Setting Intentions and Atmosphere in Our Home

I sat at the dining room table Sunday afternoon, notebook open in front of me and pen in hand, waiting for some ideas to come. After weeks of growing discontentment with our current routine and the attitudes in our home, especially surrounding chores and school, I was ready for a change. 

But what kind of change? I knew I had to set the tone with more positivity and a fresh atmosphere, so I set down a few ideas for adding positive reinforcement and a little more loveliness into our day. 

One of the problems we have been struggling with is in the area of completing our morning routine without dawdling and complaining. I created a little extra incentive chart for my son to do his morning jobs in a timely manner without my constant nagging. I also decided to back up the time I expect us to “start school” each day to stop us feeling so rushed. When I talked to my son about these changes, he was very excited and ready to try to get his tasks started in the morning.

Since my own attitude is really the only one I can change, I also wrote down some very different priorities for the week in my planner. Instead of usual top 3 tasks for housekeeping and work, I wrote things like “Smile, laugh, and have some fun every day,” “Create something with your hands,” and “Love God and your family well.” I also reminded myself of the importance of getting my personal Bible study and prayer time in before the kids wake each day, so I set my alarm a little earlier for Monday morning.

Finally, I resolved to infuse some fun and beauty into our homeschool routine so that we all have something special to look forward to each day. Over the past few weeks we added “Poetry Tea Time” back into our schedule once a week, and it had become a highlight for me and the kids. In my notebook, I wrote down plans for daily “tea time” at the beginning of the school day: light candles, set out the tea things and snacks, and gather at the table with smiles and anticipation of the good time we are about to have learning together. 

Finished with my brainstorming session, I pushed back the notebook and set down my pen with a satisfied sigh. I knew that none of these changes were big on their own. And I knew that none of them was a magic formula for success. But I also knew that because I was setting my intention to make positive changes and have a joyful attitude myself, things would be better. Because I was going to set the tone and prepare an atmosphere of beauty and goodness, our day would be different. I was hopeful.

And, you know what? Today was the best day we have had in a very, very long time. I hope it is not the last… I don’t think it will be!

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

Welcome to Part 3 of the Homemaking for Real People Series! Last Monday I wrote about my why behind the idea of  “Good Enough Housekeeping.” Today I’m going to talk about how we can start keeping our house in good working order and relatively clean without being total neat-freaks. I think most of us would like to have a house that feels uncluttered and could be “good enough” for company in under an hour. So we have to find a way to balance keeping order and not getting caught up in the details. Let’s get to work!

Define Your Priorities

The first step to creating a workable housekeeping routine is to take a good look around your home and decide what areas are the most important for you to keep clean and neat. You can do this a couple of ways. First, think about the areas in your home that get the most use, like the kitchen and bathrooms. Those are probably going to be your highest priority for getting and keeping clean because they need to be ready for use so much of the time.

You may also want to go through each room in the house and identify “problem areas” that seem to perpetually get messy or cluttered. Once you have identified all the problem areas, you can (hopefully) think of a solution to help keep those messes at bay, whether that be adding a daily “clearing up” time specifically for those spots, or better organization, or maybe just better habit training for your children (or yourself!). 

Take some time to write down a list of the areas of your home that are the highest priorities for you to clean, maybe even listing them in order of importance. I would also challenge you to write down at least one area that is NOT a priority for you right now, and give yourself permission to let it go for a while.

Divide Up Your Tasks

Next it is time to think about what specific tasks need done in order to keep your priority areas neat and tidy. Write each task down, then note how frequently you would like it to be done. In my kitchen, for instance, these are the main tasks that need to happen on a regular basis: 

  • Wash dishes: at least daily, preferably after every meal
  • Wipe down counters and table: at least once daily, preferably after ever meal
  • Wipe down stovetop, sink and faucet: once daily
  • Sweep floor: once daily
  • Mop floor: once a week
  • Empty trash: once a week, or as needed

There are some extra deep-cleaning tasks I could add to that list as well, but they are things that need done less frequently, like cleaning out the fridge, reorganizing the pantry, and cleaning the oven. 

Once you have written out what specific tasks you have and how often you need to be doing them, take a good, hard look at that list and make sure you have reasonable expectations for yourself and your family. When I look at my list above, for instance, I know that although I would like to have the kitchen and dining area mopped once a week, that rarely actually happens. So I need to decide if it is my routine or my expectation that needs to change.

Decide on a Plan

Finally, it is time to make a plan. This is the most personal and flexible part, so I am not going to give you specific instructions on how to make your plan. You need to find a routine for cleaning that works for you and your family. If you have children 3 and up, they can be taught how to help with some basic chores. If you are married and your spouse is willing, perhaps you can divide up some tasks between you. It may help to create a short list of morning tasks and evening tasks that you can post somewhere in your house to remind you to get those key things done daily. You may want to assign specific days to specific rooms, or to specific weekly tasks so that you know they will get done on a regular basis. 

The key in our “Good Enough Housekeeping” routine is having grace and giving ourselves permission to miss a day here and there. Maybe you even need to plan a “day off” every week in which you purposefully don’t do any housework beyond what is absolutely necessary. Keep your expectations reasonable. Don’t compare yourself or your current situation to someone’s pretty Pinterest or Instagram photos. Do what you can, when you can. Remember to put relationships first. Housekeeping is an act of service to your family and those who enter your home, but it is not the end all be all! 

Previous posts in this series:

Part 1: Intro to Homemaking for Real People

Part 2: Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping?

Rhythms and Routines #fiveminutefriday

rhythms and routines

I could go in so many different directions with this week’s “routine” prompt! (Which means I should probably think about doing some posts on related topics!) But I think I’ll stick with why I love rhythms and routines as a non-type A personality and as a mom of young children.

I used to try to create a schedule with times to do specific things during my days. This never, ever, ever, ever worked for me! I could not stick to a schedule for more than one day, if I could even get through that first day at all! So I thought I was just not a person who could organize my days. But then if I just went through days without any direction at all, I felt very disorganized and lost.

Enter: Rhythms and Routines!

For me a routine is more like a rhythm that helps provide a general structure to my days without being rigid or scheduled. I know that I need to do some things during certain parts of my day, but not at specific set times. A routine gives me grace to switch things up if I need to in order to accommodate our ever-changing schedule. But it still gives some direction as to the general outline of each day and keeps things somewhat predictable, both for me and my kids.

And that’s another thing about having a routine… My kids know generally what to expect of each day. They aren’t left guessing about everything because that would leave them feeling uneasy, too.

Rhythms and routines keep us sane and stable while giving us room to be flexible. So if you don’t work well with a schedule, but you know you need structure, give a routine a try. I think you’ll be glad you did!

This post is part of the Five Minute Fridays link-up hosted by Kate Motaung. Join the FMF community and get your free-write on! Find my other Five Minute Fridays posts here

My Goals for GROWTH in 2018, Part 1: Relationships

As promised, I am back with a post about my goals for 2018! In my last post, I talked a little about the word I have chosen to be my theme for the year: GROWTH. All my goals this year center on that idea of slow, steady progress. I have divided my goals up into a few different general areas: Relational Growth, Personal Growth, and Professional Growth. This first post will focus on my goals in growing the relationships God has given me.

Goals for Relational Growth

  1. Be more intentional about showing love to my husband in ways that mean a lot to him. After a very stressful year with our move and all that happened leading up to that, my husband and I are closer than ever. We have learned to lean on each other through difficult times. In 13 years of marriage we have had our share of ups and downs, but I can honestly say that my husband is my very best friend. Still, I know that without constant tending, even a good marriage can start to grow weeds. The demands of work, child-rearing, ministry commitments, etc. can take their toll and cause husbands and wives to neglect their own relationship with each other. I do not want that happen, so I am committing to continue finding tangible, creative ways to be intentional about showing my husband the love and respect I have for him. One way I am planning to do this is to start having weekly at-home date nights because we are in one of those life stages when it is hard to get away for an evening out.
  2. Continue working on parenting with more consistent discipline and more grace. For a long time I have struggled with inconsistency and anger in my parenting. I hate to admit it, but there it is. I know I am not the only one. But over the past several months, I have come across a few excellent books and other resources that I am slowly reading and mulling over in hopes of learning and applying more grace-filled but consistent discipline with my children. My heart is that my relationship with my children will be one that will draw them to Christ, but, oh, I have such a long, long way to go. One action step I am taking to move in the right direction is to complete Lisa-Jo Baker’s Temper Toolkit e-course over the next month.
  3. Get together with friends (outside of church functions) at least every other week. This might sound odd to all the extroverts out there, but I am guessing my fellow introverted mommas will understand! As a natural homebody, it is already very hard for me to want to get out of the house more than a few times a week for church and running errands. Add to that the fact that we are still the “new folks” around here and have very few friends, and it is harder still for me to be brave and proactive about scheduling time to meet up with other moms and their kids. But my kids do keep my accountable in this area, because they miss having play dates when we go without for a long time! The winter has been hard because of holidays, illness, and cold weather putting a halt to some of our regular homeschool park days and such. I also have the new added dilemma/blessing of a childcare job at our church one morning every week, which will mean that day is out of the question for hanging out with friends since we will have to do school in the afternoon. But I know I am in better emotional health when I spend time with other women in community, so I am committed to make it work somehow!

Now that I have shared a few of my goals for growth in 2018, I want to hear about yours! What are some of the areas of growth you want to work on in the coming year?

The Reading Report, Vol. 5: October Edition


This month has been apparently not been very good for blogging! I have been busy with other projects, like homeschooling, family fun time, knitting my son a sweater (hopefully, in time for his birthday next week!), and getting to know our new neighborhood! We have visited parks, met new friends, taken lots of nature walks and made weekly trips to our local library! The kids and I have been really enjoying lots of reading time as a result. I finished a few great books this month, and I have started a couple of new ones. Since a lot of my reading time has actually been kid-lit and picture books read aloud to my littles, I thought this month it would be appropriate to add a segment dedicated to some of our favorite children’s books we have read in the last several weeks. I won’t give much commentary on the kid’s selections, but I promise not to put anything on the list that I would not highly recommend reading with your own children!

What I’m currently reading…

Since I finished Little Women, I just had to get Little Men next! I found out about the deal on Audible to get the narration for $.99 after “buying” the free Kindle version and adding Whispersync. I have not gotten very far into the book yet, but I already can tell this is one I want my son to listen to when I am finished!

After waiting a couple of weeks, I finally got Gilead by Marilynne Robinson on hold from the library. This was the last book discussed on Close Reads, and I decided to wait to listen to the podcasts until I had finished the book. Now I get to read and listen at my own pace, which is such fun! I have heard that this book greatly loved by some and strongly disliked by others, so I am looking forward to coming to my own conclusions as I read.

I know I have mentioned reading Triggers before, so I won’t go into much right now. I had set the book aside for a while, but I joined a book club group on Facebook to read the book together, which gave me the little push I needed to pick it back up again. I have not been a good participant in the book club at all, but I have benefited from digging back in and examining my heart in regards to my parenting.

I had heard about The Explosive Child from some parents on a homeschooling forum, and I thought it would be an interesting book to peak into. I have a child who struggles with overcoming frustration and not being very flexible, although perhaps not to the extreme of the illustrations in this book. I hope to find a few nuggets of wisdom and practical strategies to help that child learn better coping skills. I will let you know what I think as I get further in!

What I have finished reading…

It took me several months, but I finally finished listening to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I was so accustomed to listening to this book while I was cooking dinner or cleaning the kitchen that I almost felt lonesome when it was over! I loved every minute of this book. I only wish I would have read Little Women earlier in my parenting journey. So much of Marmie’s advice and the accounts of Meg and Jo’s struggles hit close to home for me. I am so glad I didn’t miss this book!

A few people I follow online recently posted about their progress through My Antonia, which was required reading for me in high school. I tried to remember something of the story, but all I could recall was that I didn’t really like this book. Since I could not recall why, and knowing it is a piece of literature that has stood the test of time, I decided to pick it up and see what I thought of it now. Boy, am I glad I did! This was quite possibly the most beautiful book I have read all year! When I finished the last sentence, I just had to put the book (um, my phone) down and soak it all in for a few minutes. Looking back, I can only guess my dislike for the book when I read it as a teen was due to my lack of life experience and perspective. But now, as a woman, wife, mother, friend and traveller, the narrative of My Antonia was breathtaking, poignant and full of truth about life, love and loss. I read this via the Libby app (meaning I borrowed it from my library system through Overdrive), but now I am planning to buy a hard copy to have and read again and again.

Murder on the Orient Express is the newest read on the Close Reads Podcast, and one of the other “close readers” found an audio version of the book read by David Suchet on archive.org. Since this book is in high demand now that a new film version is coming out soon, I decided to enjoy this free version. I binge-listened to it over the course of a few days, and it was perfectly delightful. I have always enjoyed a good Agatha Christie mystery, and Hercule Poirot did not disappoint!

I also finished Come With Me, and since I described it in the last Reading Report, I won’t go into detail here. But I did enjoy it to the end. I found one minor factual error in one of the last few chapters pertaining to Paul’s life…but overall, I enjoyed and benefited from this book as a supplement to my daily devotions. And now, Suzanne Eller has come out with an actual devotional study book to correspond! So, if you are needing something to rejuvenate your personal time with God, I would recommend both!

Kid Lit we’ve been loving…

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Just finished this one tonight, and my son was disappointed that it was over. (Always the sign of a great children’s novel!)
Rabbit Hill: I have read a bit of this one on my own just for fun, and my son has read the first chapter on his own. I think this will now be our bedtime read-aloud. It is all about a rabbit family, as well as their other animal neighbors, waiting for a new human family to move into the farm house and garden that has been neglected for a long time.
Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Comes Back: We listened to Mary Poppins during our car rides over the period of a few weeks, ending with our camping trip in early October. It was a delightful listen on every level. The narrator was excellent and truly brought ever character to life. This one had me and the kids laughing every time! I was happy to find the sequel was also in our library system, so we get to listen to it next.

And that’s a wrap for this edition of the Reading Report! Next time, I hope to get this out a little earlier in the month. I am thinking since I may not have finished many more adult books by then, I will compile a list of some of our very favorite picture books. I was going to include them here, but this post was already getting quite long! Until later, happy reading!