Whistle While You Work With Your Children

By Erica, Contributing Writer

Just whistle while you work
And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place
So hum a merry tune
It won’t take long when there’s a song to help you set the pace

And as you sweep the room
Imagine that the broom is someone that you love
And soon you’ll find you’re dancing to the tune

Whistle While You WOrk With Your Children

Are you familiar with this song from Snow White? or maybe you remember the wonderful scene in Mary Poppins where she convinces Jane and Michael to help her clean their nursery room? I don’t know about you but I want to be a sweet mother that motivates her children to do the housework without nagging or yelling like they did. It sort of seems like a skewed sense of reality, but in my estimation it has to be possible some of the time.

I asked some of my friends and family members what they have done or do to get their children involved in household tasks. They gave me some fantastic input that I believe will be beneficial to you and me both.

Work beside them.

This is the key to working with your children. It goes beyond giving them a job to perform and walking off hoping they will complete it. First, this teaches them how to do a job before you assign them to do the job by themselves. Second, it is a great example of servant leadership.

If you are willing to work beside them then they feel valued. If they see you, even as an adult, doing any job no matter how big or small, then they can understand that in a spiritual concept of service toward others. Finally, it is a way in which you will be able to gauge each child’s abilities. When you watch how they do things then you can tell whether the job is too hard for them or age appropriate.

A Special Note: While you work beside them, be filling their hearts with good quality time together without harsh words and criticism. A big turn-off children have to chores is that they feel like they can never do the job to their parents’ satisfaction. If they need help, you should use helpful words to correct them without insulting them personally.

Use music to get your work done together.

What made these fictional characters like Snow White and Mary Poppins successful? They used music while they worked. I have created a couple of Pandora stations that help us get our work on. This is one of the best things you can do to create fun memories of cleaning together.

Find an age appropriate task for each child.

Even a two-year-old will want to participate in helping you because they love you. Allow them to even pretend to work when they may not really be helping. If they think they are appreciated in contributing at a young age then I believe it will set them for good work habits for a lifetime. There are all types of chore charts that are on the internet that will help you find age appropriate chores for each of your children. I have this chart posted at my house by The Happy Housewife.

Allow your child to do a job they like to do.

You may have a cabinet full of dishes waiting to be washed or a laundry hamper filled with dirty laundry because you have jobs you do not like. Your children will have chores that they prefer over others just like you. It is not wrong to teach them how to do all jobs that are required in your home. You may have continual resistance if you regularly assign your child to a job they do not enjoy, it may be more helpful for you to give them the job of their heart’s desire.

Household Chores with Children 2

Use working together as a tool to teach other things educationally, spiritually, and physically:

Educationally

Teach counting, the alphabet, shapes, matching. Review math facts, vocabulary, work on spelling lists.

Spiritually

Recite scripture, sing spiritual songs, talk about Bible stories, discuss Biblical character qualities like diligence, thoroughness, and order.

Physically

Most chores will teach your children good eye-hand coordination. Quick work done properly can be good exercise for the heart. Make a game out of your work, race against the clock or against each other.

Mentally

Teach your children how to do new things (this is why rotating tasks is important). This will stretch their abilities and then will equip them for greater tasks, that will then, hopefully, lead them to greater responsibility.

Give the chores a fun name!

My husband is an Oklahoma Sooners fan and their famous chant is, “Boomer Sooner!” So, I named our sweeping chore, “Broomer Zoomer.” The kids love that name since they love to cheer for the Sooners too. We also have other tasks named, Washing Machine Man, Silverware Sargeant, and Vacuum Volunteer. It’s a little corny to name the tasks, but it will be a positive motivating factor because if they like the name of the task then it will excite them to perform the job itself.

We may not be able to always be so sweet at getting our children to help us with the household chores as Mary Poppins, but I believe that if you make an effort to work beside them then it will be a benefit to you not only today but also in the long-term picture of your family life.

If you are a Snow White or Mary Poppins and you have a great idea on how to get your children to work with you happily and cheerfully, please leave your input in the comments!

3 Problem Areas to Quickly Declutter in Your Kitchen

By Katie Bennett, Contributing Writer

If you’re like me, the kitchen is the central hub of your house. As a stay-at-home, work-at-home, full-time mama of two young kids, I am constantly prepping meals and snacks and endlessly cleaning.

3 problem areas to quickly declutter in your kitchen

While I am naturally more of a “clutter person,” my husband is an “efficiency, functional, no-clutter person,” and through the course of our marriage, he has taught me the beauty of his ways.

Decluttering the kitchen is helpful for a two reasons:

  • It’s MUCH easier to keep clean and neat. When we stripped down to less stuff, the result was less resistance to cleaning up (which I spend so much time doing anyway). This was a huge advantage for me. Getting everything in its place was no longer such an impossible task.
  • The kitchen is more functional overall. I have plenty of work space on my counters; I can find things; and I don’t have to fight my drawers when I want to open them or put things away.

While this may sound like a good idea, it may also seem a daunting.

My hope is to make this concept a little more actionable for you today by giving you ideas for how to quickly declutter a few key kitchen problem areas.

Hopefully this will feel doable.

3 Problem Areas to Quickly Declutter in Your Kitchen

1) Your kitchen counters

I recently wrote a post for another site entitled “3 Things I Leave Out on My Kitchen Counter and 3 Things I Don’t.” It was a simple post, but got a quite a response. In fact, I’ve have had several people contact me to let me know how much their homes and lives have been improved and how satisfied they now feel because they cleared off their counters after reading the post.

It was a lot of fun to write something that resonated with people, but it also reinforced my belief that clean kitchen counters fulfill a longing that many of us have for a simpler, easier-to-maintain life. I know they do for me.

What does this look like practically? It may mean putting some things that are currently sitting on your counters away in cabinets or drawers. And that may mean clearing some of your least-used items out of your cabinets to put away in a closet or basement (or even better… donate them!)

So grab a box and get started!

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2) Your utensil drawer

This is another topic I’ve written about that also garnered an encouraging response. Those who followed through on the suggestion to declutter their utensil drawer expressed amazement about how little time it took and what a difference it made.

If you’re like me, your utensil drawer doesn’t quite fit all those nifty utensils you’ve accumulated. As a result you’re fighting with the drawer every time you want to open it or put something away.

The solution? Remove the least used items and store them elsewhere! Keep only your daily essentials in this drawer and you’ll have no trouble finding and accessing what you need.

(You can read my full “utensil drawer” post here).

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3) Your cups

Is your “cups storage area”  overflowing with mismatched, or more importantly, unused cups? This might be a good spot for you to gain back some precious cabinet space.

I know after five years of marriage and two young kids coming onto the scene, our cup situation had gotten pretty sorry. After many broken glasses, things no longer matched, and as a college student and later a teacher I’d accumulated bulky mugs and water bottles I didn’t love and rarely used.

Not to mention our lives had changed. We needed glasses and cups to accommodate both our growing young children and our increased entertaining/hospitality.

So it made sense for us to send much of our jumbled cup-collection to Goodwill and buy one matching, functional set of cups.

The advantage to purchasing matching cups or glasses, obviously, is they stack together neatly if needed, take up less space, and look nicer. This might be a worthwhile investment in your kitchen decluttering-pursuit. (And, I know some of you just can’t get excited about a task until there’s shopping involved…:)

We bought 2 sets of these Tervis Tumbers. They are nearly unbreakable, lifetime guaranteed, dishwasher safe and still look fairly classy. They are also insulated, which prevents water rings on furniture and allows them to be used for hot or cold drinks. They seemed like the best of all worlds for our situation and, most importantly, allowed us to simplify. I love versatility.

Another thought: if your kids, husband, or you tend to get out a new cup every time each of you want a drink, you may also consider buying or keeping personalized cups. Each person knows his or her cup and uses it all day. I know people who also use Tervis Tumblers this way, since you can get a variety of designs and buy them individually. Christmas gifts perhaps?

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Is there one area that you were able to quickly declutter for big results?

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Establishing New Holiday Traditions

By Kevin & Justyn Lang, Contributing Writers

A blend of holiday traditions that are unique to your family can be such a wonderful way to create warm and close relationships with your spouse and, later, children. Whether you are newly married or have been married a few decades, consider making your holiday traditions more intentional this year!

Establishing New Holiday Traditions

When you’re planning to start new traditions, you’ll want to make sure that the things you choose are meaningful to one, if not both, of you. So many people get caught up in doing what they are “supposed to do” that they miss some less traditional traditions that might fit their own families better. If you’ve been married awhile, talk about the traditions you’ve been doing and decide whether or not they are really how you want to spend your time and energy. The Thanksgiving Day Parade bores Justyn to tears, but we both enjoy watching football. Parade out, football in!

If you are newly married and this will be your first holiday season as a new couple, don’t fall into the trap of just going back to the parents’ houses and playing the role of “the kids”. Set aside at least part of each holiday for something special, just the two of you. If you’re both thrilled about having Thanksgiving dinner at her parents’ house, go for it. Just make sure that somehow you celebrate your own little family unit, too.

Newly married couples have the fun, and sometimes challenging, task of blending the traditions of two completely different backgrounds. Try to keep it a relaxed and pleasant experience, not a platform for an argument. Talk about what you loved when you were growing up and what you’d like to incorporate into your new family. If one of you is strongly against something (Great Uncle Bob’s three-day Christmas Luau, for example), you’ll need to get creative with the compromises. All of you couples that have been married for years might need to be backing up to this step, too, if you’ve been going to that Luau just because you’re expected to!

How to Create new Holiday Traditions for your family!

Image Source

Creative Family Tradition Ideas

Many of our holidays include crafts, such as stained-glass leaves or gingerbread houses (that’s a new one!). These make precious memories for the kiddos.

Thanksgiving

We like to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal with extended family and watch the football game (or play games, if the football game is a flop).

Starting this year, we will also be doing a Thankful Tree or Garland (this is a fabulous collection of examples!).

For Thanksgiving, many families go around the table telling what they are each most thankful for from the previous year.

If you know many single people with nobody to celebrate with, it can be fun to have a large pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner and invite them all to come eat and play games.

Consider doubling your Thanksgiving dinner and dropping off half of it to a family that can’t afford the special treats.

If you watch the football game on Thanksgiving, have everybody tell one thing they are thankful for whenever a touchdown is made.

Christmas

For Christmas, we are doing a tradition from Kevin’s extended family. Instead of a traditional meal, we have a smorgasbord! So much fun and much less stress! (note: You’ll get to see an entire list devoted to meaningful Christmas traditions in our December post!)

To make the smorgasbord even more interesting, we include ethnic foods from around the world!

New Year’s Day

For New Year’s Day, we do a New Year’s Re-evaluation. It’s so much better for our style than the traditional “resolutions”!

Shrimp is a must-have in our house for New Year’s Day. No meaning to it, it is just a tradition from my family that stuck!

List out family and individual goals for the year on New Year’s Eve or Day.

Valentine’s Day

Have a special date that you do every year on Valentine’s Day (special restaurant or event, maybe).

Easter

Easter we will be doing a Resurrection Garden, which I just learned about this past year!

Deliver Resurrection-themed baskets to neighbors or at a retirement home for Easter.

Invite your kid’s friends over during Easter break for a special showing of a children’s Easter movie that explains why we celebrate Easter.

Halloween/Fall

We skip Halloween, but we celebrate fall-time with a trip to the pumpkin patch and lots of fall-themed crafts.

Fourth of July

We try to find a very patriotic Fourth of July celebration with plenty of music. Bonus points if the fireworks are choreographed to the music!

For adults and older children, read a short biography about one of the Founding Fathers for the Fourth of July (I think we’ll start doing this, when it’s age-appropriate).

Be sure to keep an eye out in December for some fun and meaningful Christmas traditions, too!

Your turn! What are some traditions that you love or that you would love to start?

This post is part of our Surviving the Holidays With Your Marriage Intact series! Come back all month long for tips, advice, giveaways, and a FREE eBook on the Holidays here at A Biblical Marriage. You can find the rest of the series HERE.

Surviving the Holidays with Your Marriage Intact

My Fall Reading Goals (Family Worship, Busyness of Life, & Making Babies)

I’m doing my Fall reading goals a little late. Ideally I should have made this list in August, but it’s been a chaotic few months (I launched an online homemaking conference in October) and so I’m just wrapping up my Summer reading goals.

My Fall Reading List

In my last reading goals, I shared my heart and why I think reading is so important to every woman (even the young mom although our reading time will probably look very different than women in other season of life). So as we head into this even busier season with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, my reading list for Fall is shorter and contains smaller books.

At the same time, I look at November and December as a time to relax a bit more, leave the sink full of dishes, and enjoy some time cuddling on the couch with my kids and reading.

I’m not sure if I’ll get through all of these books since this reading list was supposed to start in October. But it’s good to set high goals :)

My Reading List for November & December

 Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will

Just do something Sometimes “discovering” God’s will for our lives and making decisions can be daunting and hard work. Kevin DeYoung wrote this quick, easy to read book to share with believers that God has already given us what we need to figure out his Will for our lives. “He’s already revealed His plan for our lives: to love Him with our whole hearts, to obey His Word, and after that, to do what we like. No need for hocus-pocus. No reason to be directionally challenged. Just do something.”

Why I picked up this book: This book is a quick, short read that I’ve heard wonderful things about. I’ve had this book recommended to me from so many people. I’ve felt lost, confused, and totally frazzled before trying to figure out what direction God is leading our family in. Find it here in Print & on Kindle.

Family Worship

Family WorshipThis is another quick read (which is good this time of year) and provides a concise and clear call to return to Biblical worship with the family. Written as a practical manual for families, Beeke provides the Biblical basis for family worship as well as everyday that ideas you can implement in your family.

Why I picked up this book: As my boys turn two next month and rapidly are turning into toddlers instead of babies, discussions of family worship are really becoming important to my husband and I. We want to get into habits of daily worship within our family and we are excited to dive into this short guide. Find it here in print (it’s not available on Kindle right now).

Crazy Busy: A Mercifully Short Book  About a Really Big Problem

DeYoungI’ve been hearing great things about this book for such a long time. Finally this year my husband picked up a copy at a conference he went to and I can’t wait to read it! I love that’s a quick read and solution to the big problem of living in chaos – Being too busy to even sit down and read a book! Instead of approaching this subject with time management tools, DeYoung approaches your over-crowded schedule and life from the Bible and gets right to the root of the problem.

Why I picked up this book: In the last two years, I’m not sure how many times I’ve answered the question of “How are you?” with “Busy”. Busy, busy, busy…I feel like this is my life sometimes – crazy busy. I’m excited to jump into this short book and see what God’s Word has to say on the subject. Find it here in print and kindle.

The Disciplines of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness

1576839893The Discipline of Grace offers a clear and thorough explanation of the gospel and what it means to be a believer. Written by Navigator author Jerry Bridges, this book explores how the same grace that brings us to faith in Christ also disciplines us in Christ. In learning more about grace, you also will learn about God’s character, His forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit.”

Why I picked up this book: Jerry Bridges is one of my favorite authors. When I was deeply struggling with anxiety, his book Trusting God was the Biblical wisdom that I needed to really start to overcome that struggle. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to pick up this book. But I’m really excited to read it. You can find it here in print and on kindle.

Unglued: Make Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions

177350 “God gave us emotions to experience life, not destroy it! Lysa TerKeurst admits that she, like most women, has had experiences where others bump into her happy and she comes emotionally unglued. We stuff, we explode, or we react somewhere in between. What do we do with these raw emotions? Is it really possible to make emotions work for us instead of against us? Yes, and in her usual inspiring and practical way, Lysa will show you how. Filled with gut-honest personal examples and biblical teaching, Unglued will equip you to: Know with confidence how to resolve conflict in your important relationships.”

Why I picked up this book: I’ve never experienced such raw, strong emotions as a I do as a mom. There is just something about being sleep deprived, hormonal, and always skipping lunch that makes those strong emotions come out. I’m excited to read this mom’s experience and wisdom on dealing with this. Find it here in print and kindle.

Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate

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In the modern church, it’s really easy to ignore a lot of these sins that we see as being more “respectable”. Sins such as anxiety, pride, unthankfulness, selfishness, anger, etc. We tend to turn a blind eye to these sins and as a result, they are running rampant in our churches. But sin is still sin in God’s eyes. I’ve heard that this book will rip you apart and deeply convict you about these sins that we all become all to comfortable with.

Why I picked up this book: As a classic theological book, I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet! Just reading through the chapter titles is already convicting me about God’s holiness, his stance towards sin, and what true repentance means. I don’t want to be comfortable in my sin and so I can’t wait to read this! You can get it here in print and on kindle.

Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone

idols

“Many people desire to live godly lives but feel trapped in habitual sins. They trip over the same bad habit, embarrassing weakness, or sinful slavery they wanted to be free of years ago.” Idols are things that we place as more important that God in our lives. I think this book is such an important one to read, because in our modern church, we don’t think of idols as being all that relevant. But all of us have idols in our heart, taking the place of God.

Why I picked up this book: I know that many good things in my life can turn into idols: my family, ministry, church, friends, my husband, my blog, etc. Storing up idols in my heart is a very real temptation for all of us. I want to be able to speak truth to myself about these idols and be able to recognize them. You can find it here in print (they don’t appear to have it on Kindle).

Making Babies: Fertility, Pregnancy and Birth the Natural Way

MakingBabiesSetThis funny titled book and DVD series from Bulk Herb Store is my go-to resource on conceiving, pregnancy, and new born care! I got the book and DVD set when I was pregnant with my twins over 2 years ago and I’m digging these out again to review good recipes and resources on conceiving and pregnancy again.

This set is a little pricey, but it’s well worth it in my opinion! You can by just the book if you want, but I love having the DVD companion as Shoshanna shows you how to make all the recipes, tinctures, and more! You can find it on Bulk Herb Store or from Amazon: the book and the DVDs.

What are you currently reading? Leave a comment and let us all know! 

My Fall Reading List H

Why You Need to Start Meal Planning (Plus a Video)

As a homemaker, who is concerned about my family’s health and staying within our grocery budget, learning how to meal plan has been the single most important and helpful skill I’ve developed.

Why you need to start meal planning

I’ve heard from many women who don’t meal plan and think that menu or meal planning just won’t work for their family for one reason or another. If you are this woman, I challenge you to read through this article and keep an open mind. In 99% of family’s, I think meal planning would be very beneficial!

Why I Meal Plan

Before we dive into how I meal plan, I want to share into a little bit about why I meal plan. Yes – meal planning does take time, commitment, and a bit of work – but in the end, the benefits are so worth it!

Meal Planning…Saves Money!

Here is my #1 reason for meal planning, it saves my family money and helps us to stick to our grocery budget. It helps our budget in a couple of ways:

1. It Keeps Me Out of the Stores

When I meal plan, I can do about 2 big grocery shops a month and keeps me out of the stores. When I enter Costco with a strict budget and specific grocery list with items all attached to meals, it helps me to cut out impulse purchases.

I’m focused on my goal the entire time while in the store.

2. It Allows Me to Plan Around Our Grocery Budget

In true Dave Ramsey’s fashion, my husband and I try have strict grocery budget’s each week and plan our meals and eating out to fit within that budget. When I meal plan with our budget in mind, it allows me to space out our grocery money throughout the month. I know what I’m spending at which stores and eliminates that question of “I went to the grocery store, spent all our grocery budget, and still don’t have enough meals for the month. How did this happen?

Pssst: While I’ve been meal planning by hand for years, the last 6 months I’ve converted to an online software for my meal planning and I’m never going back. Build a Menu has a neat feature that shows you the price estimate for very meal! So as you add meals to your menu for the week or month, you have a running total of how much this grocery shop will cost. With just a few clicks you can plan an entire meal plan within your budget, print off the ingredient list, and off you go to the store! Right now they are running their annual sale of over 50% OFF a 12 month membership! Get complete access for one year for only $35 with coupon code: BAMfor35. Find out more HERE!

Meal Planning…Saves Time!

Initially, meal planning takes a little bit of time to get into the habit of and actually do each time you head out to the grocery store. But in the long run, it saves so much time! It virtually eliminates the “What’s for dinner?” question that pops up around 5 o’clock every day.

Meal planning mentally frees me from having to think about my meals each day and helps to cut down on time searching for meals to make, running to the grocery store for one or two items I forgot, and helps me to be more organized.

Meal Planning….Helps Us to Eat Healthier

Even if meal planning didn’t save me money or time, I would jump into meal planning because it really helps me to feed my family healthier meals. It takes a lot of time and energy to cook 3 meals a day mostly from scratch. We’ve virtually eliminated processed foods from our house and so that means I’m cooking all.the.time!

Meal planning gives me freedom, direction, and a vision for my kitchen so that I can focus on cooking the most nutritious (and yummy) meals for my family. I think my kitchen would be in chaos if I didn’t regularly meal plan.

How to Meal Plan the Easy Way

So are you convinced now that you need to start meal planning? Awesome – let’s jump in and I’ll share how I’ve been meal planning for the last several years.

1)  Print Out Meal Planning Sheets

Of course, you can use a regular old notebook to do your meal planning, but I’ve created these free printable meal planning sheets for you to use.

I laminated mine (with my amazing laminator that I got off of Amazon for about $30) so that I could re-use them again and again without having to print it off each time.

Free Meal Planning Sheets

Download the Meal Planner and the Shopping List

2) Gather Your Favorite Cookbooks & Recipes

I love cookbooks – seriously, I’m a little bit addicted. So my first step in meal planning is to pull out a few of my favorite cookbooks and find some recipes. Note: When you start filling out your meal plan for the week, make sure you write down which cookbook the recipe came from and the page number. You think you will remember later…but you won’t!

Meal Planning Made Easy

Pinterest is of course my other favorite place to find recipes. So many of our family’s favorite recipes over the last several years have been discovered in Pinterest. You can follow me HERE on Pinterest to see how I use it for my homemaking.

3) Assemble Your Meals & Write Out the Ingredients

Here’s the crucial step – as you start to fill in your meal plan and pick out each meal, pause and write down the ingredients from each meal onto your shopping list.

If you are not sure if you have an ingredient or not, add a little “C” next to the ingredient so you can remember to check on it before you head to the store.

Then before you know it, you’ve created your entire meal plan! Check out my video below to learn even more about how I menu plan!

In the video, I mentioned that I no longer use a pen and paper to do my meal planning. I’ve actually converted to an online system for my meal planning and now I can do my complete meal planning and print off my shipping list within just a couple of minutes. This new website I’ve been using is called Build a Menu. I purchased a subscription to it last year during their annual sale and I’m happy to share they are running that same sale this month!

You can get a 12 month membership for over 50% OFF! Use coupon code: BAMfor35 to get an all access membership for an entire year for only $35. For less than $3 a month this meal planning software has been a life saver!! Come back on Thursday and I’m going to share a video with you on how easy it is to use Build a Menu.

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