5 Things to Focus on When Life Gets Hard

Every time my college classes start up again, I have a hard time keeping up on my blog. I’m just being real here. This summer semester happens to be more frantic than usual, as I’ve spent most of it in Phoenix, Arizona with family. On top of being away from my own bed, desk, kitchen, food, and all the normal comforts of home, the summer semester classes are a week shorter (which actually makes a huge difference!), and I’m going through some things emotionally that are making it very hard to study.

So, my blog has fallen to the very last priority on my list, and since the list keeps getting longer, my blog has been neglected. It’d be cool if I could develop robot-like abilities during stressful, busy times, and get it all done. Unfortunately, I’m human just like everyone else. Maybe your family is struggling with illness, relationship issues, too-busy schedules, or something else. Whatever it is, remember that we’re all human and that you can’t do everything all the time. Oh, and that’s OK. It really is.

Today, I thought I’d talk about five things you can focus on when life feels unmanageable, because I think we all feel that way at some point. Keep on chugging, exhausted one. This, too, shall pass. I’m reminding myself, also; we’re in this together.

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 1. God – Sometimes, when we focus on our relationship with God, other things become less important. Other times, we gain clarity and understanding through prayer and studying the Word. Really, you can’t go wrong with having some quiet time with God every day and seeking His solace.

Bonus: I believe that God gives us certain people in our lives that can help us when we struggle, if we allow them to. Use the resources God has provided for you.

2. Your health/self-care – Eat well. Choose healthy snacks when you can, stay hydrated, and try to sleep when you can. If your body feels like garbage, your whole life suffers. Get some sunshine every day and go for a quick walk, even if you don’t feel like spending more time outdoors. The vitamin D and exercise will boost your mood, which helps when you’re going through a particularly stressful time. When you’re stressed, your immune system actually suffers. Try to treat your body well during this time.

3. The people directly in your care – You might be tempted to take on extra projects even though you’re already stretched thin. Pick and choose wisely. Say no if you need to. Make a list of priorities and be sure to include the basics, because they are important. If you have a spouse and kids, those things go at the top of the list, right underneath caring for yourself. Beyond that, you need to decide how much you can tackle right now. Be kind to yourself, and carefully choose what you can reasonably handle.

4. Things you enjoy doing – It’s alright to enjoy something that seems frivolous. As long as it doesn’t become your whole life while you ignore your responsibilities, scheduling time to do things you enjoy is crucial to your mental well-being. When  you are in the right frame of mind, you can handle the stress of life so much better. Don’t feel selfish. Our spouses, kids, friends, and family should know that we enjoy doing things for ourselves also. We’re human after all, right? Have fun. Laugh. Smile again. Enjoy your life; this is it.

5. Finding joy in the small things – There’s something beautiful in remembering that sunshine on flower petals is special, that a child’s smile can touch your heart if you let it, that drinking a cup of coffee is a sweet spot in the day, and that a kind word is better than gold.

Find your joy in the small things, and the big things seem a little smaller. It won’t make them go away, but it will help you remember that not everything is terrible. It will remind you that God has a plan for you… that tough times now don’t mean tough times forever… that life is good, even when it sucks.

Do you have anything else you try to focus on when life is trying? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Until next time, take care of yourselves, and I hope that you find joy and light in your day.



Wonderland: a Review

Today I’d like to talk to you about something that’s near and dear to my heart: books and art. Now, some would say all books are art, and that’s true, but this particular book is artier than a regular book, because you get to color in it. Wonderland by Amily Shen is a darling adult coloring book that I get the privilege of reviewing for you today. There are a lot of coloring books out there that aren’t aimed at the Kindergarten crowd, so hopefully this will help you decide if this is a book you’d like to pick up.
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Now, I have a particularly hard time writing in “regular” books, because I’ve always treated them like treasures, and you don’t scribble in, highlight, or notate your treasures. Even with college, I prefer using a billion sticky notes over highlighting in my textbooks. When I highlight my Bible (I’ve done is a few times, I confess), it grates my nerves, and I have to force myself to uncap my highlighter, put it to the page, and drag it across. It hurts my heart to write in books.

So, coloring books like this, that are meant to be covered in ink, pencil, and marker, well, they are incredibly special to me. Amily Shen basically created something beautiful and then sold it like a whispered secret, “Here, it’s OK. It’ll be even prettier when you’re done.” This particular book is Alice in Wonderland themed, but it’s not the Alice you’ve seen in the Disney movie. It’s also not the Alice that lives in Tim Burton’s creepy world. This Alice is sweet, puffy-dressed, and plain-faced. Wonderland gives the reader a new adventure of Alice’s, and it’s different than what you’ve read before, but it’s also the same.

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I said reader because there is actual reading in this book. There are a lot of pictures, but there are also pages dedicated to text. Because of this, you may not want to tear out your favorite colored page and frame it on your wall (am I the only one who wants to do this desperately when I’ve finished something intricate?), or pull a page out to give it to your child to color. All the text-based pages also have a small illustration in the corner for coloring.

Many of Alice’s traditional companions and enemies show up in the story. There’s a page for the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, the Queen of Hearts, the flamingo that was used for croquet, the card guards, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, the dodo, and the dormouse. There’s only one page for each in most instances, so you have one shot to make an amazing picture of that character.

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I’m sorry the lighting is kind of yellow-ish, but here’s the Queen of Hearts. I wanted to have her done for this picture, but I still can’t decide what to do with that intricate frill around her neck and waist.

There are a lot of pages that are what I’d call mildly interesting: a two-page spread of the café you “fall asleep” in before the adventure starts, another two page spread of the exterior of the café with a glimpse of the white rabbit, a rose garden maze, a two page spread of pastries, also, some activities like drawing owls, doodling butterflies, sketching cakes, and a page of pictures you can search for throughout the book. Those pages just aren’t for me. I know there are people out there who want to doodle and do little activities, but I just want to color. These types of pages are in other coloring books I’ve seen also, they just don’t appeal to me, personally. Maybe you’ll love them.

My only real complaint is that the ink used on the pages rubs off onto the page behind it if you color too hard. I color really vibrant shades, and this often means pressing hard with a colored pencil. If I don’t flip the book open so the page I’m coloring is flat against the hard surface I’m coloring on, it will tattoo the next page that it’s touching. If you color hard, this is something you may want to consider.

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These leaves are from the opposite page. This is where the ink rubbed off on the next page.

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Here’s a gorgeous cupcake.

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And the opposite page after coloring on the back of the cupcake.

The paper is nice and thick. I used my favorite Crayola glitter markers, covered a good chunk of the page, and there was no bleed-through. Overall, I like this book. The cover is gorgeous and thick, there are plenty  of pictures to keep me busy, and the illustrations are unique and different, but still familiar.

Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion. I am not required to give a positive review, and any thoughts I’ve expressed are mine. Pictures are taken from Wonderland by Amily Shen and are copyrighted by her.








Catan Histories: Trails to Rails, a Review

I thought I’d post a review today of a board game that I bought for my kids this last Christmas. Yes, I’m aware that was 5 months ago, but it’s honestly taken me this long to decide whether I love it or hate it. My family, including my 8yo and my 7yo, really enjoys playing Settlers of Catan, so when I found out there was a version based on the building of the transcontinental railroad in the United States, my little homeschooling heart just about burst. The game, Catan Histories: Trails to Rails, is around the $50 mark, so I hesitated… a lot.  I finally caved over the holidays because… learning and Catan and awesomeness awaited us if I could just fork over the cash.

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Homeschooling While Mom Goes to College: Part II

I posted awhile back, at the beginning of my 1st year back in college, about how we were coping as a family with the challenge of attending school while teaching. Going back and reading it, I can see that I was so full of hope and excitement for what was to come. And then the reality and weight of the situation began to settle in…

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Homeschooling Encouragement: Learning as a Part of Life

    We recently acquired a flock of chicks. Twelve tiny chickens covered in soft, downy fluff that cheep non-stop and need constant care for their first weeks of life. My homeschool has come alive since they came to join us. It’s been some of the most productive time my children have spent learning all year. What better way to teach boys to slow down and be gentle than to hand them a tiny chick and trust them with it? Would my kids learn as fully how to take time to care for something helpless and needy by listening to a book read by me? Continue reading

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers: a Review

Today’s review is on the book Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers by Funtastic Unit Studies. This book is by Susan Kilbride; we received a physical copy of the book in the mail, and did two units from it with our 4 year old, 6 year old, and 8 year old kids.

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Homeschool Review: Horizons Preschool Curriculum Set

For the last 5 weeks, we have been using Horizons Preschool Curriculum Set  by Alpha Omega Publications; today I am going to review it, tell you how it worked for us, and give you a peek into our preschool day.

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CursiveLogic: A Handwriting Curriculum Review

We have been using a new program, the CursiveLogic Workbook by CursiveLogic, to teach my 3rd grader to write cursive. Today, my review is going to cover how we have used the book, and our thoughts on the method of learning. This book teaches cursive in a new way; instead of going alphabetically and learning one letter at a time, the student learns groups of letters that are similar so the process goes much faster. Continue reading

Middlebury Interactive Languages: Spanish Curriculum Review

I was recently invited to try out a language curriculum from Middlebury Interactive Languages.  I received access to Elementary Spanish I: Grades K-2 grade, and today I am going to review the program for you.

Spanish Curriculum Continue reading

IEW: Spelling Review

I was recently invited to use and review a spelling curriculum, Phonetic Zoo, Spelling Level A [Starter Set] from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Today, I am going to go over how I used this program with my 3rd grader. This program is designed for grades 3-8, and Level A is the first set in the program. Continue reading