Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: Winter Stars

If you’re following along in the Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac planner your theme this week is winter stars. Here in Florida we’re getting rain, and lots of it, so it is unlikely that we will actually get to complete the outdoor activities this week. Even if it isn’t rainy where you are, the full moon might make it hard to see some of the fainter stars. Don’t worry if you find yourself lacking a beautifully clear, dark winter sky this week. I’ve included a few indoor activities to get you through. You can find a pdf download of the complete 12 page lesson including activities, a recipe and printable resources such as the star clock and planisphere HERE.

Here’s a sample of this week’s lesson:

Winter Stars

Week of Jan 1-5

As we begin the first week of the New Year we must remember that Christmas is not a single day but a festival meant to last twelve days and thirteen Holy nights. There’s still a full week of celebrating left! More specifically, Christmas can be thought of as a “night festival” since the celebrations begin as the sun sets on Christmas eve and arrives in the darkness of winter on the heels of the winter solstice. It is fitting then that it should end with a light. The feast of Epiphany closes out the Christmas celebration by remembering the three kings who followed a star to find the Christ child. We too will follow the stars this week in our own backyard.

Why study the stars?

There seems to be little practical application for the modern amateur stargazer. Why should we spend time outside, in the cold, struggling to see a few far off specs of dust? What is to be gained from stargazing in our backyard? Much of the technology we use everyday – and often take for granted – was born out of someone’s curiosity to see our universe a little better. CAT scans, MRIs, tracking for our Amazon packages, Google Maps, that amazing camera on your new iPhone – all born out of a desire to explore the universe a little closer. Who could’ve imagined that taking the time to look at the stars and understand them more would’ve led to all those things?

But, perhaps the most important reason to study the stars is not found in the technological advances we cherish so much. We should study the night sky, not because it might improve our iPhones in the years to come, but because it connects us to something bigger than ourselves. A study of astronomy allows us to glimpse the wonders of the universe and, in the words of Carl Sagan, “is a humbling and character-building experience.”


When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8: 3-4)

Did you know?

The stars at the North Pole can sometimes be seen 24 hours a day!

Questions to ask

Are the stars spinning or is it just me?

Why can the stars be seen for 24 hours at the north pole in winter?


Discover how the spinning Earth changes the way we see the stars

While I’m still compiling the Almanac and the planner is in beta-testing these lessons will be made available for download for free here on the blog. I’d love to hear your feedback and see how you are using it in your home. You can use the hashtag #mrsthistlesalmanac to share your experiences with the material. I won’t be posting every week’s themed lessons here on the blog because, of course, that content is going in the Almanac I’m working on and I actually have to school these kiddos and rock the baby and feed the mister. But I’ll try my best to post the lessons I do plan to share before mid-week of the week they are supposed to be used to give you more time to prepare. Beginning the week with a holiday threw me off course this time. Hopefully, I can post in a timely fashion.

At some point in the future, the content for each week’s theme will only be accessible via access code that will be included for free with the purchase of the planner. That’s the plan anyway. But for now, it’s F.R.E.E. free.

If you haven’t picked up your planner yet there’s still a lot of year left. Head on over to the etsy shop and get your download. Or if you’d like me to print and bind it for you, please message me and we can chat about the details.


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Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: An introduction

“How many things by season season’d are to their right praise and true perfection!”

-William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (Act V, Sc 1)

Why is it so important to celebrate the season we’re in? It seems as though society is always rushing to the next thing, everything a little earlier, a little faster, a little more commercial. We can have strawberries in January and Christmas trees before Halloween. But just because we can, does that mean we should? Some things can get lost in the hustle and bustle. We can lose our connection to the natural world around us.

Psalm 90:12 encourages, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

The human soul longs for balance. Mother Nature, Father Time, The Great Mystery, all call us to a deeper connection to the world around us. In a society driven by bigger, faster, cheaper, and flashier, it can be hard to order our day with intention. We rush hither and thither, trying to catch our breath, until at last we crash onto our pillow and wonder where the day went.

We are, by nature, rhythmic beings. We breathe in, we breathe out. Our hearts beat rhythmically. We wake, we eat, and we sleep. We are born and we die. We see the same rhythms in the natural world. Spring breathes out and flowers burst forth in bloom. New life begins. Summer is the height of vibrancy and energy for flora and fauna alike. Autumn brings a season of harvest, transition, and a storing up. Winter breathes in. It is quiet, cold, and dark. Animals are cozied up in their dens for a long rest. The old has passed away, covered under a blanket of white. The world sleeps.

And it begins again.

There’s something reassuring about the divine orderliness of a chaotic world rife with wars, famine, political strife, and natural disasters. The night of our world can seem never-ending. But still the dawn comes. Winter always gives way to spring. We live in a fallen, upside-down world but if we stop and look around, the Lord has provided a solace in the rhythm of the seasons. It might seem hard sometimes to find peace in such a broken world. But we can have peace in knowing the Lord built order into our world even where strife and confusion exist. We need only slow down and look for him in His Creation. From the tiny ladybug to marvelous nebula to our seemingly plain old Thursday morning, the Lord has provided an order to it all.

It’s important to see each day as a gift. How might we better accomplish that? By ordering our days in a way that keeps us mindful rather than simply busy, we can better recognize each day as a gift even when it seems chaotic or even ordinary. Some days are easier to receive as a gift than others. Reaping a harvest is often preferred over the hard work of sowing in tears. But every day presents a gift if we can only recognize it. Nothing in life is static and every moment prepares us for the next.

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself a day late for everything I want to do. A fun festival comes to my town but it was last week and I missed it. I meant to get that birthday card in the mail but the time passed and now it’s just embarrassing. I neglect to prepare for the week’s meals so each night is a struggle to get dinner on the table. I’m not the most organized person but I know that the Lord wants me to use my time wisely. So, I designed a planner filled with wisdom I’ve gleaned from many mamas and organized people over the years to help get our household in order. This planner is not meant to be a burden. It’s meant to be a tool for embracing the season. The goal is to fill it up with rich seasonal offerings and pick from a few. No one can do everything so create those seasonal bucket lists here but let them guide your days, not rule them.

Each month starts with a visual representation of that month’s offerings. There’s a list of flora and fauna applicable to that particular month to encourage an awareness of what might be happening in your backyard or somewhere else in the country (you won’t find narwhals in Ohio or polar bears in Florida in any season but it’s still valuable to learn about the seasons as they might apply to our distant neighbors). These are great for nature journaling.

Each weekly spread includes an open-ended theme. You can use it or not. Do not let the themes rule your life. They’re simply another prompting to help you know what is in season and anticipate any activities you might want to do with your family. A simple craft or family outing or themed recipe can serve as way to notice the natural world around you. But there will be weeks when you simply can’t do any of those. Again, they are suggestions not rules. And, if some of the themes seem a bit out of place (like bats in August rather than October), do a little digging and you might be surprised to find that what we associate with a particular season is quite applicable in another.

At the end of each month’s pages you’ll find month-at-a-glance pages for dinner menu planning and recording very basic nature notes like sunrise/sunset times, temperature, weather conditions, or seasonal sightings like first birds of spring or migrations. These pages are meant for quick notes to get an idea of your whole month at once, not for detailed plans, so the boxes are quite small for that reason.

The planner has a heavy dose of liturgical living with feast days and saints but don’t let that deter you if you aren’t familiar with liturgy. A study of Christians who came before us does not have to be denominational or catholic.  A saint of the month has been included to encourage the study of christian virtues as well as human weaknesses, something we can all aspire to and often relate to whether we are baptist, catholic, or non-denominational.

My hope is that this planner helps you accomplish your big goals and dreams while actually enjoying and savoring the ordinary days in between. Please let me know how it can be more useful to you.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain have the workers from their toil?  I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.  He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.  I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

– Ecclesiastes 3: 1-15


Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: An Introduction (You are here)

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Pages

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Seasons

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: Printing

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Future (coming soon)

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Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: Printing

Mrs. Thistle's Almanac


Today I thought we’d discuss some printing tips for the planner since printing can be quite confusing sometimes. And because every printer is different in the way it handles print jobs I’ll only cover general tips here.

Duplex printing

The planner was designed to be printed double-sided and has larger inside margins to allow for hole punching or binding. If it is printed single-sided, pages that were meant to be on the left will now be cut off by hole punching and/or binding because they will be on the wrong side with too small margins. I would hate for anyone to miss the important memo to print double-sided, only to find their pretty planner all a mess after binding.

Because every printer handles duplex printing differently I cannot tell you exactly where to find the settings for printing double-sided. Usually, if printing from Adobe Acrobat, there will be buttons at the bottom of the print dialogue box that take you to more advanced settings. For instance, from my Acrobat Pro application I navigate to File/Print and at the bottom of my print box is a button for “printer…”. When I choose that option it brings up another dialogue box with additional options like this:

In this example you can see that the “Layout” option is default and Two-sided printing is off. From here I navigate to the drop down beside “Layout” and choose “Two-sided Printing Settings.”

Once you’ve chosen to print two-sided there might be an option that reads “long-edge binding” or “short-edge binding.” For these files you want to select the long-edge binding option.

Then just click print (and click print again if you’re working with Acrobat Pro like I am) and voila! A lovely two-sided document (hopefully) will be in your hands in minutes!

If you’re printing from a document viewer like Preview (on a Mac) the instructions are basically the same. After navigating to File/Print you will see a drop-down menu that says “preview.” After clicking here you should find “two-sided printing” like this:

Choose “long-edge binding” again and print away!

Of course, you could skip all of this and upload your files to a print & copy site like Office Depot or Staples or put it on a thumb drive and take it to your local print shop and they’ll handle all the technical parts for you. I’ll go over some details of how to upload to Office Depot in a bit.

Paper weight

The type of paper you print your planner on is going to make a huge difference in quality and ease of use. You can surely go the regular old copy paper route that you might have in your printer tray right now but I suspect you will be greatly disappointed with the outcome. Planners use a heavier weight of paper to prevent bleed through, not just of your pens and highlighters, but also of the actual printing job itself. The lovely monthly spreads with the images at the beginning of the month will bleed through so heavily on regular copy paper that you won’t be able to see what prints on the backside. It’s not pretty. So, let’s talk paper weights and finishes.

Regular copy paper that you might have in your printer right now is probably a 20 lb weight paper. For printing this planner you need at least a 28 lb paper. But honestly, I like a 32 lb paper. It’s heavy enough to feel fancy but not so thick that it makes the planner bulky like a card stock would. And, since you will be writing on the pages, a matte finish works nicely to prevent smearing of inks. So, my personal favorite is a 32 lb matte presentation paper. You can find these easily at your big box office supply store or online at Amazon.


Now, let’s get really technical here. I have included the option to print the pages that are in color (like the monthly cover pages) separately from the black and white pages. This is a big deal. Again, you could go the cheapest route possible and just print this bad boy out at home on plain ol’ copy paper in black and white and call it a day. But the planner was designed to inspire you with it’s seasonal feast of colors at the beginning of each month and you lose that with black and white. But, printing the whole thing in color when only a select number of pages are color heavy is a drain on your ink and costly at the big box store. So, to save you the headache (and a dollar) I’ve included files for printing all the color pages at once and files for printing all the black and white pages at once. This also gives you the option to have the big box store add tabs to your monthly cover pages. You can even select a heavier paper for the color pages and get a really nice product. For my planner I went with a 110 lb card stock for my monthly color pages. If you go the route of separating the printing like this you will have to assemble your planner before you have it bound. The pages are not numbered but it’s pretty easy to figure out where the color pages should be inserted since they’re the beginning of each month. Don’t hesitate to email me if you have trouble.

Uploading to the Big Box store

I’m not affiliated in any way with Office Depot. I’m just most familiar with their process so I will use it as an example here. Feel free to use Staples or your local shop down the road. But I thought I’d give some specifics to potentially save you a dollar if you decide to use a big box office store.

On Office Depot’s site you want to navigate to “Print & Copy” and then select “Copies and Flyers.” For this option you will be asking them to bind it (or not) after you’ve assembled your color pages and your black and white pages. We’ll print our color pages first.

After you’ve uploaded your file to this page select the settings shown above and choose your paper weight. 65 lb or 110 lb  card stock works nicely but you can also request special finishing options like lamination for the front cover and adding tabs. Many times you can pick up your order in the store on the same day.

After you’ve finished the order for your color pages you can upload your black and white pages:

Be sure to select black and white printing for these or you might have a mini panic attack when you see the price tag.

Now just pick them up at your store, put your color pages in their proper spot and ask them to bind it for you. Or save another dollar and 3 hole punch that bad boy and put it in a binder.

That’s what I love about this planner. You can buy a little, buy it all, print it all at once, print it a little along.

Which comes to my last tidbit. If you want to buy the whole planner bundle to save $18 but you only want to print a little along you can do that, too! The same general rules of printing will apply with a few modifications to print the month or season you need.

I’m always here to help should you get stuck.

I hope this gives you all the flexibility to have the planner you want! I’ve tried to make a very big product as accessible as possible.

Over the next year I will continue to explore publishing options that might make it even more affordable. Please keep that goal in your prayers as I navigate the rather tedious world of publishing.

**Edited to add: The specs for printing my planner are:

Color pages: printed on 110 lb card stock at Office Depot. Stick-on Tabs added myself.

Black and white pages: printed at home in black and white setting on 32 lb presentation paper.

Assembled by me, bound at Office Depot.

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: An Introduction

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Pages 

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Seasons

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: Printing (you are here)

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Future (coming soon)

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Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The seasons

Mrs. Thistle's Almanac

In this post I’ll be covering the seasonal nature of the planner and why it’s a bit unconventional compared to other planners. If you’re looking for a “what’s included in the planner” post you can find it here. For more posts in the series you can navigate the links at the bottom of this page.

The Seasons

The planner is broken up into 4 seasons + holidays. You have the option to purchase all 4 seasons as one planner (with holidays included as a bonus gift) or as individual seasons. Both options follow the same winter to autumn rotation. That’s a little unconventional for a planner so let’s talk about that for a moment.

Many yearly planners offer two popular options: a traditional January to December calendar year or an academic calendar that runs from July/August to June/July. Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac runs from December to November. That’s weird, right? Maybe. But don’t forget, this is a planner that is focused on celebrating the seasons. Keeping that in mind makes it easier to see why the months are grouped the way they are:


  • December
  • January
  • February


  • March
  • April
  • May


  • June
  • July
  • August


  • September
  • October
  • November

When you take a closer look at our modern day calendar and our Christian observances you will find that many dates are determined by the sun or the moon. Because of that, we have “moveable observances” or holidays that don’t always fall on the same date each year. For instance, Easter’s date every year is held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. Brother sun, sister moon, and the church have long played a role in determining our celebrations and observances. This is a taste of the information you’ll get when the Almanac is released. But I mention it here to show you why I thought it was important to start the year with the winter season and group the months accordingly. The monthly groupings keeps us in a mindset that is connected to Mother Nature, who keeps a calendar of her own whether we start our plans fresh in January or July.

Why does the planner start in December, just as the year is coming to a close?

Mrs. Thistle's Almanac

That seems totally bonkers at first glance. December is the 12th month, the end. January is the 1st month, the starting line. While everyone else is ready to start fresh in January with their one little word or their New Year’s Resolution, we’ve symbolically geared up for a new year with our new set of plans at the start of December. But we’re not going along with the standard here. The content in Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac is explicitly Christian in nature. To be more specific, the content is meant to help us consider God in nature and be mindful of the how the seasons represent our Creator. I’ll talk more about that in another post but basically we’ll delve a little deeper into why it’s important to celebrate all year round and how the science of nature study can point us to a deeper connection to the Creator. And because the church year starts with Advent (usually in December, sometimes in November since it is also one of those moveable observances) so will we.

But remember that “built-in flexibility” I mentioned earlier? Don’t let the unconventional start dates discourage you if you just can’t wrap your brain around a Dec-Nov approach. You can always buy a single season, like Summer, for specific planning. Or you could purchase a Winter through Winter set of planners and get a couple of additional months if you need to start on a certain date like January 1 (or Summer through the following Summer if you like an academic start date). It matters not when you start.

Within each season we will explore examples of Christian virtues through saints and their historical relevance to that particular time of year, the flora and fauna of the season, and popular national holidays (as well as some extras like solstices and astrological events).

Hopefully this clears up any confusion on how the planner is dated and why.

Stay tuned for more in the “How to use this planner” series.

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: An Introduction

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Pages

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Seasons (You are here)

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: Printing

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Future (coming soon)




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Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Pages

Mrs. Thistle's Almanac

It’s finally here. The eve of the much anticipated launch date of Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: a planner to celebrate the seasons has arrived. I’m equal parts nervous and relieved. It’s been a long journey and there’s still a long road ahead as I continue to work on Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac (the book/curriculum/online content). The planner has been my Everest. My elephant. My one-bite-at-a-time beast. The accompanying Almanac is no different. And I’m only a few bites into that giant meal.

Since the Almanac itself is still under construction I thought I’d give you some tips and insight into how I imagined the planner might be used without it’s mate. The planner was designed to work as a stand alone product or as an accompaniment to the future Almanac. The same will be true of the Almanac itself once it is released. Use them together or use one without the other. In this series of posts I hope to show you the various ways you could implement these two tools in your home. My hope is that I’ve built a lot of flexibility into the products so that you can adapt them to suit your needs. So, let’s dive into the sections of the planner and how to use it as a stand alone product. First up in the series, “What’s included in the planner?”

The Purchasing Options

There are a couple of purchasing options for the planner so let’s look at those first.

You can purchase the complete planner (200+ pages), individual seasons (50+ pages in each season), or a mini holiday planner that includes planning pages for Lent, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I’ve set it up this way mainly because of cost considerations. When I originally set out to create this planner I wanted to design something visually appealing that included all of the things we cherish in our family without breaking the bank. As the planner grew and grew it became a bit of a beast to produce. I ultimately decided to offer it to you as a digital download so that I could continue to explore affordable publishing options over the course of the next year. But, even printing at home or at a big box store like Office Depot is simply too costly for some to do all at once. So I decided to offer it up in seasons for those who might like to spend a little along. It’s also hard to know if a planner really fits your lifestyle until you’ve tried it out. So, downloading and printing a little bit at a time let’s you “try it on” to see if it fits. Of course, the complete planner gives you a more detailed picture of how I meant for it to be used so we’ll focus on that offering in this post. There are minor differences in the content of the complete planner and the individual seasons. For instance, the complete planner gives you all 52 weekly themes at once in a “Themes at a Glance” page so that you can plan ahead. The seasonal offerings only included the themes for the weeks in that particular season with no option to look ahead. The complete planner also offers an extra page of notes at the beginning of each season and the holiday planner is included for free.

Mrs. Thistle's Almanac

The pages

Mrs. Thistle's Almanac

Each month begins with a monthly cover page and an overview page.

A Visual Feast

The cover page is a visual representation of that month’s offerings. For instance, a quick glance at the page for February 2018 let’s me know that Candlemas, Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday/Lent, frost, President’s Day, and Groundhog day are all a part of the coming month. Obviously it isn’t a complete representation of February but it offers me a visual feast to imagine the month ahead. A monthly cover might feature images of weather, animals of the season, major holidays, or seasonal foods. There’s also a list of flora and fauna applicable to that month. It is not a regional list so you might see some animals or plants that will never apply to your geographic area no matter the season (i.e. – narwhals in ohio? Never going to happen). The idea behind the flora and fauna list is more of a “what’s happening somewhere in my country right now” mentality. When do salmon spawn in Alaska? When do sandhill cranes migrate? You get the idea. And I’ve left a spot for you to add your own important things for the month and plenty of white space to doodle.

The overview page has space for rough planning for the month. Jot down ideas here and lay them out on the following pages in greater detail. This page is a place to put all the things. The following pages are for the narrowing down. Jot, jot, jot away.

Included on this page:

  • shopping list
  • monthly goals
  • monthly crafts
  • meal ideas
  • important dates
  • book basket

Monthly and Weekly Calendars

The monthly overview spread is followed by a two-page monthly calendar complete with a Saint-of-the-Month (for further study of Christian virtues and shortcomings) as well as notes and beloved white space for your seasonal quotes or doodles.

Mrs. Thistle's Almanac

The weekly spreads give you a Monday-Sunday, two-page spread to fine tune the details of your week. Again, plenty of white space for mini post-it reminders or journaling as well as a notes section, Sunday bible readings, and the theme for that week.

Ah, the weekly theme. Let me stop here and give you my biggest tip for using this planner. The weekly theme is not your boss! It is simply there to do with what you will. Or don’t. Please, do not let it taunt you from the bottom corner of your planner. It bears repeating in my southern drawl to really drive home the point: “That theme ain’t the boss of you!” If you can’t come up with a “Winter Birds” themed activity or lesson or recipe it’s no big deal. They are a prompting, simply there to keep you mindful of seasonally related themes you could implement if you wanted to. And, if you don’t like the theme for that week, insert your own. My plan is to eventually create stickers that match the theme banner and the saint flags so that you can cover them up and write in your own. I plan to make up a page of stickers at some point that will allow you to further customize your planner so you can change the saints to birds or different saints or a different focus altogether. The point is, the theme is there as a friendly built-in tool to help you, not to shame you into doing more than you can or should. Whew! What a relief.

The small section at the bottom of each daily column can be used to list that day’s meals or scripture readings, or important to-dos.

Meals and Nature Notes

Mrs.Thistle's Almanac

At the end of each month there’s a spread for monthly meals and monthly nature notes. The boxes on these pages have intentionally been left small. The monthly meals page is meant to get a visual representation of your month as it applies to the rest of your life. For instance, we have two boys in hockey right now. During hockey season I know we will be away from home during dinner time twice a week and away at breakfast and lunch 1-2 times per week. I can turn to this page and note slow cooker meals for the nights we’re away and/or forego cooking altogether and mark it as a drive-thru night. This helps me with my general grocery budget for the month. It’s not a space for detailed menu planning. It’s more of a “how much food do I need to budget for this month” space. You might be wondering what the “meal ideas” space is for at the beginning of the month on the “overview” page? This is a space to make notes of menu ideas you come across on pinterest or in magazines or otherwise. Jot them down in the “meal ideas” column but use the “monthly meals” page at the back of the month to apply them to a day that’s practical as it relates to your grocery planning and shopping. If I come across a new meal on Pinterest I’d like to try I’m not going to put it on a hockey night. You get the idea.

The nature notes are small as well for simply recording things like temperature, first frosts, or garden notes. Simple little recordings are all that’s needed here. And again, that glorious white space built in for your seasonal stickers or notes.

In the Beginning

Mrs. Thistle's Almanac

At the beginning of the complete planner and each individual planner is a 2018 reference calendar page followed by a Year-at-a-glance page for long-term planning (Here’s where I need to note a slight difference in layout between the complete planner and individual seasons. The photo above is representative of the layout in the seasonal planners. The complete planner actually has an additional page that looks similar to the year-at-a-glance page but it lists all 52 themes for the year in a December-November fashion. This additional page changes the order of the pages and adds an additional blank page for notes.) I went back and forth about the order of the months on this page and ultimately decided to keep them Jan-Dec to limit confusion. That way, no matter which season you start in, you can still see the traditional calendar year at a glance.

Mrs. Thistle's almanac

The spread shown above is not included in the individual seasonal planners. It is a feature of the complete planner meant to separate the months into their seasons. It includes a page for notes, journaling, and doodling that might apply to the  season to come. In the seasonal planners the image you see on the left is your planner cover and the note page is not included.

Lesson Planning

Mrs. Thistle's Almanac

Within each season in the complete planner (and at the beginning of each individual seasonal planner) is a space for lesson planning. This is not a space for detailed lessons and assignments but rather a space to get an idea of places to study in a particular season (like Germany  or Jerusalem in December), virtues to focus on (like loving your neighbor in February), crafts to complete (like beeswax candles at Candlemas), etc. Remember, the planner is all about what’s happening around us in a particular season. This is a space to make general notes of those tasks or lessons. When the almanac is complete it will include lessons and ideas to go along with these spaces that you can use if you don’t want to come up with your own.

The Holidays 

To help you plan for the season of Lent the cover page includes reminders for things like seasonal foods and crafts. There’s a Lenten reading plan and spaces for Prayers, Fasting, and Almsgiving to jot down notes and goals for the season. The planning page includes spaces for shopping lists, baking, crafting, special events/activities, and notes. There’s an additional page with spaces for planning meatless meals, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

The Thanksgiving pages include lists of seasonal food, happenings, and crafts on the cover page, a gratitude page with a Thanksgiving reading plan and a Thanksgiving day timeline to plan out your day, a meal planning page for everything from drinks to desserts, and a planning page for activities, holiday cleaning, and shopping.

The Christmas planner has all the same types of pages as Lent and Thanksgiving with added space for listing holiday movies to watch, spaces for each week of advent, and a gift log to track who you’ve bought for, tracking numbers, and whether you’ve wrapped it or not.

Next up in the series we’ll chat about why the planner begins with December and ends in November. You can find the link to all of the posts in this series listed below as they become available.

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: An Introduction

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Pages (You are here)

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Seasons

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: Printing 

Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: The Future (coming soon)

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IEW’s Winter Retreat 2017

I’ve been busy, busy trying to hem up the last of the planner design for Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac (you can grab a free mini holiday planner here if you’d like).  I feel like it’s always “just one more thing” before I finish. But then the “one more thing” grows into some huge thing while I sleep and the quest to finish continues. In the meantime I’ve also been working on bible journaling bits and bobs and trying to figure out the specifics of all of that so I’m ready when my new journaling bible arrives in January. And let’s not forget there’s still homeschool, the holidays, and the perpetual laundry pile.

Institute for Excellence in Writing
It’s a busy time of year and I can get really caught up in it all and forget that we’ve still got a lot of school to go. A little holiday rest is nice but this is no time to let homeschool burnout set up in my bones. The holidays are a time of reflection and intention. When I return from them I should feel rejuvenated and ready to go in my homeschool and my home. Often that isn’t the case.

January and February can be really dreary months in our homeschool unless I’m mentally prepared. The holidays are over, the decorations come down, the adrenaline rush of the holidays comes to a halt and all of a sudden, I realize how unmotivated I’ve become to return to school. Over the years I’ve learned that traditional school breaks just don’t work for us. While we might take a few days off here or there, breaks that stretch out for weeks at a time only result in us having to review previous material for an extended amount of time and with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. So I threw out formal extended school breaks long ago.
This year I’m adding to my method of trying to prevent burnout in the New Year with a little retreat. I’m going to look at my rather full calendar, find some margins to work with, and add in a little professional development. IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) offers a winter retreat that I think will prop me up quite nicely through the holidays. On December 9th IEW will host a full day of workshops with some of our favorite people. Sarah Mackenzie from Read Aloud Revival, Andrew Pudewa from IEW (and the teacher of our favorite writing curriculum Teaching Writing with Structure and Style), Adam Andrews from the Center for Lit, Robert Bortins (CEO of Classical Conversations), and Linda Mikottis (accomplished writing instructor for IEW) will all be teaching, encouraging, and propping us up for the next semester of schooling.

The best news is that this is totally accessible for someone like me. Moving to a new state only 8 months ago means no baby sitters to free mama up for a day of mother culture. And with the holidays upon us there’s little room in the budget for necessary luxuries like professional development. But this retreat is F-R-E-E. I can throw on my robe, sit down with Big Frank (my extra large coffee cup), and tune in while all my homeschool giants fill my homeschooling mama love tank. And if you can’t devote your whole day you can sign up for one or more sessions. Easy peasy.

If you have a cup like Big Frank  and an embarrassingly fuzzy robe, won’t you throw it on and join me and the stay home club at IEW’s Virtual Winter Retreat? Then, let’s come back here and chat about it. I’d love to hear your take aways.

Click here to register for IEW’s Virtual Winter Retreat.

**This post contains affiliate links that help support this blog, our family, and our homeschool.**

Institute for Excellence in Writing

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Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac: December 2017 (and a mini Christmas planner)

If you follow me on Instagram then you might’ve heard me mention (only a bajillion times in agony over decision fatigue) that I am designing a seasonal planner with an accompanying Almanac to follow at a later date. The planner is so close to being done and I hope to release it in its entirety come January. The Almanac is another story. It likely won’t be done until the academic planner release next August 2018.

The idea is that the two can be used to complement each other or they can be used independently. The planner has weekly themes to prompt your seasonal living, homeschool, or crafting. Used alone, the planner is an open-ended invitation to explore the seasons on your own. There are no lesson plans or projects or poems or recipes to follow. You take the themes, flora, and fauna for the month and run with it. Each month begins with a visual representation of what the month holds. I’m a visual person so I like this quick reference to start the month.

The almanac will include recipes, poems, crafts, lessons, and more for each month that tie in with the themes, flora, and fauna. It can be used independently or alongside the planner as an all-in-one way to tackle the seasons.

I have plans for an illustrated version as well. However, it is a much slower process than the planner with the photos and I do not currently have a release date for that one.

As a bit of a beta-test I am releasing December 2017 of the planner along with a mini Christmas planner to download for free. I welcome any feedback or typos or concerns or praises you might have if you download it and use it. It is meant to be printed double-sided so if you are not able to do that and you have trouble with the layout coming out crazy when you print please let me know. The margins are adjusted to allow for binding and/or hole punching so if you can’t print double-sided you might have weird offset pages. One way to work around this is to upload your document online at Office Depot’s website and have them print it double-sided. I don’t make any money if you decide to do that and they don’t know who I am. I use their Print and Copy a lot and I’ve had no complaints. Also, I’d recommend printing on a slightly heavier paper than regular 20# copy paper unless you don’t mind the bleed through. I print mine on 32 lb paper which is a bit overkill (and not available as an option on Office Depot’s website) but I like the weight and there’s definitely no bleed through.


Please send me all your feedback as you try it out so that I can make adjustments to the big planner for release in January.

If you choose to download the planner I’d love to see how you’re using it. I’ve left plenty of white space in this printable to allow for journaling of favorite seasonal quotes or adding festive stickers or washi tape. Please do tag me in your photos by using the hashtag #mrsthistlesalmanac

Happy planning and Happy Christmas!

Here’s your link!


(I’ve noticed that planner is blurry when viewed within the blog. Please do download it with the link above for a closer, crisper picture of what your printable will look like. Viewing in Id Publish through the viewer below leaves off some of the lines for some reason. When click the link above you will be able to see everything as it should be as well as print double-sided. Just select ‘export as PDF’ from your browsers menu bar and print from there.) 

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The High Needs Baby

Draining. Delightful. Clingy. Spirited. High needs.

The High Needs Baby

“As long as we hold her, she’s content” became our baby-care slogan.

(Martha Sears)

Parenting our third child has been nothing like parenting our boys. From the moment she showed up on a blood test, our girl has kept us on our toes. The word that I often use to describe how I feel about the last 16 months + 9 months in utero is “bamboozled.” I was totally caught off guard that I had even gotten pregnant. I was surprised my body even stayed pregnant given it’s history for miscarriage, followed by all the drama that started us on this road to meet our girl. I was caught off guard at how much my body betrayed me for 9 months. I was so sick. Cardiologists, endocrinologists, maternal fetal specialists, hematologists. I could barely care for myself, much less our boys. They took care of me most days. Being a “seasoned” mom, I knew what I was in for with the newborn phase…..or so I thought. I expected the exhaustion of the early weeks. I knew the potential struggles with breastfeeding because I’d battled mastitis, plugged ducts, sudden loss of milk supply, mom guilt, pumping on-the-go, etc. I thought we were somewhat prepared for the “parenting” part of this pleasant surprise we’d been given. We were not.

The High Needs Baby

Eila girl has been hard to describe from the beginning. In utero she was quite different from my pregnancies with the boys, obviously, since I felt like she almost killed me from the inside. And then when she made her appearance she struck us all with how alert she was in the first few minutes of life. Her eyes were wide open and locked onto her brothers like she knew exactly who they were, how much they adored her, and exactly what they were saying. It was a very sweet interaction. And that’s how I would describe her mostly, very sweet. But that attentiveness in the first few moments outside the womb, along with her constant movements in utero, would be the first few signs that our girl was not going to be like her brothers.

During my short postpartum hospital stay, I could barely put her down. I wouldn’t describe her as extremely fussy mostly because her cry was sweet, not shrill, and easy to calm. She just seemed like a brand new baby who needed her mama and I was ok with that since I was still riding the euphoric wave of baby hormones. It was an exhausting experience. Especially after being so exhausted for the past 9 months. 

Eila was also the first of our three babies to have an extended skin-to-skin experience immediately after birth. Marc and I joke that she is still having a “skin-to-skin” experience because nobody told her it was over. And some days I joke that she would just crawl right back up in there if I let her. In the weeks after her birth we slept sometimes only in minutes long stretches. Minutes. Not hours. And usually sitting up. She had reflux from the very beginning. She was (and still is) the lightest sleeper we’ve ever had. And, to make matters worse, we lived in an apartment below a herd of elephants for the first year of her life. So sleep was not going to happen. But we kept holding out hope that it wouldn’t always be that way. She was brand new, adjusting to her world, struggling with silent reflux, and we wouldn’t always live in the apartment. I would adjust my diet to help with her reflux, we would sleep in whatever setup worked best to help her settle and it would all work itself out. Besides, we’d already parented two kids with sensory struggles. We could figure her out.

The High Needs Baby

In the meantime, while she was emptying my cup, she was also filling it in a way that I never imagined. She was the sweetest little thing right from the beginning. She smiled all the time and loved being near me in a way that was both maddening and fulfilling. I wouldn’t have described her as a colicky or even a fussy infant. But she had opinions about things from the beginning and one of them was her proximity to me.

In the months that followed we did not find a reliable solution to her reflux (she mostly grew out of it around a year old, but still has some moments). Instead we juggled various food sensitivities, a few scary trips to the ER, and some environmental sensitivities. I eliminated so many foods from my diet that I felt like I was mostly taking in air and water. And we added no extra sleep to the mix. She woke multiple times a night, with the worst nights leaving me (or the mister) with an hour sleep, not always in consecutive minutes. We were exhausted from trying to figure out what to feed her, what triggered her sensitivities through my breastmilk, how to get her to sleep, and how to balance the family dynamic with her needing 100% of my attention.

The High Needs Baby

Then, there were all the well-meaning people who offered up their solutions, most of which we had already tried. Eila girl didn’t fit the description of any of the babies in the baby books or on the parenting blogs. She wasn’t colicky. She didn’t really cry all that much if you met her needs. When she woke at night she was happy as a clam, as long as you got up, fed her, rocked her back to sleep, and CAREFULLY laid her back in her crib. She’d be up again soon to do the exact same thing. And again. And again. But she wasn’t inconsolable like a baby with colic. Her needs were easy to identify, for the most part, and if you met them she was quite diplomatic.

While we were driving ourselves crazy trying to figure out the best solutions for our core family, many on the outside of our four walls suggested a sort of “tough love.” Which was often the advice we received in the early years with the boys’ sensory struggles. Parenting can be so political, can’t it? Many unsolicited opinions were harmless and well-meaning but when you’re extremely sleep deprived and mentally drained from trying ALL the things to adjust to the new personality in your home, it can feel like a kick in the crotch. It’s made even worse when those around you have never heard of a thing like Sensory Processing Disorder or High Needs Baby. I’ve been on the receiving end of many an eye roll at the two descriptors as they’re brushed off as some sort of parenting hooey that doesn’t really exist except in the mind of the over-protective parent. Equally as frustrating is the comment that their child/grandchild/friend’s child “does that too and it’s totally normal and doesn’t make them a high needs anything or sensory overloaded whatever.”

Luckily, we’ve grown a thick skin over the years and have learned to trust what we know about our children based on what they tell us through their habits and behaviors. The last 10 years with sensory kids has taught us to pay attention, be compassionate, and really dig deep to understand others. That’s invaluable in my opinion and my children have made me are making me a better person by showing me daily that it isn’t all about me nor is it about what other people are doing. They prepared me to be compassionate when Eila girl came along, slow down, and try to find the specific ways she needs to be loved. Because she is definitely her own person. Big personality. High needs. But I believe the sleepless nights, the cluster feedings, the constant need for touch, and the opinions she’s developing about her world will ultimately blossom into a confident young woman who knows what she wants, isn’t afraid to ask for it, and can do so in a way that is gentle and empathetic if we only pay attention, listen to how the Lord would have us parent our children, and sleep when she sleeps. 😉

On a related note, I don’t blog much at all anymore because… well, {see above}… but I hope to get more posts written about our journey with our High Needs baby in the hopes that others might find encouragement. Because, if there’s anything I could use more of on this journey it’s encouragement. Encouragement that I’m not alone. Encouragement that it’s not my parenting, not made up, and not a negative thing but a blessing. So, if I need that, I’m sure there are others out there who need it, too. And maybe we can prop each other up. A bit of a Forrest and Bubba situation, if you will.

“I’m gonna lean up against you, you just lean right back against me. This way, we don’t have to sleep with our heads in the mud. You know why we a good partnership, Forrest? ‘Cause we be watchin’ out for one another. Like brothers and stuff.”

The High Needs Baby

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The Great Big List of Medieval Books

We’ve just begun our summer intensive session of school for grades 1.5 and 4.5 and I thought I’d share the resources I’ve collected for our journey through the Middle Ages.

I’ll share more in another post on our complete plans for the summer but I wanted to go ahead and share my Medieval library with you in case you need a book for that time period. The books listed below are not for one specific age group or grade level but, in general, are kid appropriate. Please read the book’s detailed description to determine if it might suit the needs of your child. I’ve listed everything from picture books to chapter books to coloring books and reference books. This is a huge library of books so hopefully there’s something to help you along in your study of the Middle Ages. Let me know if you have a favorite Middle Ages book and I’ll add it to the list.

*note: The library is animated and will fade in and out to reveal more books. If you’d like to view the library in list form without the animation click here.  This library uses affiliate links. 


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Moving to Florida

On March 29th, the day our boys turned 7 and 10, we loaded up the biggest Penske truck we could find (for the third time in 3 years) and moved out of state. And on March 31st we signed approximately 6 billion pieces of paper that officially made us homeowners again. I signed my papers from the comfort of our minivan because I picked up some kind of wicked funk on the drive down and spent the night before the closing hugging the hotel toilet. It wasn’t pretty. After nearly 3 months of shopping for a home in another state, signing, scanning, and emailing one billion documents to our lender nearly every day for 45 days, and always waiting for the other shoe to drop….I was finally at the finish line….with my barf bag. It wasn’t how I had imagined it all going down. But, the truth is, I hadn’t really imagined making it past the initial offer on the home. Only 3 years after foreclosure and we were actually buying a house?! It just didn’t seem like it was going to happen. But it did. And, aside from Barf Fest 2017, it all went off without a hitch.

We are officially homeowners again! I feel restored, renewed, and oh so thankful. It was a hard and weird 3 years. You can read the story of our first home here. It’s taken me longer to let my guard down and get excited than I thought it would. I hadn’t realized how many walls I had put up to protect myself from disappointment. Apparently they were big walls because, even when it was obvious this was happening, I just couldn’t really let myself get excited. Staying pragmatic about it all was my main defense.

But when we broke out the power tools that had been gathering dust for the past 3 years, I felt a little more excited. There was no one to tell us we couldn’t paint or remove trim or add landscaping. It was ours. We could make it our own. So the Mister played along and helped me add a few touches I had been squirreling away on my pinterest board. There’s a sneak peak at the end of this post, and if you follow me on instagram then you’ve already seen a lot of what we’ve been doing in the room that will serve as our homeschool/library. But I’ll put together a separate post for that project with all the pictures.

The house we bought is a stone’s throw from our little downtown area which always seems to be bustling with some festival or event. It’s super cute and the boys love our park (seen in the top left and the right picture). The mister commutes to work in Orlando, not too far away to enjoy the fun stuff but just far enough away to get away from the crazy tourist scene. We’re in an area that local Floridians consider “country.” But I’m not sure Georgians who live in the “country” would consider this very rural at all. It is the prettier part of Central Florida though, if you ask me. There are orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime groves everywhere.  And our house is on a canal that opens out into a pretty big lake. We can fish right off of our private dock or take our little boat out into the lake to catch the bigger fish (that’s right, our house came with a boat!! How cool is that?!). We’ve seen alligators, turtles, great blue herons, whistling ducks, bald eagles, and red shouldered hawks right in our back yard. We have more lizards in our yard, of every size and color, than you can imagine. And they scurry everywhere when you walk through the yard. I’m cool with them as long as they gobble up the mosquitoes. The sandhill cranes are everywhere you look and I just love their long skinny legs. Our canal opens into Trout Lake so we are able to drive the boat over and dock at Trout Lake Nature Preserve. Nature study won’t be a problem here, for sure! We can’t eat the fish in our lake or canal (there’s an agricultural run off clean up under way and various ongoing testing to monitor the fish), but we can catch and release all day long. It’s been fun to see the boys so excited about fishing and boating. I started a hashtag to document our adventures at our new home. If you’d like to follow along on Instagram it’s #lifeatthecanalhouse.

This girl hasn’t been in the boat yet because she thinks a life jacket is a baby torture device! I imagine she wouldn’t be too keen on it anyway since it’s loud so we hang back while the boys go out.

She’s had a bit of a hard time adjusting to life after the move. All of our children are great travelers but I think she keeps wondering when we’re going “home.” She’s starting to settle a bit more now but she still has moments that just don’t seem like her sweet self. She can’t understand why her mom is so busy and doesn’t have time for snuggling all the live long day like we did in the apartment. She’s woken up a few nights crying pretty hard. I think she forgets where she is for a minute. And she’s taken to skipping real naps and instead, sleeping where she falls. But, now that we’ve gotten most of the boxes unpacked she’s been able to explore the common areas of the house a little more and she loves her new found freedom. Likes: seashells, seabirds, running down the hall and squealing at her brothers, whatever I’m eating, and our new park downtown. Dislikes: Sand, waves, being hot, and lifejackets. Hmmm….oops. The Georgia girl is not a Florida girl just yet.

My main goal whenever we move is to organize the area we’ll use for school first. I feel very uprooted and disorganized when our school supplies are scattered everywhere. If the school area gets addressed first then I can get the boys going on a project and get a few things done in other areas of the home while they’re occupied. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from the last three years and two other cross-state moves it’s that we don’t wait to start school….ever. Because goodness, life happens. So we do a little school all the time. And during big life events we do what the wise Julie Bogart calls “backend planning” where we count everything as school, but only AFTER it’s done.

And, wouldn’t you know it, only 3 weeks after moving in we had a sprinkler pipe crack and we will be repairing that today. Good thing I already have the school books on the shelves and the play-doh and art supplies are easily accessible to keep little hands and minds busy while we work. Although, I don’t think they care much for anything in the schoolroom when there’s a fresh pile of dirt to make sand (dirt?) castles out of. Thank goodness this isn’t a broken pipe in Georgia clay. That hole would’ve taken a lot longer and resulted in a few bent shovels. Yay for sandy Florida soil!

I have a million and one projects I want to finish but I’ve had to reign in my slowly growing enthusiasm for the sake of my wallet, the other less romantic household chores that need tending to, and to get in some quality snuggles with my girl. In three weeks we’ve (playing it fast and loose with the term “we” since the mister is the only one of us who knows what ALL of those marks are on the tape measure) built a faux fireplace, primed, painted, and sealed our Ikea Expedit shelves, DIY’d a couple of chalkboards, shiplapped a faux chimney, sanded and primed a dining room table and chairs, and repaired (TBD) a sprinkler pipe, put together a couch and love seat, and unpacked one gazillion boxes. That’s a lot of homeowner-ing for three short weeks.

I’ll try to get a post together with some before and after shots of the front room that we’re calling the library. It’s not “technically” finished. We’re not on speaking terms with our miter saw and crown molding right now. And the fireplace still needs decorative trim work on the front doors and another coat of paint and polycrylic. The decor isn’t in it’s final resting place, nor is some of it even staying in that room. But it looks great so far so I’ll share where we’re at with it soon.

I’ve scheduled our summer intensive for homeschool to begin on May 1st. Fingers crossed I make that deadline because we’re all antsy to jump back into it. I’ll try to get a post up with our schedule and book picks soon. I’ve added a library page to the blog so you can easily find amazon links to the books we’re using in homeschool, what I’m reading for my own mother culture, and what we’ve read in the past. I’m still working out the kinks so if a grown up book shows up in the homeschool section, forgive me.

Thanks for popping in. It’s good to be back!

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One little word: 2017

My One Little Word for 2015 was grace. Boy, I had no idea how much of it I would need. I had wanted to be the one projecting grace. But God had a much more humbling plan for me. Mr. Thistle’s job that moved us to Nashville came to an abrupt end, we moved back to Georgia in the middle of an ice storm, the mister’s new job required quite a lot of travel (we’d spent the last 10 years mostly never apart so this was a bit of a shock to our system), we found out I was pregnant 3 months later because #wivesoftravelingmisters, and I became pretty ill due to a number of pregnancy complications. I spent most of 2015 housebound and alone. I could barely muster up the energy to brush my teeth let alone socialize over coffee with friends or make playdates for the boys. I spent 2015 just trying to keep my head above water.

One little word


Didn’t give much, needed a whole lot, found it in the most unlikely places (usually from a very compassionate 6 and 9 year old who made me one proud mama all year).

I didn’t even try to pick a word when 2016 rolled around. I surely have a lot of words to describe it now that I’m at the end of it: 

Hard. Exhausting. Refining. Revealing.

Based on my Instagram feed I’d say a lot of people are ready to be done with 2016. It was a tough year. There were a lot of moments that left me disenchanted with humanity. It seemed as if world events just kept coming at us, punching us in the gut, kicking us when we were down.

But that was outside our home. Inside our 4 walls there were a lot of moments that could’ve made my heart burst had they been any fuller. I am constantly amazed at how kind and compassionate the boys are. They really had to prop their mama up last year and adjust to life with a brand new baby sister this year. They had to do a lot of growing up in the last two years and I’m so proud of them for handling it so well. The world might’ve been crumbling around us but dang if my core family wasn’t steady and strong!

I’m starting to gush and get off topic here though.

The point is 2015 and 2016 brought a lot more than I expected. I had no idea how God would use my one little word – grace. And, to be honest, 2017’s word wasn’t even on my radar. So much has happened in the last two years, so much revealed, so much that caught me off guard spiritually, physically, relationally, that I’ve been in a bit of a stupor.

But the other night, lying in bed, it hit me. Loud and clear.


There are so many things I want to be. A peaceful mom, a less nagging wife, a better friend, a better Christian, more organized, a “real” artist, more patient.

And I always feel like I hold a yard stick up to those things and say, “nope, not quite there” and then I get discouraged and let myself think that, because I fall a little short (or a lot), I’m none of those at all. Just an imposter who wants to be those things but really isn’t.

Too often I lament to Mr. Thistle that I want to be this or be that but there’s never enough time/money/resources and I camp out in the land of “if only” and get a bad case of “the grass is always greener.”

Before I was a mom I liked to immerse myself in things. If I was going to do something it was all or nothing. The reality is, as a mom of 3, that mentality leaves a lot of goals falling in the “nothing” column. I can’t always give something my full attention. In fact, I rarely have time to indulge in full-attention activities. I might have to scratch out a doodle while the baby sleeps in my arms. Or listen to a podcast while navigating the wilds of Atlanta traffic on the way to hockey practice. I might have to settle for one chapter of a book at a time rather than devouring it in one or two readings. If I wait until I have long, uninterrupted stretches of time to focus on the things I want to do I’ll never do them.

So this year I’m throwing out my yard stick and I’m just going to try to Be. Even if it doesn’t live up to my standard. I’m going to start being who God says I am and measure it by His standard. Are my intentions pure? Is it beneficial for my family? Good for personal/spiritual growth? Is it fulfilling a call? And, I’m going to roll over my word that carried me through 2015-2016 and give myself the grace to just Be.

one little word
Be creative.

Be patient.

Be organized.

Be obedient.

Be gentler.

Be disciplined.

Be better.

Be brave.

Be bold.

And when I fall short, because I will, I’ll Be ready to rely on the Lord’s strength, rather than my own to get me back on track.

The one thing I’ll never be? Perfect.

So I’m to let go of striving for perfection before I can claim to Be something and I’m just going to try to be who God already says I am.

This year I’m telling myself to stop talking about being something and just Be it already.

You wanna be a blogger? Then be a blogger! Who cares if you only blog once a quarter?! Still a blogger.

You wanna be organized? Be organized! Who cares if your desk is a mess right now? Get up and do the next thing to move closer to the goal.

Yes, I’m 33 and I still don’t have a great system for dealing with laundry. But this year I’m claiming that I’ll be better.

The good news is that most of the things I want to Be are a matter of perspective and attitude. And those are things that I don’t need resources or time or money to achieve. My word for 2015-2016 actually props up my word for 2017. There’s grace given while I work on who I want to be.

Thank goodness.

Here’s to 2017 being better than 2016.



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Planning for the 2016-2017 school year

planning a relaxed homeschool year

Official plan: SURVIVE.

We’re entering our 5th year of homeschooling this year. That’s crazy to think about on so many levels. I never dreamed we would be a homeschooling family. But here we are 5 years in, loving it, and still going strong. When planning for the new school year rolls around I usually get excited. Excited for fresh starts, new school supplies, and a beautiful, blank planner.

This year is a little different.

This year we have a baby on board.

Who never sleeps. Ever.

Mama is majorly sleep deprived.

And Mr. Thistle travels more now than he ever has for work. So, I’ve been nervous about how to get it all done. I haven’t even had much time to plan. We start next week and I’m just now getting some of my plans on paper (in pencil of course, because let’s be real, you know a lot of it is going to get erased). Normally, I would’ve spent weeks on planning, poring over catalogs and blogs and instagram and had our entire year mapped out and ready to go by now. But, even if I’d had the time to sit down and plan out an entire year of curriculum like I used to do, it’s not likely that the baby will be on board with all of it and it would end up a jumbled mess as I tried to shuffle things around on the calendar.

Nope. That would just make me even more anxious.

So, this year, I’m going full-homeschooler. I’m finally embracing (through much encouragement from my husband and my Instagram gal pals) the wonderfully flexible nature of homeschool. I’ve dipped my toe in the unschooling waters, flirted with Charlotte Mason ideals, and experimented with life schooling over the years. But this year? This year I’m diving right in with the “the baby is the lesson” camp. I mean, I’m a fan of all of those philosophies and methods so why haven’t I fully embraced them before now? I blame my k-12 public school experience for my tendency to try to recreate “school at home” a lot of times. That, and the fact that I don’t have a lot of real life homeschool support outside of our core family to reassure me that baking counts as school. There’s nothing wrong with the “school at home” method, it’s just that it’s not conducive to our lifestyle or the kids’ learning styles. The boys learn so well through hands-on, play-based, experiential learning. And we really love the philosophies of John Holt, Ken Robinson, Charlotte Mason and others who encourage child-led learning and a rich diet of good literature and living books.

So, we’re doing it. This year I’m going to try to let go and take a more relaxed approach (BAHAHAHA. Says the woman whose never relaxed a day in her life. I’m pretty much Monica Gellar.) I’ve talked to the boys in depth over the summer to find out where their interests lie. I’ve experimented with a few things to really draw out their passions (i.e. an online animation course for kids that I plan to write a review about soon). And I’ve tapped into our home library for unit studies to fit those passions and fill in any gaps.

So, this year will look very different from the other years. It’ll be a full but much more relaxed approach (she says confidently). It will take a lot of mindfulness on my part to trust the method and not freak out that I haven’t “controlled” every detail of our school days in my trusty planner. It’s not haphazard though. Let me be clear about that. We value a full education. But my mindset of what constitutes learning and how I schedule it is changing. What counts as school has evolved in our home since I first signed on for this homeschool gig. Every year I get a little better at not caring what everybody thinks. I get a little better at honing in on what is good and right for our family. And I think this year I’m finally ready to just be comfortable with it. Or I’m being forced by a cute little baby to get comfortable with it. Either way, I’m finding that this homeschool business teaches me a lot about myself and my parenting and what God wants to do in my heart and our home. What a wonderful opportunity a baby is providing for growth in each of us! (Remind me of that when I have glue in my hair, spit up on my shirt, the baby is screaming, it’s 4 p.m. and I haven’t planned anything for dinner, missed lunch, and all we’ve accomplished is a pseudo art lesson wherein I tell the boys to “just go draw something for heaven’s sake and quit being bored!”) 

So, here’s what we’ll be focusing on:

  • Government – I’m not wasting such a high profile election year. There’s some really good material to work with and the boys have strong opinions so we’re going with it.
  • Bible
  • Math
  • Writing
  • Nature Study (including our Wild Explorers Club assignments)
  • Field Trips (after hockey season ends in February)
  • Cooking (one day per week)
  • Character (often combined with Bible)
  • Anatomy (2016)
  • Oceans (2017)
  • Early American History
  • ALL things art (illustration, animation, Bob Ross)
  • Mastering poker (yes, poker)
  • Reading, reading, and more reading

Now, that might look like a lot, and it is for some. But, a lot of it won’t even use a curriculum and will overlap with other studies. For instance, both boys want to dive deeper into a bodies unit study so we’ll hit the bodies exhibit in Atlanta. Field trip, check. Anatomy lesson, check. Our character study guide uses picture books so it’s super easy to implement and will often overlap with our bible lessons. Our only official curricula are writing and math for Owen and reading and math for Oliver. And truthfully, Oliver is halfway through his reading curriculum already and I don’t anticipate it lasting us through the end of the school year since he decided to surprise us all and start reading ALL THE THINGS over the summer. Side note: he read most of the words out of the third grade “word of the day” jar  the other day much to our amazement. Why? Because his dad told him if he tried he could have 3 oreo cookies. So he tried and he KILLED IT! The kid who just last year in kindergarten, when asked what sound the letter G made, responded with “bleesh.” Help me, Rhonda.


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