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.

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

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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.

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

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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. ❤

Weekly Menu Plan: FREE Printable

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We’re continuing on with our “Feeding a Family” theme and today we’re talking MENU PLANS!

Let me start by saying…menu planning is NOT my favorite thing to do. There…I said it. In fact, I can usually find 500 other things I need to do like now instead of planning the menu. The thing about it is, I know it benefits me so much to have a game plan for the week ahead.

Additionally, there are so many different styles of menu planning that it’s going to take time to find the “right” way to do it for your family.

Oh, and then there’s that whole as seasons change, so must your meal plan. Ha.

So…I think what I’m trying to get at is. Meal plans are good. Very good actually, BUT…you shouldn’t be so rigid about it that you can’t allow for life to happen and change plans. Because really, that would defeat the purpose of that meal plan, wouldn’t it?

The best recommendation I can make for you is this, shop around and pull ideas from lots of folks. Find the one that best fits your family and the current season you’re in (i.e. babies, picky eaters, eat you out of home(ers) or all the above).

Remember why you’re doing it in the first place. To help your family eat well and avoid unnecessary stress about what to feed that little army of yours.

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Keep it simple and don’t forget to add in some fun things…make sure everyone in your family can find something in the mix to get excited about. Trust me, you won’t please every member every day and some days you may not please anyone BUT a good meal plan will help you overall make it easier on you to please them and feed them healthy more often.

Ok. now that all that is out there…here’s a basic run down of how I plan:

*I usually plan my meals Sat/Sun because since Covid craziness became a thing I’ve been shopping weekly on Saturdays (I used to shop biweekly at multiple stores). Now I go to one store and order anything I can in bulk from Amazon. I start planning before I go shopping and then I finalize it after I get back because I still seem to have trouble finding everything I planned to use for meals at one store.

*We have a couple of meals that we do each week like “Friday night Pizza night” & “Taco Tuesday”. This is both fun and gives me a couple of “freebies” each week.

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*I try to have a couple of “back ups” on my radar and in the pantry and freezer. Think homemade Einkorn PBJ or “snack lunch”. Again, life happens and with four kids…it happens a lot and the whole point of all of this is to make life easier not more stressful, right? RIGHT.

*If something from the meal plan doesn’t end up getting used I shift it to the next open day and if necessary sometimes I switch meals from one day to the next…for example, this morning I made tomorrow’s breakfast because I was running behind and tomorrow I’ll make today’s instead.

*Don’t forget to plan what snacks you’ll have available for the week (if you have small kids you know what I’m talking about).

*It’s also a good idea to plan for a couple of desserts for the week too. Who doesn’t enjoy a nice treat a few times a week. And…if you at least plan to bake something you can make sure you have all of the ingredients at home when you go stock up for your week of meals.

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As you can see, I’m pretty easy going when it comes to my meal plan. I don’t have time or mental space for complicated things right now so simple is how I prefer things. If you’ve never done a meal plan but you’re interested in starting one, you can give this little worksheet a try. I created it especially for ya’ll (well…and myself). It is super simple and embarrassingly basic (don’t judge me) but it follows the basic principles I outlined for you and it will get you going.

Weekly Menu Plan

Happy planning people! ❤

 

Bagels From Scratch

One of the best things I ever did for myself and for my family was taking meals that we already love and making healthier versions of those things at home from scratch.

The next best thing I did for us is make a list of regulars for each meal that we rotate through on the weekly meal plan.

As promised, we’re starting off with breakfast and at the conclusion of the series we’ll give you all a free printable e-book with all of the recipes we’ve discussed OR you can just print each of the ones you love most right from the blog post.

Today we’re talking about one of our favorite breakfast items to make, Bagels. Fresh bagels straight from the oven with a nice cream cheese or homemade butter and jam are an AMAZING breakfast. Even my picky eater approves. Not only do they work wonderfully for breakfast, but those left over breakfast bagels can easily be turned into a bagel sandwich for lunch.

A couple of things you’ll want to consider:

  • Fresh baked goods will not store the same as the store bought versions. At most I can get 2 days out of homemade breads because they contain no preservatives. Typically when we bake breads here at our house, we eat them the same day OR we freeze them the same day and then stick them in the oven when we’re ready to eat the rest.
  • Use good flour…I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a grain mill this year so I can use the best quality of grains possible but if you can’t take that step, just make sure you’re getting the most nutricious flour you can afford. There are many reasons why freshly ground flour is the best option nutritionally speaking but it is a big investment. Consider using jovial foods or something like it to order a good quality flour. Check it out here: https://jovialfoods.com/organic-einkorn-all-purpose-flour-2lb/ 
  • When you’re baking breads, you have to know what breads require a higher gluten content. It’s certainly possible to use a low gluten grain like Einkorn alone for bagels but for us, we prefer to do half Einkorn and half white hard wheat. It gives us the texture we’re looking for and a great flavor.
  • Some breads require a little extra time and a few steps. Bagels are one of those. Consider making these in bulk, partially baking them and letting them cool. Store in the freezer and then pull them out and bake the rest of the way when you’re ready for more.

Let’s get started:

Homemade Bagels

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*I’m using a blend of Organic Einkorn flour (freshly ground) and Hard White Wheat (freshly ground). You will need to experiment a little to get the texture and flavor your family prefers but generally a mix of both a good All Purpose flour and Bread flour (for gluten) works well. I usually do a 50/50 mix.

Preheat your oven to 415 degrees Farenheit & prepare a large pot of water for boiling the bagels.

1 1/2 tsp yeast

1 1/4 c water

1tbsp pure maple syrup

4 cups flour

1tsp salt

Add yest and approx. 1/2 cup warm water to mixing bowl along with the maple syrup and let sit for 15 minutes until bubbly.

Add in the remaining ingredients and mix until gluten is well developed (dough is good and stretchy).

Let the dough rise for approximately 30 minutes.

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Separate into 9-12 even balls of dough and let rest for a few minutes.

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Shape into bagels and let rise for another 30 minutes.

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**you need to pinch the dough ends together to make sure the bagels hold their shape**

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Boil the bagels for 2 minutes on each side.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

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For the Love of Food: Feeding a Family

Feeding a family is both a great joy and a big job. There are so many factors to consider. Family size, family budget, likes and dislikes. How much time can you allot for meal prep and clean up? All of these things are important to consider.

The larger your family, the more planning has to come into play. Meal time looks much different now with four children than it did years ago when we only had one. The more people you’re feeding, the more opinions and requests, likes and dislikes threaten to make meal times a daily challenge.

Additionally, there’s the food boredom that strikes when meals become too repetive. Food is meant to be enjoyed and special. It holds the potential to bring you back in time just as your favorite songs do.

Oh and let’s not forget that we want to ensure the food we are serving our loved ones is also nourishing their bodies. So many of the easy, prepackaged convenience type foods we buy from the store do nothing for us besides fill our stomachs for a time. There’s very little those foods actually do for our health.

Some days your creative juices are flowing and meal ideas come naturally, other days there isn’t a thing in the cupboards or fridge to strike your fancy.

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Making mealtime something special and nourishing is possible. It’s not always easy and some days you’ll need to look for inspiration, but take heart, with a little planning and trial and error it can be done.

So how do you get started? 

  • Love food for more than a full stomach. Love the beauty it offers…the nourishment and enjoyment. Food is such a vital part of our lives, we might as well enjoy it.
  • Remember why you’re doing it. You have been given the joy and responsibility to feed your people nutricious and delicious foods.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed and don’t compare yourself to gourmet cooks if you’re just getting started. Start small. Stick with it and you’ll get there.
  • Learn all you can…Pinterest, Youtube, Blogs, Books…there’s a wealth of information at your fingertips.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Give yourself grace and allow yourself to make terrible meals and messes. Even the best cooks and bakers make inedible creations from time to time.

Over the next several weeks I’m going to take you all through some of our “regulars” on the meal plan to offer a few ideas and inspire you. We’ll start with breakfast, then lunch and lastly dinner.

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We’ll also look into some different types of meal planning forms and share recipes for some of our favorite meals.

My hope is that you’ll leave here feeling refreshed and inspired. Ready to cook…and EAT!

 

Simple, Natural & Low Waste Dental Hygiene

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There’s a lot more to oral health and hygiene than sparkly white teeth and fresh breath (though both of these things are quite wonderful). An unhealthy mouth can increase your chances of many other health issues. Cavities and gum disease are known to result from poor oral health, but heart disease, cancer and diabetes are also believed to be linked to the same. Keep in mind that genetics may also either work in your favor or against you. Some of us come from a long line of unhealthy teeth and gums and as a result have to work extra hard to minimize the damage to our health. Regular brushing, flossing and cleanings are the best way to prevent dental issues, so choosing the right products for oral care is essential.

If you’re like me, you want your products non-toxic…but powerful. We’re also on a mission to live a more “low waste” lifestyle so things like packaging and the material of the product itself are important to us. Those three factors play heavily into what we’ve chosen to use for dental care.

Here’s what we’ll cover in today’s post:

  • toothbrushes
  • toothpaste
  • floss
  • mouthwash
  • tooth whitening

Let’s start with toothbrushes. Roughly one billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown out each year in the US. Even though toothbrushes are small, that’s A LOT of plastic!! I consider myself to be a little bit of a realist in regards to waste (I don’t think the “no waste” movement is practical or feasible in today’s culture) BUT I am very much aware of our culture’s lack of stewardship and the havoc it’s wreaking on our environment. GOD has blessed us with a beautiful world to enjoy and as believers it is our responsibilty to be good stewards of the Earth while on it. So while I realize some plastics are necessary, I want to do better to avoid it when possible and choose biodegradable options when I can.

Because we are trying to do better as a family in regards to stewardship, a while back we switched to eco friendly toothbrushes and haven’t looked back since.

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The funny part…I have actually LOVED these biodegradable toothbrushes! I don’t know why I didn’t switch many years ago!! All of my kids like them too. I have sensitive teeth, receding gums and other issues and these toothbrushes have been far better for my teeth than their “cheap” plastic counterparts. The bristles are so soft. They have actually lasted us longer and honestly work out to be less expesnive as well. For example Oral B goes roughly $26 per 12 pack. A basic Colgate 12 pack is over $12. Now prices will vary slightly of course depending on where you purchase your brush but either way, the biodegradeable version was certainly no more expensive than the plastic version at roughly $12-15 per 12 pack. I reccently purchased the EVE ECO brand brushes for $9.99 on Amazon!! For us, there’s no going back to the plastic. As strange as it sounds, I have fallen more and more in love with the look of the natural products than any of the colorful plastic options out there! There’s something about the natural wood that I just love!

Ok so toothpaste…this one I’m still researching DIY recipes and I’m going to be switching to a DIY version asap because I think I can make a more cost effective but powerful version without all of the packaging that ends up in the landfill. Small glass jars are perfect for DIY toothpaste and can be reused over and over again.

As I imagine most kids do, my kids use way too much toothpaste. Someone is always either dropping it on the counter, in the sink or on the floor (occasionally even on a sibling…I don’t know how they manage it but they do). While I want to save as much money as I can, I just can’t make peace with the chemical laden toothpaste that’s less expensive. For years I went back and forth as the budget got tighter and tighter the more kids we added but over the last few years I’ve cut out every possible unnecessary expense I can in order to afford toxin free products.

While I’m excited to try a DIY toothpaste, I need to buy myself some time to do more research and try out different recipes, so in the meantime, we’ve been using the HELLO brand toothpaste. It works very well, has a nice and minty flavor that leaves your breath much more fresh than Colgate or Crest ever did. I ordered it from Amazon and it was reasonably priced there ($15.88). Crest and Colgate were anywhere between $8-16 on Amazon for a 4 pack so the natural version wasn’t much more expensive and I find myself using less of it because it is more potent.

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Next, let’s talk about Floss. We have always preferred the single flossers (mostly because it’s much easier for our kids to use) but to be honest, I like those better as well. The problem is, just like the toothbrushes, they create a large amount of product that ends up in the landfill. I don’t like that. Enter these fantastic little flossers I found on Amazon:

At $14.99 for 200 of them, they are not terribly expensive and they work very well! They’re made mainly from cornstarch and packaged in eco friendly packaging. Since I’m not likely to DIY my flossers in the future, I consider these guys a winner!!

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Now let’s talk about mouthwash. For years we’ve used Tom’s mouthwash which worked very well and we liked using it, BUT at $4 per bottle and 5 people using it (including littles who either used too much or occasionally spilled half a bottle down the drain) it got to be a bit costly. Additionally, the mouthwash comes in plastic containers which I honestly want to get away from.

So I got myself some glass bottles from Amazon, used my trusty YL Peppermint oil, baking soda and some water and made my own mouthwash for very little cost. I will say, without added sweetners and other ingredients, this mouthwash is very potent and will require a little getting used to BUT it works very well at freshening your breath and is very cost effective. The kids were not a huge fan at first but they got used to it.

There are numerous different versions of DIY mouthwash to choose from on Pinterest. Some are made using Thieves oil instead of Peppermint, Tea tree oil and some using clove. You could also include Copaiba oil if you have issues with inflamed gums (which I sometimes do).

Lastly, let’s talk about tooth whitening…

I love a good cup of coffee. I survive on coffee some days. I look forward to it in the morning, around lunch and in the afternoon. With 4 young kids and very little sleep…some days I may have up to 4 cups a day (I jokingly tell the kids that as I’ve had each kid I’ve needed to increase my number of cups per day to match the number of children). Unfortunately, coffee stains teeth. So while I’m not about to use those over priced, chemical laden tooth whitening kits EVER AGAIN, I want white teeth!

Boy do I wish I had known half of what I know about beauty products and toiletries now when I was younger! All the chemicals I put on and in my body!

Fortunately there is a natural, very effective option out there to whitening those teeth!! I’ve done both DIY and purchased activated charcoal whiteners. If you’re not a DIY fan, this one by Oalen is super inexpensive (I think I paid $5.99 and it came with a biodegradeable toothbrush), works great and lasts a long time because you only need a tiny bit at a time. Use it roughly once per day (or a couple of times a week if you have my memory).

If you want to save a few dollars, buy some activated charcoal, pure unrefined coconut oil and a glass jar…mix and brush. It’s as simple as that!

Btw…it wouldn’t hurt to have some activated charcoal capsules on hand for stomach bugs and food poisoning anyway…just thought I should share that.

Do some research on that one 🙂

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So there you have it! Natural, effective and affordable dental care with the added bonus of being low waste.

If you have any other great products or tips for dental care to share, please tell me in the comments below! 🙂

Slow, Simple & Intentional

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I was going to post an update on the garden, in fact I’d even started writing it multiple times, but each time I start writing, I keep coming back to this topic. It’s been a bit of a personal mission for our family for some time now and we’re still working to figure it all out but it’s the story of the blog. The name and the why.

Scripture is a large part of our family’s life and while we would never claim to live it out flawlessly, it is the driving force behind all that we do. Because of it many will never “understand” us and many will disagree, even ridicule our choices. Nevertheless, we strive as a family to live differently from the world and are learning more about what that looks like each day.

“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:14

Many years ago, even before our first son was born, I remember reading this scripture from Ecclesiastes. I remember it struck my interest…and digging into it more. King Solomon, was powerful and wise…he’d done it all and seen it all. Much like most of us are striving to become and do. Participating in the daily race for more and success.

He’s speaking of our material pursuits while here on earth and how no matter how hard we work or how much we work…these things are all like chasing after the wind…the wind which cannot be caught. Materially, we can never have enough. We’re always striving for more success, fame and fortune. Big, shiny, flashy, fancy…popular…fast…disposable. These words and many others come to mind when I think about what’s considered desireable today.

This fast paced, make lots of money so you can buy all the things, don’t get your hands dirty, hire it out, eat it out and grow apart lifestyle that has been made the norm is meaningless…a chasing after the wind. A life wasted.

Marriage is all about my needs being met. Children are a nuisance and anything that requires work is undesirable. This is more often than not the norm of today’s world. Even in the church.

We’ve decided that want to live slower…not because we’re better, because we desire more.

…a marriage that is valued and fits into the schedule. Children that we invest in, even when it’s inconvenient and hard…take the time to raise and teach and cherish.

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We want to live simply without the bells and whistles and do as much of it ourselves as we’re able. The cooking the cleaning, the fixing. When did such things become beneath us? There’s dirty, hard work yes, but satisfaction too.

Homemaking and raising children is not a life wasted, it is the ultimate career.

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“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career.” CS Lewis

Living intentionally in terms of devoting our lives to God’s plan no matter where that takes us, a strong marriage that outlasts the disposable nature of our lost world and striving to raise up godly children who love and appreciate the little things that the Lord has blessed them with.

“We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” Charlotte Mason

So what does that look like for our family, right now in this season of life?

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Family time…as much as we can manage. The six of us…as much time together as possible because these children grow up too fast. Of course work and visits and appointments and such are a part of life but we have chosen to prioritize the time we have together.

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Of course not everyone will agree on this, but for us schooling the kids at home enables us to have even more time together, teaching them about the things that we feel are important and gives them the extra opportunity to slow down and play more while they are little.

“I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.” John Wesley

Get dirty…imagine…have fun. It also enables us to take more time teaching them the things that are harder for them as well as move on faster when they naturally grasp something quicker. Less boredom is a wonderful thing.

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Making meals with love and care at home and learning old skills…less disposable and convenience. Less artificial and more real.

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We’re a work in progress ourselves and we fight the flesh as much as everyone else. We’re on a mission to slow down and live a simple life of chasing God’s good gifts rather than the wind…to take great care of what he has blessed us with.

It’s a journey we’re on as a family.

My hope is that through our journey others will be inspired to join along. That it will leave a positive mark in the world.