Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wellness Challenge: work it out!

A few weeks ago, I began a series called the Wellness Challenge. This series is all about an issue that I am passionate about and something that is so important for all of us, basically- caring for ourselves. [If you noticed I took a few Thursdays off from posting on this series, it's because I was actually nursing sick kids or myself back to health. Oddly enough, those days seemed to fall on Thursday].

Because I am also passionate about being frugal, I wanted to offer some ideas about how to get in shape without breaking the bank or without even joining a gym.

Thankfully, because I am a certified fitness instructor and have taught at gyms for several years, we've never had to pay a gym membership in the past. Now, our budget is a bit tighter because we are living on one income and quite honestly, the time budget has gotten tighter, too. Driving time to go to a gym, etc. all adds up. In addition, I, personally don't like putting my infants in a gym childcare.

My point is, we do not currently belong to a gym, but my husband and I are both trying to get back into the pre-children habits we had of consistent exercise and fitness.

There are three important components to fitness, when it comes to exercise, that are so important to overall change and results. These include: cardio, strength, and flexibility.

Below is a list of ideas (including the three components of fitness) that are free or inexpensive that you can do without even going to a gym:

*take a long brisk walk {one of my favorites!}
-rent DVD's from your local library
-Netflix and/or ROKU offer streaming fitness "classes"
-buy an inexpensive video that you will consistently use
-get a group of friends together and Zumba or just dance at home
*mini trampoline at home (often called rebounding)
*jump rope
*stair climbing at home or outdoors
*take a class with your spouse or friend (i.e. dance or swimming)

STRENGTH [my favorite way to get fit- I literally feel stronger just doing it]
*buy (from a garage sale or discount store) some 5lb or 8lb hand weights
*plyometrics - push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups [while you are at the park with the kids] : )
*flex bands
-rent videos from your library
-Netflix and/or ROKU offer streaming fitness "classes"
-check online for ideas or printouts/tutorials
*walking lunges and squats at home

*basic stretching when you get up in the morning
*stretching before and after exercising

Have fun and enjoy these amazing benefits of exercise:
*increased fat burning
*increased energy
*increased muscle strength
*increased mental stimulation
*muscle tone and fat loss
*increased blood flow/circulation
*strengthen heart and lungs
*increased confidence
*stress releif (yay!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Where's Doodle? (eleventh and final edition)

Checking out our new storage bins and making sure they are sturdy enough for her blocks.

At the library, getting ready to be "trampled" by a llama - yes, a llama at our library. Our library rocks.
The owner was putting her big sister up on it's back, while his partner was engrossed in another conversation. The llama got spooked and knocked poor Doodle over and she went under it's belly.
Her sisters asked for a llama for their birthday....her, not so much. : ) FYI: She came out fine or I wouldn't be so casual about it.

Our little Doodle is as active as ever, but I thought we'd move on from "Where's Doodle?" for awhile [unless she inspires a really good post]. Thanks for sharing these fun and adventurous moments with us.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our [very pink] homeschool room

Our newest ledges from Ikea. Love them!

These desks are from an old school sale ($4) that my amazing in laws brought from PA. Thanks mom & dad! Chairs were a Christmas gift from my parents (from Ikea)...once again..thanks mom and dad!

The teacher's a.k.a mommy's desk. It was about to be trashed from the organization my husband works at and he knew I'd love it. He transformed it!

10 drawer storage carts (from ebay) that I plan to use as workboxes in the future.

A few years ago, we visited a family's home for lunch. They had eight children and homeschooled all of them. I vividly remember walking into their "classroom" and was amazed. It was so adorable. There was a teacher's desk and several small desks for the kids. It was colorful and organized and looked like a great place for learning to take place.

At the time, our kids were just babies and toddlers and we had not yet officially decided to homeschool. In fact, we were in a transition period in life and were living with my husband's family (bouncing between two states) and didn't have our own place. I thought about what a dream something like that would be if we ever did homeschool.

Anyway, a few years have passed. We have since decided to homeschool and moved to a different one of the two states. God blessed us with a house (that happened to have an extra room) and my rockin' husband (who's my biggest cheerleader in this journey) transformed it into my dream classroom/homeschool room.

It all seemed to happen so fast and I'm so thankful every time I go in there. We all LOVE this room! I totally know it's possible to create a great learning environment even if it's not a separate room and a lot of people do it. For me, the separation helps to organize my thoughts [and papers].

Thank you Lord and thank you Jason!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Frugal Friday: my favorite deals

Coffee-mate is giving away coupons for a free creamer to the first 200,000 participants beginning 12pm EST. Yum!

March is national craft month. Michaels is offering another free craft event this weekend.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Where's Doodle? (tenth edition)

This is our third daughter… a sweet and very compliant one, who has inherited the nickname "Doodle". She takes daily naps and goes to bed like clockwork. She enjoys most everything from riding in the car to playing with her sisters and even entertains herself for long periods of time. She is such a joy to our family!

Let’s not be mistaken, however. She is full of energy and adventure. As to keep up with her older sisters, she began walking at eight months. We were so proud and she….oh so delighted.

Since then, she has been known to climb the stairs – on the inside and outside of the staircase….GASP! She has also scaled tables, chairs, drawers, the fireplace hearth, desks – you name it. We have found her in the most inconspicuous places. Each Wednesday, I will share a glimpse of them with you in the "Where's Doodle?" segment.

This girl is on the move, which means so are we.

What's your busy toddler doing these days?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why we choose to homeschool - part 3

The last two Tuesdays, I have focused on why we choose to homeschool. Last week's post focused on some questions that I have asked myself, I have asked others and been asked by others.

Again today, I will discuss a few more of these questions/concerns regarding homeschooling.

Are you [am I] really qualified to teach children?
As for me, personally, I have a Master's degree. Is it in Physics, Biology, History or Geometry? No! Have I ever had fears running through my head of our children not graduating or that I won't be able to do this? Absolutely! There are SO many subjects that I'm probably going to be re-learning right along with my children. However, I plan to take it one year at a time and one grade or subject at a time. Besides, I'm trying not to focus too much on Physics and Geometry right now. We're working on letters and numbers : )

Also, as many people don't know, many states have free online courses through the public school system for backup or for people that really want to homeschool, but need some extra assistance.

Thankfully, my biggest hope in our homeschooling journey is that it's perfectly OK if I can't do it in my own strength because:

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Phil. 4:13

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

As a Christian, don't you think your kids should go to school to be a "light"?
To me, that is a loaded question. Do we want our children to be a light for Christ? Yes. Do we want them to learn to love unconditionally and accept others as God would want them to? Yes. Do we want them to be able to learn how to deal with tough situations and life's challenges and respond in a Godly fashion? Absolutely! Do we want them to learn to reach out and help others understand the love of Jesus? Yes, in a huge way!!

However, we have chosen to take this very small window of time that they are home with us to hopefully help them better prepare for those challenges that will inevitably come. We, personally, don't think that letting them learn those things by experience (away from home) during their formative years is the best strategy. [Remember, that is our family's decision...not a rule.]

These younger years are the times when they are learning who they are, what they want to do and be. Who God desires for them to be and what He created them for. As kids, tweens and teenagers, they don't and won't have all of the answers. In fact, they'll have soooooo many questions. We prefer that they don't learn the majority of their responses from their peers and teachers, but from our family and our life in faith- to the best of our ability.

Besides, life presents itself with plenty of situations, hardships and opportunities for character building, even without sending a child to school. They will have the rest of their lives to let their light shine....hopefully very brightly!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Frugal Friday: my favorite deals

Old Navy has $4 kids clothes - plus 2% cash back if you shop Old Navy through Ebates.

Burger King is offering free fries this weekend with St. Paddy's sauce. Yum!

Our Barnes & Noble is having Lucky Leprechaun story time this Saturday. Check your local store for this and other free events.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tying the knot....again

(the rings)

(the wedding party, the coordinator front and center)

So my dad came over the other evening to check out a new paint job in our garage. Little did he know that is not all he came over for. Our four year old (big thinker) had BIG plans. She had a wedding in mind - for mommy and daddy.

Almost twelve years ago, my dad performed our wedding ceremony and gave me away. She knows this...and wanted to see it again.

This girl is into details and didn't miss a thing when she coordinated this wedding. My dad sported a red tie [along with his Nike workout clothes], daddy had the perfect tie that made him look "so handsome" [along with his neon green t-shirt]. I was asked to wear a fitted grey flowing dress with her tiara. Her sisters were the flower girls and ring bearers.

There were rings, a Bible and a kiss.

Then came the reception. There was dancing....very fancy dancing. Oh, and let's not forget the ice cream. Sherbet to be exact, in small baby cones.

My dad is only wishing the wedding twelve years ago was on this same budget. Sorry dad.

This girl dreams big and was elated that we followed her dreams the other night just after 8pm. We may just renew our vows someday, get out mommy's wedding dress and daddy's tuxedo and four flower girls and do this all over again for us....for her. She would be on cloud nine.

P.S. Did I mention that she has been praying for a baby brother? Oh yes, and in her sweet little four year old mind....marriage produces babies. Ulterior motives for this wedding?!? No pressure mom and dad!! : )

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why we choose to homeschool - part 2

Last Tuesday, I wrote about why we choose to homeschool - part 1. The main idea was that we want to play a bigger role in preparing our kids to live in this world. Basically, we want more time with them...bottom line.

Today, I would like to share our thought process in the decision to homeschool. What this post is NOT about is bashing public education and anyone's decision to send their kids to a public school. I have worked in the public schools and can tell you first hand that teachers are overworked and underpaid. I know what it is like to bring home piles of homework and planning materials. It's definitely a job that is difficult to leave at work.

This post is also NOT about comparing you to me or your family to ours. I realize that every family is different and has different needs and different situations. This is the decision our family has made and I am grateful that we are able to have me stay home and teach the children. We plan on doing this for the long haul (18+ years), but you never know what the future holds and I don't take it for granted. Things could change in a heartbeat should life throw us a curveball.

What I hope this post does do is challenge your thinking a bit. To cause you to reevaluate your decisions. Are you already homeschooling and are you content with that? Great! Are you sending your kids to public school and you know that is the right thing for your family? Great! Are your kids in a private school and is that rocking your world? Or.... are the educational decisions you have made not turning out so well (on different levels) and it's time for a change?! A readjustment of sorts!?

As I mentioned last week, we had our hearts set on sending our kids to a small bilingual charter school in Oklahoma. Well, several moves and several children later, we have reevaluated things. Honestly, a HUGE weight in our decision to homeschool was seeing the dynamic of many homeschool families. [Once again, I am not criticizing non-homeschool families : )] We have observed a different magnitude of respect, cooperation and teamwork. Not to mention greater focus areas on life skills such as relationships, finances, and domestic skills.

Some questions one might ask and that I have definitely asked myself in the process are:

What about your free-time (lack thereof) or time to yourself as a mom?
Wow, this is a big one! The thought of having children home everyday almost all day might send some to the "funny farm". I've thought about it a lot, too. Would I like more time to myself? Yeah, sure, but it's not worth the exchange to me. I've also had the first 30 years of my life to myself and will have a lot of time (with hubby too) after they leave [insert sobbing] in just a few short years.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves." Phil 2:3

What about your career?
I may have mentioned before that I got my "dream job" just two short years before having our first child. Teaching English to international students. I love it! I gave it up! I miss it! Being around people from other cultures and teaching are HUGE passions of mine, but I'm confident that I will do that again someday. I also can't think of any better students to have than my own children.

Isn't it difficult to survive on one income?
Being that my husband and I have worked many jobs in the areas of service, like non-profits and ministry for our entire marriage, we have become accustomed to living on a shoestring budget. We do our best (not perfect) to live on less than we earn and make the best of what we have. We are both pretty frugal and thrive on good deals. Our families have also been such a blessing and have helped us a lot. We are grateful!

"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:19

Don't your kids need socialization?
I am an extreme extrovert so I understand the need/desire to be with people. Our family thrives on spending time with family and friends. We seek out opportunities to be involved in extracurriular activities, community events, and love being involved in church and ministry. No one here is suffering from seclusion ; ) Besides, their Heavenly Father is an ever listening ear.

"Come near to God and he will come near to you." James 4:8

Won't your kids be ... ahemmm "different"?
I sure hope so! I want them to be themselves and who God has created them to be with their unique personalities, gifts and talents. I want them to glorify/please Him in all that they do and not follow the crowd in an attempt to please others. We hope to do our best as parents to help them recognize their uniqueness and follow the passions God has put in their hearts.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2

Won't they be very limited in the activities they choose?
To me, it's quite the contrary. Most of our children have received passports by six months of age. Two of them have traveled overseas twice. They have lived in and traveled to several different states and cities. They are almost bilingual, they love sports, art, music and nature. The opportunities are endless. This is definitely a huge benefit in my eyes in relation to homeschooling - FLEXIBILITY!

On several levels, we have the benefit to learn in various settings and environments. We can cater to different learning styles and choose our curriculum. We can travel for extended periods and even move, when needed. We love this part!

My heart is that this post has confirmed the educational decisions you are making or caused you to reevaluate and change your path.

Either way.... learning is a lifetime journey. Enjoy it with your children!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stay focused

This weekend, our pastor gave an awesome message (as usual) about staying focused, which was entitled "This One Thing." It seemed to coincide with my recent post "the art of saying no and a resounding yes", so I got excited to share it with you.

The message revolved around the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. Nehemiah had a purpose, a goal to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. He was faced with much ridicule and much opposition from the king and the his men. At one point, some of the king's men asked Nehemiah to take a break and come meet them in a nearby village - in which they made plans to harm him.

Nehemiah's response is what was so powerful. He said, "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?" Four times they sent me the same message and each time I gave them the same answer. (Nehemiah 6:3-4)

Wow, what focus! What priority! Nehemiah knew how to say no. Can you imagine if we all took our priorities so seriously? If we followed Christ relentlessly despite the ridicule and opposition? If we parents took raising our children so intentional? If we refused to get distracted by this and that and even the other "good" things out there.

What is your wall that you are rebuilding? Get focused and be intentional about it. Like Nehemiah, refuse to come down.

Taken from the book of Nehemiah, preached by Ben Lamb and inspired by Andy Stanley. [credit to whom credit is due : )].

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Frugal Friday: my favorite deals

March is National Craft Month so Michaels is offering free in-store events/crafts for kids. This Saturday, March 10th, ages 3+ can make a tote bag or a yarn doll

Chili's is offering free Skillet Queso and Chips if you sign up for their email club.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Where's Doodle? (ninth edition)

This is our third daughter… a sweet and very compliant one, who has inherited the nickname "Doodle". She takes daily naps and goes to bed like clockwork. She enjoys most everything from riding in the car to playing with her sisters and even entertains herself for long periods of time. She is such a joy to our family!

Let’s not be mistaken, however. She is full of energy and adventure. As to keep up with her older sisters, she began walking at eight months. We were so proud and she….oh so delighted.

Since then, she has been known to climb the stairs – on the inside and outside of the staircase….GASP! She has also scaled tables, chairs, drawers, the fireplace hearth, desks – you name it. We have found her in the most inconspicuous places. Each Wednesday, I will share a glimpse of them with you in the "Where's Doodle?" segment.

This girl is on the move, which means so are we.

What's your busy toddler doing these days?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why we choose to homeschool - part 1

Several years ago, in our B.C. (before children) days, we lived in a cute town outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was helping out in a bilingual school there while finishing up my graduate degree. Since I am bilingual in English/Spanish, this was our dream for our children. To send them to this cute charter school where they would be immersed in the Spanish language everyday.

Well...we have since moved out of Oklahoma [insert sigh : ( ] and had four children. Our discussions and perspectives have changed a lot since then. Through much prayer, observation, thought, research and counsel from seasoned homeschooling families, we have wholeheartedly chosen this path. We are so excited about it, too! However, we know the question will come [just like we questioned others]. Why?

There are many reasons, but it basically boils down to this:

We are not trying to completely shelter our children from the world (that would be difficult to do), but we want to play a larger part in preparing them to live in it!

Even when Jesus prayed for his disciples, he said: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. " (John 17:15)

It is inevitable. Our children will grow up and they will leave (go out into the world) and they will make choices.... a lot of them! We want to invest in them now and to the best of our ability help them to make good ones.

Are we perfect? No! Do we have all of the answers? No! What we do have is a desire to spend time with our children and pass on our beliefs, values, and standards that we choose to carry in our family. We want to play a bigger role in their up bringing and having an extra 30+ hours a week at home instead of away at school gives us that privilege.

When it comes down to it... our children are our world.

Next Tuesday, I'll get a little more specific as to some of our pros and cons in our thought process in this decision.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The art of saying "no" and a resounding YES!

Last week, I talked about The art of saying "no". Today, I wanted to focus on the resounding yes portion of that statement.

As I mentioned last week, I have been learning how to say no, even if to myself, as life has become a different kind of busy with four small children. I have not ever been an expert at turning somone/or something down. On the flip side, I definitely need some work in the area of saying yes.

What I mean is that there have been many times that my lack of ability/courage to say no to something good causes me to say yes, but am I REALLY saying yes?!? In the past, I have found myself saying yes to something only to regret it later or complain about it. Many times, having to back out of the commitment because of being overwhelmed or just simply not having the passion behind it.

When I had a "revelation" that I was doing this, it kind of made me nauseous. I felt like I was being two-faced. I was accepting a responsibility with my words, but bitter about it in my heart. I was helping resentfully. I was obviously only saying yes out of pride, wanting to be a people pleaser and to show that I can "do it all".

The Bible talks pretty clearly about this in various passages throughout. For example:

...If you mean yes, say yes. If you mean no, say no. (James 5:12 NLV)

Seems pretty clear to me, right!?

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
(James 1 5-8 NLV)

This passage is talking about a little deeper of an issue, such as wavering loyalty between God and the world. In the same sense, however, it describes a double-minded person. In choices, big and small, I want to be sure about things when I commit to them. I don't want to commit resentfully, bitterly, begrudgingly, etc. I want to choose wisely and do so with a pure heart.

A quote by Penelope Stokes [from my hugs: Daily Inspirations for Moms devotional] reads:

"Does God care about all the responsibilities we have to juggle in our daily lives? Of course. But he cares more that our lives demonstrate balance, the ability to discern what is essential and give ourselves fully to it."

My challenge to you (and to myself) is to count the cost before you commit to do something (big or small) and when you choose to say a resounding yes, do so boldly and joyfully!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Frugal Friday: my favorite deals today

Wellness Challenge: get moving!

This is week four in the Wellness Challenge. The other posts for this series, were about developing a healthy mindset, the H2O Factor, and Feeding the Machine.

This week, I would like to focus on exercise and getting moving.

As I mentioned before, during my B.C. (before children) days, I was always an active person, whether it be organized sports like gymnastics or track [and yes, cheerleading is a sport ; ) ] or just working out. Now it is chasing children around the house and stores [insert laugh].

One day, several years ago, I had an epiphany. I was thinking, "I work out all of the time and I love it". I even thought, "I could take this a step further and get paid for it if I wanted to". So, I set out to get a certification in group fitness. It was such a good decision. I had a lot of fun and I learned so much about fitness! It's also a great motivator when you are the instructor. You kind of HAVE to show up for class [wink]. For several years, I was able to teach various types of fitness classes at some amazing gyms and even at my alma mater for a semester.

I remember one of the other instructors at a well known gym I was teaching at who had five children. She would teach literally up until the day before she gave birth. I was amazed. I remember thinking, "wow, I'm so going to be like that when I have children. A fit pregnant lady who works out like crazy and just pops that baby out".

Well, I was wrong. Unfortunately, almost right away with each of my pregnancies, the nausea set in. I'm talking extreme....where practically walking across the room would cause motion sickness and up came my lunch [gross, I know]. In normal cases, expectant moms have morning sickness and it usually tapers off about the third month. Oh no, not me. Mine was morning, afternoon and night sickness and went for the majority of my pregnancy....four times.

Ok, now that I'm done whining [ha ha], I'll get to the point. What I am getting at is that my days of teaching extreme fitness classes several times a day came to fitting in exercise when and where my tired nauseous body and new busy mommy schedule would allow. Healthy eating habits became eating whatever I could keep down during my pregnancies...which usually meant anything sweet.

After recently having our fourth child, I'm again ready to get on the bandwagon and get back into the groove of a healthy lifestyle. I'm so passionate about working out and feeding this machine, called the body the way it should be fed. Therefore, I decided to do this Wellness Challenge as a means to also motivate myself along with others.

In future posts, I will give some specific tips on workouts you can do at home. Today, however, I just want to encourage you to get moving and motivate you to incorporate easy ways to get into the habit of daily exercise.

These are just a few of the many things you can do to simply GET MOVING:
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Take a lap outside during work lunch break or a nature walk with the kids at home.
  • Don't "fight" for the closest parking space at the store... choose to walk a little.
  • Say "yes" daily to the activities that your children want to do with you that burn energy - play ball, go for a bike ride, play tag, dance, take a walk, play red light green light, etc.
  • Take the long way to the mailbox.
  • Go old school! Leave behind the leaf blower and snow blower and get out the rake and shovel.
  • Do lunges through the house instead of walking.

Have fun with this and I hope that this week, you'll get moving! Next week, I will discuss the benefits of physical exercise.