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Podcast Round-Up: Homeschool Mom Edition

If you know me in real life, you probably already know that I like to listen to podcasts quite a lot! I don’t listen to the radio much except when I am in the car, and even then, I will frequently choose an audio book the kids and I can enjoy together instead. I enjoy podcasts because I can listen and learn while getting other things done, like the laundry or dishes or meal planning. And I love that the podcast world is so big and broad these days that you can probably find a podcast on just about any niche interest you have! I started out listening to knitting and crochet podcasts, actually. Yes, people actually sit down and record themselves discussing their craft projects, and yes, it is actually really enjoyable to listen, at least if you are into the craft! But now that I don’t spend as much time playing with yarn as I do reading to small children, my podcast genre focus has shifted a bit.

Since I have a lot going on with our move from Illinois to Tennessee, as well as some Virtual Assistant work I just took on unexpectedly, I am going to be posting a little less for the next week or two. I thought it might be fun to do a quick series on some of my current favorite podcasts in a few different areas of interest. First, we have the Homeschool Mom Podcast Round-Up! These podcasts (listed in no particular order!) are mostly geared toward equipping and encouraging homeschooling parents, but I think some of them would be enjoyable listens for any mom, even if you don’t happen to homeschool or your kids are too young (or too old) for school!

Cultivating the Lovely with MacKenzie Monroe

Your Morning Basket with Pam Barnhill

Wild + Free with Ainsley Arment and Tina Ingold

Homeschool Solutions Show with Pam Barnhill

Homeschool Sanity Show with Dr. Melanie Wilson

Homeschool Snapshots with Pam Barnhill

Simplified Organization Audio Blog with Mystie Winkler

So, there you go! Some of my favorite recommendations for homeschool mom podcasts! What is your favorite, either from this list, or one that I did not mention?

The Reading Report, Vol. 4: The Moving Edition


It is September already! That was fast! We have been so busy lately that I was not even always sure whether I was coming or going, so here's to a less chaotic rhythm now that autumn is on the way. Our family is getting ever closer to completing our move to Tennessee, and with lots of extra time on the road, as well as unpacking or cleaning at our rental house, my reading time dwindled a little. However, I have had some great audio books going, so I will be mentioning those in this edition along with my other reads!

What I am currently reading (or listening to!) . . .

I am just going to roll all my current and recently finished read into one big ol' lump here, ok? Would you believe that I got carried away and actually finished The Brothers Karamazov this past week? I knew once we reached a certain point in the story line that I would not be able to stop and wait until the next month to see what happened. So I just kept on going. I was surprised to find that by the end of the book, I really was sympathetic to all the brothers and was rooting for them each to make it through their various trials, both literal and figurative. Even though their faults were clearly portrayed, there was something in each brother that was so human that I could not help but feel for each one. And even the women in the story, for whom I originally had very little love, came to be better understood and appreciated by the end. Dostoyevsky does not paint one-dimensional characters. On the contrary, these men and women are complex and even extreme in their displays of love, loyalty, hate, jealousy, forgiveness and frailty. I was sad to come to the end of the book, especially since the end leaves the reader wondering what will happen to each brother next. Interestingly, although the book obviously stands well enough on its own, Dostoyevsky did have plans to write a sequel, but he did not accomplish this before his death. Now, the big question is, as usual, what should I read next? I don't think it will be another Russian novel just yet, but reading The Brothers Karamazov certainly has given me courage to tackle another one soon!

In the nonfiction genre, the only book I am actively reading right now is Come With Me by Suzanne Eller. This has become my devotional reading in the mornings, and it is SO good! Eller walks us through each chapter by focussing on a different disciple, all pointing us to different ways in which Jesus calls us and different challenges we face in following Him, as well as the rich blessings we gain when we do. She has study and reflection questions at the end of each chapter, which have been great prompts in my quiet time. And now she is also coming out with a devotional book under the same title! It sounds amazing! I would highly recommend either (or both!) of these inspiring books for help in growing your Christian walk.

On audio, my personal listening choice has been Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, which I am listening to via Penguin's audiobook app, Volumes. If I ever read this book for myself, which I am not sure I did, it was when I was pretty young. I only remember the 1990s film version with Christian Bale and Wynona Rider. So, no big surprise, but I really think the book is better. And the added bonus is that although a lot of it is going over his head, when my 6 year old son is in the room, he likes listening along. I am pretty sure I am going to get the Audible version of Little Men (via Whispersync) to listen to when this is done!

We have also been making good use of audio books in the car on the trips between Illinois and Tennessee. I got a couple of free Audible credits when I signed up for a trial, and we got J. M. Barry's Peter Pan, read by Jim Dale and Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Little House in the Big Woods read by Cherry Jones. Both were big hits with everyone! I had tried a few times to read Peter Pan aloud since it was one of our free reads for AmblesideOnline Year One, but I just could not get into it. I wanted to love it, but I just could not read it. Turns out having a proper Brit reading this very British book makes all the difference in the world! As for The Little House in the Big Woods, Cherry Jones was a great reader, and I could definitely listen to this one again and again! I never read The Little House series as a girl (travesty of travesties, I know, but it is the truth!) so I am going to really enjoy getting to read (or hear) all of them with my kids! The one little problem I had was Cherry Jones' singing. Sorry, but I wish they had either had an actual man do the singing voice overs for those parts, or just had her read the text in rhythm. She just was enough off in her intonation to grate on my ears. The woes of being musically trained. . . Regardless, I would be happy to own the whole series on audio, just because they are fun to listen to as a family!

What I'm reading next . . .

Honestly, I don't know! I need a new novel to read, but I am not sure what direction to go in. I think it needs to be something a little light. I just got the whole collection of L. M. Montgomery's "Anne" books for Kindle last month, so I might dive into one of those. I listened to all of Anne of Green Gables and about half of Anne of Avonlea on Librivox sometime in the last 12 months, so I might pick up where I left off with that series. But I also got a collection of Jane Austen books for the Kindle, as well, so I could go in that direction as well. Or, I might crack open one of the children's classics I just unpacked at the rental house and do a little screen-free reading instead! Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm has been calling to me for a while now. What say you? Do you cast your vote for Anne, Jane or Rebecca?

100 Songs to Sing with Children

 

Singing Children, by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, 1858

Music has always been a big part of our family’s life. My husband and I met in college as music majors, and we have always been involved in some sort of church music ministry since we were married. We often play music of various style in our home, and our children have grown up going to choir and band practice since they were newborns! We sing and dance together whenever the mood strikes, and they both love to play rhythm instruments and play around at the piano. I have not, however, been as intentional about singing a wide variety of folk music with them as I would like. I realized this one day when I was reading a doctoral paper titled “The Extent to Which American Children’s Folk Songs are Taught by General Music Teachers Throughout the United States” written by Marilyn J. Ward. As I read over the lists of songs taught to children in previous generations, I realized just how many of the songs I knew but had never sung to my children. We did start daily folk song singing last year when we began using AmblesideOnline, but there are so many more songs I want my children to know! So, we will begin singing multiple songs in addition to the ones on the AmblesideOnline list for each month, because I don’t think we can ever have too much music in our little homeschool!

Drawing from Marilyn Ward’s doctoral dissertation, as well as my own memory, I compiled a (mostly alphabetical) master list of 100 songs that I want my children to be familiar with before they leave home. This list does not include all the common preschool songs and lullabies we already know and sing as a family, such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Old MacDonald. It is intended more to stretch our repertoire beyond those, while still including some more common children’s songs that I just have not yet sung with my kids on a regular basis. Some are simple and repetitive, perfect for the preschool and early elementary years. Others are longer and have more complex text and melodies that will take us longer to learn.

I have included a mixture of American and British folk music, as well as some African American Spirituals, patriotic songs, and a few of what I call “Sunday School songs.” I chose not to include any hymns in this list as that is a whole other list I need to compile soon! Some are upbeat and silly. Others are slow and melancholy. Many of the folk songs may also have play party dances or games that go along with them. I have added an asterisk next to the ones I know to have a dance or game corresponding with the song, but there may be more that I do not know about! (This is where a quick internet search could be helpful!) If you are looking for ideas to add some more singing fun to your homeschool or other school classroom, this list should get you headed in the right direction! (And I know it would be AWESOME if I had links to lyrics or recordings of all these, but just now I don’t have the time or wifi bandwidth to make that happen. I do hope to get that done in the future, though. For now, Google is your friend. 😀)

This post is linked at The Homeschool Nook Linkup Party!

 

100 Songs to Sing with Children

A
Aiken Drum
All Night, All Day
America
America, the Beautiful
Angel Band, The
Animal Fair
Ants Go Marching, The
Ash Grove, The
A Tisket, A Tasket
Auld Lang Syne

B
Baby Beluga
Bear Went over the Mountain, The
Believe Me if All those Endearing Young Charms
Billy Boy
B-I-N-G-O
Blow the Man Down
Bought Me A Cat
Buffalo Gals

C
Camptown Races
Children, Go Where I Send Thee
Clementine
Crawdad Song

D
Davy Crockett
Deep River
Dem Bones
Did You Ever See a Lassie
Do, a Deer
Down By the Riverside
Down by the Station
Down in the Valley

F
Farmer in Dell, The*
Frere Jacque
Froggy Went a Courtin’

G
Go Down Down, Moses
Go In and Out the Window*
Greensleeves
Green Grass Grew All Around, The

H
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Here We Come A’Wassailing
Hole in My Bucket
Hot Cross Buns

I
I Know An Old Lady
I Love You a Bushel and a Peck
I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

L
Lavender’s Blue
Little Liza Jane
Little Bird, Go Through My Window*
London Bridge*
Londonderry Air (Danny Boy)
Looby Loo*
Love Somebody
Lucy Locket*

M
Mairzy Doats
Make New Friends
Mary Had a Little Lamb
The Marine’s Hymn
Michael, Row the Boat Ashore
More We Get Together, The
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
My Paddle Keen and Bright (The Canoe Song)

N
New River Train
Noble Duke of York, The

O
Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow
Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?
Oh Susanna
Oh, Where Has My Little Dog Gone?
Old Brass Wagon
Old John the Rabbit
On Top of Old Smokey
Once I Caught a Fish Alive
One Elephant Went Out to Play
Over the River and Through the Woods

P
Polly, Put the Kettle On
Pop Goes the Weasel

R
Red River Valley
Rig-a-jig-jig*

S
Sailing, Sailing
Sally, Go Round the Sun
Scarborough Fair
She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
Shenandoah
Shoo Lie Loo*
Simple Gifts
Sing A Song of Sixpence
Skip, Skip, Skip to my Lou*
Star-Spangled Banner
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

T
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
There’s A Little Wheel a Turnin’
There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea
This Land is Your Land
This Little Light of Mine
This Old Man
Three Blind Mice

W
Wade in the Water
Water is Wide, The (O Wally, Wally)
Who Built the Ark?

Y
Yankee Doodle
You’re a Grand Old Flag

Z
Zippity Doo Dah

More Than Just Another Money Management Book: Review and Giveaway!

Scroll to the end of this post to enter the giveaway and win a copy of More Than Just Making It!

When I signed up for The Humbled Homemaker, Erin Odum’s book launch team, I figured that this would be a good book to give me some encouragement and pointers on money management during a financially stressful time. And it was! What I did not count on was that it would get me thinking about so much more than just making ends meet. But then, with a title like More Than Just Making It, I guess I should have!

In her book, Erin shares very openly about her family’s struggles during several very financially challenging years, so difficult, in fact, that she finally came to the point of needing some government assistance just to put food on the table for her growing family. Having grown up in average middle class American culture, Erin discussed how humbling and eye-opening that experience was for her. In reading More Than Just Making It, I identified a lot with Erin’s preconceptions and prejudices about those who use government aid programs. Around the same time I received my advanced copy, my husband was just coming off a period of serious underemployment, and if it had not been for the savings we had built up over the past few years, we would have been part of the “working poor” just like Erin and her husband were.

Along with the memoire portion of the book, Erin also has a lot of practical financial advice on everything from saving money on healthy food, to making wise decisions when looking for a home. More importantly, though, she shares practical spiritual advice on how to find hope in the midst of your financial frustration. One of the greatest things she and her husband learned from their challenging situation was how to trust God for their everyday needs to be met, and then to be truly grateful to Him when He did provide.

One of my favorite chapters in More Than Just Making It is titled “Redifining the American Dream.” In this chapter, Erin discusses the need for a change in our mindset when it comes to how we in America think of financial success. I think this chapter resonated so much with me because of where our family is at right now. Yes, my husband now has a full-time income that is livable for us now, but we are moving to a very affluent area with a higher cost of living than we are used to. It would be very easy for us to look around at all the big, beautiful houses and become envious and strive to attain that for ourselves. But lately we have felt the desire instead to simplify and downsize. If there is one thing packing for a move teaches just about everyone, it is that we have too much stuff! My new hope for our family finances is that we will have enough to take care of our needs and then be flesible enough to give generously above and beyond our tithe. I want us to be content with what we have and to be hospitable and welcoming without self-consciousness.

All that to say, I highly recommend More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated to anyone, not just those of you who may be in need of money managment tips. This book will encourage, inspire and challenge you to be a wise steward of what you have, to look for God’s provision in unexpected places, and to seek to be a blessing to others who are hurting. I hope you will check out the book webpage for all the amazing pre-order goodies Erin is offering if you purchase the book before the release date of September 5, 2017! And, finally, I have a special chance for one lucky reader to win a print copy of the book! You can enter the giveaway below, or click here to be taken to a new page and enter. The giveaway will close on September 4, 2017 at midnight, so don’t delay! I will contact the winner by email for your mailing address. Enjoy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Embracing Real Life and Routines in the Midst of Transition

It looks like we are back in school. But we are taking it one day at a time. Because this living in two houses in two different states is not for the faint of heart! And I will admit, I have felt pretty faint of heart a lot lately! But sometime last week I decided that it was time to get back to some semblance of a normal routine, even if we could not stick to it all the time. Ever since we put our Illinois house on the market we sort of dropped our routine because of extra cleaning and packing, showing the house unexpectedly, and extra trips back and forth between Tennessee and Illinois. But the chaos has taken its toll on us all, and I could tell that the kids would especially benefit from more structured days again.

So this weekend, we unpacked the school books and supplies and loaded them into their new home in the dining room at our rental house. My husband went out and bought a new bookshelf especially for our growing collection of children’s literature. We reassembled the desk we had brought down from Illinois. (That thing has been through a few moves already, but it still is serving us well!) I posted a simple daily routine on a small whiteboard above the dining room fireplace, and planned out enough school work to get us through a few days, at least. Then on Monday morning, we started back where we had left off last time we had school.

It wasn’t pretty. My son was sulky and obstinate, refusing to narrate the Bible lesson and complaining about every little lesson as if it were pure torture. A simple math problem, only 2 questions in, brought on tears and frustration. My daughter was cranky after a rough night of waking up several times due to cutting a new molar. She was distracting to the max! We are using a folding table and chairs as our dining room table because the real one is still at the other house. We don’t have any shiny new school supplies because, honestly, we have plenty of old stuff that still works. I have not had time to put together new memory work for our morning time binders, so we just reviewed the old stuff from earlier in the summer. But we pushed through. I kept my expectations low, and I managed not to lose my temper completely.

Thankfully, everything went more smoothly the second day, in spite of much grumbling and complaining from my student before beginning lessons. I had found some cd’s when unpacking yesterday, and started some classical music playing softly on the computer. Also found while unpacking were some coloring books, stickers and old crayons for keeping the toddler busy. My son stayed on task without sulking or arguing. He narrated our lesson from 50 Famous Stories beautifully. Math was pleasant and tear-free. And so was the toddler, for the most part. Things were not perfect, but the morning was much better than the one before. And the only time I was really hard pressed not to lose my cool was after lessons were done and the kids were getting Kinetic Sand all over my freshly mopped floor. (Seriously, I love to play with the stuff myself, but why does it have to make such a mess!? And yes, maybe it was my own fault for letting them play with it if I didn’t want the floor getting dirty just then. #momfail)

The thing about homeschooling is that it isn’t always pretty because it is real life. And real life is not picture perfect. Every moment is not Pinterest-worthy. The house gets messy because people are living in it 24/7. The children are unruly and need disciplined because, hello, they are children! I get frustrated when my expectations are too high, or when I make unrealistic plans for the day, because I am human. But you know what? That is also the beauty of it all. We are real. We are flawed. We make messes and mistakes. And then we give grace and forgive each other and wipe up the tears and the spills and move on. And it is beautiful. Because, like blogger Bekah Jane Pogue says #realisthenewperfect so I am choosing to embrace this real life, rather than wishing for some other life that isn’t.

And in that spirit, here are some photos of our second day of school in all of its real, untidy, but peaceful and productive glory!

10 Tips for Consignment Sale Shopping Success

Last weekend I talked about why I love shopping consignment sales to help save money on my children’s clothing. But I admit that the first time I went to a sale, I was not sure what to expect and did not know quite how to make the most of my time and money while there. Now that I have a bit more experience, I thought I would share some tips and tricks I have learned to help you have consignment sale shopping success!

1. Have a specific shopping list complete with size information for each person for whom you are shopping. This is where having a copy of my Kids Capsule Wardrobe Checklist will come in really handy! Most consignment sales are pretty huge and can be very overwhelming if you do not have specific items in mind as you shop. Keeping track of what you need to look for helps you avoid getting distracted by all the other “shiny objects” in the room so you can stay within your budget.

2. Leave the kids at home. Seriously, you do not need or want to be trying to corral your children while sifting through racks of clothes or searching piles of toys. And you certainly don’t need them begging for unnecessary toys and books that are not on your to-buy list! Plus, many venues do not even allow children at the sale, especially pre-sale time slots. So, save yourself the trouble and enlist your husband, mother, a friend or even hire a babysitter to watch the kids. Trust me. You will thank me later!

3. Find out what time you can shop the discount sale, and take advantage of better bargains. Most consignment sales will have one or more time periods for discounted prices, often up to 50% off marked prices! And if you are a volunteer or a consignor, you can usually get in to shop these discounts before the general public.

4. Grab everything you think you might want to buy, then sort through your items and make decisions later. Since just about everything at a consignment sale is the only one of that item in that size, the good stuff will go fast! And in a large venue, you probably will only have time and energy to go over each section of the racks one time. So if you like the looks of something, put it in your cart, tote or whatever you have to carry your loot, then you can go back and sort through everything to decide what you will keep and what to put back.

5. Double, maybe even triple check items for stains, holes, and correct sizing. This is the sorting process I just talked about. Not only do you need to go through every item to make sure it is something you want to buy, but you need to double check for any flaws that might have been missed before the sale began. Most consignors are honest and don’t intend to try and pass off badly stained or torn clothing, but everybody makes mistakes and things get missed. Also, sometimes items get mislabeled by mistake. At my first sale, I bought a cute seersucker sunsuit for my little gal, only to find the actual size on the tag inside the outfit was much smaller than what the outer label had claimed. Again, I am sure it was just a mistake, but it was money wasted on my part. This is also the time to go over your shopping list and see what items you have filled and what you might still need to look for.

6. Volunteer or be a consigner to get in on pre-sales and early discounts. I alluded to this before,
ut it truly pays to do more than just shop! Consignment sales could not happen without the hours put in by volunteers who help sort items, run checkout and tear down after the sale. The people who run these sales reward volunteers with special passes to pre-sales and early discounts. If you are able to give a couple of hours, it will be worth your effort because you get a chance at the best items and bargains of the whole sale! Consignors also get in on early discounts and pre-sales! Plus, you get rid of unneeded items and earn a little money on the side! As I mentioned in my last post, I have been able to earn enough back from consigning to cover the cost of what I bought the last two sales! More tips on being a consignor to come…

7. Know what kind of payment is accepted before you go. Some sales may only accept cash or credit. Others take checks but not credit. Be sure to double check with the sale website or Facebook page to know what kind of payment you need to have with you. It would really stink to get all the way to checkout and come up short because you did not have the right thing to pay for your purchases!

8. Shop early if you are looking for big ticket items like furniture. Kids’ consignment sales usually have much, much more than just clothing and shoes. Toys, strollers, cloth diapers, baby carriers, nursery or playroom furniture….you can find it all at consignment sales! If you are looking for something specific that is a bigger ticket item or is in high demand, you will not want to wait until discount night to look for it. This is where being a volunteer or consignor will come in handy because you will want to shop the pre-sale to grab the good stuff before it’s gone!

9. Know what kind of venue you will be in and dress accordingly. I have been blessed to shop a sale in a nice, air-conditioned venue. But I have heard of some that have gone to sales and been either freezing or burning up because of poor climate controls. So if you think you might need it, bring a jacket in the fall and winter, or dress light in summer. And wear comfy shoes. You are going to be on your feet, likely on concrete, for a few hours. You don’t want to be in heels for this job!

10. Give yourself plenty of time to shop, sort and check out. The time you need will, of course, depend on how long your shopping list is, as well as how big the sale venue is and how many shoppers are there when you are. I have found at our local sale, shopping just for clothes for 2 kids, I needed over 2 hours, and 3 is probably more realistic. The first hour and half is spent going through the racks and grabbing items, then sorting and putting back anything I did not end up wanting. Depending on how many shoppers are trying to check out at the same time I am, it has taken at least 30 minutes just to go through checkout. That is the tedious part, but if you go in knowing to expect it (and maybe have a friend to help pass the time, see next tip), you can plan accordingly and just grin and bear it. The wait will be worth it in the end!

BONUS: Team up with a friend or family member. Divide and conquer! If you have a long shopping list or several people to shop for, this could be really helpful. I am betting Grandma would love to help shop for her grandkids, and maybe even find a few special items she wants to buy them for Christmas or birthdays! Or if you and a friend go shop together, even if you each only shop for your own kids, one of you can finish early and get in line for checkout, saving a space for the other while she finishes up her list. Tag-teaming the checkout lane during a really busy time slot can help save time and energy!

So, there you have it! My top tips and tricks for consignment sale shopping success! Would you add anything I missed? Leave a comment below and let me know!

The Pen is Mightier than the Phone (If you are a paper planner, anyway!)


Last week while cleaning at our rental house, I had a little accident and smashed my pinky finger on my right hand, which is also my dominant hand. As my poor little finger is still a long way from being fully healed and used as usual, I am finding all sorts of tasks more challenging than normal. Everything from opening jars, to washing dishes, from tying shoelaces to writing a sentence—it all is a lot harder without the use of one little bitty hurt finger!

The inability to write properly with a pen or pencil has been one of the most annoying challenges I have had to deal with this week. I did not realize how crucial the curling under of the little finger is to being able to hold a pencil and form letters! It has been a real frustration at times because I am a paper planner as opposed to a digital planner. I just cannot think as clearly about my day unless I write some things down physically on paper, and when that was not possible, I found myself floundering without a good plan. For example, the first day after my injury, I wanted to write a to do list, but instead I had to type up a note on my phone. I kept forgetting I had the list there and wondered what I needed to be doing all day. Another day I sat down to make a meal plan and grocery list. I simply could not do that digitally, so I made a spidery, somewhat painful attempt at writing my meal plan out as usual. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked! Later in the week I needed to do a brain dump and also had some school planning to do. I knew that there was no way I could write fast enough to do a good brain dump, so I ended up typing it out instead. I got it done, but I did not feel the same sense of relief that I do when I actually write everything out with paper and pen. Today my hand was feeling good enough that I was able to transfer some of my thoughts from the screen to the notebook, and that helped clarify my thoughts a lot.

This experience has really reinforced for me the need to give myself the time and blank paper space to go ahead and be the analog planner that I naturally am. I already knew from trial and error that I do better with paper planning overall, even though I still do keep a digital calendar up to date (mostly to keep in communication with my digital planner husband!), and I also use a note-keeping app or two occasionally. But after having been in a good routine with my Happy Planner and various composition notebooks, this week of being forced to use digital notes and lists was surprisingly inefficient for me. So once this little finger of mine is all better, I look forward to getting back in the analog planner groove again with gusto!

How about you? Are you a digital planner? Or do you prefer paper planning like me? Or maybe you like a combination of both! If you don’t have any idea what works best for you, one of my favorite bloggers and organization gurus, Mystie Winkler has a fabulous little tool to help you find out what planning style suits you best, as well as TONS of amazingly helpful resources over at Simplified Organization. (And if you use my affiliate link to purchase any of her courses, if helps me cover the costs of running this website, so thank you!)

Faithful with the Small Things

 

Do you ever wonder if what you are doing really matters, if the mundane tasks of everyday motherhood and married life are really of any eternal consequence? I do. Sometimes I get to looking around at women who have big, visible ministries with nation, even international platforms. I see them making a big impact on the lives of thousands of women through speaking, writing, singing, teaching, etc. Then I look at the sink full of dishes and hear my toddler dumping a bin of legos in the other room while her brother yells at her to stop, and I think, “Is this it? Does this repetitive, monotonous work of child training and housework and homeschooling really make much of a difference at all in the world?”

A radical life for Christ is not always visible to outside eyes.  ~Sally Clarkson, Own Your Life

Yes, I have chosen this role as a wife and mother, and I do feel called to stay at home and teach my children full time, but there is still that nagging little voice that tells me that this is not enough, that I should be doing more, or doing better, at the very least. After all, I have a Bible college training and a degree. I could be teaching more than basic math facts and proper table manners. But then, there is another small voice that speaks to my hearts, this time gently and softly, and He says, “This is what I have for you to do right now. Do it well. Love these children. Teach them with humility and diligence. Love and support your husband, encouraging him daily. Be faithful in these seemingly small things, my child. They matter to me.”

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”  ~‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I am reminded then that it is not about what the world sees, or what even the modern church sees, as successful ministry. It is about being obedient and faithful in what He gives me to do today, and every day. It is about being willing to do whatever He leads me to do, great or small. It is not about being seen or being recognized for what I do.

It’s not about the size of the serve. It’s the willingness to do what he asks.  ~Suzanne Eller, Come With Me

My role as a wife and mother is about being Jesus’ hands and feet to my family. My ministry is like that of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. It is not glamorous or even well-respected in society. It is dirty and tiring and mundane. But I have the opportunity to show my children the love and grace of God in how I discipline and serve and teach them each day. And if these two precious little souls are the only two I ever can reach with the gospel of Christ, then so be it. I am following the Shepherd who went looking for the one that was lost and rejoiced greatly when it was found.

In God’s economy, the thousands are just as important as the few.
The few are just as important as the one.
The one is why He came.
Because He cares.
~Suzanne Eller, Come With Me

Maybe someday the Lord will add to my ministry and enlarge my circle of influence to extend beyond my family or even my local church. But for now I need to learn to be faithful in the small things, so that when He wants to give me bigger things, I will be strong and prepared to handle them well. I pray I will learn to be His obedient and gracious servant, to be a reflection of Christ in both the monotonous and the monumental tasks He sends my way.

For more information on authors mentioned in this post, see Sally Clarkson’s website, her book Own Your Life, or Suzanne Eller’s website and her book Come With Me. (Amazon links are affiliate links, so if you click through them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commision, at no extra expense to you. This helps support the blog, so thank you for your help!)

How I Save Money on Kids’ Clothes: Consignment Sales

A few posts back I wrote about how I save money on my kids’ clothes by creating seasonal capsule wardrobes for them. Another of my tried and true methods for not breaking the bank when buying children’s clothing is to buy gently used clothing rather than brand new items. And my current favorite way to do this is by shopping consignment sales! If you have not tried shopping consignment sales, you are missing out, let me tell you!

A few years ago, I really did mot know what all the fuss was about our local kids consignment sale. I figured it was just a glorified garage sale, so I just skipped it. But then one year I decided to just give it a try, both selling and buying. I had such a great experience that I hate the fact that I am missing out on it this fall because of our move! (But you can count on me finding a sale to shop in our new area!) So, why do I love to shop consignment when it comes to kids’ clothes? Let me count the ways!

  1. One night of shopping, and boom! I have finished my clothes shopping for the season. Seriously, I go in there with my handy dandy Kids’ Capsule Wardrobe checklist, sift through the racks to find what I need, and at the end of the night, I have pretty much everything on my list! I have found that it is getting harder to find everything for my boy because he is getting to that age in which there is just less of a selection, at least at the sale I have been shopping. And sometimes I need to buy brand new shoes because the used ones can be pretty roughed up. (But I ALWAYS get shoes on clearance unless I cannot possibly avoid it. They are just overpriced otherwise, in my opinion.)
  2. I can often find cute name brand clothes that I could not normally afford for a fraction of the price. Gap, Gymboree, and even more select boutique style clothes are often easy to find at consignment sales, and they are usually in great shape. I especially like shopping for Christmas and Easter dresses for my little girl because they have usually been worn so few times that they are practically brand new! And at around $2-4 per dress on discount night, I can buy a couple and still not spend half what I would shopping a department store clearance rack!
  3. I shop the discount night to get an even better bargain! Most consignment sales have one or more time slots in which you can get as much as 50% off everything! Some sellers may choose not to give a discount or to offer a lower discount, so that is something to watch for as you check tags before buying. But I try to buy as much that is the lowest discounted price as possible. Often, if you are a volunteer helper at the sale or are a seller, you get an early bird pass to shop the discount sale first and snatch up the beat deals before the general public.
  4. I can also sell our gently used kids items and make back a part, if not all, of the money I spend shopping the sale! This was probably the thing that got me hooked on consignment sales the most. Every time I have sold items, I have been able to make enough to cover the cost of that season’s clothing. Often, I had one or two bigger ticket items along with all the clothes, like my son’s old train table and a barely used stroller. These help make a bigger contribution to the total profits! It is work to label everything and get it set up at the sale, but in my experience it was totally worth the effort. And it was much easier than having a full-on yard sale on my own!

I could go on and tell you a few pointers I have learned about buying and selling at consignment sales, but I think I will save that for another post. For now, I want to hear from you! Have you shopped consignment sales for kids clothing? Did you love it, or hate it? What is the best deal you have snagged shopping consignment?

The Comforts of Home: Thoughts on home, heaven and the local church

As I write this, I am sitting at a plastic folding table, surrounded by moving boxes in the middle of our new dining room. Last night as I was making cornbread from a mix I had brought from our other house. As I set everything up, I realized that the one thing I was missing for the process was a mixing bowl! Thankfully, I had brought the mix in a large Mason jar, so I simply stirred all the ingredients together in the jar! We don’t have any of our living room or bedroom furniture moved into our rental house yet, so there is nothing to sit on except the floor or folding chairs. I want to unpack some boxes, but without any bookshelves for books or dressers for clothes or bins for kids’ toys, it is hard to really do much of that. Moving over the long term is an adventure, and we are making the very best of it, but at times I do miss the ease of having all my belongs and my family in the same place at the same time. You could say that I miss the comforts of home.

Ever since we knew where we were moving, we have been researching churches in the area and wondering where God will call us to serve next. We have seen a few different “styles” of churches and are not sure just where we should even begin looking. We know that God has made us with specific gifts and talents to fill a place in His local body of believers, but we don’t know which place that will be yet. I started out asking the Lord to give us, just this once, a place to belong where I could feel comfortable being myself and feel like I fit in, somewhere I could be fed while also serving and being useful, with minimal discomfort of uneasiness. After all, we often refer to the local meeting place of a specific body of believers as our “church home,” so why should we not look to that place as having all the comforts of home a church could offer?

But then the Lord began to gently prick my heart. He reminded me that this world is not my home, and that includes the church. Heaven is my real home, and no matter how blessed and abundant my life here on earth may be, it will never truly satisfy the longing of my heart to be home with the Lord. Only there will I truly enjoy ALL the comforts of home. So while we may search for a place for corporate worship, a place in which our gifts can be useful to the local congregation to serve and uplift, we ought not be seeking comfort. In fact, we should expect discomfort, challenges and difficulty. We should expect to be stretched, to be called out of our comfort zone into deeper waters and tasks beyond our current abilities. This does not necessarily mean we have to go out of our way looking for a local church that does not fit our doctrinal beliefs or practices in a way with which we do not agree. We still ought to hold to our beliefs and gather with others who share those basic tenets of the faith. However, we do need to be willing to go to a place that feels too big or too small, too loud or too quiet, too new or too old, too this or too that, for us to feel totally comfortable. If we sense God calling us to a specific church location, we must follow His lead. He wants to use us for His glory, not for our ease. So I am learning to let go of my wants so that I can be filled with His desires instead. I know that wherever He places us, it will be better than whatever I might choose. I might will be uncomfortable for a time, but I then I will be reminded to look forward to my eternal home even more.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” ‭‭~Philippians‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬