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?

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

Reusable Options for Disposable Household Items

Reusable Options for Household Items - vicki-arnold.com

I’ve heard it said that we live in a disposable world. So many people are caught up in the buy new cycle that creates a lot of waste. Heck, it’s something I fight sometimes. So I know there is some truth to the statement.

One of the best things to come out of the “green” movement is the awareness for reusable items that used to be common place, but are not anymore. Probably the biggest example is cloth diapers, but it goes far beyond your baby’s bottom.

Let’s look at this a little closer.

Reusable Options for the Home

Paper towels

You have a couple options here. We use wash clothes and dish towels for just about everything in our kitchen. The exception I make is when I have a leaky meat package, I use paper towels for that yuck.

For cleaning things like windows, floors, and bathroom surfaces, I use rags. I save old t-shirts, socks, and some types of knit clothing for this purpose.

You can also make your own cloth paper towels if you want something with a little more style. You have the option of making them look just like a roll of paper towels or you can go with another, super easy option.

Napkins

We don’t use napkins much at all in our house. I will put them out when we have guests over…and I remember that other people like to use napkins. We simply use utensils and then wipe up at the sink when needed.

If you need a replacement for napkins, you can use cloth napkins. They sell them in many home goods stores or you can make your own.

Swiffer Pads

Do you have a Swiffer? You don’t have to buy the replacement pads ever again if you make your own. I will likely use this for the Swiffer style mop I have, it’s not an “official” Swiffer, but it works just great for what I need.

Bowl Covers

No need to mess with that ridiculous plastic wrap to cover your leftovers or to carry your salad to the church potluck any more. You can make your own bowl covers. Bonus: they are cute!

Snack & Sandwich Bags

I’ll admit, we still use these. We use them in a variety of ways, but mostly for snacks or lunch items that are needed on the go. You can find a lot of options on Etsy for reusable snack bags or you can make your own.

Lunch Bags

If you don’t have a lunch box and use paper bags for lunch, you could consider switching to either a lunch box, small cooler, or make your own reusable lunch bag with this tutorial. If you are feeling all fancy-pants, you can even make your own faux gold leather lunch bag. Of course.

Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags became a big thing several years ago. Maybe it is our area, but I actually don’t see these that regularly. I don’t tend to use them except when I shop at Costco since they don’t have bags and most of the boxes load to be too heavy for me.

Again, you can buy some or make your own.

Produce Bags

Ditch those thin, ridiculously clingy bags for this breathable option. They are a DIY, but a pretty simple project.

Tea Bags

This was a brand new one to me! I’ve seen tea balls and other tea diffusers, which could be an easier to clean option, but these reusable fabric tea bags are simply adorable. You use loose leaf tea with these, you can find this at bulk herb stores online.

Do you use any of these? Are you willing to try? Not only are these better for the environment (less waste), many of these can even save you money in the long run. Pick one and see how you like it.

The Well Planned Day Family Homeschool Planner

The Well Planned Day (a family homeschool planner review)

It’s no secret that I reviewed and loved another planner earlier this year. It’s also not a secret that I like planners and lists. So when I was contacted to see if I would be interested in reviewing The Well Planned Day planner, me jumping at the chance wouldn’t be an inaccurate image.

Three things before I get into the review. I was provided a free planner so I could, you know, look it over and review it. I am a registered affiliate with HEDUA. Finally, this is a review of The Well Planned Day, not a comparison to any other planner (free or paid).

About The Well Planned Day

The Well Planned Day is a family homeschool planner created by Rebecca Scarlata Keliher. This planner was created to cover everything a homeschool family needed to track and plan. It is very thorough.

Details

  • spiral bound with three-hole punch for inserting in binders
  • full color
  • includes year and month at a glance calendars
  • is dated for the school year, which runs July through June (copy I received is 2013-2014)
  • includes a short inspirational article for each month (titles in my review copy include 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Homeschooling, Book Gluttony, and Let Your Kids be Kids)
  • planning/tracking pages for household management and holiday shopping included
  • track up to four students in one planner with class plans, schedules, attendance charts, progress reports, and perforated report cards
  • Bible reading plan included on the monthly calendar, scripture quotes throughout the book, and a weekly catechism focus

My Review of The Well Planned Day Planner

First, I did not take any photos of the inside pages of this planner for copyright issues, but you can see 90 pages of the planner on the preview page. And really, those are much better than any photo I could give you. Now, on with the review!

Oh, my stars. This planner is gorgeous! Each month has a subtly different color scheme that helps give a fresh look to your eyes, but keeps with the overall design of the planner. And normally, I’m not a floral type girl, but I LOVE the floral design of this planner. Also, purple is a very frequent color in this planner and you can’t go wrong with purple in my book.

The content? Seriously, I can’t believe how well this is organized. It has goals. It has menu planning. It has perforated shopping lists, six for each month! It has budgeting forms. It has a section each month for books to enjoy, field trips/enrichment activities, and monthly bills.

To be a little more helpful, I will take you through a few things.

First we have your basic information and a fun little family time capsule type page, followed by a staying in touch page where you can track monthly celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries. Then we move into the household pages for things like monthly budgets, income, household duties, and emergency contacts.

Then there is something that I think is completely genius. There is a perforated page for your students’ responsibilities and educational to do’s each day. I intend to finally buy a laminator and laminate the filled out cards for a checklist for each student. After that comes your homeschool planning pages.

What I love about the homeschool planning pages is that each student is given a two page spread to include their personal information, subjects and books, expenses, and a student schedule. I find this particularly helpful since each student has their own activities to track and oftentimes, their own daily rhythm or routine. I like that I can help each student visualize how their time is or should be spent.

There are two semester goals pages (one before July and one before January). At the end of December, there is an attendance record and progress report for four students.

Each month starts with a month at a glance two page spread that includes an inspirational quote, Bible verses for reading through the Bible in a year, and a notes section. Then comes the page with the sections for books, field trips, and bills. Next are the six, double-sided, perforated shopping lists (brilliant!!) and the inspirational article.

Now, the nitty gritty pages you will be using every day. And a confession for you, I realized I LOVE the fact that this planner is dated because I don’t like the way my handwriting looks so different than the rest of the text on pages that I have to fill in the dates (or subjects). I told you, I am pretty visually picky.

Each week has a two page spread. Each day has a column that is broken down by rows for Bible, Math, History, Science, English, and two custom spots. I love that Bible is top priority in the list. On top of the page are the current and next month at a glance calendars; a Bible verse; and an inspirational quote. On the right-hand page, there are sections for weekly priorities, your weekly dinner menu, and a weekly catechism question. I also love that there is a box for both Saturday and Sunday so you can mark your weekend activities in your planner, too.

Other details: a holiday planner section comes before December (LOVE), fonts are easy to read and pretty to look at, and the planner ends with a year at a glance look at next year and a future plans page.

Overall, I didn’t think I could love a planner as much as the other one, but I actually love this one more (sorry, there is a comparison)! I love that it is a homeschool family planner, not just a homeschool planner. I love that everything I need is in this one planner. The planner costs around $26 and is worth every penny.

There are a few different options available, so check out the Well Planned Day planners and see which one you would like! Next, I want to try out their On the Go planner. ;)

3 Reasons Tell Your Time is Awesome

3 reasons Tell Your Time is awesome! Final post of the How Do I Teach Organization & Time Management Skills...When I Have Neither? series.

Previously: why I need to change, how I can change, when do I teach this, and some places to start.

To bring this series to a close, I could walk you through time management 101, tips, tricks, and some tools to get you there. In fact, that is originally what I was going to call this post. As I started writing though, the thought kept popping up that I never reviewed an ebook that I read and loved so much on the subject of time management.

So, instead of me sharing MY tips. I am going to share the resource that finally made a lot of things “click” for me in this area. And as an added bonus, I am going to gift a copy to one lovely reader. I am keeping this one super, super simple. More on that below.

Friendly disclaimer: I use affiliate links in this post.

The ebook is called Tell Your Time and it is written by Amy Lynn Andrews. Amy writes an awesome blog about blogging called Blogging with Amy. She is also a wife, homeschool mom, and a virtual assistant. In other words, she’s busy. She was kind enough to share her time management wisdom with all of us the ebook.

Three Reasons Tell Your Time is Awesome

1. It is a quick read.

Anyone who needs time management help doesn’t need a novel to wade through on the subject. Amen? The ebook is organized well and without a lot of fluff.

2. Two words, common sense.

She lays the concepts out in a very sensible way. She isn’t revealing or promising to reveal anything “revolutionary,” which is rather refreshing in a world that overflows with marketing buzz words like revolutionary and new!

I appreciate that she took me step by step and made me face some truths that I needed to face. Like the simple fact that you can’t do everything all at once.

3. Making a schedule has never been easier.

You know me, I love my lists and schedules. Well, making them anyways. After I read through the book and did the exercises, I sat down and put our stuff on paper in a schedule that actually reflected our REAL life. I can’t tell you how profoundly this impacted me.

I spend so much time thinking I’m spinning my wheels and getting no where. Seeing our schedule on paper helped me to realize two things:

  1. We have a LOT on our plate. Seeing it on paper actually helped me make some cuts in our activities and empowered me to say NO when I needed to. I could physically see that I simply did not have the time to commit to one more thing.
  2. I was wasting a lot of time. Ouch. That one still stings and is a constant battle for me. Facing the fact that I have enough time to get everything done if I will just put my mind to it was hard because it meant admitting that I was being lazy in some areas.

Now, I want to pass along the blessing that is this ebook to one of you.

To enter the drawing to win the ebook Tell Your Time, answer this question in the comments below:

What is one thing that you want to do, but never seem to have the time for?

Be sure to use a valid email address, I’m not adding you to any list or using the info for any deceitful reasons. I just need it to contact you if you win. The giveaway will end August 31, 2013. If you do not want to wait that long to win the ebook, you can buy it for $3 on Amazon. Seriously…$3.

Home Organization Resources

Organization ideas for the home - part 4 of 5 in the How Do I Teach Organization & Time Management Skills When I Have Neither? series

Previously: why, how, and when do I start teaching?

Today I am going to do what I do best and round up some resources to help you organize your home life. And to make it easier and, um, more organized…I will organize them by home area.

Here’s where I insert a little plug for my organization board on Pinterest. You know, in case you want to follow along…

And here is where I remind you that this is NOT a checklist. You are doing this one step at a time! That means you bookmark, pin, or otherwise save this post and come back to it when you are ready for the next one. And if you have no intention of organizing a certain area, more power to you.

This post is not a guilt trip. I repeat, this post is not to make you feel guilty because you are not perfect. Don’t make me show you a picture of my kitchen floor. Alright?

General Organization Tips

Home Office: Papers & Bills

Kitchen & Pantries

Bathrooms

Bedroom & Closets

Books, Toys, & Craft Supplies

Laundry & Utility Rooms

Garages & Basements

Outdoors

Homeschool

In my resource hunt, I came across a monthly blog link-up that you might find helpful. It is a little like organizational heaven. It is called Organize It! hosted by Bowl Full of Lemons and 7 other blogs. The banner takes you to the main Bowl Full of Lemons blog, here is August’s link up.

A Bowl Full of Lemons
Happy organizing!
Tomorrow we wrap up the series with an awesome time management resource!

How to Read Blogs & Not Feel Like a Failure

Do you ever feel like bloggers have it all together? That you are the only one who can't do it all? Let me tell you a few things about bloggers at Vicki-Arnold.com

There seems to be an epidemic of guilt and feelings of failure rolling through blog readers these days. I am truly saddened by this because I know not one blogger who desires to make their readers feel this way.

I know I have been guilty of this myself in my “real” life and my online life. I see these women who are giants in an area and put them on a pedestal…without even realizing it. I finally realized what I was doing when I saw a woman I thought was this pillar of strength and faith break down in tears in a quiet setting…and I felt relieved. Relieved that this woman did NOT, in fact, have it all together.

And then I traded the guilt of not measuring up for the guilt of being relieved that someone else was suffering. You see, this guilt is a never ending cycle because we will never measure up. Never.

I wrote about guilt before and if you are dealing heavily with guilt, I want you to do two things. First, read this post. Second, email me through the contact page and let me know how I can pray for you.

For this post, I want to tackle the specific blogger-induced guilt running rampant. I want to tackle it and rip off the myths covering the truth like a cheap band-aid.

Myth #1: Bloggers are perfect.

People, please. Behind that blog is a person. Some of them do have their stuff together better than you in some areas, but I would be willing to bet that you have a better handle on other areas in life. For example, I am pretty good at this blogging thing (dude, that was painful to write…) and you may feel like a monkey when you try to write. That’s ok.

Wanna know where I struggle? Well, for the sake of brevity, I will share just one with you. You know that garden I wrote about earlier this year? Let me show you what it looks like right now…

Vicki, Vicki, how does your garden grow? Like this.

It’s a beauty, eh? (This is the result of those dastardly squash bugs, the rest of the mess I was going to show you my husband weedwhacked this past weekend. I kind of blew this garden this year…again.)

Please cut yourself some slack and do not measure your whole life against the very small portion of someone’s life that they put on the internet. Or the lots of small portions you see from lots of bloggers. Please.

Myth #2: Bloggers must have it all together to have the time to blog.

No. We have simply found a rhythm and balance that works for our family. Or not. Seriously, blogging takes time and that time spent blogging is not being spent doing a variety of things. It is a simple fact. If you are doing one thing, you can’t be doing another.

Many bloggers utilize things like crock pots; late nights and/or early mornings; and messy houses to make blogging work. It is a matter of priorities and someone else’s priorities should never make you feel inferior in yours.

Something that took me a long time to grasp is that sometimes it is a matter of life seasons. When I had three under the age of 4, there was no way on earth I would have had time to blog. I barely had time to bathe. Now that my kids are a little older (10, 9, 7, and 18m), when the toddler goes down for a nap, they go outside or do something on their own. This often leaves me with time to work.

Myth #3: Bloggers are online all the time and still have it all together.

Ha! Let me let you in on a little secret. Did you know that you can schedule things to post on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest? Yep. And we savvy bloggers do this so that we can be “online” when our readers are because the more often we are out there, the more likely you are to see our stuff. And the more people that see our stuff, the more traffic we get. The more traffic we get, well, I explained that in this post.

We interact when we are online and schedule things to share for when we aren’t. This is why it looks like we sit in front of a computer all day long. I could actually sit on Pinterest all day long, but something about naked kids being frowned upon and all.

Which brings me to the last myth I will tackle here:

Myth #4: Bloggers’ food/homeschool/houses/decor/etc. looks like a Pinterest pin.

Dude, you don’t even know how far from the truth this is. I love pinning things like lapbooks, DIY projects, and party ideas. And I DO use some of them, but…insert a big BUT here.

In real life, our homeschool has a lot of workbooks and frustrated mama moments. My sewing machine is currently buried under a pile of crap (not literal, thank heavens), and my kids are lucky if I let them break out the balloons and blow them up for parties. Because I don’t need something else to clean up. Amen?

You may not know this, but bloggers spend a good deal of time and effort into creating those “perfect” projects. Some do it simply for the fun of it and some do it because their blog is a business and traffic = money to a blogger.

Here’s the thing, you don’t have to do everything you see on the internet. I see tattoos all over Pinterest, but that doesn’t make me feel guilty about not having one (needles!!). Don’t feel guilty if you don’t want the mess of glitter in your house and therefore don’t do that super spectacular glitter craft. And your kids may even turn out ok. ;)

Be the mom God intended you to be. Be you. Lose the guilt, please.

Sometimes Change is Necessary

Sometimes Change is Necessary - Come be encouraged and read why our #homeschool is changing @www.vicki-arnold.com

With 5th, 4th, and 2nd graders, we are entering a new phase of our homeschool. I’ve mentioned before that we are pretty laid back for the early elementary years and around 4th grade, we start structuring things more. I will show you how that looks in our day-to-day homeschool life later, but today I want to share the heart of the matter with you.

Stick around and be encouraged…or learn how to pray for me. I’m good with either. ;)

Routine? No, Thank You!

This is the biggest change for us and the focus of this post. I am a rather random person. Delight directed learning appeals to me because I am a squirrel chaser. And I have been very resistant to adhering to any sort of schedule. I don’t like being told what to do, and routines are bossy.

Now, I love planning things. I have sat down and made schedule after schedule, list after list, and change after change. The problem I have is that I get so stinking B.O.R.E.D. after a few days or weeks and drop it.

After seeing my many charts, someone (actually more than one someone) referred to me as Type-A and I laughed.

At each one of them. I am nothing if not gracious.

I am a Type-A wannabe. I WANT to be organized. I WANT to be a go-getter. But the truth is, I am messy and rather relaxed when it comes to time frames. Yes, that can be a nice way of saying I am frequently late, but it applies to much more (not all negative, thankfully).

How’s that for transparency? You’re lining up to hear my tips for walking in the spiritual discipline of diligence now, aren’t you? :P <—That’s me blowing a raspberry.

No Routine Gets You No Where

Well, that header kind of gives away where I have ended up. After the Holy Spirit’s forehead smacks nudging, I finally realized I needed to change. It happened overnight…HA! I wish.

Truth is, I am still struggling with it.

I have moved from the “why am I not getting anywhere?” and “alright something’s gotta give” stages. I’ve passed the “I know what I need to do” mark. I am now camped out in the “I have tasted change, want more, but can’t quite grasp it” part of the process.

I know that the path I’ve walked for many years no longer works. What I still struggle with is the want to…the motivation. Breaking the habit of letting things wait until the last possible moment has been tough. I’ve tried on the mantra “why wait when you can do it now” and, frankly, it fits like a crew neck t-shirt. (Suffocating, in case you are wondering.)

However I now realize that it truly is easier to maintain something than to do a major clean up every so often. So…slowly…that crew neck t-shirt is loosening it’s grip.

Routines Aren’t All Bad

Wondering when I’m getting to the homeschooling part? Well, I never left it. While this effected my housekeeping most, there was overflow into our homeschooling. It’s unavoidable, whatever effects your home is going to effect your HOMEschool.

Please don’t get me wrong, I do not regret our homeschooling choices. We have truly enjoyed our time learning as we went. I’ve learned things that I never would have simply because one of my children was interested in it. It is just time for a change.

I will be talking more about our daily routine in a guest post coming up at Upside Down Homeschooling, but basically it comes down to my decision to embrace change.

This makes me laugh because my very first One Word WAAAAY back in 2010 was Change. I’m a quick study, huh? Seriously, I’m sitting here with my headphones on laughing at myself. My kids think I’m nuts.

So be encouraged, homeschool mamas. God will bring the seeds He plants in your heart to fruition, no matter how slow of a learner you are. Just look at me. ;)

Time for #homeschool changes @ www.vicki-arnold.com

P.S. Head over to the Teach Them Diligently blog to see what changes others are making in their homeschool this year.

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