Menu Plan Monday: week of 8/13

Last week I hopped back onto the blog to share my weekly menu plan with you all. Since then I’ve ramped up my planning even more, using Trello to create weekly meal plans. I also went live on Facebook to explain my new meal planning process. This week I am [loosely] using Week A. Here’s what that looks like:

Week A plan:

Actual menu for this week:

Don’t forget, more meal plans can be found on Organization Junkies Menu Plan Monday page.

On servanthood

I love to serve. It’s in my blood. I feel so much joy and purpose when I am intentionally serving other people.

What does intentional serving look like? Here are some examples:

  • Making a meal for someone in need
  • Babysitting a friend’s kids so she can go to an appointment
  • Picking up some extra groceries for someone
  • Performing random acts of kindness around your community

As women and mothers I think many of us have servanthood in our bones. Perfectly fitting that God has called us to a job that, to it’s very core, is serving. Three meals a day. Wash out the wazoo. Grocery shopping and errand running. Tucking in and cleaning up. And then cleaning up some more.

And while our families aren’t the only ones we serve, they are a large part of those who are blessed by our service.

For a long time, I’ve operated under the guise of availability. A few years back I heard it said that someone held a grudge against homeschooling families at their church because they were too busy to serve in church ministries. Though not directly aimed at me, you can imagine that I was saddened to hear this. Saddened, one, to hear that homeschooling families were viewed this way and then, two, saddened that more people didn’t acknowledge the fact that family ministries like homeschooling are church ministries.

From there forward, I vowed to be available, to never be viewed as “too busy” to serve. I also became overly sensitive, offended even, if I wasn’t asked to be involved in some project or need because “ohh, you’re too busy” or “you have your hands full already.”

While it is still one or our family’s goals to be available– because we are blessed with the flexibility of homeschooling– this homeschool season has had me tiptoeing a few steps back, saying no just a little more often.

And– ya know what?– I’m okay with that. This season is one of hardcore serving my family. I’ve been giving and giving and giving and I’m learning there really is a threshold of how much I can give. I’m learning to choose how quickly I dole out yeses, holding onto them a bit more tightly and reserving them for best opportunities– the ones that allow my family to serve alongside me or ones that don’t wear me so thin that I can’t carry out my first calling.

Lately I’ve also been leaving a lot more of what I like to call “white space” in my days. I’ve been looking at my planner as less of a fill-every-void-of-time challenge and as more of a place to block off the essentials and intentionally leave room for lazy afternoons on the porch and slow evenings playing Yahtzee in the living room.

For far too long I’ve viewed the service I render in motherhood and wifehood as less than [when compared to the other service I could be doing]. Less enjoyable. Less fulfilling. And I’m beginning to realize that part of the reason for my skewed viewpoint is because serving my family has not been intentional service. Instead its been obligatory and mundane.

In order to be more fulfilled in serving at home we must treat our services as unique and carry them out intentionally. As in, with purpose and clarity and conviction.

This is, inevitably, going to look different in each home. In our home it looks like Saturday Special Breakfast with my kids on Saturday mornings. It looks like fresh-brewed iced tea waiting for my husband when he gets home from a long day at work. It looks like supervising longer than necessary bubble baths with essential oils and a space heater and play dinosaurs. Lots of play dinosaurs.

Serving my family intentionally allows me to think– really think– about my work here on this Earth, leaves lots of room for gratitude and fosters contentment in my ever-exhausted, yet super blessed mama heart.

So even if you are serving hundreds at a soup kitchen or singing praises on the church music team, be sure you are leaving enough white space, enough energy and mental capacity to also love and serve your precious family. Your family will reap wonderful benefits from your selflessness and you, too, will be abundantly blessed in doing so.

Recipe: Lemon Hibiscus Kooler (Kool-Aid alternative!)

The sun is shining! Kids and moms alike are looking for an icy drink to quench their thirst. This recipe is a mom must-have! And so easy too! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 Hibiscus Tea bags (we like Bigelow Cranberry Hibiscus)
  • 5 drops DoTERRA Lemon Essential Oil
  • 40 drops liquid Stevia
  • Water
  • Ice

Begin by steeping tea bags in 2 cups hot water. I just boil water in a mason jar in my microwave for 2 minutes. Let tea steep for about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile add Lemon Essential Oil & Stevia to a pitcher half full of ice water. The Lemon EO gives another depth of flavor to the kooler and adds a healthy boost too!

After 2 minutes, remove tea bags from tea concentrate. I give them a quick dunk into my ice water so I can squeeze all the goodness out of them without getting burned!

Finally, pour concentrate into pitcher and you’re done! I told you it was easy! 😉

Serve to your sweaty eight-year-old and watch him SMILE! Tastes so delicious that he doesn’t even mind that this sweet drink is sugar-free, dye-free AND healthy! Mom win!

*This recipe is adapted from here.

New spring homeschool schedule

While many students are spending their Spring counting down the days of school remaining, our family is readjusting. Always with the readjusting.

In defense of year-round homeschooling

A few years back we made the decision to forgo the traditional 9-month, 5-day-a-week school year to instead pursue year-round schooling. Before you start groaning, hear me out.

In our home state of Pennsylvania, our schooling requirement is 180 days. Achieving 180 days in nine months can be cumbersome and– let’s face it– pretty boring. It can be especially difficult when days at home simply cannot be 100% focused on traditional lessons. Most days are also laden with housework, caring for younger children and many, many unscheduled distractions.

To attempt 180 days in nine months can leave even the most organized family feeling frazzled. One “simple” change– switching to a year-round model– can be so [so] much more relaxed and enjoyable. It has led us to adopt a life-is-school mentality, which we absolutely love. Instead of cramming lessons & “learning” into 38 weeks, we now have the entire 52 weeks to accomplish the same thing and more. Can you tell I’m a fan??

All that to say, here’s why, in April, we are changing things up and coming up with a new schedule.

New Spring 2018 Schedule

Monday– Meal & Home Prep

A little prep work can go a long way. That’s why we’ve decided to devote this day to just that. Everyone gets involved as we scoop, measure, peel and chop our way through the day. We also tidy our common spaces of the house and make sure we complete enough laundry to get us through the week.

Tuesday– Reading & Math

Today is for getting serious. Sorta. We pull out our books and bunker down for the day. We allow ourselves to get immersed in reading and math because the entire day is carved out for just that. We are big fans of RightStart and enjoy many math games and interactive learning strategies. The rest of the time you’ll likely find us with our noses in some books.

Wednesday– Interest-based learning

This is one of the places we plug Science & History/Geography into our weeks. But instead of forcing the kids to learn a certain topic, I encourage them to learn about what interests them. My son has studied farming; my daughter China and now Africa. In the Spring and Summer they’ll research plants and get hands on learning in the garden. The possibilities are endless and we’ve seen much fruit allowing the kids a say in what they’re learning.

Thursday– Preschool Focus & Math

The older kids pitch in to help teach our 2-year-old & Kindergartener basics like coloring, shapes, letters and music in the morning. Though math practice and worksheets occur all week long, Thursday includes another scheduled math lesson with mom in the afternoon.

Friday– Flex Day

For sanity’s sake, our schedule must include built-in day for friends, field trips and service. We like to keep Fridays super flexible (hence the name). We know how important it is to get out there in the world and be with other people whether for building up, learning or serving.

Saturday– Catch Up

Some Saturdays we do extra lessons around the breakfast table, other times we work on our garden. We use Saturdays however we see fit and I’m not at all opposed to using it as a “school” day!

Sunday– Family Learning

Sundays are great because our whole family is together. We often wind up reading, visiting with friends & family or, lately, catching up on an episode of Drive Thru History.

What every day includes:

✅Silent reading

✅Devotions/Bible study

✅All ages read-aloud time

✅Chores

✅Outdoor play or physical activity (we love Mr. Mark!)

And, if you’re not needing a scheduling change quite yet but are already thinking about SUMMER, check out our summer schedule from last year.

Happy Spring!

Jenny

Recipe: Banana Blueberry Almond Flour Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Bake time: 18-20 minutes

Ingredients:

• 2 cups almond flour

• 4 eggs

• 1 banana, mashed

• 2 packets stevia

• 1/2 tsp baking soda

• 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

• 2 drops DoTERRA Wild Orange Essential Oil (you can purchase here)

• 1 1/2 cups blueberries

• Coconut oil, for greasing pan

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl mix together all ingredients except blueberries.

3. After stirring well until combined, fold in the blueberries.

4. Grease muffin pan with coconut oil.

5. Scoop muffin batter into pan, filling each slot about 1/2 full.

6. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until slightly browned.

Adapted from this recipe at simplytaralynn.com.

The importance of IRL (in real life) community

I remember it like it was yesterday– turning 16, learning to drive and getting my first car. I was thrilled with the new freedoms and possibilities but perhaps what I was even more thrilled with was the fact that I now, officially, had a reason to own a cell phone. My parents hesitated but eventually approved so long as I paid for the service myself. It was a barebones Nokia (you know Generation Y’ers know the one) and texting wasn’t yet a thing but I was still beyond excited with this little blue piece of technology. It meant I could call people– mainly my friends and boyfriend– from anywhere. Amazing.

At the same time that I was celebrating my newfound coolness, I was also getting a first taste of social media. Of course, we didn’t call it that, we didn’t even realize that’s what it was but… it was. ICQ and AIM (@jenEbean) became a way to connect with my friends (and boyfriend @joeEbear) after school, so long as we had enough minutes left on our dial-up internet plan. So weird, I know. I also wrote a good bit of emails from my razzberry mail account. I was #killingit.

But life didn’t stop there. Many a weekends were still spent at high school football games and late night runs to Wendy’s for French fries and Frosties… all while we remained happily disconnected, technologically-speaking. Life was much simpler then, and not just because I was a teenager, but because most of our daily interaction with people took place In Real Life.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, we interact with one another so much more– with likes and thumbs ups and filter-laden selfies–yet majority of us are lonely, anxious and searching (read: scrolling). We spend evenings catching up on our friends’ IG feeds instead of picking up the phone to ask them how their life is going. We answer with emojis because our friends can’t see our expressions or know our hearts behind the keyboard. And somehow we think winks, thumbs ups and hearts are a suitable replacement for IRL smiles, hugs and tear-soaked shoulders.

I’m here to tell you that they are not. Yes, they can be a temporary, quick solution when life circumstances truly prevent IRL relations but they will never stand as an equivalent replacement for real human touch and laughter and quality time.

I enjoy social media, email, blogs, YouTube, text messages, video chat as much as the next person. And maybe even more so because I fell in love with my then-boyfriend-now-husband Joe over ICQ after he wooed me by sending me a flower (which, young people, was literally realized by the words, “joeEbear has sent you a flower” coming up in the chat box). However, today, more than ever, this world has a community-problem. We isolate ourselves like never before. And in the moments that we can be engaged in IRL community, we’re interrupted by dings and rings and other, often-unimportant notifications.

I believe that the first step toward change is to recognize there is a problem. Check. The second step? Do something about it. So here I am, trying to fight the overbearing pull from those temporal, pseudo-communities that can eat up all of my free time and swallow it whole. I am, instead, trying to exchange my time for IRL relationships that so desperately need pouring into.

I’ve also been thinking about what this looks like for the next generation. I’m working on writing a post “how to raise the next generation so they are not social media addicts” (or something to that effect). Look for it up soon.

In closing, I feel the need to say THANK YOU for being part of my online network of friends, I appreciate you and I enjoy your company… just don’t let me or any other internet-based community steal all of your time or replace your IRL relationships. Your community needs you!

Inspired to action,

Jenny

Five books I’m reading this January

January reading listbmom

1. Becoming Momstrong: How to Fight with All That’s in You for Your Family and Your Faith by Heidi St. John
I’m reading it through for the second time because it’s that good! I did a book review back in September. Check it out here.

 

treasuringchrist
2. Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms by Gloria Furman

 

 

ownlife

3. Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith and Generous Love by Sally Clarkson

 

 

 

marthamary

4. Having a Martha Home The Mary Way: 31 Days to a Clean House and A Satisfied Soul by Sarah Mae

 

 

 

daylight

5. The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight by Heidi St. John

 

 

 

For more of my favorite books, check out my Pinterest board!

Reading through 2018 with you,

Jenny

 

Becoming MomStrong book review

Motherhood is hard. There’s no way around it. Days can be long and morale low. But women like Heidi St. John help moms like me in bearing that burden just a bit, making life just a bit easier, a bit more lovable. Whether through an encouraging post on her blog The Busy Mom or in one of her books, Heidi has been shining light in this sometimes dark venture that is motherhood. And her latest book “Becoming MomStrong: How to Fight with All That’s in You for Your Family and Your Faith” is no different.20626781_10214150313141256_4111742155754784941_oBecoming MomStrong hits on hot topics like a mom’s need for rest and the importance of community as well as less common yet relevant topics like avoiding drama and handling grief.

As a seasoned mother of 7, Heidi is generous in sharing her wisdom in a very personable, winsome way. The book is full of first-hand accounts (the perfect mixture of #momfails and #momwins) while constantly admonishing readers to stay the course, to become stronger through their unwavering commitment to being immersed in God’s Word.

Heidi says, “MomStrong moms know the Word, and they respond to today’s challenges with God-centered wisdom.”

Becoming MomStrong is an uplifting, fun read that’s more like a bunch of meaningful conversations between old friends over a cup of coffee.

Despite my somber introduction, motherhood is not all doom and gloom. We all know it’s also full of afternoon snuggles sessions, laughter and late-night heart-to-hearts. The truth is, motherhood is a beautiful roller coaster of ups and downs. Motherhood is a high calling that bears tremendous responsibility.

In the pages of Becoming MomStrong, Heidi reminds us of the challenges we face as mothers in a volatile culture.

“God has given this generation of moms a special challenge: to train future warriors for the spiritual battle that’s unfolding around us. God is asking today’s mothers to be strong in the midst of an incredibly powerful cultural shift away from the truth of God’s Word,” explains Heidi in Becoming MomStrong.

I’ve left this book not only feeling encouraged but also feeling empowered; empowered to move forward on my mothering journey– with goals appropriate for each season of life God has put me in (as Heidi suggests in the book)– and with greater determination to give my children the best of me, not the rest of me (as Heidi also suggests in the book).

And I’ve never been more certain of this truth: by being a mom, we are not just line cooks, laundresses or nurses, but we are world changers, not only through our own lives but also through the lives of those He has entrusted in our care: our children.

“Through motherhood, you are impacting the world for good, one young life at a time.” -Heidi St. John, Becoming MomStrong

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Becoming MomStrong releases on September 19, 2017. A supplemental Bible Study and Journal are also available. Fun and functional MomStrong swag can be purchased here on Heidi’s website.