Favorite Resources

I have been asked a few times about some of my favorite blogs, books, and other resources.  I will try to keep this list updated as I discover more along the way.  Here are some of my long-time favorites:

Allison Burr (@burr_family on Insta, truthbeautygoodness.net) She is an excellent resource for intentional motherhood, theology, and posts very intentionally about their family culture and how they do life.  I love following her! I took her parenting ecourse last fall called “Building Foundations” and really got a lot out of it.
Jess Connell – she has a podcast (Mom On Purpose) and blog (jessconell.com), which I love.  She recently stopped posting and is taking an extended break, but I really enjoy her content and her views on many issues. She is a mom of many and has also lived overseas.
Risen Motherhood – I love their podcast and all the show notes that they provide as additional info. While they don’t always delve into the practical tips, they have a wonderfully refreshing gospel focus that helps re-envision my heart for mothering. It’s a great conversational podcast that I frequently listen to in the car. They also have an Instagram account and Facebook page.
Mystie Winkler – I  discovered her only a few months ago and she has a GREAT podcast called “The Simplified Organization Audio Blog.”  Most of the podcasts are only a few minutes long, but they are packed with phenomenal content.  She also has some super useful posts on her blog about home management. In the short time I have been reading her content, I have been very equipped and helped! I also listen to her podcast about “Daily Faithfulness” frequently to be re-envisioned for the day-to-day tasks!
Sally Clarkson is one of my absolute favorites. I joke that I want her to adopt me.  I settle for reading all her books and going to her  conferences! She’s an amazing inspiration and truly a pioneer in affirming the high calling of motherhood.  I’m also in a “MomHeart” group (Sally started these, and we have one in Waco) where we read through motherhood books together and ask each other questions.  It’s such a unique group – different churches, ages, and stages of mothering, but we all learn from each other.  This has been a HUGE encouragement for me over the past couple years.
Lara Casey is another favorite.  Book/blog/powersheets are all great! She encourages moms to “cultivate what matters” and this especially resonates with me.
For kitchen tips/recipes/meal planning: 
Humorous homemaking
Trina Holden
Raising Generation Nourished
(all have Instagram accounts and blogs)
Books:
Raising Godly Tomatoes (funny name but love the book and discipline method, although we don’t follow it precisely)
Growing Kid’s God’s Way
What the Bible Has to say about Child Training, J. Richard Fugate
Desperate, Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson
Mission of Motherhood, Sally Clarkson
Parenting Without Regret, Jimmy and Laura Seibert
The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Edith Shaeffer (Just thinking about this book makes me want to reread it!  So many creative tips to make your home a place of God’s beauty)
Hints on Child Training, H. Clay Trumball (This is such a classic!)
Any of the Duggar’s books (I know some people don’t like them but I think they have a lot of wisdom)
Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp
Teaching from Rest (not just for homeschooling moms – I think any mom could benefit from reading this book from the creator of Read Aloud Revival, Sarah Mackenzie)
Large Family Logistics, which has been revamped and renamed Home Management Plain and Simple. She uses a system where each day of the week has a specific set of tasks (Office day, Cleaning day, Kitchen day, etc) and has a lot of tips for efficiency.
The Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family, Mary Ostyn
A Mother’s Rule of Life, Holly Pierlot. This book really helped me analyze my schedule and create blocks of time for things that matter most to our family.

How we tackle CHORES and the flow of our kids’ days

“Many hands make light work,” or so the saying goes. And with many children, there are a lot of hands and there certainly IS a lot of work to make light of!  One of the ways we tackle this is by assigning jobs and responsibilities for everyone. This cultivates a sense of family belonging, enhances responsibility, and teaches true life skills that will be valuable in the years to come!

Today, I’m hoping to post a little about what works for our family.  I have also been asked more about our daily rhythm and I will try to do a more complete post on that in the near future!  But for today, here is a quick run down of how our kids do chores throughout the day.

Here is the overview of the day for my kiddos.  It’s not glamorous, but it’s posted on our fridge and wipeable (!!) so that it can be easily viewed and referenced throughout the day. I have found that our routine shifts slightly every few months, so having the ability to change the pages easily is crucial!

Upon waking up, my kids are responsible for attending to their bathroom needs, washing their hands, and Emery is in charge of turning off the white noise in their room.

They bring their water bottles to their seats at the table (they sleep with their water bottles to get drinks throughout the night), and then they start on their morning chores.  Here are their morning responsibilities:

Mabry (just turned 3): gets out her step stool (we use these folding ones) and sorts and puts away the silverware, then pushes in the drawer and returns her stool to the hook (the job isn’t done until these things are complete!)

Ruby (age 4): fills up water jugs with our Berkey water filter and places them in the fridge to chill, and puts away her stool when finished.

Emery (age 6): helps me unload the dishwasher, putting away the things she can reach.  We have a lot of magnetic baby proof locks, so I give her a key to use to help put away dishes. I put away anything that’s too high for her to reach.

After chores, we eat breakfast.  After breakfast, they are responsible for clearing their place, and take their plates to the sink and put their water bottles on the cabinet next to our water filter.

Then, we move to the nursery (Judah’s room). They get dressed, either in an outfit I have picked out for them already or in an outfit from their drawer.  We use the buddy system, and older siblings help their younger siblings.  I am with them during this time usually changing diapers and restocking wipes and diapers on the changing table or tidying the room.  This time is also used to put away clean clothes, which are folded in buckets (just cheap plastic dishpans) from the night before. Buddies help with this as well.  They also are required to put their dirty clothes in the hamper before moving on to the next task.

I am also BIG on attaching certain habits to existing habits, and maximizing time.  So, one thing we have to do every single day (with girls with long hair!) is brush out their hair.  I have memory verses saved on my “voice memos” on my phone, and while I brush their hair, I play the verses.  This helps make a tedious task a little more meaningful, and also helps to ensure that we accomplish our memory verses for the day.

Then, they move to the bathroom and brush teeth.  Jared and I floss and brush their teeth at night, but in the mornings they do this on their own or with help from their buddies. Emery also changes out the hand towel in their bathroom during this time.

Then, we move to the playroom (the girls’ shared bedroom).  They are responsible for picking up toys (there usually aren’t many because we pick up the night before).  They clear dolls and any books off the beds.  I actually make the beds for them (this seems like a task that just causes tons of frustration for them – eventually, they will get it!) and then they stack the pillows on their beds.  This doesn’t take long, but it’s nice to start the day with a completely cleaned up playroom.

Then, we all move back to the kitchen table,  If I haven’t already, I will give it a quick wipe, and we all sit down for morning devotions.  Right now, we are on our second run through of “Bible Stories to Read” and “Bible Pictures to Color” from Rod and Staff.  Each lesson/story has a coloring page, so the girls color those while I read and ask them questions about the story.

When this is finished, we add them to our family bible binder, and then we read at least 3 books.  (Sometimes, if breakfast is taking awhile, and I finish eating before them, I will read them earlier during mealtime.  But usually this is when we read at least a couple books.)

After reading time, we normally do school work at the table.  During the summer, we are more relaxed about this.  Whenever “table time” is done, they are free to play.

Around 10am most days is when we have a snack.  If we have an errand to run or a play date, this is usually the window of time when we do those things (after table time and before lunch).

Around 11:15 (usually), we work on making lunch.  I have mentioned on Instagram that we have cooking days for each of the kids, to give them more focused practice in the kitchen.  So that helper will often help me make lunch and set the table. Sometimes, if they are engrossed in play or if we are just getting back from somewhere, I will make lunch myself (for time’s sake).

After lunch (and taking their plate and returning their water bottles!) is rest time.  Judah takes a nap, and the 3 girls have quiet time.  It’s an hour and twenty minutes long. (I use the Visual Timer App on the iPad so they can see how much time is left – they aren’t allowed to use the iPad for anything else though).  If they are playing nicely together, they can all play in the playroom together.  Some days, I sense they need a little space to themselves, and separate them.  We have what is essentially a closet space we call Emery’s “Art Studio,” where she likes to go to do artwork, read, and have a little space to herself.  So, if they are separate, she will go to her studio, Ruby will play in the playroom, and I set up the pack and play for Mabry in the living room.  Mabry sometimes naps, or, more often than not, will look at books.  Audiobooks are another option during this time.

After rest time, we have a couple afternoon tasks.  We don’t accomplish these all every day, but this is the time slot for them!

-Playing outside: This is almost always in the afternoon right after rest time.  We check the garden, we might turn on sprinklers, swing, play in the playhouse, write with chalk, etc.  I love to see their imaginations come out in their free-form play.

-Exercise time: If the weather is bad and we can’t get outside, sometimes I will pull out our mini trampoline and let them take turns getting some energy out.  We also have a couple kid friendly DVDs that I will occasionally pull out that have some fun motions to get them moving and dancing around.

-CHARACTER TIME: This is a big one that we have implemented the past year or so.  I felt convicted that I really wanted to be teaching and training my children (from the Deuteronomy 6 model) but didn’t have a specific time that I was being intentional with this. Certainly, training happens all along the way, but I felt like we needed to be set apart more time for it.  So, I try to use a short segment of our afternoon to practice things like saying yes ma’am, come to mommy, how to behave in certain instances.  We talk about WHY we do things a certain way (why we want to share with others, why we treat guests favorably, why we don’t want to take a toy from sister, etc).  Sometimes I will make up simple stories and we talk about which character behaved the right way.  Or sometimes I will relate it back to our bible story from that morning and talk more about the choices that person made, or what we learned from that story. I view this time as a time to practice what they are expected to do, as well as fill their hearts with the reasons behind it. I don’t just want to have their behavior change but really have their hearts changed so that they would reflect the character of God.

-Afternoon chores: These are more “deep cleaning” type tasks and not necessarily things that need to be accomplished every single day like their other chore tasks.  Below are some of the tasks for them to complete. I have a little basket with these slips in them, and they each pick one or two to do that day.  I assist them as needed, and often use this time to fold laundry from the day.

 

-Occasionally I will need to run a few more errands; if so, there is usually space here in our schedule to add that in.

-Snack: We do another snack around 3pm every day.  I have found that limiting the snacks to 2 times a day (10 and 3) has improved my kid’s appetites at meals and given us a sustainable schedule (instead of me being in the kitchen endlessly catering to the incessant snack demands of one child or another!)

-Reading Aloud – we have a set apart time for reading in the mornings, but we also will pick up books throughout the afternoon and read together as well.

-Various errands/playdates: sometimes these fall into this afternoon time slot as well.

We like to do a quick EHAP before Jared gets home from work as well, to ensure that the house is nice and tidy for when he gets home! (EHAP stands for Everything Has A Place, a concept I borrowed from Mystie Winkler).

My kitchen helper for the day helps me make dinner, while the other 3 play somewhere other than the kitchen.  To help get ready for dinner, they bring their waters and help set the table.

I have also found that attaching chores to mealtimes (before breakfast and after dinner) makes for an easy system and helps ensure that they are actually completed.  After finishing dinner, they take their plates to the sink and I load and run the dishwasher, while they do the following chores, in this order:

  1. Emery cleans the items off the table, delivering water bottles to beds and taking dirty cloth napkins to the laundry basket.

2. I give Ruby the wood spray and a dishrag, and she wipes down the table.

3. Mabry uses the Makita and vacuums under the table to pick up crumbs (I heard about the Makita from Allison Burr – it’s a super simple handheld vacuum that even the smallest kids can use.  It only has one button – they really can’t mess it up – it’s great!)

I will cover more about our evening routine in another post, but this hopefully gives a good grid for chores and the tasks that our kids have throughout the day!

This schedule might seem really rigid when it’s all laid out like this, but in real life it really isn’t. With these anchors in place, there is a lot of time for free play and for “life” to happen. We drop things when we need to and sometimes our day is morphed into something else entirely due to visitors, sickness, or other special events.  I have noticed, though, that having a clearly defined plan has made my time seemingly MULTIPLY.  It seems like I have so much more free time than before, and the same is true for my kids.  I know we are getting the important things done, and I’m not having to constantly wrack my brain wondering what we are forgetting or what we should do next.  It’s all on a simple list for us, and it saves us so much hassle.

Also, this plan is in place for our Mondays-Fridays.  I’ve blogged about our Sunday Sabbaths here.  We don’t require our children to do chores on Sundays.  On Saturdays, though, to prepare, we do some extra chores and house cleaning and meal prep to prepare for Sudndays. In general, though, our Saturdays are very fluid and we don’t follow such a concrete rhythm on those days (usually because we have so many other events or plans on those days, we just have to plan each Saturday as it comes).

It has helped me immensely to compare notes with other moms about chores.  I love to see what other tasks their kids do around the house.  Another great resource is the book “What every Child Should Know Along the Way.” There are chore lists by age in the back, as well as lots of other helpful lists of manners and safety.  Allison Burr uses a clipboard system for chores that would work really well for older kids, which I plan on adapting in a few years.

Another idea that has helped me, especially for morning chores, is thinking what we can all do in the same room together before we move to the next room or set of tasks.  I have realized that it doesn’t work, especially for little kids, to be scattered all over the house accomplishing different things.  We need to be together and I need to be able to see them to direct them properly and make sure they are not getting sidetracked.  So our morning flow goes from dining room/kitchen to nursery to bathroom to playroom, and back to the dining room.  This also saves time, since we are not moving back and forth from one room to the next for each individual task.  We all accomplish the tasks in one room before moving on to the next!

Lastly, and most importantly, my suggestion and hope is this: that you would take these ideas and prayerfully consider how your family can seek Jesus together and intentionally focus your days on Him.  No suggestion or chore tip is going to make your life better if Jesus is not at the center of it all. I hope that giving a glimpse into our days is helpful – it feels kind of vulnerable to put all this out there.  But even if none of this resonates with you, I would love for you to spend some time asking God what ways you can be more intentional with your time and with your kids’ time. I believe He has something in store for you as you plan your time and even as you incorporate chores and responsibilities for your children.

I would love to hear how you implement chores in your house.  How old are your kids, and what jobs do they do around the house? Let me know in the comments!

25 Names of Jesus Advent ebook

Reposted from November 2014 

As a mom of 4, I am always looking for ways to captivate my children’s hearts with Jesus. I want them to see Christmas as a celebration of the most important person in our lives. I want to introduce them to the characteristics and names of Jesus, so that they KNOW HIM and KNOW why it is so exciting to celebrate HIM!

I developed this Advent study to do just that, and I would be delighted to share it with your family! I know that I have the important role of creating purposeful traditions in our home and I wanted a way to make Christmas fun, intentional, and MEANINGFUL.   This Advent study is designed for families with younger children to spend time together and set their hearts on Jesus throughout the Christmas season.

Each day, we celebrate one of the names or qualities of Jesus:

The ebook contains 43 pages of material, with a page for each day that includes:
-a passage from the Bible and/or pages in The Jesus Storybook Bible
-an interactive activity that illustrates the meaning of the story – these are intended for kids around 2-7 years old and involve items you probably have around the house already!
-a discussion question or topic
-a way to pray

Here is an example page showing the first day of the study!

There are printables at the end of the book, including pages to make ornaments and a paper chain countdown!

 

My desire is that your family would be blessed by this and fall more in love with the PERSON of Jesus this season!

God put this project on my heart and I have been so encouraged by the responses I have already received from it.  Feel free to share www.25NamesofJesus.com with your small group, lifegroup, mom’s group, or friends.  Sign up for my mailing list to receive your free copy!

No Facebook for 40 days: 4 things I learned and the 1 reason I’m back!

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’m including it here so it is easily accessible! 

Let me start out by saying this whole experiment kind of happened haphazardly.  I aim to be unplugged from media on Sundays, and this past year Christmas happened to be on a Sunday.  The holiday excitement around our household carried through the following week, and so I just continued to stay off my facebook account.  And then, as I examined my goals and hopes for the new year, I felt like God was asking me to continue the “fast.”  Indeed, I felt like a fast across multiple domains was in order to start the new year off right.  We are currently in the midst of a food fast of sorts, as we are getting ready to complete our first round of Whole 30.  Adding to the fasted lifestyle has included regular early morning wake ups and more structured routines in daily life.

But back to facebook.  I’ve never been one to “over share” and even putting this post out there makes me feel vulnerable.  But here are some significant lessons I learned from my #40dayfacebookfast.  I hope you can be encouraged, and challenged as well as you evaluate your use of media in the future!  One of my favorite quotes is “The unexamined life is not worth living” (Socrates).   I find that I feel truly alive and purposeful when I have analyzed and examined aspects of my life to determine if they are worthwhile, or “pruned” them to be even more fruitful and useful. Indeed, God calls us to do this and John 15:2 says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” As we consider our use of social media and facebook, where is God calling us to prune?

Here are some things I learned along the way during my 40 days away from Facebook.

LESSON 1:

It was not hard J

Let me just say that another way: I was sort of expecting this to feel more painful than it was.  Similar to when I have fasted from food, the first few days I feel famished and my body feels out of whack.  This was exactly the case during the facebook fast.  I would automatically try to click the app (I ended up deleting it from my phone so that was hugely helpful!) and I would wonder what certain friends were posting.  And then, just like in fasting from food where you body adjusts to the new normal, it became completely normal for me.  It was not difficult.  It just became the new routine. My mind and heart became adjusted in to thinking of other things, and doing other things with that time.

Lesson 2:

It puts real relationships in their proper place.

This sounds like a simple thing, but it is revolutionary.  Our culture is so addicted (and I am guilty of this as well!) to feeling connected by technology that it’s hard for genuine relationships to prosper.  This issue came to the surface about a month ago when our family went through something hugely traumatic.  During this time, our local community surrounded us on every side.  Let me give you a glimpse of the love we experienced during this time:

-Friends arranged and paid for us to have a week retreat as a family at a gorgeous secluded location: see below!

-People brought us meals…not just dinners every night, but BREAKFAST, LUNCH, and SNACKS as well.  They brought food for our whole family of 6, and even considered my daughter’s food allergies (which makes us not easy to cook for!) This made us feel so loved and taken care of!

-Friends gave my husband a ride to and from work, even though it was completely out of their way and could not have been convenient for them!

-Friends sent toys for my kids and puzzles and games to entertain them.

-They texted and prayed and emailed and sent encouragements to us.

-One friend gave me a piece of scripture artwork to remind me of truth that I have hanging in my home to remind me of God’s faithfulness. (from Gracelaced)

We were overwhelmed with love on all sides, and saw new aspects of the love and care of God through their care of us.  

The reality is that JESUS CAME.  Jesus was the INCARNATION.  He was Emmanuel, GOD WITH US.  He wasn’t God far away and God sending random messages online.  He walked and talked and touched and ate and provided in the flesh.  And those are the friendships that are worth cultivating and giving our time to.  You can have a billion likes and comments on your photos and be missing the real depth of INCARNATION FRIENDSHIPS that God wants to bless you with!!  Let this be my plea – before you log on to facebook, perhaps consider it a cue to connect with a friend that you SEE regularly.  

Fight the battle for online connection with the sword of true connection. IT IS WORTH IT!

Lesson 3:

The void is good for our souls.

Before the past 40 days, I don’t know if I would have realized this exactly. But facebook is not just a loss of “in the moment time.”  If you spend 10 minutes on facebook, you haven’t just spent 10 minutes of your life.  It is actually more – because you have to add in the amount of time you spend THINKING about what you just read or saw.  When I spent significant time away from this influx, I loved the VOID it created in my thought life.  Instead of having thoughts about what others were doing filling up my brain, I was able to devote extra time and energy to reading (I read 7 books during those 40 days), prayer, and real friendships. It made me also ask myself what I was seeking when I would have the desire to log on.  Was I seeking entertainment? Was I feeling lonely or uninspired? Was I seeking connection with a real friend? What was my heart needing?

Lesson 4:

Distraction is remedied by FOCUS.

Again, this sounds simple but it is CRITICAL.  The enemy wants the people of God to be distracted.  He wants us to waste our time and abandon the callings on our lives. Starting out the year of 2017 with a more disciplined, fasted lifestyle has made me even more aware than ever of my tendency to veer towards my own desires and unintentionality.  But that is not the life God has called me to.  He has called me to live with purpose and to “not shrink back” from the things He has called me to do! A favorite passage of mine is in Hebrews 11.  It reads, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised…my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But WE ARE NOT OF THOSE WHO SHRINK BACK AND ARE DESTROYED, but of those who believe and are saved.” The words in that verse remind me of warriors, well equipped and well focused for their tasks.  We are truly the “army of God” and if we can live undistracted lives and not shrink back from the work God has called us to do, we can enjoy the fulfillment of God’s promises to us! (Hebrews 11:37)

So, with all these lessons learned, I also came away with a new focus for facebook.

The reason I’m back:

It is all related to stewardship and I want to steward this opportunity well.  I live in this current age where information and sharing lives gives the everyday person (like me!) an enormous platform for sharing truth and light with others.

I do not want to squander this platform. I want to have social media in its proper place.  One of my favorite “domestic theologians,” Allison Burr, uses the phrase “TOOLS NOT TOYS.”  I want to harness facebook as a TOOL for me to use constructively, and minimize its use as a toy/escape from everyday life.  I think that is the key for me in keeping priorities in order.

Another fantastic resource for evaluating my life lately has been material from Lara Casey.  She publishes “power sheets”, wrote a book, and maintains a blog, all with the same underlying message: CULTIVATE WHAT MATTERS.  I love that.  I love her heart for empowering people to live out the things that truly matter, and analyze and arrange our hours and minutes to reflect just that.

Lara Casey similarly encourages a thorough evaluation of your use of social media, and even recommends coming up with a “mission statement” of how you want to use social media. She also challenges people to join her every week for a #socialmediafreeweekend.  Put down the phone, really connect with people and family, and live life fully. Count me in!

I have been spending my Sabbath day (Sundays) without screens for about a year now, and it has brought so much refreshment to fast regularly from technology and social media. Since this #40dayfacebookfast, I have been also developing some other parameters and non-negotiables to keep my time on facebook in its proper place. I don’t want to mindlessly fritter away time on social media, and I want it to lead me TOWARDS deeper relationships and not just surface level relationships.

I want to use facebook for the glory of God, to encourage other moms and women to live purposefully, and to display the goodness of God in my life. I don’t want to conform to culture, but I want to influence culture.  I don’t want to draw attention to myself, but draw attention to God and make His name great.

I would love to know your thoughts on facebook and social media, and how you navigate your time!  What have you done or what are you planning to do to examine your use of social media? Do you fast from anything in your current lifestyle? What good things do you fill that time with instead? What helps you to step away from your phone, facebook, or instagram?

 

Full of Thanks & Giving

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’m posting it here so that it is easily accessible!

This project has been on my heart for awhile.  I love finding intentional ways to celebrate holidays with my family, and put the emphasis on God.  At the same time, I want to keep it fun and engaging for my kids to enjoy learning about God!

I volunteered throughout college with Operation Christmas Child and love their mission.  Our family has loved packing boxes for children across the globe, and this devotional series connects the heart behind giving with the practical tips for completing a shoebox.  My prayer is that your family would be blessed and know more of the heart of God as you explore the devotionals and learn about THANKS and GIVING.

There are FIVE total devotionals for your family to enjoy.  They are designed to be used for four Sundays leading up to Thanksgiving, and the final devotional is for Thanksgiving Day.  Each devotional includes scripture, discussion questions, prayers, and an activity to complete together. Along the way, you will learn more about thankfulness and create a shoebox to send to a child in need around the world!

There are also label pages included for attaching to your shoebox, and details about how to access extra resources!

 

The devotionals start on Sunday, October 30th, but feel free to jump in at any time!

Sign up for all my ebooks and get your FREE copy of the Thanksgiving Devotional Ebook and this BONUS free Scripture Printable (shown below!)