Monthly Archives: August 2013

Monthly Menu Planning – How I Make It Work For Me

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monthly menu planning

I have known for a long time that menu planning is one of the most important things I can do to help me stay sane. In my opinion there is nothing worse than trying to decide at 5 p.m. what to cook for supper.  You know, when the kids are whining, your hubby comes home from work hungry and all you want to do is pull your hair out and hit the closest drive thru.  I’m sure we’ve all been there.  Menu planning is a key component to help me keep the day running smoothly.

On the flip side, I also like some “wiggle room”. I like to be spontaneous at times. Sometimes I want the freedom to cook whatever it is that I’m craving. Sometimes I find a really good deal on chicken at the grocery store and need to cook it right away.

What’s a girl to do?

I tried weekly menu planning. I tried really hard. But the days seem so short when I do that and it seemed like I was always planning my menu. Then I would forget that I needed to make another plan and a day would slip by with no plan. Or two. Or a week.

Ahem.  Let’s just say that it didn’t work for me.

So I went about trying to figure out what would work for me.  And what I finally came up with was a modified version of monthly menu planning.

Since I wanted it to be flexible I decided to leave one day a week free (Thursdays) because I generally go grocery shopping on Wednesday or Thursday.  Then if I find a great deal on pork/beef/chicken/whatever I can cook whatever I want without “messing up” my menu plan.  {I am under the misconception that because it’s written down that means it is set in stone.} Having a free day also helps if I have leftovers that need to be eaten or we decide to go out to eat one night (it is very seldom, but it does happen).  And if I don’t find a good sale or we don’t have leftovers I know I always have something in the freezer or pantry that I can throw together for a quick meal.  Breakfast for supper, anyone?

Sorry, I have to get off on a side rant here.  I’m sure there is some chemical or psychological imbalance in me that demands a calendar to be perfect at all times.  I detest marking things out or not completing an item.  A missed appointment haunts me all month.  A changed menu item bugs me for days.  Does anyone else feel this way? No?  Well, ok then.  Carry on.

Anyway, my point is that for too long I used this as an excuse not to meal plan.  When you don’t want to do something it’s really hard to get motivated enough to do it, no matter how much it may benefit you.

So I changed the way I did things.  Instead of writing down my menu on my calendar I started writing each meal on a small sticky note.

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Simple solution to a problem that had been plaguing me for months.

I have a monthly menu that can easily be changed to fit my circumstances.  If I decide on Wednesday that I’m not in the mood for baked cod I can just switch it with another meal.  Added bonus:  I don’t have to rewrite them.  When I’ve used that meal I can just take it off the calendar and stick it to the wall to be used again later.  Or stick it directly on the calendar several weeks in advance.  I save paper and time.

At the moment I am just planning for supper meals.  My husband is gone during breakfast and lunch on the weekdays.  The kids and I generally eat the same things for breakfast (although I’m thinking about expanding on that soon).  Lunch is usually either leftovers or something simple.  As the kids get older (read: eat more) this may change again… I might need a dedicated calendar just for menu planning.  But for now, this is working well for me.

And for the record, yes, I have tried to write my menu plan down elsewhere.  I lose it or forget about it.  I check my calendar all the time so that’s the most logical place for me to put it.   And I’m sure some of you are wondering why I don’t just write in pencil.  Good question.  Simple answer is: I don’t like them.  And yes, I know I have issues. 🙂

I hope this helps someone who may be dealing with the same what’s-for-supper woes.  Even if you try this method and it doesn’t work for you, keep trying until you find something that does.  Tweak things here and there and make it your own.  If it works for you that’s all that matters!

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Our Adventures in Homeschooling: Week 2 Review

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our adventures in homeschooling

Previous posts in this series:
To Home School Or Not to Home School?
Our Adventures in Homeschooling:  Pre-K Curriculum and Prep Work
Our Adventures in Homeschooling:  Week 1 Review

The second week of homeschooling.  It was more challenging than I expected.  It wasn’t the schooling that was challenging, it was all of the other little things that can get in the way of schooling that made the week difficult.  You know, like life and stuff.

As I mentioned last week I’ve scheduled our homeschooling time to coincide with J’s morning naps.  That just make things easier for everyone involved (myself especially).  I know there are moms out there schooling six kids and still have a baby or two underfoot during it all… but I’m not them.  I’m sure I’ll eventually get more adept at this but for now I need to focus on one thing at a time.

This week we had a scheduled doctor visit that kind of messed up the whole nap routine, which in turn messed up the school routine as well.  The next day my mom came for a visit and was here all day.  Now don’t get me wrong, I loved our visit and I’m glad she came.  We all enjoyed it immensely.  But it messed up our school routine as well.  In fact, we didn’t even have school that day.  With all of that happening at the beginning of the week I felt like I was off stride for the whole week!

We still enjoyed learning about the letter G though.  C did seem to like drawing her little g’s (draw a circle with a tail!) — but I still had to help.  I can’t even recall the number of words we recited that started with G.  Grow, garden, God, green, grass, gone, gourd… you get the idea.

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These are the books we read this week (along with Bob and Larry’s Creation Vacation, which we own).  I could not find the suggested Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert so we substituted the other two pictured.  C really enjoyed A Green, Green Garden and The Tiny Seed and we read both of those multiple times.  We read Bob and Larry’s Creation Vacation all the time anyway; it’s usually one of the requested before-bed-books.

002C also enjoyed this bean counting game.  By the end of it though, all of the beans were stacked in the #12 slot… but that’s ok too. 🙂

014Pardon this slightly blurry picture, but I had to show off her artwork.  She cut all of the “petals” and glued them on (there may have been more glue used than absolutely necessary…).  I did help with the stem and leaves as I’m sure you can tell.

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I completely forgot about the seeds we put in the plastic baggy for a few days.  Thankfully I remembered today.  I just used seeds we had on hand.  The ones that grew for us were black bean and radish seeds.  The carrot seeds didn’t grow nor did the apple seed from an apple she had been eating that day… although I didn’t really expect that one to grow.

I think this activity is what really helped her grasp the whole concept of seeds producing plants.  It’s so much fun watching her learn and discover things for herself!

Ooh, and I almost forgot!  Our Creation Book!

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This was such a fun activity!  It took me a couple of tries to figure out the best way to work with the contact paper but I finally figured it out.

First I measured 12 inches and folded there (keeping the paper side on the inside) and measured the next 12 inches and cut there.

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I would then peel off the first half and we would decorate as directed.  Then just peel the paper off the other half and press together, starting with the crease.

Easy peasy!

I can’t wait for next week when we learn about the letter A!

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Thankful Thursdays

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thankful thursdays

Today I am thankful for:

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That first, tiny glimpse that the season is changing.  Autumn is my absolute favorite time of the year — fall foliage, the cooler weather, the smell of burning leaves, hot chocolate and snugly blankets.  I just love it.  I could go on and on about it but I’ll spare you the torture. 🙂  Suffice to say it just makes me happy inside to see these few leaves turning red and brown already.

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My lace up shoes.  {And yes, I am a Flylady follower!}  This is a habit that I rebelled against for a long time but I found that I was so much more productive if I had on my shoes!  I still like to go barefooted so I made a compromise.  I put them on every morning after breakfast.  It’s a signal to myself to really start the day.  Well, shoes and coffee.  I need both to have a really productive day.  😉

What are you thankful for?

 

Goals for the Week: August 26 – September 1

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Goals for the Week

Here were the goals for last week and how I did on them:

Continue daily the Habit of the Month {August: Eat a Healthier Diet}.
    I had one day while I was away from home which I completely bombed but other than that I’ve been doing well.  And even on the bad day I made better nutritional choices than I would have even a month ago.
Continue reading The Virtuous Woman by Vicki Courtney.
    Although I don’t agree with everything Ms. Courtney says, I have gleaned some valuable information from this book so far.
~ Start our homeschooling year with C!
    Done!  You can read more about that here.
~ Research learning activities to begin with J (10 months).
    I didn’t get much research done… I’ll keep on doing that this week.
~ Exercise about 350 fitness minutes.
    Done!  I think I’m on task to complete my monthly goal!
~ Finish (hopefully) organizing recipe binder.
    It’s done but it’s not pretty.  I knew I didn’t have the time to invest in making it “perfect” so I made it functional for now.  Maybe one day soon I’ll be able to get back to it and prettify it.
~ Continue/finish reading one of my books/ebooks.  I’m currently reading The Virtuous WomanHealthy Homemaking and 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life.
I read bits of all of these books.  I am also trying to catch up on my magazine reading.  They’re starting to pile up and that bugs me!
~ Make September’s menu plan.
    I started on this but didn’t finish it.  Maybe I can knock that out today.  Maybe.
~ Finish cleaning and disinfect all interior doors, light switches and door knobs.
    Done!  
~ Start on baseboards.
    I’m not quite half way finished with them.  Y’all know how much I despise cleaning baseboards?  A lot.  But I despise dirty ones even more.  :p

And the goals for this week are:

~ Continue daily the Habit of the Month {August: Eat a Healthier Diet, September: TBD}.
~ Continue reading The Virtuous Woman by Vicki Courtney.
~ Complete five days in my Disciplined Life challenge.  (You can read more about that here.)
~ Have a makeup makeover and princess dress up morning with C.
~ Make spaghetti and let J feed himself.  (Did I mention I’m a bit uncomfortable with food messes?  This is a big step for me. :))
~ Exercise about 350 fitness minutes.
~ Continue/finish reading one of my books/ebooks.  I’m currently reading The Virtuous WomanHealthy Homemaking and 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life.
~ Make September’s budget.   Finish September’s menu plan.
~ Clean out the pantry.  Little hands have been “helping” me put away groceries.  I love it, but now I can’t find anything!
~ Finish baseboards.

Have you written down your goals for the week/month?

My Journey to a More Disciplined Life

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One of my favorite bloggers, Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom, wrote an ebook last year called 21 Days To A More Disciplined Life.

I’ve had the book for a while but I hadn’t had (or made) the time to start on it.  Since recently adding homeschooling to the list of things that I have to do each day, I decided that now was probably the best time to learn to be more disciplined.

Because oh, how I need it.

Everyone has 24 hours in a day.  How I choose to use those hours is up to me.  And I don’t make very good choices sometimes.  In fact, my lack of self-discipline is sometimes quite appalling.

Making weekly goals does help me tremendously to stay on task (which is something else I learned from Money Saving Mom) but I need… more.

So the first thing I did was put a block on certain websites that seem to eat up my time without any real gain (sorry, Facebook).  I love the StayFocusd app available on Google Chrome.  I only allow myself a handful of minutes each day for these websites.  If I go over that the StayFocusd app shuts me down.  I love it.  And hate it.  But mostly love it.

And now I’m ready to actually read the book.

I know the book says it takes 21 days, but I’m giving myself more time than that.  I know  at this point in my life that it’ll be next to impossible to complete the assignments every day.  My aim is to complete five steps each week.  That way if I miss a day or two I won’t start beating myself up and just stop reading it altogether.

Yeah, that’s happened before.

Have you read the book?  How do you stay disciplined?

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Our Adventures in Homeschooling: Week 1 Review

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our adventures in homeschooling

Previous posts in this series:
To Home School Or Not to Home School?
Our Adventures in Homeschooling:  Pre-K Curriculum and Prep Work

Like probably every other first time homeschooling parent, I was a bundle of conflicting emotions as we started the week.  Am I prepared?  Is she prepared?  What am I getting myself into?  How badly must I mess up before I give my child a permanent dislike for school or years of therapy?  

You know… the usual mental conversation you have with yourself at a time such as this.

But even with all of the panic there were those tiny seeds of excitement.  There is nothing like new school supplies and a fresh, young mind ready to learn.  Nothing quite like being able to pour your heart and soul into teaching and molding your own child… being responsible for every aspect of their upbringing.  Exciting, challenging and downright scary.  

I am so scared.

But I hear that is a normal part of being a homeschooling parent.  That even the seasoned homeschooling gurus have those moments of fear.  So maybe that’s a good thing.  I wouldn’t be scared if I didn’t care so much.  I want to give her the best I have to give.  All the time.  Even when I’m scared and don’t want to.

And that’s hard.

But oh, so rewarding.

And did I mention hard?

Having exactly one week of homeschooling experience under my belt I’ve come to realize a few things already:

  • The day will not go as planned.  Your “perfect” plans will be derailed.  Get over it and move on.  It’s not about you anyway.
  • Homeschooling happens throughout the day, every day.  There are always opportunities to reinforce what they’ve learned.  Use them.  That’s when they learn the most.
  • You will get frustrated.  The child will get frustrated.  Take a time out and come back to it later.  Don’t let a sour attitude ruin the day.
  • Praise them for the small things.  A healthy self esteem is so important.  And they learn it from you, Mama.

I planned to complete each day of schooling while the baby (J) was having his morning nap.  C’s attention span is normal for a three year old (read: nonexistent) and I knew that mornings would work better for her.  And me.

She took to it far better than I expected.  There have been many days that she asked, “Can we do school again?” while I was cooking supper or right after she got up from her nap.  Oh, what wonderful words.  I guess I’m doing something right.

She really, really enjoyed the scavenger hunt on the first day.  I used masking tape to make X’s around the house to mark the spot where her supplies were hidden.  I left the X’s up for a few days and every time she saw one she’d exclaim, “It’s an X!!”

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The cheese and crackers were a big hit.  She now makes most of her food into X’s.  🙂

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Here we were practicing writing X’s and identifying and drawing rectangles.  She does not enjoy writing letters — she will do so gladly if I help her — so we’re trying to work on that.  Right now I usually end up helping her.  I don’t want to push it too much…  she is only three and has a few years before I’ll start to worry if she can’t write her letters by herself.

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Here we were coloring our “God’s Word is a treasure” treasure box.  It went promptly into our big treasure box to be saved.  She loves to get the box down and look through her treasures — sometimes even a few times a day.

015What’s better than Playdoh X’s?  Not much, according to my daughter.  In fact, by the end of the week she was making X’s with pretty much everything… pencils, construction paper, sticks, her two ponytail braids… (Yeah, that was really cute. :))

Overall, I thought it was a great first week!  There were a few trying moments — and one day when I decided to put everything up until we were both in a better mood — but that’s all part of it.  The point is that she’s learning.  She’s learning her letters, shapes and other things that are stepping stones to becoming an independent adult.  But most importantly, she’s learning more about God and what the Bible says.  

And I’m blessed to be the one teaching her.

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Thankful Thursdays

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thankful thursdays

Today I am thankful for:

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Baby monitors.  Really, how did parents survive before these were invented?  I mean, don’t get me wrong — sometimes I just want to turn it off and pretend the baby is not crying at 2 o’clock in the morning.  But most of the time I’m thankful for it.  Otherwise I probably wouldn’t get much sleep… I’d be waking up to check on the baby every half hour.  (Ok, probably not anymore, but when both children were bitty babies I was constantly checking on them.)  In my opinion, they are worth their weight in gold.  {And I would totally love to have a one with video capabilities but can’t see spending the money for it right now.  But how nice would that be??}

I’m also thankful for:

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My little garden.  It’s been my first experience growing my own garden (although I used to “help” my grandma with hers when I was a child).  I have found the experience to be quite rewarding, albeit a bit hot this summer.  And there is nothing like fresh produce that has come straight from your very own garden.  Now if I could only keep the worms off of my tomato plants… 🙂

What are you thankful for?

Goals for the Week: August 19 – 25

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Goals for the Week

Here were the goals for last week and how I did on them:

Continue daily the Habit of the Month {August: Eat a Healthier Diet}.
    I am pleased with the progress I’ve made on this goal.  I also find that I do better when I schedule treats for myself.  I’m basically following the 80/20 rule:  eating well 80% of the time.
Continue reading The Virtuous Woman by Vicki Courney.
    I didn’t make much progress with this.  I’m about halfway finished with the book now though.
~ Take kids swimming.
    I think I have at least one water baby!  J wasn’t quite as impressed.
~ Take kids to a working farm.
    J enjoyed looking at all of the animals but C really enjoyed herself.  She got to feed the pigs and chickens and was able to bring home a few eggs she retrieved from the hen house too!
~ Exercise about 350 fitness minutes.
   Done!
~ Continue organizing recipe binder.
    This will be so much easier on me when it’s done… it’s just taking more time than I expected to do it!
~ Continue/finish reading one of my books/ebooks.  I’m currently reading The Virtuous WomanHealthy Homemaking and Miserly Moms.
    Finished Miserly Moms and I enjoyed it.  The version I had was a bit out of date (there may be an update now) but the general ideas were inspiring.  I recommend it to those wanting to save money, especially on groceries and the like.
~ Bake with my daughter C.
    We made bread and pizza dough.  There were a few dimples in the dough from tiny fingers but it still tasted good!
~ Clean and disinfect all interior doors, light switches and door knobs.
    Made a dent in this.  There are a number of dirty fingerprints on the bottom half of the doors… wonder how those got there?
~ Clean all walls.
    Done! 

And the goals for this week are:

~ Continue daily the Habit of the Month {August: Eat a Healthier Diet}.
~ Continue reading The Virtuous Woman by Vicki Courney.
~ Start our homeschooling year with C!
~ Research learning activities to begin with J (10 months).
~ Exercise about 350 fitness minutes.
~ Finish (hopefully) organizing recipe binder.
~ Continue/finish reading one of my books/ebooks.  I’m currently reading The Virtuous Woman, Healthy Homemaking and 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life.  
~ Make September’s menu plan.
~ Finish cleaning and disinfect all interior doors, light switches and door knobs.
~ Start on baseboards.

Have you written down your goals for the week?

Our Adventures in Homeschooling: Pre-K Curriculum and Prep Work

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our adventures in homeschooling

The Curriculum

In my previous post about homeschooling I promised to show the curriculum we’re using this year.   At the beginning of this whole process I had a few guidelines in place for finding a curriculum.  It had to be (1) Bible based, (2) easy to prepare, and (3) really cheap.

We certainly didn’t have the money to spend on some of the curricula I’ve seen that fit guidelines 1 and 2 — no matter how good they are.  My daughter has only just turned three so this is just a “warm-up” year for us.  I wanted to make sure homeschooling is the thing for us before we made any major financial commitments.  But I also wanted to start teaching her as well.  She catches onto things so quickly.  She’s impressed me with the things she has already learned and I want to feed her hunger for knowledge.

And I absolutely adore the curriculum we’ve chosen.  It’s called God’s Little Explorers, written by Stacie Nelson over at Motherhood on a Dime.  Did I mention how much I love it?

Stacie has done such a great job putting it together that even someone as teaching-challenged as me feels confident enough to try it.  She even has each lesson available individually for download — for FREE!  You can’t beat that!

I chose to purchase the total package though, and I am glad I did.  I like having everything together in one download.  I also love the extras she included in the purchase package (especially the assessment).  It was well worth the price to me.

So with the curriculum chosen I went to work putting together the extra resources and reviewing the first few lessons.

The Prep Work

First, I printed the lessons and whatnot from the GLE download.  I printed all of the lessons (and most of the extras) in black and white to save on ink costs.  I only printed in color when necessary for the learning experience.  Then I stuck them in sheet protectors and put them in a binder.  I’m hoping to also be able to use this curriculum with my son in a few years so I wanted to make sure they last.

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I downloaded printable coloring sheets from several different websites for each week (the ones I used came from What’s In the BibleMaking Art Fun and Calvary Curriculum).  My daughter likes to color (like most children!) and it’s good motor skills work.

I hit up the Dollar Tree or the back-to-school sales going on to stock up on the supplies we would need.  I spent less than $20 on supplies and feel I have enough to last the entire school year.  I bought glue, glue sticks, a magnifying glass, scissors, colored pencils, a dry erase page protector, craft sticks, stickers, pom poms, markers and a few other odds and ends.  We already had some things, like crayons, construction paper, hole punch, dry erase markers, etc.

I also purchased the Read And Learn Bible Stacie mentioned in this post.  I’m hoping to order the Wee Sings CD soon as I’m sure C would enjoy it.  She loves to sing — especially while using my mascara tube as a microphone!  We already had the first What’s In the Bible DVD and I’m hoping to have enough Swagbucks* saved up to purchase Vol. 2 by the time we need that in a few weeks.

Then I got out some paper and began writing down everything I would need for each lesson.  I have each week on a separate piece of paper and I stuck them right before the lesson plans for that week in my GLE binder.  Some items on the list are things I can do ahead of time so I try to get that done and marked off the list.  Most of them will need to be done the night before we work on that lesson but at least I have a list and it’s easy to knock it out then instead of scrambling around during the lesson because I ran out of construction paper/tape/whatever.  (I know how I am!)

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{Pardon my chicken scratch; I didn’t intend on taking pictures of this when I wrote it!}

I didn’t really want to spend a lot of money purchasing the recommended Book Bag books each week (although I’m sure there will be some we want to buy) so I went to our local library to see what I could find there.  Thankfully (for the first three weeks at least) I was able to find most of them.  If the library didn’t have the book then I tried to locate one that would be comparable.  (For example, our library did not have Planting a Rainbow by L. Ehlert so I got Growing Vegetable Soup by L. Ehlert instead.)   I also tried to use books we already had on hand.  (Like Bob and Larry’s Creation Vacation to use during week two).

I did put together some of the Learning Bag ideas — and some of them I had already done.  I love the idea of Learning Bags (aka Busy Bags — my daughter just calls them “games”) and we use them regularly.   They’re a great sanity saver while I’m trying to make supper or put the baby down for a nap.  If C is occupied and happy then we’re all happy. 🙂

And that’s about all I’ve done so far, other than organize a place for C to do her school work and keep her things.  I’m actually looking forward to beginning next week, albeit a bit nervously.

Stay tuned next weekend to hear about how we did for the first week!  Fingers crossed!

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Goals for the Week: August 12 – 18

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Goals for the Week

Here were the goals for last week and how I did on them:

Continue daily the Habit of the Month {August: Eat a Healthier Diet}.
    Some days were better than others.  I had fast food one day on a whim… when I should have eaten at home.  I did at least choose a smaller meal than normal.
~ Begin reading The Virtuous Woman by Vicki Courney.
    I have started it.  I’m withholding judgement on what I think about it until I’m done. 🙂
~ Take the kids swimming.
    We never did get around to this.  I was lazy and it was too hot.  I’ll try and do better this week.
~ Finish filling and drop off box to Goodwill.
    Done!
~ Exercise about 350 fitness minutes.
   Didn’t do so hot this week due to illness.  Will have to make up for it over the next few weeks.
~ Start organizing recipe binder.
    Well, I started.  And realized I should have done this years ago.
~ Finish one of my books/ebooks.
    It was a busy week and I didn’t get much reading done except for my Bible reading.
~ Have a family date night.
    Have y’all ever seen the BBC Planet Earth videos?  They are amazing.
~ Sweep all ceilings.
  Done!  I hate spider webs in the corners!
~ Clean all walls.
    Most of the walls are done but not quite all of them.  

And the goals for this week are:

~ Continue daily the Habit of the Month {August: Eat a Healthier Diet}.
~ Continue reading The Virtuous Woman by Vicki Courney.
~ Take kids swimming.
~ Take kids to a working farm.
~ Exercise about 350 fitness minutes.
~ Continue organizing recipe binder.
~ Finish one of my books/ebooks.  I’m currently reading The Virtuous Woman, Healthy Homemaking and Miserly Moms.  
~ Bake with my daughter C.
~ Clean and disinfect all interior doors, light switches and door knobs.
~ Clean all walls.

Have you written down your goals for the week?