Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nature Study -- A Dying Pond

Another book I love to use is Anna Botsford Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study.  Over four years ago we started doing nature studies and right here in our neighborhood we have a pond.  It has been a great source of pleasure and learning for all of us.  Our very first lesson was about cattails.  We learned all about them and interestingly, cattails will inevitably be the downfall of a pond.  They will suck a pond dry and in our climate with not much rain, this pond is slowly losing its water.  It's quite sad.  We have had some great discoveries here and have seen so many birds.  Here's how the pond looks as it is slowly dying.  This picture is taken from the other side of the pond where you can now walk on what was once the bottom of the pond.

We have nesting red-winged blackbirds, the sparrows come out every spring, and there's ducks galore; it's also been a layover spot for migrating great blue herons and ibises.  We have loved this natural little spot and it's really hard to watch it dry up. What's been awesome though is that we knew this would happen because we studied it!!!  If you're looking to beef up your nature studies, I highly recommend this book.  Enjoy nature and be blessed by your surroundings!  Your children will love it!  They will learn the cycles of life and death and become acquainted with all sorts of critters.  It truly is a beautiful learning experience and is what a memorable childhood is all about!  Blessings with your study of nature!

Thrifty Weight Loss

You always hear about people with hefty gym memberships at the beginning of the year and usually by the end of summer, they are no longer going to the gym and that expensive membership has gone to waste.  Or your neighbor or friend gets that sweet piece of equipment at their house and again, it goes to waste and is used to hang laundry.  If you have beat that cycle, God bless you!!!  Because of our one income, we can't afford a gym membership and we have discussed an expensive piece of gym equipment, but we don't want it to fall into the overpriced laundry holder category. 

I'm one of those people who really has to watch her weight.  I've birthed four children and 40 is just on the horizon for me.  Fortunately, all my life, I've been fairly active so I can say that I know my body pretty well.  I know exactly what I have to do and what I need to eat and what kind of exercises I need to do.  From January to June, I lost 25 pounds for our big trip to Florida.  I took a two month break and now I've started up my regimen again so I can get rid of a final 15 more pounds.  So how can you lose weight in a thrifty manner?  Here are some of the strategies I used to get the weight off without breaking the bank that I hope will help you as well.
  1. First and foremost, the fat you have to get rid of first is in your head!  Stinkin' thinkin' has to go away.  You need to gear up mentally for what you are about to do and commit to it with all your mind.  You have to break old habits and establish new ones.  It takes me a couple of weeks to do this before I actually start working out.  I start drinking more water and start scheduling my days so I can fit a workout in.  Do you need motivation?  Go to the store and try on a nice dress.  Don't like what you see?  Now you have fuel for your fire.  It doesn't matter how much money you spend or what equipment you have or how great a trainer is...if you can't get past your mental blocks, you won't lose weight.  Do what you need to do to get mentally ready...establish new habits, journal what you're doing and what you're feeling, etc...
  2. If it's been ages since you've exercised, go to the doctor. 
  3. Start walking.  If you work all day, take a walk at lunch and eat a light lunch afterwards.  Get your body used to moving.  Hello, walking is free!
  4. If you're past that and need more, here's what I did.  Exercise dvds.  I know some of you are balking already.  I'm pretty particular when it comes to exercise dvds.  First of all, I have to like the personality of the trainer.  If I don't like the person, I can't get a good workout.  Also, I have to like the people who are doing the exercises along with the trainer.  Gorgeous supermodel types with a size 0 body and plastic smile doesn't really cut it for me.  My kids and I watch Biggest Loser every season and Jillian is by far my favorite and she has exercise dvds along with Biggest Loser dvds.  These dvds only cost $10 and you get a lot of bang for your buck.  There are usually three different levels and the more fit you get, the higher the level you can do.  Plus, you have real people exercising who really do need to lose weight and are doing something about it.  The only other equipment you need for these dvds are light handweights and an exercise mat if you don't have carpeting.
  5. Of course, you'll say, "but I get bored."  So do I!!!  So I have at least five dvds and can do different ones during the week.  Once you do these for a few months, you can move on to the next level. 
  6. Start a walking/jogging/running regimen.  Again, you're outside and it's free!!!  Do two miles or try to work up to it.  Walk a block, jog a block, walk a block.  The more you do this the easier it will become.  That first step is always the hardest.  That's why you have to get your brain on board to push your body.  YOU CAN DO IT!!!  The only real expense you'll have is good running shoes.  You could also get a good cross-trainer pair and use it for everything.  Do not skimp on your shoes.
  7. Make some goals that are reasonable.  Weigh yourself at the beginning and then I would really wait to weigh yourself again after two weeks.  Don't let that be your obsession.  Your hard work will pay off and it will take time.
  8. Now the question of nutrition:  how do you keep this thrifty???  I did not buy supplements or fancy smancy shakes or any of that stuff.  Buying fast food, pre-packaged food, fried foods, packaged snacks...all that costs more money than buying food in it's natural state and cooking from yourself the money.  Don't buy all that junk.  I made sure I ate good, healthy food.  I drastically lowered my fat intake, totally increased my fiber, watched my carbs, and most importantly, I had a few snacks throughout the day.  Eat a hand full of nuts or an apple or some carrots.  Some of these diets just go crazy on a precise measurement of this, that, and the other.  Use common sense.  Your body will also tell you when you get hungry.  Does that mean you need to eat five pounds of food? No. Eat a few nuts or a yogurt and really observe how your body reacts.  That hungry sensation will leave.  It really won't take much to satisfy you.
  9. Reward yourself.  Set up some rewards.  Maybe after your first ten pounds you can get a new dvd or heavier weights or a cute outfit to workout in.  You won't have the guilt of spending the money, plus you have a visual marker of the milestone you reached!
  10. Set up a cheat meal or cheat day.  I had a cheat meal set up, especially when I first started working out, because when you start eating more stricter, that little part of you is going to feel deprived. So on my cheat meal I could eat WHATEVER I wanted.  That gives you something to look forward to mentally if you're struggling during the week.  Once you really get working out, and have done it for a few weeks or months, you will really see your progress and the cheat meal will almost become obsolete.  
  11. What if you fall off the wagon and go crazy after a weekend of splurging???  Get over your bad self and continue where you left off.  No one is perfect and we all struggle!!! The point is to keep pressing on.  Don't feel guilty and get all dejected over it.  Just keep going...we all have times when we have celebrations and eat like pigs...hello, holidays are coming.  Just keep pressing on!
I hope this helps anyone who is starting out.  It's still a bit general, but know that you can do it.  I have to tell this to myself all the time.  It's about my health and being a fit woman, wife, and mother.  Taking control of this area of your life will spill out to every other area.  If anything, you'll feel so good and can wear thinner clothes and keep up with your kids.  Lately I've been so exhausted and I know my body really needs the exercise!!!  Good luck to you!  Remember, you don't have to spend a fortune to lose weight!!!!!
Happy exercising!!! 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blogging and Simple Living...?

I find blogging very relaxing and I love going to other blogs and seeing creativity overflowing.  I wish I had more time to devote to blogging, but I am in the middle of living my life, hahaha!  It's kind of a theme I've been seeing all over the blog world lately.  People are taking a hiatus and letting their blogs wait for them until they can catch up with themselves.  I am stunned at how much energy people can put into their blogs--they have beautiful sites and I just wonder where they find the time???  I have four kids in three different levels of school and I just am exhausted by the end of the night.  I love going to blogs where older and wiser and gentler ladies give wonderful advice about slowing down and living simply.  As much as I love the outlet of blogging, sometimes it just doesn't fit into a simple lifestyle!!!!  I guess it comes down to what stage of life you're in and what your priorities are.  I truly admire those of you out there who can "do it all."  I'm just not one of those people!

I truly believe it's priorities that lead us to a simpler lifestyle.  I think that personality may come into play as well.  I'm the type of person that can live in the middle of nowhere and be perfectly happy.  I have friends who cannot function unless they are on the phone with someone or must be in the presence of other people constantly.  I don't think those kinds of people blog, LOL!  And that's ok because we're all different and have different needs.  To me, simplicity is a calm, quiet life where I can hear myself think and not have the pull of a thousand different functions to go to.  I can say "no" and not feel any guilt over it.  I focus on my family and make sure their needs are met, whether it's food, clothing, a hug or a kiss.  I try to take care of myself and read a good book and fit in exercise where I can.  Simplicity can mean so many things to so many different people.  How do you define it???  Is it hard for you to blog while you're trying to maintain your life? 
I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Favorite books in our suburban homeschool...

It's another busy year with homeschooling.  My kids also have the pleasure of going to a part-time hybrid public school program where we get the best of both worlds.  They are mostly homeschooled, but they can take classes and test into college and go for free at the community college while still in high school.  Plus, I no longer have to teach high school math to them, hallelujah!!! My younger ones go to a one-day enrichment program every week as well so we are all over the place!!!

I would love to share some books I love and couldn't live without.  I also have some new favorites.  If I posted every book I loved, the internet wouldn't be big enough, LOL!!!  So I will highlight just a few of my faves.

These books are written by William J. Bennett.  The Educated Child is an excellent resource to see what your child should be accomplishing per grade level.  He has lots of great advice and things to look for in the education of your child.  I cannot speak highly enough about The Book of Virtues.  It is a great compilation of stories that every child should grow up with.  There are famous speeches and everything in the book deals with character issues!  We find ourselves picking this up and reading from it every now and then because it's chock full of good stuff.  I love it so much I've got a copy for each of my children!

This is another gem I turn to when I need a refreshing.  It is called A Charlotte Mason Companion.  It was written by Karen Andreola who revolutionized and brought to the forefront the teaching methods of Charlotte Mason.  I don't follow everything in the book, but it makes me sigh with relief and know that life is indeed sweet.  It is an essential for homeschoolers and educators!

We read a lot of good children's literature in my house.  I happened upon this series at the thrift store after seeing a preview for the movie they were releasing (September 24th, by the way).  I figured I would read it to see if it was worth our time.  It's fantastic!  I'm in Book 8.  We're doing this as a read aloud and finished Book 1.  It is action-packed and you will learn so much about owls.  In fact, with my two youngest, we are doing lapbooks on owls because of these books.  There isn't a bunch of hocus-pocus in this.  The only objectionable thing I could think of is that in the later books, there are owl ghosts who have unfinished business on earth called "scrooms."  They aren't evil, but I guess they aren't entirely necessary.  Also, the owl God is called Glaux...his name is used in vain just as people use the Lord's name in vain.  Other than those two points, it really is a beautifully written series and the aforementioned offenses can be discussed with your children if you find it objectionable.  The owls are noble and true and possess very good character traits.  I highly recommend this series!!!  We can't wait to see the movie which I believe is based on the first four books.

Lastly is a new edition to our homeschool routine.  This is a tall's the Timechart History of the World.  It opens up and the history of the world literally unfolds before your eyes!!!  We use it with our history curriculum and hunk of burning love (my hubby, hee hee) uses it for biblical history.  It's fascinating to see how everything lines up and it gives everyone a good idea what was going on in the world at the same time!!!

I have many more books I would love to share with you.  I'll do many more posts of other books and projects we're working on.  Have a great weekend and may a story take you far away!!!  Happy reading!

Thrift Store Pointers

You can certainly feel the chill in the air around here.  Leaves are turning, the garden is dying off, and the kids are well on their way with school.  It has been exceptionally busy since my last post.  I can barely get any time to do my blogging so I will try to be better about it. 

I have been hitting the thrift stores more frequently and have found some amazing deals!!!!  I already have a few Christmas gifts lined up.  I found three Mega Block (very similar to Lego's) ships--the Black Pearl, the Flying Dutchman, and a viking ship that are absolutely fantastic!  My son is going to love them!  I paid $3-$4 for them each, when in fact they retail for $30 or more.  I am SO pleased with finding those! Plus, I have found some amazing book deals that you just can't beat!!  I'm not sure if a bookseller or retailer donates these books, but I have found some very popular books in sets that you can't get for such low prices.  For instance, the Guardians of Ga'Hoole--I got books 1-10 for $1.49 each!  I also found four of the 39 Clues books (in hardback) for $2.99 each.  I found all six of the Warriors books for $1.49 each...all these books were in pristine condition.  I've also been looking for some curtains for my living room and found the most magnificent set for $10.  All this stuff is brand new or near can't beat the prices.  So, here are some of my tips for thrift shopping that I've acquired over the years.
  1. Go as often as you can.  You will see the new material as it comes in.  You'll know what's been there awhile and you'll get first dibs on the new stuff.
  2. If it's a fantastic deal, buy it!!!  You will totally regret not getting it because it will be gone the next time you go back!
  3. I usually don't wait for the half-price days because whatever it is I've been eyeballing will be gone!
  4. Thrift stores are wising up to seasonality--you will pay higher prices for canning jars during canning season.  Don't buy will pay almost the same price as new ones! However, if you want a cheap costume for Halloween, the thrift store is the place.  The same goes for Christmas items.
  5. Which leads me to my next tip, KNOW YOUR PRICES!!! You don't want to pay the same price for used as you would for new!
  6. Thrift stores are without question one of the best places to get name brand clothes!
  7. Never leave your shopping cart unsupervised.  I speak from experience.  People have no shame and will take something out of your cart...I've had something taken out of mine ONCE and believe me, it was the last time.  If you spent all that time finding a great deal, protect it!
These are just a few hints for you.  I love the thrift stores!  As a homeschooling family, my library has been built on thrift store books.  No one can beat their just takes a bit of legwork from you, but it's totally worth it and will save you a ton of money.  I find my oldest daughter great dresses for school dances.  The dresses are the $150+ bridesmaid dresses that have only been worn once that I get for very, very cheap!  Keep a list of what you need and keep your eyes opened!  You never know what treasure awaits you!  Happy thrifting!