A Year Of NO!

I recently, well about a year ago now, was invited to attend a book club. I have to say I have read only 1-2 of the books! I’m not a stellar member. I tend to read self help books or fluffy books. I was hoping that the book club would help get me out of my comfort zone. I tired but I ended up not finishing several of the books! Anyway, someone had told me about a blogger that posts what books to read that year and so I took a peak. Her first suggestion was Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I got it from the library and I eagerly dove in. It’s been a great book. All about a women who wrote TV shows and was always saying no to everything and even the most amazing opportunities and so she decided for a year she would say yes to everything.

As I was reading the book I thought, “I say yes to everything already.” I have the opposite problem. I say, “yes” so often that I neglect my family and myself because I put others before me. As noble as that sounds there is a point where it is not helpful. Seriously, what if I said, “no” for a year. If each time someone asked to watch their baby, or take their kid somewhere or go out. What would happen? The thought frightens me. I hate telling people no. I feel like I let them down or I’m not helpful or they will think I am not caring. But each time I say “yes” to another thing I’m really saying “no” to something else. As she rightly points out in her book no one is doing it all. If we are saying yes to homeschooling, I’m saying no to re-entering the workforce. If I say yes to helping out a friend by watching her kids, I’m saying no to getting much done around my house. Not even the most put together women does it all. No one can. We are only human.

Where do you need to say “no” or “yes” in your life? Sometimes are friends encourage us to do one or the other but no one really knows are individual situation so be sure to do whats best for you and know when its a needed push and when you need to stand your ground.

Share with us how you protect your time while still loving others!

Jessica

“The Talk”

I’m not sure why the topic of how to talk to your kids about sex has come up lately for me in conversation but it has. Let me first tell you my experience growing up. There was NO talk about sex or things to do with it. If I had a question, it was answered but don’t remember asking much. The two things that stand out in my brain are getting my period and thinking I was dying (I was in 5th grade) and finding Playboys in my parents closet and my mom telling me she was fine with it because she needed to know the competition! I was also exposed to my first and only viewing of pornography that I remember at a friends house in 6th grade.

Why do I tell you all this? Because it has caused me to be VERY diligent in making my kids experiences and awareness in regards to things related to sex very different from my own. When my kids were 1, 4, and 6 I began to research and read books on how to talk to them, what to say, when to say it and more. So here is what I have come up with from all my reading.

  1. YOU need to be comfortable talking about sex and your body first. This can be completely awkward. I hated going to the doctor or asking questions and always felt so embarrassed! I was so scared and sometime in my adult years I started asking some close friends some questions and if something was normal and it was such a relief. Over the years it has become easy to ask questions or even say the word “sex” without cringing or getting red in the face.  When you talk to your kids they will notice if you feel uncomfortable or awkward. You need to create a safe place for them to talk and not feel like you are dreading it.
  2. Be the FIRST one to introduce anything to them. Of course tailor the needs to the child and tell age appropriate information BUT it is key that the first time they hear about sex and menstruation is from you! You don’t want them to hear about it from other kids first. You want to be able to set the stage and honestly in this day and age that time is between the ages of 6 and 9! I know its crazy! It’s so early but yet its out there and your child may already know more then you care to think!
  3. Stick to the facts. When I say “sex” a whole list of images and thoughts race through your head because you have experience and background. You’ve seen movies, heard stories, etc. but to your child sex is just a set of facts. It’s just like explaining how the car works or how to do chores. It is just matter of fact. This does this and that. DONE! No need to elaborate or add too much details.
  4. Speak early and often. You may not think sex education starts earlier then 6 and you may think it’s a one time event but it’s not. From the time you child is born call the body parts by their proper names: penis, vagina, breasts, etc. I’ve heard some people assign cutesy names to body parts but we need to stick with the facts. It can cause issues down the road. Also try to have regular conversations about their body and issues they may encounter. For instance, I went and talked to my kids all about sex but failed to discuss more practical things like bras, tampons, pads, deodorant, self care, etc. Encourage your child to come and talk to you about concerns they have even if they are small.

So how do you make the leap and where do you start? There are some resources available. For things specific to sex we used two different resources.

  1. God’s Design for Sex Our library had them. It was nice because they have one for kids that are around age three and simply addresses the differences between a boy and a girl. There are four books total and I haven’t used them all yet but have looked at them. They go into more detail into transgender and homosexuality at the later age.
  2. The Talk This person used to work or possible still does for covenant eyes. She developed this simple curriculum to use to talk about the specifics of sex. My kids actually find it all very interesting.

As far as talking about body stuff in general and difficult topics we used the American Girl Doll Books. They were simple and covered a whole bunch of stuff like glasses, deodorant, pads, tampons, eating disorders, all things I’m not sure I would have thought of on my own. There is one for younger girls and one for older girls. You will just have to see which one works for you.

Be sure to set aside time to intentionally go through this. We do a morning reading time with homeschool and in the summer we read through the American girl doll one. As for the deeper topics I always tend to go over this in the summer. We have more time and aren’t rushed. I go over the information every summer so that it stays fresh and offers a chance to ask more questions.

I’m careful to tell my kids that this isn’t something to be ashamed of but it’s also not something appropriate to talk about with friends. It’s for them to discuss with parents and each parents choice to decide when to talk to their own child. If someone were to bring up the topic I encourage my girls to tell the person that they will need to talk to their parents.

I try to keep things private that are going on with my kids and realize that to us it isn’t a big deal but to them it is the END of the world! Adam and I try to have open communication and I make sure to let the girls know they can ask dad about things if they choose and that he has knowledge but they certainly don’t have to!

We also personally teach modesty from the start. Adam will bathe our girls but once they reach around 6-8 I take over and help with bathing and really by this time they are doing it by themselves but he doesn’t walk in the bathroom or bedroom while they are changing as they get older. He also does not allow the kids in our bathroom once they are about 2 to see him naked. I will say my kids still walk in on me all the time but I have 3 girls and I am a girl so that is why we have allowed this. Make it what you would like with your family.

If your kids are in public school almost every school I know of has a “sex education” curriculum that starts at kindergarten or first grade! I know it seems early and usually they notify you and you can opt out but there is a list of topics that will be discussed at each age. You have the right to see it and know what they will say about  how each topic will be approached. So please be informed!

I’m sure there are things I have missed and I don’t have all the answers by any means! What questions do you have and what resources have you used? What works for your family to talk about the tougher topics? I love learning from others and what they do so please let me know your feedback.

Jessica

Am I teaching my kids to be emotional eaters?

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So who doesn’t like a treat? I mean I LOVE ice cream so much that for our wedding the grooms cake was an ice cream cake and really meant for me! But back to the topic at hand. I am not above bribery for my kids! Hannah had to get cavities filled and that can be scary so I told her if she did well she could have a chocolate shake. If we are at church they get hot chocolate. If they sing in choir at another church there are donuts. They get treats at homeschool events. We are doing a day camp at church this week and there will be treats every day. Now of course I have no issues with my kids having a treat but it seems like they are around every corner. Please let me know if you don’t feel the same way. I love to hear the other side.

So we were down in Peoria last fall to watch my husband’s nephew’s football game and we had a nice time. On the way home we decided to stop at an apple orchard. We went through the store and got cider, honey, donuts, caramel apples, apples, etc. and spent a pretty penny on all of it. When it came to walking around outside I noticed they had an area to play but they wanted $8 per person no matter the age. So for 5 of us that would be $45 which seemed to me like a lot of money.

Fast forward to a week or so ago and all of a sudden it hits me. As I’m looking at budgets and thinking about food and money I’m realizing my thinking is all wrong! I was willing to drop a bunch of money on food and “tangible” items but I wasn’t willing to pay $45 to create a memory. I always want to walk away with something or get something from what I put my money toward but that means we buy a lot of treats and food. We get tired of all the little trinkets around the house so we tend not to buy souvenirs but isn’t creating a memory and an experience just as important?

As I examined my heart I found that I was focused on all the wrong things. I had been taught to reward, comfort, etc with food but why not change my thinking and reward with spending time together or experiencing something together. Why not spend money on an experience or a memory instead of food or “stuff.”

Alternative to food rewards: go for a walk, play at the park, play a game together, go hiking, date with a parent, reading a book together.

Alternatives to eating out/food: trampoline park, splash pad, swimming, biking, softball, tennis.

What are some of your ideas in this area?

Mediterranean Chicken Bowls

So recently my husband and I had the privilege of going on an all expenses paid trip to the San Francisco Bay area for Shaklee. They served the most WONDERFUL food and we didn’t feel full and yucky because of what we ate! It was all HEALTHY and they served mostly fruit for dessert. Below is a picture of one of our lunches. As we assembled it, I thought, I can make this at home and so I did!

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First off, I have to say that this HUGE bowl is so important. I thought we had big bowls at home but this one is so much larger. I love it for salads and such and wish I could say where you could get one but Shaklee gifted these to us!

We started with the base. There were three options I made. Some of you may be thinking this is so much food and so overwhelming. We had friends coming over and really it was like making all the fixings for tacos. You could just make one of these as a base instead of all three.

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From Left to right: Red Quinoa, Cauliflower Rice, Cilantro Lime Brown Rice.

RED QUINOA- I had eaten quinoa before but never Red Quinoa. I cooked it according to the directions. Usually I soak it in water first and rinse it really well. You could cook it in vegetable broth or chicken broth as well to give it more flavor. Then I added dried cherries that I had chopped to it once it cooled. At the event, they added dried cranberries but I happened to be out so used dried cherries.

CAULIFLOWER RICE- I took a whole head of cauliflower and roughly chopped it and put it in the food processor and pulsed until it resembled rice. I then melted some infused olive oil with a little butter in a pan and sautéed it. I also add some minced garlic. Once it was cool I added chopped parsley.

CILANTRO LIME BROWN RICE- I cooked the brown rice per the directions and then added the juice of a couple small limes and chopped cilantro! This is one of my favorite flavor combinations!

Once you have your grain in the bottom of the bowl I then add some spring mix. I get a HUGE thing of organic spring mix at Aldi for about $3.50. That way if I don’t have time to chop lettuce and such that week I still can grab a healthy meal.

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You could put your protein either on top of the lettuce or at the very end. I chose to put my protein under my toppings. I marinated chicken in some Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette and then grilled it. At the Shaklee event they had Salmon as an option too. I suppose you could do what you would like there. We chopped our chicken into small pieces to make it easier for us and the kids to eat.

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Once we have the chicken in place then we can go nuts with toppings! Be sure to let me know what other toppings you would include. All of these are fairly self explanatory except the red pepper puree. I got that part from another recipe I tried before this bowl. I would also add to the list of toppings avocado, but I was out. Now looking at my first picture they also had hard boiled eggs too!

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Row 1 left to right: Black Beans, grape tomatoes halved, cucumber Row 2 left to right: red onion, chickpeas, feta Row 3 left to right: hummus, roasted red pepper puree, kalamata olives.

We absolutely LOVE infused vinegar and oils. They taste amazing and are so healthy for you. We first learned about them in Traverse City, Michigan at a place called Fustini’s which will ship to you if you don’t have a local place. Here in the Quad Cities we are fortunate that we have a place that sells them. It is the same distributor of these oils just a different label. Green Thumbers which is a local green house carries the oils and vinegar and it looks like you can buy it online as well. What I like about Green Thumbers is you can get a small sample bottle like I did of any flavor. If you go to either of these shops you can also taste them!

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Options include: traditional balsamic, raspberry balsamic, garlic infused olive oil, tuscan herb olive oil, Sicilian lemon white balsamic and fresh lemons and limes.

I did not take a picture of my completed bowl but it was a HUGE hit! We love these and I even thought if I made a huge batch with all the toppings we could then assemble them throughout the week for a healthy lunch each day.

I hope you enjoy them!

Jessica

I wish my kids would….

Isn’t that a loaded statement? Oh, sometimes my girls just bicker and fight. They try to boss each other around. They don’t include others in what they do. They are self-fish. They get into conversations that they don’t need to be a part of. They are nosey. They think they know everything. They move too fast to get things done. They just won’t slow down. They are a reflection of me!

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Why do these thing irritate me so much? Because I see myself and my own sin in their actions. The harder part I find is changing my own behavior so that I can help them change. I can’t expect them to do something that I myself cannot even model. So where does that leave us? How can we make these changes that we need to?

First, I think it comes down to being open, honest, and humble with our kids. We need to let them know that we struggle with these things too. A wise friend told me that our kids can help hold us accountable as much as we hold them accountable. It’s about the relationship and working together. I personally struggle with so many things that I can become overwhelmed in my own sin. I need to remember God’s grace in all of it. I need to know that I am not perfect and never will be. I also need to not use that as a crutch or excuse to get out of something. It is all about balance. So let’s identify some practical ways to work on this. (Note: I’m type A so if you are type B there may be a different formula :))

  1. Make a list of all the things you struggle with. Take your time doing this and just write down everything that comes to mind over a week. Don’t worry about it being petty or silly just brain dump as things come up.
  2. Take that list and look for common themes. Try to look at the bigger picture and what the issue really is. Maybe your list all boils down to priorities out of whack. Or maybe your list boils down to pride.
  3. Pick one theme and make an action plan to change it. Now that we have identified our problem, let’s work to come up with a solution. So if it was priorities out of whack maybe we need to list out our priorities and post them to read daily until we get a handle on them.
  4. Find a scripture for encouragement. Google is a beautiful tool. I also rely on wise friends to help point me to helpful scripture that can help us remember why we are wanting to make a change.

Whatever you do keep at it. Don’t throw out everything because of a bad day or even a bad week. Just get back up and try again. It just takes time.

Jessica

Do your values and actions align?

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I love when areas of life cross over into each other. It seems like as I develop in one area it spills over to another and that is so cool! The other night I was reading a book for business development. The point of the chapter was finding your motivation or your why? So I started to think about why I do my business and why I homeschool and why I stay home. He gave an example. He said if I put a ten inch wide, 30 foot long board on the ground and told you I would give you $20 to walk across it, everyone would do it. Now if I took that same board and put it between two 100 foot tall buildings and gave you $20 to walk across most people wouldn’t. Now say your child was on the other building and the building was on fire. You would probably walk across the board regardless of whether he offered the money or not! The only thing that changed was your why. Our why for doing something needs to be so incredibly strong that it needs to be able to carry us through the hard times, the trying times, the bad times, etc.

What is your why? Why do you homeschool, stay home or even work? Why do you spend hours during the day doing what you do? Take the time and write it down. If you are more visual than create a board but no matter what know you why! When those though times arise look back at your why to remind you why you are doing it. Here are my why:

  1. Why I homeschool? I love kids and I enjoy spending my days with my own kids. I want to raise my kids up as disciples of Christ and I feel I have the best opportunity by keeping them home. I enjoy the flexibility and the time we have to walk through things as quickly or as slowly as they need. My kids are able to enjoy more free play and do special projects because we can get the basics out of the way. Training my kids to think through problems and not just accept what they are told, even by me is something I want to spend time fostering and don’t feel I could adequately do that by sending them to school.
  2. Why I do Shaklee? First off, I love the company and the science behind it. Many companies make claims but Shaklee has the science to back it up and not just any research but studies by UC Berkley among others and they are published in peer reviewed journals. Adam and I feel better when we take our supplements and so do our kids. We have not spent nearly as much money on doctors and pharmacy these past 6 months as we have in the past. We want to preserve our health and the environment. It also serves as a plan B  for income, if something happens to Adam.

He then went on to talk about how our values and beliefs need to line up with our actions. There are several home based businesses out there: Norwex, Mary Kay, Shaklee, Thirty one, and Trades of Hope to name a VERY few. Each one offers a something different. The person that is running their business needs to have their values align with the company or it will cause stress. Although I saw the business reference I had a HUGE ah-ha with my personal life. About 6 years ago, I was teaching full time and had two kids in daycare. My values said God first, then family, then work. My actions said work first, then family, then God. I was working all day, then I would get my kids from daycare, feed them, bathe them and put them to bed and then catch up on house work and groceries to do it all again the next day. I couldn’t put my all into my job and my family.

See now before we had kids working full time was not an issue at all and it didn’t really get in the way with other things. There is nothing wrong with being a working mom. Everyone has different priorities and that is ok. People also have different personalities. I couldn’t let all the house stuff go. Although looking back I should have hired a cleaning lady!

I personally could not “sell” bags or jewelry. There is nothing wrong with these items but they don’t fit in with my lifestyle. I don’t even really wear jewelry or bags!

I encourage you today to not just mentally think about your why. There is something powerful that happens when you write it down and even more powerful when you decide to tell others. It holds us accountable and makes it more real.

Why do you do what you do? Will you share it with us?

Jessica

Affirmation

So I struggle with anxiety. I have for as long as I can remember and I’ve been to a lot of counseling with various counselors. Some helpful and others not so helpful. The guidance I found most helpful was to identify irrational thoughts such as “I’m going to die” or “Everybody hates me.” Once we identified the irrational thoughts we came up with counter thoughts to those such as “I have been checked out by a doctor and nothing is wrong. I will be ok.” or “Some people may not like me and that is ok but there are plenty of people that love me.” This was a helpful exercise along with accepting how I feel and  breathing normally.

Well, nothing is a perfect solution and if you know anything about anxiety you know that you will always struggle. It will never quite go away but you can learn how to manage it. As some of you know after my mom’s death I took over her home based business. I was looking to begin one under her anyway. I have to say that this process of learning the business in just three short months has been great for my anxiety. I can’t say I have loved dealing with it but man I’m certainly working on myself. So you see I would get disappointed everyone once in a while like maybe when it seemed like everyone else got invited to something and I didn’t or maybe when I found out someone I loved said something hurtful about me. Well, in the multi-level marketing business you get disappointed a lot. You hear “no” a lot and it’s not personal. Just not everyone wants what you have to offer and some aren’t even willing to hear you out. This has been great for me because I have to learn on a daily basis how to accept it and just move on. I can’t over think it and wonder, “Was it me or something I said?” I will tell you that I still do some of that but it can get you down. The business also has fun, exciting, up times and other times where you are down. I have had to learn in these three short month how to deal with.

The other day as I phone a VERY kind and loving friend who told me I needed to write down affirmations. After she explained them and gave examples they sounded very much like my irrational thoughts I learned to counter. See you take a thought like “My kids are driving me insane and I can’t seem to get any school work done.” and you turn that into a statement like “I love my kids and the time we have to spend together. Our days are very productive and we have quality instruction time in math, science, reading, and writing.” You do this for each thought you have and then you post them or read them to yourself daily. I know it totally sounds crazy but I have heard this more than once from wise people.

Darren Hardy has another take on it. I find it all quite interesting. As I grew up my dad had me read a book called “The Inner Game of Music.” There were other books with similar titles and it came down to that our mind and thoughts control how we perform in many areas. So I sat down today and I wrote out my affirmations and posted them on the mirror. What have I got to lose? NOTHING! I have everything to gain. It’s all about attitude!

Jessica