Friday Favorites: February Edition

In spite of my best intentions and no end of ideas for blogging, I somehow have not managed to blog all month! Can I blame it on the fact that I was babysitting full time until this past week, and then had a sick kiddo to care for? We will go with that… Anyway, I am happy to say that Little Miss and Little J are both taking a nap right now, the laundry is going, and the dishes are clean; so I truly have some time to do a bit of writing! I was thinking last night it would be fun to go with the Friday Favorites theme, and one of my favorite things to do, as I have shared in the past, is listening to podcasts!

The last time I listed podcasts I was enjoying, they were all knitting related. Right now, though, I pretty much only listen to podcasts that have to do with homeschooling, mothering, and self-education. So, without further ado, here are my current top ten (coincidentally, and in no particular order) favorite podcasts….

  
1. Read Aloud Revival with Sarah MacKenzie: if you love reading aloud to your children, or if you wish you did and need some inspiration, this is the podcast for you! Sarah’s bubbly personality is totally infectious, and she always has interesting guests on discussing some aspect of forming a “family culture around books.”

  
2. The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast with Pam Barnhill: This is just one of Pam’s great podcasts. She interviews homeschool moms and gives a “snapshot” of their style of home education, talking about everything from daily routines, special needs kids, and families both small and large. It is just an all around encouraging podcast for us homeschooling mommas!

 

3. Your Morning Basket is Pam’s second podcast, and it is another very encouraging, inspirational listen. In these episodes, Pam and her guests discuss how they use some form of “Morning Time” to bring their families together to share the riches during their homeschool days. She always features a fun, practical downloadable freebie for each episode, too. Who doesn’t love freebies!?

  
4. At Home with Sally, hosted by Sally Clarkson and Kristen Kill: Whenever this podcast comes up with a new episode, I cannot wait to sit down with a cuppa and get ready to listen in on Sally and Kristen’s conversation. Anybody who is familiar with Sally’s ministry to moms will know that her heart is to inspire, encourage and challenge women to live fully into their roles as wives, mothers and homemakers in order to disciple those in their spheres of influence. Kristen’s own sweet spirit also comes through on each podcast, and together, their talks remind me what is really important at this stage of my life.

  
5. Schole Sisters with Brandy Vencel, Mystie Winkler and Pam Barnhill: This new podcast hosted mostly by Brandy, with Mystie and Pam cohosting various episodes. The discussion centers on different aspects of fostering “schole” in our lives and homeschools. The concept of schole, as I interpret it anyway, centers around a return to restful learning and an atmosphere that encourages deep thought, wonder, good discussions and focussing on what is truly important. I have enjoyed all their topics so far and look forward to hearing more in the future!

  
6. CiRCE Institute Podcast Network: Speaking of schole, this collection of podcasts from the CiRCE Institute is one way I am  trying to foster a bit of restful learning in my own life. Their are several sub-categories within the podcast network, and the two I listen to without fail are The Mason Jar, hosted by David Kern and Cindy Rollins, and A Perpetual Feast with Andrew Kern and Wes Callihan. On The Mason Jar, Cindy and David discuss classical education using the Charlotte Mason method, often answering listener questions or having a special guest on a specific topic. Cindy’s defence of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy as a classical approach was what really caught my attention to begin looking into CM as an option for our homeschool, something I hope to write about another time. A Perpetual Feast is a totally different sort of podcast, one that both challenges and feeds my intellect. In other words, listening to Kern and Callihan talk about Homer leaves me feeling both dumber and smarter all at the same time. I love it! (But I may be an odd duck, so don’t blame me if you listen and it does nothing for you!)

  
7. The Masterpiece Mom with Amanda Bacon and Anne-Renee Gumley: I just recently started listening to these ladies, but they had me at the first episode I heard! Two Christian wives and moms talking about real life, how to be more grace-filled in the midst of busy, chaotic days…it is definitely what I need right now!

  
8. The Simple Show with Tsh Oxenrider: This is another relatively new podcast for me, but one I have been enjoying so far. Tsh has such a variety or interesting guests discussing a wide range of topics, but every one has an inspiring story to tell, whatever their walk of life. 

  
9. A Delectable Education with Emily Kiser, Liz Cotrill and Nicole Williams: Another podcast I just recently added to my playlist, A Delectable Education is all about the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. If you are new to CM and want to know more, this is a good podcast to get your feet wet!

  

10. What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel: New to me and new to the podcast world, What Should I Read Next? will likely be popular with the booklovers out there. I will admit that I am not an avid reader personally, not because I do not want to be, but more because I just have not formed the habit and do not have a wide library at my disposal. But I enjoy listening to people talking about books, and maybe some of their bookish habits will rub off on me in the meantime!

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Little Happy Things

Ah….the little people in the house are all taking naps (for the moment), giving me some much needed time to rest and think without someone crying or tugging on my clothes or trying to eat things off the floor. Moms, you know how it is, right?! I have been babysitting a sweet little toddler girl several days over the last two weeks while one of my friends (her usual sitter) is on maternity leave after having her own precious fourth baby! This curly-headed little gal is good as gold, but adding an extra tiny human to our house and routine for the majority of our waking hours is still a bit draining. She and Little Miss are learning to share toys and space, and germs, too. Sadly, Curly Girl had a cold virus and gave it to Little Miss, so I have dealt with droopy, snotty, cranky, sleepy, coughing babies for over a week now. Needless to say, this quiet time while everyone sleeps today feels pretty blissful after all that! I have been wanting to blog for so many days now but felt a bit too frayed to write anything that made sense. I have so many topics swirling around in my head, but for today, I thought I would just share a few happy things that are refueling and refreshing me right now.

1. Tea and cookies! 

 

I have become a serious tea addict this winter, not that I didn’t already love tea before, mind you. But I have recently become a two cups of tea a day kind of girl, one cup at breakfast and another in the afternoon. I can attribute this change to two things: real farm fresh cream (yum!) and switching from whatever black tea was cheapest to Tetley brand tea. Major difference! I need to up my herbal tea game now, too, since I also often want a cup of something hot and soothing before bed but do not want to have any caffeine in the evening. Celestial Seasonings options are ok, but I want to try some Teavana soon because I have heard great things about their unique blends. The cookies are a new-to-me recipe for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, and they are excellent. I could have tried harder to make them have a pretty shape, but we (ahem, I) eat them too fast to care how they look! 😉 Here is the recipe link in case you want to make some for yourself.

2. Pandora Relaxation Radio

 

This has become my go-to listening when I need some background music without words to distract me. And if something I don’t like comes on, I can just hit the thumbs down button and not hear it again! Pandora is a pretty genuis app!

3. New favorite podcasts

 

I plan to do a whole blog post about some of my new favorite podcasts. I did one a while back when I was listening to knitting podcasts all the time. After having Little Miss, the knitting podcasts went off my radar just like my knitting and crocheting did. But I recently found a bunch of great new podcasts that I love so much, many related to homeschooling in some way, but not all. When I am cooking, cleaning, or sorting laundry, I really enjoy having something engaging to listen to, and these all fit the bill nicely!

4. Knitting


Surprisingly, for the first time in months I have a new project on my needles! I have taken a long break from any fiber arts, just doing enough in the fall to get a baby gift or two done. I really needed some time away. I would miss it a little every now and then, but not really enough to pick up anything. I just did not feel like I had the mental or physical focus and space for it in the evenings when I actually have both hands free. But I am finally starting to feel like some of my mojo is coming back in that area. And Little Miss will need a new cardigan for spring and summer, which is what inspired me to dig out some yarn and needles and get a project going. I am quite pleased with the pink and green stripes on the yoke. The body of the cardi will be finished in green. Perfect for spring!

And now I have a couple of little girls in my lap, looking at books, which is a different sort of happy thing!

What is making you smile today?

Words to Live By in 2016

Here we are at the the tail end of 2015, and what a year it has been down on Lemon Lane! This past year we had a new baby, joined a new church, embarked on a new journey in homeschooling, and had many other experiences and events that made 2015 a full, busy and blessed time for our family. It was not a year without its stresses and struggles, of course, but I feel like the difficulties we have had are serving to shape and sharpen me and my husband into more of who God wants us to be.

Normally I do not do a whole lots of planning around the changing of the calendar in January. I find autumn, the start of the harvest and new school year to be more invigorating for change and fresh starts than the dark, bleak midwinter when I am just trying to recover from the busyness of the holiday season. This year, however, due to a lot of thinking and reading and listening I have been doing lately, I have felt led to take a small step or two toward creating a fresh outlook at the turn of the year.

Not being the sort of person to make New Year’s Resolutions, I instead decided to imitate the example of several popular bloggers I follow and choose some words to be a sort of focus or theme for me in 2016. Along with each word I chose a theme verse that embodies that word to guide me in the coming year.

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My Words to Live By in 2016 are Seek, Thrive, and Rest. I could probably write a whole separate post for each of these words, but I will try to briefly explain what I hope to focus on as I contemplate these words in the coming year. Seek is my BIG one and the first priority in terms of application. This word focusses my attention on seeking God, knowing Him more through His word and asking for His guidance through prayer. I will seek to become more Christ-like in my attitudes and actions and likewise be an example to my children of how to live for Him. The theme verse I chose for Seek is a pretty obvious choice:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  -Matthew 6:33

As I am seeking God more, I believe I will begin to Thrive more in all areas of my life. I do not want to just survive each day, barely making it through and crawling into bed at night only to wake up and begrudgingly do it all over again. I want to find ways to celebrate life, to choose joy and to make small moments matter. I want to model a life of praise and gratitude and joy for my children and to bless my husband by being a woman who thrives.

He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and its leaf does not whither, and in whatever he does he prospers. -Psalm 1:3

Finally, I need to Rest in the coming year. This word not only points to actual physical rest, which is both a necessity and luxury as a mother of small children, but also spiritual rest. My hope in focussing on the word Rest is that I will continue growing in faith and trust in the Lord. Trusting in His power, His timing, His provision and His protection will allow me to fully rest in Him. This is not laziness or a lack of action on my part, but it is active surrender, daily giving every care over to the Lord, believing that He is working all things out for good.

Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousnessas the light and your justice as the noonday. -Psalm 37:5-6

In coming blog posts, I hope to expand on these ideas a little bit and to share what I am doing practically to apply the concepts of seeking, thriving and resting to my life.

How about you? Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Have any goals for 2016? What words would you choose to contemplate and put into practice in the coming year? I would love to hear from you!

Our First Jesse Tree: Advent 2015

At 7.5 months old, Little Miss is quite the mover and shaker. She is always, always on the go, unless she is sleeping, and naps taken anywhere not on Mommy are a luxury these days. Having a crawling, pulling up, getting into everything, putting everything into her mouth baby means that I do not have time for a whole lot of extra activities beyond what it really necessary on a daily basis. (You know, things like keeping everyone fed, in clean clothes and diapers, and just generally making sure everyone is healthy and relatively happy.) Homeschooling Little J has also taken some extra time, of course. Even though we usually spend less than 2 hours total actually sitting down to his lessons each day, it is still time that I might otherwise be doing something else.

All that is to say that planning and decorating for Christmas has been put sort of on the back burner this year. To be honest, Thanksgiving and the end of November rather took me by surprise! Suddenly, on November 30th, I realized that it was time for Advent, and I had nothing planned. I also failed to order the next set of Bible lessons that J needs to continue in our ABeka Bible curriculum, so I needed something to supplement with in the meantime, ASAP!

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Enter, the Jesse Tree! If you have never heard of this Advent tradition before, it is basically a way of following the story of the Bible from Creation to Jesus’ birth. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1 which refers to a branch coming from the “root of Jesse” (father of King David) as a prophetic announcement of the coming Messiah, Jesus! During each day of advent, you read a new Scripture passage and hang a new ornament on the tree, each one symbolizing the reading for that day. There are many ways to make ornaments for a Jesse Tree, some very simple and some quite elaborate! You can even purchase ornaments if you are not inclined to makeyour own.

I, of course, chose one of the simpler variations for us this year! Little J loves coloring right now, so I used a free printable from Life Your Way for the ornaments and printed them out on card stock for him to color. I need to get some red and green card stock to mount them, and then we will hang them on our miniature tree with ribbon. I found a lovely set of short Jesse Tree devotionals at My Favorite Kind of Crazy, so I read these while Little J colors. He is excited to see what the new picture will be for each day, and I like that it is something easy enough that we can do it while I feed the baby!

I have to say thanks to Kristi at Raising Clovers for inspiring me with her post about their own Jesse Tree party. Maybe some other year we will get all fancy and make some neat ornaments like they did with their friends!

How are you celebrating Advent this year? Have you used a Jesse Tree in your Christmas celebrations before? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Whole30-ish Wrap-up: a Successful Failure

Well, it is August, so it is obvious our July Whole30 is over by now. But I have to be honest and tell you that we did not end up completing a full 30 days on the program after all. It was a decision I hated making, but it had to be done. So technically, we failed at doing the Whole30 plan, but I still feel it was a success in many ways because of the things we learned and accomplished during the time we were on it! Let me explain why we had to quit ahead of schedule, and then talk about our successes!

Our Failure

First off, I knew at the beginning of the month that eating this way might not work out on our grocery budget. We have been trying to pay down our debts a la Dave Ramsey’s methods, so we have cut back our spending across the board over the last several months. Trying to feed three hungry people healthy, whole foods while excluding less expensive options like grains and legumes is very tricky on a shoestring budget. So, when we still had a whole week left, and I had only $4 left for food, I knew something would have to give. We decided the most cost-effective, sensible thing to do was add gluten-free grains back into our diet so that we could stretch our meals more with baked goods, rice, gluten-free pasta and the like.

Second, we all felt like we were starving! As I mentioned before, we did not start the Whole30 with the intention to lose weight. But we all did anyway, including our 4 year old (as I explained in my last post)! I really did not have enough food in the house for us to do as many full template meals as we all needed, so we were all feeling hungry all the time. It was draining me and my husband. We both started feeling really weak and tired and run down by the end of the third week, when we knew we should be feeling great! So, after discussing it, we decided that at this time, we needed to add in more foods so that we could regain our strength. That first bowl of peanut butter oatmeal I had tasted anazing and instantly helped me feel so much better.

Our Success

Even though we didn’t finish a full 30 days, we did notice differences from eating a healthier diet, and we do plan to keep some of these new habits going. First, we did lose weight, as I said before. I lost 5 lbs. in 22 days, which is pretty quick for me. Of course, since I am breastfeeding, I was burning lots of extra calories, which is a big part of why I was hungry all the time. Second, I was able to beat back my sugar dragon significantly. I no longer feel strong cravings for sweet snacks all the time, and when I do want something a bit sweet, fruit usually satisfies me quite well! My son has also stopped asking for sweet treats after dinner and will happily down an extra helping of vegetables instead–WIN! Third, my husband’s skin is clearing up at last! Yay! After doing some added research, we think that sugar and dairy may both be triggers for him, so he plans to continue avoiding both. He has a new skin care routine that seems to be working well in addition to the dietary changes, so we hope to see even more improvement as he sticks with it.

Since we did already try adding grains back into our diet, I should add our experience with that. Yes, we were able to feel more satisfied after meals that included some grains. We did, however, also notice some negative side effects, both in slowed digestion and bowel movements and in looking bloated (even though we did not feel it.) My belly had really gotten fairly flat for having not been faithfully working on restoring my post-baby tummy muscles like I should be, but after just a few servings of grains, my stomach started pooching out again. Soooooo, we have decided to cut the grains out again for as long as we can and are adding legumes back into our diet instead. We will see if those have the same effect or if we tolerate them better. I hope so! I have tried really hard to make an affordable menu for the month in which we will repeat each meal once, so I was able to calculate approximately how much we would spend on groceries ahead of time. It might work, if we are very careful! Wish us luck!

How about you? I know some new folks have started following my blog since I posted about our Whole30 journey, so if you have just completed your as well, or if you are just getting started, I would love to hear from you in the comments! 

Whole30-ish: Week 4

No, you didn’t miss a post. Yes, I failed to post anything about our Whole30 journey last week. My husband was out of town, and I had my hands pretty full with the two kids all on my own. Plus, since he was on his own for food, and it was just Little J and me eating here at home, our menu was on the small side. So, here we are on Day 21, and I finally have a new update for you!

So, how is it going now that we are in the home stretch? Well, I guess it is going pretty well. We are getting to that point of food boredom, which is not helped by the fact that my grocery budget for the month is just about spent. No going out and buying new and exciting ingredients that cost a bunch extra now. We have to stick to basics if we are going to stay in budget. I will also say that we have not had any of those big heavens opening, angels singing, amazing changes that many people talk about when doing the Whole20. Maybe it is because we have not been super doper strict, or maybe it is because we were already eating ok to begin with, or maybe we just have more healing to do. I don’t know. I do know that I generally am feeling good, and I do think I have lost a bit of weight and maybe some inches, too. Hubby is feeling ok, although he has seemed to have a rougher time of it than I have. He does have a pretty high stress job and probably needs more time to heal. His acne seems like it might finally be improving just a tad, after a horrible breakout over the last couple of week, presumably from detoxing. He has also been feeling the weight loss, though, which counts for something. I think if I weren’t breastfeeding and up frequently at night, perhaps I would be feeling even better. But I am happy to say that most days my cravings are at a minimum (as long as I don’t see lots of pizza and ice cream posts on Facebook!) and I am loving my veggies more than I ever have in my entire life!

We have also noticed that J seems to be eating better and being a little less picky, not that he is a very picky eater anyway. But he has been commenting on how good things are that I am making, which is always nice, coming from a 4 year old! He did happen to step on the scale in our bathroom yesterday, though, and I noticed that he has lost some weight since last month. So I decided right away that he is going off the Whole30. He is not chubby in the least and should not be losing weight at his age, so I am going to let him go back to eating more normally, which for him means bringing back dairy, gluten-free grains and some legumes. I am looking forward to bringing back these things, too, in the near future! Just no sugar for this mama, ok? 🙂

I would honestly be interested in doing a Whole45 if we could, but we just can’t afford to do it any longer than we have. I am already trying to decide what food group to bring back first. I am thinking of doing gluten-free grains first simply because that frees us up to have rice, GF pasta, and oatmeal again. But I have also thought maybe bringing back legumes first would be good because then we can stretch our proteins a little more with beans and also see if peanuts and/or soy may be a problem for hubby’s skin as we suspect it may be. Oh well, I still have 9 days to decide!

Anyway, in case anyone is interested, here are some of our meals for the week!

Breakfasts:
Sauteed Kale and Scrambled Eggs, Sweet Potato Hash, Fruit Smoothie
Turkey Sausage and Kale, Fried Eggs, Fresh Fruit
Baked Sweet Potato and Turkey Sausage, Fresh Fruit
Veggie Frittata, Green Smoothie
Breakfast Skillet (Potatoes, onions, green peppers, assorted veggies, sausage, eggs)

Dinners:
Roast Chicken Thighs, Sauteed Zucchini, Cooked Carrots, Salad
Slow Cooker Chili Verde (via A Girl Worth Saving), Cauli-rice, Salad
Broiled Chicken Quarters, Baked Potatoes, Green Beans
Grilled Pork Chops, Baked Winter Squash, Salad,
Turkey Sausage with Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli, Salad
Slow Cooker Chicken Breasts with tomatoes and mushrooms, Roasted Red Potatoes, Sauteed Zucchini
Grilled Chicken Thighs, Paleo Coleslaw, Roasted Zucchini Spears

My next post will probably be on our final day of the Whole30, discussing what changes we have seen and what our next step will be going forward. See you then!

Homeschooling at Lemon Lane: Preparation and Planning

It may be hard to believe, but Little J (who is getting less and less “little” all the time!) is now 4 1/2 years old! He is at that wonderful age of curiosity, creativity and craving to learn about everything. In the spring he started to show signs of being ready to begin learning to read, asking what certain words were when looking through picture books or asking how to spell things when practicing writing his letters, etc. At the time, I was a little preoccupied with the arrival of Miss A, so we just did a little work with letters and some sounding things out here and there, willy-nilly.

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Around the same time, we learned about a local group of homeschoolers doing something called Classical Conversations and decided to look into it as an option for J in the fall. (I don’t intend to go in depth with a post about Classical Conversations today, but I may sometime in the future once we have a bit more experience with it under our belts!) We also knew we would need a basic curriculum for phonics and reading, along with some math. As Christians, we also wanted a solid Bible curriculum to add to what J has already learned at church and through our casual Bible reading at home. For these core subjects, we settled on ABeka Book for this year. All these things may change in the coming years, but for this year we are combining a classical approach with some traditional curricula and will see how it goes!

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I have to say that at first I was very uncertain about my ability to be my child’s teacher. I will admit that I am not very organized or disciplined with my time management, and I also struggle at times with being patient and gracious. I did not originally even intend to start formal instruction with Little J until he was a bit older since he has a fall birthday. But his eagerness to learn combined with the opportunity to combine homeschooling with a community atmosphere convinced me that now is the time to begin. I still felt inadequate and intimidated by the responsibility of teaching Little J the basic skills that he will need the rest of his life. There is always that fear of failure, of not being enough, lurking somewhere in my mind and heart. I’m sure many of you can relate! As I started planning and preparing, though, my passion for learning and teaching resurfaced and bolstered me up. After a year long break from any kind of teaching or children’s ministry at church, I suddenly found a renewed sense of purpose while planning for this school year. I had forgotten how much I enjoy preparing lessons and teaching young children. It really does feel like an area in which God has gifted me, and now I am full of excitement for the coming year. I can hardly wait to see how God uses homeschooling to change our family and draw us closer to each other and to Him!

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I won’t make any promises, but I do hope to write more about our homeschooling journey as we go along. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to post in the comments, and I will try to answer as best I can!

Links for more info:
Classical Conversations
ABeka Book Homeschool
Galatians 5:22-23 printable