My Blog Adventure!

Welcome to my blog! It's high time this 42 year old ventures into blog world and joins the ranks of you intriguing bloggers. First off, you should know I love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart. I love His Creation, His Word, His forgiveness, His mercy, and His being the Savior of my life. He is my reason for living! After the Lord, my next love in life is my outdoor-lovin', prankster pullin', hard workin' man I've called my husband for 18 years and counting. My 3 sons - to whom this blog is dedicated - have the next piece of my heart, and they fill my world with laughter, love, and laundry. I am calling this MY BLOG ADVENTURE... so hop into blog world with me... let's get to encouraging one another... this could be fun!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chores: Laundry

Laundry is like the Lord's love... it's everlasting.  I used to do a little here and a little there, and it felt like I was eternally doing laundry.  We are a family of 5, which isn't that large of a family, but 4 of the 5 are male... and we live in the country...  and they're avid outdoorsmen in any given weather... and we have 2 labs that love to jump...  You get the picture! Imagine me with just my head peeking out of piles of laundry - not a pretty picture.   BUT, the good news is I do believe we finally have the laundry monster tamed here!

Two big laundry helps...
The first item is where we sort our laundry.  I have a label on each bar for what is sorted into each bin:  whites, colors, towels, and dress clothes.  The second item is a drying rack.  This is useful for many, many reasons, which I'll get into later.  Both of these items are in our laundry room.

The Laundry Routine:
Each of my sons has a clothes hamper in his room.  We do laundry 2 times a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  It is listed on their chore chart as a reminder, but they know first thing in the morning on Wednesdays and Saturdays, they take their laundry downstairs and sort it.  Each son is responsible for sorting their laundry.  We practice this when it is first a new skill.  My dh and I sort our laundry right into the bins rather than having a hamper in our bedroom, but that's because we have a small closet, and a hamper just takes up too much space.

I put a sticky note on the washing machine that says the settings dc should choose for each bin of clothes...
Colors:  Normal; Warm/Cold
Whites:  Normal; Hot/Cold
Towels/Bedding:  Heavy Duty; Warm/Warm
Dress Clothes:  Permanent Press; Cold/Cold

It is important to write down the exact wording of the settings, or they will be confused.

Then, we train each child the steps of putting the laundry in, adding the appropriate amount of detergent, following the sticky note to choose the proper settings, and pushing "start".  

I put a sticky note on the drying machine that says the settings dc should choose for each bin of clothes...
Colors:  Normal; High; Smooth out on drying rack
Whites:  Normal; High
Towels:  Heavy Duty; Maximum
Dress Clothes:  Permanent Press; Medium; Hang or smooth out on drying rack

Then, we train each child the steps of putting the laundry in, adding a dryer sheet, cleaning out the vent, following the sticky note to choose the proper settings, and pushing "start".  We all listen for the buzzer then, and try to respond promptly so clothes don't wrinkle.  If the laundry is still damp when the buzzer rings, we teach the dc to run the dryer for 15 minutes more.  Prompt response to the buzzer and use of the smoothing out/laying on drying rack has made it possible for us basically never having to iron clothes.  While laundry is still hot, I sort it.  Anything that can wrinkle (i.e. pj's, towels, washcloths, undergarments, etc.), I toss into an empty laundry basket.  Anything that I don't want wrinkled I snap, smooth, and lay flat on the drying rack, or in a pile on top of the dryer.  

We all keep the laundry going throughout the day.  At the end of the day when all the laundry is either in the basket or on the drying rack, one child folds the basket items, and the other child folds or hangs the drying rack items (after they've cooled).  The child that folds the laundry rack items places them on each child's "step" to be taken upstairs.  The child that folds the laundry basket items places the items on the person's bed to be put away by that person.  Usually my oldest son does the drying rack items, and my middle ds does the basket items, as they don't need to be folded all that neatly anyway.  My 4 yo has exuberantly joined in by asking to fold the washcloths.  So, he does that now and has also become the "runner"(the child who runs the folded laundry basket clothes upstairs and puts them on each person's bed).  

We do this all again on Saturday.  It has worked well.  Everyone helps, we always have clean clothes and towels, and we never iron.  On a side note, the drying rack is also wonderful for putting soiled wet washcloths or towels, wet swimsuits, damp mittens/hats/scarves, etc.  Then when these items are dry, they are sorted into the bins and washed on the planned laundry days.  We have tried many drying racks, but our very favorite has been this one because it is metal.  The wooden racks break under the weight of too many clothes.

I hope something here can help as you try to tackle laundry in your home!

In Christ,
Julie


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Organization: Menu Planning

I like to cook and bake, but the middle of a homeschooling day is not the time for elaborate, time consuming, gourmet cooking.  I have tried a LOT of different menus for breakfast and lunch over the years.  My favorite is a 2 week menu with a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack planned.  Every 6 months or so, I change out a few things for variety's sake.  The lunches are chosen with our dc's preferences in mind, as well as they are all things my dc can make themselves.  The dinners are chosen with my dh's and my preferences in mind, and we hope our dc expand their horizons and learn to like some new things this way.  I jot a few dessert ideas on the bottom of the menu in the blank bottom margin.  I make these whenever I have time.  Many times our dc's dessert during the day is 2 dark chocolate squares, as dark chocolate is quite healthy and easy to have on hand.  Low fat frozen yogurt with pecans, with bananas, with peaches, and/or with dark chocolate crumbled on top is also a dessert we have often that is quite healthy and requires little prep.

When I make the menu, I add anything to the grocery list we need for the breakfast/lunch/snack menus.  I use a pencil to jot in the dinner menu.  I usually  make 3 big dinners a week, with the other days being leftovers from those meals, and Sunday night being something very simple, like cereal or sandwiches.
I usually do our grocery shopping on Thursday afternoons, so I put salads and fresh fruit on the menu for supper sides for the weekends or Mondays usually.  HTH someone else with menu planning!

In Christ,
Julie

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Organization: Groceries and Errands

The realization I needed to get groceries usually hit me about when we were out of milk and eggs and bread.  Then I'd be off to the store in a flurry and get home to find out I hadn't gotten half of what I should have.  Errands would pile up too, and when I had a moment to race away, I couldn't even recall which errands I should be doing, much less what they even were.

One simple little piece of paper has changed all this for me.  Here it is...

I know.  It looks pretty simple.  In this task, I've found simple is better.  I've tried set grocery lists.  They just don't work.  Menu plans change.  Food gets eaten that I didn't think would (i.e. dh makes burgers with the beef I was going to use to make meatloaf).  A set grocery list just doesn't work in the day to day for us.

So, I hang this paper up on the fridge.  As we run out of things, we add them under the appropriate category by writing them on the paper.  My dc have this down pat.  In fact, when Wyatt's HOD plans let him know the next week he'd need 1 cup chopped pecans and powdered sugar, he didn't even talk to me about it.  He just put them on the list.  Everyone knows whoever is the last to use something needs to put it on the list, or those groceries will not get bought when they need to.  They also have realized they need to put some things on the list when less than half is left of them (i.e. ketchup and mustard).  

Likewise, each person is responsible for putting on the list items that pertain to their chores.  For example, Riley takes out the garbages.  When kitchen trash bags are beginning to run low, he has to write them on the list.  Wyatt cleans the bathroom counters and mirrors, when bathroom counter spray and window cleaner are close to running out, he adds them to the list.  My dh puts light bulbs on the list. The dc put batteries - and the size they need - on the list as they need them for toys.  Everyone knows what it's like not to have put their things on the list, for they realize it'll be another week before they get them, and they remember better the next time.

For example, Riley has had to use tiny Walmart bags in the tall kitchen garbages, and Wyatt has cleaned the mirrors with a hot washcloth.  I think it is important not to just run back to the store when items are forgotten.  We've run out of snacks before and had to skip snack time. These are just natural consequences for not remembering to put things on the list.  We all know what that's like, as we've all had this happen before.  It is a life skill to be learned, and better early than late.  Keep in mind, if I notice things that pertain specifically to the boys or to their chores are running out, I will happily remind them to put the things on the list.  It's not like I'm trying to have them forget things - but sometimes, I just don't notice things are running out as they are completely in charge of the chores they do.  I also don't spell things for them, as they can look right on the box or bottle or bag to copy the spelling.  I figure this is a good way to work on spelling too.


If they complain about something they needed running out, I ask, "Did you put it on the list?"  If they didn't, I just shrug my shoulders and say, "Well, you better now, or we probably won't have it next time around either."  Before I did this, I somehow was being blamed for every single little thing someone needed that I didn't get.  "Mom, didn't you get me clicky pencils?"  "Julie, didn't you get the 6o watt light bulbs?"  "Hey, where are my favorite chips?"  Now we all share the 'blame' for forgotten items.  It's much more of a family approach even though I am the only one physically getting the groceries.

I also put the errands I need to do under the "Errands" section.  For example, I might write "return shoes to Walmart", "pick up Walgreen's prescription", "drop off video", "get size 11 rubber boots for Emmett", "deposit checks at bank" etc.  If there is a coupon to take, I staple or paperclip it right to the paper, and I hang the whole thing on the fridge in a heavy duty clip magnet.  Then, when I have time to run errands, I grab the list and go.  I have everything I need right there and can leave without wondering what I need to do.  

The minute I get home, I transfer anything I didn't get done (either errand-wise, or grocery-wise) to a new blank sheet.  Works great!   Every 2 weeks I fill out a menu, and add those things to the list as well, but that I will share another time.  I hope this can help make getting groceries and running errands easier for some of you too, as well as enlist your dh and dc in helping stay on top of what's needed!

In Christ,
Julie 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Habits: Training the Tiny Tot to Play Solo

My 4 yo is used to having his older brothers as playmates, and I have recently realized the need for him to learn to play independently for at least a bit of time (this realization came when my other 2 sons were hunting with my hubby, and Emmett and I were home alone with him looking to me to be the entertainer... all day... every minute... from sunup to sundown.)

So, now I am training him to have a 30 minute independent playtime each day.  Do you know what has made a tremendous difference?  A tiny table.  With a tiny work surface.  And a tiny chair.

Emmett just seems to be able to take on the tiny table better than a big area.  Plus, he makes a tinier mess.  We set the timer for 30 minutes.  He can change out what he is doing whenever he wants, but he must pick up the thing he is done with first before choosing another thing.  He also gets his afternoon snack when the timer rings (after he's picked up what he played with).

He still sometimes is unsure what to do, and sometimes it seems like this is more a getting out and putting away time than a real "playing time".  But, he is coming along!  I'll be glad the next time the boys go hunting... who knows, maybe he'll be up to a morning independent playtime and an evening independent playtime by then!  (A mother can dream, right?!?)

In Christ,
Julie