January 29, 2016

"If you don't take a picture, did it really happen?!"

This past month Brett and I participated in something called January Whole30. You can find all sorts of people doing this challenge on instagram by looking up the hashtag #whole30...I've had friends do this particular challenge before and from what I could tell the major part of the challenge was taking pictures of your meals. In a very similar way that people take selfies of themselves at the gym.

But being the little rebel that I was, I refused to do this food picture taking business. In fact, I really tried to keep my talk about this challenge to a minimal. I've had a long history of food-issues and I did NOT want be consumed by food or thoughts of food for a month.
However, the month has past and I thought maybe you, like myself have considered this challenge for yourself and so I will now share my take aways.

And so, without further ado....What I learned about Whole30 ( and about myself).

First off, my reason for doing this particular "diet" was to jump start healthy eating habits for the new year. Having a baby + the holidays had left me with one of the worst sugar habits I think I've ever had. It only got worse when I had to give up dairy because of Justice's reflux. Basically any time I I wanted a piece of cheese I'd eat a cookie instead ( makes super sense, right?! ha!)

Secondly, I like a challenge...I wanted to see if I could do it.

Here's what I learned:

1. Eating "healthy" is EXPENSIVE. By the halfway point ( day 15) I had spent the WHOLE MONTHS grocery budget.  This challenge ended up putting my January budget in the Red. This did NOT make me a happy camper. Turns out eating only fresh fruits, veggies, meat, eggs and nuts for a month is basically the MOST expensive way to eat...add in the fact that I was having to "fill up" my husband who was doing this challenge with me-meant that we were going through a trillion million apples and eggs and pounds of meat a week.  In the future I would probably only do this challenge one person in the family at a time. I was also having to feed three other people- my kids and my brother-in-law who lives with us, were obviously not eating under any restrictions...I'm not sure if that helped or hurt my budget.

2. Meal categories are not necessary.
This turned out to be a good thing, particularly since I was having a really hard time eating breakfast in the morning before I started this challenge. I just couldn't seem to find the time or figure out what I should eat. ( something both filling and fast!?! seemed impossible). I learned from this challenge that I have no problem eating lunch and dinner foods for breakfast and thus I have begun eating leftovers mixed with eggs for my breakfast. Weird? yes. Filling and healthier? also yes.

3. Eating healthier foods is time consuming.
Having to prepare fresh foods for every single meal ( unless there were any leftovers...but see the above comment about my husband being "starving" for most of the month...there were rarely leftovers) is beyond time consuming. Add in three kids plus often breastfeeding or pumping and feeding and...yeah. I'm not sure how there was time to do much else this month. I will be SO SO glad to go back to some simpler meals.

4. Eating healthier foods wasn't so hard.
I really really thought that I was going to struggle giving up some of my most favorite things: sugar, bread, rice ( and dairy, but I'd already had to give that one up so I guess that made this easier)....but once I figured out I could make date syrup for my morning coffee...life was pretty much about the same. I actually enjoyed eating this way! If it wasn't for the time and money sucking elements of this whole business I would probably just keep going....oh, and also the chocolate cake. I can't wait to eat some chocolate cake.

5. I have more willpower than I thought.
I've really never kept a diet well before this, I always cheated or obsessed about food the whole time. Maybe it was because I was eating such good foods and not really starving myself of anything ( at least anything GOOD that is!), but I didn't even think about the challenge much. I also found that I could watch my kids eat donuts and not loose my mind. Sure, it was hard, but it didn't kill me. I probably should remember that lesson for the future ;-)

6. Pre-pregnancy weight is a nice bonus.
I did loose something like 15 pounds this month. Which is, well, kind of substantial! Of course, I'm also breastfeeding so that helps a lot and I probably would have lost some weight even without this diet. That said, its nice to have such a kick start in getting back into my old pants ( incidentally I STILL can't fit in my old pants even though I'm back to the old weight...thanks, body, for changing after every kids! My hips, I fear,  will never. ever. be. the. same...sigh)

Final thought:
My hope is that I will implement some of the rules of Whole30 into my normal life. Particularly for breakfast and lunches. I've picked up a couple of recipes that I've really enjoyed that I will probably use in our normal rotation. I am MUCH more aware of all the added sugar in things like salad dressings and pre-packaged foods. Even things like crackers or a lot of meats ( sausages and bacon) have added sugar. I feel much more equipped in making good decisions to keep our family healthy.
And yes, I will probably do Whole30 again in the future...but first I need to save up money for the grocery budget. ;-)

January 25, 2016

A lot to love: Usborne Books

So, I'm getting ready for Valentine's Day. When I was growing up-particularly in high school-while I never had any "romantic" love to speak of...Papa would often surprise us with a little treat. One year I got the Titanic Soundtrack ( awwww...the late 90s!) and sour cherry candies, and another year I got earrings! Papa never fails to make me feel loved and I kind of like the thought of steering clear of the "romantic" aspect of Valentine's Day for my kids.... So I've landed on one of my favorite things as the perfect Valentine's tradition! BOOKS!

And I'm here today to tell you about one of my newest obsessions. Have YOU heard of Usborne books!? I hadn't until my cousin-in-law messaged me about them the same week I was invited to an Usborne party...and then after some research it turns out I already KNEW about Usborne books I just didn't realize it! They are a great company that publish some incredible quality interactive books for kids. While they don't major on the "plot" aspect like a lot of my favorite picture books- many of which I talked about recently, instead they are heavy on the interactive elements of a hands-on book experience and they add a certain diversity to our library that I love. And sure, sure, I've made it clear how I feel about "house party" type companies in the past...but this is different! This is BOOKS! ;-)

Tabitha is obsessed with the Thousand Things to Spot books- They are PERFECT for nonreaders because they show you what you need to look for, but the great part?! It is really developing her counting skills because usually it also shows that she has to find 5 pirates or 3 shoes or 7 backpacks. The pictures are fascinating all on their own and Tabitha will sit in the car for HOURS ( car trips to prove this) looking at just ONE of these books ( Tabitha Trott gave us the Pirate one) ! *side note* they are also kind of the perfect potty training book because a little one can sit and look at one of these books by themselves for ages while they "work things out" on the potty. haha!

The very first Osborne Books that I had, are these amazing "Not my ____" board books. They have now gone through two kids and are still in PERFECT condition for Justice's future use- and they are hands down some of our favorite board books. The touch and feel aspect is wonderful, and each of the pages holds something eye catching for the tiny tots. ( Tabitha loved with touching all the birds and mice on each page in the train book). We have three of these books ( the puppy, the train and the bunny) and you really can't go wrong with any of them!

Lastly, as we've headed into Homeschooling land this year, I've found that while I tend to major on the "fiction" books-its important to throw in some good nonfiction. Here is where Usborne has REALLY shown brightly for us! Ransom got this Rainforest book for Christmas, and while it tells you about the Rainforest and the creatures that live there, it ALSO has a hidden creature on each page that you can only see when you shine a flashlight on the page! How cool is THAT!?!  ( and there are a  BUNCH of these in the series: secrets of the seashore, secrets of an apple tree, secrets of a vegetable garden...the homeschool themes are just WRITING THEMSELVES)

So, I bet you're curious what I'm planning on getting my kids for Valentine's Day, aren't you?!!

For Ransom I'm looking at this super cool Encyclopedia for Children that has direct links that you can scan to take you to videos and websites set up for kids with even more information.

For Tabitha, I absolutely HAVE TO have this "All Better" book in our lives! It has reusable bandaids that you put on the different animals "boo-boos"-considering her ongoing obsession with bandaids-this book will probably save me money. ;-)

For Justice, probably "Panda in the park" or another one of the look-through books. You know-where you slide the slider and it reveals something hidden on each page. We're lacking in these types of books-even though my kids arguably have loved them, because they just don't LAST-inevitibly someone pulls the little slider too hard and the books get broken. However, I have a feeling with the Usborne quality-this one will last longer.

So, the problem? I can't order these books on Amazon like I do everything else ( I mean, you CAN, but it takes forever to reach you because it goes through individual sellers etc.)-instead you can find some at your local book store ( though, I sadly rarely have time to make it to those any more *tears from heaven*) OR at a house party...or today, for a limited time only you can buy them here! I'm having a virtual Usborne Sale! HOORAY!  I contacted my cousin-in-law and told her I wanted to blog about these awesome books, but that I wanted my readers to be able to have EASY access to purchasing them and BOOM! Just like that she whipped up a link for me! So, you're in luck! If you'd like to discover some of these books for yourself than you can easily buy them online! ( *it should be noted, I'll probably get some sort of kick back for throwing this party-though, being the person that I am, I have NO IDEA how all that works...but just wanted you to know*)

So, let me know, do you already know about Usborne books?!  I want to know your favorites! Just browsing the website is fun but also kind of overwhelming ( and I end up wanting one of everything!) and I love a good recommendation!

P.S. My "virtual Usborne Party" will be going on until Jan. 30 so that you can get your books by Valentine's Day xoxo

January 19, 2016

The Best Friends ever: book people.

I have so many wonderful friends, I really do, but today I'd like to single out two of them. Miranda and Tabitha are two of my dearest friends and only one small part of that friendship has to do with what I'm going to talk about today-so please do not think less of me for what I'm about to say....Miranda and Tabitha know how to buy my children's love. Heck, they know how to buy my love! And it is by regularly giving my kids wonderful gifts- and usually those gifts will include books.

And not just ANY ol' book. But really really excellent books. And as I have recently come to admit to myself that I have sadly entered a season of life where getting to go and browse a book store is a distant memory- it is REALLY important to me that I have two such wonderful friends who have REALLY GOOD taste in children's books. And not only that, they share my LOVE for children's books. And like me, they know that it is not necessarily important to HAVE a child to spend hours in a children's section of a book store. In fact, now that I have children I have come to realize that its really better if you DONT have children...but I digress. And so over the years I've come to rely on both of them heavily in keeping our Children's library happy, healthy and continually growing.

And recently when I was picking out a book to read to Tabitha before her nap time, I realized that I've been very stingy with you, my dear readers, YOU TOO should benefit from my dear friends! So, today I'm going to share with you the totally GREAT books that they have given us over the years. So, get out your pen and paper, or get your fingers ready to pin or save or share....or whatever else you need to do so that you can use this post as a fail-safe reference of awesome children's books.

I will start with those that are also a series, but that either Miranda or Tabitha introduced us to and now we're obsessed with all of them....

( best read with a thick accent) 

(we now have two of the Snowmen books and they are hilarious and awesome) 

( the first book is so very accurate about children, as a parent I laughed out loud-and by the third book, you will seriously be bawling your eyes out. And your kid will look at you like you are crazy. It will be amazing. ) 

And then here are some books that I found so touching and wonderful that I can't stop gushing about them, go get them and you will see what I mean: 

Or books that make you feel special and great after reading them ( or listening to them!) 
This one is totally a favorite! 

This one is also pretty hilarious which brings me to....

Books that make me and my kids laugh...usually for different reasons ;-) 

Always up for a good pun...

Also, these last two are just fascinating and original and some of my favorites as well...

So there we go! Some
Truly great choices!! 

And now I'm curious- have you been given a treasure of a book recently? Or found one at your library or book store that is making your reading times that much better? I'd love to hear about it!! 

January 14, 2016

Teaching a 5 year old...

One of the biggest gifts to homeschool Ransom this year- other than Pinterest (ha!) has been Ransom's piano teacher. 

When we first set about having Ransom start piano this year, my goal was to feed his natural musical talent without quenching any enjoyment. 

Well, from watching Ms Sharon in his lessons as well as following her instructions for me for his practice time- I have learned some great ideas that... Duh! I can carry over into other areas of learning! It just clinked that feeding the brain without quenching enjoyment was actually the goal of ALL my teaching! 

So, here are some of the little technices I've learned. 

1. "Don't worry about how long the concentration time is, as long as it is GOOD concentration." 

If I notice that Ransom is starting to get frustrated with a particular lesson, then I stave it off by telling him that the "next thing we are going to do" ( as though it was the plan all along) is do jumping jacks, or run three times around the house, or hop on one foot till we fall.  This helps break the frustration, it also switches his brain to another challenge and helps it return fresh when we return to the piano challenge. Also. Boys. They are physical. Period. 

2. Make repetition fun.
Before the beginning of each lesson I have Ransom pick out 3 jelly beans for his lesson. He then places them in a bowl and then as we start to practice he knows that most things I will have him play over at least 3 times. If so then with each repetition he will use his "pinchers" to move one jelly bean to each cup. When all the cups are full we dump them back into the larger bowl to start on a new repetition. This does several things: using the tongs focuses on a different muscle group for his fingers and brain. Getting up and crossing the room to move the jelly bean defuses any frustration, and the whole "game" makes having to do the same little practice over and over more fun. 

Another repetition game is I have a certain number of Lego men next to me, and each time he plays the piece or the segment, he gets a Lego man to "line up"
Next to him. He loves this particular method of practicing.

And lastly, I draw a circle/face on a piece of paper and every time he does a command as I have asked he gets to draw a new feature on the face- a nose, an ear, some hair, or maybe an arm! If you think about it and depending on how creative we get, I can get a LOT of work out of him by the time the face is complete! 

3. Lower my expectations.
My expectations on how long a practice session can be ( we're doing about 20 minutes with a LOT of interruption) and just how engaged in the discipline of music Ransom is are things that I have had to adjust as we go. I continually return to my goal of "learning plus enjoyment" and even if we only get a little learning and a lot of enjoyment in then I call it a win. 

January 06, 2016

Prayersolutions part 2

So, a few years ago I told you about my prayer cards that I make each year that, in a lot of ways, take the place of "resolutions". Mostly because the things that I pray for regarding myself and our family are usually kind of "resolution-y" and yet really I have a FAR better chance of having success in those areas if I'm going to the Lord in prayer about them.
THEN I realized that, when I thought hard about it, there were a LOT of things in our lives that we really have NO control over at all, and yet we'd really like the Lord to do some pretty exciting and wonderful things.

And so my prayer card. It is reserved for the BIG things, the MIRACLE sized things. The I'm-gonna-need-365-days-to-pray-about-this things.

So here's how I start: I get myself some pretty pens ( not necessary, but if you're going to look at something for a whole year....) and then I get a note card...something with a little weight behind it, because, like I said I want it to last a whole year! ( I've thought about laminating it, but throughout the year I will often add really big prayers that I may not have known about on January 1st...)

After I get my card, I write the year at the top ( because you're gonna want to keep this card!)

( Minnie Mouse book as table not necessary to process) 

And then we get started...

First I write "Up"
There is a really cool illustration that we like to share with people that explains our life "philosophy" so to speak: check it out here ) and my little titles stem from that illustration.

Up, basically is me pointing up to the Father in heaven and talking to Him about the things that have to do with me and my family, our lives, and our relationship with him.
I then have written all the things that are on my heart for the year regarding where I want to see our family grow and be more in line for what it looks like to be His Followers.

Then I wrote "In"
This, if you've watched the video you know is talking about those that are In the kingdom of God already, those who know Jesus and who are following Him already. This is where I put my prayer requests for those who we know and love who have some really huge prayer requests.  Of course there are too many to count of these types of prayer requests, but some just "stick" and you know that those are things you are suppose to pray for...To be honest, this is my favorite part of my card. I've got some prayer requests that have been on there for years and I do not plan on taking them off till we see an answer-and I BELIEVE that we will have answer one day!! And how excited I will be to get to write the date next to that prayer request, saying that finally it was answered with a "yes"!

Then I have my "out"

This is for those who do not yet know Jesus as their Savior-A lot of these prayers have to do with Brett and my personal ministry, things that we know that WE can't do...but that we know the Holy Spirit most definitely can ( see this answered prayer here. where I got to baptize someone). Once again, I try to make these BIG prayers! Bigger than anything WE could ever do!

So there you have it! My BIG prayer card!

Another thing that is always fun when it comes to "fresh starts" is getting to start a new Bible. It just so happens that I finished up a Bible just at the end of last year so the new year coincided with a new Bible for me! Hooray! I am not one who holds to the "no writing in your Bible" rule, so all the more fun to get a "fresh and clean" Bible! Basically, about 10 years ago I realized that while I had read the Bible through a handful of times at that point, I had NEVER read the Bible in anything other than New American Standard ( the Bible version of Choice in my household growing up). It is still one of my favorite, most comfortable to read versions but I decided I needed to branch out. And so, ever since, I have pushed myself to buy a new Bible every time I finish reading my Bible through* and always buying one in a version I have not read before ( or haven't read in a long time...). This year, however, I did something even MORE different- which I already told you about in my last post). This Bible only has the New Testament-which works out for me right now because I can always pick up some Old Testament reading on my iPhone App while I'm feeding Justice. BUT this particular New Testament is set up pretty cool and I'm already getting a lot out of it. I'll show you the worst picture ever of what the pages look like:

Kinda crazy at first, but you learn to just read the part in bold ( its the part that is possibly repeated between the gospels) and then it starts to read rather smoothly.

Annnnyway, over the years I've read English Standard Version ( my favorite and would probably be my standby if I had a pick), The Message ( ew), New Internation Version, NrSV ( which I honestly can't remember what that stood for! ha!) and The Living Bible that I can remember. I'm probably running out of versions that I'd consider reading...so I'll probably cycle back through. The perk to this method has been that often just a few word changes have made a verse stick out in a new way and make me stop and take a deeper look ( often looking it up in other versions to see just why it stuck out to me this time.). It really has been so helpful in digging deeper into the Word of God!

So there you have it!! My new year is starting off Fresh and I'm already excited about what the Lord is going to do!

I'd looove to hear your own quiet time techniques or methods that help you get Closer to the Lord!

* I've read the Bible straight through, random book order, a mixture of old and New Testament, chronologically... There are tons of ways!