Blogging Break Over … Welcome Summer!

red white blue flag and flowers

After blogging for the last five years – it has been a nice break over the past few months! Break is over and I am back to blogging about our homeschool life, ballet, baseball, recipes, and craft projects!

Our summer is packed with dancing and baseball … next week the girls begin a three week summer intensive and Devin continues with his travel team tournaments.

We are always so excited for summer to arrive and school books to be put away but, it seems like in an instant the break is over and we are back to school. In years past we have done a summer buck list but, with the kids so much older now and their schedules so busy – we don’t feel there is a need. In the rare instance a child murmurs the words “I’m bored” – there is always summer reading or a chore to be done.

The girls do have a project we will be blogging about … they are redecorating their bedroom. We are doing this on a small budget, so we have been picking up pieces as we find them and are preparing to sell a loft bed, twin bed, and a changing table/cabinet (that was purchased from a high-end French-Canadian furniture manufacture and will hopefully bring in some good money when we sell). Stay tuned for the “before-after” project shots as we work on this fun re-do.

What are your plans this summer?

A New Year … and a new semester.

THE BEST THINGAVAILABLEDoesn’t it seem like you blink and the Christmas season is over? All too soon it is back to the everyday …

January can be a hard month for homeschoolers. There is always so much to look forward to in the Fall when it is back to school – football games, fall leaves, and holidays. Many times when we head back in January, and look ahead to that long stretch of Winter, it can just all seem so monotonous.

One way to combat the post-holiday back to school blues – plan some fun activities. Get together with friends for lunch, get a field trip on the calendar, try out a new sport – like indoor rock climbing. Just get out and away from the house!

Or, if the weather has you stuck at home – change up your homeschool day. Do school by the fire, have a day y’all stay in your jammies, find some great History documentaries on Netflix and pop some popcorn.

January is also a good month to start thinking about your plans for next year. Many hybrid homeschool programs and enrichment classes begin enrolling for the next school year in February. Give yourself some time to think about what has worked so far this year and any changes you might want to make. And, while your at it … set some goals to help you finish out this school year strong! A great way to do that is to set some SMART goals –

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Time-Based

SMART Goals Sheet

One goal my daughter, Ava Mae, has set (see her sheet above) is to memorize the whole timeline for Classical Conversations (the on campus program we do on Wednesdays). The timeline is long (encompassing Creation to Present Day) … it takes about 15 minutes for her to say it all and that is talking fast. So we set this specific goal – it is easily measurable – definitely achievable (she has been working on it since last year) – most certainly realistic for a student her age – and time based (she wants to have it memorized by the end of our Classical Conversations school year – the first week of April). Do you or your children have any goals for this 2nd semester? I know it also helps to have some sort of reward for those who attain their SMART goal.

And, I have a made this SMART goal sheet we have for our homeschool a FREE PDF download for you … just CLICK HERE. Because, I do not like printables that drain all of my color print cartridge I kept it simple but, as you can see above, your kids can easily decorate the sheet. Then find a place in your homeschool to pin it up … it is a great reminder of the goal they are working toward and the reward at the end.

Hoping your 2015 is off to a great start! What SMART goals have you set for your homeschool?

Our Family’s Celebration of Advent

Our Family's Celebration of Advent “Let every heart prepare him room …” that is what the Advent season is truly about. So many times we get caught up in all the flurry of activity and fun this season brings that we can forget what our focus must remain on.

For many years, I felt like I had to put something on the calendar every single day of December for our family to enjoy the Christmas season. While those crafts, baking projects, and outings were fun … they were not without stress and the craziness of trying to check off each activity I thought we had to complete (and that was before Pinterest).

In years past, by the time Christmas day rolled around I was over the season … over Advent … over trying to make the holiday perfect. Last year I rethought the way we handled Advent … kind of a less is more attitude.

We still decorate, bake, and perform Random Acts of Christmas Kindness but, we do so in a much more laid back fashion. No set schedule or calendars for events … no blogging every day our activities.

December 2014 - Advent Blog Post 2

The only absolute is our nightly Advent reading from “Tabitha’s Travels” (our 3rd book in the series) and, each Sunday, we look forward to lighting a new candle on our simplified Advent wreath.

Screenshot 2014-12-02 at 9.28.36 PM

I suggested a possible change in Advent readings this year but, our children absolutely love this series we have been reading from for the past two years.

December 2014 - Advent Blog Post 5

And, yes, I am sure our Elf on the Shelf will soon make an appearance, and our calendar is filling up with fun outings but, my overall focus has changed – instead of looking to fill every minute of the day with something there is more focus on togetherness as a family and time to truly allow our hearts to prepare him room. Our goal is to draw closer to Him and to our family each day this Advent season.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given … ” Isaiah 9:6

A Quick Fix for Bunhead Hair : Lilla Rose Product Review

November 2014 - Lilla Rose - Blog Post 1My 12 year old daughter has “bunhead” hair … her hair is either in a bun or just ripped out of a bun 6 days a week. The life of a ballerina …

We are always looking for quick fixes for her hair … tired of the same old ponytail, we jumped at the chance to try out Lilla Rose. Lexi has very thick and very long hair – not an easy combination when it comes to fixing your hair quickly. While washing, blow drying, and flat ironing is the look she prefers when she is going somewhere nice – it is not feasible every day of the week. Most days by early afternoon she is heading to dance. You can see why our ponytail was the style of choice.

I was skeptical at first that Lilla Rose’s clips would hold Lexi’s hair but, after trying our first updo with the clip, we were sold! Not only does the clip hold all of Lexi’s hair it is easy to use and does not snag and pull at her hair. The hair clips have no sharp hinges, which is a huge plus! We have loved playing around with all the different styles you can easily get with this simple clip.

November 2014 - Lilla Rose - Blog Post 4

So easy to use … even my 10 year old picked up the in’s and out’s of using the Lilla Rose Flexi Clip in just a few minutes. And there are so many great clip designs to pick from – my girls have already gone through the site and found at least a half dozen they would love to have.

November 2014 - Lilla Rose - Blog Post 3

This review was requested by Lilla Rose Independent Consultant, Laurie Martin. You can contact her directly on her website, and she can give you more information and help you pick out a great fit for yourself, family, or friends! Right now, she is running an awesome special for new US customers … buy 3 get 1 free! That is a $16 value. So head on over and pick up these great gifts or stocking stuffers for Christmas!!

November 2014 - Lilla Rose - Blog Post 2

I was provided a free Lilla Rose Flexi Clip in exchange for my honest review of the product – no other compensation was provided.

30 Days Until Christmas – a plan for the holiday season

30 Days Until Christmas I know many of my friends probably laugh when I start counting down the days and planning for Christmas 100 days out but, for me it makes the Christmas season so much easier. It allows our family to really focus on the true meaning of the season when all the busy work (ordering Christmas cards, gathering gift ideas, shopping) has been done!

I have used the 100 Days to Christmas eBook for several years … I love all the planning lists. One of my biggest problems in the past with doing things in September or October was forgetting what I had finished or what still needed attention. One year I bought several gifts in September from American Girl for my daughter, during a great sale. I hid them as soon as the boxes came in … unfortunately, I hid them too well. Two days before Christmas I was still searching closets and attic spaces trying to figure out where I had stuffed them. And, those were big boxes … don’t even get me started on stocking stuffers I pick up for the months leading up the Christmas. Having a binder with all my “to do’s” has been a life saver. I even have a place on my “Gifts” checklist that I write where I placed the item – no more digging through closets trying to find my awesome hiding spots!

30 Days to Christmas

So, I have great news … for those of you who like to wait until around Thanksgiving to even think about Christmas there is a great new resource from the same people who made 100 Days to Christmas and recently I had the opportunity to preview a copy of 30 Days to Christmas – the Procrastinator’s Guide. Just like the 100 Days to Christmas eBook, this book is full of checklists and ideas to make your Christmas season stress free!

Just click on the book above and take a look! Look forward to counting down those 30 days to Christmas! What’s a tip you have for Christmas planning?

The Thankful Chain {counting our blessings}

We love the ever popular “Thankful Tree” but, a “Thankful Chain” can be a great way to really visualize the amount of blessings you and your family have. How fun to see your blessings grow longer and longer as the days lead up to Thanksgiving!

The Thankful Chain is so easy to make … just cut strips of cardstock and either hand write or stamp Counting my Blessings. Place those slips of paper in a jar and have everyone grab one each day and fill out something they are thankful for. Each night I add those links to our “Thankful Chain”. 

On Thanksgiving use that Thankful Chain as part of your decor and let your guests read all that you are thankful for – encourage them to add their own thankful loops to the chain! Our family has so much to be thankful for {God, a roof over our head, food on the table, nice clothes to wear, family and friends, each other, our pets, gifts and talents that God has given us}!!

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.

Psalm 100:4

Happy Thanksgiving … what are you thankful for this year?

A Year Later {the aftermath of a failed adoption}

One year ago I stood in an orphanage in Latvia, with my husband, and said “good-bye”.

Good-bye to a child we thought would become our daughter.

We had found this child on an orphan hosting website almost one year to the day.

And, just a few months before, that very orphanage had been the site of a joyous reunion with this child.

I remember saying good-bye … not being able to hold back tears, feeling like the room was closing in on me, and not being able to breathe. “Why God” is all I could say.

This last year has been a roller coaster of emotion … you do not come out of a failed adoption and ever go back to “normal”.

There are days I wished we would have found Miranda at a younger age – when the government would not have allowed her to just say “no” to adoption and be able to return to Latvia before we finalized.

And, as we almost knew would happen just a few short days after being happy to return to Latvia, our girl was letting us know it was the worst decision of her life. Yet, it was too late.

——————–

So, here we are one year later. And, while for most of our friends, Miranda has become a distant memory, she remains on our minds every day.

All we can say is “God’s plan is not our own”. And, while in a perfect world she would be in our arms, we know we do not live in a perfect world. Instead, we “chat” with Miranda about once a week. Thankful she was able to spend her summer with a wonderful missionary in Riga. Thankful that though Miranda has dropped out of school and is no longer in an orphanage, she was found a home to stay in, by this missionary. Miranda has also enrolled in a cosmetology school and loves it!

Yet, when the messages come in “I want to come and live with you again” – “You are my only family that has ever loved me” – it is hard … and the emotional roller coaster continues.

Some days it seems like this was all a dream. Other days the reality is right there when I wake up and find a message from Miranda on my phone.

I won’t lie … there are times when I wonder what it would be like to not be drowning in adoption debt. Debt we would not have, had our adoption finalized.

And, life goes on, Miranda will turn 17 this weekend. Not really a child anymore … especially not in Latvia. I am thankful that we were able to give her a Sweet “16” Birthday party last year before her return – the only party she had ever had for her birthday.

There is no “happy” ending … at least not in our eyes but, we know there is a bigger plan. So, we will cling to the positive news we get from Miranda and say a prayer for her every night, for this girl who still calls us Mom and Dad.