Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Willpower Update

Remember that series on willpower that I did early this year? I've continued to see the ways that my life has been changed by the principles in the book The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, PhD.

When I decided to take on the willpower challenge of decluttering my house, I had no idea what a big challenge it would be. Because I'm doing just a little bit a day (usually four days a week), it's taking a long time. I've been working consistently on it since January, and I still have a lot of areas to tackle!

But I like the slow, steady pace. It means I'm changing my way of life instead of just doing a one-time project and then going back to my old ways. Some days, I tackle areas I'd already decluttered, to once again get them looking nice. (Some spots attract clutter like magnets attract paperclips!) But most days I work on areas that have become disorganized through the six years we've lived here, like this closet that I finished today:

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Isn't it pretty?

I love that my house is a more pleasant place to live! And that's my motivation. I can't stress enough what a huge deal positive motivation has become in my life. I'm doing things I thought I didn't want to do, and it's not because I have to. It's because I have realized I do indeed want to do these things (like getting & staying more organized) because I like the results so much. Moving from have to towards want to has been so freeing (and effective) for me!

Now I'm trying to find a balance. Clutter bothers me more than it used to. And when I take into account my temperament and my season of life (homeschooling mom of young children), I realize I need to have some tolerance for some clutter and mess. Things will not stay looking perfect all the time. What I want is to learn to tolerate temporary messes better, so that when it's time to relax, I can really do that. I guess I need to figure out a positive motivation for those relaxation times, just as I've found positive motivation for cleanup times!

I don't read a lot of self help books. But The Willpower Instinct has made a long-term difference in how I live my life, and I continue to place it on my list of very highly recommended books!

I was originally provided with a free copy of this book for review; however, this post is uncompensated.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Kids and money, plus a review of Olay Fresh Effects BB Cream

I've been teaching my kids how to do more chores around the house, and I've started paying them 25 cents per chore. (Some chores, like cleaning up their toys, are unpaid!)

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My stash of chore quarters

We went to the mall Saturday, and both kids brought some money with them. Zoodle only had a little change, and he was quite disappointed that he couldn't find anything at all for under $1! I considered making up the difference so at least he could buy a $1 package of silly putty or something, but I wanted him to learn about the value of money. So instead I told him, "This is a good reason for you to do more chores around the house!"

Today, he was determined to earn some money and repeatedly asked me for chores. My dishwasher is emptied; towels have been put away in the kitchen; the tile has been cleaned with the little sweeper, and my bathroom countertops are wiped down. What a guy!

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Zoodle is thrilled to watch his money grow! (He's also learning to count money, which is a nice bonus!)

Speaking of the value of money, I love getting fun stuff for free. I received the Sun-Kissed Vox Box from Influenster recently. It's a box with free items in it that I'm invited to try and honestly review. The item I've been using daily is Olay FreshEffects BB Cream.

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According to the Olay website, Fresh Effects BB Cream has six benefits:
• Refreshes skin instantly
• Brightens for a radiant glow
• Evens tone with a splash of sheer color
• Hydrates for 24 hours
• Smoothes for softer feeling skin
• Protects against UV damage with SPF 15

I had never tried a BB (Beauty Balm) Cream, and I really like it. It's an easy way to get a layer of sun protection. Being 35 years old with imperfect skin, a tinted moisturizer doesn't offer quite the coverage I want, so most days I layer the BB Cream with powdered mineral makeup, and I am loving the combination of the two. My skin isn't breaking out (which is a problem I always had with liquid foundation), and it moisturizes really nicely. I tend to get patches of dry skin and haven't noticed that happening since I started using this product. Like many liquid foundations, this has a slight odor I'm not crazy about, but it's not enough to stop me from using it.

Olay FreshEffects BB Cream can be purchased at the Olay Fresh Effects website or at Amazon.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hey, that's not why I homeschool!

Homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christians, wearing ankle-length skirts and long, outdated hair. They have tons of kids (the more the better!), and they have few friends. Homeschooling parents want to shelter their kids from a long list of evils in the world. They hate the school system. And if you don't homeschool, then when they smile at you, it's an Oh, bless your heart; I hope your kids turn out okay, but they probably won't smile.


Homeschoolers are radical freethinkers who want their kids to take the lead in all areas of education. If that means a whole semester of staring at a dead ladybug, fantastic! (Except that they wouldn't use the word "semester" since that implies forcing potentially unwanted structure on the child.) They choose to "unschool," and they believe that the school system is deeply flawed because it ties up students with unnecessary rules and restrictions.

Do either of those fit your view of homeschoolers? Or do you have a slightly different stereotype in your head?

I'll admit, I am a homeschooler, and I still have stereotypes in my head of what "other" homeschoolers are like! But one thing I've learned in this process is that people homeschool for many different reasons, and we certainly can't all be lumped into one category. So below are a few reasons that I homeschool...and a few reasons that don't fit me at all.

Reasons I Homeschool
  • My overarching reason, which pretty much sums it up for me, is that I want more time with my kids. I like that I can work so much with them on character and behavioral issues. And I'm finding I enjoy them so much more than I used to.
  • I like being able to include our family's religious beliefs in our schooling. I don't want or expect that from the public school system, and it's a treat to be able to offer it at home.
  • It's fun! I love taking educational field trips and pursuing interesting topics together. I love going to the library when few others are there. I even enjoy taking them to the grocery store with me during the day.
  • I like the creative aspect of homeschooling--pulling together various resources, and creating my own.
Reasons I DON'T Have for Homeschooling
  • I don't homeschool because I think the public school system is evil. In fact, we have a great school system, and we had a great experience when Chickie went to our local school for kindergarten. I think public school is one of the cornerstones of our society, and I'm glad to pay property taxes to support it. There's a very good chance that sooner or later our kids will switch to public school.
  • I don't homeschool because I have deep concerns about the curriculum my kids would be taught at school. I love that experts have come up with good standards for the public schools, and I use those to guide my homeschooling too. I believe that Christian beliefs can coincide with contemporary, mainstream scientific teachings (such as evolution.)
  • I don't homeschool because I think that kids need absolute freedom in what they learn. Many "unschooling" families have well-educated kids, but it's not a method that I'm attracted to. I'm organized with what I teach. I am trying to find a balance between making sure they learn what they should be learning, and letting them have enough freedom to pursue their own interests. (That part is hard!)
  • I don't homeschool because I believe school is too unsafe for kids. It's not perfectly safe, but neither is homeschooling. (My kids spend a heck of a lot of time driving around with me when they'd otherwise be in school, and I know cars aren't the safest place for any of us to be.)
Homeschooling families fall on all places on all sorts of spectrums (or spectra)! Usually we're just normal families who have made a decision that feels right. In my case, it's a decision I very frequently reevaluate. As long as we continue doing it, I hope we keep enjoying it as we are now!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Yummy Chicken Noodle Soup (A recipe. Sort of.)

Yesterday I made this:
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And it is super-yummy!

I like making meals that don't require a bunch of measuring. So this "recipe" won't include measurements. Think of it as more of a list of suggestions! It includes two Secret Tips that elevated this soup's flavor.

Beth's Chicken Noodle Soup


Chopped veggies (I used carrots, celery, onion, and frozen corn)
Chicken Broth*
Cooked chicken*
Liquid Smoke
Salt & pepper

*I made this the day after I'd made a whole chicken. The chicken in the soup is left over from the night before; and the chicken broth was made from the chicken carcass/skin from the night before. Google it if you've never made broth before. It's very simple.

1. In the pot you're going to use (I used the Ninja Cooking System, stovetop setting), heat up some oil on medium. Put your veggies in. (If you have any that don't need to be cooked, like frozen corn, leave those out.) Cook for several minutes until they start to soften.

2. Secret Tip Number One: Add some flour, salt, and pepper to the veggies, and stir it all up. I probably used about 1/3 cup of flour. This helps thicken the soup a bit!
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3. Add a bunch of broth. How much? Depends how brothy you like your soup. A bunch of the broth will be soaked up by the noodles, so use quite a bit! Bring to a boil on high, and cook for awhile until the veggies are almost tender enough, stirring occasionally. (You can either boil it the whole time, if you're in a hurry like I was, or simmer it for a longer time.)

4. Add noodles and return to a boil. Egg noodles are good for this, though regular pasta works too. (I used rotini just because I forgot that egg noodles are generally used in chicken noodle soup. The rotini tastes good, but it did soak up a TON of extra broth as the the soup simmered after we ate....)

5. When the noodles are almost done, add chicken and any veggies that just need to be heated up (such as frozen corn, which I preheated in the microwave so it didn't cool off the soup too much.) Also...and this is Secret Tip Number Two...add a couple of good squirts of Liquid Smoke.
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6. When everything is heated through, taste it, and add salt and pepper as needed. It's ready to eat!

I just love the flavor that Liquid Smoke adds to soup, and by putting some flour in with the veggies, the broth has just a little more thickness. This soup turned out GREAT!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Nag, nag, nag

Recently The Engineer took the morning off work, and we went to lunch as a family before he headed into the office. Nothing fancy, just Del Taco. What a nice way to spend the middle of the day, right?

Except it wasn't.

As we sat there, he brought up something that bugged me. It doesn't really matter what it was; it wasn't that big of a deal. But it pressed one of "my buttons," and I really got on his case about it.

I explained why I disagreed with him. Why he should have handled things differently. I'm sure my blood pressure and heart rate went up. And I probably didn't fully appreciate my gourmet taco meal.

After that lunch, it hit me.

I don't want to nag my husband.

Not Nagging my husband is bad.

Not I'm a horrible wife when I nag.

But I don't want to nag my husband.

See, I'd put a big black cloud over a perfectly nice family lunch date, by making an issue out of something that didn't really matter much at all in the long run. And I realized, I don't really like how that makes me feel, and how it makes my husband feel, and what it does in our marriage.

So I decided I wanted to mostly stop nagging. I say "mostly" because if we stay healthy, we have several more decades of marriage in front of us, and there's no way I'm making a promise to myself to never nag again. I'd break that promise.

But I just decided I really didn't want to do it anymore. Nagging doesn't work.

So I've mostly stopped nagging. Not out of some sense of guilt or obligation, but because I don't want to do it anymore.

And it really does feel so good. I've let go of the responsibility of changing things in him that bug me, a responsibility that shouldn't have been mine in the first place. I have plenty of other jobs; it's really nice that I've got that whole nagging thing off my to-do list.

And best of all, ever since then, Del Taco has been a lot more fun.