only way to have room for what is most important now.

โค

The Big Four


imagine: A big part of imagination for us is doing something creative… and this week we started a new handicraft! E has been wanting to work with knives and carve stuff… and I’m just not ready to jump into wood blocks and super sharp objects with littles around. So, we got some fun clay tools and handmade soap and began soap carving! It lays a good foundation to both wood working and sculpture for the future, and is useful now– because we like to wash hands a lot around here! Might as well suds up with a cute elephant, rights?

encourage: I’ve recently discovered Dr. Becky at Home on Instagram. Although I don’t agree with everything she says, her work and words has brought soooo many ah-ha moments for me recently. I’ve walked through some of the things that she has suggested with some “big feelings” over here, and am amazing at how they are starting to reshape the conversations I’m having with myself and with my kids– especially my oldest right now. If you haven’t checked her out, please do! I’ll link her here!

https://www.instagram.com/drbeckyathome/

educate: If you have kiddos who might be interested in soap carving, I’m going to drop some helpful links that might get you going. You can totally do the soap carving with the things that are mentioned in the videos themselves (paperclips, etc.), but my kids just LOVE tools and I know I’m going to use them for clay in the future. A lot of the videos call for Ivory soap because it’s soft, etc., but I opted for a natural handmade soap because we do our best to stay away from synthetic stuff over here. So, here you go! Stuff is hyperlinked below!

The tools we got
Soap Carving video: Teddy Bear, Butterfly, & Turtle
Soap Carving video: Bunnies (this video is my girlie’s goal for spring)


enjoy: Bouncing off of the Bernie meme from last week, I did my own homeschool mom version of the “kombucha” lady meme. I’ll go ahead and drop it here, for those who haven’t seen it.

Brittany Tomlinson, Kombucha Girl Blank Template - Imgflip

Here’s my version from this past week. ๐Ÿ˜‚

enjoying life in the midst of no margin


I saw this quotation on Instagram this week, and my gut response was “well, work. Work is what I am doing with my ‘wild and precious life.'”

And then I promptly felt grumpy. ๐Ÿ˜†

You see, I know it’s not true. I know I have accomplished and am accomplishing and will accomplish way more in my life than doing laundry and being on hold with the IRS to figure out where in the heckie heck my 2019 refund check is just to be hung up on EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. (Yes, we filed on time. No, they haven’t given us a refund. Yes, we have it on autodraft. Yes, they received it.)

Things like that make me feel like my life is happening TO me, and I have no choice but do do things that corrode my soul.

And again, I know that’s not true.

But knowing something and feeling something are two entirely different things.

I know that when I start feeling this claustrophobic feeling of soul drain that I need to do two things:

1) Respect my lack of margin. This means saying no to extras. It means not accepting invitations to be a special speaker or teach new things or basically do anything extra than what I’m currently doing that will take up my time or headspace. Not until margin returns.

2) Infuse easy fun in my life. I don’t like feeling like life is all work and no play. No one does. One of the saddest phrases in the world to me is “โ€œLife is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.โ€ I don’t know about you, but that motivational speech really makes me want to get up and at ’em in the morning.

The conundrum is that sometimes, I feel like I have to plan the fun. Go to a park. Plan an activity. Make plans in the evening. And all of the planning takes… you guessed… margin. Also, the weird thing on running low with margin is that you don’t exactly know when it is going to bottom out. I might make plans to go out… but then on that day, a bunch of drama happens that eats into energy. And then I regret making the plans. It’s weird.

So, how can I– or you– respect both truths? How can we respect both the lack of margin AND the need for fun?

Claim the little moments.

Let me list a few things that happened recently that respected both principles and lifted my spirits this week.

  • Night soccer: My 5 year old boy got a little air-soccer ball for Christmas. It’s rechargable and lights up. One night, we turned off the lights downstairs and stood in the entrances of the kitchen and hallway and living room and pretended they were goals. No scores were kept and no one won or lost. It was 10-15 minutes of impromptu fun, laughter, and a little talking smack and was the perfect way for the evening to end.
  • Baking: As you know, our family learns at home… and most of the time, we don’t need much coaxing to gather together and read some stories and continue our learning in the afternoon. But one day this past week, it just seemed that everyone was on edge, and I just knew that coming back to our agenda once the toddler was napping wasn’t going to go well. I didn’t have time to go into all-out baking mode… but I did find a cake mix stuffed in the back of my pantry. A couple of eggs, some oil, and essential oils for extra zing (instant lemon vitality cake!) and we had an impromptu learning tea party. The kids were excited about the surprise cake and that trickled over into the the things we needed to accomplish.
  • “Tickle zone”: I am not a morning person. And neither are my kids, really. I mean, they like to get up earlier than I do, but at the same time, don’t wake up super peppy. Well, neither of my girls do. My middle male kiddo, J, does– and this actually creates conflict. He wants to get in E’s and L’s faces and insist on playing right away. They don’t return his enthusiasm. ๐Ÿ˜† I regularly ask him if he wants to climb up and snuggle for a bit– to give the girls some space and to give me a few more minutes in bed. He often doesn’t want to rest anymore. So this week, I happened upon the “tickle zone.” The only way he activates the “tickle zone” is by climbing up in bed next to me and lying down. Then small little tickles start and gradually grow. (He LOVES being tickled.) The tickle zone keeps him with me and away from the girls. The day starts with laughter instead of fighting (which is VERY margin-depleting when I’m running low anyway). It takes no prep and infuses fun. It’s a win/win.
  • Funny filters: These are SO great to whip out with no prep to lighten the mood. Big eyes, squeaky voices, animal faces. They are ridiculous and silly and always bring giggles. Giggles are so much better than afternoon cranks– for the kids and for me. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Remembering and sharing funny memories/times: This last one is for me, and is not connected to the kids and their needs and moods at all. When I get super busy and overwhelmed, the thought of making plans to connect with friends adds to the load. I tell myself all the time it shouldn’t be that way, and that I’ll feel better if I make the effort to reconnect. But when I have little margin, it’s just hard to even push myself to make plans and get out of the house kid-free. Just in the past couple of days, I taken a few minutes here and there to Marco Polo a couple of my dearest friends. It started out just exchanging a couple of “remember when…” stories, and turned into other topics, like conversation does. But just seeing their faces and making touchpoints with them– especially as our day-to-day lives don’t do that so often anymore– has just been mood-lifting. 1) No planning respects my margins. 2) Connecting and sharing life and stories increases my fun.

My challenge to you this week is plan some fun in your day. OR if your margins don’t allow for that right now, find small, simple moments to infuse some fun in. It doesn’t have to be big and elaborate. For me this week, it was some tickles and lemon cake tea time and a few Marco Polos.

Those few extra moments of enjoyment made my life feel a little more wild and precious.

Find moments for you feel like your life is wild and precious, too.

โค


This Week’s Big 4

Imagine: This week coming up, we are bringing out the Brush painting/lettering again this week. I’m actually going to play around with using the brush techniques to make Valentines while the kiddos do their thing. We’ll see how it goes.


Encourage: I’m loving this book the kids and I are reading together in our Morning Basket time. I’ll drop my Instagram post about it here.

Educate: The Inauguration this week allowed us to have the once-in-a-4-year opportunity to see and talk about the transition of power of our nation. We looked at a photo collage of all the presidents so far, and E (my 8 year old girl) asked why there weren’t women in it. We talked about how our new Vice President is a woman, and that women did and can run for president, but hasn’t been one yet. She said that the next time a woman ran for president, she would vote for her because she was a woman. *That* led to an interesting conversation about why we should vote for someone, if gender should be a part of that reasoning, and how we have to consider the ideas and laws someone supports when we vote. We came up with laws we would want to pass if we were president. It was a great conversation!

Enjoy: Because Bernie is trending in the light of the Inauguration, I just couldn’t help myself. You know, since we mentioned margin. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Decide once.

“Decide once.”

I first read this phrase when I opened my birthday gift to myself– a copy of The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi.

The principle should be pretty self explanatory in its simplicity, but I’ll add a few words anyway. Basically, instead of reinventing the wheel all the time, decide once about the things that can be decided once about… and then lather, rinse, repeat.

Truth be told, I have done this in several areas of my life. For instance, lesson planning. I teach part-time both college and high school, as well as homeschool my own kids. During the day with my kids, I try to have these 4 things in some way: imagination, encouragement, education (obviously. We homeschool.), and enjoyment. I want all 4 in my day, and try to actually think through and plan those out. More on that in another post.

I also try to incorporate each of those principles in my communication lesson plans via activities, one-on-one, discussions, projects, etc. It’s important that students get creative, feel confidence, learn something, and have fun. Those things are what matter to me.

However, I will admit to not being so awesome at deciding once in my home life. I don’t like feeling “tied down”/committed to something when I don’t want to be. For being married with three kids, I’m a bit of a commitment phobe. (I don’t even have a yearly plan for my cell phone people.)

As much as I love NOT feeling tied down, the stress that comes when I don’t know what’s next with certain things is NOT fun for me. When it was just me and my husband working full time and I didn’t know what was for dinner? We both said, “NO problem!” and went out to eat. Fast forward 10 years and 3 kids later, and that decision isn’t feasible anymore. It costs way more to eat out, and then schedules get all thwarted, and kids have meltdowns in public, etc. You get the picture.

So, thanks to budgets and routines, dinner needs to be home most nights. And around the same time, too.

Funny thing is, I actually love cooking and meal planning and trying new recipes and foods. But here’s another thing: right now, it isn’t worth the extra time. I don’t want to re-invent the wheel every week… especially when my kids are at the age that extra time in the kitchen to learn and try new recipes just ends up stressing me out. (Hello toddler, pulling your diaper off in the middle of the kitchen and peeing on the floor while my hands are in raw meat… I’m looking at you.)

The answer for me right now: decide once.

Let’s chat about what that looks like.

Tuesdays and Thursdays, our family has music stuff until, basically, 5. This tight turn-around makes dinner prep nigh impossible. Answer? Tuesday/Thursdays are either slow cooker/instant pot/ or kid friendly charcuterie board nights. Right now, we are doing a lot of soups and a roast occasionally.

Saturdays are pizza and movie nights. Most weekends, we make our pizza at home… but every once in a while, we will Papa John it.

Sunday nights are breakfast-for-dinner nights.

This leaves MWF “open.” One of those nights will be a steak and caesar salad night. We get all of our beef from Butcher Box and love how tasty their grass-fed food is! Also, caesar dressing is SO easy and tasty to make from home if you follow this easy hack: fish sauce instead of grinding sardines. (GAG) I got the idea and my initial recipe from vietworldkitchen. (After making it several times, I just eyeball all the ingredients in her list and don’t look it up.)

That leaves 2 days a week for me to plug in a family favorite or try something new or have my 8 year old choose and make dinner.

Or have wiggle room for special occasion nights.

That amount of flexibility is perfect for me.

โค


This week’s Big 4:

Imagine: I would have liked to have done more here this week– something a bit more original that “just coloring” or “just doing playdoh,” but that was what we did this week. We are still recovering from Christmas, coming in from out of town, unpacking, being hit hard with meetings/speech competitions, and physical limitations this week. This next week, I’m thinking about having the kiddos make a map to go along with the travels we are reading about in the Pilgrim Progress adaptation, Dangerous Journey. They also really love watching other kids’ “plays” of stories, so once we are done, we will have movie time with this video.

Encourage: The kids and I are memorizing Romans 8:31-39 this quarter. Saying the words each morning, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” encourages my heart– especially as some personal trials seem very much “against” me right now. I love this reading of the passage, and listen to it each morning as well.

Educate: We are learning about different Native American tribes for history right now… and I’m using the Family “jeopardy” app on our Apple TV to make a game out of what we are learning. Both my 8 yo girl and 5 yo boy are LOVING learning about the different cultures, and my daughter can’t wait until we get to Cherokee, as Papa (my grandfather) was half. I remember going camping in the reservation and getting to see tribe members dress in their dance regalia and just being mesmerized. I’d love to take a field trip up to the Oconaluftee Indian Village once we can!

Enjoy: We bundled up on a sunny day and hung hammocks that the two “bigs” got for Christmas outside. The kiddos stared at the sky through the branches of the trees and looked at the clouds. Made me wish I had gotten a hammock, too. But it was so nice to just watch them enjoy it. Isn’t that parenthood, my friends?

Zesty Lemon Bars (HFLC/Keto/GF)

It’s been a while since I’ve tried from-scratch desserts in the kitchen that take more than 3 seconds… but this summer has seen me begin to do so again, with fruit-based, refreshing favorites.

I posted recently on Insta about a yummy lemon bar that I tried, adapted, and made… and how great it turned out.

And I’ve been promptly asked for a recipe. ๐Ÿ˜€

This isn’t a cooking blog, so I don’t have a fancy shmancy recipe card template or a fabulously long and nostalgic story about the significance lemon bars have had in my life, HA!

I hope that doesn’t deter you from trying these. ๐Ÿ˜‰


the recipe

ingredients
1/2 c butter
1 and 3/4 c almond flour (fine)
1 c sugar substitute (xylitol/erythritol blends are good)
juice from 3 lemons (or bottled lemon juice equivalent)
3 eggs
1/4 tsp baking powder
salt
powdered sugar substitute (for dusting)
Lemon Young Living Vitality EO

directions
1. Preheat an oven to 350 F. Mix melted butter, 1 cup of almond flour, ยผ cup sugar sub and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Combine and pour into an 8โ€ x 8โ€ pan lined with a sprayed pan.

2. Bake for 20 minutes and then let it cool while you mix step 3.

3. In another bowl, combine the lemon juice, eggs, ยพ cup sugar sub, ยพ cup of almond flour, a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp baking powder and 4 drops of lemon vitality. Whisk together very well to incorporate the eggs.

4. Pour the filling onto the cooled crust and bake for 21-23 minutes. Allow the bars to cool in the refrigerator for several hours until firm enough to cut into squares. Dust with additional powdered sugar sub to decorate. Keep stored in the fridge.


I will fully admit to cutting these and eating one while they are warm because I’m impatient. They were okay warm… but MY LANDS. They are AMAZING once you actually let them cool. Both the textures and flavors are ON POINT if you are patient.

<<sigh>>

Patience.

It’s a virtue, they say.

Anyhoo, give the recipe a go and let me know what you think!