Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: Parenting the Wholehearted Child

Every once in a while, a book comes along that totally changes my perspective. Jennie Cunnion's parenting book, Parenting the Wholehearted Child, has done just that.

For a while after Junior was born, in the midst of doctor's appointments, therapies, surgeries...and homeschooling, homemaking, blogging, cooking, cleaning, and being chauffeur to Stinker's various sports activities, I tried to do it all. I really, really tried. And guess what? I came to a point of exhaustion. Utter and complete, burned out to the core, exhaustion. I became less patient with the kids, more snarky to my husband, and downright emotionally draining to the people around me. (Sorry, Mom!)

But, I realized that trying to do it all actually gave me the ability to do less. I adore my kids, but most of the time I was parenting more out of duty than out of love because I was so focused on getting everything done. After I came to my breaking point, I stopped trying to do it all, gave myself grace, and let some things go. I started to really love life and even the challenges of parenting, again.

Jeannie's book really spoke to me. The basis of the book is that the greatest gift we can give our children is to point them to the great, deep, and extravagant grace of Jesus. That they are not loved (or liked) because of what they've done or haven't done, but because of what Jesus has done for them. Our trying to be a "perfect parent" raising "perfect children" is not only unrealistic, but harmful to our children's sense of who God is...not a God who zaps us for disobeying, but a God who covers us with His love and grace, and has perfect patience as we seek to be more like Him. We don't need to do it all as a parent, we just need to lead them to Him.

Throughout the book, Jeannie gives practical, hands-on advice for teaching our children the freedom and joy that extravagant grace brings, and I found myself nodding and thinking to myself "that makes sense", many times. The book is also convicting, because it encourages parents that our walk with the Lord must be on the right track if we want to point our children to Him. Are we truly bathed in His love and grace, or are we just going through the motions? Do we see God as someone who is sitting there waiting for us to sin, so He can push us down and say "I told you so"?, or is He a loving, perfect God who picks us up when we fall and carries us in our most difficult times? Our perspective on who God is really influences the God that we portray to our children, and the way we parent. If we parent with grace, we portray grace. If we parent with unrealistic expectations of perfection, we portray harshness.

Parenting with grace doesn't mean lack of discipline, however, and I like how Parenting the Wholehearted Child devoted several chapters on behavior expectations and discipline. Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and we will fail at times, but this book reminded me that the greatest thing we can do for our children is to point them to the only perfect parent...God. I recommend this book to all my mommy friends, and even dads.

Bottom Line: 9.5*/10* 

*Thank you to Booklook Bloggers and Zondervan for providing me a complimentary copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own, and have not been swayed or influenced.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Living Joyfully: Painful Weeds of Life

We have an avocado tree, and last week my husband noticed something growing out from behind it. At first glance, whatever it was blended in with the tree, but upon further inspection we discovered a long, hideously spiky weed protruding out of the avocado tree.

The weed appeared to be part of the tree, but in reality, it was stealing nutrients from it. My husband pulled out the sharp, spiky weed and got several painful scrapes on his arms in the process.

The weed reminded me of our negative attitudes, our bad habits, and the other things like anger and bitterness that steal the joy from our lives. We may think it's just a part of us ("I'm just a pessimist!"), but in reality, the negative attitudes and bad habits are taking away the joy that we were meant to experience.

But, like my husband's scrapes and cuts, it's not easy and painless to change our attitude. And it doesn't happen overnight. But, in order to live a life of joy, it's important to prune our negativity and bad habits; to keep them from choking our perspective.

When Junior was in the early stages of diagnosis, and I wondered if joy was even possible when everything seemed to be going wrong, God taught me that while things change and circumstances change, He never changes. And He showed me that as difficult as things were, there were always things to be grateful for. I still grieved, and I'm still constantly "pulling the weeds" of comparison and discontentment (believe me, it's been a painful process), but I'm finally realizing that a little painful pruning now beats a lifetime of giving away my joy to the weeds of life. 

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Monday, April 14, 2014

This Week's Menu Plan-April 14-19

This week, I'm using some of my stockpiled meat from the freezer, so it was pretty inexpensive as far as groceries were concerned. As usual, I did the bulk of my shopping at Trader Joes, with fresh fruit coming from Sprouts, and fresh meat coming from Costco.

Monday, 4/14
Breakfast-Muffins and Fruit
Lunch-Out to Eat to celebrate the last day of Homeschool Classroom Day!
Dinner-Chicken Pot Pie and Biscuits

Tuesday, 4/15
Breakfast-Pancakes and Fruit
Lunch-Smoothies and Muffins
Dinner-Roasted Salmon, Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli

Wednesday, 4/16
Breakfast-Pancakes and Fruit
Lunch-Pizza and Fruit
Dinner-Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos, Chips and Guacamole

Thursday, 4/17
Breakfast-French Toast and Fruit
Lunch-Tuna Sandwiches, Carrot Sticks, Fruit
Dinner-Beef Stew and Biscuits

Friday, 4/18
Breakfast-Bagels and Fruit
Lunch-Out to Eat
Dinner-Leftovers (we'll have plenty of Carnitas and Beef Stew leftover)
Decorating Easter Eggs tonight!!

Saturday, 4/19
Breakfast-Waffles and Fruit
Dinner-Leftovers (whatever is left of the Carnitas and Beef Stew!)

Sunday, 4/20
Easter Get-Together with Family
He is Risen!

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Recipe Collection-Slow Cooker Meals

I've posted a number of Slow Cooker Recipes in my Family Favorite Recipe page, but I wanted to put them all together for you. So, here are my 8 favorite, simple, delicious slow cooker meals!

1. Chili
This is our standby chili recipe. Simply perfect. Add more heat if you prefer, with hot sauce when serving, and serve with cheese, sour cream, fritos, and cornbread.

2. Meatball Soup
If you're tired of serving spaghetti with your meatballs, try this simple soup!

3. Black Beans
This recipe has been the most popular page on my site, and for good reason! It's a wonderful recipe that turns out fantastic. Serve as a main dish with rice, or as a side dish.

4. Refried Beans
Based on my black bean recipe, but using pintos, these slow cooker refried beans are a delicious and healthy way to bring Mexican food to the table!

5. Baked Potatoes
Yes! You can make baked potatoes in the slow cooker! Great as a side dish or even a main dish when you add cheese sauce, chili, broccoli, and bacon!

6. Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
Literally the easiest meal you will ever make. Chicken breasts, a can of tomatoes, a can of diced green chilis, and some taco seasoning. Cilantro if you have it. That's it! And it's delicious and versatile!

7. Carnitas
This refreshing shredded pork is great on tostadas, burritos, tacos, and even nachos!

8. Greek Yogurt
You can make Greek Yogurt in the crock pot! And it's actually very easy, although it takes a little while! Serve with fresh fruit or granola.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Homeschooling for Beginners--Getting Organized

I've received many questions and requests for more information about our homeschooling day and overall homeschool experience, so I decided to turn my answers into a series. This series will dig into our homeschool life, curriculum, and schedule. When we first decided to homeschool (read "Why We Homeschool" for our story), I was really overwhelmed and didn't even know where to start, so we started at the beginning. Which is where this series is starting...the very beginning of the homeschool journey.

Whether you're a veteran homeschooler, a new homeschooler, are undecided, or wondering if there are sane people who actually homeschool, I hope you enjoy this series!

You've decided to homeschool. Great! Now what? The options are overwhelming...where do you start?

Before you start tackling the nitty gritty things like curriculum, lesson planning, and schedules, you first need to settle on the basics of organization. Once you're organized, everything else comes easier.

Set up a School Area
Ideally, you'll want a dedicated area for school. We didn't have an extra bedroom, so we converted the formal dining room into a school area. It faces our front door so I have (to try in futility) to keep it clean, but it's a good place for Stinker to sit and do her work without getting too distracted. (Check out our DIY School Table Cover to see her school desk.) If you don't have any separate spaces to use for a school area, the kitchen table works just fine as well. But, you'll want to make sure you limit distractions during school time inasmuch as possible. (Food distracts my kids like nothing else!)

Set up Storage for School
I didn't realize how much storage I was going to need when I first started homeschooling. I thought a single drawer would hold everything. Haha. How wrong I was. I didn't start out with a clear vision for storage, and soon, books were stacked all over the house, crayons and markers were littered amongst various drawers, and I could never find a clean sheet of paper when I needed it.  

I found the above storage unit at Ikea, and immediately it made my life easier. The bins hold school supplies, school books and curriculum, lined and plain paper, construction paper and art supplies, and folders with Stinker's completed work.

Everything has a place, so the area looks nice, I don't lose anything too much stuff, and an organized room encourages learning.

Start a Homeschool Notebook
I love themed binders. So. Much. But, while it may be my OCD showing, a homeschooling binder really will help streamline your days. When you first start out, it will be empty, but eventually it will contain lesson plans, worksheets, a calendar, curriculum/lesson ideas for the future, notes on schoolwork, test scores, and even contacts for other homeschooling parents. A well-organized school is a happy school! 

Next time, I'll talk about how to select curriculum...

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