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How My Garden Has Changed in 17 Years

What’s in a hobby?  Why do we choose to spend our time doing the things we do? Maybe you crochet or knit.  Perhaps you love to spend a rainy afternoon baking or writing long letters. Maybe your thing is athletics?  A nice long run or bike ride.

Whatever hobby you choose, you have to love it to spend the amount of time on it that you do.

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That’s what gardening is like for me.

Now, I grew up in a gardening family.  My grandfather was a gardener and so was his daughter, my mother.  But, I had no interest..that is, until I got my first apartment with my husband.  I immediately starting gardening in pots on our second floor balcony.

I have driven by the 3-family house since then, and the balcony is gone.  (Maybe I watered too much?)

When we bought our house in 2001, one of the selling points was a huge yard.  No more pots.

Fast forward, I have been gardening in that same space for seventeen years and the garden I have today is NOTHING like the garden I started out with.

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1. The soil has changed

First of all, new soil is untouched soil.  When we began, we found rocks, but as time has gone on and the dirt has been added to, manipulated and re-arranged, I no longer find rocks.  I have reached depths in the soil where I see different colors of decomposition, I have added bags and bags of cow manure, and I have dug and then re-dug. Now, when I prep the garden for the yearly plant, it’s pretty easy to move the soil and pretty easy to pull weeds as well.

2. The garden space is PACKED.

I have over-done it.  I always pack too much stuff into my little space.  I forget how much room a cabbage takes up! When I first began, I tilled 3 neat rows.  I also have mature perennials like Egyptian onions, mint, Jerusalem Artichokes, raspberries, and milkweed now that come back every year and if I am not careful, choke out my productive space for food plants.

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3. The bugs have changed. 

When we first started I had very few bugs and more critters (rabbits, moles, voles, even deer!).  We put up a fence and buried it 6 inches into the ground and that seems to have prevented little nibblers from approaching for about 12 years now. Now, I get your typical insects like cabbage worm, aphids, white flies, snails (a wet year) and Japanese Beetles.

Therefore, I have needed to educate myself on how to manage these pests and get rid of them when necessary.

I also have many beneficial bugs in my garden like long-legged flies, multiple pollinators, and Ladybird beetles.

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4. The tree line has changed.

There is a tree I depend on to give my garden some shade.  My garden in right in the middle of the yard.  But it is in decline.  Many of its branches are breaking off and it will not be long before I have to cut it down.

I have also added trees that will eventually bring some shade to the garden such as a peach tree, fringe tree, and a Rose of Sharon.

And most importantly…

5. I have changed.

In the last 17 years I have learned through mistakes. And that is THE main advice I give friends when they are asking me for gardening advice.  Learn from your mistakes and don’t give up!

I have used products I wished I hadn’t, I have seen plants look like they are flourishing only to die overnight, I have had summers (while pregnant or with a new-born) where I let the weeds win, and I have allowed plants to succumb to pests through neglect.

I just keep learning.

Here’s to another 17!

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So You Withdrew Your Kids From Public School, Now What? Part One: De-Schooling

Moms know best.

They know when things are just not working out with the school their kids go to.

They know when the bullying has gotten out of hand, when their son/daughter is just not learning anymore, when their child cries and has belly aches every morning before school.

So, mom makes and choice and says,”I am bringing her home,” and files the needed withdrawal papers (different depending on where you live).

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Now what?

Let’s talk through some of the steps you should take from that point.

First of all, and I cannot stress this enough, you really need to take some time to DE-SCHOOL. This is not the same as Un-school (which is a form of homeschooling), this is to take some time to do NO SCHOOL at all.

What??

This may go against all your mommy feelings and you may feel like you are being an irresponsible homeschooler, but, trust me, you need to take this period of time.

Here’s why – if you child has attended school for any period of time, he/she has a certain, pretty rigid idea of what school is, what “learning” is.  This may include but not be limited to: schedules, bells, big hard books, desks, shuffling through the hallways, bumping into tons of kids, noise, grades (failing or passing), emotional stress, etc.

Whether the public school experience has been a positive one or a negative one, you and your child will need to take some time to just be in the same space and get used to the idea of learning at home and to having you as the teacher.

Now, this time  is not wide open free time. No, no, no. (We’re not talking hours of tv watching and videos games).

This time is you laying a foundation of how you want education to go from here on.

During this time you should:

Attend art shows and museums
Plug into local homeschool groups
Go hiking, swimming, walking etc
Read books together
Listen to audio books
Cook together
Read the Bible together
Draw

and most of all….talk….and LISTEN.

Your job is to gather information during this time. You are on an information seeking mission. You are going to use this time to hear what your student loved and hated about public school and to see if you can ascertain what sort of student he or she is.

Attempt to answer these questions:

Does your child like to do hands-on things?
Is your child a natural artist?
What are the areas that the student hates/struggles in?
What are his favorite subjects?
What are things that she would like to learn more about?
What subjects is he behind in?

The point of de-schooling is to allow you and your new students to get to know one another…in a NEW way. No longer are you just mom and child, you are also now mom and student.

Caution: one of the things new homeschoolers need to embrace quickly is that homeschooling’s goals is NOT to re-create public school at home. In fact, it is the opportunity you and your child have been waiting for to personalize  your child’s education, so all boundaries which once existed are now GONE!

Does your child want to learn about WWII? (Great!)
Does your child have an interest in mushrooms? (Awesome!)
Does you child doodle and draw (Utilize it!)
Does your child prefer you read to them vs reading themselves? (Do it!)

Do you get what I am saying, momma?

There are 2 subjects which are non-negotiable in our house (Math and Language Arts) – but I do personalize their curriculum to their strengths and interests. I do not expect everything to get done perfectly and sometimes, some subjects which cause more frustration than others, I say: I will come back to this another day…month…even year.

It bears repeating…you are not re-creating public school in your home. Grasp this opportunity to do the things your child would never do in public school (for lack of time).  

And this,my friends, is how you begin. Gather a supportive community around you!

How long your de-schooling period is, is up to you.  I usually advise 2-3 weeks, but others would advise you to take longer. It’s up to you.

Jenny

 

 

 

 

chores · clutter · declutter · goals · homemaking · Mommas · organizing · Uncategorized

What Does Decluttering Mean Exactly? (And Why You Should Do it)

It’s January, so naturally, the whole world is talking about decluttering their homes.  The stores have gone from being stocked with Christmas decorations to being filled to the brim with plastic totes, drawers, and bins.

Everyone is decluttering.

What does this mean exactly?

Decluttering if the act of going through one’s home to remove items which are unused and unneeded. It may be sorting out your tightly packed bedroom closet, cleaning out your garage or donating things that you think you will probably never use again.

So why do folks do this? 

There are many different reasons. 

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Many people say their motivation is to bring more peace into their home. 
While others say they feel that they are owned by their belongings – and that they have so many, they cannot manage them all.
Some feel that they are anxious and depressed in their own living spaces.

But…

An ever growing population of declutterers are moms of young children who have been overwhelmed by piles and piles of plastic toys and tiny bits and pieces that cannot be easily maintained.

Whatever the motivation, people are looking for change, and they are starting with their living environments.

It is a proven fact that living in a cluttered home actually causes mental health issues. There are endless articles online that will tell you why being surrounded by clutter increases anxiety and depression, and causes the person involved to lose focus and become unable to make choices.

I have felt all those feelings.

“Things themselves don’t make us happy, it’s the emotions and memories we attach to them that make them hard to part with.”

In my own home, we have too many toys, too many unfinished projects, piles of things older family members have either gifted to us and/or passed down to us, and then the other stuff that we actually really like.

It’s a big mess a lot of the time.

I had an a-ha moment recently when I said to myself, “Why can’t I keep the house clean?” Now, I am not an inspired cleaner, but I clean everyday. And I often find myself stuck putting things away… more than actually cleaning. 

I realized that we have too much stuff

There is just too much to manage.

So we have begun to declutter.

Today we put 12 boxes in the garage to be donated.

It feels great. And it’s just the beginning.

I am learning that:

  • Things themselves don’t make us happy, it’s the emotions and memories we attach to them that make them hard to part with.
  • Being surrounded by things actually decreases my ability to think clearly and causes anxiety and sadness.
  • Being surrounded by things doesn’t make me feel satisfied or filled up.
  • The quantity of things I have in my home actually decrease my general sense of happiness and control over my space.
  • Things don’t have feelings.  They don’t care if they stay or go.  It’s us that have to deal with our feelings of attachment and perceived loss.

Is decluttering one of your goals for 2018?  How is it going?

  • Jenny

 

Photo credit: Eric Didier and Markus Spiske

 

 

 

cleaning · clutter · cooking · homemaking · Mommas · Uncategorized

Decision Fatigue and Moms: Management Burnout

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I recently had a long day.  A really long day. I was at the check out counter with all three of my boys and one of them was asking if he could buy candy.

By that point in the trip, I had already had to:

-Decide whether or not the 2 year old would walk or sit in the carriage
-Decide which sneakers to buy for the oldest for camp
-Decide which food to buy which would not bring us over our food budget
-Decide which popsicles didn’t have fake coloring in them
-Decide if I should let the older ones wander off to the toy section
-Decide if the little guy was ready for the next size in pull ups or not
-Decide whether I was going to buy the food for my son’s camping trip today or not

Decide, decide, decide.

CAN YOU RELATE?

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My head was spinning and I was tired of making decisions.

Moms make a lot of decisions don’t we? We are constantly thinking about that present and future and making choices based on what we feel is best.

I recently read a little cartoon about something called “mental load” and I really related to it. It actually made me angry for a little while, and I had to consciously choose to not allow it to brew discontentment in my heart.

In this enlightening article published on Huffpost, the author discusses how once she and her husband had children, the general “workload” of the house increased exponentially.  She talks about how she became the “Knower of All Things.”

Moms tends to carry a lot around in their heads.

Things like how the three year-old likes his toast, to how long the preteen has been on the computer to how many bowel movements the baby has had.

The more children you have, the more of this “stuff” there is to remember too.

So, what are the results of being the brain of the family?

Exhaustion.  You are tired. A lot.

Stress. There’s too much to remember.

Disappointment.  The kids are bound to be disappointed that something wasn’t “remembered.”

Irritation.  That’s a lot of pressure!

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So, what are moms to do?

Here are a few ideas that I have tried to reduce my mental load.

Write things down.  I am 45 years old.  I forget things.  I have taken to writing everything down.  Grocery lists, requests, things to do today, things to do this week…why do you think the “organization” industry is booming??

Delegate. So, there are some things I have to do, which cannot be outsourced.
I have to make sure the three year-old brushes his teeth.
I have to make sure the kids are eating healthy.

But, my thirteen year-old can pick up his own darn clothes off the floor and walk them to the washing machine.  My eleven year-old can clean up his own dishes, get his own drink and other chores. I think too often we think “I HAVE to do this,” when in fact “I CHOOSE to do this,” is more accurate.

Ask for help.  From the kids, but also from your partner. If you don’t have a partner, ask a girlfriend, or a cousin or a neighbor.  You don’t have to do it all by yourself.  This is hard, because it means giving up doing it “our” way and you risk being disappointed.

And most importantly…don’t be bossed around by perfection.  We all have that little voice inside our heads saying “this isn’t good enough,” “that chair is ugly,” “more throw pillows!”  Don’t allow your perceived idea of perfection to kill your joy! That’s what it does – it judges you, it judges others even.  Work on contentment and peace.  Say to yourself “It isn’t perfect, but it’s home.”

Jenny

 

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5 Great Things to do with Christmas Cards after the Holidays

Starting every early December, you begin to receive Christmas cards from family, friends and business associates.  Some are beautiful, sentimental, some are comical and others are poignant.  But what do you do when them when the season is over?

Instead of just throwing them away, consider one of these alternatives:

Frame them!

Some Christmas cards are so stunningly beautiful, or they have such a meaningful spiritual message, that they are worth keeping for annual use. A simple, inexpensive frame, in the right size, can make a card into a piece of artwork.

Cut them into gift tags!

Take a card and cut it with pinking shears (or other shaped cutters) and use them to give gifts the following Christmas. One card may be turned into 3 or 4 gift tags.  Check out the cute ideas on www.thegoodstuffguide.com the pretty tags she made below.

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Make Christmas ornaments!

Using a circular shape, trace around the portion of the photo you would like to keep an cut it out.  Punch a hole at the top and add string.

Make a cute gift box!

I saw this idea on CraftyJournal.com. Cut cards into 5 squares of the same size and punch holes in all four corners.  Then attach them with cute contrasting or matching ribbon and add tissue!  What a sweet little box!

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Make bookmarks for gifts!

Take some of the scenes and quotes you love the most and cut them out bookmark size.  Add a tassle and you can use it all year long.  Check out these blank bookmark templates you can use!

Special thanks to all the creative people on the net!
CraftyJournal.com
Template.net
Thegoodstuffguide.com

 

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Want to Try Bible Journaling?

Start the first 3 months of the year off with a *fresh* Bible journal! 8×10 size.

chores · cleaning · clutter · declutter · homemaking · Uncategorized

How to Regain Control of Your Home After Christmas

It’s December 27, and if you are like me, you are looking around your house and saying: “HOW do I get this place under control again??”

The parties are over, the big meals have been prepped and eaten, the gifts are unwrapped and many played with..and now what is left?

Boxes, bags, bows, scotch tape everywhere, packaging of hastily ripped open toys, dishes, dishes and dishes, and no actually edible food in the house, the cat has a bow stuck to its tail, the dog ate something he shouldn’t have and you think one of your relatives was sick and passed it to one of your kids…

I know you know what I mean.

So what is a mom to do?

Let’s talk through some ideas on how to regain control of your living space again…QUICKLY.

Separate everyone’s gifts into piles.
Each of us currently has a pile from which to draw from.  It may be a mixture of stocking stuffers, gifts and other items, but it’s their pile. There are a few advantages to this:
-It’s all in one place
-They know where it all is
-And when it’s time to say clean it up and put it away, they can do it more easily

Get rid of trash – NOW!
JUST by removing the actual trash from the home (we threw out 4 garbage bags in the last 2 days) you can get a better grip on what actually needs to be done. And it feels so, so good….

Require children to pitch in.
TODAY ask them to devote some time to putting away their own messes, picking up trash, and regaining control of their own space.  It will help to “own” their belongings, it will assist them in thinking about where they want something to go, and it will (rightfully so) put some of the ownership on them! (Mine are doing it as I write this post.)

Hack away at the dishes.
Even if you do it in little bursts all day.  Have the dishwasher running all day if need be. No one like to do dishes (or maybe some of you do??), but, someone is going to come looking for a spoon or a bowl before you know it.

Make a clutter box.
As you move through the home you may notice normal, irritating clutter.  Make a box.  Then decide today isn’t the day for you to feel burdened by it. It’s really not.

After you finish cleaning (or even while you are cleaning) you may say to yourself: “Never again!” I am never doing this again.  But…you know you will.  At least you have 12 more months to get ready for it.

Last piece of advice: drink plenty of coffee (or tea) as you prefer.  You’re gonna need it mama!

From your sister in cleaning today, Jenny

 

curriculum · homeschool solutions · homeschooling · Mommas · organizing · Uncategorized

Weekly Homeschool Checklist: Keep Assignments Organized and on Track

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Now that I have reached the six (!) year mark on homeschooling my boys, there is one thing I have learned I need to do on a weekly basis to keep myself on track and organized.

Keep an assignment checklist.

If I don’t keep a list, the mornings go like this:

“Hey mom, what should I do for school?”
“How about your online work?”
“O.k.”
And then the same conversation repeats itself a half an hour later.

Why?  Because life is super-busy, and I have my own list of things to do and my lack of planning for school  is being reflected in my going to the easiest answer: online work.

But that is not fair to them, and in all honesty, it does not reflect the sort of homeschooling experience I want us to have in this house.

So, I have taken to writing down a checklist of assignments on Sunday night. This has made a huge difference in the following areas:

-getting a long-term plan (2-3 months at a time)
-making consistent progress toward completing one goal
-helps their self esteem because they feel like they are accomplishing something
-assists me in staying with something so that a concept can be solidified (think MATH)
– Gives them a VISUAL representation of their work which is easier than me explaining the list verbally

Does that sounds good to you?

This checklist takes me about 30 minutes to fill out in detail but makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE!

I think this list is most effective with elementary to high school age children.

Give it a try this week and see if it makes a difference for you too!

Weekly Assignment Checklist ATGT

chores · cleaning · clutter · goals · homemaking · Mommas · stay home or not? · Uncategorized

To All the Mommas Doin’ it All

mommasstressedandtired.jpgThis time of year there is a lot to do. Mommas do it all.  This one is for you.  Remember, what they really want is YOU.

I see you Momma. You’re tired.  You have no makeup on, yesterdays jeans, and you could really use a coffee delivery person.

I know you didn’t sleep well last night. Your little sweety was sick, or teething, or afraid of the dark.  You back hurts from sleeping crooked and fitting your grown-up frame into 6-inches of mattress.

I know you are aching for 20 minutes by yourself to think your own thoughts. To just have ONE THOUGHT from start to finish. Maybe to make a phone call, read a book that is not found in the children’s section or say a prayer and ask your Creator to give you peace and direction.

Laundry? It’s clean, but it’s all piled up on the couch.

Dishes? I think there is one clean spoon.

Dust?  I can’t remember the last time I did that.

I see you Momma. Wrestling that toddler in the grocery store.  The one who is begging for a toy or grabbing all the sugary cereals off the shelf. The one who isn’t thrilled your passing up the potato chips for apples and the ice cream for yogurt.

I know your budget is tight.  I know there is no room for a special nicety like a bottle of nail polish, or a new hairbrush, or a sharp razor for your oh-so hairy legs.

I know you see those Pinterest pictures of freshly baked bread and feel guilty that your kids are eating Goldfish crackers for breakfast….again.

I know you think you should be making “me time,” and that’s just another thing that tells you that you maybe aren’t living your “best” life.

Workout? Maybe.
Veggies? Sometimes.
8 glasses of water? Never.

I know you have a secret desire to write a book, to sing a song, to paint a picture, to go for a run.

I know you had a career before the babies came.

I know you have some regrets, but the babies aren’t them.

Momma.

Do you know how valuable you are?  Not for cleaning and cooking. Not for changing dirty diapers, not for clipping toenails.

But valuable.

Do you know that you provide security, peace and gentleness in a world that is very unpredictable, chaotic and angry.

You answer the questions.
Calm the fears.
Acknowledge the accomplishments.

You laugh at the silliness.
You give affection.
You teach right from wrong.

Don’t worry about the dust, the unbaked bread, the pile of clothes.

They really aren’t looking.  They don’t care.

They just want you to run the car down the ramp, one more time.
To turn on the music loud and dance silly.
To let them play with bubbles in the sink.
Or make a craft, or jump on the bed, or….

Momma.  They love you.  Just the way you are.
And that’s enough for today.

 

budgeting · curriculum · homeschooling · stay home or not? · Uncategorized

One Paycheck Family: Walking a Thin Line

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Before I had children of my own, I had a somewhat (like totally and completely, actually) romantic vision of what raising them would be like. We wouldn’t need the fanciest things, the biggest house or the most modern car; we would just need EACH OTHER. As a stay-at-home mom, I imagined scrimping and sacrificing to make ends meet while my husband worked hard.

And, like….totally and completely loving it.

We decided, when my first son was born, I would stay home.  Having pretty conservative views towards child-rearing, I felt it was the right thing to do.   Stay at home, run the home and raise the littles.  I still believe those things.

But, guess what?   That means I quit my $70,000 a year job and the raises that came with upward mobility.

Now in the beginning that was cool. Me, being really a financially CLUELESS person (really clueless, people), I gladly tossed it into the wind to do something nobler – and I have not regretted it.

But me, like many, many of you moms (or dads) out there was not prepared for what raising children in the new millenia meant with only ONE PAYCHECK to keep us afloat.

The Washington Post, in 2017, tells us that it is in fact, more expensive to raise a child than ever. According to them, it costs about $13,000 a year. And the more money you have, the more you spend on them.

Now when I was holding that squirmy little boy, I didn’t want to put a price tag on his little bald head, but, in essence, now that he is a teenager, he is even MORE expensive! And you moms and dads of teens know what I am talking about (video games, shoes, clothes he constantly grows out of, etc.)

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$$ Homeschooling $$

We also homeschool.  Which I love (most days).

I have heard it said many, many times that homeschooling is as expensive as you want it to be. And while that is somewhat true, let’s be completely honest here. As your students age, the things that you want for them educationally tend to grow more expensive too.

My 13-year-old is no longer content cranking out some $8.99 workbooks and attending one co-op a week.  He loves to be around people, has an engineering brain that we want to nurture and need to learn Algebra (!).

So, while it is probably less expensive that public school (no uniforms, tuition, annual back to school shopping list, PTO, etc.), it has its own costs. (Can I get an Amen?)

My A-ha Moment

This year I had an a-ha moment. This is the “heart” (hard) part.

My husband tends to look forlorn sometimes, and for the hundredth time in a row, when I asked why he looked concerned, he said: our finances. He has always been so good at managing our finances I have rarely had to worry.  But, the last 6 months have seemed especially tough on him.

And I finally got it – we had slipped out of the habit of living as if we only had one paycheck.

I say “we,” I mean “me.”

You may not have the same approach to finances as we do and I respect that.  But my husband and I had a routine, an agreement, a “way” of doing things, and I had tossed it to the side because I got … bored? fearful? not content?  I am not really sure.

I had not been as frugal as I needed to be. I had been splurging a little too much.  I had not been denying myself as much as I should. I had been signing the kids up for events and making emotional purchases without really praying about it and running it by him as I had for so many years.

And we had hit a financial wall. Not a terrible, horrible one, but a pretty bad one.

And don’t get me wrong – it’s not ALL my fault.  I know that. I do bring in a teeny, tiny writing paycheck that covers some incidentals..but…

But, with my lack of discipline and only one-paycheck-thing, we are walking a very fine line.

As a stay-at-home parent, you feel the pressure as well? I just wanted you to know, you’re not alone!