How To Support Your Spouse in School

Our Story

My husband Sam has been in school almost the entire time we have been married. And I’m still learning the best ways to support him as he is in school.

When we met we were both in undergraduate school; I was a freshman and he was a senior. He took a year off school while we were engaged and I finished my AA degree, but a few weeks after we got married he began a Master’s program. I finished my Bachelor’s degree online after we got married, so for a while, we were both in school.

Sam completed his Master’s degree and graduated in May 2019, finishing his coursework in August 2019. 

He had a few months break from studying and writing papers, and May 2020 he went back to the books for his PhD.

Spouses in School

The percentage of married students in undergraduate school is low, but the number greatly increases in graduate school. I struggled to find any exact numbers or percentages, but high percentage of students in graduate school have spouses. 

Studies abound on the effects a spouse has on a graduate student. Does a spouse hinder or help one finish a graduate degree? Some studies show declines in completion due to marriage, while others demonstrate the value of marriage.

Why Does Graduate School Kill So Many Marriages?

This is the title of an article on The Chronicle of Higher Education.The author is struggling with the fact that so many relationships around her have failed, and graduate school was a large factor in the relationship’s demise.

She cites students saying graduate school “is a crucible that strengthens relationships and can expose unknown cracks in [the] foundation.” Another student explained that graduate school nearly destroyed his marriage, while another said graduate school was a never-ending loop of marriage issues and grad-school issues.

Women who get married in graduate school are often encouraged not to change their names, because the relationship likely won’t last.

Professors encourage their students to consider your work over your marriage, just until this next goal, then the next, then the next.

Must it be This Way?

I believe that it absolutely does not have to be this way. Starting a graduate program does not have to be the funeral for your marriage. 

Graduate school may be difficult on a marriage, but it also may be a blessing. Older studies report the definite detriment of a graduate school program to a marriage, but more recent studies show marriage may support a student to success.

We grow stronger by getting through hardships, and strengthening your marriage during graduate school will leave you with a better relationship than when you began.

Strengthening your marriage during a difficult time will not happen by chance. It takes intentionality.

5 Ways to Support Your Spouse in School

I am not an expert on this subject by any means. Even though Sam has been in school for over two of the three years we have been married, learning how to support him is still a learning process. 

There have been times in our marriage that school made things very hard, but there have also been times that our marriage has thrived. 

These are some tips that I have found to be helpful. These are things I am learning and trying to do to support my husband as he pursues his degree.

Have a Good Attitude

I asked Sam what was the best way I could support him, and the first thing he said was my attitude. 

It makes a big difference if I am happy for him and willing to help, or if I am constantly nagging him to stop studying. 

This does not mean I ignore the problem if there is one, of course. But I need to be positive and encouraging as I give Sam time to study.

Whenever I begin to resent Sam studying so much, I need to check my attitude. Am I truly in need, and I need to ask him for help? Or can I be happy for him, encourage him in his studies, and move on with my responsibilities? 

The outcome in certain situations will be different, but attitude is important.

Be Aware of Their Schedule

At the beginning of the term I asked Sam to send me his syllabuses so I could be aware of big due dates. I usually ask him at the beginning of the week what his schedule looks like, but every now and then I can refer to his syllabus to know when his papers are due.

Knowing these deadlines can help with attitude and understanding as well. I know when Sam’s two huge papers are due, so I am trying my best not to schedule anything for him on the days leading up to those deadlines.

If I am aware that he has Zoom discussions on Monday nights I can make certain preparations during the day so I will not use any internet during that time and I have dinner ready on time so he has time to prepare.

Some interruptions and responsibilities cannot be changed, but being aware of your spouse’s schedule can help things flow more smoothly, and it can be a way for you to support your spouse with their school.

Ask How You Can Help

In addition to being aware of what is coming up in their schedule, you can simply ask your spouse what you can do to help. They might need help, but it may not be related to school. 

Sam may ask me to proofread a paper or discussion post for him, but he also may ask me to run an errand for him or clean up his office.

I can try to be aware of what Sam needs, but the best way to know is just to ask.

Make Time to be Together

Sometimes a good way to support your spouse in school is to make them take a break. Be intentional about giving them study time and supporting them, but bring them away from the books every now and then.

Having purposeful time together will strengthen your relationship, and may also give your spouse needed time away from the books.

Sam and I try to have a date night every Friday. It doesn’t happen every week, but we still manage to find time together. We try to eat dinner together every night, and we like to go on walks together a couple times a week. Some evenings Sam studies until bedtime, but some nights he needs a break and we will watch a movie together.

It doesn’t have to be anything special or long, but intentionally setting aside time to be together will help both your spouse and your relationship together.

Conclusion

School can be hard on a marriage. But marriage can help a student, and you can both grow though a difficult time.

You can support your spouse in school by:

  • Having a good attitude
  • Being aware of their schedule
  • Asking how you can help
  • Making time to be together

Do you have a spouse in school, or have you had one in the past? Have you been in school while married? Let me know what worked for you or your spouse!

How I Meal Plan: A Simple, Hybrid Approach to Meal Planning

Do you meal plan? Or do you wing it every night? You may already have a perfect method for meal planning, or you may be looking for different meal planning ideas. I have tried several different methods of meal planning and I’ve found a method that works for us right now.

History of Meal Planning

I don’t know exactly when meal planning began. An article from ScienceDirect indicates meal plans were being created for individuals suffering from diabetes as early as 1950. I imagine the meal planning of today, with specific lists and recipes is a more modern concept than not, as it has only been in the past hundred years or so that most families in America have large refrigerators and food storage, and access to a variety of food products in large grocery stores.

Today we have countless resources for meal planning at our fingertips. We can print out cute weekly meal plan lists or buy a tasteful whiteboard or chalkboard to hang in our kitchen. You can even pay for complex subscriptions that will help you meal plan, find recipes, and make a grocery list.

Pros of Meal Planning

“Individuals planning their meals [are] more likely to have a better dietary quality, including a higher adherence with nutritional guidelines as well as an increased food variety” (Pauline Ducrot).

The list of benefits of meal planning is long and varied. Studies show that meal planning is associated with health, portion control, and food variety. Some other benefits include:

  • Saving time

Having a plan saves you from running to the store a few times a week for one ingredient, or from stressing before meals because you don’t know what to make for dinner. 

  • Saving money

If you know what you are making for dinner, and especially if you’ve been able to prepare beforehand, you will save money by avoiding going out to eat or getting take out. You will also reduce food waste with a plan, thus saving more money.

  • Eating healthier 

If you plan to eat healthier you will buy healthier foods and eat healthier meals. Having a plan also leads to fewer meals eaten out, which is overall healthier as well.

Cons of Meal Planning

While there are so many benefits to meal planning, there can also be a few drawbacks. I have tried meal planning in the way you may see on Pinterest, with every meal planned, balanced, and varied. But that method doesn’t work for everyone, and it didn’t work for our family during this season. Some drawbacks may be:

  • NOT saving money

Having a plan may keep you from spending money eating out, but it also may cause you to buy extra or unnecessary ingredients. I found when I had a specific meal plan that I ended up with lots of extra spices, condiments, and random extra ingredients that were delicious, but added up on our grocery bill.

  • Having too much food

I discovered with our family that if I cook every night we would have way too much food! We eat leftovers for lunch most days, yet I still have bits of extra food filling the refrigerator after a few days. This is partly my problem because I cook too much food for two adults and a toddler, but I guess I am still used to cooking for the large family I grew up in. 

We like having leftovers. Cooking once and eating twice (or more) makes sense and saves time for our family.

  • Not wanting to eat the meals planned

Sometimes I would look at my meal plan and decide that I did not feel like cooking or eating whatever was planned for that night. Of course, this has a quick fix—just switch days around—but having specific meals planned for specific days felt too exact (especially if I wrote it in pen in my planner!)

The pros do outweigh the cons with meal planning, but I still wanted to find a method that was a win-win for our family in our current season one life. 

How I Meal Plan

After being married for three years I am slowly figuring out the best meal-planning method for our family. It has changed based on where we live (like when we were in Romania and only had a dorm-sized refrigerator!), and who is in our home (like when we have guests).

Most nights I love to make dinner and I’m excited to get in the kitchen and prepare the meal. Some nights I am tired of making food after preparing breakfast, lunch, and probably a snack or two. Thinking of something to put together for dinner is the last thing I want to do.

The method that is currently working for our family and living situation is a hybrid. I partially plan our meals and partially decide what to make the day-of.

Right now I go to the grocery store once a week and I stay home all day with my 22-month-old toddler. I will probably not do things exactly the same when we have a newborn, but I’ll figure it all out when we get there. 

Here are the basic guidelines I use for our (kind of) meal plan.

  • Always have staples
  • Have a meal plan list
  • Shop in-season/on sale
  • Use most perishable items first
  • Plan leftover nights

Always Have Staples

We have a handful of foods that I always like to keep on hand. It will be different from family to family, but our staples include oats, rice, beans, eggs, apples, bananas, potatoes, flour, cabbage, and spinach. Our list also includes things like coffee, peanut butter, yeast, herbs and seasonings, and other items, but these are the main basics. I try to always, always keep these stocked. I might not buy each of them every week, but I always make sure we have them. 

If all else fails, I can always make rice and beans, or beans and potatoes. We eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning, and apples and bananas are our favorite snacks. I like keeping whole wheat flour on hand for making bread or muffins.

Meal Prep When You Can

In addition to always having staples on hand, it will save time and effort to have your staples partially prepared.

If you eat meat, be sure to always have meat thawed or cooked. Cook twice as much as you’ll need one night so you have it ready for the next night. Or always have beans soaking, cooked, or have cans in your pantry.

If you find a few extra minutes in the kitchen go ahead and prep veggies so they are ready to throw in a dish. Wash fruits before putting them in the bowl so they are ready to go.

Bake potatoes whenever your oven is already hot. 

Whip up a batch of muffins to have for snacks when you have the time. 

Do whatever works for you in the time you find!

It is nice to have a food prep day, but you may not always have hours in one day to get it all done. I like to do as much as I can the day I go to the store, but then I prepare the rest throughout the week as I have time. 

Have a Meal Idea List 

We have several meals that I make over and over again. We know we like them and they’re easy to make with little thought. Kendra at The Lazy Genius calls them “Brainless Crowdpleasers,” because they are recipes that don’t take much thought and they please your crowd/family.

Some of ours include:

  • Burrito bowls
  • Curry
  • Pasta salad
  • Roasted veggies, beans, and bread or cornbread
  • Any type of soup or chili
  • Homemade pizza
  • Breakfast for dinner

I also keep a list of meals I like to make for guests or big crowds that draw from our staple list.

Shop in Season/on Sale

When I make my grocery list each week, the first thing I do is look at the Aldi sale ad to see what produce is on sale for the week. Now that we’re starting to get produce from our garden, I can include that in my list as well.

Some things I buy every week whether or not they’re on sale (such as apples, bananas, and spinach), but I will probably only buy Brussels sprouts, asparagus, or strawberries when they’re on sale.

Use Most Perishable Items First

To avoid wasting food, make sure you use ingredients that will go bad the quickest, the earliest. If I bought zucchini on sale at Aldi, I know it is nearing the end of its freshness, so I’ll make a recipe containing zucchini early in the week.

Spinach turns more quickly than cabbage or carrots, so I’ll be sure to serve spinach salads earlier in the week and change to cabbage or carrot salads later. 

This cuts down both on decision fatigue and food/money waste.

Plan Leftover Nights

I do not plan seven breakfasts, lunches, and suppers a week. I usually plan four to five meals a week, depending on what our plans are in a given week.

As I mentioned before, we like having leftovers for lunch (and it saves me from having to plan lunches), so I like making more food for dinner than we will eat in a night. Even with eating leftovers for lunch, after a few days we still have a serving or two of a few different dinners. 

On planned leftover nights I will assess how much food we have and see if I need to supplement with anything. Usually, I will make a salad, and if I feel like we need more food I will bake a few potatoes, make a loaf of bread or cornbread, or scramble some eggs.

Put it All Together

Once I have my list of sale items and what staples and produce I have on hand, I can put it all together for a rough meal plan. I like to make a list of meals I can make from the list, but I don’t assign days to them unless we’re having guests. I never know what we will feel like eating or how much time I’ll have on a certain day, so I like to decide the day of which meal I’ll make.

Some basic guidelines I tend to stick to when I make this meal plan/list are: 

  • Salad once a day (either for lunch or dinner)
  • Brunch on the weekend
  • Special dinner for Friday date night (usually pizza!)
  • Any special requests from Sam

Some weeks I’ll stick to my plan and make every meal I wrote out. Some weeks I’ll find a new recipe or idea that uses ingredients I have on hand and make that instead. Mostly I try to be flexible and enjoy it because I do enjoy being in the kitchen.

Recap

Meal planning is great, but it doesn’t exactly work for everyone. I have figured out a system that works for us in our season right now, but it won’t work for everyone. The basics of my system are:

  • Always have staples
  • Have a meal plan list
  • Shop in-season/on sale
  • Use most perishable items first
  • Plan leftover nights

Do you meal plan? How do you do it?

Burrito Bowls

Burrito bowls are one of my favorite things to serve to guests. It is simple, inexpensive, and delicious, and I think it will please every type of eater, from the pickiest to the most adventurous.


I am always looking for meals I can serve several guests that are healthy and simple, yet satisfying. I try to cook meals that are not terribly different from what we eat every day so I can make them last minute without having to run to the store for specific ingredients, and I know we will always eat whatever is leftover.


Burrito bowls are pretty self-explanatory by the name: it is a burrito in a bowl instead of a tortilla. Options for your bowl are endless, but here are a few of our favorites.


Meat


I either brown ground beef or make shredded chicken, or both if we are having a big crowd. For the beef I simply brown it in a big pan on the stove, seasoned only with salt, in case one of my guests does not like Mexican seasonings.


For the chicken I either boil it on the stove or cook it all day in the crock pot (depending on how much time I have), then shred it, saving the broth for soup another day.


How much meat you cook depends on how many guests you are feeding, but you don’t have to cook as much as you would if you were serving whole pieces of beef or steak. Since the bowls will be filled with rice and all the other toppings, you can get by with cooking less meat, making the meal less expensive.

(Side note: I am happy to cook expensive meals for my guests, but if I can find ways to save money we can feed more people and have more people into our homes. I try not to skimp in ways that are obvious, just in ways that are practical.)


Rice


Cook lots of rice! You can do either white or brown rice, whichever you normally eat and have on hand. We will always eat leftover rice, so I try to cook more than I think we’ll need. Yet there have still been times that we ran out of rice! Even if I cook brown rice for the meal, I like having white rice on hand so I can cook up extra in a few minutes.


Sometimes I cook the rice in tomato juice and cooked veggies and spices, but usually I keep it plain, again in case there are guests who do not prefer Mexican flavors.


Beans


I either cook refried beans or black beans, or both if we are having lots of guests. It is best to get them dry and soak them the night before, but I have definitely used canned beans in a pinch and they are still great! I will go ahead and season these beans with cumin, chili powder, and other Mexican spices because I think they taste so much better that way, and guests can choose to bypass the beans if they prefer.


Other Toppings


I try to have as many of these extra toppings as possible, but often I just stick to what we keep on hand. Ideas for extra toppings include: salsa, taco sauce, hot sauce, guacamole or sliced avocado, corn, cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips or strips, shredded lettuce or cilantro-lime slaw.


Recipes


This will make enough burrito bowls for at least 8 people, perhaps with some leftover as well.


Ingredients:


Meat
1-1.5 lbs beef
1 onion, diced


Rice
3 cups uncooked white rice
7 cups water
Salt, to taste


Refried Beans
2 cups dried pinto beans or 3 15oz cans pinto beans
1 TBS chili powder
1 TBS cumin
2 tsp salt
1 onion, diced


Guacamole
2 avocados
1 lime


Additional Toppings
1 16oz jar salsa, any type
1 16oz container sour cream
16oz shredded cheese
Shredded lettuce
Tortilla chips


Meat
If using ground beef, begin by sautéing the diced onion in a large pan with a drizzle of olive oil.
When the onion is turning translucent, add your meat and continue to cook until the meat is fully cooked.
Carefully drain the meat and transfer to a serving bowl


Rice
Place water, rice, and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil.
Lower to a simmer and put lid on the pot; let steam for 15 minutes.
Fluff the rice with a fork and transfer to a serving dish, or just leave it in the pot on a hot pad


Refried Beans
If you are using dried beans, place them in a large bowl the night before and cover with water. The next day drain and rinse the beans.
Put beans in a large pot and cover with several inches of water. Bring to a boil, then lower to medium heat and let the beans gently boil for around 45 minutes. Test your beans every so often for softness because it may take more or less time.
If you are using canned beans start here! Drain the liquid from your beans (whether from your cooking pot or from a can), but SAVE the liquid.
Brown the diced onion in an oiled pan until soft and fully cooked. Add seasonings.
Add the onion to your beans and mash everything together with a potato masher. You can also use a hand-mixer, adding your saved bean liquid as necessary to get the desired consistency.


Guacamole
Mash all the ingredients together in a bowl with a fork, adding lime juice and salt to taste.

At Home Date Night Ideas

After we got married we lived in Romania for a year. I was still in school to finish my Bachelor’s degree, and Sam was preaching and evangelizing, as well as studying for his Master’s degree, so we spent most of our time together. We sat and studied together, we went to Bible studies, and we went out and passed out flyers or talked to people we met.


It was a sweet time in our marriage and I loved doing everything together, especially as everything was so new. But I was still lonely. While we were side by side nearly all day, we didn’t always have time to visit and talk as much as we thought.


So one day after we had been married for a few months, Sam announced that he was taking me on a date. We hadn’t eaten out anywhere yet while we lived in Romania (other than the homes of others), so the prospect was exciting. He took me to a restaurant he had seen while out on a run and we enjoyed interpreting the menu and enjoying a meal together, followed by a walk and coffee.


We decided then to have a date night every week if possible. A night to focus on each other and take time away from school and work, even if we were doing them together.


Eating out once a week could get expensive, however, so we began to think of different creative ways to spend a date night.


The past few weeks of quarantine have forced us to have all of our date nights at home, and it’s been great to think of more creative ways to spend time together.


Cook Dinner Together


We do this one a lot! Usually we will choose something special to make that I don’t usually make during the week, and it usually ends up being pizza or breakfast.


You can also include kids in this and let it be a whole family activity! Mae loves to stand in her learning tower and “help” us cook.
Watch a Movie
This is our default

date night at home! We like to take turns choosing a movie, and we try to keep a list of movies we want to watch together.


Sometimes we make popcorn or ice cream, and sometimes we’ll start the movie while we’re eating supper if we don’t want to stay up too late.


Do a Home Project


This is a little challenging to do with little ones around, but I’m sure it can be done! One night a few weeks ago I dropped Mae off at my parents’ house and Sam and I painted our shutters and front door together. It was such a relaxing evening because we got to be next to each other and talk and listen to music, and I think painting is quite a relaxing activity. Then we got to check something off our home remodeling to-do list!


Read a Book Together


We did this a lot when I was pregnant with Mae and we were reading books on parenting. We like to read a paragraph or a page out loud to each other, taking turns. At the end of a chapter or a section we would discuss what we just learned.


You can also listen to an audio book together in the same way.


Have a Picnic


Depending on what is open around you, you can take your picnic somewhere like a park, or you can just have it in your front or back yard!


A couple weeks ago I packed a picnic dinner and we drove into town to a park, thinking we would eat at a picnic table and let Mae play on the playground…but I failed to check and see if the playground was open yet, and it wasn’t. We still found a bench outside the taped-off area and had our picnic, but we will have to try again now that I know the park is open. It was still a nice time to get out of the house, even if Mae was sad she couldn’t play on the slide.


Bonus Tip: Take Turns Planning


Recently Sam and I decided to take turns each week planning our date night. Sometimes we would discuss what to do and it would take us forever to decide since we were each trying to figure out what the other would like to do. Now we still try to choose things that we will both enjoy, but it has been so much easier when we know who is planning the evening!


It is exciting whenever it’s Sam’s turn to plan and I get to be surprised with what he does. I think he feels the same way when I plan the date night.


What date night ideas would you add to the list?

Cucumber Potato Salad

A Delicious, Fresh Recipe for Summer

This recipe for potato salad with a fresh, interesting twist is quickly becoming a favorite around our house.

I got the original recipe from the Sue Gregg cookbook Main Dishes. I love Sue Gregg! I appreciate how she is thoughtful about health and nutrition, but she does not see the need to follow any kind of fad or cut out any major food group. I enjoy her menu suggestions, and the absolute wealth of recipes she has in her cookbook series.

This potato salad is quick, easy, and delicious. It can be made ahead of time and pulled out of the refrigerator for dinner, or you can whip it up right before in about 30-45 minutes. It is delicious both chilled and slightly warm.

How to Serve Cucumber Potato Salad

Cucumber potato salad is great served on a bed of lettuce, topped with a source of protein such as leftover cooked chickpeas or boiled eggs. It is also great with BBQ baked beans and cornbread, as a lighter alternative to traditional potato salad. Sometimes I serve it with a veggie platter and homemade multi-grain muffins. 

Due to the cucumbers, apples, and cabbage getting soft and soggy, this potato salad is best eaten within a few days. It is great leftover the next day for an easy lunch, but this isn’t something you want to keep in your fridge for a week.

Let me know if you try it and what you think!

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Cucumber Potato Salad

A fresh, delicious recipe perfect for a spring dinner
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Salad
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 small-medium white potatoes
  • 1 sour apple (such as granny smith)
  • 1 medium-large cucumber
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 2 TBS olive oil mayonnaise
  • 2 TBS Greek yogurt, or more mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Scrub and cut potatoes into bite-sized chunks. I don't peel them, but you can if you prefer. Put them in a pot and cover with cold water and put them on the stove to boil.
  • Bring the potatoes to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
  • While the potatoes are cooking thinly slice your cucumber and apples and place them in a large bowl along with your shredded cabbage.
  • Mix in the mayonnaise and yougurt, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • When the potatoes are done cooking drain them in a colander and allow them to cool for a few minutes before mixing them in with the rest of the ingredients in the bowl.
  • Taste, add more salt and pepper as necessary, and enjoy!

5 Toddler Activities: Outdoor

Mae loves being outside. No matter what the weather, I think she would stay outside all day if I would let her. While Mae loves being outside even in the cold, I am loving this beautiful warm weather for being outside.

Depending on the activity, sometimes I will be right beside Mae, and other times I’m able to sit on our porch steps or in a chair and read a book or write in my journal. Mae prefers when my attention is totally on her, but she is still content to have me nearby as she plays.

As with the previous list of toddler activity ideas, I’m sure this list barely scratches the surface of activities to do outside, but these are some things Mae and I have enjoyed lately.

1. Chalk

Mae loves to color, and coloring outside is even better! I bought a small pack of chalk for less than a dollar at Walmart and it has been great. We only have a small space where Mae can use the chalk, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Whenever we go to my parent’s house they have several large spaces for chalk and she loves it there!

Mae is starting to learn colors and shapes, so drawing with chalk outside is also a great time to practice these skills.

2. Playing with Water

Any kind of water! Mae loves using her watering can to water all the plants and flowers in our garden. She loves playing with the hose turned on a tiny trickle. She loves it when I fill a bucket with water and she gets to use all her toys to fill and dump and splash around with the water.

Mae especially loves getting in the pool, but that only happens at Mimi’s house right now. She also gets popsicles at Mimi’s house, which makes playing in water even better!

3. Helping in the Garden

During the spring and summertime the garden is such a fun activity. I need to be out in the garden to weed and water and such daily, so it is nice that Mae loves to help.

Mae has her own little spade, watering can, and rubber boots, so she really feels like she is helping. She will often ask me if we need to water the garden, pull weeds, or plant seeds. I think she is disappointed that we no longer need to be planting seeds.

4. Exploring

We have a fairly large yard and Mae loves to walk all around and explore. I follow behind or beside her, going at her own pace. Sometimes she asks to hold my hand, but most of the time she enjoys the freedom of wandering the whole yard!

As we explored recently we found wild blackberries. Now Mae loves to walk down and pick them.

5. Blowing Bubbles

I don’t know if Mae likes the bubbles or just putting the lid on and off her container better, but she loves playing with bubbles! We started out with a bottle from the store, but after Mae dumped most of it out I made some out of water and dish soap. They don’t work as well, but Mae doesn’t seem to mind because she does more playing and dumping than blowing the bubbles.

Being Outside

There are so many benefits to being outside, both for children and adults. From physical to mental, the list of positive outcomes from being outside goes on and on.

There are the physical benefits of breathing fresh air and moving and getting one’s blood flowing.

There are studies showing that outdoor play benefits academic learning.

There are multiple studies demonstrating how being outside makes people happier.

I believe God has given us a desire to be outside in His created world, and learning more about Him is the greatest benefit of all.

What are your favorite outdoor activities for toddlers, or for yourself?

Our Wedding

Tomorrow is our third anniversary! Although it’s been three years, I don’t think I have shared much about our wedding here on our blog. I thought our anniversary was the perfect time to do so.

Four days before our wedding Sam came home from Romania! He left to go to Romania nine days after we got engaged. We were apart for our entire engagement, minus two weeks in the middle around Christmas. We were apart so I could finish my sophomore year of college and graduate with my AA while he began work in Romania, with the plans that I would move over with him after we got married.

So, he came back four days before the wedding! It was such an exciting day. I remember we kept saying, “we don’t have to be apart any more!”

Sam and I met on the cross country team at Florida College and we were both pretty big runners (well, Sam still is now), so we thought it would be a great idea to run a 5k the morning of our wedding.

It was actually Daddy’s idea, and Sam and I quickly jumped on board. Everyone else thought we were pretty crazy, and we were definitely pushed for time, but it was such a fun memory.

We ran together the whole time (and two of our groomsmen ran the first mile with us before taking off), and Sam let me finish a second before him.

Everyone thought we were so crazy, even the local news interviewed us! After we finished and spoke to the reporter, Sam drove me back to the hotel where the wedding party was staying and I showered and got ready in some of my bridesmaids’ room.

We broke the “rules” about not seeing each other before the wedding, but I was completely fine with it! We decided that we had already been apart enough and it was special enough to see each other any time. After the race though, we did not see each other until we were both dressed and had a first look. Sam had not seen my dress yet and it was still special.

My amazing grandmother helped me make my wedding dress in just a few days when I was home from college on winter break! It had lace from my Mama’s wedding dress around the hem, waist, sleeves, and around my veil. It turned out absolutely perfect to me, thanks to the expertise and help from Mims.

I loved our wedding party! We had all of our siblings and closest friends stand by us as we made our commitment to each other. These are still some of the dearest people to us.

Both of our families played such huge roles in our relationship and our wedding. Mama and her two best friends basically planned the entire wedding. I was in school the whole time we were planning and they were absolutely amazing. I made some decisions, but they made everything so easy for me. And the day turned out so perfectly!

Sam’s family also played a big role in everything and we are so thankful for them. Sam’s parents were in Romania with him, but they still did so much. His dad studied with us during our engagement over FaceTime, and he officiated the wedding.

Also, we share an anniversary with Sam’s parents! When we were first discussing dates we didn’t realize it was their anniversary, but they were excited and generous with sharing their day. Now getting to celebrate with them is wonderful and special. I only wish we could be with them this year!

Married at last! I remember the days when it seemed like this moment would never come. Now that it’s been three years I still can’t believe it when I stop and think about it.

We saved our first kiss for our wedding day and it was perfect.

I love thinking about this day, how exciting and joyful and beautiful everything was. But I love even more the life we have now, and the three years of growth we’ve had. I love the experiences we’ve had that have tried our patience and our faith, but have brought us close to God and close to each other. I love the family we are growing.

I can’t wait for many, many more years.

Homemade Bread

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard

Is there anything better than a fresh, warm slice of homemade bread?

My interest in baking homemade bread began when I was about twelve years old. I loved being in the kitchen, but for some reason bread baking had seemed like an unattainable skill only the most advanced bakers could achieve. However, in a lecture on nutrition at cross country camp, my coach briefly mentioned homemade bread and the health benefits therein.

As soon as I got home I pulled out cook books, asked Mama to buy yeast at the store, and began mixing and kneading all sorts of concoctions. Some loaves turned out flat and dense while others came out pungent and salty. I made lighter bread with white flour, heavy bricks with wheat flour, savory bread flavored with potato flakes and sweet bread swirled with cinnamon, sugar, and butter. I also boiled bagels, shaped rolls, and filled, rolled, and sliced cinnamon buns.

My family lovingly tested each batch of bread, advising me on which recipes to keep and which ones to discard.

Eventually I settled on a recipe from Sue Gregg’s cookbook that everyone in my family declared a winner. It used whole wheat flour, had good flavor, and wasn’t a dense brick. I made the recipe a few more times, and not much later, for Mama and Daddy’s twentieth wedding anniversary Daddy gave Mama a Bosch mixer and grain mill.

Mama took over the bread baking for a while, perfecting the recipe even further. Eventually she had a perfect bread dough that made the best, fluffy, delicious loaves for sandwiches and toast, a thin and crunchy pizza crust, or sweet cinnamon rolls or monkey bread. The dough could be shaped into hamburger buns or dinner rolls, folded into calzones or swirled with cinnamon and raisins for sweet bread.

Mama taught me how to make her magical dough one day for our Home Ec. lesson in homeschool, and I slowly took over the bread baking for our family. When I went to college, Mama said no one made any homemade bread until I did when I came home for my fall break.

I only baked bread in college once, and it was to give to the cute boy I was dating who had several papers to write and was getting very little sleep (later we got married and Sam still loves it when I make that same flatbread to go with lentil soup).

Once I discovered what the Romanian word for yeast was and found it at the market, I began baking bread again after we got married and moved to Romania. I loved kneading the dough on my tiny kitchen counter, usually while listening to an audio book. I would serve the warm bread, sliced, with butter alongside, to the guests we often had in our apartment.

When Mae was a baby, I was still in school online to complete my Bachelor’s degree, we were settling into a new house and new jobs for Sam, I did not bake bread. But I missed it. I remember at times when I was overwhelmed with books to read, papers to write, and assignments to submit, I would daydream about how wonderful it would be to be done with school.

I would just be a wife and mother, that’s all. I would take care of Sam and Mae, clean the house, and bake bread. Baking bread was always in my daydream for some reason, and I think about it now every time I pull a fresh loaf out of the oven.

I have countless memories tied up with baking bread, and right now I am thankful to be a wife and mother who gets to bake bread.

Delicious Bread Dough

This is the recipe Mama perfected that I still love to use for everything! I have tried many different recipes, but if I ever need a no-fail dough for something this is the recipe I go back to again and again.

2 cups warm water
213 cup honey
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 TBS yeast
1 TBS salt
2 Tbs. ground flax
8-10 cups or more of whole wheat flour (I prefer to grind the wheat in the NutriMill, but any flour will work)

Mix warm water, honey, applesauce, and 2 cups flour in a stand mixer on a low speed.  Add yeast and salt, and continue to mix.  Then set the timer for 10 minutes and add flour until the dough is not sticky and it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Continue to let the dough mix until the 10 minutes is up.

Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, or about 1.5-2 hours.

Divide the dough in half and shape into loaves. Let rise in greased loaf pans in a warm place until doubled in size, or about an hour.

Bake the loaves of bread for at 350 F for 30 minutes.  

You can also use this dough to make pizza crusts, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, hamburger buns, or anything else you may need dough for. The possibilities are almost endless!

5 Toddler Activities

Toddlers are so fun! I love how Mae finds delight in the simplest things sometimes, and I love finding activities for her that are fun, educational, and keep her occupied for a long time so I am able to have a bit of uninterrupted time to clean the house, cook supper, or whatever else is on my to-do list at the moment.


My goal with activities for Mae are for them to be safe, entertaining, and educational, or somewhat educational…I mainly do not want her staring at a screen all the time. I am sure there will be times when we need to implement screen time, but I would love to avoid it as much as I can.
Last week I shared our morning routine, and these types of activities are usually what we’ll do next. I’ll either play alongside Mae or do some work nearby (she likes me to be near her all the time, and if I’m not close enough she’ll pat the space next to her and say, “floor! Floor!”)


Here are five ideas of easy toddler activities to fill your day.


Dried Beans


All you need is a big towel or blanket, a bowl of dried beans, and an assortment of containers and utensils. I use a towel or blanket to make clean-up easier, so when we are done playing I can gather up the beans and pour them back into the bowl. Your toddler can use a spoon to scoop beans into a bowl, or cups to scoop and pour with. Mae also enjoys stirring the big bowl of beans and feeling them in her hands.


I try not to get out this activity every day so she doesn’t get burnt out, but so far this could keep her occupied for hours, I believe! I always put them up when she starts making a huge mess or tries to eat the beans, but she is never ready to put them away.


Washing Dishes


This is Mae’s favorite activity right now! I fill up the sink partly with water and give her various dishes and spoons to wash. She loves it when I leave a tiny trickle of water and she will fill up a spoon to pour into a cup, or filling up a bowl to pour into another one.


We have a learning tower that my father-in-law made for us and it is perfect for this activity! I just pull it up to the sink and Mae is at the perfect height. I lay a towel down under the learning tower to catch water spills, and it is always soaked.


This is a messy activity, but it is only water so it’s easy to clean up. Mae always needs a change of clothes afterwards because she is soaked, but again, she is never ready to stop.


Coloring and Stickers


I have to be slightly more hands-on with this one at the moment, but it is still a great activity for Mae while I am working at the counter and she can be in her learning tower, whether I’m preparing food, doing computer work, or writing/journaling/planning.


All you need is a notebook, crayons, and stickers. I have a cheap spiral-bound notebook for Mae, as I have found it stays in place better than loose paper, and it has several sheets of paper for many days.


Stickers require a little help from Mama when they don’t come easily off the page, but Mae is getting to where she is able to take them off herself sometimes. She loves to stick them on the paper and on herself, then take them off and stick them again. Whenever we are done with this activity there are stickers all over the paper, as well as Mae, the counter, and her learning tower!


I have recently discovered that puffy stickers are perfect for Mae. She can take them off the paper by herself, and when she does stick them on things other than paper, they are very easy to remove.


Bonus Tip: these works of art are great for making cards for others! Cut a shape out of the middle of your child’s scribbles (like a heart) and glue it to a card and write a note. It is a fun and meaningful way to save and share your child’s artwork!


Baby Doll Bed


I got this idea from a book Mama recently lent me called The Busy Book for Toddlers. It has 365 ideas for toddler activities and I have only barely, barely scratched the surface of these ideas!


To make a baby doll bed all you need is a cardboard box or basket, a couple small blankets, and a baby doll. I had a plastic basket that wasn’t being used and I folded a small quilt in the bottom. For her baby’s cover I just gave Mae a cloth napkin and it was the perfect size.


Mae loved this bed even more than I expected. It entertained her for a good stretch of time, as she took the baby in and out, covered her up, sang to her, and read books to her. Sam said he watched her face as I got the bed ready and she was so filled with excitement.


This is a very simple activity with easy preparation and clean up, but with hours of fun.


Play Food


We gave Mae a play kitchen for Christmas (best yard sale find ever!) but you do not have to have a play kitchen or play food to have fun. Right now Mae doesn’t care much for the pretend food, but the dishes are the best. She loves to stir “oatmeal” in bowls and pour cups of “coffee.”


She will cook in her little kitchen and bring me cups and bowls filled with goodies (coffee and oatmeal are her favorite). She asks her baby dolls what they want, then quickly fix them whatever food or drink they need.


If you don’t have a play kitchen, your toddler can still make pretend food in whatever dishes and utensils you have for them to play. I modeled “making” some food to Mae the first time, and she has taken off since then!


I started making a list of activities Mae and I like to do, and several of them were outdoor activities. So I will write a part two of this list with outdoor activities soon!


What ideas do you have to add to the list?

Our Morning Routine

Although all our days are all looking the same, no two days are ever exactly the same. We have loose routines we follow most days, but how our days actually look depend so much on sleep, the weather, Mae’s attitude, and many, many other things.


Right now we have a loose routine that works well for us. It has changed with the current shelter-in-place orders, and it will change again when we welcome the next addition to our family.


Our current morning routine consists of Bible/reading/prayer time, exercise, breakfast, garden, and chores. The order changes slightly each day, but we follow a rough schedule each morning.


Bible/reading/prayer


My ideal morning would be to wake up an hour before Mae and have plenty of time to sit down with a cup of coffee and my Bible and journals. Some mornings everything works out and it is lovely, but many mornings I either wake up with Mae, or she wakes up shortly after I do, when I am barely into my study time.


When Mae does wake up before I am done with my study routine, we always cuddle for a few minutes (she likes to take her time to wake up), and when she is ready I’ll get a stack of books or a few quiet toys for her. She sits quietly (most of the time) next to me and reads or plays.


Exercise


Continuing my ideal morning, I would love to always exercise before breakfast. However, it depends largely on how much sleep I got the night before, when Mae wakes up, and what the weather is like.


Running is my choice exercise, but right now I am not able to run as much as I would like. I currently have the goal of running three times a week, 3-4 miles each time, and I am no longer able to run 3-4 miles straight through! I do a run/walk, usually running for 5 minutes and walking for 1-2 minutes. Other days I walk to get my daily goal of 10,000 steps.


Mae rides in her stroller, and thankfully she loves it! She always picks out a toy or two to bring along, and if she is hungry a snack. She has memorized which houses have flowers and which ones have dogs, and she loves pointing them out.


Some days I also do prenatal yoga or other prenatal workout videos from GlowBody PT. Her whole prenatal plan is free on YouTube!


Garden


I like to get out in the garden after exercising because I’m already sweaty and dirty. Depending on the day we might just go walk around and check on all the plants and spend just a few minutes, or we might spend an hour weeding and watering as well.


Mae loves being outside for any reason, so she is perfectly content to wander and play around while I work! Of course she helps as well. She has her own watering can and she brings it to be periodically to ask for more water to sprinkle on the plants. If she isn’t watering, she’s digging and making piles of dirt.


Breakfast


We eat pretty much the same thing every day for breakfast: oatmeal. I always like to include some fruit, such as apple, banana, or blueberries, and we all love peanut butter in our oatmeal! Mae and I sit at the table and eat together most days, and that’s when we do our Bible and memory verse time.


I use The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes for Mae’s Bible, and I’ll read at least a page to her during breakfast. She loves it and asks for “more Bible” again and again, so we usually end up reading three or four pages most days.


The memory verses are more for myself at this point, but Mae still enjoys it and asks to do them again and again. Growing up we memorized several verses and passages as a family, and Mama wrote them all in a journal for me when I left for college. I have written all these verses on index cards and put them in a box to review a few every day. Reciting them out loud is helpful for me, and I hope if I do them enough with Mae she will begin to retain some of it.

Mama has a whole post about a scripture memory box you can read on her blog. This is what I have made for our family.


Chores


After breakfast we do whatever chores need to be done for the day. We do things like making up the bed and unloading the dishwasher daily, and Mae “helps” with both. I try to start a load of laundry every morning as well.
I try to stick to a schedule for cleaning the house in a week, and I loosely use Clean Mama’s weekly cleaning routine. Some days I do meal prep or other kitchen tasks, and some days there are just particular chores that need to be done. I try to make a list of all the chores we need to do in the morning with my Bible and journal time, but sometimes we just do whatever comes to mind for that day.


The order might change, but that is roughly what we do every morning! Saturday and Sunday mornings usually look different, but not by much.


Do you have a morning routine you like to stick to? What does it look like for you?