Lenten Journey Portfolios: a family tradition

Lenten Journey Portfolio


Pancake Tuesday; Shrove Tuesday, Carnival… all these are names for the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season. We celebrated Shrove Tuesday by eating some wonderful “treat” meals. We had pancakes for breakfast (and had Daddy join us – a rare occasion, since he leaves for work fairly early most days), scrambled eggs with chips and juice for lunch (juice isn’t a regular thing at our place), and we had lentil burgers with homemade buns, fries, and gelato for dessert. It was a great day of having nice meals and treats one last time before embarking on our lenten journey.

I love lent. It’s a beautiful time of reflection, sacrifice, thinking of others, and waiting in joy for the celebration of Easter, the day when our Saviour rose again from the dead. To me, it’s a better time to “make resolutions” than the end of a calendar year – because you make commitments to do things that benefit others in order to praise God and love your neighbour as yourself. It’s a time of working on becoming a better person.

As I mentioned in a previous post, although I grew up Catholic, I didn’t grow up observing lent in any serious way. when I was a bit older, I did the usual “give something up for lent” tradition, but I was never fully committed to this wonderful season.

Last year, I decided I wanted to embrace Lent fully, and I gave myself a theme: “seek to serve.” I embraced lent by praying more frequently and earnestly, doing good for others, and not only saying the Prayer of Saint Francis, but really savouring the words within it, and trying to live them out in real life. I really enjoyed lent last year, and I think it helped me live life more fully and consciously, serving others and doing more good things.

This year, my oldest is mature enough to understand what lent is about, so I decided to start a new tradition with our family. I am doing this as part of her homeschool Religion; however, I thought involving the family would be a good way to get us talking more about lent and about the ways in which we will fully embrace it this year. We are doing a “Lenten Journey” portfolio together, and I think it will be a great tradition that will both bring us closer as a family, as well as help us to live lent more fully and praise God more earnestly. If it goes well this year, we will do it as a tradition each Lenten season.


Lenten Journey Portfolio - lent


I grabbed some duo-tang folders that I already had in storage, and added a few things into it. I printed out a page that said “My Lenten Journey” and left the rest blank. This will be the cover page for each of us. In it, we can draw or write something that reminds us of lent and/or of the things we will do during lent. Above is mine. I drew a cross to remind me about the reason for lent – Jesus dying and returning to life again, and in the middle I wrote “Awaiting his Rising.” At the end of lent, I will add another blank page with the same drawing, but this time it will say “He is Risen.” I also wrote on the cross some of the things I will concentrate on doing during lent. I coloured the background purple, since this is a colour often associate with lent. As you can see, I’m no huge artist, but this is  what spoke to me with regards to lent.

Here is my daughter’s cover page (she just turned 6).

Lent Portfolio

She wrote “Happy Lent Everyone” – perfectly, if you read it phonetically. I only laughed about happy “lint” inside, of course. She drew a cross “because Jesus died on the cross,” and she made pictures of animals carrying Easter basket and eggs. K-girl loves to draw.

The little ones will probably make some scribbles on the cover tonight (ash Wednesday).

For the second page, we used a worksheet from our Religion Curriculum, the “Image of God” series:

Lent Portfolio

On this page, we each wrote down how we will show our love for God and others during lent. This year, I decided my theme will be “My body is a temple of the holy spirit.” I’ve been neglecting my health, and when I do so,  my kids suffer (i.e. not taking my asthma medication as prescribed means I can’t play with them well, because I’m often out o breath; not exercising makes my arthritis pain worse, so I can’t pick them up as often). Thus, I wrote things I will do to take care of my body as well as more direct things I will do for others.

Here is K-girl’s. She is still figuring out that she needs to write things on a straight line; often her words will run into a previous sentence. Having said that, she is in Kindergarten and just turned six, so I’m pretty impressed at her near-perfect phonetic spelling of everything.

Lent Portfolio

She didn’t have guidance for this part, as I wanted her to come up with her own ideas. She wrote that she would make “breakfast in bed for dad;” “lunch in bed for mom;” dinner in bed for [her brother];”snack in bed for [her sister]. She also wrote that she would “share love to others;” “Be kind to others;” “help others;” “play with my sister;” “be nice ot my mom” and “read to my brother.” She seemed to really enjoy doing this worksheet. Unlike most kids her age; K-girl loves worksheets; especially the ones where she has to be somewhat creative within a few guidelines. So she doesn’t necessarily enjoy tracing worksheets, but the ones like this, where it looks like a little project, she just loves.

For the third page, we came up with an “Acts of Kindness Calendar” to do together as a family during lent. Each day during lent, we will do one nice thing for someone else. Of course our acts of kindness need not be limited to this calendar, but we will do these items together as a family. You can download the calendar by clicking the picture below.

Acts of Kindness Lent Calendar

For our Acts of Kindness calendar, we are doing some things repeatedly each week. We are keeping a “Food Bank Box” on our counter. Every Thursday and Sunday during lent, each family member will pick something out of the cupboard to put into this box, and on Sunday, we will take the box to church, where they are collecting donations. We will be purchasing extras at the grocery store to fulfill this particular act of kindness. We are also keeping a Donations Box during lent, and each Wednesday, each family member will pick a toy or household item to put in the box. On the last Wednesday of lent, we will take the box to a local charity. I love this particular act because we not only help others, but also de-clutter our home – most of us have more than what we need anyway. This particular act can remind us of our blessings and remind us to think of others who may not be as fortunate, while actually doing something to help them. The Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays all have different acts of kindness that we will do. All of these will be done as our Religion lesson for the day. Click on the picture to download the modifiable Microsoft Word Document.

The last 2 pages of the portfolio are some pretty neat calendars I found online. The first one I found on The Catechists’ Journey website. This calendar has a cross on each day of lent, and we can colour the cross a particular colour depending on what we’ve done that day: green if we said an extra prayer; purple if we helped someone; red if we did something good that was hard for us to do, and yellow if we did what we were supposed to do without being told.

40 crosses lenten calendar

I think this will be a really neat calendar to discuss each day during lent – we will probably review it in the morning and decide what we will do for the day, and then colour it in together in the evening.

The final page of the portfolio is a really child-friendly lenten calendar that almost looks like a maze going from ash Wednesday all the way to Easter Sunday. I found this calendar on Catholic Icing (fabulous website for Catholic teaching resources, by the way!)

Lent Calendar

At the end of each day, we will colour in that day, until all days are filled in on Easter Sunday.

I will probably add some journal pages as well, so that the adults can write down reflections and prayers and the kids can be free to draw, scribble, or in K-girl’s case, write down a short prayer if she so wishes.

I am very excited to start this tradition with the family; I think it will be a wonderful way to fully embrace lent and prepare ourselves for our most important holiday, Easter (which also happens to be my favourite holiday – Holy Saturday mass is my favourite of the whole year).

What about you? How will you embrace lent this year? Let me know in the comments🙂


Lenten Journey Portfolio

No, you can’t have it all

For those who follow the blog, you may have noticed that I’ve been “away” for quite some time. Well, life has been busy, hectic, and sometimes frustrating, although still incredibly blessed. It turns out that, contrary to what some women might say, we really can’t have it all. At least we can’t have it all fully.

Having it all...

I’ve been working part time for the last 3 months, and this Friday will be the last day of my contract. Although all my clients, as well as my co-workers, would like me to stay at my job, I’ve decided not to apply for the permanent position that this contract would have lead to. Reason being… I’ve re-evaluated my life, and it turns out that I can do it all, but I can’t do it all well. This isn’t the first time I’ve come to this realization.

In 2014, I decided to stop working in order to be home with my 3 young children; but it seems like work is always somehow calling my name. As someone who had no choice but to work several hours alongside school since I was 16, not working is sort of a new thing for me, and I’ve found it pretty hard to adjust.

I had been home with my kiddos for just over a year when, in late August 2015, I got a phone call out of the blue from the health centre where I used to work, asking if I’d want to cover a leave. I needed a bit of extra cash for a couple of courses I wanted to take to improve my writing, so I took the job.

Perhaps needless to say, 21 hours of work, nursing a toddler, working on speech therapy with my 3-year-old, keeping up a house, and homeschooling my 5-year-old just didn’t all fit neatly into life.

Yes, we fell behind on lessons. Yes, we didn’t do as much as we usually do around the house. And yes, life has been incredibly hectic.

Do I feel guilty for falling behind on lessons? Of course not. It’s kindergarten. It’s not mandatory. If I wanted to sit on my behind for the entire year and do nothing, I’m legally entitled to do so.

I don’t, however, sit on my behind, because K-girl is a structured kind of kid, and unlike most kids her age, she actually truly enjoys doing worksheets – and actually asks for them. So yes, while I was working, we did not do as many lessons as we usually did before I was working. However, this was a welcome break for all of us. It allowed us the opportunity to relax and truly enjoy each other’s company on the days I wasn’t working, it allowed the children to hang out with their homeschool friends and have some great social time, and K-girl and G-boy were still doing all their extracurriculars: Jump rope for the girl, gymnastics for both older kiddos, art studio for all of us, and a young children’s movement class for the boy. We still did our structured lessons off and on, but not on a daily basis – and yet, K-girl has still reached almost all of the kindergarten curriculum expectations for Ontario (and it’s not even February yet).

These last 3 months have been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions for me. The job I took is in my field and uses every single degree and certification I worked hard to achieve. I was the Active Living Facilitator for the local health centre. My job was to administer, plan, deliver, and evaluate physical activity programs. This position has both a Kinesiology as well as teaching component – all of my degrees and my 15+ years of experience in the field were being put to good use. My clients are awesome and I truly make a difference in their lives – they tell me so every day. My boss is happy with my work and speaks one of my love languages – words of affirmation. It was awesome to work for someone who recognizes that when I do a job, I always do it to the best of my ability, and I go above and beyond the job description. I had an amazing time doing what I was doing. I’ve worked in a similar capacity for this health centre, off and on, for about 8 years. I love this job.

I was given a contract to cover the Active Living Facilitator’s leave, but in the meantime, he opted not to return, which means that if I really wanted this job on a permanent, part-time basis, it would have been handed to me on silver platter. All I’d have to do is apply for the position.

I’m blessed to be in a position of not needing this job. But this blessing comes with the frustrating and confusing decision-making process of whether to stay or go.

I took the holiday break to really think about my options, and I talked to my husband about what to do. One of the things he said to me to help me decide was: “If I were in your place, I’d decide what my highest priority is, and I’d go with that.”

Well, although I really do love this job, the job is not my highest priority – my children are. In addition, we’ve been committed to a homeschooling lifestyle since before we even had children; thus, homeschooling is our highest priority when it comes to raising our family.

There are pros and cons to every educational option – public, private, alternative, homeschooling, or unschooling. We looked at our otpions and we know that for our family, homeschooling has the most pros and the least cons. We would never suggest that every family homeschool, but this is the right choice for us.

And, as I’ve seen for the past 3 months, homeschooling and working a 21-hour per week job is doable, but it is extremely difficult. You can do it all, but it’s really hard to do it all well.

Whereas this year, falling a little behind is no big deal – it is kindergarten, after all – a non-mandatory, too-soon educational experience in many cases – come September, K-girl will be in Grade 1, and we’ll definitely want to be a little more structured at that point. We are very flexible homeschoolers, but we don’t think unschooling (although a perfectly valid educational option) would fit our family or K-girl very well.

So I came to the conclusion that although I truly love my job, it just isn’t the right time in my life for me to have it. It’s bittersweet leaving the health centre. Whereas I’m sad to be leaving because I love the job, I’m really looking forward to getting back to our normal homeschooling routine. I’ll miss my clients and my co-workers, but I’ll have plenty of time for a job later on. My kiddos will only be this little once, and I’ll only have one opportunity to exercise my right to educate them as hubby and I see fit.

I’ve spent the last couple of days prepping more lessons for the kiddos while simultaneously prepping lessons for clients at the health centre. I’m looking forward to only doing one of those. I’m also really looking forward to observing Lent with the family this year. I’ve worked on a couple of great aides for our Lenten observance, and I look forward to sharing them with you very soon. Stay tuned.

Deciding to leave the health centre was not a decision I took lightly. Deciding to home educate my kiddos was also not a decision taken lightly. I feel that in order to do a good job homeschooling, leaving the health centre was the best option. I don’t regret the past 3 months whatsoever; our family made it work. But I look forward to a less hectic home life, and I’m looking forward to taking the Lenten period to re-charge and to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the most important Christian holiday – Christ’s Ressurrection.

I’m blessed to have the option of staying home or working outside of it, and I’m blessed to have a husband who supports me in my decisions. It makes it a wee bit easier to make decisions, but it’s still a struggle to give up your working identity sometimes.

Are you a working mom who struggles with whether to stay at the job or return home, or a mom who has gone through this process recently? I’d love to hear your perspective. Feel free to comment below.



What not getting an allowance taught my 5-year-old daughter

My children don’t and will never get an allowance.

One day hubby mentioned that he read an article about paying kids for doing their chores, and that it seemed like a good idea. I told him, sure, as long as you pay me for doing mine.  We had a conversation about this and both came to the agreement that no one should earn money for doing nothing, because that’s not earning, that’s just a handout.

I don’t believe in paying children to do chores that they should be doing anyway.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t pay them for any chores.  I’ll pay them to do my chores happily.  After all, that’s the world we live in – concentrate on what you’re good at doing, and outsource the rest.  The Internet has worked wonders for this kind of life, but it’s easy to learn about it when you’re a 5-year-old, too.

My kiddos make their beds, get dressed, brush their teeth, and tidy up their room before coming downstairs in the morning.  They also clean their plates and wipe their spots at the table. All of these are chores that need to be done simply because they live here, and also because it’s part of a healthy life (you don’t get paid for cleaning your teeth, do you?  You actually pay someone else to do it for you).

My 5-year-old daughter, now that she’s old enough to understand action and consequences quite well, can do extra chores to earn money.  The main chore is folding and putting away laundry.  I don’t pay much, because, as a 5-year-old, the job isn’t done well.  She’s still learning.  As she grows and her skill improves, she will earn a raise.  Just like real life (because it is).


K-girl loves to earn so she can buy or do something with her own money.  She needs to work to earn her money (just like – need I say?).  I don’t require her to fold and put away the laundry.  I simply ask if she’d like to earn some money.  If she says no, I do the job, and no money is earned by any party.

She loves earning money, but she doesn’t really love doing the laundry.  So last week, she came to me and told me she wanted to have a bake sale to make some money.  What a great idea!  I asked her some leading questions about how to get people to come to her sale, what she would bake, and other details.  All on her own, she came up with the idea of a fall festival with free children’s activities to attract people to buy her baked goods.

From there, we used her awesome idea as  a learning experience.  My senior kindergartener, while preparing for her Fall Festival, learned about:

  • Graphic Design (she made a logo for her “baking business” – that was the business name);
  • Advertising (we put up posters and used the computer to call in costumers);
  • Math (we calculated the cost of ingredients needed, etc.);
  • Cost of goods sold and other aspects of running a small business (she had to pay Mama back for a portion of the ingredient costs – the rest was donated by Mama)
  • Cooking/Baking (we learned some new recipes together)
  • She practice her writing skills (we made the poster for prices)
  • And I’m sure there’s more.

During and after her fall festival, she learned that:

  • Making money is hard work (her own words)
  • Putting in a good effort helps you sell more (she understood that people came because we spent time advertising the sale)
  • Money management (she had to save some, choose a place for a donation, and she could spend the rest).
  • Hard work results in getting what you want (she went to the toy store and got herself a toy with the money she earned.  She even also bought a toy for her brother, so he wouldn’t be upset about her having a new toy and him not having one – proud Mama moment).

This whole experience has affirmed for me the notion of not giving children an allowance.  As adults, we don’t earn money for doing nothing, and we don’t earn money for doing mundane house tasks for ourselves.  You can talk about passive income all you want, but there is a huge amount of work involved initially, before you can reap the rewards of passive income.  That’s important to remember.

Giving a kid an allowance is telling the child that she can earn money for doing nothing.  Giving an allowance for good behaviour is telling the child that she needs to behave because she gets something out of it, rather than that she should do good because good is good to do.

Many people who give young children an allowance do so because they feel that children need to learn about money management.  I couldn’t agree more.  The younger you teach a child to manage their money, the better.  But if you’re giving them an allowance, they’re not learning how to manage their money; they’re learning how to manage yours.

Money comes from work.  And not giving my child an allowance not only taught her that concept, it also created a huge opportunity for creativity in how to earn money, which lead to even more important lessons.

What do you think?  Do you give your child an allowance?  If not, how do you teach money management?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

De-clutter your home (and keep it clutter-free) in 6 easy steps

De-clutter your home and free your life… in 6 easy steps.

Just a couple of days ago I posted about how blessed and awesome my life is.  How I’ve never truly wanted for anything (even if times were hard, I still had resources to be able to continue eating, sleeping in good shelter, and drinking clean water).  We are so very blessed here in North America. And, ironically enough, that’s part of our problem.  We are drowning in stuff.

“Stuff” becomes a crushing problem for some (sometimes literally, when people become hoarders – but that’s a post for another day).  For people with some disposable income, material goods are incredibly easy to get, and for those who don’t have much disposable income, the credit companies are ready.  What we end up with is a pile of junk we never needed in the first place, and/or a pile of needless debt.  Both of these things can just about crush your soul.

Every time I see an article about “how to organize your home,” part of me thinks, “how great,” but a bigger part of me thinks, “seriously, why do we have all this “stuff” we need to organize in the first place?  Perhaps if we didn’t have so much junk, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about keeping it all organized.  I think the best solution out of this conundrum is to not buy the junk in the first place.  Alas, we have bought it, and now we need to do something about it.  My solution?  Get rid of it.

Hubby and I have never been materialistic people, so the majority of the “stuff” we have are actually gifts or hand me downs.  That’s partly why it’s hard to get rid of it; we’re a bit emotional about letting go of things others have gifted us.  But we are making headway.

As part of our journey to live life on our own terms, we are decluttering our home like it’s nobody’s business.  Here are the steps that have helped us.  Hopefully they can inspire you to break free of the chains of material goods that you probably don’t need in the first place.

How to (1)

Step 1. Make a list of the items you feel are irreplaceable.  

This list might include items with emotional attachment, family heirlooms, and antiques, if you own any.  Here is my list:

  • Photo albums and scrapbooks/memory books (‘cuz you know, I’m from the time you actually had to develop photographs if you wanted to see what they looked like.  These photographs are literally not replaceable, as I no longer have the negatives.  Even if I had the negatives, does anybody develop photos from negatives anymore?)
  • Handmade gifts (yes, including the baby wear that no one will wear again for at least another eighteen years or so.  These are super special and deserve to be kept for the emotional value attached to them, but that’s just my opinion).
  • a bandanna my grandmother gave me before I left Brazil (and before she passed away – it is my only tangible memory of her other than 2 pictures).
  • A “Beauty and the Beast” music box that I’ve had for 17 years.  My brother, Cesar, bought me this music box as a Christmas gift when I was 15.  It was the first thing he bought me with his very own money from his first job.  My children love listening to it and watching “Belle” go round and round.
  • My iPhone 3, which I know will be replaced, perhaps soon.  I will cherish this phone even after it has long stopped working, as I purchased it for an insanely good price from a friend who passed away in a car accident a few months later. It’s my only tangible memory of him.
  • My Atlas of Human Anatomy.  This item is replaceable, but not this particular copy, the one that I spent hours studying in university, the copy that made me more and more amazed by this machine I walk around in everyday.  The one that I have grabbed many times to review and show my daughter what certain bones are called.  I have to keep this one.  Too many memories.
  • My notes from university.  I go back to these frequently; I continue to be amazed by the human body, all that it can do, and all that can go wrong with it.
  • Our wedding china, glasses, and cutlery.  If we had known then what we know now, we wouldn’t have registered for this stuff in the first place.  But it was a family tradition, and hubby’s whole family got together to purchase these as wedding gifts.  We simply can’t get rid of these items.  And to be fair, we have gotten a lot of use out of them, as we love to bring out the “nice dishes” for any and all guests who come to visit – it’s a special occasion when anyone comes to see us.
  •  A couple of crystal serving bowls and vases that hubby’s great-aunts gave us as wedding gifts.

Step 2. Write a list of the things that are replaceable, but that you still feel you really want to keep anyway.  

Write this list outside of your house, where you need to remember what you care about without looking at the stuff to remember it.  I don’t really have anything on this list, because the majority of the stuff in our house is either cheap or a hand-me-down.

Step 3. Go back to Step 1 and determine if any of the things you want to keep can be made into electronic format.  If so, decide if this is worth your time and/or if you don’t mind having ONLY an electronic format of these items.

For me, the photo albums need to stay in their hard copy format.  This is non-negotiable.  I LOVE looking through a photo album, holding it, remember memories while sitting down on the floor surrounded by all these moments captured in time.  For me, pictures on the computer or even on the TV screen just don’t do this experience any justice.  I realize that not everyone feels this way, and if you’re one of the people who doesn’t, than yay!  You can get rid of even more stuff.

Scan all items that you don’t mind having ONLY an electronic format of.  For me, that is my school notes.  I want to keep them, but don’ want to store all these bulky binders anymore.  I signed up for Evernote premium, and a while ago, when I still had my fitness business, I also purchased a ScanSnap scanner, which scans items straight into Evernote.  So I’m slowly going through my notes and documents and scanning them using this set up.  As soon as I’ve scanned the items, I recycle them. This is a time-consuming process, but it will be worth it in the end, so I can be free of all this “stuff.”  If you don’t have a ScanSnap but have a regular scanner, you can still scan the documents and save them as PDFs on your computer.  I think it’s worth the money for the set up I just mentioned, though.

Step 4. Start mercilessly purging.  Use the lists you made in Steps 1 and 2 to guide you.

The lists you made in Step 1 and Step 2 need to be flexible and fluid, but they should provide you with a guide as to what you really need to keep.  If you pick up an item and you feel that you want to keep it, check the lists.  If that item is not on either list, ask yourself: “why exactly do I want to keep this item?”  “If I got rid of this item, will I miss it in 2 years’ time?”  Make your decision of whether to keep or get rid of the item based on the answers to these two questions.

With regards to clothing: of course you’ll need to still wear clothes (unless you’re a Naturist, but chances are you wouldn’t be reading this article if you were).  If you have not worn an item in over a year, purge it.  Yes, this includes those smaller sizes that you’re hoping to get back into once you start that exercise program.  Seriously, reward yourself with clothes in a proper size if that ever happens.  Seeing those smaller clothes in your closet is probably just depressing you anyway.

Step 5. Separate your “purges” into piles: donate, freecycle, sell, throw away.

Your donate pile – If your item still has lots of use left but you don’t think it’s a good seller (in my experience, men’s clothing that’s not brand name doesn’t sell well), put it in your donate pile.  I am fortunate enough to live behind a charity thrift store, so I just cross my backyard, go through the back gate, and drop off my donations at their door.  Pretty awesome.  Consider where you would like to donate your items – I prefer not to donate my personal items to for-profit thrift stores.  I mean, I’d rather make that money myself.  I prefer to donate to charity thrift stores, but that is a personal preference.

Your Freecycle pile – Freecycle is an awesome group e-mail list where people can offer items that would otherwise be going to the dump.  I’ve gotten rid of broken electronics, mismatched socks, and old wood this way.  You know what they say: one person’s trash, another’s treasure.  Check for a freecycle or “free 4 all” group in your region (usually a yahoo group).  Sign up and post your offers.  Frequently, your items will be picked up within 24 hours.  You can also post free ads on Kijiji, Craig’s List, or other similar boards, but I find for broken or less than ideal items, freecycle tends to work better for pick up.

Your Sell pile – If your item is in good shape, take pictures from all possible angles, and post on as many groups/boards/websites as possible.  These include Kijiji, Craig’s List, Varage Sale, and regional Online Thrift Sale groups on Facebook.  I’ve also added a public photo album on my Facebook profile and called it “For Sale.”  I’ll let you know which one of these I sell more on, but I think the more platforms you advertise your items on, the better.

Your throw away pile – I’m trying to keep this pile as small as possible; the less we send to the landfill, the better.  So far I’ve only truly thrown away about 1 small grocery bag.  Most things I’m able to freecycle or donate, even if it doesn’t look usable.  One person’s trash…

Two final notes on this step:

  1. Take pictures and list items for sale as you go (don’t wait ’till you have a huge pile).  Small successes and sales will encourage you to keep going.
  2. If you have young children, find a place in the house where they are unlikely to spend time in, and store your for sale and give away items there.  This is especially important once you start purging toys.

Step 6.  Avoid re-cluttering your home.

Once your purging and de-cluttering is complete, establish simple rules to avoid re-cluttering your home.

At our house, the rule is: 1 item in, 1 item out.  This goes for both adults and children.  When we purchase or are gifted an item, we choose an item of similar size (or the equivalent in smaller sized items) to donate.  This teaches the children to be mindful of those who don’t have as much, and it keeps our place much less cluttered.  We make some exceptions for items that we have been waiting a long time to buy or have been dreaming about for a long time (I didn’t give away anything after buying my Vitamix – I saved for two years to get that thing).

Avoid impulse purchases.  Establishing a very low limit for impulse purchases can help with that. My limit is $5.  If anything I want to buy on a whim costs more, I go home and think about it.  This saves money and helps keep my house free of junk I don’t need.

Remember the difference of wants versus needs.  Nothing is truly a need except food, shelter, clean water, basic clothing, and medicine for those who require it.  For anything else, really think about why you want an item, if you’ll get good use out of it, and how much work it will be to keep it put away.

These simple rules will help to keep your home clutter-free once you have gotten rid of those items you no longer need.

I would love to hear from you.  Has this post been helpful?  How do you get rid of clutter?  Leave a comment and let me know!


Live life on your terms

How to live life on your terms.

I have an amazing life and I know it.  Even in my most dire financial times, I never wanted for food, shelter, or water.  I am blessed beyond belief.  Every time I feel like complaining, I remind myself of these three things: food, shelter, and clean water.  And not just any food, shelter, and water, either.  I can afford to eat healthily and to indulge in treats.  I live in a wonderful home with 3 flush toilets (yes, that is definitely a highlight), a comfortable bed, and even a bathtub.  I also have functioning modern appliances that mean I don’t have to slave over a wash basin to do the piles of laundry that 5 people undeniably create.  I have clean water that comes out of any tap inside my house – I can actually drink water from anywhere in my house without filtering it first (even if it does taste like chlorine sometimes, which is why we use a filter in the kitchen – oh yes, I can afford a filter!  Another blessing).

In addition to those basic necessities that I don’t even have to think about other than going to the grocery store or farmer’s market to replenish my fridge – which is always well stocked – I also live in a country where I can be free.  I am free to live life the way I want to – to express my religion without fear of political punishment or death; to express my displeasure with the government in a public venue without fear of political punishment or death, and to interact with any and all members of society anywhere I go within my country.

Yes, I lead an amazing life.  I suppose I’m keenly aware of this fact because I wasn’t from this awesome country originally.  I came to Canada by way of Brazil, with a 4-year “stop-over” in the US.  Whereas I never wanted for anything in Brazil either, and we were taken care of even in our most dire financial times (we had very generous family members), I did see what it was like for those who were not as fortunate.

It was so commonplace for street children to knock on our door asking for stale bread or something to eat, that it was a running joke to knock on our relatives’ door and ask in a joking manner, “do you have stale bread?”  And to not think that there was anything wrong with that joke.  Racism was so institutionalized that no one thought it existed, even when the majority of “favelados” are black, and children who were called “black” because they are the darkest member of the family cried because black was not something one desired to be.  And no one thought there was anything wrong with that either.  Jobs were few and far between, and if you had a job, you hung on to it for dear life, even if it paid peanuts.  Because at least you had peanuts.  So many others didn’t.  Working as a teenager to help at home was not a viable option unless you wanted to work the streets.

Then we came to North America.  As immigrants, we didn’t have much, but we had the world ahead of us.  All the children worked to help pay the bills.  That was just the way it was. I worked hard all through high school and university.  In my last two years of high school, I worked 30-35 hours lifeguarding, teaching adults how to swim, and coordinating shifts at the local YMCA. When we came to Canada, I worked full time until I got to university, and then I worked two part-time jobs every year I was a student. I paid for my own education on the backs of my labour – and $45,000 in OSAP money.  It was enough to pay my tuition, buy my textbooks and materials, live in a tiny apartment, eat food that wasn’t fancy, and have a small TV that only played VHS movies (no cable).  If I wanted to go anywhere, I walked or roller bladed, or took the bus (with the bus pass that was included in my tuition).  If I needed to use the Internet, I walked over to the library.  I had an amazing life.  Food, water and shelter were never wanted for.

Yes, an amazing life.  Perhaps amazing is not the proper word.  Amazing indicates full of awe.  It wasn’t quite amazing.  It was blessed.  It was a life that met all my basic needs and expectations, and that is something to be thankful for.  So many in the world are not so fortunate.  We shouldn’t forget that.  But here’s the thing.  Because we are this fortunate, because our life is so blessed, we also have the opportunity to do something more with this blessed life.  To change it any way that we fancy; to build the life that we want to build.  We can afford to do so, both financially and emotionally.

0006. Life Life on your Terms

Now that I’m no longer a student and that I have 3 kids, I realize that although my life is truly blessed and there’s nothing to complain about, I could definitely do something more with this life.  My main motivation is to spend more time together with my kiddos – 3 awesome kids 5 and under.  See, I wish I had the clarity that Jon Goodman had when I was 24.  I knew I wanted to be married and to eventually have children, but that’s about as far as I went with my “planning.”  And that was the problem – as they say, failing to plan is planning to fail.

See, now that we have a 5-person family, we realize that we want to spend much more time together than we do now.  I’m a homeschooling mom, so I do get to spend a lot of time with the kiddos.  But we’re not doing all the things we want to do, and we are not spending as much time with Daddy as we wish we were.

Make no mistake, we are aware and thankful that we have all of our needs fulfilled.  But it’s OK to have wants too.  And our wants include family adventures, time spent together, and truly enjoying any work we need to do.  I have worked many jobs in my life, but none that I could truly say paid the bills in full AND that I absolutely loved.  It was always one or the other.  It’s time to change that.  I have been thinking a lot about “lifestyle businesses,” and how a lot of those are more “busyness” than business.  Yes, I realize there is hard work to be done to truly have a lifestyle business.  I do.  But I also realize that life is short and that if you have an opportunity, you need to grab on to it for dear life.

And that is what hubby and I are doing.  We know we have an amazing opportunity for the adventure of a lifetime, even without a “lifestyle business” to fund it.  And there is where we are headed next summer.  To experience life adventure as a family, and to share that adventure with you. To hopefully inspire you to stop keeping up with the Joneses and to do things your way – let the criticism come.  It’s worth it.

Stay tuned as we reveal the steps we are taking to get ready for the biggest adventure we’ve ever embarked on, as a family, doing things our way – fulfilling dreams wildly, but also responsibly.  Sign up for the mailing list (top of this page) to stay up to date on our adventures; and to get the big reveal of our new website, chronicling the family adventure of a lifetime (new website coming in 2016).


Homeschool Lesson Planner – FREE!

FREE Homeschool Lesson Planner!

I’m very excited to share what I’ve created to keep track of my homeschool lessons this year.  This Homeschool & Home Management Planner includes a list of holidays and observances, a week-by-week lesson planner with space for appointments, a checklist for subjects covered, and more.

In the future I’ll also be adding space for medical record keeping, housekeeping, and more, but I wanted to share the lesson planning part so you can use it as we approach back to homeschool time!

I’d appreciate any and all feedback if you decide to use the planner.  You’re welcome to print out as little or as much as you want for your personal use.  I’m going to be getting it spiral bound soon for my use at home🙂

Click on the image to download your FREE Homeschooling Planner copy.  Enjoy!

Homeschooling & Home Management Planner cover

Spotty Bananas Recipe: Yoghurt Banana Muffins

Spotty bananas: what to do with them?  If anyone says “banana bread,” you fail.  Here’s the thing.  Banana bread is fine and all, but first of all I don’t enjoy it that much, and secondly, it’s so unoriginal.  Everyone makes banana bread with spotty bananas.

Here at the No Guilt Mama household, we have a few uses for spotty bananas, because we always have a mountain of bananas.  I can’t keep up with the banana demand before the bananas go spotty.  So we freeze them for smoothies, eat banana popsicles (basically just a frozen banana that you eat), and some other things.  Today I decided to experiment.

To beat the unoriginality (yeah, I know that’s not a word) of banana bread, here is what else you can do with spotty bananas.  Just made it up today and it turned out surprisingly delicious, considering how little sweetener I added to the batter (yes, in this house, 1/4 cup maple syrup is considered “little” sweetener.  We’re Canadian, eh?).  Normally it’d be about 1 cup of maple syrup or 2 cups of white sugar or something equally as sweet.  Considering the state of the bananas, it makes sense a lot of sweetener wasn’t needed.  My spotty bananas were very spotty:

Spotty Bananas

And since the more spotty the banana, the sweeter it gets, just adding the spotty bananas already added much sweetness to the recipe.

In no time, we had these delicious muffins to enjoy:

Spotty Bananas - Banana Yoghurt Muffins

The picture does not do them justice; they were really good.  The recipe actually made 12 muffins, but the batch didn’t last long enough for me to take a picture of them all!

So, without further ado, here is the recipe!

Yoghurt Banana Muffins


  • 3 very ripe bananas (the spottier, the better!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups flour (I used white as I was out of whole wheat; will use whole wheat next time).
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt


In a large bowl, combine bananas, egg, oil, yogurt, maple syrup and water, and mix until well combined.  In a separate bowl, whisk all remaining ingredients.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir to combine.  Pour into greased muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.


What do you do with your spotty bananas?  Let me know in the comments!