Homemaking Help 101

Do you feel lost in your homemaking and don’t know where to begin? Did you not receive the training you desire to be a resourceful homemaker? Do you desire a routine but just feel hopeless? Here is a compilation of all the best articles here at Passionate Homemaking and elsewhere on the basics of homemaking, from cleaning to menu planning to your mission. I hope having them all in one place would make it easier for you to take simple steps, one by one, in finding a routine that works best for you. Remember, these are just tools and they certainly are not all encompassing. Feel free to adapt them to your preferences. This is just a resource to help encourage you in making a beautiful and peaceful home that brings delight to the residents and blessing to those who enter through your doors.

Housecleaning

Cleaning Your House in 30 Minutes per day

How to Wash Your Laundry in One Day

Organizing Kitchen Storage with Canning Jars

Fly Lady Routines

Weekly Cleaning Schedule

Fifteen Family Chore Charts

Schedules & Routines

12 Efficiency Tips in the Kitchen

Developing a Simple Schedule & Routine

Get a Maid, a Chef, and a Nanny by Creating Effective Routines

Establishing a Morning Routine

Tips for Maintaining a Simple Peaceful Home: Routines, To Do Lists, and More

Simplifying the Schedule

Establish Routines for a Simple Home

Start Your Day By Getting Dressed

Menu Planning

Simple Menu Planning  

Dry Erase Menu Plan System

Simplifying By Buying Groceries Online

Monthly Grocery Shopping

Monthly Baking Routine

Home Management

Homemaking Binder

Build a Home Planning Notebook

My Favorite iPhone Apps for Home Management 

Simple Steps to Declutter Your Home

Taking a Weekly Planning Retreat

Simplifying by Planning

Yearly Planning with a File Crate System

Free Printable Homemaking Resources

The Color Coded Family

Home Decorating

Simple Home Decorating on A Budget 

Simple & Frugal Children’s Bedroom Decor

Make a House a Home – Decor

Decorating on A Budget – Part 1 & Part 2

Artwork in the Home

Homemaking How-To’s

How to Properly Iron Your Clothes

How to Wash Your Clothes

Keeping it All In Perspective

Making Your Home Lovely

Tips for Maintaining a Simple Peaceful Home

No Mundane Task

Pitfalls of To-Do Lists

A Home for God

Increasing the Passion In Your Homemaking

Understanding the Heart of Order

Let Your Work Be Your Worship

Homemaking Resource Recommendations

Maximize Your Mornings by Kat @ Inspired to Action (a powerful tool for making the most of your day by starting it out right!)
Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney (Read my full review here)
From Clutter to Clarity: Maximizing Life from the Inside Out by Nancy Twigg (It starts with the heart! Love this book!)
One Bite at A Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler by Tsh Oxenreider (small weekly goals for organizing a simple home – practical and doable!)
Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider (a room by room guide to getting organized!)
Managers of the Home: A Practical Guide to Daily Scheduling for Christian Homeschool Families by Steve & Teri Maxwell (my mom swears by this book and she managed to homeschool and organize a family of 8 children!)
I’m an Organizing Junkie   (a useful blog for all things organizing!)

What are your favorite homemaking articles? Add your favorite links in the comments below! We’d love to hear what has helped you!

{Photo Credit}

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Stocking Your Natural Herbal Medicine Cabinet

Screen shot 2009-10-20 at 7.22.56 AMPhoto by niachan

Edited and republished from the archives. Originally published 10/20/2009.

We have already been attacked with our first bout of illness for the year with coughs and colds, so it is time to restock the medicine cabinet with our favorite natural remedies. I love using herbal tinctures and remedies for our healing and was eager to share with you what we concluded were some of the best items to have on hand for all the little ailments that could come upon us. I am not apposed to using antibiotics on occasion if it is totally necessary, but for the everyday headaches, wounds, colds, flus, fevers, here is what I have found to be effective natural solutions.

Colds/Congestion

Emergen-C – I have talked previously about our favorite Vitamin C drink Emergen-C here. I like to stock up on this when I get a good deal. Trader Joe’s has a good price on it as well as Vitacost.com. Pumped full of 1000 mg of vitamin C, it also has a good portion of energy boosting B vitamins, in addition to various minerals and electrolytes.  This will keep you healthy or kick out those nasty colds quickly! When we get sick, we will drink several packs of this product daily. It tastes delicious and is a good way to cover up any other herbal tinctures that we may add to it. We use the Kids Emergen-C for our little ones. They normally drink one package each day for boasting the immune system during the winter.

Traditional Medicinals Teas – Gypsy Cold, Breathe Easy, Throat Coat – I love these delicious teas for specifically formulated with various herbs for every ailment. They are delicious, relaxing, and refreshing and really help solve the problem. They also help to encourage you to drink more fluids, which is most beneficial for healing. Amazon sells a sampler pack with subscribe & save discounts providing you with great natural support at low prices all winter long. Their Just for Kids line of teas is wonderful for your little ones.

Eucalyptus Oil – Eucalyptus in it’s essential oil form is wonderful to have on hand as it is highly beneficial. Add a few drops to the humidifier for easier breathing and rub it on the chest to help relieve congestion. We use this for our children especially. Dilute a few drops of oil in a dab of coconut or olive oil and rub on their chest to relieve congestion.

Echinacea/Goldenseal – A great combination to boost your immunity. We take in tablet form. Most do not recommend for pregnant mothers.

And as my mom always says, when the kids are sick, give them regular baths and change their sheets often! Keep those germ bugs running away.

Coughs

Coughs Remedies for Infants & Kids – We have recently discovered the wonderful natural remedies of cough syrups by Hylands and found them to be quite effective for our little ones. It is hard to find something safe for infants, but Hylands offers an infant cough syrup that works very well with all natural ingredients. They also offer a cough syrup for Kids ages 2+ made with honey. These are wonderful to have on hand for those nights when they just cannot go to sleep due to extensive coughing.

Adults – We love the Ricola Cough Drops for soothing coughs and sour throats, in addition to the Traditional Medicinals teas.

For further ideas for natural healing of colds, check out our previous posts:

Natural Cold Remedies for Children

Natural Healing for the Family

Soup Remedy for Colds

Flu/Fever

Elderberry Syrup – Elderberry is anti-viral, contains high levels of flavonoids and antioxidants, has cell-protecting components, soothes sore throats, and supports the immune system and respiratory system. The elderberry is effective in fighting viruses, such as the flu, and upper respiratory infections. According to Prescription for Herbal Healing, “a clinical study of elderberry found that it cured 90 percent of flu infections within seventy-two hours. In the same trial, patients receiving a placebo needed six days.” This is also effective as a cough syrup. We recommend Quantam Elderberry Syrup as it is naturally sweetened with honey or the sugar free version. This is recommended for children over 1 year. A nursing mother can take 1 Tbsp of Elderberry syrup 5 minutes before nursing to pass the benefits on to a infant less than a year old. For infants, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Years, recommends putting 1 drop per pound of body weight directly on a baby’s tongue, or administer while nursing. This book states it is completely harmless and can be given repeatedly as needed to help decrease fevers and the like. You can be taking this regularly as an immune booster as well. Make your own elderberry syrup and save money. Follow this recipe.

Echinacea – To ward off the flu at the first hint of symptoms, take echinacea, an herb with powerful antiviral and immunity-boosting effects, says renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar in her book, Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. Echinacea is available in most health food stores in supplement form, as a tincture and as a tea. Echinacea works best over a short period of time, and isn’t an effective immune strengthener when taken long term. She suggests using the herb for no more than a week.

For infants, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Years, recommends mixing 10 drops of Echinacea in a four ounce bottle of water. Allow baby to suck this as desired to keep a fever in bounds. A mother can also take a dose of 5-15 drops two to three times daily that will pass through the breast milk to protect the infant.

Calming Children, Teething

Catnip Tea – A combination of catnip and chamomile is a great aid in calming children when dealing with various stress, teething, pain, etc. Traditional Medicinals offers a catnip tea as well as Mountain Rose Herbs (the Quiet Child Tea) that we enjoy. You can freeze this tea in ice cube trays and allow a baby to suck on it for teething relief. I also dilute it a bit and offer it to a baby in a bottle if needed. Hylands also sells Teething Tablets that are semi-effective. I’ve also had people recommend a drop of brandy rubbed on the gums does the trick. I have yet to try this method. ;)

When all else fails and baby just can’t sleep, we do use a small dose of Infant Advil dye-free drops for teething and fevers.

Ear Ache

Garlic OilThis is a good recipe to use as a preventative as well! Press 2-3 garlic cloves in 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Let warm on stove for 15-20 minutes. Strain garlic from oil. Lay child on side and drop 2-3 drops of garlic oil in ear and massage lower outer ear for a few minutes. Wait for half hour or so before doing the other side so oil won’t drain out. 3-4 times daily. You can also buy a garlic oil already prepared for you. Make sure to use this homemade tincture right away or store in the refrigerator for up to one weeks time to avoid any safety risks. Please DO NOT store at room temperature.

Muscle Pains/Aches

Arnica Spray - Arnica is highly valued for sprains and bruises when the skin is not broken. Can help prevent bruising if applied quickly. Great relief for sour muscles. Also available in several other forms, as a tincture and in ointments, it makes an excellent treatment for rheumatism and some skin irritations as well. We use Hyland’s Arnica Spray.

Headaches/Nausea

Hylands Headaches – Hyland’s Headache is a traditional homeopathic formula for the relief of symptoms of head pain due to stress and sick or nervous headache. No side affects but rather natural healing response. Safe for adults and children. Take at the first sign of a headache for best results.

Ginger Tea - Ginger’s wonderful effects as a treatment for nausea have led it to be highly recommended for sea sickness or motion sickness as well. Ginger tea is very settling. A great aid for pregnancy nausea as well.

Stress

Rescue RemedyBach’s Rescue Remedy is a natural form of healing for everyday stress and help maintain control in your body. Homeopathic remedy. Composite of five of the flower remedies discovered by Dr. Edward Bach. Rescue Remedy calms the nerves, eases tension, buffers emotional shock, and combats stress. You can use this on your pets as well under the guidance of a holistic veterinarian. Crisis Calm from NaturoKits is also a great stress reliever. Our favorite tea for stress relief is Tension Tamer.

Herbal Healing Salts - My favorite way to relieve stress, muscle pain, or to heal any wounds, is to take a hot bath with a combination of herbal healing salts. Epsom salts is in this combination as well. But with the addition of lavender and other herbs it is very relaxing.I use the herbal bath salts from Mountain Rose Herbs and absolutely love them (they are on sale in October as well)! They help to relax me in order to sleep well.

Cuts, Bruises, Muscle Pain

Epsom Salts – Excellent for soaking a small open wound to prevent infection. Use daily as a soak for warts as well. It really works! These are also effective after childbirth to heal the vaginal area. These are cheap and available at your local supermarket.

Hydrogen Peroxide – A great antiseptic. Pour directly onto a wound to clear out dirt and fight infection. Cover with band aid.

Witch Hazel – Witch Hazel is one of the most widely used first aid remedies, both for its astringent and blood clotting actions. Use distilled Witch Hazel as a compress for minor burns and sprains, or apply directly to the skin for insect bites, nosebleeds and cuts. Witch Hazel also makes a good skin toner.

Super Glue & Butterfly Band-Aids – Butterfly band-aids and super glue are a must for the slighter deeper cuts as well. Saves you from getting stitches and prevent scaring. We used it all the time growing up with deeper cuts on the head or fingers. Use your discernment as to the deepness of the cut. Aaron gashed his finger a few months back which was definitely deeper than a regular band-aid would heal. So we cleaned it out with hydrogen peroxide, and then held the gash shut with our fingers and applied a thin strip of super glue  and covered with a butterfly band-aid. I cannot say how natural super glue but it was designed originally to quickly patch up soldiers on the battlefield during the Vietnam War. They even used it to glue lacerated livers together (lovely, huh?). I did find reference to it being non-toxic though. It does seals the cut and allows it to heal beautifully! We saved ourselves from many hospital trips growing up by using this simple frugal method. For more on this solution, read Super Glue: Safe for Treating Cuts? and How To Use Superglue for Cuts.

Stomach aches

Papaya Enzymes are a chewable digestive aid that is 100% natural. Each serving contains papaya fruit. Pepermint and chlorophyll are added to refresh and sweeten breath, so it is also a great breath refreshener! We love these chewable tablets! They really work! I usually use only two for myself when needed and one tablet for children.

Burns

Aloe Vera – The one to turn to for burns and skin irritations of all types. When you can, using a piece of live plant. Break off a leaf and rub it directly onto the skin for relief of burn, sunburn or poison ivy. Not for internal use.

I also love the Wild Weed Salve in the NaturoKits First Aid kits that works wonders for burns of every kind.

Baking Soda – for quick relief of the pain of a burn (as in receiving a burn in the kitchen), dash a little bit of baking soda on the burn. Love it!

Other items and supplements…

Lastly, we all take cod liver oil daily for it’s omega-3 content and naturally occurring vitamin A and D, which are also wonderful immune boosting aids. Cod liver oil is excellent for overall health and wholeness. We use the Nordic Naturals brand as recommended by my naturopath. Aaron takes the EPA version, I take the DHA version (more suitable for pregnancy, nursing, and female hormone balancing) and our baby and kids take Childlife Cod liver oil. I give the children a natural liquid multi-vitamin especially in the winter as a preventative. We use PediVites (also recommended by our naturopath due to it’s completely pure contents). Beyond that, we don’t take any other supplements.

Looking for a good reference guide for natural healing? An excellent resource that every family should have on hand to use as a guide for natural healing is the Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A to Z Reference to Drug Free Remedies. We use this book all the time and it is the only one I keep on hand for frequent use!

Further Reading:

Natural Insomnia Help

Hay Fever Homemade Allergy Tonic

Boosting Baby & Toddlers Immune System Naturally

5 Natural Medicine Cabinet Essentials

Those are the items in our medicine cabinet! Take stock of what you have for now is the time to prepare for the winter cold/flu season! These items will save you doctor’s bills because many basic sicknesses can be solved naturally at home.

Most of these items recommended above can be found very reasonably at Vitacost. Some links above to Amazon are affiliate links and we do receive a small percentage of the sales made through our links.

Disclaimer: As always, remember that I am not a doctor and offer these recommendations from my own personal experience and research into natural healing. Please double check with your naturopath/holistic practitioner before using any of these suggestions. Find a naturopath for the health and wholeness of your family!

Do you have any recommendations for natural healing that you would like to add to the list?

 

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Hearty Spaghetti Sauce

I love the Italian heritage that runs in my family and the immense flavors for delicious simple spaghetti sauce. It is perfect for a cozy fall night and a great means of concealing a lot of extra veggies in one place. Plus when you throw it all in the slow cooker or stove top and allow it to slowly simmer all day, the flavors mesh in amazing ways leaving you with a rich satisfying meal. You can add zucchini and carrots discreetly by simply finely chopping them before adding. I usually use a pound of ground beef or half ground beef and half sausage for a tasty addition. This last week I used stew meat and it was good. This is a family recipe that has been passed down through the years. You can’t go wrong.

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped
1 green or red pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 carrots, finely chopped (for disguise purposes)
1 zucchini, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 Tablespoons oil
1-2 pounds ground beef, pork roast, italian sausage, stew meat, meatballs (your choice!)
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz) or 1 quart of homemade canned tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce (15 oz)
1/4 cup dried parsley
1 Tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-2 Tablespoons natural sweetener (honey, xylitol, rapadura), for balancing of flavors
2-3 Tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
Parmesan cheese, topping (optional)
16 oz package of spaghetti noodles (we love brown rice and quinoa noodles! Tip: wash in cold water to prevent sticky noodles!)

Directions:

1. Saute onion, pepper, carrots, celery, and zucchini in oil until soft.
2. Add meat and cook until no longer pink.
3. Add remaining ingredients.
4. Cover and simmer for several hours, or transfer to a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. If you use slow cooker, add more thickener as needed.

Yield: 6-8 servings.

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You Are Beautiful

There we sat snuggled in and playing a roaring game of cards (the game Speed in fact). My husband in his sweet way looks up and says, “You’re so beautiful.” Immediately, my self conscious way pips up and points out the leftover baby flub on my tummy as I emphasize the fat by holding between my finger tips. As if he wasn’t fully aware of the way my body has changed and grown over the years and the effects of birthing three babies? In a laughing insecure way I respond, “but this isn’t very attractive.”

My husbands instant reply struck me to the quick: “The only thing I find unattractive about you is your lack of confidence in yourself.”

Wow. My heart was instantly convicted. The only thing my hubby, and I might just venture most men out there, find unattractive about us as women is when we speak negatively about ourselves. It only makes us unattractive to our men. We need to let go of the silly notions about image and appearance. Your man loves you for who you are not based upon how skinny or fit you are. He loves you with all your quirks and baby flub, just like our Heavenly Father.

I look at my numerous stretch marks and say, “yuck”, but my husband looks at them and sees beauty. These are the marks that brought his children into the world. These are the scars that brought forth precious life. I exchanged temporary physical perfection with eternal precious little souls. I imagine these stretch marks as a permanent kiss offered for my child.

When we speak negatively about ourselves, we ultimately mock our Creator. He who has fashioned and designed you unique and imprints “beautiful” all over you. When we look at ourselves in frustration and despair, we are doubting His goodness and that His ways are perfect.

Sisters, make yourself beautiful for your man and others by cutting out the critical attitude about yourself. Embrace the way God has beautifully created you to be. You are beautiful and precious in His sight. Embrace your appearance, your specific gifts, your style, and seek to use it for His glory in bringing life into your spear of influence.

And remember…the only thing unattractive about you is when you speak negatively about yourself. I’m letting go of the crap (for that is what it really is) and embracing my design.

{Photo Credit}

Comments { 54 }

Juggling Homeschooling with Littles and Life

We have completed our first month in our new homeschooling routine at our house and my plan has certainly seen some adjustments. I never imagined the challenges of juggling time with each child in addition to feeding, changing diapers, and keeping the little ones happy. I didn’t think morning nap periods for my infant would change so drastically within a month period. There have been moments when I have been ready to throw in the towel when a child is inattentive, experiencing frustration, or not desirous to do anything. Balancing discipline and encouragement is a challenge. I imagined it all would just be so beautiful. I might just finally get everyone quiet and seated next to me on the couch to do the next period of school only to have baby start screaming through the monitor. How do you keep everything running peacefully and still keep the house in order?

At the same time, learning alongside my children has brought the greatest joy to my soul. As I sit and guide my daughter into the world of reading, my heart rejoices that I get to take her on this journey. To watch as they delight in science experiments and drawing projects, my heart rejoices that I am privileged to take responsibility of their education. Each sweet moment as we cuddle on the couch, I rejoice because they are with me. I get to speak hourly into their life. We get to clean our house together, prepare meals side by side, and learn life skills every moment as education becomes a lifestyle rather than a program. To know that I get to speak the love of Christ into their little souls and guide them, Lord willing, to a Christ centered worldview, I feel honored.

I have searched homeschooling forums and asked many a homeschooling mom how she does it all, because although I might be a homeschooling graduate, I have no idea how my own mom did it with three little ones, let alone managing the eight of us that she had.

It takes a godly determination to do this thing. I have to keep my vision and purpose in the forefront of my mind. Why am I doing this homeschooling thing again? (To learn more about why we have chosen to homeschool, visit here.)

1. Pick your priorities and do them first thing.

The most important things in my book are math and phonics. These are also the more difficult subjects and easy for little ones to get distracted. Do these things first thing in the schedule when the students are freshest.

2. Rotate fun and harder subjects.

To keep things fresh and fun, rotate between the subjects your kids love and the ones that are more challenging. In this way, we do math and phonics, then circle time (fun period), and then workbooks (a mix of fun and challenging).

3. You don’t have to do everything EVERY day.

The greatest encouragement I found was in this simple truth: you don’t have to do every subject every day! Since math and phonics are the priority this first year, we do these subjects each day. But history and science I was trying to do every day too which was driving me crazy to get it all done while still keeping them happy in their learning. So, I scratched that. I decided to do two days of science and two days of history, and then leave Friday open for art projects, music, and science experiments. A breath of fresh air.

4. Keep baby busy in the play pen.

I have found setting up a pack n play with lots of little exploratory toys is great for keeping babies busy during school periods. You might adjust to different stations as the baby gets bigger. Playdough station, coloring station, blocks station, etc. I remember keeping my 2 year old busy in this fashion last year. 15 minute time blocks at each station. Now, I often have my 3 year old play in the pack n play with baby while I work with big sister during the first hour if baby is not napping.

5. Keep the toddlers learning alongside big siblings.

As much as possible, I keep my toddler sitting alongside us during our circle time. This is great training ground for teaching him to sit still and learn together. I require him to sit for at least the initial 30 minutes then I release him to cruise around and play.

6. Take regular short breaks.

I have divided our schedule into 2 solid hour blocks. The first hour is math and phonics (for my 5 year old alone). The second hour is circle time, which includes Bible, Character, Memory work, History or Science, and Read Alouds. My 3 year old sits in on this period. Finally, during lunch preparations, I have both of my kids at the counter doing their workbooks while I prepare lunch (Karis is doing her math, criticial thinking, and copywork books, and Titus is doing a preschool workbook series -love the frugal simplicity of Rod & Staff books). But after each 30 minute to one hour period, I give the kids a thirty minute break to get out and play. This is when I do my housecleaning task for the day, clean up the dishes, do dinner prep, and care for baby as needed. So it adjusts daily, but I will often work for 30 minutes on math, then a 15 minute break, followed by 30 minutes of phonics and reading practice, then another short break.

So in this manner, I’ve simplified the schedule drastically. I want to keep the experience fun and the learning environment enjoyable. They are still little and we have many years ahead of us.

I need to learn to enjoy the journey and remember…learning is a lifestyle. They are learning as we do household chores together, as we prepare meals together in the kitchen, as we set the table and practice our manners at meal times. Education is not limited to the class room. There is grace to adjust and flex the routine as needed. And praise God other women have gone before me!

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Whole-hearted Motherhood {Minus the Guilt}

Photo Credit

Written by contributing writer, Trina Holden.

This spring, being the analytical person that I am, I discerned that the stress level I was enduring and the general behavior and attitude of my kids and myself was no longer tolerable.

In other words, I was fed up, and it was time for a change.

Ahh, but I had tried to change in the past, and I knew all my try-hard efforts would only get me so far. A different tactic would have to be employed.

A Problem of {My} Heart

Sally Clarkson clued me in to the true problem (and thus the solution) as I read the first chapters of her book The Mission of Motherhood. She wrote of “The Divided Heart”, and I fit her description to a ‘T’. She shared her own journey and the decision to pursue motherhood whole-heartedly:

“Instead of pursuing a career with mothering tucked in around the edges, I have chosen to focus first on the mission of motherhood. My reward for this decision has been both simple and profound. I have been able to know the joys of mothering without a divided heart.” –Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood

Her beautiful description of whole-hearted mothering–in contrast to my own messy attempts at being the mom I wished I could be while juggling so many other balls–prompted me to pray a dangerous prayer.

“Lord, change my heart toward my children.”

I wanted to view them not as distractions, mess makers, and cute-but-time-consuming barriers between me and my definitions of success, but as gifts that allowed me to be what I’d always wanted to be: a mother. I wanted them to become my highest priority, and I knew that required heart change, not another set of rules or a new schedule.

Let me testify: this is the kind of prayer the Lord loves to answer.

The Change

I began to feel a difference after only a few days. I was beginning to cherish and enjoy my children more! My passion was rekindled to be the kind of mom I had always planned on being–a mom who read and played and drew and sang and climbed trees with her kids. I began to notice the little moments in each day to create these memories with my children. It did involve sacrifice in other areas, but thanks to God’s work in my heart, I felt the grace to embrace the sacrifice.

As we leave summer behind and head into a busy fall season, I find my heart quaking at the challenge of maintaining my new rhythm. But I’m beginning to see grace and beauty in the process because my new motivation is coming from a place of joy instead of shame.

Minus the Guilt

Jerry Jenkins wrote about a choice he made at the beginning of his writing career–to only write after his children were asleep. He believed in quality time with his children, so after working his day job, he’d spend time with his kids and not write till after they were in bed. He feels God blessed this choice and that his success as an author is largely due to keeping his priorities straight. He said,

“The major benefit for me as a writer? No guilt…There are things more important than your writing career.” –Jerry Jenkens, Writing for the Soul

I want to be a mom without guilt–don’t you? And I believe that wherever we find ourselves, whatever other passions and callings and roles He has given us, God will equip and provide grace for us to fulfill our highest calling without guilt. We just have to be willing to let Him do heart surgery.

If you struggle, as I do, with keeping motherhood balanced with all the other passions and pulls of life, I want to challenge you–not to another list of resolutions, or a new schedule, but simply to pray one small prayer from the heart:

“Lord, change my heart.”

He tells us He can change the hearts of Kings. I think He can handle this mamma heart, don’t you?

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Simple Menu Planning

In many facets of my homemaking, I am still very old fashioned. When it comes to menu planning, I really like a simple plan. No fancy menu planning software, programs, or applications. Many others might find these systems useful, but I love the simplicity of my dry erase board and  a basic grocery shopping list. I prefer shopping twice a month to consolidate my outings and keep me closer to home, so I prefer to build a two week menu plan. This same system works for all methods, whether you chose to plan weekly, every other week, or monthly. I have found through trial and error that you really can save alot of money by only making a monthly or bi-monthly trip to the grocery store. It’s worth it. In times past I have done a monthly plan and system, but currently, a two week plan is working well.

1. Set a day and time you can do your planning and shopping.

I choose Sunday evening every two weeks to work on menu planning along with my other miscellaneous planning for the week. Sometimes it gets spread out during Saturday morning as well, but my goal is to have it completed before Sunday evening, so I can go shopping twice a month on a Monday morning. Pick a time that works for you.

2. Pick your a printable menu plan chart & shopping list of choice.

It can be a weekly or two week calendar pasted to your fridge or wall, or in your kitchen drawer. Money Saving Mom has some awesome free printables for weekly/two weeks/and monthly plans. Tip Nut has a collection of free printable grocery shopping lists. I love this cute grocery shopping list. Laminate it, place it in a sheet protector, or put it in a glass 8×10 frame for simplicity and resuability. I hang both my two week menu plan and ongoing grocery list (both in hard covered sheet protectors) on the wall in my kitchen, so I can jot down different food staples as we run out of them throughout the week. When it is time to head to the store, I transfer this list to a basic document on my phone which makes it easy to delete items as I pick them up (I like the iPhone Clear app). You could also just print a new grocery list for each shopping excursion, if you love the use of paper.

3. Ask your hubby and kids.

What do they want to eat this week? Any special requests? I want to honor their desires on occasion to show them I love and care for them deeply, and this is a practical way I can show love and appreciation to them. I jot down these ideas and then any new ideas that I have been desiring to try. Inspired from Pinterest? Jot that down.

4. Scan the freezer.

Then I look in my freezer and cupboards and check out what meats I currently have on hand, what needs to be used, what meals have been frozen and forgotten, etc. I make a quick list of these items to reference. Since we purchase our meats annually in bulk buys, I have to keep an eye on what I have and spread them out.

5. Pick nightly themes.

What kind of cuisines does your family prefer? Set a regular pizza night, chicken, soup, main dish salad, mexican, casserole, or italian as a theme in your schedule. Pick 6-7 of your favorite themes and assign a night for each of them. You may want to have a leftover night or eat out night as desired. We like to keep Sunday evenings for the occasional family dinner out, date night, hospitality, or leftovers. Friday evenings is often pizza night at our home at least every two weeks. Having a theme gives you a launching point for each day so you don’t feel like you’re completely lost.

So your list might look something like this:

Mondays: Soup & Salad
Tuesday: Crockpot
Wednesday: Mexican
Thursday: Chicken
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: BBQ

6. Make a running Breakfast, Lunch & Snack Menu.

I keep a running weekly breakfast, lunch, and snack menu that goes on repeat week by week. This keeps things simple and more easily restocked. I rarely change this part of my menu planning except for special occasions (birthdays, holidays, etc.). Once the plan is set, I don’t have to think about it and can just focus week by week on the dinner menu. Here are our regulars:

Breakfasts:

Monday – Eggs & Toast
Tuesday – Oatmeal
Wednesday – French Toast
Thursday – Oatmeal
Friday – Eggs & Smoothies
Saturday – Pancakes
Sunday – Cereal

Lunches:

Monday: Sandwiches (Turkey or ham)
Tuesday: Mac & Cheese
Wednesday: Egg Salad Sandwiches
Thursday: Tomato Soup & Grilled cheese sandwiches
Friday:  Cheese, Summer Sausage, and Crackers
Saturdays: PBJ’s

Snacks:

Apples & Peanut butter
Cheese and crackers
Stretch Island Fruit leather
Brown Rice Cakes with Peanut butter
Fig Bars
Nourishing Protein Bars 

7. Search your cookbooks, favorite recipe websites, and find meals around your themes. 

I currently mainly use Real Simple Best Recipes cookbookAllrecipes.com, and my own recipe index for my meal inspirations. Another great healthy site is Nourishing Gourmet (edited by a long time friend of mine), Allrecipes.com is especially useful for specific ingredient searches and a wealth of reviews on each recipe. For example, I may have a chuck roast in the freezer, so I’ll search Allrecipes.com for recipes with that ingredient and get inspiration from the recipes that come up. This site is helpful because it provides a wealth of awesome reviews and ratings, and most of the recipes can be easily adapted to make them more nutritious (see my tips for making recipes more whole foods based here) according to our diet specifications. I also add the ideas that my hubby and kids offered, and whatever leftovers I discovered in my fridge/freezer.

Alongside our main dishes, I plan side dishes for several dinner meals (specifically those with a meat based meal) with in-season produce. I usually only make a side dish if the main dish isn’t a casserole combination of some kind for simplicity sake. Right now, we’re eating alot of fresh veggies – corn, green beans, brussel sprouts, and more!

All my ideas get written down on the master dry erase menu plan board.

8. Make your shopping list.

Once you have all your meals planned out on your sheet, lay your grocery shopping list next to your menu plan. Start at the beginning of the week and scan through the ingredients required for each meal. Add any necessary items to your running grocery shopping list. Work towards the end of the week or two week period as you have chosen. Remember any staple items that may have been consumed and need restocking. I scan through my dried herbs, pantry, and bulk grains to make sure I have sufficient stock on hand. If not, I add that to my grocery list too.

Finally, if I really have my act together I would clean out the fridge before departing to the grocery store to make room for new food and to clear out any past their prime items. This is my goal. ;)

With my master shopping list in hand, I pack up and depart for the grocery store. I always pack a little snack for the kiddos. In this season of my life, we limit it to ONE stop. It’s not worth it to me with limited time and energy to go to every sale in town. I find a store that I can get every item on my list at and go there. Currently, it’s usually Trader Joes or our local New Seasons Market. I may spend a bit more then if I couponed and hit all the sales, but I can get all my grocery shopping down for the next two week period in one hour flat. And then we can get home and spend more time relationally with my little ones and managing our household well.

Please note: this is a system that works for me but goes through its own tweaks and changes on a regular basis. You have the freedom to take ideas and adjust them to your preference! I know for sure this way might not work for everyone, and that’s okay! Find a system that works for you and go for it, sister! Please share your favorite menu planning tips!

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When You Are Weary and Ready to Scream

I lay awake as the hours slipped by. Sleepytime tea, melatonin, protein snack, reading. This cycle repeats trying to get my mind to turn off and let go into sleep. As darkness surrounds me and others sleep soundly nearby, I battle doubt, fear, desperation. Darkness brings such lies and fearful thoughts into my mind. I have been dealing with insomnia for nearly three years now. I don’t remember the last time I actually enjoyed the recommended eight hours of sleep, not from lack of desire or intentionality. I’ve tried nearly every natural remedy, suggestion, drug, or sleep specialist. I know the feeling of desperate tears falling down my cheeks as I cry out for relief in these dark moments. Day by day, I struggle for strength to face the challenges and responsibilities of each day.

If you are in a place of desperation right now…struggling to trust the purpose and plan of our Lord…if your husband is out of work, and the finances are running dry. If you are sick and weary from a long term illness. If you just tired of holding down the fort and dealing with kids that are bickering and fighting hour after hour…I know the feeling.

In one of my moments of desperation, God spoke three little words of truth to my soul: “My daughter, I am the God of rest, comfort, and strength for you today. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Simply embrace my rest today.”

He is the God of REST:

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex. 33:14)

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalms 63:1-2).

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

He is the God of COMFORT:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort. Who comforts us in all our affliction…for as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we may share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:3-5).

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loves us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say” (2 Thess 2:16-17).

“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the Lord shall be known… (Is. 66:13-14)”

As our loving Comforter, He stands by our side to minister soothing balm to our needs. He is my Comforter, providing everlasting comfort for my soul. He shares it abundantly. Under His wings my soul can find refuge and hope.

He is the God of STRENGTH:

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless towards him” (2 Chron. 16:9).

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength…they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Is. 40:28-31).

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is. 41:10).

Dear sisters, He will kiss, bandage up your wounds, pick you up again and again and hold you in His arms and whisper words of love in your ears. Let go and rest in His arms. He brought you, O daughter, from the ends of the earth, from the farthest corners, from the depths of your sin, to be his own precious child. He will not cast you off but offers His very presence to be with you all the days of your life. He is my God! He is with me! He promises to uphold me with His very own arm – the strongest and most reliable arm available for me.

Don’t put your hope in health, sleep, the perfect job or circumstances; put your hope in the rock that cannot bend against the tide. The enemy who fights against you will be no more – he will perish forever. Our Lord holds your hand. He is the God of help and strength. Find your strength today by sitting at the Master’s feet, as strength is found in His fellowship.

I may struggle with this battle of insomnia for the rest of my life…only God knows. But I do know that He is a very present help in trouble and brings great good in my life through this trial. And my life is bringing glory to Him as I embrace the trial and seek to cling desperately to His hand and be faithful with the strength that He alone provides.

“The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore, I will hope in Him” (Lam. 3:24).

“Look around you and be distressed,

look within you and be depressed.

Look to Jesus, and be at rest.”

- Corrie ten Boom

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Cleaning Your Home in 30 Minutes Per Day

Housecleaning is one task that I just LOVE! Actually, not really. It’s last on the agenda and last on the list of priorities in my life right now. But there is certainly some level of maintenance that must take place in order for our home to run smoothly and peacefully, and for us to be able to extend any level of hospitality. I honestly am a recovering perfectionist.

Through seasons of babies, little ones, and trials, I have had to learn to let go and embrace the mess. The mess communicates that hearts are nurtured and bellies are well fed. Letting some things go is okay, mommy. Don’t kill yourself over mopping the floor every night. Yes, it might need it…but it’s going to be there tomorrow too. How do we make a workable routine that will help keep the house picked up without killing yourself at the same time? We still want plenty of time to play with and train little ones. So, here is my 30 minutes a day housecleaning plan for you. Yes, it is possible. As long as you are willing to let go of the deep cleaning for another season.

1. Find 30 minutes every day to do a daily maintenance task.

I take 30 minutes every morning after breakfast cleanup to do a 30 minute cleaning task. Mondays are laundry day at our house where I do it all in one day, so I reserve Tuesday-Friday for these remaining tasks. Tuesday is day 1, Wednesday is day 2, etc. You could also do all four of these tasks once a week during a two hour period of time. To be perfectly honest, this happens more often then not. It really depends upon how the week flows, but you will often find me doing a two hour chunk of these simple maintenance chores around my home on Fridays.

I started my list by making a master list of all the basic housecleaning tasks specific to my home. Then, I determined how often each task needed to be done. For example, my bathrooms need to be cleaned and my floors need to be mopped once a week (at the very least). I vacuum the basement and the bedrooms once a month, etc. Lastly, I jotted them done into a weekly schedule as follows. The first two days repeat each week, the last two days are the less frequent tasks. I post this list in my kitchen so I know each week of the month what tasks need to be completed. Finally, I set that timer and get to work! You’d be amazed how much you can get down when you set your mind to work diligently for 30 minutes. When 30 minutes is done, I stop. I’m not doing in depth cleaning here, just picking things up and wiping surfaces down.

And include those little helpers by all means! Give them a rag and a little broom and encourage them to work with you. This is part of our education as a lifestyle goal.

WEEK 1:

1. Clean bathrooms (disinfect toilet, countertops, mirrors, shower – I usually clean out showers every other week to ease the load)
2. Vac and mop high traffic areas (entry way, kitchen, living room)
3. Clean bedrooms (quick pick up, wipe down surfaces, & vacuum)
4. Clean windows on main level (inside and out, as needed)

WEEK 2:

5. Clean bathrooms
6. Vac and mop main traffic areas
7. High dust the entire house, wipe down surfaces (art work, coffee tables, dressers, shoe rack, chairs, mantle), sweep patio
8. Clean “extra” rooms (basement and office, pick up & vacuum)

WEEK 3:

9. Clean bathrooms
10. Vac and mop main traffic areas
11. Clean bedrooms (pick up, dust, wipe down surfaces, & vacuum)
12. Clean up the garage and/or car

WEEK 4:

13. Clean bathrooms
14. Vac and mop main traffic areas, wipe down tables & chairs
15. Organize a closet (pick out a kitchen closet or storage closet that needs sorting), clean out refrigerator
16. Deep clean kitchen (wipe down appliances, trash can, cupboards, and clean out one cupboard)

For the general everyday cleanup, we follow these simple routines:

2. Add a general house clean up in your evening routine.

Every night before bed, during or after kitchen cleanup, we do a general house pick up. Get all the little workers to help together. In this way, you can start the next day fresh and clean. Toys are picked up, and kitchen floors are swept.

3. Clean up as you go. 

Another valuable tool I have learned is to clean up as you go. While making your meals, put ingredients away as soon as you are done with them. Put a few dishes in the dishwasher while the dinner is cooking on the stove. This practice will save you hours of kitchen clean up time. We try to teach the kids that they can only take out one toy/game at a time. After they are done playing with it, they must put it away before taking something else out. This helps train them in the importance of staying clean and organized. This prevents the huge playroom distaster where everything is everywhere. Lastly, when we do any project or craft, we all help clean up the mess afterwards. We want to train our families that we all work together for the good of the family. Your children can learn this when they are very young. Make it fun by singing the clean up song, “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere…”

My Favorite Tools

And just for fun…here are the housecleaning tools I use and love. And yes, this is really all I use.

Enviro Floor Steamer - We use this steam mop for all our floors and it is easy, natural, and environmentally friendly. Cleans your floors with heat and water. Nice.
Oreck Vacuum - We had to buy a new vacuum about a year ago and wanted something real lightweight and high quality. I love the simplicity of this vacuum. It’s what professional housecleaners use and it was well worth the investment!
Microfiber Clothes – I love Norwex but these basic microfiber clothes are a bit more reasonable. Microfiber is the best!
Mrs. Meyer’s All-Purpose Cleaner - I love this simple, natural cleaner for everything! I keep a small spray bottle in each bathroom, under the kitchen sink, and in my cleaning bucket for easy cleanups of all kinds of messes.
BioKleen Amonia Free Glass Cleaner - I was tired of homemade cleaners that left streaks on my window. This is my new addition – natural, safe, and does the trick.
Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Toilet Brush

What tips can you share for maintaining a clean, organized home?

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Increasing the Passion In Your Homemaking

I labored diligently to get my house picked up and cleaned today…the floor needed a serious mopping (as evidenced by my baby’s knees and feet which were black from crawling all over the floor), the garage was overflowing with stuff and the car had been kicked out of its home. My windows are overflowing with fingerprints and streak marks. But there is life happening here today.

When I just focus on this role of homemaking as simply a list of tasks to be done: keeping little mouths fed, keeping laundry moving through the wash, picking up toys, and de-cluttering closets, it can easily become a burdensome task. It’s tiring. I’m sweaty all over right now.

 It’s About Relationships

My perspective on homemaking takes a whole new viewpoint when I turn my gaze from the mundane housecleaning, meal-planning, and miscellaneous maintenance to how this home, this place, affects the people around me. Passion and enthusiasm in this job comes when I view it through the filter of relationships. What is the purpose of this space? How does it impact the lives of my husband, children, family, church body, neighbors, etc?

When I view it as a beautiful domain that God has entrusted to my care, a place to offer refreshment for my hubby who is weary at the end of his long workday, as a place to train and disciple my children in a warm, cozy environment, a center place of evangelism where hungry souls can come for physical and spiritual food, then my perspective changes radically.

Offer a Taste of Heaven

“Let not your hearts be troubled…In My Father’s house are many rooms…I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-2). Did you catch that? Jesus Christ himself is domestic. He’s creating a place of joy, peace, and great treasure for us in heaven. He’s specifically creating it with you in mind. He knows your likes, your interests, and He wants it to be a place you delight in and find eternal rest in.

“So as women, when we create welcoming homes where Christ is honored, we’re creating here on this earth, a physical, visible reflection of an eternal, invisible reality. We’re giving people a taste of heaven.” – Nancy Leigh Demoss

Your Homemaking is Ultimately about Jesus

Our homemaking is far more than just about ourselves and our homes. It’s about pointing people to Jesus.

Our mission to create a home that welcomes people – our husbands and children are at the top of that list. A place that ministers to their needs where they can find comfort, healing, rest, love, and a sense of belonging. Our culture just focuses on the home as a place to eat and sleep, but God sees it as a place where life, love, training, and comfort are cultivated.

With this in mind, when I clean my home, I’m ultimately serving Jesus. When I pick up after my husband, I’m allowing Him to rest and relax after a long days work. When I add beauty to the walls with pictures, paint, and simple decor, I’m making a place that’s homey and welcoming.

And you know what? When I do this job with joy and delight, I’m storing up treasures in heaven. For Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. And when we walk in His footsteps, life blossoms will burst from our fingertips. Children are happy. Husbands are happy. And others are refreshed. And ultimately, God is most glorified when we are satisfied in this place He has called us to. When you see your work as an opportunity to worship your Creator, God is rejoicing in you!

So sister, go forth today and scrub that toilet, cuddle up with a little one and read that story, plan that special meal to show your family you care, and know with confidence that God is smiling down upon you…He cares because He’s doing it in heaven too!

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