Saturday, January 18, 2014

No More Bein' Cheesy (Week 1)...

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

Yes, my friends, its goodbye to cheese (and other dairy products) for this family!  Today is Week 1 Day 1 for our completely dairy-free eating.  This change has come about out of both necessity and curiosity.  First, necessity because we already know that our second-born is lactose intolerant.  Figuring that out is along story that involved a gastroenterologist and a biopsy.  One of the twins is sensitive to dairy, so Mommy has to stop eating it because of breastfeeding.  I, apparently, am a cheese-a-holic!  If it is in the house, I will eat it. So its better for the little one if there is no dairy in the house for Mommy to eat.  Now, the curiosity is that 2 other children are exhibiting symptoms of a possible dairy sensitivity.  I'm hoping that being dairy-free for a month will eliminate those symptoms, and we will all feel good!  My plan is to have a Dairy Day after a month as a test.  I know this won't be easy, but it will be worth it.  

I decided that since I know a lot of people, both friends and family, that struggle with dairy, I will post my menu plans online, along with recipes that we try and find to be good.  I've decided to really focus on what we CAN eat, instead of what we can't.  I hope this attitude will rub off onto hubby and the children as we all make the adjustment together.  

One great thing I've found is that they have original and vanilla almond milk at ALDI now.  Its a great price and tastes exactly the same as the SILK brand.  Also, Sam's Club has extra virgin coconut oil, which is a great substitute for butter in dairy-free baking.  For actual butter, I'm trying out two different dairy-free types: Earth Balance Original and Smart Balance Original, both in a tub.  Smart balance is a dollar cheaper, so I'm hoping it works out.  :o)

Our menus begin on Saturdays, because I do my grocery shopping on Fridays.  

Sat:  Pancakes with peanut butter and syrup, bananas, drink almond milk
Sun:  Peanut butter/banana/honey toast, juice
Mon: Oatmeal (made with vanilla almond milk and brown sugar), juice
Tues:  Eggs, bacon, and fresh pineapple, almond milk
Wed:  Blueberry Coffee Cake, peaches, almond milk
Thurs:  Oatmeal, juice
Fri:  Eggs, bacon, and oranges, almond milk

Lunches (I always serve water with lunch)
Sat:  Sweet & Sour meatball "subs", green beans
Sun:  Baked potatoes with chili
Mon:  Leftover Spaghetti from Sunday's dinner
Tues:  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, green beans
Wed:  Baked potatoes with chili
Thurs:  Chicken salad lettuce wraps, corn chips, pears

Dinners (I'll serve either sweet tea or water)
Sat:  Enchiladas* (recipe here) (make double recipe)
Sun:  Spaghetti with sausage spaghetti sauce, green salad
Mon:  Mushroom burgers (dairy-free mushroom gravy here), rice, salad
Tues:  Salsa soup, crackers....for our Life Group bible study
Wed:  Enchiladas*
Thurs:  Family Dinner Night...I'm making Spaghetti again.

crakers & peanut butter
fruit strips (ALDI)
almond milk smoothies
fruit & nut bars (Sam's Club)

Sarah's Chicken Salad 

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 apples, peeled, cored, chopped into small bits
1/4 cup walnuts, pecans, or almonds, chopped
mayonnaise to taste

1.  Mix it all together!  Put it on a large lettuce leaf and roll up like a burrito!  Yum!

Sweet & Sour Meatballs

1 bag frozen, plain meatballs or turkey meatballs
1 bottle barbecue sauce
1/2 cup grape jelly
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Toss ingredients into slowcooker, and cook on high for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Sausage Spaghetti Sauce  (not specific to amounts because I make it "to taste")

1.  First, mix together tomato sauce, chopped garlic, and italian seasoning to taste and simmer about 10 minutes.  
2.  Brown enough ground sausage to suit you.
3.  Dice some zucchini and cook in olive oil until tender.  
4.  Add sausage and zucchini to spaghetti sauce and simmer another 5-10 minutes.
All done!!!  My husband says, "Everything tastes better with sausage."  Haha!

Enchilada Recipe - 31 days of dairy free dinners ::*Even using "mild" enchilada sauce in the enchilada recipe, it was still very spicy.  The children had a difficult time eating it, and some of them just ended up having a bowl of Cheerios with almond milk.  I'm going to be searching for a milder substitute.  I think next time I might just try a mild salsa that I know is not spicy. 

There you have it.  I hope this helps someone :o)  Let me know if you have any questions or comments, or if you have anything you did differently that turned out well!  Next week, I'm thinking about exploring some dairy-free dessert options. :o)  I'll also try to keep track of some more dairy substitutes that I find.

Thanks for reading.  May God richly bless your dairy-free conquests.

In conclusion, I've been praying Jeremiah 29:11 over my family as I am preparing school each Sunday evening.  I hope that you are seeking God as He reveals His plan for your family every step of the way.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Ebb and Flow...

A time for dancing!
Here lately, it seems like I've been reading a lot about parenting methods.  I've seen advice given as if there is only one way to go.  I've heard moms who feel as though fervently adhering to one method or another will eventually make their lives easier and their children sweeter.  I've seen moms who feel like they have to explain or defend their choices constantly.  I've read parenting books and blogs that present their information in a "try-this-it-works-every-time-if-you-do-it-right", one-size fits all kind of way.  I've been a victim of the "parent guilt" inflicted on today's mom when her child has a melt-down in public, or if her baby is wearing a puffy coat in the carseat on a cold day.  I've also unintentionally been an instigator at times, I'm sure.

A time for bathing.
Today, we try to make everything into a precise science - how to eat the most healthy diet, have the most organized home, be the perfect wife, or parent our children effectively and safely.  Technology puts information at our fingertips, and we use that world-wide web of information as our gospel.  You can find precise answers (or opinions) to all of your questions.  We can always find something that sounds just so good that it HAS to be right. Right?

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Prov. 14:12

A time for wearing the tree skirt.
I'll get to my point.  Parenting is not a precise science.  There is no one-size fits all.  It can't be broken down into a method.  Parenting is an act of LOVE.  It is a special relationship that God designed in order to give us a glimpse of WHO HE IS.  It has an ebb and flow, alive and active.  It involves discernment, perseverance, sacrifice, successes and failures, and sometimes even getting it right while other times having to apologize for getting it wrong.  Most of all, it is between us and the Lord.  Our success is directly related to our relationship with Him.  And we can find the answers to all of our parenting dilemmas in His Word.  I speak to myself as much as to anyone else.

"He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge." Prov. 14:26

In my parenting journey, I have gone to other books for help.  I have tried the methods.  But you know what? Eventually there is an exception to the rule, and you have to go with your heart.  If your heart is full of anger, resentment, hurts, regrets, guilt, or bitterness, then that is what will come out of you in the most difficult parenting situations.  If you are feeding on the Word of God, receiving His healing, love, joy, peace, and patience (and other fruits), then these are the things that will come out of you in those tough moments.  No method can do for us what the Word of God can do through us by the Holy Spirit.
A time for music lessons.

My advice:  PRAY!!  Pray for the Lord's wisdom.  Pray for a godly mentor who won't point you to some book, but to THE BOOK.  Pray for the strength to see things through.  Pray for your children and their journey to and with the Lord.  Pray for courage to parent without fear.  Pray for the wisdom you need and you WILL receive it.  That is a promise! Pray for humility and the ability to empathize with your child when they face failure (which in our house is at some point every day). Pray for other moms and their children. Share your struggles and successes with each other.  And look to the Word of God as your parenting handbook.
A time for cuteness!

James 4:10 "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up." (Humility)

James 5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (Fellowship)

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (the Bible as our handbook)

2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (Courage)

1 John 3:18  "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (Love is active)
A time for love.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

School and little ones...

Proverbs 31:26-27 "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. "

Okay, wow!  So it has really been awhile since I wrote a new blog post.  Two months!  It does, however, coenside with the start of our new homeschool year, which is quite rigorous.  So, since school is consuming so much of our time right now, that's what this post is going to be about.  I've had a lot of questions about our curriculum choices for this year and how we manage with the little ones being underfoot.  On a side note: the schedule that I made and posted a few months ago is no longer relevant with our new homeschool schedule, so I will (hopefully soon) be making a new schedule.  We basically stick to a daily routine though, as far as when we do certain subjects.
Eating marshmallows after helping stack wood.

2013-2014 Curriculum Choices:
Rachel- 10 yrs- 5th grade
Sonlight Core E- Bible, history, geography, vocabulary, language arts, reading
Sequential Spelling
Saxon 6/5- math
Apologia Astronomy- science
Draw Squad- art
Homeschool Fitness- physical education
Handwriting Without Tears- print and cursive handwriting
Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum
Homemaking for Girls Book 3

Miriam- 7.5 yrs- 2nd to 3rd grade
Sonlight Core B- Bible, history, geography, vocabulary, reading
Adventures in Phonics C- phonics and spelling
Modern Curriculum Press Book B & C- math
Handwriting Without Tears
Apologia Astronomy- science
Homeschool Fitness- physical education
Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum
Homemaking for Girls Book 2

Hannah- 5.5 years- 1st grade
Sonlight Core B- Bible, history, geography
Adventures in Phonics A- phonics and spelling
Adventures in Phonics Readers 1-4- reading
Modern Curriculum Press Book A- math
Handwriting Without Tears
The World God Made- science
Homemaking for Girls Book 1

Joseph, Mary, and the donkey
We chose Sonlight for the bulk of our daily learning because these subjects (mostly) are where you shape your worldview.  Having a biblical worldview was number 1 on our list of priorities, but we also wanted to to emphasize other cultures as much as our own.  Our hope is that our kids will learn so much about other cultures that they will 1) appreciate what they have here in the United States and 2) have a compassion for the rest of the world and reach beyond our borders.  We feel that Sonlight goes above and beyond what we hoped for in this area, as well as preparing them very well in literature, vocabulary, and language arts in order to do well on tests like the SAT, should they choose to go that route.

Right now, we do school from about 9am-12pm. Then we have an 1 1/2 hour break for lunch, clean-up, free time, laundry, etc.  Mostly the morning time is our Bible, history, geography, readers, read-alouds; basically anything that can be read while cuddling together on the couch! :o)  This is my favorite part of school.  We get to read the most interesting books with our curriculum.  The afternoon from 1:30pm -3:30pm is spent doing our seatwork. Whether or not they spend the entire 2 hours doing seatwork depends on their age, and how quickly they get their work done.  This includes math, phonics, writing, language arts, spelling, or art.  Certain subjects are done only 2-3 times a week, and others are done each day.  After seatwork time, we try to have a break, then work on some less structured subjects like Homemaking, fitness, or typing.  One or two nights a week, David does science with the kids.  They love this learning time with Daddy, and he gets as excited about it as they do!

Getting more and more mobile!
Silly, ornery little guy.
Now to answer the question on the little ones.  During the afternoon its easy.  All three of the little ones are asleep.  Perfect time for us to do our seatwork.  During the morning, its more difficult and there are far more interruptions.  The babies take a morning nap still, so that helps.  They go down from about 9:30-11:30.  However, while they are up, they have a play area with toys in the same room that we are in.  We also have a jumperoo and johnny jump up that we utilize.  Now Joel is the tricky one.  I have activities for him to do during school time, but he easily gets distracted and might end up in the bathroom eating toothpaste or in the kitchen biting into three different apples.  I am still working on keeping a handle on my active little 3 year old. Since he is my first boy after 3 girls, I'm in the learning process with him.  :o)  Sometimes there are lots of interruptions and it gets really frustrating.  Other days, things go very smoothly.   I know its a process.

Well, that's what is going on in the Oswald home right now.  I hope it gives you a little understanding as to why I haven't blogged in 2 months, haha!  Most of the housework has to wait until the evenings!

I will say that as difficult as it seems sometimes, I wouldn't trade this time for anything in the world!  I love having little ones, and I will miss it when they are grown up!

They grow up too fast!

Friday, September 6, 2013

School room transformation! (insert "Hallelujah Chorus")

Hanging over my head for the last year has been the need to reorganize in the school room.  We started last September with a semi-organized space, but I was unable to do the full task due to being very sick pregnant with the twins.  Halfway through that time, we got new shelves moved in there.  I had a dear friend help me put everything onto the shelves (I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with the twins by this time), but it was still quite disorganized.  I've been working on it 30 minutes here and there over the last several weeks.  Last night, David had some guys over to watch football.  One of them brought his children who played with our children keeping them occupied, and the twins were in bed!!  I closed myself in the schoolroom and went to work for 2 1/2 hours straight!  It feels so good to have it finished and ready for our September 23 new school year start date.  Here are some before and after shots of the room:








Did I mention that I feel soooo much better having this done?!!  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What's for dinner, Momma? Yummy!!

This has been one crazy summer.  After trips to Wichita, the four corners area out west, and Branson for a few days, we are finally home for a good long time.  I'm so glad to be back on a routine, and getting everything back in order.
Photo: This is one great Daddy!  Aren't they cute?!

First order of business when I got home (besides unpacking and all the normal "mom" stuff), was making a month-long grocery menu in order to buy more in bulk, cook from scratch more, and save money.  I used pinterest and some large family blogs to come up with a menu and shopping list that would suit our family for this past two weeks and the next two.  So, basically, my "months" begin in the middle of the actual month.  Here is a list of things I am trying out in order to save money on food:
1) Making a month-long menu plan, instead of the weekly plan
2) Keeping better track of things that I could be buying in bulk
3) Making almost all of my recipes from scratch
4) Using online coupons, but only the ones that make sense for my family
5) Shopping at Aldi first (which I have always done)

I've really enjoyed this process and the things that I have been learning.  My husband also contributed a great idea that I thought I would try.  He suggested having the the same weekly menu every week for 4 weeks, then the next month, have all different meals.  That way we don't get burnt out on anything in particular, plus I can save the menus and repeat them every 4 months and already have the shopping lists on hand (with just a few adjustments).  I hope this makes sense.  I'm not that great at explaining things in writing.  :o)

So here is the menu for this month:

  Saturdays- Homemade sloppy joes with store-bought buns, potatoes (however I wish to make them that week), broccoli
  Sundays-  Tater tot casserole and green beans
  Mondays-  Chicken tetrazzini (using homemade cream of chicken soup)
  Tuesdays-  our Life Group is this night, so it changes each week according to what the group decides
  Wednesdays-  Ham sandwiches, carrots with Ranch dressing
  Thursdays-  Biscuits and gravy, fruit
  Fridays-  Homemade pizza (toppings will vary)

  Saturdays- Beans and brauts, fruit
  Sundays- Spaghetti (homemade sauce with italian sausage), salad
  Mondays- Burritos, corn
  Tuesdays- Tuna sandwiches, cucumbers with Ranch
  Wednesdays-  Leftovers
  Thursdays-  Quesadillas, fruit
  Fridays-  Peanut butter and honey sandwiches, carrots with Ranch

Breakfasts: (these will always be the same every month)
  Saturdays-  Pancakes (made by Daddy)
  Sundays-  Cereal with milk (quick breakfast for a church morning)
  Mondays- Oatmeal (different flavors and variations)
  Tuesdays-  Eggs and sausage, fruit
  Wednesdays- Toast (with varied toppings), fruit
  Thursdays- Oatmeal
  Fridays- Cereal with milk (quick breakfast for grocery shopping day)

Photo: BLESSINGS come in many forms.  Thanks, Mike Fowler!I've tried to eliminate as much snacking as possible, unless its really necessary.  Our children have become dependent on the 10am and 3pm snack times.  They will ask for a snack at those times whether they were really hungry or not.  Little Joel still gets a cup of milk when he wakes up from his nap, though. So far we have stuck to this schedule for 2 weeks.  Its been pretty easy, and even though I've been making my own bread, I've not spent any extra time in the kitchen because I can double and freeze a lot of the recipes.  Next month, I will let everyone know how much grocery money I saved by this new method.  I'm really excited to find out!!

Speaking of making my own bread, it's been WAY easier than I thought it would be!  The recipe that I found is at .  It is fluffy, smooth, and rises nice and high!  Did I mention that it smells amazing!?  But that goes for almost all homemade bread!!

Also, the Lord has been encouraging me with Psalm 107 this month, so give it a read.  I'll probably be blogging about that soon, so stay tuned! :o)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Wheels on the Yukon go 'round and 'round...

Recently, as most of my readers know, our family went on a very long semi-vacation.  I say "semi-vacation" because our reason for hitting the road was not about having a vacation, but honoring the memory of my husbands grandmother.  When we found out she was put on hospice, we started planning in our minds what it would take to get to Mesa, Arizona (an 18 hour drive) with our family of 8.  Little did we know she would pass away two days later, giving us 2 1/2 days to pack and get to Mesa.  I found out on a Wednesday afternoon that we needed to leave for Arizona the next morning in order to make it there by Friday evening.  Fortunately, instead of going into panic mode, God gave me the grace to move into planning mode!  This blog is about what that looked like for our family.

1. The Lists
--I immediately began writing lists for packing.  I like to categorize things into smaller lists to insure that I am not overwhelmed, and that we forget less.  My categories: girls, Joel, twins, dad and mom, swim stuff, toiletries, food, electronics, and misc.  Once I had it all written out, I put it on the dining table so that David or I could add to it if the need were to arise.  I always, ALWAYS pack each thing first before I mark it off the list.  A few times in the past I have marked something off while on my way to go get it, got sidetracked, and never actually ended up packing it.  

2. The Bags
--Something different that we tried this time was packing according to our stops.  Normally the girls' would have shared a bag, Joel and the twins would have get the point.  For this trip, we packed a bag for each hotel stop that included all the clothes, pajamas, shoes and diapers that everyone needed for that particular stop.  That way, we wouldn't have to unpack ALL of our luggage at EVERY stop.  It worked out great, and even helped with space because when we were finished with a particular bag, it became the dirty clothes bag for that stop.  We packed the twins their own duffle bag that would be brought in every time.  So basically, at each hotel stop we only had to unpack the twins duffle, crib, family bag for that particular stop, toiletries bag, nursing pillow, and the kids' pillows and blankets.  Also, David did not have to reload ALL the luggage every time.  Just those things we took in.  It worked really well for us.

3. Help!!
--The night before we left, when we were doing our packing frenzy, we realized that we needed to get some things from Wal-mart.  We enlisted the help of our good friend to sit at the house after the children went to bed so that David and I could run our errand.  Bonus: She did some packing and cleaning while we were out!  We are so thankful for good friends.  What a blessing!

4. Entertainment
--David made some copies of car games that he found which included Car Battleship, Vacation BINGO, and Tic-Tac-Toe.  We also bought a portable DVD player with double screens to help stave off the boredom.  The children each chose a certain number of movies, and we transferred them to a CD case that could easily fit in a pocket in the back of one of the seats. We brought minimal books, toys, and crayons as well.  We chose things that would be easy to have in the vehicle.  

5. Rearranging
--David came up with the idea of rearranging the carseats in the Yukon.  He made sure that each baby had a big girl in the seat beside them in order to help with pacifiers, blankets, and entertaining.  It worked out pretty well except for when the big girls were watching a movie when the babies needed something.  Then they didn't want to stop watching their movie, and just got frustrated with the babies.  They did, however, learn a lot about entertaining a baby on a long trip.  

6. Misc.
--One particular thing that I did was make sure that the dresses that the girls and I chose for the memorial were fabrics that would not have to be ironed.  That way they could just be packed right in the bag, and hung up when we got to the hotel in Mesa.  I was so glad when the time came to get everyone ready!!  Only had to iron the boys' shirts.
--We let Rachel or Miriam have the camera a few times.  They were entertained by taking pictures of their siblings, and got some great pictures from their own perspective.  
--We saved soooo much money by taking sandwich stuff for lunches and our own snacks!  It also gave us the opportunity to stop at some nice parks and let the kids run off some energy.  
--It was important for us to be a little less strict about things such as how many movies they were watching, yet a little more strict about certain behaviors such as little ones holding a grown up's hand at all times in certain places.  Also, explaining what we were going to do, and what behaviors we expected before going into any building or site.

Besides going to Grandmother's memorial, we took our time on the way home and did lots of sight-seeing.  We saw a meteor crater (which went really well with our Astronomy we have been studying in science), the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Natural Bridges, Four Corners, the Great Sand Dunes, and lots of mountains.  We stayed in hotels in Albuquerque NM, Mesa AZ, Williams AZ, Blanding UT, Alamosa CO, and Garden City KS.  We had our vehicle break down in the mountains and David had to change the fuel filter in the Auto Zone parking lot in Durango, CO.   

It was definitely an adventure.  David and I both agreed that we never would have planned a trip like this on our own with our children the ages that they are (10, 7, 5, 2, 4 months, 4 months).  However, we are thankful that we took the time to go, as we were able to see family that we haven't seen in a long time, as well as be there for David's grandfather as he mourned the loss of his loving wife.  We are so thankful to have been able to take part in that.  We had a blessed time and we will remember it forever!

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Nicely Ordered Day...

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven... " Ecc.3:1

From the beginning, God created time.  He made man, and put him within the limits of time.  He tells us that there is a time for everything. He also instructs us to use our time wisely. "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." (Eph. 5:15-16)
It has been on my heart lately to make sure that I am making wise choices with my time and the children's time.  We want to be intentional with our parenting, and not just reacting to the children all the time.  We want to help them "bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).  In order to help them in this way, we choose to do things "on purpose" in our family.  We desire to budget our time in much the same way as we budget our money, using our time wisely with the Lord's guidance.  We wish to sharpen our children in the Word of God, so that they will be useful in His kingdom.  "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate." (Psalm 127:3-5)
Managers of Their Homes: A Practical Guide to Daily Scheduling for Christian Homeschool Families
With the help of the book, "Managers of Their Homes" by Teri Maxwell ( and much prayer and guidance from the Lord, we came up with a schedule for our family (David is not on the schedule b/c he is at work from 8-5).  First, I wrote down our NEEDS.  Those are the things that are absolutely necessary for everyone to maintain physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being.  Things like self-care, chores, meals, cuddle times, education, bible time, baths, naps, etc.  I made a list of these things for myself and each child, that way I could make sure my needs as Mommy were being met, as well as the needs of each child.  Once you strip everything down to just the NEEDS, you really begin to see how many things you commit your time to that are really less of a priority.  Plus, it feels really good to know that you will be able to give your children all that they need, without going to bed wishing you'd done more.

Next, I started with the babies nursing schedule that they developed over the last few months.  I don't like to schedule my breastfeeding babies, as it inhibits a good supply production.  This time especially, having twins, I needed to build up a nice, good supply.  So, I nurse on-demand, and let the babies naturally fall into a routine.  Now, at 4 months, they nurse about every 3 hours during the day, so I was able to use their natural pattern, and work our schedule around it.

Then, I wrote the nursing times down on a time chart, as well as giving everything from our NEEDS list a time.  Our chart is broken down into 30 minute increments.  Not everything we do will take 30 minutes, so this allows for some flexibility for interruptions and occasional discipline issues.  I want to note that I also included the number of hours of sleep I would like each person to get onto the NEEDS list, so that it would be a priority.  Then I determined what time each person would need to be in bed and get up in the morning to meet that need, and put it on the chart.

After that, I made a list of the things David and I feel led to add to our daily life to enrich everyone's relationships with each other and with the Lord.  These would be things like each sibling having a certain time where they play with another sibling.  That way each sibling relationship gets nurtured at some point during the week.  Also, I wanted to make sure that we did art every day.  I had to do some shifting and altering before I came up with the final schedule that I posted on the wall for everyone to see.  It was definitely a time investment on my part, but one that I have faith will produce good fruit in our family.

Finally, I wrote all the information down on a poster-sized post-it note (huge!).  I assigned each person a color, and wrote their part of the schedule in that color.  I hung the paper on the wall in the dining room.  I chose this wall because we either are in that room or pass by that wall many times a day.  Plus, you can see that wall from the living room.  I had it hung on the wall for about a week before we started using it, so that everyone had time to look at it and ask questions.

This has been our first week on our schedule.  There have been "off" days, interruptions, outside activities that conflict with parts of it once a week, etc.  When we are home though, we've stuck to the schedule.  For instance, we went grocery shopping yesterday.  After we got home and put away groceries, we looked at the schedule to see what everyone should be doing at that time, getting right back on task.  It was so much nicer than me having to come up with something to keep everyone busy.  We also accomplished a lot more at home than we usually do on grocery day.

One thing I'd like to make clear is that a schedule is meant to offer guidance, not to run your life.  If you expect to follow it perfectly, you will give up.  There has never been a day where something unexpected hasn't come up.  You might have to clean up a poopy mess when, according to the schedule, you should be doing laundry, or have a heart-to-heart with a child when the schedule says it's time for handwriting.  I HAVE to be flexible and allow for the ebb and flow of life.  It does, however, give us purpose and help us meet goals.

Other things we do to keep the home running more efficiently are menu planning (which I hang on the refrigerator), and chore charts (hanging in the hallway).  I am by no means an organized person.  It does NOT come naturally to me.  It is only by seeking the Lord and listening to the counsel of moms who have "been there, done that" that I am able to form ways to run our home that work well for our family.  God is so good to give the ideas, the counsel, and the energy to do anything that I do.  He is sooo good!!!