Sunday, August 21, 2011

How to Get Your Children to Help Around the House

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

When you have little children, it is easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated at trying to be supermom. You need help. And that help comes from your family. As a mother, it's your job to get your children to help with the housework cheerfully.
They will benefit by one day becoming independent, responsible adults who are pleased with their accomplishments. So make housework fun, give clearly defined directions, keep the jobs realistic, and avoid criticism. Above all shower them with genuine praise. Children thrive on praise and encouragement.

I've tried different systems over the years, and while we've had a measure of success with each, by far, the one that has never failed me is our Daily Work Planner Chart. It is simple to make on microsoft word and can be adjusted as necessary. The chart itself remains the same, but I will add or subtract a job here or there depending on what season it is and our changing needs. I think it's the most effective method because it's the simplest.

I keep ours on the refrigerator and when the chore is done, it's checked off. At the end of day, they are supposed to call me call to sign it (of their own initiative.)   Then I check their work to see if they did it correctly and if so, they get a shiny star. Even my 15 year old sparkles with accomplishment when he sees that star on his chart. A day's work well done feels good. Check out a sampling of other mom's chore charts for their families for some inspiration here.

How to Motivate Them to Show Initiative

This one took time. I did not want to keep telling my kids to get their work done and have me come to check it. I wanted to instill in them the drive to show initiative. So I put a code on each day's work. I wrote the codes down on to squares of paper and put them in a jar. At the end of the week, we have a drawing for each child's set of codes. If all their codes are initialed by me or their dad, they have a 100% chance for recieving their reward. If a code is drawn that was not initialed (which meant they did not tell me to sign it even if the work was done) they have lowered their chances at recieving their reward. It works well. 

Now, in our home, our boys are up for this challenge.  This won't be the case in every home.  Each mother knows her own children and what they can handle.  So use your best judgment and tweak the system to fit your own needs. 

But children are capable of much more than we tend to give them credit for.  Challenges keep them hopping and keep them on their toes. 

If you think that systems don't work for you, remember that you are an example to your children. Don't give up.  Keep at it until you find one that works.  Our children depend upon us to train them up in the way they should go.  Sometimes it's a battle, but stay cheerfully in control. Remember YOU are the mom. :)  And kites rise highest against the wind, not with it. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beware the Little Foxes: Susan Wise Bauer

A couple of years ago, I bought the book, Writing With Ease by author and professing Christian, Susan Wise Bauer. I based my purchase upon the rave reviews this book and the author received. At the time, I was exploring the copy and narration method and this book seemed to be ideal to fit that bill...that is, until I opened the book.  

The reviews I read failed to mention some of her choices in literature. In this book, she uses several excerpts from Alice In Wonderland. I realize that many people think of this work of fiction to be innocent and fun, but I simply disagree. The author of Alice was known to be pedophile. And if that wasn't bad enough, he is on record as a suspect in the unsolved murders of the Jack the Ripper case.  Whether or not these rumors are true, I don't find any redeeming qualiteis to the story itself. 

I really think it's important to find out who an author IS because it is related to what that author writes. So personally, I think it is an ill informed literary choice to include in an otherwise promising book.
I later discovered that in her series, The Story of the World , she weaves a subtle, but decidedly humanistic philosophy which is a grave danger in the homeschool community for the simple fact that many parents who think of her books as a fantastic new curriculum may not discern the New Age philosophies she mixes in with the Bible. Indeed, many I know personally have not detected the heresy within the pages.

Her other works include a series of The Story of the World.  I love the idea of putting the many events of world history into easy to read volumes, however  even my sons pointed out the evolutionary spin woven in. Already they're learning discernment. I'm really surprised how many homeschoolers have swallowed her writing with no complaint.
2 Co 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Susan Wise Bauer undermines the ultimate and absolute authority of Holy Scripture and clearly teaches that God's Holy Word is insufficient to tell the whole story. This is not to say that other reliable history has not been written. It has.
But Ms. Bauer seeks to incorporate mythology and evolutionary fables into biblical history. This kind of subtlety concerning the Lord and His Word is nothing new.

 Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
God made men generally skeptical - much than women tend to be.  And it is such an advantage to involve them in our curriculum or educational resource directions. I try to remember that my husband is usually pretty maxed out from his business and appreciates my weeding out as much of the as possible beforehand.

So. My final conclusion on Susan Wise Bauer's literary work (which reflects her world view) is that I think it's contrary to sound doctrine and corrupts history. Therefore I cannot recommend her writings (including The Well Trained Mind).

James 3:12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. 

I am still compiling my research on which history materials I would recommend looking into for the coming year. I do like A Beka for the most part. They are thorough and up front in their biblical beliefs.  Ray Notgrass also has an interesting looking curriculum for history, although I believe it is for advanced grade levels.  Also History Through the Ages though I have not had opportunity to look through these in person.

If you have a favorite history resource, please share! :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rich Chocolate Cream Pie

One of my husband's favorite desserts is Chocolate Cream pie.  It took me a while to find a good recipe that didn't use boxed mixes.  This one is easy, yummy and fits the bill.  The only consension is the can of sweetened condensed milk.  But I can live with that.  :)

Rich Chocolate Cream Pie
1 2/3 cups water
3 TB cornstarch
6 TB cocoa
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks
2 TB butter
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1 (9 in) graham cracker pie crust

Directions For crust:
Crush one package graham crackers (1 1/2 cups). Add 6 tablespoons melted butter and 1/4 cup sugar. Press into greased pie dish and bake 10 minutes at 350 deg.  Let cool.

Directions For Pie Filling
1) Whisk water, cornstarch and cocoa in medium saucepan until smooth
2) Stir in milk and egg yolks
3) Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly and pudding looks thickened
4) Stir in butter and vanilla

5) cool slightly and pour into baked pie shell.
Cool completely before moving on.

7) Whip about 1 cup of whipping cream with 1/4 cup powdered sugar till thickened the way you like

8) Spread over top of the pie and chill.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Lifestyle Of Decluttering

Have you ever looked around at all the clutter in your home and wondered how in the world it all got there?  I think we all know the answer. One day at a time.  If we stop and consider the sheer mass of objects that make their way into our homes via daily mail, groceries, packaging, gadgets, clothing, library books, shoes, hats, coats, gifts from holidays and birthdays and special really adds up.  But a house is only so big. The piles of merchandise cluttering the average house in America make many homes feel and look more like warehouses than homes.

What Comes In Must Go Out

My solution to the clutter in my home is to declutter a little bit each week.  I don't really have a system or schedule to it,  I've just incorporated this into my lifestyle.  When I go around from room to room picking up, I gather things that don't belong.  Some of it is trash and some of it is just stuff.  The trash part is easy.  It's the "just stuff" that gets tricky.  After all, there was a reason that particular item made it's way into my home.  

How to Let Go of STUFF

Take a picture of your home when it's cluttered. Somehow seeing something in a picture has far more impact than seeing it with our eyes. If you don't like what you see, use that as a springboard for change.  I always try to remember how very little we really need to live and grow and be happy.  And then the I consider whether the items in question are really necessary.  If they are, then they need to have a place.  If there is no place for them...maybe we don't need it after all.

Another thing I remember is that this earth is not my home, it's just my current dwelling place.  Some people seem to drown in the trappings of earthly belongings.  So I choose to let go of stuff based on need and space.  Developing a tough skin in this area along with a generous nature (to give things away) helps a lot.

It's All in Your Mind

Mental imagery is a powerful motivation tool. I have a mental picture of my dream house that guides my homemaking style and my home is now what I envision - a lovely place of calm and joy that beckons me to relax, create, enjoy and live.  It has nothing to do with wealth.  I could decorate a shoe box.  It is all about keeping your home clean, livable and lovely.

Family size plays an important role and large families in small quarters will be more challenged than smaller families.  So it's imperative to work with what you have.  That is the first mental step to anchor: work with what you have.  When what I have isn't working for the space we have or the season we're in, I put it up for sale on craigslist and simultaneously keep my eye out for a bargain replacement.  But keeping that dream house mental imagery gives me motivation to make my castle as good as it possibly can be.

Clutter Detector

We all have daily clutter. But it becomes a problem when you don't dust or vacuum much because you can't see the surface.  Kinds of clutter to look for are old books, magazines, board games, videos, baskets, toys, hobby supplies, useless collections and knick knacks.  I've moved so many times now that just packing has forced me to pare down more than I would have done otherwise.  But I really believe that "less is more". The less unnecessary stuff we have, the more space we have for really living. 

No matter how much clutter a home has, it still all begins with a mental plan and a firm commitment to really living.  We cannot live in piles of stuff.

If you need some visual inspiration to declutter, try looking through decorating magazines with beautiful pictures. This also helps to uncover style preferences: what colors, furniture styles and decor draw you?  Make sure that you include your husband in your decorating- it's house, too! 

It's a joy to be in a home that speaks of both a husband as well as his wife.  A friendly balance where both tastes are represented and appreciated is such a vibrant combination.  Even if a husband shows indifference to the matter, I believe a savvy help meet should look for clues to his preferences in color, style and arrangement.

What Does Your Home "Say"?

With your mental house imagery inspiration, begin to do some decluttering every day.  Here a little there a little.  You'd be surprised how far you will come in just a few weeks.  Every home has a personality and speaks of the ones who abide in it.  What does your home say about you? 

To me, clean, uncluttered homes say, "Peace and gratitude" whereas dirty, cluttered homes say "Disorder and greed".  Why greed? When an inordinate amount of stuff is crammed all over, I believe it signifies excess. Too much.  And why would anyone want to have "too much"?  Shouldn't we strive to only have "enough"?  I really think so.

Proverbs 30:8-9 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

It's in your hands. If you are blessed to be the keeper of your home, then you are responsible for keeping those walls, roof, floors, belongings in good condition so they can be enjoyed by your family and guests.

Clutter-Loving Husbands

It's a reality: some husbands balk at getting rid of clutter and many who are direct impediments to the best efforts of a home maker to keep her home in good order. These men are a tough case - but not hopeless! :)  First of all, don't nag him. It really doesn't do any good and will only make you less lovely in his eyes (not a good thing!). 

Instead, try not to speak of your new resolution to live an uncluttered lifestyle.  Actions speak volumes above words.  Just put your plan into action. 

The best place to start that will bring immediate feelings of success and progress is ridding your home of trash.  
Next, put your and your children's belongings in order adn watch for what qualifies as "clutter". Purge any unnecessary items little by little. After a while, your husband WILL begin to notice the difference.  He may not say anything but he'll start to appreciate what you're trying to do.

Then if the only clutter that remains is your husband's, it will be painfully apparent.  If you think he won't object, seek to to store his items neatly.  If need be, scout out some bargain priced storage furniture to tuck away his stuff into.  Look for "closed storage". These are cabinet style shelving with doors. So all the stuff inside stays hidden - a very good thing! 

If it's been a while since you've had company because of the your home's disarray, perhaps just bringing the subject of hospitality up will inspire your husband to support you and provide you both with the Big motivation you need to get your place into shape.

One more thing to remember: no matter what or who is your stumbling block,your "office" is your home.  When you go around decluttering and arranging your home, remember to think in terms of how you are preparing it for entertaining.  When we minister to family and others, we're serving the Lord well. There is just absolutely no place in the world like home is there? :)  And making it the best it can be is within the reach of each one of us.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Clara's Kitchen

Have you seen Clara's Kitchen yet?  Clara Cannucciari is a woman in her 90's who cooks what she and her family used to eat during The Great Depression.  She tells some stories while she cooks.  I love to watch Clara and hear her stories.  She is just a doll. And it's actually really relaxing to watch her.  You can check out one of her videos here.  She also has a recipe book out which would be a nice addition to my cookbook collection.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chili Mac

If you have a pound of ground beef and a few common pantry staples, you can whip up a simple but satisfying meal for your family in about half an hour all in one pan.  My family always enjoys this meal and it's very easy to make.  I didn't remember to take a picture last night, so I found this one which looks pretty close to what mine did.

You will need:

1 lb ground beef (grass fed is best)
1 small onion, diced
15 oz can tomato sauce
15 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can red kidney beans
4 oz can diced green chilies (optional)
1/2 cup dry macaroni
1 TB chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt (celtic is best)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Brown ground beef and onions; add all ingredients except cheese
Cover and cook 20 minutes stirring occasionally, until pasta is done.
Top with cheese.  Serves 4-6

This recipe is really friendly for add-ins like corn, green onions, black olives, sour cream or even monterey jack instead of cheddar. I like to serve this over oven fries or mashed potatoes and a green salad along side.

Easy, quick, delicious!