Creating Your Summer “Bucket List”

How is it going as you prepare for a summer of fun, relaxation, experiences and relationships?  As spring gets busy (it is super busy around here), revisit your summer mission statement and keep at it; just do the next thing.

This week we are going to create our “bucket list” for this coming summer.  A “bucket list” is a list of things you want to do or experience.

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Start by making a list of all the things you want to do or experience this summer.  You can make separate lists for yourself and for your family if that is easier.  To start with, just make a list of whatever comes to mind.  Be sure to include simple, easy things like:

  • run through the sprinkle
  • eat a cherry popsicle
  • take a nap in a hammock

As well as things that require a bit more planning, preparation and expense like:

  • visit the zoo
  • go to the beach
  • July 4th fireworks
  • go camping
  • go to the county fair

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There are probably more things on your list than you will be able to accomplish in one summer.  As a family (or with your spouse) look at the things on your list that involve more time, planning, preparation and expense.  Choose the ones that will fit into your family’s available time and budget without causing added stress.  Now schedule them in and make the necessary reservations and time-sensitive preparations.

After you have finished that, take a second look at the items you decided wouldn’t work for your summer or budget.  Is there something similar that you could on a smaller scale?

Example: If you wanted to go camping for the weekend but don’t have the time or equipment, could you set up a tent and sleep in the yard for the night? This involves much less time and preparation, is still a fun and memorable experience and leaves an easy escape for a sudden thunderstorm!

Now, make a list of the fun, little, everyday things and post it somewhere you will see it often.  This will help you remember to take the little bit of extra time and preparation to make these things happen (like adding cherry popsicles to the grocery list).

As you plan activities keep in mind the necessary down-time needed by members of your family.  My family needs quiet alone time pretty much every day (it is a central part of our daily routine).  We also cannot handle being away from home (even for a few hours) every day and running errands and getting groceries “counts” as an activity away from home.  Therefore I know that we can plan no more than two or three out of the house activities each week.  However, sometimes I can add an extra activity onto something that has to be done, like stopping to play at the park after getting groceries or going to get ice cream after church.  I know that adding nature-oriented, low people and short activities works well for my family (of mostly introverts and highly sensitive people).

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Remember that clear communication is very helpful in making your summer run smoothly.  The night before, or each morning, talk with your family (spouse and kids) about what will be happening that day.  Remind each person about his/her specific responsibilities (daily cleaning habits, educational pursuits, etc).  This lets everyone know what to expect and what is expected.  You can leave some things as a surprise (like a trip to the ice cream shop after dinner or a stop at the park after the library).  I prefer to use the word surprise rather than the word secret.  A surprise is always something good (make sure to keep this true) but to some people a secret is not always a good thing.

Summer is coming quickly!  Are you getting excited?

What are some of the big and little things on your bucket list?

 

Handwriting Isn’t a Subject We Home School

Home schooling works best for our family and our highly sensitive children.  I also love that we can pretty much finish all our school work in the mornings and have the rest of the day free.

We use Sonlight Curriculum and I couldn’t be happier with it!  I don’t have to put much time into planning because it is all done for me.  I love the literature based approach and all the great books we get to read to learn about our big world, its people and its history.  While Sonlight places great emphasis on the process of learning to write (stories, poems, essays, etc.) and offers optional handwriting curriculum, it is not a focus in their curriculum scope.

I greatly appreciate the unfocused approach to handwriting.  Tony is a certified handwriting analyst and firmly believes that ones’ handwriting is greatly influenced by one’s personality. Because of this, we feel it is important that our children learn to writing so that it can be clearly read by others (printing and cursive) but we will not be concerned with the process they use to form the letters.

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This approach to handwriting removes so much pressure from our children and encourages their personalities to develop.  It also means I don’t have to force them to make their hand writing look a certain way!

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For more information on handwriting and personality read the following articles:

What are your thoughts about handwriting and personality?

The Less Stuff Gift Guide for Kids

Christmas is coming…and if you are trying to lead a simpler life, the “stuff” of Christmas gets you down…gifts you don’t need and more clutter in the house.  Especially after you have spent lots of time and energy de-cluttering, you don’t want to add more stuff.  For adults, this seems to work OK…you can tell people that you have everything you need or you can put a few useful and beautiful things on your list that you would actually like to have.  But for kids, this can be extra hard.  People like to give gifts to kids…they like to give kids toys that will get a grand reaction upon the opening.  But as a parent that means you will either have to find a place to put all.this.stuff or get rid of some stuff (usually much loved stuff since you have already been through the de-cluttering process)…all this causes stress for you AND for your kids.

Here is a gift guide for the kids in your life.  We either have these things and really like them or they are things I am putting on the list for my kids this year.

Audio Stories are great for kids and work for a variety of ages.  They are great for long car trips but also for when some quiet, chill time is needed at home.  It will keep their minds busy while their hands can be doing something else (drawing/coloring, play dough, knitting, blocks/building, etc).  For even less stuff, encourage the gift as an MP3 download on a USB drive!

Educational Toys and Games are a great way to sneak extra learning into playtime.

  • Spot It Jr! Animals and Spot It! On the Road
    • We have both of these and love them!  The animal one can be played by kids as young as two, as long as they know their animals and can speak clearly enough to be understood.  This is a good game for all ages to play together and is quick for use with limited time.  This sports one also looks fun!
  • Origami is a great creative activity that involves following directions and fine motor skills.  This Christmas one looks fun as well as this basic one and this one of animals.
  • Mighty Mind
    • We have this and use it often…the magnetic version is helpful, especially for younger children.
  • Magazine Subscriptions: Ranger Rick, Clubhouse, Clubhouse Jr.
    • We get all three of these magazines and the kids love getting mail each month.
  • Kids Cook Real Food E-Course
    • We have been slowly working our way through this.  The kids are enjoying it and often ask when we can do another lesson, also it is a gift to you because your will get help in the kitchen!
  • Lumosity Subscription
    • We like to play the free games but a subscription would be nice…these are video games I can support!
  • Harmonica or for more than one child get a harmonica set like this one or this one.
    • Encourage the love of music and  save the ears of those who will listen to all the “practicing”!  Getting a set in keys that sound well together, will help the listeners if there is more than one child!

Creative Consumables are useful to have because they encourage creativity AND get used up!

Useful Items

  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Water Bottle or Travel Mug
  • Apron
  • Work Gloves
  • Hat & Mitten Set
  • Item of clothing with a meaning…like a school sweatshirt or from a favorite vacation spot or a favorite sports team
  • Natural nail polish for kids and adults

My one tip for a simpler holiday season is to buy all your gifts online!  If you have Amazon Prime, now is the time to take full advantage of it and if you don’t (we do not) you still have time to pick out gifts, just order all at once to get free shipping.  I’ve also used Costco.com and Target.com for fast and free shipping this holiday season!

Our Daily Routine

Routine is an important part of making life simpler for us.  And knowing what to expect each days helps our highly sensitive kids prepare and avoid some of the melt downs that can occur with the stress that unknown change brings.

Here is a look at our School Day Schedule (it is posted on our fridge):

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And here is a more in-depth look at each part of our day.

7:00     The kids come downstairs (they have to stay in their beds and quiet until 7.  They can sleep later but are almost always up by 7.)  The kids play while I get lunch packed for Tony and breakfast ready and make our day’s supply of smoothies.

7:30 (often 7:45)     Breakfast time.  I have eaten earlier so I read the Bible and our daily prayer guide while everyone else is eating.

8:00     Tony leaves for work and we get ready for the day: get dressed, make beds and do chores.  Then we take a 15 minute break…this gives us all a bit of “chill time” to prepare for school.

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Sometime between 9:00 and 10:00 we start school.  I work with Hannah on her language arts and math while Ruthie and Asher work on things they can do on their own.  When I finish with Hannah I work with Asher on his language arts while Hannah has free time and Ruthie continues to work individually.  Then I work with Ruthie on her language arts.  At 10:00 we always take a snack break.  We are usually able to finish all this by 11:30.

11:30     The kids have free time (usually outside) while I get lunch ready.

12:00     Lunch time.  Once I have finished eating, I read to them our assigned History/Geography reading for the day.  Then they have a few minutes of free time while I do the dishes.

1:00     We sit on the couch and do more reading for school.  Hannah’s preschool as well as science and often a chapter from our “read-aloud” book.

1:30 or 1:45     We have Quiet Rest Time.  Asher is in his room.  Hannah is in the girls’ room and Ruthie is on our bed or on the couch.  I am usually at the table (blogging or sewing or reading).  They need to play alone, quietly or read/write/color.  Their rooms need to be picked up before they can come downstairs when Rest Time is over.  This quiet time alone really helps all of us to recharge and be ready for the rest of the day.

3:00     Quiet Rest Time is over.  We have a snack, then head outside to feed the chickens and play for a while (weather permitting).

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4:30    I get supper started and the kids get screen time.  Before a DVD goes on, all the toys have to be picked up…I get quite picky at this time about every little thing being picked up and put away…including any clean laundry from that day.  This helps our house to look tidy when Dad gets home (he really appreciates this) and lets us enjoy supper and our evening without a mess.  Because of my capsule menu, the hands-on time needed for supper usually not much…so I get stuff started and then have a bit of time to clean something, finish up some sewing or read for a bit.

6:00     Tony gets home between 5:30 and 6:00, and we eat supper.  Then we clean up supper and do baths/showers and hang out for a bit.

7:30 or 8:00     We gather on the couch and I read some more…finishing up any school reading we have yet to do or just some fun stories.

8:00 or 8:30     Bedtime!  We have committed to being home in the evenings at least five nights a week.  This really helps all of us get the rest we need and helps to keep our lives feeling less busy and stressed.

This is what our day looks like…how about yours?

Fall Festival, A HSC Case Study

Last night we chose to attend our church’s Fall Festival.  It is done in partnership with a local Christian camp, so it is hosted at the camp, in their gym.  The gym is filled with fun carnival games (ring toss, giant Connect 4, Nerf guns, balloon darts, bouncy castle, line dancing, etc) as well as the opportunity to try out the indoor climbing wall and take a pony ride (outside).  There were also many fun snacks such as cookies, cotton candy, popcorn and snow cones.

Many people from our church and community attended, and the room was constantly full with parents, kids and teens…and music (kind of loud) music.  This sounds like an absolute disaster waiting to happen for our highly sensitive children…and it could have been without some foresight and preparation on our part:

First, we knew that our children would recognize the camp gym (they have been their several times before) and they would recognize many/most of the people that would be running the games and activities.  This knowledge of the physical place and the people would lesson the overwhelming effects of the situation.

Second, we prepared by a quiet day at home with basic homeschooling and lots of time for free play.  We also planned a quiet day at home for the day after (today)…very little school work unless they wanted to and time for calm free play.  We also watched a short, calm movie before lunch…with snuggle time.  (We usually do not have screen time until late afternoon.)

Third, we focused on healthy and nutrient dense real food during the day before we went (filled their tummies with good food) and limited the treats while we were there (one cookie and one piece of candy).  We will continue to limit candy to one piece per day until it is gone.  Thankfully, small toys were included as game prizes instead of just candy…so we didn’t end up with as much candy as I feared.

Finally, even though it was a late night; we got home around 9pm (and bedtime is usually between 8 and 8:30), we gave them time to look at their “prizes” and talk about all the fun they had.  We also didn’t skip our nightly story time, just read one short Bible story.  This helped them to process the evening and sleep well, even though bedtime ended up being almost 10 o’clock!

Some of the side effects of the evening that I have noticed today include:

  • an increased need for free play time
  • trouble focusing on school work and not wanting to focus on school work
  • emotions “nearer” to the surface…crying at the “sad” parts of the movie
  • needing more “snuggles”
  • hungry…needing more nutrients?
  • “normal” noise are too loud
  • taking a nap/physical down time (for two) and outside physically active time (for one)

We are taking things more slowly today.  We are doing less hands-on school (like language arts and math) and more passive school (like read alouds).  I made it a priority to keep up on our schooling this week so that we could take some time off of school today.  I know we can “catch” up tomorrow without any problem.  Tonight will be a quiet evening at home and an early bedtime and we should (mostly) be recovered by tomorrow!

 

The Importance of Snacks

If you have kids I’m sure you here this phrase daily: “Mommy, I’m hungry!”  Sometimes I hear this (it seems) right after they have finished eating!  There are a few things that I have to remind myself of about kids and snacks so this doesn’t drive me crazy:

  1. The bodies (and bellies) of kids are small and their metabolisms are high.  This means that they really may be hungry and that they need to eat food more often than many adults.
  2. Meal times are important…the more nutrient density I can pack into meals, the more satisfied they will be (and for longer).
  3. Snacks are a great way to “sneak in” more fruits and vegetables.
  4. Snack times (and meal times) can be a great time of family togetherness and bonding…a daily routine that provides comfort and stability.
  5. Highly Sensitive Kids (of which I have three) are more sensitive to changes in blood sugar and the feelings of hunger.

Since discovering the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle, I have also changed how I feed my family.  The back bone of THM eating is protein…every time you eat, you should be eating protein.  So, I make sure to feed my kids protein, especially with snacks.  Protein is needed for all repair and growth work in the body AND it helps keep you feeling full!  Protein also helps to regulate the blood sugar…no spikes and crashes (as long as it is eaten with healthy carbs and not lots of sugar or refined carbs)!

For my HSC scheduling snack times and meal times helps us to avoid the extreme grumpies that come with hungry bellies and falling blood sugars.  The predictability of a set time and routine also helps banish the question of “is it breakfast/lunch/supper/snack time yet?”  My kids are also a bit older (ages 8, 6 & 4), so I know that if they ate well at the last meal/snack then they can wait until the next scheduled food time.  If, for some reason, one child did not eat well at the last meal/snack time I just put it in the fridge and if they complain about being hungry then they can get what they didn’t eat or wait until the next food time…this usually helps to remedy the “picky eater” moments.

Here is our basic food schedule:

  • 7:30     Breakfast
  • 10:00   Snack
  • 12:00   Lunch
  • 3:00     Snack
  • 6:00     Supper
  • The kids usually are in bed around 8pm and since supper tends to be our largest meal of the day, we do not give them a snack before bed…if they are up late for some reason, we often give them another snack.

The crazy/funny thing is that since adopting the THM lifestyle I eat on this schedule too!  My metabolism has been increased to the point that I am hungry at these times…and I continued to loose weight and keep it off.

As a part of my capsule menu I have a list of snacks.  This helps me to always know what to serve and helps me always to keep healthy snack options around.  Here are some of the things on my list:

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Cheese (protein & fat) + fruit (carb)

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Fruit (carb) + nut butter (fat & protein)

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Cottage Berry Whip (from THM cookbook…FP)

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Organic corn chip (carb) + veggies + nut butter (fat)

These are just a sample of what we eat for snacks.  Bananas and peanut butter happen often as well as veggies with North Woods Dressing…this works especially well if supper is delayed waiting for Daddy to get home.  These chocolate high protein muffins are super yummy too!  This pudding recipe make a great frozen treat.  My “go-to” snack for on-the-go days is a homemade trail mix of nuts and dried fruit…usually almonds, cashew and dried cranberries.

Do you think making snack time a regular routine would help your kids?

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Could You Have a Highly Sensitive Child?

Labels are everywhere in our world…introvert, extrovert, ADD, ADHD, Autism Spectrum, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Dyslexic, INFJ and many, many more.  Sometimes labels are helpful because they help us explain things more easily.  Sometimes labels are unhelpful or untrue.  Sometimes labels lead to prejudice.  Sometimes labels are used as an excuse to act a certain way, or to not act a certain way, to “earn” certain privileges or to excuse things as “not my fault”.  I like to use labels as a helpful word or phrase that brings to mind an explanation to help me better understand something…realizing that no label fits anything or anyone perfectly, all the time.

The simplified definition of a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) or Highly Sensitive Child (HSC) is someone who is highly tuned into the world around them…the physical world and the emotional world. (Source)  They are unable to “filter out” or “ignore” things in their environment…loud noises, crowds, physical discomfort, the emotional situations or reactions of others.

We have three children and all of them are highly sensitive people, just in different ways.  HERE is a quiz to help you determine if you may have a highly sensitive child.  This is a list of things from the quiz that we find to be true of at least one our children…some are true of all three:

Complains about “uncomfortable” clothing.

Doesn’t enjoy big surprises…needs time to process change and “unusual” things to come.

Uses big words for his/her age.

Notices the slightest unusual odor.

Has a clever sense of humor.

Seems very intuitive…tuned into the emotions of others.

Is hard to get to sleep after an exciting day…and (when they do sleep the sleep) is restless if they fell asleep before they had “wound down” or emotionally processed the exciting day.

Wants to change clothes if wet or sandy.

Asks lots of questions.

Prefers quiet play or playing by themselves.

Asks deep thought-provoking questions.

Is a perfectionist…doesn’t want to try something they don’t think they can do “perfectly”.

Is very sensitive to pain.

Is bothered by noisy places or places with “noisy” visual stimulation.

Considers if it is safe before climbing high.

Performs best when strangers aren’t present.

Feels things deeply.

I don’t want my kids to use the label of Highly Sensitive Person as an excuse for acting or not acting a certain way.  I want them to understand that this is one more way that God made them special (15-20% of the population is a HSP).  I want them to learn to function in “normal everyday life” so they can excel in whatever God has planned for them.

I want to use the label of HSC as a tool to help me better understand them and be able to arrange my parenting and our daily life to help them to function well and learn to cope well with challenging situations.

Could you have a Highly Sensitive Child?  How would it change your parenting?