Don’t Blink…A Mamma’s Thoughts On The New School Year

 

Here we are. School Year 2020-2021 is well underway. We’re actually about 6 weeks in at this point. For the last couple of years we’ve been doing school year round because it gives our schedule a little more flexibility so we started back in July. We’d given the kids the choice of schooling year round or traditionally and they all voted to continue on this way.

Every year when I take these photos for their annual progress reports and portfolios, they take my breath away. The change in those little faces from one year to the next is astounding. The longer I am a mother, the more the words “Don’t blink” resonate with my soul.

These “little” years are so full and pass by so quickly. With each child it becomes more and more obvious to this Mamma heart that they must be deeply cherished because these little people will be grown so very soon.

So, even if you’re in the trenches of the little years right now, don’t forget to take pictures and cherish these moments. They will be gone before you know it.

Here we are with a 4th grader. A handsome, man-child with a big heart.

_MG_0466

A 2nd grader, full of charm and personality and cute as can be.

_MG_0502

A 4 year old preschooler who makes us laugh so hard we could cry and is just about the happiest and bubbliest little guy I’ve ever known.

_MG_0485

…and this sweet little beauty…she is so full of spunk and love. She melts us all.

_MG_0510

May God continue to grow each of these little souls for HIS glory. May this year continue to foster in them a love for learning. I pray that even when we’re in the middle of the hard days of homeschooling, we will be able to know and feel how blessed we are to be on this journey together. ❤

Silence

It’s been silent for a few weeks around here. Everything is fine and everyone is well, thankfully. Somehow even with social distancing and quarantine and all we have been so busy with school and work and projects that time has simply raced by. Before my unintentional break, I’d been working on multiple posts that I had hoped to get out a while ago (including a sour dough starter tutorial for a friend), but I’d run into issues with the photo editing program I was using and had to upgrade. If you look at the photos from my last post compared to the others…you’ll see what I’m talking about.

After that we just got so busy trying to catch up on other things and adjusting to the current normal. While much of our school and work routine hasn’t changed, our grocery shopping, errands and meals etc have had to be adjusted. It’s certainly a minor inconvenience compared to many peoples circumstances and by no means do I want to come across as complaining. It has however, changed some things significantly and we’re trying our best to figure out the best way to do things affordably with the best possible nutrition etc. It’s simply been a season of adjustment and it’s left us feeling a little…

evi

This may get long, so brace yourselves. I’ll start with an update on what’s been going on around here and then I’ll end with some things I’m hoping to do here with the blog and such. 🙂

First, I killed my trusty sour dough starter(insert sad face and tears)!! This was such a good starter and made us so much bread and pizza… and I could have cried! Technically I didn’t kill it, I’m pretty positive it was the cheap/bleached flour (all that was left at the store). It was doing wonderful until I started using that flour and then within days of using it my starter was dead. I tried to revive it but it was too far gone. Rest in peace “Sour Sam”, you’ve been good to us.

sour dough

Second, I’d wanted to purchase a grain mill for years and just hadn’t…mostly due to the investment, but given the flour shortage, thanks to Covid, I took the leap and ordered one. FINALLY. Naturally EVERYTHING is currently on backorder (I was a little late on acting on my instinct to purchase one and I’m on my second attempt to order one that’ll arrive before 2021).

After research and much debate, we decided to go with this guy. It was either this or the Wondermill but that one was simply too big and bulky for our small kitchen. I’m pretty excited to try out our Nutrimill Harvest.

NutriMill Harvest Grain Mill with Gold Trim

On that note, once this guy gets here, I’ll be starting a new sourdough starter with homeground flour. I’ll keep you posted on all of that.

I’m still planning to create a “How to create your own starter” post and I may even retake all of the photos since I want to wait until I can grind my own grains. I’m curious to see the difference in the starter with the fresh ground flour.

In other news, school is going well mostly. We’re trying to wrap up the school year as far as core subjects go. We started year round schooling with a month long break in June as of this past year so we’re going to be starting the next grade come July. My oldest will be taking his first standardized test in the next couple of weeks (as per Georgia law). We have received it and we’re both a little anxious about it but after having looked it over, I think he’s going to be just fine. There’s that part of me that has to fight off the thoughts of “what if I didn’t do enough for him to prepare for this…what if I’m not a good enough teacher…” but the reality is the test is there to let us know where we stand and it can be a very useful tool in helping me know where he’s excelling and where he needs more work.

Just look at them…lol. Ask me how many times per week I’ve been cleaning their bathroom, go ahead. It may or may not have been part of the reason for the silence.

dirty

bike

We’ve been spending a lot of time outside, as you can probably tell. This is the time of year that makes us just want to play in the garden all day. Warm sun, cool breeze…ahh.

Speaking of garden, we’ve planted one, a relatively small one this year. We’d had a lot of issues with our last one so we wanted to be a little cautious this year and see what we can do. We’re going to have (hopefully), cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, broccolli, cauliflower, radishes, herbs and some flowers for cutting. I’m also trying to get some lettuce and celery going. I’ll keep you posted on how all of that progresses.

Here’s some of the herbs that I started inside. I really love baby plants. ❤

babies

I told you it’s been busy around here. I never realized how busy quarantine could be! Of course I also never really thought any of us would have experienced quarantine, period.

Coming up next, is a collection of resources and activities that I’ve come across while working on some research for our church’s Cubbies class. In case it interests any of you who may be homeschooling or just looking for activities to do with your little ones this summer I thought it may be a fun post to share since summer is quickly approaching.

Until soon friends. Stay safe and healthy! Also, if you’re at all interested in Young Living Essential Oils, feel free to visit my new Instagram page dedicated to YLEO! Look for it at @wholelivingwithoils! 🙂

Of course also remember to check out my regular Instagram @oursimplefamilyliving!

Much love,

Nadine

Cloth Diapering Essentials & Favorites

Have you ever thought about cloth diapering but weren’t sure you could handle the extra work involved? Did you think it would be to expensive to get started? Thought there was too much to learn? It seems so complicated…I’ve been there too. When I was pregnant with my first son almost a decade ago now, I was doing a lot of research on natural living and one of the things I’d wanted to try so badly was cloth diapers. Unfortunately it took a while after he was born for me to finally work up the nerve to try it out. Even since then, there have been seasons where we only cloth diapered part time or not at all for a time (with my second son I worked full time and was in grad school), but we never fully gave it up with either of our four children and overall we have grown to love it. With baby number 4, we’ve almost exclusively used cloth since she was big enough. I say almost exclusively because we do drop her off at the nursery at church where they’re typically not familiar with cloth diapers so we use disposables there. We also have periods where baby just gets too wet at night for the cloth diaper so it’s just easier to use a disposable at night. You could certainly just change baby half way through but for now this as been working best for me. Once they don’t nurse as often through the night and no longer get so wet, we go back to cloth diapering through the night. So now that you know some of the back story, let’s talk about what we use and how we use it.

First of all, I’m pretty simple when it comes to most things. Cloth diapering is no exception. I only use what I truly need and try to get it for a good price.

What you really need:

cd1

  • Approximately 15-20 cloth diapers (and a basket to store them in)
  • bottle for water
  • cloth wipes
  • wet bag for dirty diapers (as well as a trash can to store it in)
  • cloth diaper friendly ointment
  • diaper sprayer

I bought a couple of smaller wet bags for when we cloth diaper on the go this time but honestly I don’t need them that often. They are nice to have but I wouldn’t consider them a necessity. You could always use a grocery bag for wet diapers if you wanted to save that money.

The Diapers:

Between the four kiddos I have used a wide variety of diapers, prefolds, pocket, all in one. The prefolds worked wonderful but I didn’t like how bulky they were. I used those with my third son and wanted to switch with my daughter. I didn’t have any of the diapers left from my first two so I ended up buying all new diapers. I am able to use the inserts from the new diapers with the shell from the old ones which is nice but I have enough shells for her to where I’ve contemplated selling or donating all of those with the prefolds.

I’ve used some of the pricey diapers and frankly don’t think they were worth the extra expense.

With Everleigh I settled on these Alva baby diapers and we have loved them! They are adorable, easy to use and care for and well made! Here’s the best part, they’re super affordable!

I purchased mine from Amazon for about $30. They came in a set of 6 covers and 12 inserts.

cd9

cd19

cd14

cd10

Wipes:

I use mostly reusable cloth wipes. It just made the most sense with cloth diapers because I just keep it all together in the pail and then throw everything in the washer. The wipes I bought from Amazon are nice and thick, soft and easy to care for.

cd3

These are by Babygoal (bamboo) $8.99 for 12! I think I purchased 2 sets for a total of 24 which is more than enough for us. Compared to the price of disposable wipes and it’s no extra laundry since I’m already washing the diapers.

The bottle I use was free, it came home with me from the hospital. I’ve used baby castile soap mixed with water but most of the time it’s just water.

The Wet bags:

This is the wet bag that I purchased, also from Amazon. It’s by Alvababy, like the diapers. This one is their large bag. It has great reviews and has held up very well. I wash mine every time I was a load of diapers. It’s inexpensive at $14.99

Then I also have the small ones (from Amazon). They came in a two pack for $9.99!

The Diaper cream:

cd4

I’ve used a few different ones over the years but I always come back to this one. It’s by Grandma El’s and comes in a 3.75 oz tub for $12.99 from Amazon. It typically lasts me about 6 months even when I use it almost daily (all of my kids have had sensitive skin).

The Sprayer:

I purchased this one by Easy Giggles from Amazon for $29.99. I haven’t had to use it much yet but I know those days are coming and it’s so much easier having a sprayer (I’ve done without one at times and wanted to make sure I had one this time). It has over 1,200 reviews and almost 5 stars so I think we’ll be happy with this one. The price is great and from what we can tell it looks well made. It’s installed and ready to go for when we need it.

That’s it! Store them in a pretty basket, ready to use just like disposables.

cd12

If you add everything up, that comes to less than $200. I’ve been using the same diapers and wipes for almost a year now and I’m on my second jar of ointment. That’s a price I feel good about. It honestly pains me to buy the disposable diapers when I think about how quickly they’re gone yet how expensive they are.

I hope you feel inspired to make the switch! You won’t regret it!

Next up, I’ll share with you what I do to care for my cloth diapers.

cd11

Day in the Life of a Homeschool Mom & Homemaker

Today we’re going to do just a fun sneak peek into an ordinary day. Josh was away on a business trip this particular Friday so things were slightly off from our usual routine but overall this is what most Fridays look like around our home. We do have school Fridays, but it’s our “catch up day”. Monday through Thursday is when we schedule the bulk of the schoolwork and then Friday we can take a more relaxed approach to school, work on housework that needs to be done, grocery shop, appointments, if the weather is nice, we can go outside and play in the afternoon, etc.

I pretty much took photos all throughout the day and the lighting was terrible so the photos aren’t the best quality. They do the job of telling the story though so we’ll just have to look past that.

This particular morning I ended up getting a bit of a late start, the kids and I didn’t really get “moving” until about 8:30. First thing I always do once I get up is get coffee going (that’s very important). That’s the cardinal cup Jaden got me for Christmas. He knows I love my birds and my coffee! Sweet boy!

coffee

It was a rainy and cold Friday!

5

Next I got started on breakfast for the kids. I made them a bowl of my vanilla, cinnamon and brown sugar old fashioned oats. This is one of their favorite meals that in a pinch (like at the end of the biweekly grocery haul when you’re scrambling for meal options), I can feed them anytime of the day without any complaints. I always have these ingredients on hand, it’s easy and fast!

6

While I worked on breakfast the boys played with legos.

Once breakfast was ready, everyone sat down to eat (and read…Jaden is my little bookworm).

This little girly had some teeth pop up!! See it?

26

After breakfast the boys get ready for the day (this is also usually when I like to get myself ready.

After that we work on chores…look at that mess! A certain someone had some dried mud caked to his boots and when he put them on INSIDE to take out the recycling…well…there was some extra housework for me, lol. Apparently I need to be more specific about where to stomp the mud off!

14

I also took a few minutes to work on laundry while Evi played and the boys finished chores.

Then around 10:30 we started school. This day we only had group work to do. We’d completed all of the core subjects like spelling and math earlier in the week.

We were continuing on with our bird unit study. We combined nature study and art for a little project.

We had a few other things to do for school and then we had lunch break.

23

Because we were running behind all morning and it was already about 1:30 by this point, we opted for our “snack lunch” rather than what we had on the menu. This is a favorite quick meal at lunch for my kids.

27

I started grading (I’m a little behind at the moment) but then had to get back to other things like prepping for our Friday night pizza).

The sour dough crust has to sit for a while so I like to do it several hours before I need to use it.

2425

After that we read aloud and then the kids played with legos some more while they waited on me to finish some chores around the house.

Evi girl kept her mamma company through it all. She’s so close to crawling!

After this point, it’s all a blurr honestly, lol. I remember finishing up some laundry (mostly putting it away). I kind of lost track of time but I think it was likely around 6:30 or so. I went ahead and started the pizza at that point and let the boys start watching “Little House on the Prairie” episodes. That’s been our Friday night family activity lately. They love it.

29

I ended up making one half veggie/half pepperoni pizza and one cheese pizza since Josh wasn’t there to have any. Usually I make three or four pizzas and then we can have leftovers for lunch on Saturdays.

28

30

31

We ate our pizza on the couch and watched a couple more episodes before the boys went to bed and then Evi and I cleaned the kitchen and fed the sour dough starter. We jokingly refer to it as “sour Sam” since it requires food and water like the rest of our pets. 🙂

sour dough

32

After that, we went to bed too. We were all ready to just get to Saturday to have Daddy back home with us! We kind of like him! ❤

I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into a normal day for us. I’ve always enjoyed seeing what a normal day looks like for other moms. There’s always something to learn from each other and sometimes it’s nice to just see that we all have things like laundry piles and muddy kids boots and dinner messes!

 

 

Frugal Homeschooling: Bird Unit Study

Let’s be honest, homeschool supplies can get pretty expensive…especially when you’re buying supplies for multiple students. With a little creativity, research and help from fellow homeschooling mom’s sharing their ideas, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Today I’m going to share a few things we used for our Bird unit nature study. Some of the ideas and worksheets were completely free thanks to fellow bloggers (I’ll share the links in case you’re interested as well as to give credit to the ladies who created these items).

First, let’s talk about a couple of the books that I’ve purchased over the last few years as part of the kids’ school supplies:

OSFL_0001

We use this guide quite frequently since we have a lot of birds visiting us on a daily basis. Whenever we spot a new bird we try to figure out what it is and it’s been wonderful to see the kids getting excited to look them up and find out more information. We got this one off of www.christianbook.com. It’s very inexpensive at $5.49 and covers the birds you’re likely to find in your backyard. It’s easy to read and understand.

OSFL_0002

Next up, is Anna Botsford Comstock. I bought my copy at christianbook last year, but you can also get this one (and lots of others) here: www.thriftbooks.com. I’ve been very happy with this website in the past and have gotten some great prices on school books from there.

This book is a classic, originally written in 1911. It’s a detailed book, covering a large variety of information. I haven’t used this one as much as I suspect we will in the years to come as the kids advance in school. Even now though, it serves me well when I need some extra information on a particular thing we’re studying.

OSFL_0004

The next one is this nature reader by Christian Liberty Press. My kids have thoroughly enjoyed these nature readers. We’re currently on book 2 but book 1 happened to have some info on birds we went back and reviewed for this unit study.

This one can also be found at www.christianbook.com.

OSFL_0005

This little nature book was a wonderful gift to the boys from their Aunt and Uncle this past Christmas and is a great resource for nature study for the younger kids!

Check out the bird section:

OSFL_0011

I was able to find it at www.amazon.com for $10.45.

OSFL_0003

Next up, My baby Blue Jays. This one is around $5 at www.thiftbooks.com/. We were actually able to get this one at Goodwill for less than that. It’s a great addition to our library and has some sweet pictures for the kids to look at.

Now let’s talk about some fun free things to add into a thrifty bird unit.

First, we’ve been collecting bird feathers any chance we get. We also had a sweet little bird nest, but little curious fingers inspecting it regularly kind of took its toll. We’ll be keeping an eye out for another one but had to do without this time around. Kids love seeing and feeling the things they’re learning about so it’s definitely a great idea to get out there and help them find the real thing outdoors.

OSFL_0006

Next, look around online for freebies like these gems below. There are lots of homeschooling mammas out there who are trying to help other homeschooling mammas. I will say, this process can be a little time consuming so you do have to set some extra time aside to be able to weed through the things that either aren’t truly “free” or just aren’t exactly what you were looking for.

Check out these blogs for the free printables of the worksheets below as well as some other ideas on compiling a Bird unit.

Julie Kieras http://happystronghome.com/bird-study-unit-lesson-plans/home.com (Bird coloring page).

Tina Robertson https://www.tinasdynamichomeschoolplus.com/free-bird-journal/ (Bird identification key)

Busy Bee Kids Printables http://www.busybeekidsprintables.com/Bird-Printables.html Word search)

OSFL_0007

Here’s a brief video on Youtube that identifies some common backyard birds.

Some other things that could be incorporated are:

Bible verses 

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Luke 12:24

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

Psalm 50:11

I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.

Matthew 10:29
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.

Hymns & Poems

Emily Dickinson’s A Bird Came Down the Walk

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56593/a-bird-came-down-the-walk-359

Civilla Martin’s His Eye is on the Sparrow

https://www.godtube.com/popular-hymns/his-eye-is-on-the-sparrow/

I hope you’ve found some helpful information in today’s post! Let me know if there’s other homeschool related posts you’d be interested in reading. I have a few I’m planning out already but I’d love to get some feedback on what you’d like to see more of.

Check out our DIY Bird feeders we made for the craft portion of our unit here:

https://oursimplefamilyliving.wordpress.com/2020/01/13/diy-pinecone-birdfeeder/

I’ll leave you with some pictures of my adorable little researchers 🙂

Happy bird watching!!

OSFL_0008OSFL_0009OSFL_0010OSFL_0012OSFL_0013OSFL_0014

Christmas Tree Decorating Traditions

Today we’re talking about a super fun family time! Picking out and decorating the Christmas tree! This is such a wonderful family activity that costs very little once you have your initial cost of ornaments and lights out of the way. It creates lasting memories for your family, especially your kids! We started this tradition when our oldest was still a baby (he’s 9 now). It’s changed some here and there over the years as we’ve gone through different seasons but the tradition, the anticipation, the process and the memories created by it are something we hold dearly and we’ll continue on with it as long as we’re able to.

When we choose our tree picking day, we make a day of it. We pick the tree, buy a special ornament or decoration for that year, bring it home, decorate it from start to finish and pull out all the other decorations. We get done as much as we can that day and we celebrate. We have cookies & hot chocolate (like a special, made from scratch, sprinkles and marshmallows…the works). We listen to Christmas music and watch Christmas movies.

Keep in mind that some years will look a little different depending on what your current season looks like but I’m telling you, this is such a sweet tradition! Our kids get so excited to do this every year! This year they had a count down written down on the school white board to keep track of how many days before we’d get our tree! My prayer is that these memories will stick with them well into their parenting years and that their children will also look forward to it with bright and eager eyes!

So what does this day usually look like for us? This year, we got a little extra excited and decided to get the tree the day before Thanksgiving (it’s usually our “black friday” tradition because we don’t really do black friday. To be honest the day before Thanksgiving was not the best day for it and if we decide to do it earlier next year I’m voting for the weekend before Thanksgiving.

We got up that morning and drove around pricing out the different trees in our area. Unfortunately we don’t have any tree farms close to us (that we’ve found anyway) so we usually end up at either Lowes or Home Depot. We’ve found Lowes to have the lowest price on trees in our area usually so that’s where we usually end up.

Then we went home and we ate lunch. After that, we got the tree prepped and pulled out all of the decorations from the attic. The boys and I got the cookies started and the hot chocolate. The boys worked on some Christmas themed crafts, and the rest of the day was just spent decorating and doing all things Christmas! I’ll leave you with some fun photos from our day.

OSFL

The 2019 Tree!!

$(FILE_NAME)

Getting it all set up.

$(FILE_NAME)

Christmas crafts! This one was a super cute gingerbread man ornament set. Simple and fun!

Helping with the hot chocolate and cookies.

OSFL.jpg

$(FILE_NAME)

$(FILE_NAME)_01

Enjoying their masterpiece!

$(FILE_NAME)

Admiring the hard work.

$(FILE_NAME)_02.jpg

Here they are posing for Christmas cards in front of their fully decorated tree!

What are some of your most favorite, inexpensive and simple Christmas traditions?