Family, Homeschool, My Personal Journey

Our Homeschooling Journey

For the past few years, our family has been homeschooling our kids. It’s probably the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve done as a parent. Every time they learn something new, I know I helped with that. Over the past 3 years homeschooling our oldest, we’ve used a pretty wide variety of curricula. We started off with a really cool workbook from Amazon for second grade, moved Switched On Schoolhouse for third grade, and used workbooks and Easy Peasy for fourth and fifth grades. Each curriculum had great and not-so-great things about them for each of our kids. While I love the way Easy Peasy is planned out, I’ve found that my sweet child tends to phone it in because of the way the curriculum is laid out. This year she is starting 6th grade. As her mom and her teacher, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure she gets as much out of school as possible over the next few years! These middle and high school years can have a major impact on what life looks like for her after 18, so I’ve leaned hard toward a curriculum with some accountability built in. We started school a few weeks ago, and while she’s still enjoying her Easy Peasy curriculum, we are going to try out something a little more structured for the next few weeks! I’ve been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so be sure to come back and read about my experience. Time4Learning can be used as a homeschool curriculum, for afterschool enrichment and for summer skill sharpening. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning. We’ll also be trying out the 1st grade curriculum for my little Bear! I’m excited and nervous about what the next 30 days will hold, and I look forward to letting you all know how my experience goes 🙂

Advertisements
Simple Stewardship

Meal: Planned – An alternative to weekly meal plans

I hate meal planning. Okay, I love meal planning. I mean… There are a ton of benefits to meal planning, but it’s such a drag every week. I’m not sure why, but I tend to get a mental block when it comes to decision-making. That’s why I always planned two weeks at a time! But even that process felt downright painful some weeks. I mentioned the agony on Facebook and a friend said she had two weeks of meals planned out each season and she would just recycle it each week… Sounds great on the surface, but I’m pretty sure my family would die if we had to eat the same 14 meals over and over. Or at least I would. I need some variety in my life! But I couldn’t get past the amazing idea of never planning my meals again. Once, for all?! Yes, please!! So I wrote our favorite meals down, with some variations for summer/winter meals, and planned out four weeks of meals. 28 meals in repetition I can handle! Maybe. But just to be safe, I added two weeks. There’s no way I’ll get bored with 42 meals to cycle through.

pmpAnd with that, I bring you my Perpetual Meal Plan. My I-never-have-to-sit-down-and-do-this-again plan. My I-get-my-Sunday-nights-back plan. Ahhh. It makes me want to kick back with a glass of lemonade just thinking about it 😀

Dinners

And because my family insists on eating more than one meal per day, I made one for lunches, too. With fewer weeks, because repeats at lunch don’t seem to bother me as much.

lunches

Everybody’s on their own for breakfast. Because, if I’m honest, I’m lucky if I get to eat breakfast at all most days 😉

Tuesdays and Thursdays are busy days for us, and peanut-free in the afternoons for Mother’s Day Out, so I included those details in my plans. I also repeated my husband’s absolute favorites because he begged me to! I can’t wait! Download your own copy here: Perpetual Meal Plan

How do you plan your meals? Have you ever considered a ‘Perpetual Meal Plan’ for yourself? Sound off below!

Marriage, My Personal Journey, Reflections

Why Wait? From someone who didn’t, and did.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to post on this topic, as SO MANY people have weighed in already… but given my story, I feel like I have a pretty unique perspective on the matter… and if only one person reads it, it’s worth my time to write it all out. So, here goes.

A woman wrote a few months ago that she waited for marriage and wished she hadn’t… And it went viral. It’s tragic, for so many reasons… first, that she has found herself unable to enjoy marital intimacy, and second, that she chose to share with the world a post that has undoubtedly changed the hearts and minds of young girls who might have otherwise done the same (and not regretted it). I can understand the reasoning in some ways, but I mostly just hurt for her… She waited. She assumes it would have been easier or better somehow if she hadn’t. The thing is, though, that she doesn’t know whether it would have been better. I do. I know what it’s like not to wait. I know the hurt, the ick, the expectation that not waiting can bring. But I also know what it’s like to wait. I know how it feels to date a man and, through temptation after temptation, keep yourself chaste and just. wait. So with that unique perspective in mind, let me tell you … why wait?

The first time I remember thinking about sex and what I thought about it, I was 12 or 13. I was talking with a friend who said she had lost her virginity a few months prior because she had been raped. I was so sad for her. She felt that this was going to define her life and that her purity was gone and it didn’t matter what she did anymore. I cried for her. Because we were friends I told her that it didn’t have to change things for her.. that it was sad, and awful, and I was so sorry, but that she could move on and it didn’t have to change who she was. I had already decided for myself before that point that I didn’t want to have sex until I was married. It wasn’t because of my youth group — I didn’t have one. It wasn’t because of my parents — they themselves were never married. It wasn’t because I was passionate about Christ or because I wanted to honor God or anything like that… it was honestly probably because of logistics… I didn’t want to share something that had to be seriously intimate (and, in the mind of a 12 year old, inevitably gross) with more than one person. I saw my purity and my virginity as a gift, and it was the only thing in the wide world that was mine to keep and give to whomever I wanted.

I don’t know if it would have helped or not, but I never made a True Love Waits commitment or wore a promise ring. But at 14, when my boyfriend made suggestive conversation about things we *could* do, I resisted.. but eventually caved. In retrospect, I think it was a combination of naĂŻvetĂ© and fear. A part of me thought this could be the easy way out. We had talked about marriage, and what if he was the one? Maybe this is the way I could ‘seal the deal,’ and we really would be together forever, and I’d never have to deal with the hassle of picking a husband or being single or whatever. Yeah, I was definitely naĂŻve.
Unfortunately, the fear I felt wasn’t invalid. He did leave – not because I wouldn’t do what he wanted but in spite of it. After a few months of a relationship that revolved around sexuality on a level that I am, even now, very uncomfortable with, he began seeing other girls. Not behind my back – I was fully aware, but they weren’t. I was afraid to leave at this point because I had given such a huge part of me to this person and I couldn’t just leave that chunk of me behind. My parents, wisely, did everything they could to pry me from him, up to and including moving me about 200 miles away from him. And that worked, in a way. On our one year anniversary, he broke up with me because he ‘couldn’t handle a long distance relationship.’ Unfortunately, when I found myself living locally again six months later, the abuse continued, and I continued to allow it.

I finally began falling for another boy as a new school year began. He was a virgin, and I remember thinking that was cute. At this point, sex had become, in my mind, a weapon; it was power. It’s frightening to look back on, actually. It did feel empowering once or twice, until that weapon was turned on me and I found myself once again at the wrong end of this incredible, soul-crushing power. Once again, my boyfriend began seeking other mates while I bowed to his every whim until eventually, I walked away.

My senior year was about the same, only the boy was cuter, and the abuse was exponentially worse. Everyone could see it but me, as it always happens, and before I fully understood the extent of the abuse I was enduring, I found myself pregnant as a freshman in college, by a boy I couldn’t imagine having to spend forever with.

What you have to understand is that there was a large part of me that entered each of these relationships fully believing that I could marry this guy. The relationships began and these guys exhibited marryable traits. They all went to church and were fairly active in their youth groups. They pulled out chairs and opened doors. They didn’t dress like thugs. Each of them was actually in our high school ROTC program, which required a level of discipline and poise that you wouldn’t expect from the ‘average teenage boy.’ These weren’t the bad boys — they were the good guys. But sex. changes. everything.

I’d like to say having a baby helped me get my head screwed on right, but it didn’t. I still hoped, in a way, that sex could somehow lead to marriage — it always worked in sitcoms, after all! I endured a couple more ’empowering’ situations with other boys before deciding that this wasn’t going where I wanted it to. I remember driving home from my boyfriend’s house one night and it finally hit me — sex is bigger than me or this boy. It’s bigger than an activity that you do together. It’s an emotional and spiritual giant and it can and will swallow you. It was there in the driver’s seat of my car on Hwy 80 that I realized why sex is meant to happen only within marriage.

I don’t know how pertinent it is to the story, but it was a few months later that God shook up my whole world, and I got baptized and actually changed my life. Or I guess, my heart, because I was still a single mom making barely enough to pay for rent, gas and daycare, but it didn’t feel so hopeless anymore. That doesn’t mean I never made a stupid decision about a boy again… but I did feel somehow different about it.

A few months later, I reconnected online with a guy I had met on MySpace a year and a half earlier. He was a Christian – and now I had a way better grip on what that actually meant. I wanted to approach this relationship differently… with conviction. He was a virgin, and I liked that… but this time it was because I hoped it would keep him from trying anything. I hoped it would mean he’d respect me. Something my friend when I was 12 told me that always stuck with me was ‘once you give him more than a simple kiss, you’ll never have his respect again.’ I wanted to be respected. I wanted my feelings to matter – not just about sex but about life and TV shows and the color of my hair and how I dressed and whether I was well and what I was interested in. Any boy who had ever had more of me than a simple kiss soon lost interest in my feelings about any of those things.
Anyway, for some reason, this Christian boy took a chance on me. And to tell the truth it was so hard to stick by our convictions. Once you’ve been there it’s so hard to step backwards, even with a new person. It would be a lie to say we never stumbled or were never tempted, but we fought hard and made it to our wedding night before giving ourselves to one another. And you know what?
It was different.
There wasn’t some magical thing that made it amazing in spite of our inexperience, but the respect, the actual active, even-when-it’s-not-easy love he felt for me, the trust that we had given to each other — that he had earned — in the hard waiting… that made all the difference.

I can tell you, with more experience than I wish I had, that sex is better when you’re married to someone who truly loves you, than it is when you are dating someone who says they love you. It isn’t picture-perfect, it didn’t eliminate the natural process of it all, but it didn’t kill me inside. It still had all the markings of two people who still don’t know everything about one another written all over it, but it felt more like the beginning of a process than an event to get over with.
To anyone who has waited and regretted it, I would say to remember that you have the rest of your lives to practice getting things right, and if one party or the other is unwilling to do so, there is counseling for that. Don’t give up or think that you have to be miserable, because that isn’t what marriage is about. This is part of the ‘for better or for worse’ that you signed up for…
To anyone who hasn’t waited or didn’t wait, there is no condemnation here, but there are always abundant opportunities for redemption. If you have questions about that, comment below and leave an email address and I would be happy to talk more about that.
To anyone who is on the fence, I implore you to wait. Don’t let one girl’s bad experience change your life forever.
To any and all of the above: You are a gift. You are worth waiting for. You are precious. You are pure. You are lovely. Nothing you have done changes any of that. And it’s never too late to start over.

**and, side note: to cut down on first-night awkwardness, I recommend reading books like Sheet Music & The Gift of Sex before your wedding night, and discussing sex with your future spouse, as well as participating in premarital counseling. Sex isn’t wrong, bad, or dirty – it’s complex, intimate, and important. Treating it like it isn’t – one way or the other – is ultimately damaging to everyone involved.**

Family, Health & Wellness, My Personal Journey

We Have To Talk About This.

There were several comments on my post about DIY Scratch Sleeves that theorized why my son’s eczema was so bad. I appreciated these comments, but by the time I had gotten them I already knew what they were telling me was true. And I didn’t mean to take a super long blogging break the first half of this year but I had to because my son was so sick. So sick. And he isn’t out of the woods yet, but he’s well on his way to healing from a condition called TSW or Topical Steroid Withdrawal.

Sounds weird, right?

You see, I thought withdrawal from medications was a fairly quick thing… a few weeks, max. In fact, we experienced a minor withdrawal when we switched from topical steroids to essential oils about a year ago. It looked like a minor flare, followed by a ton of improvement. But then on Halloween last year my family went to IHOP and my son was given a strawberry that had spent its life in strawberry syrup being coated in Red 40. We didn’t realize it until after he had eaten it, and as a result we spent several days in the hospital helping his body breathe. One of the steps in that process was a round of oral prednisone.
At his follow-up appointment with his pediatrician, the doctor pointed out that his skin looked great, but was looking very thin. After a couple of weeks, his skin began looking worse than ever, and at that point nothing helped.

The decline :(

In our Christmas photos, you can see that he just isn’t quite himself… and it just got worse from there. We didn’t leave the house for weeks. I hadn’t gone back to the topical steroids, but the prednisone set off the withdrawal that I suppose the switch to oils had *almost* saved us from.

not so bad anymore

If you’ve ever had the inkling that maybe your eczema or your child’s eczema was getting worse on steroids… or that your skin almost seemed to need the steroids… let me just tell you you’re probably right.

just about back to normal

After 9 months of suffering, my boy can play again. We almost never get questions about his skin anymore. I’ve watched friends go through this condition, though, and I know it might not be over for us. But for now we’re okay. And because of what we’ve been through I have to tell people and at least try to prevent another child from going through this misery. Because it’s downright horrifying what my son has had to endure and I can’t imagine not trying to prevent that!

If you want to know more, go to ITSAN.org. You’ll find forums there with people who have and are going through this. You’ll find research and photos of healing. You’ll find a list of symptoms that go beyond skin and maybe it will explain some of the things you’ve experienced that have baffled the doctors. I know I was thankful to find them and talk to other parents who have walked in my shoes, get advice, and help me figure out how to love my son through the hardest thing I hope he ever has to go through.

I have many more photos, but they are heartbreaking and very personal. There are other moms who have shared their TSW stories in far greater detail, and you can find them at http://www.itsan.org/get-involved/IMIA/

Crafting, Family, Health & Wellness

Help for Little Eczema Sufferers – No-Scratch Sleeves

My son has been suffering through the worst eczema flare-up I’ve ever witnessed. Seriously, I didn’t know eczema could even look like this. I’ve seen pictures of eczema that look like hives, red rashes, extremely dry and even very flaky skin, but not this. This is all of those and more. And I know the worst of it is caused by the fact that a three-year-old sweetie doesn’t fully understand the damage his scratching causes. And don’t get me wrong – we still love our eczema cream – and we have also taken the obvious steps of keeping his nails trimmed and wearing covering clothing – but since eczema isn’t merely a skin issue, we knew we had to take other steps.

Last Saturday, I couldn’t take it anymore. I saw his sweet face all scabbed up when he woke up (we cover him when he sleeps – footy pajamas are great – but his face is still exposed, so it gets the brunt of the scratching) and I couldn’t just lotion him and wait out his healing. I searched “eczema scratch prevention” online and found something I had never thought of before – scratch clothing!

There appeared to be two products on the market. One is called ScratchSleeves, and it’s made in the UK and shipped here. For about $23 (shipped) I can have my very own cardigan with mittens that my son would wear under his clothing. His hands would be completely covered, so any scratching would at least be minimally successful. The other was a similar product that’s made in the US and sells for about $25. It was the same basic premise, but the hands on these were open at the ends, and I knew my little guy would figure that out in no time.

Being that I can’t just learn about a product like and then buy it, the wheels in my head began turning and I decided I needed to see if there was a way I could make this myself. I thought up designs, what would be the most effective material to use, etc. – and then I remembered that I’m 9 months pregnant and we just moved into a new house, so all my sewing stuff is still in boxes. After a trip to the thrift store and finding nothing inspiring, I went to Walmart and found a set of 3 pairs of tights for about $3.97 – $1.33/pair!

My original thought was a body suit that would cover my boy from head to toe, including his hands. Then I talked to my brilliant husband and we decided that the most important factor was keeping his hands covered. Before bed that night, I grabbed one set of tights, snipped a small line down the middle, and put them on my boy. Perfect.

No Scratch Sleeves
My boy rocking his red no-scratch sleeves with his Spiderman t-shirt

Now, I realize that when most people think of eczema, something like this seems rather extreme. If that’s you, then I’m sorry but you haven’t seen eczema like I’ve seen. But if you’ve ever woken up and dreaded looking at your child for fear of what they’ve done to themselves overnight this time… if you’ve ever spent half your car trip explaining to your sweet child that it really is important that they don’t scratch… if you’ve ever dressed your little one in clothes that were maybe a little too warm for the weather in hopes that an extra layer would prevent him from hurting himself – then you’ll understand where I’m coming from, and you might just want to make some for your sweetheart. Well, thankfully, it’s super duper easy!

What you need:
-Tights, about the same size as your child. (My son is a 3T and we bought 2T-4T sized tights)
-Scissors

Unroll the tights.

Tights Find the center seam of the tights. Cut about 3 inches (depending on how broad your child’s shoulders are, this may vary.)
Cut Tights Cut Done

Put on the way you would put on a sweater. I find it easiest to roll up the tights to the end onto my thumbs (the same way I would put tights or socks on myself) and have him stick his hand directly into the end. Bring the back around, and do the same on the other side. Pull the front to a comfortable position.

Sleeves Front Sleeves Back

That’s it! Now put a shirt on and you’re ready to go!

Sleeves in PJs
Here he is in the white set with his PJs! I find it fun/easy to make it match his outfits.

My son has been wearing these for about a week and we’ve had minimal problems with them. He still scratches (we’re making diet changes and hoping that helps), but he isn’t breaking the skin anywhere near as easily as he used to. He can function well in them – he’s doing a puzzle as I type, and he can eat, color, and play without trouble.

To wash them, I put them all in a pillowcase, tied it shut, and put them in the washer on delicate. If you want to get fancy, you could get a lingerie bag but we didn’t have one on hand and I was afraid the zipper would cause snags. Some pairs got a little pilly, but a lint shaver would solve that problem. (I love mine, but it’s still in a box somewhere!)

So, that’s one step we’ve taken to help my son’s skin heal. We’re still putting his homemade eczema cream on every day, but this has made the battlefield more level, for sure.

If you make some, I’d love to see pictures!

Essential Oils, Health & Wellness

What’s All This Stuff About Essential Oils??

I have posted several times about the use of essential oils in my home, both here and on Facebook, and I’ve gotten many questions – mostly asking me just what these things are! In my area, these things are exploding as a ‘new’ way to care for and promote wellness within our families, and everyone seems to either love them or shun them. I was once one of the latter, myself! What changed my mind? I actually tried them, and they made a huge difference in our lives. Now they’ve replaced many items I used to have in the medicine cabinet, and I feel like I have a much better handle on my family’s health.

What are they?
The dictionary says they are: a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted.
What does that mean? It means they are an extract of a plant, pretty much. Found in nature, extracted, and placed into bottles. Sounds simple enough, right? But they’re also quite powerful, so you want to make sure you get *good* ones, not just any old oil off the grocery store shelf.

What do they do?
They can do a great number of things. I have a Quick Reference Guide that I just love to use when we’re struggling with something in our house. Google is also pretty great. Just last night I looked up ‘bloody noses’ and found that my daughter could breathe in (aka – smell) a combination of lavender and lemon oils to stop her nosebleed (and guess what? It did!) We also use a combination to help with allergies. We use a homemade cream with essential oils for skin troubles. I also have a blend I made to help with tummy yuck, and one I use when I’m having muscle pain. So, if I can do so without sounding cliche, I’d say the better question is what don’t they do! Because, seriously, we use them all the time around here.

Where do I get them?
Honestly? If you just want plain old essential oils, you can go just about anywhere. If you want the good stuff, go to Young Living. You can sign up as a customer and try any number of wonderful oils at your leisure, but the better bargain is to sign up to be a member (also called a distributor.)

Wait – You want me to sign up for something?
No. Well, not just for the sake of signing up, anyway – I want you to get the most for your money, and simply buying bottle after bottle of oils is not the best way to do that. I am a researcher. I spent weeks looking at the cost of oils from different places (as well as the credentials of those places – if they had any), and what I came back to was the Young Living Premium Starter Kit.

starterkit

It’s an up-front investment of about $150 (plus tax & shipping), but you receive an amazing value for that money. Nowhere – not even the cheap places – can offer you a diffuser worth nearly $100 and 11 different oils and oil blends, in addition to some lovely samples and reading material for anywhere near this price. And with Young Living, you get the SeedtoSeal guarantee — meaning you know you’re buying high-quality, unadulterated, undiluted essential oils.

everydayoils

If you want to see all of the amazing ways our family has begun using Young Living Essential oils, check it out here. Here are some other pretty amazing uses for the oils that come in the starter kit:

Young-Living-Ditch-Drugstore-Medications

Like I said – some pretty amazing stuff!

Additional Resources:
Anyone who buys their starter kit from me will be mailed a Quick Reference Guide. This is such a great resource for learning how to use your oils, that I think it would be a disservice not to provide it to you! You’ll also be invited to a Facebook Group where you can ask questions about your oils and get advice when something comes up. In the meantime, the Oily Families Facebook group is a good resource to get your questions answered or just to see testimonies of how Young Living Essential Oils have helped others!

Want In?
If you’re ready to join, click here and fill out the form. If you mark yourself as a “Distributor,” you’ll get immediate access to buy one of these great kits, plus you’ll get a 24% discount on every oil you order for the rest of forever. No – you don’t *have* to buy anything else, and you aren’t going to be made to ‘keep up’ a membership to get that discount. If you go a whole year without ordering anything, you’ll have to order $50 of product to get the discount again – but that’s not hard. You’ll probably wind up restocking every few months. Pretty sweet, right?

Have Questions?
If you’re wondering something I haven’t covered here, just ask below! I’ve really enjoyed getting a handle on my family’s wellness with the use of these oils – and I’d love to help you do the same!

**disclaimer: I am not a doctor, just a mommy learning to care for her family the best I can. I speak from experience, but not medical expertise. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s health, consult a medical practitioner. If you are just looking for new and helpful ways to continue caring for the ones you love, I hope you find my ideas useful in that endeavor. Thanks!**

Dye-free living, Health & Wellness

The Truth about Food Coloring

I’ve shared our journey to living a life free of synthetic food dyes, but I realize that, apart from my son with the allergy, it can be unclear why these products are bad and should really be eliminated from our diets – and lives – entirely. There are a multitude of resources out there regarding this topic, so I’ll give you a break down and then some links so you can dig deeper if you so desire.

The Basics
Synthetic Food Colors are found in just about everything. I talked about it here, but it is in many many things. Add to that the general lack of knowledge of how awful it is, and you’ll find that it’s in ‘natural‘ products, as well. It is completely chemical, made in a lab from petroleum derivatives, and several variations of it have been pulled in the last few decades because they were proven to be carcinogenic or otherwise toxic. Very little testing was done before these lovely things were approved to be put into our food, so many of the side effects weren’t discovered until much later.

The Truth about Food Coloring | LearningtoLiveIt.com
It’s anything but harmless, trust me.

The Risks
As you’ll read in the links below, the UK and several other countries have decided that the benefit of these products (they’re pretty), does not outweigh the many risks of using and consuming them. A European study showed that synthetic colors (specifically Red 40 and Yellow 5 – the two we use the most in the U.S.) caused severe hyperactivity in children. In a double-blind test, the children who were taken off of food dyes showed improved behaviour during the elimination period, and a drastic change once dyes were re-introduced. (I personally attribute the fact that my son skipped the ‘terrible twos’ entirely to artificial food coloring having been out of our diet for the better part of a year.) It’s been shown in other studies that these synthetic dyes cause allergic reactions, and proven in yet more studies to be cancer-causing, neurotoxic, and even to cause chromosomal damage! It’s my personal belief that the increase in the use of artificial dyes (we use 5x the chemical dyes today that we did 50-60 years ago) contributes to a large number of medical, behavioural, and societal issues we face today that were almost non-existent in previous generations.

Sounds delicious, right?

The Proof
If you like reading super technical stuff, here is a copy of the actual study done in the UK that initiated their banning/increased labeling standards of synthetic dyes, and here’s a breakdown of what it says.

You can also find some more fun food coloring reading at family gone healthy, kitchen stewardship, red40.com, and a wonderfully enlightening read by Robyn O’Brien at AllergyKids. If you’re a fan of infographics, I’m particularly fond of this one.

And last but not least, here are some sources for natural food dyes:
DIY: here or here
Buy It: here or here

The process of eliminating synthetic dyes from our diets has been a fairly arduous one, but I’ve found it to be worth it. If you or your children are suffering from ADD/ADHD, Migraine headaches, Eczema, food allergies, etc., I would encourage you to look at the ingredients in your food and consider that there could be a correlation.