evening-routine

Year of the Purposeful Woman: The Evening Routine

Do you ever wake up in the morning wishing you had gotten some of your tasks done the night before?

It is so easy to have that hindsight regret. But by establishing an evening routine, you can easily avoid having rough mornings and instead set sail into your day smoothly.

Establishing an evening routine is not as easy as it sounds. You’re tired. You’ve just completed a long day. You want to put your feet up and just rest.

But by disciplining yourself to establish and stick with your evening routine, in time, your evenings will be something you look forward to and not dread.

My evening consists of two things that help set the stage for my day- planning and setting up.

Planning entails looking over the calendar/planner and seeing what my day will consist of and having a mental idea of what dinner will be and how early I will need to prepare or start it.

evening-routine

A good day starts the night before

There are several reasons why planning the night before is key to having a good day.

  1. You are too tired to be unrealistic– You have just completed your day. You are too tired to make unrealistic demands of yourself. Keep your “must do’s” limited to three items that can realistically be done with the amount of time your day will afford you.
  2. When you wake up you know what to expect… for the most part. Do you have a dentist appointment scheduled for your kids? Is there an important meeting you need to be at? Is tomorrow a day you can just relax and stay home? Having looked at your calendar the night before gives you a heads up on what to expect the next day. But keep in mind that the best laid plans are subject to change at a moment’s notice. A call from school. An emergency doctor’s appointment. You son jumping on the bed… (true story…)

Going over your plan for tomorrow is not enough to make your day run smoothly, though. By doing some of the leg work in the evening, you will save yourself some steps in the morning.

evening-routine

Some ideas for setting up your day can be some or all of the following:

  1. Lay out clothes for you and the kids- By laying out the clothes down to the socks and shoes, I know that we have everything we need in the morning. Have you ever spent ten minutes looking for that one lost shoe in the back of your daughter’s closet? So have I, which is why I began laying every item out. The time and sanity it saved us on busy mornings was priceless.
  2. Quick clean (make sure the main part of your home is in order/ not a time for deep cleaning)– Taking a few minutes to pick up your main living area will go far in your attitude in the morning.
  3. Clean the kitchen (dishes in dishwasher, counters wiped down)– I love waking up to a cleaned up kitchen. Admittedly there is usually a coffee mug or two in the sink and a pot from my husband making popcorn as a snack, but otherwise, clear counters and a dishwasher filled with clean dishes greet me in the morning. Waking up to clean yesterday’s mess is no fun for anyone, so take a few minutes before putting your feet up to make your kitchen greet you with a smile.
  4. Prep the coffee pot- The sound of a nice, hot pot of coffee percolating in the morning is enough to make anyone smile before they even open their eyes. For me, a mom who has learned to hear every sound in the house while asleep, waking up to the sound of my coffee pot is so much nicer than hearing the annoying BEEP BEEP of the alarm. And because it has such a soft sound, it doesn’t wake my husband at all. It is also helpful on those busy mornings when we all need to be out of the house by 8 o’clock to not have to remember to do one more thing and make the coffee.
  5. Prep all lunches- Are you making sandwiches for lunch? Is it something that won’t leave the bread soggy? Can you set all lunch box snacks on the counter or in the boxes for easy packing in the morning?

evening-routine

Mornings are hard. Having an evening routine can make your morning easier. Be sure to give yourself time and extra grace as you work on establishing a routine that works for you and yours. You will be glad you did.

To read more in this series:

evening-routine

legacy

The Original Purposeful Mom and Her Legacy

We as mothers hope to one day leave a legacy.

It drives us to do what we do, day in and day out. It’s why we make the choices we make on a daily basis. It’s why we get up every morning to face the challenges of the day again. Because one day our children will grow and become men and women who will either carry on our legacy- the core values we have spent our lives instilling in them in every way we could- or choose a path of their own.

Purposeful Moms would not even be here if not for a woman that God entrusted us to many years ago.

Let me introduce you to the original Purposeful Mom and the legacy she left behind.

legacy

Her name was Ana. And she was gorgeous.

That’s not just my biased opinion either. As a teenager, she was super thin, had long, straight, bottle-blonde hair, and big brown eyes with lashes that went on forever. One day, as she was walking home, a gentlemen with a business card approached her. He told her that he was a modeling agent and his models would be featured on television that evening. He gave her the time, channel, and business card and went on his way. Ana went home that evening and turned on the TV. As she watched, she felt in her heart that she had a turning point choice to make. She could either choose to serve God with her life or choose to live a worldly lifestyle. That night she dedicated her life fully to Christ.

Her legacy taught me to always choose Christ and service to him.

Mom kept her make up very simple. Her beauty made cosmetics pretty unnecessary. But she always wore mascara. The mascara made her long lashes (which our children have inherited) more defined, and caused her beautiful brown eyes to stand out (Faye inherited her eyes). One evening as she was worshipping in church, she felt the desire to weep before the Lord, but she was afraid to because the tears would cause her mascara to stream down her face.  That night she vowed before God that she would never wear mascara again because she didn’t want to allow anything to stand between her and the worship of her God.

Her legacy taught me to care more about my relationship with God than how I look to others as I worship him.

legacy

When she began dating my father, she chose to hold herself to God’s standard of conduct rather than society’s standard. Her purity of conduct not only carried her through her dating years but kept her faithful to her marriage vows.

Her legacy taught me to put Christ at the center of my dating relationship and marriage.

Before she married my father she prayed. She told God that she only wanted to marry my father if that marriage would be blessed by Him. As she prepared herself for her wedding day, she saw a tract in the bridal room of the church. The words on the tract said, “I will bless your marriage.”

Her legacy taught me to take my marriage to God before and after my wedding day.

legacy

 

As a young couple trying to make ends meet, my parents had a strict budget to live on. They only had so much to spend on groceries per week. But one day, their church was having a get together and asked them to provide the milk and coffee for the evening. My parents knew that by doing this, they would not have enough to buy meat for themselves for the week. But they bought the milk and coffee anyway. The night of the event, the weather turned bad and the event was canceled. Someone from the church called my parents and told them that the meat that had been purchased by the church would go bad before the event could be rescheduled. They were asked if they would like to stop by and pick up some of the meat to take home for themselves.

Her legacy taught me that by giving to the Lord, He would always provide for my needs.

My father played in a band in his younger days. One night, as he my mother and his younger sister were walking back to the car, a man attempted to mug him. The man told the gals to stay quiet and no one would get hurt. My mother pointed her Bible at him and began shouting, “I rebuke you in Jesus name!” The man lowered his knife, took $5 out of my dad’s pocket, and took off running.

Her legacy taught me to call on the name of the Lord in times of trouble.

legacy

My mother prayed for us before we were born, after we were born, when we were sick, for our future husbands, and for our well being.

Her legacy taught me to take my children before the Lord at all times for everything.

Mom taught us God’s Word on a daily basis. Until the day before my wedding, she would sit with me at the breakfast table and teach me a lesson straight from God’s Word.

Her legacy taught me that teaching my children God’s Word was my responsibility, not the church’s.

Today makes nine years since my mother passed away, yet her legacy lives on. It lives on in her daughters.

legacy

As a Purposeful Mom, I pray that one day I leave a legacy for my children.

A godly legacy.

A legacy that will lead them to the throne of God on a daily basis.

That is a true legacy.

legacy

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.

needs

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.

needs

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.

needs

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!

needs

year of purposeful woman

Year of the Purposeful Woman: Personal Devotions

Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.

We’re ten days into the New Year. Our toes have touched the waters of 2017, and we are slowly adjusting to the temperature and feel of this brand new year. We’ve made our plans and written down our goals.  As I began to wade further into the year, I thought of sharing with you a kind of blueprint to make this the Year of the Purposeful Woman.

The foundation for any project is the most important part. Yes, decorating is fun, and designing is a blast, but without a firm foundation, any project will collapse.

The foundation of a Purposeful Woman is her daily time with the Lord.

My foundation is my devotional time. It’s my time to talk to God, to hear from Him through his Word, and to hear Him in the quietness of my heart.

year of purposeful woman

Growing up, we were taught to have our devotions every morning before we got up from bed. Our Bibles had places on our night stands that would allow this to actually happen for us. I remember going to kiss my mother in the morning and having her ask, “Have you had your devotions yet?”

Morning devotions were a natural part of our morning routine.

That taught me a great lesson. I needed to put my time with the Lord before everything else… before tackling the day, before that first cup of coffee, before putting my first load of laundry in the washer, or before my first bite of breakfast.

Now as a wife and mother, I start my day with a devotional time. For me, giving the first part of my day to Him means I am giving Him the best of who I am. There has been no time for me to get unnerved or put anything before Him.

I see the first part of my day as my first fruits.

Exodus 34:26a says, “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.”

year of purposeful woman

God’s Word brings peace. When I let myself get so busy doing other things I feel overwhelmed and stressed. When I am in the Word, reading it daily, and really being open to what God is trying to tell me, I am at perfect peace. And what a sweet place that is to be.

Are you unsure where to start?

We live in a wonderful time where there are options galore. I like to alternate among several options to keep my devotion time fresh.

Pick up the Bible and just read– No matter what you read or where you start, God’s Word will always have something for us to learn, glean from, or apply to our lives. If you’re still not sure, John is a great place to start.

Proverbs- There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. Try reading one chapter every day for a month. It is a great place to start since Proverbs is a book of wisdom. As you are reading, ask God to give you wisdom. He will. (James 1:5)

year of purposeful woman

Bible.com offers plans in every topic imaginable. At the end of 2016, I went through the plans and saved all of the plans dealing with “Joy“- my favorite being this one by C. S. Lewis.  Are you looking for something on marriage, parenting, singleness, faith, prayer, forgiveness, or worship? There is a plan for that.

Good Morning Girls– Are you looking for a devotional that you can do in the quiet of your home yet offers the accountability we often need to get into the habit of daily time with God? This is a devotional that is offered as a small, closed Facebook group. A daily application question is asked about the passage read that day, and each member of the group answers the question in a thread. The group I have been with for a few years now has reached the point where this is the first group of ladies we turn to when prayer is needed in personal situations. You just have to be willing to be real.

First 5 app– For a time, life got really busy. This became my go-to devotional. Because may of us keep our phones right by our bed, grabbing it in the morning, opening this app and giving God the first 5 minutes of our day, can make all the difference.

Devotional books– There are a whole host of devotional books on the market. Although this was not written to be a devotional, Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman was one book that really drew me into a quiet place in my heart and brought me to the feet of Jesus many times.

One thing I know for a fact, no matter which method you choose, you will not regret starting your day with the Lord.

Take this month to work on building a personal devotion time into your routine. It’s the first step towards being a Purposeful Woman.

To read more in this series:

year of purpose

book list 2017

My To Read List for 2017

Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.

I love books.

I was the kid who read a couple of chapter books a week for fun, the teenager who waited for the newest installment of the Left Behind series and finished it in two days (before I had any real responsibilities).

As an adult, wife, and mother, my time to read is not nearly as much as I would like, but I still manage to read a good number of books each year. One way I manage that is by having a mandatory 30 minutes of silent reading time scheduled in our day.

I have an unrealistic amount of books on my “to read” list this year, but I do have a few that are on my “must read” list. Here they are in no particular order:

The Lifegiving Home and 12-Month Guided Journal by Sally & Sarah Clarkson This was on my Amazon Wishlist, and I was so thrilled to get it on Christmas morning. My goal has always been to create a home that was a haven, safe place, and provided an environment of love and learning. Because I do not believe in living a status quo life or being comfortable in a rut, I am  always looking for ways to tweak and improve our home life.

Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America by Glenn Beck In the fall, our Classical Conversations studies will be focusing on American history. What better way for my children to learn about history than for them to see me learning along side them.

to read 2017

Living Well Spending Less by Ruth Soukup I am currently reading another book by Ruth Soukup, so I thought I would read the book named after her blog and learn what she has to share about living well without spending a lot.

The Smart Parent by Gary Ezzo When I was pregnant with Addie, I read Gary Ezzo’s book On Becoming BabyWiseAlthough the idea of sleep training can be controversial, we had great success with our kids and putting them to bed. Since he is a Christian counselor with a Biblical perspective on child-training, I’m interested in reading this book.

Night by Elie Wiesel Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel passed away this year. His book, Night, opened the eyes of many to the horrors of the Holocaust. As a homeschool mom teaching my children using the classical method, original sources are a huge part of learning. I began reading the preface as soon as I received it and am already hooked.

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth I loved Mr. Rogers as a child. Although I knew he was a believer and even a pastor, I would love to know more of this gentle man and how his faith in Jesus affected his influence on children.

to read 2017

Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford We live in such a digital age. Between texts, phone calls, and checking my social media accounts, I’m sure I can learn something important about being more hand free than I am. Ironically, this book is an e-book that I have to read from my hand-held device…

Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World by Shauna Niequist  I just love Shauna Niequist! After listening to the audio book version of her book Present Over Perfect this year, she has become one of my favorite authors. And since part of this blog has to do with sharing our stories with our readers, I look forward to learning more of how my story can help others.

Hoodwinked: Ten Myths that Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk Let’s face it, we all live our motherhood lives based on myths we believe are true. My friend Amanda had read this a while back, and every time she shared a snippet of what she had read, I knew this was a book I needed to read.

Raising Uncommon Kids: 12 Biblical Traits You Need to Raise Selfless Kids by Sami Cone I want my children to be world changers. World changers are uncommon. As I read God’s Word, God shows me what I need to do in my own life and for my husband and children. I also love reading what God has shown others that I can also benefit from.

to read 2017

What’s It Like to Be Married to Me? by Linda Dillow When I first was married, I read a book by Linda Dillow recommended to me by my mother. It was wonderful, especially as a newlywed wanting to be the best wife I could be for my husband. Now after 12.5 years, I still want to be the best wife I can be.

Raising a Modern Day Joseph by Larry Fowler Joseph was taken from his parents early in his life, yet he never lost the faith his father had taught him. As a mother, my desire is that my children follow and serve the Lord whether I am standing right next to them or if they are spending time with a friend. Larry Fowler is one of the founders of the AWANA program, a ministry my own children are a part of, designed to teach and instill God’s Word in children around the world.

Traces of Mercy by Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley Since I have gotten married, I have not read much in the way of novels. But… I found this book by Michael Landon Jr., son of the late Michael Landon of Bonanza and Little House fame, and I am excited to read it. Michael Landon Jr. is a professing Christian and is the creator of the Love Comes Softly television series based on the books by Janet Oke. If I like this book, I may just have to read the other two in the series.

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey In the summer, I love reading books that will inspire me in the teaching of my children in our homeschool. This is one of the books recommended by Classical Conversations.

to read 2017

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman What is it that you were created to do? What was I created to do? I love how the author simply sums up the purpose of her book on the back cover- “Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it’s about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify–in a million little ways.”

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lisa TerKeurst There are so many things pulling for our attention. We say yes to so many good things that sometimes we have to say no to the best things. I know I am guilty of that! I look forward to getting some courage from this book to say no to the good so I am available to say yes to the best.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp This will most likely be one of my first books this year. Ann Voskamp has skipped the bucket list and asked herself how she could find joy in the midst of the everyday. Perfect for my word for 2017!

Restless: Because You Were Made for More by Jennie Allen This is another inspirational book encouraging us to take the passions God has given us and use them to glorify Him and bless others.

to read 2017

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie Downs How many of us feel that we are not living life with everything we have? Is it because fear is holding us back in some way? as a coffee lover, I love that each chapter begins with the name and city/state of the coffee shop she wrote that chapter in.

God’s Word must always be our first book to glean and gain understanding from, but I do believe that God gives insights to others to share. Everything we read needs to be filtered through the Word. As long as what we read lines up with His Word, I believe we can learn tremendously from those books.

What is on your to read list for 2017? Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Is there an author who you really enjoy? Feel free to share in the comments.

to-read-2017

word for 2017

What Is Your Word for 2017?

I am not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions set me up for failure. I am successful for maybe the first three weeks of the year, and then it is all downhill from there.

However, a word to focus on, character quality to work on, or a verse to live by has been a  tremendous benefit to me. It keeps me focused and working, and it gives me a goal to strive towards without ever feeling like a failure.

So with that being said, I have been really thinking about what my word for 2017 will be. And our Christmas season has played a huge part in the word I have chosen.

My word is JOY.

word for 2017

JOY is different from happiness. Happiness stems from our circumstances. We had a good day, our kids had a good day, the party we went to made us smile, we had a great experience with family and friends and we are happy.

But happiness comes and goes.

JOY is a Conscious choice that has to be made every day despite what my circumstances look like.

JOY is experiencing God’s peace in my heart regardless of the circumstances. Joy is knowing that my salvation is secured no matter how unstable our world feels. Joy is being content with what I have been blessed with and not wishing or wanting for more.

JOY has order: Jesus first, others (my family) second, and you (myself) last. When I keep that order in mind, serving my family becomes an extension of serving Christ and my attitude changes. After all, who knowingly serves Jesus with an attitude? When I voluntarily put myself last in the order, I choose to give up my “rights” and choose to serve my family with a joyful heart. The grumbling spirit that says, “I am not your servant” changes to, “I choose to serve you with joy.”

word for 2017

For the Holiday issue of Strong and Courageous Women, I made a set of pillows that spell out the word JOY (you can get a complimentary issue of SCW here). It sat on my bed for a few months and moved into the living room for Christmas. It is a visual reminder to me of the word I have chosen for the year. Even when the letters are played with and end up on the floor or the O is used for human ring toss (true story!), as I pick them up and put them back in place, I am reminded of the attitude I have chosen to have. Before I begin complaining about how long it took me to hand sew the letters (because the sewing machine needle broke in the process), the very act of picking up these three particularly chosen letters quiets my heart. How silly I would look putting the letters J-O-Y on our sofa with a huff and a grumpy heart?

How Can a Purposeful Woman find JOY in the every day?

word for 2017

How can we as Purposeful Women find JOY on a daily basis? When we remember that JOY is not based on our circumstances, we will see all of the situations in our lives where JOY can be our modus operandi.

I can show JOY despite my dress size.

I can show JOY despite how long or short my to-do list is or how well my children follow the daily routine.

I can show JOY regardless of how a fellow customer or cashier treats me as I run my errands.

I can show JOY when the dishes are piled high and the laundry is begging to be folded.

As much as I want to pursue JOY, I cannot do it in my own strength. I must have God’s help. Finding out what He has to say about JOY is important. After all, JOY is one of the Fruits of the Spirit. Here are three verses that have spoken to my heart as a woman and a mother in regard to JOY.

John 15:11- These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

Habakkuk 3:18-Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

As I go into 2017 with JOY on my heart, I pray that His JOY is reflected here at Purposeful Moms.

If you are tired of resolutions and are looking for a change in your New Year’s focus, I hope you consider finding a word for God to work on in your life and heart. Search the Scriptures for His input on how to  approach your year, and may it be your best year yet!

If you choose a word, feel free to share it with us. We would love to hear from you!

word for 2017

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!

keeping-christmas-simple

How to Keep Christmas Simple

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I am a huge fan of Christmas!

HUGE!

I love the feeling in the air, the decorations, the lights, the glitter, the way stores are decorated (in December… NOT September), and giving to my family.

But how many years did I go into the Christmas season with gusto and grand ideas only to burn myself out mid-December? Pretty much every year.

Each year I go into the Christmas season with the idea that this is going to be the best Christmas ever!

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I figure out how many fun Christmas related activities we can fit into our schedule, and I cram all of our days and weekends with something to do.

My kids end up tired.

I end up frustrated that no one appreciates the effort I put into making this the best Christmas ever.

And then we are ready for Christmas to be over and done with and to move into the New Year.

But not this year…

I have always been a fan of simple living, of not making things more complicated than necessary, of believing that less is more. But Christmastime has never reflected that.

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This year, we don’t have to see every Christmas pageant in our county.

This year, we don’t have to attend every Christmas party or activity.

This year, we don’t have to plan to do something Christmas related every night.

This year, we don’t have to have an advent calendar that involves a ton of extra gifts for me to purchase, wrap, and remember to distribute each day.

Instead…

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This year, we’ll stay home more evenings than we go out and watch the old Christmas cartoons I grew up watching like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and the Little Drummer Boy. And because I homeschool my kids, we can stay up as late as we want to watch these shows and sleep as long as we need to the next morning.

This year we will delight in the simple joy of finding our little monkey pal, Melk, in the mornings and learn something about the character of God.

This year, we will limit the parties we go to, and, if bringing an exchange gift is necessary, we’ll bring something simple but sweet.

This year, if there isn’t a Christmas moment on the calendar, we won’t make one up just for the sake of it. We’ll just carry on as usual.

This year, we will make paper chains and countdown to Christmas the old fashioned way.

Because…

Satan’s mission has always been to destroy what God has created- to interfere with the message that God loved us and sent his Son (Awana Cubbies key verse). How are we supposed to stop and reflect on the purpose of Christmas Day if, during the time of the year that we are supposed to remember and recognize the giving of God’s gift to us, we get so busy and distracted and we keep our kids running from one activity to another?

keeping-christmas-simple

This year, rather than focusing on the “show” of Christmas, I want to focus on the message. That God loved His creation and gave us a gift, the most precious gift He could give- His Son.

Trendy wrapping paper with a perfect bow was not the wrapping of this gift. Strips of cloth were the wrappings of this gift.

His surroundings were not Pinterest worthy. A barn with hay and animals was the setting for His birth.

Those who came to see him that night did not come with $5 gifts for a gift exchange. They came with empty hands, but sincere hearts.

I want our Christmas to reflect those ideals.

So here is your Christmas challenge…

Before you are swept up in the tinsel and show of Christmas…

Before you are knee deep in the quicksand of activities and parties…

Before you find yourself drowning in receipts and wrapping paper…

Take an hour one evening to think through what you want your Christmas to look like.

Figure out your non-negotiable calendar items.

Next, determine in advance how many activities you will be a part of.

Decide how many $5 dollar exchange gifts your budget will allow for.

For your sanity to be kept in tact, set in stone how many evenings you need to stay home each week.

Establish your gift giving list early and stick to it.

And then, sit back and enjoy this Christmas with your family and closest friends.

simple Christmas

dint-give-up

Dear Mom: Don’t Give Up

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

Mom, sometimes you may feel that what you are doing does not make much of a difference.

But don’t give up.

You may feel that you are constantly repeating the same thing to your child without seeing any results.

But don’t give up.

You may get tired of teaching your child what God’s Word says because it doesn’t seem that anything you are saying is sticking.

But don’t give up.

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Why?

Because when you least expect it, when you are in the middle of something completely unrelated to the lesson you have been trying to teach, when you are in a place where you cannot even fully appreciate the moment…..

it will happen.

At the moment of decision, your child will repeat verbatim the truths you have been teaching him.

Your child will recognize a lie and rebuff it with the truths you have shared.

Your child will stand up for what they know is right when you are not around, and you will only know because someone else will tell you.

God knows when we need those breakthrough moments. Those are the moments that keep us going. He uses those moments to remind us that we are more than the grocery shopper, launderer, housekeeper, and cook on top of other responsibilities and titles we may hold. He uses those moments to remind us that we have an important roll in molding the hearts of our children.

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These moments do not happen in an instant. They happen after Mom has repeated herself so many times, she can say the lines in her sleep. And when Mom thinks there is no point in repeating herself one more time, her moment happens.

And that moment is the shot in the arm she needs to say the words one more time, to speak truth to her children again, and to remind them of what God says in His word. That moment fills her tank with hope that her words are not in vain and her efforts are not for naught. That moment opens her eyes to the realization that her actions have not gone unnoticed. Her labors of love have been received for what they were.

You moment will happen, Mom….

Just don’t give up.

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lesson-termites-nest

The Lesson from the Termite’s Nest

Song of Solomon 2:15- Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

A few years ago, my husband and I went on a cruise. One of our stops was Playa de Carmen, Mexico.

As we walked for what seemed like forever to the bus that would take us to the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, Brian and I noticed that all of the trees were painted white from the ground to part of the way up the trunk.

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At first I didn’t think anything of it, but as we drove through the city, we noticed that EVERY tree had been whitewashed. I just chalked it up to “that’s just how they do it here” and didn’t think anything else of it.

Until……

We finally reached our destination a little more than an hour later. As were walking the mile and a half from where our bus dropped us off to the entrance of the ruins, Tour Guide Juan stopped us and had us look over into the trees.

He continued, “Did you notice that all of the trees in Playa de Carmen were whitewashed from the ground to halfway up the trunk? There is a reason for that. You all know termites eat wood, but something happens to their bodies when we take a mixture of limestone and water and paint our trees. As the termites begin climbing up a whitewashed tree, the temperature of their bodies rises and they burn up. If we didn’t whitewash our trees in Playa de Carmen, you would see termite mounds like this one everywhere.”

We went on into the ruins and I forgot all about the termites, whitewashed trees, and the vendors we would have to push through a second time as we made our way back to our bus.

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As we were leaving the ruins, I saw this termite nest (pictured above) and something hit me. With all of the green around, the tree hosting this nest had no healthy foliage on it. The tree itself could not grow while something was sucking the life out of it. It could only die.

Our homes, families, and lives are living things. Satan wants to destroy those things. If he came with a hack saw, motorized saw, or ax, we would recognize him immediately and protect those things that are so precious to us.

Instead he comes into our lives as a termite- something so tiny that we would not even notice it or recognize the harm it could do (overly busy schedule, television, Internet, food, harmful relationships, etc.). He comes as a termite that doesn’t mind how long it will take to suck the life out of us. He comes in the form of a thousand little things that slowly drain our will, desire, and ability to fight back. Before you know it, there is no life left in you.

We need a whitewash!

We need to take preventative measures before those little termites even have a chance to climb into our lives.

We need to set time alone for ourselves with the Lord and His Word.
We need to set boundaries.
We need to learn to say “no” to things that take our time away from what is important.
We need to invest time in our marriages and children.
We need to let go of the desire to have more and be content with what we already have.
We need to be willing to let go of some of our material possessions that bog us down.

It is possible to remove the termites once they have made a nest, but it is hard work and, in some cases, can be costly. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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That day, Brian and I made some wonderful memories at the Mayan ruins, saw some amazing structures that have lasted a thousand years, saw the bluest water on the coast of Tulum, and took some amazing photos.

But I think the one thing that will never leave my heart from that day was the lesson I learned while looking at a termite’s nest.

I pray I never forget what it looks like. I want it to be a constant reminder to me that I need to keep my “tree” whitewashed.

This post was originally featured on my previous blog The Joy of Homemaking.