Amy Beth

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The preschool question

“The basis for the beginnings of literacy is that children have heard and listened … They have spoken and been spoken to, people have discussed [things] with them … They have asked questions and received answers.”

From The New Preschool is Crushing Kids in The Atlantic.

One of the hardest things about being a mom is being confident in your own decisions. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve researched, how strongly you feel, how convinced you are that you are making the right decision for your family, there is always that quiet voice that bugs you with, “Are you sure?”

I’ve felt that way a lot about preschool lately. We’ve made the decision to be a homeschooling family, and I’ve said over and over again that I believe children learn through play. But every now and then I start to worry that I’m not doing things right. Should I be putting Charlie in preschool? Would it be better for him to be around other kids more and have more structure? Should I at least be more rigorous in my approach to preschool at home? Is it a problem if he doesn’t already know all his letters? Should he really be spending all day playing with cars? Do I need to start teaching him how to read?

These are the questions that run through my head. Especially when it seems everyone else is doing something different. I forget sometimes that just because something is right for one family doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for mine.

So it’s always a relief to me when I read articles like this one. It reminds me of the reasons I’ve chosen what I’ve chosen and helps me feel like I’m not crazy. Some preschools are fabulous and I’m sure are great places for kids to be. But it’s a relief to hear that my kid isn’t going to be worse off in life for spending his preschool years not in school. And it helps to know that just spending time reading and talking, answering his questions and listening to his stories, will serve him just as well as a daily letter craft.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Making a Monthly Meal Plan

Makeingamontlymealplan

Have I mentioned before that I pretty much hate getting meals on the table? Meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning…all of it. Except the eating. I very much enjoy the eating part. I’ve tried lots of things to make this whole daily ordeal more enjoyable, or at least take up less of my life. So my latest project is one more attempt at streamlining the whole meal preparation process. The biggest change from anything I’ve tried so far? Planning for the whole month.

I started by making a list of all the meals I would consider quick and easy. When I actually sat down and wrote them all out I found I actually had a pretty good collection. For the most part they are recipes that I can make from memory, have a small list of ingredients, and come together fairly quickly. Some recipes are crock pot meals that take a while to cook, but only a few minutes to dump the ingredients in at the beginning of the day. I’m sure each family would have a different list, but ours includes things like tacos, spaghetti, parmesan tilapia, and roast beef.

Easymeals

Then I made a list of easy and quick side dishes. I’m really bad about making the main dish and then realizing we have no vegetables once I get it on the table, so I knew I needed to think about sides ahead of time. I only have a handful that I’m planning to rotate though each week, but they are super simple. Mostly various types of frozen vegetables with some roasted sweet potatoes or carrots thrown in for some beta carotene.

Once I made my lists I realized I could fill out a whole month’s calendar and only repeat most of the meals twice. This sounded like a fabulous idea, but I knew I would miss some of our favorite but not quite as quick and easy meals. So I made a list of favorite seasonal meals. My plan is to put one “seasonal favorite” in a week, but with a list of favorites already made it’s still not something I’ll need to think very hard about. Some favorites that I’m planning for this fall include my stuffed acorn squash and chicken and rice chowder.

From there I filled in the calendar! I based the plan around our typical schedule for the week, so on grocery shopping days I always plan on just picking up a rotisserie chicken for dinner. On days when we tend to have more going right before the dinner hour I plan on crockpots that I can prepare earlier in the day.

Calendar

The last step was preparing a shopping list. Since I plan on repeating my “quick and easy” meals all year long, I knew I could go ahead and make a shopping list to refer to all year too. This took a bit of time, but I think I have a pretty thorough list now. I split it up into things that I can buy just once at the beginning of the month, and more perishable items that will need to be purchased on a weekly basis. My hope is that I can take one big shopping trip at the beginning of the month and get all the unpleasantness of that out of the way and keep all the rest of the trips short and sweet. Since I’ve only just started this system I have yet to find out if this is how it will actually work in reality.

Maybe in a few months time I can report back on how this system is working out. I’m hopeful that it will make at least some things easier and I’m already excited about the fact that the whole month’s meals are planned out.

Anyone have any fabulous tips for making meal planning and prep involve less time and stress? I’m all ears!

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**This is going down in the books as Project 1 for my 31 Projects goal!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

measuring tape, scissors, and graph paper

We have about 11 weeks until our baby is born. As you can imagine, this means that the nesting energy is running at full force.

I want to clean.

I want to organize.

I want to rearrange ALL the furniture in my house.

I need to make room for this baby!

(Of course, as my husband so practically reminds me, if the baby came today we wouldn’t actually have to do that much to get ready for it. Buy a little co-sleeper and do a load of laundry to freshen up the diapers and we’d be pretty much set. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer to be a little more organized and stylish than that.)

So as a first step toward getting my house together I did one of my favorite things – I made a to-scale floor plan drawing of my home and all the furniture in it and moved tiny pieces of paper around.

Graphpp3

Graphpp2

I learned as a kid that my enthusiasm for trying new furniture arrangements was far greater than anyone else’s enthusiasm for helping me physically move said furniture. So I made up for it by trying infinite arrangements on paper. Then only when I really loved one would I solicit the help of others to make it happen. The graph paper model has helped me numerous times in convincing my husband that a certain arrangement would work. It has also saved us the trouble of trying something that would end up being awkward in the space. It’s a solid system.

I’ve found that a ratio of one square of the graph paper for one square foot works well. It’s certainly one of the easiest ways to go. I also discovered that at that scale my entire house fits on one sheet of graph paper. Convenient.

After drawing the measurements of each room (I didn’t bother with the kitchen or bathroom since there really isn’t anything to move in those rooms) I measured and drew each piece of furniture. It sounds like a tedious process, but if you just keep pad of graph paper with you and draw each piece as you go it really doesn’t take that long.

Pro-tip: Outline each piece of furniture with a color (I used highlighters). It can be hard to see tiny pieces of white paper against a larger piece of white paper. The color helps them stand out.

Graphpp

I spent an evening shuffling the tiny pieces around until I settled on something that I think will work. I went ahead and included pieces to represent a few possible purchases we’ve been thinking of making to make sure they would work in our home. I learned a few things in the process:

  1. The baby will, indeed, fit in our house if we get a co-sleeper to go next to our bed.
  2. The baby (and all her stuff) will fit even better if we purchase an ikea dresser to serve as her changing station.
  3. We don’t actually have to move around ALL the furniture in order to make room for the baby. Most of it will actually work best right where it is. This is both relieving and mildly disappointing to me. Sometimes I like a reason to do something totally new.
  4. Some of our furniture is not necessary. There are a few pieces sitting in our house that don’t really serve a useful purpose; they just take up floor space. We’ll probably remove those.

This little project has given me a good start on planning for the baby. I have several more projects in mind for this weekend. Probably more than I can actually accomplish. I’ll be sure to share the progress though. Stay tuned. This house is about to get baby-fied!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

DIY Deodorant

REDACTED: A couple weeks after writing this post my all natural DIY deodorant started causing a lot of irritation. It turns out such high levels of baking soda are not good for applying regularly to the skin. There are other deodorant recipes out there that do not use baking soda, but they’re all a bit more work than I am willing to put in, so I’m back to the conventional stuff. So much for being an all-natural hippy!


 

Sometimes I’m a lot less “all-natural” than I may lead people to believe on this blog. For example, I just ate a copious amount of PuffCorn Delites with my lunch.

But sometimes I surprise even the people who know me and my crunchy granola tendencies well with some of my “all-natural” experiments.  Take my deodorant, for example. I haven’t worn regular store-bought deodorant for several months, opting instead for a homemade variety. After reading several alarming articles concerning toxic chemicals and aluminum in deodorant, I figured it couldn’t hurt. It also happened to work, which was a relief. Here’s how to do it!

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You need some baking soda, coconut oil, and a small container to store your deodorant in. An empty deodorant container from your seedy toxin-ridden past works best.

Read more…

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Calendar and To-Do List Printable

Every now and then I get a little overwhelmed with all the tasks and events in life that I have to keep up with. It’s as if all the “things I have to do” start swirling around in my brain at warp speed and they desperately need to be caught and pinned down so they can actually get done. But whenever I’m really feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount effort all that catching and pinning will take,  I tend to find productive ways to procrastinate. Such as designing my own calendar and to-do list planner sheets. Would it be a better use of time to actually do some of the tasks? Of course. Would my planner be as pretty? Absolutely not.

planner-printables

Just in case you’re more productive than me and would like some nice calendar and to-do list printables without taking the time to make them yourself, I thought I’d share mine.

These sheets are designed to be printed on a full sheet of paper and cut in half. From there you can bind them however it works for you. I use the Levenger Circa System – Junior Size, but you could also use a simple half-sheet size binder or another disk-bound system.

The calendar is blank so you can fill in the month and dates yourself, with a column on the side for notes.

calendar-printable-img

 

The to-do list is pretty basic. Just a nice looking list of blank lines to fill up.

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Just click the links below to download the printables on your own computer!

Download the two-page spread calendar here.

Download the half-sheet to-do list here.