Monday, August 29, 2016

What We're Learning for PreK-4







So we've begun the great adventure of homeschooling! Well, not completely, but kind of. We don't start "formal" homeschooling (the plan is Classical Conversations) until Fall of next year, but wanted to find a homeschooling rhythm/routine before then! PLUS my very eager 4 year-old little student was in need of a good challenge. Noelle is a bit performance-driven (I have no idea who she got that from 😉) and accomplishing/acquiring new goals and skills is right up her alley. So instead of pushing off structured learning until next year, we have taken the plunge into some fun and engaging preschool learning! I'm not using a curriculum but have formulated my own list of things we would like to learn this year based on Noelle's interest. Pinterest has become my new sidekick and has made the process of creating "lesson" plans that are tailored to Noelle fun and fairly easy! SO here is a list of things we hope to cover this year (it's not important to me that all of these are mastered... The exposure and familiarity is what I'm going for):

1. Character Development- We have been selecting one of the 49 Character Qualities to focus on each week. Generally, I've tried to provide opportunities for both girls to practice the quality and talk through it when the topic arises in everyday circumstances/situations. For example, we are covering "Joyfulness" this week.

2. Reading- Noelle has been BEGGING me to teach her how to read. I put it off for a while, worried that she wouldn't like the process and would shy away from it. But so far, she's doing great! I'm using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. You can find it here.

3. Hymns- both of my girls are musically inclined and highly enjoy singing. Teaching them hymns is my way of providing doctrinal and theological enrichment in a way that's fun, practical and inviting! They love to sing the ones we've learned before they go to sleep at night. Hymns have a way of settling the soul and quieting the heart. I hope they will bless my girls for years to come.

4. Bible Memory Verses- I pick one (short) verse a week that corresponds to the weekly character quality. This week we paired Philippians 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!" with "Joyfulness". I've been amazed at how quickly a child can memorize a scripture with a bit of consistency while making it fun!

5. Books of the Bible- I've been singing the same Books of the Bible song that I learned as a child in Sunday School to the girls and they LOVE it! After just a few short weeks, they are very familiar with the melody line and can fill in a good amount of the books!

6. Read Alouds- I want my Children to have a literature-rich childhood. We read aloud everyday from a chapter book (mainly illustrated versions of classic novels) during lunch and/or afternoon reading.

7. Art/Music Appreciation- we aren't delving to deep into this. I'm just exposing them to a variety of genres, styles etc. For example, I've been playing a lot of the lovely Ella Fitzgerald's tunes while I prep dinner lately. I also plan to add more picture/art books to our weekly libray lists.

8. Chores/Ownership in the home- Noelle already does a few little chores during the week, but I plan to make her an actual chore chart so she can have a visual!

9. Days of the week- printable from Pinterest!

10. Months of the year- Pinterest!

11. Seasons- You guessed it! Pinterest.

12. Writing uppercase/lowercase letters- Did I mention Pinterest? I found the cutest Uppercase/lowercase printable sheets and put them in sheet protectors to use repeatedly with dry erase markers! MONEY SAVER!

13. #'s 1-100 (identifying/tracing/writing)- We've started with Kumon's My Book of Numbers 1-30 and Noelle is loving it! You can find it here.  I also found #'s printables and use sheet protectors with dry erase markers!

14. Coin/Bill recognition- So far we have learned about the penny, nickel and dime! We focus on one a week and regularly discuss how much each one is worth, the persons on each one, and try to give opportunities for Noelle to pay for small or cheap items with coins when I can.

15. Familiarity with clocks

16. Identify and draw basic shapes- Kumon has en excellent write and wipe shape kit that we have been enjoying! You can find it here.

17. Sorting/Patterning/Sequencing with manipulatives of all kinds 

18. Mommy and Daddy's Phone Numbers

19. Write full name

20. Learn our address

This seems like a lot, but like I mentioned before, mastery of any of these things is not the main goal! Familiarity and exposure are the central focuses! Also, we will take a few of these items at a time and learn them all the way through next summer! My prayer is that Noelle and I will be able to connect  and develop a good teacher/student relationship with a bit more structure NOW before we get fancy next year for kindergarten.

What are you teaching your littles for preschool? :)

Happy learning together!

Bryt
xoxo


Monday, May 2, 2016

10 Ways to Make a Dinner Party Simple, Special and Scrumptious






Most people that know me well understand that I'm not really a spur of the moment "drop by" and order takeout kind of girl when it comes to entertainment and hospitality (although my husband with his over the top extroverted, spontaneity-driven personality has helped me to be a bit more ok with it haha).  The hardcore introvert in me just can't seem to handle all the excitement and adventure lol. But this overly-anal, need-to-know everything ahead. Of. Time girl L O V E S to put on planned and carefully executed dinner parties for people I love.  Around the holidays I will usually go all out and spend weeks meticulously organizing every small detail of the coming evening. But if it's not a holiday or birthday, I go for simple, special and scrumptious (emphasis on SIMPLE since I have two small ladies who, on occasion, can hinder the hospitality process haha).  I've learned that the night can still be elegant, yet relatively effortless.  It can be fun but not over the top fancy.  Your guests' experience can engage all of their senses in all the right ways without you losing your ever-living mind in the process. So without further a due, let me share 10 of my tricks to a simple, special and scrumptious dinner party. I'll be using pictures from a special dinner we had with my husband's wonderful grandparents the other night for visuals.



1. Floral Arrangments- Flowers help give a dinner table that x-factor! It can take a simple dinner into the realm of elegance.  I like to get my flowers from Trader Joes because they always have a great selection for even better prices.  You don't have to be a florist to get it right! Just grab a pretty vase, mason jar, or water pitcher (pictured below) and fill it with gorgeous flowers.

Hydrangeas are my absolute favorite flower right now!



Lately I've been using an old water pitcher (that has a slight crack in it) as a "vase" for flowers.

2.  Use Pretty Plates- Visually appealing, people.  Paper plates just won't cut it.  I got this set (which also came with bowls) for my wedding nearly 6 years ago. If these plates could speak, they would laughingly tell you of the many tragic dinners I made as a new bride and how thankful they are for my family...annnnd Pinterest...annnnd Barefoot Contessa...annnnnd The Pioneer Woman for enabling me to adorn them with half-way descent food nowadays.  These plates have been through thick and thin with me. I guess you could say they are my ride or die.



3.  Serve a Nice Wine-  I'm not a huge wine lover, but overtime my hunny and I have discovered 2-3 that we really love to serve when we have people over.



4. Spruce up Your Water Pitchers-  It's obviously important to offer water (the poor souls shall not die of thirst) when guest are in the house but when I'm serving a nice dinner I like to add sliced fruit and even occasional herbs to the water to add a layer of flavor and sophistication. You will look so. much. more. like Martha Stewart if you do this.



5. Serve a Simple Salad- I love to just buy pre-packaged greens (saves time on prep) and add my go to veggies (red onion, Roma tomato, and sliced cucumber).  It literally takes just minutes to throw together but when served in a nice salad bowl it looks like a labored over it for hours which is, of course, THE. GOAL.  It also serves as a "filler" when I'm seemingly unable to come up with another side dish lol.



6.  Make a Homemade Salad Dressing-  They are more cost effective and ridiculously easy. I tend to make a lot of vinaigrettes and follow the basic pattern of acidity(some type of vinegar), oil (olive, coconut, grapeseed etc.), possible herb (oregano, parsley, etc.), sweetness (honey is my go to), and salt and pepper.   Lately I've also been adding fresh squeezed citrus of some sort as well. Play with the ratios until you find a blend that makes your heart sing.

7. Include One of Your Own Personal Recipes- this kind of goes along with number 6 in the "special" department.  I LOVE pinterest and my cookbooks and use recipes from both places all the time.  But whenever I have people over for dinner I try to make at least one dish that's unique to me and my family like my homemade Dutch Oven Bourbon Mashed Potatoes (pictured below). Click here for the recipe!



8.  Don't Be Afraid to Cook Something New- This is my introverted way of "living a little" hahaha.  Normally, trying something new when people are coming over would be a HUGE no-no for me.  But I'm learning to take a few more risks while entertaining. Even if it's a major fail, make a joke out if it and throw some humor into the mix of the evening. I made these bacon wrapped veggie bundles (found recipe on Pinterest) and they actually turned out pretty good! Im going to tweak a few things when I make them next time but nonetheless it was fun for me to branch out instead of sticking to what I know.



9. Tag Team with Your Hunny-Love- My amazing husband grilled THE. BEST. STEAKS in the West the other night and looked so scrumptious doing it. There's just something about my man grilling! Maybe it's the flames? The outdoors? I could't tell you but it just works.  Not having to worry about preparing the meat took some weight off my shoulders and allowed me to really focus on the rest of the evening.  Plus, it was extra special for his grandparents to eat something that the two of us cooked together.

10. Cook With All the Love You Have to Give- Sometimes my kids are swinging from chandeliers while I'm trying to make a nice dinner.  Other times my toddler is hysterically crying at my feet.  I've even occasionally dreaded the fact that I have a dinner party on the calendar because of exhaustion and have had to dig deep to find my inner hostess.  But as long as I think about the people I will be serving and the love I want them to feel in our home, I can throw my favorite "This Mama Cooks" apron on and mentally prepare myself to "throw down" in the kitchen!

Well there you have it.  Any other dinner party tips? Please comment and share:)!

Happy cooking, y'all!

Bryt xoxo


Dutch Oven Bourbon Mashed Potatoes









-DUTCH OVEN BOURBON MASHED POTATOES-




I N G R E D I E N T S 


• 2 1/2-3 pounds red potatoes
•whole stick of butter
•2/3 cup chicken stock
•2/3 cup Bourbon
•2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
•half a block (give or take) of cream cheese
•3 Tbsp chopped green onion
•12 whole cloves garlic
•salt & Pepper
•1/2 Tbsp chicken bouillon 



I N S T R U C T I O N S: 

Put half stick of butter into Dutch oven and heat on medium/low. Sauté whole garlic cloves in butter until they become SLIGHTLY brown, then add chicken stock and bourbon to Dutch oven, season with a fair amount of salt and pepper, and allow to cook for about 30 minutes over moderately low heat (it's crucial that you don't allow anything to burn because it will RUIN the dish). You want to simultaneously be boiling the red potatoes in a separate pot until they are tender. If you get lucky, the potatoes will be just the right texture, and your Dutch oven mixture would have cooked out all of the alcohol and become slightly syrupy at the same time!  Once this happens, you can spoon out the whole cloves of garlic and discard (the garlic cloves flavor the mixture nicely, but I don't always leave them in the dish) or just leave them in to be mashed with other ingredients. Next, strain your potatoes and dump them (skin and all!) straight into the Dutch oven full of the yummy bourbon "sauce".  Add in the cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, remaining butter and mash together. SLOWLY add chicken bouillon, regularly testing, to ensure that they are not too salty. You want the potatoes to be mashed, but still have some texture.  Finish by sprinkling chopped green onion over the top. Serve right away or cover Dutch oven and leave over LOW heat until ready to serve! Enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2016

What Easter Meant for my Miscarriage







It had been one of the longest weeks of my life.  I was in a car accident, my entire family came down with horrible sickness which led to extremely long days and nights devoid of sleep, my house was a disaster due to packing to move to our new house and I was already beginning to feel nauseous due to my new pregnancy. My children's consistent high fevers left me feeling frightened and anxious for days.  I feared getting into a car again because of my accident.  My home didn't feel like a safe haven anymore but rather a cold and unfamiliar place.  PLUS the entire week had been such a fog that I had completely forgotten to plan for any Easter baskets or festivities.  In fact, we couldn't even attend Easter service because although most of us where on the road to recovery, my baby, Vivienne, was still running a fever the night before.

SO there we were.  Sitting at home Easter morning while my husband went to church.  I did a devotional with the girls and we had a time of worship together.  I started to feel hopeful thinking that Vivienne probably had 1 or 2 days at the most left of the worst part of her sickness.  I also began to feel encouraged as I thought about moving into a new house that we completely love in an area that we have wanted to live in for a while.  I chose to count my blessings and began thanking Jesus for everything that he accomplished on the cross for me and the victory of His resurrection.

Then the worst thing happened.

A quick trip to the bathroom (which was becoming a regular and frequent thing now that I was in early pregnancy) turned into one of the saddest moments of my life.  I had started bleeding and clotting.  All I could think was, "GOD, NOT AGAIN!!".  I had already suffered through a miscarriage before I had my daughter Vivienne and was immediately reacquainted with all of the grief, fear, sadness, depression and hopelessness that I had felt then.  I burst into tears on the bathroom floor, completely overwhelmed and devastated.  This was supposed to be a day of HOPE... a day of LIFE... a day of CELEBRATION! Yet here I was experiencing death: the death of my baby that I had been praying and believing God for for months, the death of a dream, the death of joy.  I frantically called my husband to tell him the bad news and to hurry home.  I walked out of the bathroom, trying to put on a happy face for my girls.  I didn't want to add to the already stressful and trying week we had all had.  I put on a movie for them and aimlessly paced around my house crying, praying, angry, and in despair.

But something dawned on me.

It was Easter.  Yes, I already knew that it was Easter, but it hit me like a tidal wave. It was EASTER!  It was the day that we officially celebrate the good news of the gospel. It's the day that we boldly declare that IT IS FINISHED.  It is the day that we grasp hold with greater grip to the hope that our redemption and reconciliation has been secured for all eternity.  It is the day that we remind ourselves that Jesus is in the process of making ALL THINGS NEW and righting every wrong.  I immediately started to feel a sense of hope began to rise in my heart.  I realized in that moment, that Jesus had already provided redemption and healing for me right then and there.  I understood that when scripture says, "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" (Isaiah 53:4) that my sadness was accounted for.  Jesus had already carried it.  He had already wept over this terrible situation and was weeping with me then.  I began to bask in the good news that the GOSPEL meant that DEATH had been defeated! It has lost its's sting! The promise of life and the hope that ensues from a revelation of that promise began to flood into my heart and drown out the ear-piercing volume of my pain and despair in that moment! The death I was experiencing was and is swallowed up in LIFE!

Shortly after this moment, my husband came home.  I know that he was expecting to find me on a roller-coaster of rage, irritation, sadness and sorrow based on the way I had talked to him on the phone earlier.  But when he got home, we simply embraced and cried together.  We knew that we had a season of grief ahead of us, but the peace and promise of God poured down on us as we stood in our kitchen.  Almost without saying a word, we both knew without a shadow of a doubt, that our God was a good good Father, that he is faithful in all his ways and that his plans are never to harm us but to give us hope and a future.  The same God that purchased us with his precious and costly blood does not seek to hurt us.  Yes he allowed my miscarriage to happen for reasons I will never know this side of heaven, but we had an unwavering trust in His reasoning.

It's been about two weeks since the start of my miscarriage.  I have battled moments of despair, depression and just about every emotion one could experience.  But the Holy Spirit has been EVERYTHING the scriptures promise that He will be to me and my family.  With each passing day, I'm feeling stronger and more hopeful, knowing that God was not surprised by my misfortune, but rather prepared me for it and has interwoven my testimony into the fabric of my future.

I hope that anyone reading this who has or is experiencing loss of any kind will be encouraged and reminded that there is always purpose in our pain and that the gospel is good news even in our darkest hours.   Remember that even as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you can FEAR NO EVIL because HE IS WITH YOU!  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Every wrong will be made right.  There is NOTHING in heaven or on earth that will go untouched by the finished work of the cross.  Rest in the good news.  Rest in Jesus.

Love always,
Bryt xoxo




Thursday, February 11, 2016

5 Secrets to Surviving Grocery Shopping with Your Babies






I think it's safe to say that grocery shopping with little people has the potential to BREAK. US. DOWN. It can be a daunting task. I've noticed  that our shopping experiences have usually been rough when I have failed to prepare not only my children ahead of time, but myself.  But lately, grocery shopping has been a fun experience for me and my girlies since I started consistently following these 5 guidelines! Here's to hoping they make your grocery shopping easier!


1. Go AFTER a meal and a nap!

If you can manage this, then no one will be starving or hungry during your grocery shopping endeavor! For us, that means we go right after my youngest daughter's first nap and lunchtime. The hungrier they are (and me for that matter), the more likely they will try to reach for anything and everything to put in the cart.  Tired children means cranky/irritable children which is NOT FUN in the middle of the grocery store.  So pick times of the day when everyone has a happy tummy and a happy face :).

2. Streamline/Organize your grocery list!

I used to jot down whatever came to my mind on my grocery list with no trace of order or organization.  That works when you can go to the store alone and have the time (and patience) to wonder aimlessly through the isles looking for scattered items on your list.  I realize now with my two little girls that that doesn't make our shopping experience pleasant or efficient. I suggest organizing your lists based on the layout of your store.  I go to the same store every week and know it like the back of my hand! We start on one end and finish at the other so I organize my list by sections.  This prevents me from dashing back and forth a hundred times!

3. Meal Plan!

This coincides with number 2 but I think it's still worth mentioning! If you are a mama on a clear mission, your time will be spent more wisely! Knowing exactly what I plan to make for my family each week keeps me motivated to finish the task at hand and even be excited about the ingredients I am purchasing.

4. Get a HUGE cup of your FAVORITE coffee and drink it on the way to the store!

You know what they say... Jesus and coffee all day everyday! Stopping by Starbucks to get a White Chocolate Mocha on Wednesdays (my grocery shopping day since it's Double Add day at Sprouts) is one of those "little things" in motherhood that keeps me calm and collected! I only get it once a week so it's a treat for me that automatically brightens my mood and makes me breath in deeply and just... sigh! I promise you will not be disappointed. Coffee is just THAT good, people.

5. PRAY PRAY PRAY!

Pray before during and after! I always have my kids "pray" in the car on the way to the grocery store (or anywhere for that matter) and have them ask Jesus to make our time productive and enjoyable! Also, offer up prayers of THANKSGIVING before, during and after.  It's much more difficult to be grouchy and on edge while shopping if you have the heart of gratitude for even being able to grocery shop.  I tell me girls all the time that there are people in the world who don't have the luxury of going to the store every week and buying all of the yummy and healthy foods they like! I also remind myself and my girls to be thankful that God has provided in such a way for us to be able to AFFORD eating the way we like to eat (organic, real food). So be THANKFUL! Even after you get home and you are unloading all of your groceries, just start thanking Jesus in the middle of your kitchen for his PROVISION and GRACE. And lastly, since my husband is the bread-winner in our family, I always try to make it a point to have myself and the kids personally thank HIM for working so hard each day and enabling me to do what I love (cooking healthy meals for my family).


So there you have it.  These are my 5 current secrets to walking out of those automatic doors at Sprouts alive and well each and every Wednesday.

Happy Shoppin'

Bryt xoxo


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Flexible Daily Routine for Pre-schoolers and Toddlers



It's taken some time for our family to find a good rhythm.  Just when we think we have something figured out or are in a good flow, life happens and we find ourselves at square one again.  This is part of the reason why I like routines as opposed to schedules.  For me, schedules leave little room for error and don't bode well with my perfectionist tendencies.  I've noticed that when I have tried to stick to a rigorous schedule, I'm oftentimes left feeling discouraged and unmotivated after about 2 days.  But ROUTINES, on the other hand, give me the "wiggle room" that I personally need while my kids are the ages that they are.  It's easier for me to have goals instead of "deadlines", if you know what I mean, when it comes to the daily grind of mommyhood. SO, with that being said, here is our current routine that seems to be working great for our family! You will notice that other than bedtime (the one time we actually strive to not deviate from), there is lots of room for adjustments and spur of the moment outings and changes of plan.


6:30am-7:30am- Wake up.  I leave an hour for this because depending on how our nights go (if both kids sleep all the way through, sickness in the house, teething etc.) the kids (or me) may need a bit extra sleep. When the kids wake up, they join us in our bed. Even if we are all up at 6:30, we tend to lay their and snuggle, read books or just flat out stare at the ceiling until 7:30ish.

8:00am-9:00am- Breakfast time. Again, I leave an hour because sometimes I get delayed switching over laundry, making up beds or doing something way less productive (ahem...pinterest). The kids also will play for a bit too while I get breakfast ready.

9:00am-10:00am- Devotions/Morning reading time at the kitchen table.  I (or daddy depending on which day of the week it is) will usually read a short scripture passage with the kids and then pray with them while we are at the table. They also pray if they choose to.  Then I put a series of worship songs on my phone and read my Bible by myself while Noelle and Vivienne both "read" (meaning flip through the pages or occasionally rip them if you'er Vivienne lol) their little storybook Bibles and sing along to the worship music.  If the wheels aren't coming off, we then will read a few books of their choice.

10:00am-11:00am- I do a quick clean up from breakfast, get the girls dressed, then get them situated in their bedroom (so I can close their door to keep my Vivi from getting into things lol) and let them play together while I get dressed.

11:00am-12:30pm- Vivi takes her first nap and Noelle and I do her homeschooling "lessons" (blogpost about what we are doing for pre-school homeschooling coming soon :))

12:45pm-1:30pm- Lunch and story time at the table.

1:45pm-3:45pm- After cleaning up from lunch, this time slot is usually used for running errands, playdates, outdoor play for girls while I do housework/chores, the park etc.

4:00pm-5:00pm- Vivi takes her final nap of the day, I start making dinner and Noelle either watches a show/movie of her choice or engages in a quiet time hobby (coloring, crafting, board games etc.) She also will usually join me in the kitchen to help prepare dinner (home economics, people lol)

5:00pm-5:45pm- I put finishing touches on dinner, lay out everything needed for bath time/bedtime (pajamas, diaper, towels etc.) and the girls help me do a quick clean up of the living room and their bedroom.  At some point during this time, daddy gets home and plays with the girls as well!

5:45pm-6:30pm- Dinner at the table as a family.  Everything gets turned off and we all tune into each other to close out our night.  My husband will usually read a bit more scripture for all of us and bless the food before we eat together as well.

6:30pm-6:45pm- Daddy monitors bath time and tells stories while I clean the kitchen.  

6:45-7:00pm- Lights get turned down while my husband and I get the girls all dressed and ready for bed.  We then all snuggle up together and sing a few hymns (there's just something about singing them at bedtime, knowing that Christian mommas of old have more than likely sung them over their littles for centuries) as a family. Come Thou Fount is our current favorite.  Daddy then prays over them, we exchange an endless amount of hugs and kisses and...

7:00pm- Bedtime for the girls! We try really really hard to stick to 7pm.  There are nights when we have community group at church or decide to go out somewhere and we push it back, but most nights it's 7 sharp. We also will let Noelle stay up a bit later on Friday or Saturday night sense she's the BIG sister lol.

So there it is! Most of our days in a nutshell.  Like I said before, we are not rigid with this routine but rather use it as a general frame work.  There's always room for spontaneity and deviation, which is what our family needs with two young girlies! 

If your looking for a routine, try this out! Let me know how it goes!

Bryt xoxo

Monday, January 25, 2016

Philippians at a Glance


We are jumping into Philippians this week and I couldn't be more excited. This is yet another dynamite epistle from the Apostle Paul loaded with plenty of deep truths and practical application.  It's known as the "Book of Joy" which I believe is suitable because you can't  read the book of Philippians without getting joyful. You get that pep in your step after spending some time studying it. It's not because it's full of fluffy, light-hearted sentiments but rather demonstrates the very real and raw joy that is available to us even in the midst of trial. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter to the Philippians and without a doubt had his moments of weakness, fear and despair. BUT the sustaining force that allowed him to bear up under the pressure was the reality that he could do all things through Christ and therefore had a reason to always rejoice. 

My prayer for this week is that our hearts will echo some of the cries of Paul's heart and come to a place wherein we know in the depths of our souls that everything is loss and rubbish in comparison to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. The more we know Jesus, the more joy we will possess.

Here is my personal study plan for the week:

Monday- Read book in its entirety from start to finish several times without making any markings/notes. Again, this is to get that aerial view and greater context.
Tuesday- Same as above
Wednesday- chapter 1 in depth (commentaries, journaling, marking etc.)
Thursday- chapter 2
Friday- chapter 3
Saturday- chapter 4
Sunday- read through from start to finish several times again, making final notes etc.

Join me on social media for periodic encouragement from the book this week.
 
Facebook: @thepreciousandthepleasant
Instagram: @brytnimcneil

Would love to hear about what God reveals to you this week!

Happy reading!

Bryt xoxo