Letting Go: A Homeschool Story

I’ve been putting off this blog post for a while. Not because I feel any shame or am questioning our decision to place our three oldest children in school this year – no, it’s just that for some reason, any time I write about  MY own decisions regarding how I raise my kids, what I feed them, how I educate them, how I choose to discipline and raise them or even how I choose to birth them, I offend people. Which is the furthest thing from what I am trying to accomplish. I know a lot of our family’s decisions are not main stream, which is actually one of the reasons I like to write about them. I know I’m grateful other moms who took a more unconventional route in their lives took the time to share their experiences.

If you do find yourself feeling defensive or offended as you read this, please remember, this is not an attack on your or your decisions. I am not pro-homeschooling or anti-public school, I just want everyone to know what their options are, take time to research and think and move in the direction God leads them.

Ok, let’s get to it – the elephant in the room: I, Vanessa Fernandez, a STRONG and passionate promoter of homeschooling, have decided to place my children into ….THE SYSTEM (aka a local charter school)…. DUN DUN DUUUNNNNNNNNN!

First of all, there was not ONE solitary reason why we chose to educate our children this way, it was a very hard decisions we made, based on SEVERAL factors and we are taking it one year at a time.

I guess I’ll begin with my son.

I have been very open and honest with my struggles to educate my oldest son. He is a brilliant, amazing, articulate, sweet and beautiful soul. However, once I began more formally instructing him, I was not prepared for the battle royal that I would face each and every day.

I wrote more specifically about this in an earlier blog post – you can read it here.

I went into homeschooling our first year just wanting to have fun and figure out my children’s learning style so I could adapt my approach to them (which is one of my favorite things about homeschooling) I didn’t know what I was doing, to be quite honest, but as a child who LOVED school and learning I was surprised when my son gave me such push back and seemed not to be able to focus or progress in reading and phonics specifically.

Year two I kept trying different things (all in all we went through six different reading/phonics curriculums) but I also had a clingy-needy baby and two other children to juggle and the battle to teach my son was exhausting me. I felt like 100% of our school time was spend calming tantrums and working through character issues. I was fine with this, because I believe that building character is a HUGE component of a well-rounded education. And if I’ve being honest, we did a ton of great stuff in year two! We upped our memory work, our bare bones curriculum was getting a boost from science, latin, doing a co-op that was heavily math/logic focused, our read-aloud time was amazing and we dove into some great classics.

Reading was our achilles heel. (I more recently found out he has an eye convergence and brain integration issue that we have been doing daily therapy to try and correct and that was probably a big issue as to why he was so resistant to reading)

What saddened me the most however, because I was fine with my son being 8 or 9 or even 10 until he learned to read, was my daughter. My sweet second born, the most gentle, beautiful, kind creature you ever met. She LOVED school. She was EAGER to learn. She was almost at my son’s same reading level – with practically zero instruction. And that is what broke my heart. I was not able to invest time with her, because my son was taking all my time, energy and focus.

So, all this is brewing…now enter factor #2: Beachbody

I am a Beachbody coach and I started about four and a half years ago – before we started homeschooling, before my fourth child was born (more on her later!) and over time it has grown tremendously! It is a large part of our family’s income, we rely on it to pay bills, get out of debt, etc. I LOVE it, and my team is growing and my clients are some of my favorite people.

As homeschooling, and raising four kids and my business were all GROWING UP together, they were ALL needing more and more of my time and focus.

I was actually 100% ok with quitting my job to focus on my children and their education. In order for that to be financially possible, we were going to have to move to a city with lower cost of living (we currently live in Miami, FL). So, my husband tried, for TWO YEARS, to find employment in another city. Countless interviews, flying all over the country, our hopes would get up and then, something wouldn’t be right and we’d be back to the drawing board.

As each month and each year would pass, we kept feeling like something had to give, it was an extremely difficult time. (there’s so much I could write….but this post is already long enough!)

The third factor, and this is going to sound SO WRONG, but it’s just the truth, our fourth child. She is magic. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you see how much I am obsessed with her. I will shamelessly tell anyone that she is the CUTEST child ever created, and yet….how do I put this nicely….she is FIRE.

From the day I found I was unexpectedly pregnant, to the pregnancy-long, debilitating “morning sickness” (that I got mostly at night), to her newborn stage where she practically LIVED in her Solly Wrap, to her ability to get into and create chaos in ways her three older siblings never even considered.

I thought adding one more would be no big deal, I felt like a pretty seasoned, bad-ass, mom of three – boy, was I wrong. The tantrums, the spirit, the sass – is like no other. I truly feel that THIS factor, beyond all the others, has been the biggest determinant for our decision. This sweet baby has broken me down and made it virtually impossible for me to fulfill all of the things that were asked of me as a homeschooling mom, Beachbody coach, wife, friend, keeper of the home, and all the rest.

I know that God brought her into our family for MANY reasons (she is pure SUNSHINE you guys, If you are around her, you feel it – her smile is brilliant, and her energy is pure gold) but I believe one of them was truly to humble me.

Now that you have a lay of the land, the issues with educating my son, the eagerness of my second oldest daughter to learn, the increasing demands of my wonderful coaching business, the handful of my fourth child and the inability to leave our high cost city in south florida, here’s what happened next:

The ONLY school that we would ever consider sending our children to in Miami was a small charter classical school in South Miami (about an hour drive from where we lived), but the wait list to get in was enormous and we had tried once a few years ago, but weren’t selected.

After having applied to SO MANY different jobs all around the country, my husband noticed this school had a job opening for a History teacher. “Should I apply for it?” He asked me.

“Sure, why not?! Nothing else has worked out, I doubt it will, but go for it.” (so much faith I had!)

It was amazing how quickly the interview was set up, the job offer came within two weeks, it was a raise from his previous position and the kids would be allowed to attend. Not only that, moving closer to the school would allow us to rent out the home we owned and increase our monthly income.

All of the puzzle pieces that weren’t fitting, seemed to find resolution in THIS opportunity.

My son would get a little distance from me (all of these learning battles had been good and not so good for our relationship) and some dedicated tutoring in reading (one that wouldn’t be interrupted by little miss sunshine every fourth word).

My daughter would get to learn to her little heart’s content.

I would have a few kid-free hours each day to dedicate to my growing business.

My husband would be teaching in a school where he aligned with the teaching philosophy and methodology (His work situation previous to this was abysmal, but that’s a WHOLE other story)

So, we prayed about it and felt like this was where God was leading us and our family.

Have there been growing pains? Yes.

Do I miss homeschooling? Absolutely, cried my eyes out for a whole day last week.

Is this an answer to prayer and a great solution for us during this year? Absolutely.

Will I return to homeschooling one day? I wouldn’t be surprised at all!

I am actually working on a guide that will help families who appreciate and desire some of the perks of homeschooling but aren’t able to traditionally homeschool. I’ve actually been able to implement a lot of the rhythms, read-alouds, narration, nature walks and socratic conversations into our day and still feel like that heart of a homeschooler can be expressed whether you homeschool exclusively or do a hybrid or have them full time in school. It’s been fun to explore and I can’t wait to share more.

I hope this post is helpful, not just to satisfy any curiosity you may have had about our situation, but also to encourage you that there can be beauty in submitting to God’s will – even if it’s not what you always envisioned it would be.

I know a HUGE lesson for me through this time has been surrender. I did NOT want to have to give up homeschooling. I thought I could just muscle through – I could do it all, I just needed better systems, curriculum, etc. When in the end, God pushed me to my limit, encouraged me to let go, and has been walking with me through each step.

Letting go some of my control over my kids, over our finances, over my schedule and day is not my favorite lesson, but I guess it’s not just the kids who are learning new things this year.

 

Where Does Confidence Come From?

What creates confidence?
What takes it away?

Are some born with a larger measure and others born with less?

Courage or the lack thereof is a result of self talk.
Courage is a feeling, and our feelings are a result of what we believe is true about the world and about ourselves.

When we believe, for example, we are ABSOLUTELY going to perform something flawlessly, those thoughts and beliefs translate into the feeling of courage and confidence. When we believe that we are missing the tools, knowledge and experience to perform how we need to or see a pattern of falling short we let those thoughts and beliefs produce the feeling of fear or lack of courage.
If therefore, we can change the narrative, self-talk and beliefs we hold, the feeling of confidence can be altered. Anyone remember the movie Dumbo? He had the ability to fly, but not the belief, at least, not until he had a little black feather to trick his mind into believing he could. So many times, I have been able to banish fear, simply through the awareness of what was going on in my brain and a pep talk that usually goes something like this: “Everything is figureoutable, if others have done it, why can’t I?? Fail forward and find your way Vanessa!!”

Can we increase the amount of confidence we have?
Does confidence equal arrogance or is it something different?
Can we have too much confidence?

I’ve been wrestling with these questions for a little while now. The more I work with women who are pursuing fitness and business goals, confidence level seems to be one of the greatest factors that affects the success or failure of each individual.

I am looking forward to unpacking this concept more in the coming months, but here are some of my first thoughts.

 

Here’s the problem, this pep talk practice works only sometimes: for example, when one of my children has a tantrum in the grocery store, I can remind myself that this is simply ONE instance that does not characterize my entire motherhood or my worth as a mom. But what happens when my children are throwing tantrums MULTIPLE times a day, every day of the week for a few weeks at a time?

I don’t know about you, but it’s very hard for me to believe the positive self-talk, when everything in my mind is screaming “LIAR!” Sometimes, things are just too discouraging and the failure looks TOO real. How do we build up confidence then?
What do I tell my clients who have 100+lbs to lose and have never been consistent in their workouts? What do I tell my friend who has been applying to medical school for two years and has gotten rejection letter after rejection letter? How do we self-talk our way out of discouragement and into confidence without lying to ourselves about the very real discouragements and failings we’ve experienced?

 

For me, this is where I have to consider a deeper truth. If I DID have children who never threw tantrums, if I DID have that 100lb weight loss, if I DID get accepted to the top medical school…does that mean I am MORE worthy? Does that mean I am a better person than someone who didn’t? Where does worthiness and acceptance come from? Is it purely from achievement or mastery?

You see, I believe that if our confidence takes a hit when we fall short of our expectations for our lives, then we have placed our worthiness in the wrong thing in the first place.

 

Instead of my self talk sounding like this: “Vanessa, you are a great mom and you are raising amazing children.” (To which my brain can easily should “BULLSHIT” because at this moment in time, my children are anything but amazing and my mothering is inconsistent, selfish and lazy at best) My self-talk can sound more like this: “Vanessa, your mothering skills need work, and your children are not thriving at the moment – things are not as they should be or as you would like – but this does not DEFINE you or determine your worth. You are a daughter of God, you are loved DEEPLY by HIM and your efforts to mother well, while important, are not the things that give you value.”

 

Do you see how that shifts the paradigm completely? Now, I can eat healthy and workout from a place of ALREADY being worthy and confident in who I am! I can apply to medical school knowing that my life is a wonderful gift and I am loved no matter the outcome. This type of self-talk gives me confidence and courage to STAY IN THE GAME and not eject myself out of fear.

Because that is the greatest tragedy, at least in my opinion, is when we lose confidence and courage and stop trying all together. We march through life with our head held down, never attempting anything great, never leaping into that thing that we are intrigued by but takes courage to pursue. This “half-way

 

living” isn’t living at all. Call me crazy, but I’d rather believe that I am loved, worthy, incredibly and valuable, just as I am – and live life to the HILT (even if all my endeavors fall short of my hopes and expectations) than to let my worth lie in my achievement and shut down and never actually live.

So, here’s my question for you – where does your worth lie? What makes you a valuable person of society? Is it your dress size? Your bank account? Is it the accolades you have won? Is it the behavior of your children or the state of your home? Is it a relationship and feeling like another person loves or approves of you?

 

If it is, you will have zero confidence (unless you can get all those things to the level of perfection that you have decided is “enough”) and never be able to get out of the “low confidence loop”. So come and join me! Place your value and worth where it should be and let’s move into 2018 with CONFIDENCE in spades.

It’s not something you can believe only once – it’s a daily practice of reminding yourself where your worth lies, it’s why I practice affirmations (or, if that word

 

bothers you, I practice telling myself TRUTH so I don’t believe the lies) every morning and EVERY evening. Confidence must be fought for, day in and day out – but I believe, yes, it CAN grow, and when it does – it changes EVERYTHING!

My Favorite Things: A Gift Guide

My Favorite Things: a gift guide for mamas who don't know what to ask for

I’ve seen this question pop up from time to time in my mommy groups – mom’s everywhere, not sure what they want for Christmas. I get it! We get so caught up in the day to day, diapers and laundry and it’s hard to even think about what we’d like (other than a night off or a kid-free trip to Target)

So, here are a few of my very FAVORITE things, if you are looking to add to your list! (Some of these are black friday sales, so they are time sensitive, I will try to indicate if that is the case)

$10 and under

NYX Matte Lip Creme (my favorite color is ROME)

NYX Liquid Suede Creme Lipstick (Kitten Heels is the BEST red)

Dance Stand Run by Jess Connoly (and the devotional, and the DVD set, it’s amazing, get it all!)

Ghee from 4th and Heart (The chocolate and Truffle infused flavors look incredible!)

Hearth and Hand Black Matte Baking supplies (I love to bake and these measuring cups and spoons are just dreamy)

$20 and under

Aerie Boho Lace Plunge Bralette

Aerie Chill High Waisted Legging

Woodwick Candle (hands down, best candle out there, forever and ever amen)

Piper Wai Natural Deodorant (because I’m still struggling to spend $11 on deodorant, so if I call it a Christmas gift, it doesn’t feel so bad)

Always Enough, Never Too Much Devotional (the companion to Wild and Free, another book I should probably add to this list)

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp (or, you know, anything by Ann Voskamp)

Wooden Hangers (I know, I’m being a total mom and putting a boring home necessity on my Christmas list, but having a closet full of wooden hangers has always been my dream!)

$50 and under

Aerie Play Cuffed Legging

Virago Babe False Lashes Virginia

Herbivore Pink Clay Mask

Swell Teakwood Water Bottle

AdoreMe Pajamas (currently on sale for $19.95, but normally $49.95. The Matilda and Valeria are my two favorites)

Splurges

Nisolo Sofia Slip-On Sand

Nisolo Smoking Shoe Black

Kate Spade Brighton Park Pebble Travel Leslie (currently discounted from $649 to $199 for Black Friday – hurry!!)

Madewell High Rise Skinny Jeans 

 

Alright my friends – update your list’, send this over to your loved one or, in the words of two of my favorite characters on television: TREAT YO SELF!

24 Days of Holiday Activities

24 Days of Holiday Activities for Kids

I LOOOOOOOOVE Christmas.
It’s just, the best. All the little things are my favorite.

The decorating, the smells, the music, the baking the lights, the candles, picking out the perfect gifts.

Having kids takes it to a whole other level. Their excitement and wonder is infectious, but, as with most things that are done with kids – it can be messy and chaotic.

I am not on Christmas number EIGHT with kids – and with four littles I am learning to do LESS and plan MORE.

So, here are the activities I have planned for us to do. I am starting TODAY on November 14th, because, try as I might, I NEVER have the energy or ability to do something EVERY SINGLE DAY during the holiday season.

We are stretching 24 days of activities over 42 days. This is going to be just perfect for us. It works out to about 3 days a week, until the week before Christmas when we will have something every single day.

In addition to giving ourselves more time to enjoy Christmas, I am also planning ahead like WHOA. You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I planned out each day, and went shopping today for all the little things I will need for each craft and each activity. I labeled 24 brown paper bags, one for each day, and filled it with all the supplies I will need for each day.

Some days don’t have anything inside, except a piece of paper telling us what we are doing that day. Other bags are filled to almost bursting (the day we are making a homemade gingerbread house has SO much candy and decorations!).

I have also included in each bag a reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible, so I don’t have to search for it, it’s already planned out.

I’m really excited, I think we might have a CHANCE of enjoying these activities and crafts…but you know, with four kids, I’m sure we’ll have some less than picture perfect Christmas memories as well! And that’s ok.

Here is the list that I made for us:

If you want to download the PDF to print, click here –> 24 Days of Activities for Christmas.

I’ve also compiled every craft and recipe we are doing on a Pinterest board – it doesn’t have a million pins, JUST the ones that correspond with this list.

Ok – my kids are begging me to get off the computer so we can start day 1!! Here we go!

Finding Freedom in a Laundry Basket

There is this area in my life that I have been trying to get ahold of for YEARS and yet, despite my many promises to myself to “do better” and “try harder” I seem to fail and fail time after time.

Keeping my house clean.

You might think I’d be embarrassed to admit that so publicly, but let’s not kid ourselves, we all have those areas – right? I mean, maybe you are perfect and are in control and living exactly how you’d like to live, but I am going to go out on a limb and guess that you have similar areas in your life. Areas that are ALWAYS bothering you, that you wish you could get control over but just never seem to be able to.

Shame lives in darkness, so I’m bringing it out in the light – airing my dirty laundry (which I seem to always have a lot of in this house) but not just for the purpose of venting or being gross or having a pity-party, but because I’ve had a minor break-through and I’m hoping it will help you as well!

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So, in all my years as a fitness coach and business mentor, it is my job to help people have breakthroughs in areas where in the past they have failed and the biggest mistake people make when they try to change behavior is just that – they try to change BEHAVIOR. You can try to pull apples off an apple tree and staple oranges on it all day, but it won’t be long before the rotting oranges fall off and apples grow once more.

Behavior is a SYMPTOM of mindset. We all do what we WANT or what we believe is best. Until we change our MINDSET, and tap into a deeper motivation or belief, and get the ROOT fixed, the fruit and behavior will never change.

Buying a new workout program, joining a business opportunity, putting together a budget or chore chart, those are all well and good, but they won’t last, unless the mindset has shifted.

So, first I had to identify what my CURRENT mindset was when it came to keeping my home clean. What were some of the thoughts and core beliefs I had? I actually wrote them down, and here’s what I came up with:

  • I have four small kids, our house will never be clean.
  • In order to have a clean house I’d have to be one of those uptight, anxious, no fun, anal people that makes everyone uncomfortable when they come over, and I don’t want to be like that.
  • Having a clean house would require me to be cleaning 24/7 and I’d rather be present with my children, not worth it.

It’s the mindset that stops us isn’t it? I had convinced myself that all this was true. I’d tell myself these things over and over, even though I was incredibly unhappy with how our home was kept, I just believed it wasn’t possible, or the sacrifice I’d have to make wasn’t worth it.

It wasn’t until just a week ago, when we had to evacuate because of Hurricane Irma and ended up staying with a good friend on mine in Orlando that all my “reasons” disappeared.

We were graciously hosted by my friend Sarah, who has three children, the same ages as my older three and is pregnant with her fourth. She works a full time job, has a husband and of course the kids to care for, and is a Beachbody coach to boot! Yet, somehow, her home was so clean, and organized and well kept and peaceful and comfortable and I never felt like the kids couldn’t be kids, and I never felt like she was stressed or overwhelmed or missing out on time with her kids because she was scrubbing the floors all the time.

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I’m sure she’d tell you she gets tired by the end of the day (she is growing another human after all), but during the week we were staying with her, I saw her constantly taking an extra minute or two (that’s really all it took) to clean a dish in the sink, wipe down a counter top or table and put away the toys the kids had finished playing with. Probably what had my jaw on the floor the most was when she pulled a load of laundry out of the dryer, folded it all and put everything away, all at the same time.

You can do that?!?!

Never in my life had I actually done all of those steps all together in one day: wash, dry, fold and put away.
(gosh, we are REALLY getting into some embarrassing reveals here aren’t we?)

Something finally clicked for me.

Having lots of kids didn’t mean it would be IMPOSSIBLE for me to have a clean home.
I could work hard to maintain a clean home without being uptight and making guests feel uncomfortable.
I could still spend beautiful, quality time being present with my children and just do the laundry all at once after they are in bed.

Seeing someone in MY SHOES, doing what I thought could not be done gave me such HOPE. It allowed me to believe it was possible and made me actually want to work hard to make it happen.

Over the past three days we have been home, I have never felt so happy with our little place. I cleaned, organized, threw out unnecessary clutter and have consistently maintained our home to a level I have NEVER in my life done before. I even washed, dried, folded and put away a load of laundry all in one day.

Being a visual person who thrives on beauty, I had no idea how much it was affecting me to be living in such a dirty and cluttered home. I even feel like I am more thankful and in love with our home now that I am showing it some love (which is actually the same thing that happened when I started working out and eating well, I started loving my body more, just from the sheer action of being kinder to it).

Taking care of my home isn’t a waste of time, like I thought it was, in fact, if my home is clean and peaceful and under control it can be a place of SERVICE to others – just like Sara’s home was to us while we were fleeing the storm.

I guess I am writing all this to say, if there is an area of your life that you are unhappy with, but you are CONVINCED there’s nothing you can do about it, maybe it’s in the area of health and fitness, maybe you want to start a business, or a blog, or a YouTube channel, want to write a book or pay off a large amount of debt….dig a little deeper. What are the “reasons” you are giving yourself for why you can’t. Are they ACTUALLY true? You will never attempt something until you BELIEVE it might be possible.

Is there someone in your life that you can go to, watch, learn from and be ignited with a spark of HOPE? Sometimes that’s all it takes, to see someone doing all the things you thought couldn’t be done!

Maybe, all the hard work to get healthy, build that business, live frugally, keep the house clean, seems like a drag, but time after time I am learning, it’s actually just the payment for a much richer, happier, peaceful and wonderful life.

Healthy Meals and Snacks for Kids

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When I first started making small healthy changes in my life I knew my kid’s eating habits also needed to change, but being that I was already overwhelmed with just ME – I decided to table that for the moment. I focused on what I was eating, getting into a routine and finding recipes that I liked and that worked for our budget and then – I could focus on the kids.

Well, a funny thing happened. As I slowly started to change what was on my plate, my curious little humans would inevitably sneak over and peek in and ask me: “Mommy, what’s that?” “Mommy, what are those?”

They were so curious and I would take a leaf of spinach and offer it to them. Or take a roasted beet and give them a taste. Sometimes they would like it, sometimes they would make a face and give it back.

Then, when I started learning about sugar addiction and how powerful it is (To watch my video series on sugar addiction, click here) I really buckled down and decided that I needed to start to phase out sugar. If I could reduce it or remove as much of it from my children’s diet as possible, I could stop it from having such a stronghold over them in the future.

My personal struggle with sugar addiction has been long and hard and I knew I wanted better for my children. (My story of sugar addiction is here) So I started making healthier treats for me and the kids. I got them involved with the making of them – things like three ingredient pancakes and chia seed pudding. They loved them and so I stopped buying the cookies and animal crackers that I was used to buying them and one by one, the unhealthy food started being replaced by the healthier foods. And one by one, overwhelming things, like making my own granola, started to become second nature.

But it’s hard! And I remember knowing that I didn’t want my kids eating sugary cereal for breakfast, goldfish for snack, frozen chicken nuggets for lunch, cookies for snack #2 and then picking at their dinner and begging for ice cream afterward. I just didn’t know what to give them instead.

So, here are my favorite healthy substitutions for some of the unhealthy things my kids used to eat, and even better – these are some of my KIDS favorite things now too!!

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(disclaimer – I have FOUR kids. They each have their own favorite healthy foods and that’s ok. My husband and I don’t like the same things. I would HATE it if my husband FORCED me to eat HIS favorite healthy snacks, so I don’t MAKE my kids eat ONE particular healthy thing. Through trial and error I started offering them all sorts of healthy things and when we found something they liked, we went with it.

Also, I always eat the healthy things WITH them. At first, they were wary of hummus, but I was eating it and I gave it to them to try with some multi-seed crackers. They took little tiny licks of it, and then a little bit more, and the next thing I knew they had their fingers in the hummus and were finishing off the container. Next time, I brought out carrots and bell peppers to dip in the hummus. One of my children liked the carrots in the hummus – the others prefer the peppers. Small changes, being patient and modeling the behavior you want to see are all SUPER important with kids)

Breakfast:

Cereal was always a staple for me and the kids, but MAAAAN cereal is EXPENSIVE (as is milk) and FULL of sugar, and in an hour my kids were complaining that they were hungry! So I knew this was one of the first things that had to go!

Here are some of the healthier options I rotate with my kids now:

  • Scrambled eggs with cheese
  • Multi-grain toast with peanut butter
  • Whole grain waffles with peanut butter and banana slices and chia seeds
  • Whole Milk yogurt with fresh fruit and homemade granola
  • Daily Sunshine smoothie
  • Three Ingredient Pancakes
  • Oatmeal (not the packets that are filled with sugar and expensive, but just old fashioned oats from the big cylinder. I let the kids choose their toppings: honey, maple syrup, raisins, pecans, chia seeds, peanut butter, coconut flakes, berries – they love it!)

Snacks

Snacks were the next thing on my list to change. Crackers, crackers, crackers, and cookies and chips. Ugh!! I hated it, but I literally couldn’t think of anything else to give my kids for snack. NOW these are our favorite snacks and I literally don’t buy any crackers, cookies or chips anymore (and it helps my grocery budget SO much!!).

  • Carrots & Peppers with hummus
  • Fruit (Apples and Bananas are staples, but we usually just go with whatever is in season)
  • Popcorn (not the kind you microwave, but air popped on the stovetop. We LOOOOVE our Whirley Pop but you can do it in a regular pot as well. This way we control how much salt and butter goes on and again, it’s WAY cheaper to buy the corn in bulk than to get the microwave packets)
  • Daily Sunshine smoothie
  • Cheese sticks

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Lunch

I still feel like I could use some improvement in my lunches, but here’s what I have so far!

Dinner

When it comes to dinner, they eat what we eat. I encourage them to eat at least three bites. Maybe it’s just my kids, but dinner is their LEAST consumed meal. They pick at it (well everyone except my oldest who is growing and consuming everything in sight) and push it around their plate. Foods they loved just the day before (like rice) all of a sudden they don’t like anymore. Frustration central.

So, I have my three bite rule, I sit with them (when I have the patience) and make the fork into a choo choo train or an airplane and help them finish a few more bites. In the end if they are just NOT having it, (and they’ve gotten in their three bites) I’ll give them some Daily Sunshine for “dessert” , they think they’ve “won” but really…I’m the winner here.

Treats

I really do try to limit sugar AS MUCH as possible for my kiddos – which is no easy feat. Not having it in the house makes it a LOT easier!!! But they are kids, and they still want some treats, so here are a few of our favorites.

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I hope these ideas are helpful to you. Again, take it slow with your kids, change one thing at a time. Food is a comfort and when it is changing it can feel disorienting and scary for adults and especially for kids.

The exciting thing is – if we can change their eating habits NOW they won’t have to undo as much damage later. If we can keep our kids from being the 1 in 3 that are overweight right now in America, we can teach them how to love and fuel their bodies and hopefully keep them from feelings of shame or self-loathing.

WE have to model it first and foremost – we can’t force anything on them, but through leading by example and making small changes to their diet, over time I think you will find that you can make a world of difference in your child’s life!

If You Get Lost You Can Always Be Found

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A major focus of my blog is an appeal that the “hard” things we shrink back from, are actually the GOOD things that in the end will make our lives better. Daily workouts, clean eating, natural child birth, homeschooling, building a business from home….and now, living abroad.

These things aren’t for everyone, but I feel like most of the time people focus on how DIFFICULT they all are, when in reality, when you push INTO the hard, they can be INCREDIBLY rewarding and beautiful.

But in order to do that I have to acknowledge the hard.

Yesterday was our first full day in Merida, Mexico and it was hard. We are on full sensory overload, everything looks different, smells different, sounds different. Simple things like grocery shopping are confusing and overwhelming. Add to that, four crazy kids who are constantly running all around and more than a few miscommunications between the hubby and I (oh, and NO ONE napped yesterday – no one.) and ya, it was a hard day.

Here’s the thing. IT’S OK. It’s ok to have hard days. It’s ok to try things that don’t always work. A lot of times trying things that don’t work is the only way to know it doesn’t work. Miscommunications help you communicate better. Naps missed are always terrible, sorry, no way to sugar coat that one.

So, here’s the story:

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EVERYONE wakes up at 5am, because it’s one hour different and everyone is in new, strange beds and bedrooms. Mama didn’t get her early morning time and half the bags were still yet to be unpacked. Daddy was anxious to get out and see the city and the sights, but mama wanted to settle in, organize the house and get her bearings.

Daddy’s pressure made Mama stressed, finally out in the neighborhood we go, only to be completely overwhelmed at the grocery store – kids are knocking down large, perfectly stacked mountains of fruit and asking for every new and exciting sweet treat that we don’t have in the states. Daddy and Mama are trying to convert Kilos to Pounds and Pesos to Dollars, baby is hungry and cranky.

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Finally we make it home (walking half a mile in 90 degree heat each way) and try to put everyone down for naps. SURELY they are tired. Nope, after several attempts, tantrums and desperate pleas, we give up and decide to go to the local park. Only now, it’s the HOTTEST (and I mean HOTTEST) time of the day. Which is the reason we were trying to get the kids to rest, so we could stay out later and enjoy the COOL evening. But kids don’t understand things like that.

So we are melting into the pavement, but make it to the local park, which has a small playground made entire out of METAL. The kids tried their best, they even used some of my baby wipes to place on the see saw seats so they could play one it without burning their little bottoms.

We didn’t last long, but saw on google maps that there was an dessert place just a few blocks away. We were promising our kids something sweet and delicious if they would just keep walking a few more steps!! Only, as we got to the spot, there was no dessert place. Nothing, just a house. We almost had a mutiny on our hands.

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Finally as we walked back, we found the cutest little food truck with agua fresca, kombucha and smoothies. The kids got their sweet treat, and a respite in the shade and we learned our lesson – no going out in the heat of the day.

Dinner finally got done at 8:30pm (and I literally just made fried potatoes and onions….I don’t even know what happened) and we all collapsed into bed.

There you have it. Day one. I won’t detail EVERY day for you over this next month – but day one was all sorts of challenging, overwhelming and hot as heck and still good, and learning and stretching and moving outside of our comfort zone is never easy, but when we do it we grow.

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Here’s to much more growth (and naps!) over the next four weeks!

A Homeschooling Story

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“Ok Vanessa, you can do this!
You were homeschooled, sure it was like 20+years ago when you were in 1st grade and you were a kid so you weren’t taking notes from your mom, and you had no idea how much pressure you’d feel being completely responsible for the intellectual formation of one of the human beings you love most in the entire world, but it’s 1st grade…how hard can it be?”

Just a little pep talk I gave myself at the beginning of the year.

When we started this year of homeschooling I felt like it was my first “real” year. I had to officially send in our letter of intent to the State of Florida, letting them know – we are DOING this. I will be taking FULL responsibility of the education of my son this year, thank you very much.

Fhew! Totally scary. Not going to lie.

I had a newborn at the beginning of the year, so I kept thing VERY simple. We would do Phonics, Math, History and Bible. No frills, no co-ops, no involved science experiments, no Latin or science fairs. I know other moms who did all of the above (and more) and some even gave birth and had newborns during this school year – I just knew my capacity and went with that.

I was anticipating a crazy year of homeschooling (in addition to my newborn, I also had a VERY energetic and attention needing three year old, a sweet five year old and then my first grader) but what I was not anticipating, was a child who did not want to learn to read.

Nope. He was not having it. We tried several different approaches, four reading curriculums, prizes, songs, games, threats, rewards – anything I could think of and yet – to no avail.FullSizeRender

Apparently, if a child does not WANT to learn, you cannot MAKE them learn! What a concept!

And I was faced with a very difficult inner dialogue.

“What if this isn’t the best way to educate? What if I’m not a good teacher? We keep butting heads. This isn’t working. I thought education at this age is supposed to be fun. I must be doing this wrong.”

Yup, one year in and this girl who LOVES school, was homeschooled herself, has been looking forward to this for YEARS, was ready to throw in the towel.

Thankfully I have been surrounded by an amazing community of more seasoned moms – moms who remind me that the goal of homeschooling isn’t for the child to master a certain skill set by a certain date. We are creating LIFE-LONG learners. We are investing in character as well as intellect and it is as much MY character that is being built as his.

Throughout the year I have seen a change in my heart – from one of despair, discouragement and failure, to one of hope, trust in God and patience.

I am called to be faithful, to teach daily, to model hard work and a love for learning. (Now if only I can remember that at the end of every lesson gone wrong!)

I have seen myself changing from the mom sitting two inches from my child’s face, pointing at each word saying “what’s this word, sound it out, sound it out, what is that letter? Common, you know this, read the word.” Veins popping out, stressed, striving. To the mom who prays before EVERY lesson, encourages every small victory, has set aside the reading curriculum for now, and simply enjoys reading stories aloud IMG_5328together, focusing more on the areas he DOES love to learn in – math and history. Spending lots of time outside, exploring the world and talking about what we observe.

For a goal-oriented, book loving, first time, “am I doing this right?!” mom, this has been my biggest victory. My homeschooling story is a humbling story. It’s certainly not the story I thought I would have, but it’s OUR story and I’m thankful for it.

Congratulations to my sweet children for enduring their crazy mama this year!
Congratulations to my son for completing the first grade and my daughter for gracefully completing kindergarten.
Congratulations to my three year old for always needing to poop RIGHT when we are at the most crucial moment in our lesson.
Congratulations to my sweet 10 month old baby, for nursing and sleeping anywhere and everywhere this year.
Congratulations to my husband for supporting me EVERY day, listening to my fears and wiping my tears.

One year down. 18(ish) to go!

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Slow Days Ahead

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Hey friends!!!
Gosh, I haven’t had this long of a hiatus from blogging since starting, over three years ago.

The reason for it was simple, I felt the Lord pressing on my heart: “Do less, be more present. Be fiercely devoted to your priorities and do away with all that is secondary.”

My poor sweet little blog, although massively important to me, and always will be a part of my life, needed to take a back seat for a bit. But, in the past few weeks I’ve felt the need to get back to it – content ideas stirring up inside – excitement to get writing again….and there’s also a new chapter in our life that may be fun to document.

You see, in addition to my blog taking a back seat, my husband and I have been having many – many long, late night talks about our life. How do we want to live? What kind of priorities do we have as a couple and are we honoring those priorities? How can we live more slowly, more intentionally and prepare now for future ministry?

We threw around several ideas, and some of them had potential, but none of them fit 100%. You see, our goals in life, as we prayed and talked and prayed some more, seemed to always revolve around these core thing:

– A desire to live for MORE than the status quo and the “American Dream”.
– A rejection of the accumulation of THINGS and debt and being a consumer of entertainment and addicted to comfort.
– A desire to be a strong, stable family, emotionally, spiritually and financially, so our home can be a place of ministry.

Living abroad with our family kept coming up as something we would like to do in the next 5 years. It just seemed to fit with all of our goals and vision.

And then, we both had a crazy idea (we actually came up with the idea SEPARATELY on the same day, and when I told Fernando I needed to talk to him about something, he said, “Me too!” and it was absolutely INSANE when we both had the same idea, same country and all…)- why not try it out this summer?

My husband is a teacher and has the summers off, we’ve ALWAYS wanted to travel with the kids during the summer but I was either pregnant, giving birth or we were broke.

I can’t believe this is really  happening, but….the tickets have been purchased, the AirBnB is reserved, we will be spending one month this summer in Mérida Mexico.

We truly have no connections to this place, no family, friends or churches that we know, but surprisingly almost everyone I’ve spoken to about this knows someone who lives or has lived there, and we’ve got several great people over there that we are talking to and a little community waiting to receive us and give us tips and help.

Mérida is a historic and beautiful city, from what we gather, and we are thrilled Merida07to get to take our kids out of the country, live with the locals, improve our Spanish and bond together as a family unit.

Who knows what the next 5 years may hold, and if we end up living long term out of the country at some point. These summer travel plans and these principals around which we are building our lives may not be popular or understood by most, but there’s something SO freeing to take action on a big decision and KNOW that it lines up PERFECTLY with your core beliefs and values.

It’s literally a dream come true and to think that this is only possible because of the flexibility I have to build my business ANYWHERE and the amazing income to support us while we are there!

Something in my bones tells me this trip will be pivotal in our family’s history – I can’t wait to go (trials and all, because I know there will be bumps along the road).

Mexico – here we come!!

FitMom Tip #1 – Believe You Can (and ditch the excuses)

If you don’t know already, I love – LOVE learning, growing and sharing that knowledge with others. It’s kind of my obsession. So, I am thrilled to indroduce you to my latest project: FitMom Tips. They are quick, informative and the perfect little pep-talk for busy moms who need to be reminded to keep their health a priority.

I know that none of us has a lot of time, but sometimes even just the smallest reminder or tip can make a world of difference in our day – so here is FitMom Tip #1 and it’s all about belief. If you are constantly telling yourself you can’t, and rehearsing all the reasons why it won’t work for you – you are guaranteeing it won’t. If you have ANY desire whatsoever to get healthier, change bad habits and establish good ones – you’ve got to silence the excuses in your head (because there is ALWAYS a way) and BELIEVE.