routine-mom-kids

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.

routine-mom-kids

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.

routine-mom-kids

kids-chores

The Simplest Possible Chore System for Kids

Chores… they are a necessary part of life, but they can also be a tedious task… and, in all honesty, sometimes teaching our children to help us can take more time than we are willing- or want- to give.

I mean, really, we can do the job faster and with more skill than they can, but by not taking the time to teach them how to help with the chores, we are depriving our children of the opportunity to learn how to be a contributing member of the family and, eventually, their own home, and in the long run, we are also depriving ourselves of the extra hands needed to make light work.

I am always looking for a good way to give our children a list of expectations for their assistance in our home, but I found that if I make out a nightly list for them, I get a little carried away and add too much to their list. If I print out a chore list online, many times it doesn’t apply to us.

One evening this past winter, I sat down and wrote out a list of the absolute musts that needed to be done on a weekly basis and divided them up between the easy (kid stuff) and the difficult (mom stuff). Then I divided the kid chores between the kids- some I even had them share so they would have to work together (another valuable life skill).

kids-chores

Making these cards was very simple.

I went into the power point program on my computer (Keynote for Apple users), found a layout I liked, and worked from there. I used the complete template and didn’t change anything about it. I added a picture of the child the card would belong to and which 5 chores they would be assigned each day.

Each day has 4 of the same tasks and one different chore. It’s the daily change up that keeps them going… and their picture… and the fact that they can use a dry erase marker to cross off each task they complete (because who doesn’t like crossing something off, right?).

Our daily tasks are:

  • 4 things (which you can read more about here)
  • Empty the dishwasher (Addie handles upper cabinet dishes, Ian handles safe silverware and lower cabinet dishes)
  • Help fold/put away laundry
  • Read & play for 30 minutes

Our daily change ups are:

  • Clean the windows
  • Vacuum the tile/Dust the baseboards
  • Wipe down the cabinets
  • Clean up/organize and area of your room
  • Pull weeds in the flower bed

After creating the files, I uploaded them to Walgreens and had them printed out as 4×6 photos. When I came home, I laminated each photo, and Addie helped me cut them out.

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Do you need to find a chore system that is computer generated or online? No!

Take some index cards, write the day of the week at the top in different colored markers, and list the chores needed for each day. That’s it! As their ability changes, you can easily make a new set of index cards. The important thing is to start small and make your chore card doable for your littles.

Just a little side note for you Mommas who have tiny ones… begin a routine now of things they can do and give it a specific name. For example, have them pick up their toys or clean up their rooms at a specific time every day or evening, and call it by a specific name (toy clean up or room pick up) every time they do the task. As they get older, you will only have to say the task name, and they will know exactly what you want them to do.

What system do you use for keeping track of your children’s chores?

purge

Purging the Clutter

When we were first married, I didn’t know what my home style was. I relied on others to tell me what I “needed” to have. After a while, I found that I had enough in our home that I didn’t use, didn’t like, and was taking away from the sense of peace and calm I craved.

The summer we celebrated our one year anniversary, I decided to make a change. I purged each and every room in our home and had a series of garage sales to eliminate the excess. The sense of relief I experienced led to a change in how I approached our stuff, and I began a constant cycle of purging.

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Why Purging Is Important?

Let’s look at purging from a realistic viewpoint as opposed to a sentimental viewpoint.

  1. Our homes are only so big- When you consider the size of your home, the people living within the walls, your four-legged family members, basic furniture, and necessities, you have already given up a chunk of space within your home. Add to that the years of mementos you have collected from your past, each child, and other family members, and pretty soon, there isn’t any room left for new memories, hobbies, or mementos.
  2. Interests change- I used to be an avid scrapbooker. My kids used to like Elmo. Brian used to scuba dive. “Used to” being the operative words. Since these are all things we have left behind, why would we hold onto the “stuff” that went along with them? By removing these items from our space, we have created more space for our current interests.
  3. Our children outgrow their “stuff”- Have you noticed how quickly children grow? With each new size they grow into, there is a size they grow out of. Keeping all of their clothes because of some sentimental value it may hold will fill your space with unusable items.

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What About the Sentimental Stuff?

Granted, we all have a few items that we hold dear. My mother’s last Christmas, she returned some of the gifts we had given her (she must have sensed she would not be around much longer) and used the money to buy the shoes that my daughter would wear at her baby dedication. Those shoes have been put aside for safe keeping, but the outfits my little one wore as an infant (even the ones my mother gave us for her) have been given away or sold at garage sales and consignment shops.

  1. Be ruthless about what stays and what goes- If your items are serving a useful purpose or have an actual monetary value, consider keeping them long term. If it is a piece of furniture that a family member handmade for you, definitely keep it and be sure to make good use of it. But seriously consider the necessity of holding onto every craft your child made in class.
  2. Take photos- For my baby shower, my mother made a diaper cake using size 4 diapers. It was beautiful, and after she passed away I held onto it as it was the day of the shower. Eventually, however, my daughter reached size 4 diapers, and I had a decision to make- was I going to go out and buy a package of diapers or use the ones my mother had put into the diaper cake? I pulled out my camera, and snapped a few pictures of the cake, and promptly used the diapers. If certain items are sentimental but you do not feel compelled to keep the items, snap a photo and make a choice that works for you and your home.

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How Should I Purge?

Each and everyone of us has a different situation we are working with. You may be a working woman or you could be a stay-at-home mom. You might be a work-from-home gal with some flexibility in your schedule or you may have a tight schedule because in addition to being Mom you are also a taxi service and your car is your second home.

Whatever the case, here are three ways to purge the clutter from your home and hopefully bring some calm to your space and life.

  1. The Cycle Purge- With the Cycle Purge, start at one end of the house and begin the organizing/purging process one room at a time. By the time you make it all the way around the house, it has been about 4-5 months and it is time to begin the process all over again. This method keeps things from having a chance to build up around you. It also makes the next cycle of organizing and cleaning out easier because fewer things have had a chance to accumulate.
  2. The Seasonal Purge- There are certain times of the year when purging specific areas is easier than others. At Christmas time, I use what I am going to use, and the rest of it goes into a tub for a future garage sale. While the items for a particular season are out and available, go through them and decide what has served it’s purpose and is ready for retirement and what is still useful and has some years left in it. Purging our clothes with each season (what doesn’t fit anymore, what has holes, what didn’t we wear) is also a good idea.
  3. The Twice a Year Purge- When I was teaching, I would go through our house twice a year. The first purge happened during Christmas break, and the second purge happened during the summer (my two big breaks). I would go through my closets, drawers, cabinets, and garage, toss what was unusable, give away or sell items that were in good condition but would not be used again, and keep only what I needed. What are the two times a year that make sense in your world?

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When It’s All Said and Done, Then What?

Once you have purged the unnecessary, don’t keep it around. Use one or more of these ways to eliminate the excess.

  1. Donate- Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and your local church can use some of what you have.
  2. Garage Sale- If you are one income, finding ways to make a little extra cash for your family can come through selling what you already own.
  3. Consignment Shops- I love taking items to our local consignment shop. I provide the clothes and toys (must be quality items to be accepted), they provide the store and access to customers. I make a percentage of the sale and use my earnings to purchase clothing for our kids. Another great option for one income families.
  4. Online sales groups- (use at your own risk) There are so many online options for selling items  (especially great for larger items). Always choose to make your purchase exchanges in a public area and not at your home, if at all possible.

Sometimes having a friend over while you purge can be helpful. She can help you look past the sentiment of an item to the actual value (or lack of) it gives to your home. Having a buddy to talk to also makes the process more enjoyable.

As we enter the season of Spring Cleaning and organizing ourselves for the summer, add a little purge into your plans. You will be glad you did.

Needs: Theirs, Mine, and (H)ours

Imagine that you are running a 5K.

You’ve set a steady pace for yourself and you’re doing well. You haven’t spent too much energy, and if things keep going along the way they are you will finish this race with enough energy to pump your arms in the air as you collapse across the finish line.

Suddenly, a hurdle is thrown in your path. You can either keep your pace and expect to run right through it (with horrible results) or you can pick up momentum, leap, and then resume your steady pace. Another hurdle may or may not be thrown in your path, but you never know.

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As a woman, you know that this 5K race is one you run every single day. Some days there are obstacles/hurdles that suddenly appear at any given point and on others days the path couldn’t be clearer while you are trying to reach the finish line in this race of life.

If you are a work-outside-the-home-mom, that hurdle might be the call from school telling you that you have a sick child that needs to be picked up. For the stay-at-home-mom, that hurdle could be the dreaded crayon incident that occurs while you are homeschooling your older child and sends you scrambling for some type of cleaner while saying “no, no, no” and trying to keep your cool at the same time (if it sounds like I know something about crayons on surfaces other than paper….. I do).

There are always going to be little things that come up during your day. Your children and your spouse need you and quite often need something of you. You have needs, too! And there are only so many hours in the day.

 

needs

So how do you keep from getting derailed but instead ending your day with a semblence of peace?

1. Put God first

It goes without saying. When you put The Lord first in your day, even if it is just having a prayer time with Him first thing in the morning, you are, in escence, handing your day to Him. It could not be in better hands than that.

2. Evaluate your responsibilities for the day

Make a list of what you and your family need to do, and then check it twice! Do you really need to get everything on that list done? What can be eliminated? Is your list overreaching what is even humanly possible to do on any given day?

3. Evaluate what your family’s needs/desires/wants are

If you have small children, mommy/child playtime is high on their list of needs/wants. Keep that in mind. What does your husband want? A nice dinner, a particular favorite meal, couple time? Keep his needs in mind. What do you need/want? A hot cup of tea or coffee during naptime, a chance to put your feet up for half and hour? Keep you in mind, too.

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4. Break up your day into thirds

On a sheet of paper (or open a page on a digital notebook), write down morning, afternoon, and evening.

Then take your list of responsibilities and your family’s needs/wants and fit them within the three parts of your day.

For example, my list yesterday looked like this:

Morning- devotions and prayer, exercice, dress, quick clean, 2 loads laundry, and homeschool.

Afternoon- fold laundry, blog, , begin purging Ian’s room, prep dinner, read, and play games with the kids.

Evening- watch a movie with the family, quick clean, layout clothes for tomorrow (me and kids), pack Ian’s lunch, pack Brian’s lunch, pack Addie’s back pack and lunch, clean the kitchen, and prepare for Classical Conversations Community Day.

For me as a goal oriented person, I like knowing that one of my “things-to-do” is to stop, sit, and play or interact with my kids in a fun way without thinking about what I have to do next.

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I do get “me time”, also. As long as all of the kids’ responsibilities are completed by 2:00 in the afternoon, they have a designated technology time that allows me to sit with a cup of coffee while I read or take care of my online things. For me, that is relaxing.

By getting everything done by the time the kids go to bed in the evening allows me to be available to spend quality time with my husband.

Not having an excessive amount of things on my to-do list means that when hurdles suddenly get thrown in my path during my daily race, I have time to adjust my speed, pray, leap, and keep running.

It’s a new day, Ladies! Lace up those running shoes and let’s hit the pavement at a steady pace today!

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what to do with kids Christmas break

Things to Do with Your Kids This Christmas Break

It will be here before you know it…

Christmas break!

And I just heard it…. the cheer of little ones embracing their upcoming freedom, and the gasp from moms who are looking for ways to fill their children’s time for the duration of the break.

If you are going away for some of the break, then half of your battle is already won, since leaving home is an adventure all its own and comes with its own entertainment for young ones. But if you are staying home during your break, then filling the hours of your days is a daunting challenge.

Because I homeschool my children, I am always looking for ways to keep my kids on their toes after our schoolwork is done with fun, meaningful activities that I can plan and prepare for the night before. They are not stress inducing activities or even complicated in their preparation, but my children feel as though they have been thought of and have even expressed their appreciation of these planned times.

what to do with kids Christmas break

Each activity comes with a time limit so the activity is ended before boredom sets in and leaves anticipation for the activity to be repeated in the future.

We do not do all of these activities each day. This is just a list that I use to choose from when planning our day.

At Home:

  • Silent reading (30 minutes)- My son who recently turned 5 has been doing this for a while now and can sit for the duration of the time. He cannot read a full book at this point, but he is a pro at looking at pictures and even doing some picture search books.
  • Read aloud (30 minutes)- This does require Mom’s involvement, but that’s okay! Choose books that are related to the season you are in (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.). Having a book basket helps with this. This would also be a great time to begin a classic or novel with them (we have read the Winnie the Pooh collection together).  You will be amazed at how their understanding and communication skills grow with this simple activity. During this time, I pull out the blocks and perler beads and my children quietly create while they listen.
  • Color/Draw (20-30 minutes)- Coloring and drawing is an important childhood skill that our kids need in order to develop fine motor skills among other things. [source]

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Play-doh (20-30 minutes)- Kids love play-doh, and moms can easily use this time for some therapy. Squishing play-doh is relaxing and has the ability to keep kids entertained without any effort on our part.
  • Bake cookies (30 minutes)- This one requires a little bit of work, but there is no hard and fast rule that you have to make your cookies from scratch (we don’t always). Kids love the process of mixing and seeing their work turn into something they can actually eat.
  • Play games (30-45 minutes)- This is a fun one! Grab all of those you have hidden away in a closet and play a few. Depending on ability, the games may even get a bit competitive. A few of our favorites are Shopkins Uno, Candyland, Dominoes, Go Fish, Sorry, Guess Who, and Connect Four.
  • Watch a show (30-120 minutes)- This activity is great when Mom just needs to sit with a cup of coffee in a quiet room for a bit. Pull out a video (your children’s ages and attention spans will dictate the length of your movie), put your feet up, and enjoy the quiet. If your children know that movie time only comes at a specific time of the day, they will appreciate that time even more.
  • Play outside (30-60 minutes)- This is the stuff of childhood and the maker of good naps for little ones. Fresh air, sunshine, and the ability to run unrestricted are all great for a child’s well-being and also is important for Mom. Pull out the bicycles, roller skates, scooters, hula hoops, and sidewalk chalk or let them enjoy your personal jungle gym. No matter what they do, it will be a win for everyone. Need more ideas? 15 Minutes Outside by Rebecca Cohen is a great book with 365 outdoor ideas.

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Video games (30-60 minutes)- Kids enjoy video games and technology is the wave of the future, but that doesn’t mean our kids should have unlimited access to it. Schedule time for your kiddos to play some of their video games. By scheduling time for this activity, your kids won’t spend too much time in front of a screen, they won’t tire of their games too quickly, and video game time will become a very special time for them.
  • Free play (1-2 hours)- Free play is so important for children.  Not only does it give them the ability to decide for themselves what they want to play, but it gives them a chance to pull out the toys and stretch their imaginations. And with Christmas just around the corner, it will give them a chance to really play with their new toys.

Quick trips

Sometimes, you just need to leave the house, but you don’t want to spend a lot or be out all day. Here are a few ideas for taking quick trips that don’t involve shopping or stores. Don’t forget to schedule in travel time.

  • Library (1 hour)- Libraries are so much more than warehouses for books. They are now being upgraded with play areas, puzzles, learning games, and story time. Take advantage of these amenities that your library has to offer and spend an hour in a quiet but fun atmosphere.
  • Local park (30-60 minutes)- If you don’t have a swing set, your local park is guaranteed to have a great jungle gym (take proper safety precautions). From playground equipment and open areas for unhindered running to walking paths and  bike trails, your park has much to offer that a backyard can’t. Pack a lunch and make your adventure last a little longer.

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Donut/ice cream run (30 minutes)- Have the kids been really good for you on a particular day? Why not treat them to a donut shop or Ice cream shop run? Encourage their good behavior with a small treat and a quick adventure outside of the house.
  • Visit a friend (1-2 hours for littles 3-4 hours for bigs)- I am a firm believer that visits with friends need to fall into a reasonable time frame, especially if you are spending time in their home with little ones. Your visit has time to end on a good note before little ones begin to get too antsy.
  • Bounce house or kids gym (1-2 hours)- Do you live in an area that has a bounce house or kids gym? Take advantage of these. Purchase a membership if it is something that can be used quite often by your family. This is a great way to fill a couple of hours of your day, give your kids ample space to exert plenty of energy, and give you a fun place to escape to on rainy days when a park visit wold not be possible.

What are some other ways you can inexpensively provide meaningful activities for your children during a school break? Feel free to share them with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

mom's delicious chicken soup

Mom’s Delicious Chicken Soup

October. The time of year when nothing beats a warm bowl of soup in the evening. Here in Florida, the cool mornings and evenings give us the brief feel of fall the rest of the states take for granted.

It is usually during this time that I pull out my favorite soup recipe. It keeps me warm in my body and heart because this is my mother’s recipe.

Mom made this soup for us regularly, but because she usually used what she had on hand, we were never guaranteed to have the same version of her soup twice. But regardless, it was always delicious.

During my pregnancy of Addie, I caught whatever bug was passing through my classroom, so Mom came over and made me a pot of her chicken soup. I don’t know why, but I asked her for the recipe, “Just so I have it…” Boy, am I glad I asked, because Mom passed away shortly after.

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I love having simple recipes on hand that I can pull out when my schedule has thrown a curve ball at me, but still allow me to serve a hearty, healthful meal for my family.

This is one of those recipes.

What I love the most about this recipe is that it lends itself to customization and tweaks very easily. If you make your own chicken broth or stock, use that as the base for your soup instead of water. I love throwing carrots, celery, and corn in my soup to make it “stretch farther” as my mom would have said (there was a Spanish phrase she used that I can hear in my head, but I cannot for the life of me spell out!).

Do you have a soup that you love to make in the fall? Feel free to share your recipe in the comments.

chicken soup

Mom’s Chicken Soup

Ingredients:
  • Stock pot 1/2 filled with water
  • 1 packet Badia Sazon Tropical (found in the Hispanic section of your grocery store)
  • 2 packets Sazon with Achote (there are a variety of Sazon products- also found in the Hispanic section)
  • Adoboe (also in the Hispanic section- a salty flavoring. Season to taste)
  • 2 tbsp Sofrito (also in the Hispanic section)
  • 6 olives
  • 6 skinless chicken drumsticks (you can use any type of chicken/turkey you prefer or have on hand)
  • 1 cup uncooked rice, lentels, or beans
Directions:
  1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in the stock pot with water, and bring them to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to a simmer setting and cover.
  3. After 45 min., add the final ingredient (rice, lentels, or beans) and cook until softened.

This recipe will make quite a bit worth freezing for a later date. After storing, the soup will thicken. Add a cup of water when reheating.

chicken soup

host-party-works

How to Host the Party that Works for You

1 Peter 4:9 says, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”

I love watching HGTV- the searching for the perfect home, the best location, and the creating of a place to grow your family. Two of the most common phrases that I hear regardless of the show I’m watching is, “This would be great for entertaining,” or “I can picture us entertaining our friends and family here.”

I think we have a deep desire to have others come to our home, host a dinner or party, and just be hospitable towards them. But how many times do we get frustrated just before our guests arrive? How many times have we thrown our hands in the air, along with our party decorations, and asked why we’re even hosting a gathering?

Party hosting is something that has been front and center for my sister and I in the last couple of weeks. As the holiday season approaches, hosting, with all of its joys and pressures, makes its way to the forefront of our minds.

Before the stress kicks in, here are some tips that can help you streamline your party plans. Not only do you want to host a party that your guests will love, but you want it to be one that you can enjoy as well.

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What is your party personality?

Are you an easy-going, laid back person, or do you enjoy going all out with decor and themes? Do you want your guests to feel at home and free to sit where they want to? Do you want a more formal feel with assigned seating and place cards?

Knowing your personality will keep you from planning a gathering that is out of your comfort zone and will leave you overwhelmed. It will keep you in the realm of realistic, no matter how strong the pull is to let Pinterest be your guide.

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Have your “person” there

We all have that close one or two people who will have our backs, do what needs to be done, handle what you can’t or may not know about, and in some ways just be an extension of you during the party. Make sure that person is there. Give them the green light ahead of time  to handle whatever needs to be handled if you are unable to during your event.

I grew up in a large extended family. At gatherings, everyone pitched in and just did what needed to be done to relieve stress from the hostess. I learned at an early age that having someone there for you, the hostess, during the party is so important.

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What’s your budget?

Although we all want to host a party that puts our best foot forward, being conscientious of our budget is important. The budget will decide how big your party can be, how elaborate the settings, or how much entertainment you can comfortably provide.

In your budget, be sure to include, food and beverages, any place settings, party favors, entertainment, and any clothing items that may be needed. All of these items can add up without notice. Setting a budget at the beginning helps in keeping costs in check.

How big/small do you want to make it?

Do you want a large gathering of family and friends? Or do you want your gathering to be more intimate with those you are closest to? How many people do you actually have room for? Are you willing to rent an off site venue for your party? Deciding this will help you determine the direction of your party. Set your guest list if you want a small gathering and don’t budge.

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To cook or not to cook…

Be realistic. Will you have enough time to cook and prepare the meal the week of your party? Or will ordering several pizza pies be enough for your guests? Are you comfortable enough with your guests to ask each person to bring a side dish? This would alleviate extra tasks off of your plate so you are free to handle other planning items.

These are all great options. Each one will will give you an edge to hosting a great party. At my sister’s party, she set a theme (peanut butter) and had each guest bring a dish that used peanut butter in some way. The excitement of discovering new peanut butter based dishes fit her party perfectly.

For my son’s recent birthday, I knew I would have no time to actually prepare a meal to serve. And when kids are your main guests, finding something everyone will like can be a challenge. Picking up several pizza pies was the perfect solution for our party.

host-party

Entertainment

Depending on your gathering, you will need to decide what type of entertainment will be needed.

At my baby shower, the women were entertained with games and the opening of gifts. Meanwhile, the men were in a theater room with a college football game.

For Ian’s birthday party, we rented a bounce house to keep the kids entertained. Once the gifts had been opened, the children went into his room to play with the new toys.

For my sister’s peanut butter party, a gathering of women at lunch time makes for its own entertainment. She provided a comfortable area for women to congregate and we entertained each other with conversation.

As we head into the holiday season, remember:

Do what you can. 

Don’t overwhelm yourself.

If you’re new to entertaining, start small.

Find your groove.

But more importantly, enjoy yourself and your guests and host a part that works for you.

celebrate-the-ordinary-days-fall

Celebrate the Ordinary Days- Fall Edition

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September is here and with it comes the anticipation of all things fall. Sweaters, boots, leaves changing colors, and pumpkin flavored everything…. yes, fall is coming.

Here in Florida, we can only imagine what the rest of the world experiences for fall. We live vicariously through Pinterest photos and Hallmark movies and imagine the crisp feel of the air on Thanksgiving.

However, there are so many delightful, ordinary days sprinkled into the months of September through December that it doesn’t matter if our leaves actually turn color and fall in January. We can still enjoy these days along with everyone else who live in the perfect fall climates further north.

Here are some of my upcoming favorite ordinary days (this list is by no means extensive) and how I plan to recognize them in splendid ways or just acknowledge them in passing. After all, that is the beauty of ordinary days.

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September 22- First Day of Fall (We celebrate this day by decorating for the season of fall, not a particular holiday.)

September 23- Native American Day (I have several books about Squanto and Sacajawea that we read at this time)

September 29- Coffee Day (no explanation needed…)

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October 4- Taco Day (Tacos for dinner!)

October 10- Columbus Day (This year we are going to make this Christopher Columbus themed craft.)

October 15- Sweetest Day (Enjoy a sweet treat.)

October 17- Boss’s Day (A good day to show our children how to respect the ones who sign our paychecks.)

October 24- United Nations Day (We will take some time to learn about this organization.)

October 28- National Chocolate Day (Watch the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.)

October 31- Reformation Day (We will be “nailing” the 95 Thesis to our door using tape on the back of the papers and my son’s plastic hammer and learning the Five Solas.)

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November 3- Sandwich Day (This will be easy to celebrate…)

November 8- Election Day (Take your kids with you as you place your vote… and explain to your children that a secret ballot means they are not to announce your choice of candidate to everyone in your voting precinct.)

November 11- Veteran’s Day (Several state parks in our area offer free entrance on this day in exchange for supplies to be made care packages to be sent to our troops- a more than reasonable trade. Find out if any state parks in your area offer this service to you.)

November 15- America Recycles Day (Take note of what you and your children are currently doing to help preserve our environment, and decide what changes could be made to help even further.)

November 24- Thanksgiving

November 26- Small Business Saturday (Look into small businesses in your area that could use a boost during the holiday season.)

November 27- First Day of Advent (Begin celebrating the advent of Jesus and the Christmas season.)

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December 4- Cookie Day (Bake a batch or more of cookies. Package them to be given as gifts for your neighbors, friends, and teachers.

December 7- Pearl Harbor Day (Take some time to reflect on the impact this event had on our country 75 years ago.)

December 15- Bill of Rights Day (Review what the Bill of Rights are and show them Norman Rockwell’s paintings of the Four Freedoms.)

December 20- Last Day of Fall (Get ready! Christmas is around the corner!)

Let’s make fall’s ordinary days a memorable time for our families. 

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Building Monuments

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God loves a good celebration. So much so that He instituted times when His people came together to rejoice with food and symbols to represent what the celebration was for.

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But the celebrations were not meant to be frivolous. They were not meant to be commercialized. These celebrations were meant to be spiritual monuments for the people to look back and remember God’s goodness to them as they made the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. These celebrations were to mark specific moments in time when God showed His provision, protection, love, and mercy to His stubborn, stiff-necked people (Deuteronomy 9:13). These celebrations were to contain lessons that would be passed down from generation to generation so there would never be a generation who did not know the Lord or the things He had done (Judges 2:10).

As I think of my own life, I can remember distinct moments where God showed His hand of provision, protection, love, and mercy on my journey from childhood into adulthood.

He provided a piano for me when my parents could not afford to buy one. (In fact, my family nor I have ever had to buy a piano, but we have almost always had one in our home or access to one since I was 11 years old.)

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He provided the money needed for me to attend college through scholarships, generous gifts from others, and some savings my father had intentionally put aside without the need for college loans.

He protected us from an oncoming tornado when I was 7 years old and caused that tornado to completely turn around and head in a different direction.

His love and mercy allowed my mother to know she would have a granddaughter before she passed away.

His goodness provided for our children so much that we can look at their rooms and count on one hand what we have had to actually purchase for them.

I want these memories to be monuments for my children to see, for them to reflect back on when times get rough in their lives, when they are unsure how the end of the story will turn out. I want to retell these stories to my children so they will not forget them, and so they will have stories to pass down to future generations of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy.

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As I thought of our personal monuments, I realized that underneath the debris of our calendar holidays, there are beautiful monuments for us to refer back to when the going gets rough.

When you pull away the tinsel, the lights, the wrapping paper, the wish lists, and the empty boxes, there is a stable with a sleeping Baby who was given as the greatest Gift humanity has ever received. During those times when we feel that we have nothing, that hope is lost, that life is for those in high position and not for us, that Baby stands as a monument saying, “I was given to you.”

Hidden under the very last strand of shredded, plastic, green grass, eggs, and bunnies is a cross of raw wood that is stained with blood. When we visit that monument we are reminded of how very loved we are- so much that someone was willing to die in our place to carry our burden, and reap the punishment for what we sowed.

Some monuments are built as reminders to us of principles in God’s Word.

Buried under the flowers, chocolate, cards, and paper hearts is a man who, as tradition tells us, defied an emperor in order to keep those in his flock from breaking God’s law.

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Journey past the rainbows, the leprechauns, the pots of gold, and shamrocks and you will find a young English boy, kidnapped by pirates, and taken to Ireland to be a slave. Despite his circumstances he prayed to God one hundred times a day, escaped his captors, and eventually went back to Ireland as a missionary to reach the people he had grown to love for Christ.

Travel through the fields of cornucopias, feathers, black and white garb, and gaze upon the monuments of a small band of pilgrims who are celebrating what only the hand of God could have brought about and done.

I want the “holidays” to be more than just a stressful time filled with rushed trips to the stores, receipts, and commercialism.

I want these days to be “holy days”- days that turn our focus to God and His goodness towards humanity.

I want my children to visit these monuments yearly, not with the expectation of temporary trinkets they may receive, but with the expectation of receiving the long-lasting gift of hope these monuments stand for.

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One of my favorite books is Jerusalem Jackson Greer’s book, A Homemade Year. In it, she lists dates that are significant to the history of the Christian Church at large- spiritual monuments. Days that I usually breeze by as I go about my year have a spiritual significance and lesson to teach me and my children. Days that I would have scheduled a doctor’s appointment or a library trip were monuments meant to turn our hearts towards the Lord.

Many of these dates are not on our calendars.

They are probably not even on the radars of marketers.

But these dates are there, and they are a gift. Not just to me, but to my family as well. They are days that I have an opportunity to use as monuments for my family. Monuments with a beautiful history that my family can look back to and remember God’s goodness in the past and His promised faithfulness in the future.

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The Beauty of Ordinary Days

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I have grown to love July 5 through Labor Day weekend.

There is nothing special about those days, nothing flashy, nothing that takes our breath away.

As much as I love holidays and making those days special for my family, there is something about those two months in the summer that has become precious to me.

They’re ordinary.

For me, these are the slow days.

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The days when we don’t have to leave the house… or we can if we choose to.

These are the days when trips to the beach with a picnic lunch are for more than a tan. They are refreshing to the soul.

These are the days that bring us peace before the storm of back-to-school, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

These are the days that Pinterest has not affected… yet. There are no articles on how to make these days spectacular, to decorate your home for them, or to throw elaborate parties for them.

These are the days of solitude. The days when we stay close to our immediate family before schedules pick up and send us flying in different directions. Days when we stay home without the worry of letting others down.

These are the days when our children can play to their hearts’ content without the pressure of being rushed here and there.

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But it was not always this way for me. As Jerusalem Jackson Greer says in her book, A Homemade Year, “Embracing the ordinary is something I had to learn.”

I had fallen into the pattern of thinking that I wasn’t giving my children everything they deserve. I felt that keeping them busy, always with something to do, somewhere to go, or someone to see, was going to give them the best childhood experience I could offer.

Then one day, my four year old asked what we were doing that day. I listed what I had planned, so proud of myself that I was giving him so many experiences. He looked at me and said, “But I want to stay home.”

It never occurred to me that my children didn’t need or want all of these experiences.

We began to cut back our activities significantly. “Less is more,” as my husband always says. No more trips to the summer movies. No more library classes. No summer art classes at a local craft store.

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Instead, we filled our time seeing family, going to the beach, and swimming at my sister’s community pool.

We watched Netflix.

Happy messes were made and left for a day or two (anyone who knows me knows this was a huge step for me).

We colored… I colored, too.

The ordinary, the mundane became beautiful.

And I saw why God instituted the day of rest (Genesis 2:2-3).

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Life is busy. There are schedules to keep, appointments to be made, work deadlines, school events, and it doesn’t ever seem to end. Unless we make a point of taking a time to rest, to refresh ourselves, to bring quiet to our souls, and give ourselves space to hear from God.

As it turns out, our summer was not boring, and when special days came up (like an unexpected trip to Legoland for one of the kids), they were extraordinary!

As the school year picks up, my heart feels a tinge of sadness. I know that schedules will resume, activities will find their way onto the calendar, and life will start chugging along at a rapid pace again.

But I have learned over this summer, that I can limit the appointments, the activities, the busyness, and we can continue to enjoy ordinary days throughout the year.