Students At Home

For Everyone Who Learns at Home

Birthday Month Celebration Week 2

I’m continuing my month-long birthday celebration, and it feels great! Self-care is so often neglected, but I’m determined to continue creating time each day to celebrate me and the things that bring me joy.

Here’s how I celebrated this week.

Day 3: We have bananas, ice cream, peanut butter and chocolate sauce in the house, so I made a sundae! And I savored every bite! To cut the sweetness (I’ve made an active choice to limit sweets this summer), I fixed a cup of black coffee and savored it, too. Delicious!

Day 4: I tossed a pair or ratty pajama shorts into the trash can today. The elastic is stretched and exposed, and there are holes where there should not be holes! 😉 I hate spending money on new clothes, but today I gave myself permission to toss this item of clothing and add “new pair of shorts” to my shopping list. It feels good to give myself permission to wear clothing that looks good and brings me joy. Oh – I also drove to the library and pharmacy alone! How sweet it was to enjoy silence in the car on my drive into town and to choose the radio station I wanted on the drive home!

Day 5: Fresh peaches for lunch! My favorite fruit! 🙂  And hubby and I shared a pleasant afternoon chatting as we watched TV. I’m grateful for these moments!

peaches

Day 6: I gave myself permission to take the entire day off work! It felt so refreshing and empowering not to power up my laptop!

Day 7: My daughter gave me the first four presents of my birthday month! They’re each folded neatly and wrapped in aluminum foil and newspaper (one layer for day 1, two layers for day 2, etc.). How fun!

irene's birthday gifts to me august

I also returned a library book today before it was due. Library fines are tax-deductible, but I always appreciate when I remember to be responsible and don’t have to pay a fine. 🙂

Day 8: While waiting for my daughter today, I read a book instead of playing on my phone. That permission to relax and do something I like made me feel content.

Day 9: While sipping my morning coffee, I heard a bird chirping. I paused a minute to listen to the song and realized how much joy I felt from this simple act. Sometimes, treats surprise me with their simple yet profound impact!

I also enjoyed lunch at Red Robin with a friend. And because of a gift card and my free birthday burger, our meal cost only $5.12!

Day 10: This morning, I tried to work on an assignment, but my brain just wasn’t working. I finally decided to wash dishes – I always feel better when my sink is clean! I then prepared a cup of cinnamon coffee, savored a small scoop of chocolate ice cream and listened to the Parachute Band on YouTube. That 20-minute treat brightened my mood, helped me relax and made me smile!

 

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6 Tips for Finding a Cheap Bike

Summer vacation has officially started. So far, my kids have had plenty of activities to keep them busy, including riding bikes. They like to race each other around our neighborhood, and my teenager is finally allowed to ride down the street to her friend’s house.

Luckily, we have a collection of bikes in all sizes, thanks to my son’s bike repair business from a few years ago.

bikesHowever, what if your child – or you – need a new bike? Find a cheap one with these six tips.

1.Thrift Stores or Consignment Shops

Check your local thrift or consignment stores for gently used bikes. Inventory changes often, so you’ll have to keep checking. Or ask the clerk to notify you when someone brings in the type of bike you’re looking for (our local consignment store did this for me when I wanted a double stroller for my toddlers!).

2. Police Auctions

Does your town have a police auction where they auction off items they’ve confiscated throughout the year? If so, you might be able to buy a nice bike for way less than retail.

3. Online Yard Sale Sites

I’m a member of several online yard sale sites. Almost every day, I see posts from people selling bikes their children have outgrown. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, post an “In Search Of”!

4. Craigslist

Remember to check Craigslist for used bikes. You can even set up an alert and receive an email every time someone lists a bike for sale.

5. Bike Shops

Two years ago, I visited a local bike shop with a friend. They had dozens of new bikes for sale, but I also noticed a row of used bikes. Yes, they cost more than yard sale prices, but each used bike for sale was recently tuned with new parts, reliable and ready to ride!

6. Word of Mouth

Ask your friends, family, neighbors and everyone you know if they have a bike for sale. You never know who’s cleaning out their garage, ready to upgrade or otherwise looking to get rid of gently used bikes!

When your kids are ready for new bikes, use these tips to find quality bikes at an affordable price. What other tips would you suggest?

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What Can You Do In 2 Minutes?

Vector illustration of two minutes stopwatch icon on white backgroundTwo minutes.

120 seconds.

That doesn’t sound like a lot of time, does it? But you can actually get A LOT done in two minutes!

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by life, I set a timer, get to work and cross one thing off my to-do list. Here are a few suggestions.

Clear off a counter.

Stretch.

Unload the dishwasher.

Drink a glass of water.

Brush your teeth.

Wipe off your car’s dash.

Fold a load of laundry or put laundry away.

Listen to your favorite song or find a new one!

Plan your dinner menu for the week.

Sweep the kitchen floor.

Send a text to a friend.

Wipe off your phone screen.

Toss old leftovers from the fridge.

Close your eyes and enjoy peace and quiet.

Wipe down the bathroom counter.

Test the pens or markers in your stationary drawer.

Toss junk mail.

Read the comics.

File important papers.

Savor an apple, handful of walnuts or other favorite snack.

Clean out your car.

Write five things you’re thankful for.

Carry your donation bags to your car or call a charity and set up a pick-up date.

Pull weeds.

Work on a crossword puzzle.

Match the pile of orphan socks in your laundry room.

Make a cup of coffee in your favorite mug.

Clean the litter box.

Read Psalm 23.

Hug and kiss your kids or pets.

Purge broken crayons and torn coloring books.

Move – jumping jacks, squats, run the steps, anything!

Empty trash cans.

Tell someone you love them.

Sanitize door knobs, remote controls or phones.

Shred sensitive documents.

Toss outdated medicine.

Write a thank you note.

Clear your email inbox.

Pray for someone.

In two minutes, you can accomplish dozens of tasks, even ones that aren’t so fun. What are you waiting for? Set your timer and get moving!

What else would you add to the list?

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Want Fresher Laundry? Add This One Ingredient!

When I was a kid, my mom never bought bottled water. It was a new craze then and expensive, and she preferred to spend the family’s grocery budget on food we could chew.

One day, I noticed a large jug filled with clear liquid sitting on our kitchen counter. It looked like bottled water, and I felt so surprised, thinking she had finally caved to all my begging and bought me bottled water!

I carefully opened the jug and took a big swig.

Gross!

It was white vinegar. I never made that mistake again!

While vinegar tastes terrible, it does amazing things around the house. It deodorizes smelly plastic containers, cleans crusty microwaves and dissolves gunk in sink drains.

Vinegar

It also performs miracles in the washing machine!

Well, maybe not miracles, but it does make laundry smell fresher. I started pouring 1/2 to one cup of white vinegar in all my loads and definitely notice a difference.

What’s your favorite laundry hack?

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Murder Is No Accident – a Book Review

Murder is No Accident

I’m a sucker for a good mystery, especially if it’s clean – no cursing, sex or violence. And that’s why I eagerly snagged a copy of “Murder Is No Accident” by A. H. Gabhart.

Indeed, the first page of this book captured my attention, and I stayed engaged for several pages. I wanted to find out who Maggie Green heard murder the local real estate agent!

But then the author introduced the townspeople, and I grew confused and bored. I had a hard time keeping the characters straight and got the impression that I was missing important backstory that was essential to this book’s success.

It wasn’t until the second half that the plot managed to grab my attention again, and I appreciated the mystery that kept me guessing until the end!

Overall, this book is a sweet and easy read. While it’s a mystery, it’s not violent, and there is no cursing or sexual content. However, it contains several grammatical errors and not enough backstory. To really “get” it, you need to read the first two books in a series. It is possible to jump into the series on book 3, but I wouldn’t recommend it because the story is decent, and skipping the first two books will curb your enthusiasm for this book.

If you’re looking for a easy read and a mild mystery with a little romance on the side, I recommend this series – but start with number one rather than this book. You’ll appreciate this book even more if you start at the beginning of the series!

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Honesty Sets You Free

honesty-sets-you-free

As part of our family’s adventure in wellness, I attend a Celebrate Recovery 12-Step study. A small group of ladies meet weekly to discuss the steps, pray and find freedom from various hurts, habits and hangups.

One thing I notice as I work through the study is that recovery depends on honesty. After all, the first step is admitting you have a problem. To even work through the 12 steps, we must let go of denial and be honest!

But honesty is hard. It’s much easier to say that everything’s fine and cover up the shame, guilt, heartache and trauma in our lives. I know – I’ve done it for years!

And that’s why the devotional I read today (“When You Just Can’t Bring Cheerful”) resonated with me. We don’t have to be cheerful all the time and cover up what’s really going on in our hearts and lives. In fact, we find true healing only when we are honest, open and authentic. Think about it – God knows our hearts. We’re only lying to ourselves and hindering His healing work when we try to hide from Him.

I take comfort in the fact that even though honesty is challenging, painful, embarrassing and scary, it’s also the source of true freedom. I pray we can be honest with ourselves, Jesus and others today. May we take time to be authentic and real with our Father today.

Today’s prayer: “Thank You, God, for loving us, even the ugly parts, and for gently drawing us to Yourself as You give us freedom and joy! Give us courage to be real with You and trust Your gentleness, mercy and grace.”

Titus 3:4-5a, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (NIV)

Hosea 2:14, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her … and bring her into the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly and to her heart.” (AMPC)

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How a Sock Changed My Career

For over five years, I’ve made a living writing web content. When I started, I was homeschooling my children, and I needed a flexible career I could manage during independent work times or after school.

Three years ago, we finally enrolled both of them in public school, but my days were still busy caring for them. My son has autism with behavioral and anxiety challenges. I never knew when I’d need to pick him up from school early. I also had to be available for numerous therapy appointments, snow and vacation days, and other emergencies.

Thankfully, my son has finally turned a corner this year. He’s mainstreamed at our local middle school, and he rarely has a problem that requires me to pick him up early. I still have multiple therapy appointments each month for him, but overall I have more free time during the day.

That’s why I decided to branch out this year and try my hand at subbing for classroom/office aides in our local school district. I have a Christian Education degree and have worked with children of all ages in various educational settings. And of course, I did and continue to teach my own kids at home. Several friends sub, and they shared information about how to get started and their positive experiences.

I took the plunge and applied. I filled out all the required paperwork and clearances and attended job training. I even have an official badge! I also applied to sub for the IU-13 and Substitute Teacher Services. I can still write in my free time, but I can also begin a fulfilling career in a classroom.

My first job was supposed to be Monday morning at the elementary school my son attended last year. However, a sock changed everything.

socks

You see, because of his autism, he has sensory issues. If his clothes feel the least bit tight, scratchy or irritating, he feels anxious and won’t wear them. We haven’t had any clothing issues for months, but he sure did have an issue this morning before school!

For some reason, his socks didn’t feel right. He has successfully worn these same socks for months with no issue, but suddenly they feel weird. He complained about the crease and how it felt on his feet and in his shoes. In the past, he simply switched the uncomfortable sock to the other foot where the crease is not an issue, but today, no tricks he tried worked.

As he tried on sock after sock and realized it was uncomfortable, he simply tossed it across the room. And his anxiety grew as he realized he would be late for the bus if he didn’t find socks soon.

My son’s anxiety attack lasted about 15 minutes. He screamed, shouted, cursed and cried.  It wasn’t until the very last possible second that he finally choose a pair of socks to wear and rushed out the door to the bus.

Today’s sock incident used to happen every day. I’m incredibly grateful that it only happens rarely now! However, because he does still have anxiety challenges, I decided to reevaluate my career.

Most substitute jobs require me to leave for work around 7 AM so I arrive at the school by 7:10 and have time to find the classroom and get my duty assignments before the students arrive. My kids don’t leave on the bus until 7:06.

Those six minutes are short and long.

What happens if he has another sock incident? I won’t be home to coach him through it. And since my husband leaves for work at 6:30, he’s unavailable. I also committed not to give my daughter, who’s two years older than him, the responsibility of parenting him.

After my children successfully walked out the door today, I brewed a cup of coffee, took a few deep breaths and spent time in prayer and soul-searching. For the sake of my children, I decided to pass on any jobs that require me to leave in the morning before they do. I’m disappointed, but it simply doesn’t make good sense for me to put my career before my kids at this point.

Which brings me to how a sock changed my career.

Because of this incident, I have decided to branch out and find new writing clients. I even began outlining several ebooks (topics to be announced!). I’m exploring other options, too, that allow me to be home for my kids and earn a living.

I know that for me, this is the right decision. And I trust that God will bring me opportunities and courage to search for new opportunities.He has always been faithful and will continue to be faithful in providing all our needs!

And I’m thankful for socks, too.

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Teaching My Kids About Politics

y-and-recorded-message-from-donald-trumpGrowing up, politics was a big deal in my family. My dad never missed an opportunity to vote, even if he had to leave work early to make it to the polling place on time. Usually, he took me with him. I learned early that voting is our right and responsibility as American citizens.

That’s why turning 18 was a big deal for me! I could finally vote! What an honor and privilege! And when my study abroad semester found me living overseas during the 1996 election, I eagerly signed up to receive an absentee ballot (I still have the Egyptian newspaper that announced the winner!).

Fast forward to this year. I’m now a mom with two kids. They’re both in middle school and definitely opinionated about all kinds of topics like their favorite music, cars, food, beliefs and books, so it makes sense to include them in our political discussions.

Plus, hubby and I are both very into politics. Even though we don’t always agree, we do often watch political talk shows and the news together, and we regularly discuss current events. In fact, everyone knew well in advance that I would be taking over the remote when the conventions aired. They’re a highlight for me since I love the patriotic stories. (And I also hoped that this year’s conventions would help me decide who to vote for!)

We’re now less than two months away from the election. I’m still not totally convinced on which presidential candidate will get my vote, but my kids have their minds made up, and their arguments for their candidate are very logical and convincing. My son even likes to listen to the recorded political phone calls we receive.

I finally captured his joy tonight. He listened to the whole message from Donald Trump with a highly animated look on his face, and was so excited!

Because it was a big deal to him, I decided to post the picture on Facebook. Some of my friends shared his enthusiasm, others commented on how handsome he looks and one  lady blocked me.

I actually laughed when I saw that she blocked me, then I deleted her comment. And that led me to consider whether I was right to post something political on my page.

Generally, I avoid controversy. Life is hard enough without starting fights online! But I am proud of my kids for being interested in politics and for making their own political decisions. I believe I owe it to them to teach them how to weigh the candidate’s words and actions, consider all the facts and decide who they will support. That’s why I shared my son’s picture. I wanted to support his right to his own opinion and share with my friends that he has been listening and learning and knows who he wants to win. I’m proud that he is willing to stand up for what he believes in, and I won’t apologize for that!

So whether or not you agree with him or with me, know that I will not unfriend you (unless you get obnoxious, rude or mean about it!). I welcome conversation and support your freedom to vote, live and choose as you wish. Those are the same values I wish to teach my children as I equip them to participate in their democratic right and responsibility.

God Bless America!

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Has Your Router Been Hacked?

A few years ago, a Facebook friend started sharing posts by Kim Komando. She’s a tech guru with tips on how to do everything from how to choose a new phone to how to secure your online accounts. I became a fan and have used dozens of her tips over the year. Today, I found a new one that I want to share with you.

Use this tip to test your router and find out if it has been hacked. It only takes a few seconds, and if there are any problems with your router, you’ll receive clear steps on how to fix it.

Happy surfing!  TPLINKrouter

Good to do: Test your router to see if it’s been hacked – Here's how

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Looking for the Perfect Decision?

Celestine Chua (Flickr)

Celestine Chua (Flickr)

 

I’ve been thinking about decisions lately.

And I’ve been putting off quite a few decisions lately.

 

 

Should I buy a smartphone for work access on the go or stick with my plain phone?

Should I sell outgrown toys on eBay or donate them to charity?

Should I toss the clothes in my closet that don’t fit or save them for “some day”?

Should I make chicken or hamburgers for dinner?

 

On the surface, most of these decisions won’t affect me too much in the long run. But I’m afraid of making the wrong one, wasting money or failing. Those are the reasons for procrastinating the decisions I need to make.

I’m very grateful to know that I’m not the only one who struggles sometimes with decision making. Lysa Terkeurst’s blog made sense to me, and maybe her words will encourage you, too.

So, what decisions are you putting off and why? Is there something you can do today to get started making at least one of the decisions on your list?

 

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