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Fall…what does it mean to you?

Football, tailgating, back to school, back to work, crisp, cool air, mums, fall leaves….
back to school2For all of us, fall means something different. The media helps us to identify with certain themes, like football. Retailers want us to think about tailgating and yardwork. Those with children often think about back to school. Teachers think about back to work. Now that we’re a homeschooling family about to uproot, watching all the advertising and hoopla that comes during this season got me thinking.

There’s a part of me that misses the back to school shopping frenzy. I love school/office supplies. But clothes shopping for a 7 year old going on 16! No thank you. Not to mention some minor sensory processing difficulties. Tactile is one of them, so clothes are interesting and inside of our house….optional if you ask my girls. Socks can’t have any design on them because that usually means extra threads on the inside. They need to be low cut/no show in style, but of course they need to be “girly” as I’ve been informed. And they can’t be too thick. That’s just the socks. But back to school shopping, when I was a kid, always meant a new pair of shoes for the year. I remember getting a new pair of jeans (my kiddo’s don’t like jeans…too stiff on their legs, so we only wear leggings and jeggings) and a couple new tops (my older kiddo won’t wear fitted shirts (ie all the cute tops), she only likes the boxy ones you get from fundraisers. So, its safe to say I don’t miss the back to school clothes shopping this year.

But the school supplies, that’s another story….luckily as a homeschooler, we still need the supplies. So I assessed our stock and of course I couldn’t rationalize buying a new box of crayons or markers when we have a gallon Ziploc bag full of each. We have printer paper, folders, scissors, staples, glue sticks, coloring books, paint, construction paper, pencils. We did need erasers and a new pencil sharpener. And I needed to better organize our stuff, especially for when we hit the road. So I did get a few items, but nothing like the cart full of years past.

Basic Homeschooling supplies organizational shelf
Basic Homeschooling supplies organizational shelf
paper trays to organize our paper (printer, construction, card stock, clipboards)
paper trays to organize our paper (printer, construction, card stock, clipboards)
magazine holders on their side to old journals and workbooks.
magazine holders on their side to hold journals and workbooks.
cardboard box full of "stuff" crayons, markers, abacus, manipulatives, stickers
cardboard box full of “stuff” crayons, markers, abacus, manipulatives, stickers

Then there’s a new backpack and lunch box….but the ones we have from last year are still in working order and we have a bunch of extras of both around the house, so no need to buy those. And I’m not going to miss the frantic mornings of making school lunches either. When my older kiddo went into kindergarten I was determined to have her make her own lunch every night before bed….that lasted about 2 months.

How about the obligatory “first day of school” photo everyone takes? I guess I should’ve done that in June when we started the Miller Academy. And then we’ll miss out on the school pictures everyone will take in a month or two….oh, wait, there’s a store that happens to exist still, Sears and JC Penney’s that offer photo studios, and amazing independent photographers, like Bo’s Photography, so we can still make that happen.

Did I mention the pain that comes with getting kids to go to bed at a certain time when they’ve been up to the wee hours all summer, so they can get up and go to school. Nope, not us. On everyone’s first day of school this fall. We slept until around 10am. Wait, did I just admit to that? Oops.

We started homeschooling the Monday after school let out in June and we went strong for about 10 weeks, we’re now on a 5 week break while we pack up the house and move across the country. The girls are loving the freedom. So am I. What a different life we’re experiencing these days. I don’t think I could’ve dreamed it if I tried.

partition board for less distractions. Abacus, spelling words clipped on board. Younger daughter is on other side with her own partition board.
partition board for less distractions. Abacus, spelling words clipped on board. Younger daughter is on other side with her own partition board.

So, what does fall mean to me now? I’m focusing on the crisp, cool air, the changing of seasons when I can enjoy a cup of tea on the back deck at 9 am and not sweat from humidity. We’re not a big football family so that doesn’t resonate…sorry to all my friends and followers that find that blasphemy, but it is what it is. The occasional Seahawks game will get turned on this season, but we don’t plan our weekends around any of it. Although not big tailgaters, we do love a bonfire with marshmallow roasting and hope we can do lots of it this summer. We’ll miss our backyard fire pit, but the real joy comes from the company we keep.

bon fire

I hope the girls don’t feel like they are “missing out.”  But something in my heart tells me that those thoughts are merely the “guilty mom” talking.  They won’t miss what they don’t know.  We’ll create our own fall memories that will be our identity as a family.

Here’s to wishing all the children and young adults going back to school this fall a safe and fun year full of new information and social connections.  And I also raise my glass (tea cup usually) to all the homeschoolers out there that either follow the school year schedule or do their own thing…may you create amazing memories that transcend time.

You Make What???

Natural Living.  What is it to me?  How did I get started?  How do I do it?

To me and my family, natural living is about eating and living healthy using natural and the least refined ingredients possible.  From food to cosmetics to cleaners.  Its also about teaching our girls how things are made with raw materials.  I love it when our 4 year old says “when its all gone, we’ll just make some more, right mom?”  They find joy in creating and doing and appreciate having, more.  More than if we just ran up to the store and bought it.  One of our favorite little activities is “going shopping.”  This is really just a matter of grabbing a reusable grocery bag, or two and going downstairs to our basement where our overflow pantry is and we fill our bags with items we need in the next week to bring upstairs into the kitchen.

I got started on this adventure…Well, actually to some degree its always been in my DNA.  I loved cooking as a kid, I tried to build my first garden as a teenager, my mother-in-law taught me how to use a sewing machine and follow a pattern to make a dress.  I bought a Ronco food dehydrator in college.  So, really its been decades in the making.

In 2009, we had our first kiddo.  I was a nursing mom – oh, so many benefits for baby and mom.  I worked full time and commuted an hour each way – so it can be done.  I was lucky that my employer was very supportive and we had “privacy rooms” dedicated to nursing moms so we could pump during the day.  I’ll write a post later about a how-to for hands free pumping and update this post with a link.  If your hands are free you can keep working (email, documents, etc).  Although you’ll get higher milk production if you’re doing something more enjoyable…reading a magazine, or a book or surfing the web.

Wow, I digress.  SQUIRREL.

Anyway, when kiddo #1 was ready for solid foods, I was determined to make it myself.  Baby food is expensive and we don’t eat a lot of canned, processed foods, so why should my little one?  So, I bought this Super Baby Food book, its amazing, and I still reference it today and have given it as a baby shower gift too.  So easy to follow.  Great recipes and lists of appropriate foods by month of age.  I also received this little gem of an item, BEABA Babycook – Sorbet from a group of co-workers, I still use this today and kiddo #1 is 7 1/2 years old.  It steams, and purees food all in one container.  I’ve also used it to make hummus for us as a family and salsa and toothpaste.  Its basically a mini food processor when you don’t use the steam function.  When kiddo #2 arrived, I discovered food pouches and started buying those as a supplement for my homemade food.  Then I discovered these little lifesavers (wallet savers), Resqueeze Reusable Food Pouch 6 oz (4-Pack) and started using them with my homemade food.  But, by then my kiddo’s were older and mostly we just use them for pudding, yogurt and applesauce in lunches or when we go on picnics and the likes.

In 2012, kiddo #2 arrived and I knew from our first rodeo, how difficult it is to find full fat, no sugar yogurt.  Full fat dairy is vital to brain development and sugar should be avoided whenever possible.  When was the last time you read the label on your yogurt?  Personally, I was eating Dannon Light, but the artificial sweeteners!   Oh my!  So, I began to research how to make yogurt and started experimenting.  I’ve used a few different cultures, but I like Natren Yogurt Starter, 1.75-Ounce best.  We’ve also experimented with some different flavors, strawberry, blueberry, peach, cinnamon, lemon, etc.  Now I make 3 pints of yogurt every week or so.

Six months after starting the yogurt, I found a book, The Naturally Clean Home: 150 Super-Easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning and started experimenting with laundry detergent.  First I tried a gel recipe I found on a blog, but it was a pain to get it to and keep it at a pour able consistency, then I found a powder recipe, but it included vinegar and the moisture often made it clump into rock hard pieces that I couldn’t break up.  Finally, I settled on a dry powder recipe that we love.  I make a batch about once a month.

Today, my list of homemade items in the kitchen include: taco seasoning, chili seasoning, butter, Bisquick mix, pancake mix, Hamburger Helper mix, peanut butter, granola bars, fruit rolls, bread mixes (yeast and quick), freezer cooking, canning, dehydrating snacks, yogurt, tortillas, and cheese.  Some of these are part of our regular routine and some of them I can check off my bucket list of things I’ve tried but determined that the time it requires isn’t worth it.  Outside of the kitchen the list includes: laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, fabric softner, face wash, face mask, mouthwash, toothpaste, body wash, hand soap, shampoo, hair conditioner, and of course sewing clothes and mending existing ones.  And, I just started making cat food.  Because, hello, my four legged friends are part of our family too and we want them to be as healthy as possible.

Most of this was started while having two kids between the ages of newborn and 6 years old (the oldest is 7 now, but most of this I’ve been doing for over a year now) and I was in a demanding full time career and commuted an hour each way.  So, you may be asking….how is this all possible?  I know you’re asking this, because that’s the first question I get, followed by why when in talking to someone in person.  Hopefully I answered the why in the first few paragraphs above.  The how, can be answered with two words/concepts.  Priorities and efficiency planning.  First I made this a higher priority than having a spic and span house.  My house is lived in and looks like it.  Some days it is definitely messier than I’d like, but we’d don’t eat off the floor, we walk on it.  So, I spend more time with homemade stuff than I do with cleaning.  As for efficiency planning I do batch preparation as much as possible.  Also, most things I make once a month or less frequent.  Most recipes only take 15-30 minutes of actual hands on time.

For instance, what’s the most time consuming part of making bread?   Yes, the rising takes the longest, but I can do other things while that’s going on.  The most time consuming hands on part of making bread is pulling out all the ingredients, measuring everything and the clean up afterwards.  So, I do this once a month, but I make fresh bread 1-2 times a week.  I have quart size Ziploc bags labeled with what recipe it is and what additional ingredients are needed (mostly the wet ingredients) and the baking instructions.  I think I have about 8 bags now in rotation.  Once a month or so, I pull out the ingredients and measure them into the bags then I store the bags in the pantry.  Whenever I need a fresh loaf of bread, I pull out a bag and follow the instructions written on it.   For me, efficiency is key.  On a busy weekend morning, I might spend 3 hours in the kitchen but during that time I’ve accomplished a lot, fed the girls breakfast, did a load or two of laundry, emptied and reloaded the dishwasher, made 3 pints of yogurt, made a loaf of bread, supervised school work, written out our meal plan for the week and grocery list prepped.  All while cleaning up along the way.  My kitchen is my center at home.  I live in it pretty much all day.  That’s the way I like it.  We homeschool in the dinning room/kitchen, our computer is in here.  We eat, we joke, we laugh, we cry, we live in our kitchen.

Amazon is my favorite store and you’ll find lots of links to the items I regularly buy through them.  Where I can place an order and have it in a few days and not have to drag the little ones into a store (nightmare experiences are avoided, everyone is happy.  Well, mom is happy, kids like to go to the store).

I hope you can see that its not that hard.  You pick one thing you’d like to add to your routine and start doing it.  Then once you’re confident and can do it without thinking too hard, then you can add another item.  Or, you can pick one thing that you just want to try with no intent on it becoming a routine, but you want to feel good about knowing you could do it if you had to and your kiddo’s have learned what it takes to make things.  Think of it more like a little science experiment.

Recently, my 4 year old asked if we could make our own cereal.  After a few inquiring questions on my part, I learned that she meant specifically cheerios….my response went something like this….”well, the shape kind of requires a large machine/factory that is as big as our house.”  Boy the eyes on her face at that response was priceless.  But we went to You Tube and looked up “how to make cereal” and found some great videos from the TV show “How it works.”  I can’t remember how many videos we watched that day, but it extended well beyond just cereal.  This small lesson in how things are made helps them to also see why things cost money. Which can lead to a math lesson!

 

 

Homeschooling: Where Do We Begin?

Blogs to read!  Forums to follow!  Conventions to attend!  Holy cow!

Where to begin?  Why are we doing this?  What’s our philosophy?

I want to spend more time with my kids while they’re young and help my oldest develop some better coping skills for stress and frustration.  I want them to be lifelong learners not just when “school” is in session.  I want them to be best friends and good citizens, starting with helping our family more.

I’m certainly not saying these things couldn’t be accomplished while working full-time, I was doing it, more or less while working.  We had school work (workbooks, reading lists and flashcards) during the summer to keep things going year round.  We discussed strategies regularly – like deep breathing or “walking away.”

I tend to have an all or nothing kind of personality, and get unbalanced easily.  I am aware of this and readjust regularly, but often found that I was putting more time into work than into my family.  I was afforded a wonderful opportunity when I was laid off to try something different.  Pour all my time and energy into my family and look for work on the side, at least for a couple years.

How do we want to structure our learning?  Do we want to structure our learning?

school sign

Child led learning, parent led learning, setting up a formal classroom, or relaxing anywhere in the house.  Those that know me, would probably think I’d pick parent led learning with a formal classroom setting.  You sure do know me, at least as well as I know myself.  I thought that’s what I wanted too.  But, then I thought more about what a day would look like and what a week would look like.

I want to also have fun with my kiddos and they’re young, play is a form of learning.  I want to wake up one day and have a structured morning with some work, then a fun afternoon at the park, or zoo, or for a hike, or children’s museum.  Then we started our first week and I realized that sometimes I’ll want to have a fun morning and a more structured afternoon.  Sometimes I want us to take our work with us to the park or the library.  Or have a picnic in the backyard with a good book.  The whole point of this homeschooling thing is to have flexibility right?  What if daddy works on Saturday and Sunday and has Wednesday and Thursday off…we want to go do something as a family, so we can push our “formal” learning activities to Saturday and Sunday instead.  What if we go on a road trip?  What if they attend a camp?  Flexibility was what I wanted.

Okay, that’s a start, but I’m not a naturally flexible person, this was going to have a bit of a learning curve!

There are a ton of resources online and in the community….just search “homeschooling” and you’ll be amazed.  And by the way, working moms….I urge you to do this search too, there’s some great resources/activities/ideas that any family would enjoy.  One of the first things they say you need to do is decide on a curriculum.  But oh my, there are so many choices.

Ambleside Online  – this website is very comprehensive, I’m impressed.  Everything is laid out, by year, term and week, but we decide which day(s).  Its very comprehensive and it’s a nod to the “old school.”  I really like the idea of being literature based vs. textbook based.  Meaning that reading and history come from literature not textbooks.  I also like how its not “dumbed” down to a 1st grader or any other grade.  Small children can learn to appreciate amazing art, beyond simple finger painting.

Math Mammoth – this was a tough one.  Most of the curriculum out there are hundreds of dollars.  There are homeschooling resell stores online where you can purchase used materials for less, but its still pricey.  I spoke with my oldest daughter’s 1st grade teacher for some advice and she recommended that whatever we choose it needs to be investigative math.  Meaning math that focuses on how numbers combine and work together and break apart, not just rote memory.  I found Math Mammoth and so far, I’m impressed.  You can choose to go by grade or by topic or a combination of both if you child needs more time with a certain topic.  It has chapter tests, cumulative tests and end of year tests and lots of review throughout the tests and a tool to create additional worksheets on topics your little one needs some additional help with.  It teaches investigative math and multiple strategies to complete math problems, not memorization and the best part, its way affordable.

Learn to Read in 100 lessons – so far I love the approach of this book, its all based on letter sounds not letter names and it incorporates reading, speaking, listening and writing.  But, after doing 7 lessons, my 4 year old was loosing interest – I have a feeling its boredom, so, we backed off for a week or so, then tried again, but instead of doing a lesson every day, we’re doing it every other day. And trying to keep it light. She gets really bored during the rhyming activities, so for the last couple lessons, we’ve skipped those, I might integrate them back into the lessons soon.

Lapbooks & notebooking – this is cool!!!  I can’t wait to complete our first lapbook.  I’ve decided we’re going to do one for Geography and one for nature study this term.  A lapbook culminates a series of lessons/information on one related topic into a small sized book so the children can regularly review, re-read, look at, etc.  And its their artwork and writing.  Just search in your web browser “lapbooks” and you’ll find a ton of resources.  I’ve bookmarked homeschoolshare.com as my go to.  I haven’t read this one yet, but intend to.

Gradebook….

How exactly do I want to be tracking our progress?…now, I love spreadsheets, so at first I started to build an elaborate gradebook, but then once I started using it, I realized that I didn’t really want to get that tactical.  So, I landed on Pass/Fail for the following regarding daily/weekly work, but with me documenting specific comments about areas that need improvement:

  • Reading, journaling, discussion: (literature, history, bible study)
  • Reading comprehension & grammar
  • Art & Music appreciation
  • Nature study
  • Physical Education
  • Handicrafts
  • Spelling & copy work/transcription
  • Geography

And the following would be graded with more detail:

  • End of term test that covers: History, Bible Study, Literature, Nature Study/Science, Music & Art appreciation
  • Weekly spelling tests
  • Math…daily work, worksheets, reviews, chapter tests, end of year tests, all of it.

So, that’s our roadmap, I’ll keep you posted along the way to what works for us as we get further along.   Remember every family is different, every child is different, every parent/child relationship is different (even within the same household).  And, even if your not homeschooling and your babes are in a traditional school setting, I think there’s lots of great info in the links I’ve provided.  I suspect that I’ll be re-reading this post regularly to remind me of why we’re doing this.  If you see my at the grocery story repeating to myself “Flexibility, Patience, Flexibility, Patience”  remember this post, I’m a work in progress.

A Necessity to Survive Turned Into A New Family

You know you made a good choice when your kids are happy and look forward to going to daycare.  None the less it’s hard when you’re working all the time, you still feel neglectful.  The school my girls had the good fortune to attend offered several extra curricular activities onsite (tumble, dance, basketball, karate) for an extra $ of course.  And music came with our tuition.  All these activities were on site which meant no driving around.  I didn’t fully appreciate this until my older girl was in kindergarten and I was driving her all over town for her activities.   At one time or another my girls had the opportunity to enjoy each of these activities and the skills they learned was impressive.  My four year old can dribble a ball really quite well and knows the correct hand placement on the ball when shooting it.  She can also choreograph her own dances with confidence.

Then comes the decision to end our time at daycare.  I’m not working now and no longer looking for work, so it doesn’t make sense to keep her in.  First I reduced her hours, then came her last week.  We had a little party, she took pictures with all her teachers over the years.

When it came time to say goodbye, it was hard.  We promised to come back and visit, at least through the summer, but it still felt like we were leaving family.  I had feelings of guilt for pulling my baby out of school and away from her amazing teachers.

I had to say to myself “hey wait a minute, she’s my kiddo, and this is the right decision for our family.”  But that doesn’t make it any easier.

We are so grateful for all she’s learned and everyone she’s met and we hope to stay in touch over the years to come.

I even got  a copy of the summer camp schedule so we can “pop in” on field trips for my older daughter.  Although she hasn’t gone to the daycare full-time in two years, she was there last summer for camp and during the holidays when school was out.  She’s made some great friends along the way too.

Closing the door on each little chapter in life, as hard as it is, is a necessity.  We take with us on the next chapter friendship and insights.

Toodles!!!

 

 

Calm Seas (Part 2)

This is part 2 of the story of our turning point.  If you haven’t read part 1.  You can find it here.

So, where did I leave off?  Oh yeah.  Hubby made the suggestion of me staying home and homeschooling our girls.  I built a what-if budget and…..

We could make it work, with some adjustments and some big decisions, that should’ve probably been done anyway, like sell stocks to pay off debts.  I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t believe it.  For a few days that is.  I ran the numbers conservatively and I ran them with possibility and either way, we could make it work.  The biggest change would be where we live.

OMG!!! We could do this.  At least financially speaking.  I chew a few more days.  Then I ask my 7 year old to get her initial take.  She’s totally sold on the idea.  I explained that we’d live in a very small house and they wouldn’t be able to keep all their toys (well I said we could store them for later or to switch out every couple months).  They love the idea of me being their teacher and seeing their grandparents and cousins much more often.  Warmed my heart!!!!  Really, I felt like a winner already.

Okay, but now what?  How does this really work?  After the financial questions are answered, there were three additional areas of concern….

  1. Where do we live?

Idaho?  Oregon?  Washington?  California?  Colorado?  Where shall we go?  We know we want to be closer to family we know we love the outdoors.  So many choices.  Then we realized that hubby needs a separate nursing license for CA, WA, and OR.  So hello paperwork!  One day he comes home and says, how about I get a travel nursing job?  Again I ran the numbers, but then “where do we live?” became an even bigger question.

We have three options and one of them isn’t even a consideration.  a) split the family up (no way!!), b) we move from city to city via apartments, or c) we get an RV and live in that for a while moving to a new campground every few months.

I quickly started looking at floor plans.  I remember going on a family vacation as a teenager with 2 preteen brothers in a 1970’s American Clipper from So. California all the way to BC Canada and back.  Small, cramp quarters.  As I recall, my youngest brother and I slept on the flip down couch while the middle  brother slept on the fold down dinette.

I knew from pictures and TV that RV’s had come along way in design since then.  But wow!!!  Talk about a 4 start hotel on wheels!!!  They even have bedrooms – yes plural – we’re actually looking at a 5th wheel trailer.  Then we took the girls to a sales lot so we could all four be in one at one time and get a real feel for the space.  I’m sold!  Hubby still flip flops a little on the idea, but I’m sold!

1b.   How do we fit into an RV?

We live in a 1600 sq ft house, plus basement, plus 2 car garage, plus 1.5 car shed.   We have a lot of stuff.  So, the last 2 months have been spent purging.  Or at least attempting to.  I’m hoping the next 4 weeks see an even bigger payout in this department.

purgingHow often do I use the juicer?  We have two waffle irons.  One Belgian and one regular.   We have a tea pot collection (one of my side passions).  Until now, I hadn’t gotten rid of anything from the girls baby years.  Nothing.  I had it all still.

So far, Swap.com has received 2T and 3T clothing as well as my maternity clothes.  And Once Upon a Child has bought from me several baby items and Goodwill has benefited greatly along with a little bit on craigslist.  But man oh man, we still have a long way to go.

I officially packed up my nice dress/work clothes, won’t be needing those anytime soon.  And I purged my jammie collection by more than half…really, how many does one person need?

I even got hubby to agree to pack up all his winter clothes to get back out of storage when the weather returns.

I love watching tiny house and dream of being free of all this stuff someday soon.

2. Will the kids and I get along?

I love my babies, but do I like them fightingenough to be with them 24/7?  My former co-workers are laughing about now, because there were many a days that I’ve said….”I love Mondays, because the kids go back to school and I get to go back to work – they exhaust me!”  But, if you recall, I’ve also been known to say “I love Fridays, because I get to spend the weekend with the kiddos.” What’s a mom to do?  My oldest and I fight, constantly about getting her homework done…what’s homeschooling going to be like?  Are we going to kill each other in the process?  Well, if by the end of the summer things don’t work out, then we go back to the originally plan, move to the west and get a job, put kid baby in all day pre-k and the older one in before/afterschool care.

3.  Do I have the necessary homemaker skills?

cleaningDo I have what it takes?  I love working.  My brain needs to be solving problems, that’s what I do.  Identify and solve.  I need adult conversation.  I like corporate life, its what I know and I’m comfortable with.   Cleaning…hubby has cleaned the bathrooms for years (about 20 actually).  I’ve always used the excuse that I’m a busy working, commuting mom and the house can wait.  I’d barely sit down while home so I never really saw the mess.  Now, I’m in the house all day….and it’s a mess!  Its not going to clean itself.  Tedious, physical work that is required to be done, over and over again.  Especially when you have kids.

Well, its been a couple weeks now that I’ve been making an effort in this department and things are looking better, slowly, but surely.  I’m finding new problems to solve….time management, efficiency around the house, organization, a robust family budget, excel spreadsheet to the max with scenarios and assumptions laid out.  I have a GANTT chart for our impending move.  And research on homeschooling curriculum….that’ll be another post.  Then when there’s a little down time, I’m rifling through books and a few games of Sudoku and Solitaire.  Its important to exercise the mind!

So, do we have those three questions answers?  No, not by a long shot.  But at least I know what the challenges are and I’m pushing forward to be successful.  Time will tell.

Tumultuous Seas

Its been almost 4 months since I’ve been laid off.  It’s been almost a year since I got the feeling that it was coming.  After a year of not really living, but rather surviving, I’m proud to say…”I’m still here!”

The emotional roller coaster is hard to put into words, but roller coaster is the best description.  The intensity of feelings that bombarded me at all times of day was exhausting to say the least.

FEAR of the unknown, of what was happening, of when it would happen, whatever “it” was.  Fear of how I would provide for our family, as I was the main bread winner (at the time).

ANGRY that a company I loved with all my heart could do this.  I gave so many countless hours of my life.  I worked so hard and up to that point had no blemishes.  Angry at myself for not leaving years ago, when I should’ve or further diversified my resume before now.

SELF DOUBT that I was worth anything.  Maybe I have a skewed view of who I am and what I have to offer.  Maybe I just suck.  What if I don’t find another job, what if this isn’t the career for me?

PERSEVERANCE to push forward and prove that I have what it takes, that I’m too strong of an asset to lose.

EAGER to learn more in my industry and the world around me I began listening to podcasts and reading blogs….check back for a future post on some of my recommendations.

DESIRE to build a new plan, a new future.  What do I want in life?  Where do I want to be when I’m 50?  70?  How do I want to get there?

CALM when it didn’t seem possible, usually 8-6 (in the office) and in front of my girls.

HYPERVENTILATING SORROW that would burst when least expected and takeover me.  Lot’s of pulling over the car….too much time to think while commuting.  Usually a good thing, but at these times, not so much.

roller coaster

Was there a silver lining in that big, heavy cloud that loomed over me?

Yes, a blessing in disguise.  I’ve opened my mind to new ideas in several areas of finance, home management, online marketing, self realization and entrepreneurship  among others through podcasts and blogs.  It forced me to stop and rethink.  We originally moved to North Carolina with the intent of living here for only 3-5 years while hubby went to grad school.  15 years later, we’re still here.  Time to reassess.  Time to build a real road map for the future and connect it to the present.  Time to start making things happen.  Life moves fast and if you don’t take time to stop and really reflect, you’ll have nothing to show for it.  Don’t let life lead you, you need to define it.  Know what you want and how to get it, then do it.  Do it.  Really, do it.  It’s overwhelming, but focus on the first step and start moving.

From June through January, I didn’t really live.  I focused additional time/energy on my work, trying to prove to them and to myself that I’m worth it.  Unfortunately, this meant the girls didn’t have any extra curricular activities aside from what they did in after school care.  We didn’t take a vacation last year, aside from a funeral during spring break and a long weekend in October.  I didn’t get that involved in the PTA, as I had hoped.  No time for volunteering.

The first month of not working was surreal.  The first 2 weeks, I woke up as usual and drove an hour to “work” to network.  It was all I knew.  I wasn’t comfortable in my skin, I wasn’t comfortable in my home.  I needed my peeps.  I didn’t go everyday, but a handful of times the first few weeks.  I had networking to do, I needed to find a new job, it seemed like the easiest transition would be to find something with the same company, in a different department.  Then I settled down and spent a few weeks at home, cranking out job applications.  Writing cover letters and customizing resumes like crazy…I’d try to average 3-5 a day!  I logged them all on a spreadsheet, because that’s what I do.  Can you hear the desperation in my writing?   Because my heart is racing and my breathing has quickened right here and now I as I type this post.  I was panicked, I needed to find a job!  I needed to make sure my babies had what they needed.

Then spring break came.  My wonderful in-laws came to visit for a week.  I let go a bit during their visit, kind of chilled out for the first time.  The night after they left, my hubby turned and said….”what if you stay home and home school the girls?”

“What?  Me?  I don’t think we can make that work.”

Well, that next week, I built a what if budget scenario…

Stay tuned for the next part of the story…..

How Adventurous Are You?

We’re fairly adventurous folks over here.  How about you?

Let’s start with how we met.  We met on an old school chat room through a mutual friend.  I’m talking Unix, not Windows.    ICB, to be specific.  Our mutual friend wanted to set us up and neither of us was interested, so we compromised and exchanged screen names through this friend and promised to strike up conversation if we saw each other.  A week later….well, here we are  21 years later.

My family lived in one state and his in another, so we decided a destination wedding was in order…Las Vegas here we come!  We didn’t elope, we planned a real wedding at a Las Vegas hotel and had about 60 guests.  It was perfect in every way.  Unconventional?   Well, guess we should’ve seen it coming.  But wait, there’s more!

We’re in college, living on the cheap and we love the outdoors, so a road trip honeymoon is in order.  We ultimately spent a week car camping on Vancouver Island, BC.  Our first night, we met a group of older, retired gentlemen that were on their annual camping trip.  That first night we ate a fish fillet, whole fish and a Dungeness crab for dinner, all provided by our new friends.  We had picked up some libations on the duty free boat, so we brought that to the campfire and all enjoyed.  Later, during the week I learned how to fly fish!

When we finished college and decided it was time for a change in scenery.  Hubby looked for grad school options….Syracuse?   Denver?  Austin?  Winston Salem?   Well, North Carolina won and we packed up a U-Haul with all our belongings (including two cats) and drove across the country to our new, temporary home.   We didn’t have a place to live, we didn’t have jobs, we had never even visited before hand.  Just packed and went.  An adventure of a lifetime that I’d recommend of any young person, but I don’t plan to do it again….or do we?  Our plan was 3-5 years, its been 14+ years now.

After our first little one was born, or maybe more like 18 months later, we were ready for a vacation.   So, we decided to take a road trip, part camping and part hoteling.  I suggested Niagara Falls, Matt didn’t think our little one could make it.  We decided we’d meander around Ohio Amish country instead.   But, no real plans.

So we drove north and then decided we needed to stop at Cabela’s in West Virginia.  Then after dinner I said, we’re not far from Pittsburgh, how but we drive out there?   So we did.  Then we got turned around as we were trying to make it up to the great lakes and every hotel was booked.  Eventually we got up to Erie to check out a campground we saw on the map…..no go.  It was super crowded and the sites were on top of each other.  So we headed into New York, Brocton area and found a gorgeous state park, Lake Erie State Park….highly recommend it.

After a couple days we headed back towards Ohio…or at least, we intendeIMG_0118d to, but we ended up on a toll road going towards, non other…Niagara Falls.  It was fate!!!  After a day there, we meandered south through the middle of NY and Pennsylvania, stopped in Hershey along the way.

All of these trips were pre cell phones and pre GPS….good old fashion map reading, which often means you have to have patience and a level of comfort making U-turns.  These events in our lives are some of the most memorable, partly because they were the more spontaneous ones.  Life is short, embrace it, love it, live it!   What you need is pretty minimal in the long run.

A Dreamy Future in the Past

Life doesn’t always go as planned, but it is still important to have a plan.

We’ve likely all had the 5th grade writing assignment “What is your life-like in 20 years?”  Well, I’m way past that 20 year mark and looking back, it didn’t come to fruition.  Was it suppose to?

When I was an 11-year-old girl in the ’80’s, I thought I’d be the first female President of the United States of America or play professional baseball, on a men’s team of course.  I thought I’d be an author and have 6 kids, adopted.  Back then, I feared the pain of childbirth and wanted to adopt all 6.

When in college, a few changes.  I wasn’tinterested in baseball anymore, but golf….maybe…except I had to work during college so there wasn’t much time for golf.  I dabbled in student government, I just may dabble more in the future with local stuff.  I decided I only wanted 4 kids and I wanted to stay home and home school them.  I got a minor in education so that I might be best prepared.

Well, the path we live isn’t straight or flat.  And that’s okay, having a road map is still important, but understanding that it will change is important too.  Every year, I write out my goals in the form of past tense statements, as if they’ve already occurred.  I have at least one goal for each of the following categories:

  • Finance
  • Health
  • Family Relationships
  • Career

Most years the goals are pretty similar, nothing earth shattering or life altering.  Lose weight, exercise more, get out of debt,stop yelling at the kids, work on a special project at work.  Pretty much ho-hum floating down a river, going fast, but enjoying the ride.  Then, class V rapids appear out of no where!river

What’s one to do?  Hold your breath, find a spot on the horizon and focus on it.  Panic will ensue, sure.  But if you can remain strong and rationale, the rapids will subside.

Last summer I was presented with the likelihood that a restructure was going to happen and that I’d be out a job.  I’m the main bread-winner, how is this going to work?  What do I do?  After a couple of months of emotional anguish, I took a deep breath and repeated that 5th grade assignment.  “What do I want retirement to look like?  When do I want to retire?”  It was time to make a new plan and start building a road map.  An opportunity to get out of this river and find another one.

Lessons learned?  Build a Plan.  Work the Plan.  Reassess the Plan.  Repeat often.