Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy, Healthy Learning and Living in 2012!

I'm not usually one for New Year's resolutions, but it does seem to be a natural time to look at our goals and lifestyle and rethink the way we do certain things.  I'm going to try to follow this up with a "Monday Motivation" post each week.  Hope it works out, you guys keep me accountable!  Here's a summary of some things I've been pondering so far in 2012...

We need to improve our eating habits.  One way is by curbing our fast food and restaurant outings, which tend to become frequent when we go through busy and/or stressful times for our family.  It's so easy to just grab a burger or chicken basket, but it isn't good for the pocketbook or the belly.  I'm going to have some more specific goals about this during Lent, but for now I'm going to try to cook more from scratch, work on healthy snacking, and try some weekend cooking and planning.
We have a Sprouts grocery store nearby (photo above) where there are lots of healthy snack options to buy in bulk.  We went on Friday night, and the girls enjoyed picking out different snacks, bagging them, and labeling them for checkout.  All of the kids love fruit (save for one who only eats apples and bananas), so we can try to keep a steady supply of that for snacks.

Another big help with curbing our fast food intake will be to remember bags of snacks and fruit when we go out for classes and activities.  The kids start whining, and if I don't have a plan in place we'll end up grabbing fast food.  We live probably 3 minutes from a great HEB for quick grocery trips, as well as two drive-thru restaurants that have more healthy options (BBQ and wraps/salads), so that can be a last minute go-to for food.  I'll be trying to add healthy side salads with dinner most nights or a large vegetable option.  We need to increase our veggie intake!  Putting small veggie hints in our fruit smoothies (which ALL the kids love) should help too.

Weekend grilling and smoothies--This weekend I made a bunch of fruit smoothies (frozen fruit, Simply Apple juice on sale, and ice in the Magic Bullet), and I put some of them in plastic cups in the freezer.  I was hoping they'd last several days, but it looks like there's only about half a cup left.  I guess I need to make more next time, and maybe invest in a large blender.  Steven grilled meat and chicken last night, and if we grill enough, we can use that chicken in salads, quesadillas, and pasta dishes over the coming days.  I know meal-planning would help a lot, but I haven't been too successful at that.  Best I have done is to have a general idea for a few dinner ideas in my head while shopping, keep staples for them on-hand, and then improvise as needed. I'm going to work on this!

This is a big goal for both Steven and me, and we're still working on the details to succeed at this.  I'd like to go to two Zumba Fitness classes each week (we have a studio just down the street), and one or more walks, jogs or rollerblading outings aside from that.  We found a nice hike and bike trail at the university nearby; it would be good to visit there weekly for exercise, nature study, and bird watching.  We have so many unique places within 5 minutes of our house, from the Zumba studio to the university, to several Churches and convents, and we need to take advantage of this!  The girls have started ballet classes, and hopefully we'll get Steven Joseph on a t-ball team this spring.  The kids are so active and spend a lot of time outdoors, so I don't need to worry much about exercise for them!

I feel like I have somewhat of a handle on the basic house stuff, although I could very well be back to frustration level with it in another day or two!  But the laundry is my arch-nemesis and always has been.  I can get it washed but never put away.  I'm committed to purging our clothing.  We purged a lot of belongings, mostly toys and adult clothing, when we moved.  But the kids' clothing is taking over the living room.  I'm working myself up for this.  You can see it is time to get things under control... (this is all kid clothes)

I've been in a real rut for the past maybe 2 years.  I think it started around the time I got pregnant with Thomas and lost my vision and motivation for our Charlotte Mason Alphabet Path year.  We've stuck with most of the Mother of Divine Grace (MODG) program and lesson plans for last school year and this school year, but I think I'm ready to venture out on my own again next school year.  We are happy with Math U See, and MODG's recommended Abeka Science, Geography and History.  I also love the recommended reading books for a more "living" approach to history.  I'm sensing that we'll stick with Math U See, but move to possibly the Story of the World or the Catholic Connecting With History program and Apologia for science next year, along with adding Latin (probably Prima Latina).

The MODG language arts program was just not working for me and the kids.  It consists of The Writing Road to Reading intensive phonics and spelling program, Primary Language Lessons, and a handwriting workbook for 3rd grade, and 100 Easy Lessons and a handwriting workbook for 1st grade.  I've also been substituting the Funnix online reading program for some of their phonics instruction.  My girls just haven't been progressing as I feel they need to with reading and writing.  I have been worried that if they ever needed to be enrolled in school, they'd be terribly behind in these areas.  I know that they will get there eventually and the Classical and Charlotte Mason models of education encourage a slower progression of reading with lots of dictation and copywork, and we've done that too.  But I have been feeling like they need some of the nuts and bolts and repetition that a more standard educational model would give me.

Enter the Seton workbooks.  For Mary Clare, I bought Reading, Phonics (MCP Plaid), Spelling, Vocabulary (Wordly Wise), English, Handwriting, and Religion.  Ellie has started Phonics (MCP Plaid), Spelling, English, and Handwriting workbooks in addition to her Funnix reading program.  In just the three weeks or so we've been using these, I can already see improvements in their reading and writing.  But most importantly, I have gained some confidence and feel like I'm giving them a more thorough program and am not as worried about gaps in their education.  I think by the end of this year we'll be able to get them where they need to be, and I'm so happy about that.

Girls were reading to SJ in the corner.  This is our front room, the "piano room," 
with all the kids' books and my sewing desk and prayer altar on the other side
I think we're also closer to finding some music instruction for them, which has been on my heart for a very long time.  Hopefully we can start some piano or violin lessons for them next month!

I saved the best, and hardest, for last!  I keep saying how we're really spoiled here with Catholic churches and convents all around.  We don't have many outside obligations and should be able to grow more in our faith during this time.  Our parish and homeschool group consists of very devout families who are always encouraging and challenging each other.  I know I need to find a spiritual director, and I'd like to venture to one daily mass each week.  I'd also like to start praying the Rosary more often with the children and teach them the Rosary prayers they don't know yet.  I'd like to continue to work on praying the Divine Office (on my iPhone) in the morning or evening, and slowly get back into journaling and quiet time.  Baby steps will be my motto for all of this!


So to end, I'm going to start my first Monday Motivation Post!  I'm going to try to imitate what Crystal does on Money Saving Mom each week and join on her blog link.

Monday Motivation
10 Goals for January 23-29

Prayer and Community
1. Pray the Divine Office at least 3 mornings.
(For non-Catholics this is just reading scripture, mostly the Psalms, and is the same readings for Catholics all over the world)

2. Pray a decade of the Rosary with the children.

3. Set up our house blessing with Fr. Bill and invite a few families.

4. Attend two Zumba classes.

5. Take a nature walk with the children.

6. Plan at-home dinners each night. (Mon-Pasta Bake, Tue-Crockpot Roast, Wed-Homemade Pizza, Thur-Crispy Cheddar Chicken from Pinterest, Fri-Leftovers, Sat-Grill, Sun-out?)

Home Management and Homeschool
7. Tackle Mt. Washmore in the living room.

8. Donate a large bag of children's clothing.

9. Get in 4 mornings of homeschool and visit a Classical Conversations program (2 families who do it together).

10. Write encouraging notes to the children and Steven in their "fridge pockets."
The girls saw these on a show, made of one sheet of printer paper.  
They made one for everyone in the family, and we've all been finding sweet little notes!  So cute!

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