Monday, September 29, 2014

The Gist of It

The other day I wrote a long post called "Something's Gotta Give." Perhaps some of you already read it. I decided to take it down off my blog. It just felt a little too much "woe is me." It's not that I didn't feel what I wrote...because I did. It's just that maybe I was a little too honest, as in, I told too much. Maybe I'm just feeling embarassed about what I wrote. I don't know. Blogging is a fine line between "keeping it real" but not airing out all your dirty laundry for all to read. That line can get blurry sometimes.

For those of you who didn't read it, here's the gist of it:

- My baby doesn't sleep.

- Physically, I'm not doing overly well. I've been having some strange symptoms lately.

- I've been troubled with a lot of anxiety/stress lately. This may be the cause of many of my symptoms.

-Things need to change around here.

What does this translate to?

I'm dedicating the rest of this year to getting things back in order around here. A real, focused effort to changing our habits. Working on getting Brielle to sleep better, potty training Nathanael, routines, boundaries, healthier habits for myself, etc. This means much less time online. I don't know yet how much less exactly. Being online...social media, etc just isn't all that important in the grand scheme of things. The dynamics of my life have changed a lot since I first signed up for Facebook and started blogging. Our family has changed and grown. This season of life is especially busy, and so this little blog of mine has been neglected. I don't really feel bad about that, though. My time needs to be spent on other things, on better things....on people...my family...

Thanks for understanding,

Monday, September 22, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

This week my menu plan is based on using up what I already have on hand or can make from scratch (such as the tortillas for the wraps). I'm going to do my best to avoid going to the grocery store this week.

Monday - Cheeseburger Soup (using leftover grilled burgers in the freezer)

Tuesday - Crockpot Pepper Steak & Herbed Rice

Wednesday - Grilled Salmon, Herbed Rice, Salad

Thursday - Leftovers & Mashed Potatoes

Friday - Pizza Night

Saturday - Crispy Southwest Wraps

Sunday - Leftovers

Friday, September 19, 2014

Quiet Evening Thoughts

I hear the pleasant chatter of neighbours outside as I breathe in the refreshing air of another beautiful fall evening. The dishwasher hums and swooshes in its methodical, rhythmical way, which is strangely comforting. On the cupboard a few dishes were waiting for me to handwash them, but I somehow managed to fit all of my stray pots and pans from supper into the dishwasher.  I love it when that happens.  And for the moment my three precious children are all sleeping, though only a minute ago I heard a sweet little squawk from Brielle. My hard-working husband is in the field, helping to bring in the harvest for another season. Though there is work for me to do...there is always work for me to do :-)... this introvert is enjoying a moment of rest and quiet contemplation amid the stillness of the evening.

Our home has been a bundle of busyness and stress as of late. It has been exhausting. Only family and our closest friends know the extent of it all. Physical and mental rest has eluded us for far too long. I long for days of routine, familiarity, calmness, and predictability. I pray those days will come soon. I caught a glimpse of those days the other evening when I snuggled up my kids on the couch to read a Beatrix Potter tale, a bedtime story read unhurriedly for once. Routine is comforting, not boring, to this introvert. Are you surprised I'm an introvert? Most who know our family would likely think of me as the extrovert and my husband as the introvert. I am far more introverted than I like to admit and am strangely surprised that I am not very extroverted. Being alone energizes me. Unless I am properly rested, being around people drains me, which pains me a little to admit that. That is not to say I can't talk a mile-a-minute and jabber most everyone's ears off when I want to, though.:-) My husband is the opposite. He is usually energized by being around friends and family, always up for a spontaneous adventure. He is usually calm and rather quiet in a crowd, but that is because he is not an attention-seeker and is far more self-controlled than I am. Though we are both first-borns, and so, naturally, we bring a double-dose of hard-headedness and stubborness :-), we complement each other and get along very well. We are very similar in many ways, and so we truly "get" each other's strange quirks, thoughts, and habits. We have been married for just over 9 years. I love him more than words could ever express. He is a fantastic husband and dad. Oh, life has felt rather tumultuous lately, but how much more bearable it is to sail the seas of life when you are riding its waves hand-in-hand with the one you love most, trusting the Captain all the way.

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Babies Don't Sleep

6 1/2 month old Brielle is really not sleeping well. She's crawling, pulling herself up to standing while holding on to something, saying "dadadadada", but not sleeping. I don't know what my problem is, but my babies just never sleep well. Elianna was a horrible sleeper until she was probably 2 1/2 or 3 years old. Nathanael was a horrible sleeper until he turned a year old (when I quit nursing, he went from being up 3 or 4 times a night to sleeping 12 hours straight almost immediately). Brielle is up...oh...at least 5 times a night (as in 5 times within 8 hours). I put her to bed (or Craig puts her to bed) around 8 pm. She will sleep for approximately one hour and then at 9 pm, the crying fits start. I mean, she cries pretty much non-stop for 5 hours unless she's being snuggled or nursed if it's been awhile, although that doesn't even always help. My gut tells me that nursing-to-sleep/co-sleep thing that we were doing for awhile is a major part of the problem. My gut also tells me that she is having stomach-aches (as she can be very gassy), though I have not found the cause of that. Now, though, we try very hard to not do the nurse-to-sleep thing, but the sleep problem has not ended. She will sleep for 20 minutes up to an hour sporatically within those 5 hours. But from 9 pm until 2 or 3 a.m., it's pretty much impossible for me to sleep as it takes me at least 20 minutes to get to sleep and by that time her next crying fit has started. And no, I don't race in at the first cry, either. I have read every book out there to do with sleeping issues. I've tried cry-it-out, I've tried EASY, I've tried babywise, baby whisperer, pat and shush, gas drops, gripe water, giving a bottle. You name it...I've TRIED IT ALL!  Finally, at 2 or 3 am., she settles down a little bit and might sleep for 2-3 hours in a row if I'm very lucky. This stretch often happens with her sleeping not-so-soundly with me on the couch. This is the only way I've been able to get any sleep whatsoever.This happens Every.single.night. Her best night was probably when she was about 3 weeks old and slept for 4 hours in a row once or twice  No, I'm not exaggerating. Yes, I'm barely surviving. I have a 2 year old and almost-5 year old to chase around all-day. Honestly, the last 6 months have been pretty brutal, and I am tired...bone-tired. My house is an absolute disaster.  I would do just about anything for 3 hours of uninterrupted night-time sleep. Just.about.anything. Don't even talk to me about something crazy like 5, 6, or 7 hours in a row...

Our extended family has been a real blessing to us and has taken the older two kids for a few days here and there.They have baby-sat for me when I have had several appointments lately (I've had to go to the dentist 4 times, chiropractor 2 times, doctor once, and massage therapist once in the last month for myself along with dentist for my kids, immunizations, and doctor appointments for my kids).  My sister is amazing and comes and washes my dishes for me and helps me put the kids to bed. I can't imagine how I'd be coping without them! This, along with a pretty hefty dose of "life" stress that has been hounding us down lately, is the reason why this blog is on the back-burner. Very recently, I was flat out in bed for almost a week with an incredibly sore back. Driving down the road to go to the doctor had me pulled over with tears streaming down my face. The pain was similar to labour-pain. That's the only way I can describe it. I am SO thankful that I went to the chiropractor, who told me it was actually my pelvis that was out of place and he fixed my problem! I was a bit of a skeptic that the chiropractor does much good (don't hate me for that!), but now I'm on-board as he gave me almost immediate relief! I was shocked at the difference. It lasted 4 days and then went out again, but I went back and have been good now for another few days. Yes, I still have the "normal" back aches/muscle aches, but the excrutiating, debilitating pain that I was experiencing (I couldn't even sit at church) is gone. Praise the Lord! That was a big answer to prayer.

Any "spare" minute I have is used to either eat (which, like yesterday, meant scarfing down a few cheesies and an apple at 8 pm (I forgot to eat my own supper as I was feeding Brielle), shower (which doesn't happen as often as it probably should), or sleeping/veging-out. There is no time (and if there is ever "time", there is rarely the energy) for cleaning, exercise, hobbies, or the like. Play-dates, mom's groups, etc...at this point, I don't even have the energy for that. This is survival-mode at its finest (or worst). If you want to still be my friend after seeing me in this mess I'm in, physically and mentally, well, you are just too sweet. I know this post sounds far too whiny and complaining-like. I truly hesistated to even write it as I'd much prefer to write something edifying and encouraging. I really, really, really would like to say that thing are going "really well." But, truthfully, they aren't. I am not ungrateful for the many blessings I have and have found that focusing on those things helps keep my heart in the right place. Spiritually, I am doing "ok". God has seemed distant lately, but I know better than to depend on my feelings because by faith and through His Word I know He is near, cares for me, and loves me even though I don't always "feel" it. However, I feel like it's important for me to write this just so people can maybe understand why I have had to say "no" to so many things lately. All this stress and exhaustion is why we went to our parents' church in town yesterday instead of to our dear home-church (which is a drive out of town). It is not going to be this way forever. This is only a season. I am not depressed, though. I can find joy and laugh and smile during moments. I am just incredibly, insanely stressed-out and exhausted mentally and physically. I couldn't even remember my phone number when the chiropractor's clinic asked me.

On the homeschool front, we continue to focus on phonics and reading. My husband and I are discussing the possibility of not yet ordering our planned curriculum for this year and, instead, focusing on character training and reading/phonics. I found this Character First program here, which has enough free material to cover many character issues. We have plenty of kindergarten "workbooks" and a fantastic libary to supplement that. I have talked to lots of Christian homeschool veterans.You know what nearly all of them advise? Don't worry so much about the "curriculum" when they are so young and pushing curriculum. Focus on character, work ethic, Bible memorization, and read, read, read. I know our daughter picks up a lot from simply reading to her. We are pondering how to approach this all and figure out what works for us and where the Lord is leading. Both of us feel strongly the Lord pressing on our heart to invest more in building strong relationships with our kids and in biblical parenting/character training. Our most important task is to point our children to the cross and pray for their salvation, which does not come from homeschooling, following the right "curriculum" or even "character training" (though character is important) or Bible memorization but from the work of the Holy Spirit. 

Please don't get me wrong...we are not neglecting our children's education. We educate throughout the day in day-to-day life, are following a phonics program, and are just trying to figure out which way to go this year and what to "focus" on as she only just turned 5! She is young! Most kindergarten kids are going to school to learn the basics...how to follow the rules, respect authority, relate to others, communicate well, tie their shoes, act in an orderly fashion, follow routines, learn to share and play nicely, respect others, conflict resolution, how to cut, glue, colour nicely, create, draw, print, and basic phonics and math. We will cover all these and more...We are simply thinking of taking a less-traditional "curriculum" approach this year (or at least for the first half of the year) and focus more on character training and biblical principles.

There are plenty of professing Christians who know their Bible and know "good character traits" but are not truly saved. However, our job as Christian parents is to train up our children in the way they should go and teach them about the Lord and share and live out the gospel daily. Biblical principles and encouraging godly behaviour is important and plays a role in pointing our children to Jesus, but it will not save them! We cannot save our children...only the Lord can. (and because we will fail at godly character and producing the fruit of the Spirit without the Lord's help...this points us to the cross and shows that we are in utter dependence on Him as there is not one of us who is "good". It shows how desperately short we fall and how our only hope is that we can be forgiven our sins only through faith in Jesus and by His grace.)

Those are my scattered thoughts for today. Welcome to my sleep-deprived brain, which never seems to turn off...

 Coffee time...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kindergarten Homeschool Plans

What a busy, busy summer we have had. We have had a lot of stress in our life lately, and unfortunately we were unable to take full advantage of summer as I had hoped. Oh well, there's always next year...
Fall, however, is my absolute favourite time of year. September is probably my favourite month with its crisp, cool fall air.
Elianna starts kindergarten this year, and time just really crept in on me and I have not yet ordered the curriculum that I intend to follow this year. Despite this, we started "school" today, using her Pre-K book from Heart of Dakota, the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book, and a few workbooks I have around. Nathanael (2 1/2) had a great time doing "school', too. I am not too worried about it, and my main goal this year is character training (need to do a lot of work in this area with my oldest two) and to read, read, read, and have her reading.  We are about half-way through her phonics book, and though we took several few weeks off, she has not forgotten anything and read a short story today better than she has ever read before. I love listening to her read! I want to get into more of a routine, but for now, we are just playing catch up and fitting in school during the day whenever it works.

The Plan -

Piano Lessons
Music for Little Mozarts

School
We are going to be using Heart of Dakota's Little Hearts for His Glory (this is an all-in-one curriculum/teacher's guide that is all planned out with additional activities. It is designed for an hour and a half of school a day and covers all subjects. All I have to do is follow the guide and order the material!). The following material is what I plan to use (ordered through Heart of Dakota).
*Math - Singapore Essential Math Kindergarten A & B
*Bible - Devotions for the Children's Hour & Daily Bible Reading (from curriculum)
*Phonics/Reading - Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
                            - Bob Books (from library)
*Science - The World God Made
               - Canada Close Up Books (from library)
                - Various library books
*History - History for Little Pilgrims
              - History Stories for Children
              - Canada Close Up Books (from library)
*Printing - Handwriting K (kindergarten) ( A Reason for Handwriting)
*Fine Motor Skills - Rod & Staff's  Do It Carefully and Finding the Answers Workbooks
*Literature - Storytime Set
                 - Little House on the Prairie series
                 - Variety of Library Books

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Trim Healthy Mama Update

I've been following the Trim Healthy Mama principles for a few weeks now and have lost 5 pounds with a LOT of cheating. Some of you may recall that I attempted this before I became pregnant with Nathanael but fell off the wagon rather quickly. I don't know what it is this time around, but it seems to be much more doable this time. Perhaps it's because THM has taken off in the "diet" world (though THM should be a lifestyle, not a diet) and is much more popular now than it used to be. This means there are tons of THM-friendly recipes out there on Pinterest, making meals much more doable and fun. My husband has NOT noticed a change at all in our meals. In all this time, there was only one meal that was not his favourite (it was a spinach and cheesy chicken casserole I found on pinterest. It wasn't my favourite, either!)

THM has been very doable for us this time because I have been cooking practically the exact same for our family with THM-friendly options for me. Here's an example of what this has looked like for our family:

Cheeseburger Pie (in Trim Healthy Mama recipe section) - My husband LOVES this recipe. It really is one of his new favourites. I serve this with mashed potatoes and a salad or veggies on the side. I skip the mashed potatoes.

Hamburgers on the Grill (S) - Everyone eats these as usual. I had mine in a crunch iceberg lettuce wrap to keep it THM friendly. I did not even miss the bun.

Steak on the Grill (S)- BBQ as usual. I serve potatoes with this usually and a salad. I just skip the potatoes to keep this in S territory.

Tacos (S or E) - I either make mine into an "S" salad and load it up with ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, full fat sour cream, avocado, cheese, and all the veggies I want but leave out the chips (or only 3 or 4 chips added, if I want to go slightly off plan). Or, I can make this into an "E" meal by using chicken, beans, rice, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, low-fat sour cream, and a sprinkle of low-fat cheese.

Cocunt Curry Chicken (S or crossover) - This is one our family's all-time favourite meals. I usually serve it with brown rice on the side and broccoli or cauliflower. I will have either this over a small amount of brown rice for an S-helper meal, or up to 3/4 cup brown rice for a crossover. Crossovers are not off-plan - they are just combining healthy fats and healthy carbs and not as optimal for weight-loss, according to the book.

I ordered the Swanson natural whey protein powder a couple weeks ago. I really hesitated to do this as it's quite pricey for an item I don't usually buy (around 45 dollars for a HUGE container). However, this is one of the key things used on this plan (though the plan is workable without it), especially in the fuel-pull smoothies. I figured out that one big container should easily last me at least 3 months...and that's with using it every day, which I doubt I'll do. The health benefits of this stuff is pretty incredible, so I think it will be worth it to try it. I just used it to make my very first true-to-the-recipe Fat Stripping Frappe as part of my lunch (Egg roll in a bowl...super frugal, super quick to make, super tasty). I am SO THRILLED at how it turned out!!  I've tried making the Fat Stripping Frappe without the whey protein powder before, but the powder is what really makes this smoothie awesome, filling, and super fluffy. It's like a chocolate frosty/milkshake and does NOT taste at all like some some of the super nasty protein shakes I've sampled in the past. I was seriously so surprised. I actually think I could give this to my husband, and he would never guess what was in it....

Anyway, I will continue on with THM...I'm enjoying it so far, seeing some results, and it's much more doable now that I allow myself off-plan meals a few times a week.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Menu Plan

Oh, what a day it's been so far. What. a. day. I'm pretty sure I've been completely stripped of any shred of dignity that ever remained after having 3 children.  Moving on. (okay, so this was technically yesterday. There was no way I was going to finish this menu plan yesterday with all the shenanigans going on around here.) Thankfully, His mercies are new every morning, and we are off to a much better start today:-)

Here's what we plan on eating this week:

In case you are wondering...Yes, I am still following the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle...except for on the weekends when it all goes out the window, it seems...Please don't tell the Trim Healthy Mama folks what I had to eat on Sunday, but it may or may not have included an iced capp and a sundae. "Was it worth it?," chimes in the Trim Healthy Mama folks. Umm...yeah, it was worth it! Sorry, but it's true. Gotta live a little! Can you tell which of the THM sisters I identify with the most?? That would be Pearl, most definitely. Microwaves are friends, not foes. Haha!

Monday: Crockpot Coconut Curry Chicken over Brown Rice (crossover)

Tuesday: Creamy Tomato Pasta (I'll have mine over broccoli slaw). (S)

Wednesday: Picnic Supper (sandwiches & salad)

Thursday: BBQ Hamburgers (S)

Friday: Pizza (crossover)

Saturday:BBQ Salmon (S)

Sunday: Leftovers

Breakfasts: The usual (toast, cereal, oatmeal, eggs)

Lunches: The usual (sandwiches & leftovers)

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