NatureAmy

caring for creation while caring for family

Tag: homeschool

My THM Pregnancy: 32 weeks

With the holidays, I have fallen behind on my blogging to spend time with my family. This also means that I’ve fallen behind on my pregnancy updates! It’s been 9 weeks since my last one!

As far as my pregnancy goes, these last couple months have been mostly uneventful. My checkups have all gone smoothly, my tests have all been perfect, and my doctor’s only complaint has been my weight gain.

A bump picture from our family photos at 25 weeks pregnant.

A bump picture from our family photos at 25 weeks pregnant.

Unfortunately, I seem to be one of those pregnant women, who no matter how healthily they eat, still gain about the same as my other pregnancies. I was hoping, since I eat THM now, don’t eat sugar, and stay on plan most the time, that I would only gain 20 lbs, instead of my normal 40. However, I am definitely on track for gaining 40 lbs again.

I could be really upset by this, or I could choose to be happy that my baby is growing well and that I am healthy. I’ve decided to choose the latter. However, I was really annoyed at my doctor for bringing it up! Who wants to hear that they’re gaining “too much” weight, right? Not me!


32week_wimpAm I a Pregnancy Wimp?

This pregnancy has brought more heartburn than my others (maybe this baby will actually have hair????) and it’s made me realize that I’m a total pregnancy wimp. I know many women who have heartburn almost constantly during pregnancy and I only have it occasionally. However, I HATE it! I would seriously rather go through labor than a night of heartburn that won’t go away.  I admire those women so much for putting up with it for months! You are true pregnancy heroines!

Another thing that makes me a pregnancy wimp?  I usually sleep really well, even in pregnancy, but when I don’t – I’m a complete grump!  I know many friends who have aches and pains and trouble sleeping much of the 40 weeks, but for me, missing one good night of sleep is frustrating.

I finally had to break out my pregnancy pillow – my Snoogle. My husband hates it – he’s not a fan of the big pillow wall between us, so I try not to use it. I didn’t use it in my 3rd pregnancy at all. But, after several nights of waking up sore, I decided I needed it again. It did the trick! I don’t need it every night, but when I’m feeling especially achy, it helps me get a good night’s sleep.

Real life trying to take blog pictures at my house! Addamay trying to drag me away and some laundry in process down the hall...

Real life trying to take blog pictures at my house! Addamay trying to drag me away and some laundry in process down the hall…

Now, if I could only get my 2 year old to sleep consistently through the night, I would have no night time complaints! Please pray with me that she starts sleeping solidly every night before the baby comes. She has been my toughest sleeper. All my others slept solidly through the night from 12 months on (often 9 months), but she is inconsistent. Some nights she sleeps just fine – others, not so much!


My growing bump at 26, 30, and 31 weeks!

My growing bump at 26, 30, and 31 weeks!

We had some exciting changes to our birth plan come up, but that is news for another post!  Can’t wait to tell you all about it soon!  Any guesses as to what it might be?

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My One Year Blogiversary: What I’ve learned from my first year…

Today is the 1 year anniversary of starting my NatureAmy blog and what a year it has been!

I started writing to have an outlet that was just mine.  For the first time since becoming a mom almost 8 years before, I was switching from working part-time to being a full-time stay at home mom.  And although I was happy about that, I wanted an outlet that was just mine.

amy_addamay2016As much as I love motherhood, it can become all consuming – so much so that I find myself needing an outlet that is all my own.  When I taught college classes part time, that was a great outlet. However, after 3 kids and full time homeschooling two of them, working outside the home, even for only 10 hours a week, was too much.  So I became a full-time SAHM and started a lifestyle/mommy blog.

And I’ve loved it!  It’s been a hard year for me emotionally, but being able to write about it has been very healing.  I’ve also found that writing is so much like teaching.  I’m a teacher and encourager at heart and I’ll never get away from that.

I’ve evolved from writing two or three posts per week, to taking two months off from writing in the summer, and eventually settling in at posting about once per week.

family2016I wish I could write more consistently – I love reading bloggers who post several days every week – but I realized that that is not realistic in my current season.  I’m homeschooling 1st and 3rd grade, keeping up with a very independent toddler, and about to add a 4th baby to the mix.  My husband works 80 hour weeks during the school year and we try to keep everything running smoothly at our house (emphasis on TRY – it is far from smooth most weeks!).


So… just for fun, let’s look at some of my stats and most popular posts this year.  I have been blown away by the visitation and love that this site has received the last 12 months!

Total site visitation: just under 50,000 – I can hardly fathom that number!  I know for many more popular blogs that is a monthly or weekly stat, but I am humbled that my blog has been visited so many times!

  1. My most popular post is my Weeks Worth of Trim Healthy Mama Camping Meal Ideas Camping with THM: A week's worth of on-plan menu ideas - perfect for a family camping trip - NatureAmy.com
  2.  But coming in just slightly under it is my Healthy Blueberry Scones Fuel Pull recipe – Downton Abbey inspired.  All my scone recipes are popular (and yummy) but this one tops them all.Downton-night-1
  3. My third most popular post is my personal Trim Healthy Mama Testimony.beforeand-after-thm

Enough stats – personally, my favorite three posts (even though they don’t rank so high in post views) are the following.

  1. My very first blog story (after my introduction post) – Glitter in the Snow.  I love this touching story about how our kids are the light and hope in this dark world.Does the darkness of the world seem to be too much? Here is some hope - some glitter - in the dark. - Natureamy.com
  2. My testimony about not having a testimony – When you feel like you don’t have a testimony…  The Facebook shares of this one really humbled me.When it seems that everyone else has an amazing story to tell of how God saved them from disaster, but you've been a Christian forever... But you DO have a beautiful testimony of God's faithfulness. -- NatureAmy.com
  3. And finally, our family tips on hiking with little kids – or how to NOT carry them the entire way…Tips for hiking with little kids, without carrying them the entire way. Written by long-distance backpacker parents who love to hike! NatureAmy.com

Some things I’ve learned that have pleasantly surprised me:

There is a wonderful and supportive world of bloggers out there that I never knew existed!  I’ve made friendships all over the United States, and even some beyond, with women who also blog.  I’ve never been one to have digital relationships before – everyone I was friends with on Facebook I actually knew in person – but I’ve found a kinship with these women and it has really blessed me!

Instagram is a very surprising place.  I never had an Instagram account before I opened my @amylovesnature page.  I’ve found it to be a great tool in the blogging world and have formed most my friendships with other bloggers through it.  It is also a much more pleasant social media outlet during political season!

E-courses can be a valuable connection tool.  I purchased an e-course from Natalie of At Home With Natalie about blogging.  It has been a very valuable tool.  However, the thing I found most useful is the connections it has brought to other like minded bloggers.  I use her Blogging E-course for Moms.  And she often has discounts!


So, overall, I’ve learned a lot this year.  But I’ve also learned to find my groove, be completely and unapologetically myself, and not focus on page views and site stats.  I’ve made a little bit of money (enough to pay for a replacement part to fix my nice camera), gotten overwhelmed by statistics and numbers (my post on why I don’t want a successful blog speaks about that one) , and eventually stepped back from it all to find a place that works for me.  Rethinking what it means to be successful in the blogging world when you want to encourage simpler living and consuming less.

Maybe someday I’ll be a “successful” blogger with really great site stats and viral posts who makes enough money to support my family… but for now, I’m happy where I’m at.  God has blessed me so much in this journey so far and I’m happy to be along for the ride!

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Choosing the best homeschooling option for our family

So, Part 2 of my homeschool series is how we chose the method of homeschooling that we currently use.  (If you missed part 1, on why we chose to homeschool our kids, you can read it here.) This is a personal option for any homeschool family, and like the choice to homeschool your kids, or not, it can change depending on the current needs of your family.  The options that I mention are not available in every state, so you will have to research your homeschool options based upon your state’s, or country’s, laws.

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

Micah traces numbers and places the right number of teddy bears on each one at age 4.5.

California Homeschool Options

The homeschool options in California, where we live, are very good.  Not only is private homeschooling an option (if you register your ” private school” with the state, a process that I am told is relatively simple), but there are numerous public charter homeschool options and online options, as well.  There are also some private schools that have homeschool programs attached to them – an option that my parents used when I was a kid. Homeschool groups, coops, and programs also give parents many options within these broad categories. We looked into each of these options and the many different charter schools available in our area – we talked to people who had used all of these things, assessing the pros and cons of each option.

The best option for us

In the end, we decided on what we believed to be the best option for our family, a charter homeschool with a local campus.  The campus gave us the option to enroll our students in on-site classes once or twice a week for 60-90 minutes of learning in a classroom setting. (Jr High and High school students have more on-site classes). It allows them to get used to other teaching styles, classroom expectations, and interact with their peers while still spending the majority of their school day at home.  My boys, who are slow to read just like I was, are able to participate in programs to help them with reading, all free of charge because it is a public school – which is such a blessing!

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.comCost – Another reason that we chose the public charter school route was that it was much less expensive than private homeschooling.  When we started homeschooling, we were trying to raise our family on two part-time adjunct professor salaries – which is not much money!  So we had to find an inexpensive option.  Because it is a public school, the curriculum is provided for us.

Curriculum – However, we don’t just have one curriculum option, we have many many great options to choose from.  When my oldest was in kindergarten, the basic handwriting curriculum we were given just wasn’t working, so I asked about another curriculum and was able to check it out of the school’s curriculum library that day! (Find out what it was in my favorite curriculum post coming next in the series!)

The only drawback to getting free curriculum through a charter school is that Christian (or any religious) curriculum is not an option.  We are okay with this.  We supplement our own Bible curriculum and we know that our kids are getting a solid Biblical foundation even without books that specifically address it.  More on that in my curriculum post.

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

Addamay always wants to do what her brothers are doing.

Personalized Learning Teachers – Another great thing about going through a charter school (although this is a drawback for some) is that we have a credentialed teacher overseeing our children’s education.  She helps us create an individualized learning plan for each of the kids and is incredibly encouraging!  We check in with her frequently; she ensures that we are staying on track and is always so encouraging. We love our PLT (Personalized Learning Teacher).  However, if we didn’t like our teacher, we have the option to switch teachers, even in the middle of the year.  Every parent and teacher has a different approach to learning/teaching, so sometimes it can be a process to find the teacher that works best for your family. We did our research before applying to the school and made our teacher request based on our research – thankfully she had openings that year!

Classes – The optional  onsite classes have been wonderful for our boys and have allowed them to have an in-class experience each week.  These are taught by the credentialed teachers and there are always several options for the kids to choose from.  This year my boys are doing a reading program twice a week to help them with their reading and they each have one fun class.  My 3rd grader LOVES his science class where he gets to do experiments with his peers each week – he wants to be a scientist of some kind, but thinks it’s too much pressure to choose what kind of science just now – smart kid!  My 1st grader started in a fun math class, but found it too easy (which is boring for a 6 year old), so he switched to a reading class that has different stories and crafts each week – he loves crafts!

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

On a field trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Student Resources – Finally, our public charter school allots resources for additional or extra curricular educational classes or tutoring from approved vendors throughout the year.  The funding is limited per month, of course, but it allows our children to participate in some great educational classes that we otherwise would not be able to afford!  The boys are currently taking semi-private swimming lessons twice a week because of this!  Other kids choose tutoring in every subject, music lessons, karate, ballet, etc.  There are so many options!


How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

Our school room at home (I’ll write a post on that soon, too) and my lesson planner.

 

After researching all the options – we settled on the public charter school option as the best one for our family currently.  It is certainly possible that the best option for our children may change at some point in the future.  If we move, we may decide that private homeschool is the best option, or we may decide on a charter school without a campus.  I don’t think we will ever choose an online school for our children, because my husband and I are opposed to that idea for children’s education. Of course, never say never – right?

So, do you homeschool?  And if so, what is the option that you have chosen for your family? I’d love to hear about it!

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THM Pregnancy Update: 18 weeks

It’s been about a month since my last pregnancy update.  I was hoping to write an update every other week, but, obviously, that has not happened!

Since my last 14 week update, things have been pretty smooth – except for the fact that I tend to forget my limitations (i.e. needing to stop and eat, rest more often, and make sleep a priority).  This has led to a few reality checks in this last month, but… such is life with three kids, busy schedules, field trips, 90 degree Fall weather, and homeschool!

18weekscolor

18 week baby bump – getting bigger and starting to feel the baby move around!


Check-up Fun with Three Kids

I had my 16 week appointment over 2 weeks ago and took all three kids with me this time.  It was one of those easy appointments (no tests), so I had hopes that I would not regret the decision too much!  And, thankfully, it was really quick, painless, and easy.  I checked in, was called to the back just after sitting down in the waiting area, and took my weight (7 lbs gained so far) and blood pressure – all good.

Next, we went right to the bathroom for my urine sample.  We had to wait to use the bathroom, but that 2 minute wait was the longest of the day!  I took my 2 year old in with me, and left my 6 and 8 year old waiting outside the door.  Then we all traipsed back to the exam room to wait for my OB.

My oldest took out his book to read and my ever curious 6 and 2 year old pointed at all the posters in the room, tools, cup of pee, etc. demanding a detailed explanation.  Well, we are homeschoolers, after all, so what better time for a science lesson!

My OB knocked on the door after less than a minute of intense questioning by the kids, and then they turned their barrage of questions on him!  He tested my urine with a test strip – more questions from the kids.  Then he measured my growing belly – more questions.  Finally, he took out the Doppler to listen for the heartbeat – and, you guessed it – more questions.  He was actually very patient with the kids and was not bothered by the questions at all, thank goodness!  If he was, I would seriously consider changing providers!

The kids loved hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time.  (I did, too!) They decided it sounded like “one THOUSAND horses galloping” which was a pretty accurate description.

Then we were done! The entire appointment, from check in to release was less than 10 minutes!  I was very thankful for that!


My THM pregnancy - 18 weeks - Learning the hard way not to overdo it! - NatureAmy.com

Taking a quick snack break on our hike.

Don’t forget to eat…

In the last four weeks, since my last update, I have gotten over the majority of my pregnancy exhaustion that reappeared after I started our busy homeschool schedule.  Any nausea and food aversions also were gone.  However, these two things made me more relaxed in my routine, which led to some not so great things…

Like I said, well into the second trimester, I was getting lazy about eating.  It wasn’t so much what I was eating – I am still sticking to the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating most the time – but when.

I had to eat every 2 hours in my first trimester or I would feel sick.  But I was very careful during that time and rarely felt any nausea and never threw-up.  However, with our school schedule getting busier and extra curricular classes starting up, my eating routine started to slide.

I no longer needed to eat every 2 hours, which was great, but I found out on week 15 that if I did not eat after 3 hours, I would be sick!  Ugh- not fun!

Week 15, I had just dropped the boys off at a morning class and was taking my 2 year old grocery shopping with me.  Suddenly, on the drive to the store, a wave of nausea hit and I felt like I was going to throw up.  I looked at the clock.  Three hours had passed since breakfast, I didn’t have any snacks with me, and I knew I was going to gag right then and there.

Thankfully, I was at a red light.  I picked up an empty cup (there are good things about a cluttered car!) and threw up!  The light turned and I drove through it and pulled over to the side of the road until my head stopped spinning.  We went to the store, bought the first thing that I could find, a bag of veggie chips, and went back to the car to eat 2/3 of the bag between myself and my toddler.  Finally feeling better, we finished our grocery shopping.

You think I would have learned my lesson after that, but I can be a bit dense sometimes…

The next day we were at home and it was a particularly long morning of math with my boys.  Suddenly feeling sick, I looked at the clock to realize it was over four hours since breakfast.  I threw-up again!  Then I ate lunch, but it had been too long and my blood sugar had dropped too low.  Eating a meal was not enough.  My head was spinning still and nothing was helping.  My toddler went down for her nap and the boys got to watch “The Magic School Bus” while I took a nap for about two hours and finally felt better.

I DID learn my lesson after that time, thankfully!  Now, I’ve been sure to pack a piece of fruit, nuts, or cheese stick in my purse before we leave the house.  I’ve also been sure to stop and have a mid-morning snack when we’re home.  Just because the second trimester is easier (usually) than the first, it doesn’t mean I can neglect the needs of my body.


My THM pregnancy - 18 weeks - Learning the hard way not to overdo it! - NatureAmy.com

Our family – minus my 8 year old who is taking the picture – with Mt. Lassen behind us.

Over doing it…

The second hard lesson I’ve learned this month is the importance of rest.  We always do a Fall semester weekend field trip for my husband’s students.  We bring the whole family, spend two nights in the wilderness, and everyone learns a lot and has a great time.  But, it is also a lot of work (read what I feed this large crew with an allergy friendly menu, here).

I spend the entire week before the trip buying the food, and preparing whatever I can before hand.  Then, early Friday morning, we load the kids, food, and gear up, and head to the college to meet the students.  A full day of learning, and eating, later, I have the fun task of getting a toddler, who deals with night-terrors when camping, to sleep.  We did not get much sleep the first night in our little tent.  And a full two days later, after getting home at 10 pm on Sunday night, this pregnant mama was exhausted!

My THM pregnancy - 18 weeks - Learning the hard way not to overdo it! - NatureAmy.com

About 3 miles into our hike to King’s Creek.

Normally these weekend field trips are tiring, but this time, it hit me so much harder.  My husband and I opted not to take our family on the most strenuous hike to the top of Mt. Lassen Peak.  But the 4 mile hike we did instead gave me hours of Braxton-Hicks contractions that did not stop until that evening.  Monday morning, I was spent! I was physically tired, mentally tired, emotionally tired… I had a headache… Tuesday, after more rest, I was starting to feel better, but I had a lingering headache still.  Wednesday, our busiest day of the week, I finally felt like myself again!  Thank you, Lord!


I’m looking forward to our 20 week appointments coming up soon!  We will get a chance to see our little one growing!  It will drive me crazy to not find out the sex, but I’m also kind of excited about waiting – can you be both?

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Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts from a Homeschooled Homeschooling Mom

I sat down to write one post on homeschooling, but soon realized I have a mini-series in the making.  So… this is the first of many posts to come on how we do homeschooling at our house.

There are so many different options for school and no one-sized fits all approach!  Public schools, charter schools, private schools, and homeschools are the most common options for us to choose between in the United States.  The best fit for our family in this season is homeschool.  But like parenting, and so many other things in life, we homeschoolers all have to find the groove that fits our family.  I feel like that is a moving target, especially as my kids grow older and we add more babies to the mix, but that’s part of the fun of life.

I was actually a homeschooled kid for most of my school years.  This was a weird thing in the ’80s and ’90s. When I started public school in high school, no one knew what I meant by “homeschool”.  My peers thought it was  some type of remedial or correctional program – I am serious, they actually thought that!  I think they learned otherwise as I soon rose to the top of the class and graduated salutatorian.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Some hands-on learning at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

I  love how homeschool helped mold me into the person  that I am today.  Homeschooling allowed me to learn at my own speed (which was actually very slow at first – I didn’t read until I was eight!) and pursue things that interested me – which was pretty much everything.

Homeschool instilled in me a universal love of learning that I still have today.  I learned to love every subject, mostly due to my parents’ love of learning and reading.  My mom and dad read out loud to us for years – years longer than was necessary.  I cherish these memories of family reading time, huddled together on the old family room couch, on a family road trip, or around a crackling campfire.  These books opened up so many opportunities for us.  I only hope that our own homeschool can do the same for our family.

When my husband and I had kids, he knew right away that we were going to homeschool them.  In fact, he told everyone that.  (He was never homeschooled himself, but he saw the benefit of it.) I wasn’t so sure, only because I knew how challenging it is to be a homeschool parent and that the majority of their education would fall on me.  However, as our oldest grew older, I started to look into our options.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

A field trip to the local zoo – the kids love any chance to see animals up close!

Our local schools are good schools and the teachers and administration are very good people, so I was not concerned there.  However, as I saw my young and very impressionable son interacting with other kids at the park, I noticed some things I did not like.  He learned to copy other children’s behavior, especially bigger “cool” kids, just from an hour or two at the park.  And that behavior was more “Lord of the Flies” than it was good Sunday School kid.  I didn’t like it.

My husband and I knew that we wanted to be the biggest influences of our children, not some cool kid on the playground.  We wanted to know what was going on with them everyday and to be able to pour life and love and grace into them throughout the school day.

I knew from my oldest’s personality and learning style that going to public school would be tough on him and we decided when he was only three and a half that homeschool would be the best thing for him.  We have not regretted it at all.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Making a recycling truck out of recycled boxes during a unit on recycling.

Homeschooling gives us the ability to allow our kids time to be kids.  At most schools today, kids are not allowed the time to just play that they need for their cognitive development.  Many, if not most, schools have all-day kindergarten.  Homeschooling has let my kids be kids.  Kindergarten work takes 1-2 hours of our day and the rest of the day can be spent exploring nature, running around, building with Legos, and just letting their imaginations go!

I love that my little boys are not made to feel bad or be punished for being wiggly kids.  My kids don’t come home from school with a “frowny face” for not being able to sit still or wrestling with another kid.  I can give them the time they need to wiggle and move and wrestle.  For most little boys, and many little girls, this is normal and not something to be punished or medicated.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Our first day of homeschool EVER! The boys had some fun with math and trains practicing numbers, addition, and subtraction.

Now that I have a third grader, we spend more than 2 hours a day doing school, but it is still much shorter than the time his peers spend in public school.  He is starting to be able to work independently, for a short time, and I love to see how his brain is developing.  His attention to detail with science and history just astound me.  I am so honored to be able to spend this time with him and see him grow into the man he will become.

Another reason homeschooling fits our family is because it allows my kids to have a very special and tight bond.  Although my kids all have friends their ages, they are also very best friends with each other.  And although they do fight on occasion, as all kids do, for the most part, they get along very well.

It was the same for me and my siblings growing up.  If we weren’t friends with each other, who were we going to play with during the day?  Sure, we had other friends, but not “at school” with us.  I think the sibling bond is one that should be cherished and nurtured.  Siblings just tolerating each other, fighting constantly, and making each other miserable is just not acceptable.  We work hard to maintain that bond between them.  It is worth preserving.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Becoming Jr Rangers at Lassen Volcanic National Park

The final reason we have chosen to homeschool is because we can integrate our faith into our daily studies.  We open each day with a prayer, allow the kids to take turns praying, and practice Bible verses.  And although we don’t use Christian curriculum (more on that in my curriculum post coming soon), I make sure to integrate our faith whenever I can – which is often!  The opportunities abound to share the importance of God with our kids and I try to be intentional to take these opportunities when they come up.

So, were you homeschooled or is it something that you have chosen for your children?

I’d love to hear about what works best for your family.

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THM Pregnancy Update: Hello, Second Trimester

I am happy to say that I have officially made it into the second trimester!  The first trimester is always the toughest part of pregnancy for me (even though I am a bit spoiled that I don’t get very sick).

The first trimester is tough. Even though you don’t look very pregnant yet – and most people don’t know you are pregnant at all if you wait to announce like we do – you are exhausted, hormonal, and nauseous.  But, you pretend like everything is fine, even though all you really want to do is crawl into bed and sleep for a week! Read about my first trimester experience here.

The second trimester gets easier for a couple reasons.  The first being that most women are lucky enough to get their energy back and nausea goes away!  The second reason is that by then most people know you are pregnant.  They suddenly open doors, tell you to take a nap, not carry things, or sit down and rest.  The ironic thing is, you probably feel better than you did the first 14 weeks! (Of course I am generalizing here. I do know a few women who were very sick throughout their entire pregnancies. I’m sooo sorry.)

So welcome second trimester!  Welcome baby bump and maternity clothes!  Welcome energy and feeling good! Welcome food cravings and goodbye aversions! Welcome finding out the sex of the baby – oh wait – my hubby REALLY wants to be surprised this time – so…never mind!


a2a9b5b592cc078f836a9bf12380411aSo, a little update on my last two weeks, starting with…

Hormones – from week 12 to 14 I had a terrible onslaught of hormones!  I had so little patience with the kids and everything set me off! This is not like me.  Normally I am pretty level headed and calm, but not so in week 12! My poor kids…

Week 13 was better than week 12, but the excessive hormones were still there.  I also was very tired on week 12, even though I had felt great from 9.5 weeks until then.  And although I know the pregnancy had something to do with the exhaustion, our first full week of homeschool also contributed to it, I’m sure.

Weight gain – the scale has bounced around a bit and is now at six pounds gained. That is in my normal fluctuation range so I am hoping it doesn’t continue to climb too quickly from here.

Cravings and food aversions – thankfully I can eat eggs again!  I can also eat meat and was craving a steak, which I got on our date last week. Yummy! I have been craving salads again, which is a nice change from the carbs and cheese sticks I survived on in my first trimester!  And fresh pesto from the garden. Enough said.

My favorite craving this week has been a quick cooked apple dish that I whipped up.  I will write up my recipe and publish it later, but basically it is just apple pie filling made from fresh apples (tis the season), cinnamon, cloves, and some THM Super Sweet Blend cooked with some water.  Oh my goodness!  It totally fulfilled my baked apple cravings and is completely healthy!  Pregnancy win!  I’ve made it three times this week…

Advanced maternal age – don’t you just love that term!  This is my first pregnancy in the “over 35” age bracket and now I get a bunch more fuss because of it!  Oh joy!  I refused all the extra testing on the baby, but I could not get out of the early test they do for gestational diabetes since I am apparently “at greater risk for it in my advanced age”. Fun!

I asked my OB if I could do an alternative test to the sickly sweet “glucola” drink for the 1-hour glucose test, but he was pretty insistent that the dreaded drink was the best test. I was reluctant to take the test, even though I’d never had trouble passing it in the past, because I had not had processed sugar in over a year.  I wasn’t sure how my body would react.

But honestly, I was actually curious, so I didn’t fight him on taking the test.  I simply informed him that if it made me sick, I was going to refuse it when I had to do it again later in pregnancy.

So I prepared for the test by having a low-carb breakfast of eggs and bacon which I read helps . I drank the glucose drink.  I was right behind a lady who chugged hers in seconds, but when I tried that, I immediately felt gross.  I drank it slowly instead (over about 4 minutes) and waited out my hour.

I waited to feel sick or to get a massive sugar headache, but surprisingly, other than feeling hungry near the end, I felt fine.  They drew my blood and found out I passed with flying colors.  Thank you, Lord!

Some women who have been off sugar for long periods of time have gotten headaches, thrown up, or had terrible sugar cravings after the test.  I wondered if I would experience the same thing, but thankfully, I did not.

Drinking that sickly sweet drink made me realize how thankful I was that I was no longer addicted to sugar.  However, if they had given me a gigantic piece of cake instead, I don’t think I would have found it gross, but I’ve come too far from my days of sugar-addiction to test that theory.


On a sad note, this past week my phone died.  I can’t even blame my kids because I was the one who dropped it.  It hit just right to crack the screen and now the screen is completely black. So, as a result, I don’t have many pictures for this post… Oh, well… C’est la vie!

Hopefully that will be remedied soon and I won’t have to go too long without pictures!

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A big announcement…

I alluded to some exciting changes coming our way a couple weeks ago, but now, I will let the cat out of the bag.  I’m pregnant!  Our rainbow baby is expected to join us sometime in late February or early March next year.

Pregnancy after miscarriage - allowing time to heal both body and soul. How God turned my mourning into dancing - NatureAmy.com

Our fun pregnancy announcement

If you have been following me for a while, you know that I experienced a miscarriage last February.  I wrote a post about the experience and another about taking time to heal from it – and one thing that I have learned in this all is that miscarriage and loss needs to be talked about more.

It is such a painful thing for a woman (and really a couple or family) to go through, it really should not be done alone.  Yet, so many people feel that they cannot talk about it.   And although I posted about it here, I am guilty of not talking about it much in person.  It is painful to bring up, but it is also reassuring to know that we are not alone in our pain.  There are many, many women who understand.  The more I mentioned the experience to friends, the more friends I learned had been through it themselves.  It was a kind of sisterhood, of sorts…

Time to heal

After my miscarriage, the doctor told me to wait a couple months before trying for another baby.  I smiled and nodded, but I did not really understand his reasoning.  He wanted to make sure I was completely healed, but mostly he was concerned that I had time to heal emotionally.  He said that depression after miscarriage could lead to postpartum depression after a new birth if there was not proper time to mourn the loss.  Only after living in a fog of depression for several months and finally feeling it lift completely this summer did I realize the wisdom of his suggestion.

My body was also not the same after my miscarriage.  My hormones were off for several months and my cycles were strange.  I gained weight and was not able to lose it no matter how hard I tried (which I believe was due to my hormone imbalance).  Finally, in June, the fog started to lift and I finally felt more like myself.  My cycles, which I chart, also normalized again and we conceived our rainbow baby.

Mourning into dancing

When I calculated the baby’s due date, I was pleased to discover that it was just days away from the day that our last little one was taken home into the arms of Jesus.  It was like God was taking a day that was heartbreaking and replacing it with a time of joy.  I really do see it as a gift from our Heavenly Father and I am so thankful.  Our God is so good, my friends – so good!

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12 ESV

Again, thank you for your faithful prayers and support during this time of healing for our family.  It really does mean so much to me.

Oh! And, I can’t wait to give you all an update on my first trimester with a Trim Healthy Mama pregnancy.  I really have noticed some really amazing differences I am excited to share with you!

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I’m back! Did you miss me?

You might have noticed that things have been especially quiet on the blog these last two months, and I apologize for that.  But, I’m back!  I explained on Facebook where I was, and if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram (which you should!) you have seen some pictures of our summer adventures.  Summer is an especially busy season for our family.  We spent the majority of the summer camping (stay tuned for some fun posts on that) and lots of time hiking, swimming, relaxing in hammocks, and prepping for large scale backpacking adventures…  I also tackled the KonMari Method in an attempt to simplify our life further. It was a busy season.

Some of our summer adventures in northern California

Some of our summer adventures in northern California

However, now this home school mom and wife of an educator must get back to the school routine.  We are home for the last few weeks of summer, prepping for school, getting in more swimming before the public pool closes, potty training, and generally trying to stay sane in this crazy heatwave in Northern California.  But getting back to a normal routine also means that I will be posting regularly again!  Stay tuned for some yummy healthy recipes, parenting tips, and some exciting changes coming our way…

Dirty little 2 year old hiker!

Dirty little 2 year old hiker!

Thanks for hanging out with me all summer – I am truly so blessed by the consistent traffic this little website generates daily, despite my posting absence.  That is really all due to your Pinterest pins and Facebook shares and I am so thankful for you all!

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Tips for Hiking with Little Kids: or how to NOT carry them the entire trip…

My husband and I have quite literally been hiking together since day one – yes, really – we met on a backpacking trip in college!  Since then, we have hiked over 5000 trail miles together, most of those while hiking the length of California on the Pacific Crest Trail two and a half times. Backpacking and hiking are second nature to us, so it is only natural that it is something we love to do as a family, as well.

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Pre-kids thru-hiking the length of California on the Pacific Crest Trail.

However, making the transition from two long-distance backpackers to parents of small children has been a challenge. We are serious about our hiking and the trails we chose – it is not just a stroll along a well manicured trail for us!  When we had just one baby, it was easy still, we could still hike as we wished.  We enthusiastically purchased a nice baby backpack (the most expensive item we had bought for him) and took him everywhere we went.  It was easy and natural and fun. Babies really are incredibly portable and our little guy fit pretty seamlessly into our active lifestyle – he went camping at two weeks old, as well as hiking for the first time on that trip – it was not a problem at all.  

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Hiking with a toddler and a baby was still pretty easy.

When our second came along not long after our first, we invested in a second backpack when he was too big for the front carrier and carried them both for a year.  But, the summer our oldest turned three, hiking as a family became much more challenging…

Hiking with young kids is similar to trying to hike with a cat (something I have actually done, but that is another story). They sit down in the middle of the trail and refuse to take another step. They are fascinated by every little bug, stick, or rock they stumble over. They decide to turn around and hike home before you get to your destination.  And, unlike cats, they throw temper tantrums or dissolve into tears.

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Hiking with an independent three-year-old and a one-year-old – Things just got interesting!

So how do we take a fun family hike in those years between 3-ish and 7-ish and actually get somewhere?  Despite the difficulty of taking the little ones, we regularly go on long(ish) hikes with them (between 3 and 8 miles) and these are the tricks that work for us.


Turn your hike into a game.  

In my experience, kids of all ages love games and we have become experts at finding fun ways to keep them moving and distracted by how “tired” they feel.  The following are the games we use most frequently:

  • Interactive storytelling is by far our kids favorite hiking game.  Storytelling gets their imaginations flowing and thoroughly distracts them from any discomfort they might be feeling, plus, it has the added bonus of being excellent for their cognitive development. I will start a story and then pass it on to my son, and he takes over for a minute or two and then passes to his brother or dad.  Depending on how old your kids are, you may need to get the story going with another adult, or tell the entire story yourself.  It is fun and the miles pass easily with this family activity.

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    The boys love to race up the trail!

  • Trail races – My boys love this one, but it is certainly exhausting! Children love to race and will happily race each other.  However, if you don’t have multiple children, or they are not at the same skill level, the adults may need to get involved.  In our family, usually I race our 5-year-old and my hubby races the 7-year-old to a predetermined point on the trail (the big rock up there or that large shade tree).  We ensure the child wins, but just barely so they don’t think we “let” them win.  If you are the adult carrying the baby, it is not so hard to “let” them win. At the end of the race, there is a celebration and a water break before starting over again. We find this works best in the challenging uphill sections and it is a great interval workout!
  • Choo-choo trail trains – this is a fun one, especially if your child likes trains. It works best if you have something to link the train “cars” together.  We have used hiking poles and sweatshirts with each person hanging on to the shirt or pole in front and behind them.  The engine leads the way and the rest of the family chugs along behind. Make up obstacles and stories along the way – passing over bridges, picking up cargo, and of course, the classic “I think I can” for big hills!hiking2
  • Scavenger hunts – this is a classic kids hiking game, but it can slow the party down significantly, so it is not one we use unless we have no mileage goal for the day.  However, it is a great learning activity and really gets children exploring the outdoors.  They love looking for a stick shaped like an arrow or the roundest rock you can find.  There are some great printables on Pinterest you can bring along, or you can just think of things on the fly and give the next challenge after they find the first.

 

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Geocaching makes treasure hunting real!

Geocaching

This one could fall under the hiking games category, but I’m going to give it its own category.  My dad is a master geocacher and loves to take the grandkids out treasure hunting.  Check out Geocaching.com for more information, or this post by REI on how to get started if you’ve never tried it.  Although national parks do not have physical geocaches to find (the educational earth caches at national parks are fun) most public lands have physical treasure boxes of various sizes hidden not far from trails. The kids love finding treasure and will happily run to the next geocache location.  Most of the trails we frequent have caches every ¼ mile, so there are many opportunities for kids to explore. Let kids navigate using a handheld GPS unit or smartphone – it’s a great way to teach them about cardinal directions and latitude and longitude.


Pack fun snacks

 Who is not motivated by food? This is not one that I am particularly good at because our hikes are often last minute.  However, if your kids have a special hiking food that they love, but only get on hikes, it can really help them get through those long miles.  My kids love trail mix, yogurt or chocolate covered raisins, and fruit snacks, to name a few.

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Homemade Rice Krispy Treats at the summit!


Bring a hidden carrier, just in case.  

Our ergonomic carrier packs in the bottom of our day pack pretty easily and we have pulled it out when our little guys are just too exhausted to make it to the end.  However, we have found, that if the kids know there is the option to be carried, like bringing an empty baby backpack along to hold snacks, they often beg and whine to be carried and pester power eventually wins.  The ergonomic carriers are easy to pack and they are much easier than carrying a kid on your back or shoulders.


Reward (or treat) at the end 

After a good long hike, we love to reward the kids with a fun stop on the way home. There is a great frozen yogurt shop on the way back from some of our favorite hikes and the kids look forward to stopping there all day.  But if we are somewhere else, we may stop at the campground store, Rite Aid, or even McDonald’s for a soft serve ice cream or fruit parfait.

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Hiking at Crater Lake


Be patient 

*This is likely the most important tip* – Expect that the hike will take at least two times as long as it would without little ones.  Don’t have a strict timeline or no one will be happy. Take lots of breaks for water and snacks.  Enjoy the nature around you. There is so much to learn outside and your children are sponges eager to soak everything in. Take time to really enjoy it.

If you do not make it to your destination, in most cases, the world will not end. Usually our kids can hike 5 miles, but some days their limit is 3 – honestly, some days their limit is a ½ mile when they are overly tired.  Pay attention to their signs and know when it is a good time to turn around.  No one knows your kid like you do, so you are the best one to know how much is too much and can likely distinguish between whiny and truly exhausted.


 

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Making it to the destination is a reward in itself!

We want hiking to be something that our kids look forward to and really enjoy. These strategies all take a good amount of work or prep from the parents, but they also create lifelong memories and bonding.  I believe that is worth the extra effort.  They will not always be little, but, hopefully, they will always love hiking!

What are some ways you make hiking fun for young kids?

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The Family Corner: Life on a Hobby Farm

Let me introduce you to my wonderful older sister (by 20 months), Ella.  Ella has been my best friend since the day I was born and I just love her and her wonderful family to pieces.  She has been so supportive of my blog and will be guest posting about her rural family life, family friendly recipes, and adoption regularly.  I live in the suburbs of a small town, but Ella lives in the country, with all the animals to prove it!  We are very alike (we even look alike) and spent our entire childhood correcting people as they mixed up our names and claimed we “must be twins” – actually, it still happens!  We both are Trim Healthy Mamas.  We both homeschool. We both are passionate about Jesus, our families, and living greener lives.  I think you will love her posts!

~Amy

I have a farm. Five acres of gently sloping hills with trees scattered throughout, a castle farmhouse, three outbuildings, one pig, two dogs, two cats, 10 ducks, 25 sheep (though that number may change due to lambing season having started early this year), 50 chickens, four kids (and counting), one husband and me. I have fruit trees and a large garden and I rarely get enough sleep.

My husband (the Sheriff) and I did not set out to run our own small village. But there is something magical about owning land. It gets to you. Three sheep to help mow turn into twenty seemingly overnight. A few chickens become many more when you realize that fifty chickens are no harder to take care of then five. Gardening and growing your own fresh produce are addictive.

The Sheriff maintains order and does most of the heavy lifting, while I plot and plan. The kids are roped into feeding pigs and collecting eggs. Friends come by to pick fruit when the plums are ripe and abundant. We hire kids earning money for mission trips to help clear land and build garden beds. It is our own little community and we love it.

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Babies and baby goats!

It is lambing season currently and we are enjoying seeing the new colors of lambs produced by our new ram, a white kataden, out of our Barbados black-bellied ewes. We deal with disappointment when some lambs don’t survive, and we laugh at the antics of the twins who start butting each other at just a week of age.

Soon our pig will fill our freezer. It is the second we have raised and the kids love the bacon so well that they don’t mind knowing the pig personally. The Sheriff and I love the fact that we know exactly what went into the production of our pork and lamb. We know that our animals were happy and healthy with no added hormones or abnormal fattening agents. We rarely buy beef any longer and never any pork from the store.

My garden planning is already under way and I am combing seed catalogs to see what new and fantastic things I can add this year. (Did you know you can grow purple carrots?) Soon we will be out in the garden on each sunny day to dig and prepare the garden for the coming spring. Manure from all of our animals will be added to the soil to enrich it. Our compost pile will be mixed in to replenish the organic material from last year. New beds will be built and filled with soil. The automatic watering system will be set up. I will clear out my junk storage room just enough to make room for the new seedlings that will be started indoors. And I will enlist the Sheriff’s help to fight the battle against the encroaching blackberry bushes once again.

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A rainbow of carrots from my garden.

I have a farm. It is small. Just my size. But it is full of life and magic.

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