Make your summer healthier

Since the weather is getting hot, I thought I would share some of my favorite summer items.

1. Sunscreen 

I know there is a HUGE market out there, with 100 different options for sunscreen.  Personally, I am the WHITEST person I know.  I burn so fast and so bad, I feel that I’m a pretty good judge of which sunblocks work, and which ones don’t.  I try to make sure I buy sunblock with Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide in the top 3 ingredients.  My favorite sunblock is: Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block SPF 30.  The only 2 active ingredients are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide.  It rubs in well, unlike some zinc sunscreens out there, and it is fragrance-free, oil-free and waterproof.  I do not burn when I use this, which is great!  I can use it on my face too!  The one I have is similar to this:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Aveeno-Baby-Mineralblock-Face-Sunblock-SPF-50-.5-oz/19477086

2. Hydration

Hydration is so important, but especially in the summer.  I do not usually drink anything but water, and I have been using purified water for a few years now.  My body is so used to it, that if I drink tap water, my kidney’s hurt.  But buying bottled water is expensive, and I don’t really like the idea of drinking from BPA bottles.  So a few years ago, my husband and I bought a Berkey water filter.  These things are so powerful, they can filter dirty water and make it clean.  In fact, they recommend you put food coloring into the top section (where the unfiltered water goes) and make sure the filtered water is clear (to make sure the filters are installed correctly).  This item is amazing!  Plus, when you are in the middle of a hurricane or some other natural disaster, you will always have clean water.  It was well worth the original cost!  I have the Royal Berkey with 2 black filters.  They have other sizes, and I have also used the smaller clear Berkey that family members have.  They all work great and give you crystal clear, fresh water!  If you get the Stainless Steel one, make sure you order the sight glass spigot to go with it (sometimes they offer this for free, so check for special offers!)  When I ordered mine, I got my choice of 2 free gifts.  I chose the glass spigot, and the travel water bottle that I love to bring when we are going out of the country.  It has a filter inside it, so when you suck the water it is automatically filtered.

http://berkeywater.com/start.main.html

3. Sunglasses

Having very pale skin and very blue eyes, I also have a very hard time keeping my eyes open in strong sunlight.  I love to use dark sunglasses that have thick sides to keep the sun out from every angle.  I also make sure that my glasses are polarized to block the glare.  If you have not used polarized glasses, you need to get a pair.  They work wonders!  I can see great, and there is no glare!  I didn’t post a picture, because there are so many different places to get them.  You can get polarized glasses at Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Sports Authority, and many other stores.  Just make sure the glasses are 100% UVA and UVB protected.

4. Rash guard

Since I burn easily, I also am a huge fan of rash guards.  They not only protect your skin from damage (and cancer!) but they also keep you modest.  I love that they also (usually) contain UV protected material.

http://www.sportsauthority.com/product/index.jsp?productId=12427217&cp=&sr=1&kw=womens+rash+guard&origkw=women%27s+rash+guard&pg=2&parentPage=search

These are just a few of my favorite summertime items. Have a great summer.  Stay hydrated and burn free!

**I am not getting anything from any of the companies, I just wanted to share what works for me, so maybe it can help you as well!  🙂

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Showing kids kindness

One thing I can’t stand more than anything is when I hear that a child has been abused.  While I was in college, the bulk of my classes were law enforcement classes, and I heard endless stories of abuse, and neglect.  Close family members have suffered abuse and neglect.  I do not understand how someone could abuse innocent children, just because they cannot control their own rage.  What in the world could this child have done to deserve this kind of punishment?  Usually the answer is . . . nothing.  Most of the abuse I hear about has nothing to do with what the child has done.  It usually stems from the adult being so overwhelmed and out of control that they just snap.  There is no justification for an adult to come so unhinged, and if they can’t control themselves, they need to remove themselves from the family and get the help they need.   While in college, I got to thinking; how can I help children that maybe are not in the best home life?  Well, one of the best ways I can think of, is to help out with the kids during Wednesday night church.  Some people see kids that act up and want attention.  I see a child that might be abused or neglected at home and is just acting out, in hunger, for attention, ANY attention, that they do not receive at home.  If you see a child that is the class clown, or withdrawn, they too may be abused.  The best gift we can give them is to be someone they can count on.  Someone that cares for them, and encourages them.  I try to compliment them and tell them how proud I am of them.  Maybe they aren’t abused, maybe they just like to goof off.  Only God knows.  I do know that giving a kind word, or a sincere smile can make anyone’s day a little brighter.  God doesn’t call me to understand or to fix their problems, but He does call me to be compassionate and loving to others.  Even those you feel may be difficult to love.  Show love to your family, give your children mercy, smile at a child that may need their spirits lifted.  You may be the only ray of hope in their life, and you may never even know it.  Proverbs 15:7 “The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so”.  Are we spreading knowledge or are we wasting our speech on foolish talk?  Are we spreading kindness to others or do we look down on them for being “different”?  Try showing kindness today.  It will makes others feel better, and it will make you feel better, too.

Is dating your spouse REALLY important?

Short answer . . . Yes!!  People, especially men, forget that dating is very important once you are already married.  Yes, the hunt is over, you “won”!  🙂 But don’t let the relationship go.  Too many people are divorcing over “irreconcilable differences”.  I wonder if there would be so many divorces if people took the time to date their spouse.  We all change over time.  Hopefully we are changing for the good.  The person I am now is very different than the person I was when I got married.  The same is true for my husband.  We very easily could have grown apart, got divorced and moved on.  However, that is not what God wants from us.  That is not what our kids want, and not what we want.  We made a commitment for better or worse.  Some people only remember the “better and richer” part of their vows, and conveniently forget the “sicker and poorer” part.  My husband and I had a time where we did not date after we got married.  Money got tight, our schedules got busy and we neglected that very important part of our lives.  It almost ruined our relationship.  Praise the Lord we realized the problem and we were determined to change.  Another helpful tip to avoid divorce and conflict, is to put the other persons needs ahead of your own.  If you catch yourself thinking, “They don’t do (____) for me . . . I don’t feel loved, etc.” You are only setting yourself up for selfish discontent.  You need to be thinking what you can do for them, VERBALIZE what you need from them, so they do not have to read your mind to figure it out, and spend quality time together.  Even when we did not have money to “go out”, we had weekly dates at home.  We would put the kids to bed early (even if they were reading books in their rooms), we would make a special meal together (I love bonding over cooking!) and we would grab a game, or if we didn’t feel well, a movie.  We have a number of really good devotionals for couples, I never get tired of adding to our stock of marriage advice!  Then we would read the Bible together, do our study, eat/talk about our finances and goals and then play a game or watch a movie together.  It may not sound very exciting, but it really has helped us to stay connected.  Intimacy is so important in a marriage, physically and mentally.  We really need to make that an important part of our marriage.  Personally, we have had so many losses this year.  We never know how long we have with someone.  What a great feeling knowing you have done the best that you could in the time that you have.  If anything ever happened to me, I hope that my husband knows how truly and deeply I love him.  Whether you have  money or not, you have time that you can spend together.  You need to set aside time to reconnect, make short term and long term goals, be on the same page financially, and grow closer to God together.  I would hate it if one of us was a much stronger Christian than the other.  Having weekly dates reconnects us spiritually, so we can grow together.  We share our convictions and what we have learned that week.  We pray together and encourage each other.  Your spouse should be your best friend.  Why wouldn’t you want to spend time sharing your fears and your dreams?  Try to make an effort to spend time each week alone with your spouse.  It may be awkward at first if you are not used to it, but it will be really good for your marriage!   One rule: No arguing during this time.  Leave that for later if a discussion starts to gets heated.  Along with reading the Bible together, here are some of my favorite marriage devotionals:

Love and Respect-Emerson Eggerich (not recommended if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to the study.  When our kids were young, we did this on our weekend away, so we could focus without distraction).

http://www.christianbook.com/love-respect-cbd-edition-with-workbook/emerson-eggerichs/pd/53488X?item_code=WW&netp_id=521528&event=ESRCG&view=details

Blueprints for a Solid Marriage-Steve Stephens (It’s a book, not technically a study, but really a wonderful book to read together!)

http://www.amazon.com/Blueprints-Solid-Marriage-Repair-Remodel/dp/1589973585

Night Light: A Devotional for Couples: (Loved this when the kids were little: Short, sweet and to the point!)

http://www.christianbook.com/night-light-a-devotional-for-couples/james-dobson/9781414320601/pd/320601?item_code=WW&netp_id=528162&event=ESRCG&view=details

Search the web and get free money?!

It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not!  For the past couple months I have been using “Swagbucks” to do web searches instead of google or yahoo.  I have already made $45 in Amazon gift cards!  If you want to get gift cards for amazon, target or other places, just click on the link, and sign up (for free!).  When I buy stuff online at walmart.com or kohls.com, I go to those sites through swag bucks, and I get bonus points.  450 points=$5 amazon gift card. It’s totally legit, and I have used the money to buy gifts for the kids, or other family members!  Let me know if you need help with it, but I wanted to share this with you, so you could get money for your web searches! Just click on the link, or cut and paste it:
swagbucks.com/refer/precious2200

Budgeting

Budgeting is very important to everyone.  Whether you live pay check to pay check or have more money than you can count, budgeting should be top priority.  You not only want to know where your money is going to every month, but if you plan carefully, you will have a good chunk for retirement, not to mention leaving an inheritance for your children.  If you have not already taken a finance class, I strongly recommend you doing it.  Crown Financial and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace are my 2 favorite classes to take.  You can check with a local church to see if they offer these classes.  It’s well worth the expense!  Basically, you need to budget every penny you spend, and live below your means.  You need to build up an emergency fund, because we KNOW emergencies WILL happen!  You need to put money away for retirement, again, we know one day we will all retire-why not be prepared?!  I even have my savings broken down into categories.  So, let’s say I have $5,000 in just a simple savings account.  $1,000 will be ear marked for homeschool supplies, $2,000 for vacation, $1,000 towards a new car (paid in cash) and $1,000 for Dr bills.  That is just a rough example of what I am talking about.  We all know we will need a newer car one day.  Why not save up and pay cash for one.  You also will eventually need money for college, or weddings for your kids, or whatever.  Just a few dollars a month can add up fast over time.  Now, if you live paycheck to paycheck, I know this sounds impossible.  My husband and I lived for years with an uncomfortably small paycheck, but we were determined that I would stay home and homeschool our kids.  We were able to live fairly comfortably and also build up savings.  Yes, it takes longer, but it can be done.  You just have to be determined to not owe money and to save up for big purchases.  Also, bargain hunting really helps stretch your dollars.  Thrift stores, yard sales and craigslist are great places to find good quality products at a fraction of the price.  Try not to purchase something when you need it right away, you are less likely to get a good deal if you are desperate.  If you know your car will only last 2 more years, you definitely need to start saving now for the purchase, and not wait until the last minute.  Budget where your money goes, plan for big expenses, and live on less than you make.  It will change your life to have extra money in the bank, everything paid for in cash, and less stress on your marriage!

My homeschooling adventure

Although I don’t see myself as an “expert” in homeschooling, I have been doing it long enough (9 years) to feel like we have the swing of things.  That makes me feel pretty confident in what I am doing with my kids.  The first year I homeschooled my daughter, I was overwhelmed by the catalogs, conferences and online information.  After all, she was in kindergarten (and brilliant if you ask me!).  How hard could it be?  By the time child number 2 was ready for school, I had been homeschooling for 5 years.  I think it was my 5th year of homeschooling that I finally stopped changing the curriculum every year.  I finally purchased the same books  as the 4th year, only for 5th grade.  I was so excited to finally get into the groove of homeschooling. . . when the bomb dropped.  With my oldest daughter, things were a breeze.  She caught on to reading, writing and math very easily.  It hardly took any effort.  With child #2, something wasn’t quite right.  She’s very smart, and is VERY creative, but for some reason she just wasn’t getting it.  I also noticed, even before kindergarten that it took her a very long time to answer a question, and that she would write all of her numbers and letters backwards.  I know this can be normal for a child, however, God gives parents a special insight on their children.  I knew something wasn’t right.  I called around to get her tested for dyslexia and was SHOCKED to be told numerous times that they do not test until second grade.  WHAT?! By second grade, do they know how far behind she would be?  It was a constant struggle to hold myself together and not get upset with her for not knowing how to say the simplest words.  I am not a quite, soft spoken person by nature.  Could this be why God gave me a child that has dyslexia?  Well, I decided I would not sit around and wait for second grade.  I did the self diagnostic tests online, which confirmed that she did indeed have dyslexia.  Her whole first grade year was a nightmare trying to figure out how in the world I could teach her how to read and write.  At the end of her first grade year I was at a loss.  I felt defeated.  It was then that I talked to my aunt that was a teacher for years.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of talking with her sooner, but God has His reasons for timing.  She told me to redo first grade, afterall, her birthday is after the cut off and she never should have been in first grade to begin with.  Also, it would be less stressful on her to redo it, rather that having to work extra hard to keep up.  I decided to let the choice be hers.  I offered to teach her through the summer, or hold her back.  She didn’t hesitate to say she wanted to try first grade again.  I got the curriculum my aunt suggested, I took slow, deep breaths while helping her read.  I made sure I praised her for her efforts, instead of getting upset when she didn’t do it right.  I would tell her she did a good job but that she needs to turn around whatever letter/number was written backwards.  We took it slow, we repeated A LOT of the books until they were mastered.  I talked with her church teachers and told them she did not like to read in front of class, so they would not unintentionally embarrass her in class.  She is now finishing second grade and I cannot believe the change.  She still struggles, and she hates it when her younger brother corrects a wrong word (we now read in private), but she is doing a phenomenal job.  Especially since half of this year has been more of an unschooling year, than a homeschooling due to a number of deaths, illnesses and situations in our family.  I don’t feel like an expert at all, but I do feel like I am trying my best and that my kids are learning.  Every time they take and pass the end of the year test, it makes me feel like I did something right.  I have done a lot of wrong things, got the wrong curriculum, expected too much from them and so on, but I feel that we are past that.  That we can move forward and as long as they are learning, I am doing a good job.  After all, we homeschool because we want what’s best for our kids.  To be raised in a safe, loving environment.

Here are some of the curriculum choices that are my favorites:

Sing, Spell, Read, Write: Great for dyslexia and any child.

Mystery of History: You can use this for multiple grades at one time

Math U See: Manipulatives are very helpful with teaching.  It also includes an instructional DVD for each chapter that the kids love to watch.

God’s Design for Science: You can use this for many grades at one time

Wordly Wise: Great vocabulary curriculum for kids

Vacation Station: It’s supposed to be for in between grades, but I like it for vacations and when I’m sick and can’t pull out all their books.  The kids love the colors and that they only have to do 2 pages a day!

Switched on Schoolhouse: I like this only for Science and Bible.  Too much computer time hurts their heads, and I don’t feel they learn enough writing with the English CD’s.

Bob Jones University English: I love that this curriculum is written out pretty much word for word what you should say to teach them the lesson for the day.  This is what I used for the full curriculum the 2nd year of homeschooling.

Curriculum I don’t really like:
AOP Lifepacs: No pictures or colors, very basic and boring.  The kids didn’t like this at all

Abeka: This is great if you have an overachiever, however, I feel they require way too much busy work.

Saxon Math: Again, no colors, lots of repetition.  The kids did not like this at all.

Wasting money. . .no more

I am sad to say, but I’m probably the queen of wasting money.  Ok, maybe not the queen, but at least a duchess!  I have made so many foolish purchases over the years.  Some insignificant, some with lasting consequences.  From buying jewelry and clothes I don’t really like, to purchasing a house in an area I knew nothing about.  I’m not proud of what I have done, but I am very thankful for the lessons I have learned (and are still learning).  Some of the decisions that I have recently made regarding large purchases, or any purchase really (now I’m not talking about thrift store finds or yard sales, obviously those need to be snatched up IF they are on your list of things to get)-other than necessities are:

1. Do NOT make a huge purchase that same day.  Sleep on it, pray about it.  If it’s meant to be yours, it will still be there tomorrow.

2. Do not get reeled into a purchase.  Words like “this won’t last”, “you need to jump and get it now”, etc. should be red flags.  Again, if it’s meant to be yours it WILL be there tomorrow.

3. Make sure it’s something you REALLY love.  Not just like, not just ok, but love.  When you are spending a lot of money on an item (for me anyway) it will be something you have for a very long time.  Make sure it’s what you want.  I have wasted so much money on things other people say look good, or I am tired of shopping and just buy it, or I settle, but no more.  If I don’t love it, I don’t buy it. I’d rather wait for the perfect purchase than to be stuck with something I don’t really love or is not exactly what I needed.

4. Always buy with cash.  I have actually been doing really well with this one, but it’s good to remember.  If you don’t have the money, you can’t buy it NO MATTER WHAT!  The borrower is a slave to the lender, and I want to be free! Car loans, credit cards, they don’t do you any good, but just add stress to your life.  All that can be avoided if you are patient and save up.

5. Research and make sure what you are getting is a good deal.  I also have been pretty good with this one lately.  With online searching, you can also check ratings to see if what you want to buy is a quality product.  Sometimes it’s worth a little more money to get a better quality item.  If you can wait until there is a sale, even better!

I know that whatever money I have is really God’s money, and I am just a steward of it.  I am going to try really hard to be good with what He has blessed me with.  I hope that I will no longer be wasteful with money, but wise, patient and a good steward.  I hope that you too can find ways to be smart with money.