Summer Desires

I’ve done it again. Let my blog slip to the back burner while life (with colds and another round of the stomach bug) took front stage. Every time I fall behind I think I’ll be better prepared next time. Then life happens, living takes precedence over writing, and I find I’m not that well prepared at all.

Sun Flower

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We recovered from sickness just in time to get ready for our local homeschool convention. My in-laws took the children for the weekend, while I staffed the booth with three friends from our weekly academy. The days leading up to it were filled with frantic preparation. Partly because “if it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done” and partly because of that pesky sickness wiping me out all last week.

Now the convention is over and summer break begins in earnest. I counted up the weeks till school starts again and the summer seemed long. Then I thought through the events already planned for the summer and the ever-growing list of homemaking and writing projects to accomplish. The summer instantly felt much shorter.

I really hope to have more time to devote to this little blog over the summer, but want to thank each one of you who has kept coming back, despite my very sporadic blogging. You are just the best. <3

April Goal Update

We’re already almost a week into May. It’s crazy! We’ve had bumper to bumper events plus colds, so the days have just flown by.

Here’s how I’m doing on my goals for the year. I’d love to hear how you are doing!
April-goals

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April Goal Update

Grow a perfect tomato plant

All April, the weather kept teetering between balmy and chilly. I think it has finally warmed up enough to actually get those tomatoes planted. Yay!

Finish my poetry curriculum

Getting SO close. My goal is to have it finished by the time our local homeschool conference starts, which is only a week and a half away! (If you’re interested, here’s the very first poem my kids learned and here’s another fun one.)

Read through the Bible as a family

At the beginning of the year, our pastor really encouraged us to read through the Bible as families. Though we’ve fallen behind several times in April, the way this plan is broken up, it makes it fairly easy to catch up!  So often I take God’s Word for granted, but it’s such an incredible privilege to own a copy of the Bible in our own language and read it without fear of persecution.

Learn how to take beautiful photos

Hopefully you’ve noticed at least a slight improvement in picture quality over the past two months. I am eighteen minutes into this incredibly helpful “how-to” video for my camera model. Those eighteen minutes translate into hours in real time, since I have to keep pausing to practice on my camera. I’m definitely not the brightest student, but am determined. Hopefully determination will compensate for a lack of talent. :)

Master the art of whole grain sourdough bread

Learning how to make sourdough bread!

Sourdough bread (here are a few of the reasons I’m so determined to learn the art of sourdough!) 

Excited is a bit too mild for how I feel about this sourdough bread! After killing my last sourdough starter, my sweet friend Aneysa gave me a new batch of starter and wrote out an incredibly simple recipe to follow. It’s delicious! The crust makes that glorious crinkly sound and the inside is perfectly moist.

I decided to aim for “perfect” white sourdough bread first and gradually work in more whole grain till I’ve reached my goal of making consistently good whole grain sourdough bread.

Write 300+ words every day

Busyness, sickness, and life keep taking precedence over writing, it seems. I have mostly been able to stick to this, but a lot of the writing has been in the poetry curriculum!

Habit update: clean for 20 minutes a day

After seeing what a huge difference it makes to clean for 20 focused minutes each weekday, making this a habit has been fairly easy. My home is cleaner than it has been in a long time!

April’s Goal Update

Now it’s your turn. How are you doing on your current goals?

April at our Home

April was another full and busy month. It wasn’t until sitting down to type up this post that I realized just how busy it’s been.

April’s highlights began with Easter celebrations, a crazy fun day trip to a local amusement park with my friend and our nine little kids, and much more.

But a very special highlight (that I actually managed to capture pictures of) was spending the day with my friend Aneysa and her family at their new home…. which is the home I lived in for the five years before getting married. Needless to say, the home is brimming with sweet memories and it was lovely getting to make more good memories there.

Reading with Foflagyns

Will, our friends Esther & Joel, Rose, and Meg

Sadly they weren’t all good memories this time. Poor Meg got stuck on a swing and no one heard her calls for what seemed to her an eternity. It took sprinkle cookies and fun new stories to cheer her back up.

Tadpole huntingThen we headed down to the creek. On the way, we stopped at a big puddle to catch tadpoles.
Catching tadpolesIt was a little boy’s paradise.

Happy MegMeg thought it was pretty great too. Especially when, after multiple failed attempts, she caught her very own tadpole.

Rose at the Creek

When we finally made it to the creek, a flood of memories washed over me. My friend Aneysa (who grew up in the house next door) and I used to walk down to this creek to talk and pray and dream about our futures. Joshua proposed to me by this creek.

Now we, our husbands, and seven kids laughed and relaxed by its soft rippling.

Josh and Ned

Ned was the only one not thrilled by our time. Waking up too early from a nap and then promptly falling into a muddy puddle had something to do with that.

King Ned

A crown, a chair, and FOOD made everything wonderful again.

School Highlights

We’re wrapping up the school year at their weekly classical school and the kids are practically in mourning. I’ll miss it too, but since it’s shaping up to be a very busy May, will be glad to have my teaching responsibilities over for a little while.

Science Class

Will and his friend Robert planting seeds with my sis-in-law Amber (their lovely science teacher)

Roman daughtersRose and my baby sister Kathryn (who is only five months older than Rose!) as darling Roman girls

At the end of each quarter, we celebrate what we’ve learned in history with a themed-party. To wrap up our study of ancient history, the kids dressed in togas, reclined for snacks at a Roman table, and reenacted the Battle of Milvian Bridge.

After a humbling (and exhausting) attempt to “play Martha” at our first party of the year, I’m learning to step back and simply enjoy. These kids are growing up so fast. As their mom and teacher I have huge hopes and dreams for them. But I also need to remember to relax and savor this time.

Garden highlights

Strawberries!

Do you see those strawberry flowers? They’re the fulfillment of a long-time dream. Even since I was in my teens I’ve wanted to grow strawberries, but was never certain if we’d be in a home long enough to enjoy the fruit. Now we have our own little berries forming. I cannot wait to taste our very own homegrown strawberries… and hope the bunnies and bugs decide to stay away.

So there’s our month in a nutshell. What was your April like?

March Goal Update

Even if you only take baby steps toward your goals, it’s better than not trying at all. Right? That’s what I’ve been telling myself after a round of the stomach bug and the mountain of laundry and cleaning that followed. (Like 20 loads in 24 hours type of laundry mountain. It was crazy.)

Here’s how I’m doing on my goals for the year. I’d love to hear how you are doing!

March-goals

photo credit

February Goal Update

Grow a perfect tomato plant

Snow was in the forecast this weekend, so it’s still not quite time to plant tomatoes yetI finally planted the spring garden though and have been watching for signs of growth with an eagerness that borders on ridiculous.

Finish my poetry curriculum

I am giving myself till the first week in May to get the first three levels finished. Having a definite end in sight really helps me feel more motivated to devote time to it! (If you’re interested, here’s the very first poem my kids learned and here’s another fun one.)

Read through the Bible as a family

At the beginning of the year, our pastor really encouraged us to read through the Bible as families (using this plan.) This month it really feels like we got into the rhythm of reading almost every night and it has been such a blessing! So often I take God’s Word for granted, but it’s such an incredible privilege to own a copy of the Bible in our own language and read it without fear of persecution.

Learn how to take beautiful photos

The more I learn, the more I realize just how much there is to learn. I’m loving my new camera and playing with different settings.

Make intentional family memories

It’s been really fun to see both Will and Rose develop interests that they really want (or need) my help with. Rose is itching to learn how to cook and bake. Her goal is to be able to make things all by herself, but for now it’s meant lots of time helping me in the kitchen.

Will is my gardening buddy. Gardeners and five-year-olds share a common passion: playing in dirt. He’s been as excited as I have to dig the soil and watch the seeds sprout and it’s been so fun to share the joys of gardening together.

Master the art of whole grain sourdough bread

This month I succeeded in ruining my sourdough starter, so need to beg a new one off a friend. After attending a great meeting a friend put on about gut health, I am excited to work on making good sourdough. (Any tips or tricks would be very welcome!)

Write 300+ words every day

Thanks to sickness (and busyness), there were a decent number of days I didn’t even open my laptop. But the rest of the time I was able to mostly stick with this goal.

Habit update: clean for 20 minutes a day

I have been amazed at how much of a difference spending just 20 minutes of focused time cleaning has made. I actually look forward to cleaning, because it’s not overwhelming and the difference is so obvious. If you struggle keeping up with the cleaning, I’d love to have you join me on this challenge!

March’s Goal Update

Now it’s your turn. How are you doing on your current goals?

February Goals Update

Getting to share my goal updates with you has been such a good motivation to not let my list sit on the back burner, but to actually chip away at my goals a bit each day.

Here’s how I’m doing on my goals for the year. I’d love to hear how you are doing!

February-Goal-Update

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February Goal Update

Grow a perfect tomato plant

There’s still snow on the ground, so it’s not quite time to plant tomatoes yet.

Finish my poetry curriculum

I had no idea just how much work I had left, but it’s been awfully fun. I made a bit more progress this month, and also shared a post with the very first poem I teach my children, as well as a few teaching tips.

Slow but steady progress. 

Read through the Bible as a family

At the beginning of the year, our pastor really encouraged us to read through the Bible together with this plan. This month it really feels like we got into the rhythm of reading almost every night and it has been such a blessing! So often I take God’s Word for granted, but it’s such an incredible privilege to own a copy of the Bible in our own language and read it without fear of persecution.

Learn how to take beautiful photos

WE BOUGHT A CAMERA! Woohoo! After hours of research, review-reading, and question-asking, we finally decided on the Sony a6000. It’s way smaller than a DSLR, but supposedly still takes amazing pictures.

The camera just arrived on Saturday. I am still fumbling my way through the dials and wading through the seemingly endless camera jargon, but after some patient coaching from Josh and great YouTube videos, at least I know what aperture means now.

Now that we have a camera, it’s time to really dig in and figure out how to use it well. 

Make intentional family memories

It’s funny how just writing something down makes a difference. Of course I have always wanted to make lots of fun memories with Josh and the kiddos, but focusing on it has helped me slow down and savor the moments.

So even if it’s just in baby steps, I am making progress in this goal. 

Master the art of whole grain sourdough bread

I’ve still got a long way to go on this one.

Write 300+ words every day

Remember that lovely mini monthly calendar I mentioned last month? Well, February’s calendar is almost completely checked off! Aside from weekends, there were only two days that I missed writing in February and many days I wrote way more than 300 words.

Habit update: get dressed before breakfast

The last two months I have worked to develop one important (but not very lofty) habit: get dressed before breakfast.  Now that I have paused the morning rush long enough to get dressed for almost sixty days in a row, it really has started to feel like second nature. (All you super-disciplined friends can laugh it has taken me so long.)

Since I’m already snatching a few minutes to get dressed, making the bed is practically no more work. I love starting the day dressed and tidied. Somehow it make the whole morning run more smoothly.

February’s Goal Update

Now it’s your turn. How are you doing on your current goals?

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Gentle, Natural Foaming Hand Soap {In Less Than Two Minutes}

Make your own gentle, natural foaming hand soap with just three simple ingredients! A few months ago my hands started getting super sensitive. Every time I washed my hands, they stung. I had to rinse and rinse and rinse them until not even a faint scent of soap lingered. Clearly, my skin wasn’t very happy with the regular soap I was using.

I’m not sure whether it was the dyes, scents, unpronounceable chemicals, or maybe triclosan (the active ingredient in most anti-bacterial soaps) that was giving my skin such grief. Whatever it was, I knew I had to find a more natural alternative. (Even the FDA has questioned the effectiveness and safety of anti-bacterial soaps for normal use– read more here, here, and here.)

When I read Katie’s post about the easiest foaming hand soap ever and then Kristen at Smithspirations success, I knew I had to give it a try. It is so easy, so frugal, and an excellent natural alternative to regular soap.

Natural Foaming Hand Soap {In Less Than Two Minutes}

With just three simple ingredients, you can make amazing (soothing) all-natural foaming soap!

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

What you’ll need

  • Empty foaming soap bottle (reusing empty foaming soap bottles works great too, as long as they’re decent quality. That’s what I did. )
  • Castile soap, or your favorite liquid hand soap (this is the castile soap I bought and LOVE)
  • Water
  • Sweet almond oil, optional (Since my hands get so dry in the winter, I love having this non-greasy oil in the soap. My hands are much less chafed than they used to be. The oil is totally optional though.)
  • Peppermint essential oil, optional

(Oh, I just was browsing Amazon and found a castile soap with peppermint oil and a castile soap that already has sweet almond oil in it! Mountain Rose Herbs has a great price on sweet almond oil, but their shipping is more expensive.)

Instructions

  1. Pour 2 T. of soap into the bottle (or just dump a little bit in!)
  2. Add 2 T. of sweet almond oil (or just dump a little bit in!)
  3. Add a few drops of peppermint oil.
  4. Slowly fill the bottle the rest of the way with water. Screw the lid on and that’s it. All-natural DIY foaming hand soap in less than two minutes, for a fraction of the cost of normal soap!

In less than two minutes, you can make your own gentle, natural foaming hand soap... for pennies!

Make your own foaming hand soap

Not only is it incredibly easy to make your own foaming hand soap, it’s a very frugal way to go green… and avoid stinging hands!

January Goal Update

Goals don’t do much good if you write them down and promptly shove them to the back of your mind. So each month I want to review my goals for the year and share my progress (or lack of progress) with you. I’d love to hear how you are doing on your goals!

Having goals is great, but if you don't regularly review them and keep working on them, they probably won't be reached. Here is an update to my goals for this year.

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Grow a perfect tomato plant

With the absolutely gorgeous spring-like weather we’ve enjoyed already, garden fever has definitely set in. But the unseasonably warm snap came to a snowy end this morning. It may be “cheating”, but since I only want a few tomatoes of each variety, I’m not planning to grow them from seed. It just isn’t worth the time investment. So it’s not quite time to start on this goal yet! 

Finish my poetry curriculum

I’m still tweaking the organization and adding more ideas and teaching tips. I have worked on it though and hope to be done by April! (Look for a post soon with the very first poem I had my children learn and simple hands-on ideas for teaching poetry.) Slow, but steady, progress on this goal. 

Read through the Bible as a family

(We’re continuing through the New Testament in the morning as we follow along with the Church calendar, and are reading from the Old Testament in the evenings as a family.)

We’ve had some very busy days when we didn’t have a chance to read, but have been able to stay mostly on track reading through the Bible with this plan. 

Learn how to take beautiful photos

We are getting a new camera this month! I haven’t made much progress yet, but can hardly wait to really buckle down and attack this goal when our camera arrives! 

Make intentional family memories

This year I want to be more intentional about making memories and tying heart strings. The kids and I made some fun, icy memories on my parent’s frozen creek bed, Josh and I taught Rose how to play Settlers of Catan, and we’ve spent countless hours reading and playing games together.

This may seem like a very little thing, but it’s a little thing that had been gnawing at my selfishness. Almost every night, Will asks me if I’ll rub his feet. Oftentimes I really don’t want to. All the kids are tucked in bed, we’ve given goodnight kisses, and I feel like I deserve to go kick my own feet up. Instead of groaning inwardly at his request, I’m trying to grasp it as an opportunity to show him love, talk over the day, and tie heartstrings.

So even if it’s just in baby steps, I am making progress in this goal. 

Master the art of whole grain sourdough bread

I’ve still got a long way to go on this one! 

Reach 100,000 visitors per month

And on this one! 

Write 300+ words every day

I’ve had a few good stretches but there have been plenty of days I just don’t have time or inclination to write. Of course, being a homemaker should trump writing about homemaking, but often it’s just a lack of discipline on my part.

Crystal, from Money Saving Mom, shared a really handy idea for sticking with goals like this one: print off a mini calendar and mark each day. Long-time readers now I’m a huge list fan, so this should really help me stay disciplined and keep track of progress. I have a calendar printed off and taped to my laptop. A bit of progress, but hopefully February will be better! 

Habit update: get dressed before breakfast

I also have one habit that I’m working on: getting dressed before breakfast. (Lofty, isn’t it?!) Those of you who always get dressed first thing when you hop out of bed, are probably shaking your head in wonder at how someone could not get dressed right away, but when a morning starts out full-speed with hungry kids and urgent little needs, I find it really hard. Now that I’ve made getting dressed first a priority, it’s amazing how much smoother the morning goes! A sixty second wait for breakfast is definitely worth it.

There have still been days when I’ve forgotten/given in to the rush of the morning, but I’ve almost made it every day. Hopefully by the end of next month, this will be an ingrained life-long habit and I can join the camp of those who *always * get dressed first thing. Hopefully… 

January’s Goal Update

Now it’s your turn. How are you doing on your current goals?

Goals for 2015

I can scarcely believe that January is more than half over and we’re celebrating Martin Luther King Day, not New Years. It’s kind of embarrassing to just now be getting my goals for this year down on paper, but late is better than never, right?

goals-2015

World travel is not one of this year’s goals, but this beautiful photo made me think of reaching for our goals. 

Goals for 2015

Grow a perfect tomato plant

This may seem a bit silly, but one of my lifelong goals is to become a master gardener. There is something about playing in the dirt and watching life spring from the ground that amazes and calms and invigorates me, all at the same time. Human history began in a garden and will end in an even more spectacular one, so I think gardens are special to our Creator too!

Though I’ve had a garden for years, I have yet to master the art of growing a perfect tomato plant. My tomatoes usually do great for a while, and then succumb to disease or pests. This year I want to learn all I can about tomato horticulture in hopes of growing a tomato plant that thrives right up till the first frost.

Finish my poetry curriculum

Last summer I combed through thousands of poems and picked over 75 of the most beautiful, funny, and inspiring poems. I’ve spent weeks arranging and rearranging them into five levels for my children to memorize during the grammar stage of school. We used the first two levels at the weekly classical academy our children attend. I’ve been blown away with how well the children have memorized, recited, and retained the poems and how genuinely they seem to enjoy poetry.

This year I want to finish making audio recordings of the poems, compile teaching tips, and have the entire set ready to sell.

Read through the Bible as a family

This year our pastor challenged each of us to spend more time in the Word and encouraged us to join along in reading through the Bible with this  plan. We’re continuing through the New Testament in the morning as we follow along with the Church calendar, but have started reading from the Old Testament in the evenings as a family.

I’m loving the way it’s broken up into Old and New Testament readings with portions from Psalms and Proverbs each day. So far it’s been going well, but personally I’ve always had a hard time keeping up once we hit Leviticus.

Learn how to take beautiful photos

I’m so grateful you’ve put up with my poorly-lit, unfocused camera pictures for so long. This year I want to make your viewing a bit more pleasurable.

The Elite Blog Academy has some great starting tips, and my sisters have let me play around with their camera. But Joshua spilled the secret of what he’s getting me soon (any guesses?!) and I cannot wait to learn how to capture beautiful photos with it.

Make intentional family memories

As the lateness of this post proves to me, time slips away so quickly. This year I want to be more intentional about making memories with my family and savoring the little things.

I want to intentionally tie heartstrings with each child each week and go on at least one weekend getaway with Joshua (his sister lives in Alaska….)

Master the art of whole grain sourdough bread

I’ve been making whole wheat bread since I was twelve. Sourdough bread is a completely different adventure. I tried finding the perfect sourdough bread recipe a few years ago, but couldn’t. Just recently, my friend Aneysa gave me a beautiful new starter and some great tips.

I’ve made a few decent loaves, but want to perfect the art of sourdough bread. Not only because it’s yummy, but because it’s so much easier for our bodies to digest than regular bread.

Write 300+ words every day

This totally ties in with my last goal. I love writing, but am pretty slow at it. Like any skill, becoming a good and not-really-slow writer takes lots and lots and lots of practice.

I love this quote my sis-in-law Jenny shared on Pinterest “Write fearlessly. Edit mercilessly.” That’s what I want to practice a little of each day, except Sunday.

2015 Goals

So there are my big goals for the year. What are your goals for this year (which you probably had written down weeks ago!)? Do you have any tomato-growing tips for me?

Savoring This Mommy Adventure

On Saturday, Joshua took the three older kids to his parents house so they could play while he worked on bookshelves for his study (he’s almost done—happy squeal!) Ned had a cold and I had a pounding headache so we stayed home for naps.

Savoring-your-children

Just looking for something mischievous to do. (thanks Lydia for the photo) 

Three hours later, Ned woke up with a grin. For the rest of the afternoon, we had a quiet home all to ourselves. It was like having an only child again. I had a few things to do (like conquer my disgustingly dirty kitchen floor), but most of the time I just soaked in the quiet moments with him.

With a grin, he would look at me, take a couple steps, then turn to see if I was following him. When he saw me coming, he’d burst into a laugh and take a few more steps. We traipsed upstairs and into the girls’ bedroom. He found his favorite chair and plopped himself down. Then burst into stomach rippling giggles.

Then the game changed. Whatever I did, he tried to copy with a grunt or baby babble. It was adorably hilarious.

As I savored the time watching him, laughing with him, and simply enjoying his sweet, funny personality, I realized how much better I want to be about intentionally enjoying my children. Not just on days when I get special one-on-one time, but every single day.

The days and years seem to slip by so quickly. Before we know it, our little ones will be grown and gone. Take time to savor this mommy adventure with them.

Savoring this mommy adventure

I want to laugh with my children more. That good, roaring kind of laughing that sends tears down your face and leaves you a bit breathless.

I want to play with my children more, and not just teach them to play happily with each other.

I want to take time to look into their eyes, and press “pause” for just a moment.

I want to savor each unique personality more, even though it’s sometimes hard to do in the midst of the chaos.

I want to invite them into the kitchen or garden with me every day, even when it makes whatever I’m working on take twice as long.

I want to make more happy memories together as we build our family culture.

I want to ask them more questions, and listen better to their answers.

I want to fully embrace this adventure of motherhood, and never lose sight of the fact that I wouldn’t trade this messy, exhausting, delightful job for any in the world.

Because before I know it, these little ones will be all grown up. I’m hoping they’ll overlook the fact that my kitchen floor was rarely spotless, because their memories are full of laughter, and cuddles, and love.

You Can Reach Any Goal

“You can reach any goal if you’re willing to work on it every day and not give up.” So said a college football commercial. We would all be in a heap of trouble if we believed every commercial, but these words were so encouraging to me as I struggled with complete lack of motivation.

Despite trying to say “no” more, we’ve been on the go a lot this season. In the past three and a half weeks, we’ve had exactly one day at home without anything going on. Way too many late nights and too many holiday treats definitely took their toll on me.

I hardly opened my laptop all Christmas break, and when I did, a blank screen with a blinking cursor kept staring me in the face. My words got all jumbled up in my mind. I felt physically exhausted and emotionally and spiritually drained.

The bad news is that actually reaching our goals doesn't happen without lots of hard work and a bit of stubbornness. The good news is that you can reach almost any goal if you work at it faithfully each day and refuse to give up.

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Despite a complete lack of motivation lately, I love blogging. One of my major goals for this year is to grow this little blog. I have some big dreams, and honestly, I’m more than a little scared. I’m afraid of offending someone, or loosing motivation, or getting writer’s block. I’m afraid because I know how inconsistent I can be when it comes to blogging. In short, I’m afraid of failing.

But sometimes God gives us just the encouragement we need in the craziest places, like in a football commercial.

I want to grow this blog. I’ve wanted to for a long time. But it’s not going to happen if I’m paralyzed by fear of failure. It’s not going to happen if I neglect writing day after day. It’s not going to happen unless I work on this little blog faithfully and don’t give up.

Whatever your New Year’s goals are, remember that if you work on them faithfully and refuse to give up, you can reach them.

P.S. Looking for a fun way to stay motivated? Check out this simple trick to stick with your goals from Money Saving Mom.

Do you have any big, scary goals for this year?