Showing posts with label Just Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Just Life. Show all posts

The Wednesday Five | Vol. 9



I'm trying to bring back the Wednesday Five on the blog!  You can read other Wednesday Five posts here, and feel free to join in if you want.

A Quote

"The direction of a big act will warp history, but probably all acts do the same in their degree, down to a stone stepped over in the path, or a breath caught at the sight of a pretty girl, or a fingernail nicked in the garden soil." 
-John Steinbeck, East Of Eden

A Book

Ribsy by Beverly Cleary.  Tonight we all sat down together for dinner, which doesn't happen as often as I'd like, and Derek and I took turns reading it aloud to the kids.  It is nostalgic, written about a different era, and I love it so much during this crazy time.

A Bit Of Nature



A Recommendation

You have to check out this Youtube channel I just found - this little old lady has a channel called Great Depression Cooking, and she cooks a meal that her family ate during the Great Depression, and tells her memories from that time.  She's got to be at least pushing 90 then?  Man, I hope I'm like her when I'm 90. I thought it was particularly nice to stumble across her channel during uncertain economic times.  Hopefully we don't have a full-blown depression in our future, but her stories are interesting.

(Seconds of potato soup while I type this)

A Moment Of Happiness

When we were eating dinner tonight, the kids were all listening to the story so carefully while Derek was reading, and I was feeding Georgie a few spoonfuls of soup to help her not spill.  I put particular effort into a creamy potato soup for dinner tonight, and she really liked the potatoes. She takes a bite from the spoon, and then all of a sudden she looks at me and makes this wide-eyed, stretched-out silly face at me.  It was so cute and unexpected, I laughed.  Then I made the face back, and she laughed.  Then she said something cute and all my adorable little clan laughed.  

It's moments like that which remind me how even "hard" times have fun in them.  The world could fall apart, and I like to think we'd still find ways to make each other laugh. 

Coronavirus Quarantine Coffee Chat



Let's just take a moment and admire my title alliteration (I worked hard on that one).  And after you're done admiring, let's pretend we are having coffee together, round two!

A Coffee To Try

Speaking of coffee, have you seen that whipped coffee trend?  Apparently it's a thing - started in South Korea during their coronavirus self-isolating measures.  You take instant coffee, sugar, and water, and whip it with a hand mixer, and it turns to this foam-like consistency.  Then you top a glass of milk with it and let it gradually melt together.  This idea was so interesting to me - who would have thought those three ingredients could turn into this creamy coffee foam?  I've never had any coffee like that before, and it was fun to try.


A Little Encouragement

How is everyone feeling during this second week of social distancing?  While we have been mostly in good spirits, I did find myself getting overwhelmed late last week over some minor stresses, and I realized that it would take a very little straw to break the camel's back right now.  After getting out of the house for some breakfast at Sonic on Saturday, and virtual Sunday school and church services, I am feeling better this week.  Our pastor pointed out that we should be careful not to binge on Netflix or news, but to binge on God's word, and I was convicted by that.  I haven't spent enough time just praying over this whole crisis, and I want to focus more on that.



The sermon was also a great reminder of things we can be certain of in these times of uncertainty.  It's certain that we will have trouble in this world.  But it's also certain that Christ died to save us from our biggest problem, sin; that He has conquered death and this world; that this world isn't the believer's true home; that one day He will return or call us to Heaven, and this light suffering will be nothing in comparison to His glory.  I've been saying from the start that we should keep the coronavirus in perspective, but more than an earthly sense of perspective, for those of us who have trusted in Jesus, an eternal perspective comes with real peace.  Peace that passes understanding.

A Record For Posterity

Just for a little record for my grandchildren who may read this someday, last Monday the President asked us to practice "social distancing" for 15 days.  Social distancing involves staying home as much as possible, washing your hands alot, staying six feet away from each other, not shaking hands, etc, and trying to keep groups under 10 people.  That last one is tricky for us, since we have 7 people in our family alone, but we are still trying our best to follow the recommendations.   The idea is to slow the spread of the virus long enough to give the government and medical community time to prepare for a potentially bad impact from the virus.

I've been watching no news except for the President's press briefings each day, and that is the way I like it.  From what I heard, so much of the commentary is politically-driven, and sometimes even bordering on panic-mongering, and I don't need that in my life.  Watching the briefings has given me a good idea of what is actually important to know, and I'm impressed with the way it's being handled, though a little skeptical about the plan of checks being sent out from the government.  Where is the money for that coming from?  I understand why they want to do it, but a couple thousand dollars per household is a ton of money, and it doesn't just come out of thin air!  We'll see what happens with that.

Last week most press questions were implying that we would be locked down for months, which I was finding stressful.  Not because it would be personally hard to stay home that long, but because the resulting economic damage could be devastating to the entire country.  It's only been a week and I already know people who are losing their jobs.  I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of months.  Yesterday President Trump assured the nation that we can't let the "cure" be worse than the illness, and that they are hopeful that we are looking at a matter of weeks rather than months.  Weeks I can handle, so I found that heartening.

Today they are starting clinical trials of an anti-malaria drug in treating the coronavirus, and if that works it would be a game-changer - as the President said, "a gift from God".  I spent time this morning praying that this medication would be effective.

In our state, we are looking at restrictions for the next 30 days, but thankfully not a shelter-in-place order as some states are dealing with.

How We Are Keeping Busy

More personally, the past week has not been that unusual for us.  We are a homeschool family, and not much has changed in our day-to-day life because of that.  Our co-op has been basically canceled for the rest of the year, and having every day of the week at home has been refreshing.  The biggest change has been having Derek work from home every day, but that hasn't been too much of an adjustment.  He was working "from home" two days a week before, though he often ended up working from our local coffee shop.  So our main obstacle was finding him a more isolated corner of the house to make working at home feasible.  We ended up setting up an "office" in our master closet, and even though it's a cramped space, he says it has been working really well!  We are probably keeping the closet office from here on out.



I've been trying to make homeschooling a little more fun over the last week, and we've been trying to send letters to some of our friends and family.  We've been slacking on the letters for the past couple days, but we'll get back to it today.  I especially want to write a letter in response to my friend Hazel this week.

The kids have been spending alot of time outside, then it snowed and all their pent-up energy was unleashed on the house.  Now it's melted and I'm making them go outside again.



I've been watching too much TV, and I'm trying to step back from that this week and spend more time reading - reading the Bible, and reading my big stack of library books.  Sometimes a mindless distraction is not a bad thing though, so we won't give up TV entirely.

As far as projects - keeping on top of household chores has still taken up the majority of my spare time, as it always does.  But I do have one extra project.  We have a vacation booked at the end of April.  We may have to cancel it, but we are not going to make any decisions until a couple days before we are scheduled to leave, so I am treating everything as if we are still going.  The coronavirus news has been changing almost daily, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better, so who knows what the status will be by then.  I'm going to be cautiously optimistic for now.  Today my project is to pull out the kids' summer clothes, and figure out what gaps are in the kids' wardrobes so I can determine what summer things I will need to buy, and which things I need to get before our hopeful vacation, and make a budget for all that.  So that's what I'll probably be working on today.

A Bookish Conundrum 

And because I can't end an update without talking about what I'm reading, I keep wavering on which book I want to focus on while we are mostly stuck at home.  I started The Lake House by Kate Morton, and I'm enjoying it, but I also got a few chapter into East Of Eden by John Steinbeck, and I'm finding that really interesting.  Which to read, which to read.  Have you read either of those books?  Which one should I choose?  Maybe I'll just continue alternating for now, and see which one pulls ahead.

How's this week going for all of you?




How I'm Changing Our Homeschool During The Pandemic



As schools and libraries and businesses are shutting down, many assume that nothing has really changed for us homeschool moms during this pandemic.

That's partly true, but only partly.

For us, our co-op has been canceled, most likely for the rest of the year, and our weekly library trips are put on hold (ha! I keep stumbling into puns this week).  My kids have been asking me every night "What are we doing tomorrow, Mom?", and the answer continues to be "nothing".   It doesn't seem right to continue on with our schedule as though nothing has changed, when my kids obviously know something has.  They know we aren't going to co-op or church, and they know why.

While I'm grateful for the stability that homeschooling has given us, I decided to make a few changes over the coming weeks.  I find myself a little jealous of the extra time so many public/private school moms are getting with their kids.  I am blessed to get that amount of time with my kids every day, and it's easy to forget that!  This whole thing has reminded me that I get to choose the quality of the time that I get with them, and I want to up the quality during this unusual series of events.  I want to make some special memories with my kids too, even though homeschooling means not as much has changed.

So here are the things I'm doing to make the next couple weeks more exciting for all of us.



Take a step back from the three R's.

For much of the homeschool year, my main focus is keeping up in the "three R's" - reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Obviously those things are important, but we aren't going to fall behind if we lighten up on the tedious bits of homeschooling for a couple weeks. I want to pull back on the "have-to's" and focus a little more on the homeschool "want-to's".

More history and science.

I love elementary school, because there is so much flexibility in what we choose to study!  We get to follow our whims.  Right now we are going to focus on westward expansion in history, and see where that takes us.  And science will include alot more nature walks and special activities.



Add in those activities we never get to.

Amidst keeping up with our regular curriculum, sometimes I don't make time for the things I really want to do with the kids.  Things like nature study (still trying to figure that one out), art lessons, physical education (our basketball hoop needs more action), cooking instruction, and life skills (such as letter-writing, how to clean a bathroom, etc.).  I want to take this as an opportunity to spend time on those things right now.

Watch more movies.

Books are wonderful, but often movies really make things come alive. I see alot of Little House On The Prairie in our future.

Take advantage of all the free resources!

In light of so many people finding themselves accidental homeschool moms, alot of websites are offering more free educational resources than ever.  I'm taking full advantage!  I've already downloaded a couple free studies, and I'm keeping an eye on my inbox for more.  If you have any resources to share, please do!  I know there are a ton right now that I don't even know about.

(Just for a couple things, I really am enjoying Chantel's homeschool posts this week, and Raising Up Wild Things and Cottage Chronicles both have the cutest printables that I've seen anywhere!)



If you are a homeschool mom, are you changing anything about your school during the pandemic?

You can read all my homeschool posts here.


The Wednesday Five | Vol. 8





I'm trying to bring back the Wednesday Five on the blog!  You can read other Wednesday Five posts here, and feel free to join in if you want. You can borrow the format and slap any old day of the week on there.


A Quote


"Shake not the head, feet, or legs; roll not the eyes, lift not one eyebrow higher than the other, wry not the mouth; and bedew no man's face with your spittle, by approaching too near him when you speak."
-George Washington, from his rules for civility 

I thought you all would appreciate that part about not "bedewing" any man's face with your spittle in light of the events this week!


A Book

East Of Eden by John Steinbeck.  Our little local library, the one that is a ten minute walk from my house, was still open today.  I went in (careful not to touch anything), and rented this book.  I've never read anything by Steinbeck, have you?  Grapes Of Wrath I've heard of, but this one sounded interesting.



A Bit Of Nature


Isn't this fence in our neighborhood so neat?


A Recommendation

I recommend you keep an eye on your email this week, because a lot of companies are having online sales to combat the fact that people aren't out shopping in person.  I'll probably have alot of packages coming next week (so glad that postal service is still up and running)!  I ordered a swimsuit I've had my eye on for a while at 20% off, dresses for the girls at over 50% off, and some new essential oil blends from Plant Therapy at 30% off.  Good deals this week, and lots of homeschool websites are sending out freebies too - email/online is where it's at right now!


A Moment Of Happiness

Georgie was following me round the kitchen this morning, and I bent down with my lips pressed together to give her a kiss.  She threw her chubby little arms on either side of my head and pulled my face to hers, crossing her eyes as she aimed at kissing me on the lips.  I don't want to ever forget her concentration and precious little face.

Pandemics And Whatnot



Let's have a virutal coffee date, since no real-life coffee dates are happening this week!

I've Got My Coffee, I've Got Toilet Paper (For Now)

Well, this has been a weekend for the books, and never did I think I would say that about a weekend where we literally did nothing.







On Thursday we went to our local railroad museum with my sister and cousins, and I'm so glad we got out one last time when we did, because by Friday things started shutting down.  Our co-op was canceled, and we made one last run to the library.  By Saturday night, the libraries were all closed.  A women's retreat I was supposed to go to was postponed, and our Sunday church service was put online as the doors were closed to the congregation.  

I know you know all this already, but I just wanted to write about it on my blog for posterity's sake.  

Derek tried to buy me bananas at the grocery store over the weekend, and they were completely out of produce.  We checked a different one later, and there was produce, but that store was out of canned goods.  I don't understand this stockpiling impulse at all.  Theoretically, if you were to get sick and get quarantined, couldn't you just get a non-sick neighbor to pick up the few things that you may not have in your pantry?  Or couldn't we just do that for someone else if we were the healthy ones?  But no, people have to go buy out all the stores until no one can get a package of spaghetti noodles or a bag of sugar when they need it.  Or let's not forget toilet paper (if you are a toilet paper hoarder, for goodness' sakes, share!)

Over-buying stuff might make people feel better, but for me, I think it's important not to be over-anxious.  I'll be staying home with everyone else, but I'm also not going to waste time worrying about something that I can't control at all.  I think the best thing to do is to pray for the nation/world, for the people who are badly affected by this virus, for the economy and the hit it's taking (another serious concern), and for wisdom for a quick resolution to this whole thing.

This too shall pass, guys.  It's going to be okay.

On Chickens And Vegetables

On a related note, I really am considering allowing Derek to do that chicken-raising project with the kids.  He mentioned it a few months ago because he would like the kids to join 4-H, but I was hesitant. I grew up with friends who had chickens, and always thought they seemed like a hassle.  But it would be nice to have eggs when you can no longer buy them at the store, right?  Also, maybe it's time to learn how to garden.  A black thumb has plagued me my whole life, but surely a person can learn.  Do any of you have chickens/garden?  The buying panic has made me consider that it might not be a bad thing to be a little more self-sufficient.  By that, I mean not at the mercy of the purchasing whims of the nation in a crisis.

A Book And A TV Series For Your Consideration 

On a positive note, I have been reading a ton this weekend!  Something about a pandemic that makes me want to hunker down with a book I guess, ha!  I was actually thinking about putting together a post about post-apocalyptic/natural disaster fiction to read during a pandemic, because it seems appropriate, no?  I'm serious though, I've been in the mood to read those kind of books.

In particular I've been reading The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Eghan, and man, that book puts things into perspective.  Imagine the air filled with so much dirt that it feels like you are eating it, people dying because their lungs are filled with silt, and not being able to feed your family except every fourth day because the economy crashed at the same time, and you no longer have a way to earn money.  That really happened.  Those people back then were made of some tough stuff.  I've found it particularly interesting because some of my ancestors were in Nebraska at that time, and I wonder if they experienced any of the things I'm reading about.  There is a really interesting series about the Dust Bowl on prime video, if you are interested in learning more.

I started that section with "on a positive note", but that wasn't overly positive was it?  To me it is positive though, in as far as the country (and world) had a lot to deal with in a very short period of time at the start of the last century, and they made it through.  They had World War One, the flu epidemic, the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl, all within 20 years.  Thousands of people didn't die, millions of people did.  Things can always be worse, and I'm just thinking about this verse this morning:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6

That's all I've got this morning.  Time to re-fill my coffee cup and get started on school with the kids! I'm thinking a hike might be on the schedule.  This is a good week to finally get serious about nature journaling, I'm thinking.



Currently | February 2020


Currently...

Grateful...That we are not sick!  I started off January with that awful chest cold, and then a couple weeks later the entire family got a stomach bug.  This was a rare occasion when Derek and I were sick at the same time, so there was no one to take care of either of us.  Wyatt and I were the only ones who didn't throw up, we just lounged on the couch in misery for two days.  Fun times.

Loving...Quiet times before the kids get up in the mornings.  After Christmas and all that sickness, we have finally got back to a routine.  I usually wake up before the kids and drink coffee, and read my Bible, and read a book or blog before the kids get up.  Some days I get an hour to myself, some days I get five minutes, but it's nice either way.

Wearing...Alot of sweaters this week, because we got 8 inches of snow!  It's been in the single-digits with temperature, and this house does not have great windows, so I've been shivering my way through the days.  Last weekend I could have been wearing a t-shirt in the 65 degree weather.  We went on a family hike, and it felt like Spring!  But that clearly didn't last long.







Tasting...Hmm.  Well, not sugar, I can tell you that.  My eating habits have been questionable for the entire month of January, and it's time to lose the who-knows-how-much I gained over Christmas.  When I need to reset my eating habits, I go without sugar for a week or two, and it's been going well. My jeans are no longer cutting into my sides, so that's good.

Contemplating...Finally getting around to sharing my favorite books from 2019, and catching myself up on Goodreads.  For some reason I quit recording things on Goodreads after we went on vacation last year.  I just completely lost motivation.  Then last month I read a book called Reclaiming Conversation, and one of the points the author made was that the list of books that you check out from the library is confidential, because people (ie. the government) do not have a right to know what you are reading unless you want them to.  And that got me thinking, do I really want Facebook and Google spying on my reading list via Goodreads?  They already know a disturbing amount of information about me.  I'll probably still add my books on Goodreads for now, but it's something to think about.

Embracing...These wintery homeschool days.  Winter is hard with so many kids, we all get cabin fever.  But I've been keeping the apple cider brewing and snuggling on the couch while reading books to the kids, and it's been kind of lovely.

Working...On meeting my goals for the month of February.  Particularly the goal of memorizing Hebrews 5, and starting a prayer list page in my bullet journal.  Progress will be made today, I am determined.

Reading...The Last Of The Doughboys by Richard Rubin.  If you follow me on Instagram, you'll see that we saw 1917 in the theater a couple weeks ago, and Derek and I decided to read more about World War 1 together.  I saw this book at the bookstore and decided to give it a chance, and I'm so glad I did!  It's written by a man who interviewed World War 1 veterans in the early 2000's, when they were over a hundred years old.  It's been a really fascinating look at different experiences of the war, but also a fascinating look at centenarians.  I highly recommend it!  Derek is reading this one, in case you were curious.  Next on my reading list...A Farewell To Arms, All Quiet On The Western Front, and The Guns Of August, because about a million people recommended those to me.

Watching...The Bachelor.  I wasn't sure I even wanted to watch it this year, but I got sucked in again.  What is the deal with this group of girls?  Maybe we should stick with the over-28 crowd for the next Bachelor go'round.  These girls all seem too...young.

The kids are currently watching The Great Mouse Detective, which is bringing back alot of memories for me.

Preparing...For Wyatt's birthday next week, on which day he will turn nine years old, and officially be halfway through his childhood.  I don't really want to talk about it.

What have you all been up to lately?

Currently | December 2019



We had a lovely Thanksgiving last week.  We went to my parents' house and Derek's mom came with us.  We ate a lot of food and too much pie, played the A Christmas Story game (you know, like the movie?), and laughed and enjoyed each other's company. And now we have apparently charged full-speed ahead in the countdown for Christmas.  I'm still trying to get my bearings.  No matter how hard I try to plan ahead, Christmas always manages to catch me a little by surprise each year.

Speaking of surprises, I'm working on a freebie for all of you who are regular readers of my blog (hopefully will be up tomorrow), so I'm going to keep this "currently" short and sweet.


Wrapping...nothing.  All the presents arrived in the mail this week, so now I just need to buckle down and get them wrapped!  I actually don't enjoy wrapping presents very much.  I wish I did, but there are just so many to wrap, it gets overwhelming.  I'm going to be recruiting Derek to help me tonight while we watch a Hallmark Christmas movie.

Lighting...Christmas candles.  Weirdly, my favorite ones this year are not from Yankee Candle, as per the norm, but instead I'm really enjoying some that I found at TJ Maxx.  They have some great scents, and the candles are cheaper than Yankee, so that's a plus!  Anything pine scented is my favorite this time of year.

Baking...also nothing, but I am hoping to start on ginger cookies this week.  I've learned over the years to keep my Christmas baking to a minimum.  I'm always tempted to try a bunch of new recipes, but when I do that I tend to just get overwhelmed.  I may bring one new recipe into the rotation though, if things ever slow down enough.  I'm thinking some sort of candy recipe.

Sending...a present to my lifelong penpal, Felicia.  Keep an eye out, friend!  I'm also waiting for photos to arrive in the mail so I can start sending Christmas cards in earnest.  I decided this year to just use the boxes of Christmas cards I have collected over the years with a photo tucked inside, instead of our usual photo Christmas card.  It's actually been less complicated and stressful this way, not to mention less expensive since I'm using cards I already have!

Enjoying...quiet days at home, especially if it's snowing like it is today.  So far the first week of December has been chaotic and a little stressful, but today we have the whole day stretched out ahead of us.  We might read some Christmas picture books or bake something or do a Christmas craft.  It feels like the world is my oyster when I have a quiet day at home to work with.


(Wyatt took these photos for me a couple weeks ago - not too shabby, right?  He's getting better at using the big camera!)

Linking up here!




The Wednesday Five | Vol. 7


A Quote

"I make myself rich by making my wants few." - Henry David Thoreau

"He is richest who is content with the least." - Socrates

"Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Hebrews 13:5

I was thinking about the Thoreau quote, and then found the Socrates quote by accident, so you get two for one, plus a Bible verse.  I don't know why, but contentment was on my mind this morning, perhaps because it is Thanksgiving week.  I think contentment and thankfulness go hand in hand - it's hard to have one without the other.  The Bible exhorts us over and over to be content, and the secret for the believer to contentment is that we have everything we truly need in Christ.  When we focus our hearts on what He has done to save us, how can we not be thankful?  Just some things I was mulling over this morning.

A Book

It's hard to come up with a book recommendation this morning, because I'm still working through the same old ones.  I'm going to throw out Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens as a suggestion.  My goal is to finish it before the end of my social media break.  Dickens can be really dense reading, but also, no one can turn a sentence quite like him!  I read A Christmas Carol last December, and loved it so much that I've been wanting to tackle one of his other books ever since.  They are just so long though.  Have you read any Dickens?

A Bit Of Nature




You also get two pictures, one because it snowed and it's gorgeous, and another one because the sunrise this morning was so striking.  I feel blessed to live somewhere now where I can see the sunrise!

A Recommendation

Yesterday, I spent most of the day finishing my Christmas shopping online, and I got 80% of the kids' presents from Rainbow Resource.  It's actually a homeschooling curriculum website, but they recently sent us their toy catalog.  I had the kids circle all the things they liked in it, and I was so impressed with their choices!  The toys Rainbow Resource carries are geared more toward imaginative play and creativity, and they carry good quality items (I didn't find many...or maybe not any...cheap plastic items).  Anyway, you should check out their toy section on the website.  I got so many ideas for the kids it was hard to choose!

A Moment Of Happiness

Last night I asked Derek if he would string up some Christmas lights in our room.  He was tired after a long day of work, but he was sweet enough to do one more thing for me anyway.  I put out some Christmas pillows on our couch and bed, and after he was finished we enjoyed our festive room, sparkling lights, and eggnog while we laughed through an episode of The Middle.  Our nightly routine is pretty simple, and may not seem exciting.  But I think it's a special thing to cuddle next to my husband and laugh a little together before we go to sleep.

Holiday Preparations & Foibles



We got the Christmas stuff up this weekend.  A few years ago we decided the weekend before Thanksgiving was going to be our day to decorate, and I have to say, I like it.  I don't feel that Thanksgiving gets eclipsed by the Christmas decorations - if anything, it just adds to the air of thanks for me.  It's hard for me not to feel thankful in the early morning glow of the Christmas tree.






I'm sitting in the kids' playroom right now with just such a glowing tree in the corner, and a camp mug of coffee in my hand (well, on the shelf - can't hold coffee while I'm typing).  The rowdy refrain of "Jingle Bells" is already coming from the kids' room, so I imagine I'm going to be interrupted any minute, but I am hoping to get this post done and published before my self-imposed computer limit kicks me off.

Speaking of which, how is the social media/digital break going?  It has actually been much easier than I thought it would be so far.  Maybe it's because we are just dipping into the craziness of holiday preparations, and my mind has been too occupied with that to dwell much on Instagram.  I have actually not found myself picking up my phone before realizing I deleted my social media apps, which has been a surprise.  Maybe I'm adjusting quicker since this isn't my first break from social media.  There have, however, been several times when I thought about sharing something with you all on Instagram, and then remembered that I can't. But I've been trying to redirect some of that pent-up social energy into more personal interactions, which has been lovely.  I finally started a craft I had planned with the kids, I got a date on the calendar to visit my grandpa, I've written a few notes to people, and we had a game night at my sister's house (which is already completely decked out for Christmas too).





Back to the subject of tree decorating.  Am I the only one who finds the entire decorating process stressful?  I know it's supposed to be this time of joy and family appreciation, but for the last several years I have found myself running around, pre-cleaning surfaces in preparation for decorations, shouting to remind the kids to pick up their toys (again), trying to get cute decorating pictures, and just generally being a mess.  I escaped mid-decorating this year with Gwen to go do some Christmas shopping.  It was just getting too stressful.  I also decided to take the pressure of getting pictures of the kids decorating the tree off my plate.  It's about having a fun time, not getting a cute picture, right?  Except my efforts to calm down about taking pictures were voided by requests from each of the kids to take a picture of them so I could put it in their photo book.  So the camera did appear, but in a much more relaxed way.


(It snowed last week, and the afternoons were just so peaceful and pretty.)

Speaking of trees, I had an epiphany this weekend.  You know those Christmas trees that are made of that shiny, irridescent, tinsel-like material?  I always thought those were really ugly.  Why would anyone buy a tree like that?  Well, I have learned why.  We made a trip to our local Christmas wonderland store this weekend to look for some colorful outdoor lights, and I pointed out a tree to Derek that I thought was particularly pretty - decorated in icy blue and bronze, and just glittering all over the place.  Then it occurred to me that this was one of those trees!  Those tinsel-trees that I always thought were so ugly.  It turns out that when you add in some twinkling white lights and sparkly ornaments, the whole tree just looks like a glittering masterpiece.  Now I kind of want a tinsel-tree.





Thanksgiving is this week, and we are taking sort-of break from school.  I don't want to take a full-break, because I want more days to be added into our required totals, but I've decided this is history catch-up week.  Until Thursday, we are just going to sit around, read books from our history curriculum, and drink hot chocolate.  We might throw some Christmas books into the mix, and maybe a craft.  That's my plan.  I love homeschooling.




Also on the schedule - make the perfect chocolate pie for Thanksgiving.  This year we are bringing Derek's mom with us to my parent's house, and I think it will be extra-special to enjoy members of both sides of the family at the same time. I am tasked with bringing pink fluff salad, a relish plate, and a pie. I'm thinking of making a Hershey pie.  If you've never had it, think melt-in-your mouth, creamy chocolate that is about a thousand calories per slice (I exaggerate, but not by that much).  But if you have a favorite chocolate pie recipe, send it my way!

In light of all this holiday prep, I am also hoping to get some Christmas cards written this week.  If you are a blog buddy of mine and are interested in swapping Christmas cards with me, will you fill out your address on this form?  My Christmas card philosophy is "more the merrier", for giving and receiving, and I do have some extra time to work on them now that I'm hardly on my phone!  Turns out Instagram was the major time-sucking culprit.




Tools For A Social Media Break




I knew from the start that I wanted to completely break my phone habit with this year's social media break.  I don't like how my hand is often reaching for my hone before I even realize it, and I figured getting rid of Facebook and Instagram for a while would be the first step.

There are some complications though, with taking a break from social media.  How am I going to still share photos with my family (which is a big value of Facebook to me)?  How am I going to be able to get my blog posts to people who only read through Instagram?  How am I going to have the motivation to resist signing back in to check just "one more thing"?  And would getting rid of those two apps be enough, or would I just find other ways to waste time on my phone?

I don't want my bad habits to be diverted to other digital activities during this break.  I want to spend time doing things in the real world, and develop some "analog" skills that have been languishing for too long.

As I was mulling all that over, I found a few resources that have been or hopefully will be very helpful in making the most of my attempt to break my phone habit over the next couple months, and I wanted to share them with you here!

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport - I listened to this book in two days over the weekend, and picking this book up now was so timely for me.  Newport is talking about the very thing I've been struggling with, getting a handle on your "digital life" and making sure that the ways in which you use technology are actually serving you, instead of making you a slave to technology.  This book gave me so many things to think about, and strategies for making sure that I break my phone habit long-term, not just until my break is over in January.

Freedom.to - This is a tool I read about in Digital Minimalism, and I went straight home and signed up.  Freedom.to allows you to block distracting websites (specified by you) for certain blocks of time or on regular schedules (also specified by you).  I've set mine up to block time-suck websites for the hours of 9-5, Monday through Friday.  Like I said, I didn't want my bad phone habits to just get diverted to other digital time wasters, so this tool should help alot!  They are running a special right now too - you can try it monthly for $7, or get a whole year for $20!

Later.com - I mentioned in my first post about taking a social media break that I am still going to use a scheduler, to let people know that I've posted here on my blog.  This is the scheduler!  You can set it up to share to multiple social media websites (without being signed in), but the one that is most useful at this time for me is posting to my blog Instagram, because this is the only website I'm aware of that let's you schedule posts to Instagram.  I know there is a decent portion of readers (though not as many as you might think) who keep up with blogs through Instagram, and I didn't want those of you who keep up with me that way to totally miss out while I have the app removed from my phone.

Chatbooks - Another hesitation I had with giving up Instagram specifically is that I have a recurring series that automatically prints my pictures to these cute little photo books through Chatbooks.  My kids LOVE these books and are constantly carrying them around.  I was a little sad to miss a couple months of capturing our memories this way, until I remembered that you can add photos to a Chatbook manually through the app.  Did you know that?  It will take a little more intention from me to remember to add photos to the book when I don't have an instant audience or the boost of "likes", but that's also the whole point of my social media break - to be more intentional with how I'm spending my time.  I'm thinking about printing out books of the best photos from the month and sending them to our family members who really enjoy photos of the kids.  Yes, this will cost me more money, but I have to think it will mean a little more too.  (There is also just good ol' texting for sending photos, which I plan on putting to use!)



I'll write another post soon about things I'm hoping to spend time on instead of my phone, but I wanted to share these tools this morning for a few of you who I know were also considering some sort of digital break!

Do you have any other resources I should know about that are helpful for breaking bad phone habits?

Also, real quick, did you know that I actually had a newsletter for this blog?  I haven't sent a newsletter out in years, but I figured now might be a good time to dust it off.  If you need a way beside social media for keeping up with this blog, you can sign up for updates below!



Currently... | November 2019


Wearing: These new duck boots that I ordered here.  At first I felt a little clunky in them.  But I know they will be great for ice and snow this winter, so I kept them and they've been growing on me!



Drinking: Coffee with a splash of half-and-half.  Derek and I made a no-fancy-coffee pact for the month of November, and I'm trying my hardest to stick to it.  It is embarrassing how much I can spend in one month on just coffee!

Picking: Rock for behind the new wood stove that Derek is installing this week.  Our old house had a wood stove, and I loved that thing.  It added a coziness to the living room and was a life-saver when the power would go out.  I could even cook on it!  We decided we wanted one in our new house too, but I had a terrible time picking out the rock for it.  Our old wood stove had this really pretty grayish natural rock behind it, with lichen even growing on the rock, and it was so pretty.  But real rock is expensive, and fake rock doesn't grow lichen.  I made a decision though, and Derek took the week off to get the rock up!  It's going to look good I think.



Reading: Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz. The subtitle is "tracing the heart of the gospel from Christ to the Reformation", and it looks really fascinating!  I just started it.



Preparing: For the girls' birthday party this Saturday.  I have struggled for a long time on how to handle birthday parties with five kids.  Five individual parties each year was out of the question, but I also didn't want them to never have a birthday party during their growing up years.  I still don't know exactly what my plan is, but this year I decided we'd do one combined party for the girls, and one for the boys in the spring.  The girls requested a "princess tea party" birthday.  I just ordered candy canes so I can hot glue the curved part onto plastic cups - you know, to make little "tea cups".  I'm fancy like that.  Hey, you would be shocked how hard and expensive it is to find a basic teacup these days, so I had to improvise!

Feeling: Like I need next week off after all this party prep.  But moms don't get vacation time.

Trying: To be more consistent in my Bible reading.  I typically wake up before the kids each morning to read, which works great when I can make it happen.  However, I'm finding that other days the kids pull me in a million directions right after I wake up, which leads me to sometimes forget.  I've been feeling especially spiritually weary lately, and I know it's because I haven't had enough consistency in my daily quiet time.  This week I've been settling the kids with their breakfast and sneaking away while they eat, and that seems to be working better!

Following: Speaking of Bible reading, I started this Bible reading plan in earnest, and I am loving it.  It's been a while since I tried to read the Bible within a certain time frame. At first I was a little intimidated by the sheer volume of reading each day.  Now that I'm into it though, I am loving reading bigger chunks of Scripture at a time.  Going in-depth with one section is important and meaningful, but I'm at a stage in life where increasing the quantity of Bible reading is more doable.  The name is fitting, "keeping the feast".  I feel that way right now when I finish reading for the day, like I've had a feast.

Sporting: A new hair color!  I tried to edit this photo to make the color the most accurate. It's basically a little darker and richer than my natural color, and on my previous honey-highlights, it has a red-maroon tint.  Last winter I went with straight-up burgundy hair, so this is a subtler version of that.  I'm told it will fade out really well, and I'm liking it alot!



Wondering: If you've noticed that my blogroll in the sidebar has expanded a bit?  I found a few new blogs lately that I'm enjoying!

Considering: A social media break.  I took a Facebook break for the month of December last year, and it was so lovely.  This year I'm considering taking a break from Instagram too!  Just trying to figure out logistics of how to still share blog posts and still get Christmas photos printed into books easily (since I normally use Chatbooks connected with my Instagram).  Question: how do you typically read this blog?  Do you come to new posts through social media, or do you use a blog reader, or just type in the url when you want to read new posts?  I'll put a poll below.



Listening: To Christmas music.  Yes, I am.

Watching:  Derek and I recently re-started watching The Middle from the beginning.  We were watching Blue Bloods for a while, but we needed a break from drama.  In general we are more comedy-type people, and we relate to the Hecks!  Maybe you have to be from a certain type of family to appreciate that show, because the only people I know who have loved it as much as we do are other members of my family...but we all find it hilarious.

What have you all been up to?

Linking up here.




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