Fitting in Fitness as a Stay-at-Home Mom

 Let me preface this post by saying I am by no means a fitness fanatic. In fact, most of my life I have tried to find ways to avoid strenuous exercise such as running or lifting weights. It is highly unlikely you will ever find me joining CrossFit or Camp Gladiator or the like.

However, as a wife and mother inching ever closer to that “dreaded” decade beginning with the number “4,” I am becoming increasingly aware of my need to take better care of my physical health. It’s not about being a certain weight or fitting into a certain size of jeans…hey, sometimes I think about giving up jeans altogether and just living in comfy pants and skirts year round! What fitness is about for me is being healthy enough to serve my family, friends and community well. I want to have the energy to chase my kids around the yard, to take long hikes through the local nature parks, and to get through long days of housework and homeschooling and not be too tired to enjoy time with my husband.

And those are just things I want for myself in the present stage of life. As I focus my thoughts on the future, say 20 years from now, my motivation for staying physically fit changes a bit. I want to be able to get down on the floor and play with my future grandchildren without worrying that I may never be able to get back up again. I want to be able to travel and enjoy the empty-nest stage going on new adventures with my husband without the concern of preventable health problems.

As a busy stay-at-home mom with young children and a budget that prohibits extra expenses like a gym membership, the trick is finding creative ways to fit fitness into my daily routine. Honestly, even if I could afford to go to a gym all the time, I really wouldn’t do it. I’m a major homebody and introvert, and I hate, hate, HATE working out in public. So it works best for me to find things I can do at home that are either very inexpensive, or, even better, free! Sometimes I get up early and work out first thing in the morning. Sometimes I use a few free minutes during my daughter’s nap. Others I unwind with a little exercise at the end of the day after the kids are in bed. The key is making it a priority and being intentional!

Here are a few of the ways I have found to fit in fitness even as a busy homeschooling mom who doesn’t really love to work out in the first place:

  1. Getting a FitBit and working on upping my steps. This is the most recent change that my husband and I have both made, and we are loving it! He works a desk job, and I sit on the couch and read to kids for a large part of the day. It is easy to become “couch-shaped” when that is the norm! Now that I have a FitBit to keep me accountable and remind me to get off the couch, I am becoming more active throughout the day. One creative way I’m getting in more steps is by walking around while I read a book. Exercising my brain and my body at the same time is a win-win!
  2. Doing 30 minutes of yoga every morning. I love, love, love doing yoga but had gotten out of the habit after having my daughter (3 years ago now, yikes!) My current favorite routines are “Yoga with Adriene” videos  on Youtube. I’m working my way through her 30-day “True” challenge from the beginning of the year right now, and it is so yummy!
  3. Following Fit2B workout paths. Beth Learn has created such a wonderful wealth of mom-life friendly workouts to do at home. She is a gentle coach, both motivating and encouraging. I have done many, many of her workouts since I found her membership site when my son was just a little guy, and I still love them all! Whether I am in need of some gentle stretching or a more challenging workout, I know I can always find something to fit the bill at Fit2B.

If you are a homeschooling mom, or a mom of littles, I would love to hear how you stay motivated and find time to work out on a regular basis, especially if fitness does not come naturally to you. I can always use more creative ideas to fit fitness into my daily life!

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Part 1

Do you ever look at images on Pinterest or Instagram and ask yourself, “Does she ever do anything besides clean or cook and take pictures of the results?” Or maybe you are more tempted to ask, “Why can’t my house ever look that picture-perfect?” Either way, going down that rabbit hole of comparison is a dangerous path to take, isn’t it? We have to remember that those little pictures are not the whole package. We can only see a small piece of someone else’s life, and what we see may or may not reflect real life.

Why write about homemaking for real people?

The fact is, we are real people with real life situations and real busy schedules. As a result, sometimes our houses are going to be a REAL mess! And that’s okay. We can, however, aim to take control of the mess and find some order and beauty in the ordinary. Over the last 14 years of marriage, and even more so the last 7 years of motherhood, I have been finding ways to make homemaking a priority without sacrificing relationships. After years of swinging from perfectionism to sloth, I am finally able to keep our house in a tolerable state of cleanliness, to have a manageable schedule in most seasons, and to keep healthful food on the table and in the pantry. Thus, the inspiration for this blog series!

What is homemaking for real people?

Homemaking for real people is all about having grace while also getting things done. It is about doing what you can, when you can, to keep a balanced household without killing yourself. This series is for anyone who has a home, whether you are married, single, have kids in the home or not. I will talk a lot about routines and systems we have in place currently, which means they include my husband and our kids. These are things I wish I would have learned how to do a lot earlier on in life so that good habits had been in place before I became a mom. I will also weave in little bits of wisdom regarding our attitudes toward homemaking and having grace with ourselves and those who share our homes.

Topics I will cover in this series are as follows:

  • Good Enough Housekeeping Routines
  • Daily “Quick Win” Tasks
  • Keeping the Laundry Monster at Bay
  • The Reluctant Cook’s Guide to Meal Planning

Every Monday for the next month, I will be sharing a new post from the list. I would love to hear from you as we go through this series. If you struggle with a specific area of homemaking I didn’t mention above, we could tackle that topic, too. Just leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page. If you have an extra tip to add, please share that with us, too! We can all learn from each other. Join me back here next Monday, and let’s embrace this concept of homemaking for real people together, one real day at a time.

Rhythms and Routines #fiveminutefriday

rhythms and routines

I could go in so many different directions with this week’s “routine” prompt! (Which means I should probably think about doing some posts on related topics!) But I think I’ll stick with why I love rhythms and routines as a non-type A personality and as a mom of young children.

I used to try to create a schedule with times to do specific things during my days. This never, ever, ever, ever worked for me! I could not stick to a schedule for more than one day, if I could even get through that first day at all! So I thought I was just not a person who could organize my days. But then if I just went through days without any direction at all, I felt very disorganized and lost.

Enter: Rhythms and Routines!

For me a routine is more like a rhythm that helps provide a general structure to my days without being rigid or scheduled. I know that I need to do some things during certain parts of my day, but not at specific set times. A routine gives me grace to switch things up if I need to in order to accommodate our ever-changing schedule. But it still gives some direction as to the general outline of each day and keeps things somewhat predictable, both for me and my kids.

And that’s another thing about having a routine… My kids know generally what to expect of each day. They aren’t left guessing about everything because that would leave them feeling uneasy, too.

Rhythms and routines keep us sane and stable while giving us room to be flexible. So if you don’t work well with a schedule, but you know you need structure, give a routine a try. I think you’ll be glad you did!

This post is part of the Five Minute Fridays link-up hosted by Kate Motaung. Join the FMF community and get your free-write on! Find my other Five Minute Fridays posts here

Time for a little update

Wow, I really didn’t mean to take an almost 2-week long blogging break! Life around here has been a bit busier than normal, and I have had a lot going on in my head, too. I just could not seem to get my thoughts in order enough to even consider writing anything until tonight. It’s been a while since I just sat down and wrote a chatty post about what our family has been up to lately. So I thought I’d do that now. I hope you don’t mind!

House Updates:

In answer to many, many months of prayers, we finally have a buyer for our Illinois house! We will be closing that sale in 2 weeks or less, hallelujah! We are so ready to have that burden off our minds. We pray the house will be a blessing to the new family as it was for us as long as we lived there!

The really crazy house news, however, is that just a couple of week after we close on our Illinois house, we will be finalizing the purchase of a new home here in Tennessee! We were not originally planning on buying a house here quite this fast, but the right house in the right location for the right price came across our path. We will be downsizing a bit, so we plan to unload a few more boxes and pieces of furniture we haven’t used since moving to Tennessee. And we will be painting the whole house and replacing all the carpet before we move in, so…um…there may be more unintentional long blogging breaks coming up in the next few months!

Job Updates:

I am not sure if I’ve mentioned it before here or not, but I started working childcare one morning a week. We’ve been attending a large church in the area for several months, and I found out they needed more workers for their weekday morning Bible studies. It has been nice to have a little paycheck, and the kids are able to come with me and play with friends while I work.

Again, the bigger news is that my husband will be starting a part-time music pastor position in the next few weeks. We visited and led worship at the church this past Sunday and enjoyed meeting the congregation. It is a small church that was started just 7 years ago as a church plant, and the people seem to genuinely care for one another and to be seeking to grow together in Christ. I look forward to growing along with them for however long God has us there to serve!

Homeschool Updates:

Homeschooling is going along well, in spite of our usual morning schedule being interrupted at least once a week. I don’t enjoy doing school in the afternoon, but it does work on those days when we have to be out of the house in the morning. My son is reading so voraciously in our free time that I am having to be very resourceful in coming up with age-appropriate, quality books to check out from the library. Thank goodness for the AmblesideOnline Advisory lists of family favorites that are not part of the AO curriculum. I simply do not have time to read everything before my son does, so I have to find people I trust to give me good book recommendations!

Random Updates:

It’s spring consignment sale season here already. The timing is actually pretty good since I need to get rid of some more stuff before we move! This week I have been pulling boxes out of the basement and washing, ironing, and tagging the kids’ clothes from last spring. I also am going through old toys and books and DVDs to see what else we might be able to sell. Next I need to work on my kids’ spring capsule wardrobe list so I know what to look for when I do my own shopping!

And the best thing about having all this time sitting tagging items for sale? I get to sit and watch the Winter Olympics and not feel at all guilty that I’m wasting time!

Now that I’ve shared all my news, I would love to hear what’s new with you! Leave me a comment and let me know how 2018 has been treating you!

The Six “P’s” of My Personal Planning Session

 

In my last post, I talked a little about how I am planning for our new homeschool year. But this is also the time of year everyone is thinking about planning for the new calendar year. I have a lot of things on my mind for personal life improvements. I also have an increasing need to balance my homemaking roles and growing responsibilities as a Virtual Assistant. As I have had time here and there over the past week, I have been trying to make some plans and actionable goals going forward in the New Year. In the midst of that, I have been following these 6 steps to set myself up for success in 2018. I thought it might be helpful to some of my readers if I shared them here.

  1. Pray: Ask God what He would have you do in regards to the plans and goals you are making for the coming year. Ask Him for guidance in choosing priorities and action steps. Ask for clarity about what things He would have you pursue and what He would have you let go of for this season. Pray for Him to be ever present in your plans and goals, to the central focus of your life as you plan and prepare.
  2. Purge: do a “brain dump” of a sorts, writing down or typing out all the different goals, ideas, plans, desires, hopes, etc. you have for the coming year. Make a list of everything that comes to mind in every area of your life that needs attention and planning. You can go back after you have created this list and divide things up into different aspects of your life, such as homemaking, parenting, work, spiritual life, physical health, etc.
  3. Prioritize: Look over your brain dump and lists. Decide what your Top 3 Priorities need to be for the coming year and choose those areas to focus on in your planning. Keep other areas on the back burner for later. This may be a good time to write down a vision statement or choose a focus word to keep in mind as you prioritize and make your plans.
  4. Plan: Write down actionable steps to reach your goals under those Top 3 Priorities. Consider what habits you need to put into place and what measures you are going to take to move toward achieving your goals.
  5. Prepare: Write down new routines and schedules and post them in a prominent place. Create and use a habit tracker to keep yourself accountable. Put important dates and info into your calendar or planner. Post your focus word or vision statement for the year somewhere visible to remind you of your goals. Gather any supplies, books, etc. needed for putting your plans into place.
  6. Practice: Now it is time to put your plans into action! It sometimes helps to start small and work your way up with new habits and new routines so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Give yourself grace if you “fall off the wagon” early on. Each day is a new day and a chance to get back to work again. Follow your action steps, and you will get closer to your goals one day at a time.

If you need extra help planning and, perhaps more importantly, putting your plans into action, my “personal planning guru” Mystie Winkler of Simplified Organization has an amazing course to help you with just exactly that! Work the Plan is effective video training that will help you make a practical plan and learn how to follow through and be productive while remaining joyful and flexible on a daily basis. And, bonus! Mystie is offering my readers a 20% Off discount if you use coupon code “tuninghearts” at checkout! Happy Planning!

Simplified Organization

Weary Wanderer: An Introvert’s Reflections on Finding Friendship

I knew this would be challenging, moving to a new place and having to start all over again finding friends. But maybe I was not prepared for just how difficult it would be this time. You see, in past moves, I have always had some form of built-in community. When my husband and I first married and moved to Texas, I got a job right away and made acquaintances at work. When we moved to Illinois, it was for a church job, so right away I was in the middle of the busy life of the church and made new acquaintances there. I could have worked harder at finding friendship and being more outgoing elsewhere, and eventually, I did start branching out after having children. But I didn’t have to, at least not at the beginning.

This time, that is all different. I don’t work outside the home. And I don’t have a church I can call home yet. There is no predetermined community for me to settle into. Finding friends for me and my kids…it is all on me this time. I have made contacts here and there, gone out of my comfort zone and met new people and taken the kids to homeschool outings and such. We have visited more churches than I care to count, and I think we have decided to stick with one for the time being until my husband is called to lead the worship ministry someplace. But, here’s the thing. All this going here and there and putting myself out there to meet new people every week—it is EXHAUSTING! My little introvert self is completely worn out at the end of every Sunday morning, drained by the constant need to introduce myself and make some form of small talk. It takes all the energy I can muster just to get the kids out the door to go to yet another homeschool park meet-up, knowing that I may or may not actually have meaningful conversation with another mom in between pushing my toddler on the swings.

And there’s the heart of the matter. I crave meaningful connection, true community, not just surface conversations about where I’m from or what grade my kid is in. I long to be known and to be accepted and loved. As an introvert, I am wearied by all that superficial stuff, not to mention large group gathering. But when I have a heart to heart talk with someone and feel like we understood each other and really connected? That gives me life and makes me feel energized. It makes me feel that all the work and energy it takes to get out of the house and be around people is really worth the effort. So, here I am, lonely and longing for real, deep friendship. I know that it will take time, energy, and sacrifice on my part. I also know that if I keep trying, it will be worth it. So, here’s to another day of getting out of my comfort zone and meeting new people, because maybe one of them is a weary wanderer, just like me. And maybe we need each other to put out that effort one more time.

 

Podcast Round-up: Encouragement for Moms Edition

Welcome to the final installment of the Tuning Hearts Podcast Round-up! I hope you have enjoyed this series and that you have found some great new listening material! Up today we have a great collection of podcasts for all the moms out there.

The last two posts in this series were specifically for homeschooling moms, but not so this time! I have compiled my favorites for when your momma heart just needs some solid encouragement in the day to day. Most of these are faith-based, but not all. Many feature interviews with bloggers, authors and speakers who’s stories will make you laugh or think or pray. All of these podcast have been an encouragement to me in my journey as a mom, and I hope you will find some hope for your journey as well. If you give any of these ladies a listen and find a new favorite, please let me know in the comments at the end of this post! 

At Home with Sally with Sally Clarkson and Kristen Kill

Read-Aloud Revival with Sarah MacKenzie

The Busy Mom with Heidi St. John
Feathers: Faith in Flight with Amy Bennett

God-Centered Mom with Heather Mac Fadyen

Mom Struggling Well with Emily Thomas
The Masterpiece Mom with Amanda Bacon and Anne-Renee Gumley

If you missed the first 2 posts in this series, you can check them out here:

Podcast Round-up: Homeschool Mom Edition

Podcast Round-up: Classical Charlotte Mason Education Edition

The Life-giving Habit of Mother Culture

Mother culture

There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth.

from “Mother Culture” by “A.” in The Parents’ Review, vol. 3, no. 2, pgs. 92-95

I had never heard the term “mother culture” until about two years ago when I was listening to Leah Boden talk about it in one of her Periscope broadcasts. At the time, I was knee deep in the duties of caring for a young infant—diapering, nursing, feeding, bathing, soothing, and all the rest. I was also in the infant stages of homeschooling our son, and that in itself felt like a full time job. The rest of life did not stop, either, just because I had many demands at home. There were outside commitments snd situations that also depleted my physical and emotional energy. I was definitely feeling “used up” in those days!

Thankfully, since I had so much time to sit while nursing a baby, I started to read during those many hours each day. I don’t remember how intentional I was about it at first, but I knew I needed to give my mind something more nourishing to chew on than Facebook, Instagram and random blogs. I am not sure I had read Brandy Vencel’s wonderful post on Mother Culture then, but if not then, I know I read it sometime not too much later. She does a great job of pulling the meat from that article in the PR magazine from which I quoted earlier and distilling it down to give us a good working definition of this thing called “mother culture.”

Basically, mother culture is another way of saying that we as home educators, and arguably, even parents who do not keep their children home for their schooling, must continue to education ourselves even as we teach our children. If we do not, our minds will certainly stagnate, and lapse into unhealthy patterns of thinking. I do wonder if I had developed this habit of mother culture when my first child was born, perhaps I would have lessened the degree of my postpartum depression. We will never know, I guess, but I certainly believe it helped keep me out of the doldrums with my second baby! And now that my children are older and learning and growing in their education, wide reading and other habits of self-education are important for me to continue feeding my mind and growing as I pour out to teach and train them. Perhaps this will become even more crucial as they enter the high school years and are encountering books and ideas that I never had the chance to explore in my own formal education (Latin, for example).

There is no education but self-education.

Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.

Charlotte Mason

If the above statement about self-education are true for our children, how much more so are they true for us as adults, when we are no longer under a formal course of study? It seems that as mothers we must form habits of tending our own minds and hearts as much as we help tend to those of our children. Also, even though the original article on Mother Culture only mentions wide reading, I do think that these habits of self-education extend to other areas of study. I have found for myself that it is equally life-giving to practice handwriting, drawing, nature study, and watercolor as to read a book. It is refreshing to my soul when I listen with attention to an opera or symphony, when I knit or crochet or do needlework, and when I commonplace quotes from my own reading. The important thing is to do something which is expanding my mind and my skills, not mention my own habit of attention, so that I do not stagnate or drain myself dry.

So now I want to encourage you, whether you are in the toddler years, or the teen years, do something that gives life to your mind and soul. Read a stretching book to challenge you to think deeply. Learn a new skill to do with your hands. Take in a piece of art or music, paying close attention to the beauty in its details. Walk out in nature and take notes on what you find. Whatever small habits you can begin to cultivate your own education, I do believe that developing your own mother culture will be well worth the effort! What will you do to fill yourself up today?

Loosening My Grip, #Write31Days Day 7

  1. I never knew I had control issues until I became a parent. Up until that point, I had a pretty tight hold on my schedule and daily routines…when I slept and for how long, when I ate and what I did on the weekends. I was in control of the little details on my life, or so I thought. I planned out my days for smooth sailing, and other than little speed bumps in marriage or finances, things were pretty peaceful.

Enter those predictably unpredictable, dependent and demanding creatures better known as children…and not just any children, but infants! Infants who cried and begged to be fed or changed at the most inconvenient times… Infants who never slept at night but could fall asleep in the car five minutes from home, thereby rendering any attempts at getting them to nap again completely useless… Infants who could cry inconsolably about seemingly nothing, leaving me feeling completely helpless and, yes, out of control. No more nice, neat little weekend plans, no more quiet adult conversation over dinner, and certainly, no more sleeping 8 solid hours in a given night!

My 5 minutes are up, but I have so much more to say on this topic of control and parenting. So let’s just run with it….

You see, these little upsets in my daily routine were just the beginning. Now I have bigger kids who have more independence and responsibility, more room to make their own choices and their own mistakes. I can’t control their choices or their behavior any more than I could control whether or not they had a good night of sleep. Yes, I can guide them and teach them and give them consequences when they disobey or disrespect me. But I don’t control the outcome of these efforts. As much as I would like a neat little plan that says, “Do this and this and that, and your children will turn out to be model Christian citizens,” there is no such formula.

In fact, I am learning that the tighter I try to hold onto my expectations for the perfect day and try to control my children’s behavior, the more chaos and conflict ensue. Instead of trying to wrestle peace and joy into my days by tightening my grasp, I am finding that I must hold all things loosely and let God be the guide. I must release hold of my expectation and selfish desires so that He can fill my hands with His plans for me. And I must let go of the tight hold I want to keep on my children, handing them over to His care because He knows far better than I do how to mold and shape their hearts for His glory. It is a slow, difficult lesson for me, but I am beginning to learn to loosen my hold on control and let God give me what I really need—more of His grace.

This post is part of the annual 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes Challenge, part of the Write 31 Days challenge with prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Find all my other challenge posts under the tag #Write31Days

Embracing Real Life and Routines in the Midst of Transition

It looks like we are back in school. But we are taking it one day at a time. Because this living in two houses in two different states is not for the faint of heart! And I will admit, I have felt pretty faint of heart a lot lately! But sometime last week I decided that it was time to get back to some semblance of a normal routine, even if we could not stick to it all the time. Ever since we put our Illinois house on the market we sort of dropped our routine because of extra cleaning and packing, showing the house unexpectedly, and extra trips back and forth between Tennessee and Illinois. But the chaos has taken its toll on us all, and I could tell that the kids would especially benefit from more structured days again.

So this weekend, we unpacked the school books and supplies and loaded them into their new home in the dining room at our rental house. My husband went out and bought a new bookshelf especially for our growing collection of children’s literature. We reassembled the desk we had brought down from Illinois. (That thing has been through a few moves already, but it still is serving us well!) I posted a simple daily routine on a small whiteboard above the dining room fireplace, and planned out enough school work to get us through a few days, at least. Then on Monday morning, we started back where we had left off last time we had school.

It wasn’t pretty. My son was sulky and obstinate, refusing to narrate the Bible lesson and complaining about every little lesson as if it were pure torture. A simple math problem, only 2 questions in, brought on tears and frustration. My daughter was cranky after a rough night of waking up several times due to cutting a new molar. She was distracting to the max! We are using a folding table and chairs as our dining room table because the real one is still at the other house. We don’t have any shiny new school supplies because, honestly, we have plenty of old stuff that still works. I have not had time to put together new memory work for our morning time binders, so we just reviewed the old stuff from earlier in the summer. But we pushed through. I kept my expectations low, and I managed not to lose my temper completely.

Thankfully, everything went more smoothly the second day, in spite of much grumbling and complaining from my student before beginning lessons. I had found some cd’s when unpacking yesterday, and started some classical music playing softly on the computer. Also found while unpacking were some coloring books, stickers and old crayons for keeping the toddler busy. My son stayed on task without sulking or arguing. He narrated our lesson from 50 Famous Stories beautifully. Math was pleasant and tear-free. And so was the toddler, for the most part. Things were not perfect, but the morning was much better than the one before. And the only time I was really hard pressed not to lose my cool was after lessons were done and the kids were getting Kinetic Sand all over my freshly mopped floor. (Seriously, I love to play with the stuff myself, but why does it have to make such a mess!? And yes, maybe it was my own fault for letting them play with it if I didn’t want the floor getting dirty just then. #momfail)

The thing about homeschooling is that it isn’t always pretty because it is real life. And real life is not picture perfect. Every moment is not Pinterest-worthy. The house gets messy because people are living in it 24/7. The children are unruly and need disciplined because, hello, they are children! I get frustrated when my expectations are too high, or when I make unrealistic plans for the day, because I am human. But you know what? That is also the beauty of it all. We are real. We are flawed. We make messes and mistakes. And then we give grace and forgive each other and wipe up the tears and the spills and move on. And it is beautiful. Because, like blogger Bekah Jane Pogue says #realisthenewperfect so I am choosing to embrace this real life, rather than wishing for some other life that isn’t.

And in that spirit, here are some photos of our second day of school in all of its real, untidy, but peaceful and productive glory!