Monday, June 27, 2011

The Art of Roughhousing

The Art of RoughhousingBrowsing through the Sunday paper, I was amused to come across an article about a new book called The Art of Roughhousing.Complete with diagrams and instructions, the book promotes the benefits of roughhousing: making kids "smarter, emotionally intelligent, likable--even lovable," according to the book. The authors, both dads, argue that kids--especially boys--must get away from the electronics and the avoidance of rowdiness and get back to good old-fashioned roughhousing. They say it's vital to self-esteem and physical development.

I chuckled at the quotes from a mom of two boys, ages 4 and 2, who was interviewed for the story. She said, "All they do is rough-housing. They're physically incapable of not doing it. I find it stressful, dangerous for them, and the interior of my home, which is taking a beating, too."

How many of us mothers of boys can relate to that sentiment?

Most likely, all of us. Another mom of a 3-year old daughter and 18-month old son said it's "their wrestling, chasing, jumping on furniture and running in the house" the second she turns her back that most concerns her. She said she constantly feels like she's saying, "Stop, don't do that!"

Roughhousing is one of my tipping points, too. If they're not roughhousing with each other, the boys are roughhousing with the house. They're grabbing the cords for our custom living room shades that are bolted into the wall and swinging like they're Spider-Man. Everyday, we review that they are not to do that; everyday, they try it again and again. Chairs become trampolines, despite reminders that chairs are not trampolines and despite discipline when they fail to heed the warnings. The built-in bookcase not only holds books, it also serves as a climbing wall. The living room apparently makes a great track for running laps, and the window seat ledges (and coffee tables) offer plenty of practice for perfecting jumps. Makes for stronger bones, I guess. Apparently, the neighbors get a little nervous when they see our boys climbing the fence and sitting on the top rails to wave goodbye to Dad in the morning and after lunch. But they don't know that our boys have perfected the art of roughhousing. If the book's right, it's all for their good (and perhaps mine too): they'll be smarter, more emotionally in-tune, and more likable. Now if I could just find roughhousing more likable, I'd be all set...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cash Envelopes and Financial Peace

We've been faithfully using our cash envelope system for about six months now, and I love it. At first I wished our budget allowed for a larger amount to go into the various envelopes, but after adjusting to that, I really like the discipline it forces. If we don't have the money in the envelope, we simply don't buy whatever it may be that we'd otherwise be interested in. Sure, this means we aren't doing a lot recreationally, for example. But what we do choose to do or purchase, we enjoy more, because we're making a very conscious choice to use money in that way (and most likely we had to save up for it).

This higher degree of discipline with our money has enabled us to pay off all but $400-some dollars on my OB bill of $4,114 plus a $440 ultrasound, plus about $100-worth of labs. I also see God's supernatural hand of provision in there, because I can't believe we've been able to do that. We'll still have a hospital bill, but this experience encourages me that we'll find a way to get that paid off too. (Prayers for a healthy, non-complicated birth and baby are much appreciated!).

We found that the restriction of using the cash envelope system brings about financial peace. Once we learn to live within the budget, we have greater control over our money. There are no longer the $10-here, $20-there "small" purchases with the debit card (or uncategorized cash) that can add up to $50 or more a month. If I look in our food envelope, for example, and see that we're dipping below a certain point, and I still have groceries to buy, there will not be any running through the Wendy's drive-thru on a night I may not feel like cooking. We're telling our money where it's going, and we're making thoughtful decisions about it. This discipline allows the money to grow. It feels good.

The other benefit of the cash envelope system is that we're faithfully putting money into categories, such as our home, that previously never got funded. We'd always look at our checking balance and feel like we couldn't afford to spend money on this or that, so we wouldn't, unless it was an emergency. This way, we're designating some money each check to those previously unfunded categories. If we don't need to spend it, it grows. We'll be able to paint the house or purchase new carpet at some point, because we can see that the money's there.

So this Coffee Talk Thursday, let's talk budgets. Do you use one? Do you love it, or do you find a budget too restrictive? If so, I would encourage you to give it another try. I know some of you have said in the past that you use an electronic budget instead of a cash-envelope system. That's great, too. The envelopes just work better for me, since the cash is more tangible. I'd love to hear what's working for you.

(Linked to Frugal Friday)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Noodles of Wrath

A few months ago, I scored some pasta for free. We don't really have a pantry in our house, so I was storing the extra packages downstairs in a box. The boys' room is downstairs, too, and they often play down there.

On a rainy morning a few days ago, the boys were playing fairly well together. Of course, this always makes moms happy, and I felt a little looser about checking on them as often as usual. First mistake. Second mistake was not to get a clue when one of my boys came in the kitchen to see what I was doing, and I asked him if they were getting into mischief. "No, mommy. I just came up to check on if you were getting into mischief up here." Hilarious!

They were playing well together, but their play was mischievous. The worst act was getting into a box of whole wheat pasta, and breaking the noodles clear from one end of the basement to the other--ending in their bedroom closet. Noodles can't really be vacuumed up; they have to be picked up by hand. There were hundreds to pick up. Not a fun game of pick up sticks for a very pregnant mother. (My gracious husband took care of it later that day).

What is it about situations like this--the unexpected finds--that cause us to just completely lose it? Someone once wrote about "simmering in wrath." (Here's the article). I felt that that day. I know I needed to get out of it. "Justified anger should fade quickly with the removal of the provocation. Do not entertain the grievance overnight. If the anger lingers until nightfall it is no longer a natural reaction to injustice; it is simmering wrath." ("Angry Children")

At times like that, it's best for me to take the kids and get out of the house. Even if I'm still frustrated (which I usually am), at least the environment changes. There's other stuff to think about and focus on than what happened at home. Plus, we're in a public place, and that simple fact helps to keep our emotions and words to our children in check.

So we had some rough moments with the noodles of wrath, but we got it cleaned up--inside our hearts and in our home. Learning lessons every day...

Love this Psalm: "May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need." (Psalm 79:8).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pregnancy, Summer, and Cleaning

Few things combine worse than pregnancy, summer, and cleaning.  Depending on the stage of pregnancy, you don't feel good, or you feel too big to bend down easily, and since it's summer, it's hot, which is also hard to deal with during pregnancy.

But even if you're not pregnant, few of us want to be inside cleaning when it's a beautiful summer day outside. Plus, as moms, if our children are outside playing, it's not realistic to be inside all day working through a list of chores. We need to be keeping an eye on them.

So is the solution to just let our houses go all summer long?

While that could work if everyone's super relaxed, it may backfire when you start sticking to the watermelon and popsicle drips on the kitchen floor, or when you feel like the beach is inside because of all the sand that's been tracked in, or when your kids start studying ant houses in your house.

I think there's realistic way to make it all work. First, relegate cleaning tasks to short little mini-bursts. So many jobs truly take less than 30 seconds: wiping out a sink, grabbing a microfiber cloth and wiping a mirror or window, wiping down the counter, sweeping the floor, scrubbing a toilet, etc. Do them when you have a quick burst of energy, or even when you don't--just get it done. It won't take long. Do a bit here and there throughout the day.

Second, delegate to little helpers. This is why I love using natural cleaning products, like baking soda. I can give any one of my kids a little dish of baking soda and a cloth and ask them to sprinkle it in the sink and wipe it with a cloth. It won't hurt their hands, like a cleaner such as Comet might. Sure, some of the jobs may not look like they were performed at the hands of an adult, but at least the job is done (kind of), and the kids are learning responsibility and how to help out at home.

Third, I find it helpful to tackle any bigger jobs (such as mopping the floor) right away as the day begins. If you go to bed at night knowing which big chore you'll do first thing in the morning, you can just get it done (while it's still cool outside) and have the rest of the day to enjoy outside if you'd like.

This is how I'm attempting to keep our house somewhat under control while in my third trimester during the summer months. What works for you?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Coffee Talk: Criticism from Within

Last week, our neighbor--whom we thought we had a great relationship with--threw away one of our kids' toys, which our two-year old had managed to toss over the fence. When the boys asked several days later if they could please have their toy back, and she told them she had thrown it away, I told her I was surprised she would do something like that without first notifying my husband or me. This began a conversation in which she said many harsh and hurtful things. Her words, and the things she brought up, revealed an attitude of bitterness that apparently has been growing, unbeknownst to us, for quite some time.

Being on the receiving end of critical accusations--especially when they seem to come out of left field--is shocking and hurtful. What makes it even more painful is when they come not from a stranger, but from someone with whom you have a relationship. Whether it's a friend, a neighbor, or a family member, when mean things are said and situations are looked at from their perspective in a way that you feel is neither accurate nor reasonable, the relationship suffers harm.

First, you have to process what happened and work through it. We pray for grace and mercy to keep any bitter roots from springing up. But, there's still the practical aspect that the relationship will feel awkward for awhile. It helps if both sides can talk maturely about what happened and seek to be reconciled. But when one side is not interested in reconciliation, that starts a whole other grieving process. I think the best we can do is to continue to pray about the situation (and the person's heart) and seek to keep our own heart pure before the Lord.

As Christians, we are called to forgive and love one another. We can't control other people's behavior or thoughts, but we can seek to live out the words of Colossians 3:12-16:
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."
This Coffee Talk Thursday, I'm wondering if you've ever had something similar happen to you and how you dealt with it. Did the relationship heal? How did that come about?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Survival Parenting

Parenting is hard work. It comes with lots of joys, no doubt, and countless, special memories, but there are also many moments when we're simply in survival mode. A friend of mine made a comment recently that she and her husband aim to never criticize anyone's parenting because they know how hard it is and how we're "all just trying to survive." Anyone with children knows how true that is. But we can't just leave it at that
--we've got to work hard to set the bar a little higher.

So how do we break out of survival mode and hit intentional parenting?

I think it all starts with goals, vision, purpose. We've got to have at least a rough idea of a few things we want to achieve with our kids each day--whether that be chores we want them to do, learning we want them to accomplish, places we want to go, etc. If we're not guiding the day--at least somewhat--we will end up simply surviving it. And it may not be pretty. On the other hand, benchmarks and a basic direction isn't going to prevent crises throughout the day, but as parents, we'll feel less like they're ruling us and more like we're presiding over them. It's the perspective.

Not only do we need some daily goals, we are wise to intentionally think through what we want our families to look like long-term. What kind of character qualities do we want to see in our children? What kind of religious values do we want to instill? How do we want them to handle practical aspects of life, such as money management, teamwork with siblings and peers, conflict, and more? By knowing what we're aiming at, we can steer the course to instruct with focus in those areas.

With a little planning, we can rise above crisis survival mode. Planning may not prevent us from hitting the bulls-eye each day, but at least we'll know what we're aiming for. Then we have a better chance of reaching the target.

Practically, I find the best daily planning for me happens early in the morning before the kids are up. I read my Bible and pray about the day ahead, thinking through and praying about what I might like it to look like--knowing we won't achieve the vision perfectly, but at least there are some plans for the day (or parts of it). The weekend, usually Sunday afternoon, affords time to envision the week ahead. Coffee talks with your spouse can result in intentional goal setting for family life in general.

How else do you think we can break out of "survival mode" into something more inspiring?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Attention Deficits

I think I have attention deficit disorder. But I don't need to take medication for it; I just need to learn to focus better and stay on track during unpleasant tasks. For example, as I was working to clean up the kitchen after we let it slide downhill this weekend, several more pleasant ideas popped in my mind: gotta check x, y, and z on the Internet, need to look to see if I have a coupon to match a certain sale, finish sorting and packing away some of the baby girl hand-me-downs we received (which I was in the middle of before my husband nicely suggested we focus on the kitchen). You name it, my mind wanted to do it and my body wanted to follow suit.

But then, I realized that I really just needed to focus on the task at hand and finish cleaning the kitchen. All the thoughts that kept popping into my mind of more enjoyable activities could wait. See, I don't have any attention deficits when I'm focusing on something I want to do--only when I'm doing something I don't want to do. But if we train ourselves to stay on track, we grow in discipline (and home management).

If you're like me, I read a tip once about having a list nearby during those "attention deficit" tasks. We don't have to leave the chore at hand to do what pops in our mind; we can just write the idea down and do it when we're done with the task (or when we reach some free-time, or scheduled time for that to-do list).

I think my oldest son is like me in this. He can focus intently on a project he's interested in. But when you ask him to sit down to practice reading, or work on math, he wants to pop up to check on something, or do something real quick, or eat name it. His lack of focus has kind of been bugging me lately, and I've wondered what to do about it--how to help him stay more on track. Then I realized today, with my kitchen episode, that I'm the exact same way. So I can't blame him for being drawn to things that are more fun, but I can work with him to learn to focus and finish what we're working on, even when we'd rather be working on other things. We can grow together.

Here are some related posts on this topic:
Have a great day. Let's focus!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Something Frugal and Fun

Beautiful summer days can sure put you in a fun and festive mood, can't they? On one such day last week, the kids and I were driving back home from an afternoon out, and I thought it would be fun to stop at our local coffee shop and pick up some blended coffees for my husband and I to enjoy as a "mini-date" when he got home from work. But since we are working extra hard to discipline our spending , I remembered that I had some cappuccino mix at home. Surely I could use this to create some blended cappuccinos, and I would save about $10 and also save the stop with getting three boys out of the van, in the coffee shop, and back in the van and into car and booster seats.

Once home, I looked on the back of the cappuccino package from Sam's Club, and sure enough, there was a recipe for blended drinks. For one drink, use 1 cup ice, two scoops of powder, and 6 oz. of milk (I mixed in some flavored vanilla creamer too). I poured the drinks in cappuccino mugs I had picked up at Walmart for $1.50 each. It was a fun treat, and my husband appreciated the impromptu surprise and his wife's happy mood.

I'm sure you could easily do this with green tea, or regular coffee, as well, that has been brewed strongly. I think it would also be good with some of the flavored syrups you can pick up at Sam's and other stores. Just something a little out of the ordinary to create a moment to celebrate.

It doesn't have to be a coffee drink that you whip up to bring an air of joy to your home. In Family Fragrance: Practical intentional ways to fill your home with the aroma of love , Gail and Lois Ledbetter write:
"Laughter and enthusiasm are the glue that make fragrance stick together. Without merriment, family life is staid and stale. Most parents are all too familiar with the downward spiral family morale can take. It usually begins with an ungrateful spirit or an attitude of unthankfulness somewhere, and will drive any parent to the brink of insanity. But just as certain steps lead to the downward spiral, certain steps will create an upward spiral."

They define a home filled with merriment as an "atmosphere of enthusiasm coupled with uninhibited laughter and noise." Merriment makes the house fun! It is the opposite of an environment marked with boredom; morale is generally high; the house is lively, and there is animated laughter. Moments with merriment help us get through the hard times.

The authors suggest asking family members for their ideas of what they find fun to do as a family. Then, you can write these on slips of paper and put them in a "paper cookie jar" and draw one out when you need a little pick-me-up.

So today, I encourage you to find at least one practical way you can bring a little more merriment to your home.

Here are some ideas:
  • If you have daughters, what about at-home pedicures?
  • A picnic on the lawn
  • Fill up a kiddie pool and play, or go to a local pool
  • A bike ride
  • Play a game
(linked to Frugal Friday)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Coffee Talk: Why I Both Love and Hate Couponing

I consider myself a fairly frugal shopper. I love finding bargains, I rarely buy anything full price, and for the most part, I discipline my purchases to only buy what we truly need. So when it comes to using coupons, I find I can often do better by either not buying the item to begin with--finding, instead, a more frugal alternative or doing without altogether.  However, I still like to peruse the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper and on Internet sites like Usually, I'll find at least a few that I can use, and I'll save a bit more money at the store by pairing these coupons with good sales.

So what I love about coupons is the extra savings they can provide.

But here's what I don't like about couponing.

First, our Sunday paper does not receive the same coupons found in a larger city paper. This can be discouraging and frustrating when I read about the deals certain bloggers advertise, and I can't take advantage of those deals because I don't have the right coupons.  Right from the start, I'm at a disadvantage there.

Second, when I really try to give couponing a good effort and get really into it, I find myself becoming a little too obsessive about it. I don't like what it does to my psyche. :) It starts to feel like a game, and, as a perfectionist, I want to excel at it. So when I can't score the same deals as the big coupon blogs describe, I get frustrated.

But let's say I push past all that. Trying to score the deal can also be frustrating. With the rise in popularity of extreme couponing there is a lot of competition among shoppers to get the deals that are out there. For example, Target has a coupon for $1 off a Nivea lotion. There is a coupon from the insert for $3 off this lotion, making it only $1. But everytime I've looked for it, it's been out of stock. Target is on the other side of town for me, and I'm not going to make a special trip to save a few dollars on a lotion. (Again, that goes back to: 1) do I really need that lotion? Is there a more inexpensive one to begin with, and 2) Do I need lotion at all?).

Another example--Walgreens is running a register rewards deal on men's Gillette products (shaving cream, deodorants, body wash, etc.). I have buy one, get one free coupons for all of those items, and $2 off coupons that I can use with the buy one, get one free. Altogether, I would spend $10 out of pocket for $30-worth of stuff for my husband, and I would get $10 in a register reward. So essentially all of that would be free.

The other day, I dropped off a roll of film at Walgreens and checked the price of these items, to see how much they were to begin with. The product shelves were fully stocked. An hour later, when I returned to get my film, the shelves were completely wiped out. An extreme couponer, I'm assuming, came by and cleaned everything out. That's the part that makes me grouchy. If I still wanted to try to get the register reward, I'd have to time it just right to be at the store when the shelves were restocked so another extreme couponer with bad manners doesn't come and wipe everything out again. It can start to feel too frantic.

But if I just back away, I realize my husband does not need all that stuff. Sure, he wants antiperspirant. But I can use my buy one, get one free coupon to buy him two on sale somewhere, and he'll be a happy camper. I'll spend a few dollars out of pocket, and I'll be a happy camper, too, because I'm not getting caught up in the fact that Walgreens continues to not have the products for the register reward, and I can't get the deals, and wah-wah...

All that to say, I decided it's in my best interest to be a moderate couponer. I'll watch the sales and see if there are any coupons that match up real well. But I'm not going to go tons out of my way to score those deals. I've tried it, and like I said, I don't like what it does to my personality. I get much too caught up in it. It's much better for me if I can back away and realize that getting three salad dressings at Albertson's for .60 cents each (versus almost $2 each) is really not worth the hassle of making a special trip out on a Tuesday night before the sale ends to pick those up. Besides, making homemade dressing is usually less than .60 cents anyway. But, I love saving $3 off any size pack of Huggies diapers. That makes them the same price as the generic brand, and I think they're better quality. Diapers, we need. Store-bought dressing, not so much. It all comes down to perspective.

I'd love to hear what you think about couponing. Does it work well for you? If you coupon, how do you keep from getting too wrapped up in it? On the other hand, maybe you are ok with devoting a lot of time and thought to it, and it pays off in the savings you get. That's great! We're all different, and we're all going to reach different conclusions on it. What works best for your family and budget? Let's talk!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Colonial Housewife

At a book discard for our local school district, I picked up some really neat history books, among others. Today, I was browsing through a book called Life in Colonial America by Elizabeth George Speare. It was written in 1963 and features information collected from diaries, letters, travelers' tales and reconstructed colonial villages to paint a "vivid tapestry of everyday life" in humble New England.

One section I particularly enjoyed reading was called "The Goodwife at Home." The author shares details from diaries kept in 1775 from two young sisters. Here's what they had to do each day:
  • spin two pounds of flax
  • washed, scoured, made cheese
  • sanded the parlor
  • knit worsted stockings
  • hatcheled and carded wool and flax (I'm not even sure what that means,without researching it)
Here's a great quote: "Reading the diaries, one wonders where they found hours enough in the day, and also whether they ever rebelled at the never-ending round of chores. Perhaps not, for they had never seen their mother or any of their young friends with idle hands."

Some other great quotes on daily life as a colonial housewife:

Regarding brides: "When a young bride crossed the threshold of her own home, she did so with confidence, taking with her a dowry of linens spun and woven by her own hand, and a sure knowledge of how to use every new pot and kettle that hung by her hearth."
(Fewer women in today's culture are being trained in the art of housekeeping from their mothers. I wonder how many marry with great confidence in housekeeping skills...I am still learning as I go along.)

Regarding strength training: "She needed to bring to her new home, as well, patience and strong muscles. The labor of the colonial housewife was backbreaking drudgery. In a frontier settlement, housekeeping was only part of her duties; she helped to clear the land and build the house and plant the crops as well. Even when she lived in a village of snug, comfortable houses, her daily tasks filled every hour from sunrise to long after sunset."

On cooking: 
"Many of the housewife's day was consumed in preparing meals. Every step of the preparation had to be done the hard way, with heavy, awkward equipment. Someone has written that the great kettles seem more suitable for giants to handle than for women. Yet in the course of her day every woman filled and lifted and toted and scoured them in her struggle to provide food for her family."
(The meals had to be prepared and cooked whether she felt like it or not. There was no Hamburger Helper for those busy or too-tired-to-cook days.)

First they had to make their own soap and then:
"Washday was a burdensome affair of hauling and heating water. The snowy white napkins and tablecloths which were a housewife's pride were only earned by painful scrubbing, especially in the days before forks. In addition, there was the daily cleaning of the kettles, the scouring away of grease and black soot with sand or rushes. The hearth had to be kept immaculate, and the floor swept and covered with a fine layer of clean sand which served in place of a rug."

On bathing:
"In cool weather, all water for family bathing also had to be hauled and heated. A hot bath in a tub before the roaring fire must have been a real luxury, and we can scarcely blame our ancestors if perhaps this was not a very frequent affair." 

On clothing and bedding:
"In most colonial households every single garment worn by the family had to be made by the women from the raw flax and wool produced on their own land. In addition, they wove all the bedding, the window and bed hangings, the rugs, and even the twine. The long process from plant to cloth is unbelievably complicated and wearisome, yet women for thousands of years had taken it for granted, and so did women in America."

(Today, I browsed JC Penney and Motherhood Maternity online, as well as ebay, in search for a new pair of maternity capris).

"Women could never afford to have their hands idle for a moment." 

And yet, on the art of making a beautiful home:

"There was so little beauty in the lives of colonial women--perhaps one cherished heirloom, a silver candlestick brought in a trunk from England...The longing for lovely things showed in the pride women brought to their daily work, the scouring to keep the pewter gleaming, the endless bleachings when natural linen would have served their families just as well, the hot hours over sticky, vile smelling dye pots to produce a bit of color. And somewhere in their unimaginably busy days, women found the time to create pretty things" (such as embroidery, lace, crochet, quilts, flower gardens). (Bold mine)

In reading this, I am filled with such an appreciate for these hard-working women. What an inspiring example they can be for us today. Reading about their lives makes me even more grateful that we live in a much easier time, which I think I easily take for granted. Today, there are countless sources for clothing, linens, and any other cloth we need. Sewing can be a fun hobby, not a skill vital to our family's survival. When we need new socks, I just add that to the list and swing by that aisle at the store. I don't have to prepare wool and then knit the socks. I can cook as elaborately, or as simply, as I desire; and if I don't feel like cooking on any given night, there are so many options: pulling something from the freezer or the cupboard, going to a drive-through, going out to eat, even just eating a bowl of cereal.  I throw our laundry in the washer and the dryer without so much as a second thought, fold it and put it away (sometimes with a sigh), but how many times easier do I have it each day than if I were a colonial housewife? It's no wonder they so cherished the Sabbath rest.

While these women could have had much to whine about, I like to think they chose not to. Perhaps they were too busy for such inward focus. Perhaps they felt an important sense of worth, instilled with the knowledge of how vital their daily work was for their family's well-being (and survival). I love the quote that their desire for beauty in their homes came through in the pride they brought to their never-ending list of tasks.

At the start of each new day, sure I have some tasks to accomplish. But I also have plenty of time for leisure pursuits. I can choose to take the boys on a walk to the park. We can go to events in town (in our motor vehicle, no less). We can go to the pool, if we want to. I can surf the web. I can call a friend. My family isn't going to starve and risk having nothing to wear if I neglect all chores imaginable and decide to fill the day with fun instead.

While I celebrate the freedom our modern era affords in terms of time for leisure opportunities, I am challenged by the example provided by the colonial housewives. If they could do all they did in a day, I think I can certainly step up my home management a notch or two. After reading their stories, I feel ashamed to complain--even if it's just inwardly--about not wanting to clean up the kitchen after dinner (or any other task I would rather skip to be able to go relax). Not only can I do those tasks, I can do them with pride. My day is still infinitely easier than theirs. We're 21st century women, but we can still learn much from those who lived before us.

(sharing with Raising Homemakers for the Homemaking link-up)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Drops from the Honey Tree

Remember how Winnie the Pooh always stuck his head in a jar full of honey? Well, one of my sons has been doing something similar. He "collected" the large jug of honey I bought on my last trip to Sam's Club, took it up to his room, hid it under his cowboy hat on his dresser, and occasionally takes a swig or two. The problem with this is that honey's sticky. Very, very sticky. The second problem is that drinking honey this way is messy. So when I'm walking around barefoot, I step on drops of honey in the carpet. If I have shoes on, I don't know I've stepped in honey until I start tracking it through the house and sticking to things. The third problem is--the drops are tiny and indiscriminate, but they're all over...the bedroom, the bathroom, on the stairs, even the handrail coming down the stairs bares the tell-tale stickiness of honey.

So now I have to figure out how to clean this all. Our steam cleaner leaks (a manufacturer defect), and I should probably try to exchange it for a new one. My other idea is to take a rag and some water mixed with baking soda and just work that into the carpet wherever I think there may be a honey spot (they're really hard to see, but you sure know it when you step on one!). I also have to figure out how I am going to keep my son on track with helping me clean it all up, when he would much rather be outside on a beautiful summer day (and his brothers probably will be outside).

New carpet would just be the easiest solution, but I doubt this qualifies as a homeowner's insurance claim. (Kidding). :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Healthy $10 a Day Menus

So it's been awhile since I've last posted a menu plan. Please be assured that I am still feeding my family three meals a day (and plenty of snacks for my boys, who seem to graze all day). :) Here is our menu for the week:

  • Old-fashioned oatmeal, cooked with vanilla and cinnamon, and with a bit of butter, brown sugar and milk in each bowl
  • Cranberry orange scones, yogurt and granola with berries
  • Chocolate Malt O' Meal (one of my son's favorite breakfasts)
  • Waffles, strawberries
  • Eggs and toast, oranges
  • Pancakes

  • Tuna salad sandwiches, carrot and celery sticks
  • Southwest Salad (using leftover chicken in lime butter, shredded; add some corn and black beans; crush tortilla chips over romaine lettuce; top with salsa and ranch dressing mixed together)
  • Macaroni and Cheese with my free pasta, carrots and celery sticks
  • Dinner leftovers
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apple slices
  • Chicken tortellini soup, homemade herb rolls (although this may turn into a cold soup depending on how hot it is outside on the day I make it)
  • Chicken in lime butter, orange rice, broccoli
  • Bbq ribs in the crockpot, mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes
  • Leftover ribs turn into pork bbq sandwiches, oven fries, coleslaw
  • Homemade pizza, Caesar salad
  • Taco Lasagna, salad, corn
Now that it seems like summer is finally upon us, don't hesitate to use your crock pot to keep your kitchen from heating up too much! I wrote more about that, and about a good source of crock pot recipes, in this post. Have a great Monday!

See more menu planning ideas at

Friday, June 3, 2011

Coffee Talk: When Nap Time's Over...

For a few weeks now, we've been going through an interesting transition in my house: the end of naptime as we know it. As a mom, I personally love naptime--not the getting-my-kids-down-for-naps part, but the quiet house and mommy break the usual hour and a half nap for my younger ones (or one) affords me. Plus, some days I enjoy being able to lay down for 20 minutes or so myself if I am particularly tired that day.

And yet, since my middle child (typically a good napper) turned four a few months ago, he hasn't been interested in napping anymore. So that leaves only our two-and-a-half year old. For the past month, getting him to take a nap has been harder and harder. He either isn't sleepy, or he's too playful to lay down long enough to settle down. In order to get him to nap, I always have to lay down next to him, read him some books, and stay next to him until he fell asleep. Since he wasn't going right to sleep, I ended up getting grouchy, since I felt like I was wasting a lot of time that could be spent doing other things.

In an effort to not be a crabby mom, I decided to try giving up the afternoon nap. That's always an interesting transition, because he still could use the rest. Around 3:30pm, he hits the wall. I know if I took him up, he would go to sleep. But then he would sleep until 5 and not be ready for bed a few hours later. So we've been trying to push through that intensely crabby time and find the perfect bedtime. My husband and I discovered that anywhere from 8-8:30 is too late; 7 seems a little early. Tonight, he was in bed by 7:30 and despite a few melt-downs with brushing his teeth, that seemed to be about right.

Some other things we're trying in the absence of naptime:
  • Quiet time, where everyone gets a little pillow and blanket and lays down quietly to look at books in the living room. In a perfect world, this would happen exactly as pictured for exactly as long as I've determined (an hour would be ideal, but I'd settle for 30 minutes). But, in real life, this, too, is a struggle. Here's why: I need to keep the boys together in one room if I want to lay down for a few minutes. Otherwise, they get into too much mischief. But, while one boy might be able to lay down quietly on his own, with brothers around, they too easily give into the temptation to play, giggle, wrestle...anything but lay quietly without a peep.
  • A video. I'm not crazy about letting them watch a video, but on a day where I am extra tired like today (3rd trimester, and not sleeping the past few days), I need to know they would: 1) not be getting into mischief, 2) they would be staying in the house, and 3) they would be quiet. The only way I can guarantee these three outcomes being met at one time is to let them watch one of their movies. 
  • Going on an outing in the afternoon to help keep them occupied during the hours that would otherwise be spent taking a nap. The other day, we went to the children's section of the library, and it gave us all something productive to do for an hour or so. There's also walks to the park, or just walks in general.
  • During that crabby, overtired, melt-down time (anywhere from 3:30-4:30...and on!), I've been trying to sit down with them and read to them. It's great that the library's summer reading program is going on now, so they're excited to sit with me as I read a stack of books to them. Some days we take a blanket and sit outside under a shade tree in the yard. It gives us all some down-time and gives them some mommy-attention to ward the crabbies away.
What are some of your best ideas and coping strategies for getting over that hump of saying goodbye to naptime?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

When the Training Wheels Come Off

Yesterday, my husband took the training wheels off our six-year old's bike. He rode all by himself! What an exciting time of discovery.

So many aspects of our children's learning are just like taking the training wheels off. We instruct, and sometimes we struggle to teach--maybe it seems like the lessons just aren't sinking in. I wrote a few months ago about feeling the sting of comparison that my son wasn't reading like another boy we know, who was in full-day kindergarten. But last week, all that instruction finally paid off: he's putting words together more easily and starting to recognize some by sight. It clicked practically overnight. The training wheels came off.

I think of potty-training, too. With each of my boys, it hasn't happened overnight. But as we go about faithfully training them and talking to them about it, eventually one day, it happens. It clicks. They start to use the toilet all by themselves, and all the struggles with it cease to exist.

Learning to walk and learning to talk are the same way too. We wonder when our children will hit these important milestones, and sometimes we may fret if it seems they are a bit behind. But then, almost as if it happens overnight, they're walking; they're talking.

I love the quote by Dr. Ruth Beechick that I read in Educating The WholeHearted Child about the mysterious process of how children learn. Here's what it said:
"'Modern research and theories do give various views of man and his learning, but the Bible gives the 'soul' view. And that is too important to leave out of a learning theory...Piaget, who more than anyone else worked at breaking down children's learning into bits and describing them, came to the conclusion that it is not possible to lay bits out in linear fashion for children to learn...In short, there is no scientific explanation of learning. Many people have argued that it's a fallacy to call education and psychology sciences. They are not sciences in the sense that physics is. And when they do behave like sciences, they leave out heart and soul, the most important ingredients. So it is right for our theory of learning to draw from the Bible more than from science. A Bible figure for learning is 'growth.' Growth happens all over, at the same time."'

Learning is mysterious, but it's happening all the time. The desire to learn and grow is God-given and innate. Our kids will eventually catch on to whatever it is they need to know.

So if there's some issue you're struggling with today, wondering if the light will ever turn on, be encouraged that it indeed will in due time. The training wheels will fall off. Then your child will be off and running, and you'll wonder why you ever worried so.

--Ruth Beechick, Biblical Psychology of Learning as quoted in Educating The WholeHearted Child (bold mine)