Simplifying Your Book Collection

booksChristina asked: I had a question on how to simplify my bookshelves. I went to conferences on the value of collecting and keeping godly books and lets just say I’ve gotten quite a collection! How do you determine what books should be saved? My Aunt said the likelihood of my reading a book twice is minimal so I should just get rid of all of my books. But others say there may be books I want my future children to read for a “generational library” and that godly books are hard to come by! I definitely want to de-clutter my shelves but I really have no clue how to go about it! Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!!!!

Books! Oh glorious books! I am a huge fan of reading myself and it can be easy to amass a large collection, especially if you practice frugal book reading and buying practices. It is definitely very wise to collect books, especially if you can choose them carefully. Books can be very dangerous as well. It is best to take wise precautions and ask thoughtful questions before even purchasing a book. These same questions can be asked as you simplify your collection.

Is this book beneficial and edifying?
Would I or did I grow as a result of this read?
Or is/was it fluffy (light in truth and not really stretching my understanding)?
Would I read it again?
Would this book help build mine or my children’s intellect as a result of this read?
Did it stretch me?

Does this book truthfully retell history?
Does this really deserve a place on my shelf?

Books you will find on my bookshelf include: Christian living (not just light weight books but books that really challenge and grow me spiritually), Bible-study helps, historical books (learn from history or we shall be doomed to repeat it – books that truthfully detail the past), good solid classics (that we enjoy as a family and/or my children will benefit from in the future), and lots of biographies. I love learning about the lives of those who have gone before me, especially missionary biographies. I honestly have only a few select fictional books.

There is definitely a place for fun and light reading, especially on those nights when you can’t sleep, but those books can easily be found at the library and do not need to take up space on your shelves.

If a book really truly deserves a place on your shelf, make sure it gets good use after you have completed it. Loan out your books to family and friends. Start a loaning library or donate books to your church’s library. Share your books and see others be blessed as a result. This is one simple way of being generous! Don’t just let them sit and collect dust for years…make them worth the purchase!

If a book does not deserve a place on your shelf, pass it on! Sell it on Cash4Books or Ebay or simply give it away.

Simplifying the Home School Resource Collection

For all the home school mommies out there, consider giving your input on simplifying the home school resources collection. Some of the above evaluation questions may be helpful, but I would love to hear from those with a bit more experience than I. ;)

Heather asked: I have 7 children and we are relaxed homeschoolers, so the education of my children partially depends on the material we have just hanging around our house, so I keep alot of books. I do use the library, but I also purchase many. There is no telling what the children will be interested in the next day. So getting rid of books is tough. Do you have any helpful guidelines on keeping/getting rid of books?

What tips do you have to share on managing the book collections? Do you have any specific tips for managing home school resources? Please share!

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Slowing Down

Karis & Aaron enjoying the quiet streams..

Karis & Aaron enjoying the quiet streams..Aug 08

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.” Psalm 23:1-2

He lets me rest in green meadows. Did you hear that? God desires for us to slow down and take time to rest. He designed it that way! He calls us to rest! Everything is damaged by hurry. Speed does not yield devotion. The more hurried our pace, the less intimate we will feel in relationship to God or any other relationship. Hurry damages intimacy in every relationship. Jesus was never in a hurry. You never hear about him running. He was always sitting down to teach or reclining at meals. You even hear about him sleeping in a boat while a storm ragged around him.

Richard Swenson says in his book The Overload Syndrome, “I have thought long and hard about the issue of speed and have come to believe that it is as much responsible for the problem of personal and societal dysfunction as any other single factor. Virtually all of our relationships are damaged by hurry…I think I would not be far wrong if I were to postulate [say] that our sense of the presence of God is in inverse proportion to the pace of our lives.”

Nancy Leigh Demoss shares in her radio program, titled Slowing Down, “Hurry just is not conducive to godliness. It’s not Christ-like. It’s not conducive to healthy relationships. It’s not conducive to spiritual growth. Godliness and intimacy with God are not cultivated on the run. They require time, meditation, focused attention.”

I encourage you to read the full program or listen to it here.

Let’s not get too wrapped up in that to-do list. Take time to just enjoy your family. Spend time sitting at the Master’s feet rather than being the busy Martha in the kitchen. I’m preaching to myself today!

This is another call to the simple lifestyle…

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Frugal & Fun Makeshift Kiddy Pool

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We decided to be creative while trying to bear the heat of the summer this year by making our own kiddy pool. We took a under the bed plastic storage bin which had been storing random pieces of clothing and filled it with water for our own makeshift pool. Karis loves it and has a blast in it for most of the day during a few heat waves we have had this summer. Works great for small spaces as well as we are limited on our condo patio. We replace the lid when not in use to prevent the water from getting dirty, but also to save the water! In the winter, I want to transform it into a sand box. We will probably keep it on the deck but may also experiment with bringing it into the kitchen for some winter fun.

Have you been keeping cool? How are you enjoying the summer?

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Setting Up & Harvesting Your Own Worm Composting Bin

My good rich compost!

My good rich compost!

I began my own composting bin this past February using the helpful starting kit offered through Azure Standard. It is actually a very good deal and an easy way that kicked me into gear to start saving my food scraps and turning them into lovely new nutritious soil. But, you can easily set up your own bin with a few basic supplies. I have finally gotten around to figuring out a simple method of harvesting my bin as it was definitely overdue. I wanted to share a few tips with you that I have learned in the process.

Why Worm Compost?

1. No waste! You can use the majority of your food scraps (no meat or dairy) and put them to good use. Composting is all about re-using and recycling! Since beginning composting, we have decreased our garbage quantity significantly. Previously we would fill up the kitchen garbage in one week, but now we can easily stretch it to every two weeks. So it saves money!

2. Turn your food scraps into rich organic soil. If you don’t have a garden or can’t use it all yourself, this rich soil can be a great gift to a neighbor or local farmer. Your offer will not be turned down.

3. Worms are fast, efficient, and odorless. The only cause of odor in your bin will be if you add meat or dairy scraps. Avoid these products, bury your scraps well, and your bin will be perfectly odorless!

4. Worms are self-propagating. You only need to purchase worms once and then they will multiply on their own! You will have a continual supply of good rich compost.

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Chicken & Bacon Shish Kabobs

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We had a fun time hosting a neighborhood BBQ at our home on Sunday evening. We served these delicious shish kabobs and I just had to pass on the recipe to you all. They include marinated chicken chunks wrapped in bacon and barbaqued on the grill. You can skip the marinade if desired. We recommend a naturally fermented soy sauce (learn more here) and add more vegetables (cherry tomatoes, green & red peppers, yellow onions). They were awesome! Try the recipe here. We use apple smoked nitrate free bacon from Trader Joes’s, which is fabulous! We also picked up the fresh vegetables (green peppers, onions, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes at our local farmer’s market. This was a fun company meal!

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Healthy Appetizers: Bruschetta

IMG_6274I love making fresh bruschetta as a delightful appetizer during the summer months when fresh tomatoes and basil are coming off the vines. This is traditional bruschetta with a marinating twist. We served this while having a neighborhood BBQ party at our home on Sunday and everyone loved it! Enjoy!

4-5 tomatoes, roma is preferred
2-3 Tablespoons fresh basil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 red or yellow onion, chopped (red onion is best!)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt & pepper to taste
Serve alone or on bread of your choice – We love serving it on baguettes that have been lightly pre-toasted in the oven with olive oil brushed on them. You could also use flatbread or french bread.

In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients above and allow to marinate for several hours, preferably overnight. If using baguettes, thinly slice baguette bread and brush with olive oil. Toast in the oven at 425 degrees for 5 minutes or so. Remove bread from oven when it is slightly firm to touch. Scoop a spoonful of the marinated bruschetta on each slice of bread. Return to oven and allow to broil for another 5-8 minutes, until warm. Top with additional parmesan, if desired. Enjoy!

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The Fruitfulness of Reading

booksThis is a speech I wrote in high school that I stumbled upon the other day and wanted to share it with you all. It is rather lengthy, but I was and continue to be passionate about challenging people to read. ;) Encouraging reading in our home is one way to pursue simple and fruitful lifestyles. Why not designate one night a week to be a family reading night? Turn off the distractions, and have every one cuddle up in your favorite spot with a good book and enjoy!

Several decades ago, an American paper manufacturing company ran a series of ads in the major magazines, and each one had the same caption: “Send us a man who reads!” This generation is greatly lacking in the area of reading…we have satisfied our leisure time with numerous hours opposite of the television, lounging with a newspaper in hand, consumed in front of a computer screen, or simply wasting precious time in carefree thought and mindless wandering. We have stripped ourselves of a blessed pleasure that lies within our grasp. Young and old alike have abandoned the age old practice of reading, and it is affecting our intelligence, our character, and the attitude in which we live this life. God’s given each of us a beautiful mind and we control what enters in. Let’s put our minds to better use!

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Simplifying Your Memorabilia

flowerKate asked: I was wondering if you had any tips for those of us who are struggling w/hoarding?  Not trash hoarding or anything, but I have an OVER abundance of stuff from childhood, that I just haven’t parted with.  I guess it’s psychological, so many memories attached to these things, and I don’t want to get rid of this stuff. Right now, all this “stuff” is in a closet, but still seems to find a way to make an entrance in a bedroom.

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Scriptural Encouragement for Preparing & Giving Birth

Our son Titus shortly after his birth

Our son Titus shortly after his birth

Although my newest addition is already five months old, I know there are plenty of new babies in the oven ready to be welcomed into the world. I wanted to share the passages of Scripture, quotes and encouragement that sustained me through my natural delivery. It is not an easy task to give birth to a child, nor is it something we can do on our own strength. I believe the Word supplies us with much needed sustaining grace to enable a mother to proceed through labor and delivery. My encouragement for all you mom-to-be’s is to take a few hours or a day off in preparation for your new arrival to prepare your heart for labor. I have done this prior to both my deliveries and it has been amazingly beneficial. Just go to a coffee shop, sit by a river, lake or stream, and meditate upon the Word. Write out your fears and pray through each one. Ask the Lord to prepare your heart. He is so faithful to do so! I pray these truths would be an encouragement and blessing to all you expectant mothers!

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Potty Training Tips & Tricks

I received several requests for any tips I might have to share on potty training. As we have successfully completed our first two weeks at potty training, I have definitely learned a lot! I read several books in the process of preparing to do this, but the best tips I found were from those who had gone before me – my mom especially. I remember the days when she trained my two younger twin siblings. She allowed them to run around on the deck and grass for several days half naked and then would just spray them off with the hose when they missed the potty chair. It worked splendidly.

Expose them well - Start by purchasing a potty chair a few months before you are ready to start training and simply begin talking about it. Allow them to sit down on it and talk about going potty and making the sounds “pss”. We found the books on potty training for kids to be fun and helpful, such as The Potty Book for Girls & Big Girls Use the Potty (of course they have companion ones for boys). We started reading these awhile back. If you can get them around others that are learning to use the potty as well that is very helpful.

Supplies:
Child’s potty - having her own special potty definitely was far less intimidating for my daughter than sitting on the toilet. Maybe it’s just a girl thing, but she was afraid of the toilet but didn’t mind using her potty chair. We chose the Bjorn Potty Chair because it seemed like it would be effective and comfortable for both girls and boys.
Panties/underwear – Big girl/boy underwear seems to be most effective in training as they can really experience the wetness. Cloth training pants or pull-ups are just like a diaper so it is hard to distinguish a difference. This was my mom’s advice which I am glad I followed – saved me money too! We do use cloth diapers or pull-ups for bedtime, naps and when we are out and about to prevent accidents, until they got the basics down.
Small treats- M&Ms, gummy bears, etc
Small stool – Karis loved being a big girl and having a special stool with which she could turn the bathroom light on and off and wash her hands. She can do it all with this cute little stool as it is light and easy for her to move around.
Transitional potty seat - this is helpful but not essential. Good to keep in the car when you are out. The Primo 4 in 1 seems like a nice option here to help you simplify.
Juice, milk or special drinks – these are useful when you are trying to just get them going frequently. Keep them drinking a lot and you have more opportunities to practice on the potty.

Tips:

- Start by selecting a time when you can just take a good week and focus on training. Don’t try to squeeze it in within other big events. Pull back and enjoy your little one. It really can be a fun time to build your relationship as your read lots of stories and praise and encourage them alot!

- Allow your little one to run around naked from the waist down for the first few weeks. If you can keep them outside then it is even better (thus I recommend training in the summer). We had a little kiddy pool set up on our back deck and we just spend a few days hanging out there playing in the water. For the first day, we just sat on the potty the entire day (for the most part) and read stories or let her play with my i-pod. It helped her just get the feeling of going.

- I found that she normally needed to go every 45 minutes to an hour, so I would just regularly in this time frame say it was “time to use the potty”, and most of the time she would go. If she went, we would cheer her on and reward her with a little treat. This definitely encouraged her to keep it up.

- Stay close to home for the first week or so. My first mistake was to leave the house for the day just 3 days into training. She did not want anything to do with the potty when she was distracted with playing with others. She also was scared of the toilet and did not want to try it.

- Bring your potty chair or transitional trainer with you when you go out – for the first while it is definitely very helpful to carry the tools with you. This would have helpful in that previous example if we had brought the seat she was most comfortable with at this stage.

Those are my thoughts!

UPDATE: Karis was completely potty trained (including nights!) in five weeks time. I was blown away. I definitely think that it is extremely helpful to potty train in the summer when she was able to go naked outside on our deck. Also, avoiding any form of training pants was also key. She wore big girl panties from the start. I cannot emphasize enough how this really worked for us! I also think waiting till she was 26 months also was a huge plus. I read one study that showed a higher success rate at the 26 month age and it worked for us. As far as night time training goes, after we got fully trained during the day, we just let her go to bed with her panties at night. We made sure to use the potty before bed. She wet the bed one or two nights and then she got the idea to get up if she needed to go. It worked!

Titus (6/2011): Titus is now 27 months and my goal was to get him fully potty trained before baby #3 arrives in August! We started with a full day of outside play on a sunny day with the potty while being naked, drinking lots of fluids, playing in the pool, reading books together, and giving a special treat every time he went on the potty. Again, we used real big boy underwear and not pull-ups (Thomas the Train underwear have been a huge hit!) He freaked out at first when he went on himself and was very hesitant towards the idea of sitting on the potty. I thought for sure he wasn’t ready yet, but really felt I needed to persevere for a few more days before making the final call.

My husband starting encouraging me to give him a little more space and stop nagging him so much about sitting on the potty (as I was asking him every 30 minutes if not sooner). I stepped back a bit and didn’t ask so frequently (maybe once an hour), but rather encouraged him to sit down when sister, myself, or daddy sat down on the toilet. He seemed to really like the idea of going together. Imagine my surprise, after a few days into it, he really started getting independent. He wanted to do it on his own. Everything from sitting on the potty, to dumping into the toilet. He started going on his own without even telling me. There has been a lot of laughter and fun in the process! I just have been amazed that by giving him a little space, gentle reminders, rewards, and going together, has really inspired him to take it on. He is only wearing diapers at night time now (after a week into it). It seems the age factor of 26-27 months has been hugely beneficial for both my kids in making this an easy transition. And boys are not harder than girls in my experience. If anything, Titus has been easier!

Obviously every child is different, so give yourself grace for the journey, but these tips have been successful with both my little ones, so I thought I’d pass it on!

Do you have any additional tips or recommendations to share?

Further Resources:

Toilet Training in Less Than A Day – this book explains the process of the intentional focusing on toilet training for a day by drinking plenty of liquids and offering a reward. I found two or three days of this was hugely helpful in launching well into potty training. Very helpful!

Potty Train Your Child in One DayAnother book very similar to the above!

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