Blissful and Domestic - Creating a Beautiful Life on Less

Thursday, August 27, 2015

An Impromptu Science Experiment...

I've been trying to let go....trying to let those red heads of mine lead our school day....and let me tell ya friend it has been a challenge. Going off the agenda is so not in my code. I am an organizer at heart and like things in their place and in a certain way....but God knows my children's hearts so much better than I do.... and He has placed the idea in my own heart that I need to loosen the reins a that is what I am doing. I am in fact letting Jesus take the wheel. 

When first thing in the morning the boy comes to me with an impromptu science experiment, I go with the flow and say "heck yes...let's do it"...well not exactly those words but you get my drift :) We are exploring together and taking things slow.....and guess what? It actually feels pretty good! Those kiddos are learning and doing so much cool stuff....which means I get to do cool stuff with them. Win! Win! God is at the helm of our homeschooling ship and he is steering us to some amazing places. I am thankful for that knowledge and the guidance He is providing us with. He truly is amazing!

Science experiment from - 150 Science Experiments 

XO Danielle 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Why We Teach Our Children to Work...

One thing that has been very important to teach our children is the value of work. We want them to know that hard work always pays off. We want them to always put action into their words when it comes to serving others and helping out around the house. It is up to myself and my hubby, as their parents to teach them. We don't want them to ever feel entitled, we want them to know that you must work hard for the things you want to accomplish in this life.

One important thing we try to drive home to our children and ourselves, is that God has designed us to work and to work hard. Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were told to work the garden. Once they left the garden, they continued to work to provide for their family's spiritual and physical well being. Work is a hard thing. We have to use our physical strength...our muscles. We also must use our brains to accomplish a variety of tasks.

Although working is not always what we want to do, it is something that as adults we have learned is necessary. If we do not teach our children this, we are doing them a great disservice. We tell our children that work is not always something we will enjoy. Sometimes it is really hard and leaves us not wanting to smile at all. We've all had times in our life, when hard work was required. We try to remind them of what happens after the work is done. Sometimes when we've worked really hard on a family project, and we sit back and look at all we've done, something happens....A sense of pride is felt because of all the work that was had. Working hard gives us a good feeling about ourselves :)

Sometimes it is the fun we get to have after the work is done as well that keeps us motivated. We have daily chores that are required in our home. We believe that everyone contributes to the mess, so we must all help clean the mess. We have a simple blackboard, which I write out daily chores. Everyone does chores. I pick chores that are appropriate for their age and a few that are bit beyond. This allows them to do things they can do with out much effort and then a few that stretch them. This allows them to continue learning those life skills they will need when they get older.

Oh and everyone has a turn doing different jobs. No one is above taking out the trash or cleaning out the cats litter box.

When these chores are finished, that is when fun things like a field trip or tech time can take place. These become great motivation as well to get the work done.

Now I know that we all do chores differently in our homes, so I'd to love hear what you guys do. I believe we can all learn so much from each other. Let's share a bit about how chores work in our own family and how we are raising this next generation to work hard and do their best :) 

XO Danielle

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What Homeschooling Looks Like For Us....

Homeschool looks different for every family. There is no right or wrong way to homeschool, only finding what works best for your family and enjoying that process with your kids. We've been homeschooling since day 1. It wasn't something I had set out to do, but as preschool years came around, I felt God leading us to homeschool. After that first year, which we called our trial year, we were hooked. Hubby and I saw how our kids had flourished and knew that this is where God wanted our family. I have had that prayer of question reaffirmed over and over again as we homeschool.

Throughout the years, our homeschool picture has changed. We have over the years found a rhythm that works for our family. I've learned quite a few things along the way as well. The first thing I've learned is that I am not in control of our homeschool, God is. He knows my children's hearts far better than I do, so I include Him in every thought I have about our schooling. There have been many occasions where a problem will arise, with me knowing not how to solve it or how to get through to one of my kids. Once I take it to Him in prayer, it is amazing the inspiration I receive. I am thankful for His constant guidance over our homeschool. He is truly looking out for my littles and myself, as we continue on our homeschooling journey.

Each day our schedule is a bit different. I try to have plenty of opportunity for free play and learning. This is not something I always strived to incorporate throughout our day. I use to be very rigid with my scheduling of our school days, but since adding in more free play/learning time, I have seen a huge change in my children. They are exploring books more, they are asking questions more, and they are thinking more deep. These are things that both Hubby and I wanted to come out of this new year of schooling, so I am beyond excited to see some of those wishes coming into play.

Some days we start with a formal lesson on the dry erase board. We also may stick around in pajamas far longer than is socially acceptable. I'm ok with that :)

Some days we spend hours reading from books or listening to audio books, diving deeper and deeper into the stories. We just finished The Indian in the Cupboard. The kids didn't want to stop listening to that book. They loved the fun antics between the Indian, the cowboy and the two little boys that brought them to life. Reading this book also gave us time to dive into Native Americans and some of their customs. We utilize our libraries massive collection to get in as much reading as possible.

Some days we spend having Harry Potter marathons because Mr. Keagan just finished reading the entire book series. I am so proud of this boy. When he started he couldn't imagine reading the whole's a lot of pages, but he stuck with it and read an amazing story, which he is now obsessed with. I am super proud to have another Potter nerd in the family :)

and other days are spent learning life skills and heading out to the pool for some much needed recreation time. This particular pool day was full of a first for Miss Libby. She finally worked up the courage to jump off the diving board. She now is hooked and finally believes me that diving boards are like the best thing to happen to pool time. They're too fun!

and other times we spend the day with our co-op group, learning a new technique in art.

or we spend our day having some baking time and talking about geography as we make the continents out of sugar cookie dough...of course when that happens we have to make some simple circle cookies for Dad too. He loves my sugar cookie recipe :)

Then other days are full of art classes, field trips, ballet lessons, and soccer practices. Our goal is not to teach our children in one subject or just a few, but in a wide range of topics (isn't that what we all want for our kiddos?) We want to create learning opportunities for them to grow and hopefully light a fire for further curiosity to flourish and thrive. As I have loosened the reigns, and allowed God to more fully lead our homeschool, I have seen a HUGE shift in our days. We have more calm and more love...we still have sibling disagreements and days when mama is dog tired, but that's ok....that's normal. We are not perfect, but we are trying to more fully live after Christ's example. 

I hope this gave you just a little peek into how our days are laid out and how I have chosen to not be a slave to the's a process for me and one I am striving to be better at.....I am striving to allow time for inspiration and fun. Homeschooling is such a blessing to my family. I know it is not for everyone, but for our family it is something we know God has asked us to do and I am thankful for the opportunity I have to be home with my red heads and see them grow.

XO Danielle

Friday, August 21, 2015

Freezing Bananas....

We are HUGE banana eaters in my house. To me, a smoothie just isn't complete if it doesn't have a banana in it. Well this can be pretty tricky when you are trying to not go back to the store during the month or in between planned shopping trips. I am notorious for heading to the store for bananas and vowing to only put those yellow gems in my basket and then it happens....I see an end cap display or I see those grapes on sell, catch my drift. Even the most experienced budgeting mamas can fall prey to the end cap display or that item at a rock bottom price. Because of that, I have had to come up with a way to keep myself away from that grocery store as much as possible. Enter the frozen banana...I have been doing this for a bit and it has seriously changed my life....for reals people! When I do my once a month grocery shopping I buy about five bunches of bananas. I leave one bunch out for munching and freeze the rest. I break them into small pieces and place them on an ungreased baking tray. I then place them in the freezer for a few hours. Once frozen I remove them from the tray and place them in a freezer bag. 

Freezing bananas at the beginning of the month for smoothies helps me stretch my grocery budget and stay away from the grocery store more...thus saving me money. 

I still leave money in our grocery budget after my monthly sopping, for any extra produce we may need during the month. I always wait till my fridge is bare though and I remind myself that the less time I spend in that store during the month, the more I am able to save and stick with my grocery budget.

What grocery hacks save you money?

XO Danielle

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How to Bring Joy Back into Your Life....

Sometimes the glass just doesn’t feel half full. Sometimes the glass is bone dry and joy is hard to find.

I’ve had a few days like that recently. My joy well was empty. I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me both professionally and personally as I faced one disappointment and set back after another.

I wanted to crawl into my bed, pull the covers over my head, and not come out til Christmas.

Do you have moments like that? Like you just can’t take one more disappointment or piece of bad news?

So how do you combat those feelings and bring joy back into your life?

Take a break.

Sometimes as moms we take on more and more and more. We cart our kids around to 100 different activities and play dates. We cook and clean and do laundry. But we neglect ourselves.

Take just 15 minutes to make yourself an iced coffee, read a magazine article, or light a candle and shower.

Laugh out loud.

Joy and laughter aren’t necessarily the same thing, but it’s hard to feel burdened when you’re laughing.

Find a funny YouTube video or watch an episode of The Office on Netflix. Just find something to laugh about.

Talk it out.

Loneliness or even the perception of loneliness can be a definite contributor to a lack of joy. Call a friend or your sister and catch up.

Get off Facebook and get face to face with a friend at the coffee shop or local park. Having a buddy you can talk to eases the stress of everyday life.

Count your blessings.

When I am feeling down I take a few minutes to count my blessings. Sometimes it’s just a quick prayer and sometimes it’s actually writing them down. But I like to take a few minutes to acknowledge and thank God for all that he is given me, like healthy children, a roof over my head and good health.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Late Night Gratitude and a Bit of Writing...

Most evenings, once the kids have gone to bed, you will find me here. Here in the quiet, with only the hum of the swamp cooler and my thoughts. I love this special time of day. It is when I get to sit and be still.....think about the day and what I want to write about. Blogging has become such a special part of my life. It is something I didn't know I needed, till I had it....does that make sense?

Years ago I wanted to share my voice. I felt God was leading me to share all that I was learning. One evening I created this blog and said a prayer...not sure what would become of my little piece of the web, but knowing that God was behind it and would encourage me in what this blog was to become. When I think of all that has happen over the years and how this blog has grown, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I am thankful for all of you that come to this little space each day and encourage me with your words. I hope I do that for you as well.

I believe that the Internet is an amazing tool that can be used to spread goodness throughout the world....the only kicker is if we choose to spread good or choose to spread bad. I'm thankful for the opportunity that the Lord has given me to spread a bit of goodness each day. I am thankful I get to share little glimpses into my life with you all.

I am far from perfect. I am a sinner and I fall short most days. I have tired mama days just like the rest of you. My kids get wild and loud, sometimes I lose my temper, and sometimes I have ugly moments....but don't we all? I think the important thing is that with all of this imperfectness, we have a redeemer. A Savior who loved us enough to pay for all the yuck stuff we do each day. We were born as sinners, who always think of numero uno. It is in our nature, one that we have to overcome and learn to resist....that way we can choose what God wants and not just what we want.

I am constantly trying to think outside myself and try to be better for my Father in Heaven. It is a daily struggle, one that I will always be working on, but I know through God's grace all will be well. 

I pray today is a good one for you all. I pray you feel rejuvenated to go about your day. Know that you can do amazing things and that you CAN move HUGE mountains in your life :)

XO Danielle

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Curriculum Choices 2015-2016....

So here we is almost mid August and everyone is gearing up for the new school year. For us, we have been trucking a long for a while now. We are year round homeschoolers, so we go throughout the year with lessons, taking breaks here and there to give little minds and this mama's mind a break. When August rolls around though, I usually find myself rotating out whatever curriculum we have finished and changing up whatever I don't feel is working for us anymore. As my kids grow and learn, I find that some things continue to work perfectly, while other things not so much. I love the freedom we have in homeschooling to be able to change things up as needed. Every child learns differently and at different speeds, so I keep that in mind as I teach my precious red heads.

For this year, we have had a huge shift in what was working and what wasn't. I started this summer with a nudge or a feeling pushing me in a different direction. All summer I have been researching and studying to decide what changes I wanted to make in our homeschool. I took those ideas to the Lord, and let me tell you friends, He heard my fervent prayers. Over the past few weeks I have felt led and inspired to what my children need this year. One of the biggest changes though has not been in my curriculum choices, but in me. I have really learned this summer that God knows much more than I...I know I know...I feel like this is a lesson I am constantly learning. God has been stretching me the past few years to give up control. I am one who likes to have things orderly and everything in it's place, so to have the Lord tell me I needed to give up that control and let Him lead our homeschool was a challenge, but it is one I am thankful for.

I know that the Lord knows my children's hearts far more than I do. He knows their weaknesses and their strengths. He knows their inner desires and what will help them learn and grow into beautiful Christ-loving Saints. Once I made the decision to completely hand over the reins to our homeschool, something amazing happened ladies....inspiration came and it was like our school year just folded out before me. 

I made a list of the things I wanted to teach the kids and went over it with hubby. We tweaked an idea here and there, but for the most part we were very excited for all that this new school year will mean for our kiddos. Below I have included what we will be using for our materials this year.

I teach Libby and Keagan together. We do a mix of 5th grade and 4th grade work. I also try to have one on one time with each of my kiddos. This is our time to chat and catch up. It is also our time together to read and discuss the gospel. I am currently reading a devotional book with each of my kiddos. It was something I felt very strongly to add into our homeschool day and it has already been such a blessing. I will blog about this in another post soon :)

I've included links to each of the items we are using. A lot of the items for this year are ebooks. I either read them on my laptop or on my tablet. Buying ebooks allowed me to keep costs down. I also do not have as many workbooks we are using this year. We are really focusing on hands on learning this year. I do have my ebooks to print out though when lessons are done and worksheets are needed. 

We also belong to a Homeschool co-op that meets twice a week. We are using the STEM science boos in co-op and will also be working on art, music, geography, etc with our co-op group as well. 

Applying the Standards STEM Science Grade 5

-Memory Work-
We are working on our multiplication facts still and memorizing them. We are also continuing our memorization of the US Presidents and are working on world geography and making countries throughout the world.

How are you guys gearing up for your new school year? What Homeschool Questions do you want me to answer?

XO Danielle

Monday, August 17, 2015

Seven Steps for Saving Money for Big Goals....

On our financial journey, I often get caught up in the little nitty-gritty details: staying within our $300 grocery budget, paying for our gas bill, saving some money on our daughter’s clothes. But if that is all I am thinking about, I forget the big picture. The big picture is those really big goals that will be years down the line, such as retirement, buying a home, and traveling. If I forget about them because I’m focused on here and now, I know that I will be hitting myself later.
Have you ever thought, how come so-and-so can travel every year, but we haven't been on a trip since before we had kids? When everyone around you seems to be achieving dreams and reaching goals, you might be barely making it through the day.
I've felt like this many times over the last year. My husband just started his own business and we have been living off savings and extra income when we can make it. How I long for the day when we can afford to travel, even if it's just a road trip to the next state over!
When you decide to finally sit down and write out your financial goals and then make a plan for achieving them, you will no longer wonder how others are doing it, because you will be doing it yourself!
Steps to Save Money for Big Goals
Have you ever thought of all the goals you could achieve if you just had some money? Here are some financial goals that you might be aiming for: 
Emergency fund
Child's education
Buy a house
Remodel your house
Pay for Christmas
Pay off debt
Pay off medical bills
With a little sacrifice and some planning, you can pull off any financial goal you set your mind to. When you are focused on setting money aside for something of value in the future, you will be less likely to spend your money on the little knick knacks and frivolous things you might normally spend it on.
These steps will help to make sure your financial goals come true:
Step 1: Write down your goals in order of importance.
All of your goals are important, but some are more immediate than others. For example, most financial advisors would suggest that you have an emergency fund and pay off debt before you save for travel. If you have $15,000 in credit card debt and $500 in savings, these would probably be your first goals to work on.
For the most part, your child's education and your first house can wait until you have worked on the more important goals of debt and an emergency fund. 
Step 2: Focus on 1-2 goals at a time.
Depending on your income, you should keep the number of goals you are working on to a minimum. If you are on a really tight budget, it might be more practical to set one goal and focus on that until you have reached it. On the other hand, if you make enough money to cover all your bills each month and you have money left to spend, then set two goals to work on. 
Step 3: Pay yourself first.
Maybe you've heard that paying yourself first is the best way to save money. But what does that mean? It means that before you pay any of your other bills, you are putting money away in savings for your financial goals. The amount is up to you, but be realistic. If you want to save up $10,000 for a trip to Europe, you might want to put in more than $100 a month so it will take less than 8 years to save for!
Let me give you an analogy to help you understand why paying yourself first is best. Currently, I have to do dishes by hand. It seems that the big stuff, like pots, pans, and baking sheets, are often the last things I clean. I focus on the little day-to-day dishes to clean first because they are what we use the most. But then it’s really annoying when I need a pan and it’s waiting to be washed. If I want to continue with my task, I have to stop what I’m doing and wash it. Now wasn’t that inconvenient?
It’s the same thing with your financial goals. The big dishes are your financial goals that are often put off because you’re so focused on the small dishes or the day-to-day bills. When you want to take a vacation, and you have been putting off saving for it, you can’t drop everything to go because the money you could have saved for it was spent on something else in the past. That is why it’s best to put the big dishes as a priority each day.
Step 4: Be sure to lower your other expenses.
 Reaching your financial goals can be much easier if you are sacrificing somewhere else in your budget. Perhaps you are saving for retirement. If the minimum amount you'd like to contribute to your retirement account each month is $1,000, you have to take a quick look through your expenses to find things you normally spend your money on and cut back on them or cut them out completely. You might get rid of cable or do your best to meal plan and spend less on food each month. These cutbacks can really add up and help you achieve your goals a lot quicker.
Step 5: Try to increase your income if necessary.
 Now, if you only make enough money each month to pay for your rent, your bills, groceries, gas, insurance, and a few other necessities, it could take a long time to reach your financial goals. In this case, you have to try and increase how much money you make. Consider all your options and decide which one is the most practical for you and your family. Does your husband have a window of opportunity where he could ask for a raise? Or could one of you take on a side job to inflate your income? If you are a stay-at-home mom, maybe what you can do is start your own Etsy shop or go through your basement to find stuff you no longer need that you can sell on Facebook groups, Craigslist, or eBay.
Whatever way you can increase income, have a plan for the extra money you bring in. When you make an extra $50 from that antique lamp that has been collecting dust in your basement, put the money directly towards your financial goals and nowhere else.
Step 6: Reward yourself for reaching small goals.
Sacrificing and working hard can wear you down unless you are rewarding yourself as you go. Let's say your goal for a down payment on a home is $40,000. Each $5,000 you put away for your house, you should splurge and spend $50 doing something your family would love like visiting the zoo or going to a soccer game. It will keep all of you motivated to continue cutting expenses and/or increasing income. Whatever you do, don't wait until you reach that $40,000 goal to really enjoy life. 
Step 7: Achieve big goals and choose the next goal you should work on.
 Congratulations, you've reached a big financial goal! It's relieving to finally have all the money you need to fund a specific financial goal. Perhaps your emergency fund goal was $2,000 and you got that all saved up. Now go back to step 1 and see the next goal on your list. If it is still just as important as it was when you wrote it, make a plan to start funding it. But if life has changed and a different goal has become more important, switch the order around. It's never too late to decide on a change in priorities.
 Going through these seven steps each time you want to reach a financial goal is crucial to your success. Some goals are more attainable than others and may only take months versus years. If your goals are important to you, you will find a way to reach them.

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