Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Homeschool Curriculum 2014-2015 for 4th, 2nd, K, and PreK3

Several of you have emailed me with questions about what we use for our homeschool curriculum.  Here are our choices for 4th grade, 2nd grade, kindergarten, and preschool (3 year old).  As always, these are just the choices that work for us, for any variety of reasons.  If you are curious about a specific curriculum, let me know and I will try to answer questions!  (Most of these choices are not new for our family).

As a family, we belong to a Classical Conversations community that we love.  That being true, we will follow the Classical Conversations history cycle, which is American History and geography this year.  At home, we will supplement the CC work with Story of the World and SOTW Activity Books, My Father's World Adventures, and Sonlight Core D and E readers.  CC science work will focus on anatomy this year, and we will supplement that at home as well, with books and games.  If you are interested in learning more about CC, this blog does a fantastic job of explaining: Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood


4th Grade (Olivia, 9)
Classical Conversations, Foundations (US History, Geography)
Classical Conversations, Essentials 
Singapore Math 4, Khan Academy
IEW English (CC)
IEW Writing Through History (CC)
Sonlight Core D and E book list (assigned reading)
Spelling Workout C and D
Prescripts Cursive
Song School Latin
Keyboarding Without Tears
Apologia Zoology, with friends
Sonlight Core D and E read alouds
Artistic Pursuits
We Choose Virtue
Art Classes
Sewing Classes
Riding lessons
Awana

2nd Grade (Amelia, 7)
Classical Conversations, Foundations (US History, Geography)
Singapore Math 2
Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, BOB readers, Reading Eggs
First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind 1 and 2
Writing With Ease 1 and 2
Explode the Code 2, 3
Spelling Workout A
Prescripts Cursive
Song School Latin
Keyboarding Without Tears
Apologia Zoology, with friends
Sonlight Core D and E read alouds
We Choose Virtue
Artistic Pursuits
Art Classes
Ballet Class
Riding lessons
Awana

Kindergarten (Charlotte, 5)
Classical Conversations, Foundations
Singapore Math 1
Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, BOB Readers, Reading Eggs
Explode the Code 1
Handwriting Without Tears Printing
Apologia Zoology (sitting in)
Sonlight Core D and E read alouds
We Choose Virtue
Artistic Pursuits
Ballet Classes
Awana

Preschool (Henry, 3)
Confessions of a Homeschooler's Letter of the Week Curriculum
Sitting in on sisters' day :)


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mental Illness As a Character Defect

With Robin William's recent suicide, there has been a bit of a conversation about mental illness.  A popular Christian blogger (who I will not link here, and thus give more pageviews) wrote an incredibly judgmental post that several people in my feed shared on Facebook, and I want to comment more about that here.  (If you are one of those people, I am sorry to mention it.  I am not picking on you, by any means.  But will you read here with an open mind?)

I have a lot to say on this, friends, because it is an intimate part of my life.  This isn't something I've written about much, because it's not my story to share.  But in so many ways, it is a part of my story too.  One of my sisters has struggled with severe mental illness since she was a child, and she continues to do so.  Our stories are so entwined for the first twenty years of my life that you cannot pick the threads of mine up without seeing hers as well.  This post is solely about my experience.  But it's not about me.  At all.  Those are just the parts that I can tell here.

Here is what I know:

I know that mental illness can take a middle-class, master's degree educated woman with a loving family, and make her homeless.  I know that making the decision to allow a daughter or sister to be homeless, and not allow her to simply stay with you indefinitely, can and will destroy a family.  I know that virtually every decision relating to a mental illness has the power to destroy us.  I know that it will ultimately always come down to a choice of which family members need and deserve protection more.

I know that mental illness has been a part of every Christmas, every birthday, every regular day of my life for as long as I can remember.   I know that there have been long stretches where I have spent several hours a day, everyday, in some way trying to help, or mitigate, or deal with the problems and effects of this illness in my sister's life.  And it's not even me that is suffering.  I know that someone who did not have any of those advantages, or love, or family that my sister has to begin with will hit ground zero even faster.  (And not that illusive "bottom" people are always talking about either.  Many mental illnesses have no bottom).

I know that treatment does not cure mental illness, often.  I know that someone can spend fifteen years in various hospitals and leave no better.  I know that trying harder is not the answer here.  I know that even with insurance, inpatient mental health care costs many, many thousands of dollars, every single time.  I know that most mentally ill people have declared bankruptcy.  And sometimes their families have too.  I know that when a mentally ill person loses health insurance, they lose access to any kind of continuous care.  I know that a mentally ill person will lose their job, over and over and over, when their illness becomes evident.  I know that person will lose friends who she adores, and sometimes even family.  I know they are often driven to things and places that they will never be able to talk about.

I know that magic pills are not magic for everyone.  And neither is going to church, or the Bible, or prayer.  I know that a whole lot of people can be praying the same prayer without noticeable effect in this lifetime.  Which is not to say that prayer doesn't work.

I know I am scared every time the phone rings.  I know the exact sound of my parents' voices when something bad has happened (again).  I know that I fear for the future of my children.  I know that mental illness runs in families.

I know you can learn to tolerate a lot of fear and messiness, if there are huge amounts of love there too.  And there are.

I know that God allows children to get cancer, and that he takes the lives of infants that are precious to their mothers, and that he allows some people to suffer from mental illnesses.  And I don't know why.  I have no clue, and I promise that is something that I have many questions on.  But I do know that all those things are exactly the same.  EXACTLY the same.  In the same way that only the worst person would blame a little girl for having cancer, and suggest that if she just worked harder, it would disappear, only the worst people should say that to someone struggling with mental illness.  Let me be clear on this.  Does that mean I approve of killing yourself?  Absolutely flipping not.  Does that mean I approve of all the actions of mentally ill person that come with illness and addiction?  NO.  Trust me, I am angry at those things too.  I have been furious, for years at a time.  (Being angry is ineffective too).

But guess what?  Love, real love, (you know, like the kind described in the Bible), does not leave the wounded and suffering alone to die.  Real love does not blame them for their suffering.  Real love does not call a disease a character defect.  Love says "I hate this disease and I don't approve of those choices, and there are days when I don't recognize you anymore.  But I remember everyday who you really are. I will not allow you to harm others,  but I WILL stand here with you, forever.  I will not abandon you and then blame you.  I will love you, in the best and most humanly-flawed way I can.  Period."

I know that this is not easy.  I know that this is hardest thing I have ever walked through with someone, ever.  I know that I am scarred and haunted by some of things we have been through and choices we have had to make.  I know that I want to give up sometimes.  I know that I want to blame.  I know that I want to scream try harder, do better, stop hurting yourself.  I know that I am making mistake after mistake.  I know that I say wrong things and misunderstand and wallow in ignorance myself.  I know that she might tell this story very differently than I do.

But I also know DAMN WELL that this isn't a choice.  NO ONE would chose this.  No one.  And to suggest that it is a choice is just so profoundly and astonishingly ridiculous that I cannot even fathom how anyone could think so.  Anyone watching this would know better.

And I know I am proud. I am SO proud of my sister.  And I love her.  And I never, ever want to do without her.  Ever.  There is so much love and laughter here too (especially humor of the dark variety).

I know that people with mental illnesses are judged and stigmatized, even at church.  Maybe especially at church.  And I see them facing life with courage and hope.  And I see them not giving up.  I see them starting again, over and over.

I know there is hope here.  There is HOPE here.

I know that people who have no clue what this is like should not be writing blog posts.  And I know that we need to be very, very careful what links we share on our Facebook pages.  And I know that as Christians, we are called to do better than this judgement of one another.

If you are looking, here is a much more compassionate and real blog post by Ann Voskamp on Christians and mental illness.  (Be warned, she has music on her page).

If you must make a choice, and you don't know that answer, choose kindness.

We are all just walking each other home. (Ram Dass).


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Welcome

I am so excited to introduce you to the new look of Chickens in my Kitchen!  If you've noticed that the blog has been down this month, this is why.  We have been working hard to make it so adorable!

If this is your first time visiting, welcome!  Manda Julaine Designs is responsible for the gorgeous of the new blog design.  I just LOVE it, and I hope you do too.  I had been muddling along, figuring out how to make headers and attempting to teach myself coding and design from internet tutorials since I began the blog.  Ya'all, I love taking pictures, but that kind of stuff made me cry.  Every.single.time.  Needless to say, it was time to make an investment in a professional makeover.  Amanda is incredible to work with-not only is she a very talented designer and was AMAZING at bringing my ideas to life, she also has a trojan work ethic.  She finished this blog design on the deadline despite having a newborn who unexpectedly came five weeks early.  I highly, highly suggest her services for blogs, Christmas card design, baby announcements, business card design....anything, really!

Her business website is over at http://www.mandajulainedesigns.com.  Go visit and check out some of her other work, all of which is just beautiful.

I am so glad you are here.  I think the blog design finally reflects the feeling that I want to create at this little space.  Thank you Amanda Stichter!  You are amazing.




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Life In A Country Song, Part Deux

And we're back to LIACS with a request.  My sister is absolutely positive that Seth secretly wrote this song (spoiler alert: he didn't).  As always, lyrics in black, my commentary in blue.



Seth and me in college.  Aw.



Ladies Love Country Boys, by Trace Adkins (Let's start here....is Trace a real name?  Seriously?)

She grew up in the city in a little subdivision (Kinda)
Her daddy wore a tie, mama never fried a chicken (dead on.  My daddy is a lawyer and my mother has never fried anything in her life)
Ballet, straight-As, most likely to succeed (*blush*)
They bought her a car after graduation (bought it myself, but whatev)
Sent her down South for some higher education (If you count Champaign as South, which I absolutely did when I went to school there.  I thought it was the smallest town in the world.  Compared to where I live now, it's NYC.  God laughs.)
Put her on the fast track to a law degree (Guilty again)

Now she's coming home to visit (Indeed)
Holding the hand of a wild-eyed boy (No one has ever accused Seth of being wild)
With a farmer's tan (but he sure does have a farmer's tan all the time)

She's riding in the middle of his pickup truck (I do love me a good truck ride)
Blaring Charlie Daniels, yelling, Turn it up! (Nope)
They raised her up a lady but there's one thing (Phrase heard most often in my childhood: "sit like a lady"  You can't make this stuff up)
They couldn't avoid 
Ladies love country boys (It's so true)

You know mamas and daddies want better for their daughters (Not true.  My family would trade me in for Seth in a hot second.  They adore him)
Hope they'll settle down with a doctor or a lawyer (Yes, true)
And their uptown, ball gown, hand-me-down royalty (Eh)

They never understand why their princess falls 
For some camouflage britches and a southern-boy-drawl (Bwhahahaha)

Or why she's riding in the middle of a pickup truck 
Blaring Hank Jr., yelling, Turn it up! (Still no.  My classical country interest in limited to Johnny Cash)
They raised her up a lady but there's one thing 
They couldn't avoid 
Ladies love country boys 

You can train em, you can try to teach em (How exactly?)
Right from wrong but it's still gonna turn em on (Heart wants what it wants, eh?)

And they go riding in the middle of a pickup truck 
Blaring Lynyrd Skynyrd, yelling, Turn it up! (O/3 here)
You can raise her up a lady but there's one thing 
You just can't avoid 
Ladies love country boys 
They love us country boys (I really do)

There you have it!  The song my family thinks most describes my life.  Ha!

P.S.  Grammar police are hitting the roof on this one!  Sorry!

Friday, May 30, 2014

For My Father

My Dad's birthday is today, and you guys know he is one of my favorite people ever (and several of yours too!)

He will be enormously embarrassed by this. But.

Instead of getting you another button down shirt, I thought I would write this for you. (Oh wait, I did buy a button down shirt.  Whoops).

Corey and Griffin

Dear Daddy (Am I getting too old to call you that now that I have gray hair?  Surely not),

I know we are not a demonstrative family.  I know too much emotion makes you uncomfortable (hence the Door County restaurant recommendations as you walked me down the aisle, ha!).  But I also have always known how much you love us.  Because I've watched you.

I've watched you leave work early in the afternoon every Wednesday of my whole childhood, an entire fifteen years worth, to sit in rush hour traffic for two hours one way, so that you could spend 90 minutes with Kiernan and I, and then drive the hour plus back home.  You never missed, not once.  Not when you had a big case going to trial.  Not when our mother spent 20 of that 90 minutes yelling at you about something.  Not when you were locked out.  Not even when we were awful teenagers.  I know you must have been so tired of that drive.  You must have made sacrifices at the office.  You must have been so frustrated.  But as a child, I never knew, because you never complained.  All I ever knew was how much you missed us.  I watched, and I learned love, and endurance, and the importance of priorities.

I watched you when I moved in with you guys as a teenager.  You sat me down and told that you weren't going to make up a whole lot of rules, because I'd had enough of that in my life, and I was a responsible kid.  You told me that I was expected to do well at school and to never drink and drive.  And beyond that, you trusted me.  And that was more effective than a book full of rules, because I wanted to be worthy of your trust.  I watched, and I learned respect.

I've watched you put us through college.  You gave us money to go get dresses for sorority formals, big dates, rush.  You bailed me out when I overdrew my checking account.  Again.  And you never complained once.  But Rohini told me that you didn't buy yourself a new suit for work the whole time we were in college, so that we could have all those silly dresses.  I watched, and I learned selflessness and sacrifice.

I've watched you as you disagree with some of my adult choices.  I know you must still see me as a baby, no matter how old I get.  You line up all your arguments to see if you can change my mind, but once you know that you can't, you never mention it again, even if it becomes obvious that you were right.  (The longer I live, the more I see how often you have always been right).  I watched, and I learned acceptance, and humility, and grace.

I watched you sit through Notting Hill, at the theater, seven times.  Once on a trip to Europe.  And you never even tried to change our minds about the movie choice.  And I learned cheerfulness.  And perseverance, ha!  And patience again.

I've watched you always keep learning.  Your "to-read-for-fun" pile looks like a college syllabus.  You have always made it to the gym, no matter what.  You are still friends with your college roommates.  I know now that those things don't just happen, they take a real effort.  I watched, and I learned to make sure I keep something just for me, to remember who I was before all these babies.  And those things have rescued me many, many times over.

I can't tell you how often I ask myself how you would handle a situation, especially with my kids, and then try to follow your example.  You are so much better than I am at relaxing and knowing what is important.  I don't remember you ever raising your voice, not once.  Watching you parent Aidan and Indira is one of the greatest gifts of my life, because I get to see you how much you love us, and them.

When I was growing up, Jeanne always used to say "You're just like your father."

I would be so lucky.

Happy Birthday Daddy.  I love you with my whole heart.  You are one of the best men I know.

Shanny

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When I Was a New Wife

I was at a party the other day, and ended up talking for a while to a girl who was about to get married.  She was so sweet and earnest in her anxiety about being a good wife and what that might mean, that she made me remember when Seth and I were newly married.  I had very different ideas of what it meant to be a good wife at that time than I do now, with all my infinite wisdom gathered during eight years of marriage.  (Kidding, people, kidding.  Like Grandpa said, 8 years is a long way away from 65 years like him and Grandma).

Back when I was a new wife:

* I ironed our sheets (yes, really).  I wanted to do everything Martha Stewart said a good housekeeper did.  I thought that she knew everything about running a home.  Now I realize that she is a good businesswoman, not a good home-maker.

* I thought that I was too special to do my husband's laundry (I'm ashamed to admit this, but it was true) or clean his bathroom.  I thought he needed to be responsible for his own needs.  I didn't realize that he was responsible for almost every important thing, outside our house, and that his work allowed me to be responsible for things inside our house, which is exactly where I wanted to be.

* I used to change out our seasonal decorating on the first of every month.  On the dot.

* I thought budgets were for uptight, annoying people who never had any fun and wore ugly clothes.  And yet, despite the money we were making and having several less kids than we do now, we sometimes ran out of money at the end of the month.  Huh.

* I got bored at home sometimes.  BORED.  I am never bored now.  There is almost always something that need my attention.  Sometimes I get restless, or lazy, or I don't want to do the work that needs to be done, but I am never bored.

* I was annoyed when my husband came home 15 minutes "late" for dinner.  Now, during picking and planting, he isn't home for dinner or weekends for weeks at a time.  Lesson learned.

* I thought I was literally always right.  Yes, seriously.  I thought I should always get my way (because I was right.  Obviously).  Now I realize that when we have a difference of opinion, my ultimate goal is a happy life for my family.  Don't get me wrong, if I think my way is best for everyone, I will still make sure Seth knows it.  But back then, when I said "best", what I meant was best for me.

*On that same note, I had no idea how selfish I am until I got married.  Oh my lord, the selfishness.  Poor Seth.  He is not naturally selfish. At all.  He is a patient man.

* I thought people really wanted you to bring fancy food when they asked you to bring a dish to pass.  After a few rounds of things like seared tuna crostini that got politely pushed around the plate, I finally figured out that what people really want is what their mother would have made, just better and fresher.

* I scrubbed my kitchen floor on my hands and knees, even when I was hugely pregnant.  Now I give the kids a couple of Clorox wipes and let them ice skate around.  Good enough is good enough.  Five children will really beat the perfectionism out of you, I promise.

*I was scared my in-laws (the nicest people in the world, I promise) couldn't love me the way I was, because we were so different. (Did I understand this about myself at the time?  Of course not).  So I had a massive chip in my shoulder, and I pretty much dared them to challenge me with my sweeping pronouncements about how Seth and I were going to live our life. And they never did, not once. Thank God they saw through my stupidity and loved me anyway, because they are two of my favorite people in the world, and they are truly my family too now.

It has been an adventure.  :)

Long story short, be gentle with yourselves, new brides.  You will make plenty of mistakes, and you will do plenty just right too.  There is no one way to be a good wife, but there are lots of ways to be the woman your family needs.  You will find your way.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Life in a Country Song

Okay so some of you probably know that despite my city roots, I am a big country music fan.  I thought it would be interesting to compare country song lyrics to my reality here on the farm, so this is Day 1 of a new series.  I'm taking suggestions for other songs, if you get the itch.

Pie is apropos of nothing, except people in the country love pie.

First choice is: "Where I Come From" by Montgomery Gentry.  This song hit number 8 on the Billboard Charts, so obviously it spoke to a lot of people.  But it is accurate?  Official lyrics in black, my commentary in blue.



"Where I Come From"

Don't you dare go runnin' down my little town where I grew up
And I won't cuss your city lights (not true, they still will.  People around here tend to think the city is where you go to get raped and killed.  On Michigan Avenue.)
If you ain't ever took a ride around
And cruised right through the heart of my town
Anything you say would be a lie (Nah, you could take a pretty decent stab at it and get close)
We may live our lives a little slower (Good gravy, yes)
But that don't mean I wouldn't be proud to show ya' (definitely true!)

Where I come from
There's an old farm boy out turning up dirt (Yup.  Everyday.  Toddler boy and country boy heaven).
Where I come from
There's a preacher man in a cowboy shirt (Yes again.  People here don't wear suits much.  Or ever).
Where I come from
When a couple of boys fight in the parking lot
No, nobody's gonna call the cops (Totally 100% true.  Our little town has one officer.  No one would bother to call for a fight that everybody would know all the participants in anyway).
Where I come from

See that door right there, man I swear
It ain't never been locked (we don't even own housekeys.  Seriously).
And I Guarantee that it never will
That old man right there in the rocking chair
At the courthouse square I'll tell you now (there are actual downtowns here, which is awesome)
He could buy your fancy car with hundred dollar bills
Don't let those faded overalls fool ya
He made his million without one day of schoolin' (This took me an embarrassingly long time to learn.  People in Chicago with money are easily identifiable, if you know what you're looking for.  People here, you will never ever know by how they live, what they drive, what they wear....etc.  Make no assumptions)

Where I come from
There's a pickup truck with the tailgate down (yes)
Where I come from
The pine trees are singing a song of the south (not exactly south)
Where I come from
That little white church is gonna have a crowd (always.  It's the first thing people ask, "Where do you go to church?")
Yeah, I'm pretty damn proud of where I come from.

Where I come from
There's a big ole' moon shining down at night (the sky here is incredible, truly).
Where I come from
There's a man done wrong gonna make it right (yup.  If you live in a small town, it will become very important to correct your mistakes, because everyone knows everything).
Where I come from
There's an old farm boy out turning up dirt
Where I come from
There's a preacher man in a cowboy shirt
Where I come from
When a couple of boys fight in the parking lot
No, ain't nobody gonna call the cops

Yeah, that river runs across that Oakland rock
Where I come from
Where I come from


Song accuracy to my real life in a small town: 95%.  Only because we're not from the South.  :)  Nice work, Montgomery Gentry.

Monday, May 12, 2014

How Do You Run Errands With a Big Family? Medicated. Just Kidding. Kind of.

Hi, Friends!



You guys have asked me some good questions, so I thought I'd try to tackle one finally.

Brace yourself, I'm going to boss you around now.  :)

No, seriously.

(And also, there are just totally random kid pictures in this post.  You're welcome).

How do you go to the *doctor, grocery, pool, church, etc* with all five kids?


Well really, the answer varies a little bit by location, but some things carry true throughout.  First, we deliberately have trained our children to behave in certain ways that make taking them out in public possible for one adult.  The biggest thing underpinning all our activities is probably obedience.  I know people my age tend to shy away from that kind of parenting, sometimes with good reason, but for safety's and sanity's sake, the bottom line in my house is that someone has to be in charge, and that person has to be me (or my husband).  With so many kids under a certain age, there is no room for a kid to decide to do whatever they feel like.  It's just plain dangerous.  Obedience in our house means an immediate, complete, and cheerful response.  I know this sounds incredibly strict, and it is, but it's actually not difficult or harsh.  We don't beat them or anything.  :)  We have just always consistently trained them that they must do what I ask of them, and for the most part, they do.  Please understand, I am well aware that my children are a work in progress, and if you know us in real life, you absolutely will see them mess up.  But they know the standard of behavior required, and we generally don't have too many long-term issues on that front.  (For example, I don't have to be physically touching my kids to make them stay with me in a parking lot, crowded store, etc).  If anyone is interested, I can go into the "how" of making this happen some other time.



Second, as I just mentioned, we are really clear with the kids about the standard of behavior required in different situations.  We train them at home by rehearsing different scenarios, and asking them what they should do.  Try role-playing with the kids about "if this, then what?"  I also always go over the rules of a situation in the car on the way there.  Every.single.time.  (My oldest is sick to death of hearing all that, but it helps remind the younger kids what to do).  

I had no clue that training was essential to successful parenting when my oldest was a toddler.  I had never seen anyone parent that way.  I thought good behavior would just happen, and I was frustrated when it didn't.  (Hint: it didn't).  Being intentional about training for our expectations makes all the difference here.  Of course, being intentional also means that you will have to sit down and figure out exactly what your goals are, and exactly what good behavior means in your family.  Every family's priorities are different.  So, for example, in the grocery store, my kids know to stay by my cart, not touch anything on the shelves that we are not going to purchase, and how to use an indoor voice.


Third, be prepared.  I never, ever take the kids anywhere at naptime or when they need to eat.  Never.  Except very special occasions, if it happens during naps, we won't be there.  Why?  Because you are setting the kids up to fail.  You cannot expect good behavior out a child who needs some rest time or a meal.  Unless they are a newborn, they cannot just nap in the grocery cart or the car.  Or rather, they can, but you will be punished for it later.  ALWAYS.

Lastly, prepare yourself.  If you are pushed to your limit for the day already, skip the trip to the store and feed them pb&j.  They will survive!  Even with well-behaved children, many of these outings can still be stressful.  The doctor's office, in particular, can be brutal with a bunch of littles.  I try not to do it with all of them.  (Oh yeah, did I forget that?  If you need help, get help!)  Don't expect it to be easy, and then you won't be resentful when it isn't.  I pretty much still end every trip to the grocery store sweaty and exhausted (this is doubly true if you are pregnant or have a nursing newborn).  Make sure you are mentally prepared.  I try to use what I call my "Mrs. Duggar" voice when I am overwhelmed by an errand.  The more stressed I am, the sweeter and quieter I get.  Why?  Because the kids respond really well to it, and because speaking calmly helps me *feel* calm.  Plus, no one likes to see other parents hollering at little kids.  :)  Also don't forget to make sure YOU are fed and hydrated too.  Always bring a water bottle with you.  You will need it.



And keep emergency lollipops hidden in your bag, but don't give them out so often that the kids expect it.   :)

These things alone make a huge difference in our everyday lives.  The training part can be tiring, but if you are consistent, it will make the rest of life so much easier (well, as easy as going anywhere with a raft of kids is going to be).  When we start to get lazy at my house, we see some backsliding in behavior, and it can be a train-wreck.  It is SO much better to force myself to be consistent than to deal with the consequences.

There are plenty of more experienced mamas out there to get encouragement from, and I would love to hear from you guys in the comments!  This is just what works for me.  You know what works best for your family, as always.

And if you took them all to the pool alone today, go pour yourself a drink.  You earned it.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Best Makeup, 2014



Onto something more frivolous, after those serious parenting posts...

Several of you have asked me about my makeup, so I thought I'd give a quick round-up of what I'm using these days.  In the past, I tended to use whatever was newest or cheapest at the drugstore...and not surprisingly, I was often unhappy with the results.  So I started investigating better quality makeup and skincare, because goodness knows I don't want to be spending that much money on a product that doesn't work for me.  And guess what?  Often, higher end makeup really is higher quality.  Who'd have thought?!  :) 
These are my current favorites.

I do wear a full face of makeup everyday, but all this plus some takes me less than ten minutes to apply.

1. Arbonne Makeup Primer: I have used several different makeup primers, and this is the best.  Its texture is completely different from other primers-it comes out like a gel and feels silky, and once it dries, your makeup will stay matte and not budge all day.

2.  Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer: I would have never bought eyeshadow primer on my own, but I got it as a free sample from Sephora, and it is amazing.  You know all the creasing and running your eye makeup can do, especially when it's hot?  Not with this on.

3.  Arbonne Perfecting Liquid Makeup: this is the best full coverage foundation I have ever used, and I have tried all the high end choices (MAC, YSL, Benefit, etc).  It starts off sheer but builds to full coverage easily.  People regularly tell me I have perfect skin (which I truly DO NOT) and that I'm lucky to not have to wear makeup (which I DO, everyday), and I completely credit this foundation.  I was first convinced to try it by Kate Bryan's review on The Small Things Blog.  She can and has tried any makeup she wants, so I trusted her recommendation.  And she was right, it is the best.

4. YSL Touche Eclat: This is a cult favorite for a reason.  Makes undereye circles completely disappear.  On the downside, it is insanely expensive, can't be used on blemishes, and it only lasted a few months (compared to other concealers I've used that last me literally years).  I'll try something else next, probably Arbonne's cream concealer.

5.  Make Up Forever HD Microfinish Powder: I have been having a hard time finding a setting powder that doesn't look chalky AND that really keeps my makeup matte all day.  This one isn't perfect, but it is the best I've found so far.  I'm going to keep looking.

6.  Nars Blush in Deep Throat: Nars blush is another cult favorite for a reason.  The colors are perfect, and the blush applies beautifully.  I also really like their blushes in The Multiple instead of powder, but those colors all had too much shimmer for me.  (If you are conservative, be aware that all their product names tend to be very dirty).

7.  Urban Decay Naked Palette: these palettes are great.  The color payoff is nice, all the color choices are neutrals to smokies, and it lasts forever.  I have my eye on Naked2, which contains more grays.

8.  Buxom Lash Mascara: I got a sample size of this from Sephora a few months ago, and I was immediately hooked.  Beautiful thick AND long eyelashes with just a few swipes.  No problems with clumps.  Done.

9.  Benefit Brow Zings: I fill in my eyebrows everyday.  It makes a huge difference in the appearance of my face, especially since my hair has been darker.  This little palette has brow powder on one side, and a setting wax on the other.  One of these lasts for years.

10.  Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray: I was introduced to this when I was a bridesmaid in an outdoor wedding in July.  You spray it on over your makeup, and it keeps you matte all day.  I don't use this all the time, especially if I've used primer, but it is a necessity in the summer.

11.  Dior Addict Lip Glow: I use this when I want a little something on my lips, but not a lot of color.  The texture is smooth and buttery, and it turns a nice shade of light pink that matches your complexion somehow (they say it has to do with pH).

12.  Revlon Colorburst Lip Butter: Sheer shades of lip color.  I have a few different colors, and they are easy to apply with one hand in the car.  :)

I use a few other things (like eyeliner) everyday, but I don't have any favorites, so I didn't list them.

(My choices do not reflect on other Arbonne products in any way-I haven't used every single product out there yet, especially for makeup, so my not mentioning it doesn't mean it's not great!  But I also won't suggest things to you that I don't truly use and love.  As I use even more for myself, I will update here with reviews).

Any of these would make a great Mother's Day gift too, for you last minute shoppers out there.  :)

Tell me about your favorites.  Does anyone have a concealer or powder they love?  Those are the two things that I am currently on the hunt for the perfect product...

(I am not an affiliate for Sephora or any of these brands, besides Arbonne.  I get nothing if you click on the links, I just truly like these products.  If you are interested in Arbonne products, contact me and I am happy to help you find those two or any others).

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Exciting News

No, I'm not pregnant.  :)

This is something I honestly thought I would never be saying.  Ever.  And I am scared to death, but I am also so excited to tell you guys that I am opening my own Arbonne business!



But WHY?!
I never ever thought that I would ever do any kind of sales.  I hate pressuring people and I hate trying to sell ANYTHING.  But I do I love to share things that I find that work for me, especially when I am shocked.  Here's how this all came about:

I started using Arbonne products about three years ago, after Henry was born.  I had a friend at church who had lost her baby weight with Arbonne protein powder and other nutritional products, and she looked amazing!  I am hypoglycemic, so I have to be very careful how I eat.  After asking her a ton of questions about the sugars and carbs in the powder, I took the plunge and ordered some for myself.  Not only did the protein shakes I made with it not bother my hypoglycemia, but I lost the 20 pounds that I had been trying to lose without success before!  (This is how I lost the weight after Griffin too, FYI).

Okay, so I liked two or three things.  No big deal.  I still wasn't interested in even hosting a party.  Because I don't do that, right?  Well.  As time passed, I tried and used more and more Arbonne products, including makeup, face wash, moisturizer....the list goes on.  And I truly loved every single one.  Guys, I am super particular.  I have tried all the high-end makeup and skin care brands.  And often, I liked the Arbonne product better. I was surprised, to say the least.  So I finally asked my friend Nikki to do a spa night for me at my house, so we could get a chance to try more products.  We had the best night laughing and getting facials, with no high pressure sales junk.  Just foot soaks and facials and wine.  That night, Nikki had us try the new Genius pads as part of our facials.  I liked them right away, but they are pretty pricey, so I didn't add them to my order.  By the time I woke up the next morning, my skin looked so incredible that I emailed her immediately and ordered.  And guess what?  That exact thing happened to three other girls at the party-we all emailed her the next morning to add them to our orders!


Similarly, we tried the Skin Conditioning Oil at the spa night.  My older daughters both struggle with cracked and bleeding hands.  We have tried everything, even prescriptions, to try to heal them.  I bought the Skin Conditioning Oil that night, and two applications later, my girls' hands weren't cracked anymore.  I know this sounds like no big deal, but we had tried EVERYTHING.  We have been trying to heal this for years.  Again, I was blown away.  Why had nobody told us about this?  (Well, the truth is, someone had.  I had just been resisting!)


In the meantime, over the years, I had watched Nikki's business grow incredibly.  She was earning great money and having FUN while still being able to keep her kids and her husband her main focus.  I have never been tempted to work since I quit seven years ago.  Not once.  I am completely happy being at home full-time and homeschooling.  But I truly believe Arbonne products are amazing, and not enough people have gotten the chance to try them.  (I had never even heard of Arbonne three years ago!)  I decided to become a consultant first and foremost because I think these are safe and excellent products-better than any others I've tried, and I want everyone to know it!  I love sharing things that work for me!  (That's one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place!)  Secondly, I saw what owning her own business had done for Nikki and some other girls I know.  I think this opportunity can change your family's life, without you having to go out and leave your kids.  I wouldn't have believed it, but I saw it happen again and again with my own eyes.  Most of you know that I went to law school, and I have the massive loans to show for it.  I want to free us from that debt and help my husband grow our farm!


I completely understand if you are skeptical.  I certainly was.  I HATE being sold stuff.  So it is a measure of how special Arbonne is that I have decided to sell it myself.

What exactly does all this mean for you guys?  Nothing, if you don't want it to.  I am still going to blog here like always, and I promise it's not going to become a sales pitch everyday.  I will mention to you when I think certain products are amazing or special, but that's it.  If you are interested in anything Arbonne, email me and I will get you set up with samples or an order.  (Arbonne has a great 45 day money back guarantee-try anything for 45 days).  If you would like to host your own small spa night with facials, let me know-I would LOVE to come help you!  We had such a great time when I did mine here.  If you are interested in building your own business as a consultant, I would love to talk to you about that too.  Feel free to share this post or my contact info to spread the word!  (You can also order online here: Arbonne.  You will need to enter my consultant number, which is: 14882635)

Thanks for listening friends.  This is something new for me, and I am so grateful for your support.


Arbonne info: all products are vegan, gluten-free, mineral oil-free, and artificial fragrance and color-free.  Their tag line is "pure, safe, and beneficial", and they take that very seriously.  If you have any questions about ingredients, feel free to contact me.

Mothering, and Mother's Day

Two classic reposts, for any new readers:

Teach Me to Number My Days

and on Mother's Day:

On Expectations

Thank you for being here and sharing!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Helllloooooooo.....

Easter 2014

So.  Let's pretend I didn't just take a yearlong break from blogging, shall we?  :)  For all of you wondering out there, Baby #5 seems to be the place where things start falling off the proverbial plate.  There have been so many things I want to talk to you about, and I wrote posts over and over....in my head.  While I was walking a cranky baby.  Or listening to a beginning reader (for the love!).  Or folding laundry (someone asked me the other day: "Did you know that five kids come with a lot of laundry?"  Um, no.  I never noticed.  And they're expensive too you say?  Huh.  Sidenote: I love people).  Anyway, incredibly, posts written in my head never make it you here.  Strange.  :)

Quick update on us:

Olivia turns 9 in June.  Amelia turns 7 this month.  Charlotte is 5.  Henry is 3.  And Griffin is 17 months.  Seth and I are as young as we'll ever be.

We are still farming with Seth's family, which is an amazing blessing and a huge challenge.  We adore living close to my in-laws and Seth loves working with his dad.  Farming is his/our dream, and we are so grateful to have the opportunity to do it with people we love and respect.  Having family that we see everyday is such a gift, for us and the kids.  I didn't grow up around extended family, and I am constantly surprised how much I love it.


 Farming is still a big challenge to both of us too.  The spring and fall bring long, long, long hours 7 days a week for Seth, and so no Daddy at home for us.  Seth has worked really hard to learn to balance a big family and the demands of farming.  The kids and I are still working on rising to the occasion.  :)  The hours around bedtime can get a little hairy.  And honestly?  I just plain miss my husband sometimes.  On the other hand, I have really seen my kids pull together to make our house run better, serve their siblings, and learn that they can work through days that seem rough.

We are also still homeschooling.  Olivia is in 3rd grade this year, Amelia in 1st, and Charlotte Pre-K4.  Henry and Griffin mostly just destroy the house, er, play during school-time.  We joined a Classical Conversations group this year, and it was a great decision.  I am constantly amazed at what they are learning. CC pushed the kids much further academically than I ever would have, and the girls LOVED it.  Our community has been so giving and welcoming to us.  If you're thinking about joining CC and on the fence, I highly encourage you to try it.  I thought about it for almost three years before we joined, and I so wish I had done it sooner!

Olivia, 8
Olivia is still into horses and riding, and reading.  She learned to sew this year, and she is constantly turning out projects.

Amelia, 6
Amelia is definitely our animal girl-she enjoys anything to do with animals, dead or alive.  :)  She still loves zebras and the color orange.

Charlotte, 5
Charlotte continues to be our firecracker.  She learning to read, and loves ballet class and doing whatever her sisters do.  All three girls are going to be in the ballet The Enchanted Attic with our local studio later this month.

Henry, 3
Henry is absolutely obsessed with tractors and trucks.  Since he was a tiny thing, he has loved spending the day with Seth at the farm.  People always ask if we encouraged him, but I truly believe it's genetic.  Our playroom has turned from pink and dolls to green and John Deere.

Griffin, 1

Baby Griffin has been walking for quite awhile now, and so has progressed to climbing anything and everything.  He chases after his siblings and loves to be outside.  Not really talking yet (perhaps because of the four other children who never stop!)  He is wearing me out...I had forgotten how busy the toddler boy stage is!
Seth has continued to experiment with smoking meats and making bbq.  The farm entered a local bbq contest last summer and took home some awards...his stuff is GOOD ya'll.   I started running again last year and ran a half marathon last November.  This is the longest I haven't been pregnant since 2004 (yes, seriously), and I'm started to almost feel like myself again.  (A much busier, crazier self, but still...)

Christmas Crazy, 2013

I *think* I've hit all the major points from the past year, but I could never really explain what life is like around here.  I feel so, so lucky.  I truly don't know why I have been so blessed with this life and these babies.  At the same time, both motherhood and farming are very stretching experiences for me, and I am operating outside my comfort zone about 100% of the time.  Some days feel really hard, but there is so much joy here.  I am grateful.