When Convenience Becomes a Crutch

When Convenience Becomes a Crutch | Vicki-Arnold.com

I make it no secret, I’m not the best housekeeper. I struggle to stay on top of things and sometimes with even the desire to do it because I get easily discouraged when I find myself doing the same thing over and over again.

However, I never let that stop me from trying to do better. And, believe me, I am better than I was years ago. I’m glad that God hasn’t given up on me through the years.

One area I struggle to stay on top of is my kitchen, particularly the dishes. Ever since we went camping in August, I’ve been pondering the idea of ditching our dishwasher. I never really felt brave enough until last week, when I mentioned it to my husband.

Our dishwasher is not terribly old (9 years), but it has never really cleaned our dishes really well. They had to be rinsed thoroughly before going in and if someone didn’t do this, it meant that dishes would have to be hand washed AFTER they came out.

So we ditched the dishwasher mostly, we have only ran it twice in the last week or so to help with catch up after the fridge was cleaned out and after company. For the rest of the dishes, we have been hand washing them. What happened kind of amazed me, but was what I was hoping for.

We don’t have more dirty dishes sitting around than usual and I’m making progress in training the kids to wash their own dishes. This means that the ever present stack of dirty dishes in my sink and on the counter next to it is slowly, but steadily improving.

Amazing!

As I’ve been doing dishes this week, I got to thinking. Don’t worry, it didn’t hurt too bad.

When we had the option of the dishwasher, the dishes were never a priority to anyone immediately because we had to wait for a full load to run it. So the dirty dishes sat and waited. When someone didn’t rinse their dish, which was very, very often the case, those dishes then often enough had to sit with water in them to soften the hardened food in order to be rinsed to put in the dishwasher to be washed.

Just typing that is exhausting.

The convenience of the dishwasher had become a crutch, a procrastination enabler, if you will. So we ditched it and I think we will be better for it in the long run.

What about you? Are there any conveniences holding you back?

Pen Pal Writing Tips and Resources For Kids

Pen Pal Writing Tips and Resources for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

Pen pals are a fun way for kids to practice writing skills. My kids have had a couple over the years and it is something they always enjoyed. It’s something I enjoyed as a kid, too. I remember one in particular that I traded a few letters with that lived in Spain.

How to Find a Pen Pal

You can find a pen pal a few different ways:

What to Write About

Depending on your comfort level, the sky is the limit. As a parent, I would caution children to not divulge TOO much information, particulars of regular habits like shopping at such and such every Tuesday or a special event before it happens. Writing about events afterwards allows you a chance to give more details without risking your safety.

Ask questions and then answer them yourself. “What do you like to do for fun? I like to read and ride my bike.”

Tell about something special that happened recently. Maybe you attended a wedding or someone you know had a baby that you got to visit.

Talk about the general area in which you live. Maybe there is a famous landmark near you that you have visited.

Ways to Make Pen Pal Writing Even More Fun

Write in Code

Create a key for your secret code and mail it separately. Then write each other in your very own secret spy code! You will need to assign a code mark for each letter of the alphabet, like A=5, B=9, C=22 or something.

Take Turns Writing a Story

Write the opening paragraph to a story and send it to your pen pal. Have them write the next paragraph and send it back to you. Keep adding to it until you feel it is finished.

Mail Something Unusual

You don’t have to send a letter in an envelope every time. Here are a few things you can mail through the postal service:

Get Creative With Your Envelopes

Try decorating your envelopes for some added fun. Try using washi tape, creative letteringuse your envelope as your canvas for some artwork, or don’t even bother with an envelope.

A Couple More Resources

I came across a couple other resources while writing this post that I thought I would pass along, too.

Crafts Kids Can Make to Give As Gifts Book List – Crafty Christmas

Crafts Kids Can Make to Give As Gifts Book List | Vicki-Arnold.com

We love to make gifts here. Every year I always say that we will get an early start and make lots of gifts. This year is no different in that regard. My kids are getting older and are able to handle more intricate crafting.

Being the dutiful Mom, I pulled some books together for them (and a few extras) the last time I was at the library alone. These are books with projects kids can create to give as gifts to the special people in their life.


Fabric Paper Thread: 26 Projects to Stitch With Friends by Kristen Sutcliffe – Projects for wearing and for decorating.


Loom Band It: 60 Rubber Band Projects for the Budding Loomineer by Kat Roberts and Tessa Sillars-Powell – These popular little bands make jewelry and the cutest little charms.


Super Simple Magnets: Fun and Easy-to-Make Crafts for Kids by Karen Latchana Kenney – A wide variety of designs in this book.


Fun and Funky Knits: Over 20 Simple Knit Stitch Projects – For the newer knitter, there is a how-to section at the front for those who might want to try something new, too.


Rev-o-LOOM-tion: A Modern Kids Guide to Rocking Rubber Bands by Liz Hum – Step-by-step photos for each project. The difficulties are Easy-Peasy (just learning), Rockin’ Rainbows (ready for more complicated patterns), and LOOM-a-tic (advanced). There is a mustache one that I think a lot kids would like.


Cool Crafts with Old Jeans by Carol Sirrine – Wearable, practical, and decorative gift options. Perfect for upcycling old jeans.


Cool Crafts with Newspapers, Magazines, and Junk Mail by Jen Jones – Not all of them would be gift ideas, but most of them are. Some really fun projects.


Cool Crafts with Old T-Shirts by Carol Sirrine – Not all of the projects require sewing, but the ones that do are pretty simple.

This post is the first in a series of posts called Crafty Christmas. More crafting fun posts coming soon!

How to Create a Custom Chore Chart

How to Create Your Own Custom Chore Chart | Vicki-Arnold.com

I have been on a mission this year to train my children better in certain areas. I personally struggle with discipline and my children have seemed to pick up this super awesome habit. So you can probably guess that the first step in training my children better was to work on creating better habits myself.

Why does parenting work like that? It’s really annoying sometimes. I personally think it would be better if that whole “do as I say, not as I do” thing actually worked. Eh, maybe not.

This parenting gig has a way of changing a person…and that’s probably what God intended. Anywho, on to today’s point…

How to Create a Custom Chore Chart

I have seen a whole bunch of different chore charts over the years. Some are simple like the ones I found at Dollar Tree that were a pad of basic, fill in the blank rows with columns for each day of the week. Others are pretty involved, with systems, rotating cards, and/or magnetic things.

When I was at my friend Tina’s house the other day, I saw a simple laminated graph on her fridge that was exactly what I kept trying to come up with. I knew what I wanted to put on this chart, but couldn’t figure out how to lay it out. Seeing hers made it all click. Mine is a little different, but that’s because it fits our family.

Here’s how I made it:

  1. Open your word processing program (I use Pages) and create a blank landscape document.
  2. Insert/create a table. You will want a table to be 7-8 columns by 2 + however many chores you have rows long (mine is 6 because I have 4 chores on it).
  3. If your table format hasn’t automatically done this, merge all the cells in the very first row together (select them and then in the formatting of your table, select Merge Cells). Type in your title, I chose Household Chore Assignments.
  4. In your 1st column, starting in the 3rd row, start adding your chores.
  5. In your 2nd row, starting in the 2nd cell, label your days of the week. I chose to do Monday through Friday separately and then put both Saturday and Sunday in one column called Weekend. You can do whatever works for you.
  6. Make your text/table all pretty. In my header, I centered the text both horizontally and vertically and chose a font that I liked in a bigger size. For I also centered my text for the chores and days of the week.

Below the chart, I used the space to explain what was expected for each job. I chose kitchen, cleaning, laundry, and feed animals for our chores because I like the idea of having a designated helped in these areas each day of the week.

For the cleaning chore, there is the general expectation of making sure the house (specific areas) stays picked up, plus each day has a daily chore. I put these in the cell that corresponded with the day I wanted them done in smaller text that I centered and then justified to the bottom of the cell so there was space above to write the names. If that is confusing, check out my chart below and you’ll see what I mean.

Finally, I laminated my chart! This is the first time I broke out my laminator after months of it sitting on my kitchen counter. I was pretty pleased with myself. Like all works of art, this will be hung on our fridge…ok, so not exactly a work of art, but hey. It’s still going on the fridge and I will use a dry erase (or possibly a wet erase) marker to assign the duties to the appropriate child.

That’s it! You can check out my chart below, but ignore the little line after the last word, the screen shot caught my cursor in Pages. That’s not actually on the finished chart.

I’ve uploaded it as a PDF so you can see it in full view, too. I just ask that if you like it and want to share it with someone else, please send them to this post so they can see how to make their own if they’d like, too. Meaning, don’t share the link that ends with .PDF, please.

My Custom Chore Chart | Vicki-Arnold.com

Sunday Psalms – Psalm 3:3-8

Sunday Psalms - Psalm 3:3-8 | Vicki-Arnold.com

I don’t typically write any additional commentary for the Sunday Psalms, but this one is a little special to me. This particular passage of scripture came to mean a lot to me and was my prayer many, many times when I was struggling with panic attacks. I pray it is a blessing to you, too.

“But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my god: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon they people. Selah.” – Psalm 3:3-8

My Top 5 Favorite Jeremy Camp Songs

My Top 5 Favorite Jeremy Camp Songs

Quite a while ago, I reviewed Jeremy Camp’s memoir called I Still Believe. I loved the book so much that I bought and gave away three copies. After reading the book, certain songs of his held more meaning because the stories behind them were so moving.

Book aside, the number one reason I love Jeremy’s work is that there is no doubt who he is singing about. His work is decidedly Christ-centered and I love that. My favorite Christian songs are those that a.) worship Jesus Christ and/or b.) could be prayers. Kind of like the psalms of the Bible (my favorite book of the Bible…probably not a surprise at this point).

Today, I’d like to share my favorite Jeremy Camp songs. This is not a countdown at all because I don’t think I could pick what order I like them.

My Top 5 Favorite Jeremy Camp Songs

Reckless

This falls in the heart prayer category. This is the life I desire to live, it’s also one that scares me a bit because of how I’ve seen that play out in the Bible.

My God

A declaration of faith that celebrates the resurrection of Christ and how it is only through that self-less and undeserved act that I can have hope.

Overcome

This song never fails to move me to tears. Christ’s death and resurrection is such a horrible and wonderful thing that amazes me when I think about it…which should probably happen more often.

The Way

“Lift high the King of Kings and Great I Am.” Ack, I love to worship with this one.

We Must Remember

I think one of the hardest things to let go of as a Christian is the guilt and shame that comes with past sins. This is a good reminder for those dealing with that.

I hope this post blesses you as much as it did my heart while putting it together. Do you have a favorite Jeremy Camp song?

Writing That’s Fun for Kids

Writing That's Fun for Kids! | Vicki-Arnold.com

Writing isn’t something that comes naturally for all kids. For some kids, it is down right hard. Whether you have a kid who struggles with a writing disability or just doesn’t like to write, making it boring is never going to work. Even kids who like to write, don’t like to write boring stuff!

One of the things I’d like to work with my kids this year is to learn to like writing a bit more. I’ve had a mixture of one who struggled to write fluidly and one who can, but just doesn’t like to and I’d like to help them both. Writing is a great tool for communication and there are many professions that benefit from being able to write well.

Let’s try adding some fun to writing and see where that takes us!

Writing That’s Fun for Kids

Create Your Own Mad Libs

My kids LOVE mad libs. They love the silly stories that are produced. To make their own, have them write a simple story (1-2 paragraphs), but encourage them to use good descriptive sentences. You will want to double space your lines to make it easier to read. This is their mad lib story frame.

Now, go through the story and circle some nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns…you get the idea. Write what type of word it is (noun, verb, etc.) on the line below. Erase the circled word.

Have each child take a turn asking the other(s) for words to fill in the blanks. Read your silly story and laugh and laugh!

Journaling

Don’t roll your eyes, journaling can be FUN! This doesn’t have to be a soon forgotten “dear diary” affair. Try putting a twist on the journal:

  • Use story prompts. Giving a kid a blank page can be paralyzing to some, start them with a question or statement or two and see where they go.
  • Write a fictional journal. Have them write from the perspective of a favorite book or movie character or historical figure.
  • Head back to the future or jump into the past. Write from the perspective of themselves 10 years from now or 5 years ago.
  • Don’t go it alone. Write with them. Write notes or letters to each other and keep it as a top secret, between you and me thing. You might be surprised how well this works.

Get Biographical

Some kids like to talk about themselves, let them write their life’s story. You can make this a longer-term project by picking life events that happened and asking them to write about those individually. Then compile them in chronological order to create a memoir or autobiography.

If you have a kid that is interested in people, have them interview someone special to them and then write their biography. This could even be turned into a gift for the biographee.

Not ready for a longer length biography? Try creating a profile! Have them do them for friends and family or have them make up some characters. Encourage them to think about things like what the character would like or dislike, are they a generally happy or grumpy person. Encourage them to create details.

Writing doesn’t have to be boring. If you have a reluctant writer, try something new. Sometimes that is all it takes to light a passion aflame!

4 Other Uses for Pizza Dough

4 Ways to Use Pizza Dough...That Aren't Pizza - Vicki-Arnold.com

Pizza is not the only thing you can make with your pizza dough. There are enough options between creative pizza toppings and these extra options to keep your homemade pizza dough in a weekly meal rotation. Often enough that you will likely memorize the recipe, but not get bored.

Calzones

Calzones are delicious. All you do is divide your dough into  equal parts or you can take handfuls of it off at a time like I do. You roll out your dough until it is thin, but not super thin. On that you put your cheese and other typical pizza toppings. Then you fold it all up into a nice pocket, carefully sealing any edges, and bake.

I usually bake calzones at the same time and temp as our pizzas, 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Serve with small bowls of marinara sauce for dipping.

Bread Sticks

After your dough has risen, you shape them into whatever shape you want. Add any toppings like garlic butter or olive oil and parmesan cheese and let the bread sticks rise about 20 minutes or so before putting them into the oven.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Cheesy Bread

Ok, so essentially this is pizza with no sauce or toppings other than cheese. That doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious. Roll out your dough on your pizza stone and slather it with garlic, olive oil, and cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. When slightly cooled, use your pizza cutter to slice any way you want.

Stromboli

I discovered this way to use pizza dough about a year ago when I was needing something for pizza night that wasn’t pizza. It is really good. Here are a few different recipes with various ingredients (don’t used store bought doughs, homemade is super easy):

I never realized there were so many stromboli options! I’ll be trying some of these soon. How about you?