Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Time to clean out the pantry and freezer!

I love to use the month of January as a time to clean out the pantry and freezer.  I find that random things build up over the year and doing this once a year is helpful in keeping things cleaned out a bit.  There are a couple of other added benefits to this method, one being that it is helpful to the budget after the holidays.  After the holidays it's also just nice to try to stay home, I like not running to the store and instead getting a bit creative with our meals.  I'm going to see how long we can go without going to the store, or at least how little we can spend this month.

This year I have a couple of extra challenges.  I'm nearing the end of my pregnancy and I'm on a high protein diet.  This takes priority and could gum up the works a bit, but I will need to do what is best for baby.  Hopefully I'll have plenty of energy and creativity for this challenge.  ;)

An added bonus will be that this should free up some finances for stocking up the freezer for baby's birth.  I'll likely use any of the savings this month to do some bulk cooking at the end of the month.

I'm going to try to post our meals for the week and how much we've spent that week as well.  My guess is that the first week will not call for much creativity or spending.  It'll be the following weeks that will be interesting.

Anyone want to join me in this challenge?  I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Reading through the Bible in a year

Have you read through the WHOLE Bible?  For the past 6 years we've been reading through the Bible as a family.  We use a reading plan that takes us through the Bible Chronologically in a year.  It has been such a blessing to our family to get into God's word in this way.

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.  Isaiah 55:11

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
 2 Timothy 3:16-17

If this is not something you've ever done either on your own or as a family, or its been a while....I'd like to encourage you to do so.  It's really just scratching the surface, but being in God's word every day is a wonderful thing which leads to more growth and learning. Most importantly, it helps you know HIM more and draws you closer to Him.  It's a great habit to get into that can truly be life changing.

This will play out differently in every home, but I'll tell you how we do it to give you ideas and get you thinking.  Sometimes, as much as we want something to happen, the logistics get in the way.  For some getting up in the morning like we do just will not work, but evening readings will happen.  Find what works for you and make it a priority, this is just what happens to work for us....

Hubby gets all of our older children up every morning before work.  Right now that's at about 6am.  We gather together in the living room.  We start and end with prayer.  Everyone takes turns reading a few verses at a time.  Littles straggle in and join us as they wake up.   

If, for some reason, we miss a morning we often make up the reading time in the evening.  Sometimes we just know that it's going to be missed because of travel or unusual plans.  We plan for that either by doing extra reading in the days surrounding that time OR by listening in the car to the Bible on MP3.

This is our minimum.  As mentioned before, it's just scratching the surface.  It's not in depth study, but it is a great way to keep us in the Word and building this habit in the kids.  Other Bible reading and study happens individually or sometimes by topic as a family.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A silent night

For the last two Christmases my "baby" has had this shirt that says "All Mommy wants is a Silent Night"  She is actually very quiet at she sneaks into my bed and cuddles up close.  Now that she sleeps better at night in her own bed, her little brother or sister is waking me at night.  Yes, my nights are silent....but, not because I'm sleeping through them.  The years are short, but the days nights are long. :)

Merry Christmas Mommies of many (or not so many)!  May you sleep through the night on Christmas Eve, or at least have the peace, strength and humor to savor the moments with the little one you are up with!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas School!

December is a crazy time of year, and it can make keeping up with homeschooling very difficult.  Or sometimes we focus on the schooling and get through the month only to realize we missed or skipped some special experiences.  About 10 years ago I read about one family's "Christmas School" where they shift their focus for school during the month of December.   We've been trying to do that for a while now.  What does that look like?  Well, it looks different every year, but generally.....

BOOKS- We have so many sweet and wonderful Christmas books that we love to read.  With all of the hustle and bustle it can be easy to just leave them on the shelf.  Most mornings I'm very intentional about reading at least one of these books.  As we get closer to Christmas We will devote more of our group school time to reading these books.  Most have historical or character value to them making them perfectly acceptable to use as "school."  We often make up a pot of tea to enjoy along with the books.  This also keeps Christmas break from becoming a "free for all" while providing a more relaxing atmosphere since most other formal schooling is set aside during this time.  While many are geared to the younger crowd, I've also been intentional about picking up some "older" books and books that go deeper.

BAKING-  In the week or so before Christmas we get quite a bit of baking done.  Older children choose their favorites; they let me know what needs to be added to the shopping list and do the baking/cooking.  Littles join me or their older siblings to help out.

GAMES-  We have so many games.  Card games, board games, tile games and other activity games.  With the weather so cold this is a great time to be intentional about pulling those games out in the afternoon (or any time that works).  Most games we own hold some educational value making this a great choice both for bonding and keeping up some school.

CRAFTS- The Christmas season seems to bring out the crafty side in many of us.  Kids are the same.  I love to see my children using this more relaxed time to get extra creative.  This year my 7 year old really took off decorating our downstairs with chains and other paper crafts she'd been exploring.  Just having simple items like construction paper, tape, glue, and scissors can go a long way for a kid.  Adding other crafting items is great too.  Then just let them take off!

TOYS- We put away many of the usual toys that are out and replace them with Christmas Toys.  These are mostly Nativity sets, but there are some other seasonal toys as well.  Puzzles, bells, dolls dressed in their Christmas best, and others help the little ones experience the season in a more hands on way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A simple Christmas

Ah, Christmas!  I love celebrating Christmas, or at least, in theory I do.  Too often the stress of gift buying (finances too), decorating,  traditions and the GO! GO! GO! of the season gets in the way of that and before I know it the season is over and we've not really focused on what is important to us.  For our family what is important is celebrating the birth, life, death and resurrection of our savior AND just enjoying each other.
Simple decorations in our guest room.  The tree was picked up at a garage sale for 50 cents, the sign was $5.50 at Hobby Lobby.  It doesn't "scream" Christmas in that room, but I think our guests will appreciate the effort. :)

We've really toned down the gift buying in the past few years.  We LOVE to give gifts, but we've been trying not to let it be the focus on the season.  Our kids do a gift exchange with each other and we stuff their stockings.  There are generally a few things under the tree; often group gifts like games or toys we know several kids will enjoy together.  I love that most of my extended family has also really toned down the gift buying.  Sure we enjoy sending packages to one another, but it's not the big thing it used to be.  This year I'll be sending out a few boxes, and I have some simple gifts for family that will be visiting.  Mostly we will be focusing on the experience.  The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that tend to generate those warm feelings.  I'd rather spend my money on that new board game the kids have been wanting and their favorite meal/snacks that will help facilitate a sweet family evening together.  Or maybe that sled the kids were wanting for that great hill in our back yard?  Oh, the sweet memories and bonds that could help build.

I love that a couple of my boys have decided that getting the Christmas lights up is important to them.  They get out there every year now and decide where they should go and get it done.  As we decorate  inside I try to focus on the fun and enjoyment of pulling these decorations out instead of the goal of a "perfect" look.  My tree may not be the prettiest in town, but we sure do have fun decorating it!

In the past couple of years I've loved seeing what my kids find important.  What they want to help make happen for the season.  This year our 4 year old has been especially excited about gingerbread houses.  It seems that our fun together last year really stuck in his head.  Meanwhile my older kids have their list of holiday goodies they are perfectly willing to make so that they don't get forgotten.  This year our 7 year old (with her older sibling's encouragement) put together the gift exchange name drawing.  Slowly, as they are out running errands with me or daddy they are sneaking those gifts into the house.

One of my favorite things that we've been doing has been Advent; by reading a special book together in the evenings.  The book helps us focus on what we are celebrating and the great gift we have been given through our Savior Jesus Christ.  This year we will be pulling out Jotham's Journey, the first in a series of advent books for families.

We've also shifted the focus onto other days.  We celebrate Saint Nicholas Day with German and Polish foods, setting out the shoes to be filled with simple goodies, and studying some church history.  We love inviting friends and family to help us celebrate.  We've also been doing more for New Years.  I'm finding that these days have less expectations, pressure, and stress attached to them and so they are more enjoyable for everyone.

What about you?  Do you go all out with the gifts and decor?  Do you skip it all?  What is important to you in this season and what steps to do take to make that happen?