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Monday, February 23, 2015

February is almost over!

It is cold. No, not like, "Oh yeah, look at that- it is cold! Let's hope it snows so we can make a snowman!" I mean it is like, "Holy crap. It doesn't matter if it snows or not, it is too cold to go make a snowman!"

0 degrees, and I don't want to know the wind-chill temp. Cold.

But... sunny! So, that is awesome!

I got my hair cut today! It feels AWESOME. Totally needed it done. I have not had it cut in like... psh... a year? Two? Seriously, it might be almost 2 years... maybe less, but it was at least a year ago because I haven't had it cut since we moved here. That is nuts! It was so long, and not in a cute I was growing it out kind of way, but more like a is she a member of one of those religions where you cannot cut your hair kind of way. *There is absolutely nothing wrong with such religions.

(This is a pic of the haircut. I already LOVE it! This picture does this cut no justice. When did my eyes get so green? I swear they are getting greener each year. Anyone else have color-changing eyes?)

Yoga this week was good, but not as good as I am betting the yoga will be this coming week. My hubby is out of town for 6 nights- I have a feeling I will be bringing a lot to the mat while he is gone. Just in day 1 and the kids were bonkers. The little tykes do not do well with big changes and out-of-town daddy.

And the Oscar goes to... (I did not watch all of the Oscars- it was just too political. All I cared about were the outfits anyway...)

Pose: This week's winner is Balancing Butterfly. What a cool pose. Seriously, what a neat pose. Just so cool. Love the feeling on my feet.

Video of the Week: Another Adriene video! This one is Yoga for Bedtime (and where I first saw a pose similar to the one above- only the one in the video is supported- so do not fear!)

Best Sequence/Additions: This bedtime restorative sequence. You might be thinking, "What is with all the bedtime and sleep stuff here, lady?" Well- I am an insomniac. I get it from my dad. It happens fairly often and is chronic, with the worst periods coming in cycles that last a few weeks. It usually starts with one bad night and somehow creates havoc for a couple of weeks after. So annoying. Herbal teas, essential oils, and some bedtime yoga help- anything catch more Zs, right? Kurt being gone hurts it too, as our toddler LOVES midnight snuggles- but midnight snuggles keep me awake until 4am... this leads to a pretty sleepy homeschooling mom. Not a good thing. So, the fact that I started this latest insomnia cycle even before Kurt left is no good, and now do not have the evening support I am accustomed to having! (Kurt knows how bad this can get, and often will try hard to arrange for me to sleep as long as possible to try and break the cycle or at least help me get a bit more rest- but with him gone all that is gone too!) No, I will not take meds. I used to, but after talking to my pharmacist (pretty sharp guy) I decided meds are not the answer and stopped taking them a few years ago.

Physical Benefits: Totally forgot to weigh myself, so I have no idea on that one! I am sleepy. So that is a good thing- I can log off and sleep!

Soundtrack Song of the Week: Such Great Heights (just love this song! It is old, but good!)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mid-February

I have totally cheated the last two weeks. I have no idea why- but I was just done. I would literally do ONE pose a day, so I could say I did my yoga... but it was such a cop out!

I could sit around and be angry with myself, or I can choose to recognize that for whatever reason I needed to take a break. I am okay with that. Could I have handled it better? Could I have been more motivated? Determined? Disciplined? Yes. But- this is not a sprint- this is a marathon... and maybe that was the time I needed to reset my pace. So, for whatever reason (seriously not even interested in analyzing it), I took a break. But- the last three days I have been back on track and feeling really good about it- so I am choosing to focus on that =)

Also, about mid-through January, I noticed I had stopped losing weight. What's up with that? I speculated on increased muscle being heavier, not drinking enough water, etc. I figured I would just give it some time. However, as the weeks passed I was getting frustrated. No, I am NOT doing this to lose weight- but I sorta thought it would follow as I was more active and eating cleaner. I finally ended up posting for help in an online health-group, and one of the members pointed out I was SERIOUSLY missing fats from my diet. I mean they were almost completely absent. I was not intentionally forgetting to add fat- I just wasn't thinking of it. I was juicing a great deal (mostly veggies), and would have nice big salads for lunch- but because I was short on time/energy I would forget to add some avocado or some homemade dressing- so I was just eating a giant pile of more veggies. While this may seem really healthy- the truth is that MY body doesn't react well to things like this. My body has issues with absorbing fats already (my cholesterol was usually around 125, even while eating the standard American diet full of processed foods, fast food, fried foods, etc- at its highest it was 155, and that was while I was pregnant) so by removing even more fats I was doing myself a HUGE disservice. SO THANKFUL to have the internet and health and nutrition gurus at my fingertips!

I started remembering to add my fats- oil to the pan, side of avocado, fish oil, nuts/seeds, even some dark chocolate... and guess what?

We are now -5.

I know that is not a huge amount, but I am happy to have discovered the problem and been able to adjust my diet to fix it. No wonder I didn't feel like doing yoga. I sorta didn't feel like I had the energy to do much of anything! Well, that is solved now! YAY! *I am not saying this was the cause of my yoga-rebellion, but it does make a bit of sense.

Pose: Vajrasana I love this! I struggled with this a great deal last month, but kept trying- and now can be in this pose very comfortably. Happy =)

Video of the Week: Yoga for Cramps/PMS (yoga for ladies!)

Best Sequence/Additions: I was researching headstands, and I found information on some issues with anatomy. Sometimes a neck may be too long to be comfortable in a headstand- and when I read that I was like: YES!!!!!!!!!!!! It seemed like no matter how much I pushed out of my shoulders my neck still felt a decently large amount of pressure. I attributed this to my weight, but even as I increased my upper body and core strength I could not overcome the problem- even when I was pushing WAY out of my shoulders. A few articles suggested that it may be an issue with neck length (I do have a long neck), and recommended some support under the arms. I added a blanket under the forearms and elbows and BAM- no more pressure! It was so great!!! I found I am now able to hold the pose even longer, and even more comfortably. Wonderful!

Physical benefits: the yoga for cramps really helped... and that is as much as I will say about that...

Soundtrack song of the week(s): Truth.   This is my new favorite song ever! I save this for my hardest poses- and it just helps me groove along. LOVE!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

January

January is over. Yup, gone. I will be honest- that felt like it went fast!

This month was really awesome. Knowing I can set a goal and stick to it- pretty neat- especially when the goal involves _doing_ something instead of just abstaining from a bad habit (my usual goals).

I tried hard to think of something profound to write about month 1, but in truth I didn't have any extra thoughts beyond what I already shared.

I will say this: I realize now that my practice- and most things in my life- are between 70-90% mental. The physical aspects of many of the poses are challenging, yes- but they can be built up to. I found that my attitude, thoughts, and determination level all mattered. And, once I realized this, I found it extends far beyond my mat. I know that many (most?) people already know the power of a good attitude and positive forethought, but I had never extended it into so many parts of my day. For example: I am an introvert. I enjoy peace, quiet, and alone time. I homeschool my very active children, so sometimes peace and quiet is hard to come by, and I tend not to schedule things because when those moments come I need to grab them and recharge. However, one week in January was particularly busy- but because I shifted my attitude and dove in with enthusiasm and optimism, things worked out really well! **I did have to recharge later that weekend, which was a bummer to my family, as we use weekends for family stuff- so having that much scheduled during the week will not be happening a lot, but it was good to know I could do it- and do it joyfully!

Good month. =)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Week 4

It has been 4 straight weeks of yoga. Wow, amazing- go me! I have had times where I did yoga often, but I do not know if I ever did it this many days in a row (I am probably wrong- just never did it consciously).

This was actually the hardest week. I am not sure of why. I just felt blahhhhhhh.

Saturday night I did yoga with a friend- that was awesome! She was so sweet, she let me lead us- it was a really cool experience. If we ever live in a more metro area, I can see myself taking teacher trainings. It was really awesome to share a practice.

I do not really have much to say this week. Weird.... maybe? I don't know. I mean- I feel good. Settled. Calm. Don't feel like I have any big unfinished business hanging over my head- so that is nice.

This week's highlights:

Pose: Camatkarasana, or "Wild Thing" pose (aka flip dog). This pose is just FUN! As soon as I got into the pose I couldn't stop smiling! It was a great feeling! My cat was sitting directly next to me when I did the first side- and it was really neat. I don't know- can't describe it. Just a neat moment between me, my mat, and my cat.

Video of the Week: I only did this video this week, so I guess this is the winner. I do not foresee myself doing the video again- it was just too... blah... I don't know... boring? Standard? To be honest, when I am doing my bare bones home practice, it looks a lot like this video- so maybe that is why this didn't appeal to me as much. I don't know...

Best Sequence/Additions: I did some sun salutations and then did this sequence from Yoga Journal. LOVED it! It was lots of fun, and there were poses that I do not normally incorporate in my home practice. Good stuff.

Physical Benefits: Energy levels are up, and I am feeling a lot stronger. My skin is clearer than it has been in years- but I am not sure if that is the yoga, or the cleaner eating. Overall I feel amazing, so that is good!!! -2lbs

Soundtrack Song of the Week: Cough Syrup

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mercury in Retrograde! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!


A few months ago I nearly had a breakdown. Okay, not an actual breakdown, but definitely a freak-out-session-worthy-of-calling-on-a-bestie. (I keep a handful of besties for just such occasions.)

I texted her, spazzing out. My kids weren't listening. Nothing was going right. Printer stopped working. Vacuum would turn on and randomly turn off (and my livingroom carpet is hunter green- I NEED to vacuum every day or it looks horrible!!!). My family life felt insane. The internet pissed me off (is EVERYONE on crack?!). My brain couldn't focus- it felt scattered- sort of like someone went into my mental file cabinet and just dumped out every single drawer- it was clear, but cluttered. It was a nightmare. What was going on?!

I word-vomited this to my buddy, and she simply said, "Mercury is in retrograde!" I had no idea what she was talking about, but she went on to explain. It sounded too good to be true. There is actually a REASON for all this crappy crap going on?

Yes.

I do not pretend to know everything about everything. I do not even pretend to know a little something about everything. Whether or not our energies can or can not be affected by the cosmos is beyond me, but any emergency worker, clinician, or hotline worker will tell you when the moon is full. Likewise, my kids can tell me exactly when Mercury is in retrograde. Coincidence? Maybe. Or, maybe it is more. Maybe they are highly sensitive to visual planetary spins (when they should be in bed sleeping anyway). Honestly, I have no idea. Here is what I do know:

Mercury in retrograde is something that can be read about here. Basically, this is about planetary rotations interacting in a way which may affect things here on earth. Things like what? Well, it is not recommended that you sign contracts, make big ticket purchases, get married, accept a job, or make any giant life changes. This, instead, is a time of reflection. This is a time for you to finish projects, meet old friends, complete unfinished business, tie up loose ends.

I did not subscribe to this being a big deal, I just loved the idea of it being the reason for my kids being insane (mostly because there is an ending period!), so when my brother and another bestie were buying their homes during the last retrograde (two separate families, two separate states)- I said nothing. Nothing. I didn't want them to think I was a bit weird... but it turns out I probably should have said something, as BOTH home purchases had really bizarre complications (that were beyond the control or fault of my brother or friend!). The complications ended up costing them money, stress, and hassle. Now- were those the fault of Mercury being in retrograde? Maybe not. But... maybe it was...

I do not know the answer to all things. But I do know that yesterday my kids were COMPLETELY bonkers. They started getting into it a few days earlier, and it just got worse every day, and climaxed yesterday. Today was no different, and I was ready to call it quits when my dear husband texted me, "Mercury is in retrograde!!!"

Yeah... either my kids' freak-out times are just coincidentally on schedule with Mercury in retrograde, or it is a genuinely real phenomenon that affects people. Regardless, I am happy to follow the astrology advice that suggests we take a few weeks to ponder, reflect, relax, and finish things that need finishing, and wait for this phase to pass (be it a phase in child development or visual phase of the planets).

If you absolutely hate what I have to say- chalk it up to Mercury in retrograde. (It is known for messing with all forms of communication, you know).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

21 Days to make a habit!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it is a myth and studies show it is closer to 66 days- but shush. Growing up my father would often chirp, "21 days!" and remind me to pick up my towel, have breakfast, or do some other good idea that he wanted to make habitual. And today officially marks day 21 of yoga daily!!! (Yes, I started before the New Year, but from now on I will only be referencing the New Year as the beginning of my personal challenge!)

This was a good week, yoga-wise. I felt a lot better (no more icky sicky), but to be on the safe side stuck with more gentle videos and postures. This week I did my very first (unsupported by partner or wall) Sirsasana!!!! This is a HUGE deal for me, and I am all the more thrilled that my husband was there to cheer me on and celebrate the moment! Wait... GENTLE and you were doing Sirsasana??? Yeah, let me tell you about it!

Some takeaways this week: my practice is a lot more mental than I ever realized. I had been going gently for days, and then did a calm yin practice, but really wanted to try Sirsasana. I asked my husband for some help, and he was there to talk to me and make me feel comfortable ("You are so close- almost there. You actually had it for a moment- did you feel it!?" Super encouraging!). The next day I wanted to try again, and I did- and that was when I nailed the pose. I have been doing this pose for years (I seriously think the first time was in 2007) but NEVER did it without wall or partner support before. Why? There were times I was much more physically fit- so why didn't I do it? I am not sure- but whatever my hurdle was, it was obviously mentally and not physically based (as I said- I was more fit in years past than I am now).

There were days this week when I did not feel like doing yoga. This is mostly because I was feeling blahhhhhhh. My husband is out of town on business, the kids were making me nuts, and all I wanted was to grab something chocolaty and go to bed and watch Gilmore Girls (I am new to the show- it is pretty cute!!!!). However, each time I would drag my mat out and start moving I felt a LOT better (I always felt more peaceful, calm, and happy). So it worked out well!

This week's highlights:

Pose: Sirsasana, hands down! (Or should I say, head down?) Oh man- what a feeling!!!!!

Video of the Week: You know, I saw some pretty interesting ones... I have to say I think this little yoga video for sick people is the winner. It is short, sweet, and perfect when you feel ill!

Best Sequence/Additions: I carried my daughter around and found that my back was aching. I did this quick video and felt a lot better.

Physical Benefits: Any time I felt a headache I did a bit of yoga, and it went away. I love love love love being able to do something that is healthy and helps heal, rather than popping a pill! -4lbs

Soundtrack song of the week: Que Sera, Sera!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Spring Term 2015



I love homeschooling!

I love it for zillions of reasons, but for now I will focus on just a few. Specifically- I love our homeschool routine!!!!

Homeschooling, for us, is a year-round endeavor. In the spring I work hard to research the best possible curricula for the coming school year while I am in the thick of the materials bought the year before (this is so I can purchase the bulk of our homeschool items, subscriptions, and materials with our tax return). Summer is spent with fewer school subjects, mostly wrapping up anything that needs review or may have been missed. In late summer and early autumn we get back in the swing of things and start the new traditional school year*. During the holidays we have special units and change a good deal of our curriculum to fit those unit themes.

*The children may have advanced levels before this time in one subject or another, but for record-keeping purposes we do not advance their "grade" until the fall. If a child advances far enough that they are basically a year ahead, we skip a "grade" the next fall without really skipping anything, as the work was actually done the previous year.

Our typical homeschool day begins at breakfast time. The kids meet downstairs and start their breakfast notebooks (November editions pictured at top). I heard about breakfast notebooks a few years ago and fell in love with the idea! It is a really great way to teach the kids things like addresses and phone numbers (VERY important things to know!!!) and months of the year, etc. I first learned about breakfast notebooks from some friends of mine, who pointed me here. The website shows a breakfast notebook for a younger child. Currently our own breakfast notebooks have our school schedule on one page (pictured above- currently Minecraft themed), a calendar, math journal (it is more advanced calendar work), number of the day math sheet, their scripture/Article of Faith/memory work, a science unit outline and checklist, a scripture map, and then pockets for any worksheets I may add. Most of the breakfast notebook pages are in sheet protectors, and the kids just write on them in Expo markers and erase them at the end of the schoolday.  I change the breakfast notebook covers and contents, checklists, etc every so often, just to keep it fresh and fun. I try hard not to make major changes to the curriculum unless absolutely necessary, as some major changes can be the academic equivalent of changing schools.

For science we usually do unit themes, but right now we decided to dive into the Starting Point Science book and do that for the remainder of the school year (works for us!). I love it so much- I am happy we ended up doing it! I will be tracking down a volume 2, and getting the other new books in that collection as well. If my math is correct, we will finish both volumes and the other books before next school year. We basically cover about two pages per day- which is essentially one concept as part of a larger unit. I really love this, and we quickly review what we learned so far (or already knew) before moving on to the next topic. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to do a nice and thorough review of some really great basic scientific concepts! There are so many amazing articles, videos, worksheets, and more online- we supplement as we go and it seems to be working out REALLY well!

We read scriptures every day and map out where we are. We are currently reading The Book of Mormon, and we are keeping track of our reading on charts such as these. The kids love these maps, and I love them too! We have discussions on our readings, and talk about what is going on, what was learned, and our general take-aways.

We have been using Math U See for a few years now and I am VERY pleased with the curriculum. We start a new chapter by watching the DVD lesson, then we sit down and I work on the new concepts with the child. The child then does daily worksheets that help reinforce the new concept, as well as review past concepts. I allow our children to tell me when they are ready to take the chapter tests. Sometimes tests may happen on day one or two, other times it may take every worksheet in the workbook (a week), and occasionally it takes the workbook sheets and printouts from the Math U See website too. We focus on mastery, and do not move along until a score of at least 80% is achieved- however, this program is so good at teaching, building, and reinforcing math concepts- we have only had each child score that low (80%) once. Usually they pass with 95% or higher (and we have them self-correct their worksheets and exams). The Math U See program really focuses on logic building and uses word-problems at every step and every level. Word problems are the kids' favorites (a passion I never shared growing up!). Very happy, and we will continue using these math books.

Spelling You See was a new addition this year, and one I am so happy we made! I have tried spelling lists, spelling apps, spelling this, and spelling that- and honestly none of them really spoke to my kids. I have one child who is a flashcard genius and would just drill himself until he scored perfectly- but months later when he saw the word again it was often missed. UGH! He would get so frustrated! I saw the Spelling You See program and decided to give it a try. We LOVE it! It takes just a few minutes each day, and really helps the kids learn to spell naturally. This is wonderful for my little kinesthetic learners, who learn best by doing. Now they are learning to spell by writing! We will continue this next year as well.

We have been using Getty-Dubay handwriting for a few years, and I like it a lot. It is an italic to cursive writing method, which I felt was important for them to learn. They do just a page a day. We tried other handwriting methods, and I was not as pleased with the results. These look much better. (Getting them to bring that nice penmanship outside of the workbooks is not as easy!)

Journaling started as my own way of getting Carter to overcome his fear of writing. He HATED writing. H A T E D. Never wanted any part of it! Years ago I handed him a little notebook and told him it was his daily journal. I asked him to draw me something every day. Then I asked him to write me a word (any word) each day. Then I asked him to make me lists, "What are your favorite colors?" "What are your favorite books?" Then I moved on to asking him to tell me stories, tell me about trips, dreams, experiences, etc. I did the same with Harrison, and now they pretty much write about anything. It was once my intention to correct these for grammar, spelling, etc- but I have found that the leaps their journals make from the beginning of one school year to the next- without any interference from me- are a really neat demonstration of the advancement of their language arts skills. So, for now, I do not correct them. (I do keep them and intend on showing them to their future spouses.) The journals are an excellent creative writing activity, and something the kids look forward to eagerly. Our rule in journaling: journals are personal, and we do not read another person's journal without permission. Mom always has permission- all others must ask first.

Reading is vital, and each child has 30 minutes of independent reading per day. This is in addition to any special family reading, book club/group reading, scripture reading, reading done together at the library, reading we do with siblings, reading of recipes, reading of textbooks, etc. 90% of the time the kids get to choose these books. At ANY time they are able to ask to go to the library (it is the next street over).

"Special Work" is my personal favorite thing. This is MY insert-whatever-I-want-to-do-today-here slot! We might do crafts, computer work, special worksheets, family reading (we read the unabridged A Christmas Carol every year. Why? Because I want to, and this is MY slot!), documentary viewing, an outing, yoga, dance party, trip to the store, extra science experiment, super cool math worksheet, really-whatever-I-want-goes-here thing! This gives me the freedom to be super spontaneous while giving them the heads-up that I have something planned. They know that there is something that will happen that is not on the usual schedule, but that is okay- because it is on the daily list. Freedom for me, routine for them, everyone wins.

"3rd/4th grade work" aka generic grade-level work, is different from previous years. My mother sent me these awesome Brain Quest workbooks and I LOVE THEM!!!! They are so great! Each has an entire year of curriculum-based exercises and activities in one fun book! (I literally just copied that from the cover.) This replaced our Time4Learning online work as our kids are still on an anti-computer streak (all them... I don't get it, but am happy to have something else that works!). These workbooks are a great chance for the kids to learn, review, or check their knowledge in various areas. Great stuff. This is where language arts, vocab, structured reading/writing, math skills in various forms, social studies, and generic science are all addressed and completed.

The kids practice their instruments daily. I once asked for 30 minutes but it was too much. We got down to 20 but even that was a headache and frequently missed. For us, for now, we are just 15 minute-a-day musicians. And for right now, that has to be okay. It is one of those times where I have to say, "Okay, Self- are we going to do 0 or 15?" because that is where we kept coming. So, we were honest with ourselves and just made it 15. (And now it happens!)

The last few entries of their breakfast journals list recess and snack/talk time. You might think, "What the heck is that listed for?!" Good question, glad you asked. Honestly, those are listed because they are important. Yes, my kids are home all day... always here... every day... all the time... never gone... but still, it is important for us to talk about things: news, current events, common interests, thoughts, plans, ideas, etc. Why? The conversational skills of American youth are becoming increasingly concerning, especially with the development of handheld technology and the cultural acceptance of public/private/anytime screen-time. Social skills are on the decline. Children need to learn to have face to face conversations, and here at home is a wonderful place for them to practice those skills. And recess? Great things come from recess- especially in a community with a lot of other homeschoolers! (Just today the kids ran around outside with kids their same ages- all of whom are also homeschooled. It was a little neighborhood gathering!)

And that is our homeschool!

I love it. I feel like this is an excellent groove for us, and I am very happy with it!