Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Practicing Balance and Margin Featuring Bigelow Benefits Tea

There are affiliate links in this  post.  If you click one of these links and make a subsequent purchase, I may receive a small commission.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

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

Margin and Self-Care are two terms that have been at the forefront of my mind for months now.  In fact, margin has become so important that it became my word of the year.  Since the start of this year I have been *trying* to practice margin and self-care.  It is definitely a struggle.

Putting margin into practice requires me to slow down.  Slowing down in the world today seems to take a lot more work than it used to.

Practicing Balance and Margin Featuring Bigelow Benefits Tea

There is always something that is requiring my attention, and they aren’t all bad things.  In fact, there are so many good activities vying for my attention (and the attention of my family) that it becomes extremely difficult to decide which items should be a priority and which can be put off or eliminated completely.

At the beginning of the year when I decided on margin as my word of the year, I knew that I was going to need to make some choices in order to structure my days differently.

Practicing Balance and Margin Featuring Bigelow Benefits Tea

As a mom and wife, and blogger, it seems like I can easily fill up my time with no end in sight, but I needed to practice that margin, and if I had to guess, you do as well.

Drinking a hot mug of tea is one of those rituals that I have loved for so very long.  My love of tea comes from my mom, and watching her always pull out a tea bag from her purse whenever we went to a friend’s house.  While I played, my mom would sit and drink tea with her friends.  It left an impression on me.

Now, as a mom as well, I see myself turning to the ritual of an afternoon cup of tea to help me slow down, and re-center my day.

Benefits is a new line of tea from Bigelow Teas which is designed to support everyday wellness – perfect for what I am trying to accomplish.  Having a tea that will help fuel my body with good-for-me ingredients is a no-brainer.  Finding something that can calm the stress of a morning of homeschool lessons while trying to also deal with a crazy toddler – definitely necessary!

We have incorporated a tea time into our day that has benefited all of us.

Practicing Balance and Margin Featuring Bigelow Benefits Tea

While my youngest is napping, my older two will sit and have tea with me.  We have a selection of poetry books, as well as longer chapter books that we like to read together, and taking this time in the afternoon to sit, read, and re-connect with one another has been important to our overall well-being.

My favorite blend in this new line is the Sleep Chamomile and Lavender Herbal TeaThis blend is especially great for my kids who need a little down time in the afternoon as well.  We are constantly going going going in the morning, so when we can sit down together and relax a bit, having this special tea and poetry time, brings us back together and centered.

After our tea time, the kids then go up for their own rest time, where they play games, play Minecraft, and read on their own.

This is the point where I sit down for myself, drink my tea, and read a book for my own benefit.

Practicing Balance and Margin Featuring Bigelow Benefits Tea

It hasn’t been easy to incorporate that time into my day.  It seems like there is always something else vying for my attention, and I have to make the choice to slow down and take a step back from all of my tasks.

I have to make it a priority.

Even though there is always something else to do, taking that brief time to sit and breathe has been important to my day.

I love the Balance – Cinnamon Blackberry Herbal Tea to help encourage me in this endeavor.  The name of the tea reminds me that balance is what I am seeking.

I believe that these teas can help define the way you want to live, and I know that Bigelow agrees with me on this one!

Practicing Balance and Margin Featuring Bigelow Benefits Tea

The teas are designed to support a clean eating and healthy lifestyle.  I love that they are non-GMO and also blended and produced in the USA. 

Finding small ways to encourage balance in your life is something that I have been striving for now for a while, and having an everyday tea that helps me in that endeavor is something that I love.

I have found that making this a daily routine has been a huge help in helping me find that balance and margin that I need in my life.  It is now something that I don’t need to think about – just like eating lunch, you only need a short amount of time to be able to sit down and breathe.  Pick up a book for some pleasure reading, or read a bit of poetry with your kids.  Use the time to re-connect with your kids, your spouse, a friend, or yourself.

Practicing Balance and Margin Featuring Bigelow Benefits Tea

The line consists of six herbal teas, and one green tea.  It can easily be found at your local Shaw’s store, or my favorite place to shop – amazon.com

How are you practicing wellness and balance in your everyday?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tips to Encourage More Reading in Your Life

This post is sponsored by U.S. Cellular.  I am part of the U.S. Cellular Ambassador program.  As always, all opinions are my own.  There are affiliate links in this post.  If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links I may receive a small commission.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

As long as I can remember, reading has always been a passion of mine.  I remember many many nights hiding under my covers with a flashlight to read just one more chapter…and I still am like that today.  When I find a good novel, I am hard pressed to find anything more important to do other than read it. 

When I welcomed my first baby, I realized how important reading was to me, and wanted to foster that same love in my daughter.  So I read, and I read, and I read some more.  Not the typical fairy tales and children’s books, but rather I read what I wanted to read, but aloud to her – Pride and Prejudice, the Harry Potter Series, the Narnia series, AnimalVegetable Miracle, and every homesteading book I could get my hands on.  Surprisingly she would listen, or fall asleep while I read something her mind found incredibly boring (win-win in my book).

Once she got a little bigger though, I realized that the ease of nursing and reading, or reading to a toddler from a real book became a bit more difficult.

How excited was I when I bought my first nook.  Wow, what a difference.  To have the ability to read anything I wanted, and not worrying about trying to turn the pages with a baby that grabs.

Technology has been my saving grace in my continued reading with littles in the house.

One of the biggest reasons I am able to read more is because I always have a book with me.  I just turn on my phone, or I bring my e-reader with me.  Instead of scrolling through Facebook at the Dr.’s office, or in line, I can open up a new or current book to read.  It is helping me get to my 100 books read goal this year.  Having a reliable network like U.S. Cellular allows me to always be able to access these books.

To be sure I still have a large library of *real* books, but the ability to use the library to check out e-books whenever, the never-ending samples I am able to acquire from the nook library or on my kindle, it is a new world for readers!

Reading and technology isn’t an adult exclusive opportunity, there are so many options available for kids.

There are a number of books available on the public library system in our state for my kids, as well as a number of e-books available through different e-book libraries.  Apps such as Homer and Hooked on Phonics give fun games and videos to help kids learn to read and to cultivate a lifelong love of learning – which is my primary goal for my kids in homeschooling.

I spend a large amount of time reading on my iPhone at night.  Having little ones it seems like I am always lying in bed, in the dark, waiting for someone to fall asleep.  Unfortunately it always seems like the brightness, even when turned all the way down, is too harsh in my dark bedroom.  I have two tips to help with this.

The first is to turn the nightshift on – just draw your finger up from the bottom of your iPhone to bring up the little screen, and then click night shift on.  It takes the blue light away from the phone, which is a huge help with getting to sleep if you read on your phone or another electronic device before bed.

The other tip I have is to dim the screen even more.  In order to do this you need to go to settings – general – accessibility.  Then you are going to want to turn on the “zoom” setting.  Press “zoom” and then when you get to that screen make sure your “zoom region” says full screen zoom, and the “zoom filter” says low light.  Once you turn the zoom on at the top, your screen will literally zoom and you will not be able to see anything on the screen besides one large button.  Not to worry!  Just double click on the screen with THREE fingers, and then move the zoom dial all the way to the left, it will dim your screen, and it will be a normal size screen.  This little trick has allowed me to read while my children sleep beside me many many nights.

Do you use tech to keep up with your reading goals?  Do you use night shift or the zoom function on your phone?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

knitting and reading

If you saw my Day in the Life post on Monday, you will know that two things are going on right now - my kids are all sick and have had high fevers (me included) and we brought home our new puppy on Saturday.

Yes, it was a perfect time to bring home a new puppy...when everyone was sick...but it was when we had planned to get her, so no backing out!

All that to say, I have made very little progress on my cowl this week.  But, it is coming along nicely.  I really like how the pattern is coming out with the yarn color.  I wasn't sure what would highlight the variance in color between the cream and the tan color, it is so beautiful in the skein, but I think this pattern is working out quite well!

As far as my reading goes, I have been reading a lot - a lot of time laying down with the kids seems to allow that.  I have been reading Justin Morgan Had a Horse to the kids, and so far they are enjoying it.  

I also just received in the mail the majority of our new books for the next school year.  Yes, it may seem quite early, but because we school year round our current books are just about done, and we are looking for some new reading material.  It works out nicely to move right along, especially since March is usually such a long and dreary month here in Maine.

My reading is also going quite well.  If you have read here any length of time you will know my love of all things Jane Austen - and my favorite book is Pride & Prejudice.  I absolutely love the story, and the movies, and re-tellings; whether modern or otherwise.  I recently came across a series told from Darcy's point of view.  It is called Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman

It is a three book series that follows the same story, but fills in a lot of the time gaps when Darcy is away from Elizabeth.  The second book concentrates on the entire time from when Darcy and Bingley leave Netherfield to right before Darcy heads to Rosings with his cousin.  

I just started the third book, and I am really excited to see how the author wraps up the series.  And honestly, it has been a while since I have found a really good series to read - I think maybe this is my favorite since the All Souls Trilogy.

We have been taking an unexpected break from school this week due to being sick, and it has been nice to sit back and try and recuperate without the added stress of school hanging over us.  

What are you working on this week?  Is this the winter that never ends in your household as well?  Any cute puppy pictures you want to share? 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Homeschool Day in the Life {8, 6, 2 year old}

Some of my most favorite posts to read are day in the life posts.  I think that is also why I enjoy vlogs so much – I love to see the simple, everyday occurrences.  I like to be able to glean little bits of information here and there in order to make my days run more smoothly – or at least that is the attempt!

I had big plans this year.  I wanted to do another day in the life vlog like I did last year.

Unfortunately, that did not happen.  It reminded me of one of the top reasons we homeschool – flexibility.  If you would like to see my post from last year, head here.

I am most definitely an early riser.  I wasn’t always that way, but sometime after having my second child I realized that if I didn’t get up early, I would not be as good of a mother as I could be.

I rarely wake with an alarm these days, and tend to sleep exactly seven hours before I wake up – so whenever I go to bed, I tend to wake up exactly seven hours later.  Weird, but it is the way it goes.  In another life I would get up at 4am, and I probably still do that a couple times each week, but for some reason my littlest decides that when I wake up, she also should wake up.  So, I have been getting up closer to 6am as of late. 

Most of the time I will get a good 20 minutes before someone else is awake.  This gives me a few minutes to get my coffee, brush my teeth and get my mind ready for the day.  If it is a day that I am up a couple hours before everyone, I read my Bible, do scripture writing in my journal, and then I try to write for a while.

The kids are almost always up by 7am, and two out of three need breakfast immediately.  My middle guy is the late sleeper, and will sometimes sleep in until 8:30 or so, especially recently because he has been sick with a fever, which is absolutely no fun! 

Our breakfasts are very basic, either oatmeal with frozen blueberries and sliced banana, egg burritos, or peanut butter toast.  We are not very fancy here, but it is a good start to their day.

My breakfast of choice is coffee…always coffee.

The kids have free play time until 9am, when I start school with everyone.  They will usually play with LEGO, build something in their room, work on a book they are reading, or watch PBS kids.  The past week with fevers it has been PBS kids…I’m glad that the programming is educational, because when anyone is sick it tends to throw everything else off!

At 9am I try to do our circle time.  I am not as reliable about this as I would like to be, but sometimes Lucy is otherwise occupied (she is my youngest) and when she is occupied, I try to jump right into the school that takes a lot more of my attention.

A new thing that I am working on since January is to have dedicated school time, instead of trying to multi-task (check e-mails, do laundry, put dishes away, work on my blog) while the kids are working on something.  Even when they are fully capable of working on something independently, they tend to slow down and their minds wander, or they sneak off to play while I am not looking. 

Now we have dedicated school time from 9am-11am.  And surprisingly we get almost everything accomplished during that time!

When Jack is working on school we go through three things for him – Singapore Math 1B, HandwritingWithout Tears My Printing Book and he will read a chapter of a book.  Currently he is reading The Hardy Boys Secret Files Collection.  He will read a chapter and then he has to come and tell me three important things that he read.  It seems to be working quite well.  Also, he is super speedy so that he can get to his “more important” work of making stop motion videos, drawing video game scenes, playing with his LEGOs, or building something with his snapcircuits.

I count all of the “other” as school as well, but I am usually trying to let him get as much free play and self-directed learning as possible.  He will be seven at the end of the summer, and that is when it will start to become more real for him.  We don’t do seat work every day, mainly three days a week.  He is almost always present for when I am doing read-alouds though, and that comprises a large part of our schooling. 

Now, Emma, being eight, does a little bit more school work, as in every day.  But, her diligence pays off.  We are about 6 weeks out from finishing the school year, which is uncanny to me.  We do school all year long, but sometimes I forget what all those extra days lead up to in the summer, breaks at different times during the regular public school year. 

We try to start with the harder subjects.  It seems easier to get those out of the way first, although sometimes she does not want to do those subjects at all – mainly math.  She is currently working through Singapore 3B.  We really like this curriculum; I think that it gives an excellent grasp on math.  I have heard a lot of people recommend Teaching Textbooks as soon as you can get your kids into that program, but it hasn’t appealed to me yet.  We are planning on continuing with Singapore Math in a few months with the next set of books, 4A & 4B.

Then we have spelling.  We have been using Sequential Spelling Book 1 this year, and I really like it.  Although, it definitely can get a little stressful doing 25 words every day, but they do build on each other, and I have seen her confidence grow with her free writing.

Once Math and Spelling are out of the way it is time for a snack and some Cosmic Kids Yoga.  This is something my kids have been doing for several years, and everyone loves it.  Lucy included.  She will often get one of the kids’ yoga mats and say it is time to do yoga – very cute coming from a 2 year old.

After our little break Emma will finish up her “seat work” which is her cursive as well as whichever book she is reading at the moment.  Then it is onto read alouds.

We are actually all done now with our Sonlight Core D books for the first year of American History.  Now the kids will pick a book off the shelf and we will read that.  Jack has been asking for me to read him Lassie and Emma has been enjoying the Mandie series, which is a series that I read when I was a kid, actually they are the same books I had when I was a kid.

At this point everyone is hungry again (are my kids the only ones who eat just about every hour?!), and I start to make lunch.  The kids are then able to have free play.  I forgot to mention that Lucy is decidedly good during this time.  I do have to spread my time between helping Emma and making sure Lucy is not climbing onto the tv stand, but for the most part it works out well.

After lunch it is time for quiet time, rest time, nap time, anything where there is dedicated time that the children are up in their rooms, and Lucy is sleeping. 

For a very long time I used this time as a way to catch up on *everything else* that goes on (chores, blog work, more chores, de-cluttering), but when I hit a wall at the end of last year, and decided that my word of the year would be margin, I started to take this time as self-care time.  It is a time where I can read, write, sit, think, knit.  It is really just a time where I practice self-care.  I need it, I deserve it, and I finally gave myself permission to take that time.

It would be nice if it were an uninterrupted amount of time, but the kids are usually up and down the stairs asking me a question about Minecraft, or something else, but as long as Lucy sleeps, Emma, Jack and I will have this quiet time.

We encourage a lot of free play, a lot of drawing, and music.  Overall it is a much more relaxed schedule than it used to be, but it is working well for us this year.  The kids seem to be enjoying it more, and that is the most important thing in my book!

Now, to get back to my three sick kiddos and new puppy!

Do you take time for self-care during your homeschool days?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

knitting and reading

Welcome back to another week of the yarnalong!  

This week I am still working on my cowl - and probably will be for quite a while.  I think I have nine more inches to go before it is technically done.  I'm not sure if I want it to be that bulky or not, and I might make it a little smaller.

I am really enjoying the pattern, it is super easy, which is always a good thing when I don't have a lot of dedicated time for concentration on a pattern.  This way, the kids can still interrupt me all the time, and I don't lose my place!

The only issue that I have had is when I joined to knit in the round I must have twisted the stitches, and so now the pattern will not lay flat.  I realized this after I had knit for a couple hours on it, and I was at a crossroads, do I rip it out and start again?

There was a time when I would most definitely have ripped it out, but seeing as it is a cowl, and the fact that I am just starting to get back into knitting, I decided to let it slide.  I don't think it will have a big impact on the final product...I hope!

As far as reading goes, I am still working through Affluenza.  It is as good as I remember it!  

The kids and I just finished up The Lewis and Clark Expedition.  The kids really enjoyed it, but at the end when they talk about how everyone died, including Lewis, well I think Emma said it best "that book has a horrible ending."  It was a tad depressing, but overall it was a great book the kids and I enjoyed.

I also finally purchased Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie.  I don't know why it has taken me so long to purchase this book, but in my quest for slowing down I knew that it was one I needed to add to my book list. 

As of now I am 6 books ahead on my reading goal for the year, which is really exciting!  I am definitely prioritizing reading this year.  When I have a few minutes free, instead of constantly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or watching another YouTube video, I am pulling out my kindle and reading a few pages.  So far it is working!

How are you practicing self-care this week?