Saturday, November 29, 2014

Budget? Yeah....

Honest truth?  I'm lazy, bad at math, and a bit of a compulsive buyer.  Not saying that I shop daily or buy $70 boots I don't need.  I do, however, let the kids get a toy they don't need when it's only a dollar or two.  Or I might buy something I see on clearance because I really wanted it or will use it in the future.  But THAT....THAT right there is why I need some dadgum self discipline!  I can justify about anything.  Spending a dollar now on something I will use in the future is foolish.  Really it is.  And I'm not talking big ticket items like birthday presents or every day necessities like bread or toilet paper.  These are things like seasonal paper products, fuzzy socks, or My Little Pony themed goody bags.  (Sweet girl has already asked for a MLP birthday party for her May birthday and the bargain hunter in me has been fighting with the wise spender I'm trying to be!)

We've been Christmas shopping and visiting family and I've had lots of excuses to grab some fast food and convenience items.  And the money has been flowing straight out of our account four or five dollars at a time.  That adds up SO fast.  

And then there are things like this...Publix is having a deal this weekend only where you get a $50 gas card (any gas station they carry cards for) for $40 when you buy $50 worth of groceries.  I made our list based on what was on sale and BOGO at Publix and away we went.  I overspent by $40 of what I budgeted.  See?  This is what I mean!  I managed to save $20 off our gas budget, get a free rotisserie chicken, groceries for almost 2 weeks, laundry supplies and I still manage to sail through my limit.  

So I am putting the brakes on.  LIKE NOW.

I wrote down every bill we have for the next month.  And I paid the ones I could today.  Off my plate equals less stress.

I added in a few extra expenses I think may come up such as a follow up doctor's appointment I am expecting.

I did NOT add fast food or entertainment into our budget this month.  I may add it in next month but honestly, we are paying for cable now and live so far from everything the gas would add up if we made lots of extra trips for movies and the like.  I will have to factor in some field trips for schooling soon so maybe those will just be adventure days with some entertainment or McDonald's added.

Looking at everything on paper, we are in the black!  I feel reassured about that but instead of seeing any of that as "extra" money, we will finish buying a few gifts and spend the rest on savings.  If I tell my brain that savings is a bill along with everything else, then I won't be tempted to spend it.  

I am going to further my limits by using a Bluebird card from American Express.  I am waiting on it to arrive so I have not set up my account yet.  I researched it though and I was really impressed by what they offer.  It is a free/no fee debit card.  You can set spending limits on categories like groceries, entertainment, etc.  You can also transfer money into a savings type account.  Again, no fee.  It's really like a Christmas Club that traditional banks offer but there is no penalty for moving the money out.  The last reason I will be using the Bluebird account is because from now until Feb. 28, 2015, Bluebird will double any money you get back from using the Walmart Savings Catcher!  I've already gotten about $7 saved.  Now, of course, you can only use this "money" at Walmart but that's ok.  It's one of the closest grocery stores to me.

How do you budget?  Especially this time of year when everyone is gift buying, travelling, eating away from home so much?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Who turns down free, soap?

I have waffled back and forth and back again about shopping online and subscribing to deal websites. It just seems to get out of hand so quickly.  Especially around the holidays.  Did I mention I have willpower issues?  Click, click, buy is so EASY and before you know it, I've gotten things I can use but don't necessarily need.  See, I always justify whatever I get.  You know...I've always wanted one of those...I'm saving it for a present...blah blah blah.  Y'all.  I bought $10 worth of hair from Korea because I watched a YouTube video about hair extensions.  I legitimately planned on using them but do you know what the QUALITY of $10 worth of hair is?  It ain't great.  I would have had more fun setting $10 on fire than I did trying to untangle that mess and clip it onto my hair.  Cheese and crackers.  So I just stopped for a long time.  All of those emails went straight into the trash bin and I only saved a few. (Let me preface this whole post by saying I have not included any referral links.  I love getting credits or coupons but I just don't feel right putting it here.)

And, ahem, I have not forsaken any of my thrifty ways for buying a bunch of new junk.  Most of my online purchases are for things I wouldn't (or can't) buy second hand.  Shoes. Services. Consumables.  Hair and Hello Kitty stuff.  Just kidding.  I just bought sweet girl a Hello Kitty clock (brand new) at a consignment shop for 5 bucks.  And I will never buy anymore hair.

Groupon.  Living Social. I saved these. I rarely buy things but when I do, it's something like movie tickets or a $10 Starbucks card for $5.  That's my fave!  And I may or may not buy one on my account and my husband's account too.  Save one for us and give one away as a present.  They also will offer deals on local organic markets where I live.  Getting $40 worth of groceries for $20 is a deal I'd be crazy to pass up.  That deal comes around 2 or 3 times a year so that's nice.  I'm sure you have all heard of these sites and use them already.  Just be careful!  Read the fine print, pay attention to expiration dates, be thorough.  And go to the sites of businesses you may not be familiar with to see how much you are really saving.  If you were going to buy your mom a massage for her birthday and find a deal, see how much their regular packages are.  Sometimes I've found I could get a lower tier treatment for less than the Groupon.

Family Friendly Frugality ( This is a blog/couponing site.  I also follow them on Facebook.  The main reason I saved it is because they have the drop on sales.  This time of year, I'm trying to keep up with what they are posting.  There were several Cabella shoes on sale for less than $10, shipped, this week.  I was slow on the draw and missed them BUT had I been paying attention, I could have some cheap comfy shoes headed my way.  They also find ways to stack deals with coupons, in store and online.

Speaking of coupons, PLEASE do a google search of coupon or promo codes for what ever store you plan on buying from online.  Retail Me Not almost always has a % off code for pretty much every store I ever shop at.

Ok.  So the soap.  I held on to some email subscriptions for stores I had no reason to.  Like The Honest Company.  I have no babies (have you seen those diapers?  ADORABLE!) .  I really like their packaging and a lot of the ingredients in their cleaning/body products but I couldn't justify spending the money plus shipping.  Tonight I got an email from them stating I had a $20 credit on my account.  There was no minimum or other qualifying purchase so I went over to the site to browse.  It's winter so I need body oil.  I'm also almost out of shampoo and body wash...Hmmm.  I started adding things to the cart and had about $22 worth of stuff.  Then I see the shipping will be $8.95 no matter what so I google promo codes.  I find one that will give me $10 off a $25 purchase.  Glory be to the websites that let you stack promo codes.  That will just about guarantee my repeat business.  So I add more things and have $26 worth but my credit is $30 off now.  ADD MORE THINGS!  I swear I edited my cart about 55 times trying to get exactly $30 worth of stuff but everything is priced at dollars and 95 cents.  I'm sure some math/Jenga genius could have hit it on the head but I ended up with $29.80.  Woot!  I paid the $8.95 for shipping and got 5 things I was planning on purchasing this weekend.  I'm excited to see how the products stand up to other natural/organic brands I've tried.  Have you tried them?  Thoughts?

Another side note, about once or twice a month I will hit up some free sample sites. I did unsubscribe from the emails though.  They were overwhelming.  The only caveat to freebie sites is the scams.  If you have to pay for anything, don't.  If you have to fill out 97 questionnaires or sign up for other "offers", don't.  A good site will just have links to the manufacturer of whatever product you want a sample of.  There are a few monthly sample "subscriptions" that are reputable.  I signed up for one called PINCHme.  I'm not sure why they chose that name.  You do have to work a little by filling out a profile and doing follow up questions after you've used your samples but I got a free box of Weight Watchers ice cream bars, a full size nail polish, and more.  The samples make great stocking stuffers or filler for birthday gifts.  I also stock my first aid kit, car, and travel makeup kit with the samples of OTC meds, bandages, hand sanitizer, etc. So it satisfies my shopping AND my frugal needs!

It is hard to resist all the gift with purchase, BOGO, holiday special clearance type emails this time of year.  But I will be strong!  Bottom line? The only way I'm hitting that COMPLETE PURCHASE button is if  1) There is no possible way I can buy this anywhere else; 2) I'm saving much more than I'm spending; and 3) I was going to purchase the item within the next few weeks.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


My most favorite time of the year has arrived once again!!!!  I love Christmas so much!  And yes, a lot of it has to do with the magic of Santa.  More on that in a sec.  But UNTO US A SAVIOR IS BORN! I have childlike glee over the thought of that tiny baby being born to scared, first time parents.  This time has grown even more special to me over the last decade as I finally understand, for myself, what awe and terror the first child brings.  Did Mary worry what kind of a mother she would be?  Probably.  Did Joseph regret scolding young Jesus (debate away on whether a sinless man was a rowdy vote is kids are kids)?  I'm sure he did.  But on that first night, they were made a family and tears of joy were shed by all of mankind.  Whewwwww!  I get goosebumps just thinking about it.  So how do we celebrate according to Burkeology?

In the cheapest way possible. Ha!  

Seriously, we have never been loaded with cash in December.  I don't care how fat our hog was earlier in the year, it's always slim pickins at Christmas.  So we have tempered our children's expectations with reality but never shorted them on the mystery and magic of the holidays.  We have celebrated Advent for a number of years now and I wonder why I didn't do this my whole life.  Did y'all know that December 1st to January 6th is one long Christmas celebration?  Yep!  Hooray!  December 1st through the 24th is Advent (the coming of Christ) and the 25th is the culmination.  We do an advent calendar now but in years past we did a Jesse tree.  This was a particularly fun way to get the kids involved in learning the Christmas story.  There are tons of sites to find scripture and the ornaments that go with them.  Ann Voskamp wrote a book titled The Greatest Gift which explains the Jesse Tree and here you can download the printable ornaments for free.  We handmade a lot of the ornaments we had and loved them until they tore, crumbled, or broke beyond repair.  

What about Santa?  Well, we are full on Santa lovers here. We taught our children about St. Nicholas.  Here is one version of his story.  A story of selfless giving by a faithful man?  Definitely want my kids to know about him.  The Polar Express came out when the kids were little and that was a huge hit with my son.  Hello? Trains. Enough said.  We would let the kids have their Santa gifts on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th) for a little while but it was hard to explain to their school friends why Santa came to their house before he did everyone else's.  So back to December 25th it went.  Now that we are homeschooling, I think we will return to St. Nick's Day and leave the 25th for seeing family and praising the Lord.  Our kids always get ONE BIG THING from Santa and a few odds and ends from us. A stocking full of do dads.  Even Santa presents are probably second hand at my house though. Last year, I got my daughter a well loved wooden dollhouse from a church bizarre for $5 and my sweet brother in law and sister painted it and repaired it. They helped me get the cutest dog family to live in it. And even mounted the house on a board with a lawn. A friend, who I am forever indebted to, sold me vintage doll furniture (NEW IN THE BOXES) for a song. When it arrived, I was in tears. It was an entire house of furniture with teeny silverware, rugs, the whole kit and caboodle. See? The magic of Christmas and Santa ARE real!
there is even sheet music with the wee piano!!!
how stinkin cute is this doll house?

 It was just too cute not to share again.

We have parties at my mom's, my dad's, and my sister's house most years.  That is a lot of family and presents to try to get.  One year, I was able to do some major thrifting in a resort town and I got things like a Prada wallet, swimsuit cover ups new with tags, souvenir T-shirts new with tags, well made purses, and more for practically nothing.  This year I am going back to my roots and making everyone homemade goodies in reusable containers, of course.  I found a killer recipe for "Swiss Miss" (I omit the cayenne but hey, spice it up!) and since Jet-Puffed makes marshmallow bits now, it's the realest deal you can get homemade!  And cheap.  I also saw this pin with cute dips mixes and you just add them to a tub of sour cream.  I may throw in some spicy pretzels and Christmas crack.  Trisha Yearwood needs a nomination for sainthood, sharing that recipe.  I don't even like toffee and I consider it crack!

Then on December 26th we start the 12 days of Christmas.  I take this time to binge on leftovers and wish for warmer weather and no ornaments to put away.  That's what February is for, right?

My birthday is New Year's Eve and it is cursed so we won't discuss it.  Except to say that one year my husband was out of state and forgot to call me, another year I got food poisoning and had to get my daddy to drive me to an urgent care clinic at the crack of dawn New Year's Day.  You get the picture now?  I will say that my family always makes it a blast.  We weather any storm together.

And just when you think you could not stand another round of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, it's EPIPHANY!!!!  Three Kings Day is another name for it.  Lots of other cultures really play this day up.  For the last several years, we made a valiant effort to celebrate this day with our dear friends The Guidos.  Funny story...their last name is actually Gonzalez but the husband, Guido, was our priest when we first met them and we all called him Father Guido.  My wee kiddies assumed that was his last name or that the people belonging to him were Guido's...I'm not sure exactly but they always called them The Guidos and it stuck.  Sadly, they moved away last year and we are working on a new tradition.  While I don't know that we will read Twelfth Night, there is a cake.  So I'm in!

One thing I have not mentioned is how we give to charity during this time.  On and off for the last 13 years, I worked for a Christian group home.  I helped make sure those kids had the best Christmas we could, to the tune of 50 kids at times.  And now that the group home has closed, we are looking for new ways to give during this season.  It will be something we decide on the 1st day of Advent and I can't wait to share it with everyone.

Ok, so now that all my family knows what to expect for Christmas (I never could keep a present secret) and I've explained how I manage to get 37 days of celebration (give or take) out of Christmas, let me share my final favorite tradition.  WINTER WONDERLAND.  Actually, it may be called Christmas Wonderland.  I don't recall even though we've gone every year for the last 7 years.  There is a dirt road in the backwoods of Chilton County, Alabama and on that road is the holy grail of Christmas lights.  An entire street filled with lights, animatronics, music, THE WORKS.  They even have Santa there.  I have no idea why these people do it and we always put what we can afford into their "light bill" donation box but my Christmas would not be complete without a drive through it.  I am seriously getting misty thinking about it.  Pure, unadulterated celebration of our Lord and it is lit up for everyone to see.  It is the star that I follow every year to remember why I love Christmas!  So corny but the childlike love I have in my heart wouldn't have it any other way.

I cannot even do it justice in these panorama shots.

16 days!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tiny spaces.

Moving to a smaller space means getting veeeerrrryyyy crafty with what little storage you have and finding ways to maximize each space.  I am really not much of a decorator.  I love to wander Home Goods and World Market and dream of highly stylized living rooms and such.  Honestly though, my budget and patience can afford all the trinkets.  So I just make do with what I have, what I can find at the Dollar Tree or thrift stores, and paint.

We needed a place to put EVERY SINGLE school supply.  Pens, paper, workbook, ya know.  We already had a white bookcase and the new house had a 3 shelf peninsula in the living room. So to divide the kitchen from the living room a bit, we stacked the white bookcase on top and anchored it to the wall.  While, it isn't a seamless architectural detail, it is very functional and organized.  I  covered the back of the bookcase with some dollar store contact paper.  It was a very ugly brown in the back and now you see the pretty graphic floral when you walk in the front door.

The kitchen has a sparse amount of cabinets and they are all small.  It only has 3 drawers.  So storing dishes AND food was out of the question.  I bought this amoire a few years ago for about $10.  It is a 1920s art deco style.  I loved it but the veneer design was missing several pieces.  I painted it a soft green color and decoupaged coordinating scrapbook paper into the panels.  It served as a pantry in another small house and then as a true clothes amoire for my daughter.  Now it is back to being a food pantry.  The green color and scrapbook paper doesn't really go with my color scheme now so I redid the inner panels with the same dollar store contact paper I used on the school bookcase.  I plan to pain the armoire white and faux bois it with a dark gray or black.  It will be very graphic and I can't wait to buy the paint!

The armoire has to back up to the kitchen bar in order to fit and be useful.  I was going to cover the back of the armoire or paint it but I have not decided yet.  In the meantime, I hung my badly beaten Tupperware rolling mat there.  It wouldn't fit into a drawer so decoration it becomes!  The tins all hold dry goods.  Cracker tin holds flour, cookie tin holds sugar, so on.  All of the items are used on a regular basis so it just made sense to incorporate them into the decor.  The little matryoshka dolls are my measuring cups!  

 Did I mention this house is tiny?  Our "master" bathroom is en suite but is about 5 feet by 5 feet, not including the shower enclosure.  The vanity has a wee bit of storage but I used it to house first aid supplies and stuff we don't use often.  We were able to put a free standing over the toilet shelf in.  It's pretty and white and let's me hide away my hairbrush and the like.  It is much too small for extra toilet paper or even towels so my mom brought over a magazine holder.  She had it painted in a fabulous red color and if it was for the living room, I would have left it as is.  But I want everything in my bathroom to be white and light so I painted it an antique white color.

I have to thank Pinterest for my next genius idea.  I had intended to get a vinyl shoe organizer and hang this stuff INSIDE the shower.  Honestly, after going to 5 stores, I gave up.  I bought this cheaply made cloth one and hung it outside the shower curtain.  I have to reach out for things but it holds all my shampoo, conditioner, razors, etc.  It is definitely maximum storage without taking up any space!

Last but not least is this little shelf.  It is in my tiny bathroom above the sink.  Made just for my Young Living diffuser, if you ask me.  I can put a favorite wake up combo like Peppermint and Lemon in it and it will fill the whole house in no time.  Oh, yes, that's right.  I forgot to say OUR BATHROOM HAS NO DOOR ON IT!  Thankfully our bedroom does but door on the facilities.  I have a heavy curtain hung there for some privacy but let's just say having the diffuser in the bathroom keeps...well...unpleasantness down.  Ha!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Good and Cheap

That is the name of my new favorite cookbook.  And author, Leanne Brown, conquers something very near to my heart.  Affordable food that tastes great.  Ms. Brown started this cookbook as a project while getting her master's degree in food studies. She took a budget of $4 a day and made some of the best dishes I've seen in a long while.

Why $4 a day?  Because there are 47 million Americans on food stamps and the average monthly stipend for food is $126.  Could you feed yourself for an entire month on $126 plus a little supplemental cash?  Most couldn't without resorting to eating Top Ramen or boxed mac n cheese for most meals.  That results in too much sodium, too many unhealthy carbs, and not much in the way of vitamins, minerals, or fiber.  

There was a time in our lives when food stamps was all the currency we had.  My husband lost his job while I was staying home with a 18 month old and a 4 month old.  We were devastated.  It took us a very long time to recover from those months of no income.  We had to move several times over the following 2 years.  And though the hubs found a full time job and a part time job, we stayed on food stamps during most of that time.  As his income increased, our stipend decreased.  Then he got a $20/month raise and we lost our food stamps completely, nearly $200 a month.  I was scrambling to replace what amounted to about 2 weeks worth of groceries with $20!  How I wish Ms. Brown had written her cookbook then!!

So, with the complete understanding of what it means to have little money for food, I have always searched for low cost food that will taste great.  People like Martha Stewart or Rachael Ray have been invaluable for the best recipes but not always the cheapest ingredients.  Things like prosciutto or even bacon, at times, ain't cheap.  And while I can make some really tasty ciabatta bread for pennies thanks to Martha, a meal it does not make.  Ms. Brown took what the government did an ok job with and made it appetizing and appealing.  Pictures so wonderful, you can practically smell the spices and warm stew cooking.  Upscale recipes that appeal to the foodie in me.  Meatless recipes to stretch the budget and boost my overall health.  To me, this book is the perfect marriage of practicality and indulgence.

I know food stamps is a hot button issue but my convictions are firmly grounded in my own experiences.  Every single person-man, woman, child-should have access to affordable food.  Fresh produce and milk should not be a premium item (that is often traded for gallons of $1 fruit drink instead).  Because here is what is worse, there are millions of Americans considered the "working poor".  Sure, some of those people qualify for food stamps but often times, they do not.  Then what?  Like our family, a very slight increase in wage disqualified us completely and caused major financial havoc.  So regardless of your own opinion about food stamps, we should all be able to agree that a trip to the grocery store should not bankrupt you nor should you have to sacrifice staple, nutritious items that are simply too expensive.

 Could you make it on $4 a day per person in your family?  It definitely takes planning and strategy but it is doable.  So, armed with this amazing cookbook and your wits, I challenge YOU to take the Food Stamp Challenge.  Do it!  For a week, a month, forever.  Whatever time you can take to shop like millions of others are doing daily, it will be eye opening.  And hopefully, delicious!

Monday, November 10, 2014

I have no idea where my kids are.

Well, I have some idea where they are but I don't have my eyes on them at the moment.  This is a motherly sigh of relief you can only feel out in the country on acres and acres of land.  I am so thankful to have it once again.

You see, I have always thought of myself as sort of a modern day Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Anyone who knows me, knows this.  And while I do not yearn for the Western prairies the way she did, I do yearn for a simpler life filled with wide open spaces.  Both in my heart and on my homestead.  I tried being the wanderer she was and when I was single, it was fun.  When I was married with two tiny babies, I couldn't hack it.  I only wanted to be near my family and the rolling foothills of Dixie.  I'm ok with being in one place.  I resigned to it much the same way I'm sure Laura resigned to living in Missouri.

Anyway, for years, I was a stay at home mom and mended, tended, cooked, baked, crafted all the things we needed to have a cozy life.  We lived in one old, small house or another.  Charming with character would be the realtor words but cramped, dated, not from this century would be the words most everyone else would use.  Then I began working full time again and frankly, the tiny house with two kids, who seemed to grow exponentially overnight, was just too much for me.  I hated it.  I didn't have time to clean or organize.  Nor craft or bake.  I just wanted a normal house with central heat and AC. Oh, and a dishwasher.  And a regular working washer and dryer.  So we moved into "the city" to a townhome that had all the luxuries I had missed for some years.

It took a while but I started to feel something was missing.  I couldn't remember the last time I had used my creative side.  I was even giving my kids store bought birthday cakes!  This is actually something that most people do on the regular and it made my life so easy but in the years before I had always made, from scratch, whatever elaborate concoctions they wanted. It was a thing of joy and I didn't even care about it anymore.  I had gotten so far away from who I had always wanted to be.  And, lo and behold, the Lord stepped in.  Funny how He does that, right?

The job I had been so dedicated to ended rather suddenly.  I had made a huge commitment to them and God made it so I did not have to leave, the job ended because the organization closed.  I suddenly had the time I had been needing. Then, an auto immune disorder decided to make itself known in a big way.  So now this modern, huge, 2 story house was too much for me.  And as it would turn out, our lease was ending.  The hubs had a friend with a small house on some land and the price was too good to pass up.  We decided to homeschool the kids, move to this one level house in the middle of nowhere, and get back to how we love to live.  Simply.

The change we have seen in ourselves and our kids over the last few weeks has been amazing.  The kids and I are able to get so much done each day.  I have been able to craft and organize everything into a lovely home again.  One where each thing has a place and a purpose.  We are much more relaxed.  And most of all, my kids are joyful again.  Being well rested, not overloaded with homework, not working 8 hours a day at school, having unfettered outside time (where I'm not freaking out about traffic or crazy neighbors) has made them kids is a blessing to me.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tomato Time

I recently watched a video going around Facebook called The Pomodoro Technique.  It was a little bit of a revolution.  I say little bit because I had a manager named Ann who told me about a similar technique used at the high school she went to.  I finally realized where this would useful in my life.

Pomodoro means tomato in Italian.  I have looked for a reason why the developer of this technique chose this name but I can't find one.  If you know, please share!  Ann the manager called the 20 minute chunks of time modules or mods.  I have not come up with a kitchy name for our version of this so, for now, we'll call them blocks.  Good enough?  Ok.

I had to come up with a daily schedule for our family of laze about procrastinators.  Honestly, we would sludge around in our PJs all day, watch TV, and eat chips if left to our own devices.  Plus we had to get cable TV in order to get Internet during our recent move.  This is the first time we have had cable since before our children were born.  This is a blessing and a curse.  Blessing because TV! And we can record shows.  And can I say that being able to pause what I want to watch, deal with XYZ kid problem or cook dinner, then come back to what I was doing has cut down on mommy meltdowns a good bit.  Curse because TV!  There is so much fun stuff to while away the time watching.  I mean, educational stuff to watch.  Yeahhhh.  So back to our schedule...

We are trying to model our homeschooling after Charlotte Mason's philosophies so the first half of the days are spent schooling.  Then lunch and outdoor time.  This will sometimes be educational/experimental but most of the time it will be exploration and good, old fashioned playing.  Then the kids have downtime in their rooms.  This gives me a chance to have time to myself and the kids can relax after all the brain growing and muscle building of the morning.  Then the kids have free time for the computer, video games, or TV.  I get to finish projects and start dinner, they get to watch all the cartoons their little eyes can bear.  Then when Daddy gets home, we eat, and have family time.  We might play games, watch a movie, whatever, it just has to be together.  Then we clean up as a family.  This way no one person feels like they are doing the bulk of the work and I get to leave the dishes, trash, etc. until this one time.  I don't feel like I am constantly cleaning the entire day.  Then baths, PJs, and the kids go play in their rooms again.  The hubs and I get time together and can watch grown up shows without fussing at the kids.  We have a bedtime snack like popcorn and hot chocolate, brush teeth, then winding down.  Kids go to bed and I usually stay up a little longer.  If the hubs feels like it he will go talk on his ham radio but most nights he goes to bed.

It's a very detailed but relaxed schedule that is really working well for us.  I have told the kids we won't stray from it but if we are sidetracked by appointments or errands, we just jump on schedule when we return home.   I don't even stress if we miss out on a school subject.  I know we can catch up and the kids don't feel pressured about missed work.  No stress for kids or mom?  Yes!

Ok, so where does the tomato come into play?  Well, if you watched the linked video, you'll see that tasks are broken down into intervals with rest in between.  What we have done is assigned 20 minutes to each school subject.  No breaks in between though.  This lets me maximize the attention kids at their age are willing and able to give.  Plus, I work better if I can just flow from one thing to the next and not break.  Another way this works well for us is setting the timer for 10 minute turns at games or apps we are using for a certain subject.  No more fighting over who's turn it is or how long someone has been "having fun" while the other is doing a worksheet or reading.

What techniques do you use to manage school time?


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