Monthly Archives: July 2013

Three Things You Can Do To Be More Like The Proverbs 31 Woman

I like to read. You will often find that I have 2-4 books going at any one time.  Recently I have been on a kick reading about being a Proverbs 31 woman. I have been soaking up the inspiration and the advise on becoming more like this famed woman in Proverbs. The Proverbs 31 woman is called blessed by her husband and family. She is also a blessing to her family. I know this is something that I seek after and want to encourage other women to seek after.

Proverbs 31 Woman

It occurred to me while I was doing the dishes, though while I seek to become more like the Proverbs 31 woman, I am doing it all wrong. I am looking to these authors to give me the answers. I am putting this woman at a higher place in my life than Jesus. Lastly I am not asking my husband’s input.

So I am here to offer you three ways you can become more like the Proverbs 31 woman.

1. Authors do not have all the answers.

We who write might do lots of research, or have lots of experience writing about our topics. That still does not mean we have all the answers. There are many wonderful books and blogs out there. These books and blogs can encourage you to seek to make your husband and your family a priority but they do not have all the answers. Pinterest can provide you with many links to inspirational: cleaning schedules, menu plans, work from home deals, ways to teach your kids, ways to get in shape, and more. No one item on there is going to be “it.”

So just remember to see these things for what they are: inspiration, a source of encouragement, or just the kick in the butt you needed to get moving in the right direction. If you want some blogs that provide excellent encouragement in this area I recommend Club 31 WomenWomen Living Well, and Time Warp Wife. For the military wives out there I recommend my friend Reta over at Steps of Faith. If there are others that you know of or that you love please feel free to share.

2.  “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

If we are placing all our effort on becoming more like the Proverbs 31 woman, we are placing our effort on the wrong thing. Yes this is a wonderful example that the Lord has called us as women to be more like, but we are still not to place this calling first in our lives. By placing her first, we are making an idol (or god) out of her. (See Exodus 20: 23 to see what God has to say about idol worship.)

Gods can be made of anyone or anything we place more value on than the Lord and our time with the Lord.  All too often I see God-loving women get side tracked on their walk with God, by shifting focus from God to the Proverbs 31 woman. When such a shift occurs, what we are failing to remember is how she was praised because she was a woman who feared the Lord (Proverbs 31:30.)

3. If you want your husband to rise and call you blessed, ask him what he values in his home. 

Proverbs 31 Woman

My husband and I both appreciate the time I spend making yummy goodies.

Maybe  a clean home is of high importance to your husband but you are not skilled in that area. See about hiring help. The Proverbs 31 woman didn’t go it alone, Proverbs 31:15 even mentions she had servants. So see, it is alright to ask for help. Maybe you can’t afford a housekeeper, but perhaps you have a friend who is gifted in organization. Maybe she would be willing to help you set up a system that would work for you and your family.

Ultimately this is probably the biggest suggestion I can give you. Find inspiration from your spouse and then from others on what will work for your family. If you are putting your effort into areas that your spouse doesn’t value and you are completely missing what he does value then you are setting yourself up for burnout and contention.

I am not saying that if he doesn’t see the value in cleaning then it shouldn’t be done, what I am saying is perhaps then it doesn’t have to be perfect. I am also want to remind you that you don’t have to do everything alone. Ask for help. Last and certainly not least, don’t forget who you are working for in your day. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

 

TheBetterMom.com

Gnocchi Mac n Cheese

 

This recipe is hearty enough to enjoy as a main dish or it can make an excellent side with roast chicken or a grilled steak. It is a recipe that has grown up appeal but can please even young children.  Check it out and let me know how this recipe works for you.

Gnocchi Mac n Cheese

Gnocchi Mac n Cheese

Please note: As I make my cheese sauce I may adjust measurements here and there to either adequately cover the noodles I have, or to help bring it to a better consistency. (I like my sauce smooth and creamy.) I also want to point out that I use whatever cheese I have on hand that I think my children may eat, with one exception: cream cheese. I try to make sure I always have some cream cheese on hand for when I want to make mac n cheese or creamed spinach.

Ingredients

Spinach 1/2- 1  cup (depending on preferences)

Cheddar 1 cup

Parmesan 1/2 cup

Mozzarella 3 cups

Whipped Cream Cheese 1/2 cup

Cottage cheese 1/2 cup

Butter 2 oz

milk upwards of 1 1/2 cups

pepper to taste

salt to taste

one bag of gnocchi (I just bought mine from Mejier but I am sure you could find some in a grocery store near you)

light olive oil

 

Cheese Sauce Directions

1. Melt butter in sauce pan over medium low heat .

2. Whisk in a couple oz milk and creamed cheese.

3. Add spinach.

4. Start sprinkling in your mozzarella, Parmesan, and cheddar stir continually. When the mixture becomes thick and tough to stir had a few more ounces milk. Continue like this until the cheese is melted and creamy.

5. When creamy add cottage cheese and turn heat to low. Stirring occasionally.

6. Season with salt and pepper to your preference.

 

Gnocchi

Follow directions on package. You will know they are done when they all float.

 

When the gnocchi is done cooking drain, lightly cover in light olive oil. Then cover with cheese sauce.

 

Enjoy.

Where the Focus of My Homeschool Belongs

If you were to take a peek into life at the Russell house, you might begin to realize that my children’s education does not look exactly the same from day-to-day.  One day we might be watching a little much TV for some people’s taste, but then on those days I try to balance it with outdoor play or anything else that involves being active. The next day we might be crafting and cleaning all day. Then again it might be a day full of errands and building blocks. One of my three-year old’s favorite kinds of days is spending time on ABCmouse.com, reading, cooking, playing outside, coloring, and playing with her trains.

On a superficial level you might assume that there is no consistency to their education, but that is where you might be mistaken. Daily we are talking about colors, numbers, letters, and the kind of behavior we want to develop.  We read bible stories daily, and stop to talk about what it is that we can learn from the stories.

As my girls grow, we will develop a more regular routine for school, but at 2 and 3 years old I want their education to happen naturally as part of their lives. We still have workbooks and educational software, but those don’t need to be where they get the bulk of their education. I want them to see that learning can happen in almost every situation, and I want to nurture their natural love of learning.

For now the consistency comes into play as we are learning daily in almost every situation. As I scoop flour they can help me count the scoops. Crafting helps them develop fine motor skills, learn colors, shapes, and more. I can print coloring sheets that have the ABC’s or numbers, and we talk about what we see on the sheet. Their Mobigo’s and ABCmouse.com are both educational software that they can learn with as they play. Reading together helps to expand their vocabulary.

So I offer you this encouragement while your children are young; don’t fret if they don’t like work sheets or anything that might resemble a formal education. Instead while they are young focus on developing your relationship with them. Your children are only this young once. Mother’s who are further along in this journey called life promise me that developing a relationship with your kids is foundational to almost every other aspect of parenting.

 

(Note: I am not being paid or compensated in any way for the links provided in this article. I just really believe that these items are working for my family and wanted to share them.)

 

Fun Things To Do Under the Sun (for free)

When summer began, we made a bucket list of things we wanted to do this summer, as a family. As the summer has gone on, we haven’t even done half the things on that list. I don’t think that is a bad thing, neither do I find it real sad. The list was made under a slightly different set of circumstances. Things have changed, so we have adjusted what we are going to try to do. This doesn’t mean I plan on letting my kids miss out on all the joys of summer.

Instead of visiting many museums, zoos, and vacationing, we are finding frugal fun this summer. Join me as I begin my new series Fun Things To Do Under the Sun: Free, Practically Free, and Worth Saving up for Fun.  (Granted, I know that is a little wordy, but I think it will be alright.)

2013-07-09 12.24.36

Today, I am covering things that we enjoy doing for free, and some things I plan on doing that I hope the girls enjoy.

1. Going for walks around the neighborhood.

walk

My two oldest girls love to stop and pick up stray leaves, smell flowers , pick ‘flowers’ (otherwise known as weeds,) talk to neighbors, and anything else that strikes their fancy. The mommy in me loves these long walks because by the time we get home it is time for lunch and a nap. That is for everyone except the baby, who believes a walk equals nap time. So that means Momma doesn’t get a nap usually but at least the house is quiet for a bit.

2. Riding bikes

bike

3. Blowing Bubbles

bubbles

4. Going on a scavenger hunt.

This is one we have yet to do but I think they will enjoy. I plan making my own list and next to item names including a picture. My girls can not yet read so this will help them to understand and remember what it is they are looking for

5. Dancing in the rain.

This summer has seen lots more rainy days than last summer so to combat cabin fever, we have had to get out of the house even on the rainy days.

6. Running through the sprinkler

sprinkler

7. Planting and working in our garden

2013-06-29 16.16.56

8. Chalk

chalk

9. Playing in the Sandbox

sandbox

10. Rolling/ Kicking/ Throwing a ball

ball

 

Don’t forget to join me next week when I cover almost free things my family is enjoying this summer.

***What are somethings that you could add to this list?***

 

Love is a choice, a deliberate decision.

Love

According to C.S. Lewis, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” So often in life, we talk about love as emotion, instead I challenge you to see love as Lewis describes it.

Love  like this says, “Let’s go to the hockey game/ homeschool convention/Comic Con/ movie/ etc… together, not necessarily because I want to. Let’s go because I know how much you will enjoy going, and I want to see you happy.”  It takes the time to stop, remember to call, and to encourage, when your love is going through a difficult season of life. It is the, “I love  you,” text, just because.

When you are arguing and disagreeing, this kind of love does not call names or assign blame. Instead, it seeks to disagree respectfully. It will not later air the dirty laundry of your spouse out for the world to see.

Love like this brings the assurance that I won’t stop loving you just because I am grumpy today, or because we disagree. This kind of love is a choice. It is a deliberate decision. It is an action to be lived out everyday in a 1,000 different little ways.

rings

If you have ever been loved like this then you will know just how easy it is then to reciprocate this kind of love. The challenge comes in, when you are stuck in an un-loving cycle. You nag because he ignores you, and he ignores you because you nag. Or you shut down because she gets hostile/angry and she gets hostile/ angry because you shut down. Perhaps you act disrespectful because the other person is cold and distant and the other person is cold and distant because you are disrespectful. It is then that this kind of love can be hard to even imagine is possible.

Yet it is possible. One of you just needs to just step up and commit to change. You can not make the other person change. All you can do is change how you behave. Take small steps. If the other person never changes their behavior then that is a bridge you will need to cross when you get there but for now work on your actions.

Maybe today all you can manage is to not say anything snarky. That is alright. If that is all you can manage to do for a week go for it. Practice. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up and do something less than loving. Just wipe yourself off and start again. It is kind of like a muscle that needs to be strengthened.

Once you feel you are successfully doing that first step, whatever that step is, move on to the next thing you think you can accomplish. Just know that you are not alone. I am here to encourage you, if you need it.

I am here to pray with you if you need it. I have been there in the early stages of changing my behavior and know how difficult it can be.

***Have you ever considered love to be an action instead of a feeling? What are some ways you could play this out in your life right now?***

TheBetterMom.com

Creative K Kids

Homemade Baby Wipes

In an effort to save money, I have started making more than just food. One of the consumables that was costing us the most each month was baby wipes. So I researched recipes for baby wipes. The most common recipe I saw had 2 parts baby soap to 1 part baby oil. One person advocated no baby soap, as leaving it on the skin may irritate the tender sweet tush of your baby. After some thought, I decided a little soap was important, it would help cut through the messier diapers. Although I was still concerned about irritating little tushies, so I lessened the about of soap in the recipe. Further, I determined I would use an organic soap in it. The organic soap lessens the extra chemicals that are finding their way into the wipes.

You will need:

-a container to hold the wipes (I recommend a plastic cereal container.)

-a sharp knife

-a cutting board

-pot

-scissors

-paper towel

-2 tablespoons baby oil

-1 tablespoon(preferably organic) baby wash

-2 cups water

Directions:

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. While the water comes to a boil, use the knife and the cutting board to cut the roll of paper towel in half. You will need to cut the tube out of the center of the paper towel roll. Place your paper towel in your container. Once the water has come to a boil, turn the heat off. Measure and mix into the water your baby wash and oil. Let the water mixture cool some, and then pour over the paper towel. Put the lid on the wipes. Don’t worry if the water has not perfectly over the paper towel. The water will eventually spread to cover all the sheets.

I also recommend pulling the wipes from the center of the roll.

IMG_20130704_083623

Finger Painting

The girls in their finger painting 'smocks'

We used old white T-shirts as painting smocks.

This week my girls had fun finger painting. They always enjoy when we bring out the finger paints. While I always love letting them have fun, I must admit I don’t love the finger paints as much as they do. It might have something to do with the level of clean up involved, usually in this particular craft. I solved most of my clean up issues by moving this project outside.

I had done this particular method of finger painting once before, and I had actually been wanting to do it with the girls again. (I just love the results from this so much.) The idea for this craft came from a pin I had seen floating around Pinterest.

You will need:

Finger Paints

Something to put the finger paints in (use an old egg carton)

Painter’s tape

Canvas

 

You will need to decide on a design for the white space on your canvas and then lay your painter's tape out in that pattern.

You will need to decide on a design for the white space on your canvas and then lay your painter’s tape out in that pattern.

 

The girls started a little hesitantly at first.

The steps:

1. gather supplies

2. decide on pattern

3. lay painter’s tape in said pattern

4. paint

5. let dry

6. peel tape off

Enjoy!

The finished product.

The finished product.

 

 

 

 

 

How I am Teaching My Children to Rise Above

The bible is an excellent tool in teaching children to rise above temptation

Scrolling through my Facebook feed, this morning I noticed a friend was contemplating acting vindictively. I am actually not here to discuss that, while I don’t feel we should act in a vindictive manner, I think we all would agree we have  felt those urges. Some of us have acted upon them, and others  of us know how to rise above those feelings. What struck me really was in the comment section.

Hiding among the encouragement, for my friend, to walk away from the negativity and for her to set healthy boundaries, was the suggestion to simply give into that side of human nature. I don’t disagree it is human nature. What I disagree with is the idea that we should simply give into it if it is natural. There is a whole generation that believes if it is natural then it must be alright to do.

I would argue that emotions are just temporary, no matter how natural that it is that we have them, and our responses should not be based on the temporary. I understand the appeal; there is short-term gratification, some times it is just easier, and other times we know no other way. Instead I believe as a Christian I need to be seeking to live a life that brings me closer to my God. That life does not include room for the negativity.

I also believe that as a parent that it is my responsibility to be teaching my children how to rise above temptation, and that is one of the benefits for me in homeschooling. I can show them how I am living this out in my life everyday.

It is in the little things we build relationships.

It is in the little things we build relationships.

How I am teaching my children to rise above:

1. Drop to their knees

Prayer, prayer, and more prayer. We pray at every meal. We pray at bed time and nap time. They see me pray when I lose my temper, when I am hurting, and any time I am called to.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

2. Open the Good Book

We read bible stories together. We read from Psalms together. (I found at my children’s young age they handle the poetry better, than the long stories found in many of the other books.) We talk about what we read. They see me reading it on my own.  They know this is a book that is a part of our days, and not just decoration for our homes.

“I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” Job 23:12

3. Live transparently

In other words, I let them see me succeed and mess up. When I succeed I seek to show them how to do so humbly and graciously. When I have messed up and fallen short, which is often, I model apologizing, repenting, and simply trying again.

John 13:1-17 Is a beautiful example of Jesus modeling behavior.

4. Praise

When I see them displaying the character traits that I am hoping to instill upon them I praise them for their effort and hard work at it.

In Titus you will see where the Bible talks of encouraging one another in Godly behavior.

2013-06-26 10.59.56

Homeschooling allows my family the opportunity to do this each and everyday throughout the days. I know homeschooling is not the answer for every family, but it is for mine. I can best model this behavior when they see me consistently doing this.

Now if homeschooling is not the answer for you, great. Just don’t forget you can model the behavior you want to see when you spend time together as well. As I have read in multiple posts and heard in multiple venues recently, “More is caught, than taught.”

***What do you think? Is this something you can do? Is this something you are doing? Do you want to do this? Is there something more that you include in teaching your children to rise above?***

TheBetterMom.com

Journey to Enjoying the Wee Morning Hours

My Sunshine Wind Chimes. It would be lovely to drink coffee and sit on the porch and listen to these early in the mornings.

My Sunshine Wind Chimes. It would be lovely to drink coffee and sit on the porch and listen to these early in the mornings.

Recently, I have read a great deal about the benefits and blessing to rising early in the morning. By early I mean starting the day before my kids wake up. I have read that there would be great merit to starting my morning as little as fifteen minutes earlier. In fifteen minutes I could stretch, pray, read a devotional, start coffee, listen to the bible as I start breakfast, or I could just relish an uninterrupted shower.

The fact of the matter is the Bible has a great deal to say on this subject. In Psalm 5:3 the psalmist writes, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”  Later on in Psalms you read, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)” In Mark 1:35 you see even Jesus waking early to spend the time in prayer. My only conclusion from these verses is that this must be a sweet time to spend with the Lord.

I imagine, I would have a better chance at starting my days off on the right foot, if I have enjoyed some quiet moments with my maker. I could share my hopes for the day with him and lay my concerns down at his feet. I could find encouragement in his word. I could enjoy the silence of my home, coupled with the hope of a new day. I might even be able to find an extra dose of patience for the kid’s antics.

Instead, now I am dragging my tush out of bed after the big girls have woke me. Most days this leaves me feeling stuck behind the eight ball, constantly trying to catch up. You could argue well, “Sara, you have a good excuse, at the moment. You have a breastfeeding infant in the house.” While it is true I do, I don’t want to use Madelyn as an excuse. The truth is I am not particularly a morning person. This is going to be a discipline I have to develop.

The only major road block I have, aside from my distaste for early mornings, is the kids. I know I can train myself to wake up 20-30 minutes before them. In fact, I have done this several times in the past. Every time I have accomplished this in the past, though, they turn around and start waking up even earlier then they had been.

So that is where I am at in my journey to enjoying the wee morning hours and starting the day with my family off right. (I think part of that must start with going to bed sooner.)

***Are you an early bird or a night owl? If you are a night owl do you ever feel the pull to join the early birds? If you are a converted night owl, how did you overcome your desire to be up late? And finally, any suggestions on dealing with little girls who like to push their wake up time earlier and earlier?***

 

 

 

 

Decluttering and His Vision for the Future

So Rusty is looking at a possible career shift. I wouldn’t say a complete change because it is still up the repairing technology alley. If he gets the job he is looking at, it will mean another move for us. This possible move has lit a real fire under my tush. I am going crazy decluttering my house. So far, I have 6-7 large kitchen bags of items to donate, a stroller, and a pack and play.

My car full of everything I now get to take to the local Salvation Army.

My car full of everything I now get to take to the local Salvation Army.

I am just tired of moving though. Even more than that I am tired of move junk, hence the decluttering. I feel like in the last few years all we have really done is move much of our junk from house to apartment to house with out really looking at it and with out properly decluttering. When we moved into this house I had told Rusty I hadn’t wanted to move again in a year, although now moving looks like a distinct possibility.

Instead of nagging my loving husband about the fact we could be moving again, I am embracing it. I am looking at the positive aspects. I am encouraging him. I am trying to follow his lead. Rusty can not be the leader of our home if I am trying to pull the reigns away from him. Instead I am trying to get his vision for the future, and see how this possible shift can play into the plan God has for us.