Mother's Daybook - Juice, death and the sun

Listening to - To the Beauty and the Beast Soundtrack. I was kinda obsessed with it for a while and now Norah is too. All of Lucy's dress up clothes were a bit big on her and we couldn't get the proper effect from a silkie so I bought her a Belle dress and she's so adorable in it. Wearing it around and dancing. I haven't gotten a good picture yet but I'll keep trying.

Also, listening to - Norah really start expanding her vocabulary. Her speech has been slightly delayed. The delayed thing didn't bother me except there were some concerns about her hearing earlier on and we've gotten answers ranging from "She's totally fine" to "She's definitely got an issue" which was driving me crazy! The most recent feedback we got from testing at a Children's hospital was that her ears together are good and she shouldn't have any speech issue because of what she can hear and we can either continue testing by going back repeatedly (only because you can only get a tot to give you about 10 minutes of info) or just wait until she's old enough to tell us the answers instead of responding to the flashing puppy puppet. We're choosing to wait and at this point, I don't really think there is an issue but it's still really excited to hear her start to talk. Even more so than it already would be. Just this past week or two we've hit the point where you never know what random words she'll add. This weekend it was "Honey, Honey"...as in, "Honey, Honey, how he thrills me" Yep, my baby was singing along to an Abba song. Today it was strawberry. I mean, you probably wouldn't have know it was strawberry but the kids and I did. Plus she was holding a strawberry and that helped.

Watching - Okay, this is a bit bizarre but stick with me. I enjoying watching Darci Isabella's youtube channel. That parts not bizarre, she's a minimalist homeschooler with chickens, of course I'd love her. BUT after her video about her plans for a minimalist wake and funeral, another channel kept showing up in my recommendations. At first I was all like "uhm, thanks but no thanks, youtube, I don't think Ask a Mortician is really the channel for me. But then I finally caved and watched an episode and it's totally fascinating and this particular Mortician, Caitlin, is really funny. Now, this comes with a caveat. I don't watch all her videos (some go to topics I'm just not comfortable with) and I don't agree with all her views, especially in the areas of religion and physician assisted suicide.

But I've really enjoyed some of her historical based ones as well as information on green burials. That's something Craig and I have talked about in the past and its not uncommon for one of us to send the other an article about home burial or family burials. I realizing this post is taking an interesting turn but I've (re)learned in the last month with the passing of one of my best friends that even being in your 30's doesn't mean you shouldn't have a plan. So if I die (hopefully many years from now) and Craig seems to be going all crazy with talks of cardboard coffins and cremation or green/minimally invasive burial practices, you can kinda trust that I'm okay with all that. No embalming necessary here people (unless there's a specific reason and there might be, I've got family all over the country and three kids so I don't know, there might be). We haven't gotten into specifics or anything as of now, but overall, I really like Caitlin's basic philosophy on burials and being involved with your family's death time decisions. Now, moving on to something more fun...

Excited about - The Eclipse! Oh so excited! We're in a great area for it (over two minutes of totality!) and have even rented out the basement on airbnb. Craig's taking the day off and we've got some friends coming it and Craig's already started his on/off live streaming of the events on facebook. Yes, we're dorks. No, we don't care.

Drinking - Juice? Well, I'm starting to. I'm giving juicing a try. Because, despite my earlier topics, I really do want to live a long time :-)  My first batch wasn't the tastiest but I got it down. I had just gotten my hands on a juicer and didn't have any of the tastier additions I've heard suggested like green apples and lemons but at my next grocery store trip, I'll pick those up and give it another shot. But if you have any favorite fresh vegetable juice recipes, please share!


A Day In the Life

I seem to do these right before big changes. And since we have no idea when we'll get a foster placement, I feel like I'm just waiting for a big change! I know the end of pregnancies aren't completely pleasant for a variety of reasons but at least you do have a basic end date to look forward too. Babies don't stay in forever! So I'm not sure how long this will be our "average" day but for now, it's my life!

? am - Jonah joins us in bed. I realize how glad I am that this is a fairly uncommon occurance.

4:45 - Norah joins us in bed. But it's about time for Craig to get up. Craig is obviously much bigger than Norah but somehow I end up feeling more crowded when the two change spots. But both super snuggle so I can't resent it too much.

6:45 - Time to get up. I'd like another 15 minutes or so and quite frequently I can convince the kids to go play duplos in the living room while the sleepier ones of us (normally Jonah and I) stay put a bit more but Norah climbs out of bed and brings me a diaper, waking Jonah up so 6:45 it is. It could be earlier so I can't complain too much.

Kid's declare they will do all their morning chores before breakfast! (they have to have them done after breakfast before we go outside, but if they want to do them before breakfast, that's fine). They lose motivation after getting dressed and start to play. I make oatmeal.  I'm so happy the kids were playing and I was able to make it myself today. We are going through the Kids Cook Real Food Course and it is wonderful but the kids insist on helping 90% of breakfasts now. We're pretty close to them being mostly independent with our two typical breakfasts (oatmeal and fruit; scrambled eggs and toast) so I anticipate in 3-6 months, my breakfast role will be much easier but for now, I'm supervising three people and its a bit chaotic. So when they are having so much fun that I can sneak it and do it myself once a week, I appreciate the calm.

Lucy is working on her AHG Family Helper Badge so she has been promoted from sweeping floors to unloading and loading dishwasher. The first week and a half, she was super excited. The shininess of a new task is wearing off but after I finish the oatmeal (yes, I deliberately waited until it was done so she couldn't help. I'm awful - but honest), I remind her if we do all this now, after breakfast she'll just have to add a few bowls and be done. She's puts on a brave face and gets it done. I feel a teensy bit bad because it was supposed to be a 2 week only thing but she's proved to be quite good at this tasks so I've officially moved Jonah to sweeping the table for his breakfast chore and Norah gets his task of wiping the tables (with a good check by me afterwards so we aren't schooling on a tabletop of maple syrup residue!).

7:30 - Breakfast of Oatmeal and fresh peaches. I love summer food. I feel like I could live on our local farmer's market store peaches and melon when they are in season. Must remind Craig to get more for our camping trip tomorrow.

7:45 -  While I was cooking, Norah was exploring. Someone must have left the baby lock on the board game cabinet open. I normally leave Norah messes until our regularly scheduled pick-up times or I'd spend all my day following her around picking up after her but this one is right where Jonah needs to sweep so...well begun is half done! And it didn't take too long. While I'm picking up, kid's are getting ready for the day. Even Norah has her task.

That's chickens if you can't tell. It means she's going out to feed the chickens her leftover oatmeal. She takes her jobs very seriously.

8:00 - Chores are done and kid's are playing nicely inside while I start laundry. This is when I hate to disrupt non-fighting kids but it's time to go outside. Hopefully the playing nicely part will transfer too. Kids play while I workout. I was doing really well last winter but had a bit of a thryoid crash that I think was due to the cardio. So I stopped for quite a while and now I'm starting again with just weight lifting and no cardio beyond walking/hiking. Hopefully my body cooperates but so far, so good. I love my view.

Of course, I often have company. Sometimes it looks like this.

Sometimes they are even closer. But crunches with chickens sitting out your knees or a Norah on my stomach just increases the efficiency of my workout time right?

8:45 - Oh, the whining. We normally play outside until at least 9, often 9:30 but for some reason, everyone is cranky today so we head inside again. I put on some Getty Kids music and they all play magna-tiles while I take a shower.

Norah telling me she's hungry and the other two agree that a snack is needed. They all had two bowls of oatmeal but I didn't put eggs in it this time so maybe some protein will do us all good. Yogurt for everyone.

9:00 - Mom has a few minutes of school prep. Everything we do is pretty much open and go but I do love having 5 minutes to think before we start.

9:10 - Table Time (prayer, bible memory, songs and poem recitation) then I read a couple picture books to the littles while Lucy does handwriting. We switch and Lucy reads a few  more books to Norah while I do a few minutes of Jonah school. Well, that is what is supposed to happen and normally, it does but Norah is still cranky and wants to look at books by herself so Lucy works on folding laundry but then Norah gets mad that Lucy isn't paying attention to her. Lucy is telling me that this doesn't make sense. Welcome to the toddler life big sister! We push through.

Lucy and I read and narrate the Burgess Animal Book. We're finally passed the rodent section! If you've done AO Y2, you probably know how happy I am! We do really like that book but I'm over rodents right now. We update our tree and add the shrew stickers while Norah draws on my leg. Eventually I realize what she's doing and stop her. We do French then we move to the living room to read The Wind in the Willows and finally Norah starts playing by herself. Except now she's found a pen and starts drawing on the playtable. I take away her pen. She finds another. Where are they coming from! I take that one away and give her a slightly firm "Pens are for paper"! She melts down. We skip phonics for now so...

11:00 - Lunch! - and a dose of ibuprofen for still cranky Norah. When I ask her if she has a hurt, she points to her mouth. I hate molars. Another mini-meltdown when she asks for a drink but says no to milk and water. As those are the only options, we are at an impasse. It does not end well.

11:30 -  Normally we'd do a short piano practice and a longer free play time but Lucy has been waiting all week for her special one on one with mom cooking practice time. Making muffins without mom touching a thing! We're just prepping the dry ingredients for now and will finish up when Norah (hopefully!) naps. Except for my needing to catch a mis-read cinnamon amount, she does really well. And she lets Norah help her stir the mix so for a few minutes, Norah is happy too.

12:00 - Kids play with magnatiles while I take a few minutes to update this and breath. Breathing is nice. Just kidding. I forgot to restart laundry. We're going camping tomorrow so I'm really trying to get it all done before we leave.

12:05 - Norah is clearly done with the morning. We normally start naptime routine at 12:15 with a quick pick-up and a chapter book (right now it's More Stories from Grandma's Attic) but I tell kids we have to skip that (I hear yays for the first part, boos for the second) and start their audiobook (Burgess's Uncle Billy Possum). They can play legos quietly until it stops automatically in about an hour. Norah normally gets a bit of just mommy time now with picture book or two, nurse, snuggle then I leave her with books until she falls asleep. We skip the books and she doesn't finish nursing before she's out.

12:20 - Me time! Actually, God time.  First up is bible study. Since we didn't do a clean-up, I have to shove aside a puzzle and a belle dress to find some room on the floor but it's quiet so it doesn't bother me.

Then I grab my vitamins, a peach and a bottle of water and decide not to start with the school supply sorting I had planned but to squander 10 minutes on my phone. Eventually I decide to can muster up the energy to actually do it. I normally love organization but in this case the problem isn't a lack of organization, its too much stuff in the armoire and I can't fix that problem for two months (when a portion of it will be leaving) so temporary shuffling and stuffing is required. It's driving me crazy. At least there is a specific deadline. And I've decided I need a real desk. We aren't really a "homeschool room" type of family but I think I am a real desk sort of teacher. Not sure if that will go in the basement as part of the remodel or if I want to replace the armoire. None of that is happening until basement is done. But stuff to ponder! (Aren't you excited Craig! Another project!)

1:10 - Lucy and Jonah are up. Lucy finishes up her muffins while Jonah and I hang around providing emotional support.

2:00 - Math time while muffins bake. She's been struggling with crossing the tens this week. It's a new concept so that's to be expected but the shutting down and getting mad at me is not okay. Today was much better though! I like math and she likes math but when you have a bad math day, it just seem to take a bigger toll than a bad any-other-subject day.

2:20 - Math is done. Muffins are done. Kid's are playing while I'm finishing getting ready for the day and loading car up. Norah wakes up (smiling!) just in time for us all to go pick up our milk from the farmer meet-up we have and then swing by pharmacy. We get the older lady who doesn't offer lollipops not the younger one who does. It's the little joys in life! (That makes me sound cranky but she often only gives us 2 lollipops so I have a very unhappy rear-facing tot watching her brother and sister eat candy in front of her or if she does give me three, then Norah is waving a sticky lollipop around the car. It's a lose-lose situation as far as I'm concerned!)

The classic mini-van mom selfie. I feel like I should really be holding 
a starbucks in my hand but I don't drink coffee. 

3:15 - Tea time. Muffins are a success and Jonah compliments Lucy with a "I think we should call you the best cooker ever!" We study some Whistler but all agree that "He's not our favorite."  Which sounds okay until you realize that is what the kids are allowed to say about a food when what they really mean is "This is gross. I don't want to eat this." I think we might skip our last two prints of his and move on to another artist. We gave him a good shot but its time. I read Missionary Stories with the Millers and then we practice Solfa. Thursday is normally our longest day but even so, I feel like school is taking way too long but I had to turn down kid's request for more Solfa so I guess they don't.

4:00 - Kids are off finally off playing outside and I start beans in the instant pot for tomorrow. It's my first time trying to convert a recipe by myself but luckily we aren't planning on eating it today so I have some buffer time if it all goes wrong. Then I take Norah outside to play because she's been banging on the door and holding her shoes since they left her behind. It's tough being the baby.

4:15 - Daddy's home! I head back inside to start tonight's dinner while Craig watches kids. In between dinner steps, I switch laundry again. Almost there, I can do it! I also complete the hours log for the last few days. This is the first year I legally have to record hours and its not hard but I'm still getting in the habit. But after one month, we are well on our way so I'm not worried about reaching the 1000 hours we need. It helps that they do about 2 hours of audiobooks a day and at least another hour of reading aloud with Craig and I. Since I'm a book snob, I have no issues counting that as literature time. Kid's come in intermittently to ask what's for dinner. And then to ask again because they forgot what I said 5 minutes ago. And then Jonah wants to show me how he got himself "so very terrible dirty you won't even believe it!"

5:30 - Dinner's over. It was a hit.

I am enjoying Lucy's family helper week. She normally a pretty good helper but is going above and beyond today. We loaded dishes together and she ran them then folded more laundry and got Jonah and Norah to help her put it away. All while I'm resting on the couch! Norah can't help but see a resting mommy as a jungle gym though so she climbs and gives her famous super intense face hugs. 

6:45 - Bedtime routine! We actually get to the 10 minute tidy this time and then kids read some pictures book with me, family bible time, chapter book with daddy and we tuck everyone in. We're transitioning Norah to the kid's room but night # 2 goes about the same as night #1. She thinks its a great idea until it's time to actually lay down. Then she grabs her blankie and dolly and literally runs over to my room. The funny part is that it's not like I stay with here there. No, I tuck her in and leave her with some books to look at and she falls asleep on my bed. Then I move her. So you'd think she could do the same thing on her bed. Maybe next week. But I really enjoy being at the point where I can actually just tuck all my kids into bed and leave them. I think Norah is my first to be at that stage before the age of two. And I still get to snuggle and nurse her at night before I leave so it feels like a magical age.

I then finish up the (not quite) baked beans. Recipe worked but I used a bit too much water so I just turned on saute with lid off for a while to reduce it. Meanwhile I finish planning our camping meals (the night before! I know, crazy, but it was a last minute trip!) while Craig does the packing of tents and sleeping bags. I switch laundry again and it's all done! Hurray! I had hoped to pack clothes today but it will be fast in the morning.

8:30 - I'm blogging on the couch with Craig. Then I'll get ready for bed, transfer Norah over and read a bit in bed. I'm finished term two of Ambleside Online Year 7 last night so now on to term three! Then after I do a bit of hard reading, I'll probably switch over to Wives and Daughters if I can stay awake. I'm normally asleep by 10 and I'm not sure how much sleep I'll get tomorrow in the tent so I won't be pushing that tonight.


Road Trip Planning for Young Families

We've taken a lot of roadtrips with our kids. Norah's not even two yet and has already visited 14 states! Now, a lot of our travel is to visit family. I probably wouldn't be doing these long long drives with littles just for fun but both sets of grandparents and all of our siblings live more than 14 hours away by car (One set of grandparents does have a second home in a city just 4 hours away now which has already come in handy though!). So family is a big draw for us to travel but its also taken some of the fear away. We have to see the grandparents so we drive 16 hrs. But once you've done that with kids age 1, 4 and 6, driving several hours away for a weekend suddenly doesn't seem to bad at all. In fact, I didn't really even plan any extra entertainment for the kids until that morning because a trip of "just" 4 hours seemed so short! But I have learned thing or two.

Getting There: 

Don't overcomplicate entertainment

.Our first really long (I consider anything over 10 hours long) was this trip to North Carolina three years ago. Jonah was one and a half and Lucy has just turned 4.  I scoured Pinterest for fun printouts and made magnet toys and got them each a magnetic cookie sheet to go over their lap. Big waste of time. Pieces got lost sheets got tipped and they ended up just coloring most of the time. I know some people love goodie bags to hand out at certain times or having a reward system and we might try something like that when kids are older but right now, I keep entertainment choices limited:

- One small toy or set of toys each. (Lucy brought her Lottie Doll, Jonah a ziploc bag of superheroes. Norah was supposed to have her baby doll but I forgot it and this was probably part of her bedtime issues on that trip. She was sooo happy to come home and find her!)

- One coloring book each, a stack of white paper and a bag of colored pencils to share.  I like colored pencils because they don't dry out although they can need sharpening. I haven't had too much trouble with crayons melting but Jonah does like to sit and peel them leaving teeny tiny pieces of paper all over the van. I guess it keeps him busy - but colored pencils are nice. I've heard good things about these but haven't even felt inconvenienced enough by sharpening to buy them. For Norah, I give her one coloring sheet at a time on a clip board and one crayon.

- A couple picture books for each bigger kid and a stack of board books for the baby/toddler.

- AUDIOBOOKS! Plus maybe a fun music cd. Before our big trip to North Dakota this year, we bought the kids the full Radio Theatre Chronicles of Narnia set which is a fantastic deal and really well done. But we also utilize the library and librovox/podcasts (like sparkle stories) for other fun audio stories.

- TV. I try to strike a middle ground when it comes to shows. Before we leave, I'll download a few Netflix episodes onto our kindle fire but those are kept for the nighttime part of the trip or baby emergencies. The kid's don't even ask about this normally because they know the answer will be not yet.

Be Cozy 

Dress kids comfortable. Make sure shoes are easy to get on and off. Mine always want to take them off as soon as possible and we often need to get them back on quickly because we have to get to a potty ASAP! Our kids also bring the same blanket they sleep with at night and one lovey. We've done pillows at times but those seem more hassle than they are worth. Tidy up the car every night so they have a general space about them and can find their stuff. It's never what I want to do when we finally get to our hotel but I'm always glad the next day that one super hero they really really have to have 20 seconds after we've gotta on the highway is no longer stuck in a crack between the seats. Have a trash bag handy. We have a plastic cereal box with plastic bags in it as an all the time trash container but more importantly -  make sure it gets used and make the kids help you! They've been sitting all day, stretching and crawling around the van floor finding tiny pieces of trash is good for them! I've also started keeping a beach towel. It's nice for when we have to pull over and Jonah needs to pee but wants privacy. I'm the only one in our family that gets motion sick (this might be changing now that Lucy is in the back of the minivan. I hope not) and we haven't had any car puking since Lucy was a baby (she used to hate the car and would start throwing up if we didn't take her out within 5 minutes of her starting to cry. Those were not big roadtrip times for us) but its nice to know its there if we need it.

Creative Timing:

When we are driving, we either take a "just get there fast" approach which probably involves driving at night, or we take a slow and steady approach. If we drive at night, either one big overnight trip to get somewhere fast or after taking a long break and doing a big stretch in the evening to make a little more progress, I generally feed kids dinner then put pj's on and let them watch a show or two while I cross my fingers hoping Norah falls asleep. Once she's out, I switch kids over to an audiobook and they normally fall asleep pretty quickly since that's how they fall asleep at home normally. I'll be honest, this kills the adults. So I don't think we'd ever attempt it if we need to be at a wedding or theme park or anything that requires us to be alert alive the next day. But if we're going to the grandparents farm and they'll be around so we can each grab a nap, its nice to just get there.

They gotta eat:

Pack a lunch: We almost always eat lunch in the car if we are on the road. If we are stopped, its to see a sight or let the kids run around. I don't want to finally let them out of the car only to have them then sit down to eat. Plus, if we can keep lunch similar to what they eat at home and hotel breakfasts somewhat similar, then we can eat out for dinner without wreaking too much havoc on there little systems - and the attitudes attached to those systems. Even this last trip which kinda snuck up on me and I didn't have enough stuff, I just ran into an Aldi near our hotel and bought some lunch supplies. Two days of supplies was probably half of what one trip through the drive through would be even when I threw it some "splurges" for our family like veggie straws and a chocolate bar for us adults to secretly indulge in (chocolate always helps road trips seem to go smoother!)

I really love these containers. I can pack everything for one kid all together at home or in the hotel room and just pass it back when its time to eat. That way I'm only spending 50% of time straining my neck searching for and handing a kid something instead of 95% of my time. I know there are lots of really cool bento boxes out there but these are cheap, lightweight and get the job done.  And I don't have kids handing my half eaten apples or sandwich crusts when they are done, they just put the lid back on and I deal with it later. They are also great for happy meals. Yes, my kids do occasionally get happy meals - just not for lunch. Typical we eat fast food for our last meal of the trip and its often the dinner time meal right before we reach home. Which is sad because that's often a Sunday which means no Chick-fil-A.

Think Global:

Obviously this will depend on how picky your eaters are but we also enjoy eating ethnic foods. We've gone with kids to everything from Ethiopian restaurants to Greek. This last trip we found a great Indian place. Honestly, Norah was highly skeptical but the big kids partook and Jonah especially loved it and it was all fairly healthy - lamb, chicken, some veggies and whole wheat flat bread. When we go to too many casual diners or American style places, I look back and realize they kids have eaten chicken strips for three dinners in a row and the only vegetables they've had were potatoes and ketchup. I do try and bring along some extra lunch meat and fruit in case someone really doesn't like their choice - or more likely, decides at bedtime that they probably should have eaten a bit more and they are just soo soo hungry and they really need a granola/lara bar. I can thwart those attempts and say "well, here's some lunch meat for you."

Go Early 

We also try to eat on the early side. We do at home too but with wait times and long days/short naps and the need to sit down and be polite, this becomes even more important. The Indian place I mentioned opened at 5pm for dinner so guess who was waiting in the parking lot at 4:55. Yes, we did. But we got in and served right away and no melt downs were had. Depending on ages/naptimes, once we are at our destination, we might switch our lunch and dinner and eat out for lunch and have sandwiches for dinner or if we're at a house like our rental in North Carolina, we bought nicer food to cook at home (lots of seafood, yum!) then just went out for ice cream once or twice. I know cooking on vacation may not seem like fun but I've just realized its often less stressful than trying to keep kids in there seats when their schedule has been off and they are wired up after a big long day.

The Fun Stuff:

Be Realistic

 Most of the time, it's a mix, leaning heavily on the slow and steady. Unless we are doing the overnight thing, we really search out stuff to do. We like all the little random stops you find in America. Sometimes you get a dud but you never know and we've found some really neat places by being willing to take a chance on random. When we go slow and steady, we normally plan to stop every two to three hours. I'm sure that will get longer as kids get older but for now, that's our limit. And when I stay stop, I mean, STOP. We don't do many quick gas station/bathroom breaks and then jump back in car (unless someone has to go potty 20 minutes after we left our last stop!) Our best section of driving is normally the first one in the morning so I try to push us the full three hours. Same thing at naptime. I do not like to wake a sleeping baby or toddler! So sometimes I'll have two or three little stops that we can choose from depending on if someone is asleep and we can keep going a bit more versus we need to stop on the early side.

If we are staying someplace for a few days, we generally only do one big thing a day. It may be tempting to pack our days full but that doesn't end well for us. That doesn't mean we just sit around in the hotel all day but we have smaller, more flexible activities on our list.  In Springfield we were there three days. Our big activities were Laura Ingalls Homestead, Children's Museum and a minor league baseball game. So we did one each day. Then we went putt-putting and visited Bass Pro Shop and the giant fork and went out to eat to fill in the rest of the time, mostly the afternoon. For a 5 year old, the mini-golf with it's paper mache dinosaur is practically as glamorous as the Eiffel tower.  And it's much easier to walk away from that or a free trip to visit the turtles at a store when kids have reached their limit than a expensive adventure. So what if you only do 8 or the 18 holes, you can stop when everyone is having fun!

The pool and movies are our extra filler activities. We always get a hotel with a pool. You can't keep a kid contained in a hotel room for long. When Norah needs a nap but the big kid's don't, Dad takes them swimming and I get a bit of quiet time to re-pack suitcases or clean lunch boxes. We've even taken kids first thing in morning before driving to use up a bit of energy.

 We are normally sticklers about bedtime but if Jonah isn't very tired, he will bug Lucy when they share a bed. And Norah doesn't fall asleep well in hotel at all these days so this trip we tried watching a movie and letting them stay up later than normal and it seemed to work. The first night Lucy even asked to go to bed. But everyone has to be all ready for bed and tucked in so when I turn the show off, they don't have to move. So, just be flexible and try different things. That said, really do try and let the napping kids get at least a small nap. Even just in the car or on someone's back or in the stroller. A missed nap is a terrible thing.

Be Bold 

This may sound like the opposite of realistic but it's really not. My mama mantra when we go on trips is "We're building memories and having fun!" because I so easily fall into the trap of just containing the chaos and surviving. If I just wanted to survive the easiest way I could, I wouldn't go on road trips! But that's no fun! Yes, there will be meltdowns. Yes, kid's won't eat as well and sleep as well, but they'll survive, especially if they eat and sleep well the other 95% of the time.

Same with decisions. We've got our basically road trip plan but sometimes, we chuck it and say "well, let's try this!" Or we generally go to kid friendly places but if I really want to see this place but it's not really aimed at kids, we'll just do a shortened version. And sometimes, we're really crazy and pack a day full because that's the only way it will work. We know we'll pay for it later but we grin and bear it. And by "it" I mean the crying fussing children we are carrying out of the building.

One of two crying children we carried out of that museum . We survived. 

But one sandwich and a nap later and all is well again. And hopefully we got some cute pictures and fun memories before the tears came. Be bold! Make Memories!


Filling up the minivan...

First of all, no, I'm not pregnant. I just had to get that out of the way.

BUT...we are trying to fill our home up a bit more. Today we did the last walk-through and homestudy visit in the licensing process to become foster parents! Our fingers have been printed, our backgrounds checked and we have been official declared licensed to parent.

It will take day or so for the paperwork to go through their system and then we'll be open for placements. We're really excited to see how God uses us in the next few months/years.

We've always wanted to adopt and talked about it even before we were engaged so after my really rough pregnancy with Norah, it just seemed like that would be the natural plan for any additional kids. We looked at domestic, we looked at international and we thought we had an idea of where God was leading us but no decisions were really made and we weren't planning on beginning anything until Norah turned two anyway so we had time. The only thing I remember saying to a friend was that I really had no interest in the foster care system....why don't we Christians learn not to think things like that?! It wasn't very long later that God clearly called us to this path. And no, Norah is not two yet. Oh, the plans we make.

Feel free to ask any questions. We're new to this all so I don't know if I'll have the answers but we've been blessed to know a few families that are/have been foster families and their openness about the process was one of the ways God led us to this place and I've love for someone else to say that about our family down the road. It's quickly becoming a passion of mine and I love to talk about my passions, especially when it comes to processing emotions. And there are already so many emotions here. Because whatever excitement I feel is tempered by the idea that it comes from a place of hurt and loss too. Foster care is messy!

That said, I still can only tell our side of the story. So please don't get hurt if you ask a question and I flat out say "sorry, I can't talk about that." But at least until we get a placement, our story is the only story. And it's not very long! A few other questions you might have:

Why Foster?
Well, because this talks about our area. As does this article. It's bad. And as crazy as our life can get with the little people we have already, this is something we can do and I think we can do it pretty well. And I memorized James a few years ago so I can't even pretend that I'm not aware of James 1:27. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their afflication, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. Plus, I really love babies.  

Are you gonna adopt any? The goal of fostering is reunification so I'm going to be trying to love each child in our home with 100% of my heart while they are here, while also wanting them to return home. I don't say that lightly. This will not be easy but its what we are signing up for. That said, we do want to be available as a permanent loving home through adoption if reunification isn't deemed possible. This is often called foster to adopt but we've been asked not to use that term, so we won't be. And if adoption does become an option, we have no idea of when that might be. Maybe placement #1, maybe placement #10.

When will you get a placement? We don't know! We hope sometime in the summer months. We're anxious to start loving on some babies. But I'm trying to trust that God will put the children in our home that he wants there in his timing.

What ages/sexes/races/etc will you take? As far as age, we're asking to keep birth order so under Norah's age. We've heard the family dynamics of that are easier so we want our bio kids to keep their place in the line even if other members of our household change. In terms of other aspects, we're open to a lot so we'll just have to see what phone calls we get.

Will your posts be full of blurry faces now? Maybe? The law has recently changed so we don't necessarily have to blur out faces but we do need to make sure everyone's privacy is protected so I'm just not sure how that will play out. But if you see any unfamiliar faces pop up in family pictures of us at the zoo or hiking, please just make a good guess and don't ask who it is. Because I won't be able to answer. And if you are local and happen to meet me in the grocery store, I'll probably just introduce any newbie by their first name and leave it at that.

As you can tell, even my hypothetical questions don't have clear cut answers. But part of me thinks that's a good thing. If God had told me what I'll I'd be facing over the last 10 years (or frankly, even the last month!), I'd be terrified and think I couldn't do it. But I could and I did. We don't know what road God has before us. But we know He goes before us and will lead us where he wants us to be.


There's an App for that...3 things that make my life easier

Oh my goodness, guys. Why do I fight technology so much when it comes to planning?! There must be some little Wendell Berry living in my soul fighting against the technology that exists to make my life easier because I fight and I fight and then I try something and bam - my life is changed and I wonder why I waited so long. Because I've got three smallish kids and I homeschool and Norah just slept through the night for the first time (like a real sleep through the night, waking up at 7am sleeping through the night!). I'm tired. My brain is mush. And if there is something I can do to keep things running smoothly, well, I do not need to be fighting it.

YNAB - Y'all should know I love YNAB like crazy. I wrote all about it here just because I wanted to share it with y'all. So when they announced an affiliate program, I knew I could do that and feel good about it. Because affiliate or not, I love to talk to people about YNAB. I also love my new (to us) minivan that YNAB helped me save for and I love not having student loan payments anymore. Also, I've had to use their customer support (because of a silly error on my part) and I was very happy with the quick response I got and the fact that they didn't laugh at the silly error that was messing me up. (I'd share what it was but honestly, I'm too embarrassed. It was a blonde moment on my part).

Plan to Eat - This one is newer to me but so far, I'm in love. I have been struggling with meal planning lately. I'm done a weekly meal plan every week for the past 10 years so you'd think I'd be better at it! But far too often lately I'd just sit and stare at the blank paper, feeling uninspired. I also have a bad habit of writing my grocery list on the same piece of paper as my menu but then losing (ahem, recycling) the list after I finish shopping and there is no way I can rely on my memory these day.

Craig had encouraged me to look into some meal planning services several times but I didn't like the idea of someone else picking out what we'd fix. With fluctuating dietary needs and kid's taste (mine aren't picky in the traditional sense but they have weird tastes. Like Lucy doesn't like pasta and they both love fish and soup. Jonah's also decided he no longer likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which seems like a cruel trick but that's a different story), I felt like I'd be making too many adjustments for it to be worth it. So I brushed off the idea.

But a little while ago, I stumbled upon Plan to Eat and after dismissing in 2-3 times earlier, I actually stopped and looked at it. Plan to Eat is different. I use my meals, either imputing them manual or using their url input feature to get them easily from websites and then I can plug them easily into the calendar and it makes my shopping list for me. I did the free 30 day trial and wow, game changer! I can also tag them with things standard tags (crock-pot, quick, vegetarian,etc) but I can make my own. The kids are doing an cooking class this semester so when I find a recipe that they can do most of themselves, I can tag it.

Make your own pasta salad night. Jonah peeled the veggies and cut the mozzarella (knife) and pepperoni (scissors), Lucy made the Italian dressing and cut up the peppers and carrots. All I did was cook some pasta and opened a can of beans. They picked what they wanted and we shook it all up - and then they actually ate it! Even the bell peppers! (But no, Lucy didn't eat her pasta. I'd sigh but she ate her beans and cheese and veggies so it was still a win)

I'm also starting up a sourdough starter so I've saved a few recipes and tagged them with sourdough. I'll be honestly, I've never succeeded in my sourdough attempts in the past so that may be unreasonable ambitious of me but its growing really well so far and I'm just days away from being able to bake with it!

Baby Sourdough. So cute! Okay, not really. But bubbly - which is even better!

 I'm excited about meal planning now. It also includes my prep automatically on the calendar so no more scrambling to come up with a different dinner because I forgot to take the meat out to thaw or soak the beans. I think one of my favorite features is the freezer list though. It tracks what I put in the freezer! I love to make doubles of meals and stash them away but too often I forget what I have and its not exactly easy to dig through my deep freezer in the basement to look around when I've also got 1/4 of a cow in there.  Basically, I'm in love. I'm back to spending my time in the kitchen cooking and baking, which I love, instead of  deciding what to feed all these people that don't want to starve, which I don't love. at all. So I'm paying for it now and I've signed up to be an affiliate for that as well. It's only a couple of bucks a month and for me, it's definitely worth it.

Cozi - Okay, this one doesn't cost anything (for the basic one which is what I use) and I'm not an affiliate. I just like it. Cozi is an app that you share with someone. It has a shared calendar, to-do list and groceries list. We only use the shared grocery list although as the kid's get older and involved in more things, I can see using the shared calendar. It makes it so easy for me to let Craig know what he needs to bring home. Gone are the days of my texting him over the day with "can you get this" ...oh, and this...but nevermind about that." We can also both add to our running Costco and Home Depot lists so whenever someone gets there, we get it all. Or most of it all. You still have to remember to put things ON the list which has occasionally been an issue with me and apparently neither Craig not Cozi is a mind reader. But it does help.

I got the baby pool at Target but didn't get the sippy cups (the take and toss straw cups which they were out of. I rarely do the toss part but Norah's become a straw bitter and we use them twice daily for Jonah's meds so I really need enough.) I forgot to check it off but I actually did get the manly cough drops (as opposed to the breastfeeding safe "mama cough drops" :-)

Now, there are some areas I just can't hand over to a program. Like, as I said, my calendar. I've tried. I have. But nope, doesn't work for me. I need to write it down. And my to-do list. Clicking a box or tasks completed does not give me the same thrill as using a pen and marking in complete. So for that stuff, I love my bullet journal, I love my bullet journal. So much love for one little notebook.
It basically contains my mind and I feel lost and confused without it. And I actually lose it less frequently than my phone so its still a good thing all that info isn't on my phone. So, I won't ever be going all digital with my planning and organization but I'm learning to try. I attempted Evernote last year but gave up on it. It just wasn't my style. But I've been hearing good things about Trello from some homeschool moms and I'm not sure if it is different enough that it might be worth spending some time on. Hmm...

What about you? And tried and true technological ways to make my mama life easier you want to share?

Both the ynab and plan to eat links are affiliate links. I can earn a discount on my plans if you use them but both programs are ones I pay for because I think they are well worth the cost.