Getting Things Done….

We all have chores to do and we have struggled all year to find a workable system for this season of life.  Early this year I implemented a card and clothes pin system that works pretty well.  However, the clothes pins hang on the side of the fridge, the side that guests see as soon as they walk into the house.  And while the clothes pins look nice when I line them up, they quickly become a mess as the girls take them on and off the side of the fridge to see what they have to do.  Considering that I hate having stuff hanging on my fridge in the first place, this was making me nutty.

January 26, 2012New chore system implemented and successful!

(The old system – cards clipped to a clothes pin for each child.  Looked cute, but got messy quick.)

This weekend, I tweaked the system, and came up with something that I really like and it looks nice on the side of my fridge.  Win win!

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The cast of characters – empty check boxes, packing tape, Sharpie, ruler, utility knife, cute scrapbook paper, strong magnets.

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Step 1:  Draw a straight line around the middle of your empty check box.  The simplest way would be to draw one straight line around the middle.  However, I made an error in my first set of boxes and didn’t realize it until they were finished.  Because I’m picky like this, I couldn’t stand the idea of the boxes not all being the same size.  Thus, my need to make two lines around each box.

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Step Two:  Using your utility knife, cut each box along the line you drew.  Tape down all edges with packing tape to secure.

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Step Three:  Wrap boxes with pretty paper, just like a present.  Secure edges of paper with packing tape.

Step Four:  Using strong, quick-drying craft glue, adhere magnets to the back of each box.  Allow to dry thoroughly before using.

Step Five:  Fill with chore cards and watch your children take responsibility for their own tasks.

A word on the chore cards themselves:

January 26, 2012New chore system implemented and successful!

To make the cards I went around the house looking for jobs the girls can do or need to do.  Some jobs they are compensated for monetarily and it is noted on the card (see photo).  Others they do simply because they live here and are responsible for those things.  Those cards do not have a monetary amount on them.

I made the cards in Word using Avery Label size 5264 and printed them on purple paper that I had leftover from something else with gridlines showing and cut along those lines.  I then did a poor-man’s laminating job by coating each one with packing tape.  I have since purchased a small laminator for the house.  Clearly, that would be a faster and cleaner option if you have one available!

I love these little boxes and I don’t cringe any more when I see the side of my fridge.  🙂

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How do you keep chores organized at your house?

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Christmas Traditions

We’ve had a fun month and in particular a fun week of doing some old and new things to prepare for Christmas.

We started out by reading Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree devotional.  This is our second year reading this wonderful collection.  It is free to download on her website.

Another favorite is Max Lucado’s One Incredible Moment.  A collection of stories from a variety of his books, we read one a day throughout December.  It’s a wonderful way to reflect on the incredible gift of Jesus.

This Christmas season, Matt told me I could spend some money updating our Christmas decorations.  I didn’t actually end up spending too much, but it did get my wheels turning and help me to look at our decorations to see what could be updated or changed or redone.  It’s been fun!  We did some different/new things this year that I’ve really liked, most of them involving cardstock, pictures, ornaments, and ribbon.

First, inspired by a photo posted by my friend Kristen last Christmas, we tied ornaments to ribbon and hung them from the curtain rods in all of the front windows.  I haven’t been able to get a very good picture, but they look so lovely, if I may say so myself.  😉

December 18, 2011  One of my favorite Christmas decorations - ornaments hanging in the front windows - inspired by a friend.  Not a great representation; will have to try to get a better angle another time.

I also decided to try something new with Christmas cards this year.  We have two doorways that I drape garlands over.  This year I bought black cardstock and some pretty ribbon.  I pulled out the old decorative scrapbooking scissors and as Christmas pictures came in, I would adhere the pictures to the card stock, cut a pretty edge, put ribbon on the back, and hang it from the garland.  It’s fun to see our friends and family’s smiling faces as we enter our home.

December 14, 2011  How we displayed our Christmas cards this year.

December 14, 2011  Technically not taken on the 14th, but a better angle on the same thing.

For gift tags this year I decided to print a bunch of pictures from the past year.  Some of our girls don’t like to know who is getting what so I had to get creative.  So, once again taking black cardstock, decorative scissors, and ribbon, on one side of the card stock I put a picture of who the gift was to, on the other side I put a group or family picture.  I taped them by the ribbon to the box with the individual picture facing down.  I only did this on our gifts to the girls, so there wasn’t any need to indicate who they were from.  It’s so fun to see all their lovely faces on the packages under our tree.

December 17, 2011  Photos as gift tags on Christmas presents.

One more decorating thing, I think…  We have a beautiful old fireplace in our dining room, but it doesn’t work nor does it have a cover to hide the gas elements or whatever they’re called.  For years I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make that part of it more attractive.  Well, this year I decided to carry the ornament idea into the dining room.  I hung ornaments from the same ribbon as I used in the windows, from the inside of the fireplace.  They look lovely!  Now I’ll have to figure out what to put there once the decorations come down!  

We’ve also watched some of our favorite movies – The Polar Express, Miracle on 34th Street (the old version), and Elf.  There are still a few I would like to watch.  They include How the Grinch Stole Christmas (maybe I’ll take this one for the kids to watch tomorrow night at my parents’), The Nativity (planned for Christmas Eve sometime), The Christmas Story (on Christmas Day since it usually runs all day long).  The only one I’m still trying to fit in is Christmas Vacation.  We won’t let the girls watch that one yet, so maybe late one night this weekend.

We also got a little crafty this season (thank you, Pinterest).  Grace is working on a couple of different things on her own, but yesterday everyone sat down together and painted ornaments.  So easy, so fun, and so beautiful! 

And let’s not forget all of the food we’ve made this month.  Craziness!

Oh, it’s been a fun season of doing something different!  I’m looking forward to this weekend and resting, relaxing, and celebrating His coming with those we love most.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Make Your Own Granite Cleaning Wipes (or Baby Wipes)

Back when my girls were all in diapers, some wonderful soul introduced me to home made baby wipes.  They were fabulous and a major budget-saver.  Well, we’ve been diaper-free around here for nearly 3 years but I held on to that wonderful Rubbermaid bowl and lid because I knew it would come in handy again someday.

Today was that day.

I have been making my own granite cleaner for about a year and half and just keep it in a spray bottle.  However, one of my goals for school and life this year is to hand off as much of the house keeping as I possibly can to the girls and when it comes to cleaning, they can get a little trigger-happy and use a lot more of a spray than necessary.

Enter the home made granite cleaning wipe!

Here’s how:

  • First you have to find a lidded container that will hold the equivalent of half a roll of paper towels and about 3 cups of liquid.  This can be the hardest part.  Mine is a round, 10 cup Rubbermaid container, but use whatever works for you.
  • After that, take a large roll of paper towels and cut in half width-wise with a very sharp knife (you will end up with what looks like two giant rolls of toilet paper).  Be careful, the only stitches I’ve ever had came from doing this back in my baby wipe-making days.
  • Pull the cardboard core out of each half.  Put one half away for your next batch of wipes.
  • In your container mix this recipe:
      • 2 cups water
      • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
      • 1 tsp pure castile soap (peppermint, etc.)
      • 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
      • 20 drops tea tree oil
      • 20 drops lavender or lemongrass essential oil
  • Set the half-roll of paper towels in the liquid.  Press lid on and allow to absorb for a few hours.
  • Once the towels are fully saturated, pull the first towel out from the center (where the cardboard core once was) and voila! you’ve got yourself a granite wipe!  🙂

When I posted this on Facebook earlier, I had a couple of requests for the baby wipe recipe as well.  The steps are the same as above, with the ingredients being as follows:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons baby wash
  • 2 tablespoons Avon Skin So Soft bath oil or other gentle oil (I have seen suggestions of baby oil, olive oil, vitamin E…etc.)

Both projects are super-simple and work great.  Enjoy!

***Granite recipe from TipNut.com.

Time and Balance – Keeping It Clean

It’s spring!  Or, at least, we keep getting glimpses of spring and soon enough it will be here to stay.  For many of us as women, spring awakens dormant desires to clean, clean, clean.  It would be interesting to know what causes this internal urge we all seem to get around the same time of the year!  I know it has kicked in around here, so today I would like to share some little things I have been implementing over the past few months.

First, one of my goals for this school  year has been to pass on more responsibility to the girls.  Their activity schedules are getting to the point where they affect my ability to keep the house in order, therefore, they need to help pick up the slack.  We have implemented the Thursday Clean Up, which is either a quick sweep through the house with light dusting and bathroom cleanings or it might be a lengthier, more thorough cleaning of each room.  It honestly depends on what we have time for and how bad the house is.  Either way, we go into the weekend with the house presentable and me not panicking if we randomly decide to have friends over at any point during the weekend.

Second, for the past few years I have done a top-to-bottom scrub down of our house every spring once school is out for the year.  Last year, however, it took a toll on me and took a lot longer than I really had time for, so this year I am trying something different that I am hoping to maintain throughout the year.  Along with our regular weekly cleaning, we are deep cleaning one room/zone each week.  This includes, but is not limited to, dusting ceilings/corners, washing all trim/doors/baseboards, washing windows, and other things that don’t get done during the once a week sessions.  Based on the number of rooms/zones we have, we could potentially do the whole house once each quarter.  However, I know that there will be weeks/seasons when we can’t do this.  So I’m hoping that by being faithful when we have time, we can clean each room to this greater degree at least twice a year.

Third, with the girls taking on more of the cleaning, I have been trying out some home made household cleaners.  This is mostly because my girls really enjoy spraying the Windex and Pledge and excessive use of those can do damage to the budget!  One very simple product that we use during our weekly cleaning sessions is the dry microfiber cloth.*  While I feel like it tends to leave some dust behind, it really does a great job for everyday-type cleanings.   (*I am not promoting this particular cloth; I’m simply including the link as a reference.)

As for actual cleaners, I really like this granite cleaner recipe found on Tip Nut.  I also like several of the recipes at Mormon Chic, especially the window cleaner (plain club soda!) and the all purpose household cleaner.  I am learning that with the homemade cleaners you may have to do some extra polishing (and don’t let your cloth get too dirty/wet) to get a nice shine.  However, especially with the club soda glass cleaner, I am much happier with the end result than I am even with Windex.  Another great, simple product that I have come to love is plain vinegar and water.  I am amazed at how my chrome fixtures sparkle after this!

Well, that’s it for my house keeping tips for today! Happy Spring Cleaning!

~ Sara

Twisted Tuesday and Works for Me Wednesday

This has been kind of an odd, topsy-turvy sort of day.  I feel all kinds of turned around.  Today will be a Works for Me Wednesday post (even though it’s Tuesday as I’m writing, you won’t see it until Wednesday!  😉 ).  Scroll on down if you don’t want the details on our twisted Tuesday.

We rose early to serve breakfast.  Straight from there we went to get groceries.  By 10:30 in the morning we were home, unloading a week’s worth of groceries for six people.  It felt like it was about three in the afternoon.  😛

The groceries had to be put away and school still had to be done.  The oldest was going out with my mother-in-law for her (Grace’s) birthday lunch.

I also had to break the news to Grace that her sweet little dog had died this morning.  We both cried.  Then we cleaned a bit.  Then we cried some more.

I went down to the basement to put some groceries away and saw flies.  Too many flies.  My personal (local) friends that read this will remember our first experience with flies in this house.  Apparently it was like something out of Ammityville Horror.  I’ve never seen the movie, but that’s what I was told.  We had a rotting mouse carcass under some shelves, but didn’t find that until weeks after the fly incident.  Literally hundreds of flies. To this day I have a visceral reaction to flies in the house.  We have no idea what could be attracting the flies or where those bats of late have come from, but we have a bad feeling they’re related.

I keep trying to start dinner and keep getting distracted by things like Facebook, laundry, blogging, and children wandering in and out of the kitchen.

Anyway, on to those Works for Me Wednesday thoughts….

1.  Cleaning the Microwave

Ever have trouble with your microwave becoming caked with gunk?  The first ten years of our marriage I tried several different ways of cleaning out the microwave and nothing ever really cut it once the stuff was really baked on.  That is until I was researching a different issue (how to remove the smell of cat urine from a mattress – the culprit has been banished, though I do feel sorry for her out there).  I discovered vinegar – wonder of wonders!  Fill a small bowl (cereal size will do) with equal parts water and white vinegar.  Heat until boiling (about two minutes in my microwave).  Remove bowl and wipe down the inside of the microwave with a dry cloth.  Voila!  Clean microwave!  If your unit is particularly dirty, it may take a time or two.  Beware of strong fumes, btw.  🙂

2.  Kids Chores

Ok, I don’t know why I didn’t come up with this one sooner, but it just came to me yesterday and it worked so well, it’s going to become a habit!

Let me begin by saying that I have a love/hate relationship with chore charts.  I have used them many times in the past, but have noticed that after a while two things happen:  A.  the children stop “seeing” them and resume not doing their chores.  and B.  if a particular chore is requested of them that is *not* on their chart they act appalled that you would ask them to stoop to such depths as doing *someone else’s* chore.  Or maybe that’s just our children.  Ahem.

So, back to my new idea.  Yesterday I was writing the date on the white board in our school/dining room in an effort to avoid answering at least seven times that day the question, “Mom, what day is it?”.  That date sat so lonely at the top of the board that I wondered what to do with the rest of the space.  I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me to make a list of chores that needed to be done that day and assign a child to each one.  (Okay, maybe it wasn’t the Holy Spirit.  But who’s to say it wasn’t?  I firmly believe the Lord is present in the mundane things of life.)  This would prevent me arbitrarily figuring out each morning who was on dishes and cat feeding and plant watering and so on.  Then, when a chore is finished it can be crossed out and the next day I still know who did what and can assign the chore to someone else as needed.

This idea may not be for everyone, but it worked for me!

What about you?  What’s an idea that’s worked for you?

Twenty Minutes to Saving a Lot of Cash

I get a lot of requests for this recipe, so I am sharing it here for anyone who is interested….

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap – Front or Top Load Machine

This is reported to be Michelle Duggar’s recipe….not positive on that one, but it works for our family of six! It only costs a few cents/load and literally only takes fifteen to twenty minutes of effort.

4 cups hot tap water

1 Fels-Naptha soap bar

1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

½ cup Borax

Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water.

Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

(Personal Note:  wash your pan and grater by hand; I threw them in the dishwasher the first time I did this and had a soapy film on all of my dishes and ended up having to wash everything in my dishwasher by hand!)

Fill a 5-gallon bucket half full of hot tap water.

Add melted soap, washing soda, and Borax.

Stir well until all powder is dissolved.

Fill bucket to top with more hot water.

Stir, cover, and let sit overnight to thicken.

~Optional – add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons after soap has cooled.

Suggestions include:  lavendar, rosemary, tea tree, etc.

Yield = 5 gallons

You may either scoop your soap directly from your 5-gallon bucket, or I purchased a one-gallon juice pitcher at WalMart and fill it regularly from the bucket and keep it by my washing machine.

Top Load Machines:  5/8 cup per load (approximately 180 loads)

Front Load Machines:  ¼ cup per load (approximately 640 loads)