Looking Forward

I'm pretty sure this is the first year I've really taken inventory. Never have I ever really sat down and soaked in all the blessings from the past year and looked ahead to what the new year will bring. Last year I definitely didn't. Travis and I were recovering from the flu from Christmas and I was in the midst of mastitis while we rang in 2015, plus we had a fresh 2 1/2 month old who enjoyed being awake all hours of the night rather than sleeping like most human beings. Looking to the year ahead was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to get through the day.

This year, however, is different. Both our children sleep through the night now--Praise God from whom all blessings flow!--so I'm not just in survival mode. I actually want to look ahead this year. I'm able to get through most days with my head still on (picture a chicken running with its head chopped off. That was me a year ago), albeit I'm ready to crash at 8 pm, but that just comes with the territory of being a parent. I'm ready to take my walk with the Lord to a new level. I'm ready to be a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend of which I can be proud. But all these "things" I'm ready to be doesn't just come without effort. Inventory has to be taken. Reflection needs to take place. Looking back to look forward. Despite the sleepless nights and the being sick for two straight months last winter, 2015 served our little family well. I trust that 2016 could be even better. I only say this after I've looked back to look forward. Without reflection, sure, 2016 can still be a great year. But with it, I'm beginning the year with a clear and proactive mind. 

I'm so thankful a mentor recently handed me a list of questions to ask myself as the new year approaches. Questions to get me thinking how I desire this upcoming year to be different than the previous year. I'm excited to share these questions with you in the hopes they'll be an encouragement as you look forward to 2016 as well. I added a few of my answers to the questions below. Most I wanted to keep between the Lord and me. I challenge and encourage you to take some time in the next few days to really ponder over the words below. How can 2016 be different than 2015? 

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
Breathe. Just Breathe. (ok, Faith Hill, you can pipe down in my head, thanks.) Stop for a few seconds...minutes--if I'm blessed with that long--a day to take in the Lord. Pause and let Him envelope me. Breathe in all the good that is He. Really enjoy the laughter of my children. Find the lone flower in the midst of weeds. Gaze at the sunset. Revel in the stars above. Listen to nature. And realize all the above comes from Him alone. Take a breath. 

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
Stay disciplined. With chores, homeschooling, simplifying our lives and home, spending time in the word, working out. And how do I do that? I've come to the conclusion that having a morning routine gives me a better chance of actually staying disciplined. When I am disciplined it makes for everyone else's life to be disciplined. It makes for a happier family. It makes for a purposeful life. One in which you get things done and get to just be rather than just going through the motions to try and get by. 

Below is my current morning routine followed by 2016's morning routine:
-wake up whenever the kids wake up-so no "me" time
-forgo getting changed out of pjs and into real clothes
-maybe make bed but most likely will wait until mid morning (at least it's made by noon!)
-shuffle to the kitchen to make everyone breakfast and coffee; coffee, always coffee
-lounge on couch watching kids play until we have somewhere to be and then scramble to get everyone ready in a matter of 20 minutes. Always late. 

-wake up at 6:30 (hopefully before kids are up since they usually don't wake until 8)
-make bed
-put on bra. This is key.
-make coffee
-start a load of laundry (not everyday, just on days it's needed) and empty dishwasher
-make breakfast
-lounge on couch, get into the word, and just breathe before everyone wakes

So maybe the single most important thing I could do: keep to a morning routine. 

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
My prayer life. It's so weak. I'm so selfish. Confession time: I rarely pray as it is and when I do it's usually all about me and my desires and wishes and wants. So what will I do about it? Last night I was browsing through the website "Desiring God" when I came across this article: Reignite Your Prayer Life. It was perfect. I don't want a step-by-step "this is how you pray". I want something simple. I need something simple because I'm a stay-at-home mom who struggles to pray as it is. So this was perfect. John Piper suggests Pray Through the Bible, "open the bible, start reading it, and pause at every verse and turn it into a prayer". This allows me to dive into the Word and to pray in one setting. It also prevents me from saying the same old things about the same old things. I'm hopeful this is the beginning of a new conversation with Jesus. 

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

If you're where I was last December, without the slightest idea even of what year is coming to a close, IT IS OKAY. Even just a skim through this list might bring new perspective, might bring a little light to the end of the tunnel. Wherever you are in your life just looking forward to the task in front of us--not even to tomorrow--is all that Christ asks of us. So be encouraged, friend, we made it to a new year! 

**Happy 2016!**


These questions come from Don Whitney: Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year.

The photos were taken by Carly Jones.



Ludington, Michigan has always held a special place in Travis' heart, and in the last 11 years, my heart as well. This is where Travis' family has been vacationing for generations. This is where his love for fishing really started and hasn't let go. I always say if he wasn't in ministry he'd be fishing for a living. This vacation is where he lives out his favorite pastime twice a day for seven days straight. A fisherman's dream come true. And for me, it's less about the fishing; it's where Travis proposed to me to be his wife on the beach of the Lake 11 years ago. After 7 years of vacationing elsewhere we finally returned to a place that holds so many memories.

After almost three months Anna still talks about our "new house" in Michigan and the big fishy Pops caught. I forgot just how amazing Michigan is, so much so I really don't want to vacation anywhere else. Who needs the beach of Florida when the R&R we received on a secluded, peaceful lake was everything we needed?

The "Evergreen" house was the perfect home for us for that week in late August. It felt more like fall. After 90 degree temps for the previous three months I did not mind one bit that our vacation was filled with 60 degree temps and precipitation. It was almost more relaxing that it rained most days.

Every morning while Theo slept and Anna played quietly, the boys out fishing, I'd sip my coffee and sit and marvel at the serene Hamlin Lake just 50 yards from our living room window. 

It wasn't just the four of us in that little house by the lake. We also went with Travis' dad, better known as Pops, and Travis' brother and sis-in-law (I'd rather call her one of my best friends because an "-in law" doesn't do our relationship justice) Troy and Carly.

Pops surprised Anna with her first fishing pole. She loved that thing and picked up casting right away like a pro.

She was super excited to catch her first fish, if you can't tell.

She was so sweet with each fish she and Travis caught. She'd want to hold every one. She'd pet it, tell it "it's ok, you're ok", give it a little kiss, then throw it back in the water. Every time. I about died.

Travis was over the moon getting to share his love of fishing with his daughter. The fact that Anna took to it and loved it so much brought Travis so much joy (especially since his wife doesn't take to it at all). 


I know Travis can't wait to be able to share his love for fishing with Theo too but for that week he was Mommy's buddy. I didn't mind at all. Fun fact: Theo perfected his walking skills that week. What happened to my baby?! 

A few nights after we arrived Travis caught his biggest fish ever. A muskie that he says was at least 42 inches. Here's the thing, he and his dad weren't able to ever get it in the boat to be able to take a picture and measure it correctly. This fish still haunts him three months later. A few nights later, Travis' dad was out in the boat by himself and caught the sister of the one Travis caught. He wrestled with it on the line for 20 minutes before he finally was able to pull it in. He ran up to the house, struggling to hold it because of how heavy it was, so we could capture it on camera. Carly, Anna, and I were sitting on the couch in the living room when we saw Travis' dad rushing onto the porch. As soon as Anna saw it she exclaimed, "OH MY GOSH, That's a BIG FISH!" She was right, it was bigger than her! She looks so proud of her Pops in this photo :)

When the guys and Anna weren't fishing we slept, walked around the resort grounds, took boat rides, toured the little towns of Ludington and Pentwater, spent time on Lake Michigan's beach and walking to the lighthouse, ate ice cream at our favorite dive House of Flavors, and Anna experienced her first time playing putt-putt. She absolutely loved it!

I'm so thankful for the man holding my Littles there. He made this whole vacation possible. Anna and Theo love their Pops, for sure. 

And then there's these goofballs. I couldn't imagine having spent this vacation without Troy and Carly. It made all the times the guys were out fishing for their lives while the girls and Theo stayed in that little house that much better. 

The guys showing the lengths of their biggest fishes caught. Sorry Troy!

We can't stop talking about Michigan. It will live long in our hearts as one of our best vacations. We've already promised ourselves that we need to make it an annual trip, one that our children will grow up cherishing just like their father did and his mother did and her father did. 

Photo credit for a few of the above: Carly Jones


Homeschooling Continued

I had a lot of great feedback after I posted about the curriculum Anna and I are using for our homeschooling. I'm so very thankful for that! ABC Jesus Loves Me has been a wonderful resource as we've navigated through Anna's first year of preschool. It also can be overwhelming as I've heard from a few friends who visited its site. They provide a ton of ideas and it can be a bit much when you're first starting out. And actually in the past few weeks it was getting to be too much for Anna. We've had to slow our roll a bit. But that's what I like about ABC Jesus Loves Me. I don't feel bound to do exactly what it says. I can pick and choose activities from the week and if we get to them, great; if not, I'm not upset. I don't devote too much time to planning--which is something the site even suggests. They encourage you not to spend so much time planning you miss the time spent with your child.

To help those of you who have thought the website is overwhelming, this is how I plan:
The curriculum is broken up into 5 weeks at a time with a review week during the fifth week. I take a few minutes at the beginning of each unit to look over the following five weeks (mainly so I can see which books I need to reserve from the library that we don't already have at home) and then each week spend 15 minutes at the beginning picking activities based on what type of week I think we'll have. Most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays we're at home in the mornings so these are the days I'll plan at least one to two activities. I make sure I know what songs I'll be teaching and make sure the supplies we'll need are readily accessible. I try to stick with activities that have supplies we already have at home-saves time and money! Each evening I'll look over what's on the agenda for the following day and that takes less than 5 minutes. Like I've said in previous posts we only spend about 30-60 minutes (as long as Anna can stand) on formal lessons. If we don't get to an activity or if something else comes up during the mornings we usually do "school", I don't stress. A lot of the times I'll teach her a new song while we're driving and repeat it randomly throughout the day. Most of our reading of books occurs before nap and bedtime and whenever she asks throughout the day-which is often. She's also started this thing where she takes at least 20 books to bed with her and just reads for an hour before she naturally falls asleep surrounded by and laying on a plethora of books. We're doing life together and I realize as we live our lives she's learning so much just by being with us. I plan formal activities to spur on her creativity and imagination, to get her thinking about things other than babies and dollhouses and princesses.

One of the main reasons we're homeschooling is because we believe free play is so very important. Sharing, playing well with others, listening and obeying, being respectful and honest, we strive for these over Anna mastering her ABCs and 123s. I'd so rather have a day where she just plays all day, but why not throw in a few activities to get her thinking about more? and to find out just how much she knows and can know?

I know I haven't posted much lately about our homeschooling experience but I'd like to continue sharing with you what we're doing. I get inspired and encouraged when I read about how other families are homeschooling and I hope we can be an encouragement to you who've decided to go that route too! 


As of Lately

I've been emotional lately. I stop myself before tears stream down my face because, really, who has the time? Big events are coming my way, ready or not.

It all started with Theo walking. WALKING! Yes, I said walking. Who does he think he is? He was barely 10 months old when he decided it was time, and I could do nothing to stop him. In the past few weeks I've started to wonder where my baby went. I feel like I've missed something. Have I taken enough pictures and video? Did I cherish the time when he wasn't mobile or when he was just crawling? Am I reading and singing enough to him? I never EVER in a million quadrillion years thought I'd say this but I'm actually enjoying his middle of the night feed. While most babies his age are sleeping 7am-7pm (and when I say most I mean only a handful) my little guy still enjoys a nightly meal around 3 am. I should be upset, right? I mean, he's old enough to cry it out and sleep through the night, but that time for us together is the only thing I feel still makes him a baby and I'm holding on tight to that one. He'll be one in less than a month and a half. I feel like life has gotten a whole lot faster with him around. When Anna turned one it was definitely a fast year but this past year, where did it go?! We're closer to him being a toddler and no longer an infant and I don't know if I can handle that right now. Even though he's constantly on the move and getting into and climbing everything he is still a big mama's boy and loves cuddling and giving open mouth kisses, and I wouldn't mind if it stayed that way for a very long time.

Be still my heart...and time.
Anna will be three in less than two weeks. Let me just say there is such thing as a "three-eenager" because we got one. We've got ourselves a sassy, strong willed, little princess. I never thought I'd have one. Let me just stop myself right there. I know my mom is rolling on the floor laughing as she reads this because that is exactly what she had in me. My former 3 year old self has come back to haunt me through my daughter. She's constantly singing, playing in her own world, reserved in crowds but jumping off the walls in her own home, loves everything pink and sparkly and super girly but loves her cowboy boots and fishing with her Daddy. Dresses for days, I mean all.day.e'ry.day. She didn't wear a pair of shorts one day this summer. And if she wasn't wearing a dress, she was wearing pants with her tutu over them. Since I'm dealing with a mini-me I've decided to chill out a bit. The control freak in me wants to control the control freak in her and I have a feeling I'm going to lose. So I've decided to let go and let her have her fun. And I'm having more fun too.

These days are fleeting. I so wish they'd just slow down.
On the same day Anna turns three I will turn 30. Thirty. I think I'm somewhat in denial because I'm not experiencing a quarter life crisis like I feel most people do. I'm actually totally okay with it. Or maybe I just haven't had time to really think about what that means. Thirty. Maybe it's because I'm exactly where I wanted to be at thirty. I love my life. Jesus is at my center. My husband and I have a great marriage. I have two beautiful children who bring me so much joy. I have wonderful friends who bring laughter to my soul. My extended family, while far, we still see each other frequently and I cherish those times. I love where we live and can't imagine having different neighbors that we do now. I'm excited to see what this next decade brings. Thirty, you're looking good and I don't care who knows it!

Grays are shining through my hair but I don't care! It's a sign of wisdom, right? ;)
As the next few months fly by I hope I can stop for a few minutes and cherish all that is around me. As Theo begins to talk and Anna learns new steps in her ballet class and I enter a new age bracket I hope the small moments don't get away from me and I can see the beauty in life of simply being present.


Week Two

Second week down, and already when I ask if Anna wants to do school she says no. Hmmm, maybe I'm going about this the wrong way!... During the middle of the week I stopped saying we're doing school and instead I would start something by myself relating to school (painting, play dough, sorting blocks, reading our little Bible) and more often then not she'd wonder what I was doing and want to join. She's still only 2 so of course she doesn't want to "do school", she just wants to play! And I definitely want to encourage that. I recently read an article (I read it from Facebook and now I forget who posted it so I can't link it up) about the differences between German children and American children. I loved it, and now I want to pack my family up and move to Germany. Not really, but I am ready to be different than what I've witnessed here in America. I had a friend tell me that her son's kindergarten teacher told her that school (and she's referring to kindergarten too) is for learning, home is for fun. I'm sorry--what?! I thought learning was supposed to be fun?! Shoot, I still have fun learning! In Germany the main purpose of kindergarten is to play and socialize. Everyday children are expected to play outdoors, rain or shine. One of the main reasons we're deciding to homeschool is because we want our children to find joy in learning. We both attended public school and feel like the joy of learning was stripped from us at an early age. I went to college for education and the schools I observed, did my practicums, and student taught in most days were spent teaching to test. Most of my fellow collegemates were encouraged and wanted to change what they saw. I greatly admire them for that, however, for me, I turned the other way and knew I didn't want my own children to attend schools where testing was the priority. So homeschooling is our only option at this point. Which I love so far--granted, we're only in week 2 of pre-K, ha! Ask me again in a few years ;)

Check out what we learned this week. We're following the ABC Jesus Loves Me Two Year Old curriculum.

The Bible Theme: God Made the World Around Me, Creation Day 3
This week we continued learning about how God made the world around us. We read about God creating the land and the plants on the third day. We read from The Beginner's Bible pages 9-12. We continued our Creation Day Book by making Day 3. We glued brown and green construction paper to make trees and plants, and Anna painted the water blue. We planted poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and cilantro seeds and talked about how plants need sun, water, air, and dirt to grow. We've been watering our plants everyday. I glued uncooked curly pasta to construction paper to look like flowers and had Anna paint on the pasta. We're continuing to recite our creation fingerplay and have added "On Day 3, God created the land and the plants". I'm realizing if it's not with music it's harder for her to remember but if it is to music girl's got it down! So everything we're learning we're putting a beat behind it.

Starting to paint her water that turned into a snake. 
On Day 3 God created land and plants--and according to Anna, snakes.
My little flower girl planting her first flowers.

Verse: Genesis 1:1-In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 
Tune: Are You Sleeping? 
Same verse as last week. I love that she's already memorized a Bible verse! 

Song: The B-I-B-L-E
When I first introduced this song I was surprised to hear her pick it up so quickly. I asked if she'd ever heard that song before and she exclaimed "yes, at church!". We sing it together before we read our Bible story.

Color: Blue
We started the week with a color walk where we looked for blue objects. Anna found blue trash dumpsters, blue letters on license plates, blue cars, and my blue shirt. Anna knows her colors really well. This week it got to the point where I'd ask her to find the color blue somewhere and she'd just say "no". Stubborn much? 

Letter B
I printed out a block letter "B" and we dipped her thumb in yellow paint to make bumblebees on the "B". After the paint dried I added wings, stripes, and stingers with marker. We talked about how bumblebee starts with the letter B. Throughout the week we looked for the letter "B" around the house and while we were out. (I failed to mention last week that the two year old curriculum doesn't focus too heavily on letters. The objective is for the child to learn to say the letters of the alphabet correctly.)

Bumblebees start with "B"!

Information: First, Middle, and Last Name
We continued reciting Anna's full name plus Mommy, Daddy, and Theo's full names. 

Self Care and Manners: Say "Please"
Anna knows "please" really well. She knows that if she whines and doesn't say "please" we won't listen to it. However, this is something she definitely still needs to work on. I'm trying to get better at saying "Anna, I will be happy to listen to you when you say "please" first and in a big girl voice." 

Number: 1
We counted to 1 on our button counting card. I love how every time I ask how many buttons there are she says "just 1". She knows the number 1, she knows how to count to 1, and she knows how to find 1 object. Bring on the number 2!

Shape: Line
We made lines, er snakes ;) out of play dough. We put Anna's wooden blocks in a line. I drew vertical lines on a piece of paper using a highlighter. On one end of the line I added a green dot and the other I added a red dot. Then Anna traced each line starting at the green dot down to the red dot (this is prewriting activity). I glued uncooked spaghetti to a piece of paper and had Anna use blue (color the week) paint to trace down the spaghetti.

Book of the Week: When the Elephant Walks by Keiko Kasza
We would read this book in the morning, before nap, and at bedtime. It was an easy book for Anna to read along (recite) since there weren't a lot of sentences. We also made an elephant mask one day using a paper plate, cardstock paper, and paint. We didn't have gray paint so I mixed blue, brown, and white. I wasn't sure if it'd come out gray but I'd say I did a pretty good job guessing!

Motor Skills: 
Fine Motor: Sorting Activity
After borrowing this sorting toy from a friend I quickly realized that Anna has already got this motor skill down. She still enjoyed it but I wanted to give her more of a challenge so I switched our activity to one I found from a friend's blog (Katie's Chasing Vowels). I love that it's super simple to set up and with items we already had around the house (pipe cleaner, beads, and paper). The child strings the appropriate amount of beads onto each pipe cleaner. It was great for counting and for fine motor skills. It turned into Anna pouring the beads into a cup and less about the counting and stringing.

Gross Motor: Jump forward
While I played music each morning Anna worked on jumping like a frog, kangaroo, and "runny babbit"--she said this one day on accident and thought it was the funniest thing so we've continued calling it that. I love how she cracks herself up because she sure cracks me up!

Two weeks down and so far we're having a great time. I love seeing how fast and how much Anna's learning. My baby girl is officially a big girl now *sigh*


School is in Session!

We officially began homeschool preschool last week. Hip Hip Hooray! We started sooner than I had initially planned. I was thinking of waiting until middle of September to really get the ball rolling. However, Travis has been super busy, and if you personally know us then you know exactly what I mean, so to pass the time I decided to go ahead and begin school the first week of August. I've been researching for a little while on the best way to begin with an almost 3 year old, what curriculum would be best, and what approach would benefit Anna the most. I can imagine all the veteran homeschool moms chuckling as they read this. I already had one chuckle from a dear friend of mine after I asked for advice on how to get started. Play, play, and more play she advised. And throw in there letters, number, shapes, and colors, and Anna will be fine. Perfect! Except for someone like me; I like a plan, direction. If I don't have either one then Anna would play with her LaLaLoopsies all.day.e'ery.day. I like seeing what others have done before me, what's worked, what hasn't. So after a few weeks researching I found a curriculum I believe will work really well for us.

As soon as I found ABC Jesus Loves Me I was sold. For one, it's free (for in-home family use)! Two, they talk about Jesus, and not just that, it's their focus, which I love. Letters, numbers, shapes, and colors are included in each week's activities and play is encouraged above all. I also liked that I didn't have to go out and buy a bunch of supplies. A lot of the activities suggested items found around the house and books we could borrow from the library. It also encouraged incorporating learning into normal activities throughout the day from singing songs in the car to counting at the grocery or finding the color of the week while out walking. We can make it as elaborate as we want or as simple as we want picking and choosing the activities we feel best suits our family. Along with simplifying our home, I'm trying to make homeschool simple as well. This curriculum allows that, for which I'm grateful.

Since this was the first week I had no idea how Anna was going to handle school. She's gone to childcare at church and the YMCA and has been a part of a dance class for 8 weeks but she's never really been in a classroom setting for an extended period of time. I told her the night before we started that the next day during Theo's morning nap we would start school where we'd read a story from the Bible, sing some songs, and do an art activity. She seemed excited so I was excited. The next day came and after I put Theo down for his nap right on schedule I asked Anna if she was ready for school. "Nah, I want to play with my 'WaWaWoopsies'" Hmm, ok. After I sat with her for about 5 minutes letting her play I directed her over to the couch and we started our story. She seemed happy at that point and so I continued. We read our story, I introduced her to a few new songs, and then we did our craft at her new school space in our kitchen. First day was a success! The next 4 days were great too. A little push back a few times but all in all we both enjoyed it and it kept us busy while Travis was gone, Theo was napping, and kept us away from the LaLaLoopsies! Plus it was sweet seeing her learn and retain so much in just a week's time. It makes me excited for what else she'll learn in the coming year!

Read on to find out what we did this week. You can find more activities on ABC Jesus Loves Me.

The Bible Theme: God Made the World Around Me, Creation Day 1 & 2
Each morning we would read from The Beginner's Bible pages 9-11 which is the story of God creating the first two days. We started our Creation Day Book by making the first two pages. The first page was God created the night and day (you can see the first page in the picture at the top). The second page was God created the sky and water. We did a fingerplay: "On day 1 (put up number 1 with finger), God created light (close fist and then quickly open in the air and bring down to side creating arches. On day 2 (put up number 2 with finger), God created the sky (wave arms in air) and water (make waves with hands)". Using a coffee filter, markers, and a spray bottle we made the earth. We colored the coffee filter together with blue and green markers and then Anna sprayed the coffee filter with water. When it was dry it looked like the earth.

Creation Day Book Day 2: Anna glued cotton balls at top of page for the sky and the water was made from shaving cream and blue paint.
Turned into painting herself, naturally. 
Coffee filter earth. She loved spraying the water!

Verse: Genesis 1:1 - In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Tune:  Are You Sleeping
In the beginning, (2x)
God created (2x)
The heavens and the earth (2x)
Genesis 1:1 (2x)
This ended up being one of my favorite things about this week. Anna picked up on this song super quick and I would hear her singing it by herself a room away. This is one of the reasons I love this curriculum so much because it's teaching kids bible verses through music. What a great tool to help children retain what they've learned!

Song: This Little Light of Mine
We sang all four verses ("This little light of mine", "Hide it under a bushel, No!", Don't let Satan blow it out", "Let it shine 'til Jesus comes"). Anna loved this song and can now sing all four verses by herself.

Color: Red
We began our week by taking a color walk searching for all the red items we could find along the way. Anna found cars, car lights, Theo's stroller, her shoes, and a stop sign. In the middle of the week Anna used a red crayon to color a balloon that I drew on paper. We paired this with the fine motor skill activity and had her color on a vertical surface (the refrigerator). Throughout the week we looked for the color red in our house and while we were out. Anna wore her red sparkly shoes most days and we ate red raspberries.

Letter: A
Although Anna already knows the letter "A" pretty well she's not quite ready to practice handwriting so I printed out a block letter A and we added "Animal Stickers" to it. We worked on her knowing that her name and animal starts with "A".

Information: first, middle, and last name
ABC Jesus Loves Me suggests working on saying first name in the two year old curriculum but Anna's already past that. Instead we worked on her first, middle, and last name. We also talked about Mommy, Daddy, and Theo's full names.

Self Care and Manners: sitting quietly
We worked on sitting quietly while I read our Bible story.

Number: 1
We're making number flashcards and each week we will be adding to the cards. This week we made our first card. On the flashcard I wrote the number 1 and then Anna picked out a button and glued it below the number. Each day we counted the button on the card. We also found ways to count to one throughout the days. (You can see our number flashcard in the picture at the top.)

Shape: Circle
We searched for circles around the house. We took a circle walk looking out for circles like tires and balls. We drew circles on paper albeit not perfect ;) 

Book of the Week: Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
This book is super cute. Anna really liked it and by the end of the week she was able to say the last word in each sentence. We would read this story before nap and at bedtime. Throughout reading I'd ask Anna to find the red items and circles.

Motor Skills: 
Fine Motor: color on vertical surface
As mentioned above I had Anna color her balloon on a vertical surface. Coloring on a vertical surface allows extra muscles in the wrist and hand to be strengthened. These muscles are not used when writing on a horizontal surface.

Gross Motor: Play "Put the Fire Out"
This game lasted for about 1 minute before she was done. The idea was to draw a ladder with sidewalk chalk leading to a chalk drawn "fire". On the other end of the ladder you place a bowl of water with a sponge. The child fills the sponge with water, hops over each rung to get to the fire, and then squeezes out the water to put out the "fire". Anna did this once before she decided she just wanted to play in the water. So I let her.

Since this is all very new for us all we only spent 30-45 minutes each morning during Theo's nap on formal lessons (Bible reading, singing songs, and the art activity of the day). Everything else was thrown into our normal activities throughout the day. This schedule seems to work for us now. I also want to mention that we're working through the 2 year old curriculum although she turns three next month. She is further along developmentally in some areas taught in the 2 year old curriculum, however, a majority of it she still has yet to learn so I decided to keep her back. I felt the 3 year old curriculum would be too challenging for her at this point. When we get to a concept she has already mastered I'll alter the lesson to meet her needs.

I'm excited for what this year holds. It could fail miserably and my dreams of homeschooling my children throughout their school years could come to an abrupt end but I'm hopeful that it will be an amazing year full of play, laughter, and lots of learning.

{I received no compensation from ABC Jesus Loves Me. I just really liked it, and thought I'd share how it's helping our family.}


Storing Treasures

I'd like to think my little family are simple folk. At least we're trying to get back to that. I love the word simple. It's just so...simple. It means clearing the mess, the unnecessary, what's not essential to make room for only what matters. We've been trying to simplify our home for the past month or so. It's definitely a work in progress, and with kids, it'll be an ongoing project for a while. And I should probably admit I'm a pat rack so the thought of purging sentimental items that don't belong in a simplistic home gives me hives. We're getting there though. We've been reading books that help hoarders like us gain new perspective and take steps to live a simpler life (book list below). And that's what we're doing, taking steps, baby steps. 

This is not ok. "What to Expect When You're Expecting" when I'm not expecting anymore,
old lotions I haven't used in months, water bottle that's probably a week old (ew)

The first place we started was our bed side tables. I told you, we're taking baby steps. It ended up being a couple hours project! But once I was done with my table I was on a roll and breezed through my closet and bookcase and moved on to the bathroom while Travis was still working on his table. I took an afternoon while the kids were napping to work on the kitchen. I felt like we were moving out. It was as if my cabinets had vomited all its remnants onto the floor. (I really should've taken a picture. I'm doing a horrible job documenting all our work). But when I was all done I had cabinet doors that actually shut, the broken blender and quesadilla maker were finally put to rest, and every item left had a place to call home. Plus I feel so much better being in my kitchen. It just feels cleaner and simple. We still have a lot more work to do in order to simplify our home. We have closets and Anna and Theo's bedroom and toys that still need tended to but we've got a good start to the simpler life. 

Only storing books I'm currently reading: the Bible, "Food" by Jim Gaffigan, and
"The Meaning of Marriage" by Timothy Keller. I also have the kids' baby books
accessible so I can easily pull them out when a special moment pops up. 

My new tiny dresser between the bags full of clothes I'll be dropping off at Goodwill.

You may be asking why. I wonder the same thing somedays but as I'm throwing things out and taking items we no longer need to Goodwill it just feels right. We're a family of four living in a small two bedroom apartment without the prospect of moving anytime soon. Our closets our packed to the max, we're constantly stepping on toys, we're wasting time cleaning decorations we don't need. It's just time to live a life free from the clutter. Living the past four years in a neighborhood made up primarily of refugees we've learned a thing or two from our friends. When they moved to America they came with very little. While many have added a few things to their homes, they still live minimally. They aren't storing items that are of no value or use. Toys aren't strewn around the rooms and decorations hung mean something to them. They've really taught us the joy in living simply. I'm often convicted when I mull so much over what my home looks like or what clothes I should buy this season. When I need a reality check I just think about my beautiful neighbors and am reminded of what really matters in this life: relationships. The verse that I keep hearing over and over as we try to get back to living simply is from Matthew 6:19-21,

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

My treasures are my family, the sweet relationships we have with our friends, the experiences we have together, Jesus. I don't want to waste another minute with things that just don't matter in the end. Making our home a simple home allows us the opportunities to devote more time to our treasures and, I'm certain, will bring a more joy filled life. 

Come along with us as we simplify our lives (home, work, play, homeschool, spiritual). I'll try to do a better job of documenting our process. Maybe you'll be encouraged to simplify areas of your life as well. If nothing else I hope it'll be a time for you to reflect on what matters the most to you and lay up for yourself treasures in heaven. 

Books we've been reading :
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan


These are a few of my favorite things

1. Anna crawling into bed with us when Theo is crying in the middle of the night. My BK (Before Kids) self would always say "I'll never let my kids sleep with us!" Now I love middle of the night cuddle sessions. Except when they turn into me getting a foot to the face. Then homegirl can march herself right back into her bedroom with her crying brother.

2. Anna's creativeness. It's beautiful to witness. From making up her dolls' names--Tuti, Peiver, Hever, Pah, and sometimes they are just sounds; to how she dresses. We're already experiencing push back when it comes to clothes and she's only 2! It's either dresses all the time or mismatched tops and bottoms (when I say bottoms I mean pants, never shorts, even when it's 100 degrees) and maybe with an added tutu. She's also named her dresses. The big pink frou frou one is her "Anna dress" (like from Frozen, "Ah-na") and her African one from Aunt Stef is her "Merida dress" (the movie Brave). I'm learning it's not the worth battle especially when I want her to be able to express herself. But if the mismatching continues much longer I may have to hang a sign around her neck that says "I dressed myself".

Princess "Ah-na" eating a donut. Naturally.

3. Almond milk. Who knew?! We recently discovered Theo may (but most definitely) have an allergy to dairy so I've had to eliminate it from my diet. Sad day. Until I tried almond milk. I may not go back to cow's milk after I'm done nursing. Except when it comes to ice cream. I'll always go back to ice cream--and the real kind, not soy or coconut milk.

4. Anna quotes: "Mommy, I want to wear your boobs." (aka my bra) "Cause it happens" (after pooping in her underwear) "Oopsie-DAN-sy" (instead of oopsie-daisy) "Cinder-Aura" (mix between Cinderella and Aurora), "foop-pops" (flip-flops), "ers that?" (what's that or who's that or where's that or when's that? It's all one in the same) and the kicker: "Mommy, you're beautiful!"

5. Theo's long bangs that curl up when wet (most likely from sweat since it's been 500 degrees here in the south).

6. My little music man. Whenever Theo hears music he starts bouncing and even hums along. I was singing him his lullaby just the other day and he started humming. Super sweet.

7. My little dancing queen. It's always "shut up and dance wif me!" Not really but might as well be. At a recent wedding we couldn't get Anna off the dance floor. It was 11 o'clock, the bride and groom had left, and Anna was still dancing! We eventually left with her kicking and screaming.

 Dancing Queen in her Merida dress.

8. Their already amazing friendship. I love seeing how much they love each other. I only pray it continues as they grow. I wish you could hear the laughter going on as I took this pic. My heart was a puddle on the car floor.

9. Our little neighbors who come over almost daily to share with us their findings in the creek. Turtles, snakes, and crawdads/crayfish/whathaveyou.

Notice the tutu and this is one of her favorite shirts, usually paired with fuchsia pants and hot pink flip-flops.

9. Theo's bottom tooth popping through. It's the cutest little tooth that I ever did see. I wish I could take a picture of it but he just won't sit still long enough. Rude.

10. And this man right here. Can't get enough of my baby daddy ;)