Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking ahead to 2012

A year ago I posted on some goals for 2011.  However, about 3 weeks later, we found out we were expecting this little bundle of joy....

and reality set in.  I basically accomplished zero of my goals.  Yep, zero.  I made progress on some, but not enough to say that I was successful.

Although I didn't accomplish any of my initial goals, I am still thankful for 2011 and all of the things that I did accomplish....

  • Giving birth to my 5th child
  • Finishing another year of homeschooling (with minimal tears) and starting a new year with some new curriculum
  • Making my own handsoap, DIY project #1
  • Making homemade comeback sauce, DIY project #2
  • Making homemade laundry detergent, DIY project #3 (definitely my favorite project from 2011)
  • Mastering the art of making homemade, whole grain wheat bread (blog post coming soon)
  • Losing 27 pounds of stubborn baby weight (in addition to the initial 20 pound loss during the first few postpartum weeks)
So, with that in mind, it's now time to look ahead to 2012.  The main thing I am working on this year is to become more goal-oriented, writing down my goals, keeping my goals feasible (at least trying to), and of course, actually accomplishing my goals!  This list is mainly for me to serve as a reminder and keep me on track, but you are welcome to read along and help hold me accountable!  So, here goes....

Reading Goals:  I have never been much of a reader, but I am making an attempt to change that.  I am hoping to manage 1 book per month.  A few of these books I have started, but never finished.  Also, I only own 7 of the books listed, so I'm hoping to find the rest at the library.  In no particular order...
  • Ten P's in a Pod
  • Shepherding a Child's Heart
  • Large Family Logistics
  • The Family
  • The Help
  • Loving the Little Years
  • Raising Maidens of Virtue
  • 31 Days to Clean
  • Read for the Heart
  • Better Love Now
  • Inconceivable
  • Misconception

Education Goals:
  • Reading aloud at least one chapter to kids every school day
  • Utilizing the library more (without incurring overdue fines) and helping Eli learn to use the library
  • Reading board books to two youngest kids everyday
  • Introducing The Chronicles of Narnia on audio

Personal Goals:
  • Weight loss and maintenance - Typical, I know, but I actually started back in October and have successfully lost 27 pounds of baby weight that had accumulated over the past 7 years and 5 babies.  I plan to lose 13 more pounds and then maintain a healthy post with more details soon.
  • Run a 5K
  • Wake up (and get out of bed) by 6:30 on weekdays
  • Experiment with and establish some sort of freezer cooking method
  • Attempt more DIY projects, specifically homemade wheat thins, cheeze-its, graham crackers, tortillas, and bubble bath
  • Involve the older kids in more hands-on cooking (and clean-up)
  • Go to bed every night with a clean kitchen (counters, floors, sink, dishes)...ok, I admit, I'm probably pushing it here, but I can try.
  • Flood our home with praise and worship music or sermon podcasts throughout the day
  • Pray through our Christmas cards with the kids every morning at breakfast, one family per day
  • Reducing clutter...clearing out kids' clothes that are outgrown (without a younger sibling to pass down to), old financial statements, toys that are broken, missing pieces or not played with, books that are torn up or not read, and purging my own closet of clothes and shoes that I no longer wear (hopefully because they are too big!)
  • Taking more pictures to document our life and family

Financial Goals:
  • Contribute a pre-determined amount to our children's college funds each quarter
  • Buy dining room (and maybe new living room) furniture
So, in spite of my failure to successfully accomplish any goals this past year, I am now setting out to accomplish more than double for next year!  Type A, overachiever?  I think so.  I already have a good start on many of those listed above, so I am hoping to establish better habits and stick with them more diligently throughout the year (don't we all, every January?). 

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Use Swagbucks to earn Amazon gift cards!

    Have you heard of Swagbucks?  If so, have you signed up yet to start earning Amazon gift cards?

    It's easy....
    1.  Go to Swagbucks and sign up for an account at no cost and no credit card info is required.  You will receive an automatic 30 swagbucks just for signing up.
    2.  Start earning Swagbucks.....
    • Search - Use the Swagbucks search bar (instead of Google) while surfing the web and you will occasionally receive Swagbucks (usually 7 to 10).  A notification will pop up on the screen to let you know that you earned the bucks.  You can also install the search bar so that you can easily search without having to go to the Swagbucks homepage first.  If I use the Swagbucks Search throughout the day, I typically win Swagbucks 1-3 times.
    • Daily Poll - Answer the Daily Poll question once a day and receive 1 Swagbuck every day.
    • NOSO - No Obligation Special Offers....There is a link on the Swagbucks homepage for NOSO.  These are advertising offers that you can sign up for to receive specific products and information.  All you have to do is click "Skip" or "See Next Offer" through about 4 or 5 offers, without signing up for any, and then you will be asked to enter a Captcha to earn 2 Swagbucks.  You can also complete this everyday to earn 2 bucks everyday.
    • Swagbucks TV - Click on the link on the left side of the homepage and click on a short video to watch.  There is a Swagbucks TV meter at the top of the page.  As you watch videos the meter will increase, up to 100%.  When you reach 100% you earn 3 swagbucks.  You can actually earn up to 150 swagbucks a day using this tool!  Of course, that would take a LOT of time clicking on videos all day long, but I usually earn 6-15 swagbucks a day using this tool.  *Hint - Watch your meter and as soon as it increases (from 10% to 20% for example), click on the next video instead of watching the entire video.  It usually increases sometime during an advertisement that plays before the video begins.  I usually keep Swagbucks TV minimized, with my volume turned all the way down, and throughout the day I will click on videos while I am doing other things on the computer and/or feeding a baby, so I am earning swagbucks without much effort.  (If your internet service limits your daily allowance of downloads, like ours does, be careful not to overdo your swagbucksTV.)
    • Special offers - Be careful here.  I usually only do special offers that are free, and I still limit what I choose to not include anything that would involve a credit check, phone number, or a "1 month trial" that would start charging if you forget to cancel.  Most of the offers that I choose offer 1-12 swagbucks and involve watching a video or liking a Facebook page (which I then "unlike" after the swagbucks have been added to my account).  I also keep a "junk" email account for special offers that require an email address.  Occasionally I will participate in an offer that requires a purchase through a retailer link that I regularly buy from, such as Gap or Vistaprint.  These offers result in 250-300 swagbucks.  In the past two weeks I have earned 570 swagbucks through these two companies, and the Vistaprint order was FREE, I only had to pay shipping.  The Gap offer ends today 12/13 (you have to purchase at least $29 at Gap and there is a HOLIDAY code for 30% off your entire order).  The Vistaprint offer is still available, but I do not know when it will end.  I ordered Free business cards and mailing labels through Vistaprint.)
    • Coupons - This is very easy if you regularly use to print coupons from home.  Click on the "Coupons" link on side of the Swagbucks homepage.  It will direct you to  Click any coupons that you want and when you redeem the coupons at a store you will be awarded 10 swagbucks per coupon.  It does take 8-12 weeks for these swagbucks to be awarded.  To receive swagbucks for the coupons, you have to link to through the swagbucks link.
    • Team Challenges - About once every season they offer a team challenge that you can choose to join.  The two teams compete against each other to see who can earn the most points via swagbucks during a specified period of time.  Everyone who participates will earn swagbucks, 10 for the losing team and 25 for the winning team.  There is currently a team challenge "Snowball Fight" going on that you can join up to December 21, by clicking on the banner on the homepage.  (I'm on the losing team, but I'm still looking forward to my 10 swagbucks on December 22)
    • Birthday Bucks - Get a 50 buck bonus on your birthday!  These bucks are automatically awarded.  You don't have to do anything.  (I'm looking forward to mine next week!)
    • There are other earning options that you can look into once you sign up, such as Special Codes and Trusted Surveys, but the ways listed above are the easiest in my opinion.  
    Earning Rewards...Now that you are earning Swagbucks, what can you do with them?  There is a Swagstore where you can redeem your bucks for prizes.  The most popular (and useful, in my opinion) prizes are gift cards to Amazon, PayPal, Starbucks, etc.  A $5 Amazon gift card requires 450 Swagbucks.  That sounds like a lot, but I have ordered 2 in the past week and am close to ordering my 3rd.  (I think there is a limit of 5 Amazon cards per month, but I have never reached that.)

    Within just a few minutes each day you can easily earn 6-10 Swagbucks, and with a little more effort through Searching and clicking through some videos throughout the day, you can earn 20-30 or more a day, possibly resulting in $10 every month to Amazon.  That makes for a nice little bonus come Christmas!

    Check it out for yourself and see if Swagbucks are as rewarding for you as it has been for me! I'll be happy to answer any questions that I can!

    *If you are already a Swagbucks member, feel free to share any of your tips and/or favorite prizes as well!

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Christmas Pictures

    Last week I took over 300 pictures of my children.  I was trying to meet a deadline to get a 2012 calendar ordered and I needed some pictures for the month of December.  We were scheduled to have professional family pictures made just 2 days later, but I needed to get the calendar ordered.  Therefore, I created a makeshift photo shoot.  And I must admit that they are some of the best pictures that I have ever taken of my kids....of course, that's not saying much, considering the following:

    As you can see, I am not a photographer.  However, with a little bit of inspiration from my new best friend, Pinterest, I attempted to take some Christmas pictures.  It was me, my victims kiddos, and a point and click.  (Some basic editing software might have been involved as well....shhh!) 

    Although these pictures are certainly not professional in nature, I was mighty proud of myself and my victims kids for putting up with me.  There were certainly some flops and some funnies, but I ended up with a plethora of photos to choose from to finish out the calendar.

    It took a few several shots to get started....

    But once I figured it out, there was no stopping...

    I took 16 shots of my first victim Charlie, and by the end I had taken 82 shots of the last victim Eli.  I think I was having more fun than they were....

    this is boring

    No more pictures!

    I even got a little creative...

    And the outtakes, which will not be seen on a Christmas card in a mailbox near you....

    For those of you who have never met the following little boy, the next three pictures sum up his personality perfectly.  No explanation needed.

    By the end, we were all exhausted....



    My sentiments exactly.

     And two days later we took 200 more pictures with a real photographer....more soon.  :)

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    3 months

    I cannot believe that 3 months have passed since our sweet Cooper was born!  His "newborn" days are ending, as he is now mostly sleeping through the night, wearing 3-6 month clothes, size 2 diapers, and weighs about 13lb!

    Here are a few of the latest pictures....

    And a few more, courtesy of Amy Hobbs Photography

    What a precious gift this little boy is to us!

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    November homeschool update

    It is amazing how quickly the month of November has passed!  We have been busy, busy, busy (as usual) around here between school and babies and Thanksgiving.  Here are some of our latest adventures....

    We learned that the state bird of Connecticut is the Robin, so we made our own Robin's Nests...

    hay, twigs, and mud

    Most Robins lay blue eggs, but if your Robin is named "Matthew" or "Charlie" it might lay green or red eggs.  Just sayin'

    Of course, I also ventured out and started experimenting with homemade soap...

    And laundry detergent....

    Earlier this month Charlie decided that he is now Cooper's official bottle holder....

    And yes, he cried when I later took Cooper away

     Ezra took the kids out one morning to cut and stack firewood....

    I love seeing my boys work outside!

    Another one in training

     Back in school we tried Farmer Boy's popcorn and milk trick.  If you fill a glass to the top with milk and then fill an equal size glass with popped popcorn, you can add the popcorn one kernel at a time to the milk and the milk will not spill over.  Since this idea came from a Little House book, we decided to make popcorn the old-fashioned way, on the stove.

    It worked!

    A few more projects this month....

    If you ever think my children act like wild Indians, you now know why....

    And with my new love for Pinterest (and about 47 trips to Hobby Lobby), I volunteered to decorate my mother-in-law's dining room for Thanksgiving...

      And then we attempted to take a nice Thanksgiving family picture....

    Take two...

    Take three....

    So we fired the kids and just did this...

    Hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving as well!