3 Things I Use to Keep My Home Running Smoothly

Keeping a home clean, food on the table, activities coordinated and life somewhat structured is a bigger task than first meets the eye!

Today I want to talk through a few things I do to keep our home running (somewhat) smoothly!

Every day I use these three things:

1. Calendar planner

2. Simple lined notebook

3. 3-ring binder

How I use my planner

I highly recommend the planners that Hobby Lobby sells. They have the month-at-a-glance as well as each week laid out in a much bigger space for organizing all the nitty-gritty of your day.

The monthly page I use for keeping track of bigger events; church activities, company coming, meeting, etc. So when we need to schedule one of those kind of events I can glance at that page and know what days are already booked.

The weekly page I use to help me know where I am going each day and how to get there. 

I write everything on these pages–from my husband’s meetings to when I need to take meat out of the freezer.

 How I use my notebook

A huge part of keeping a home revolves around food. We need to eat 3 times a day, at least, and with kids that means several snacks thrown in there too.

Just a cheap lined notebook helps keep all things food planned and organized.  On one page is our weekly menu. I always know that I have enough food and what meal it is going towards for a whole week. 

On the other page is a constant, on-going shopping list. Whenever I see something almost gone I jot it down on the list. This eliminates so many “opps I forgot” trips to the store and ultimately saves money. 

How I use my binder

The third thing I use is a 3-ring binder. Here I keep recipes and also a master list of meals our family enjoys. This list is all divided out by meat types and what cookbook it is found in. This system makes meal planning and grocery list writing so much easier! 

These three books work hand in hand to help me stay organized and our home running sufficiently. Meals our family likes are organized in the 3-ring binder which I refer to as I make our weekly menu and shopping list in my lined notebook. I then make notes into my daily planner: what day I will make that shopping trip, when I need to start prep for certain meals, events and details of our week. 

I hope these ideas will help you as you seek to serve your family well! Caring for our families is a gift! 

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To Learn From A Child

Sometimes I wish I could be more like my two-and-a-half year old daughter.

She wakes up in the morning and snuggles up with me on the couch, happy to be sitting on my lap.

She doesn’t ever wonder about where her next meal is coming from.

She plays with her toys, taking joy in the moment.

She trails behind her Papa as he works outside, delighted just to be with him.

She lays her head down at night, closing her eyes and sleeping soundly until morning comes.

As a young child, she is a stranger to my tendency to lie awake at night, worrying about endless ‘what-ifs”, whether or not I cleaned the germs off the door knobs well enough, or the serious-toned conversation that happened at the dinner table.

The Bible calls adults to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven; their complete and simple trust in the Father for salvation reveals to us what it means to trust the Father. To take our need to become like children a step further, I would say that children often help us better understand to trust God in other areas as well.

My daughter begins and ends each day with such a carefree spirit because she trusts us, her parents, to take care of her. We’ve cared for her in the past, so why should she fear that we won’t continue to do so tomorrow, and the next day, and the next? As imperfect and fallible as we are, she still trusts us to take care of her.

My daughter has learned that if she needs something, all she needs to do is ask and we will take care of that need. If I, as a frail and limited human parent, desire to care for my daughter’s needs and delight in doing so, how much more should we trust our heavenly Father who is divinely capable of meeting our needs?

Why can we not be more like a child, especially when we have our heavenly Father caring for us?

With COVID-19 at the forefront of our lives these days, it is so easy to allow our fears to overwhelm our hearts and fill our minds with worry and anxiety. However, God has been faithful in the past and will continue to be faithful in the days to come, no matter what they may bring. Can we not trust Him?

Matthew 10:29-31 reminds us that He takes care of the common sparrow and keeps count of the hairs of our head. If He manages such small and insignificant details, how much more will He take care of us, the ones who are made in His image, the ones He gave His only Son for?

Oh to learn what it means to lean completely on the Father’s good and perfect care for His children.

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At home activities for kids

Sometimes life consists of the mundane. Dishes, bills, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. Our children learn from us just by participating in our everyday tasks. Sometimes, however, we need some fresh ideas for how we can interact more closely with our children in order to make memories they won’t forget…or we may just need some new ideas for how to  keep them busy while we get a few extra chores done! Either way, today we’re providing a list of our favorite activities. If it helps you to structure your day, think in blocks of time, having specific activities assigned to each segment. For example: 9:00-9:30–Chores/clean up, 9:30-10:00 -Crafts/Projects,10:00-10:30 – Independent play and so on. The following activities are simple and don’t require a ton of random supplies so we hope that you find these helpful as you continue to love on your kids!

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Outside

– Go on a walk and plan things you are going to look for (red houses, labrador retrievers, old cars, etc)

Go on a walk and flip a coin at every intersection you come to. Heads you go right. Tails you go left. 

– Look around in your backyard and see how many different shades of green you can find. 

– Sidewalk chalk

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Inside

– Read a book out loud

– When reading picture books, talk about what’s going on in the picture: count items, identify characters (mom, dad, baby, etc), identify attitudes. 

-Turn on some music and sing together

– Build a fort out of couch cushions and pillows

– Bake something yummy together

– Assemble a puzzle

– If you have a little girl, paint your nails together

– Have a tea party

– Play musical chairs

– Facetime a friend

– Have your child pretend you’re a mummy.  Tell him he needs to build you a great pyramid by covering you with toys/blankets, etc. Remember, mummies can’t move. You get a nap and your child learns some history. Win!

– Pop some Popcorn and have a family movie night

– Work on scripture memory together

– Bubble Bath

– Play a game such as Dominoes, Uno or Spot It. Check out this post on modifying games for young kids. http://heartsrefreshed.com/2019/07/30/5-games-you-can-modify-to-play-with-your-young-child/

– Play I Spy: use a little plastic animal or person and take turns hiding and finding it. 

– Get wiggles out acting out different animals: milk a cow, gallop like a horse, flap your wings like a bird, slither like a snake, roll in the mud like a pig, and so on.

– Clean the house! More often than not when I am doing some deeper cleaning around the house, my toddler will get right in the middle of it and want to help! 

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Crafts/Projects

– Make crafts out of toilet paper rolls (a simple google search will give you hundreds of ideas!)

– Make paper airplanes

– Draw simple designs such as a flower, tree, house, etc., and then “color” them with rice (mix food coloring into the rice and let dry, then use glue)

– Make a mosaic using cut up pieces of construction paper. 

– Make simple designs from construction paper and then have your child put together the picture. For example: cut out the trunk of a tree, the leaves, and fruit and then glue them together onto the tree you drew.

– For young children learning their alphabet, write out names of family members or friends for them to trace. As they trace the names, point out the different letters.

– Playdough More than likely you have all the ingredients to make your own playdough! Homemade playdough stays soft for so long and is super easy to whip up! I use this recipe – https://www.iheartnaptime.net/play-dough-recipe/

– Color (google “free coloring sheets for kids”)

-Write a letter to Grandma or a friend

– Create your own book- Fold multiple construction paper pieces and then staple together. Let your child write or draw pictures inside to create their own story.

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Independent Play

– Play store with canned goods, cereal boxes, etc. 

-Fill up the sink and let your child “wash dishes”

-Use masking or painters tape on your floor to make roads that your child can drive their cars on. Legos/Blocks can be used for making houses/parks/stores. 

-Listen to an audio book (look on your libraries website and see if you can check out an audio book online).

-Set your toddler inside a large cardboard box and let him color away with crayons or markers

-Finger bathtub paint https://www.food.com/recipe/kids-bathtub-paints-66418

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Online

-Cincinnati Zoo is offering a Facebook Live Safari every week day while the zoo is closed! https://www.facebook.com/cincinnatizoo/

-“Scholastic” has put together a great set of free learning resources! https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html

-“The Relaxed Homeschool” facebook page offers lots of freebie worksheets that you can print off. https://www.facebook.com/therelaxedhomeschool/ Laminate them or use a sheet protector for repeated use of the same page!  

-Check out this list for 50 ideas on ways to sneak in learning! https://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2015/03/50-easy-ways-to-sneak-in-learning.html?m=1


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Favorite Soups for Cold Winter Days

As a missionary kid in Brazil, we never had winter: it was hot all year around. But that didn’t keep us from having soup! So when I moved to the United States and would hear comments about having to wait for winter to have soup for supper, it never made much sense to me. However, after living through ten winters in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I am beginning to understand that there is definitely something cozy and yummy about having a hot bowl of soup on cold winter days!

Even as I write this, today feels like a “soup day”, for snow is falling outside and the fire in the wood stove is going. And so, because we are still in the clutches of winter and have a few months to go before the birds start singing again and the trees begin to look alive, we have gathered up some of our favorite soups to share with you!


Chicken Tortilla Soup

I grew up having this chicken tortilla soup and it is still one of my favorite soups to make, even now as an adult. The key is all the toppings that you add at the table–make sure you pile them on! ~Angie

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced (or powdered garlic)

1 – 4oz can green chilies

6 cups chicken broth

1 – 10oz can cream of chicken soup

2 ½ cups water

1 ½ tablespoons A-1 steak sauce

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cajun or taco seasoning

¼ teaspoon pepper

3-6 cups chicken, cooked and cubed/shredded

Directions

In a large stockpot, saute onions and garlic in a little oil until tender. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer.

When serving, load each bowl with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese, and fresh diced tomatoes. Cilantro, green onions, and avocados are also yummy toppings!


Hearty Potato Soup

This is my husband’s all time favorite soup! It is creamy, savory and hearty! Jeremiah is very happy when I make this soup and serve it with a side of warm dinner rolls! ~ Rachel

Ingredients

6 slices of bacon, cooked

1 onion, diced and sauteed

32oz chicken broth

10 potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 teaspoons flour

1 pack Ranch Dressing mix

2 cups half and half

1 cup sour cream

Directions

Boil potatoes in chicken broth until tender. Scoop out ⅓ of potatoes and mash them (by hand or with a mixer). Return to pot.

Add sauteed onion.

In a bowl combine flour, ranch mix, half and half and sour cream. Whisk into soup slowly. Do not boil.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with bacon and cheddar cheese.


Chicken Rice Soup

I just discovered this easy, gluten/dairy free soup and was so happy with the amount of flavor it had. My husband and all three kids loved it! – Chrystal

Ingredients

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, minced

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

1 rib celery, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried parsley

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

5 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 chicken breasts, raw

1 cup long grain white or brown rice

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook and stir for 3-4 minutes, until onion begins to turn golden.

Add garlic, parsley and thyme and cook 1 minute.

Add broth, chicken, rice, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat to medium-low (a simmer), cover, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until vegetables and rice are tender.

Remove chicken from pot and shred. Add back to the pot and stir. Serve.


Chunky Chili

This is so easy to mix up and have ready for a quick meal! I usually make a big batch and then serve leftovers for a loaded potato bar or even for a quick variation of taco salad! ~Angie

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tablespoons chili powder (depending on how spicy you want it)

1 pound hamburger

3 – 15.5 oz cans of beans, undrained (any variation of kidney, pinto, black, or chili)

2 – 15.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained

Salt to taste

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Directions

In a large kettle, saute onions, peppers, and garlic in a little oil. Add hamburger and cook until browned.

Add remaining ingredients, except for cilantro. (Taste before adding any salt–I have found that I rarely need to add salt due to the canned ingredients already being seasoned.)

Just before serving, add chopped cilantro.

Serve with cheese, sour cream, Frito chips. We also like to add cooked rice at the bottom of our bowl for an even heartier bowl of soup!

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Learning to Number Our Days

A few weeks ago, we took down the 2019 calendar and hung up the 2020 calendar. We began a new year and a new decade.

Shortly after the New Year, I began to do what many of us often do at the beginning of a new year: my mind’s eye saw a brand new calendar, open for new goals and opportunities. However, my heart was simultaneously weighed down with question marks about what these new goals and opportunities should look like. The uncertainties of the upcoming months caused me to feel like I was literally carrying around a physical burden on my shoulders.

Perhaps some of you can identify with such emotions as you look at 2020, and you, like me, have wondered how to deal with them. Do we just try harder to “make our goals happen”? Do we give up before even trying because it is just too overwhelming?

Soon after the New Year, as I was pondering these things and feeling overwhelmed with uncertainty, I read Psalm 90. As my eyes read the divinely-inspired words of Scripture, my heart was encouraged by the chapter’s reminders of how we should approach our day-to-day life; consequently, these reminders also serve as timely instruction for how we should view our goals for this year.

God is everlasting
Verses 1-2 depicts God as everlasting: from being our “dwelling place in all generations” (90:1), to being God “before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world” (90:2), God always has been and always will be. He is everlasting.

Man is but dust
Verses 3-11 then remind us of who we are: we are but dust. God is in control of man and has power to return man to dust (90:3); thousands of years are but a short while in God’s eyes (90:4). In comparison, our years are limited–seventy, or maybe eighty–and filled with toil and trouble (90:9-10). Compared to God, we are but a vapor, an early-morning mist that vanishes when the sun’s warmth wraps around it.

But that’s not the end of the story…
It is easy to follow the tension in the Psalmist’s line of reason. The first part of the chapter outlines who God is. He is great and powerful, outside of creation for He is Creator, from everlasting to everlasting, He is God. In contrast then, the Psalmist portrays who man is: man is a vapor, subject to God’s wrath and anger; our iniquities are exposed to the light of His presence. A fearful thing indeed.

After reading these verses then, one could easily succumb to a fatalistic mentality: “Well then, what’s the point in life? What are we even doing here on earth? Our lives are just a blip on the radar of time, only to be soon forgotten. What does God even care about what we do from day to day?”

The Psalmist seems to anticipate such a response, for the final section of Psalm 90 gives us the answer to these very questions. In response to who God is and who man is, the Psalmist makes several requests of the Lord:

“So teach us to number our days” (90:12).

“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love” (90:14).

“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us” (90:15).

“Let your work be shown to your servants and your glorious power to their children” (90:16).

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us” (90:17a).

“Establish the word of our hands upon us” (90:17b).

While each of these requests remind us of the reality that God is eternal and man is dust, they also point towards the reality that man has a purpose here on earth!

As I read these verses, my heart that had been weighed down with question marks about this coming year was encouraged by this reminder to live life purposefully and intentionally for God’s glory. No, I may not have all the details figured out, but I can have my heart focused on glorifying God’s with each new day, come what may.

So as we head into 2020, may we keep these verses in mind as we go throughout the year.

As we begin each day, may we number our days and be mindful that our time here on earth is, indeed, short.

When life feels like it is filled with toil and trouble, may our hearts turn to His love for our satisfaction. May we then rejoice and be glad in Him, praising Him even in the midst of affliction.

As we go about each day, may our lives reflect His works and His power so that all may see.

When we consider the responsibilities that lie ahead of us and our dreams and goals for the year, may we desire that the work of our hands be established by Him.

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