Monday, May 26, 2014

Purging = Simplicity

When I open my closet, I quickly shut it - it's disorganized and filled with clothing.  When I need to get a coffee cup, I open the cupboard very slowly, to make sure none of the other 75 or so cups in there fall out.  When I'm done vacuuming, I push all the coats to the side, and push the vacuum in while pushing the door closed (it's the only way to get it to close all the way).  Linen closet? Filled with hotel-shampoos and travel toothpastes.  Kids rooms - filled with toys, books, and crayons.  Dining room - craft cart, filled with coloring books and crayons.  Classroom - more books, toys, and crayons.  And don't even get me started on the garage - it is a nightmare.

Living the American dream.

We've been told a lie - that when we have more money, we buy more stuff, and it makes us happier. 

Stuff does not equal happiness.  Stuff is imprisoning, overwhelming, and sometimes, debilitating.

We're not hoarders, not by any stretch.  But, we have so much - too much.  Stuff that we don't need, and probably won't ever use.  I've been inspired by others to begin purging unneeded items as a way to simplify my life.  As a goal, I am aiming on a garbage bag-full per week.  It's a small, manageable amount, that will hopefully keep me consistent over the next couple of weeks.  I plan on focusing on one area each week, and thought it would be helpful to keep a log here.  Come back regularly, as I'll be updating each week (minus a few for vacationing/camping/etc).

Week 1 - MY clothing and shoes - I got rid of anything that didn't meet the following guidelines (this was donated to Amvets).

      1. it must fit well and make me feel good.  Anything that makes me feel fat or sloppy is gone.
      2. I have to wear it somewhat regularly.  If I haven't worn it in two years, it's gone.
Week 2 - linens - I got rid of extra sheets.  I kept one spare set for each bed (plus, one extra flat sheet for indoor picnics).  One thing that I'm embarrassed to say, is that I had quite the selection of full sheets sets.  We haven't owned a full-sized bed in eight years...
I also got rid of the kids' baby (hooded) towels - again, just not needed, we haven't had a baby in {gasp!} four years.

If you're feeling imprisoned by stuff as well, please join me on this journey.  Let me know what areas you think we should work on together.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Small Step Toward Simplicity

Wow, have we become dependent on technology.  Our computer hasn't been charging the way it should be, so I haven't been on much.  And, unfortunately, when I try to type on my phone, I make a million typos, so I haven't been able to blog as much as I would like.

Today, I don't have anything profound to say.  I'm not in the middle of a big struggle.  Life is good.

But, we made a small change.  One that hasn't affected us too much.

We got rid of cable.

It's interesting.  There are a couple of shows I miss, but the hardest part has been going without DVR.  I thought it was making our life easier.  If we were gone, we could just have our show recorded and watch it when we got home.  If we left the room, we could pause our show (not being able to do this has been quite the adjustment for my little people).  We could multitask while watching, because if we missed something, we could always rewind.

But, to be honest, it wasn't making life easier.  I would go to bed after the hubby so that I could catch up on my shows that I can't watch when the kids are awake.  We were watching WAY too much TV.  And, our DVR probably had 90+ shows on it.

There's freedom in simplifying.  TV has already lost some importance in our life.  We spend more time reading and listening to the radio.  I've become more productive without the distraction.  And, if the kids want to watch TV, they can watch PBS Kids which is educational, or Smile of a Child, which is a God-centered channel geared towards children.

Also, we just bought Frozen, which has been watched (more than) a few times.

Although it is March, I think I'm going to make more of an effort in 2014 to simplify our life.  I plan on getting rid of things we don't need, removing unnecessary distractions, and spending more time (once it's warm again) outside.  We'd like to maybe start a garden - that will keep our hands busy and give us something in return (less trips to the grocery!).  

I'm excited to see how our small changes improve our life this year.  Do you have any simplifying tips you'd like to share?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Birds, Bees, and Babies

Yesterday, we had 'the talk'.  Well, sorta.  We had an age appropriate (for my kindergartener and first grader) study on babies and where they come from.  I know this subject can sometimes be a tough one for parents, so I wanted to share what we did.

First we talked about where most babies today are born (hospitals). Then, we talked about how 100 years ago, not many people had cars and may have lived far from their neighbors - where would their babies have been born?  What about thousands of years ago when people lived in caves?  Or baby Jesus?

Next, we started reading.  Our book list - along with notes is below:
  • The Story of Me - this book is designed for ages three through five, but I thought it was perfect for my kids.  Some things I really liked about this book: God is the focus - it talks also about how God wants babies to be born to married people.  It is written in story format - it's basically parents answering questions to their four year old son.  I also liked that the story quickly mentioned inappropriate touching and that we don't have to share our love with people if we don't want to.  Something I also want to mention is that they use the actual names for genitalia - I know this will make some people uncomfortable.  I read the book as is, and the kids didn't really ask questions about the proper names. (phew!)
  • The Birds, the Bees, and the Berenstain Bears - this is a pretty 'safe' book.  It uses terms like 'womb' and 'birth canal'.  It is pretty generic, definitely appropriate for a younger audience.  It's mostly a cute story.  A good follow up to this story is The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five.
  • Usborne Internet Linked Children's Encyclopedia - I love this encyclopedia.  So much content.  And, there's internet activities for each page (more info down in the internet links section).  We focused on pages 108-109.  It used the words 'sperm' and 'egg', but didn't describe how the sperm got to the egg (which, I think is totally fine as I'm not sure that my children would be ready for that conversation!).  
After doing some reading, we talked about babies and decided to do some searching online.  Here's some links that we enjoyed.
  • Usborne Quicklinks - these are the links for pages 108-109 in the Children's Encyclopedia.  We especially liked the 'pictures' of the growing baby.
  • Video of baby growing inside of mother - this is an animation beginning with conception until the baby is full grown.  It wasn't the clearest video - poor pixel quality (or something... I'm not really techy).  I really liked it though.  We watched it without sound - I don't really care for the soundtrack, but that's just me.
  • Week by week ultrasound pics - this was great.  We enjoyed seeing the pictures of the developing baby.  There were some 4D pics, so it was neat to see the babies moving.  This is another one that I muted.  I just didn't care to listen to "We are the children."
  • A home water birth - this starts with a family who is excitedly waiting for their newest addition to arrive.  They prepare for the baby's birth.  Then, the mother goes into labor.  You can tell she is uncomfortable, but I love the way her husband stays with her, supporting and comforting her the entire time.  Her other children peek in from time to time to see how the mother is doing.  Then, it happens!  You see her baby come out, but the mother's 'parts' aren't visible.  It is beautiful.  Totally made me cry (and it just may make you want another baby!).  Then, the whole family greets the baby by having a first birthday party for her.  Amazing, and beautiful.  
If you wanted to, you could incorporate some Bible verses as well.  Some of my favorites are:
  • Psalm 139:13-16 - For you formed my inward parts;
        you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
    14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
    Wonderful are your works;
        my soul knows it very well.
    15 My frame was not hidden from you,
    when I was being made in secret,
        intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
    16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
    in your book were written, every one of them,
        the days that were formed for me,
        when as yet there was none of them.
  • Psalm 127:3-5  Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
        the fruit of the womb a reward.
    Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
        are the children[a] of one's youth.
    Blessed is the man
        who fills his quiver with them!
    He shall not be put to shame
        when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. 

There are many, many resources out there.  What have you used to have 'the talk' with your young children? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Doormat, the Bulldozer, and the Wall

Today's post isn't going to be about homeschooling, or product reviews, or my favorite place on Earth (WDW!).  Today, I'm going to come out with a (semi) struggle I am dealing with.

Finding the balance. 

It isn't what it sounds like.  I feel that I'm doing pretty well with the important things - faith, family, friendships.  What I'm having a hard time balancing is boundaries.  Kindness versus honesty.  Patience versus being assertive.  Doormat versus bulldozer.

First, let me give you some background.  For as long as I can remember, I've been a doormat.  I've allowed others to walk on me.  I've allowed my perception to be changed by how others treated me.  I lost sleep, for years.  I argued with those that truly wanted the best for me (hubby, best friends), because I defended the people who treated me poorly.  I quickly dismissed the actions of the harsh people in my life to those who were trying to protect me.  I tried not to let the selfless people in my life see how the selfish people affected me. I was truly, my own worst advocate. And it all came crashing down.

I realized that when I was worried and preoccupied that I wasn't a very good wife, mom, or friend.  I was so wrapped up in my own suffering, that I wasn't honest or truly present with others.  I became incredibly anxious.  I woke up sobbing.  I was alone in my pain, (purposefully).

Then, God placed someone amazing in my life. 

Last July I went to summer camp with my family.  While there, I spent much of my time with a few ladies from my church.  I poured out my life to them, and they were incredibly gracious to me.  They were never harsh or judgmental, but they were honest.  And some of the things they said were incredibly difficult to hear.  But I needed to hear every word of it.

The woman that I talked to the most has grandchildren around my age.  She has been through so much in her life and has dealt with a lot of pain.  She's had people affect her in the way that I had been allowing others to affect me.  And she told me that our situations were very similar.  She pointed out that even though we love other people, they may not treat us with love.  Some people only want to be in our lives when they feel that they control us; they purposely say things to get a reaction out of us.  If they are miserable, they make sure everyone else in their life is miserable - they will manipulate anyone and everyone to get what they want, and it doesn't affect them that they hurt others.  They only invest in relationships when they are easy and beneficial to them.  They are the bulldozers.

I didn't want to believe that people that I loved so much could be manipulators.  It hurt to think that I could love someone who didn't really care how I felt.

It took me a few days of prayer, reflection, and Bible reading to realize that everything the kind woman said was true.  And I realized that I needed to change.

I needed to stop enabling it.  I wasn't voicing my opinions.  I didn't speak up when I felt hurt.  I bottled it up to keep the peace. 

Instead of peace, it created turmoil. 

I couldn't allow these people to walk all over me.  I would no longer allow the drama to cause problems in my household.  I recommitted myself to my husband and kids, and for the first time, I stood up to people.  If I couldn't/didn't want to do something, I told them.  When they tried to make me upset, I stood like a wall.  I may have quivered a bit, but they couldn't see it.  They tried to bulldoze me, but it was no longer effective.  I did not budge.  And, for the first time in my life, I felt free.  And I still feel free.

I no longer feel the need to keep the peace.  Instead, I've learned how to not let them control how I feel.  Sure, there have been a couple setbacks, but it's been far easier that I thought it would be. 

And sometimes I question myself.  I question if I am dealing with them in the way that God would want me to.  I wonder if I need to be kinder, or more patient.  I wonder if I should make myself more vulnerable so that I am more compassionate. I wonder if God would approve of me standing up for myself; if he would want for me to be emotionless when people are purposefully trying to create drama.  I know if my children were in my position, without question I would want them to stand up for themselves. 

One thing that I've noticed since I became an advocate for myself, is that my life has become more peaceful.  I am really proud of who I am, and how far I've come.  I just need to find the balance.  I need to be kind, compassionate, and gracious, but protected.  I want to be a representative of Christ in all that I do, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what that means.  I'm a work in progress, but for now, I think I'll enjoy some uninterrupted sleep.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

January Recap

January was a great month.  My little guy turned seven (how is that possible?!), we made some much-needed changes in our home and homeschool, and we had lots of quality time with family and friends.

The first week of January was good.  Every year we have a New Year's party, so this year was no different.  As we get older, the party ends a little earlier, but we still had a wonderful time with our friends!  I also began my fast from Facebook.  I mentioned in this post that part of the reason that I quit was so that I could devote more time to focusing on family.  To be honest with you, Facebook was becoming an idol to me.  I was spending so much time on it and it was constantly in my thought process - for example, whenever someone took a picture of me, I would make sure the photo was Facebook-worthy.  I spent time on it when I should have been doing other things.

We also started making some changes around the house.  I've started washing one load of laundry every day, which has been helped me to be more productive.  I'll put away one load at a time.  If I try to do more, the clean clothes will sit in a hamper for a week before I put them away.  I try to get the kitchen cleaned each night before bed so that I don't have a mess to wake up to.  I do dishes throughout the day, and clean/pick up things throughout the day.  Otherwise, I won't have energy to do it all at the end of the day.  And, I take Sundays off.  Sunday is family and church time.  Not cleaning, running around time.

Our children went to a fun kids event without us (they were with an adult family member).  It was really scary for me because I am always concerned that something will happen to them when I'm not there.  But, it ended up being great.  Ben and I got to go out to breakfast together and then go to the mall for the afternoon.  I can't remember the last time we (just the two of us) went out for breakfast, it was definitely needed.

X-Man had a family birthday party which was very nice.  He also had a friend (as in, HIS (under 18) friends) party. We had it at our community center, and the kids got to run around, play games, and burn energy! It was on a super-snowy day - church was actually cancelled that day, so we didn't get everyone we had expected, but it was still a lot of fun. 

We've started reading a chapter (or two) of a novel to each child every night.  I was rushing their bedtime routine, then Little Lou would come out of her room every night asking to be snuggled.  Then, as soon as she asked for snuggles, X-Man came out for snuggles.  It ended up being stressful and taking way longer that it should have - so Ben and I weren't able to spend much uninterrupted time together.  So, we each take a child to bed.  Then, Ben or I read one or two chapter of their book to each child in their bed.  It gives us snuggle time, and gets them sleepy so they fall asleep quicker.  X-Man and I just finished a Magic Treehouse book, and Little Lou is working on Charlotte's Web.  X-Man is into History, so the Magic Treehouse books are perfect for him (Little Lou probably wouldn't pay attention to these books at this time), and Little Lou loves animals, so Charlotte's Web has been great for her - X-Man doesn't seem to like books that are obviously fictional (talking animals and whatnot, whereas Little Lou does).

For school, we changed our planning as well.  As I mentioned in this post, I was spending each night prepping for the following days lessons.  We changed that too.  Now, on Saturday, I write our entire weekly schedule on a white board.  We erase each thing as they are completed.  This past week it worked really well for us.  We began reading A Grain of Rice, and on Tuesday (the second day), the kids were HOOKED.  They wanted for us to keep reading, we read the entire book in two days instead of four.  I just erased the assignment from Wednesday and Thursday and added new books.  Also, if we fall behind, we can leave uncompleted assignments on the board for us to finish later in the week.  For example, for the first time ever, X-Man is struggling with his math work.  He wants to rush so he forgets to regroup.  He already completed his lessons in the Math-U-See book, so I've been creating new worksheets for him.  One thing that has helped is making his math problems multiple choice answers.  That way, if he doesn't get one of the answers I have listed, he HAS to go back and figure out where he went wrong.

I also made my first sensory bin for the kids.  It's Valentine's themed and Little Lou is LOVING it.  She's been playing with it all morning. There's shreds of paper; foil; felt hearts; red, pink, and white pom-poms; cups; spoons; tongs; heart cookie cutters; small red and silver presents; and pink, white, and red foam squares, beads, and gems.  It's messy and fun, and since everything goes right back into the box, it's easy to clean up.
 We attended two Classical Conversations open houses and have decided to join.  We are attending one more next week, so at that point we'll make a decision on which campus to attend, but we're pretty excited about it.  In fact, registration begins today for next school year, so I'll be doing that soon. 

All in all, it was a great month.  The weather wasn't always cooperative, we had gym class cancelled because of snow, and have had a few days with sub-zero highs.  But at least the snow is pretty, and we can stay inside if we want.

Now, onto February and the countdown to Valentine's Day.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Never Miss Another Post!

I wanted to let you all know that now, you can be sure to never miss a blog post.  On the right side of your screen, under the 'blog archive' is a 'follow by email' option.  Type in your email address and new posts will be delivered directly to your inbox! I know you're as excited as I am!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Series of Fortunate (homeschool) Events

Remember this post?  It's the one where I talked about how we made a couple changes and now school is glorious and easy and blah blah blah?  Well, as is usual - the week after I posted that, we changed our minds.  Again.  It seems that whenever I make a public proclamation, something happens to make me change my mind and do a total 180.
I don't know if it's weather, or losing mid-year steam, but the kids turned into monsters.   I was seriously doubting that we'd be able to homeschool.  My patience was gone.  My kindness was gone.  I was frustrated and counted down the seconds until my hubby came home each day. 

Then, a series of fortunate events unfolded.

First, as I mentioned, my children were acting like monsters (I'm certain they couldn't have learned this from their mother...  Right?!) .  I felt that if we were stuck in the house together all day that arguments would ensue and everyone's mood would be negative.  It just so happened that we had a heatwave last week and the temperature rose to 45 and sunny.  So, I did what any true Ohioan would do - I decided we would spend all day outside burning energy.  We packed up and spent time at the zoo.  We guessed which animals would be outside by considering whether they were warm blooded or cold blooded and which part of the world they lived in - quite educational.  As we were walking the zoo (along with maybe two or three other families), I realized that we wouldn't be able to do this if we didn't homeschool.  I also realized that my decision to 'escape' for the day, was okay - it's alright to leave home and experience life - in fact, that's one of the reasons we started homeschooling.  And it was really nice to spend some time enjoying each other while learning.

Second, we joined a homeschool gym class.  The kids LOVED it.  They got to run around with other kids their age and play games.  I began talking to a mom there and she mentioned that she was a part of Classical Conversations and it just so happened that the next day was their open house - more on that in a second.  When we got home from gym class, the kids behaved so well!  They got along much better with each other and seemed to listen better too.

We decided to attend the open house at Classical Conversations.  I'm glad we did.  The day begins with a prayer and the pledge.  They then break up into groups with other kids.  They learn some geography, history/timeline, Latin, science, math, and a few other things (we had to leave early so we missed some).  The kids seemed to enjoy it - Little Lou said that she liked it, X-Man said it was too early in the morning, but I think he enjoyed himself.  Again, when we did our schoolwork, they listened really well and got along with each other for the rest of the day.  I have since met with the director and she gave me some more information and I asked a few questions.   She said that if we're interested in joining, that I could actually be hired on as a paid tutor since I have previous homeschooling experience.  So there's a lot of opportunity there.

We're also going to attend some private school open houses in the next month, just so that we can see what's out there before we make our decision for next year.  But again, as of this moment, we're leaning toward homeschooling.  Come back soon to hear how I've changed my mind again (smiley!). 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Back to School

Almost all of my state's schools were closed at least two days this week to cold weather (highs just barely broke zero degrees Fahrenheit).  But, in our homeschool, it was our first full week back from Christmas break.  And, it went REALLY well!

Last year (beginning of 2013) I made some changes in the new year which helped things to go more smoothly during class time.  I think Christmas break is a really good time to evaluate how things are progressing, get organized, and reevaluate curriculum/schedule/priorities.  I knew we needed to make some changes, and (one whole week into it!) so far, things are going well.

Nightly Prep
I had gotten into the habit of waiting until each morning to go over plans for class time.  Now, each night, I spend some time diving into the next day's work.  I skim everything we are going over the next day, and make an easy-to-follow schedule on the whiteboard.  On the whiteboard, I also include any discussion questions I want to go over, which really helps things to go smoothly.  When I wake up the next morning, I have additional  ideas that I wouldn't have had if I would have waited until the morning to go over the curriculum.

I also make sure all the resources and materials I need are in the classroom and are easy-to-find.

Hot Breakfast
Often, as I'm going over the days plans, I get the kids a quick bowl of cereal.  Since I've been getting everything ready the night before, I can spend time making them a nice, hot breakfast.  And, I can sit with them and eat with them - it is wonderful!  We talk about our day, and spend time getting into the right mindset for school.  As they get dressed, I can get the dishes done from breakfast.

Expanded Quiet Time
This was an issue I tried to resolve last year as well.  We were only spending a little bit of time in the Bible each day - just the daily amount recommended our curriculum.  Now we've been adding to that.  Each morning, X-Man spends some time reading a Bible or devotional book to himself.  Little Lou isn't quite reading, so I'll either read to her (whatever Bible story or devotional book she wants) or put in one of our Bibles on CD for her to listen to.  I also try to spend some time in the Word when she's listening to her CD. 

Then, we read a devotion together from a book that contains 365 devotions - they're geared toward small children, so they're short and perfect for my little people.

Clean as we go
By the end of the day, our homeschool room is a mess.  Papers, pencils, toys, craft supplies, everything.  Well, not now.  As we go, they must pick up everything they had out for the previous subject.  This also gives them some time to get up and move around.

Two Language Arts Sessions
This has been one of the biggest helps and positive changes in our day.  Before, I would have both kids work on their Language Arts work, and ask me for help as they went along.  Well, Little Lou still needs help with almost everything, and X-Man gets very frustrated with handwriting.  So, as a solution, for our last subject of the day, we do Language Arts in two sessions.  During the first session, I work directly with one child.  This means sitting there and kindly reminding them how to properly write their letters as they go.  If they start getting frustrated, I can spot it right away; instead of frustration ending in screaming or crying, I spot it, we take a deep breath or take a break and play with floam/playdoh/snuggle a stuffed animal.  During this time, the other child has options on what they can do.  They can write, color, read/look at books, do fine motor work, puzzles, Boggle, or even an educational app on my phone.  Once the first child has completed their language arts work, they switch.

Since it's our last subject of the day, they can continue working on whatever they would like as soon as both are done with their work.  I then have them stay in the classroom with me (contained mess) while I get everything ready, for the next day.

The Two Minute Rule
I get very overwhelmed when I see a sink full of dishes, or stacks of laundry in the hampers, or clutter.  Before, I would wait until the end of school to get any house work done.  This often meant that I rushed through the day so that I could do a quick clean-up before the hubby got home. Sometimes that quick clean up turned into a half hour or more of clean up. Now, I use the two minute rule.  If something will take me less than two minutes to do, I do it right away.  It could be wiping the kitchen counters, washing the dishes from breakfast, sharpening pencils as they break, filing school work in their portfolios, throwing a load of laundry in the washer, wiping the toothpaste off the sink, etc.  As long as it takes less than two minutes, if it will bother me to leave it, I just do it right away.  Then, when we're done, I don't have more work to do.  I can get right into dinner preparations.

It's amazing to me how a few easy modifications can make a world of difference.  Due to a few, minor changes, school is much easier, and it was pretty painless.  What changes have you made in the new year?

Seven Years...

Seven years.  That's the amount of time that I've known what unconditional love is.  This is going to be a short post, but I want to wish my kind, smart, wonderful little boy a very happy birthday.  I'm so happy that God chose me to be his mom, he means so much to me.  Happy birthday X-Man!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

WDW Dining - Magic Kingdom

After yesterday's post, I've been thinking quite a bit about Disney World.  So, as promised month's ago, I thought I'd do a Disney World post.  Today, I'm going to focus on restaurants at Magic Kingdom.  I'll tell you restaurants that we've been to and whether we recommend them.

Magic Kingdom
Quick Sevice
  • Casey's - this is located on main street and sells mainly hot dogs.  On our first trip, it was the first restaurant we ate at.  The hot dogs are good, but expensive (covered by dining plan). They also have french fries, and for dessert you can get the standard (yummy) chocolate brownie, cotton candy, or Cracker Jacks.  There isn't much seating, but there are several small tables outside - sometimes a piano player comes out, which is pretty cool! We would eat there again - though not by first choice. Recommended for lunch, but I don't know that it would hold you over for dinner.  Recommended for gluten free dining.
  •  Cosmic Ray's - we ate here on our first trip - it's located in Tomorrowland.  They have burgers, chicken, and ribs.  There is a large seating area inside, which is nice. I do not like the set up of this restaurant.  If you want burgers, you have to go to a certain bay.  If you want ribs, you go to a different bay.  So, either you and your party need to agree on entrees, or you'll be waiting in several lines.  Our food there wasn't great.  But I've heard great things from others - it just wasn't great for us. This would be substantial for lunch or dinner.  There are also gluten free options.
  • Be Our Guest - for lunch, this is a quick service - it's located in Fantasyland. There is quite a bit of seating, but if you want to eat in the West Wing, get there early!  We arrived 45 minutes before they opened and were still maybe the 10th person in line.  The opening is REALLY cool.  They come out and welcome you and cheer for you as you walk in.  It is easily the prettiest restaurant in all of Disney (at least the one's we've been to!).  And the food is excellent.  They have table service quality food for lunch.  They have sandwiches, roasted meats, and other yummy things.  My son inhaled his grilled mahi-mahi. And their cupcakes - SO good!  HIGHLY recommended (for lunch) - also great for gluten-free diets.

  •  Pecos Bill - this one is in Frontierland.  This year was the first time we ate there.  It was SO good.  They have burgers, salads, sandwiches, and other foods.  I got a southwest chicken salad and it was delicious.  There is quite a bit of seating there, and luckily, there are cast members to direct you to open tables.  Other wise, it would have been tough to navigate through the restaurant with two little ones and two huge trays of food.  We will definitely eat here again.  I feel that it would be substantial for dinner - there were also some gluten free options here.
  • Columbia Harbor House - this is located in my favorite part of MK - Liberty Square.  They are famous for their fish and chips and their lobster rolls. They also have chicken and some grilled entrees. I had grilled salmon, steamed broccoli, and couscous.  It was VERY good.  There are plenty of tables here, both upstairs and down.   I really like the theming of this restaurant.  It feels very Colonial and has creaky wood floors.  This is a great place for lunch or dinner (they close early in the off-season) - there were some gluten free options.
  • Pinocchio's Village Haus - this is located in Fantasyland.  It is probably my least favorite restaurant that we've eaten at in WDW.  They have flatbread and sandwiches and pizza.  They food was very bland.  There was quite a bit of seating, and some of the tables even overlook the entrance of It's A Small World.  One thing I do remember is that they had pretty tasty chocolate gelato.  I'm not sure about how many gluten free options they have.  The family liked it, but I did not.
  • My hubby LOVES these pretzels.  We got this one at a cart in Frontierland.  Not gluten-free.

  •  The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor - WOW.  So good.  This is located on Main Street.  We got the All-American sundae (which was covered by a snack credit).  It was easily enough for two people and was SUPER yummy.  Recommended for gluten-free dining.

  • Gaston's Tavern - this is in Fantasyland.  The theming is AWESOME.  It looks exactly how I thought that Gaston's Tavern would look.  They have steak on a stick, some baked items, and their featured item, LeFou's brew.  It's basically a frozen apple juice with a marshmallow foam.  It was refreshing, but a little sweet for my taste. Recommended for gluten-free diets.

  • Aloha Isle - If you like pineapple, you MUST get a dole whip float here!  So good, and covered by a snack credit!  Recommended for gluten-free diets.
Table Service
Of all the parks, I feel that Magic Kingdom's table dining choices are very limited.  We've eaten at only a few, one was our worst meal in Disney World, and one is one of our favorites.

  • Tony's - this is located on Main Street.  The theming is nice, it's supposed to look like the restaurant from Lady and the Tramp.  The food wasn't very good.  With the exception of dessert - their Pistachio Creme Brulee is DELICIOUS!  I really don't recommend this one.  They do have a steak entree, but I don't know how gluten-free friendly it is for children.
  • Liberty Tree Tavern - I love the theming of this one as well.  It's Colonial, with the creaky wood floors.  Each room is themed around a president.  We've only had dinner here, which is basically, a Thanksgiving Feast served family style.  I really enjoy this meal.  Almost everything (except rolls, gravy, mac and cheese, and stuffing) is gluten-free.  They will give you gluten-free rolls and gravy if you want it.  They will also give you ice cream (instead of craisin cake) for dessert.  They food is always quite delicious, and plentiful.  You can eat as much as you would like.  Highly recommended.  Also recommended for gluten-free diets.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Day 3 - Facebook Fast - Why I Need a Change in Priorities... Or do I?

When the hubby came home last night, I informed him: "Yesterday, I was certain we were going to do private school next year.  But, today, I decided that I think I want to homeschool."

His reply: "How much of this decision has to do with going to Disney World?"

"Um... Not, er... Not muuuch..."

And his response: "Well, none of this decision should be about Disney."


Now, to be honest, part, as in, like, 5% of my decision is based on travel.  I love that the last two years we were able to go to Disney World during the slow season.  We had low prices, low crowds, and got 'free' dining.  Had we traveled when most do (summer, holiday breaks), we would not have been able to get as much as we did for as little as we did.  It would have been miserable - long lines, big crowds, hot weather...  No thanks!  Sure, some places are best seasonally, (beach, seasonally opened resorts); but, some are best when no one else is there...  And, it just so happens that WDW is one of those places. Also, if we were to send them to private school, unless the hubby got a giant promotion, regular travel would fall out of reach for us.

So, yes, it (travel, WDW) did have a place in my current decision (which, again, will likely change several times).  Flexibility is one of the biggest pros for homeschooling.  When the other kids are in school, we get our zoos, museums, parks, to ourselves.   We can take vacations whenever we want.  We can take advantage of huge discounts at touristy places during the week while school is in session (we recently went to the biggest waterpark in the US and stayed in a suite with our friends for a total of $80 for our family's two day admission tickets and hotel).  I plan their doctor appointments for when other children are in school.  I do my grocery shopping when others are at work or school.  I love that part. 

After talking to the hubby, I felt a little guilty about travel being such a priority.  Then I thought about it some more.  Some of my favorite childhood memories are when we traveled.  It was time as a family with minimal outside distractions.  I always learned something without realizing that I was learning. 

These kids won't be little for long.  I want them to have cherished memories of us as a family. I want them to remember the times they spent having wonderful experiences, not the hours they spent sitting in a classroom.  I want them to see their learning come to life before their eyes.  Bottom line: I won't feel guilty about allowing travel/flexibility to be a part of our decision process.  It is a huge pro, and should we decide to homeschool next year, we'll take full advantage of this awesome benefit.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Day 1 and 2 - Facebook Fast

Today is the second day of my Facebook fast.  So far I've only typed in the URL maybe five times.  Which raises a red flag - I wasn't thinking of going on facebook, but apparently that was the main site I was visiting since this was an automatic thing...

Anyways, a long time ago, yesterday, when I started this non-facebook journey, I was 95% sure that I wanted to send the kids to private school.  I've been spending time doing some research and am now about 75% sure that I want to homeschool next year.  I'm sure that I'll be waffling quite a few times in the upcoming month, so I'm excited to see what our decision is going to be - are you on the edge of your seat too?!

Come back soon - I'll be posting often :)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Why I'm Giving Up Facebook... For Now.

Most of my readers are people that I know in real life; and, most of these people are connected to me on Facebook.  I have a feeling this post won't get many views until February since my main 'marketing' technique is posting on Facebook that I've added a new blog post.  Also, there's something to be said about consistency - of which I have none. 

Anyways, earlier this week I announced that I would be off of Facebook for the entire month of January - that announcement was mostly for accountability.  If I publicly profess that I'll be abstaining from Facebook, then it's more likely that I will actually stay off.

I also want to be more transparent, so, I thought I'd let my few faithful readers know why I have decided to (at least for this month) give up Facebook.

Facebook is a major time-suck for me.  If I'm bored, I get on Facebook.  If I don't want to clean/wash dishes/do laundry/do homeschool, I get on Facebook.  Basically, it is an escape and an enabler to my procrastination.  And, I need to face a big decision without distraction.  I need to spend more time in prayer and research and less time in distractions.

So, here goes. 

Homeschool is not easy.  Even with only two kids, it's not easy.  And, in some ways, I just want to give up.  I don't want them to fight constantly and I don't want to argue with them everyday about handwriting.  But I also (to be fair), haven't been giving it my all.  I've been lazy and I've been selfish, and it needs to stop. 

This month we're going to attend some open houses for Christian schools in our area to see what they have to offer.  I'm going to be spending the time that I normally would have spent distracting myself (on Facebook), in prayer and spending time with my children putting their education as a MUCH higher priority in my life.  I'll also be making pro and con lists and asking for advice from probably everyone I know...  So, if you are a praying person, won't you pray for discernment for us? 

I truly have no idea what our decision will be, but we want it to be the best decision for them.  I don't want it to be a fear-based decision nor a pride-based decision.  I want it to be a faith-based decision that puts their needs first.  I want to be open to what God wants for them and I want for us to find peace in this decision.  I'm sure I'll be posting much more on this in the upcoming days/weeks/months, so stay tuned.

For now, Happy New Year!  Come back soon!