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Me and My House

by Kim Brenneman


Kim and BronwynThis column is written to inspire readers onto handling the details of managing a large family.

Why is Kim Brenneman qualified to dispense advice? She loves her home and family--she loves her life. From the first days of her marriage she has studied to be a better wife, a better homemaker, a better cook, a better gardener, and a better mother.

Kim loves to read and study everything she can access from her church library, her mom’s personal book collection, and the public libraries. She has also purchased many home management books, but has never found a book that addressed the needs of handling the nitty gritty details of managing large families. Many times as a young wife and mother Kim called her grandmother for advice.

With the advent of the Internet her horizons broadened. Kim learned many things about large family management from her years in the MOMYS digest group. 

Is she more qualified than many other mothers are? She is the first to say, "No, and I have much to learn. However, I do like to teach others about what I have learned and I like to write."

Kim is wife to Matt and mother to Brandt, Brock, Bridgette, BriAnne, Brooke, Brian, Bronwyn, and Brielle

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__________________________

Where Does
Your Time Go?
The Mystery Exposed
Kim Brenneman, July 2007

Have you ever wondered where time goes? Have you asked yourself, "What did I do all day?" Do you often feel like you're just "sitting and spinning?" Or that you're trying to make progress but you're not getting anywhere fast? Do you dawdle around all day and never accomplish much to bless your family, your church, and your neighbors?

This month, I'm giving you an exercise that will expose the minutes of your day, and get you back on track.

If you keep a journal, you can record this exercise in there; if not, just grab a notebook and pen. Start right now and continue on for at least a few days. The longer you do this, the more you will see progress in getting to where you want to be.

Start by writing down every single thing that you do and and the approximate time your activities take. It will help to keep a watch or clock right beside your journal. When I say "every single thing you do"--that is what I mean. Do not write only the big things but write down interruptions as well. If you change a diaper, write down how long it took. If you helped somebody with a math problem or three pages of math, write it down and the amount of time it took. If you stop at the sink and drink a glass of water, write that down. Every little thing that you do, write it down with the time it takes. Tonight when you go to bed, review it and commit to doing this exercise again tomorrow.

This exercise will show you where your time goes and what you're doing with it. It will show you places where you can be more efficient. You might see that if you lined up your day a little better you will be able to save time and do more. You will see times where you can multi-task and get two things done at once. You might also find that you are trying to put too many things into your day, and that is why you can't get anything done. Are there things that you can delegate? Are there things that you need to excuse yourself and your family from? There are so many "good" things to do, but it is very easy to over commit ourselves and our families.

Take a step back and revisit your goals and priorities. What activities fall in line with your primary priorities? This can be enlightening and expose things that need to be pruned from your life. When you cut something out it doesn't mean that you can never do it again. This is just not the season for it. If you streamline your daily routines better will there be more time for what you need to do and what you desire to do?

Continue this activity for a few days, and start writing down notes to yourself about tasks that can be improved and how you can best improve them. Begin to write down what your children are doing during the day, by glancing around and jotting down who is doing what. This will help you identify time-wasting children. Are they wasting their time and yours with bickering about chores? It will also help you to see a child that is taking lots of time and whether this is truly necessary or not.

I don't want you to cut your children short on love and affection. Different children need different things in different ways. However, some children cost you time because of their character traits. Think about what you can do to change your reaction. You may need to discipline a lollygogger, or restructure his day, or perhaps you need to keep on doing what you are doing with this child. Writing down what is happening and journaling about it will bring things to light about both you and your children that otherwise would go unnoticed.

Another very helpful thing to do with this journaling exericise is to write down everything that you eat and drink, as unhealthy patterns may immerge. For example, you won't want to write down the fact that you ate 6 spoons of cookie dough at 4:30 PM. :) Recognize these unhealthy habits, and begin to journal healthier ways to ward off your huner at 4:30 each day. Wouldn't a handful of raw almonds be a bit healthier?

Write down how much you are eating. The last time I did this exercise I was amazed at the amount of food that I was eating. Did I really need that much? I discovered that I didn't. I started to pay attention to my belly and how I felt. I began to eat less and eat slower.

Reality is now exposed to you. When you think you have done enough journaling and reflection about what is truly happening, write a realistic plan for your day. Match up what you want to happen with what is really happening. If it takes you ten minutes for a diaper change, then leave enough time in the events of your day to encompass diaper changes, settling of disputes, switching the laundry loads, and wiping up the spilled milk. Plan for interruptions.

Some of us tend to be idealistic and think that we can do this, that, the other--and do it all well. Others don’t attempt to do anything, but depend on others to do it. Every person can find value in taking stock of what really happens with their day. The over-achievers will discover that they are letting priorities suffer. The under-achievers will see that they can step it up a notch and be more helpful in the broader community.

Everyone benefits when exposing the reality of our days. We all learn where we are weak and where we are strong and how we can further bring glory to God in our homes and families.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

__________________________

Family Gardening 101
Kim Brenneman, June 2007

Gardening sounds like a wonderful endeavor; the lovely flats of flowers and vegetables at the garden centers intrigue you, but where do you start?

Of course you want to be successful and have an enjoyable experience! As usual, I say, plan ahead! Do some research and think about a few lifestyle changes that need to happen for a successful garden. A key component is going to your garden frequently and keeping the weeds down. This is great exercise and will save you from buying exercise equipment and gym fees. It will also help you keep an eye on how ripe your crop is. Adding this one habit to your new life will make you a successful gardener!

There are a couple of options for first-time gardeners. I won't recommend going all out and growing the one acre market garden with every conceivable vegetable, your first year. Tuck that idea away for when you and your children are more proficient gardeners. It’s a great idea, but not one for beginners.

From experience, I also know that if you are pregnant and due at the end of summer, you should not grow a big garden--unless, of course, you think five foot tall weeds are a thing of beauty. If you are going through the first trimester of pregnancy at the beginning of the gardening year, do not garden. Stop right now. OK, maybe grow a tomato plant in your flower garden, but that’s all. If it is the middle of a pregnancy, you’re feeling great, and you've got approval from your doctor, then go for it--but keep it in moderation. No market gardening. If you have big kids that are obedient and know a little bit about gardening, then you can rely on them to be the gardeners--you can direct from your lawn chair in the shade. If you have a fresh baby, you will not feel up to a large garden, take it easy and plan a weekly excursion to the Farmer’s Market. You are still getting better prices and much higher quality than from produce shipped in from Chile. You can get to know the grower and get tips from him on how to prepare it for eating and how to grow it for yourself.

Let’s say that you feel great and you want to start growing food for your family. First decide what your family’s absolute favorite vegetable is. Then get some gardening books. There are plenty of them! My all time favorite gardening book is Joy of Gardening by Dick Raymond. It is very practical with lots of how-to pictures. Study how to grow your family’s favorite vegetable in a gardening book and then make it a family project. You might decide that your family’s favorite vegetable looks too touchy, so choose another to start with. My point with the favorite vegetable strategy is that you will be committed to it, will look forward to the harvest and the children will have a fun with it.

Another easy strategy for beginners is the Salad Garden. Salad vegetables tend to be very easy to grow. If children grow their own salad they will also be likely to start eating salads--if they don’t already. Salad gardens can be tucked into existing flowerbeds around the house eliminating the need to till up a garden plot.

Once you have decided which vegetables you want to grow, then decide how much of each vegetable you want to grow. That will determine how big of a garden plot you need. Then you will need to get your garden plot tilled. Look in the local paper or ask around for somebody who does this for hire. If your soil is poor, you will need to amend it. This is well covered in gardening books. Typically adding manure will give you a great start towards good gardening soil. Another very helpful source of information is your state or county Extension Service. They are there to help people farm and garden and have lots of information. They will tell you what you need to know or where to find the information. They might also know of somebody who will till your garden or who is an expert on the particular vegetable that you are most interested in. Look in your phone book under your county’s name and Extension.

Once you have your vegetables planned, your plot tilled, and the soil amended you will plant your seeds or the plants that you purchase from the local nursery. For easy beginning gardening, buy the plants at the nursery rather than starting with seed (tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, herbs, etc.). For some vegetables this isn’t an option such as beans or peas (they are easy to start from seed anyway). Seed starting indoors when there is still snow on the ground is very fun but it can be tricky. Next year, plan earlier to start more vegetables from seeds. You want to try to minimize disappointments in the first year of gardening. Follow the directions that come with the seed or plant. It might seem a little silly to plant a little itty bitty seed or plant so far away from the next one but you will experience one of the beauties of God’s creations and that is how a plant can grow in front of your eyes. Don’t blink!

Seeds that provide nearly instant gratification are radishes, lettuce, and beans. Vines such as cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins are also easy to grow, you can buy these as plants but the seeds are generally successful. Cucumbers, peas and runner beans will grow up a fence--although a fence is not necessary. They will also spread all over the ground in a big green tangle and climb nearby plants. You can call it a ground cover and it will help prevent weeds from taking over the garden. If you want beans to climb, buy the pole beans not the bush beans.

A fun thing for children is to plant a teepee garden. “Plant” bamboo stakes in a circle fastening them at the top with twine. At the base of each pole plant a couple of bean seeds. There is a bean called Scarlet Runner Beans that have red flowers that are pretty for this project. Children like to hide and play in the teepee.

Now, for the easiest beginner garden of all, or for the years when you are short on help and/or incapacitated in one way or another--plant vegetables among the plants and bushes in the established beds around your house. Tuck a tomato plant here, a cucumber there, a line of lettuce behind a row of flowers, herbs in pots on your deck and you will succeed with ease.

Gardening with the children
All the things you are learning in the gardening books, share with your children. Every time you go out and putter around in the yard, take your children with you and talk to them about it. Ask them questions and for their opinions. This is the Socratic method of learning in the garden.

Little children like to garden and their sharp eyes will probably be better than yours at distinguishing between which seedlings are weeds and which are the plant you want to be growing. They are wonders at spotting bugs! However, there is an age that is not fun to garden with and this is the toddler. They walk on the baby plants and will tear them out with their hands. These children should only be in the garden with complete supervision. I mean do not take your eyes off of them! You should take them to the garden though on a regular basis and you should talk to them about the plants. Teach them to respect the plants and they will eventually learn. Soon the plants will be so huge that the toddler can’t do damage.

How do you tend the garden in the meantime? During your gardening time keep the toddler in a playpen outside where he can see you (with special toys only for this time), assign him to an older sibling, or do the gardening during naptime. Babies are much easier to garden with. They take more naps so it’s easier to go outside. They don’t need to be trained in contentedness for the playpen. My sister-in-law kept an old swing beside her garden for the baby. A stroller or playpen under a tree is also good for babies. They love to watch moving leaves. Get a bug net to protect them from bites.

The other children should be at your side helping with various tasks. They can dig holes for seedlings, water, weed, find pests, carry a harvest basket, and more. Praise them for all their help, talk to them, answer their questions, and ask them questions. Gardening is a huge learning opportunity and there are so many helpful books out there. One book that we use all the time when gardening is the Rodale’s Color Guide to Garden Insects by Anna Carr. Nearly every bug we see outside we can find in this book in all of its life stages. The book tells how to control the insect if it’s a pest. Children are fascinated by insects and watching them. Older children appreciate the business opportunities that a garden can present. It is definitely something that they can enjoy and easily make money with in the years before they can drive themselves to work. Farmer’s Markets are a place where the whole family can contribute and enjoy their time together. Gardening is also an opportunity for ministry through giving the excess away. Take your bounty to church, your neighbors, retirement homes, and more. Gardening is good for children in many ways!

Finally, take your harvest into your kitchen and prepare some delicious food! If new recipes intimidate you, the easiest thing to do is make a vegetable salad or a stir-fry. Both are easy and delicious and can be done with anything from your garden!

"Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." Daniel 1:12-13

__________________________

Gardening Day
Kim Brenneman, May 2007

Regular readers of this column know by now that I am a proponent of order in our lives. In our family, we have a day set aside of gardening. On this day we focus on outdoor work. It doesn’t mean that we don’t do things like sweep the porch or water plants on other days but by focusing on the outdoor areas of the home we keep things nicely.

I assign each child specific tasks for the day. These tasks are things that need to get done weekly during certain seasons. If it’s a big job, we all work together. In the days when my older children were small, my husband and I did the majority of the work while the children tagged along or played in the yard. By assigning tasks, you are ensuring that it all gets done and that you're building responsibility in your children.

Take a look around your outdoor areas and make a list of things that need doing to help keep it tidy and attractive. Think about hospitality and making it easy for guests to get to your front door or for sitting on the front porch. Here is a basic list of tasks we do on Gardening Day.

  • pick up trash and toys from the yard
  • mow
  • weed
  • water plants
  • sweep the porch and sidewalk (shovel snow in the winter)
  • sweep the deck
  • straighten the garage
  • sweep the garage
  • clean the vehicles

During the outdoor living season, you should give serious thought to making your landscape hospitable. Do you have an outdoor sitting area? Think about folks’ yards that you admire and jot down ideas that you would like to incorporate into your own landscape. It can be as simple as two chairs and a drink table placed beside the sandbox for you and a friend to sit at while your children play.

Do you have a front porch? Put a couple of chairs there to sit outside in the evening. When a neighbor walks by, call out "hello". How will we get to know our neighbors if we spend all of our time inside? When you look at your yard, start thinking in terms of hospitality rather than matching the shade and height of grass that your neighbor has.

My personal favorite part of gardening is growing flowers and food. I love it so much that I’m afraid I could turn this article into a book. Instead I will keep it short and do my best to inspire you to want to do more flower and vegetable gardening. It's not complicated--anybody can garden. Seeds are life in suspension. It is a beautiful thing!

If you are intimidated, then start with plants. Flowers will beautify your landscape and vegetables are nearly free organic food! Even if you just learn to grow one vegetable you will save money and help out the health of your family. My sister-in-law told me this morning that she likes to save money by growing onions. She uses them every day, she finds them easy to grow, and when she has to buy them in the spring, because her supply is used up, she is shocked by the prices. I am a fan of growing my own salad greens. I am still learning and one of my life goals is to learn to grow greens all year long. I know it can be done and every year I get a little smarter about extending the season. Another thing I love to grow is tomatoes. There is nothing like the flavor of a fresh-from-the -garden tomato. My mouth is watering just thinking about fresh tomatoes. BLT sandwiches with fresh tomatoes! Yummy! It's fun to snack on sun warmed cherry tomatoes as you walk through the garden. Delicious! My children are frequent snackers in our garden. Asparagus spears in early spring, strawberries, lettuce, green onions, peas, green beans, carrots, raspberries and more are all eaten fresh right off the plant throughout the growing season. Nearly free organic food.

Selling your beautiful flowers and vegetables is a wonderful experience for everyone involved. The Farmer’s Markets are so fun to be at. It is good to get to know new people, it is good for the children to learn business skills, and it is satisfying to know that others are enjoying food that you and your family worked hard to produce. We have had several fun years taking our garden fare to local markets. I highly recommend pursuing market gardening as a family.

Gardening is an extension of the home life and managing the outdoor work is part of the whole picture. Nearly free organic food, a bouquet for your table, a spot for you and your daughters to have an outdoor tea party, a clean vehicle to drive to church on Sunday--all these things make our lives more beautiful. Plan a day to focus on the tasks that make them happen!

"Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce." ~ Jeremiah 29:5

 

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Coping While Exhausted
Kim Brenneman, April 2007

There are many things that drag us down, pregnancy is one of them, illness of some sort is another.

When I look back on my pregnancies, the worst of them were when my diet before and during pregnancy were poor. Not enough fresh food, way too much sugar, too much "bad" comfort food, no exercise, not drinking enough water, etc. That leads to a myriad of ill feelings including the lack of ability to cope emotionally.

I really encourage exhausted women to look at their diets and cut out the junk. I have found that I need way more than what are in prenatals or multi-vitamins. I believe we especially need more B vitamins. Our modern diets are dreadfully short on the B vitamins and when we eat deficient foods such as white flour, white rice, white sugar our bodies actually take what is needed to digest the whites from our bodies. Add to deficiencies the fact that you're growing a baby, and we become very drained.

It takes huge effort to lift an arm or move a leg forward.   I've been there. Actually last week, we made cookies that had way too much sugar in them (even though I used Evaporated Cane Juice Sugar) and I ate way too much. I had the classic sugar spike and then a really bad crash. I was pretty much useless the rest of the afternoon.

The other thing I have found to be a huge help in my diet, especially when pregnant and nursing--which I guess are all the time for me--is to eat plenty of protein, especially for breakfast! It gives you long stable energy for the day. Find a protein you like and eat plenty of it: cottage cheese, cheese, eggs, leftover meat from supper, etc.

We need to be so careful of what we put in our bodies. It affects how we live, how we feel, and that in turn affects everyone that we live with.

Children can be a source of encouragement, love, and praise. Children that are not getting these things but have to deal with an upset mama will be cantankerous in return. Do not wound them. Yes, children should be obedient but little children in particular need so much love. They thrive on praise, they crave physical touch, and they love to do things with mama. Make sure that your children have plenty of love to balance any chastisement they receive.

One thing that you can do in your communication with children is to memorize this verse from Proverbs 31:26
"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." (ESV)

The King James says it like this,
"She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness."

This is a verse I use with my girls when I hear their tongue get sharp--which always reminds me of my own tongue. How is my example to them?

Another thing that will help in communicating with children is this--every single time you talk to them, force yourself to smile. "Fake it 'til you make it." When you speak while you're smiling, your tone of voice changes and you will find that the words that come out of your mouth are more gracious.

Talk to your daughter about this and help them to do the same thing. Teach them to smile when they speak. It is hard to complain and whine while smiling. Have them memorize Proverbs 31:26 also. Focus on that together for a week and I expect that you will see a dramatic improvement in speech and attitude.

When you are exhausted and/or big and pregnant and you see a million things that you want to do but there is no energy for it, this is how you work:

First of all stick with simplified routines. Call your children, sweetly, and tell them, "We are going to work on ______ chore for 15 minutes, then we are going to sit on the couch and read a book." Now, work on that thing as hard and fast as you can, use a timer if you want--I love timers. You are doing work together, preschoolers LOVE this. Then, sit down with them and read. Doing this you are snuggling and reading. Preschoolers LOVE this also!

Maybe you need 15 minutes more for a rest, take it. Make sure that every time you sit down, you have a glass of water in hand, and drink it! A lot of times when we feel physically ill, it is because we are dehydrated. Pregnancy really takes a lot out of us! That baby needs good fresh amniotic fluid all the time, you need good healthy blood pumping through your body, so drink lots of water.

Use your timer and after you have had 15-30 minutes of rest, do 15 minutes of work. Make sure that the work you are doing is important work, don't clean what doesn't need cleaning. If you have three people in your home, and are regularly cleaning, it can't be that dirty. Compare that to the dirt that 8 farm children drag in.  ;-)  Just think about what my mudroom looks like and it might make you feel better about yours.  ;-)

For your 15 minute work periods focus on floors, bathrooms, and the kitchen. Those are the dirtiest parts of our homes. Make it as easy as possible for you. Perhaps you can use paper towels for cleaning instead of rags to save on your laundry, and use paper plates, plastic cups, spoons, and forks instead of washing. It will save on clean up. Paper and plastic are cheaper than household help.

On the last 15 minute work period before you put your children to bed, have a 15 minute tidy. Get a basket and go around to pick up and put away. Make it a game to see how fast they are, or count how many things they can find. Cheer when you are done and say, “Look at how nice this room looks now!”

Another way to keep your home tidy is to "shut off" certain rooms or cupboards for a time. If you're too tired to keep a certain room tidy, work on that room, 15 minutes at a time, until it is the way you want it to look and then "close" it. Shut the door, ban its use, whatever works, and just try to close it down for a period. We do this with our sewing room on occasion. It is a place that can quickly turn into a crafting explosion.  :-)   That's a good thing, I love to see my children being creative, but when I don't have the time or energy to oversee its use or clean up then I "close the door".

Now, are you drinking enough water? (Just wanted to drive that point home again.)

Attitude: Don't get resentful about your situation. This is the situation God has given you and it is for His glory even though we might not see it. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Are you going to Him for strength and wisdom in how to cope through it? Pray without ceasing and read your Bible every day. I can’t say that enough, every single day read the Bible. Read it out loud to your children. Read one Psalm and one Proverbs to them daily. Memorize verses from both together. It's not hard; just sit down with the Bible on one of your 15 minute breaks and say, "Now we are going to memorize Psalm 100." Don't stress about it, make it a fun activity. You will be amazed at how quickly they can memorize. Little children are amazing at memorization. Don't stop at reading Psalms and Proverbs, read from all over the Bible. Ask your children what their favorite Bible stories are and read them from the Bible. Then do the same at another 15 minute break.

Food: When you're exhausted is not the time to try new and elaborate dishes, no matter how good and fun it looked to do on that FoodTV show. You will get started, maybe even complete it but have no energy left to clean up the mess.

Focus on whole foods and eating simple. It's easier and better for you. Packaged and processed foods are not worth the ease, they are too hard on your health. Don’t rely on them. If it comes in a box, don’t buy it. Shop from the produce aisle, all that you have to do to them is wash and cut, and you can do that 15 minutes at a time.

Laundry: Here's a tried and true trick that many moms use. We practice it and I know that many out there do also. If it's not dirty, don't wash it, wear it again. Some children are messier and will go through more than one outfit in a day. Others, especially in the winter months, can wear the same outfit three days before it looks like it is dirty. Don't make life harder for yourself by washing things that aren't even dirty. Little children don't sweat like adults and their clothes can be worn until they spill food, drink, or arts and crafts on them. 

When you fold, do it with your children. Sit on the floor and go slow. Listen to an audio, watch a decent show or video and just keep moving forward, one thing at time.

Make it fun for them by sending them on little missions to put things away and timing the missions. Give your children lots of praise for each thing they do. Teach them these verses while you work on folding,

Colossians 3:23-24 "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."

Now, don't forget to praise the children in front of Dad when he comes home. Tell him what good helpers they were and list everything they did. They will glow. 

Choose to make the days good ones by doing what you can with what you have. Your attitude is one of your greatest assets and it can be fed and watered with God’s Word and keeping your health up. “This too shall pass” and you will have a hard time remembering how bad you felt during this time. 

__________________________

Town Day
Kim Brenneman, March 2007

The purpose of Town Day is to do your errands. Why establish a day for this? For some of us the answer is clear--we live so far away from town that to run there for every little thing would drive us into poverty and we would no longer be homeschooling but vehicle schooling. For those who live conveniently close to all stores, I would still suggest establishing a Town Day in your family life for the same reason we country folk do--efficiency. You will save time and money by disciplining yourself to doing your errands on one day. Keep track of the time you spend running here and there for this and that. Work on being more efficient with your time and using the time and money you save for greater purposes.

The day before

Balance the checkbook. Make your menu plan and shopping lists. Put your lists in your purse. Pack the diaper bag. If you have items to take back to town, put them in the vehicle. If you have stops to make after the grocery store then put an ice chest in for your cold items. Plan your route to be as efficient as possible. If you will need to eat in town, work that into your plan. If you have a lot of little children you need to be extra diligent about how you plan your day. Miserable children make for a miserable day. Do not stress them more than they can handle. If they are even slightly ill, take that into account in how you plan your day. Would you like to be hauled all over God’s creation if you felt lousy?

The night before

Lay out town clothes and shoes for everyone. Put everyone to bed at a decent time if not earlier than usual.

The morning of

Load the crockpot so you do not have to worry about supper. Leave immediately after the breakfast table chores are done so that you can be home as soon as possible for the little ones to get their naps. Everybody has to use the toilet before leaving.

Being efficient

Plan your stops so that you do not have to back track around town. Do the most necessary stops first so if the little children begin to meltdown you can cut your losses and head for home.

Do not give the children anything beyond water to drink unless you like to go into the bathroom in every store you visit. Take along a drink cooler of water and paper cups or water bottles. I like to keep a case of water bottles in our van.

In the Store

Baby goes into your front carrier or the shopping cart’s seat (clean it first with a baby wipe). Toddlers go into the back of the cart and have to sit. It is nicer to sit on a coat or a package of toilet paper, paper towels, or diapers. If you need a lot of items at the store then your biggest kid will have to push another cart.

Store Rules

Go over the Store Rules before you leave the vehicle; review them again between each stop.

  • When you get out of the vehicle do not rub your coat against the cars and get dirty
  • When you get out of the vehicle be careful not to door-ding the next car
  • In the parking lot hold hands with your “buddy” (an assigned sibling) and stay together
  • Do not run around in the parking lot unless you want the most severe of consequences!
  • Walk in age order behind Mom, oldest last to make sure we do not lose anyone
  • No crawling on the floor
  • No wrestling
  • No yelling or screaming
  • No asking for things
  • No hiding in the clothes
  • No fits
  • Do not touch the price tabs in the grocery store
  • Do not touch items in the stores unless we are buying it
  • Do not touch each other

Lest you think I am a big meany, I do reward for good behavior. Disobedience is dealt with at home. I have found that the way the shopping goes is largely dependent on my preparation for the day and my attitude. I try to make it fun and we take time to smell the fresh strawberries in the produce section and window shop a bit. On especially good days, we will stop for ice cream on the way home.

Eating out or not

Drive through eating costs a lot of money, leaves the children hungry, and is extremely unhealthy. Try to eat at home or pack along sandwiches. It is a treat to stop at a park for a picnic.

When you get home

Put the little ones down for a nap first. Have the older children unload the bags and put away refrigerator items while you feed the baby. Then let everyone go to Quiet Time, they need a break from running around and so do you!

Get your salad veggies washed. Cut up the dry stuff and toss, this will keep for several days if you don’t add tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers, and other moist items. Cut those at each meal. Put your older children in charge of salad prep.

When you and the children do the afternoon chores have them distribute the shopping items to their proper places.

Recovery

If it was a very rough day in town, and I know you know what I mean, thank the Lord you put food in the crockpot. The bare minimum is to get the cold items put away, and then everyone goes to their Quiet Time place until supper. The chores can wait until tomorrow. Rest restores the sanity like nothing else does.

The Next Day

Balance the checkbook again. Keeping on top of this small chore keep the finances under control.

 

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Top Ten Time Thieves
Kim Brenneman, February 2007

Before exposing the thieves of time let’s first look at what the scriptures say about time and how we are to use it.

Ephesians 5:15 and 16 says:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

We understand what God's will for our time when we study the scriptures. It’s certainly not found in this common thought, “I just listened to my heart.” This phrase is often used to explain a questionable decision. What guides every little decision you make from the moment you rise up until the moment you fall asleep?

Jeremiah 17:9 says:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,to give every man according to his ways,according to the fruit of his deeds.

It is natural but wrong to trust our hearts to lead us in our use of time. It takes deliberate thought and effort to seek God’s priorities.

The verses preceding Ephesians 5:15-16 teach us many things about living the Christian life. A short list includes:

  • be imitators of God
  • walk in love
  • be moral
  • be pure
  • let there be thanksgiving
  • do not associate with the sons of disobedience
  • walk as children of light
  • discern what is pleasing to the Lord
  • take no part in and expose unfruitful works of darkness

Another short list from the verses following v.15-16

  • do not get drunk but be controlled by the Spirit
  • address one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
  • give thanks always and for everything
  • submit to one another
  • Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
  • let the wife see that she respects her husband
  • honor your father and mother

Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 further guides us as women. The Proverbs 31 lady embodies everything listed above in a practical way. She is strong and dignified, trustworthy and excellent; she’s not idle and laughs at the days to come. In Titus 2 we as women are specifically instructed:

  • to be reverent in behavior
  • not slanderers
  • or slaves to too much wine
  • to teach what is good
  • and so train the young women
  • to love their husbands
  • and children
  • to be self-controlled
  • pure
  • working at home
  • kind
  • submissive to their own husbands

When we don’t keep our priorities in line with scripture we rob God of His best use of time in our lives. Are we running from God’s will? The reason we run from God’s will is the heart (Jeremiah 17:9). We need to put off the old woman and put on the new and renew our minds (Ephesians 4:22). We need God to perfect our hearts everyday through prayerful repentance.

In no particular order here is a list of ten thieves of your and God’s time.

Television and Books
When I stopped watching daytime television as a young mom, I taped Philippians 4:8 to the front of the idiot box which reads,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

That verse also led me to avoid certain genres of books. Both television and books can be means of escapism. We don’t need to be caught up in someone else’s imaginary world. God gave us a life to live! What we are to be is controlled by the Holy Spirit. We can relax and have down time without offending Him.

Computer
We need fellowship with other believers but often we exchange relationships with real people in our physical community for relationships with people in a narrow little band of online people that believe every little thing exactly like we do. The Proverbs 31 lady was in her community, her husband was honored at the city gates because of her renown, she extended her hand to the poor, and more.

Online communities can be a venue of encouragement and relation to others, but spend more time getting to know your neighbours. Be salt and light!

Computer rabbit trails also steal time from our first priorities. Be careful, be wise, make a plan for the time you spend online and use a timer.

Poor Planning
Do you wonder what you’re supposed to be doing when you look around at a big mess? Do you drive like crazy and never accomplish anything of real purpose? Do you stare into the cupboard and wonder what you’re supposed to make for supper? You’re wasting time. Plan your work and work your plan. Work on being efficient and you will accomplish so much more.

Health and Sleep
When we don’t take care of our health we get slow and sleepy. When we take care to eat and drink right, take supplements, get exercise and sunshine, we have energy to be our best. Women are often sleepy and sluggish when they need to take better care of their health. Rise up and go for a walk! Maybe you need to walk on over to the doctor to have a chat about it, or to the health food store for B vitamins, or to the pantry to throw out all the junk. Get healthy!

Overcommitted
Are you overcommitted? Start prioritizing and making your allotted hours in the week fit God’s top priorities. Who or what is getting the best of your time? When we try to do everything we do nothing well. Focus on your first priorities and then carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully refine them before adding to them.

Telephone, Email, IM, gadding about
We women like to talk and oftentimes this gets us into trouble. The Bible warns against the misuse of our tongue in 1 Timothy 5:13, "And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not."

It’s an old, old problem. Don’t be an idler, gossip, or busybody going about from house to house via the telephone, email, IM, or visiting. Save your talk time and be meaningful with it. There is no need to say the same thing five different ways in your conversation. In doing these things you are stealing your own time, God’s time, and the correspondent’s time. Give thought to your words.

Disobedient Children
Disobedient children take your time through cleaning their messes, repairing their destruction, threatening and repeating, arguing with them, and mental anguish. Unruly children are not enjoyable. They will rob you not only of time but also relationships. Your friends may avoid your family because of your children. Babysitters don’t want to have to deal with them. Do something about it. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Pray for wisdom. Enforce consequences and make the consequences mean something. Spend time with them teaching them respectful behavior. It takes time and deliberate thought and action on your part to teach them obedience and manners.

 

__________________________

Resolute an Attitude
Kim Brenneman, January 2007

Have you made your list of New Year’s resolutions? Or did you give up on that tradition years ago? When you make your resolution list, do you promptly lose it? Does your preschooler find it and use it for handwriting practice?

A classic New Year’s resolution is to be more organized. Everyone recognizes that being organized and efficient improves productivity and makes life more pleasant. It is one thing to make the resolution and another to accomplish it. Some say that people are either born organized or not. I agree to a point; I have seen in my own children how their brains work differently and make them better at certain tasks. I do believe though that everyone can become better organized and disciplined in their personal habits. I certainly have room for improvement. I have had years when I was very organized and efficient and other years where I felt as if I were drowning in mess and so tired that the thought of where to start was overwhelming. I can easily blame it on workload, babies, hormones, too many outside-the-home activities, and more. Whether you are on top of things right now or not, there’s always room for improvement.

Why do you want to be more organized? What are your goals? Who are you aiming to please? Write these down on the paper that you have been writing your New Year’s resolutions on. We want to know why we’re doing what we’re doing to help motivate us to follow through. Use Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 as a reference point in making your goals. Work on making life more in line with God’s Word.

Once you’ve motivated yourself with getting to the underlying reasons, let’s move forward to how we’re going to be more organized. It’s not enough to just make a goal or Resolution; we need to make a plan to reach it. We’ll work on the basics of planning the work of being organized. Sometimes planning the work can be so much fun but takes so much time that we don’t get any real work done! Keep the planning simple. Maybe you are one that hates to plan and just wants to get it done so you dive in and make a bigger mess in the process and “oops!” you forgot that people need to eat? Planning your work helps avoid those kind of “oops” moments. While you have your pencil and resolution paper out, let’s make some simple plans.

Divide your home management into different areas. Mine is divided into Cleaning, Kitchen, Home Office, Laundry, Town (shopping and errands), and Gardening. Your life might look slightly different. Give each area of home management a day that you will focus on. For instance, Monday is Laundry Day and Tuesday is Kitchen Day at my house. On the assigned day, do all the chores associated with that work on that day. This improves efficiency in dramatic way. It is not new; I did not invent this idea. It is how our grandmothers and great-grandmothers worked. We’re recovering the lost art of home-management and we’ll teach it to our daughters. Where are your daughters by the way? Set them beside you and make these home organization plans together. Do you think they are too little? They are not. Maybe they will only do art work beside you or practice writing their name but tell them what you are doing. Watching is learning. If you have an older daughter, let her plan the management of an area. Work on this together.

Once you have assigned each day of the week to an area of home management, make a big list of every single task in that area. This is your new organized life. You will need discipline to stick to it. That’s a huge part of establishing new habits, reaching goals, and changing your life. What are your habits now? When are you doing the lists of tasks that you made? If you aren’t doing those tasks, what are you doing instead? Identify time wasters by watching yourself and writing down every single little thing that you do. You need to replace each bad time wasting habit with one of the things on the task list for the day. Match a time wasting habit with work task and every time you start to do that old habit, do the work instead. This is called the Put-Off, Put-On Principle which is found in Ephesians 4.

"To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." ~ Ephesians 4:22-24

A big boost to self-discipline is in changing our attitudes! How is your attitude towards your home? This is a choice we make every day. Do you love your home? Do you love the people that live there? Do you love God who gave you your life, your home, and your family?

Galatians 5:13 "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."

It doesn’t say “through bitterness serve one another” or “through manipulation serve one another” it is through love that we serve one another. It is through God’s love in us that we can do this with joy. The things that are before us to do are His calling for us today. We are serving Him when we serve others. The Holy Spirit will help us our calling.

God wants us to be full of His joy that comes from knowing Him (John 15). When we live in His will, when we put off our old self, when we serve Him with gladness, then we understand that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

"Serve the Lord with gladness!" ~ Psalm 100:2

The best way to keep your attitude right is to spend time in God’s Word every day. We learn to know Him and love Him and how to better serve Him through His Word. As you go about your day, pray without ceasing. He knows how many hairs are on your head, He sees the sparrow fall, and so of course He cares for every nuance of your day. Pray for strength, pray for wisdom, pray for understanding, and pray that the fruit of the Spirit will flow out of your life.

Your Christian ministry is your home! It is at the center of everything you do! Make time reading God’s Word a priority in your morning. It is your bread and water, it is your strength. Feed your spirit and in turn your attitude will be right with God. When your attitude is right, it becomes easier to put off bad habits and put on Godly habits. Our New Year’s Resolutions for being more organized are easier to achieve because we have Godly attitudes towards the ministry of our homes to others.

May the Lord, Maker of Heaven and Earth, bless you with strength and help you with your efforts to bring glory to Him in organizing your home management!

 

__________________________

The Key to Clean: Consistency
Kim Brenneman, December 2006

The key thing to keeping your home consistently clean is a consistent chore time. It does not mean that you and your family clean and then sit around twiddling your thumbs in order to keep it clean. You can still be creative and messy, the children can still play with playdough and legos; you simply need a system for everyone to help get things cleaned up and back into place. The key thing to keeping your home consistently clean is a consistent chore time. Every work day of the week do the work.

Deuteronomy 5:13
"Six days you shall labor and do all your work."

Work is not discouraging unless we let it be discouraging. Work is simply the process needed to get to an end point. In this case I am talking about a clean house, the goal of every keeper of the home in the world. When a large homeschooling family lives in a home 24 hours a day, seven days a week, things get dirty, messes are made, clutter is left lying around, and small children create chaos. Yes, it will be a mess--it’s a fact. Don’t let it discourage you, just get to work. Make the work a habit that happens without thought and it becomes easy work that can be done quickly. Then there will be more time to do things that... create more work. Now smile! Work is simply the process needed to get to an end point. You want a clean house, you want to do fun things that give you pleasure–living is work. Work is living, work is fun if you make it fun, and work is a joy because it is serving the Lord. Rest is what God has given to us for our physical bodies on the seventh day. Rest is not something that you do during the daylight hours unless you are ill, work nights, or are post partum.

Clean is not the only goal of the home keeper. The home keeper also wants her family to live with love, comfort, and happiness. These are intangibles that have more to do with atmosphere and attitude. It is hard to create the atmosphere and attitude of love, comfort, and happiness in our homes if our homes are pig pens and we moms are drowning in self-pity.

Have you ever watched pigs or seen their pen? Pigs root around with their noses turning over anything and everything in order to find something to eat. This process is very destructive to the place they are kept. They eat anything and everything. Pigs will wallow, they move their bodies around in the dirt in order to create a bed and when it rains into their wallow, it becomes a mud bath where they take residence until cold weather when they pile on top of each other and suffocate the pigs at the bottom of the pig pile. So understand this--pigs wallow in the mud, sleep in the mud, root around destroying things for food, eat anything and everything, and then pile on each other with no regard for their fellow pigs and kill the pigs who can’t get out from underneath. Think of the word images that come from the lifestyle of pigs, “pig pen” “wallow like a pig” “pig pile”. Imagine a family doing the same thing: rummaging through cupboards looking for food and then wallowing about in their mess, never cleaning and then sleeping in their mess. It happens, I’ve seen it up close and personal! It is our nature to be lazy. We must renounce ungodly habits and worldly passions.

"How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?

A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest-

and poverty will come on you like a bandit
       and scarcity like an armed man."
~ Proverbs 6:9-11

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."
~ Titus 2:11-14

Keeping your home tidy and clean is as simple as keeping a daily chore time. It is important to my husband that the house be tidy in order for him to have a relaxing evening so we hold "Afternoon Choretime" every day. This is the time of day that we restore order. We put away the schoolbooks and projects that we were working on. If it’s a large project that we will come back to the next day, we tuck it away in a safe place and straighten up as much as possible around the project. We make the mood one that Dad can come into and relax in and enjoy his family. We have food cooking that tantalizes the senses for an enjoyable family suppertime. We listen to calming music that sets the mood for the evening. All these things are done in the hour or two before Dad arrives home. We are setting a place for the king of the castle. Let me show you how to go from the creative chaotic homeschool home to a relaxing haven of rest for your family.

First you will need to announce to the house that it is "Afternoon Choretime" and tell the children to quickly put away whatever they are working on. While you are instructing them, light a candle (high out of reach of the littlest climbers of course) and put on music. This helps signal to the children that evening is coming and it is time to prepare for it. Then go to your bedroom and bath and spend 5 minutes freshening up. You want a picture of loveliness to your beloved when he comes in the door. Now, put on a fresh apron and start the supper work while the children do the room straightening and cleaning.

Assign each person a room to straighten and clean. If you have no big children yet, you will need to do it. Bring your children along with you to do these chores. This is training for them. They might be a hindrance now, but in this training they are learning the work and will be soon training their younger brothers and sisters how to do it. Make a list of daily chores for each room and laminate it or put it in a sleeve protector to be kept in that room. As you go to each room, refer to the chart; show it to the children so that they will know that there is a list of work for the room. Take a photo of the room when it is picture perfect so that the children know what the room should look like when they are done and attach the photo to the Daily Chore sheet.

At a certain time say “Afternoon Choretime! Let’s pick up and clean before Daddy gets home!” Children love to please their dad. If you keep them focused with encouraging words and do the work quickly they will grow to love the satisfaction of looking at a pleasing room and showing it off to Dad when he walks in the door. Don’t be a drill sergeant, be an encourager. Say things like you would want to hear it from your mom. Sing while you work, make up a silly song to go along with the work. Work quickly and efficiently. Pull a basket or wagon around to collect toys with and send the children on little missions to put the toys away. Give a trash bag to a child and send him around to be the trash collector. Hand out feather dusters and/or dust cloths and teach them to dust. By quickly dusting every day, the rooms do not get dirty. When things are picked up on a regular basis, there is not so much to put away.

Take a step back for a minute here and do this during the day. Tteach them to put things away when they get them out! When they are done playing with something train them to put it away before getting out a new toy or activity. This works if you are with them and remembering to teach them every minute. It is when you become busy with another thing in another room that they will drop what they are doing and move on. Work on making “Don’t lay it down, put it away” one of your mantras.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
~ Ben Franklin

If you have big children that can work well at room cleaning then have them work alone or with a little buddy. Assign them to teach a little child how to clean their assigned room. Teach the big buddy to be an encouraging teacher. If there is a need for speed, then set the little ones at the table with an activity that will keep them busy during the clean up time. There are some children and some ages of little ones that are simply more distracting to the assigned room cleaner than necessary. For instance, toddlers seem to delight in following a room cleaner around and undoing what was just done and cause the room cleaner to be working in a never-ending cycle. ARGH! Put these children at an activity at the table or in a high chair. Assign a day of the week for each toddler activity to be done while the rest of the crew cleans. i.e. Monday-playdough; Tuesday-washing dishes (water play); Wednesday-chunky puzzles; Thursday-coloring; Friday-finger paint. Not all of these will work for all children and situations, come up with your own list of activities for that particular child who is not able to clean or be a good little helper-buddy yet.

Have the children choose their favorite room to be the one they are responsible for cleaning. This adds ownership to it for them because they care more about what their favorite room looks like. If there is disagreement about who gets what room then have the children draw straws. Keep the same rooms for a long stretch of time (3-4 months) so that the children will get really good at that room’s particular chores. This teaches them to do their work with excellence. By changing room assignments frequently, nobody gets really good and fast at doing a particular room. It is easier to let tasks slide by for the next room-keeper to do next week. It also makes it easier for the home manager by having a short period of room chore training rather than re-training new room-keepers every week.

When the daily Room Chores are done for the main rooms of the house, then the children are to do their daily Bedroom Chores. By focusing on one area of the bedroom, the work there gets done on a regular basis and the bedroom is never very dirty. When the bedroom chore is done, do the Deep Cleaning chore for the day. Sometimes it is a big chore, sometimes it’s miniscule. It all depends on the Focus Area of the house, the chore for the day, and how many helpers there are. If a chore doesn’t get done one day, it’s OK, you can get that chore done next time it comes around in the housecleaning schedule. Try hard to keep the deep cleaning chores small and daily and you won’t have embarrassing deep dirt and cobwebs hanging around.

Now, if the house is clean and Dad is not home yet, have the children do "Sit Time." Assign them a chair and give them a stack of books to “look” at. If they can read, then give them some reading time. The big kids could play a game that is easy to set up and tear down before supper like checkers or pick up sticks. If you eat dinner late and the children are starving, do a small snack time and clean up before "Sit Time."

At our house, after the Afternoon Choretime, the big kids go outside to do their Animal Chores. Sometimes they are done by the time Dad comes home and sometimes they do outside chores with Dad. Each home is going to be a little different; the goal though is to have as much of the work done as possible before Dad comes home from work so that everyone can have a relaxing and pleasant evening enjoying each other.

What time you start doing chores is also going to vary with your home, the ages of your children, how big of messes they make with their projects, what time your husband comes home from work, and more variables. If Afternoon Choretime is a new thing for your house, you will need to have a period of fine tuning to iron out these sorts of details. It takes time to learn new chores and new routines. Stick with it for a month and then work on making it more efficient.

When we do daily chores in every room of the house, the house always looks clean and is never more than 10 minutes from looking picture perfect. If we skip Afternoon Choretime for a couple of days or a week then our house looks like a pig pen. Holding a regular chore time maintains your house beautifully. Having a system for doing the regular maintenance chores helps the house seemingly run by its self. It becomes consistently clean.

Tip:
Because of large messy projects we rearranged our house by putting all the girls in one bedroom and now use a bedroom as a sewing/craft room.

In the past we use the unfinished part of the basement for these types of things before we turned it into a Laundry Room. Think creatively for making room for the creative projects. In our case, it was more efficient to move the girls into one room for sleeping. Sleeping is all their bedroom is used for anyway. Their toys are in the playroom and their craft projects are in the Sewing Room. Their clothes are in the bedroom closet.

The Sewing Room is our place for all crafting endeavors. This is a bit of a jump from our culture’s idea of the use of rooms. Take a look at a house plan book, in the home decorating magazines and catalogs, watch a home decorating show, visit a 2.3 children family’s home and you will see bedrooms specially decorated for a boy or girl. Great expense and detail is given only to be outgrown in three years. With all the “proper” furniture and décor there is only room for one or at the most two children. What is the bedroom used for? Being an individual with a personal TV, stereo, and computer?  Hanging out with friends? This doesn’t fit the philosophy of the Christian family of each one living for the other and all living for Christ. How many houses are large enough for each person in the large family to have their own bedroom and live that individualistic life? As Christians do we want to promote that kind of narcissism in our children? It is far better to promote the skills of loving and taking care of one another, of working creatively with our hands and hearts to benefit others.

By narrowing the use of bedrooms for sleeping or reading quietly on a bed, this is accomplished. Use any extra room created in the home for a workspace. This keeps craft mess from spreading around through the house.

If your house is small, work hard at thinking creatively, try different avenues and uses.

What about “alone time”? What is the alone time used for? Think about the child that is seeking alone time. Is it a need for quiet reading or study? Is it a self-centered escape? If the child needs alone time to calm their spirit in a healthy way then help that child carve out a niche somewhere to have that quiet time. It doesn’t need to be a bedroom. It can be workshop, a reading chair, or a bubble bath.

Let go of the culture’s idea of how things should be. Make a list of priorities.

Do what you can with what you’ve got.

 

__________________________

Laundry Management
Kim Brenneman, November 2006

Do you have a Laundry Monster living in your home? Do dirty clothes grow mold and mildew in your hampers? Do your children have clean and dirty clothes mixed around on the floor of their rooms? Are there huge heaps piled around your washer and dryer? Listen close to this mama who has been in that spot in the past and still has the battle with the beast when the rest of life crowds out the regular duties of home.

There is one sure thing that will keep the Laundry Monster from growing any larger than yipping dog. Assign a day of the week to laundry. In our house it is Monday. Add a daily plan of Laundry Day to your Home Management Book. Doing this helps to focus effort and put a hefty dent in the never-ending job of laundry. You know how big the mountain can be for the large family--colossal. When I had only a few small children I was overwhelmed with laundry, but let me say that those days were nothing compared to the amount that piles up these days with eight children and one husband who's clothes get grimy working out in the farm. Out of those eight, three are adult sized people who seem to delight in seeing how filthy they can get their clothes. Add to that a passel of girls who like to change clothes as the mood strikes throughout the day. Don’t forget the baby with regular diaper blow-outs, and the other little one who seems to wear food rather than eat it. The laundry can pile up pretty high. I have seen the heap under our clothes chute grow to nearly my height, and I say aloud, “How can this be? We just did laundry?”

Make a commitment to your laundry. Act as if you are joined with the washer and dryer. They are your new best friends. You will not leave them nor forsake them all the day long. This is an important point that I believe is the key to managing your family’s laundry. It changed my life.

Early in the morning meet with the washer and dryer and feed them their first load. Set the timer and clip it to yourself, tie it with a ribbon or a shoelace around your neck, stick it in your pocket, or duck tape it to your wrist. You will have to time your loads, some will dry faster than others and you will learn how to adjust your timer accordingly. The point here is that as soon as your timer goes off, you run (yes, you are also exercising) to the washer/dryer to take care of the laundry.

You'll switch loads and fold clothes each time the timer beeps. When you get done folding a load, look around and ask, “What can I do to make this area cleaner?” Grab a wet rag and wash the laundry equipment, sweep the floor, catch the cobwebs. Is there clutter collecting on top of the washer and dryer? Put it away in its proper place. What can you do to keep clutter from collecting there? How about a little basket for all the things that people leave in their pockets? If you do one little clean-up chore after each load, the room will stay clean. Another thing you can work on between loads is mending and ironing. If it suits your house set up, take these two tasks to the same room the children are working in.

How do you hold a Laundry Day and homeschool your big brood? When you leave the room where they are working, instruct them to keep working and try to figure things out for themselves. When you return, praise them for their diligent work, help them with their questions, and if they were naughty then hand out consequences. Use this day to wean your children off of the need for constant hands-on instruction. They need to be able to learn how to work on their own. They will not have you teaching them their whole lives, learning how to teach themselves is a skill they need to learn. Laundry Day helps facilitate this.

There have been times when I've had a child tomato-staked to me because he couldn’t behave unless I was by his side 24/7. When a child is tomato-staked to me, I give them work to do too--along with gets lots of love and instruction. This is what a tomato-staked child needs the most. Another way of handling Laundry Day is to have the children take turns switching loads, folding, and doing a clean-up chore. Start with the oldest and run down the line of children. When it comes time for the little children’s turn, go with them and teach them how to run the equipment. Use a permanent marker to help them identify the most commonly used setting on the equipment. For the older children who are able to do laundry alone, make a big poster explaining how much soap, water temperatures for certain loads, clean-up chores to do, and whatever else your particular laundry situation calls for.

How old are these laundry helpers? I know of two families who give the laundry work to the resident ten-year-old. When the next child in line turns ten, that child gets the laundry work. From these two examples I think it is safe to say that a ten-year-old can do laundry unassisted. My current eight-year-old can switch loads and run the equipment without assistance. I can send her to switch loads and know that it will be done right. We work on it altogether all the time but the 11 and 8-year-olds are chiefly responsible for it these days in our house. If a member wants certain articles of laundry done then that member does a full load of laundry for himself. A load less than full is sacrilege here! A family makes a lot of laundry and many hands make light work. When each member contributes to the good of the family he or she builds self-worth and confidence in the ability to do a life-long chore. This is education.

In addition to holding a regular Laundry Da,y is the daily chore of putting things where they belong. When your children arise and call you blessed because they have clean clothes you will say, “Please bring all of the dirty laundry from your bedroom and bathroom to the laundry area and sort it.”

You need to say this every day of their life with you until they say, “I know, Mom.” At that point they have finally gotten it. Every morning dirty laundry goes to the laundry room. If they do not obey you when you tell them this little sentence it is direct disobedience and should be disciplined in whatever manner your family disciplines direct disobedience. It is a habit that they and you need to learn and carry along all through life.

It means discipline on your part in checking up on them regularly. Make it a habit of yours to take a little house tour with the children every morning. You have to keep doing this or things will slide into mess and then you’ll have the Laundry Monster taking up resident again. You might say, “I shouldn’t have to...” Do not forget that these are children--strangers in a foreign land. They are just learning about life and living in it. You, as mother, are their teacher in how to live the daily life.

The Bible says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. Sometimes it is called childishness. We are teaching them to be consistent in everything. We are teaching them self-discipline. If we didn’t ever learn it well as children then it will be doubly hard to teach them, but teach them we must. You will need to check up on their chores. Praise them when they do well! Find an effective age-appropriate discipline for offenders.

The children should have a 5 minute bedroom pick-up as part of their morning routine to keep the laundry off of the floor. If all you have is Littles, you will need to do this with them, as you talk to them about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Hand them the laundry to put in the basket or throw down the laundry chute. Make laundry a fun game--identify colors, count items and so on. Help them to lay the clean clothes on the shelves or hang them up. This teaches them order and organization. Of course it would be faster to do it yourself, but your end goal is self-sufficient, self-disciplined adults, and it starts with these baby steps.

This takes self-discipline on our parts as moms. It can be hard but the pay off is great. When these things are not taken care of, the result is a huge laundry monster that seems to have the ability to eat the house alive. You will also not be blessing your children with the ability to care for themselves, they will grow up to be slovenly adults.

On Laundry Day your goal is to do as many loads of laundry as possible until 4 o’clock. At 4 o’clock your family should be doing their Late Afternoon Chore Routine and part of that routine on Laundry Day is collecting full baskets of folded clothing, putting clothes away AND bringing the basket back to the laundry area. If you have older children they should be doing these things either instead of you or with you. If you have all little children then make an effort to find little baskets or plastic dishpans that they can carry their clothes with.

If you are a morning person and love to see clothes waving on the line, then make it a goal to have your loads of wash flying in the breeze by noon. We fold our clothes directly off the line into the baskets. Each bedroom gets a basket. Doing this outside gives you exercise in bending and stretching, gets fresh air into your lungs, and a bit of sunshine for Vitamin D. It is also a beautiful thing to hear the birds sing and to watch the children playing nearby. If you have a baby, take her out with you on a blanket while you hang out and take down the laundry.

It is easier and more enjoyable to do laundry when the whole set up from clothing storage to cleaning and folding is efficient. Efficiency saves you time, and we all like more time. Making your laundry and clothing system is going to be subjective to the house you live in. What works for one will not work for another. Ask for ideas when you’re with other ladies. Browse through the laundry, shelving, and storage aisles of home stores.

I will tell you what we do at our house at this point in time. Our laundry room is the unfinished portion of our basement and is beside a walk-out door. This makes it easy to hang out clothes. Our boys’ bedrooms are in the basement so we store their clothes in the laundry room and they use it to change in or they carry their clean clothes to the bathroom when they shower. Across one side of the room we hung a one-inch pipe that we hang the boys’ shirts on and drip-dry clothes during cold or wet weather. The master bedroom, nursery, and girls’ bedrooms are on the second story. We put a laundry chute from the second story, through the first floor mudroom that empties beside the laundry equipment in the basement. The laundry chute is an 8 inch PVC pipe. The laundry chute has helped keep dirty laundry from lying around the main floor and the second story (yes, I have people who take off socks and leave them lying about too, grrrr).

In our Laundry Room we have big shelves that hold large clear plastic containers of out of season clothing and sizes that nobody is wearing. I only save the best clothes from one season or child to the next. I have discovered that my perception at the end of a season is not that great. I tend to view something as nice just because it was at the beginning of the season when in reality it doesn’t look that nice anymore at the end of the season. I have to be very strict with myself when putting clothes into storage--I have a lot of space but also a lot of children. There’s not enough room to keep everything and keep track of it, and so I have learned to keep only the nicest things.

It is helpful to have the members of your family learn to take their clothes off right-side out, socks un-balled, and layers removed from each other. Sometimes gentle reminders are all it takes, but there are other times when the consistently guilty culprit needs to be brought to the scene of the crime and instructed to undo their dirty laundry themselves. Explain to the family that laundry in such a state does not come clean and show them an example. I have found that showing the “why” of certain things we do, helps reinforce the “what” and “how”. Start enforcing this when they are little so that it will carry on when they are older.

Having a laundry day will be a big help in keeping the laundry under control but of course laundry occurs all the time. As soon as ten people change their clothes at the end of the day there are three new loads. Add in baby laundry, towels, and bed sheets, and the laundry will just about bring you to tears. Don’t let the Laundry Monster win. Keep the upper hand by having a daily goal in addition to keeping Laundry Day. Our goal is four loads by 4:00. In the summer when we hang out laundry, the goal is four loads by noon. Some weeks work out better, and as a result of our daily goal we end up with a light day for Laundry Day! Some weeks we are especially busy and our daily goals aren’t reached which makes Laundry Day a battle to be won with the Laundry Monster.

This might be a very strange and foreign thought but learn to love doing laundry. Replace all the bad feelings and ugly thoughts with scripture and God pleasing thoughts. This works is as unto the Lord just like every work is. Less than a hundred years ago women were still standing over a fire, stirring their boiling clothes. There is a local woman whose mother died when she was young from burns sustained when her dress caught fire over the wash. There are women around the world that do their wash in the river. We have it easy; we throw the wash in a machine and walk away. Live gratefully for the blessings God has given you. Thank Him for each person whose laundry passes through your hands. Thank Him for the sun and breeze. Thank Him for the clouds that bring rain. Thank Him for soap and clear water. Thank Him for the day He made and blessed you with. Thank Him for strength for the tasks ahead.

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song." ~ Psalm 28:7

Laundry Tips:

  • Keep stain treatment handy and use it on clothes before they land in the dirty basket. Keep it in each bathroom to be used when the clothes are taken off.
  • Put bibs on your little children while they eat.
  • Never buy white shirts, pants, or dresses. If you do, avoid eating and playing while wearing them! 
  • It pays to read labels and follow instructions.
  • Read labels before you buy a garment. Save yourself effort and don’t buy high care fabrics.
  • Use vinegar for your fabric softener–-it rinses the soap out, softens the fabric, is inexpensive, and is better for those sensitive to scents.
  • Hang up towels immediately to keep from smelling musty. Wash in hot water and put vinegar in the wash and rinse to help keep towels smelling fresh. When worst comes to worst use bleach but it will ruin the color.
  • Remove clothes immediately from the dryer when the timer buzzes to eliminate wrinkles. If you miss the buzzer, throw a damp towel in to help unset wrinkles.
  • Fold the laundry all together as a family and listen to audio stories.
  • Mark clothes to be passed down with dots or Xs–one for the first wearer, two for the second, three for the third and so on if they last that long. This aids in keeping things sorted correctly while folding.
  • Use little baskets or dishpans for little people to put their clothes into.
  • Iron when clothes still have a hint of dampness in them or sprinkle with warm water to aid in ironing.
  • Label your linen closet shelves to assist the children that put away or remove linens.
  • Sunshine brightens whites, fades stains, and kills germs.
  • Wipe your clothesline before hanging out to prevent black marks on the laundry.
  • Be efficient when hanging out your laundry by pinning side by side garments with the same clothespin.
  • Before you hang up clothes or move from washer to dryer, give them a good snap or two to remove wrinkles.
  • When hanging up wet button-up shirts stretch the wrinkles out by pulling with your hands from the top and bottom, the sleeves from the body of the shirt.
  • Do not overload the washing machine and teach your family the same--the clothes will not come clean or be able to rinse the soap out.
  • Sort your clothes by color and type to get longer life out of them.
  • Mend tears before washing to eliminate the fabric from unraveling in the wash.
  • Wash lightly soiled colored clothes in cold water to keep them bright.
  • Blue jeans bleed for their whole lifespan; do not wash them with other clothes.
  • Wash whites and very dirty clothes in hot water to remove soil and kill germs.
  • Wear old clothes for dirty jobs that will stain clothes like pitting cherries, cutting peaches, gardening and painting.
  • Fresh blood will come out if immediately rinsed in cold water. Heat will set the stain. Hydrogen peroxide removes blood stains.
  • Grass stains come out with a vinegar pre-treat or when allowed to soak in a bucket of water with an enzyme cleaner.
  • Grease stains come out with a citrus based pre-treat such as Citra-Solv.
  • Bodily fluids come out after pre-treating with a bacterial enzyme based “pet stain remover”. This also works great for carpet, furniture, and car upholstery.

Make a Laundry Protocol poster for your Laundry Room

Making a Laundry Protocol poster will aid your family in knowing how to use the equipment if they need a reminder and will help them know how to wash certain loads.

At the top in large letters write Laundry Protocol. Under the heading write specific Instructions for detergent used in your machine. Check your owner’s manual and the detergent box for specifics.

Underneath the Instructions line, write daily instructions. Include sorting and the daily goal. Then make a column down the left for each day of the week.

The second column will be which loads and the order of loads to do on each day including a couple of days off.

Don’t try to do laundry on your Town Day or The Lord’s Day. Write how to wash each particular load-the particular cleaners and settings that you want used on a particular load. Some things that are obvious to us as moms due to our experience are not so obvious to the uninitiated. Help your young helpers with specific instructions in how to do the job well.

Hang the poster near your equipment then take your helpers to it and read through it with them. Ask them if they have any questions. If, while doing laundry they ask you how to do something, refer them to the poster. Maybe something is not clear and needs modification. The poster is your teacher’s aid in helping to get everything done that needs doing, and getting it done well. The family won’t need to track you down for details.

Conclusion

Each home is different, each laundry set up is different, and each household’s laundry is different due to the activities that the members participate in. One families laundry may be soiled with toddler food, the next grass stains, the next red clay, and the next chicken manure. One house might have their laundry room in the garage, the next on a back porch, the next in the kitchen, and so on. Take the ideas here and use them to get your creative juices flowing and to make a system that works for your family in your particular home. The bottom line to doing the laundry, is to keep on top of it. Work at it daily--early morning, late morning, noon, and early afternoon. Between each activity that you schedule in your day switch loads and fold. Do not let the Laundry Monster reside in your home.

 

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The Children's Hour
Kim Brenneman, October 2006


What happens in your home “between the dark and daylight”? What is going on “when the night is beginning to lower”? Pause for a moment and put a picture of it together in your mind’s eye. Typically, this is when the work is done and the family welcomes dad home and the time is spent together as a family. As home managers it is our job to see that this time of the day falls together nicely with happy hearts, a restful retreat, comfort food, and time well spent. Those things are the goal to aim for. It will look different in each home. Each family has a unique personality with unique individuals. The bottom line is that we are glorifying God with our evenings.

How do you set the tone of the home? It starts with your attitude. How do you react to things? Put good things in and good things will come out.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Galatians 5:22-24

Work on this in the late afternoon by putting on refreshing music. Put a memory verse card above your sink and review it while you put supper together. Pray over the supper and ask God’s blessings on the evening as a family. If someone has trouble eating something on the menu, pray about it. If there are relationship problems in your home, pray about those during this time. Pray without ceasing.

Help your children be prepared for the evening by getting their chores done by a certain time. Respond to their needs with the law of kindness on your tongue. Easy for me to say, but not so easy to do some days. It takes self-discipline and relying on the Holy Spirit that lives within. If the children are bickering then stop everything, call a meeting, explain to them what the family’s goals are for the evening-happy hearts, a restful retreat, comfort food, and a good time had by all. You might need to paint a picture of what this looks like in your home for the children. Then, go to work making it happen.

What does your husband like to do when he arrives home? Does he like to rest in his chair to unwind or does he want to be in the yard playing ball? Every dad is different from the next. Help the 'Dad' in your home find the haven of respite from his daily work. Once Dad is allowed to unwind and relax in whatever way that is, he will be much more receptive to anything else planned for the evening.

Is supper early or late in your home? There is no right or wrong. It is important to have structure and regular meals for your family. Those two things go a long way toward content and peaceable children. If your husband likes to have supper late then you need to have a substantial snack in the late afternoon for the children. Plan for this. Add it to your schedule and grocery list.

How does your supper hour go? Meal times are unique in that the family is gathered in one place all doing the same thing together. Make the most of the time by creating an event of it. Don’t allow it to be just throwing food down the hatch. Enjoy the time, enjoy the food, enjoy the fellowship. Eat slow. Talk to each other. Discuss the day’s events both personally and in the world. Don’t let children wander off when they are done eating. For starters, it’s rude. They should ask the head of the table if they may be excused or not. Secondly, they are going to miss out on listening to conversation by leaving early. This is an educational time for them. What age to let go and what age to keep at the table will often depend on the personality and age of the individual child (and if they had their nap for the day). I would suggest that you keep them at the table a bit longer than they would desire to stretch their attention span. When it's time to clean up, do the chores quickly and efficiently. The faster chores are done, the more time is left for 'The Children’s Hour'.

How The Children’s Hour is spent will depend on the family. Some spend it in front of the one-eyed bandit. Don’t let the blinking blue light rob your family any more. Better choices are reading aloud, playing games, talking, playing musical instruments together, singing, sitting outside on the deck and watching the sun set. Each family will do something different. We do things differently throughout the year with the changing seasons, the weather, the amount of outside chores that need to be done after Dad comes home from work, and so on. Sometimes we have 'The Children’s Hour' before supper, sometimes after. Here’s a short list of things that the children and I remember enjoying in the last six months: board games, played softball, sat in the backyard and talked, enjoyed badminton, played piano, reviewed catechism questions, got creative in the sandbox, read the Bible, showed off bike tricks for the family, wrestled on the floor, and engaged in flip-flop wars.

Depending on the season and what 'The Children’s Hour' brought we might gather in the living room for bedtime prayers or we pray with the girls and boys separately in their respective bedrooms.

What 'The Children’s Hour' is not: separate activities for every member of the family, outside the home meetings and activities (especially on an every night basis), parents in one room doing something while children do their own thing or sit in front of the TV, everybody with a nose in their own book, everybody gathered around the other blue blinking light (the computer).

Family time is interacting with each other. Now, every night will not go perfectly and be a beautiful picture of 'The Children’s Hour.' The idea is to have a goal to aim for; as the saying goes, “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”  The Christian family is one that loves each other, takes care of each other, and is a light to the world. It is hard to build relationships with one another if we aren’t doing anything together. 'The Children’s Hour' contributes to building healthy, God-glorifying relationships as a family.

The Children's Hour
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, o blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

 

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10 Tips and Rules for an Efficiently Run Kitchen
Kim Brenneman, September 2006

Are fruit flies swarming your kitchen? The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in the home and due to the nature of food preparation can be the dirtiest. There are several habits that should be part of your life to avoid having the health department condemn your kitchen, and to make it a happier place.

Ten Rules for the Kitchen

  1. When you get something out, put it away. The same rule that should be applied all over the house is of course just as important in the kitchen. This must be taught to your children when they are young so that they understand that food left out spoils.
  2. While working in the kitchen, fill the sink with hot soapy water. As you finish with a cooking utensil toss it in the sink or grab the washing cloth and wipe down the appliance you were using. Water is the supreme solvent and washing things before the gunk gets hard as a rock saves time later. It’s efficient.
  3. The same principle applies for the countertops and stove, wipe them after each mess that you make. It takes seconds to wipe and rinse the cloth in the sink full of hot soapy water; it takes minutes of scrubbing after spills have become cemented on.
  4. When preparing food, get out all the ingredients, appliances, and utensils first. As soon as you’re done and the dish is cooking put these things away again. Don’t leave to do another thing, finish the work you started.
  5. Keep the dishwasher unloaded. What good is it to you when it is full of clean dishes? You can’t put anything dirty in so it collects in the sink and on the counters taking up valuable workspace. It takes less than five minutes to unload it. Race the clock. Assign a child to be the unloader. Take out the knives first and even a two-year-old can unload the silverware. It might not be perfectly sorted but it’s teaching them to help and preschoolers love to help. Crack the door to let it cool off for five minutes then call the unloader to the job.
  6. Don’t put your dirty dishes anywhere but in the dishwasher. This is more sanitary and efficient. It keeps the countertops clean and attractive. It is inspiring to walk into a clean kitchen; it is depressing to have to do a deep clean before food can be prepared for the next meal.
  7. If you don't have a dishwasher, give yourself the "Rule of Ten": If there are ten or more things to wash, do it now. Never have more than ten things waiting to wash. If you have a dishwasher, apply this to those items that you have to hand wash.
  8. Wipe the sink after every meal. Start at the backsplash, work your way around the sink, do the faucet, then wipe the bowl, empty the strainer and rinse it.
  9. Sweep the floor after every meal. If you don’t do this, the crumbs get picked up on feet and spread throughout the house making the other floors dirty. Crumbs underfoot are annoying and they attract ants. It takes just a few minutes to sweep and saves time later. Assign one of your children to this chore. Less than perfect is better than nothing.
  10. Use your time with Godly wisdom. Put a scripture verse over the sink to memorize while you wash dishes. Pray for the food to be a blessing while you make it. Pray for the people who are going to eat it.

Ten simple habits. Thank God for the ones you are already doing! Now, add the rest starting with the next step you take into your kitchen. Print this article, put it in a page protector, and hang it in a kitchen cupboard. Check through the list after each meal until it all becomes ingrained in your life and has become your own personal kitchen habits.

Ten Tips to a Tip Top Kitchen

  1. To help clean a scorched pan, scrape off what you can and put enough water in to just cover the bottom, then add a bit of automatic dishwasher detergent and let set overnight.
  2. To get rid of foul smelling odor from plastic containers, rinse them with vinegar.
  3. To rid your kitchen of fruit flies, remove every single food item (hide them in your refrigerator), set out a glass of sweet pickle juice or wine overnight to attract and drown them. The ones that remain become very lethargic due to starvation and are easily swatted.
  4. To clean dried on gunk, squeeze water over it and let it set for several minutes to soften, then wipe.
  5. Take your falling-apart cookbooks to Staples and get them punched and comb bound.
  6. Use vinegar for an inexpensive alternate to rinse agents in the dishwasher.
  7. Pour boiling water down the kitchen drain to keep it running free.
  8. To remove the smell of onion from your hands wipe the flat side of a stainless steel knife blade over them.
  9. Set out a lemon to come to room temperature before squeezing to get more juice from it.
  10. Put frequently used items within easy range (hip to shoulder height) for movement efficiency. Keep this in mind for children also if they are the ones to unload the dishwasher and set the table.

Thank God for dirty dishes,
They have a tale to tell;
While others may go hungry
We’re eating very well.
With home, health, and happiness,
I shouldn’t want to fuss;
By the stack of evidence,
God’s been very good to us!
~ Anonymous ~

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Project Day
Kim Brenneman, August 2006

Occasionally the need will arise to have a Project Day or a Project Week. A time when you really need to tear into a room and repaint, tear out the carpet, or something else hugely disruptive to the regular routine of home life.

When doing projects, it is good to give thought to them so as not do them on a whim. Listen to what I have learned and apply these steps next time you have a big project to tackle.

Some find the idea of working with children around impossible. This is wrong thinking. Children do not need constant entertainment and play. They need to be learning from you. Even on big project days they can and should be learning from you. With the right attitude from you, they will learn that work is satisfying and fun. You just need to plan carefully to make the process conducive to learning and fun.

Let’s cover the basics first--food and sleep. These two things are very important to the happiness and wellbeing of your family. Don’t plan a project right after another big event; recover from the first event by getting plenty of rest, good food, and some down time. This will help the stress level for everyone in the family. Too much stress leads to grumpy misbehaving children which leads to a grumpy mom and dad. So plan the timing of your big project wisely. Next, plan your food. It needs to be healthy for strength and stamina, but it needs to be fast. Going out to eat or pizza delivery does not fit the bill, especially if your project is more than a day long. That will also cut into the money savings of your DIY project. So, make a list of your homemade quick meals ahead of time. Then pin your list inside a kitchen cupboard for the next time you need a quick meal on Project Day. Crockpot dinners that you can throw together in the morning are great. Keep a supply of paper service on hand for days like these. Finally, get to bed at a decent time the night before your project. You will have more energy, be able to think clear and move faster.

Have your clothing planned and do not forget about clothing for the children. Everybody should be wearing old clothes for when they unintentionally lean against the freshly painted door. Make sure that you have all of your clean laundry put away and your dirty laundry sorted and tucked away. You don’t want to be tripping over it while going to and fro.

Think about what your children are going to be doing while you work on your project. Is it something they can and should be involved with? If not then you will want to plan something special for them that will keep them distracted from you. A new open ended activity is great for a Project Day. If you suspect that your project is especially intriguing to them then you will want to talk to them about it. Explain everything you are going to be doing and make it clear to them what they can help you with, and what they absolutely cannot help with. Then give them a boundary, use tape to mark it and tape some Xs on the floor for their assigned seats. Plan your consequences for disobedience. It is also helpful to spend some special time with the little children at the beginning of the day reading a story together, or playing with them for 10 minutes or so. Then again after your lunch break. Make sure that they have access to food and drink during the day so that you aren’t interrupted. Tip: If you are interrupted while painting, have a plastic bag handy to put your paint brush in. This keeps it from drying out. If you are taking something apart, collect all the little pieces into a Ziploc bag and put it out of the children's reach.

Plan the project shopping list carefully so you aren’t constantly running to get this and that. Collect your materials and tools at once and put them in safe spot, high enough that the littlest ones won’t carry fascinating things off. Move quickly and efficiently with your project. Plan your steps, move things out of the way that will hinder you. A few minutes moving something could keep you from tripping, spilling, or wasting motion.

If your project is a short one then do all of the prep work you can before nap time, then as soon as the children are laid down, do your project as fast as possible. Be ready for interruptions if they wake before you are finished. Quickly get them settled into their next activity then you can clean up.

If you are blessed with older children, they can be assigned to watch over little ones while you work on the project. It is still nice to plan something new and exciting for them to do together. One of your older children could plan an activity for the un-involved to do while the rest work on the project. This is a good way to teach responsibility.

Sometimes it is helpful to have everyone out of the house for a day except those that are working on the project. Call a friend and work out a trade. You will have her children for a day and another day, she will have yours. It is also nice on these days to have a simple supper planned for both families.

Painting with children around is a challenge but it can be done. If they have never painted before they will want to very badly. I am a firm believer in teaching children to work young and to enjoy their work. Give them something to paint. Put a fresh coat of paint on the dog house, stain the play equipment, older children can do touch up paint in the house with a small container of paint and small brush. I would highly recommend using latex paint unless you want your children to look spotted for a couple of weeks and have people ask about what genetic disease your family has.

For mechanical type projects, keep your young boys close, they will learn through watching and something in their brain causes them to understand these things easily. At a young age, they will be telling you how to do it. : )

Paper projects, such as bookkeeping, filing, and tax prep are easier done with silence. I have trouble concentrating on numbers with constant interruptions. Do these projects during naps or trade child care with a friend.

One important thing to keep in mind with projects is the clean up. Sometimes I get so caught up in resting on my laurels of a wonderfully completed project that I don’t notice I’ve left the tools out. Then the everyday life starts up again--people need to be fed and so on, and I find myself tripping over the same box of project materials for a week. Make a rule for yourself and your house: “A job isn’t done until the tools are put away.” This applies to so many things we do around the house: making a meal, laundry chores, schoolwork...on and on. Say the rule three times right now and then go write it on a 3x5 card and post it in a prominent place.

A lot of times while doing a project, we have to tear apart the house in order to get to the thing that needs the work. I’m thinking of our family room right now. I have a decorative painting project planned for it but in order to do it, I will have to move furniture, take down curtains, and while we’re at it… I know already that I will also be mending tears in the upholstery, cleaning the curtains and blinds, and then the fly specks on the windows will bother me and I’ll want to wash them again…

The projects can build on each other and take on a life of their own. Pretty soon the daily routine is blown, we’re eating fast food junk, laundry is piling high, and everyone is irritable. Know when to stop and restore order. Keep an eye on your calendar to see what events are coming and know when to say, “I’ll do that project next month”.

You do not need to put projects off forever; you can do them with children around. You simply need to plan carefully with them in mind. Think of what a blessing it will be to them, seeing you do projects, learning how to do these things together, and being instilled with a "can-do" attitude. Pretty soon you will be handing over the tools and they will be doing a project to benefit the whole family. “Many hands make light work!”

"You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." ~ Deuteronomy 6:7

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Children's Bedroom
Management

Kim Brenneman, July 2006

Children hate overwhelming messes just as much as we do. And like us, they can pretend not to see it for a long time. When parents can’t stand the sight anymore it often turns into a big teary event with impatient words, threats, and a big box for the junk/treasures.

Let’s stop this nonsense cycle, it is not glorifying to God. Children need to learn to clean and care for their belongings. We, as the parents, are responsible for teaching them Biblical stewardship principles. Children aren’t born knowing organizational and management skills. Well, most of them aren’t. I did hear once of a little boy that was very careful about every little thing in his room down to lining up his shoes a certain way. Out of eight children so far, I have some that have tendencies towards being more organized than others. None, however, knew how to pick up their toys, books, clothes, shoes, and all their other little things without somebody teaching them. Yes, they can get something out and they should be able to put it away but they were born with a sin nature which causes them to choose the lazy way of leaving something lie at the location that they were done with it.

Sounds like me. I fight it in myself everyday. Self-discipline, the skill that a child needs in order to return a toy, keep his room clean, and brush his teeth every morning, is something that we as parents need to teach them. It is a painful and long process--well, I think it is anyway. But the rewards are worth the work. The children and I like to see a clean bedroom. We admire it, and pat each other on the back. We talk about working as unto the Lord and how much He wants us to be good stewards of His gifts. Instead of the painful pick-up of a pig-sty we are learning how to be better stewards. Now, let’s not make any excuses and get started.

"Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling,
but a foolish man devours it." ~ Proverbs 21:20

There are two things that make bedroom cleaning easier to keep up with. One is to have a regular daily routine. When the children are used to doing the same thing at the same time day in and day out it becomes a habit. The longer they do that one thing, the more ingrained it becomes. Think of meal-time routines. Usually we eat at the same time--following the same patterns every day. That is why it is easier to build new habits or scheduled items around mealtimes. Routines are not a bad thing. I know that there is an impulsive anti-routine crowd out there, let me advise of you of one thing. Your children will be happier and more secure with a routine. This does not mean that you can’t occasionally break from it and do go on some exciting adventure, it simply means that an ordinary day will go more smoothly for everyone if a routine is followed. Give it a try for awhile and see if I’m not right.

The other thing that makes bedroom cleaning easier to keep up with is "know what to do and how to do it." When the little children change their clothes be there with them (or a big kid) and teach them to put their dirty clothes in the basket. If they drop it on the floor, stop them and say, “Where do your dirty clothes go?” and say it with them, “The dirty clothes go in the basket.” The bed needs made every day of course, doing this one thing makes the bedroom appear neat and clean simply because the beds are the largest objects in the room. Point this out to your children and when doing a room clean-up make the beds first. It bolsters the spirits to see a neatly made bed at the start of recovering a disastrous room. To get your children to make their beds every day will require diligence on your part to check up on them, and of course it will add to their chore charts. Teach them how to do it properly but also do the next step of checking up on them.

" Know well the condition of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds…" - Proverbs 27:23

Self-discipline on your part will translate to self-discipline on theirs. I know it’s hard and there are a hundred other things that you would rather do, but do you really want to be raising slobs? Teach them when they’re young and it will be easier as they get older and they will in turn teach the younger children. When they are grown and have a neat and tidy house, they will thank you for teaching them these little basic skills. While you are teaching them and checking on them, be joyful, sing, and talk to your children with a smile in your voice. A cheerful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Do not dry up the bones of your children. Train yourself to wake up with joy and spread that joy to your children as you help them and check on their bedroom chores every morning.

Morning bedroom chores should be done in 5 minutes or less and kept simple i.e. Make the bed and put clothes in proper place and shut doors and drawers. You should be doing the same in your bedroom. If you have lots of little children and no big kids to help train, then do each bedroom as a group teaching as you go.

When tackling a big disaster you really need to do it with the children as a team. While you work, talk conversationally--not lecture style about why we clean, how we clean, how we keep it clean, and so on. The littlest children need you to get down with them, on their level and pick up toys with them. Make it a fun game. Pick it up by type of item i.e. Pick up dolls first. If you can, try to keep toys out of the bedrooms except for one or two favorites. Keeping all the toys in one area of the house makes the pick-up more efficient and when the children have no reason to play in their bedrooms the bedrooms stay neater. Look at the bedroom from the children’s perspective and talk to them about what is needed to make it more neat and organized.

Your children need to learn how to organize, how to work efficiently, and how to stick to a task. You will probably have to do this work with them for awhile until they have learned how. After you feel they have successfully learned how to do the work, you will then need to inspect it after they are done and hold them accountable. If they see you doing these same tasks in your bedroom while they are working, they will work more willingly. They hate to feel that they are missing out on anything fun that might be going on elsewhere in the house.

"Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy." ~ 1 Corinthians 4:2

To prevent big bedroom disasters from happening and to keep the bedrooms thoroughly clean, work through the following focus areas. You can do the work whenever it suits your family; we do them during Afternoon Chore Time. Work hard for 15 minutes. Take a break if it’s not done, then work for another 15 minutes. Teach the children to complete the job and not leave it half-way. Some of these chores won’t take that long at all, and all of them-if consistently done-will be easy. It’s when dirt and debris is allowed to pile up that a job turns awful. Once again, if you have only little children then do each room as a team. If you have older children that are able to work independently then be sure to encourage and inspect their work while you work on your bedroom or help the little children. Shared bedrooms should be done as a team by the occupants. You might want to further break down bedroom chores and assign them for children who share rooms. Write down the following bedroom chores on a paper, slide it into a page protector, and hang it on a door or someplace in the room. Place a copy on the refrigerator or wherever you hang your other chore charts so that you can advise the children from “grand central station”.

  • Week 1 - Have the children straighten and de-clutter the tops of their desks, dressers, tables, window sills or any other flat surfaces in their bedrooms. Assign one surface per day, or assign a time period per day, or assign a day of the week to spend some time on this area of their bedroom.
  • Week 2 - This week have the children clean under the beds. After shoveling it all out (the fun part) they might be overwhelmed. Give them a trash bag for the trash, and then put all books away. Next, all stuffed animals, and the rest of the toys to their proper place. Finally, put away whatever else is left. Hopefully, there are no rotten apple cores. Like everything else, if this is done on a regular basis, it never gets that bad. But left for 6 months, the under-bed clean out can be quite a trial.
  • Week 3 - This week is for the children to straighten their closets. Have them get in the corners, nooks, and crannies, and dig all the things out that they might have tossed in and forgotten about. After digging out, they must put things in their proper place. Put the clothes on the shelves or hang up. If they are old enough to sort out the torn, stained, too small, unworn clothes have them do so and put into the trash or a give-away box. Doing this regularly is essential for clothing and closet control.
  • Week 4 - This week, the children de-clutter, straighten, and thoroughly dust the shelves in their rooms.
  • Week 5 - This week have the children clean windows and curtains, as needed and if able to; walls-de-clutter and catch cobwebs; wipe grime from light switches; lights-dust and change bulbs if able to; door-dust top, wipe grime from door and door knob.

By teaching your children to do a 5 minute bedroom clean-up routine every morning and a focus area every week, you will help your children learn to be organized and self-disciplined. It’s not easy to teach your children these things but you are helping them learn Biblical character traits. While working with your children you are also building relationships with them and teaching your children how God wants us to work.

"Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys." ~ Proverbs 18:9

__________________________

Joy Comes With
the Morning
Kim Brenneman, June 2006

If you have ever been camping or slept outdoors, you know the joy that all of nature expresses at the morning. Before the dawn has even broken, the birds begin their morning songs. As dawn nears the sound of wildlife grows louder and more fervent. Then, when the sun begins its rise into the quickly lightening blue, all of creation seems to burst into glory. The sky puts on a show of color from the palest yellow-pink to lavender as the last shades of midnight blue disappear to the west. This is a revelation from God to us every morning. The mornings are a gift of still, calm, beauty and majesty. We can see the sun rising over the horizon and get a glimpse of an idea of the glory of God. As the weather and seasons change, the sounds and the sights do also to reveal even more all the facets of order in his character. To receive this gift of common grace, all you have to do is be there. When camping, you have no choice in the matter; there are no thick walls and windows to block out God’s wake up call. In the everyday reality of life however, you have to deliberately choose to get up, out and praise God for His gift of another glorious day. Spending those dawn moments with God and your husband give inspiration and energy for the day. Memories of the glorious morning linger throughout the day, spurring creativity and motivation to foster the same kind of morning the following day. Momentum builds and soon the days when you can’t have that beautiful morning time happen become a disappointment. Starting the day with God and your husband builds strength and vigor so that you in turn can be a blessing to others.

___________________________________

"The mornings are a gift of still,
calm, beauty and majesty .
"

___________________________________

When life has us feeling beat up, pressed down, and anxious we sometimes wake up cursing the day. We have to choose to rejoice and be glad in it. We need to replace the groan with praise.

" This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118:24, ESV

Then after we choose to rejoice and be glad in it, we must commit our works to the Lord.

" The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the LORD weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established."
Proverbs 16:1-3 ESV

Yes, it may be a “bad” day but with an attitude centered on bringing glory to God and doing our work heartily as unto the Lord, that bad day will be looked at with super-natural eyes. The interruptions and things that go wrong, the pressures that build and even explode around us are serving some purpose that we may never know the reason for. Some moments you just have to pray, “Your will be done”, and there are days that we will have to pray that unceasingly. When we seek God’s will first, and do His will joyfully, we can make it from dawn to dusk and beyond on His strength.

When planning the day your first priority is for your husband to have a good start to the day. Do some thinking and ask your husband what you can do to make the morning more of a joy for him. If he says something like, “Whatever makes you happy makes me happy” take a step back and think about it a minute. He may sincerely mean this or he may have begun this line of thinking because he became tired of your complaining and grumbling and “why bother” attitude years ago. He simply found it easier to keep you happy by giving you your way rather than hoping you would bless him by giving him his way. You might have to do some hard thinking about the expectations that you both brought into your marriage. If you had asked him when you were first married, “How would you like to spend the little bit of morning we have together?” What would he have said then? Time has gone by and you have both matured, children have come along, work schedules have changed. Now, think about the morning time and ask him sincerely the same question. When he has given you an answer or you have made some educated guessing, plan for your morning time together.

Pleasant mornings and good starts are dependent on our attitudes. If we are hurrying and scurrying trying to catch up on what we didn’t get ready the day before we are causing stress to our children. If we are yelling, “Move it! Move it!” like a drill sergeant, then we’re picking and tearing at the relationships we have with our children. Proverbs 31:26 tells us that the woman of virtue “opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Let’s make sure that we start off our mornings teaching our children wisdom ways, and that we are speaking to them and our husband with kindness. When we are prepared then we have no fear, we are calm. When we are calm inside with surety, we speak with calmness to our children. When our children wake to a plan and a calm and kind mother, then they in turn have pleasant mornings. Children thrive on order, it gives them security. They want to know the plan for the day, they want to know what to expect when they get up. They thrive in a home of order, peace, and security. As home manager, this is your duty to facilitate. Planning and preparation help build a happy heart in yourself which overflows to your children.

___________________________________

"Pleasant mornings and good
starts depend on our attitude .
"

__________________________________

I am convinced that a good morning experience for the whole family starts with the preparations that have been made the evening before. Proverbs 31:18 tells us that the hard working wife of virtue’s lamp does not go out at night. From what I understand, this means that she filled up her lamp with oil so that it wouldn’t go out. She prepared ahead. We can gather that she was good at preparing ahead from this verse and from other verses in Proverbs 31. Let’s take her example and do the same. Think about all the things that need done in your home in the morning for your husband, for your children, and your home. Write every little event down and start working backwards. A lot of tasks are dependent on other tasks i.e. you can’t lay out clean clothes to wear if the laundry is not caught up.

Here is a list of ideas that you and your children should work on the day before in order to prepare for the next morning:

  • Gather laundry and sort so that first thing in the morning you can toss a load in
  • Set the breakfast table and do any other breakfast prep work
  • Check the calendar and put the appropriate bags and books by the door or in the vehicle if you have to leave
  • Lay out the appropriate clothes for the next day’s events; even if you’re not leaving the house, dress in a way that is self-respecting and will bring glory to your Father and your husband
  • Put your bedside lamps on timers to help you and your family go to sleep and wake up at appropriate times. You must get adequate sleep yet you do not need to be lazy. The light helps the eyes and brain to shut down and to come on again in the morning.

Before the light goes off and you go to sleep make sure that you have done a bit to straighten your bedroom and bathroom, that you have read a Psalm and have it in your brain to sleep on, and that you have prayed.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
Phillipians 4:6 ESV


Give thanks to God for the day that has passed, thank Him for the day to come and make your requests to your Heavenly Father; pray the Lord’s Prayer.

The next morning when the light comes on and the alarm goes off do not shut them off. You are prepared. You have a plan. Get up and get started on your day. If you need help with a plan, write it all out on a note card and lay it on your bedside table the night before, then pick it up and “do the next thing”. Here are some ideas for a morning routine:

  • Stretch
  • Read a Psalm
  • Make your bed
  • Straighten your bedroom and bathroom
  • Get dressed and ready for the day
  • Drink water
  • Start a load of laundry
  • Make breakfast for your husband and read the Bible with him
  • Emilie Barnes teaches to ask our husbands “Is there anything I can do for you today?”
  • Drink your morning coffee on the deck and watch the sun come up
  • Exercise
  • Read a Psalm and a Proverbs to your children while they eat breakfast
  • Go over the plan for the day with your children and pray about it
  • Do food prep for lunch and supper while your children do the Table Chores
  • Take 5 minutes to check up on their bedroom and bathroom chores

Use these ideas as a springboard for what works for you and your husband and your family. As home manager, you are responsible to see that you are helping your husband, serving healthy food to your family, for setting the tone for the day. These are heavy responsibilities and when they are met, you will see big changes in life! Of course there are seasons (new baby) that it is very hard to meet these responsibilities, but don’t give up. It’s OK for a season to call out to our husbands from the depths of the blankets, “Can I do anything for you today?” Just keep in mind that this isn’t the picture we want to give him to start off the day every day. He wants care and he wants to know that his family is having productive days. Keep pressing on and soon you will have great mornings and days again. Commit these things to the Lord.

We plan and prepare and work on our attitudes not for our own glory but because a woman who fears the Lord and lives according to His will brings glory to God. She is a light shining on a hill and salt to the earth. She has joy like a fountain. She is not bitter but a sweet fragrance to her family, home, and community. Put yesterday behind you and get started on tomorrow with a plan and doing the prep work. Let’s start each day with joy!

Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:5 ESV

__________________________

The Master Bedroom
Kim Brenneman, May 2006


The work that a home creates can become mundane and exhausting if our attitudes are not in tune with what the Lord has called us to do. We need to remember to not only care for the family and their dwelling place but we must take care of ourselves. A physically rundown wife and mother does not have the energy to care for her home and family. Her home is one of disorder and dirt. It may not be that she is truly lazy but that she is simply worn out and does not possess the energy to move forward and do the next thing. She needs care. At these times it would be nice to have a wife or mother for ourselves wouldn’t it? We as women must remember to take care of ourselves in order to do the work the Lord has called us to do. Along with good food and exercise, part of taking care of ourselves is creating a peaceful retreat within the home for us. We need rest, not necessarily sleep but a little bit of rest and relaxation.

Home is a retreat from the world for our families. Our role as nurturer of the family places our primary work in the home. We care for our husband and children in one way or another 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our homes are where our hearts are. Caring for children, cooking meals, cleaning rooms, and the never-ending-pile of laundry keep us in constant motion. We also spend energy taking care of the emotional and educational needs of our family. We as women need a retreat within the retreat.

We take a God-given delight in feathering our nests with color, art, handiwork, and furnishings that express our Christian values of home and family. Come along with me and add some extra soft touches to the nest. We’re going to work on the Master Bedroom and make it your special place. We’ll make it a place in the hills where you can be alone to pray. We’ll create a retreat from the world where you will want to spend time with your best friend, your husband.

___________________________________

"We’ll make it a place in the hills
where you can be alone to pray.
"

___________________________________


Close your eyes and think about what it looks like right now. Is it cluttered? Has it become a catch-all place? You need to find a different spot for all of the unnecessary and unsightly things. This is now the room where you get re-energized. It is the last place you see when you go to sleep at night and the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning. Let it be a place of rest and peace that will give you motivation for the coming day. Get your Goodwill box and a trash bag and do the de-cluttering.

Now, give it all a good cleaning. Take down the window coverings for cleaning. Then wash your windows and blinds. This will let in the light and show you where the dirt is hiding. It also changes the perspective of the room and will help you get some new ideas on what you want your retreat to look like. Finish doing the cleaning (cobwebs, dusting, and vacuuming) all the while thinking about what you need in a retreat.

When you’re done cleaning, make a list of all the cleaning chores and divide it into Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Quarterly. Slide this paper into a sheet protector and post it on your door to remind you until you have it memorized and can do it without thinking. Make yourself some rules, i.e. only ten things allowed on your bedside table, including reading glasses, drink, book, Bible, etc. Maintain this one place in the house to be pretty and peaceful and it will be a bright spot in your home and life. This refuge will keep your being more healthy and energized for the rest of the work.

Give thought to these words while you seek out ideas to implement:

  • reserved
  • rest
  • retreat
  • recluse
  • relax
  • refuge

Think about the purposes of the master bedroom and write down decorating ideas. Ask yourself how to create privacy, ease, convenience, and beauty in your master bedroom. This has to suit you and your husband so think about your favorite things, what favorite objects do you want to surround yourself with?

Make a list of things that define you and your husband. For example, I love quilts. I love the connection they have with the past. I love the art and handiwork of them. I also love flowers, the color pink (I use it as an accent), writing paper-journals, the sun, lace, dark chocolate, books, and the list goes on. Think about what defines you and use those things to surround yourself with in your retreat. These things are part of your God-given personality, and they typically are things that God has blessed us with at some point in life that taught us to appreciate some wonder of his creation. Express yourself and your marriage, with these definitions, in your retreat.

What about your bedroom do you dislike? Fix it ASAP. Anything that grates on you will be the antithesis of retreat. Maybe it’s an eyesore that simply needs hidden. If it can’t be hidden, then put it behind you by moving the bed or your reading chair. Move things so that the eyesore will be out your line of sight.

Create ease in your room by moving the furniture to create flow. You do not want to bang your shin on the same thing every night when you get up to feed the baby. Create ease by adding cushioning in seating, pillows or a soft rug by the bed. Keep paper and pen handy at your bedside table. Move the chair that you use as a clothes rack to force a new habit of putting clothes away. Write down on your list of daily bedroom chores to put clothes where they belong. Create ease for eyes and mood by painting the walls blue or green. Both are colors that have been shown to promote relaxation. God used them predominately when he created the earth. Think of all the blues of the sky and the sea. Nearly all the plants of the field are some variant of green. When we stand still and behold the beautiful outdoors we are overcome with the splendor of it. We find rest in our souls when we rest our eyes on God’s artwork. Bring some of that inside by choosing colors that bring on a peaceful mood. You can find myriad of blues and greens at the paint store. From dark to light, warm and cool, there will be a blue or green that expresses you and your idea of tranquility. When you bring ease to your retreat, as soon as you walk in the door your body will say, “Ahhhh” and you will relax.

___________________________________

"When we stand still and behold
the beautiful outdoors we are overcome
with the splendor of it."

___________________________________

Make your room convenient by having bedside tables with reading lights, paper, pen, and the Bible. Keep tissue and a waste basket handy if you’re allergy prone. Use good light blocking blinds; dark rooms promote deeper, more restful sleep. If you like to write or do some sort of handiwork, then create a place for that in your bedroom. For some people that might be bringing work into the bedroom and for others it’s bringing a restful activity that promotes a quiet spirit. Be sure to put a good light in the task area. Put a CD player in your Master Bedroom to play peaceful music or whatever suits the mood of you and your beloved. To make my room more convenient I have an old sofa draped with quilts that I use when nursing the baby, reading, and when we have a sick or scared child at night (with eight children, there is a limit to who fits in the bed). I also have a soft light if I need it at night. Put your bedroom lamps on a timer to turn off when you need to sleep and come on with your alarm clock in the morning. This one convenience has improved my sleep routines immensely.

Add beauty with art, pictures of you and your husband, fresh flowers, or other expressions of who you are and the things that you enjoy. Try to create a harmony of favorite things expressing all of the senses. What fabrics do you like to feel, what do you like under your feet, what do you want to wrap up in while you sit and peruse a new magazine? When you want a peaceful setting what do you want to hear? Guitar music, ocean waves, the breeze in the trees outside, or silence? What do you want to smell? A favorite flower, a mug of hot chocolate, the night air drifting in? What do you want to see? Blank walls, art, photography, wallpaper? Lots of drapes and luscious fabric or simple, straight lines? Dark or light? Warm or cool? Simple, elaborate, or somewhere in between? Think about these things. Get some magazines and books from the library and collect ideas. Don’t copy a photo of someone else’s idea of beauty. What my Master Bedroom looks like will not be the same as yours. It should be an expression of who you are and what you have available to use. Spend time in thought, with pen in hand, to what is beautiful to you and why? Do what defines who you are and your needs for a restful retreat. What are the simplest things that give pleasure and rest for your soul? Bring these pieces of beauty into your Master Bedroom.

Put things in your Master Bedroom that express who you are as a union with your beloved. Include photographs and mementos that reflect your history together. Create ambience through soft lamps or candles for your evenings together. Embrace your femininity and dress that way in your bedroom. Throw out the old T-shirts and boxer-shorts, this is not a college dorm room. Throw out the ratty bath robe and tattered gown of yesteryear. This is your master bedroom--the place where the heart of the family finds a restful haven. It is the heartbeat of the castle. Wear what enhances the romance and makes you feel like the queen. Create it to be a place of honor to your marriage.

The mandrakes give forth fragrance, and beside our doors are all choice fruits, new as well as old, which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.
Song of Solomon 7:13 ESV

It is natural to how God created us as females to feather our nests. Every mother in nature does it. We were born to nurture our families and part of this is creating beauty in our homes. When the stresses of constantly being needed by our families weigh heavy, go to your nest within the nest and spend time with the Lord of all. Take your cares to Him. Slipping away for a break in the day to read the Word, quiet your thoughts and pray in your retreat surrounded by your favorite things will inspire you for the rest of the day. Prayer and rest bring healing to our innermost beings. We need this to remain healthy Christian women. Jesus gives rest to the weary. Go and create a haven of rest. Make it a place to meet your Helper and enables you to be a helper to your husband.

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Matthew 14:23 ESV

 

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How to Have Your
Own Personal Spa
Kim Brenneman,
March 2006


Do you have a dirty bathroom lurking in your house? Do you keep the main bathroom clean but let the master bathroom go? Ha! Caught you! Let me help you with this mess. Ahem, while I clean my own messy mess. But hey, I just had a baby, what’s your excuse? Well, let’s get started. Smile, this won’t hurt too badly.

First, take a big drink of water and maybe even a snack for energy--something healthy like a banana or apple. This is also an exercise workout, by the way.

Next, grab your kitchen timer.
We’re going to do a series of 5-minute jobs.
While you’re getting the timer, grab the dish soap and a rag. Next, get your window cleaner and a couple of paper towels, the toilet bowl cleaner, and the broom and dust pan. Grab one of your children to help carry the load. Ready, set, go! Fast as you can we’re going to get this ugly task over with and never let it get this bad again!

Set the timer for 5 minutes for the first set of work.

  • First, fill the bathroom sink with hot water and squirt in your soap.
  • Squirt the toilet bowl with the cleaner but don’t swish it yet, let it soak.
  • Toss the dry rag up into corners of the bathroom to catch any cobwebs.
  • Pick up all the dirty laundry, the bath rugs, pull off the curtains if they’re dirty and take it all to your laundry room. While you’re there, throw the curtains in the washing machine.
  • Collect the trash, including any empty shampoo containers in your shower.
  • Sweep the floor and empty that into the trash and then haul it out.
  • The five minutes should be up and you might be panting with exertion. Open the window and take a big breath of fresh air.

Set the timer again for 5 minutes. This is the second set.

  • Put away all the things that you have sitting around. And say to yourself 5 times, “I will put things where they belong not leave them out to make a mess.” (Next time you catch your children leaving something lay, say it to them too)
  • Take your wet rag and wipe the counters and any other level surfaces that have been collecting that sticky bathroom dust.

The third 5-minute set will help the light shine in and around your bathroom.

  • Wet the rag and wipe around the windowsill, the casing, and the window if it’s really dirty.
  • Grab your window cleaner and wipe the window and mirrors.

That was easy wasn’t it? And doesn’t it look brighter?

Set the timer again for 5 minutes.

  • Does your sink water need changing? If so, do it.
  • Rinse out your rag well and give it a good wringing. You’re going to spend this set dusting. Yes, you are going to use a wet rag to dust. That bathroom grime can be sticky and it needs some help to get it off sometimes.
  • Wipe off all of your nick-knacks and anything hanging on the walls. Then move down and wipe the cabinets and the floorboards.

This is the 5th 5-minute set. Can you believe you let the bathroom get this bad? Yuck! Never again! This 5-minute workout is for the shower and tub. You do not need a special cleaner.

  • What’s on your walls? Soap. Get it wet and give it some elbow grease.
  • If your water softener is out of salt then, yes, you will need something strong. It might take you an extra 5 minutes and some deep breathing with your head out the window when you’re done.

5 minutes for the sink, toilet, and floor and then you’re done!

  • The sink should be pretty clean by now, just wipe the faucets and the bowl so that no toothpaste is left glued on.
  • Next is the toilet. Swish it and flush. Then wipe it starting at the top and go to the bottom. When you get to the bottom, keep on wiping moving to the floor.
  • Wipe the floor all around the toilet working your way backwards out towards the door.

You have just had a 30-minute workout. There is no need to go to the gym today! Do some stretching and thinking now. How could this job be easier?

For starters, when things are not very dirty they are easy to clean. It takes more time to clean up an ugly job than it does to maintain. Now I know your time is valuable to you. You would probably rather get your exercise some other way than cleaning the bathroom wouldn’t you? And walking into your master bath all clean and pretty would be like having your own personal spa wouldn’t it? Start thinking of the master bath as if it were a spa made just for you.

To maintain it, do one of those cleaning jobs every time you go into your bathroom. Make it a life habit. Here’s a couple more. Every time you wash your hands, wipe down the sink and counter. Keep a towel for this purpose under the sink. When you take a shower, do a quick wipe of the shower walls. It’s an easy thing; the hard part is starting the habit. To help you with the thinking process of starting the new habit of keeping your bathroom clean, write down every task that we just did. Post this list on your mirror and every time you are in the bathroom, do one task. Pretty soon, you won’t have to look at the list on the mirror; you’ll just automatically be doing the work.

All of those things I had you grab and carry to your bathroom? Put those in a bucket under the sink. Put a broom and dustpan in your closet. One set of cleaning tools for each bathroom.

Now, you will never be embarrassed about your master bathroom again. It is a spa that you will want to go spend time in. During the day when you get tired or frustrated, you will think about retreating to your spa in the evening and enjoying a long soak in your tub surrounded by candles. A fresh and fluffy towel is waiting for you as well as some lotion to rub into your tired feet. You no longer have a grungy mess--you have a spa. Enjoy.

"Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion..." Ecclesiastes 3:22





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