Monday, September 30, 2019

Making Birthdays Special

Birthdays are a special time, especially for children. For them, it's a huge milestone that they've waited for all year long. While many parents like to throw large and sometimes very expensive birthday celebrations for their children, which is fine for them, it is not something we do in our family.

After we had our first child ten years ago, we did not have much of a plan when it came to birthdays. We didn't throw parties, but we did have cake and the grandparents came over to celebrate. Much of how we celebrated then is still the same ten years later, but with one difference: presents. The amount of presents coming into our home every year became too much, and had also become a way to "out-shine" the other gift givers. I had also noticed that the child paid little interest to the gifts after a week or so, and I was left cleaning it up and finding a place to store it. A change needed to be made, and so that is what we did.

Today, birthdays are simple. The birthday child selects a special birthday cake for me to make. The younger ones select "fun" cakes like baseball fields, trains, tractors, or layers of every color of the rainbow. My oldest, who doesn't care much for frosting, prefers something unique like a pie or trifle. 

We also serve a meal to our guests, and it is typically the birthday child's favorite food, like spaghetti, pizza, or tacos.

Our guest list is very small and is typically just our family plus grandparents. I'm an only child and my husband's sister and her family live two hours away, so our family and guest-list is not very big to begin with. With just grandparents schedules to consider as far as a time for the celebration, it makes the planning much easier. 

When it comes to gifts, we have asked that the grandparents refrain from giving presents. This was a hard one for my mother especially, who put up quite a fight about it (and still strongly opposes it), but we stood our ground. This rule was not intended to be mean, but was made for the sanity of our home. It has been quite a few years that we've done it this way and there are still no regrets. My children understand it, and they are completely happy with it. My husband and I do give the birthday child a gift, but it is often something that they need. Sometimes it is new underwear, and other times it's new pajamas or a church outfit. Again, the focus is more of what they may need rather than what they want. 

With the simplicity of planning and of the day itself, birthdays are more enjoyable and keep the focus entirely on the child. The day really is all about them and of the love we have for them, and I know that they feel it more in a quiet and more personal setting without all the bells and whistles usually associated with children's birthday parties. 

What works for us may not work for someone else, but I wanted to share how we do things in our family. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Daily Chore Chart: "Wash on Monday"

Due to the upcoming changes in our family (a new baby on the way in October, specifically), and changes in the children's ages and skill levels, I have recently updated our daily chore charts and I wanted to take the time to share them.

I came up with the cleaning plan after reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's book Little House in the Big Woods with my children. In the book, she lists the homemaking routine of her family. It was so simple, traditional, and old-fashioned that I had to apply it to my own homemaking, with a modern twist of course.

I titled each chore page with the schedule from the book. Monday is simply "Wash on Monday". No longer do we need to wash our clothing down at the creek, or in a large basin by hand. We utilize our modern conveniences (and save a lot of time). Each day has a special area, or "zone", that I focus on. I clean the kitchen on Mondays because after a busy weekend, it could use a good scrubbing. Our neighborhood trash collection is on Tuesdays, so on Monday I have the chance to clean out uneaten leftovers from the refrigerator and throw them away without it sitting in the garbage bin for days. 

As the homemaker in my family, it is my role to take care of the home and all of the household chores, but it is also my responsibility to teach my children those same responsibilities. For many of the various chores, there is an option for the children to help out and earn some money that we call "chore bucks". I shared this system in a previous post titled "Cleaning With Children - Our Family Reward System".

The children absolutely love to help complete each daily chore chart. They have their favorite chores, but I do try to make sure they rotate or share the chores so that they can all be trained to keep a clean home. My sons help with the chores just as much as my daughter (maybe moreso, as my older son takes after his father in his eagerness to serve).

We are able to complete Monday's chore chart easily, in between school lessons and piano lessons, especially when everyone chips in. It has been a blessing to our family and to our home.

Be sure to check back, as I'll be sharing our daily charts in the coming weeks. Hopefully they can provide guidance and blessings for your family as well! 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Encouragement for the Homemaker

We live in a society that frowns upon women staying at home and taking care of their husbands and children. We're being told by radical feminists to get a paying job or pursue a career. If we can't find a good one, go back to school! Put our young children in daycare! Put our older ones in public school!

It's difficult when we hear these voices, and we may question if we've made the right choice. We're being portrayed as failures in society. The truth is, our Heavenly Father gave women a divine role in the raising of families. While we are to work alongside our husbands, this doesn't necessarily mean outside of the home. We can support him in his career while easing his mind on the caring of his home and children. It's a huge responsibility, often overlooked, but one of the most important we'll ever have.

“The woman who makes a sweet, beautiful home, filling it with love and prayer and purity, is doing something better than anything else her hands could find to do beneath the skies.” 
―J.R. Miller

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Peanut Butter Noodles

 A favorite for our peanut butter loving family!

Peanut Butter Noodles

16 oz. linguine
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 ½ Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ c. soy sauce
¼ c. brown sugar
1 c. creamy peanut butter
½ c. water
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 c. frozen peas

1. In a medium saucepan, heat sesame oil and add ginger and garlic. Cook until tender.
2. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, peanut butter, and water. Stir until well combined.
3. In a large pot, cook linguine according to package directions.
4. Just before straining the linguine, add the celery and frozen peas to the pot with the noodles.
5. Once the noodles are strained, return to pot and add peanut butter sauce. Stir until noodles are well coated.
6. If desired, top with chopped peanuts. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Storm Preparation for the Homemaker

Hurricane Dorian is headed toward Florida as we speak, and as of this morning was upgraded to a Category 5. It is being called the strongest hurricane on modern record. At church today, we were urged to prepare and to pray. Last year, a hurricane hit our area quite badly, and while our home was safe, many others were lost. If Hurricane Dorian doesn't turn after hitting Florida, we may be in for another devastating storm.

As a homemaker, it is my responsibility to prepare our home for a storm. Over the years, I have developed a checklist of the things that need to get done, and I'd like to share a few of the things I've learned over the years.

Preparing the Home

I always have paper plates or bowls, disposable utensils, and paper towels stocked year round. We don't use them unless we need to and they come in handy if the power goes out.

I also keep a large supply of toilet paper. I learned this from my grandfather, who had a large stash of toilet paper in his attic at all times. He learned to do this after a shipping company had gone on strike years ago and supplies were not being delivered to the island he lived on. The toilet paper was still in the attic when he died.

I like to clean the house as best I can before a storm. We have a daily cleaning schedule where we clean one area of our home each day. When a storm is on its way, we move at a rapid speed to get everything done for the week. It could be a while before the house gets cleaned again, and if it's bad weather outside, everyone will be inside together for a long period of time. It is a lot more comfortable to spend time together in a clean and tidy environment.

After cleaning, I do all of the laundry. I keep doing laundry until the storm has arrived. If we lose power, we at least have an abundance of clean clothes and towels.

On the topic of cleanliness, I make sure that just before the storm is expected to hit that everyone has had a bath or a shower. After everyone is clean, I clean the bathtubs (with dish soap, not harsh chemicals) to fill with water. If the power goes out, this water can be used for flushing toilets, and in a worst case scenario, for drinking (which is why it is important to have a clean tub).

Preparing Meals

I try to stock up on things like crackers, peanut butter, canned or dried fruit, and applesauce. (If I'm really on top of things, I may already have an abundance of these items already in our pantry and can avoid the grocery store madness.) We buy bread when it is on sale and store it in the deep freezer, so I'm able to avoid the bread aisle at the store altogether. I don't buy milk if there is a chance the power will go out. It's a good idea to stock up on anything that doesn’t need to be heated up or chilled prior to eating. When the storm is ready to hit, I keep these items together on one shelf of the pantry or on the kitchen counter. That way they’re readily available to dump into a box or bin to take along if we need to evacuate.

If the storm is hitting during the hot summer months, I put our bottled water in the freezer. If the power goes out, it's great to have cold water to drink. Also in the case of evacuation, they’re great to use as “ice blocks” in a cooler to take along any perishables.

Fortunately, the power does not go out frequently where we live, so I'm able to keep a pot of soup or stew simmering on the stove. I'm planning on making a large pot of corn chowder and maybe another type of soup during the storm this week. When we get hungry, we just grab a bowl with some bread or a sandwich, and we're all set!

Outdoor Preparedness

The far corner of our backyard is prone to water settling, so I like to mow the grass before a storm to improve the water flow. The back of our yard also slopes downward toward a storm drain located just off the property. If long grass and other debris are out of the way, it is less likely for the water to back up into the yard and possibly the house.

I check the storm drains on the road in front of our home. Our city is very good about collecting debris and clearing drains before a storm, but I know they're busy and may not make it to the neighborhood. It's good to be part of the community effort and clear the storm drain if necessary. 

We currently do not have any patio furniture but at our old home we would put the chairs into the shed and the table would get flipped upside-down and the grill moved into the garage (in case we need to use it later---remember to have a full propane tank or a few bags of charcoal on hand). We don't have a trampoline, but many of our neighbors do. Some remember to turn them upside-down, and I appreciate that effort.

We keep a fairly tidy garage year round and park our vehicles in there every night, but it's most important during a storm to avoid any damage caused by hail, branches, or other flying debris.

I have the kids go around and pick up any yard toys that have been left out. They also collect the toys out of the sandbox and put them in the shed. I remove the swings from their playset as well.

Lastly, I remove the wreath from our front door and the flag from our garden.

Activities During the Storm

A trip to the library is always a good idea before a storm. There's nothing like passing the time with a good book.

We have a deck of cards and board games readily available.

I prefer to keep the television on a local news channel during the storm so that we're aware of any additional threats (tornadoes are known to form during hurricanes). Otherwise, we keep the television off.

The children will often build a blanket fort in the living room during a storm. They gather their storm supplies (teddy bears, books, and mini-lanterns) and make themselves cozy.

Storms can be exciting and even fun when the damage is not expected to be severe, but it is also very important to be prepared for the worst. 

What tips do you have for preparing for a storm? I'd love to hear them!