Living with Intention – new years resolutions check-in

One of the most effective ways I have found to live intentionally is to checkin regularly with your goals. It’s one thing to say you want to become a certain way, do a specific thing or live a particular way but it’s something else entirely to actually make it happen and the only way to truly become anything is with consistency and a whole lot of willpower. I have been working on living more intentionally for a couple years now and one of the things that makes a huge difference for me is quarterly check-ins…with myself.

This years goals are centered around the word: cleanse. Cleansing myself from negativity, toxic environments, bad habits, clutter, etc. As I look back on the first 4.5 months I’m pretty proud with how much progress I have made but I’m also glad I’m doing this checkin because I realize there is more I can be doing…especially with summer approaching.

I have been much pickier about who I follow on social media, unfollowing any accounts that I feel are either negative or are too forceful about their opinions to the point that they put down anyone who does not think the same as them. I have also cut back on how much tv I watch and how often I am on social media….like a lot. It has had a wonderful effect in many aspects. 1. I spend more time with our kids 2. I have more time to sit in silence and reflect and meditate 3. I find other ways to have noise on in the background if needed such as inspiring podcast or music that brightens my day and mood.

Another big change I have made came after we spent some time in Montana over spring break. It was a big eye opener to me that I needed to slow down again. I tend to be a person who enjoys being kept busy. I love projects and crossing things off a list but if I’m not being careful I can get a little too carried away with it all which leads to me getting some pretty unrealistic expectations for myself. During that time away from “city life” (or really suburb life in our case) I was reminded how great it felt to spend some time reading each day, and walking around outside and having the house smell of fresh bread. My desire to live on a homestead where we have everything we need to survive right there on our property began to burn strong within me again. So when we came back home we started making some changes… I planted a garden, started taking about making bread, started researching what we need to get chickens (those will be coming later this year), started planning out landscape in the front yard and backyard that will allow us to spend more time outdoors and reprioritized what is most important for our kids’ education. I still make to do lists each day and I spend the morning getting the “musts” done which always includes a morning walk amongst other things, and then we do school and then while the kids play with friends after school I take 2 hours to do as much as I can on my to do list and then I spend some time reading or meditating, or painting my toenails or anything that just feels “fun” to me. It has made a huge difference in my mental health and I love teaching the kids life skills such as cooking, gardening, harvesting and baking and watching them get excited about it with me. That’s when I really know we’re on the right path that we need to be on during this phase of life.

One other way I have started to cleanse my life is the literal kind. I have been going through closets and cabinets and even our garage to declutter. I love the feeling of giving new life to items that have just been sitting at our house not being put to use for months and months if not longer and now someone else gets to get all excited about their new purchase and actually USE it. I get such satisfaction as I see items in my makeup drawers and in our medicine cabinet actually get finished and then thrown away because I’m just being more intentional about finishing what I have before I try a new product. That may seem like common sense to most, and really it is to me too, I know I should be doing that, but up until this point it had been hard for me to do. Like I’m actually FINISHING my candles before I buy more and that is just a huge step for me 🙂

Some things I plan on working on these next 3 months are: 1. continuing to declutter the house (I’ll up this a bunch with it being summer and no longer teaching) 2. continuing to work on our current garden AND beginning to plant some of the perimeter plants we are wanting to get in 3. spending quality time with each kid one on one over the summer 4. letting go of expectations that I have to get everything done every day but instead to be ok if I have to push some things off for another day 5. read/relax every single day. make time for it, it’s important 6. drink more water. 7. continue to only watch tv at night when the kids go to bed 8. up my scripture study time since we won’t be having the school schedule 9. less projects around the house (other than finishing what we have started) and more family adventures. 10. continue to have get togethers with friends & family that bring us joy and encouragement

I hope if you have been following since the beginning of the year when I first talked about setting yearly goals and checking in regularly to stay on top of them that you use this post as a reminder to check in with yourself. How are you doing? What have you been doing well? What changes have you seen for the better? What areas could you improve? Have you realized new goals that you want to set for yourself or any that you realize aren’t as important as you thought? Re-evaluate, re-adjust if needed and KEEP MOVING FORWARD. You got this!

xo,
Jenny

Easy art project w/kids

We have been learning about the oceans and continents for the 2nd half of this year and I LOVE the curriculum we have been using. You can find it HERE. As we studied Africa they had this fun art project that we had so much fun doing and loved the results. I obviously can’t share the printouts you get in the curriculum but I figured I can share the general idea. (trust me though, if you are going to teach your children about the continents, you want to use this packet, it’s so worth it!)

First part is the best part. Get some watercolor paper and some watercolors and paint a sunset. Some of our kids chose to also have some grass or rocks as well which I love. Set it to the side and let it dry while you get started on the next part.

If you google “animal silhouette” or “animal outline” and you can find a bunch of options. Print animal(s) of your choice and cut them out so you can use it as a template. Use a white crayon or some chalk pencils to trace your animal onto some black paper. (If you have the ink to just print an animal silhouette you obviously get to skip this step)

Once your painting is dry completely glue your silhouette(s) onto your paper and enjoy! We just love how these turned out and it was the perfect way to end our Africa adventure (aka lesson)!

xo,
Jenny

Joshua Tree National Park

A couple weekends ago we woke up Saturday morning longing to take a break from house projects and instead go on a family adventure. So naturally we jumped in the car and took off within 30 minutes…what can I say? We love being spontaneous.

Don’t forget that if you have a 4th grader you can get into any of the National Parks for free. Just go HERE and scroll down a little until you see “Get Your Pass”. Have your child answer the couple questions and then print the pass before you head out. Thanks to our son we got in free this time!

As for when to visit Joshua Tree National Park, here is an average temp recording of the park. We went in April because we wanted to go before it was too hot but I had ready May-October is the “ideal time”. We’ll just have to agree to disagree. One thing is for sure, no matter what time of the year you go, make sure to bring plenty of water, a full tank of gas and be prepared for NO cell service in the park.

If there is one thing Joshua Tree National Park is known for it is…well…the Joshua tree. These Dr Suess like trees are super fun looking and definitely cover the park. You drive through the park a little bit past the Ocotillos and Cholla Cactus Garden before you start to see the trees but once you do it will amaze you how many there are!

Since we only had one day in the park and not very many hours because of how long our drive was, we were picky about what we stopped for. Our first stop was Skull Rock and it did not disappoint. In fact, most of the family voted that it was our favorite part.

It doesn’t take long to see why it is called Skull Rock. Once you take a picture with the skull there are a bunch of giant boulders to hop around and climb on. It is so much fun. There is a trail you can follow that takes you up and over the rocks but we just stayed close to the entrance and played around a bit before moving on.

Even Tay was getting really into climbing the rocks. So sweet. The older kids had fun finding small crevices that they could jump across.

After Skull Rock we moved on to Hidden Valley Trail. There are also picnic tables all around the entrance of this trail so if you need to stop to eat before or after a hike, this is a good place for that. On the hike a friendly man was telling us the history behind the location. Apparently, according to him, the name comes from cow stealers that would steal cows from nearby ranchers/residents and they would hide them in this valley, hence the name, Hidden Valley.

This trail is definitely kid friendly. It is a 1 mile loop and very easy. Even our 2 year old walked most of the way. There are so many fun crevices to play in a rocks to climb. Keep an eye out for wildlife of course. We didn’t see any snakes but there were plenty of places they could of been out sunbathing. We did come across some lizards but that was it. We were told there were sometimes some big horn sheep there but we missed out on seeing any.

Our final stop before we had to head back home was Barker Dam Trail. I have mixed feeling about this trail but all in all I would do it again to try to find the dam. That’s right, we didn’t even see it. It is an easy trail and just slightly longer than Hidden Valley Trail at a 1.1 mile loop. There was a little more up and down climbing involved so definitely no stroller access but it was easy for our 5 year old still. Our 2 year old spent some times on dad, and my, shoulders because we were on our 2nd hike of the day.

As for the scenery, it was still beautiful in it’s desert sort of beauty. One thing I love about desert hikes is the conversations you can have with your kids about beauty growing in difficult terrain, like the flowers we saw blooming ON a rock.

Or these gorgeous flowers blooming from this extremely prickly cactus.

There was still plenty of Joshua trees…

…and more climbing on rocks and hiking through desert.

We never made it to the dam though and the only thing I can think of is when you see the arrow/sign pointing for you to turn left to start the loop back to the parking lot you should still keep hiking further past it to see the dam and then back track a little to get back to walking the trail back to the parking lot. We’ll have to find out for sure next time we go. I had read your best chance for seeing bighorn sheep and deer was at the dam since they come down to get water.

Places we wanted to get to but ran out of time this go around:

Lost Palm Oasis – that is right there is an oasis with warm sand & large California palms right in the middle of the dessert! It is a quick stop as you don’t have to hike long to go to it but we were just running out of daylight and needed to start our 4 hour drive back home.
Keys View – this is the highest viewpoint in the park giving you breathtaking views of the mesas, rocks and valley along with a glimpse of the infamous San Andreas Fault!
If you really have time to spend at the park you can set up a tour of Keys Ranch (only available with a paid tour) that really does look pretty cool. The tour gives you a glimpse into how settlers and natives lived on this land for so many years.

To sum it all up, you can still have a great experience at Joshua National Park, even if you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it. Could we have spent more time there, absolutely! With that being said, we felt like we spent the perfect amount of time there to experience the park but not tire our littles out too much. I don’t think any of us are DYING to go back but we would love to stop by again at some point.

We even got a gorgeous sunset seeing us off as we got back on the highway to head home.

I’m grateful for these memories made with our family and I’m grateful for the reminder of just how beautiful this planet we get to call home is.

xo,
Jenny

Indoor Chalk Art

If it’s too hot (or cold) outside for sidewalk chalk or if you just want to try something different but simple, this is the art project for you! All you really need is black paper and some chalk but there are a few variations you can do. You can use white chalk or colored (we went with colored this time) and you can draw anything you would like or you can trace any outline you would like, just make sure you use nice thick lines for the next part. We chose to print some animals and characters and cut them out to trace but you can easily just draw your own shape if you would like.

Then once you have nice thick lines you just use your finger to pull the chalk away from the center.

Keep going around the drawing and pull away the chalk. Sometimes we had to redo a line to make it thicker to get the look we wanted.

Once you are done it might look quite messy like Andi’s above. Wash your hands so they are nice and clean again and then carefully and lightly brush off the areas you want to stay black to clean up your lines.

That’s it! Super easy, super fun, minimal amount of prep work and minimal amount of clean up. Quick wipe down of the table and we were done! I’m sure we’ll be doing this again over the summer when it’s too hot to be out on the sidewalk here in AZ.

xo,
Jenny

Wax Museum – Authors

One thing Parker was bummed about missing in 4th grade in public school was getting to do the wax museum project. So of course we just incorporated it into our curriculum! In public school here they choose someone from Arizona and research them and then they have a “wax museum” where parents get to come and push a button for each “wax figure” that makes them come to life and they get to give their speech they have prepared. I don’t see much benefit from learning more about someone just because they happen to be from Arizona so we decided to switch it up and do different themes. This year we chose: authors!

Look how cute they look up there! Our oldest was bummed she was going to miss their presentations so we took video which I’m so glad I did because it will be fun to watch them over the years. Parker was a ham and after his presentation he “powered down” and froze again, it’s fun to see them have fun with these projects.

Anyway, I had them fill out these simple forms so they knew what type of information was most important. Simple but gets the job done.

Here is the download if you want to print copies:

The next step was to write out a summary in first person and then practice, practice, practice. Finally, they chose costume and we did the presentations. We chose authors on Monday, researched Tuesday, wrote out summary on Wednesday, practiced and chose costumes on Thursdays and Friday morning and then had the presentation on Friday afternoon. You could easily drag this out and have them read a book by the author and stuff like that but I wanted this done sooner so we could move on. Next year we are going to choose a scientist so I’m hoping to drag it out more then so we can learn more details about each of their accomplishments and maybe do some experiments ourself. I’ll probably have a list of scientists for them to choose from so I can have a general idea of what to expect.

Final reveal of this years wax museum:

Parker was Dr. Seuss

Andi was Lucy Maud Montgomery.

All in all it was a huge success and we’re excited to make this an annual thing. We learned a lot of interesting things about these authors but most importantly it instilled a curiosity in our kids about authors in general. We have been doing quite a bit of googling “Why did _______ write the book ______?” or “Interviews with ______” to learn about the personalities of different authors. I love seeing our children crave learning and want to take the time to look things up for the themselves. It’s one of the greatest blessings that come from homeschool, less “I’ll learn what someone else tells me is important to know” and more “I’m curious about this, lets learn about it”. It’s the best!

Star Student

One thing I knew we would take from public school and incorporate into our homeschool was star student. Who doesn’t love feeling special and singled out in such a positive way? Since we only have 3 kids we are doing homeschool with they got to be star student for a whole quarter. They have something special we do each week and they get the occasional candy with a little card on it which is always a surprise. For example, we may randomly leave a pack of EXTRA gum on their desk with a little note that says something cheesy like, “We think you’re EXTRA special!”

Here is a copy of the weekly items we do if you want to print it. I write in the ribbon the name of the current student of the quarter.

We use THIS poster for week 1 and since it came with so many we’ll be using these for a few years. I’m excited to see how much their answers change over the years for the same questions. With that being said, THIS one is cheaper and also looks like a fun one. There are a ton of awesome ones on Teachers Pay Teachers as well as THIS fun one from Oriental Trading.

Each year my husband makes a video for our kiddos on their birthdays of pics of them from the previous year so for week 6 we watch each of the videos for the start student. That may need to be changed for your household 🙂

One of the weeks the kids get the MOST excited about is the last week when they get their star student book. Each family member writes a page for the star student saying some things they appreciate about them, then as a family we fill our our top “10 Reason We Love You” and there is always a cover page and closing page that is designed specifically for each child.

Here is the printable version of the 10 Reasons We Love You if you are interested

Parker was our most recent student of the quarter and since he is obsessed with all things Star Wars this was his closing page of his book

Here is the file if you want to print it:

Tyson really outdid himself with Parker’s cover. Now we have to get as clever and fun with all the kids next year.

I’m noticing I tend to end most of my post the same way but it really is how I feel…friendly reminder that above all else it’s all about having fun and making memories so it doesn’t have to be perfect, just have fun with it!

xo,
Jenny

Yeehaw! It’s a cowgirl party!

Someone had a birthday and she was so excited to have the cowgirl party we had started to plan last year but then Covid had hit bringing the party planning to a halt. So this year we made it happen.

Up first: food. Pizza was our main course but we also had:

pretzels dipped in white chocolate melting wafers with green dye and green sprinkles
I just bought the store bought Rice Krispies and unwrapped and stacked. I had ambitions for homemade but then…who has time for that 🙂
I used strips of handkerchiefs all throughout the decor
Pringle dipped in chocolate with a Rolo and Pull Twizzler rope on top. Only used a couple throughout cupcake stand because they were more work than I had anticipated and I had waited too long to start. So cute though and worth it
Cupcake toppers from HERE

Next up: decor. Links for items found underneath each picture.

Balloons were mostly from Walmart but I did get a pack of cow ones HERE I also got the handkerchiefs from Walmart except for the cow print which I bought two of from HERE
We already had THESE trays and I felt like they went great with theme but I think THESE would be perfect as well and you would have enough for a party and then some probably

Next up: games!

Balloons (from Walmart) held down with golf tees and shoot Nerf bullets at them
Ring toss. Some Coke bottles and Cream Soda bottles glued down on a piece of plywood and pool rings did the trick
Catching the bandit (aka dad). We got the lasso HERE
We also collected our hens’ eggs (aka plastic eggs) which they then got to add to their goodie bags

Last but not least: goodie bags!

Pretzels (we used GF due to a friend with allergies), m&ms, chex, PB chips and cake batter popcorn. Printable tags available at the bottom of the page
Funny face farm animals from HERE
Farm animal puffer balls from HERE
Bandana scrunchies from HERE
I put their goodies in a brown sack which I had wrote their names on and tied it with a strip of a bandana.

Below is a free printable for the “cowgirl trailmix”.

All in all the party was a huge success. We got Rylee a new jean jacket from Target and a cowgirl hat so she felt like a true cowgirl from dress to activities to her surroundings and it was so fun to see her light up all evening. As always, the most important part of any activity or party with your kids is to HAVE FUN and live in the moment. Great memories will be made no matter what, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

xoxo,
Jenny

Conversation clovers

We love our conversation starters in our family so we decided to come up with some holiday themed ones for St Patrick’s Day. We had a blast sitting our the dinner table one evening coming up with these and answering them as we went and we now look forward to re-answering them with grandparents tomorrow on the 17th!

I printed ours on green paper but it would also be fun to let kids color them if you have little ones. There are 2 blank ones you can fill in with your own questions if you’d like.

Have fun!

xo,
Brown family

Lucky Leprechaun Scavenger Hunt

We love a good scavenger hunt, especially on St Patrick’s Day. Cambryn and I decided to have our leprechaun come early his year since we’re going to be gone on the 17th and we figured why not share it…for FREE! First, here are some pictures from our hunt and below each pic is a link to items I used or where I got it if there is no direct link. Only the last clue talks about a treat so the rest can be just a hunt trying to see/catch him or you can have a couple treats along the way if you choose. Not every location had a little something for us but there were a couple along the way.

The clue that lead to the largest bedroom of the house took them to our master where a pair of socks for each kid was hidden behind a pillow along with the next clue. Socks are from the $1/$3 section of Target.

Climbing on counters, looking in drawers and cabinets, under tables….no place was off limits with our leprechaun.

The bathroom had some St Patrick’s themed temporary tattoos from HERE which the kids immediately put on and then came downstairs to show them off.

So we didn’t catch him again this year but he did leave a final treat on the doorstep which was awfully nice of him ☺️. I got the mini pots of gold HERE and filled them with Rolos and rainbow M&Ms (Skittles would be super fun too!) I love how small they are, they don’t need a ton of candy every holiday but it was fun to have a little treat.

Here is the free scavenger hunt ready for you to print, cut and do.

Happy hunting! Have fun!

xo,
Jenny

PS As an Amazon affiliate, we may receive a small percentage from any purchases made from links on this post at no extra cost to you. We do not advertise any product we do not use ourselves and enjoy.

Frozen Birthday Party!

I want to start this post by quickly explaining what type of birthday parties you will find on this blog. As a mother of 6, I throw a lot of parties. Some are bigger than others but what I have learned over the years is that the “middle tier” birthdays are the BEST! You are hear the explanation of “kids don’t care about their party, they just want friends and presents” and maybe that is true for some kids but I will respectfully disagree when it comes to my family. Our kids look back at their birthdays and although they were just as appreciative as the parties where we just had friends, pizza and a movie night, the parties that they talk about with childlike excitement and want to watch home videos from our the bigger parties. With all that being said, we have years its just not in the cards to do a big birthday, and we have years where we have fun with themes and make the most of it but I have definitely learned over the years that there is ALWAYS more you can do. Ways you can make it bigger and better and I just work hard to find the balance of making them fun, but they don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to be extravagant. With that being said…here is our Frozen 2 (which is really just a Frozen) party.

They have some amazing cake ideas on Pinterest with Frozen themes but we went with cupcakes because I wasn’t about to not let my 5 year old blow out a candle but I was trying to be respectful of others’ fears of germs. We went with store bought chocolate cake mix, the BEST homemade vanilla frosting (which we dyed blue) and some white glitter sprinkles and THESE frozen cupcake toppers. Easy peasy but goes with the theme and had Zoey all heart eyes with her cupcake stand.

The night before her party, just as I was falling asleep mind you, I had the thought that snowflakes hanging down from the ceiling would look cute. So first thing the next morning I printed out 8 copies of a snowflake that I found online that looked it would be easy to cut out and I got to cutting. It would be super cute to make a bunch of unique snowflakes to hang but again….middle tier parties. 😉 In between the snowflakes the big girls made long blue ribbon curls to hang to mimic icicles. We’re pretty happy with how it turned out. Didn’t cost us any extra money and took us about half an hour to put together.

Next up…GAMES! I made some “snowballs” with white yarn (see pic below) and then we grabbed some buckets and put points on them and had the kids toss the snowballs in trying to be the one with the most points.

We also played the classic game of pin the nose on Olaf which I got HERE, She did a great job at making it easy to print, tape together, hang and play. THAT is a middle tier party 5 star find…it looks like I put in so much effort for my daughter’s party but really I got it FOR FREE and took minimal effort on my part. Thank you, The Purple Pumpkin Blog!

Last but not least we played Frozen 2 Bingo which I got from One Creative Mommy. Again, easy for me but SO cute and fun for kids. We used m&ms to cover our characters as we called them out because…yum!

Of course we can’t forget about the thing every kid looks forward to at a party…the goodie bag! I like getting our kids involved on this part and have them help put the bags together so they learn it’s actually not ALL about them, it’s about thanking our friends for another year of friendship as well! The tags for our “glacier juice” and the “do you want to build a snowman” tags I found HERE (her post has a lot of great stuff for a fun Frozen party so read all of it!) and “Thanks for coming” tags from HERE and the Frozen make a face stickers were another Amazon find of course, as were the Frozen temporary tattoos (not pictured).

In case you’re wondering about these bags…yes, you can indeed make a snowman(ish) with the kit. We put 3 regular size marshmallows, an orange regular M&M, 5 brown mini M&Ms (eyes and buttons), 2 mini pretzel sticks, 2 toothpicks to help hold together and 2 mini marshmallows for the feet. As you can see in my daughter attempting to put it together we actually needed to add more toothpicks to hold the feet in place. So if you’re really wanting to have them be able to make a snowman that’s a little more Olaf-ish you can make it 4 toothpicks.

Frozen funny faces

We bought plates, napkins, table cloths, goodie bags (I used the mini bags in the gift bag section) and balloons all from Walmart; including the big 5 balloon which she later wrote her hopes for the next year on and we set it free (all other balloons we popped and properly disposed over thanks to big fearless brother)

I struggled to get a picture of her with her eyes open because she too busy concentrating on her wish which I realized was actually adorable and I’m glad we captured that. I just love this little girls to pieces and can’t wait to see all she’s going to accomplish and learn this next year! Happy Birthday, Zoey dear!