A Peek Into Our Week: A new homeschooling routine, fort-building, celebrating our 12th anniversary, and She Reads Truth

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After a few weeks of Christmas break, traveling, and sickness, we were back to homeschooling and a regular schedule this week. And I was shocked at how well the week went.

Usually, easing back into a routine after a few weeks off is hard. But this week everything felt so smooth and calm.

I really attribute it to the grace of God, giving the kids a clear picture of how our tweaked schedule was going to look, getting them excited about how we had changed things up a little bit, writing out a to-do list for each child every day (they loved this and were highly motivated by it), and instituting Morning Time as part of our homeschooling schedule.

They loved Morning Time so much that they asked if we could please do it on Saturday, too! I am so grateful for this excitement and new life breathed into our homeschooling and am hoping this momentum continues! Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 9.01.11 PM

I am loving the She Reads Truth John study this month. Jesse surprised me with the Yearly Membership to She Reads Truth as my Christmas gift and I can’t tell you how thrilled I was!

These studies have challenged me, encouraged me, and inspired me to dig deep into God’s Word. If you are looking for a great Bible study/devotion, definitely check it out. You can get the daily Scripture reading/devotional for free online and just use a notebook to record what you’re learning/studying/praying.

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We also started using The Confident Mom Weekly Household Planner this week. I’m divvying up the daily chores amongst myself and the kids and that seems to be working well.

I’m curious to see if this is a good fit for us long-term… we’re committed to try it out for a few months to see how it goes!

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I’ve been doing a LOT of reading recently. It’s been so soul-filling for me to get back to making reading a regular part of my every day after a few months of not being so intentional about it. And I’m just loving the variety of books I’m reading.

You can see what I read last week and what I’m reading this week here.

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12 years ago today, I married my childhood sweetheart. We were full of big dreams, completely idealistic, and incredibly naive.

We’ve experienced a lot, moved a lot, failed a lot, fought a lot, and grown a lot in these last 12 years. While the years and struggles have made us quite a bit more realistic about life (and maybe a wee bit cynical!), two things haven’t changed: we’re more madly in love than the day we got married and we still want to spend our lives doing all we can to make a difference in this world.

Only God knows what the next 12 years will hold, but we are grateful to be following a God who is always faithful and never changing.

{Thank you, Jesse, for the beautiful anniversary flowers, thank you for 12 amazing (and eventful!) years, and thank you for loving me and believing in me — even on those many days when it’s the last thing I’ve deserved. I love you with all of my heart!}
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Today’s frugal fun: Fort-building in the dining room. We don’t have a table in there yet, so I’m happy to see the area be put to good use!

The kids had a blast setting it up with me and then had popcorn and watched a movie in their tent so Jesse and I could enjoy an at-home anniversary date!

How was YOUR week? Anything exciting or interesting happen? Tell us about it in the comments.

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DIY Experiment: A quick fix for scratched hardwood floors

A quick fix for scratched hardwood floors

When I saw this post on an Easy Fix for Scratched Hardwood Floors, I knew I had to try it. Our floors in our rental are very scratched up and I’ve been on a mission ever since we moved to figure out ways to improve how they look.

I bought some of the Howard Restor-A-Finish on Amazon with my Swagbucks credit and was excited to try it out this week.

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I chose a spot that was pretty bad but also in a fairly inconspicuous place. See above for the scratches before I tried Restor-a-Finish on them.

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And here is how they look after using Restor-a-Finish on them. I can’t tell that much of a difference up close, but I think it looks somewhat better from a distance.

I think this would work even better on wood with darker finish. I also would recommend starting out pouring on less of the Restor-a-Finish to make sure you’re happy with the results in a small area before you dump a bunch on a larger area. :)

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve scratched hardwood floors? Did you try an do-it-yourself projects this week? If so, how did they turn out for you?

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Small House Living: Could you downsize in house?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of Small House Living recently. My blogging friend, Lori, has shared about their family’s fairly radical decision to downsize to an RV and travel around the country as a family.

This in and of itself is impressive. But it’s even more impressive when you find out that they are doing this with four kids in tow.

Part of the idea of voluntarily downsizing appeals to me in a big way because I don’t like extra clutter and stuff. On the flip side, the thought of living out of a really small space sounds like a recipe for lots of tension. Namely, I like to have quiet places to retreat and living in such a small space might make me feel like I’d go crazy after awhile. :)

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There can be a lot of benefits to downsizing, though, if even for a short period of time.

When I was 10 years old, my parents sold our house and moved all 7 of us (there were only five kids at the time!) to a single wide trailer for 7 months while we built a home in the country. Since our living space was very limited, we put most of our household items in storage and only kept out the essentials.

We have so many memories from that summer in the trailer, most of them good memories. And we discovered a lot of benefits to living in a small space. Such as:

  • We hardly spent any time cleaning. My mom divvied up the household chores amongst all of us and with only 6 total rooms in the trailer, that meant very few chores to go around!
  • It fostered togetherness. We couldn’t really go off by ourselves because there wasn’t a lot of space, so we had to learn how to get along even in tighter quarters! I have many fond memories of nights spent all together in the living room reading before bed.
  • We made our own entertainment. We weren’t able to bring many of our toys/things along, so we had fun using what we had for forms of entertainment. We built an elaborate tree “house” using things left in the old barn. We experimented in the kitchen with new recipes that only used the microwave, crock pot, or electric skillet (we didn’t have an oven in the trailer). And my older sister did a lot of sewing since she was able to bring her sewing machine.
  • We became more grateful. My parents were investing most of their money into the house-building project so there wasn’t a lot of extra cash that summer. I distinctly remember it being the first time in my life where we had to do without and I remember how much contentment and gratefulness this helped me develop.
  • It taught us the difference between a need and something that’s nice to have. There are many things we had to put in storage that summer that we’d always assumed you needed to live. But we realized that, if you can survive without it for 7 months, it’s probably less of a necessity and more of something that’s nice to have. It’s good to learn from a young age that there are very few real needs in life. I’m grateful for the conveniences of things like ovens and dishwashers and dryers, but you can survive just fine without them, as we did for those 7 months.

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I was reading Kathi Lipp’s new book called Clutter Free recently and she talks about their decision not to move up in house, but rather to downsize in stuff.

She lists off a number of benefits for living in a smaller house, including:

  • Smaller houses are less expensive to furnish than larger houses.
  • Smaller houses are less expensive to heat and cool compared to comparably built larger homes.
  • Smaller houses force you to use all of your home.
  • Smaller houses force you to be intentional about your possessions.

I love her conclusion that, much of the time, we don’t need a bigger house, we need less stuff. If you’re feeling cramped in your space and like your family is bursting at your house seams, make sure you’ve eliminated all the unnecessary clutter and extras first before you starting shopping for a bigger house.

Have you ever downsized before — even for a short time? Do you think you could do what Lori’s family is doing and downsize your family to an RV? Why or why not? I’d love to hear!

For inspiration, check out this article: 12 of the Most Impressive Tiny Houses You’ve Ever Seen

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Trim Healthy Mama Chocolate Cupcakes (grain-free, dairy-free)

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I found this Trim Healthy Mama Cupcake recipe when I was browsing on Pinterest the other day. I realized that we happened to have all of the ingredients on hand for it, so Silas and I spent a little time in the kitchen making it today.

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This boy. He melts my heart! I love how much he loves to help and serve. He has the sweetest heart and is always looking for ways to bless his mama.

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Silas did all of the stirring and mixing and then filled up the muffin tins — with very little help from me.

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Here’s the link to the recipe we used: Trim Healthy Mama Cupcake recipe.

Overall, we were happy with the end result. For the healthful ingredients they have in them, they were fairly delicious.

I probably would have loved them more if they didn’t have almond flour as their base, though. I keep telling myself I’m going to learn to like almond flour, but so far, I just can’t quite get over the texture and taste of it in baked goods. It just always tastes a little too nutty and off to me.

Is anyone else like that? Maybe I’m just weird!

I do, however, think this batter would be really yummy made in the waffle iron and slathered with butter. Or, topped with some kind of frosting. Otherwise, these were a little on the dry and bland side to me.

Have you cooked or baked anything this week? Have any new must-try recipe links to share?

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Want to get more done? Stop making so many decisions!

Fewer options = less time making decisions

Want to get more done in 2015? Here’s a simple tip: Stop making so many decisions.

For real.

I was reading an advanced copy of Jon Acuff’s new book, Do Over, and he talks about this. Here’s what he says:

This is a technique leaders throughout history have taken up. Like a guy named Albert Einstein. According to Forbes, “It has been reported that the famous physicist bought several versions of the same gray suit because he didn’t want to waste brainpower on choosing an outfit each morning.”

President Barack Obama explained the idea even further, in an article in Vanity Fair written by Michael Lewis, “You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. ‘You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,’ [Obama] said. ‘I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.’ ”

If you think that won’t work, I’d like to introduce you to the “speaking jeans” I own. For the last eighteen months, I’ve worn one pair of pants at every event I’ve spoken at. (The ones where jeans were acceptable onstage.) That’s one less thing for me to think about when I pack.

-Jon Acuff, Do Over (go pre-order a copy — it’s fantastic!)

Want to get more done? Eliminate decision-making

I know this might sound overly simplistic, but it really does work. This is one of the reasons I only have a few outfits and re-wear them over and over and over again — down to the same shoes and jewelry.

This is one of the reasons it’s rare for me to eat something different than oatmeal or eggs and bacon for breakfast and why it was Instagram-worthy that I had a Purple Power Smoothie for breakfast yesterday! :)

This is why I like to stay at the same hotel chain, eat at the same restaurant chains (and usually always order the same things when I eat there), wear the same makeup palette every day, re-buy the exact same brand/make of something I like when the first one wears out, fix my hair in the same styles, and make the same meals on a regular basis.

Those of you who thrive on variety would probably find this incredibly boring. But for me, there is not only comfort in the sameness of things, it also simplifies life a lot.

If you only have one choice or a few choices, versus dozens of choices, it’s usually much quicker and easier to make a decision. You don’t have to weigh your options, consider the pros and cons, try on different outfits, worry about which choice is best… you just make your simple decision and go with it.

What About You?

Have you simplified and eliminated decision-making in certain areas of your life? If so, I’d love to hear! Also, does a life of few choices sound wonderful or extremely boring? Why or why not?

photo credit; photo credit

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A Day In My Life: Early rising, computer crashes, Morning Time, cleaning out a closet, and a remarkably good Monday!

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So how did your Monday go? Mine went remarkably well — which was not what I was expecting after us all being sick and completely off any routine last week and few weeks of us being mostly off school.

I am trying to get back to really early, early rising again. To the tune of 3:30 a.m. Yes, I have up and lost my mind. :)

But this morning, I was so grateful that I got up early because I had a lot of computer work to catch up on and my laptop crashed yesterday, so I was working on my husband’s laptop… which was clearly invented in the time of the dinosaurs. Or at least that’s what it felt like when the thing was working at a snail’s pace. (Have I mentioned I don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to slow computers??)

Instead of being frustrated, though, I decided to focus on the positive: that I usually have a fast computer, that I an internet connection at all, that my computer is under warranty, and that I have a backup computer to work on.

After crawling through all my morning computer work, I finished up, spent some time reading my Bible and studying John 4. Then I exercised with Silas (who was the only up at the time) and then let him play an educational game on the computer while I took a shower.

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When I was ready for the day, I got the girls up, we had breakfast (Purple Power smoothies — see the ingredients here), and read our devotional and some from Aesop’s Fables.

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While the kids were finishing up their breakfast, I wrote out chore lists for them (their chores change a little each day depending upon what needs to be done — I’m also divvying up the Confident Mom Planner chores between us all) and they go busy on their lists.

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I cleaned up the kitchen, started some laundry, cleaned up my room, made my bed, washed Kathrynne’s hair and fixed it, and helped Silas with his chores.

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We then sat down for Morning Time. Oh how I think this idea is going to be such a gift to our homeschooling. It went SO well today and was so fun to have time set aside to do those things I always hope we would get to but always seem to be crowded out by math, grammar, and so on.

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After we were done with Morning Time, Jesse got home and made lunch for the kids, got them started on the core subjects for the day while I worked on cleaning out the bathroom closet.

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I pulled most of the items out, reorganized and consolidated, threw a few things out, and moved some of the extra bottles to the second bathroom where were have some empty storage shelves. And within around 25 minutes, the closet looked SO much better!

Believe it or not, by 12:30 p.m., I had finished my entire Morning List. I guess the getting up early thing really does work well. :)

I spent the afternoon working on blog projects, writing this post on my South Africa secret, and getting caught up on emails.

And then tonight we had our usual weekly Monday night gathering with friends. We all brought stuff for a Taco Bar and an Ice Cream Bar. It’s always an evening filled with a lot of laughing, ribbing, and just so much fun. We’re grateful for this group of friends that God has given us and how much they bless us each week.

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How was YOUR day? Leave a comment and tell us about it and you’ll be entered to win this stack of goodies I put together — including a few brand-new books by dear friends of mine!

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