"give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Monday, April 14, 2014

Thankful for my 3 year old

A week ago our fourth baby turned three... I can't help but reflect on this beautiful gift that God blessed us with, our sweet, adventurous, strong willed, fearless, loving, spunky, fun-loving girl.
Our adventurous explorer

Her beautiful blue eyes melt my heart.  She was born with very dark eyes.  So, we assumed that they would be brown like mine. But then, they lightened up.  I love that she has her Daddy's eyes. 
But this sweet girl would rather play in the mud than wear princess dresses.  She will dress up, but then she'll sneak off to the garden and "help."

She is very loud at home, but quiet in public.  

She loves to play "football team" with her big brother.
Playing outside is her favorite thing to do... she is so full of joy when we are able to enjoy nature together! 

She does not like to sleep.  She will fight sleeping as long as possible.  Our outdoor adventures are the only way to get this little girl to fall asleep on her own for a nap.  

Our princess with her "mini" slippers,  she later ripped the slippers apart, looking for the rest of Minnie Mouse.    None of my other children ever took apart their character slippers.  This little girl often makes me feel like a first time mom.
 I rarely anticipate her next move.

Mommy and Daddy celebrating our big girl

Crazy hair from playing on her favorite toy - the slide! 

Everyday she wants to "play drums" with Daddy.

Her favorite thing to wear is this Elmo sweatshirt, inherited from her big brother.
Her older sisters wanted to wear tutus and princesses dresses everywhere.  This little girl would rather wear her Elmo sweatshirt and jeans.  She loves to get dirty and play.  I love watching her enjoy life so fully.

Dirty hands make her so happy

Confident and Courageous

 I could never have dreamed this sweet blessing.  When we found out that we were having another girl, I did not expect our little tornado, so full of life and energy.  I'm so thankful that God blessed us with her.  She humbles me constantly and brings our whole family great joy.  She is my constant sidekick, helping me with cleaning and cooking.  She requires a lot of my focus and attention.  She's taught me about patience, as we work through our disagreements.  She's taught me about joy, as I watch her love life.  I love hearing her pray to Jesus at night and thank him for our blessings.  My prayer is that she will know Jesus, and submit to him throughout her whole life.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Frugal & Functional Closet for 3 girls

This morning something amazing happend... We were on time for my daughter's dentist appointment! My 10, 8, and 5 year old all dressed themselves. My 2 year old brought me her shoes!  It's so encouraging to see them grow and be a bit more independent. My 10 year old has cared for most his laundry and dressing for a while now. My 8 year old daughter is also self-sufficient in this area.  However my 5 year old has been a different story. She could never find her clothes. She would always get dressed in clothing that was inappropriate for the weather. A sundress in the winter doesn't work and dressing both my 2 year old and 5 year old made getting out the door difficult. So, the girls and I organized their closet together. 

I should have taken a before photo. But I wasn't planning on blogging about this closet...You'll have to just picture a cubby storage unit with clothes all over the floor. My eldest put away most of her clothes. But the two little girls pulled all of the clothes out of the open shelves. So, I got rid of the storage unit and bought these inexpensive plastic drawers. I know that this is not the most Pinterest worthy closet. But it was very frugal, using what we had at home and spending about $25 at Target for what we needed. 

My 8 year old is tall enough to reach the closet bar, so her sweatshirts and dresses are hung there. A few years ago I bought a closet rod at Bed Bath and Beyond to create more closet space. This bar is the right height for my 5 year old. Now she can get her own sweatshirts and dresses. She can also hang them up after we wash her clothes. 

Since I still dress my 2 year old, I hang her clothes up high on the other side of the closet. I saved a few baby clothes for each of my kids. I would save all of their clothes if I didn't have the small containers. I'm very sentimental about their baby clothes. But the small boxes limit my collection. The rest I gave away. But they do have a few extra that they use as doll clothes. I also keep old shoes and clothes for hand me downs. This saves me time and money. When they need something, I can check the boxes first. Then, I don't have to spend time and money shopping. 

I purchased the pink hanging cubbies from Ikea a couple of years ago. It works well for tutus, Pom-poms, princess capes, and other girly dress-up items. We also store the toddler dollhouse in the closet. There is a large doll mansion in their bedroom. I asked the girls if we could part with the smaller house. They didn't understand my ridiculous question. When they play house, these two are neighbors. Silly mama - no imagination. 

Most of the drawers are individually labeled for each girl. These are the exceptions. I've found that keeping their swimsuits and seasonal clothes together is easier for me. When one girl needs them, they all do. So, it makes sense to keep these items together. 

This hamper with wheels was one of our Target purchases. It was only $10 and the girls love to pull it to the laundry room and empty their hamper!  Having the girls eagerly help out was well worth the $10.

We don't have a "play room," in our smaller home, so I keep most of their toys in the girls' shared bedroom. We are renting this house, so we don't want to invest in any built in storage. Since the girls are able to get dressed and put away their own laundry, I'm pleased with the space. It's functional, frugal, and portable in case we move.

Do your kids share a closet? How do you keep their clothes organized and accessible? 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A "typical" homeschool day with my 10, 8, 5, and 2 year old

Simple Homeschool asked bloggers to write about their typical homeschool day with their children.  I've read some posts and they are all so encouraging and entertaining.  In our home, we have one day of co-op weekly, and another day where a math tutor comes to our home.  Then, there are the errands, appointments, field-trips, and play-dates.  It's tough to define a "typical" day at home.  So, I will write down what we do on our "we have to stay at home today and get our schoolwork and chores done" days.  Because when I'm out of the house too much, we need to take time at home to get our work done.  So, it looks like we do "a lot," but this day isn't what we do 5 days per week.

4:50am My alarm goes off... my husband catches the train to get to work on time.  I love that hardworking man!

Sometimes I stay up and read my Bible, other days I go back to sleep... Let's pretend it's a sleep in day... just kidding...

5:50am I was going to go back to sleep, but somehow my crew is awake.

I'm not a morning person.  When we are all up early, I let the kids play quietly in their rooms until 7.  I will read my email, blogs, Facebook, Bible. Sometimes my kids will snuggle me while I'm reading.

7:00am  Kid's have "first breakfast." They love bananas with peanut butter.  I have my coffee, and usually some nonfat Greek yogurt.

I love to read to my kids while they are eating.  So, we often have read aloud times during breakfast and lunch.  This is the time when my 2 year old interrupts the least because she eats significantly more food than I do. While she eats 3 bananas... I can read.

*Right now we are reading through the Gospel of John and memorizing some verses from the book as well.  We just read about Jesus Feeding the 5,000.  The kids have memorized John 1:1-2 and John 3:16-17.  We also read the Character First curriculum aloud.  The kids love to learn about the character traits.  Each character trait has a historical story and an animal with it.  The other books we read aloud are from their Neoscience curriculum.  We just finished reading about the Seashore.  My two year old loves to shout "OCOPUSS" when she sees the photos of the octopus.

8:00am  After we are done with our read aloud time, my oldest starts his independent work time.  He has Teaching Textbooks and Rosetta Stone Spanish on the computer.  He also completes reading comprehension and geography workbooks.  For writing, we use the Excellence in Writing curriculum.  It has an instructional DVD and writing assignments in a binder.  Of course, I have to check and grade all of his work.  I didn't envision him working this way when I first started homeschooling.  However, my 2 year old needs a lot of attention.  While I take care of her needs, he is old enough and capable of working this way.  It has taught him about initiative and responsibility (character first traits).

My daughters and I start a load of laundry.  The little girls play, while I work on Spelling with my 8 year old.   I usually read some fun fiction to my girlies.  My 8 year old also reads aloud to her sisters and I.  She also works on her addition, subtraction, and multiplication flashcards.  She writes in her cursive Handwriting Without Tears book.

9:30am I usually fix the kids something for a snack or "2nd breakfast" in the morning.  They have a smoothie or some eggs. My girls love to help in the kitchen.  We've been fermenting kefir, so they love to add that to their smoothies.

I wash the dishes and clean the kitchen while they eat this time.

10:00am  Little girls have playtime.  Big brother works independently.  Mom switches the laundry and completes other chores.  Then, I check on my 10 year old.  We talk about his assignments.  I check his work.  We practice his spelling words.  After I'm done working with my oldest, my 8 year old daughter and I work on First Language Lessons.  She reads a story aloud and practices narration.  My 5 year old brings me a book to read.  She loves to practice reading, just like her big sister.  Usually my 8 year old will play with the 2 year old, while the 5 year old reads to me.  My 5 year old also practices addition and sigh word flashcards.

11:45am  Amazingly, they are all hungry again!  I tell them that they need to wait to eat until after I make lunch.  I start the rice cooker, open some seaweed packs and a can of tuna.  They love to play sushi restaurant.  The kids set the table.  They ask for rice vinegar, soy sauce, sriracha, and sesame seeds.  A friend of mine taught them to use saran wrap to make rice balls as well.  They play restaurant and eat.  I make myself a salad.  Then, I read aloud again while they are busy creating and eating.

1:00pm  It's quiet time.  Hopefully my 2 year old will be napping.  If not, she just rests in her bed.  The big kids either read or have independent art time.  We use the Artistic Pursuits curriculum.  They can read the lesson and complete the projects without me.  I check my email, and Facebook, do more laundry, wash more dishes, more chores, etc.

2:30pm  Typing lessons for my big kids, alternating working with mom.  While one older child gets computer time, I work with the other child.  My 5 year old loves to play Starfall.  My 10 and 8 year old use Typing Instructor for kids.  My 10 year old then completes more of his assignments. My 8 year old works on her Geography and Reading comprehension workbook.  My 5 year old also loves to play with her dolls and puzzles.

During our afternoon work time, my 2 year old wakes up.  I read to her or let her watch Curious George, depending on her mood and what needs to get done around the house.  She loves cartoons.  And sometimes, I just need to clean the bathroom.

4:00pm Get ready for Dad to come home.  We all tidy up the house for Daddy.  My 8 and 10 year old each have their own "zone" for clean up time.  They put away toys and sweep the floor.  We clear the table.  I start dinner prep.

4:30pm Daddy's home!!!  They love to play with their Dad!  My oldest is done with his schoolwork and chores because he wants to hang out with his Dad.  Ideally, there is no homework time for him.  He's been busy with assignments during the day.  His evenings are for free time with his Dad and sisters.

6:00pm Dinner Time

7:00pm Girls go to bed (they share a room).

8:00pm Our son goes to bed.  As a reward for good behavior and hard work, we let him stay up an hour later than his sister.  He likes to read or play legos.

By the time the kids are all in bed, I'm pretty tired.  But I love spending time with them during the day.  It's a privilege and blessing to be there mom.  Our home days are special.  But I also love days where we go on field-trips and visit friends.  We have learned that if we want to be ready for fun outings, our days at home need to be productive, especially for my 10 and 8 year olds.  I write a list of everything that the older two accomplish during the week in order to monitor their progress.  These lists keep us focused and help us finish the curriculum during the school year.  I love summer.  Right now the weather is too cold to play outside.  I like to finish our schoolwork during the cold months, so we can take a nice long break during the warm weather!  

Friday, February 14, 2014

"I press on"

Philippians 3:12-14  "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

My cheerleader and I had fun watching the Superbowl together

We've been talking about character lessons in our home.  I love the Character First curriculum.  It has given my kids and I some awesome history lessons and character qualities to discuss.  But I tell my kids that I fail at these character traits daily.  I'm not perfect.  Paul also wrote that he wasn't perfect, but that he would "press on."

I'm so glad that Jesus doesn't leave me here... that he wants me to grow and change and mature as a wife, mom, friend, sister, daughter.  I need to press on.  I'm saved by grace, and refined through out this life on earth. 

Every day is a new chance for growth.  To be more like Christ. 

Abigail Adams served the Minutemen with her children, while her husband was away.  She trained her four children to work hard.  She prepared well in order to serve others.  This example and others inspire me to teach my children to work diligently and serve others in love.  Jesus gave us the ultimate example of servitude, laying down his life for humanity. 

Hebrews 12:1-3  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Even though I have not arrived, I'm still in the midst of potty training, math lessons, and character training, I have a goal to press on.  I'm thankful for new mercies every morning. 

Lamentations 3:22-23 "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

I'm looking forward to tomorrow and the new growth I'll see in myself and in our family.  And I'm thankful for the grace given to me by my husband and children.  My family does cheer me on and encourage me in my faith walk.  

Happy Valentine's Day

The Fab4 have been working on John 3:16 for their memory verse... "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life."  I'm so thankful for my wonderful husband and sweet children today.  Ultimately, I'm thankful for God's love.  I'm so thankful that He loves us and forgives us for our sins.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thankful for Trim Healthy Mama

With 4 pregnancies, my weight has fluctuated quite a bit over the last 10 years. I had gestational diabetes with my first two pregnancies, which meant significant weight gain and blood sugar drama. Fortunately, I always lost the baby weight before my subsequent pregnancy. The South Beach Diet plus nursing and running worked well for weight loss after my first two pregnancies. After my third pregnancy, l spent even more time at the gym to loose the weight. Then, I was blessed with a fourth pregnancy. But that sweet child required bed rest for my tired body.  Praise God we were blessed with our sweet baby girl!  But my body was out of shape from the bed rest. I just didn't have time to spend hours at the gym weekly with 4 kids and homeschooling. I lost weight with nursing and then gained it back after I stopped. The South Beach crash diet didn't give me the energy I needed to take care of my large family. I tried eating Paleo without significant weight loss. Finally, another mom on a Paleo group mentioned Trim Healthy Mama. I was thrilled to discover that it was written by Christian homeschooling mamas, who understood my lifestyle!  I have lost 24 ponds since Mother's Day. I'm finally back to my prepregnacy weight without spending hours at the gym or starving myself!  I'm so excited to continue eating this way. I now understand how my body needs food for energy and why I gain weight when I eat certain foods. I am able to control my weight and I have energy to care for my family!  I'm now starting to exercise again, to gain even more energy to serve my family well for God's glory.  I'm so thankful for the book Trim Healthy Mama. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Joy in the New Year

Psalm 63:7-8 "for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. "

Watching our children play in the Pacific Ocean together for the first time was one of  my favorite memories in 2013.  There  was pure joy on their faces. I know that everyday in 2014 won't be a day at the beach. But I hope to take joy in my role as a wife and mother everyday in 2014.   Psalm 63:7-8 first became meaningful to me when we were learning of my daughter's unusual medical condition.  With so much uncertainty, the imagery of singing in the shadow of God's wing and clinging to Him became very real and comforting.  It was then the passage we read at this little girl's baby dedication at church.  I hope that she will find joy in Christ and live her life clinging to Him. 

This little girl is giddy with joy over a simple hot chocolate drink. I love the look on her face in this photo.  Too often I become distracted and overwhelmed by my "to-do" list, rather than enjoying the simple blessings before me. Ann Voscamp's book One Thousand Gifts challenged me to count my blessings and take joy in the everyday experiences. She wrote, "But when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks to Him, joy rains" (194).

Habakkuk 3:18-19
"yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. "

Even in the everyday tasks of cleaning, bathing, cooking, and teaching, I desire to seek Christ in the ordinary moments. The Bible challenges us the rejoice, pray, and be thankful in all circumstances. And my life is overflowing with blessings. Too often I look at my work as chores and forget to enjoy the beautiful gifts from my Savior. It's the inspiration behind my little blog... To display the grace and beauty of staying at home. Because too often I am overwhelmed by the mess, sickness, conflicts, and  appointments. 

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

So, my one word goal for 2014 would have to be joy. What are your goals for 2014?