Mar 262016

This post contains affiliate links.

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Nov 272015


With all the activities going on the next few days, I did not want you to forget about the rare sale going on at Plan to Eat.  50% off yearly subscription.  For only $19.50 for the whole year, which works out to $1.60 per month, you can have a quick, easy to use meal planning system right at your finger tips.

This sale runs from November 27 – 30.  Plan To Eat does not run sales often, and this is a good one, so do not let it pass you by.  Happy meal planning!

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for helping support this blog.

Nov 212015


I woke up this morning at 4-something a.m.  However, this time it was my fault.  I told myself last night that I wanted to get up at 4:30 to finish the first coat of paint on the garage ceiling.  Half of it was done last night but I was so tired my bed sounded so much better.  By 8 p.m. I was asleep.  So … 4-something I woke up. Realized I was still tired and went back to sleep for an hour.

Now, I can do math and I know that if I fell asleep at 8 p.m., 5 a.m. means I was able to sleep for almost 9 hours.  That is doing great.  For the past several years 6 hours was all I was going on; not bad, but not great either.  So, when 5 a.m came around I got up.

Intending to tease a friend on Facebook last night about their incoming snow, I had gone to check the weather.  With the news off most days, I take things as they come and not worry about every little drop in temperatures.  Well, unless it is the first or last frost, then it is important.  🙂  That is when I saw snow in the forecast for us today.  Not what I was hoping to have happen.  My plans to paint were for the garage.  With new garage doors and actual insulation in most of the walls, the garage is finally warmer than it has been previous winters.  Does that mean it will stay above 50 degrees if it falls below 30 degrees outside?  I am not sure.  So let’s not test it out with wet paint on the ceiling, okay?

As I laid there thinking about what I could do, I realized I had not shared the great upcoming Black Friday Weekend Sale that Plan To Eat is going to have in a few days.  I really want to share this with you as they do not have sales that often.


November 27th – November 30th, all yearly subscriptions for Plan To Eat will be half off.  This means that for $19.50 (or $1.60 a month) you will have access to an easy meal planning site where you can even share your recipes with others, or find new one yourself. They will even create a shopping list for your from the recipes you plan to eat during certain time periods.  How easy is that?!

I have found that I save at least 30 minutes each week in writing up our meal plans, which include all 3 meals.  If I sit down to write out the months meal plans it is even more time saved.  I no longer have to work with an Excel spreadsheet that, while helpful and sufficient, really was clunky and left much to be desired.

Not only have the yearly subscriptions on sale, you can also buy an unlimited gift subscriptions at only $15.50 each.  They would make a great gift for a busy household, someone who lives by themselves and may want help ‘diversifying’ their meals, a young couple starting out setting up home, or those who are going through some hard times and are looking for ways to save money or time. Gift subscriptions to Plan To Eat can be given at any time (like Christmas!) and will not begin until the recipient redeems the gift.

I was hesitant when I initially tried out this service maid of mine.  At the time, it was not at a point in the year to take advantage of this deal.  It was the end of Spring and I needed a way to keep the meal plan under control without taking up so much of my time.  Plan To Eat’s free 30 day trial showed me how easy this was to use, how clunky my previous attempts were, and how much time I could save.  I hemmed and hawed, then asked my husband, “It would cost just over $3 a month.  What do you think?”  He asked if it made my life easier, if $3 was worth my time each month.  The answer was a resounding “Yes!”  I have not looked back.

Over the past few years, I could tell the months where I did not take as much time to meal plan.  How?  Our grocery bill jumped significantly.  I was amazed.  Did meal planning really make that much of a difference to our finances?  Obviously it did.  It meant I knew what was in the house, specifically what I needed to get at the store, and how to use what I did end up buying.

“What about the free 30-day trial? I have one/planning to get one/just heard about it?”  Great question.  You can still sign-up for the free 30 day trial AND get the yearly subscription deal.  They will not overlap, but instead flow seamlessly from one to the other, with your yearly subscription beginning at the end of the trial date.

“I already have a subscription, but it is not set to end till ___.”  That is okay, too.  You can still take advantage of this deal, which will then extend your subscription expiration date by a year.

If you are on the fence, like I was at one point, about taking on this maid, I would suggest signing up for the free 30-day trial.  With a week to go before the Black Friday Weekend Sale, you will be able to test out the site, plan this week’s meals, and see if it is something that will help you out in the upcoming year.

Happy meal planning!


This post contains affiliate links.  If you click through one of the links and purchase something, I will receive a small percent back at no added cost to you.  If you feel uncomfortable doing this, you can go directly to their site by searching for them online or typing in their address.  Thanks for helping support this blog.

Oct 232015

What a day this has been! More like what a crazy few weeks. With the workers from our house work gone I really thought things would calm down.  I was wrong.

Between field trips, calls to the insurance and doctors’ offices, visits to doctors’ offices, therapy appointments, school work, house work (painting and all related activities), soccer games and school breaks, in addition to all the normal things we have to do in life, there has not been a calm week all month.  A few days here and there, yes, but otherwise we have been out of the house or had someone come by every day.  I treasure the days that we can stay here, minus taking and picking George up from school.

Earlier this week, while preparing (cleaning up a lot of hot spots) for a home visit, I tackled the kitchen.  This was about the day where I encouraged you, on Facebook, to choose one small job around the house and work on it that day.  This bit was on my  mind as I began working.

In order to sweep I had to pick up the floor.  I had two choices – hide everything or actually put it away.  It took about 30 seconds to decide to take the extra few minutes an put things away.

“While I am at it, I may as well hangs this up to.” I told myself.

It did not even take me 10 minutes (once I found the drill and not counting the break in the middle to go pick up George) to put this $1 new still with tags, garage sale find on the backside of the pantry door.  For about $5, screws were needed, I have added a few more shelves to our limited pantry space without taking up any floor space.  Yes, we have a basement that can hold items, but it is nice to have them right there when they are needed.

pantry door shelving diy

Oct 142015

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you click on them and purchase something a small portion is returned to me, at no added cost to you, and helps with the cost of running this blog.  Thank you for your support.

Sorry for the long absence.  Yes, 3 days does seems like a long time to not blog.  Time in the blogging world does not move at the same pace as time in real life.  Sort of like time when you are moving at the speed of light versus time when you are moving at a normal pace.  Please, don’t ask me the math on it, I just know that time moves at different speeds.

While I have not been able to get on the computer to update on the 21 Day Challenge, I have been working and making progress.  Day 5 of 21 Days To A More Disciplined Life talks about making a plan for when you hit a road block.  One of the questions was, “What will you do if you have to skip a day?”  Well, I got to that particular problem on Day 4.  I took the weekend off due to all the activities we had going on in various places.

At first I felt guilty for not doing yet another thing on Saturday.  Then I realized that running myself ragged was not the point to this challenge.  The point was to get back on the path to being more disciplined.  Taking a day of rest was not the enemy.

Farm Market Swap 2015 collage

I made a plan.  I would enjoy the day and pick back up on Sunday.  If Sunday did not work out, then Monday would have to be Day 4.  I was not going to feel guilty for taking some time for myself, by going to the Farm Market Swap, after days and weeks of constant going and craziness for others and our home.

My original plan for Day 4 was to take a day to wipe down the ceiling and walls in the small area at the top of the steps, take a day to do our ‘old’ upstairs bedroom, take 2 days to do the ‘new’ upstairs bedroom and take a day to clean the floors.bedroom above garage collageMonday came and I had renewed energy.  Instead of sticking with my original plan for Day 4, I did the ‘new’ bedroom in one day and swept the floors as well.  I will need to go back and wash them down, but they are much better.  I even did this with both kids at home, which is a small miracle.  It was not lost on me that this little feat would have been impossible a year or two ago.  There were still squabbles, but I was able to do this work with minimal stoppage.floor of bedroom above garage collageTuesday (Day 5) I tackled the ‘old’ upstairs bedroom and the small area at the top of the steps.  This is the point when I realized that I should put on one of the audio books I had recently picked up at a library sale.  Turns out it was the perfect choice for that day.  I knew Who Moved My Cheese had been a huge hit when it came out, but I had never read the book.  I am so glad I decided to listen to it while I worked.  Jack got to watch a documentary on Lewis & Clark, then some Rescue Bots.  And all was happy in our home.

One thing both of these days had in common was that I started early.  Mornings are the calmest time in our household and when I am able to focus the best.  As the day goes on my energy become depleted at a pretty fast rate.  Patience also starts to wain.  By the kids’ bedtime I am exhausted.  Sometimes I can gain a second wind, but it is not something I can count on.

Knowing this, I chose to do the biggest part of the Mega Project on Monday morning.  It stood to reason that I would be able to get the most done while expecting the best behavior from the kids.  Once I get to the next stage, the actual painting, I will try to do this when the household is asleep or after bedtimes.  I would rather wake up an hour earlier and get in some focused time, instead of having to stop to do this or answer that question.  That is the plan beginning this evening or tomorrow morning.

Yesterday found us in Big Town, taking our laptop to a computer repair store.  Of course, I had tackled the day’s Mega Project immediately after taking George to school, so that part was done and out of the way before anything else needed attention.  Jack and I stayed in Big Town, ate a picnic lunch then went to the library to do school work.  This is a great benefit of using the modified drawer system.  I was able to fill his folders, add in my binder and the pencil box, then pick up the crate and take it to the car.  Everything was and pumpkin autumn decorToday we have a field trip to a local pumpkin farm with some other home school families.  Some we have met before, but most will be new to us.  Please pray that Jack will make some friends.  He is often missing his school friends and there are less than a handful of other home schooled kids here in Small Town.

I have been doing well keeping on top of the dishes.  Yesterday morning found me short of time and a clean load of dishes in the dishwasher.  I have to admit that I left the dishes undone while we went to Big Town and only had a small bit of guilt.  I had to remind myself of priorities, that the dishes would still be there when we got back but the computer really needed attention.

The first thing I did when we got home was to unload and reload the dishwasher.  It was full, so I turned it on to run.  This meant it was still going when supper was finished.  However, we had tomato soup and grilled cheese for supper, so minimal dishes.  This morning, while breakfast was cooking, I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher with all 4 bowls, a plate and accompanying silverware.  Once breakfast was finished the dishes were added to the now mostly-empty dishwasher.  I love the look of clean counters welcoming me home.

Today’s application and things to think about were focused on keeping things realistic.  I feel like I have done that this go around.  Maybe I have learned from before or perhaps I am giving myself more leeway in other areas.

How are things coming along with your project?  Having any struggles or finding yourself hitting any walls?

Oct 102015

Last night, the last thing I wanted to do was finish loading the dishwasher.  I had every excuse, one of them being the fact that my back was really sore.  I did stretches.  I laid on the floor.  I did more stretching.  Nothing seemed to help.  So I took some medicine, laid on the floor a bit more, then decided to just get it done.  If my back hurt while not doing anything, it may as well hurt while I was being productive.  Silly back.

Please forgive the bad photo below.  It was late, the only light on was above the counter, and I was too tired to play around with the other lights in the room to get the right effect.  Right after this I went to bed.

What I do want you to notice is that not only is the dishwasher on (and running), but the counter above it is also cleared off.  I really had all intentions of only loading the dishwasher and calling it a night.  What happened, though, was what often happens in this situation – I couldn’t stop.

As I cleared the dishes off the counter and loaded them, I came across an empty bottle that needed to be thrown away.  Then another bottle that went into the cabinet.  Some peppers that needed to go into the fridge were next.  By the time these little, quick things were done I realized that there really were not that many more pans, measuring spoons, and other items left to wash by hand.  “I may as well do those, too.  It won’t take that long.”  And it didn’t.

Now I am on the other end.  In order to run a load dishes in the washer tonight, it has to be emptied this morning.  As the day goes along, dishes will be added to it.  Hopefully the counter will stay clear of clutter that always seems to collect with even a few dishes sitting on it.

This habit, of running the dishwasher at night, is at least two-fold.  Not only do the dishes need to be in there and the washer turned on at night, it also needs to be unloaded in the mornings.  Previously this was one of the kids’ jobs.  With no washer working, that job left the rotation.  (Come to think of it, all jobs left the rotation when that happened.  Hmm.)

In 21 Days To A More Disciplined Life, Crystal encourages her readers to find a bad habit to change or a good habit to start.  This habit should be something that is a life hack, that will boost your energy due mostly to how it makes you feel.  The morning unloading of the dishwasher is something I want to keep up with and have the boys start helping me with again.  This will mean we have items ready for use and a dishwasher ready to be loaded.

Farm Market Swap collageFor yesterdays step toward my Mega Project I wanted to wipe down the walls and ceiling of the stairways.  It was right before supper before I finally was able to do it, but do it I did.  It did not take that long, but did leave another layer of dust on the kitchen floor like I thought it would.  A quick wipe with a damp rag got up the majority of it.  

Today is a very busy day.  Soccer game this morning followed by the Farm Market Swap this afternoon.  I was not sure what my husband’s schedule would look like, so I arranged a babysitter for the kids.  At first I thought about not going to the Swap, then realized that I too was allowed to have fun and be around others.  Self deprivation is no way to live life or have a happy mom/wife.  We all need to be around friends at some point.

Once my husband found out, he decided to take advantage of this and finish up a paper he has due for one of the classes he is currently attending.  This will free up time later as a family.  As of late Saturdays have meant he would go study at a library for a few hours and/or have a group meeting.  It is kind of ironic that the first Saturday where I want to go do something with other ladies, he has nothing he had to do.

With more out of home activities going on today, I am doing a smaller section of my Mega Project.  I want to continue on with prepping ceilings and walls for painting, though for today I aim to do the smaller landing area at the top of the stairs.  This ‘room’ has a new ceiling but only a small wall space.  It is probably the least square footage of all the areas needing done.

For now I am going to switch over the laundry, think about lunch plans, begin breakfast and perhaps set out items to make muffins later.  Oh, and I need to get in a shower this morning as I can feel drywall dust in my hair. And so the day begins.  🙂

How are you coming along?  Have you decided to join in and tackle some things around your place?  It does not have to be large or even contain a Mega Project.  Setting a goal to do some of the smaller things around your place will also have an impact.

Oct 092015

It takes 21 days to make a habit, or so the saying goes.  And while it may take more than a day’s resolve, that does not mean it is too hard to do.

Our dishwasher started going out this past summer.  The signs?  It stopped drying the clean dishes and every so often it would take more than one push of the start button for the cycle to start.  This issue was not a new one, as it happened to us a few years back.  At that time we found a temporary fix that worked very well for a few years.

When the issues started to arise again, I did our default action to “fix” the problem.  This time, though, it did not work.  Seems it was time for a new dishwasher.  We waited until the day it would not longer turn on at all, which of course happened when it was fully loaded with dirty dishes late one night.

For almost the past month, my evening routine of loading the dishwasher and doing dishes was disrupted.  I was not 100% perfect in this routine.  More like 75%, but I was working on it.  Now, faced with a counter full of dishes at the end of supper, the time of day when my energy is the lowest, I became overwhelmed.  A new habit began.  After supper we would clear off the table, I would turn off the lights in the kitchen and go sit on the couch in the living room.  “The dishes can wait till the morning.”  And wait they did.

This new bad habit meant that I started every day faced with a messy kitchen.  Instead of using my morning energy to get our day going, I was using it to clean up yesterday’s mess.  By the time the dishes were done, I had no desire to do more.  Guess what happened at lunch time and again at supper time?  That’s right, I put the dishes off till the next day.  No magic fairy came to do them, they were always there the next morning waiting for me.

A good thing that came out of this was the realization of exactly how many plates, cups, and utensils we use in a day.  There are only 4 of us.  There really should not have been that many dishes. When you cook 3 meals a day and most of you are home for all those meals, that tends to happen.  It was a reality that was masked by the wonderful maid called the dishwasher.

This past weekend, our new dishwasher was delivered and installed.  Picking back up where I was a few months ago was harder than I thought.  The layout of the dishwasher was different so I had to put thought into where things went.  The old layout did not work as well in this new dishwasher.  For the last several days I have tried to get the dishes loaded and all the pans cleaned right after supper.  I am doing better, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

To work toward the goal of having the kitchen cleaned after supper, for the next week I am going to work on loading the dishwasher and running it every night.

cleaning kitchen floor collage

Yesterday’s quick project was to mop the kitchen floor.  I did not get to it till last night, the point in the day where my energy is the least.  I wiped down the tile area (10 minutes) and saved the moping for this morning.  I woke up a few minutes early and tackled this job.  It took me all of 25 minutes this morning and is now drying while I type this post

The pictures above do not do justice to the amount of dust that was there and now is not.  It really did look like someone took a sifter full of flour and walked around the kitchen doing a cha-cha dance as they went.  It still is not perfect, but is tons better than before.

washing garage floor

Step 1 toward the Mega Project of painting all of the new drywall was to wipe down the garage ceiling and walls, as well as wash the floor.  I lost track of how long this took, as the kids started to play in the water running off the floor.  I can say that it was easier than I thought it would be.  While not perfect, the garage floor looks a lot better and should track in less dirt to the house.

unpainted stairway collage

Step 2 today is to wipe down the walls and ceiling in the stairways.  I will need to hang up a sheet or some other barrier to keep the dust from coming onto my newly mopped kitchen floor.  Perhaps that order of activities was not the best.  However, I think I will be able to dust mop any dust that finds its way into the kitchen.

How are things coming at your place?  Was there a quick project you were able to take care of yesterday?  If not, why not look around for one today.  It does not have to take as long as mopping the kitchen floor did for me.  Actually, I would suggest something faster.  How about a new habit you want to work on forming?  What small step can you take today toward achieving it?

Oct 082015

Day One in 21 Days To A More Disciplined Life could not be titled any more appropriately – Discipline is a choice.  Over the past few months I have chosen not to let self-discpline happen.  I have chosen instead to set things aside till ‘later’.  I have chosen to pile up papers instead of filing them away, put off following up on items that should have been addressed months ago, and not finish what I have been working on before starting something else.  I have chosen to blame the circumstances around me rather than view the real issue – I have chosen to not be self-disciplined.

This choice has resulted in a home that feels chaotic, kids who are responding accordingly, a husband who is already stressed feeling even more stressed when he comes home and myself not feeling at all restful or productive.  There are so many things we could be doing but I feel so behind I have no energy to make headway.  So now, at this moment, I am choosing to start changing.  I will show self-discipline and do the important things that need to be done so we can life and enjoy life later.

nature center bird feeders tree pond

Today is the day.  I have room to breath a bit and tackle the things that have been overwhelming me, or threatening to do so.  I have begun to take on one of the larger projects and work on smaller ones, but just as they come up.  From past experience I know that if I were to have a plan and a goal in mind I could be doing so much more.  So here it goes, my plan to get back on the ball, to start up some of those habits I began to drop a year ago when our home life was disrupted by work on the house and adding in home schooling.  I am excited to get going and see what changes can be achieved in the next 21 days.

It is still dark outside and Jack woke up.  Yes, it is 6:35 a.m. which is right at his wake up time, but I was hoping the darkness would give me an extra 30 minutes.  No such luck.

His first question of the day, “What are you doing?”

“I am trying to set my goals for today.”

“Oh.  What are they?”, he asks with an innocent voice.

“I don’t know yet.  That is what I am trying to figure out.”

A few sentences later I clarify for him that I have 3 top goals for today:

  • Finish his school work for today.
  • Clean the garage of as much drywall dust as I can: finish wiping down the walls of the garage, wipe down the washer and dryer, and clean the floor
  • Spend an hour cleaning the house: picking up and moping the kitchen floor to get as much drywall dust up as I can

The last two goals may sound like complicated goals that could be broken down, and they could, but in reality they are not that bad.

Moping the kitchen floor is a smaller goal I have had for a while.  It is the first thing we see when we come into the house and really set the mood for how I feel about the house.  With the drywall dust and work dust having covered it often these past few months, I have also noticed exactly how much it impacts the cleanliness of the floors in the rest of the house.  Don’t believe me?  I now have white foot prints everywhere to prove it.  This really, really, really needs to be done.  And to that end, it is also why I am wanting to clean the floor in the garage.  We enter the kitchen from the garage.  The two floors are united almost as one.

The garage is 95% of the way done.  Wiping down the walls and the washer and dryer should take about 10 – 15 minutes.  This part is a step toward working on my Mega Project.

Quick project to jump start the 21 days: mopping the kitchen floor

Mega Project: Paint the new drywall in the garage and house

I will need to sit down later today and break my Mega Project into smaller bits.  For now I am going to finish up the first step I started this past weekend, which was wiping down the walls and ceiling in the garage.  Below you can see what it looked like before being cleaned out and after.  It is harder to see exactly how much dust was wiped off, but it was enough to cover me and make the whole room look white.

new garage clean out

Is there a quick project that you have been putting off?  Make time today to tackle it, then share with us how long it actually took.

Sep 162015

birds eye view of garden june 2015(This post was started in June)

Saying “no” is not easy.  We grow so accustomed to our lives that it feels like there are things we just can not live without, or rather things that would not function if we were not involved.  We can not imagine not doing XYZ, because we have always done it.  Saying “no” means stepping back and taking an honest look at life, yourself and the assumptions you have made.

Things are better now than they were this past Fall/Winter, but they are still tough.  I can feel the stress start to creep in, the feeling of things being on the verge of crumbling in one big mess.  I take a deep breath and remember to just do the next thing, not to try to fix or do everything right now.

I told my MOPS group that I could not volunteer again for the upcoming year.  I loved helping in this group, but knew that my home, my kids, and my true calling came first.  Also, I was much better at getting to know new moms one-on-one, rather than as a leader.  I volunteered on the Steering Committee because I knew that I could do the job, not because it was really where I shine.  It was time for someone else to have the opportunity to step up.

I had to tell Olaf’s parents that I could not continue to watch him over the summer.  This was a bit easier, as they had more options with school being out to find other arrangements.  He still comes over some, but not several times a week.  We’ll see what the new school year brings, but I think I am going to have to continue to say “no” to this one.  With Jack being home school and beginning 1st grade, I am looking to set more of a routine than I did last semester.  Watching another kid for several morning a week really sort of limits what we can do.  This was one “no” that made me really sad, as I was doing it because I knew it was helping out a friend, not because of the money.  Jack and Olaf also get along really well and I know they miss seeing each other.

Unlike the past 8 years, I started no garden plants at home. Zilch. I was trying to keep the house above freezing.  Getting the basement picked up enough to start plants was not exactly high on the list.  I gave myself grace to buy plants this year.  You know what?  I still somehow ended up with:

  • over 10 tomato plants
  • 26 pepper plants
  • 80 onion sets
  • tons of radishes
  • 3 cabbage plants (though I don’t think they will do anything)
  • Zinnias and marigolds
  • several handfuls of green bean plants
  • a zucchini plant
  • 3 unknown vine-ing plants
  • 4 or 5 cucumbers
  • and berry bushes/plants of various varieties.

I will say that I think it worked out okay this year.

school year 2015 2016 collage

Fast forward 3 months and I am in a slightly better place.  There are still a lot of things I have stopped doing, for now, but have picked back up a few.  I am also weighing whether I want to begin doing some things again in a few months when life calms down even more, hopefully.

As it turns out, Olaf does come two half days a week.  He goes to preschool in the mornings, so Jack and I are able to get his school work done before Olaf comes.  Usually.  Sometimes we are finishing as they are walking in the door.

The house remodel/work is nearing completion.  Not fully there, but oh so close.  My husband is finally able to see what I saw in my mind when we started this adventure.  The finishing touches on the drywall should be completed next week.  Then painting, finishing electrical work and install light fixtures, install a small HVAC system for the  new room, flooring, and finally trim and doors.  Yes, I know it is still not an extremely short list, but it is all quick stuff and some can be done simultaneously.

I have continued to say “no” to the produce stand.  A few people have asked me if I was planning to do it, to which I reply, “I have thought it was time to begin it several times lately, but was reminded that it was not time just yet.”  I was doing yard work outside today when someone stopped by looking for a particular item.  I did not have what she was looking for but told her I would see if I could find someone who did.  Seems roma tomatoes were not very popular to plant with gardeners in our are this year.  In talking with her, though, I mentioned I had hot peppers (that were planted to have something in that spot besides weeds) if she wanted them.  I would give them to her just so they could be used and not wasted.  And that, Dear Readers, is the extent of me ‘selling’ produce.

I also have not canned up any items.  There have been several bags of tomato soup added to the freezer, but nothing canned.  Thanks to previous years’ efforts I am still well stocked on most items and should be able to make it through to the next canning year.  I did relent and purchase commercially made spaghetti sauce.  I think pizza sauce will be the next thing I run out of and have to go buy.

There are more areas in life which have been affected by this attitude, the feeling that I have more say in my life.  It is a nice feeling to have when the expectations of others begin to feel more important than what you know is best for your family.  It is a nice feeling to have, to be able to clear things off your plate so you have room to enjoy the what is left.

nature center lounge

When my blog took an unexpected vacation, thanks to an error in a line of code, I was left examining the roll blogging plays in my life.  I felt a loss of the memories I have shared on here these past few years, ones that I have not journaled about.  This blog was begun at a point when taking time to hand write daily events seemed too overwhelming. It also provided a mental break for me, challenging me to keep growing while also being able to share a love of mine.  Was I ready to give it up at the drop of a hat?  Should I give it up?  Why not?  What if I did?  What creative outlet could I use instead, which would be realistic at this time?

These are questions I ask myself from time to time, but never faced with such a high likelihood of it actually happening.  This time, the questions felt very real, not just something out of the air to think through and debate.  I would rather have been thinking through which library books to get for Jack, new methods to help George get the next math step, or any other of the many decisions I could have been doing at that point.  These questions, however uncomfortable I felt thinking through them, had to be examined.  I was not willing to just keep going because that is what I have been doing for the past few years.

The thankfulness and relief I felt when the customer service representative told me the code had been fixed and that all should be back to the way it was, answered for me all the questions I had been asking myself.  It was a much different feeling from the relief I felt when I realized I would not have to be staying up for a few hours several evenings one week canning spaghetti sauce.

As I continue through the next few months, finishing up the work on the house, settling in to a home school routine, and going through daily life I am going to continue evaluating things as they come up.  It is so easy to let little things get added to your plate.  Before you know it, you have no room for the things you really want.

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Oak tree stand with path and bench park

There are things I wish I had actually realized, and not just known, a few years back.  This is one of them – The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning  While they are talking about tests and the stress put on students in conjunction with them, I read it in light of a parent of kids who had early childhood trauma.  No THAT is stress, and it does have an affect on kids of all ages.

When Jack and George were young I wanted to make sure they were not missing anything in any areas, academically and socially.  Early Intervention was called in early on, and George was enrolled in the Early Childhood program in our area.  If you had been a bug on our wall, what you would have heard around here might have sounded like an episode of Home Speech Class 101.  We talked in shorter sentences, encouraged the correct pronunciation of words, over exaggerated the sounds of certain letters, spent many evenings on the porch naming the kind and color of vehicles going by, etc.  I am pretty sure it would have been quiet entertaining as my husband and I are NOT speech therapist in any sort of way.

There were other areas we were trying to work on, but speech was top of the list.  That in itself was enough.  The stress our kids were going through at that time was more than any kid should have to go through.  Being taken from all you know and moved (several times) in a short time frame between people you do not really know, to then end up in an area that is unknown to you, in a family that has different routines and expectations … it is enough to stress out even an adult.

I knew trying to reduce stress was the most important factor to any kid learning and retaining information.  Even now I am fully aware of how extra stress will lessen the amount of information that can be retained.  What I did not realize was how little the stress needed to be.

The realities of standardized tests and increasingly structured, if not synchronized, curriculum continue to build classroom stress levels. Neuroimaging research reveals the disturbances in the brain’s learning circuits and neurotransmitters that accompany stressful learning environments.

Even neurotypical kids are affected by the levels of stress in a class room when it comes to test taking.  But the research did not stop there, thankfully.  They used this information to find ways to combat and reduce this stress level.

With brain-based teaching strategies that reduce classroom anxiety and increase student connection to their lessons, educators can help students learn more effectively.

This is what I am looking to accomplish with both our kids.  The stress after school, along with a very tired brain, makes doing homework with George very challenging.  With Jack, add in sensory issues that increases his stress levels, and the school day can be one big battle if we are not careful.  (After all, that is what was happening in public school for him.)

Knowing that adding pressure to the situation will only back fire on what you are trying to do, actually alleviates that situation some.  It means that I do not have to be more of a drill sergeant or require more practice at some things, though there is a time and place for that.  Sometimes it means that we need to look at the environment and see how we can make the kids more comfortable, relaxed.

This brain research demonstrates that superior learning takes place when classroom experiences are motivating and engaging. Positive motivation impacts brain metabolism, conduction of nerve impulses through the memory areas, and the release of neurotransmitters that increase executive function and attention. Relevant lessons help students feel that they are partners in their education, and they are engaged and motivated.

Positive motivation.  Now that is a goal I would like to work towards in the upcoming months.