knitting and reading

Well, I am happy to report that I finally finished my March knit item - which is this pretty scarf for Emma.  It isn't really supposed to be a warm scarf, more a pretty scarf for her to wear.

She was really excited to have it finished.  Out of everyone in this house, I think she appreciates my knits the most.  Although, this time Jack did ask when I would knit him a new perhaps I need to start making him some things.

We are moving into warmer weather though, so I am at a loss as to what to knit him that he will be able to wear.  I have heard mention of that dreaded polar vortex returning at the beginning of maybe a hat will be worth it to try and make now!

I know that I promised some cute baby knits last time, unfortunately I haven't made any progress on that front.  I was going to knit the traditional hat that I do for all the kids, but then I wasn't sure which yarn to use, and my indecisiveness caused me to not start a hat in time.  Then I found all of these cute little baby knit patterns, and got lost in that for quite a while - it is a rabbit hole for me with baby knit patterns!

As for reading, I am still reading the Mandie series with my kids.  We are in book five now - Mandie and the Trunk's Secret.  I think Emma loves the books as much as I did when I was little.  And they are so short, it is super easy to get through them quickly.  Emma will sit and listen to me read for as long as my voice holds out.  We are trying to balance the fun reading with the school reading right now since we incorporated all kinds of new books on Monday.

I also am reading a book called Let. It. Go. by Karen Ehman.  I am only a little bit into it, but it is already really interesting.  The part I am reading right now talks about all the decisions we have to make every day and how she looks at decisions as "Is it a tool, a toy, or a tangent?"  Specifically she is talking about social media, and how you can get onto Facebook and then all of a sudden two hours have passed and you have done nothing but click click click.  Really interesting so far, and I am looking forward to continuing it!

What are you working on this week?  Do you lose control of social media as easily as I do?

For when you accomplish more than you Expect – Homeschool

When we started our new homeschool year in August, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  Sure, I had all the books; I planned our scope for the year, the projects that I wanted to work on.  I made adjustments knowing we would take a long homeschool break during the holidays.  I guess I wasn’t prepared to accomplish more than I originally expected.

You see, this was the first year we didn’t go with our normal curriculum instructor’s guide.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the instructor’s guide, but there were so many things I was planning on changing and stretching out, that I didn’t think having the instructor’s guide would be a good thing.

We were in a bit of a limbo as far as the scheduling of our year would go.  What did I do?  I had my high expectations and we worked hard, one of the benefits of homeschooling I think.

Yet, we got to the end of February, and when I was sitting down to do a rough plan for March, I realized that we were essentially done. 

Now, I don’t think you are ever really *done* with learning, but we were done with what I had planned for the year…and we still have a few months left to go!

I thought about backing off from school, not necessarily taking a break, but doing more review, free reading, projects, and less actual math books and reading/language arts/English curriculum.

That thought process didn’t last long for me.

Part of what I love about homeschooling, and more specifically year ‘round homeschooling, is that we can just move on.  There is nothing stopping us from starting the next thing.

With the realization that we could just keep going, I decided to sit down and look at the catalogs and online for book resources to continue our year.  I talked a little bit about my plans a couple weeks ago.

We have been using the Fun-Schooling books that each of the kids got several weeks ago, but I knew that I needed a little bit more to fill out our time.

I decided to go ahead and place an order for new curriculum.

We are still set with our “core” of history/read-alouds/science, but I knew that I needed to order new readers for Emma, new handwriting books for both the kids, new math books.  I didn’t want to wait.

This past Saturday the first order of books arrived, and we started with a whole new set of books yesterday after our little spring break last week!

There is nothing like getting new books to breathe life into your homeschool year, at least that is my experience.  Emma and Jack were so excited to do school yesterday, they moved through everything quickly and efficiently, and we were done by lunch.

Those are the days that I love, when everyone is in high spirits, we accomplish a lot in a short amount of time, and we still feel refreshed at the end of the day.

The whole point of me homeschooling is to work at the kids’ pace, so I shouldn’t hold them back when they move faster through work than I expected, and I shouldn’t speed them through concepts to get to the next thing if they need to spend more time on it.

We did start yesterday with these new books, but I know I need to sit down and really read through the books to get a good sense of the direction we are going.  And while I talked about not buying the instructor’s guide this year, I did end up purchasing it with the new readers, because that is where I can get the readers schedule and some of the questions to go along with the books.

What do you do when your kids don’t follow the normal “schedule?”  Are you always thinking about “the next thing?”  What do you do when you accomplish more than you expect to?

An Easter Weekend Recap

I hope you all had an amazing Easter Weekend!  We certainly did.  Easter is one of my favorite holidays.  We are Christian and Easter is probably the most important holiday to us in the year.  Easter is a time of family and fun in our home.

The Easter Bunny definitely visited our house this year!  Emma and Jack were up extremely early on Easter morning, ready to go.  Well, I should rephrase that.  Emma was awake extremely early on Easter morning, and then we let her go and wake up Jack so that they could start their Easter egg hunt.

The Easter Bunny leaves a note for the kids as to which color eggs to look for.  The Easter Bunny realized a couple years ago that the older of the two would tend to find more eggs unless they were designated a specific color.  This year the kids were very good about leaving some of the eggs for Lucy to find, as she does not have her own color as of yet.

The eggs were filled with candy, and the baskets contained a few fun toys.  Jack received a Minecraft mini-figure, and a small LEGO City package, while Emma received a couple mini My Little Ponies figures.  They both also received chalk and bubbles and a new little plate to use for meals.  Lucy received a baby doll that she absolutely loves, as well as a new sippy cup. 

We went to church and after the kids’ Sunday school lesson, there was a huge Easter egg hunt for them.  Both kids came home with another basket full of Easter Eggs.  Jack seemed to hit the jackpot and came home with 4 Sacagawea Golden Dollar Coins.  Plus more candy than either of them possibly could need.

I, of course, waited until the last minute to pick up a couple items I needed for our brunch.  We were going to swing through the grocery store on the way home from church, just to drive by a completely empty parking lot.  I then realized that all the stores around here are closed on Easter, which I knew, but apparently I blanked out on it because I was not prepared for our brunch!

Luckily, my mom came through and had the few ingredients I needed to finish up our meal.

A couple years ago I decided that it was much easier to do a brunch type meal rather than to make a big main meal.  My kids are not big eaters, preferring to eat side dishes to main items.  I ended up making a quiche, quinoa tabouli salad, and a raw broccoli salad.  They were all delicious, and while we were all full at the end of the meal, we were not overly stuffed – plenty of room for candy for dessert!

Overall, we had a great weekend.  I received a box of books in the mail on Saturday, so we will have some new homeschool things on the horizon.  It was a wonderful long weekend of celebration, and family.

How was your Easter?  What is your normal Easter dinner?

Being Prepared even when you Forget the Diaper Bag

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SkinCareForBaby #CollectiveBias

You would think after having three babies, the diaper bag would be the easiest thing to remember.  However, you would be wrong.  It seems like there is at least one outing a week where I forget the diaper bag.  It actually seems to be getting worse as we add children.  It happened just a couple weeks ago when we were having a play date at a friend’s house.  We had to pack up early and head home because, you guessed it, I forgot the diaper bag.

What is that saying about giving half your brain to your baby…times three?!

Often it is when I am running a quick errand, and just end up forgetting it.  To be honest, I am happy that I remember all of my children when we leave the house.

What is a forgetful mama to do?

One way that I have managed to make forgetting the diaper bag a bit easier, is to have a back-up stash of items already stored in the car.

This extra stash comes in handy whether you are running a quick errand and forget your diaper bag, or you have a particularly messy time on your hands, and go through A LOT of diapers and wipes in a short span of time.  This supply is also incredibly helpful for when you are taking longer trips, and perhaps need a lot more diapers and wipes than a typical diaper bag would hold.

What items do I keep in my car for those times I have forgotten my diaper bag?

First, you need a container to put the items in.  I love to use a 15 quart clear, plastic tote with a locking lid.  It is a little bit bigger than the shoebox size, and fits all of the items in easily.  It is small enough that I can slide it in the back seat under the kids’ feet if I need to, but sturdy enough that it can also be packed tight into the trunk.

The first item I keep in my car tote is diapers.  There have been too many times that I have gone out of the house and realize that I have forgotten the diaper bag, or that I have remembered the diaper bag, but had not replenished my diaper supply – not a good thing!

I love the Huggies® Little Snugglers diapers.  They are perfect for my baby, who is in size 3 right now.  I love that they are in sizes NB-3 and offer superior protection for Lucy’s sensitive skin.  We had a lot of trouble finding disposable diapers that did not cause skin irritation, and the Huggies® Little Snugglers fit the bill.

The next item is obviously the wipes.  We LOVE Huggies® Natural Care Wipes!  They are softer for sensitive skin.  Every baby gets diaper rash at some point (most often for us transitioning to more solid food), and we have found that these wipes keep the diaper rash away.  Using the wipes and diapers together has given us an amazing result for Lucy’s extremely sensitive skin.  Finding something that protects her skin, while also protecting against leaks and other issues was important to me.

Having two older children as well, the wipes come in extra handy.  It seems like my older kids need to eat a lot when we are out (is this just me?!), and we end up having messy hands and faces.  We use the wipes for all manner of clean up, and they have served us very well over the years!

To go along with the diapers and wipes, we keep small trash bags in the box.  We use the plastic bags we receive at the grocery store because we always seem to have extras.  Also, a change of clothes for Lucy, which in the winter is a one piece pajama outfit.  If I get to the point where I need to change all of her clothes, I do not want to be putting her in another cute little outfit!  Ease is the key for me here.  And of course, hand sanitizer.

Other items I include are some snack pouches for the kids.  I have them for Lucy, but I also buy pouches for Emma and Jack as well.  Having the snack in a pouch allows for a little less mess, and I find that I am able to get pretty healthy options.  I keep some fruit in addition to the pouches.  We also always keep a few bottles of water.  We bring our water bottles everywhere, but often they run out, and we need a back-up option.

When I do need to re-stock this bin, I head into the Walmart Baby section of the store.  They carry everything I need there.  I love that they offer amazingly low prices, which is important if you have ever bought diapers before – you know how expensive they can be.  You can get a pack of the Huggies® Little Snugglers for as low as $8.97 per pack.  We typically buy the bulk box of wipes, but you can also buy the small, 64-wipe package for $2.37.  But, you can also find everything online - and who doesn't love to just order things online?!  

My brother and sister-in-law just welcomed their third little one.  A tiny peanut at 6lbs 14oz (which is a whole 2 pounds smaller than their older 2!), and we will be gifting them some of diapers as well as wipes to use.  Having three little ones 3 and under is going to be a challenge, having a great solution to deliver amazing skin care to her newborn shouldn’t be a concern!

Do you keep a separate bin in your car with supplies?  What would you add to my list?

Top 5 Apps to Help with Taxes!

This post is sponsored by U.S. Cellular and the #BetterMoments Blog Brigade.  All opinions are my own!

If you need a conversation starter to talk to your kids about technology usage, download this Free Parent-Child Agreement.

I may be in a bit of denial about that looming tax deadline.  Now, I’m sure that if you are expecting a refund, you aren’t that concerned.  But, for anyone that is going to owe money, putting off taxes seems to be…normal.

Tax prep is probably my least favorite thing to do every year.  There are the piles of paperwork that I should have meticulously filed all year, which is shoved in folders in a filing cabinet.  Definitely not the most exciting task!

However, there are a lot of mobile helps today for my iPhone 6 that I love.  Coupled with the amazing nationwide network coverage of U.S. Cellular, it makes tax time a little bit easier to handle.

Did you know that according to the IRS, nearly 126 million taxpayers e-filed their taxes in 2015?

I know that we always e-file.  I love the convenience of it.  And with so many more people using their smartphones to manage their finances (59% according to a recent U.S. Cellular survey), having mobile capabilities during tax time is important.

Top 5 apps to help with your Taxes

TurboTax – I love TurboTax.  It is convenient, and it makes doing your taxes easy.  The free TurboTax app helps users get their taxes done anytime.  You can even take a picture of your W-2, answer a few questions, and e-file from anywhere!

IRS2Go – This is the official app of the IRS.  It allows users to check on their refund status, or make a payment.  It also offers free tax preparation assistance and you can sign up for helpful tax tips. 

MyBlock – This app is backed by the tax professionals at H&R Block.  It helps users quickly estimate their tax refund, update documents you are sending into your tax professional, access previous tax records and check on the status of your refund.

TaxACT Express – Answering a few simple questions allows users to easily prepare and e-file their federal and state taxes for free.  Mobile device users can receive updates on when the IRS and state have processed their returns, check refund status, and even file extensions.

Expensify – If you are looking to get ahead of the game for next year (yes, yes I am), this app helps to keep track of receipts, time or mileage and business travel.  It easily creates expense reports and has the ability to import credit card transactions.  Then it automatically creates and IRS guaranteed e-receipt for all purchases under $75. 

Do you use your phone to help manage your finances?  Is it something you are thinking of using more?

Spring Cleaning when it still feels like Winter

Happy Spring everyone!  When I hear spring, I also think Spring Cleaning.  It has been beautiful in Maine over the past several weeks, and I thought for sure that as soon as the Vernal Equinox came, we would be full into spring; after all we didn’t have much of a winter.

But, of course, as Mother Nature often intends (for us New Englanders at least!) we are in the middle of another snow storm; the first one of any significance since February 5th.

While all of my southern friends will be throwing open their windows and letting in new spring air, we will be turning the heat back up.

Even though it still feels like winter in Maine, that doesn’t mean that we can’t begin to do some spring cleaning.  Every year I feel the same way, I want to finish the spring cleaning before the weather is nice outside, because as soon as we are able to, we want to be outside.

 These first few months of the year I have spent de-cluttering.  It is amazing the amount of “stuff” we have been able to get rid of.  The kids have been involved and overall it has gone quite well.  But, now that *most* of the de-cluttering is done (I have decided it will never be completely done while we still have kids at home), it is time to move onto other areas of cleaning in the home.

The first stop will be my kitchen.  It is the place where I spend most of my time, but also doesn’t get deep cleaned as often as it should.  Yes, surface cleaning is done multiple times a day, but going through the cupboards and getting rid of old spices, Tupperware that no longer has a cover, or dishes that are cracked or unused, that doesn’t happen nearly enough.  The spring is the perfect time, and the fact that it is still cold out works in my favor.  I can take most of the food out of the fridge and set it in a cooler outside with no concern of leaving things out of the fridge for too long.

Where is the first place to start?

I like to start with my cabinets.  We do not have a separate pantry closet, so dry goods and spices are also in my cabinets.  I try to take everything out, one cabinet at a time, and then discard, clean the cabinet and then put everything back in.

I know that some people like to take EVERYTHING out at once, but with my kids, I know that isn’t a good idea.  If I take everything out, I may only get 5 minutes past removing everything when I have to tend to something my kids are doing, or nurse the baby, or help someone with school, so one cabinet at a time makes more sense for me.  It obviously is a slower process that way, but it is what works for me.

Once I have all the upper cabinets done, I work on the lower cabinets, followed by our armoire (which holds a lot of our food), I then move to the fridge and freezer, and I end with the counters.  Why do I end with the counters?  Because I tend to store stuff on them while I am working on the cleaning process, and will have to clean them after I finish the rest of the kitchen anyways, so I might as well save them for last!

Having a clean and organized kitchen is something I always strive for, but between my older two starting to prepare food for themselves, and my husband helping me get things cleaned up, it never seems to be organized quite the way that I expect.  When I take this time in the spring to work on deep cleaning, means that a summer full of food preservation is possible.  Making room for all the summer and fall goodies is definitely important to me!

How do I keep the kids occupied while I am working on my kitchen spring cleaning?  I get them to help of course!  Giving small children a washcloth and a small bucket of water with white vinegar gives them the opportunity to help me clean without much worry.  They will wash the floors and baseboards and lower cabinet doors with the washcloths and a water/vinegar mixture.  It is safe for them to use, and the worst that happens is that I need to throw down some extra towels due to a little more water being used.  It is a great way to keep them occupied and feel like they are part of the job at hand.

Is it still winter where you are?  Are you planning on spring cleaning?  Which room do you like to work on first?

knitting and reading

Right at the beginning of the month, I wrote about my March Goals and then I promptly took the following week off from blogging.  It is amazing what you can accomplish in a week when you step away from the computer.

That being said, I thought I would have a lot more knitting progress to show you today, however, I do not!  I am almost done with this skein of yarn for the scarf I am knitting for Emma, and actually, I might not need to go for the second skein.  I love long scarves for myself, but I don't want one that is super long for Emma that may get caught when she is out running around.

My knitting has become side-tracked again though, and I plan to cast on a new project today...if I can find the right yarn in my stash.  My brother and sister-in-law just welcomed their third little one into the world, and because of that, a little newborn knitting is in order!  My plan is a hat, one that is very quick, especially if I want to complete it before we go to visit them...very very soon.  With my ability to knit slower than molasses, well let's hope that I will finish the hat before it no longer fits her!

My reading, I haven't done as much reading as you would expect after taking a bit of a blog break.  I mentioned in a previous post that I started reading my old Mandie series books to the kids, they are enjoying them.  I have also been spending a lot of time looking at book lists for homeschooling.

I have finished one "for me" book though.  It is called Quitting Church.  I had read several quotes from this book in another book, Barefoot Church by Brandon Hatmaker (Jen Hatmaker's husband), and thought it might be one that I would enjoy reading.  Don't let the title scare you.  It is a book about why people in Gen X & Y are leaving the church in droves, everything from "services are too flashy" to "there is more community and depth available online."  It was a fascinating read, and I was nodding my head right along to a lot of it.  It examined all manner of churches, too, house churches, Catholic churches, Mega churches, small community churches, Orthodox, non-denominational.  I definitely recommend it.  One of the best non-fiction reads of this year for me!

Overall, it was a nice break, and I am happy to be getting back into the groove.  I think the spring weather is definitely helping me feel a little more productive.  

I know that most people do not like daylight savings time one bit - I was one of those people.  But, this year, it seems to be working in my favor.  The kids are staying in bed later, and I am able to have a large chunk of time in the morning to get all of my *stuff* done!  Of course, now that I mentioned that, we will see if it continues...

What are you working on this week?  Any good non-fiction books I should add to my list?

Thinking Ahead to the Next Homeschool Year

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I’m not sure how it happened, but I am already thinking ahead to the next homeschool year.  Well, actually, I am constantly looking ahead to each new season of homeschooling.

I was so excited to start this year – we school all year and started our new curriculum at the beginning of August – because it was the first year that I decided to plan my own lessons, rather than getting an instructor’s guide.

Planning out my own lessons was a little scary, but I felt that it was necessary because we are a year ahead on the age spectrum for the box curriculum that we use (Sonlight), which meant that Emma was ready for some things, but not all things.  That’s OK with me though, we are doing American History (which I love) and I decided to stretch it out to three years instead of two, that way we should be all caught up by the time Emma is ready for their 5th grade level program.

However, I still ordered the language arts program that she needed, as well as math and handwriting.  We use Singapore Math for our math curriculum.  I was a little surprised at how quickly we made it through math.  Here we are, the middle of March, and she is done with math for the year.  I am assuming that perhaps we moved too quickly through it, but Emma didn’t have any issues with the concepts, or the work, so we are done.  Now I need to figure out what to do with the rest of the year.  I plan to purchase the next level for her (3A & 3B), but I’m not prepared to do that in March, so for now we are revisiting the different concepts, and working on flash cards which no one seems to enjoy. 

Handwriting is also done for the year.  The next book in our Handwriting Without Tears is cursive, so we will be ordering that program as well.  But, for now, I am having her copy passages from books she is reading, and Bible verses. 

I realized very early in our school year that I was going to have to do something different for Language Arts.  Emma was finished with all of her readers before Thanksgiving, but was struggling to do the amount of writing involved with the Language Arts program.  I decided, after some research, that it wasn’t the amount of writing that was bothering her, it was trying to make sure everything was spelled correctly, which took away from the creative flow that she uses to write her stories.  I know the spelling will come with time, but changing to her dictating to me has made a world of difference in her creative writing – perhaps a little too much!  She is constantly requesting me to write out stories for her.

I think that it surprised me how quickly we moved through work after the holidays.  I had assumed when we went into our long holiday break that I would have to do a lot of refreshing.  Luckily, that did not happen, and we are essentially down to finishing up history and science through the rest of our calendar year (which will end at the beginning of May).

It has been a learning experience, trying to put together homeschool lessons, making sure that we touch on all the subjects, making sure that everyone is progressing in the way they ought to, while still giving freedom to explore their own interests.

Because the kids have done so well this year, I decided to purchase some more “fun” curriculum for us.  When I say curriculum, I really mean items to foster creativity in learning.  What I found was the Ages 3-7 Fun-Schooling Journal for Jack, and the Ages 6-9 Fun-Schooling Journal for Emma.  And not to be outdone by my children, I also purchased the Homeschooling Handbook for Moms

These books just arrived this past week, and I have to say they are incredibly creative and fun.  I hope to have some time to review them and then let you all know how they are working for us.

Finishing up what I consider the main components of homeschool (reading, writing, arithmetic) for the year has thrown me into a bit of a planning frenzy for “next year.”  I’m anxiously awaiting new curriculum catalogs, making book lists, mapping out where I want our next year to take us.  It is a large part of why I wasn’t in this blog space last week, I was working on plans.

I already have my Erin Condren Teacher Planner* for next year, which I ordered during one of their recent sales.  I am starting to put together goals for our kids for the next year.  I am also thinking about our scope for the year, and where I want to put certain unit studies.  Because we school year round our main academic period is from August to May, and then I use June and July to do more fun projects, messy science experiments, and enjoying nature.  So while we will technically be done with school, the learning never ends.

Are you thinking ahead to the next school year, or do you wait until the summer to do your planning?  If your kids have the summer off from school, do you take a full break, or try to incorporate some learning as well?

*If you sign up for an account with Erin Condren they will e-mail you a link for $10 off your first order.

Interested in seeing what a day in our homeschool is like?  You can head here or here to see some of our DITL videos!

Revisiting My Word of the Year {Action}

I won’t beat around the bush – I took last week off unexpectedly.  For some reason, after I wrote about my March Goals I realized that I needed to buckle down and actually accomplish some of those goals.  Revisiting my word of the year was in order.  My word of the year is ACTION – meaning DO SOMETHING!

I love to write down what I want to do in the month, but sometimes, I get so caught up in writing about what I want to accomplish, that I miss actually accomplishing it; hence my word of the year being action.

After I wrote out my March goals, I realized that I needed to start working on them. 

Homeschooling takes on a life of its own in my life.  I don’t know if I am in the minority, but I am constantly thinking about homeschooling, whether I am doing the right thing, whether we are doing enough, whether my kids are learning anything, if I am letting their interests lead too much, or if I am trying to get them to work on too much seatwork when they should be enjoying the outdoors.  It is a constant barrage of self-doubt.  Perhaps as the years go on it will be better, but as of now, I am constantly questioning my decisions.  Luckily, my kids are pretty great, and when I stop thinking for a minute and actually observe, I calm down and realize that my kids are progressing, and that they really are awesome kids who love learning.

After my mini freak-out last week, I realized a bit of a break was in order.

We had a wonderful break over the holidays, and were ready to attack the New Year with a vengeance, but as time goes on, I realize that perhaps I plan a little too much, and we never end up finishing the to-do list.  I often think that I will be able to accomplish more than I am actually able to accomplish.

Last week I really put my word of the year into play.

We started purging the house.  When I say “we” I really mean that “I” started to purge.  I have been trying to incorporate my kids in figuring out what to keep and what to sell/donate/throw; and to a certain extent, that has worked.  However, I have to realize that my kids are still quite little (7&5 and a 1 year old who could care less about purging), and so their stamina as far as getting rid of things is limited – what comes to mind is their clothes, toys are one thing, clothes are something else entirely.

Homeschool planning and purging my home have been the main actions of the past week, however, I have also been trying to sit and do something for myself each day as well.  I started knitting a little bit more than I have in the past few months.

I have the goal of 2 finished projects each month, one a knit item, and one “other” which could be as simple as a coloring page, or another knit item, something I sew, or something else entirely, I did a good job for January, February flew by so fast that I only accomplished one coloring page completed.  My hope is to catch up on knitting, and I am trying to make a little more time for me to work on that every day.

I am also trying to catch up on my reading.

As literature based homeschoolers, I spend a lot of time reading; hours of reading aloud to the kids.  While I love this reading, and this time with my kids, it isn’t exactly the reading that I would choose to do during my own reading time.  But, finding that time to read is difficult.  I know that my reading is limited, so I started reading aloud a series that I loved to read when I was younger – the Mandie series.  I wasn’t sure if my kids would like it or not, and while I think it is a perfect series for Emma to start reading soon herself, I knew that the books were a little too long, so I started reading them to her.  It is fulfilling my need for some fiction reading, which I haven’t been doing as of late.

I have come to realize over these many years of blogging that it is healthy to take a step back sometimes and enjoy life.  Townsend House is a family lifestyle blog that focuses on my journey, my family’s journey.  While I love to share that with all of you, sometimes taking a step back and enjoying my family and life is in order.

The spring-like weather continues in Maine, and we are enjoying a lot more time outside these days.  I plan to finish most of the purging this week and next, so that after Easter we are able to start spring cleaning, and clearing out the winter from the home to let in the new spring light and air!

What have you been up to lately?  Do you ever need to take a step back from the online world?

Creating a Plan for the month of March

I am still in a bit of denial that it is March already.  It seems like we just turned the calendar to the New Year.  I have been chasing time lately, and it isn’t a good thing.  To help me get on track with my yearly goals, I have decided to make some March goals.

Typically March is a long month in Maine, but it looks like Punxsutawney Phil got it right this year, that it will indeed be an early spring.  And with an early spring, I immediately think about all the spring tasks that we have to complete every year.

On the top of the list is garden planning.  I talked a bit about my big garden plan for the year – but I have yet to order seeds, and that really needs to be at the top of my list.  I do not start everything I grow from seed, but, I do want to get to that point eventually.  I like to order seeds, and I also like to go to our local green house to buy seeds.  It is something I involve the kids with, when they help pick out the seeds and grow the vegetables, they are more likely to eat the vegetables.

Once the seed order is placed, and once the ground is workable, I need to start my garden cleanup.  I’m not sure if I will be able to do this in March or not, it will depend on the weather, and how much rain we have.  Some years I have been able to rake out the gardens in the middle of March, and others it has been buried in snow until the end of April, so while this is a goal of mine for March, it may not end up happening until April.

With my thoughts already moving to the outside cleanup, I know that I need to really tackle the inside.  Once spring is here in full force, taking the time for “spring cleaning” is very low on my priority list.  It is replaced by the need to be outside in the fresh air and sun, which is only normal after spending the winter inside.  I need to concentrate on finishing up our big house purge.  I have been pretty diligent about getting rid of things, but there is still more that needs to be sorted and put away.

I pulled out all of our memory boxes yesterday, and trying to go through that stuff is incredibly difficult, which is one of the reasons that I always end up leaving it until a later date.  Last year I went through most of my old pictures, getting rid of what didn’t mean anything to me, but these boxes are things that I think I want to keep, but really have no space for.  I may just stick them in our attic and deal with it at another point in time. 

Going through the kids clothes this month is important.  Jack has some clothes that no longer fit him, but I haven’t weeded them out to pass on to his cousins yet, and I know that I need to sort through Lucy’s clothes as well.  This is my least favorite thing to do, but if I can get it all done this month, then I won’t have to think about it when the sun is shining and we all want to be outdoors.

March is also the start of homeschool planning for me.  This is the first year that I am reporting to the state for homeschooling, so not only am I thinking about next year, but I also need to think about putting together Emma’s portfolio for this year.  We are close to our total days requirement, and we are finishing up all of the workbooks that she has.  In fact, I think I may have miscalculated how much time to spend on things.  She has about 10 lessons of math left, and 2 pages of her handwriting.  We finished all of her required readers before Christmas, so I have been supplementing with anything I can find.  Jack finished his math books for the year and his handwriting book as well, so all of that stuff needs to be replaced.  When I planned this year, I thought that things would take us a bit longer than they did.  Not a bad thing, just a “wow, I need to order new books now” thing.

I feel like I am constantly planning homeschool related things, which is probably OK, but I need to flesh out what we plan to do for the rest of the year.

With all of the planning that I do need to do, I would like to take a “planning retreat” this month.  Don’t think of this as anything fancy.  I still nurse my baby, so I can’t be gone for too long.  Eventually, when the kids are older, I would love to do a weekend retreat at a nice bed and breakfast where I can think about all the ideas I have and work on self-care.  But, for now, I plan to send Matt and the kids to the library and work at home, where I have access to all of my books and supplies.  If I can get 4 hours of uninterrupted time (honestly if I could get 1 hour of uninterrupted time), I should be able to get a lot accomplished.  However, being a mom who is with her children pretty much all day every day, I may have to ease myself into a planning retreat.  Typically, when I do get a few moments of time without interruption, I spend that time waiting for the interruption and in turn get nothing accomplished – mom life and all.  But, if I can put together a plan before I have the time, then I will be able to get everything done that I need to.  It seems so simple – put a plan in place – but it took me quite a while to figure that out!

Books – I have read 15 books out of 100 for the year, which puts me 1 book behind schedule right now.  That isn’t too bad.  I would like to catch up and stay on track for the rest of this month.  With homeschool planning comes a lot of reading, but it isn’t adult reading of course, it is pre-reading books for the kids, making sure I have the right history books, the right readers for Emma (challenging enough to read without inappropriate content), and homeschool books in general (Playful Learning, Thomas Jefferson Education, Charlotte Mason Companion).  I hope that I can finish some books for me, but am not worried if that doesn’t happen.

Overall, it looks like it will be a busy month, like every month seems to be lately.  If I do get all of these goals completed, I will feel really good going into April.

What are your plans for March?  Do you set up monthly goals as well as yearly goals?