Posts tagged #organization

Before You Buy Legos You Need a Game Plan

before_you_buy_legos.png

There are times when I see something on Pinterest and I think, “Oh that’s a neat idea! I’m going to do that when I have kids!” And then a moment of panic rushes over me. Oh wait--I HAVE kids already! FOUR OF THEM!! It seems hilarious, but it’s true. Even the most well-intentioned of mothers can be blindsided with the duties, challenges, and blessings of parenting.

One such hit on my mothering has been the acquisition of Legos. It seemed so natural, my son was getting older. He was bright and creative. Legos were a clear choice for a birthday present. He played with that first, small set repeatedly and looked over the manual multiple times. We declared a “Lincoln Lego Zone” and put the tiny pieces in a place that would not be ambushed by little brothers.

And then there was another tiny set…

And then another…

And Lincoln learned how to get the pieces down by himself…

And then the neighbor boy started mixing the sets...

And of course these tiny mini-figures love to play in the imaginary worlds made of other toys…

And the little brothers weren’t really that much younger, so of course they wanted to join in...

And then the paper manuals started to tear…

Thankfully, we really didn’t have that many sets yet. Then Lincoln asked for the BIG set for Christmas. And he was intellectually ready for it. But with all the busyness of preparing for Christmas I didn’t think through the organization of it well enough.

before_you_buy_legos-2.png

Packages were torn open excitedly, the set was discovered, and my little boy begged to put the set together right away.

before_you_buy_legos-3.png

We cleared off a table, told his brothers it was off-limits (which was fine since they both had smaller sets to build at another table.) Lincoln worked all day on the giant set. We managed to keep it safe for a few days on the school room table, but of course we needed the surface eventually.

before_you_buy_legos-4.png

The set was moved to a cabinet in our guest bedroom. It is a very feminine cabinet, but it has glass doors, so it works well for showing off a little guy’s craftsmanship for the time being. (Eventually I would love to have a huge reclaimed wood, industrial bookshelf like my friend has, but this was fine in a pinch.) Well… if you have read my quiet time post (please link), you know I separate my kids for their daily thinking times, and put them in different bedrooms. I need that guest room for one of them to rest in… and one day the youngest brother--”The Climber”--happened to be in that room. Needless to say, the set was no longer in tact after that “rest time”. I consoled my eldest, telling him we would rebuild it together, but it’s difficult to find that much time to rebuild a large set that’s been destroyed. The process is harder than building it from scratch. We’ll get it done, but it’s going to take a lot of time. Anyway, I felt like a failure--my mother-in-law, the woman who still has her son’s Lego sets in boxes after 30 years, purchased this expensive set for us--and I let it get smashed. Someone show me the rewind button for life please.

What began as a Type A personality toy with methodical instructions was confronted with the endless creative possibilities they represent. The whole dilemma of The Lego Movie was playing out in my home. (If you haven’t seen it, the father in the movie follows the directions to a T, and would never even think of building connect blocks unless instructed to. His son wants to combine the sets and think, literally, outside the box. Eventually the father comes to see there is value in his way of playing, and they learn to carefully AND creatively play together.) Well, my boys are 3, 5, and 6… and their little sister will be roaming the halls before we know it. This constructive epiphany isn’t happening tomorrow.

before_you_buy_legos-5.png

Part of me wants to blame my sons for the chaos. Those little guys are darling, but they are DESTROYERS! Some days I hear my own mother’s voice ringing through my head, “Can’t I have anything nice?!” as I discover new stains, broken toys, and chipped furniture. I have been sent a mini-army to raise, and I can’t seem to find the balance between training them to be MEN and teaching them to have a semblance of self-control! People are more important than things, but we are called to be good stewards! “Balance Gentlemen! Balance!” Because I am wrestling with it, I know God will give me wisdom. But I’m not going to lie to you, these thoughts run through my head a lot.

Okay, back to my Lego conundrum! Since my personality is usually a battle between the creative and the organized, I’ve been challenged how Legos are going to work at our house. I can’t tell you exactly how it should look for you and your kids, but I want to pose a couple of questions for you to consider before you go purchasing these tiny people… or maybe if you’re feeling how I was this can help you get back on track. (Side note: I will continually be referring to Legos, but the concept and questions are the same for any collection of tiny toys.)

Where:

  • Where are your kids going to play with Legos? Is this a permanent location, or will it need to be cleaned up at certain times?
  • Where will the creations be displayed?
  • Where will manuals go?
  • Where will boxes go? Will they be recycled or kept for storing the individual sets?
  • Will they be allowed to play with Legos in their bedroom? What about bedtimes or rest times? How will you stop them from playing with them at those times?

When:

  • When will your kids have building time?
  • Is there a time when they can expect you to build with them?
  • Will they be required to complete certain tasks before they can build?
  • When do they get to build by themselves, and when will they need to share with siblings?
  • When friends come over, are they allowed to play with the Legos? What rules will they need to follow with them?

How:

  • How are the Legos going to be stored?
  • How will they be displayed?
  • Will sets be separated and stored, or mixed together?

Now that your head is spinning with the management crises of these tiny toys, I do have a few tips…

  1. Buy a giant toy drawstring storage bag. These mats lay flat for play, but cinch up and contain the toys for storage. Instead of picking every transparent Lego light from the carpet each time your child plays, you can have the mat underneath them. If they can contain their play to the mat, it really is a cinch to clean up. Pun intended. We asked for one for Christmas, and it has transformed Lego time!
before_you_buy_legos-6.png
before_you_buy_legos-7.png

       2.  Get a three-ring binder and some pocket protectors. Every time you buy a set, safely store the manual in a sleeve. That way they are easily accessible and kept from certain ruin.

       3. In hindsight, I wish I would have kept all the individual sets in their boxes and bought a few Lego Classic Creative Building Block Sets. I would put these in the drawstring bags for my boys to mix and build as they pleased. Or I’d store these pieces in a rainbow tower like this. Right now we keep our Legos in this. I wheel it into the boys bedroom for building time, and take it out before they go to bed.

before_you_buy_legos-8.png

       4. Have a place to display their creations. Let them have some pride in their hard work! We are now using a bookshelf. Each boy has a shelf to display his Legos.

       5. Look online at organizational options. Perhaps your kids are all old enough to have the Legos in a common play area. There are great ideas for that! Once you start searching, an idea that fits your situation is sure to pop up. I want to caution you though, just because an idea is the cutest, doesn’t mean it will be the most functional for your family. Think through the above questions as you evaluate an idea.

This may seem like a lot of thought for a toy. However, at the end of the day, toys aren’t just toys. They are training grounds. Training our children’s imaginations and growing their responsibility. This is an issue of character. And character counts! I am trying to train my kids to take care of what they have with the little investments so that they can take care of more costly gifts in the future. Hopefully I have helped you a little with this process… and perhaps spared your feet from the painful fate of stepping on the inevitably misplaced building block!

Posted on March 21, 2018 and filed under Building Your Home.

Tips for a Successful Garage Sale-Part II

Continued...(see part I)

GET SELLING:

11. TRY MORE LUCRATIVE MARKETPLACES FIRST

There are many places besides garage sales to sell used items. If you think you can get more for an item or you think something has real value, try a used bookstore, consignment shop, Craigslist, eBay, or an antiques dealer first. If they sell there, you’ll get a higher price for them. If they can’t sell there, you’ll feel better about letting them go for cheap at your garage sale.

12. ADVERTISE BEFORE AND DURING!

I cannot stress this enough. I know it was THE key to my success (I had one woman drive from an hour away to “pre-shop” my stuff and then come again on the day of the sale)! List your garage sale on Craigslist a few days in advance with as much detail as possible. (Other garage sale sites pull from CL so you don’t need to re-list it. You can, but it isn’t absolutely necessary). 

Your listing should include:

-Your address
-Date and start time of sale (don’t bother posting an end-time—you’ll know when to shut it down).
-An itemized list of merchandise WITH prices
-As many photos as possible.
-Any other information you want to convey (“prices negotiable,” “please no early birds,” “all proceeds go toward adopting our puppy,” etc.) 

You also need to advertise the day of your sale with neighborhood signs. Put up as many of these as your township or association will allow. Make them large, sturdy, and legible, and place them at prominent intersections as well as along the path to your house from those intersections.

13. USE RETAIL TRICKS FOR PRESENTATION AND SALES TECHNIQUES

Put big-ticket items closer to the curb, so passing cars can see them. Like pretty window displays in a store, this draws people in.

Group categories of like items together. Furniture goes in one spot, kids’ stuff in another. Think about how department stores are organized into zones.


Make it easy to shop. For instance, have tables next to clothes bins for people to lay them out as they look through them.

Give customers laundry baskets as they do their shopping. This is a classic retail trick: When their arms begin to fill up, hand them the basket and say, “Here, you can use this to help you carry your things.” They’ll feel like you’re being helpful (which you are!) and they’ll usually end up buying more.

As things sell, rearrange. Fill in gaps on the driveway and knick-knack tables. You want your sale to look full so more people will stop their cars. This also really helps you look busy and active. If you’re just sitting in a lounge chair, it seems like all the action, and all the good stuff, is gone.

tips-for-a-successful-garage-sale-ptII.3.jpeg

14. TAKE ANY OFFER

This was my own personal motto, and I was ok with it because I reminded myself each time that my end-goal was getting rid of stuff. I decided in advance that, other than for my “non-negotiable” list, (and one obviously ridiculous early offer) I was going to say yes to any offer. I learned this lesson trying to sell a picnic basket at a friend’s garage sale a few years ago. I had it priced for $4 and a lady offered $2. I said no, and then sent it to charity at the end of the day. Did I really haggle over $2? That wouldn’t have even bought me a sandwich at McDonald’s! You can see what I mean about the value of money taking on new meaning in garage sale world. 

15. PROTECT YOUR VALUABLES, SMALL ITEMS AND CASH

I was warned about this and blew it off. And someone stole every last piece of jewelry at my garage sale. Thankfully, none of it was valuable, and thankfully I did listen to the advice I read to keep my cash in a fanny pack (yes, swallow your pride and do it), so it wasn’t too much of a loss. 

16. EXPLOIT YOUR KIDS' CUTENESS

I never thought I would do this, but I reluctantly let my kids run a lemonade stand at our sale (I’ve never liked being guilted out of my quarters by other people’s too-adorable offspring). But they really wanted to be involved. So they made a big sign with our puppy’s picture on it and sold cookies, brownies, and soda, and gave away free lemonade. I just made sure to warn people in my ad on Craigslist. I wrote “Fair warning: Cute kids will be selling cookies to raise money for their puppy adoption.” People were really sweet about it, and when the sun got hot, those sodas were lifesavers! And guess what? They made $50. I thought that was a shocking total! I’m now a big fan of kids’ lemonade stands. 

17. WEAR SUNSCREEN. 

I was so busy the day of my sale, this never occurred to me. And I was burnt as a lobster afterwards. On a related note, make provisions ahead of time for your basic physical needs: Someone to take over so you can have a bathroom break, a ready-made sandwich for lunch, and a supply of bottled water close at hand. I had not anticipated the steady stream of customers and meeting those basic needs ended up adding even more chaos to the day.

18. ANTICIPATE YOUR SUPPLY NEEDS

Have a Sharpie, extra price stickers and shopping bags within reach. Pretend you are a retail store and stock supplies accordingly.

19. BE FRIENDLY

This is another retail trick: Greet your customers. Say hello to everyone (this helps them know who to ask questions of, who to pay, and that someone is watching in case they have thieving intent). I say, “Hi, welcome! Let me know if there’s anything in particular I can help you find.” And then leave them alone to browse.

20. UPDATE YOUR LISTING AFTER DAY ONE

Remove sold items from your Craigslist post and update the date of your sale. (If it said Thursday/ Friday, just change it to Friday). This will make your sale feel fresh and new, and will avoid disappointing anyone coming on the second day who wanted an item that was already sold.

I hope this list has been helpful! My final advice is this: Pray. It may feel silly, but it’s perfectly ok to pray about a garage sale. God cares about everything in your life, big and small. I invited Him to be at my house that day, to bless my efforts and to bless the people who would shop there. 

Posted on May 26, 2017 and filed under Building Your Home.

Tips for a Successful Garage Sale-Part I

(Note: This is a popular post from our archives. We thought we'd repeat it early in the season so you have time to implement some of these tips if you have a garage sale planned!) 

Warmer weather is finally here, and that means garage sales will start popping up soon. If you’re like me, you have a lot of items accumulating (like mountains of kids’ toys), and it would be great to earn a little cash for your efforts to see your playroom carpet again. A garage sale can be very rewarding.

Last year I held my first garage sale. It was very busy with steady traffic and we made a good haul at the end. I did a ton of research beforehand, channeling my retail background to create my strategy, and I’ve compiled a list for you of things I learned from the process.

GET READY:

1. PREPARE YOUR HEART

Before you even put these tips into practice, I want to prepare you that having a garage sale is not for the faint of heart. It takes way more sweat and work than you’d ever imagine, and sometimes there is little return for your investment of time and energy. You need to be prepared with the mindset that this is stuff you would otherwise be donating to charity. When the sale is over, plan to load up everything in your van and take it there immediately. Your goal should be to de-clutter and clean out, with any cash you get in the process being viewed as a bonus. In garage sale world, the value of a quarter suddenly becomes so elevated you can make yourself crazy. Take a deep breath and don’t let it.

2. INVOLVE THE KIDS

The reason we had a garage sale was because our kids wanted (ok, I wanted) a puppy. Having a cause to rally around helped involve everyone in the family. The kids were more willing to part with old toys because they knew the money would bring home “Dyson.” (Yes, we named him after the vacuum). They happily helped me sort, purge and price because they wanted something more than their old junk. Your family could decide beforehand what any money earned would go toward (Disney World?) and you’ll find it enjoyable to work toward a common goal.

3. INVOLVE THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Once we decided what weekend to hold our sale, the kids and I passed out flyers to every home on the three streets surrounding ours. We let them know about our sale and invited them to have one the same weekend. Neighborhood sales have a much better turnout of traffic than individual sales. I gave my phone number and asked for a text if they were going to do it. I made it clear they were totally on their own, but that I would advertise. Four other homes said yes! And we did have a TON of traffic.

4. INVOLVE YOUR FRIENDS

If more than one family is selling items at your sale, you can advertise as “multi-family,” which will also help boost traffic. I had three friends drop off their items at mine, meaning I had more merchandise and variety to appeal to potential shoppers. Just be sure to agree with your friends beforehand about a method to keep income straight. Another bonus of this method is that you’ll have more people to “work” the sale because your friends will stick around. Hopefully!

5. DECIDE WHAT TO SELL

I remember when I took Betsy’s class, on “tips day” she said: “Only keep items in your house that are either beautiful, functional, or you just love them.” That stuck with me, and I have tried my best to live by it. (Read: NOT always successfully. Yet!) This is going to be a wonderful opportunity to de-clutter. Be committed to those three criteria, and you won’t have any regrets.

6. CLEAN IT UP

When you go through your stuff, throw away anything with stains or holes. Don’t bother trying to sell it. It will make people mistrust everything you are selling if they see one item in unwearable condition.

Wash or wipe down everything. Make it as clean as possible.

Put as many items as you can in gallon size or XXL Ziploc bags. They feel new!

7. GET IT ORGANIZED

Bag like items together (for instance six Star Wars figures in a bag, or a baby outfit that includes hat and socks in the same bag).


In your staging area, organize your merchandise by category (kids’ stuff, household items, adult clothes, furniture) so that you can set it up that way on the day of your sale. It will be easier for people to shop for what interests them, and they won’t get frustrated by digging through piles of unrelated items.



8. GET IT PRICED

In retail, “signing” (i.e. pricing things clearly) was directly related to sales. If a customer picks something up with no price, they will often leave without asking what it is. Clearly marked prices lead to more sales.

If you would rather negotiate, put a sign on your table saying “no reasonable offer will be refused,” or “MAKE ME AN OFFER!!!!” (whichever your style). The price tag will help get the process started for your customers and help them feel comfortable.

9. PRICE TO SELL

Infant toys and newborn items don’t sell well. Price them CHEAP. (New parents don’t want used stuff and third-time moms know better than to overpay at a garage sale.)

Feel free to discount items bought in bulk. For instance, “Treasure Toys 25 cents each or 6/$1,” or “Books 25 cents each or $5 for the whole bin.” This worked very well for me to clear out groups of items quickly.

Personal Soapbox: Don’t overcharge. Nothing is more disheartening to me that to arrive at a garage sale full of great stuff and see they want $5 for a kids shirt or $10 for a pair of shoes. Those are consignment store prices. The garage sale is the last-ditch effort to get rid of stuff for a few coins before you throw it away, so price accordingly. Clothes (kids and adults) should be .50-$1 and shoes no more than $2-3 ($5 for unworn condition in a box). The good news is, when you price low, people will buy more. Remember, your goal is to get rid of your stuff.

10. DECIDE IN ADVANCE HOW LOW YOU WILL GO

Of course there are some items that are too valuable to just give away or to let go for next to nothing. Decide in advance what those are, so you won’t have to make a gut-decision with a haggler that you might regret later.

**CHECK BACK ON FRIDAY FOR PART II: GET SELLING!**

 

Posted on May 24, 2017 and filed under Building Your Home.

Finishing the School Year Strong: 10 Tips for Homeschooling Well

Finishing_well_homeschooling.png

When I tell others that I’ve decided to homeschool, they immediately nod, and say, “Oh that makes sense because you were a teacher!” Perhaps my background as an educator simplified this decision, but I assure you that most God-fearing, loving mothers are just as equipped. They just don’t know it. Confidence is a common ingredient I find lacking in homeschooling moms. They are often unsure of themselves and of what changes they have the authority to make. I want to encourage you (literally put courage in you!) to run this leg of the race well!

Why am I writing this in March, and not August or September? Because every teacher is tired in March. I’m convinced Spring Break was created just as much for educators as it was for the educated! No matter how chaotic and challenging the days may be, I want you to feel that you are achieving your goals with steadfast purpose.To finish well, we need to have faith and hope that we are going in the right direction. Otherwise we can throw in the towel and just promise ourselves we’ll do better next year. I don’t want you to finish defeated. I want you to finish proudly--like a woman who crosses the finish line of her first marathon, exhausted, but so glad she did it. So here are some tips I gleaned from others and discovered myself recently. Many of them are helpful at the beginning of a school year, but most can be applied at any time. May they bless your long days!

1. Set good goals, and stick to them. To finish well, you need to begin well. There are different ways to begin homeschooling preparations. Some mothers look at curriculum for months, figuring out their homeschooling philosophies, and interviewing every homeschooler they can find. Others ask their most-trusted homeschooling friend what she did and copy everything until they feel like they aren’t drowning in the decisions. Neither of these are right or wrong. However, there are two keys to make these important initial calls: seek God and set goals. Pray throughout the process. Let God guide you. Remember He is a God of peace. Part of God leading me has been researching trusted resources. I have looked at curriculum maps for private schools I trust, and read books about what kindergarteners should be able to do by the end of the year. Many of these benchmarks coincide, and have really helped to relieve the burden for me. When looking at a whole math curriculum, it seems like a lot of material, but when you really understand how simple kindergarten math goals are, the teaching seems much more attainable.

So, if you didn’t do this, it’s not too late! Make a list of what you want your child to be able to do by the end of the year. Really--this is worth it! Spend the majority of your time on these goals. Going above and beyond is great, but if you are feeling really stressed, try to streamline your efforts to focus on the most important goals.

As far as starting each week right, plan how it works best for you. I made myself a simple spreadsheet so I can fill in which pages/topics we are covering each week. It takes me just a few minutes to fill in. I have a section to write in the a materials and library books I need to gather for our lessons. On a great week I have this completed Friday afternoon. On a normal week, I work on it Sunday night. In either case, I feel more prepared when I have those items gathered before the lesson begins!

2. Start the day right. When I was a classroom teacher, we began our day with a morning meeting. I find this works great with my own kids too. We begin with a devotional, prayer, and some fun picture books. We sing our ABCs and count to 100.  By the time we are done with that, my younger two jump off the couch and go play, and my oldest and I start our Bible lesson. I like having that focused time at the beginning to start our day with the Lord, together.

3. You are the teacher. Not the book. Do you know you don’t have to go through every book, cover to cover? What if your child has thoroughly mastered the denomination of each currency, and your math text has a whole chapter devoted to it? Please tell me you won’t waste their time going over it again! Instead, use your pantry items and some play cash and let them practice grocery shopping! Make it fun and think outside the book. (Just to be clear, the three-year-old below does NOT have his money skills mastered, I just thought it was a cute picture by our play food! :) )

Finishing_Well_homeschooling-2.png

Do you know that your child can write their handwriting lesson on a white board instead of in the workbook? (You can leave the page blank in the book and the homeschooling police won’t come to your house. I promise!) My son loves to do this! Occasionally I give him a rainbow assortment of colors, and have him practice his penmanship. He is willing to write three times as many letters or numbers because of how easily the marker glides across the board. My goal is met, and he had fun! The point is to think about the goal, and release yourself from completing every lesson as written. There are many ways to apply this concept.

4. Character training is part of the education, not a distraction from it. One of my most respected homeschooling examples told me her goal for her daughter’s kindergarten year: “I want her to obey me.” Her daughter is bright, and is reading well already. Of course they are refining her academic skills, but my friend is keeping this important character goal at the forefront. A huge aspect of education is learning submission to authority. If students are to become learners, they must be willing to be taught. Hold your children to this standard as their educator. There may be days that you sense the Lord telling you to stop an academic lesson to focus on a heart issue. Release yourself from the educational task, and follow that leading! Don’t put off these promptings until “later.” The teachable moment is powerful, and an effective educator capitalizes upon it.

Finishing_well_homeschooling-3.png

5. Balance faithfulness and flexibility. Are you having a baby during the school year? Don’t stress about it! Take a big break, and make up for it later! You can extend the school year into the summer, work a little harder over holiday breaks, or make each day slightly longer for the rest of the school year. But, by all means, don’t feel guilty for having a major life event during a school year. Life happens. We have children, we go to funerals, illness comes. You don’t have to follow your local public school calendar. You can adjust for your family. However, you do need to be faithful and consistent. If you decide to take a break for a week because of a family situation, explain it to your kids so they know what is happening. Kids should not wake up asking, “Are we having school today?” They should be aware of your routine because you are consistent. Also, when taking breaks, have a plan for how you will make up for the time.

6. Your husband is your best sounding board. My husband really respects my decisions in homeschooling and rarely questions what I have chosen. I am thankful for that, but sometimes I feel like the weight of my decisions is too much—I want to know he would choose the same direction for them academically. Sometimes I will tell him my plans and his eyes will get big. He will challenge my ability to accomplish my goals and keep my sanity intact. In those moments, I need to pause and analyze to see if I am going beyond what God is asking me to achieve. There have been several times he has told me, “That sounds like way too much work,” and I have known in my gut I am doing the right thing. I say something like, “I understand it sounds too laborious in your eyes, but God has called me to teach our kids and I know this is worth it!” In those moments, he knows I am willing to give up sleep for it, and he supports me. Travis is good at helping me think about the effect my commitments have on our family. I can’t spend 40 hours a week homeschooling and care for my other children and our home well right now. He keeps that perspective for our family’s best interest. I am thankful for this protection that God has provided for me. At the end of the day, he knows me and he knows our kids. He wants their success as much as I do, even if he isn’t the one putting in the daily work of making it happen.

7. Surround yourself with community—for you and for your kids. No one loves your kids like you. But your love has limits, and so do your gifts. I get giddy teaching my son about Ancient Greece and fractions right now, but I am void of musical or linguistic ability! I have chosen a co-op for my kids so that someone else is pouring into them the things that I can’t. I want them to be exposed to different teaching styles, personalities, and subjects. The co-op is key in achieving that. This also gives me a network of other mothers to ask questions, and get counsel from. Obviously your church is going to be key in providing a great social foundation for you and your children as well. I recently heard a statistic that many children stay in the church when they leave home if they have consistently had 5 strong adult believers in their life while growing up. It is important for us to surround our children with great mentors and role models as part of their education and their training in the faith.

8. Think outside the rectangle. The rectangle of a table or desk, that is. Homeschooling gives you such freedom! If you are studying zoology, take your kids to the zoo! Visit a science museum to support your latest unit. Time and finances limit these more obvious alternatives, but there are other simple ways to branch out. One of my goals for Lincoln is that he would be able to confidently count to 100 by himself. The car is a perfect place to practice this. First of all, we are using the time well on our way to co-ops or running errands. Second of all, his brothers hear him and are counting better than ever. Quizzing kids on math facts, poem memorization, and Bible verses are perfect activities for the car or while on walks. I’m not saying you shouldn’t let your kids have downtime, rather that you can redeem the time outside the schoolroom for educational benefit. As the weather gets warmer, this can be key to keeping your little ones focused!

Finishing_well_homeschooling-4.png

9. Teach your kids to help each other. An upper elementary student can give a spelling test to a younger sibling. They can also help each other practice math facts. I let my kids take turns being the “teacher” for part of our morning meeting, so that even my two year old gets a turn to lead the class in the “ABC Song.” He takes more ownership over his learning, and my other children practice listening to their “classmates” as they would in a typical classroom setting.  Readers can read to their siblings. If you ask a new reader to read board books to their young brothers and sisters, they won’t feel like they are reading “baby books;” they will just think they are reading their siblings’ favorite books. You are helping create an atmosphere of servanthood in your children.

10. Make breaks work for you both: At the beginning of the school year, I planned breaks for Lincoln. I was excited to have him do laps and jumping jacks for “Physical Education” time, and play our toy classroom instruments for “Music” time. I had planned for his younger siblings to join along for this time. Well, it turns out that Lincoln isn’t the only one that needs breaks. I do too. Not so I can take a mental break, but so I can take care of the other tasks vying for my time. My toddler needs me to take him to the bathroom, I have to fill up snacks or sippy cups, an urgent text or email comes in that I need to deal with. When I adjusted the schedule to give myself breaks, our days went much smoother. Now, I tell Lincoln we will break every three subjects. Since he is in kindergarten, the subjects are brief. It is good for him to know what he is working towards. Right now, art projects get him very excited, so he loves it when I print out some of his favorite images to color. Sometimes I will say, you can color a page when you are done with these three subjects, and then you can play for 10 minutes. He is excited because he is working towards a goal, and it took me very little effort.

I hope these tips give you a sense of freedom. You don’t have to apply all of them now, or ever. They are just simple ways I have picked up to help our homeschooling go well. I hope that you will be blessed by them! I want to be clear that even with these tips, homeschooling is still hard work. Some days, regardless of how well prepared I am, are chaotic! My toddlers are getting into things left and right, my oldest woke up cranky, I am getting constant outside distractions, and my sink is an endless mound of dishes. And a lot of days we do school in our pajamas! I don’t want to paint a picture that it is all peaches and rainbows when you get yourself in order. I want to convey that it is worth it in so many ways.

Sometimes I think about my friends’ homes… how they remain clean during the day, instead of destroyed by the children who are home. I think about the free time some of them have to grocery shop without children. I think about the moments they have to clear their minds and plan their week without all of their children competing for their attention. It sounds nice to have all of that… and maybe someday that will be a better fit for our family. Right now, however, the blessings far outweigh the challenges. It just helps to know I’m not alone in the struggle. I pray you have or find a strong community to support you in this endeavor.

Finishing_well_homeschooling-5.png


 

 

Posted on March 15, 2017 and filed under Building Your Home.

Embrace your system—Even if it's not an "A" System!

embrace_your_system.png

Are you trying to be type A when you're not? I'm speaking to all my sisters out there who have the type A mom and the type A older sister that you are always striving to be like: Shift your lens to look at it as a blessing that God chose to put those awesome people in your life as your mom and sister... but then embrace who YOU are as wife, mom, and friend!

I have those type A role models in my life but when Jesus made me He made me far different from type A. It's something I have struggled with my whole life—trying to match up to or try harder or just make myself be able to do all the things just like my mom and sister. The reality of that looked like a lot of failing on my part and systems that I couldn't make work.

I will turn 40 this year and have finally come to the realization that whatever it is that I am "doing" it has been working for the last 15 years. We have 5 school age kids that love to play sports, need all the uniforms washed for school and sports, need lunches made, important papers found and special creams put on owies. My husband owns a business that has his phone ringing at 3 AM many a morning, or requires working months in a row at times, but he still manages to coach our boys in football. I work at the kids’ school as the K-6th grade art teacher and do hair on the side. We also squish in there serving at church.

Why do I tell you ALL THESE THINGS? ... To say that life is daily. Super daily. All the things get done, children get fed in mouth and heart. The daily-ness of life and the running to and fro? They all happen. And guess what? I don't have a "system!"

So if I can give you a piece of encouragement for your weary, free-spirited heart and creative hands as a mama, it would be to embrace who God has made you to be. I am far from a type A, organized person but I do have things in place that work for me and our family. Here are a few tips for those of you who don't have the gift of organization—from one artsy mama to another. 

  1. Allow others to help you. My sister thinks it's super fun to organize a kitchen cupboard. I have gladly allowed her to use this gift in my home. And I have used my love of decorating to help her in her house.  It's a win-win.
  2. Listing out in detail (on a piece of paper or the notes in my phone) helps me to stay on task and accomplish what I need to each day. It's super basic and sounds silly to share but my list will literally look like this:

    5:30 AM drink the coffee and Jesus time

    Lunches made and kids to school

    Workout

    UPS store

    Grocery

    Bank

    Chicken in crockpot

    Teach art

    Girls’ soccer practic

    Boys’ football game

  3. Leave the cleaning chores that your kids can do till last. That way when they get home they can "help you" get all the things done. I usually write the chores on pieces of paper cut into strips and stuff them all in a bowl. Then I fill another bowl with silly, fun tasks for them to choose from. This way it makes "chore doing" a bit more fun and produces a lot less complaining!
embrace_your_system-2.png

So take some time this week to look around at what has already been working for you and be encouraged! There may be be some areas that need tweaking or that you need to ask a friend or family member for help with, but that’s okay.

Mamas! Stop comparing and start embracing who God has made you to be. Comparison is the death of gratitude. You are THE mom for the people He has given YOU. Embrace your system even if it's not an “A" system.

Let us not grow weary of doing good,
for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone,
and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
 - Galatians 6:9

embrace_your_system-3.png
Posted on January 18, 2017 and filed under Building Your Home.

A Cure for Camera Guilt

cure_for_camera_guilt

Recently I was running to my son’s call of a “Baby Alert”, and my phone slipped out of my pocket, shattering the screen. While researching the best, least expensive replacement solution, I considered giving up my smart phone. I’ve evaluated this several times, and my husband and I always decide the convenience of having a quality camera on our phones is worth the extra price tag to capture our little ones. 

Occasionally, though, this privilege feels like a burden to me. I call it “camera guilt”: I have a camera, thus I should be taking great pictures of my kids at every activity they do! We go to the park, and I have fun playing with the boys, but I feel a little twinge in the back of my mind “You should be capturing this.” We enjoy sticky popsicles and a hot summer day, and I feel like I need to find my phone. We are bundled up in snowsuits, and I’m trying to unzip my thick pockets to get out the camera. Often I’ll pull out my phone and snap a few pictures. And you know what? Most of them turn out blurry because my kids are having too much fun to slow down, and several others just aren’t that great. When I upload the photos to my computer, there are sooo many to sort through, and my camera storage fills up quickly. It’s a lot to keep up with! Sometimes a blurry shot is like gold to me because I remember the day joyfully! Other times, I wish I could enjoy the moment more and forget that little rectangle in my pocket.

 Really, I’m not telling you what to do; I’m recommending you evaluate why you do it. Take 100 pictures a day if you like, if it brings you joy and you are still enjoying your children’s childhood. However, if you have felt the obligation to memorialize every day of their lives, be released! Here are a few alternatives for you to consider: 

  1. A Must-Have List: At some point I came across a list of photos to capture during your baby’s first year. It was a list of 10 or so milestones or important events. Instantly, I thought what a great idea it would be to have a list of photos you want to capture for each child. For example, this year I want a fantastic picture of Lincoln…

1.     At the zoo

2.     Playing in the backyard

3.     Playing in the snow

4.     With his birthday cake

5.     With his birthday presents

6.     In the bathtub

7.     Helping his dad

8.     Building with legos

9.     Reading to his brother

10.  Doing an art project

11.  On the first day of school

12.  On the last day of school

13.  With his teacher

14.  With his Sunday School teacher

15.  At his extracurricular event

16.  Swimming in Grandma’s pool

17.  At Easter

18.  At Christmas

19.  Summer Family Photo

20.  Winter Family Photo

21.  With each of his grandmas

22.  With his best friends

23.  Another best friend pic

24.  With his dad

25.  With his brothers

26.  With his youngest brother

27.  With his middle brother

28.  With his cousins

29.  With me

30.  Baking something

Now this may seem like a long list, but when you realize you have a year to capture each of them well, it is really simple! This list works out to be less than 3 photos per child a month, but it is something to keep track of. Of course other moments will pop up that you want to memorialize—get that camera out and snap joyfully! The freedom is that you are pulling out the camera because you want this memory, not because you feel like you should capture everything. (Sidenote: Can you imagine how easy it would be to make a photo book of your child if you already had the best photos sorted and organized?)

2. Monthly Sort: If that idea seems too complicated and burdensome, try this next one: Take as many photos as you like, but at the end of each month, sort them on your phone or computer and make sure you got a great shot of each child. If you didn’t, focus a little time that next day to capture your son or daughter at this moment in time. Save the best photo of each kiddo to a separate folder. Hopefully this will make it easier to delete photos that didn’t turn out well or don’t represent anything too important. After a few times, I would think it will become easier to sort through the mundane.

 3. Begin a “Photo a Day” routine. This would be for someone who really does want each day memorialized, but wants to focus on quality. This can be a fun, creative outlet to enjoy the process—not a source of guilt. If you embark on this challenge, try it for a month and ask yourself if it brought fun or stress to your life. If the answer is fun, continue it! If this sounds fun to you, but too much of a task, try “Photo a Week.” You could focus on capturing a great photo of each kid, each week. Once you’ve got it, sit back and relax until the next week rolls around! I also know someone who does a “Photo An Hour” challenge on special holidays to record the day. This method is definitely not recommended for long-term use! :)

cure_for_camera_guilt-2.png

(Also, I’m not referring to those who photograph as a hobby. One of my great friends is a talented photographer. I’m guessing she gets a lot of excellent shots of her kiddos, and I bet she has a great time doing it! If this is your gifting, spend as much time as you like using your talent! You are probably not the one spending hours deleting subpar footage from your phone. :) )

Isn’t it fun to visit the home you grew up in and look back at childhood pictures? Sharing them with your spouse and children is a special event. Part of the reason I think they are so cherished is because they are few. Sometimes I wish I had enough energy and money to make a photo book of each kid, each year… But really, how long is their future spouse going to spend looking through these photos? “Hi Sweetie, so nice to have you here! Did you want to see Everett’s Zoo Journal 1, 2, or 3 of his first year? I’d also recommend the Snow Days book from his fourth year of life!” We moms can get caught up in what we “should” be doing or what another mother has done, without always evaluating the long-term fruit. I wonder what baby photos will mean to this generation. They have videos of themselves crushing milestones, and perhaps an avid social media following from the time of toddlerhood… so will these beautiful keepsakes ever be cherished? Will they be valued? I don’t know the answer to that question; only time will tell. I can say that I don’t want to miss out on playing with them and enjoying their childhood because I was too busy trying to capture every memory.

 I’ve been trying to simplify my life for the past year. It’s been a very freeing process, and I’ve loved it! Our family photos are the most challenging area for me to declutter…. And they have been at the bottom of the list for some time. It’s because these moments are so precious! I love looking back at them and thanking God for the time He has given me with each child. Last week I was feeling pretty discouraged. I spent some time watching videos of my kids when they were babies, and it really lifted my heart. This ability to have photos at our fingertips is a gift. However you use it, I hope you see it that way and don’t feel burdened to adopt anyone else’s method. Be the mom you were created to be, dear sister!

Posted on July 6, 2016 and filed under Building Your Home.

Embracing Orderliness: Three Checklists for a Simplified Home

I took the Entrusted with a Child’s Heart study when my firstborn was one. Back then grocery shopping was a quaint way to introduce my son to new colors and vocabulary, not the three-ring circus it can be now. Meal planning seemed simpler and still somewhat exciting. It was so much easier to have my finger on the pulse of my home those days.

Once upon a time, the encouragement toward orderly living (Chapter 5: A Godly Mother is Orderly), seemed like a pretty attainable goal. Betsy said, “I know I have my finger on the pulse of my home if I know how much milk is in the refrigerator. If I don’t I know I’ve been gone too much.” Only a few years and two boys since I’ve taken the study, and I realize I don’t have the level of dish soap memorized anymore. I wish I did. I stay pretty on track of the items we need, but it often requires me to check everything before each trip to the store. It is a waste.of.time. I’ve discovered an easier way, and I’d like to share this--and a couple more tips--with you.

1. List of Home Supplies

Go through your house and write down every product you regularly use. Write down hand soaps, paper towel, toilet paper, batteries,  printer cartridges, etc… Pretty much everything consumable except groceries. Take the list and create a spreadsheet. I suggest putting the most commonly replaced items at the beginning of the list. Leave the bottom for items such as printer cartridges and duct tape.

Put the items on the first column, and the months of the year across the top. Next, set a reminder for yourself in a calendar. For example, every first of the month, write "Check home supply list” in your planner. Go through the items and note how much you have left. If you know you have plenty to get you through the following month, cross off that space. Enough for two months? Cross off two months. Is it running low? Note that on the list. Then you can create an online order and get everything done in one swift sweep! If you’re not an online shopper, you can just add these items to a note on your phone, or write them on your grocery list. No more wondering, How are we on dish soap? during your already-chaotic trip to the store. (You can also create a list of rarely-purchased grocery items. These tend to be the ones I forget.)

L=Low   M=Med   F=Full   X=Definitely won’t need this month
Optional: S=Switch Brands

Item

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Hand

Soap

M












Dish Soap

L












Toilet Paper

F












Paper Towels

F












Tooth-

paste

M












2. The Daddy Checklist

Being a stay-at-home mom, I find that I am the one who knows all the answers about my kids. Because I am almost always with them, there isn’t a reason for my husband to need to know everything… However, there are times when I would rather have Travis pack the diaper bag for me than have him buy me flowers! In the past 4 ½ years, I can count on one hand the times I haven't needed a diaper bag when I've left the house with my kids. That’s a LOT of lugging and packing! Since we use cloth diapers, I can’t just always replace a few diapers and get back on the move. Maybe it’s just my house, but this little task seems to always come at the last minute. And since we are usually out and about on Saturdays, the bag has to be repacked for Sunday mornings--and we all know how peaceful that morning is for most families. ;-) Occasionally, Travis will offer to help, but his help is more of me yelling items for him to add while I’m brushing my teeth or combing my hair. I think it could be a much more peaceful process! How about placing a checklist above where the diaper bag is stored? It should list all the contents. Then you can ask your husband to refill it, and the only question you’ll have to field is the difference between diaper cream and lotion!

Example List:

  1. Three diapers
  2. package of wipes
  3. diaper ointment
  4. burp rag
  5. nursing cover
  6. onesie
  7. matching pants, shirt, and socks
  8. sippy cup
  9. teether or a toy
  10. snack


Even when kids outgrow diapers they still need to leave the house with a few things in tow. You can adapt this list for each stage. Perhaps a “School Checklist” is better for your family.

3. Car Bag

The above task could become even more simplified if you also created a “Car Bag.” In it place a seasonally-appropriate outfit for each of your children. Don’t pack one of your favorite outfits, because hopefully this bag will stay in the car for awhile. Pick something presentable that you won’t miss. When you are away from home and one of your children has a spill, accident, or unexpected water adventure, use the outfit. When you arrive home bring the bag back into the house, repack it, and take it back out to the car. Now the diaper bag only needs to have snacks, sippy cups, diapering supplies, a nursing cover, activities… Okay, it may still be full, but your time packing it will be shortened! Just set another reminder in your online calendar or planner to switch the outfits when the weather changes.

embracing_orderliness-2.png

As much as we moms like to be prepared (to be honest I’ve had to check myself from being prideful about it) there will come a situation in which we are unprepared. In it we recognize we are not in control. These moments happen to everyone, and they don’t make you a bad mother! Just roll with it, ask the Spirit for guidance, and hopefully you’ll get a good laugh out of it later! I’ll leave you with one of my most memorable “unprepared moments.” When my third son was a few months old, we decided to drive about an hour away to visit a barn sale my cousin was having. I had just found a great pair of white capris at a thrift store. Excited to wear them, I calculated the risk and decided it was worth it. Instead of packing just a change of clothes for each of my three boys, I also placed a pair of jeans in the diaper bag. When we arrived at the sale, my baby needed to nurse. He was in the middle of his nursing session when I felt--and heard--his little bottom go to town. My mouth dropped open, and I pulled back the nursing cover to discover my new white pants…. perfectly intact. Not a spot on them. However, my shirt and undershirt were SOAKED! Ugh! I had to ride home on that hot summer day with my shirt covered in that less-than-lovely smell. Oh motherhood, you sure keep me humbled and laughing!

 

Posted on January 20, 2016 and filed under Building Your Home.