Monday, December 30, 2013

Lean & Green!!!

There are sooo many GREAT reasons to eat your greens!

 & if you're planning this upcoming year to improve your health, greens are a great addition in your diet. Below are just FIVE reasons to incorporate more of this goodness into your menu. And there are a variety of options...smoothies...powders...juicing...salads....soups...and just adding them to any of your regular ole' dishes will do!

I've begun to eat more greens than ever before. I've added them to many of my breakfasts, lunches & of course keeping them at the dinner table. I've grown accustomed to their flavors. I'm getting used to buying big boxes of them at our grocery store. My kids are slowly getting used to them becoming more than a garnish :)

In the New Year I would like to try some more variety & even get into some juicing, but for now I'm enjoying where I'm at...

Scroll through my top FIVE list & feel free to share in the comments below how YOU are adding in your greens!

  • Weight Loss
Simple...greens are a good source of fiber & of many macro & micro nutrients. Your body will feel more full & will stop sending endless signals for more food. Of course you will need to top off your meals with some lean protein & anti-inflammatory fats (think omega 3's for example), but the greens are a great way to fill er up!
  • Skin & Elimination Support
Well, this is for many reasons. To put it simply--> greens contain a lot of minerals, vitamins, & even water in them. They have the necessary nutrients that promote healthy body elimination. They have the fiber to keep things moving in the elimination process. They are cleansing.So increasing greens are a great way to help support your body's daily detoxifying processes. Detoxifying can also help promote better health for our skin.
  • B Vitamins & Water Soluble Vitamins
Fresh greens contain many of the B vitamins. Each type of green will contain a variety of the water soluble vitamins. Why is this important? Water soluble vitamins don't store up in the body like fat soluble ones do. So you need them EACH & every day for your body to function properly. Although you can find the B vitamins in a variety of foods, the greens are a low caloric & refreshing way to add them in. They also have so many other benefits that the B vitamin & water soluble factor is simply another reason to enjoy them...abundantly!
  • Alkalizing & Refreshing
If you've followed any guru in the health industry you've probably heard the terms "alkaline" and "acidic". Basically the consensus is that foods that cause our body to become acidic lead to disease. Foods that cause us to become overly acidic are typically junk foods & overall any foods that 'clog' up our systems'. Ones that alkalize are believed to lead to improved health by helping our bodies to heal from within. Greens are among the top foods for alkalizing! Although many ideas & foods are debated in the health community, there's not too much negative rap for the greens. And that's a very, very good thing.
  • Phytonutrients
Researchers have told us a lot about our daily allowances of vital minerals & vitamins that we must consume for optimum health. However, they are only just beginning to discover the benefits of the phytonutrients that all plant foods contain. This are like mini-nutrients that many believe add to vibrant health. (note: that's why taking a supplement is never as good as eating the REAL thing) Phytonutrients are believed to help the food to be digested, absorbed and assimilated properly. This we know for sure: those who eat higher plant diets fare better on a whole than those with heavy animal diets. Many attribute this to the abundance of phytonutrients in the plants. 
So what are you waiting for?? Smoothies with some added spinach...add in some kale with your soups & stews....for breakfast tomorrow have a mixed greens salad & some hard boiled eggs on the side...the possibilities are endless. Feel free to share below...Rachael DeBruin R.H.N.

**Disclaimer--> Although I am writing about food as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, it is always advisable to receive ongoing competent medical advice from a professional. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Countdown til the New Year!

Only a few more days until the New Year...a few more days until we are finished with this one & ready to put it behind us...

If the past year for you was a bit of a challenge this could be met with a sigh of relief & some renewed optimism that NEXT year will be that much better.

 For others who both enjoyed & had their desires fulfilled you may be either continuing in great expectation, or hoping that the 'balance doesn't all of sudden tip' to the negative...

I like to look to the New Year as a time of both renewed hope & optimism, but with a dash of realism. I am full of new goals, new dreams & new lifestyle changes I would like to make...but realizing that the common denominator in all of this being accomplished is simply my own willingness to change.... & to commit to that change!!!

Asides from that, there is also the realization that many factors are outside my control...this past year, for example, I was very optimistic to take my own business & health to a new level...yet becoming pregnant in February didn't lend itself very well to either of those goals. All for a greater goal I say :)

What about yourself? What are your goals for the upcoming year??

Sunday, December 8, 2013

No More Excuses!

If you're a normal human being... then this blog post should resonate with you :) 

Especially around this time of year~ when we're less than a month away from the "new year"...and everybody knows what that brings;  more New Year's Resolutions!

...time to lose that extra 20 pounds...

....time to start a new morning routine...

...time to get the kids to bed at a reasonable hour...

....time to get out of debt....

....time to work harder towards saving for that vacation we've been talking about....

Sadly, I had a recent conversation with a lawyer friend of ours. New Year's is also when many couples decide to 'start fresh' and serve their spouse the divorce papers...

Yes, most of us begin to think deeply about our current life circumstances come January.

Lately, one of the things that God's been pressing on my heart, is how easily I can turn my so-called failed 'resolutions' into very, very lame excuses....

"I would have totally worked out...if I didn't have so much to do..."

"I was going to start a new morning routine...but then time just seemed to keep getting away from me..."

"I was going to get out of debt...but there always seemed to be an unexpected bill..."

While I totally get & can relate that it's legit to have seasons where we CANNOT get everything done, & must lay aside certain goals...there comes a point where we realize that EVERYBODY gets the same amount of hours in a day...a week...a month...and a year...and WHY do some people seem to get more done, & more effectively, than others in the same boat (note: comparing apples to apples, not comparing 2 totally different life circumstances if you get my drift).

What I've observed is that one person has learned to simply LET...GO...OF...THE...EXCUSES :)

Case in point..

During my last pregnancy, my body loudly groaned & creaked under the pressure of my age, and the wear & tear of having had a few previous pregnancies under my belt, and the stress of a very busy lifestyle. I found it nearly impossible to exercise beyond some light walking. In fact by the end I became so out of shape that I could hardly walk without experiencing severe discomfort in my joints. So I did have a legitimate season of life where exercise became very, very difficult.

Near the end of it I made a personal commitment to myself, and to God, that with His help I would begin to exercise again. And I wouldn't back down...

So a few days after giving birth, I asked my medical care provider when it would be safe to begin my new routine. She said walking after a week; heavier stuff after a month. I began my countdown with much anticipation! I dreamed of runs, squats, kick boxing, lounges....

After almost a month I ran excitedly to our personal gym downstairs. Staring the equipment in the eye I had a gleam...this is going to be awesome! I wonder how much I can do? Maybe start with half hour? 45 minutes?

I am not even joking here...I did 2 minutes & broke out in a sweat! Weariness and fatigue set in & I had to quit after ONLY TWO MINUTES!!! I felt like a bit of a failure...but I remembered my commitment to health & decided to try again the next day.

Next day 3 minutes.

Next day 4 minutes.

Finally a big whopping FIVE! But I've been keeping it up :)

As of this blog I am not much farther than that, but I have added some arm weight lifting exercises and stretching. I must admit feeling a bit tickled pink when friends & family have commented on "how good I've been looking" since having baby. Yes, must be all that heavy duty working out! (*let's keep the above info between you & I, okay?)

I know, this is a bit of a silly example, but the principle holds true across the board. Nothing that you want to work towards will ever come easily. None of your dreams & aspirations will sail in overnight. Lasting changes will always take effort on your part, and most importantly will be your CONSISTENCY more than any other factor.

As we approach the much awaited new year, my thoughts to leave you with:

What dream(s) has God placed on your heart that you are not actively taking steps towards?

What excuses are legitimate? Which ones are not?

*I love hearing from all of you. Please feel free to share below in the comments how YOU have overcome any excuses that were holding you back.

***and PLEASE don't forget to take a quick second to vote for my blog. With much thanks :)

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Realizing My Season of Life!

It's been almost 2 months....TWO whole months that I haven't blogged. And I can proudly share with you all why :)

Our precious newborn Gracie on her first day; born November 3rd, 2013 at 3:09 a.m. weighing 8lbs

Getting more alert during her first week & wearing her cute lil bow

Starting to put on the weight!

Close to one month old here; one of her professional pics

This is our fifth bundle of joy!

& that's why I haven't been blogging this past 2 months...but I digress ;)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

When you realize you can no longer be silent...

Pregnant with my fifth child, I have immensely enjoyed perusing the internet and finding pictures of unborn children at various stages...I even bring them up on our big screen TV to show the kids what their baby sister is looking like right now. It makes for some fun family time viewing :)

BTW, here are a couple neat ones that YOUR whole family may enjoy:

However, as I've walked the journey of this pregnancy it's brought back a few memories from past ones. Some of the memories were wonderful (like recalling the ultrasound pictures I saw of each one of my precious children), and yet others were immensely painful (recollecting the disheartening pressure to abort my first child; the rejection I experienced by some as a young, single mother). Pregnancy & its soup of hormones can lead us on an emotional journey notwithstanding bad memories from the past. Although, many women do find that pregnancy is a time of personal reflecting in some manner or another...

One issue I've had to face during this pregnancy is realizing how our past experiences really can influence our present perspective. Although this can be negative at times (AND should be overcome to move forward), many times it can also be a catalyst for positive change in our personal lives.

For example: looking back in the past at my two 'unwanted' pregnancies has forced me to examine the way some of my single mother friends may feel. Even more so, the harsh pressure I felt from the university to abort my firstborn helps me to emphasize with those who are pregnant...alone...and feeling that they can NOT do this on their own. So they may give in & have an abortion....

I've met some of these young ladies. Without judgment we talk about their stories. We share hearts & my goal is to listen. As I've heard some of them speak...sometimes there is weeping...sometimes just a disengagement from their pasts....other times some of them still experience a deep remorse on 'anniversary' dates & sharing how old their children would be if they were alive right now....

 For those who say the baby is just simply a 'fetus' I have to respectfully disagree. The bible actually says that each one of us is fully human before anyone else gets the privilege of getting to meet us face to face.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
~Psalm 139: 13-16

 Healing & forgiveness is available to those who have made the mistake of killing their unborn baby. There is much help out there if you seek for it; and it is possible to experience a deep renewal of hope for your future. Personally I've also heard from woman who have done just that, and even gone to have healthy subsequent pregnancies, all while letting go of their pasts.

If you follow my blog, you may have noticed that I added a new sidebar section: "Pregnant and Alone?". My desire is that it would bring hope to those who are online & looking for some answers. I have added just a few links that I feel will be beneficial to those who are pregnant and facing difficult circumstances.

***If you yourself are pregnant & alone...or facing undue hardship (of WHATEVER sort it may be) PLEASE DON'T GIVE UP! There is help to be found. Search out a local pregnancy crisis center. Look online. Reach out to friends who you know will stand with you. Don't give up until you find some that will! I felt so alone when I was 19 & pregnant...but help eventually came.

***If you are a blogger, I'd challenge you to prayerfully consider looking for a way to bring light to this issue on your blog. Consider: blogging about life in the womb, sharing a website on your side bar, an article you feel fully expresses your love & hope for the unborn...we can't do it all, but we can all do something!

***For everyone else: consider checking out my side bar & watching the movie "180". It an incredible & challenging movie to watch. A worthwhile investment of just over a half hour. I'd encourage you to take the time watch it, & then share it with someone else.

***NOTE: If YOU know of any other helpful resources please feel free to share with me in the comments below. I will look at them & prayerfully consider adding any others that I feel led to share.

Thanks for visiting & hearing my heart today,

Rachael J DeBruin

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

~What are we feeding the children? Aiming for Balance~

"Not just food and nourishment...but how are we feeding them soul, mind & body?"

In our busy, high-pressured world as parents it is SO super easy to overlook the overall lifestyle we are 'feeding' our children!

Today, I want to briefly focus on ten areas that I think all of us should periodically assess. You may have some of your own categories or suggestions. Please feel free to comment below with any of your thoughts :)

1) Feed them a nutrient dense diet that is chock full of vitamins & minerals!
I do believe it IS important to watch what our children eat! No so easy to do in our pre-packaged food world, but nonetheless good nutrition will give your children ample nutrients to feed their growing bodies & minds. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist I have some thoughts about it: loads of veggies, some fruit, ample lean protein & even some healthy fats in there to boot. Note: always talk to your Doctor or Health Practitioner if you're unsure about making dramatic changes.

2) Feed them a schedule that allows ample time for rest!
What are we feeding them in the area of sleep? I read an article today that discussed how deprived teens in particular are these days in regards to sleep. Going to bed too late, electronics in the eve, distracted by entertainment, and overall wasting time can be contributors to not enough sleep. Not every child will have the same needs, but all children will need adequate & consistent sleep times. Ensure your children have a sleeping area that is: cozy, safe, free of entertainment distractions, and allow time for your child to wind down a bit before actually hitting the hay (i.e. story time & bath times for the little ones; reading time for the older ones before lights out)

3) Feed them a diet of heading outdoors!
Heard of 'nature deficit disorder"? It is a phrase I've heard a number of times from 'experts' that say our children are spending WAY too much time indoors...I happen to agree. Whatever your thoughts on how far we've gone as a society in this area, it is wise to allow our children a set time allotment EVERYDAY to get outdoors for some fresh air, & the change of scenery alone! If weather doesn't cooperate then simply try to get out the next day. Make time for: hikes, parks, running around in open fields, backyard playtime...these are all good uses of our children's time. 

4) Feed them a lifestyle of active living!
Exercise!!! Our children's daily 'diets' need a steady form of active movements each & everyday. It can help support healthy cardiovascular systems, lungs and a strong body. It is not always easy in our busy paced lifestyles to stay active on a daily basis...but we simply need to look for easy opportunities to do so. Park away from places you're frequenting, run around outside for a bit before leaving the house (i.e. tell Johnny to get outside to run his sillies out before you go to your appointments), choose extracurriculars that involve some form of physical activity (where possible) and look for times to simply get out & walk as a family :)

5) Feed them a healthy entertainment 'diet'! 
From TV, to the internet, to handheld really is so sad that we as a society have lost reliance on our face-to-face relationships & seemed to have replaced them with computer devices. This is a generalization of course, but we all know how much our children would play with these gadgets all day if we allowed them to!!! In our home (and this could be adapted to work in yours) video games and extra TV shows are for weekends only, and special occasions as deemed appropriate by Mom or Dad. TV viewings are strictly moderated to be shows that are: uplifting, non-sexual, non-violent (unless it relates to the benefit of the plot; say like a super hero show) and no filthy language. I will usually check out any potential movies or media watchings on Plugged In Online if I'm unsure. We also ask family's that we trust for shows that they enjoy watching as a family. We have made the drastic decision (more to save money than anything!) to not have cable in the home. We use videos and YouTube instead.

*My hubby & I were both TV/movie-aholics growing up & both of us struggled with various issues related to this. So I realize we may be a bit more sensitive on this issue. However, whatever criteria YOUR family comes up with, remember that what we put into our hearts will effect our thoughts & attitudes (especially when repeated over time). 

6) Feed them a steady influence of positive role models!
This one can be tricky. I admit it still is tricky for my family at times. But my goal is always keeping an eye out for positive role models that each one of my children can spend time with in various settings.
Too many times children are bombarded by negative influences everyday (through media, school, friends, etc. etc.) and it can be hard to counteract that, even if we are trying to be diligent as parents. 
Let me give you a couple practical examples from our home--> Our second oldest son loves to work & earn money. He just has this innate drive to work & work hard! There is a farmer at our church (a small men's group leader, a friend of my husband's) who hired him to work at the farm for a few days over the summer. We felt this was a positive experience even more so than the opportunity to make money because of the great influence he has been on our son. Another example: our eldest son has an amazing talent at playing drums. We searched & searched for a drum instructor, but could never find one with the same convictions or that we felt comfortable using for one-on-one lessons. Finally we found a young man at our church who has exceptional character, and already plays music in our youth band. So our son has already began the lessons  & without doubt it has been a positive experience for him. It is again, a win-win situation.
***Look for those opportunities to spend time with families you admire, serving with organizations you find noble, and encouraging positive peer relationships, as much as you can :)

7) Feed them a steady diet of wholesome, classic books!
I so appreciate our local libraries and frequent them almost every week. However, many of the classics have been removed (not all, but so many goodies are out of print!) that I have begun to make my own library at home. 
I look for good classic books (with great moral lessons, no language and some that are just plain fun) at used book sales, online and generally wherever I can find them. My favs will prob differ from yours, but in general some of the books that have been in print for hundreds of years (and have been modified to be in readable English of course!) have much more substance then some of the new ones that have come to line our shelves. Again, every family will differ in their convictions, but I feel the more classics we can expose our children to...the better :)

8) Feed them a 'diet' of fun, family time!
Do you have a regular family day scheduled in? Do you make the time for fun in your family's bustling itinerary? Some of our closest family friends have modeled this for us with great success in their families. It can be as easy as simply choosing a regular day set out for nothing but time with immediate family (maybe throw some close family friends in there and/or church). It allows the children to have something weekly to look forward to. With busier schedules, it may be more prudent to pick an evening or two. For those with spouses away from the home, it may even be wiser still to have a few nights of  stay-cation time slots together when he/she returns. However, no matter what will work for YOUR family, keep in mind that your children will probably think more highly of these times then you can even imagine!

9) Feed them a lifetime of making memories together!
Often the best memories in life cannot be pre-planned, but with some careful thought & preparation, AWESOME family traditions can definitely be made. For some of us this could involve: every year at Christmas we go cut down a fresh tree followed by fresh hot chocolate; every Thanksgiving we go to our favourite fall fair; every Family Day (for us Canadians!) we go out for dinner at our favourite restaurant; every Sunday we have Daddy's special breakfast....the possibilities are endless! And they don't have to cost anything either. We know families that are on a very strict budget that find great traditions to embark on (regular places to visit, walk to, or activities to even do in the home). So use your imagination; talk to your spouse and/or children & get planning :)

10) Last, but not least, we feed them a healthy dose of 'living on purpose'!
Spiritually is a part of who we are as humans, and yet with our busy lifestyles, it can sadly be one of the first things to go. Visiting a healthy, thriving church is a great way to start. Finding ways to give back to the community is another way to model to your children that life is 'not always about them'. Serving others; loving others; receiving love from our Loving Creator & giving it back to others. 
I experienced this on a large scale when I made Jesus Christ my Lord & Saviour as a young adult. It became the absolute BEST decision I've ever made with my life!!! I can see how that one decision has positively affected our children, and changed the way I think about raising them. It has affected my marriage, and my relationships with others.
Wherever you are in your journey, begin to look around you for positive role models that are already living on purpose; there are sure to be others who are farther along in their journeys & who would be willing to share how they've made it this far :)

*for more info on exploring Jesus check out this page--> The Purpose Driven Life

***Please take the time to share your thoughts on how YOUR family lives on purpose in any of the above mentioned areas (feel free to comment below).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Lens That May Need Some Dusting Off

Sometimes it seems like the ground may be slipping out from under you...and other days it may seem like heaven has opened its windows on earth, even for a short while!

~Some days it may seem laughs all around~

~Well, on others you may feel you're hanging on for dear life!!!~

"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden


It can be such an easily overlooked aspect of life...and yet, it can have the power& potential to:

-de-rail our best plans
-cause us to lose our motivation
-totally deflate our courage in any given situation

IF it is not focused properly. If our lens, so to speak, is cloudy & blurry it WILL affect our day to day decision making and prioritizing.

On the other hand, it can also:

-build us up
-cause to push past any major obstacles in life
-help us jump over hurtles that perhaps most others would not

IF it comes from a correct focus, our lives will definitely reap the benefits!

For me the issue has been a personal one lately...

I am about 8 months pregnant. With our fifth child. And homeschooling. And running my own biz. And leading a small group at our church. And. And. And. 

In the last trimester of this pregnancy I have felt the effects of getting a bit, um, 'older' shall we say. This pregnancy has been, to be blunt, 'rough'. Way 'rougher' than any of the others, particularly on my body.

Let me first say: I am so thankful for the life of this child! I am SO thankful God has blessed us with another. However, it has been a journey where I have many, many times lost my perspective.

Up late at night, crying due to physical pain or sickness...and wishing that I could just deliver the baby.

Homeschooling a child, helping them with a tough math problem, feeling like the room was spinning around me... and again, just wanting to go to bed!

I know many of you have already been there, in some capacity or you can relate. Some of your circumstances make mine look like simple, minor which I would agree.

In the last few weeks I picked up a book by famed author, and leadership mentor to thousands, John C. Maxwell.  Great read entitled "Today Matters"

One of the first chapters I read was on attitude...and as I was forced to confront some of my poor attitudes, I realized how it had led to losing my generally good perspective.

Here are a few of my fav quotes from the book that I believe will inspire you:

"All things being equal, attitude wins. All things not being equal, attitude sometimes still wins." ~ John C. Maxwell

"Hope is the only antidote to fear." ~Lance Armstrong

"The thoughts in your mind will always be more important than the things in your life." ~ John C. Maxwell

And you know what? After I began to focus on my attitude, regardless of my current circumstances (whether it be the sickness, discomfort or whatever) I began to dust off the lens of my perspective. It hasn't been easy, or perfect by any stretch, but it certainly has been a great help!

I truly have become a believer that attitude affects quite a lot of our outcomes in life. Not all, but quite a lot.

~Wherever you are today; whatever you may be facing; choose to focus on your perspective and watch what blessings may unfold in your life.~

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What the experienced Mamas already know....

We were on the phone for only a short while. I had become acquainted with her through my grandmother. She is the pastor's wife at the church where my grandmother was attending at the time.

We spoke about this and topics and ministry. The fast that she too has four children. In the end she stressed one last thought to me...make sure to enjoy your children while they're young.

Recently I had one of those 'moments'. The type that causes you to feel as if you're in a vortex and nothing else is really happening around you. I saw my second oldest son playing outside and realized, "I can't believe how much he's grown up...I can still remember him toddling around my feet!"

With the recent increasing difficulties in the last trimester of our pregnancy (back aches, trouble sleeping, congested sinuses, and often very fatigued) I have found myself constantly looking at the calendar for that magic due date. Only 13 weeks...then, only 12 weeks....the countdown obsessions haven't been helped at all by the fact that my android phone has three separate apps that often send me reminders of my pregnancy status "you have 82 days left" or something like that!

With the constant countdown obsessions I have realized one thing: time will NOT go faster when you try to force it...and one other truth has become apparent to me--> Time will NOT stand still for anyone!

It was just yesterday that I was taking care of two small boys while struggling through was just a few years ago that I met and married my hubby of now soon to be nine years...only seems like yesterday that I was blessed with 2 more additions to join their seems like last week (but really over a year now) that we moved to a new area and into a larger home. But, where has all that time really gone?!

This evening was a quiet one. My hubby took the children out so I could enjoy some peace & quiet after feeling quite unwell throughout the day. I couldn't seem to sleep, or get into any sort of book, so I took to my blogging world :)

I stumbled upon a vlog by the now famed mother of 19 children, Michelle Duggar. One of her topics was about being a Mom who makes their time count. She stressed the importance of not losing out on the the most precious seasons of our children's lives...of not allowing ourselves to get SO busy that we are always here & there bumping into ourselves. 

& which one of us these days cannot relate to her words???

Time certainly is precious. Perhaps even more so when we are the gatekeeper of small and/or large young ones that have been entrusted to our care.

Let's choose our schedules wisely. Among all the hustle and bustle of our busy 21st century lives, let's not forget the truth, "time waits for no man."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

~Preparing For Back 2 School! Top Ten Ways to Prepare for the Fall 'Mayhem'~

 homeschooling preparation back to school

Have you heard the kids saying it yet?

"Our summer vacation is almost over...and that means back to school. Augh!!!"

And we, as parents, all know what that means...the time for 'back to school', back to the books..back to the routine of Sept. through June (at least here in Canada) has nearly arrived...anyone else getting excited yet??

Of course we'll miss the fun of sunshine, the beaches, the festivities, endless BBQs, and late nights...but as parents I think we sometimes inwardly groan when the endless time of 'unscheduled' fun with our children just seems to drag on & on!

Yes, it's about that time of year where we begin to gear up for back to school.

Little Passports

So without further adieu, I've included my personal TOP TEN TIPS to prepare for the back to school 'mayhem': 

(NOTE: as I am BOTH a homeschooling mom & parent of school children, these tips are generalized enough to apply to both worlds. Enjoy!)

1) Routines should be established BEFORE that first big day!

Of course some of us thrive on living by the seat of our if you can endure sleeping in endlessly throughout the summer, and somehow flip the switch with your brood the night before back to school (without endless tears and tantrums I mean..) then please do share!

 ....but, for the rest of us, somehow I always find a much easier transition when our children are well prepared for our start up date at LEAST a week in advance (for some it will require more).

*For homeschooling families: well, if you have a more lax schedule then this may not be necessary, but we can still prepare for our new season of heavier schooling by easing into subjects (I've personally known some families who keep some math, and other subjects, up throughout the summer, to allow an easier transition come September).

***At the bottom I'll include a link that has some FREE scheduling templates for you. Don't miss out!

2) If your work schedule, or other commitments, will change significantly during the back to school season, begin to live that way NOW and see how things can flow more smoothly!

In other words, do a test run. If you know that starting next month you'll be working later hours, and hubby will be preparing the meals, or children/teens helping out more significantly around the home, it would be worthwhile again, to EASE everyone into their new roles. 

Even practicing new driving schedules (time yourselves from start to finish on a trial run), new eating times (i.e. eat breakfast earlier), teach your older children about packing or preparing their own lunches, etc. etc. In other words, everyone will fare better with the changes, IF they've had some practice to draw from. 

3) Back to school shopping: create your personalized family list, and then conquer!

For me this was a no brainer as I already had to shop for all of our curriculum, and all the knickknacks that went with it. Earlier this month I took about 2 weeks and created my goal list for each child this year, what they needed to purchase for their 'grade' & curriculum, a tentative schedule for our family, chore chart (more on that later) and a meal plan (more on this later too) with a complete shopping list. 

I am expecting baby number 5 sometime this fall so I knew I would probably fall apart without some serious organization this year. (***side note: since this post I've had baby number six!!! Life is even more crazy, but I still follow my plan n prepare principles you see in this post!)

You may not need to purchase as much as our family, but check with your local school what is required for this year's grade level. Clothing needs are essential as well. My hubby personally scouts the local second hand stores for upcoming 50% all store type deals. It's worth the savings for our family, and we save tons of money!!

 Make your list based on your budget, then divide and conquer it!

Bulk Office Supplies at Wholesale Prices

Children, I have found, actually instinctively begin to want to get involved in helping Mommy or Daddy out as they grow into maturity (usually I find this takes place around 5 years of age, but of course only YOU can assess your young child's developmental stage). The bottom line is children, who are encouraged to & allowed to, can become your biggest help in the home.

Of course I'm not talking about giving our children unrealistic goals & overwhelming them, but too often we excuse our children from not participating in household chores due to our wrong perceptions--> "he's not able to" "I can do it better" "it takes much longer for her to do it" "I don't have time to spend with them to train them" me, in the long-term it will be worth the initial investment you make!

This year I made a large list of chores I knew all of my children were capable of (some would require my assistance) and we had a family meeting where each child had the opportunity to select their own chores for the school year (mine range in age from almost 6 years old to 13). That way this school year if I heard any complaining I could gently remind them that THEY picked their lists out this year.

Here are some examples:

Our almost 6 year old boy is: filling up the toilet paper rolls, wiping off the kitchen table after meals, making his bed, and helping Mommy fold tea towels (he is actually better than me!)

Our 8 year old daughter is: learning to wash dishes with Mommy's help (she loves this!), helping with our lunches this year (her insistence actually!), making bed, and when baby sister arrives she wants to help out with picking her clothes :)

Our 11 year old son is: making breakfast, doing some dishes, vacuuming (one of his favs actually as he loves machinery), and some other odds n ends around the home

Our 13 year old son is: helping mow the lawn with Dad, sweeping our floors, learning to take care of his room, and since he really has an aversion to cooking we are just starting him on helping with dinner choices & simple cooking, etc.

Also, once a week we have a morning where all of us pitch in to tidy up the entire house. It doesn't take long when everyone helps out, and Mommy doesn't have to spend three times as long doing something that everyone feels pride over completing. 

This year I found a FREE Microsoft excel spread sheet~I filled in the blanks with the said chores, and then laminated one for each child-->

5) Meal Planning--> take the time to plan your meals and what that will look like in your home for back to school!

Every family's lifestyle will look different, but one thing I always find every year: as the extra-curriculars begin, and time seems to get easily eaten up, the meals can be the first thing to suffer. All of a sudden normal parents, who may be somewhat of health enthusiasts, begin driving through the golden arches more & more.. parents might find the weight easily packing start trading in wholesome meals for pre-packaged 'garbage' (sorry, but as a nutritionist I have to say it as it is! And I'm just as guilty as anyone else for doing this when I'm under extreme stress!).

It's time to take our family's nutritional status back into our control!!!

When my children were all in school full-time we also used to try and buy same/similar foods for their packed lunches. Large warehouses (like Costco or Sams) are great places to purchase food in bulk for lunch packing. 

*For lunches think nutrient dense foods like: sprouted breads with healthful additions, hard boiled eggs, rice salads or quinoa, fruits and veggies, rolled up nitrate free meat cuts, healthful crackers (watch labeling!) with sides of cheese or other peanut-free butters added in; water to drink or 100% fruit juices

6) Go over your back to school routine with ALL involved--> don't leave hubby or wife in the dark about your 'new' plans!

I have made this mistake more than once....

"So, tomorrow night so & so has dance class...can you drive them?"

"So, after so & so comes home from swimming someone has to rush out and take so & so to their piano lesson...can your help with the drives, or watch so & so during class?"

It's much better to map out your family's fall schedule (including ALL extra-curriculars for EACH family member, include ALL of your & partner's activities that will regularly affect the calendar) and then make sure everything will fit together and will run smoothly.

I keep a gigantic sized calendar on our fridge which includes ALL activities so we can easily schedule Dr's or other medical appointments as well.

Key point: just make sure you don't leave anyone in the dark.... :)

7) A simple one, but sometimes overlooked, is to have your entrance way prepared for easy exit and entrance during the school year!

This may include:

-adding new coat hooks, racks

-adding shoe organizers for easy access

-having a key hook, so everyone knows WHERE to put the home/car keys

-having a bin for mail to be easily sorted in when coming in (a bill section, etc)

-have an area for extra-curricular gear  (like dance outfits, swimming gear, music books...each should have their 'special place' somewhere in your home

-for us homeschoolers: I prepare an area of schooling prep when I store all my excess school necessities (like pencils, erasers, pens, etc); and I keep an area for each child for their curriculum that is their own; school/book shelves are ready with readers and leisurely reading as well; not in the front entrance but right around the corner in my dining room (easy access is key!)

The point is you want to make YOUR home as efficient as you can, so you can conserve as much time as possible & run things smoothly.

8) Consider celebrating the back to school season with a special family tradition!

This may include:

-a special restaurant visit the week before

-a memorable shopping excursion that includes the child picking out their own backpack or other gear

-a favourite beach or nature area to be visited the weekend before

-a family movie night, etc. etc.

The point is to mark the transition from summer fun to fall learning, with a positive emphasis. Memories will be made, and every year your children will look forward to a repeat :)

9) Enlist help where necessary: don't forget about those unexpected emergencies that will arise throughout the school year!

What if you're sick? What about if you have to work late and can't pick the children up? Which spouse will take the day off work on a PA day? Do you have friends/grandparents who'd be willing to help out if an emergency should arise?

For us homeschooling parents--> Do we have times of planned relief so we don't experience burnout? Do we have support groups that we plan to frequent for consistent encouragement and support? Are our spouses willing to help share the load when necessary? Do we have resources ready & available if we get bogged down in material? (Note: online homeschooling groups, say like Facebook ones, are great I've found for this sort of thing)

10) My personal favourite encouragement to pass along: make sure to get a day/time slot to YOURSELF to be able to be refreshed BEFORE you jump into the busy season!

My hubby took the kids most of today so I could continue to get things ready, and rest up with this pregnancy. We realize that our lives will dramatically change in a few months with baby's impending arrival, and neither one of us wants to experience BURN OUT! It is something I've experienced before, albeit in small doses, and it usually takes a truckload of help to crawl out of...remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure :)

Some ideas for you before back to school:

-each spouse takes one evening to get out to do a fav activity he/she enjoys

-a date night for both parents to just get away before the mayhem

-perhaps, if you can swing it, a weekend get away for the two of you!

-book a planning evening where Mom/Dad can (hopefully uninterrupted) take time to go over any upcoming changes; even financial ones, as they prepare for the school year

-a pedicure date by yourself, or with a close friend

-a refreshing hike (and no cell phones allowed!)

The ideas are endless...but ensure you are starting this season well rested and refreshed. If you can't afford a sitter, even pray/look around for another busy mom/dad to trade off with? 

There you have it! My personal top ten list for ensuring a smooth transition for back to school.

***As promised above, here are some FREE templates for scheduling, etc. (particular for homeschoolers, but also some included for ANY household--> (ONLY for personal use)

***Please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments below--> how do you transition to back to school?


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