So let’s talk about February (and make a long list for March)

It was the middle of December when Paul looked at me with blurry eyes and said, “Baby, if we can just make it through February 15.”

I’m here to tell you that February 15 has come and gone and we made it! By the way, I am so proud of my husband and how much he gives to those he works with and for.

On my end, February was filled spilled-over busyness from Paul’s responsibilities and unexpected challenges. There have been some bizarre and annoying pregnancy symptoms that have just majorly slowed me down. I was just reading through my February list of things to focus on and thinking, “Yeah, I was sleeping when I would have been doing that.” Have you ever realized your kids had five minutes left to finish breakfast and been like, “Sweet! I’m going to lay down on the couch because I cannot hold my head up any longer.” (and not because of staying up too late) = ) That makes you feel real optimistic about your day from 9:30 on.

However, if I had to summarize the month… I’m really proud of all we did. The girls (especially the big ones) were amazing with everything else going on. Paul put on an amazing middle school conference and finished the work for one of his seminary classes. Woohoo! Three more credits down, baby! And I have lived to see the light of March. = )

Here are my comments and thoughts from my February goals; next will be general thoughts from my original New Year’s goals, priorities, plans, and resolutions; and last will be specific ideas for March.

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Going to bed and waking up earlier? Improvement, even if it’s just a tiny bit. Might write a post soon about finishing well at the end of the day. Spoiler! I don’t normally.

Exercise? Average of twice a week. I’m really starting to enjoy it and want to do it more.

Reading? Pretty good. Need to do a little better to finish What Jesus Demands from the World and Robert Frost’s Poems by the end of March.

Biography for Hopey? She picked one on Louis Braille and we read a little, but are nowhere near done. a la February. (anyone recommend a way to learn how to pronounce French fast?)

Bible memory and reading? picked Ephesians 4 to memorize and did not finish the minor prophets (possible post coming about a different method to memorize)

Training in the morning for the little girls? Helped a lot, plan to continue

Organize our bedroom? small chuckle… clearing of the throat… well… our closet has been organized. Lots of stuff thrown out or put in a better place. There’s still a lot of work to do. However, the March room to organize can probably be done in about a day, so there should be time to finish our room. I just have to stay motivated and determined. I love the results!

Menu planning and grocery shopping? Eh? I will say that I have insured that there are ingredients to make pasta with homemade alfredo sauce on hand at all times. We’ve eaten that, oh, about five times this month. Then I had this idea to make creamy chicken enchiladas, so I did; and quickly realized it was a very similar dish. Just keepin’ the lady makin’ the baby happy. = )

Morning responsibilities for the girls? We (Paul and I) had a fun conversation about expectations and what we need to see from the girls. More on this in the March list. However, I do think the girls did pretty good with taking care of their stuff in the mornings.

Toys? Tubs bought? Check. Toys sorted and put away. The girls actually helped with this and I thought that was really good. We also put away a huge amount of stuffed animals to be brought out for parties or school or special things. This has made a huge improvement in the neatness of their rooms and the amount of time it takes for them to make their beds.

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Goals

To be more organized and prepared… I feel again some small measure of success here. Thinking ahead a little bit more… one small example: I am normally frustrated on someone’s birthday around here because no matter how much I think or prepare, it always seems like I come up short. Especially because I never remember to clean the house or have it neat and orderly for that day, I realize on the actual day that everything is a mess and we don’t have a “blank canvas” on which to celebrate. That being said, two days before Sophia’s birthday I remembered this! and vacuumed! and cleaned stuff up! and on the morning of her birthday the house was not perfect, but it was good enough. And while it probably didn’t make any difference to her, it certainly did to me. That being said, pregnancy brain is in full effect, so all efforts and successes are subject to change. = )

I did not do well with playing the piano this month. As already mentioned, I was probably sleeping.

It’s funny when you realize you did “better” praying because that really means you were struggling a lot. When you’re forced to rest, the house becomes messy, the meals become stressful, the little kids start to push the limits, and the “crafts” that the older ones occupy themselves with in the afternoon overflow to every last imaginable space in the house. This can make for one frustrated mommy. Prayer doesn’t feel so much like a spiritual response, but a desperate reach for the help and grace you now realize you need. I can give thanks for any circumstance that opens my eyes in this way.

Plans

Laundry. It piled up again, and sometimes didn’t get done. Last month’s victories don’t guarantee future successes.

Homeschooling. Oh dear, what a month for homeschooling. First I have to say that I am so thankful for Hope. Her sweet and patient nature are such a gift. Her cursive writing is starting to look beautiful and she is catching on well to more concepts in math. We lost several days of school through the first weeks of February, but the third week we fought through and conquered and the fourth week was back to normal with an extra day made up! That felt even better than a whole month of perfectly executed lesson plans.

We did play outside a lot in spite of the cold. I think being outside helps me as much as it does them.

Priorities

This would have been a good month to fall back on those priorities and remind myself of them constantly. That didn’t happen, but hopefully it will the next time some challenging weeks roll around. (because I’m sure they will)

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I’m out of breath! But just one more list to go and I can go to bed! Because I know if I don’t do this now I won’t maybe for the rest of the year.

So here we go: specific plans for March!

(wait, one more thing. I have this policy about lists; I try not to let things roll over. Of course everything doesn’t get done, but just putting it on the next list seems to mean it won’t get done. If an item is that important, it will bug me until I get it done, list or not. All that to say, there will be things missing from March’s list that I will still be working on.)

*Get chalkboard ready for the next day during the afternoon

*Read at night

*Try to go to the park every week with the girls

*Make extra effort to be early for church, just to see Paul before everything starts

*Choose to use even the five minutes it takes to check email, facebook, or the weather in the morning to pray (weather could be checked the night before) ; ) for that matter, let’s be ambitious: have clothes ready the night before

*make list of things we might need for the new baby

*Exercise three times a week

*Organize Mckayla’s room

*Make spring cleaning plan

*Fold all current laundry, then fold as it comes out of the dryer and do not do more until the previous load is folded and put away. Get.caught.up.

*Homeschooling: more science, go to church library, find a time to do piano lessons

*Make list of expectations for the girls. Include personal responsibilities, chores, manners, attitudes, and possible rewards or consequences

*Remember the priorities!

*Evaluate weekly activities; eliminate those that might bring more stress than benefit.

*Consistently work on Awana verses with the girls. Try to be ready every week!

*Possibly purchase some organizing stuff for our room/papers/stuff.

*For profitable fun, dream up an entryway project from Pinterest, craigslist, Target, etc. Include storage, place to sit, and things to make it pretty.

What a lovely way to end a list. I think I’m just trying to encourage myself for the work ahead.

And if you read this… go eat a Snickers or some other rewarding treat. I can only imagine it is as laborious to read as it is to write. This is so helpful for me, though; thanks for bearing with me. I referred to the list many times in February.

What else should I be thinking about in March?

Happy Almost Spring! (I like winter enough that I’m cool with it for another twenty days or so)

Two months down, ten to go.
Two months down, ten to go.

“Don’t mess with Momma…” January goals review / February focus

One Saturday afternoon our family was enjoying lunch together. Well, trying to enjoy it in spite of Mckayla’s whining. I looked at her and said, “Mckayla, if you don’t stop whining, I’m going to take you straight to naptime.” Her whining continued and I whisked her off to her bed. As I walked past Paul’s chair I heard him say, “Don’t mess with Momma the first week of January.”

What a laugh!

The sad thing is it’s true.

Already this month I’ve seen the progression: Motivated and disciplined; tired and inconsistent; frustrated and overwhelmed; humbled and seeking help; motivated and disciplined…

By the way, I don’t think this cycle will ever be eliminated. I guess my goal is to just spend more days in the motivated and discplined spot.

Thinking about my New Year’s goals and the questions I asked my kids has helped these last few days to get back on track. Especially helpful has been trying to think through the last month. What worked? What didn’t? What can be tweaked?

I won’t rehash all of my goals, plans, priorities and resolutions; but I’ll just list certain ones which are comment-worthy. Then I will probably jot down a few specific things for February.

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Overall goals

I think, conservatively speaking, that goals 1-5 were “small step” successes. I felt a little more prepared, in general; was more productive in the evenings, but not in the mornings; played the piano a few times and almost caught up on thank-you notes; tried to read at night before working or relaxing with the iPad; chose to spend time with the girlies “just because” which is so rewarding. Now, if it was November, I might feel really good about those things. But most of it should just be attributed to January momentum. Now I have to really work and watch to keep improving.

Number 6 is hard to judge. What I can say is that pregnancy is a fairly difficult time to lavish your husband with love and affection. I can remember specific times this month when he was on his way home and I was in no mood to be unselfish, when God answered a simple prayer like, “Please help me to bless him, and do good to him…” with grace beyond my abilities. Looking forward for more grace to grow in this every day.

With regards, to having an attitude of prayer throughout the day, I do not believe there was any growth. Positively, I can say that the burden and necessity of prayer for me as a believer and wife and mom are growing inside me.

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Plans

Again, this may be rather scattered. Definitely some things will be left out.

The two big specific successes of the month were finishing The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer and organizing my kitchen and pantry. Whoo! Those both felt really good.

Exercise. This is what I have to say: I think I did some kind of something three times this month which is three more times than I did last month. Enough said.

Homeschooling has been rather a challenge this month. Not the actual school part, but it felt like so many times there were other busy things planned in the day that made us have to juggle our schedule. I would like for this month to be more routine. Also, while I did really good at my weekly planning, I need to do better at night making sure the room and chalkboard are ready to go for the morning.

We did play outside a good amount, but I think we can do even more. It helps so much with Mckayla taking naps – which helps with every other last area of life! = )

Priorities

There was significant improvement in the area of laundry. I’m taking it slow and trying to just develop steady habits that will keep clean clothes in our drawers. Other than that, the other priorities need some more prioritizing. Seriously, if you’ve never made a list like this and referred back to it often, you should try it. I find it so helpful.

Resolutions

In the area of prioritizing nighttime sleep, I get an F+. Because… overall, I think I went to bed a tiny bit earlier, but there were a few nights that would just blow that average out of the water in the bad direction.

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A few things to focus on in February.

-Going to bed and getting up earlier. Just go ahead and plan on reading that one every single month.

-Exercise twice a week. Plan these!

-For books, I’m planning to use February and March to finish What Jesus Demands from the World and Robert Frost’s Poems. I know the Piper book will be a great aid to the resolution of “rejoicing in the character of God.”

-At our last library visit I picked out four biographies that I thought would be interesting for Hopey. Probably on Monday, I will let her choose one and we will read that together in the month of February.

-I need to pick out my first passage to memorize from the Bible this year, and I would like to finish reading the minor prophets this month. I started with them since it had been so long since I’d read them.

-Training for the younger girls most mornings a week. I had been using this time to do little ABC’s or numbers or books, but right now, they need to grow in obedience more than any of those other things.

-Organize our bedroom. Call in the Cavalry! We’re going to need it.

-Keep up with weekly menu planning and grocery shopping.

-Currently I’m working with the girls on their morning responsibilities; we all fold and put away their laundry together once or twice a week; and I’m having Hope and Sophia clear the lunch table while I put the little girls down for naps. These might seem small, but they are a big help to me. Instead of adding more responsibilities at this point, I’m going to stick with these and try to solidify them as habits for us all. (It’s hard work to make sure your kids do their work!) As the month goes, I might add a few more things.

-Toys. I’m planning on buying two tubs. One for toys to put away for awhile (things that are no longer age-appropriate, things the girls seem bored with, or things that are consistently not where they’re intended to be) and one for toys that I see certain of our children chewing on! The idea is if I see any toy, piece of jewelry, anything in a mouth that’s not supposed to be there…. it goes in the tub and they can’t have it back… until they disinfect it or something? I have a feeling this one will evolve. All I know is that a two and four-year-old using regular toys as chew toys has got to stop! Sorry to end on a negative note.

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Well, my, my, my; I do hope this wasn’t so boring that you wanted to poke your eyes out. Or that if it was, you stopped reading a long time ago.

I already said it, but it’s true. It’s so helpful to revisit and re-evaluate your goals!

Thank you so much for reading.

Here we go, February!

One month down, eleven to go.
One month down, eleven to go.

Reading list – 2014

I feel like posting this dooms me to never read these at all. Perhaps it’s because four or five of them are ones I’m currently reading that easily should have been finished last year.

Here’s a post about two books I actually did finish last year. Yay! #livinginthepast

Okay. Reading is one of my goals for this year. So here’s the list as it stands right now:

via Amazon
via Amazon

What Jesus Demands From the World, John Piper

via Amazon
via Amazon

The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Edith Schaeffer

via Amazon
via Amazon

Robert Frost’s Poems

via Amazon
via Amazon

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr

via Amazon
via Amazon

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

via Amazon
via Amazon

The Well-Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer

via Amazon
via Amazon

Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, Noel Piper

via Amazon
via Amazon

Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp

via Amazon
via Amazon

Give Them Grace, Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

via Amazon
via Amazon

True Companion, Nancy Wilson

And… that’s about the list for now. If you look at my goals, you’ll see that I want to read twelve books this year. This list is only ten because I know there will be books that I discover throughout the year. I’ll try to update the list as that happens; maybe mention it on facebook so you can stay up to date. = )

A few more comments about the list:

Yes, unfortunately, the first five on the list are ones that I am in the middle of. When did I pick up that habit of reading four books at a time? How do you read? One by one? A few at a time? I obviously need help! Oh dear, I don’t think I read Gatsby at all last year; it is way overdue.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart, I have read most of that before; but I think I’m much more in the stage of life to need and use it now.

Give Them Grace piques my curiosity. I’ve heard good and bad; so it’s time to find for myself. = )

The Well-trained Mind and Faithful Women and Their Extrordinary God were both gifts from friends. I really wanted to start them, but was already so far behind. = / This is the year!

I really want to read True Companion! Need to put it in the amazon cart and hope my husband buys it along with his seminary books. = )

Oh dear, so excited! Can I just be honest with you and say it is so hard to forego that iPad at night and just pick up a book?! I frustrate myself. Once again, this is the year. Oh yeah, and if you even read the first few chapters of The Shallows it will help with the whole technology thing. For a few weeks at least. = )

I think I will try to finish The Hidden Art of Homemaking by the end of January. I’m close to done; and it is so inspiring.

I’d love to hear from you! What are you reading this year?

2014: goals, plans, priorities, resolutions

imageI sit down to work on my 2014 goals post (that was supposed to be published yesterday) and quite frankly, I don’t feel like doing anything right now. But the past few days I’ve been thinking about my goals for this year.

I want them to be helpful in these down, unmotivated moments.

So many times goals are set in a super-motivated, conquer-the-world mindset. Then when we have trying days, we give up. Because who can really accomplish that anyway? “Surely not sorry-excuse-for-a-human me.” (not that I feel like that right now or anything)

I want my goals this year to be representative of growth, not necessarily achievement.

What areas of life do I need and want to grow in this year? What are specific ways I can work towards that? What will my priorities be when everything else around me is crumbling -meaning, I bought the wrong kind of couscous which actually takes 18 minutes to cook instead of 5 so now there is no way on earth we will get to Wed. night church on time. Again. and other such disasters of various degrees. What are some guiding resolutions I can remind myself of when tempted to give up or stop caring?

So here they are, probably in an order that only makes sense to me.

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Goals

1. To be more organized and prepared for life. Specifically, homeschooling, church events, doctor’s appointments, birthdays, meals, family time, etc.

2. To be more productive in the morning and evening. (while the girls are in bed)

3. To re-sharpen skills from another lifetime. Playing the piano and writing letters.

4. To become more of a reader.

5. To do things with my girls just for the sake of spending time with them.

6. To love Paul more than I did last year.

7. To establish an attitude of prayer throughout the whole day. Though I do not have hours to spend on my knees at this stage of life, I want to redeem time while folding laundry, doing dishes, and cleaning to pray specifically for the members of my family and others.

8. To grow in the domestic skills -cooking, baking, cleaning, decorating, crafting.

9. To prepare for the birth of our new baby. To be ready as much as possible, and to embrace that newborn stage of life with thankfulness and calm.

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Plans

*please note: I understand that these are sketchy. I pounded them out during a car trip. However, part of my plan of action is that these will be a work in progress. I’ll look at them and see how they’re going and make more specific plans as the year goes. I always seem to start with real specific things and end up making general attempts. Maybe that can reverse this year?? = )

PERSONAL
Bible:
Read Old Testament
Memorize 3 passages from the New Testament
Books:
Read 12 books *list to come soon*
Music:
Sightread classical music for one hour a week, plan works to read through
Fitness:
January-  do cardio and strength training once a week
February- cardio and strength training twice a week
March- three times a week
April- four times a week
May- five times a week
June- six times a week
July- stretch three times, walk one day a week
August- one cardio, strength training and walk a week
September- two cardio and strength trainings a week
October- December – three times a week
*walk twice a week
*plan which days to exercise
Home
*Organization
-organize one room a month
January: kitchen and pantry
February: master bedroom
March: Mckayla’s room
April: girl’s room
May: laundry room
June: balcony
July: living room
*Cleaning
Plan spring cleaning
Make homemade cleaners to keep under sinks
Have girls help with chores
Plan to clean the balcony thoroughly after pollen season
Laundry system: never put laundry in baskets??? *already trying this and it’s working!*
Projects/Decorating: 
Use more candles
Keep surfaces clean
Print out and frame family pictures
Something on girls bathroom wall
Room for baby
Rearrange decorations in girls room
Save up for a couch
HOME EDUCATION
poetry, reading, science experiments, beginner biographies
Hopey
Weekly planning
Choose science project *already did this! Woohoo!*
Church library
Piano lessons
Sophia
reading
piano lessons
numbers
Gracie
alphabet
writing
coloring
sorting
playdough
check on other things
Mckayla
ABC’s
singing
coloring
counting
GIRLIES
*for fun questions to ask your kids about the New Year, read here and here
speaking respectfully to adults
looking at people in the eye
Morning habits
Hope/Sophia
potty, clothes, bed, hair, teeth
Gracie/Mckayla
potty, clothes, bed, (hair and teeth by Mommy)
Chore possibilities
trash
setting the table
folding laundry
doing laundry
cleaning sinks and toilets
Daily habits
put away all books, toys, and clothes
clear dishes
throw away trash
dirty dishes in dishwasher
read
create
ask mom
serve others
Personal responsibility. Kindness to others. Always rejoice. *This is for me, too!*
Activities
play outside one hour a day
work 1-2 hours a week
go on nature walks
have adventures
field trips
explore new things
give to others
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Priorities
1. Rejoice
2. Give thanks
3. Love Paul with kindness and affection.
4. Love the girlies with time, teaching, and discipline.
5. Make meals.
6. Do laundry.
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Resolutions
To rejoice in the character of God.
To diligently fulfill mundane daily responsibilites.
To prioritize nighttime sleep.
To simplify; to focus on the responsbilities and joys that will not remain after this stage of life.
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Big breath.
Hello 2014.
*note: there are some things that will not make it to this list. Remember when you read blogs that you’re only seeing a percentage of their life. Hopefully, I will give monthly updates on progress and further plans, but no promises. = )

New Year’s Day questions for my kids

I have a lot to do today. We have not been operating at full steam around here, but the chaos caused by daily life has kept clicking right along.

On the list would be to make more of a dent in the laundry, clean the bathrooms (gag), start thinking about a menu and grocery list for the week, and check the calendar to see when we’re scheduled to resume homeschooling.

We’re going to fellowship with some friends in the afternoon, so I almost began strategizing about how to accomplish my tasks by lunch.

But I want something about this New Year’s Day to be special for the girlies. My six and four-year-old are old enough to sort of understand the concept of “out with the old in with the new.”

So my idea is to ask them questions about last year, and see what their opinions/desires, even goals might be for the New Year.

You never know with kids; sometimes they’ll really surprise you.

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Here are my ideas for questions:

*What was your favorite thing about last year?

*What was the worst thing that happened last year?

*What do you think you learned last year?

*What is one thing you really hope happens this year?

*What would you like to do more of this year?

*What part of obeying Daddy and Mommy do you think you should work on this year?

*How do you think you could be more loving to your family this year?

*How do you think we should try to help other people who don’t have as much as we do this year?

*What is something you would like to learn this year?

*Where is somewhere you would like to go this year?

*If you had a choice between Mommy reading to you more or teaching you music and piano more, which would you choose?

*What is one thing you want to work on this year?

*What would you like Mommy to do more of this year?

*What would you like Mommy to do less of this year?

*What do you want to pray for about this year?

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This is a very rough, in-the-moment sketch; but I really want to try it!

Maybe this could be a sweet New Year’s Day tradition?

Here’s to resolving to spend time asking and listening in the morning!

Happy New Year!

The Idealistic Homeschooler

Idealistic homeschooling... for two weeks
Idealistic homeschooling…. for two weeks

I have a dream. It goes something like this:

I wake up early; have some quiet time to myself; exercise; and get completely ready. At this point (hopefully @7:30) I go in and wake up my children. Did I say their clothes were already out and waiting for them? They wake up, get dressed, make their beds, and come to me so I can fix their hair. We eat breakfast and clean it up. School commences at promptly anytime earlier than what it has been. Oh wait, I’m being idealisitc; school starts at 8:45. When school is done, we make sure everything is tidy from that and then go outside to exercise and play for an hour.

In case you don’t know this about me, what I just described is nothing like how our weekdays go.

But I have this idea.

Starting Monday, we have officially two full weeks of school until Christmas break. What if I just try to live my “ideal” for two weeks? Only two weeks! Can it really be that hard? And if it is…can’t I stick it out for just two weeks?

Now, in my defense, the last three weeks have been crazy and unusual. There is no way that we could have or should have tried or expected something like this to happen due to all that was happening.

Why do I even want to try this?

I know that change is better done gradually; I know have to be realistic about my life expectations with four little kids; I know the whole thing could be a colossal failure on day 2.

But it just occurred to me that I have this two-week window coming off of a very relaxing holiday break; and it might be a fun time to try.

I’m hoping for a couple of things:

1. To realize that some ideals are maybe more livable than we think if we just give it a chance. Sometimes it’s too easy to just trudge along and never actually try for anything better.

2. To get over my fear of waking my children up earlier, thinking that they won’t get enough sleep.

3. To force myself to get up earlier for the purpose of prayer and exercise, and to therefore go to bed earlier. (because if this girl doesn’t get enough sleep, she’s not gettin’ up; AND, we’ve been starting to do a lot better at this already!)

4. To bring some more structure to our homeschool routine.

5. To make more time for extra homeschool things with Hope and other activities/learning times for the little girls.

What do you think?

I just spent almost two hours cleaning up our homeschool space, organizing, and in general trying to prepare the house for a fresh start tomorrow.

And the whole point of hitting “publish” now is to make it a point of no return.

Don’t expect updates; hopefully, I’ll be in bed.

Completely unrelated: we got our Christmas tree tonight!!!!! Mmmmm…. the smell of Christmas tree could inspire me to do just about anything.

****A slight, but important amendment! I will post about how it’s going, but just on the facebook page to be faster. If you haven’t liked the facebook page, do it here so you can keep up!