Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The best thing I ever did for my closet

I've always wanted to have a chic sense of style-or at least to dress to most flatter my personality and body type. Unfortunately, I don't naturally have an instinctive eye for style and fashion changes so quickly it's hard to keep up with the latest trends. Living in a rural area and having 3 boys in tow, I don't go on clothes shopping sprees in stores often either. That narrows down my fashion options to taking a chance on pieces found online and hoping they'll look great on me (which happens maybe a quarter of the time!). 
Needless to say, my wardrobe hasn't changed much since before I got married because updating it just takes too much effort and money I don't seem to have lying around.
Image result for thred up images Image result for thred up images
 Enter Thred Up, the best thing that's ever happened to my closet! It's like a thrift store online but filtered out for the best quality and brands. Thred Up is beautifully curated and organized well-making for a great shopping experience. 

I love browsing the editor's picks and seasonal collections! Another great feature is being able to create and save your own customized collections  (eg. By size, category, brand, etc.) to view clothing in. I can easily fill up my shopping cart with great fashionable finds and look forward to receiving my polka dotted box in the mail! 


The boxes are always packaged with care and style, making "opening the mail" a fun experience! It is true that some pieces show wear but that's something I just expect when it comes to used clothing. Not every item is a keeper, but you really have nothing to lose with their 14 day return policy! ;) 

But what makes Thred Up really worth regularing for me is the fact that they not only sell used clothing but buy them as well! The process couldn't be easier and is more convenient than taking my used clothing to Goodwill. Thred Up offers free "clean out" bags  on their site that they quickly mail out to you. Just fill up the large, polka dotted bag with your best quality, preloved clothes and stick it back in the mail. The shipping is on Thred Up! The great customer support team will let you know when they bag is received and gives an estimate on when to expect an offer of payout. I will say,  since I've been buying and selling with Thred Up since they launched, I have noticed them get more picky about what they accept. On the buyers end, their pickiness is reassuring that they're  trying to offer the very best quality used items!

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It always makes my day to get the email letting me know how much store credit I got from my latest haul! It's so fun to have some motivation to "recycle" pieces in my closet. I have been working my way thru Tiny Twig's  No Brainer Wardrobe  workshop and have been slowly trying to narrow down and polish my wardrobe along the way. As my vision for my signature style materializes I can easily go onto Thred Up and search for the pieces I need to compliment and complete my wardrobe. Not to mention, Thred Up has a great selection of children's clothing as well. I have found some awesome pieces for my little men's wardrobes!

I think you all will love Thred Up as much as I do! Here's $20 to go towards your first order ;)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Just maybe Fall is finally here..

It's starting to actually feel like fall around these parts. For a long time here, the weather wasn't keeping up with the calendar. We finally got a true fall feeling day, complete with fog and showers. I love a rainy day excuse for cozying in and spending some intentional, slow time with my boys. There was pumpkin pie baked oatmeal and little tomatoes to pop in the food dehydrator. My Oldest loves to arrange the multi-hued tomato halves on the dryer shelves and gush about how prepared we're going to be for winter with all our yummy dried tomatoes.

We enjoyed a fall time nature collecting field trip to our "tree farm" property. The boys took their nature baskets and collected fallen leaves galore along with whatever other treasures caught their fancy. (including some wild pears we found!) I really love using nature collecting and journaling as "science" for the boys schooling. Children are always curating their own nature collections as it is-why not add in some classification and interesting facts and call it school?

I have absolutely no artistic abilities to share with my boys, but I'm hoping by encouraging them to start young they will acquire at least basic skills. My Oldest has been pretty enthralled with sketching birds out of a North American bird field guide we have on the bookshelf. I'm impressed with his eye for detail and love seeing how proud of his finished masterpiece he is.

Timelining is nothing new to the homeschool scene but we just started incorporating it into our studies! I have a feeling it's going to be a really enjoyable way for us to track what we learn about during the year and how it fits into the history of the world. The boys loved seeing the looonngg "span of time" we have to fill in. This past week, we added timeline figures for Abraham, Isaac and the ancient Egyptians.
The work of doing some lesson planning and making the time in my daily schedule for the boys schooling is daunting at times. Adding "Teacher" to my list of roles is taking some time to become second nature. But seeing the wonder spark in my sons' eyes as they encounter new ideas and interests makes it worth it to me. Their love of learning makes me slow down and appreciate all their is around us to "educate". My Little/Big Boy asks "Why?", just like every other 3 year old, but he also asks "How?". I love that.
I'm excited to add a new podcast series to my "play list". The Mason Jar Podcast looks like a great resource for all the Charlotte Mason Mamas out there!
To add to the constant activity that is our household, we decided to a bring a new family member on board. My determined husband has been talking about getting a Rottweiler for years now. I was so hesitant about the idea of a large, aggressive dog living with my kids for a long time. I finally got on board with the benefits of a protective breed being right for our family. Then it was just never the right timing- too busy of a season or the kids were too young. Finally, we decided the time was right. We've been on the lookout for a puppy for months before finding the perfect pup for us. Introducing Stella.

We drove up the coast with all the little boys in tow to pick up our new pup. Stella was the puppy who instantly jumped into the boys' laps and wouldn't leave their side. She is a sweetheart and I'm excited to have a pal to grow up alongside my boys. My middle boy has a real heart for animals and we especially wanted to find a good puppy for him. It made me smile to watch him spend the morning out in the rain playing with his new friend. :) And my responsible Oldest has been happily feeding the puppy and even cleaning up puppy piles!
Every little boy needs a dog.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Trim and Healthy (and actually doable!) way of life

Three and a half years ago while I was still pregnant with my middle boy, I heard about an intriguing new "diet" book coming out from two Christian women. Two sisters who had a multitude of children between the two of them, homeschooled and lived the busy life of moms and still looked amazing! Now I am blessed to naturally be on the thin side and have never "needed" to diet and thus had never really eaten that healthy either. However, after 2 pregnancies I realized that I did have a tendency to put on extra weight and swelling and what I ate really affected my energy levels and general well being. So when I heard about the Trim Healthy Mama book, I quickly ordered it! I was excited to have a healthy eating plan for after my baby came- while nursing and trying to lose the extra baby weight.
The original Trim Healthy Mama book is over 600 pages long and crammed full of so much information! While it is a hugely helpful resource, it can be very hard to navigate and the format-with the recipes interwoven in- is not the most user friendly. When I heard that they were reformatting the book into two separate volumes- a plan book and a cook book- I was very excited to get my hands on them. 

My well loved and well used original THM book and my pretty new copy!
The new plan book includes all the amazing research and "science" of the Trim Healthy Mama way and new, updated information added from the original. At first, the idea of having to spend the time to read such a thick book just to understand a diet seems overwhelming, but I promise it's worth it! Trim Healthy Mama is not just a diet, it's a lifestyle and it's totally doable and beneficial for more than just the mamas. It takes some time and a pretty good paradigm shift to get in the swing of it, but once you do it becomes second nature and has so many benefits!
The THM Sisters put years of hard work and research into mapping out this plan and all of its lingo-such as S and E meals, fuel pulls, crossovers- and inventing delicious recipes to go with it. You are not deprived in any way with this eating plan, trust me! I have enjoyed the most decadent desserts and filling meals and my family hasn't complained one bit. My husband loves the recipes and has even lost weight without even trying-he's a bog fan of the THM way! I have been able to drop back down to my pre-babies weight after both of my last pregnancies easily and feel so much better not consuming lots of sugar and empty carbs. I have been on board with Trim Healthy Mama since it first was introduced and love seeing how widespread and popular it's become. There are so many success stories from women and men of all ages that are regularly shared on the Trim Healthy Mama Facebook page.  It's not some fad diet that's unhealthy or complicated. I recommend this eating plan and this new book to all my friends and family!
The newly released Trim Healthy Mama plan book is beautifully designed and simplified and I feel is much more approachable for those new to the plan. I can't wait to get the new cookbook next and add some new recipes to my THM meal plans! There is also some great recipes around the web. Check out my THM pinterest board to see some of my favorites!

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Currently- October Edition

In my quest to document everyday life around these parts with a little more consistency, I thought it would be fun to do a (hopefully!) monthly "Currently" post. So here goes October!-
In a Day-  Playing catch up on chores around the house(always, always, always.) With fall comes school, so there's the goal of fitting some school time in each day.(Doesn't always happen! I'm thankful to only be teaching preschool this year, so there's some grace there.) With so much garden harvest still coming in, I usually try to work on preserving something each day. There are a whole lot tomatoes for roasting and then freezing and drying too. I need to can more applesauce, badly. There are still tons of apples to be used up, it's just a big project! (Honestly, I'm kind of over canning and the like for the year, but I know we will be happy to have all the canned goodness come winter!) October means hunting season (or "pow pow time" as my middle boy calls it!) so Daddy and my big boys have been spending weekends out in the woods.  
So thankful I still have a quiet break during my day while all 3 of my boys nap. This introverted Mama needs that little break from the hustle, bustle and so.much.noise! Lately, for some unknown reason, I have been prone to let the clean laundry pile up to outrageous heights, so I usually have that to look forward to :/ One upside to my beloved summer days vanishing  is longer evenings with my husband at home! It's been nice to have the after-little-boys-bedtime time to relax together. Lately it's been watching Elementary (aka modern American Sherlock Holmes) 

In the kitchen- It may be fall but it's still way too hot to have the oven running very often! I'm just not quite feeling heavy comfort food yet, though the latest issue of Bon Appetit is pretty darn convincing! Eggplant has been an abnormal bumper crop in our garden this year and surprisingly, a hit at the dinner table! We've loved it roasted and baked with tomatoes in a creamy cheese sauce. I've also been loving the easy and filling dish of roasted cabbage and sausages,with some seasonal golden beets thrown in for good measure ;) So simple, but so good!  I felt the need to pull the espresso machine back out on to the counter and brew my own version of a pumpkin spice latte- a fall must! Other home brew projects include my first batch of  kombucha- not a total fail, but not a real victory either. In need of some research and new techniques there! Oh well, until I have home brewing mastered my pretty awesome husband will keep supplying me with the "good stuff." (aka Humm brand-the best!)

On my heart- A lot lately. For months now, We've been watching Christians around the world being severely persecuted for their faith-being displaced and even killed. The bad news doesn't stop rolling in, even daily it seems and you get to feeling a little powerless in the midst of it all. I pray and, as much as I want to just wish it away, I keep my eyes open and acknowledge that it is happening. My sisters and brothers in the faith are dying for the name of the One we both call Savior. Just because it's not happening here, doesn't mean it isn't happening.  I desperately want my little boys to be able to have a carefree childhood, as every child should, but I also want them to have a heart for the world beyond our American Dream. So we share of the word's sufferings and we work thru our fears and cling to a faith precious enough to die for. I keep racking my mind for ways I can help- a way I can do something, anything to change things. The best option I have come across is The Nazarene Fund, a grand goal of relocating 400 Christian families from homes torn asunder by ISIS. This is the charity organization that resonates the most with me and I hope to support their work!
And then, this last Thursday, it all hit too close to home- an hour away from home, in fact. At a community college my sister attended just a couple years ago, a mass shooting broke out that killed 9 and injured many more. It was later found out that the shooter was targeting Christians for death. The day christians were martyred on American soil. It was a heavy day for Oregonians, to say the least. More explaining to my boys about the realities of sin's grip on this world we don't really belong to. And lots and lots of prayer.

On my mind- I've been spending a lot of mental energy on school plans for the boys. I love this stage- everything being a new and exciting discovery and learning being so fun! But I'm also learning that there are so many great educational options out there, to the point it's overwhelming. The perfectionist in me is learning that there is a thing as "too much educational fun" and it's better to be doing something than waiting around until I have the perfect schooling plan mapped out.
Over the summer, I bought a new to me but pre-loved Canon 5D classic camera. It's not the latest and greatest, but it's an upgrade in equipment and potential for me! Especially since having my boys, I have really enjoyed pursuing photography as a hobby. It's fun for me to have a creative outlet that's easy to just fit in through out the day. The benefits of having their childhoods documented is pretty satisfying, as well! I've been checking out lots of tutorials and snapping a lot of "test shots" in my spare time.

My boys are- each learning lots of new things right now! The Biggest is loving school- he enjoys practicing his letters and thrives off of the affirmation of red inked stars and stickers by his best formed attempts. He amazes me with the addition and subtraction he has naturally picked up and does all in his head. It makes my Mama heart swell to hear him talk to Jesus like he's talking to his best friend. I can see the Holy Spirit working in his little boy heart-the struggle between his sin nature and his desire to do good is real. There's something unexpectedly powerful about watching your 4 year old fleshing out spiritual battles, in the way only a little child can. Sometimes I'll catch him, I first assume talking to himself, saying "No, devil, I don't want to do that. That's bad." He realizes just who is behind the lies and selfish desires and he knows Who to call on for guidance.

My Little/Big One turned 3 a few weeks ago and it seems he's changing in leaps and bounds after that milestone. He is a peculiar little individual and I love him for it! He can identify almost as many letters as big brother proudly holds up his 3 fingers when you ask him how old he is. This kid absolutely loves books. He will bring you just stack upon stack of books to read to him and he never grows tired of it! He's working on potty training but refuses to wear underwear, stubborn little thing. he becomes one of the big boys, more and more each day. It makes me smile to see my 2 oldest boys become play mates and friends more as they get older. My middle boy has a language all his own and in sibling fashion. my oldest can some how translate it all!

My baby is growing up on me waayy too fast! 8 1/2 months already-where has the time gone? In baby time that means he's practically not even a baby anymore :/ He just started crawling, mainly motivated by his never ending quest for more food! He's got the biggest smile I've ever seen on a baby (the cheesiest grin too ;) He's ready to join in his brother's wrestling matches and loves to be in the middle of any social setting. He loves to bounce and clap. He waves at people and I swear he's just started to say bye. He officially has 4 teeth and counting. Those silly 2 front teeth :)

I'm reading- The Last Days according to Jesus ,  Every Little Thing, Peace Like a River
(Look for reviews to come soon!)

Apples to Oregon, Little Blue Truck, Halfway Herbert
Some of the boys favorites right now

I'm listening to- Ghost Ship, The Rend Collective, Andrew Peterson






Monday, October 5, 2015

You learn something new everyday

Growing up, I was the slightly odd girl who enjoyed school and looked forward to the first day of each new school year. I relished the crisp, new schools supplies ordered neatly on my desk. The stack of the year's new text books were just waiting for me to dive into and acquire all sorts of new knowledge. I loved it. And what I loved even more was getting to enjoy my school days from the comfort of home. I was part of the "pioneering" homeschool generation, if you will, at least for our area. I was one of the strange kids, whose socialization skills people were very concerned about. I think I turned out just fine. In fact, I'd dare to say people probably couldn't pick me out of the "Who was homeschooled and how had a normal childhood" line up. I feel that growing up doing school in the midst of everyday family life at home rather than education being confined to a classroom during normal school hours has really engrained in me a sense of life long learning. Homeschooling was a great experience for me and I am so excited to be able to share that journey with my little men!

  As a second generation homeschooler, you'd think I would have some sort of advantage in making a plan for my boys' home education. I suppose I do, in that I have the assurance that homeschooling is possible and worth it. But I have found that there are just so many different paths you could take- when it comes to curriculum, style and even philosophies on education. It is a bit overwhelming, honestly, and you do have to be careful to over plan! I have enjoyed doing the research and trying to hone in on exactly what I want my boys' education to be made up of. It's been interesting to me to see what styles and ideas resonate with my hopes for this journey and that they're not necessarily the ones I was taught with.

 My first introduction to a new philosophy on education, in general, was encountering the thoughts of Charlotte Mason. I just love Miss Mason's vision- of integrating education, slowly and gently, into the everyday life of a child. This education style lets children be children; to run, play and be out in nature as much as possible in the early years. Mason believed children absorbed a vast amount of knowledge from really engaging in the world around them and promoted this "education" before stressing "bookwork". Especially having little boys, this philosophy really hit home with me. I have seen their little minds come alive when out and about picking up nature treasures or fighting with gusto in a pretend battle. Homeschool veterans and boy moms who I highly respect have repeatedly encouraged me to not worry too much about schoolwork with boys until they are about 6 or 7 because before then they really don't have the attention span for it. I have seen more and more recent research to back up their advice, so I try not to overload my boys too much "school", too soon. But being the lover of learning I tend be, I have a hard time not doing some sort of learning activities! I appreciate that Charlotte Mason realized this balance of optimizing on this crucial developmental period of time while not pushing a child to grow up too fast! During the preschool years, Miss Mason really emphasizes strengthening relationships and working on character training and good habits. Really setting the foundation for successful school years.
For the Children's Sake by Susan Shaeffer Macaulay, is the best primer for the Charlotte Mason approach I could recommend. This book really made the philosophy of it al come alive and painted a picture of exactly what I wanted my children's education to look like. When Children Love to Learn is another great Charlotte Mason read, as well.

 Charlotte Mason encourages lots of living books- high quality writing with captivating characters who will teach children, while engaging their imaginations. The book loving Mama that I am, this was a huge draw for me and the reason why I was drawn to the Sonlight curriculum path as well. We are experimenting with Sonlight's Core A this year with my almost 5 year old and 3 year old boys. So far, we have been really enjoying it! I love the concept of learning history and geography by hearing stories from those times and places to help kids visualize these ideas better. And I just love reading to my boys! I appreciate the Instructor's Guide and having things planned out for me to teach from. I really appreciate that they offer the first 3 weeks of each core's IG for free on their website. Here's Core A! I have slowly been picking up books from this Core's book list- mostly used off of Thriftbooks. It's been a great way to give Sonlight a try without paying the box price. Other great sources for book lists and good criteria for choosing living books is the classic, Honey for a Child's Heart!

A great resource I've found to encourage lots of reading of good books in our house is The Read-Aloud Revival. I love all the inspiration and tools this site gives to Mamas to "build a family culture around books"-as Sarah Mackenzie, curator of the site phrases it. My favorite way to "redeem the time" while doing chores is to listen to the Read-Aloud Revival podcasts! Sarah has had some of the greatest minds in home education as guests on the show and she also offers some fun printable resources as well! I currently bought her newly revised book, Teaching from Rest and I can't wait to dive into it soon! Great podcasts, similar to those offered by the Read Aloud Revival, can be found at Your Morning Basket. Another uplifting and pretty source of articles and podcasts for Homeschooling Mamas, especially those leaning towards Charlotte Mason style, is Wild and Free. They have beautifully curated bundles of themed resources that come out monthly you can subscribe to. They offer a free sample bundle so you can get a feel for what they are about. I linked above to said freebie, I highly recommend checking it out!

 Nature Study is another huge proponent of the Charlotte Mason method. Living out in the country on a farm is such a huge blessing when it comes to raising little boys. We have acres of fields and plenty of nature for curious little boys to explore! This year, we are incorporating an "official" nature study it our school routine and have been having fun with it! The boys have nature baskets we take out for walks and fill up with earthy treasures; then we come in the house and pull out our nature journals and record our findings. Everywhere I read about nature study, I see the Handbook of Nature Study being highly recommended. I picked it up off of Amazon and I can already tell it will be a great homeschool resource for many years to come! I also bought exploring nature with children- a simple but engaging curriculum to give our nature study some structure. We started using good quality sketchbooks for our nature journals this year to encourage the thought that the boys sketches were important and for archival sake. This last summer I ran across the most adorable free printable natural journals from the blog, Hope with Feathers. There are only a set for June, July, and August but they are so perfect, I highly recommend printing them off and stashing them away for next summer. ;) There is pages for sketching, journaling,  monthly calendar and weather tracker!

For our basics 3 "R"s of schooling, my oldest is still working on getting the alphabet memorized and is getting a grip on writing his letters. We have been using the Raising Rock Stars Preschool program by 1+1+1=1.  I really like the simple outline of learning a letter a week and the biblical basis it's presented in. Also, the letters are taught from A-Z but from the easiest to write to the hardest which has been a great way for my boy to build confidence. We are just getting starting with the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which I have heard great reports on! Math comes pretty naturally to my little boys it seems and they have picked up a lot from everyday life. For an arithmetic curriculum, I was really intrigued by the idea of  Ray's Arithmetic. The original curriculum was published in the 1870s and is a good, common sense approach to learning math. I really appreciate having the classic The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home on my bookshelf to reference for each school year and to make sure I am getting the basics covered!

My 3 year old Little/Big boy loves to "do school" with big brother. I am amazed at how much he has learned by just being at the table while I am teaching my oldest! It gives me a great sense of hope and grace to realize I don't have to teach them each every single, little thing they need to know. They'll even be teaching each other at times! My 3 year old will do a lot of the same "work" his brother does, even if it's over his head, because he wants to be a big kid. But he does have some of his own activities as well! My boys really enjoy the Kumon workbooks especially the cutting workbook! Another really neat educational "toy" we enjoy using is the Kid O A to Z Magnatab . There is a numbers one as well!

I am grateful to have this "grace year" of not "having" to do school to see what direction we may want to officially take next year. There's a lot of big ideas and plans I have for school that I would have loved, as a little girl and a student, but I'm not sure how they will resonate with my little boys. So, we experiment a bit and have fun in the process; because more than anything else, I want my boys to get pleasure out of learning and instill in them a lifelong hunger for education. So far, we've been enjoying quite the adventure- students and teacher!

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Jesus Storybook Bible for "Big Kids"!

I absolutely love the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. It was the first bible I bought my firstborn son when he was a baby and almost 5 years later, it is falling apart and taped back together from so much use. The Jesus Storybook Bible is my favorite kids bible and honestly, I love this "version" for myself as  well. I love the whimsical, entrancing interpretations of bible stories.

  I was really excited to hear that Sally Lloyd-Jones was releasing a "big kid" version of the Jesus Storybook Bible. The story of God's love for you is being advertised for teens and adults. Comparing the two books- The story of God's love for you is basically all the text from the Jesus Storybook Bible without the "children's" illustrations. While I can see the idea behind doing this- "growing" the book up some- I prefer having the stories,that are intriguing to young and old alike, along with the fun and captivating illustrations of the original Jesus Storybook Bible.

I recieved this book for free in exchange for my honest review.