How to Nourish Your Child’s Mind in Just 15 Minutes A Day

How to nourish your child's mind in just 15 minutes a day

Everyday, I make it a point to read to my children. They have always been excited to be read aloud to, and often bring me books asking me to read to them throughout the day. Many times I even see them in their room sitting, patiently turning through a book that they don’t even know how to read yet.

Reading is such an important part of a child’s growth. Did you know that only 33% of high school students are reading at “proficient” level, meaning that they just scrape by reading at grade level? In addition, those who struggle with reading proficiently for their grade level are much more likely to drop out of school and not attend college.

Words make up a lot of our lives anymore: we read signs, instructions, magazines. But in all reality, our children don’t read well. They can’t comprehend what they are reading, or they read slow, and that makes reading unenjoyable.

When you read to your child you are nourishing their developing brains! Reading increases vocabulary, comprehension, creativity, concentration, among a multitude of other benefits. Lack of reading skills is become a horrible problem. The Educational Testing Service says:

“Forecasters have predicted that if static literacy levels continue, then by 2030 the entire Literacy Level distribution of the U.S. population will have decreased, creating an American workforce that is unequipped and unskilled to work in the demanding global market.”

In just 16 years, it is expected that we won’t read well enough to compete in the global market. There is such an easy solution to this: read to your children. I understand that sometimes things get busy. That sometimes you have to juggle work, school activities, and Zumba classes. But it is so important to read to your child as frequently as you can.

And the best part is, it doesn’t really matter what you read them. They still get the benefits. Sometimes, I read my three and one year old my textbooks. I get my homework done, and they get the benefit of being read to. You can read the sports section, if that’s your thing, or the financial articles. Anything. Just read to them.

And if you prefer kids books, Amazon is a great place to shop for books. You can buy them digitally or hard copy for a good price on there. My favorite resource for a constant stream of new kids books is We Give Books. You sign up for a free account, and then have access to hundreds of beautiful digital books.

So what will reading books do to your child (besides give them a healthy background of learning)? Children who are frequently read to at a young age go farther in school than those who aren’t. Students who read through the summer have less learning-loss, and those who read throughout the year can gain 4,000-12,000 new vocabulary words a year.

Nourish your child’s brain. Feed them words.

Happy reading!

What’s your favorite childhood book? Answer in the comments below!

I Ran My First 5k and Won!

Yesterday I ran my first 5k, and won! Well, at least in my eyes. There were 149 runners that showed up, and I placed 87th with a time of 31 minutes (31:39:88, to be exact, with an average pace of 9:52 a mile). But the fact that I went and finished gives me a great sense of accomplishment.

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There were some crazy fast people there! The first place winner clocked in at a mere 17:08! I can’t imagine running so fast!

There was a murderous, steep mountain hill (aptly named “Falls Hill”) that almost everyone walked up, including me. Most of the course was flat or small hills after that. This race also gave me a new record for my 1 mile time: 5:37 (I’m in disbelief).

There are a few things I’d wish I’d known before going in that would have really calmed my nerves.

1. You pin your bib to the front of your shirt, anywhere. This may seem like common sense to most, but I’d never run nor watched a race before and I thought maybe there was a specific spot on your shirt you had to pin it. Turns out, as long as it is visible you can pin it on your face for all they care.

2. You don’t start being timed until you cross the start line. So even though thirty people got a “head start” on you, you could actually run the same amount of time as them on the course. I found this out because a girl who was way ahead of me crossing the starting line ran just a few seconds shorter than me. If I had known this beforehand, I would have had a lot less stress during the race.

3. Bring your own post race snacks! I had been told there would be snacks and drinks provided. Turns out that was half a banana, a quarter of a half of a bagel (they broke the two sides apart and then cut them into quarters, making 8 pieces), and cheap, off brand bottled water (which gives me major headaches, and was also very warm). I was shocked by how little they provided! I understand that it is hard for them to provide for so many people, but even a whole banana would have been nice. But for the future, I know to bring my post-race food.

4. Crossing the finish line is addicting. After we got home, I immediately got online and began searching for more races.

Overall, it was an amazing experience, and one that I highly wish to repeat. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to convince someone to run one with me (nudge, nudge sister-in-Florida).

Happy Racing!

Have you ever run a race? Answer in the comments below!

Getting Organized and FREE Printables!

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If you’ve ever been on Pinterest, then you know how much organizing stuff is there. They have diaper boxes into fab organizing bins, dinosaur trays, and printables galore. The latter of which caught my eye a few weeks back.

I am a naturally unorganized person. I have tried everything. Color coding, filing, post it notes all over the house. Nothing seemed to be able to keep me on task, and get what needed done, done. Tired of constantly filling out to do lists only to have them misplaced or thrown away and forgotten, this link about making a household binder at Thirty Handmade Days (an excellent blog all around, check it out!).

I really liked what she had done, and I thought that there were some really great ideas on her site. Knowing that I wanted to make this binder, I went ahead and bought an economy view binder from Wal-Mart for about $3. I only got a one inch, but in hindsight I should have gotten the two-inch binder. I also bought a pack of page protectors and a set of 8 divider tabs.

While I liked the printables that Thirty Handmade Days had, they weren’t quite what I was looking for. After browsing Pinterest and the internet for a while, I found some excellent printables that were closer to what I was wanting. The best part? I’ve included them here! The printables I found and use all look clean, modern, and beautiful! I saved you a bit of trouble in making your own binder, all you have to do is click on the picture or link and print them yourself!

What did I include in my household binder?

Free printable fillable "Today is the Day" planner/diary by Erin Rippy

The first page I put in my binder was a daily schedule. I love the bright, simple design! It has a “Schedule” area that is separated into hourly time slots from 6 am to midnight. On the right side is  “To Do”, “Phone calls & emails”, “Places to go”, and “Notes”. I really liked this. Not only can I write a to do list, but I can also schedule in when I should be doing the tasks! I don’t always follow the schedule exactly, but it does give me some direction for the day. I’d have to say that this is by far my favorite printable I’ve found. I stuck it in a page protector so I can use it over and over, and it also prints nicely half-size if you have a mini binder or just want to save on ink and paper.

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There weren’t any printables I could find that covered what I wanted next, so I made one! It’s my Daily Reflection page. It has three spaces for things that I am thankful for, and then a place to put how I will serve God. I printed this off 4 to a sheet, and it is still big enough for me to write on the blanks. I didn’t want to put this in a page protector because I like being able to look back and see what I was thankful for before. I write the date in the corner, and keep two months worth of pages in my binder. I use a paper clip so I can turn all of them at once without having to flip through them to get to the next section.

This is where I inserted my first tab, labeled “Planner”.  My year at a glance is the first page behind the tab. You can find lots of these printables all over Pinterest, and I just use a very simple one. I included a monthly calendar from 505 Designs next. The fields on this one are editable, so I typed in birthdays and anniversaries so I won’t forget!

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The next tab in my binder is “Organizing”, which I used as a lump term to include cleaning, bills, and contact information. I created my own simple cleaning schedule that has three tasks for me to do daily (making beds, unloading and reloading the dishwasher, and sanitizing kitchen and bathroom counters) as well as three tasks each for every day of the week except Sunday. This sheet is also in a page protector for reuse. I like to keep the tasks each day that I do checked, so if I have extra time I can go back and do ones that I’ve missed the earlier days of the week. You can find the annual bill checklist I use here, and I designed my own contact information sheet, which you can get here.

cleaning schedule

The next two sections deal with school; the first is for my school things and the second is for homeschooling. I printed off another calendar (this time I printed two months per sheet), and made a schedule of when to do assignments. I made sure to schedule every assignment in at least two days before it was due, and set that as my “due date”. That way, I always finish the assignment ahead of time. As I complete assignments, I highlight them so I know that they are done. Last semester I made the mistake of highlighting things with the intention of completing them, but then life would happen and I wouldn’t do them. Later, I’d see they were already checked off and assumed they were done. I missed several assignments, and learned my lesson very quickly. DO NOT HIGHLIGHT UNTIL ASSIGNMENTS ARE SUBMITTED. Behind the calendar is the class schedules and syllabi, and some assignments I printed off so that I could do them on the go (in waiting rooms, for example).

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Behind my homeschooling tab is my lesson plans, and a to do, to buy, and lesson idea list. Once again, I print the lesson plans 4 to a page to save ink and paper (can you tell I really like to save ink and paper?), and so I am able to see about a month of plans all at once.

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The last two tabs in my binder are meal planning and recipes. I’m still trying to find a meal planning printable that works for me, and I feel like I’m probably going to have to design my own to get one that’s just right. But I found these lovely recipe card printables  that I use. The space for ingredients is a little short, but other than that I really like them!

wpid-wp-1392782419129.jpgFor now, that’s all that I’ve got in my binder. I added in a cover and binder spine printable for a finishing touch.

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I’ve been using my binder for a few weeks now, and it has helped SO much it is unbelievable. My house stays cleaner, I don’t forget assignments, and I know exactly what to expect. Plus, I’m planning on adding in a blogging section soon! There are so many great uses for this, and you can customize it however you need it. It’s cheap and fast to put together, too! I’m very happy I decided to make this. Keep in mind, if you decide to put together your own, that there are hundreds and hundreds of free printables on the internet! Be creative, and design it so it works for you.

Happy organizing!

How do you stay organized? Answer in the comments below!

Easy Any-One-Can-Do-It Homemade (Healthy!) Pizza

Easy Homemade Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza?

But it gets expensive. And, with all the grease and who-knows-what in it, it really isn’t all that healthy.

But wait!

What if there was a healthier, family friendly, EASY way to make it at home?

There is!

I’ve tried out many recipes for a partial whole wheat pizza dough, but they were all too dense, too thin, or too blah. After some experimenting with mixing other recipes together, I created the BEST crust ever. It rises just the right amount, freezes well, and tastes delicious.

For the dough you’ll need:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour*
  • 1.5 cups white flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (McCormick Perfect Pinch Italian seasoning works well)
  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
  • 1.5 teaspoons sugar
*I use Hodgson’s Mill Whole Wheat flour because it is the only one that I have been able to find without any additives, preservatives, or enrichments.

Directions:

The first step is to put the warm water in a small bowl. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves, then sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and set it aside.

Yeast/Sugar/Water

Next, measure the flour into a large bowl. You’re welcome to experiment on the ratios of the flour, but I’ve found that the measurements I use create a great crust. Add in the salt next. I don’t really measure this; I eyeball it. But for those of you less cooking-skilled (you know who you are) I guesstimated a close measurement of 1.5 teaspoons. Add in the seasoning at this point as well.

Add Salt

Mix the dry ingredients all together. Stir the yeast into the sugar/water mixture, then pour into the dry ingredients and mix. It will start to get thick and chunky. thick dough

You can knead it in the bowl for a while to further mix everything together, then dump it on a lightly floured counter to finish kneading it. You may have to add more water if it is crumbly, but do so one tablespoon at a time. The dough will become smoother as you knead it, and should end up slightly tacky/sticky.

Before putting the dough back in the large bowl, grease the sides with some olive oil. There will probably be little crumblies on the side from when you first added the water to the dry ingredients. You can rinse these out before greasing the bowl, or be lazy like me and not worry about them. When you put the dough back in, roll it around a little to completely cover it in the oil. This prevents it from sticking to the sides as it rises. You’ll only need about a tablespoon or so. Cover it with cling wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 60 minutes.

Cover and rise

A cloth of some sort works, but I’ve noticed that the dough rises quicker and more when I use cling wrap to cover it. I  use press n’ seal instead of cling wrap, though, because it sticks to anything you want it to, and isn’t as difficult to work with as cling wrap is (I got mine with a coupon and after Christmas sale, and only paid $1 a box).

After it’s done rising (I only wait about 45 minutes. I’m impatient),  knead it slightly and then re-cover it and let rise another 10-15 minutes. Roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick, and make a circle for  a pizza, or roll and cut out circles to make mini pizzas, or whatever you want with it really. It’s very versatile. Then let it rise for about 5 minutes, while your oven preheats to 350 degrees.

If you are making a normal pizza, bake it for 4 minutes, add sauce and toppings (for my sauce I use Classico pizza sauce), then bake another 4-6 minutes. This crust doesn’t turn golden brown, you just kind of have to guess. If you cut it down the center, and it doesn’t seem done, it probably isn’t.

If you are wanting to freeze it for later use, bake it for about 4 minutes, add sauce and toppings, then wrap in cling wrap and freeze. When you are ready to eat it, cook at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, then check it every 2-3 minutes until it is done (usually takes about 7 minutes for mine). I like to make a double batch, and then use half of it to cut mini pizzas out to freeze for quick lunches.

The result?

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Delicious, cheesy goodness (that’s also healthier!).

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As an added plus, the ingredients for the crust, jar of sauce, and amount of cheese used add up to about $5 for a large pizza! Wahoo!

Happy eating!

What’s your favorite topping on pizza? Answer in the comments below!

I Made A Huge Running Mistake (And How You Can Avoid It)

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I made a huge mistake when I started running, and I am still paying for it.

Can anyone guess what it was? (Brace yourself, avid runners)

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I bought cheap shoes (the exact ones you see in the picture. Danskin Now running shoe, $15 at good ol’ Wal-Mart) .

I can see your look of horror and hear your shocked “Why?!”

I skimped on shoes because I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep running; up until last year, I absolutely hated running. Explaining why I started is a whole separate post, but the point is, I didn’t want to invest the money in running shoes if I wasn’t going to use them for more than a month. They’re just fancy tennis shoes anyway, right?

WRONG. Within two days of running, I had horribly painful shin splints, and runner’s knee on both sides. I couldn’t walk without excruciating pain shooting through my knees and legs. I sat on the couch, realizing that all the things I’d read about buying the right shoes was important stuff! You can’t start running unless you invest in the right shoe, or you will pay the price (a lesson I learned the hard way).

It was another month before I decided to try again. I scoured the internet trying to find the right shoe for me. I know that you are supposed to go in and get fitted, but honestly, I am just not a people person. Luckily, I came across Runner’s World’s shoe finder, which has you take a short quiz about your running style and then lists shoes that offer what you need. My top recommended shoe was Asics Cumulus Gel 13, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Next in line was the Gel 14, and then some Brooks shoes and a Nike shoe. All of them at least $90, but most well over $100, a long stretch for my single-income family.

Then, like an angel descended from above, Black Friday graced me with its presence. Almost every store had running shoes discounted, but Amazon offered almost all of their shoes at 50-60% off. Can’t beat that!

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I ended up buying the Asics Cumulus Gel 14 for $54.96 (now $80 on sale).

The next week, they arrived on my doorstep. I was so excited to try them out that I set everything out the night before to have a morning run. I laced up immediately after waking up, took a deep breath, and went running. The difference was instantly clear. I felt like I was on air, it was easier to keep a better pace, and I didn’t feel like running was a struggle. And afterwards, though my knees were a bit sore, they didn’t hurt like a million knives were jabbing into them. I decided to run again. And again. And again.

Actually, I’ve decided to never stop running.

I can still feel the effects of those painful first days of running though,. My knees still ache a bit,  especially on days I run. I can’t help feeling that if I’d just started out buying the right shoes I could have avoided that.

Shoes are such an important aspect in running. Really, they are they only aspect. You don’t need special running pants, or jacket, or headphones. Just shoes. They make such a huge difference in the sport, changing a firm running hater into someone who runs so much they run in their dreams.

If you ever tried running and didn’t like it, I beg you to try a different shoe. Or if you are considering running, get a good shoe to begin with! Running stores offer fittings to help you find the right shoe, or if you prefer you can do what I did and research different shoes on your own. But whatever you do, save yourself some trouble and don’t skimp. Make the investment. It is completely, 100% worth it (plus, it might encourage you to get your money’s worth by running more! win-win).

Happy running!

What is your favorite running shoe? Answer in the comments below!

Blasphemous Me

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This is one of my favorite days of the year! Two years ago today, my oh-so-romantic husband proposed to me. He has truly been a blessing and I can’t thank him enough for all the things he has done, and still does, for me.

We’ve been married for a bit over a year and a half now, and neither of us could be happier. He is my best friend, and I’m sure if you asked him, he’d probably say the same thing about me.

I often see other couples and how apart they seem. In movies, and in real life, the husband is always portrayed as wanting a break from his “nagging” wife and wanting to hang out with the guys, and the wife is always busy with the kids, or work, or whatever else and just “doesn’t have time” for her husband. This is such a heartbreaking portrayal of marriage.

In our marriage, I make it a point to put my husband first. Not just above me, but also above my children. Some may see this as blasphemous, but I think that this is important for marital happiness. Why?

I want my children raised in a home where they see that their parents love and respect each other. By putting him first I show him that he is important to me. He does the same for me. This shows our children how a loving, respectful marriage works. If instead they saw my husband going out with his friends every night and me leaving all the time to hang out with friends, they would get the message that we don’t view our spouse as important. If my children see me turning away from my husband to take care of them, they get the message that he is not important, or that they are the most important in the house (neither of which I want them to think). It is vital to put him first to create a healthy, happy household. In addition, seeing the give and take in our relationship, they will learn that in ALL relationships that there should be a give and take.

I also see putting my husband first as putting my children first. By putting my husband first, it unites us in raising our children. Our children are often called “respectful”, “polite”, and “well-behaved”. When two parents are working together, demonstrating what respect is, children learn from that. You are their role model, and they watch you to see how they should act.

On this Valentine’s day, I’ll be doing what I do everyday: putting my husband first.

Happy Valentine’s day!

Are you doing something special for your spouse today? Answer in the comments below!

Being More Thankful (And A Printable!)

Hi all!

This wasn’t originally a planned post, but I was so excited that I couldn’t wait!

My husband and I have been talking a lot about how we aren’t always thankful for what we have. We both wished that we were better able to show our faith through our daily living. We sat for the longest time yesterday, both of us trying to come up with three things (other than family, job, and house) that we were thankful for. Eventually we did, but it made us both realize that we have lost sight of all the blessings we have around us.

So I made a little worksheet for us to fill out each morning! It’s my first printable, and it is FREE for my readers!

However, I ask that if you share it you link it back to this page or my Etsy shop (which just opened!).

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You can put three things you are thankful for each morning, so that you start your day off realizing what a blessing your life is. In addition, there is a place to put how you will serve God that day. My most recent way was to have patience with my children, and my husband’s was to be an example to his coworkers by not laughing at crude/wrong jokes. Just simple things, but it is the little things that character is built from.

To use, right-click the picture and select “Save Picture”, then go to the saved file to print.

Right now, I have several printed out and in my planner binder, and we just take one out each morning. But for the sake of conserving ink and paper, I will probably put it into a page protector so we can use dry erase markers and reuse the page.

Soon, I will use a version of this printable with my three-year-old E in home school. She’s still in preschool, so for her I am going to set it up so she can draw pictures instead of writing. I think it is important to teach children thankfulness from a young age. Look for the child-friendly printable in my shop and in an upcoming post that I’ve been working hard on!

Happy reflecting!

What’s your favorite time of day to reflect? Answer in the comments below!