A Few Of My Favorite Books

Booksphoto:Shutterhacks
I love, I mean LOVE to read good books. I am obsessed with educational books (non-fiction) I will devour any and all subject matter.  My husband laughs at me because if I am reading a really good book I literally can not put it down, I have to finish it in record time.  I love to learn new ways to eat, parent, stay healthy, care for my family, organize, etc…  Sometimes it is hard to decide what books are worth spending my precious time on though.  I thought a list of some of my favorite books for us Natural Moms would be helpful!  I have the two most important subjects, to me, below, Marriage and Parenting, without a good foundation in these two areas of my life the rest doesn’t really go well anyways.

Parenting

If you had all the free time in the world I still don’t think you would have time to read half of the parenting books that are available!  Everyone has an idea about how to raise your kid.  I remember when I was pregnant with my first (and had free time because I had no other kids) I read dozens of parenting books!  Yikes! I was so confused by the time he was born, I felt like I was always doing something wrong and I was for sure he was going to turn in to an axe murderer if I didn’t follow all the rules from the books.  Luckily he has turned out to be a great kid and at the age of 14 he is not an axe murderer!  I did not follow all the rules from those books, but I did take some good ideas and they helped me out over the last 14 years, raising all my kiddos.

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two, Sears

The Five Love Languages (for kids), Chapman

Parenting With Love and Logic, Cline/Fay

Marriage

Marriage can be a difficult thing to navigate if you don’t have good role models to follow.  My Husband’s parents and my parents are both divorced and we did not want to follow down that path.  Since over 50% of marriages end in divorce we knew we would need some good information to prevent being part of that statistic.  We personally rely on God for our guidance so some of these books do have a biblical basis, but even if you are not a Christian these books have great information!

Intended for Pleasure, Wheat

Love Life for Every Married Couple, Wheat

Personality Plus for Couples,Littauer

Like I said I have oodles of favorite books, these are just a few of them!  It is so hard to only pick a few because I usually take a little something from each book (and forget the stuff that doesn’t mesh well with me) but the books here are chuck full of goodies so that is why they made the top of the list!

Tell me what your favorites are………..

Top 10 Things To Do Before Summer Ends!

Summer in Redgranite

Ok so it’s already August……..which means Summer is coming to a close (hear me crying and my children yelling NOOOOOOO!) The Summer has gone by extremely fast again this year -we still have a few things that we NEED to do.  If you feel the same way feel free to add to my list of the

Top 10 Things To Do Before Summer Ends!

1. Go to the beach (depending on where you live this could be a lake or ocean) for us it is Lake Michigan.  We have been to the lake only once this year, but that is not enough….I love the feel of the sand on my feet and that sound it makes when I walk across it.

2.  Have a picnic in the park.  This is a necessary activity for Summer and we have not done one yet.  I want a REAL picnic too, with sandwiches, lemonade and a cute little checkered table-cloth!

3.  Feed the ducks at the pond.  This one can be done at the same time as the picnic at the park!

4.  Play in the sprinkler.  Now the kids have done this all Summer long but I have yet to get out there and have some FUN!!!!

5.  Stop and smell the roses.  This can literally be the roses or any other flower you like.  I have been so worried about weeding, feeding and plucking the flowers I have forgotten to actually enjoy them.  Get down and smell them, cut some and bring them inside.

6. Go fly a kite.  I need to get out the kites and bring them to the beach with us.  Flying a kite is so relaxing and fun!

7. Go to a drive in movie.  We don’t have a drive in theatre near us so this one is going to be tough.  But if you have one accessible PLEASE go!!!  We stayed up in Traverse City a few years ago and went to the drive in 3 times while we were there and the kids still talk about how fun it was.

8.  Go Canoeing.  Now I am not doing this one this Summer because I am 8 months prego, but the Hubby and kids want to get to the river sometime soon and go.

9.  Go camping.  Well we actually did this earlier this Summer (yes I tent camped while 8 months pregnant!)  I do not enjoy tent camping at all so I am hoping to go camping in a cabin before the end of the summer (one with a bathroom).  The minimalist lifestyle is appealing to me and camping is as close as you can get 🙂

10.  Find fun shapes in the clouds! I do this sometimes in the car, when we are bored, but to get the real Summertime joy you have to lay in your lawn on a nice day!

Well those are my top 10 things I still need to do before Summer ends….what are yours?

Healthy Homemade Lemonade

photo:pink.polka

I LOVE lemonade, especially homemade!  The only problem is it is normally full of sugar.  So I searched out a lemonade recipe with less sugar, but good taste.  This is our current favorite:

Healthy Homemade Lemonade
Author: 
 
Healthy Homemade Lemonade
Ingredients
  • 4 lemons, sliced (or 8 Tablespoons of lemon juice)
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 4 cups of water
Method of Preparation
  1. Boil the water
  2. Put the lemons and honey in a pitcher
  3. Pour the boiling water in the pitcher
  4. Let steep at least 10 minutes, then refrigerate to enjoy!

 

Do you make homemade lemonade? Let us know if you change this recipe up at all!

Also, check out the “whey”monade recipe from Donielle- a healthy lemonade drink that contains some protein, minerals, and even probiotics!

How to Prepare for the Upcoming Homeschool Year

photo:cybrgrl

If you are a Homeschool Mom you know that there is ALWAYS something to be working on, preparing for, planning out, studying up on, buying, etc….

I thought it would help if I laid out a short version of my yearly schedule so those who are new to homeschooling, thinking about homeschooling or are curious about homeschooling could see what our family does throughout the year.  I am trying to draw your attention to the summer months, when most “teachers” take time off, us homeschool teachers need to be using that down time to the best of our ability!  I am by no means saying this is the only way or even the best way to lay out your time and efforts but this is one way (our way) and we have adjusted and tweaked it every year.

In September we start our fall schedule. I sit down with each kid and we do a goal session, this is where they tell me what they want to learn that year and I tell them what I want them to focus on.  My goals are sometimes things like “I would like you to be getting all spelling words correct by the second time testing them” or ” I would like you to be half way through your math book by March”.  The kids goals usually will focus around extras, like “I want to do more hands on science projects” or ” I want to learn about horses”.

We then make a schedule based on each of our goals.  For example my Son was wanting more video game time (he only gets 60 minutes a day) and I was wanting him to work on writing skills outside of his already wonderful story writing.  So we incorporated some video game reviews, he got an extra 60 minutes of game time each day but he also had to do a comprehensive video game review for us–it was a win, win situation.  He got extra video game time, he worked on his typing skills and he realized how difficult it is to be critical, yet fair.

Our fall schedules always include reading, writing and math, anything more than that is up for negotiation.  If you would like to see a sample of my children’s schedule you may send me a message and I will email it to you (it is quite lengthy). My children also do a homeschool co-op once a week, this starts in the fall.

In January we re-evaluate our schedule. This is usually quick and painless.  The kids will let me know if there is anything they are not liking or learning from and we will adjust it.  This is also time for me to make sure we are on track, time wise, and if not we will add, subtract or swap some subjects each day.  For instance, my Son decided that the video game reviews were not nearly as fun as he was expecting, so we decided to switch to doing a blog, he LOVES it and has had a great time updating it and keeping friends and family in the loop of his teenage life, and he is still working on his typing skills and creative writing skills.

In May we usually adjust our schedule to a modified summer schedule. This schedule usually includes anything we didn’t wrap up over the Fall and Winter and anything the kids need to focus on.  For example my oldest is doing  just his pre-algebra this summer because I want all his attention focused on that, as well as mine :-).  My daughter is reviewing her multiplication facts every day for 30 minutes, because I really think that multiplication facts are something that need to be used daily or you forget them!  The end of the year is usually when we look back and make sure we met our goals, if we did, that is GREAT, if we didn’t, we figure out why.  I also like to go through all my curriculum at this time and decide if I am going to keep, sell or toss it.  I like to be able to use the same curriculum for more than one child but all my kiddos have different personalities, priorities and learning styles…so that is not always an option!

photo:CourtneyDirks

Throughout the summer I am using my free time to do a plethora of things:

*look up reviews on curriculum I am considering, my favorite sites are:  homeschoolreviews.com, homeschool-curriculum.org, homeschooling.gomilpitas.com and many more!  Talking with other homeschooling Moms helps too!

*Buy new curriculum.  This part is so fun!  It is like Christmas.  Some of my favorite places to find used curriculum is at homeschool curriculum sales, these are advertised through various means but a good way to stay in the loop locally is to sign up for The Homeschool Building’s email updates, they send out regular emails with activities and events.  I also check Amazon, Ebay and Craigslist for some good deals.

*Research extra curricular activities, camps and classes for the upcoming summer and fall.  Like I mentioned before my kids take part in a homeschooling co-op once a week so I make sure to pick out the schedule for the next year and sign up for the classes we want before they are full.  My kids always want to do an acting camp at The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, so I make sure to figure out good dates for that and sign them up.  I also check around for other educational yet fun camps that may work in the schedule.  Some of my favorites are: The Blandford Nature CenterThe Grand Rapids Public Museum and Kendall College of Art and Design.

*I try to start a list of field trips I would like to do over the upcoming year.  I don’t ever get to all the field trips I want to do but if I have a list then at least if we have a free day I can go to the list quickly and have a place in mind.  Some of the activities are seasonal too, so I make sure to note that (such as Christmas around the world at the Fredrick Meijer Gardens).  Some of my favorite field trips are: Impressions 5 Science Center (Lansing MI), The Blandford Nature Center (Grand Rapids MI), The MSU dairy farm (Lansing MI), Fredrick Meijer Gardens (Grand Rapids MI) as well as local high school band concerts and plays.

*I try to scour garage sales looking for education tools, toys, videos and books that I can use!  Lots of people who don’t homeschool will buy their kids educational products in hopes that they will use them and then they end up in the garage sale for a great deal.  My favorites are flash cards, books, art supplies, and Magic School Bus videos (I love Ms. Frizzle)!

*Read, read, read books on homeschooling.  I have favorites that I re-read, my top three picks are: 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, Homeschooling for Dummies and The Homeschoolers Book of Lists.  I also will read any new books and magazines that the library has, if I decide I love it then I will try to find it used online and buy it for my ever expanding library!

*I look at the chore chart and re-evaluate what each child does and can do.  I may add chores, switch chores or change days.  As the kids get older they can take on new, more difficult chores but they also have less free time because of harder school work and more extra curricular activities, so all of that has to be taken in to account.  In our family chores are a part of school because it is training for real life!

*This year I added looking for volunteering opportunities to my TO DO list for Summer.  I have been looking for ways my kids can learn new skills, work with others and get some time with other authority figures.  My Son has fallen in love with volunteering at The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, he is helping out with the campers and doing some light and sound work!  Another great place for younger kids to volunteer is The Humane Society.

*I like to take extra time in the summer to pray about my kid’s future and ask God to lead me in the right path.  I want their time with me to be enjoyable and educational and that is a hard balance that I need God’s divine intervention with!

FYI: This is my 5th year homeschooling, my oldest Son is 13, my Daughter is 10 and I have a 2 year old Son and one on the way.

So homeschooling Moms tell me what you do over the summer to prepare for the upcoming year…………

Preparing for a Hospital Birth

Hospital

photo by Frenkieb

Hospitals can seem scary at times, but when going there to give birth it should feel like a safe place.  You have to be prepared to make a hospital birth an enjoyable, relaxed time.

Your first step is choosing a hospital for your birth.  Most labor and delivery areas in the hospital will offer free guided tours, to tell parents-to-be all about their hospital.  We made sure to go to the two hospitals in our area to decide which one fit our wants and needs.  Make sure to ask questions, bring a list with you!  Some questions could be:  Can I have my older children in the room with me?   Can I eat and drink what I want during labor?   How often will I have to be hooked up to a monitor?  Do you have a shower or tub in the room?

A birth plan is a necessary item to write-up before you go in labor!  You certainly don’t want to be making big decisions like, if you are getting an epidural, while in the heat of labor!  Most woman who are in labor are not making logical, well thought out decisions while going through the worst pain of their life, I know I wasn’t.  Please don’t try to leave it up to your poor husband either because he is going to agree to anything at that point because he is worried about you.  So a little planning will do you good.  The site www.birthplan.com has an interactive birth plan available you can fill it in and print it out.  There are a lot of other sites available too, my midwife gave me a copy of one to fill in and I have a pregnancy book that had one in the back to fill out.  So no excuses to be unprepared!

Decide on who is going to be with you at the hospital.  Please be picky on this decision.  Do not invite your Mother in law just because she wants to be there!!!  This is your time and you need it to be peaceful, quite and calm.  I vividly remember my Mom and Grandmother chatting away while watching soap operas during my first birth.  I got them out of there quickly and no one has been invited to a birth since!  I realized I personally need my husband and that is it.  If you think you will need help besides your husband make sure you make it clear to the person ahead of time what you will need them to do…example: take pictures, rub your back, get you water, etc…  You can always just hire a doula, they are there to help you and have been to enough births to know what works and doesn’t work.

The bag, it is on every show and movie, when a woman is going in to labor she shouts “Honey grab the bag, it’s time”.  Well what do we need in the bag?  Every woman is going to be a little different but here is a generic list I got from www.babynurseryrooms.com of some good items to bring with you to the hospital.

Items for Birth:

  • For You – nursing pillow, nursing bra, breast pads, non-slip socks, sanitary pads, stop watch (or watch with a second-hand), water bottle, snacks, dressing gown
  • For Your Partner – Comfortable clothes, glasses or contacts (in case you run out in a hurry), camera and a list of family and friends he is supposed to call

Items for Post-Labor

  • For You – Change of clothes, toiletries, lotion, nipple cream, your baby’s going-home outfit, snacks
  • For Your Partner – Camera (a must-have now), change of clothes, toiletries, car seat

Of course, there may be other things you’ll want to bring along with you—like ear plugs, nursing gowns, or other comfort items.

The site  babycenter.com has a very thorough list of what to bring to the hospital, as well as a recent post here on NLM on Birthing: What to Bring to the Hospital.

After all the planning for the birth make sure you relax and realize not all goes as planned and as long as you are healthy and birth your sweet bundle of joy it was a success!

 

How did you plan for an enjoyable and relaxing hospital birth?

Father’s Day Ideas, part one

photo credit: the cocoacakery

As a Daughter, Granddaughter and Wife I feel like I have a big responsibility with Father’s Day right around the corner.  I just bought, signed and stamped 7 Father’s Day cards (I am trying to plan ahead this year).  Now I have to decide which special guy do I celebrate this year, my loving Husband, my wonderful Dad or my sweet old Grandpa.  I am so over the “go out to eat” gig, I want to do something special.  So I set out on a search for something that will make the special men in my life feel as important as they should.

Here are my ideas.

  • Golfing, every guy loves golf right?  Well my Husband does and he would LOVE for us all to go golfing together.
  • Letters for Grandpa, I think it would be awesome for each child and grandchild to write a letter to Grandpa and we can present them in a nice folder or binder.
  • Game night, since guys tend to be gamers, we could invite over all the special guys and do a night of poker, apples to apples, guitar hero, or whatever their favorites are.
  • Craig’s Cruisers, this is an idea from my 13-year-old Son, but it is a good one. My Husband loves to drive the go carts and play laser tag.
  • Baseball game, going to a game is a very manly thing to do, and something I personally would never want to do, so it shows I really love them if we go!
  • DIY gifts, all parents and grandparents love gifts made by hand, so have your crafty kids make a baseball paperweight, a cool key chain or a bedazzled tool belt!

 

A couple of things going on locally in the Grand Rapids area  on Father’s Day weekend are:

The Walker festival is a fun, family friendly event and very friendly to your wallet as well.   Walker Festival

Field of Green festival is a fun event at the Blandford nature center, one of my favorite places! Field of Green Festival

All day with the arts, for only $3 at the GRAM – A day with the arts

The West Michigan Chalk Art Festival looks like it will be loads of fun for all! Chalk Festival

Here is the baseball game I was talking about, go support the Whitecaps.  Whitecaps game

All Dads get in free to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, can’t beat free.  Childrens Museum

 

So make sure you treat your special guy to something a little different this year. What do you have planned so far?

Sleeping like a baby

You would think that sleeping would be easy for us Moms, we are exhausted from all our duties all day, we should be able to fall in to a coma-like state at night.  I wish that was the case, but it seems that all those Motherly duties are what keep us from getting a good nights sleep.

It typically goes like this…Mom gets awaken at 6:00 am  by a sweet toddlers request for a drink, she goes and brews herself a pot of coffee and grabs a quick snack, she starts the rat race of making breakfast for the kids, cleaning up, running errands, planning the upcoming Birthday party, dropping kids off at school, picking kids up from school, dinner time, more cleaning up, trying to stay awake so she grabs another cup of coffee, soccer practice for the oldest, playdate for the others, bedtime routine and then attempting to sit and watch a show with her husband………..whew I am exhausted just thinking about it.

That coffee, the lack of exercise, lack of quiet time, worrying about upcoming activities and the late night T.V. all are adding to the inability to sleep for us Moms.  Add to that being pregnant and where does that leave us….TIRED!!!

I know that the first trimester of pregnancy most of us are probably able to sleep well and even take some naps (or at least want to) our bodies are forcing us to slow down and sleep.  Then the second trimester our belly starts growing and we start to feel uncomfortable in our favorite sleeping positions, we have to get up every couple hours to pee and our minds start racing about EVERYTHING.  By the third trimester your hot one minute, cold the next, your baby is kicking you all night long and you can’t stop thinking about the baby that is about to join your family and all the things you need to do before the arrival. I remember towards the end of my last pregnancy I asked if it was possible to die from lack of sleep!  I would routinely wake at 4:00 am and not be able to get back to sleep, I hated it.  Not being able to sleep when you are soooooo tired is very hard, physically and emotionally.

So what to do?

I have a few tip’s but I would also  really like to hear from all of you Moms on how you make sure to get your beauty sleep.

1. Limit caffeine, best to eliminate it because it is a cycle of too tired to function so you must have caffeine, which in turn gives you restless sleep…GRRRRRR

2. Have a bedtime routine, yes you have one for your kids but do you have one for yourself?  It can be an hour-long or 5 minutes long, just get your body prepared for sleep.  A good quick one would be, put your PJs on, rub your feet down with lotion, wash your face, brush your teeth, read for a bit, say a prayer, good night!

3. Try to get in some high energy activity, such as a walk or hard gardening, as well as a quiet time activity, such as prayer or yoga.

4. Put a notebook beside your bed, I have to do this one because my brain does not like to shut off!  This way if you wake up thinking of something you jot it down and can go back to sleep, you don’t lay there thinking about it for an hour.

5. When pregnant I make sure to load my bed with extra pillows, so when I get uncomfortable I have something to help make me comfortable!

6. Keep the room cool, especially when pregnant, I get so ornery when I wake up and am sweating to death, I freak out and start throwing blankets and huffing and puffing and work myself up so that I can’t get back to sleep.  So I have started just wearing a tank and undies to bed, as well as using the fan!

Sleep is such and essential part of life but us Moms usually will put sleep on the bottom of our list.  We need to make it a priority.  A well rested Momma is a good Momma!

Now, give me your ideas for better sleep!!!!

Bring on the Heat…

Photo:paulotavio

It is May which means summer is around the corner, with it will come the hot, hot sun!  That heat can make for some miserable days for us pregnant ladies!

All of my pregnancies have brought me through the summer (my daugter was June and all 3 boys are September). I vividly remember, 13 years ago, when I was pregnant with my oldest, I worked part-time at a Hallmark store.  The store was air conditioned, unlike my house, so I would volunteer to work extra hours and I would come in early and stay late, just to bask in the coolness of the air.  Us pregnant ladies will go to extreme measures to stay cool!

I have compiled a list of ideas from real live Moms who have been through hot and sweaty summers…

  • Turn on the air and relax
  • Sit in front of the fan and drink some ice water
  • Get in the kiddy pool with the kids
  • Run through the sprinkler
  • Go to the mall and enjoy the air conditioning they pay for
  • Take a cool shower
  • Eat a box of popcicles
  • Go to Lake Michigan and jump in
  • Invite yourself over to a friend’s house, who has air
  • Put cold compresses on your neck, in between your legs and behind your knees
  • Drink a tall glass of lemonade

When pregnant the risk for getting too hot is higher and more dangerous, so make sure to take caution. Some warning signs that you are getting too hot include: sweating, nausea and thirst.  If these symptoms progress to include: confusion, fainting and rapid pulse you need medical attention immediately!

I always took refuge in the fact that even though I had to live through my third trimester in the heat of the summer, I was going to have a fall baby.  Which meant lovely weather for me and baby to snuggle on the porch swing, with out the worry of my sweet bundle getting too warm.

What did you do to stay cool in the hot summer sun while pregnant?

Exercise While Gestating

We all know that exercise is good for us.  We have been preached to by our high school gym teacher, our Grandmother and our fitness crazed friend.  We have been told to exercise at least 30 minutes, at least 3 times a week. OK, got it. Then we get pregnant and we FREAK out and worry that we should cease all movement because it might be bad for the baby.  Well, once pregnant there are plenty of things to freak out about, but exercise is not one of them!

Exercise guidelines while pregnant are pretty simple.  If you did the activity prior to pregnancy you can most likely continue safely, while pregnant, unless of course you were a MMA fighter, horse back rider or in the roller derby league!  Contact sports are a no-no, you don’t want an elbow to the belly and any activity where you might fall you will want to stay away from.

As far as how often you should exercise while pregnant, the guidelines are pretty much the same, 30 minutes, at least 3 times a week.  I know for myself it was very difficult to exercise much my first trimester because I was so tired and just the thought of moving around made me want to vomit (literally).  So listen to your body it will tell you if you are working too hard.  A good test to make sure you are working in the right “zone” is the talk test.  If you are able to carry on a conversation with someone then you are working at a very low-level, if you have to take a deep breath every few words you are working at a very high level, and if you are able to say a sentence but need to take a couple of breaths between each, you are working at a good, ideal pace.

My favorite exercises while pregnant are:  prenatal yoga (I have some videos I use), walking, light weight lifting (while watching T.V.) and anything in the water (it makes you feel light as air).

If you were not an exerciser before becoming pregnant don’t worry you can still reap the benefits.  Start slow, with something like walking or water aerobics, and work up to more difficult things that you would like to try.

Remember you are about to embark on your bodies version of a marathon–BIRTH!  It will be much easier if you did some training.

 

*All of the information I have given is for low risk pregnancies.  For more in-depth information regarding exercise safety during pregnancy read this webmd article on pregnancy and talk with your health care provider.

Yummy Fruit Sorbet

Strawberry Sorbet

photo credit: clairity

 

I went over to a dear friend’s house for a cook out a couple of weeks ago and she made me realize that healthy and homemade can be easy and tasty!

She had me chopping sweet potatoes for fries, had the guys making hamburger patties and then she went downstairs and brought up some of the applesauce she canned herself (which was so good I wanted to sneak it in my bag and bring it home).  Then to top it all off, after we ate this wonderful home cooked meal, she made this strawberry sorbet.  It was healthy, tasty and the perfect dessert to eat to get in the mood for summer!

I got the recipe for my own selfish reasons but wanted to share with all of you lovely folks as well.

My friend made sure to let me know “I’ve made it using limes, strawberries, peaches, raspberries, blueberries, and lemons.  All so stinking good!  Be warned though, the blueberries leave you looking like you haven’t brushed in a week!”

Fruit Sorbet

Ingredients
2 cups frozen fruit
1/2 c milk/plain yogurt/cream/half&half/any dairy product or substitute
1/4 c sugar or to taste per fruit used (honey can be used as well)
a few Tbsp of water

 

Method of Preparation
Blend. Add water as needed for blending and consistency. Serve Immediately.
*this post is linked to Real Food Wednesday