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Countdown to Christmas

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This week, an adorable little monkey began creating quite a stir in the Ladouceur residence!

Who is this little Monkey?

His real name is Melchior Noel Yule, but he prefers being called Melk the Christmas Monkey. Melk’s mission in life is to tell children all about God and His great love for us.

Melk is nocturnal, so he is awake while your children sleep. When they wake up, your little ones will find out what Melk has been up to! He is never mischievous, but he is always involved in some kind of activity that your children can join in when they find him.

From making paper chains and gingerbread houses to taking family photos and making tree toppers, Melk engages your children in activities which ultimately teach them about the character of God.

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Some reasons I prefer Melk as a daily Christmas visitor

I love Christmas, but sometimes, the act of preparing so many different activities can become overwhelming. Melk is our only daily activity for Christmastime. Katie Hornor (the author of Putting on the Spirit devotional and the new book In Spite of Myself) has already done all of the planning. All I have to do is follow her directions. She has given a list of what is needed, links to the downloads of the crafts suggested, and what activity Melk should be working on when the children find him in the morning.

I appreciate that Melk is never found getting into mischief. He is always doing something sweet, fun, productive, or enjoying Christmas with the innocent wonder of a child (like the morning my children find him sleeping under the tree).

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Rather than being someone who reports back to Santa about how the children are behaving, Melk points children to God and explains Biblical truths in easy to understand ways.

Melk, the Christmas Monkey: Teaching God’s Character through Bible Lessons and Activities the Entire Family Can Enjoy is available through Amazon as a paper back book or Kindle edition. (Note: The actual monkey is not part of your purchase. The monkey I purchased several years ago is no longer available, but you can find a similar monkey here.)

You can follow our family’s Melk adventure on Instagram.

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Redemption of the Picture-Perfect Moment

With Halloween over and the Christmas season beginning basically the next day, it means I have to mentally prepare myself now for the supposed “picture-perfect moment.”

For all you Dads out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Everybody is having a great time, the kids are content and you finally have a moment to sit and relax. Out of nowhere, you hear the words, “Alright! Time for a picture!”

If I’m your typical guy, I gladly volunteer to take the picture of everybody else. If I get stuck in the photo, I reluctantly give a half-hearted smile and rush to get it over with leaving everyone a little frustrated.

But what if you could redeem the picture-perfect moment? What if there was a way to take the typical guy response and transform it into a moment for the purposeful dad?

Here are three things to help you get through the infamous picture-perfect moment.

  1. Prepare yourself ahead of time. Mentally prepare ahead of time knowing you will have to take some pictures as a family. Be proactive and be ready to take the picture. Ask your wife ahead of time when the photo will happen so you can plan accordingly.
  1. Smile and have fun with it! If everybody smiled, posed and participated for the picture, it would literally be over in less than 90 seconds. Have fun with it! Think of something fun to say that’ll make the kids laugh. Tickle your wife (after the good picture was taken!) and have a blast with your family. Don’t let a picture get you down or ruin the rest of the day. Let the kids see you having fun… this may even condition your kids to be okay with taking pictures!
  1. Think about the picture-perfect future. This last one is the most important one.

In the age of social media, I originally titled this post, “The Curse of the Picture-Perfect Moment.” I feel like almost anything we do has someone’s smartphone capturing the moment rather than being in the moment. The five minutes following are spent on creating the right caption with the perfect filter. Then, I realized it really isn’t a curse after all.

Just a couple weeks ago, I pulled up old pictures on my phone and my 4-year-old daughter started looking at them with me. She would laugh and look at specific photos more than others. Anytime Halloween costumes came by, she would snicker and talk about how much she loved her outfit that year.

As we continued looking at pictures of our family, (you know, those picture-perfect moments that drove me nuts at the time?), my daughter looked up at me and said, “Daddy, I love our family!” Does she remember what we did that day? Probably not. Does she see our family having fun together? Absolutely.

Redemption! It all made sense now. She now associates those pictures with the love for our family and the time we spent together. All because of a “picture-perfect moment.”

That’s when I discovered my purposeful dad perspective on pictures.

The pictures weren’t for benefit in the present. The pictures were meant for the picture-perfect future. A future looking back on the past and remembering the good times we had as a family.

And that’s why, as a Purposeful Dad, I choose to be a part of the picture-perfect moment.

This post is a part of the Purposeful Dad series. If you know someone you can encourage with this post, feel free to share!

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Rise and Shine!

“She rises also while it is still night, and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens.” Proverbs 31:15

Do you ever wish you had a bit of a head start to your day?

There have been mornings when I have woken up and opened my eyes to a little person standing at eye level to me with a huge smile on his face. And when his mouth starts to move, the words that come out are not, “I love you,” as one would hope, but instead the words are, “What’s for breakfast?”

It’s moments like that which make me wish I had woken up early.

For the woman of the home, whether you are a single, wife, or mom, it’s important to wake up with plenty of time to give you a margin of breathing room before it’s “go time” or to get the basics done before the rest of the house starts moving.

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When does your home start stirring?

Figuring out when your family begins to stir will give you an indication of when you need to wake up to give yourself a head start. For example, my son is the earliest riser in our home, so I take his wake up time and wake up an hour before he does to give me the time I need in the mornings.

If you don’t have kids, base your wake time on how long it takes you do everything in the mornings that you have to get done: exercise, pack lunch, maybe clean one room so you don’t have to when you get home from work, dress, and do your hair.

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What can you get done in the morning?

I love how Proverbs 31:15 says “and gives food to her household and a portion to her maidens.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have “help” if the form of a maid or outside help that comes in to relieve me of any of my duties, and you probably don’t either.  We do, however, have other “maids.”

I love looking at my washing machine, dish washer, and coffee maker as my “maids” and putting them to work. Change your view of what “help” looks like in our modern world and find ways to put them to work during the early morning hours.

Mornings are a great time for:

  • Devotions
  • Putting the coffee on
  • Getting a load of laundry started
  • Folding a load of laundry
  • Cleaning one room in the house
  • Preparing dinner (taking food out of the freezer to thaw or put it together for quick preparation later in the day)
  • Getting in a cup of coffee with some early morning reading
  • Completing your morning routine without interruption

By getting some time alone in the quiet of the morning, we are able to get in some much needed alone time which will help us mentally prepare for the day ahead and possibly help us get some of our responsibilities out of the way.

Memorize Proverbs 31:15

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A Morning Routine for Moms and Kids

Have you ever found yourself repeating what you have already said a million times?

“Get dressed.”

“Did you brush your teeth today?”

“Why isn’t your bed made?”

Getting our children (and ourselves) into a routine will not only teach them discipline, but it will also keep your life sane.

Mental fatigue happens when too many choices have to be made in a short amount of time. When our body is trained to function without having to think through each action, our minds are ready to take on the real tasks of the day.

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Right now is a great time to start a morning routine

If you have been wanting to start a morning routine but haven’t known when to start, right now is a great time. We have just entered a time change which has given us an extra hour. If you’re anything like me, your body is programmed to wake up at the old time, which is now an hour earlier. Why not use that extra hour to begin getting into the habit of your routine?

This next step is the most important part.

Discipline yourself to establish and stick with your morning routine

No matter how hard it is, or how much you don’t want to stick with your routine, don’t give up! If you want your children to stick to their morning routine, you need to set the example. Just remind yourself over and over again how much easier your mornings will be once you and your children are set in your routine.

What to include in your Morning Routine

Grab a piece of paper and pen, and write down all of the things that must get done before you head to work, take your kids to school, or begin your homeschool day. Things as simple as devotions, brushing your teeth, putting on the coffee, cleaning up after breakfast, and so on need to be on your list.

Then, write down all of the things your children need to do before heading to school or before their homeschool day begins.

Write it out or type, print, and laminate your list and your children’s list, and begin following it faithfully every day. Pretty soon, you will find yourself automatically “going through the motions” and saving your mental energy for more important decisions.

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A Morning routine example

Sometimes, getting a look at someone else’s morning routine helps in deciding what to include in your own morning routine. Below is the routine I have created for my children and myself. Remember, I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, so my routine reflects the time I have available to me and my children in the mornings.

Morning routine for kids

  • Read the Bible
  • Brush your teeth (be inspected by Mom or Dad)
  • Get dressed (and put clothes in the hamper or fold and put away)
  • Make your bed
  • Brush/comb your hair

Morning Routine for Me

  • Get up a little before everyone else
  • Basic morning bathroom routine
  • Quiet time
  • Make coffee
  • Throw a load into the washer
  • Pack Brian’s lunch
  • Make breakfast
  • Send Brian off
  • Clean up after breakfast
  • Get dressed
  • Devotions with the kids
  • Prep dinner
  • Make sure house is in order (quick clean)

Once you and your children are settled into your routine, you will find that your are not asking the “did you” questions as frequently as you once did.

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May the Sales Be Ever In Your Favor | Proverbs 31 Series

“She is like the merchant ships; She brings her food from afar.” Proverbs 31:14

Shopping can be fun! But sometimes (especially during the Christmas season), it can feel like you are participating in some warped version of the Hunger Games. How many of us have gone out on Black Friday and prayed that we would be the one brave warrior to make it home alive?

Shopping doesn’t always need to feel like we are entering the arena, especially now that we have officially entered into the holiday, gift-giving season. Not only are we trying to survive the crowds, but we are also trying to get the best price on our merchandise. Make it home alive and lose as few of our resources as possible? Is that realistic?

There are ways to survive the crowd and find the best prices and deals to maximize our dollar, but sometimes it means being willing to drive to that out of the way store that has the best prices even if it’s not an all-in-one-stop shop.

What does this look like in real life?

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Grocery shopping

One of the most important methods to saving money on groceries is meal planning.

Meal planning, simply stated, is the process of planning your family’s meals so you aren’t left wondering at 5:30 p.m. what you are feeding your family for dinner that night.

It begins by looking through your pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what you already have on hand. Once you have decided which meals you can start with the supplies you already have, make your list based on what you still need. Fill in with breakfast and lunch staples and few snacks (or better yet, try making your own), and you will be surprised at how little you spend… if you stick to your list.

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Christmas

Black Friday is know for its great sales, but many times items end up in the shopping cart just because they are on sale, not because they are things that would have purchased anyway. Instead, start early in the year, and take note of what your family members are actually interested in. Then as you begin to notice items go on sale, you can pick them up.

In our home, we ask the kids to write down or tell us items in four categories:

  • something they want
  • something they need
  • something to wear
  • something to read

They can write down or name as many items as they want under each category. They know they will not receive every item on their list, but at least we have a better understanding of their interests and expectations for Christmas. It also gives us a head start on looking for gifts they actually want instead of spending money on items just so the base of the Christmas tree looks full on Christmas morning.

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Clothing

In style clothing is something that all women want, but who says you have to pay full price for them? Early on, my mother taught me to shop the clearance racks before checking out the retail priced racks. Shopping clearance racks for children is also a great idea. Rather than purchasing clothes in their current sizes, purchase clothes in the next size or two up. You will save a significant amount on clothes if you aren’t having to purchase them at full price.

Couponing websites and apps

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Another way to save, which takes a little extra effort on our part but is completely worth it, is to use coupon apps. Not all stores participate in these apps, but the ones that do help us save significant amounts of money. Ibotta is my go to app. Just for making a purchase, I can earn $0.25. If I purchase items that have rebates in the app, I can make significantly more. The money earned back can be turned into gift cards for a whole host of stores, and if you use your gift cards to purchase items with rebates on the app, you can not only earn more money back, but you can do it without spending a dime of your own money.

As we add Proverbs 31:14 to our memorization list, let’s think of ways to stretch our dollar, save on groceries, keep our Christmas expenses low, and use technology to our advantage. And may the sales be ever in your favor.

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