Heart Work with the help of Mario Brothers

The other day I made Ree Drummond’s amazing cinnamon rolls. The recipe makes about 32+ rolls. (I also made Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies, my own chocolate oatmeal cookies, and some mint chocolate chip and cookie dough ice cream.) I think it’s safe to say my pregnancy sweet tooth has been turned on and turned up! There are plenty of sweets for everyone, so if you’re hungry, you should stop by. Please. (I just heard Randy yell from the kitchen, “There are baked goods everywhere!” and it wasn’t in an excited-kid-in-a-candy-shop-kind-of-way, it was a I-have-no-where-to-put-down-my-coffee-cup-kind-of-way.)

Those cinnamon rolls, though. They are so delicious and just a tad labor-intensive. But a lot of the work that goes into them is also dependent on the yeast, and whether or not its done its job. There are many references to yeast in the New Testament, and how it only takes a little yeast to work through a whole batch of dough–it can be good yeast and make the bread rise well, or it can be bad yeast and spoil the batch. When I made the cinnamon rolls this time around, I was afraid I burned the yeast and killed it. It wasn’t able to do its job the way it normally does, and the rolls didn’t rise as well as usual. They still tasted delicious because they’re covered with cinnamon, sugar, butter, and delicious maple icing. But I knew the truth. They weren’t as good as they should’ve been.

I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts and books lately about raising kids. being a mom, homeschooling, etc. As a homeschool mom, it can be easy to feel a lot of pressure to raise “perfect” kids. Or at least “perfectly educated and well-mannered” ones. We are home with them, so we have all the time in the world to turn them into wonderful little specimens, right? 😉 But what I’m realizing/learning/accepting as Randy and I work through a parents’ Bible study together is that the work I do to turn out God-fearing children is futile if God’s not already in it. Just like I can work the dough all I want to turn out delicious rolls, but if the yeast isn’t good, the rolls will fall flat.

Our church recently had a parenting conference where one of the speakers outlined God’s work and our work in parenting (what is actually within our power and what is not). You can read about his list of things that are part of the parent’s work when it comes to raising God-fearing children here.  (And please do, it’s a great read!) When we dwell on the fact that so much of our kids’ lives are not within our power to control, it can feel freeing, and also scary! It can also be tempting to throw our hands in the air in a moment of frustration and say, “Forget it! I have no control, anyway! Do what you want.” But this is not what God wants. In fact, we are commanded to teach our kids the things of God and to evangelize to them, even though we’re not guaranteed the results we want.

I like that accepting God’s power, love, and grace in the life of my family takes some of the pressure off of me. But it doesn’t remove my responsibility, and I’ve been thinking lately about how to be more intentional about teaching Godly characteristics to my children. At the beginning of the year, we did a unit on the Fruit of the Spirit. (All of my lessons are outlined in my blog and you can see them by clicking on the link.) But just like reading and math require continued practice, so do learning and exhibiting Godly characteristics. It can be easy during the school year to get so focused on academics that it’s hard to squeeze in character-training. That’s one reason I think the summer break is an excellent time to practice these characteristics and others such as manners and social skills. For us, this is where We Choose Virtues comes in. I purchased this simple, 12-week program a while ago but haven’t found the time to start implementing it until now. We only have 2 weeks of school left, so I wanted to start now before I get too relaxed in summer. For 12 weeks, we will focus on one characteristic each week. My job is to read the parent cue card (which also has a Proverb linked to each virtue) and implement 1-2 of the fun ideas for introducing the characteristic to my children. Then I also have to notice and give them praise when I catch them exhibiting that characteristic during the week. They can’t call my attention to their good behavior, I have to notice it. We decided to tie a reward system to this program, also. My kids love playing Mario Brothers on the wii each weekend, but they can lose time playing because of bad behavior. So I thought, if they can lose time for acting poorly, shouldn’t they be able to gain some time by acting the way we’re teaching them? Of course, I want them to understand the value in having these characteristics in a lifelong, eternal sort of way, but at their age, there’s nothing wrong with some immediate gratification. 😉

So here’s our Mario Brothers time chart set up:

The 2 posters are from We Choose Virtues. I made the Mario chart myself and stuck velcro pieces on it so we can swap out what characteristic we’re working on and so that Mario can move forwards and backwards. What I like about this system is that there is redemption. If we’re working on self-control and one of our children loses control over something on Monday, Mario will move back 10 minutes. But he can still move forward again when Randy or I catch that child remain self-controlled in a difficult circumstance later that day or week.

So we begin this new adventure Monday! I’m excited for it. Remembering to keep my children and their hearts in my prayers is such an important piece and I’ll admit that sometimes I fall short there, so that’s my own goal right now. When I don’t pray for my children, it’s like forgetting to add the yeast to a dough I’m making. And at least if things get frustrating at times, we have plenty of cinnamon rolls, brownies, and ice cream to soothe our souls (and satisfy our sweet teeth)! Seriously, come over for a treat. Anytime. You’ll be doing us the favor! 😉

Is there TIME for that?

Can I just say, I LOVE our homeschool curriculum! It’s seriously awesome. There are many things to love about a curriculum, but one thing I’m thankful for today is the amount of time that’s allotted for free exploration, and fun, hands-on activities. This curriculum does a great job making room for “margin space” in homeschool life. I’m in a moms’ Bible study and last night we were talking about how much margin we leave in our lives for the unexpected, or the “fun” stuff that can present itself when we’re not prepared for it. Are we expecting the unexpected? Are we leaving enough margin in our daily schedules to allow for hiccups, or for playing with our kids even when we have other things to do? Do we have enough margin for things to take longer than expected and not get upset over it? These are questions we had to ask ourselves. It’s a struggle for me, sometimes. I’m a planner, but I’m working hard to not be an over-planner. I’m learning the value in saying “no” and leaving enough margin in my schedule. Although I typically start my day with some sort of plan for how it will go, I’m now asking God daily to give me the grace to accept and embrace the changes that come–the ones I haven’t planned for.

I’m the type of mom who searches for ways to make learning fun and to incorporate all the senses when possible. I love doing crafts, experimenting in the kitchen, and enjoying our tasty experiments! I love exploring outside when we can. So I love that our curriculum includes an “exploration day” every week (also helpful when the week doesn’t go quite as planned–there’s a cushion day). And I love that it schedules in fun, interesting, hands-on activities throughout the week that go with what we’re learning (like having a family Sabbath celebration, or measuring Noah’s ark in cubits, or using clay and toothpicks to build our own “Tower of Babel”). I like that I don’t have to come up with all the fun and interesting stuff as “add-ins” because they’ve already included a bunch for me!

IMG_20170427_121427722So today, after a week of beginning to learn to tell time, we made a clock pizza! And it was scheduled right into our curriculum. I happen to have a fruit pizza recipe that is better than the suggestion given (which used actual pizza crust, whereas mine uses a sugar cookie crust–yum!) so I used that and we made an educational and delightful treat! Nice to have the time to do these things together. 🙂 Doesn’t mean the whole day was perfect or that on other days, we don’t get to the fun part that I’m looking forward to, but today was a gift. And no matter what comes, planned or unplanned, tomorrow will be, too.

*The curriculum we use is My Father’s World. I fell in love with it at a homeschool convention 2 years ago. I wouldn’t be so bold to say it’s a perfect curriculum, but it’s perfect for us, right now. You can check it out here: mfwbooks.com

IMG_20170427_121029268This FRUIT PIZZA is a great dessert for any spring/summer gathering and is SUPER easy to make. Even a pretty nauseous pregnant lady with 3 little kids running around can whip it up in no time.

IMG_20170427_121232446I use Pillsbury sugar cookie dough for the crust. They come in squares, now, so I lay them all out on a greased pizza stone and then roll them together using powdered sugar instead of flour to prevent sticking. Then I bake according to the package instructions, but usually have to add a few more minutes since we’re making one giant cookie, here!

For the “sauce”:  – 8 oz cream cheese (softened), 1 TB vanilla, 1 TB milk, 2 TB apricot preserves, 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, drizzle of honey. Whip together with a hand mixer until smooth.

Spread the “sauce” over the cooled cookie, and then decorate with fruit! Today I used blueberries, sliced strawberries, and sliced kiwis. Sometimes I add grapes. Blueberries made great numbers for our clock. What a fun snack for all of us!

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Plastic Easter eggs are taking over our house…

Ideally, I would like to get better at sharing our special occasion homeschool activities BEFORE the actual holiday so the ideas can be used by others who are interested. Haha! Right now I pretty much use my pregnancy nausea as an excuse for everything (because it truly can be paralyzing at times) so that’s my excuse for not getting to our Easter egg centers earlier. On Friday, we somehow managed to do our centers, go to a playground, go out for lunch, take a hike on the local rail trail, and make it to our church’s Good Friday service. No wonder we all came home and crashed and I was tired for the rest of the weekend! But I wanted to share with you our new centers, particularly the ones that used plastic Easter eggs you might have laying around your house right now…

For Abby, I set up centers using all plastic eggs (which is a great way to use up those leftover ones from Easter). These were ideas I came up with back when I was teaching first grade. There are so many cute ideas all over pinterest, etc, that can be adapted for whatever you need. I was so excited to break out my old eggs and worksheets that I once used in my classroom and to start using them with my own child.

Here are some ideas:

COMPOUND WORDS This was particularly fun for Abby, and the whole way home from our Easter celebration, she kept trying to come up with other compound words. This led to a discussion on the difference between syllables, sounds, and actual words (that make up other words). She did a good job coming up with some on her own, though, like “sidewalk.” She’s a thinker!

RHYMING WORDS I knew this would be an easy one for her, and she loves rhyming, so she saved it for her last center since she always saves the ones she’s looking forward to doing the most for last. haha!

WORD FAMILIES It was really fun for me to see Abby read through these words with such ease. This is a great way to help reinforce onset and rime practice. I wrote the rime on the longer part of the egg (ex. “ock”) and then a bunch of different onsets on the short part of the egg (“l”, “r”, “bl”, “cl”, etc) and she would rotate the egg to say and then write the different words. Since we had limited time on Friday, I only had her write one word for each word family, but when she has more time through the week to go back to it, she can write more.

Another couple examples that I have but we didn’t do yet are SYNONYMS & ANTONYMS, and then a sight word game where the sight words are written on a slip of paper inside an egg and the student “finds” it, and writes a sentence using that word. Our curriculum also did a brief mini-lesson on homophones this past week and if I had more time, I would’ve reinforced that with a homophone egg center, too! The options are endless!

For Noah, he had some fun, creative centers including a letter egg hunt, and you can see more about his centers and the centers we did last week on my updated center page.

Oh, and I have to share with you our Saturday night “Sabbath” celebration. We just finished up going through the 7 days of creation in Abby’s Bible reader and we culminated it with our very own Sabbath dinner celebration. We did ours Saturday night instead of Friday. I made a nice big dinner (which I don’t do often these days, since I’m not feeling well, but was able to make an exception) of roasted chicken and sides, and set a nice table. We had the 2 candles, and a loaf of homemade challah bread, which I must say, came out great for a first-timer! Then we had a relaxing evening of watching Disney’s “Moana” and were ready for Sunday’s day of worship and family time!

Centers, Spring Baskets, and Beauty & the Beast

They say hindsight is 20/20, but when it comes to babies, I’m not so sure that’s true. It sure seems like once one stage is over, we tend to forget all the “bad” that went with it. We look at their cute little faces and instantly forget (or block out) the sleepless nights, sore boobs, etc etc etc. Sometimes we forget how horrible one night was by the next morning! We can easily minimize or forget the pain of labor and discomfort of pregnancy for the sake of having “one more.” Okay, maybe that’s not you, but it’s me. My husband and I always said we wanted four kids and it’s like, no matter how miserable my pregnancies are (and they’ve all been miserable) I’ve never let go of that “four kids” plan. So here I am, sitting on the couch feeling incredibly nauseous, tired, and overall miserable because I’m 13 weeks pregnant with number 4. “Fourth and final” I say! I say this to explain my near 2-month-hiatus from writing. I started feeling nauseous by week 6 and I just haven’t had it in me to think about anything other than daily survival. Ugh. When I was going through with my third pregnancy, I seriously questioned whether or not we would make it to number 4. But here we are! So much for that hindsight thing, I definitely forgot how purely awful pregnancy nausea is for me. But, I will make it through and the outcome will be worth it; this, I know. 😉

Anyway, I reworked our school schedule so we could take 2 weeks off and “regroup.” Abby had been asking for a break, I definitely needed one, and I wanted to start spring cleaning which is hard to do while also homeschooling (and nauseous). So I decided while on break, I could catch the blog world up on life a little bit. Let’s start with school. During school each week we’ve been incorporating “centers” every Friday which the kids can carry into the next week. If you’re not a teacher or don’t know what centers are–I pick three activities for Abby and Noah each that they can do independently. The activities usually have to do with what they’re learning currently in school and are fun. I give them anywhere from 6-8 minutes to do each activity and set the timer. They move through each center and then they can pick their favorite to do for longer at the end. Fridays are our “exploration” days so we don’t have our normal school routine. Abby and Noah can do their centers and I can help if they don’t understand something. Then we have time to do other exploration activities or fun field trips. The next week, while I’m working one-on-one with one child, the other may choose a center or two to work on independently. It’s really worked well so far! If you’re looking for a way to occupy a younger sibling during homeschool, try some of these ideas! I’m a huge fan of The Mailbox, which is where I get a lot of activities and ideas. Check out their website for activity books and cut-outs! For a full view and description of all our centers so far this year, check out my NEW center page! Here’s just a little photo preview:

Last week was the first week of spring (couldn’t tell from where I’m sitting!) so we did “spring baskets” at our house. I don’t have anything against Easter baskets in general, but we don’t really have time for them on Easter and I want to spend the limited time we do have focusing on Christ, church, and family. So the spring baskets are a fun way to celebrate the season of spring and makes an otherwise normal day seem fun! So what do I put in spring baskets? I fill ours with a little bit of candy, a small toy, maybe a chocolate bunny, a piece of jewelry for the girls and a keychain or something similar for Noah, and I usually like to incorporate something about the meaning of Resurrection Day. This year I bought a book for all of us and new Christian music CD for us to listen to when we’re cruising around town in our minivan. 😉 I also painted Abby a bag for her books a couple months ago so I stuck that in her basket as well.

Oh, and last week we saw Beauty & the Beast! It was phenomenal! Abby’s 5 and she loved it. The wolf scenes are a little intense, but she did great! I’ve seen some questionable opinions about the movie but I’ve also read some really good reviews! I can’t say anything more or better than what’s said here: ttp://ohamanda.com/2017/03/08/beauty-and-the-beast-movie-review-discussion-guide/ plus there’s a discussion guide! Check it out if you can!

So that’s all for me, I’ve gotta get to bed. Hopefully it won’t be another 2 months before I write more. Then again, my track record indicates long periods of nausea so I’m not too optimistic about it ending anytime soon. :/ Much love to you all!

Super Bowl on the Whole30

img_20170205_193458When most people start a “diet”, food program, or some sort of “cleanse”, we generally start on a Monday: after the weekend, right?  I mean, who wants to start eating right on a Friday?! What a waste of a perfectly good food-indulging weekend! We all want one last food “hurrah” before the “transformation” begins, and then come Monday, we start getting organized/in shape/eat right/whatever.  If you’re doing a longer food regimen like the Whole30, or something that you plan to carry over into some lasting habits–no matter when you start–you’ll hit a weekend and that’s where the test really begins.  Sure, it’s not so hard to get through the weekdays in a new routine.  Maybe you go to bed early to avoid late-night snacking. You have light meals and distract yourself from more daytime snacking by occupying yourself with work.  This doesn’t seem so hard!  And then the weekend comes.  Maybe you had plans to go out, enjoy company with friends, or just want to veg on the couch with the hubby and order take-out, eat ice cream, and have a glass of wine (or margarita)!  But all of that is dampened by food restrictions.  (This is one reason I’m not a fan of dieting for the sake of dieting, or long-term food-deprivation.  We live in such a food-centered society, it’s hard to really enjoy ourselves in social situations without food.  Good food.)  For me, food I love is a huge part of my enjoyment of life.  My Whole30 is not about weight-loss, or because of “issues” with any kind of food.  For me, it’s been an experiment and a hopeful minor lifestyle change.  I’ve wanted to see if my energy levels would change with a diet change (they have) and I hope to incorporate healthier lunches and snacks and be able to keep my everyday diet a priority in my life.  (It can be too easy to snack on processed foods or to take bites of my kids’ lunches rather than make myself a salad.  And don’t even get me started on my old “late-night snacking” habits!)

Anyway, I got through my first 2 weekends pain-free.  Of course, I wished I could indulge in some take-out or dessert with Randy on the couch while watching a movie or playing a game (I went with a few handfuls of almonds, instead), but all-in-all, they were good weekends.  When I planned for the Whole30, I had no plans on the weekends, but that quickly changed.  I learned to use restraint but be polite (which was hard on the first weekend when the homemade oreo ice cream came out!), and to pack my own snacks and be creative with what I could eat!  This has been a fun adventure.

img_20170205_193300Come Super Bowl Sunday, I knew I would need to be equipped with some awesome appetizer recipes so I could still enjoy the event.  (Events of the actual mind-blowing game aside, this is about food.) 😉  Here are some of my “healthy” Whole30 compliant recipes that were enjoyed by all on game night!  You can use them for your next gathering whether you’re on the Whole30 or not, because they’re delicious.  Trust me! 😉

Homemade Salsa & Guacamole

My recipes for homemade salsa and guacamole are naturally Whole30 compliant.  That’s what made them so perfect.  Actually, I do typically add a pinch of sugar to the salsa to cut through the bitterness of the tomatoes, but I just skipped that this time.  My trick when I’m making these two dips together is to use the food processor for the salsa first, then without cleaning it out, I start the guacamole right away in the same processor.  That way, the guacamole gets a hint of the salsa flavors in it.  So yummy!

Salsa (Measurements can be to your taste, depending on how strong you want your flavors)

  • 1/2 (or whole) onion, quartered

    img_20170205_193429
    Let’s talk about the chips!  No tortilla chips on the Whole30!  Technically, chips of any kind go against the philosophy of eating whole foods, foods with minimal ingredients.  But because these veggie chips (left) didn’t have any actual out-of-bounds ingredients, I made an exception.  Because, Super Bowl. PSA: One Potato Two Potato makes an excellent sweet potato chip!  I’ve only seen them at Starbucks so far.
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 (or whole) jalapeño, roughly chopped
  • handful of cilantro
  • 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 4.5 oz can chopped green chiles
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp hot sauce

Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until desired smoothness.  Test with a tortilla chip before pouring into a bowl!  You never know if you’ll have to adjust something.

Guacamole

  • 4-5 avocados, ripened
  • 1/4-1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 (or whole) jalapeño, roughly chopped
  • handful of cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsps salt
  • juice of 1 lime

Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until desired smoothness.

Stuffed Jalapeños

img_20170205_193354Normally when I stuff jalapeños, it’s with cream cheese.  That’s obviously a Whole30 no-no, so I came up with this little concoction instead.  To make the turkey sausage, I followed this Whole30 recipe (click the link below), which I love for breakfast sausage with my scrambled eggs.  So bonus, I only used part of the sausage in my jalapeño stuffing, and I was able to save the rest for some breakfasts this week!  

  • 10 jalapeños, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed (use gloves!)
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed with salt, pepper, and ghee (clarified butter, whole30 approved)
  • crumbled turkey sausage
  • 10 strips Whole30 compliant bacon, cut in half

Combine the mashed sweet potatoes and the sausage.  Spread the mixture into each jalapeño half.  Wrap in a half strip of bacon and place on a rack, on top of a baking sheet.  Bake at 275* for 2 hours.  Serve hot.

I found these other 2 recipes, as well, which were a huge hit with me and our guests.

Buffalo Ranch Chicken Dip  img_20170205_181916495

Chile Lime Chicken Wings

And here are the printables for my salsa, guacamole, and jalapeños!   Enjoy!

salsa-guacamole

whole30-stuffed-jalapenos

Recalculating…

There is a lot of adapting involved in parenting.  Before you become a parent, you probably have an idea of what kind of parent you’ll be like and how your kids will behave.  Then you start having kids and… well, it usually doesn’t look exactly how you pictured it.  Things arise that you never could’ve predicted and so you adapt.  You try one discipline technique and it doesn’t work, so you adapt.  Methods that your oldest child responded well to don’t have nearly the same effect on your second child, so you adapt.  If you’re a parent who has never had to reevaluate or change direction with something, you’re probably not doing something right.  Or you’re just not receptive to what’s not working.  Or you’re the perfect parent.  But I’m convinced that doesn’t exist, so… 😉

This same thinking is applied for teachers in the classroom.  When something isn’t “clicking” for a student, the (good) teacher will try to find another method that will make the material accessible and easily understood.

As a homeschool mom, there’s a combination of both these mentalities that can sometimes be overwhelming.  When we have a bad day of school, we wonder if we need to change our parenting style or our teaching style.  As daunting as it can be, it’s important to keep assessing so we can meet our goals.  I don’t know anyone who made the decision to homeschool on a whim.  Usually it comes with lots of thought, research, discussion, and for the Christian families, prayer.  With something so important at stake, of course we want to do our best.

Recently I was met with a decision that made me turn and look at the way I’m “teaching” my preschooler, Noah, and if I’m really tailoring my teaching style and preschool activities to his needs right now.  (He’s a little behind in his speech, so that’s something I want to work on with him.  Now, when I say “teaching”, I do mean very light, fun activities.  One thing that I love about homeschool is that kids can still have plenty of time to be kids.)  After a lot of prayer and discussion with my husband and close homeschool mom friends, I decided I needed to remember why we decided to homeschool in the first place, stay the course, but just recalculate a bit and change what I do with him right now.  I’ve had to do this with Abby in the past and I strongly suspect I’ll continue to do it year after year with all my kids.  When you come face to face with a time for recalculating your parenting or your teaching style with your kids, here are some important things to remember:

  1. Cover the situation in prayer.  Cover your child in prayer and ask for wisdom to know what to do.
  2. Remember WHY you’re on the path that you’re on.  My husband and I have specific goals for our family and our children which is why we decided to homeschool for now.  I think it’s important to have “umbrella goals” or a family mission statement that won’t change over time.  But you may have smaller, more specific goals that will change as your kids grow up.  For us, homeschooling may not always be tied to our umbrella goals, but right now it’s a big part of how we’re meeting those goals and it’s definitely tied to our smaller goals for our young kids.  It may be helpful to have these goals written down somewhere.
  3. Realize that change takes time.  So you tried something once and it didn’t work out the way you envisioned.  It doesn’t mean you have to change it right away, your child may just need an adjustment period.  But if you keep doing the same thing without desired results, then it might be time to reassess.
  4. Recalculating doesn’t make you a failure!  It makes you a better parent/teacher for recognizing the need for change and following through!
  5. Age matters.  Maturity matters.  Sometimes, my best plan of action was none at all.  Simply because my child was too young or immature to “get it” at that time.  So, we just took a break.  After a month or two of not doing a certain activity, what used to be met with tears and anxiety was suddenly met with confidence and determination upon reintroduction.  And I never even had to change my teaching method!  She just needed a little time to grow and mature.
  6. The best route is not always the fastest route, and it’s definitely not the same for everyone!  Stop comparing every little detail of your situation to another’s.  Sure, there are basic, age appropriate benchmarks to be aware of, but not every kid moves at the same pace.  And the beauty of homeschooling is that you can tailor your child’s education so that it suits their needs, and they don’t always feel like they have to learn like everyone else (by “keeping up” in the classroom).

As we are about half way through the school year (depending on what kind of schedule you follow), now is a good time to reassess where you are in your homeschool year.  Is your child understanding everything?  Are you on target, or where you wanted to be by this time of year?  If not, what needs to change?  Sometimes it’s our expectations that need to change, but other times, we do need to recalculate so we can still make it to our destination even if we have to go about it a different way.

New Adventures in Food and Homeschool

It’s been a week since I started my second round of the Whole30 and to be honest, it’s been great this time around.  Last time, I remember thinking, “It’s only 30 days, I can get by on mostly salad for that amount of time.”  That’s part of what contributed to me having a hard time with it.  Trying to get by on salad and smoothies for days on end (salads that can only be dressed with oil and vinegar, by the way, since your favorite dressing from the store actually contains sugar) is not ideal, especially for someone who’s used to eating a wide variety of flavorful foods!  So this time, not only have I been researching and making more unique and delicious dinners, I’ve been getting creative with breakfasts and even finding snack foods that are Whole30 compliant.  It’s a lot of work!  But it’s been fun, and worth it.  I’m totally in love with these mocha energy balls I made over the weekend and I already made a second batch to get me through this week!  I was also struck yesterday as I did my grocery shopping (once in a while it’s nice to actually go to the store and shop rather than use the to-go services, especially if I only have one child with me–that was a treat!) at just how many aisles and sections of the store I skipped because I’m on the Whole30 and only buying whole foods (mostly–I still have 4 other people in the house to feed, and they still like their dairy and grains).  It wasn’t the first time I thought about what’s in our food at the grocery store, but it definitely made me think about it more.

Here’s just some of the delicious food I’ve enjoyed this past week.  Hover over the picture to see the description…

In homeschool news, I introduced new centers this week (as I plan to every Friday).  This week we were in tight quarters as we’re in the process of swapping out our living room entertainment center, but we made do.  So far, the kids LOVE these as a general idea.  They look forward to “center day” and it really has worked at keeping them occupied during regular school hours when I need one-on-one time with one of them.  I’ve started keeping a log of my ideas and it helps to plan ahead.  I think I have the next few weeks planned now, but I still have to do the prep work, which can be time consuming.  So glad I finally have a new laminator ($20 on amazon, thank you very much)!  It helps to know that the work I’m doing now can be used for siblings in the future by keeping it laminated and protected!  If you’re interested in this week’s centers, take a look: