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!

December-Christmas-Freebie

(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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