Monday, February 8, 2016

28 Days to a Healthier and Happier Life {Week 1}

You thought there might be zombies, right?

For the next 28 days we are going to talk about living naturally. I am big on avoiding chemicals whenever I can, so this a topic we learn as part of school, and just life in general. Recently we did a clean eating challenge, well it really wasn't much of a challenge, but I did get some new great recipes and I am ready to share how we live with you.

If you wake up in the morning and you are tired and just have zero energy {there's your zombie}, that can change. First we will look at your cleaners. What is in them? All kinds of crazy chemicals? Bleach? Probably, right? Well...throw them out. 

Go...I will wait...

 There is nothing healthy about bleach. Nothing. At all. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I do not make my own cleaning products. I have no time for that. I use something called Melaleuca. I love it, some don't, no big deal. There are several other options for "natural" cleaning options. Use them. I will let you decide what will work best for your family. 

What I will tell you is that Bear has bad asthma and tossing the bleach really helped clear a lot of her breathing issues right up! The one simple change that we made to start was what sold me on changing our lives forever.

Tossing my bleach was my very first step to a new life. Don't take these 31 days as the can keep getting greener, healthier, and happier, day-by-day.

Week 1:

Monday {Today}: 28 day clean eating meal plan {complete with links to recipes}. Go shopping and ease on in!

Tuesday: DIY carpet powder for when you vacuum. It smells amazing!

Wednesday: Turkey Joes for dinner!

Thursday: Change out your cleaners we want to switch to healthier options. If you need ideas, here is my Melaleuca Board, you can also use Pinterest for a quick search of green cleaning. Toss your bleach and join my family in healthy, happy living. 

Friday: Eggs and avocado breakfast with coffee and homemade creamer

Saturday: Let's talk weed killer: I know, RoundUp is great! It works. I get it. It also, for a long time. And it makes it hard for my Bear and I to breathe. SO what do you do when your yard is overrun with weeds and you don't want crazy chemicals? 
1. You wait for a mildly warm day with a lot of sun. 
2. You fill up your old RoundUp bucket with plain white vinegar.
3. Spray away at about 10am. Ta-da! Homemade and pet safe weed killer!

Sunday: We all have toilets. We all need them clean. This is where going green gets dicey. But, have no fear, Pinterest has options! Homemade toilet cleaner to the rescue! I can totally think of a better way to spend a Sunday, but hey, at least take a look...Ahem...Mela also just released a new toilet cleaner and it is ahhhMAZING!

Did you try any of these? How well is this working out for you? Let me know, and I will see you back here next Monday morning for week 2.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Guide to Schedule and Curriculum Changes

I'm not going to lie the beginning of the year I had this all figured out. I had my schedule set for Bear and Boo, I knew the daily routine, I knew the sports schedules, and I for sure was not going to waiver.

How, then, did we wind up here? Bear is constantly fighting me on school work while Boo just trots on by like it's the easiest thing ever. I was frustrated and at the end of my rope. I was watching as one child was falling behind because I was so determined to follow my schedule that I made. The same schedule I made without bothering to work with and consult the two people who knew best what they need: my daughters! Duh!

This week I swallowed my pride and did what I needed. I decided the best way to give my children what they needed was to talk to them. I had fallen into exactly what I do not want to be. The parent that says do the work and keep up {as a teacher, that is what I am told to do, as a mother, I know better}.

How was I able to gain control in just a week? Easy...look...

1. {ok, it was more like two weeks because I needed to plan for a week}...I followed my regular lesson plans for a week

2. During that same week, I began to just ease off and see where exactly the issue was. It really didn't take long.

3. I wrote everything down {by the way, I started the year with a time-block schedule, then swapped to a list schedule right away as both girls preferred it}. I noted what work was not getting finished, or how long each assignment was taking.

4. I read my notes and this is what I saw:
*Boo: Finished all work fast, correctly, and even early.
*Bear: Math was great, she is excelling, Latin...same, Geography is where she slows, she is bored with it. Science was going well as long as I was reading the book to her, same with History. Finally we have Language Arts...this is a disaster. Not one day resulted in finished work. She could only finish if we were doing it all verbally **ding!!

5. I called the doctor! Yes, you read that right. Now, I am not all about labels, but I am a divorced mother, so I need my bases covered. Her doctor and the specialist agree: learning disability {ps...I despise that term. These children are not incapable of learning, they just do it differently!!!} Appropriate appointments made, and school work will be done 50/50 verbally and on her own {because if we are being}.

6. I regrouped: I pulled out my notebook, called the girls in and got to work!

7. The real work: I sat with each child and talked about how she learned and how she liked to break her day up. Boo really does do well with a list, so she still gets her daily task list to check off each day. Bear has a time-block schedule now. Technically both girls do, just in case Boo isn't feeling it that day, she has a time-block to get her through.

8. I went through and printed up worksheets for all missing assignments! Every. Last. One. I then filed those in a file with each child's name and class. If there is missing work it will be there. The child can go in and look when she has extra time and finish the work! I tend to have Friday as quiz day, so this is perfect for Fridays!

9. I picked up additional small unit studies for Boo. When she has nothing left, she can do some of that work. She loves ancient Greece right now, so I got two on that for her.

10. I took a hard look at curriculum because Bear was unhappy with Language Arts and was getting frustrated with the amount of time she was doing Math. For Language Arts, I got rid of a couple items, small books and stupid sentence stuff, and we no longer diagram. For Math I added Life of Fred, which we all LOVE. I am slowly beginning to rethink Mystery of History. While I absolutely love it, I am not sure either of my daughters likes the chronology. Plus, in Volume II there is a lot of anti-catholic view, which I can deal with because it forces me to teach my children the view of the Church, but I worry that I might miss something one day, What do you think? Is there a History curriculum you love?

New schedules for my girls:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Why I don't do Santa and 7 other holiday traditions we do instead

In my home we keep Christ in Christmas. I choose not to include Santa in our home traditions. It isn't that I am a hater of Santa, but I don't see the need to lie to my children about a character that really has nothing to do with the actual meaning of Christmas. I get a lot of backlash about not doing Santa in my are some of the responses and my response to them {in case you're considering firing Santa as well}.

You're ruining Christmas - Considering the holiday is about the birth of Jesus Christ, I do not feel I am ruining anything for anyone.

You're depriving them of their childhood - Ok, I don't even give a response here because this is asinine. Really? Jewish, Muslim, and Jehovah's Witnesses everywhere just cringed. How sad does a child's life need to be when Santa is what defines their childhood? My goodness people.

Your children will ruin it for everyone else's children - Again...Jewish, Muslim...not all religions, or even non-religious people believe in Santa. How exactly does my child single-handedly have the power to ruin the secret you hold so dear, but no one else does? You know Santa is pretend, how is that so different?

You're ruining the spirit of the holiday - *Ahem* Please excuse me while I adjust my nativity...

So...what traditions do we have? Well, while I do not have Santa {please note...he is in the decor, and we do have Santa dolls, we just don't participate in believing he is real}, I do have several other ways to enjoy the entire season. Here is a list of seven of them:

Our Christmas traditions:

  • Feast of St. Nicholas - On the Feast of St. Nicholas we prepare a nice meal and set up our stockings and stocking holder for small gifts for the family. Nothing big, all really small gifts, but fun nonetheless. Everyone gets small stocking stuffers and snacks.
  • Christmas Eve - Feast of the seven fishes. We are an Italian family, so we celebrate Christmas Eve as a fasting day {meaning no meat}. The fest of the seven fishes is my favorite meal of the entire year. *Just a side note, this is an Italian-American thing, but my great grandparents who came from Italy even celebrated* While an Italian-American cultural event, those in Italy do fast on Christmas Eve, just more informally than this. We open one family gift after dinner (an event of some sort that changes each year).
  • Christmas Day - Mass, before all else. The children each get one gift. No more, no less. We received one gift this day 2,000 years ago, and I maintain that tradition.
  • Epiphany - Three gifts are given to each child. One practical, one fun, and one wild card gift. This year, wild card gifts are handmade for each child. Customized to her/his own personality.
  • Nativity - I cannot stress enough how much my children love the nativity scene. We do not place Christ in the scene until Christmas morning. After Christ is born, the Wise Men make their journey to meet Christ, getting a little closer each day until Epiphany arrives. I also have a fun play nativity the toddlers can touch, play, and learn with.
  • Christmas lights - Most families enjoy this activity...we go get coffees and hot chocolate and head out to look at the Christmas light spectaculars in our area. This is a fun outing and kind of a big deal. My children and I are able to enjoy each other's company so much.
  • Ornament exchange - I allow my daughters to hold an ornament exchange with friends. Dirty Santa style! They love this and it gives them the chance to bond with friends as well, plus learn to be gracious hosts.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bringing home Advent: 10 Advent ideas

When my life fell to shambles a few years back {ok, in retrospect it was the best gift God ever gave me, a way out, safety} I decided to overhaul the holidays. I have hated the holiday season since I had kids. I hate Christmas shopping, I don't get all into decorating, I don't love it. Like, at all. Well it hit me when my kids and I were on our own that the reason I hated it was because Christmas had become a thing of materialism in our home. I knew what I needed to do;

Bring Advent home! So. Darn. Simple.

But how? How do you bring Advent back into your home?

Start by heading to your church. Head in and pray. Pray hard. Talk to God, listen to God, and ask Him what he wants for your family. What does Advent mean exactly? It is the preparation for the coming of Christ. It begins the 4th Sunday prior to Christmas and ends December 24th; it is our time to prepare for the arrival of our Savior. And prepare we shall!

Here are 5 ways to prepare during Advent:

1. Go to Mass, maybe even a few on weekdays! January 1st is not the time for this resolution! It is now! Prepare before the arrival, not after.

2. Pray a rosary daily. Remember, it was Mary's "yes" that allowed this season to commence.

3. Repent, I feel any major feast or holiday {Christmas and Easter} should be prepared for with repentance. Be sorry for your sins, try to change them for Christ. Do real penance and confession.

4. Daily readings. You can downlaod the Laudate app to your phone and use it to get the daily reading. Read them daily, pray about them, ask God to be with you while you read.

5. Sacrifice, even if it is only your time. Perhaps you can volunteer somewhere so others can go home for the day, or buy extra groceries and make smaller, individual meals...when you pass someone who is homeless, give them a meal!

5 fun Advent traditions to start:

1. Advent wreath - duh. You can have one that you pull out year after year, or you can make a new, fresh one every year. And if you don't like the everyday wreaths you can make a modern version of Advent candle holders. The possibilities really are endless.

2. Jesse tree - Honestly, I had never heard of this until a few days ago. I think it is genius! I love this so much. It is the story of the ancestry of Christ in a way your small children will understand. I will be adding this to my own home next season for sure!

3. Advent calendar - Each of my children has one, and no I do not mean the kind filled with a candy each day. Ours are filled with age-appropriate Advent preparation. Some are activities, some are readings, some are even sacrifices, but all are there to help the children prepare for Christ in the best way possible.

4. Nativity Scenes - Add a nativity to your home. Handmade, store bought, kid friendly, whatever...the point is to remind your children what the season is really about. 

5. Celebrate feast days - Gather a list of feast days and how to celebrate them. Go to Mass that day, and celebrate the feast day. This a great way to really get involved in the season.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Slammed with

Well, I am a day...or two...late...oops. We were running around all week like chickens with our heads cut off. And over the weekend we went to the Natural History Museum. I have been diligently picking away at things that needed to get done for the major school this week. We started weeks ago, but this is the big start. All classes in full swing. Everything is ordered and on its way. I only wish Boo and Bear were as excited I am. I haven't ordered religious ed yet, I am struggling with choosing. I had one picked, but there are just so many, and I do not like dealing with the unknown.

I am getting my binder all in order so I have the lesson plans, school paperwork, and all that good stuff in one place. I am also in the process of getting a file box ready with file folders for their work. I am keeping everything at my fingertips. 

My binder will include, but is not limited to:

State legal information {affidavit, homeschool laws for Arizona, annual testing results}
Activities {sports, field trips, clubs, church groups, etc}
Current curriculum list with a current school year calendar
Book wishlist along with other curriculum to look at {if needed}, as well as class wants for the next year.
Boo's tests from all her classes
Bear's tests from all her classes
Nani's...well, er uh...everything just so she feels like a big girl!

*Please note, the legal information you keep should be based on local laws for your area. I am in Arizona, we don't need records, but since I am divorced I keep these items for the ex to see when he is just good co-parenting.

Like I said, we are all out of control over here! In addition to my notebook I created a spreadsheet to docushare with the ex as is my grade sheet. I have all eight {yes EIGHT} classes listed, as well as the curriculum, what I paid and where I got it, PLUS I have the attendance sheet there for him. I am toying with sharing it here on the site for a time for FREE.

I am also custom building a Home Econ curriculum for the big girls. I will go along with the Geography and cultural lessons. We are just swamped with the start of school the past few weeks.