"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

John 10:10

Monday, January 31, 2011


There is a lot of work to get done around here.  If we don't keep on top of it everyday, things quickly become a huge mess.  I have given up the idea of having a picture perfect house, and have traded in that idea for the reality of enjoying everyday with my four blessings.  However, I know that we function better if things are in relative order.  I want my children to learn about hard work.  Thus, we work as a family to run our house.  That means my girls have chores.

Here is a shot of our chore chart:

Using stickers or something cute doesn't work for me.  I fall behind with the stickers and soon it is irrelevant.  It might be fun for them, but this way is easy for me.  If things are not easy for me, I don't do them.  The important thing is that they get the chores done.

Our current system works like this:  They get up in the morning and eat breakfast, that my wonderful husband makes.  I look at the chart and tell them what their jobs are.  As soon as they get dressed, make their bed, and get their jobs done they have free time until school starts.  They need some incentive to get it done.  The free time is the incentive.  If they complain, I remind them that we are part of a family and all have special jobs to help out our family.

The biggest key to chores is consistency.  If they know they have chores to do everyday, they will do them.  When I first give them a new job, I need to walk through the job with them to show them what I expect.  How are they suppose to know what it means to clean the bathroom?  How clean does their room have to be?  What part of the floor do I have to sweep?  I probably have to walk through the job numerous times with them until they really learn it.  This is frustrating at first, but worth it in the long run.

If we did all our chores everyday, our house would be a lot cleaner than it actually is.  But, we go away for a day and the schedule gets messed up.  That's OK.  I have learned not to give up just because we get out of sync.  If the laundry isn't ready to be put away on Wednesday, I just switch that chore day with the laundry day. 

Here is an explanation of the jobs...
Sweep:   Sweep some part of the kitchen.  For the little girls, a small handheld broom works well for them to sweep under the table.
Vacuum rug:  We eat supper in our dining room.  The table is on a big rug.  You can imagine that the rug needs vacuuming a couple times per week.
Lunch:  Madeline packs our lunch for us to bring to Classical Conversations on Tuesdays.

Laundry:  I wash the laundry.  Then I sort the clean laundry into separate baskets for each girl.  Madeline and Lydia put their own clothes away in their room.  Madeline gets paid $1.50 to put away Anna's laundry. 
Baths:  Madeline can clean the toilet, pick up any bath items, and wipe the counters and sinks down with a cleaning cloth.  Lydia can pick up bath items and wipe down the counter and sinks.
Dishwasher:  Unload the dishwasher.  Moving the plates and bowls to a low cupboard was a huge help.  I still have the glasses high, but they just set anything they can't reach on the counter.
Clean van:  Remove any trash or non van items from the van.
Trash:  Remove all the bags from the small trash cans in the bathrooms and replace with a new bag.
Clean chairs:  Anna uses a washcloth to wipe down all the kitchen and dining room chairs.
The bottom job on each day's slot is for supper help.  One girl picks up the living room (clean lr), one sets the table (table), and one is my supper assistant (SA).  The supper assistant helps with getting salad dressings on the table, cutting vegetables, or whatever I think is appropriate.

I am always thinking about and evolving our chore system.  So I would love to know, what chores do your kids do?  How does it work?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The New Proverbs 31 Woman

When I read this piece, I laughed and was inspired. I hope you are too. 

"An excellent wife, who can find? She is far more precious than diamonds, stocks, or blackberries. The heart of her husband trusts in her, because he knows that she has his best interest in mind. Every day of her life, she will benefit him and he will never be sorry he married her.

She plans carefully to be sure her family enjoys delicious and nutritious meals. She even drives a long way to get the best deals at the supermarkets. She makes everyone's favorite meals and she keeps the refrigerator stocked with yummies. She gets up, sometimes before sunrise, to make breakfast for her family, pack lunches, and makes sure that everyone gets to their appointments that day. She does all this without the help of one single maid.

She has a small garden where she grows tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. She plants all sorts of pretty flowers around the house and keeps the shrubbery looking nice, too. Her arms are strong, but her nails look terrible because she spends several hours each week scrubbing the bathtub and washing dishes. The lights in her house are on late at night because she is busy helping little children with their homework and ironing clothes for the next day.

She makes meals for the sick and elderly at her church and she takes in visiting ministers and missionaries. She writes letters to her church's missionaries and sends them special gifts at Christmas. She takes care of her parents and tries to remember the birthdays of her nieces and nephews. When shopping, she buys baby clothes for a new mom she knows that doesn't have a lot of money. When she goes to church, she works in the nursery, teaches Sunday school, and makes great dishes for the potluck. She never complains and everyone appreciates her work.

She is not afraid of the coming snow, because there are several blue plastic bins of last year's Winter clearance tucked safely int he garage. She searches for all the best deals on clothing, bedding, and linens, so her family always looks great and her house is clean, comfortable, and pretty.

Her husband is successful and well-respected because he never needs to worry about his home and children - they're in good hands. She finds clever ways to provide extra income for the family. She sells things on Ebay, transcribes medical transcripts, teaches piano lessons, babysits, sells Pampered Chef, and does freelance writing. Her friends make a lot of money working a full-time jobs, but she doesn't feel inferior because she exemplifies strength and dignity. She is irreplaceable. She knows that anyone can manage a business, but only she can manage her home.

With the precious few minutes of quiet time that she can find, she reads and prays, acquiring wisdom for herself and her family. She speaks with kindness, never gossiping or complaining, and she is a beloved mentor to younger women. She considers carefully the atmosphere at her home, and she guards it from bad behaviors and attitudes. She plays beautiful music and keeps good books accessible. She is always busy working, and she rarely has time to watch TV.

Her children are not disrespectful and they love her. Her husband cannot help but praise her. Many women are good wives, but she surpasses them all. She is not deceived by the craze for youth and beauty, and it doesn't bother her, that after having four children, her figure doesn't make the cover of Self Magazine. She knows that the crazed obsession with outward appearances and self fulfillment are silly and empty. She is confident because her life is founded on the fear of the Lord and she knows that her work is meaningful.

Don't believe me? Look around. See all that she has accomplished and the people that she has nurtured. She really doesn't need anyone's approval because her own works give her lasting joy and fulfillment, but nevertheless, she will be praised because her work and character are self-evident. "

Written by Dana Gage, in "The Well Planned Day 2009-2010 Planner"

Monday, January 24, 2011

True confessions

This is not easy to write.  But, I feel that I should because I know there are so many who deal with this issue also.  It is part of the fall.  Is it a coincidence that Eve could not resist food?  I don't think so. 

Last year I lost about 35 pounds with Weight Watchers.  I was tired of not losing the baby pounds after each baby.  After four babies, those pounds add up.  I didn't feel good about myself and knew that I was not healthy.  I also knew that I could not lose weight by myself.  I consider myself a fairly disciplined person.  I don't have temptations to spend a lot of money on clothes, waste a lot of time in front of the TV, or other common maladies.  My vice is food.  It brings me emotional comfort.  It tastes good.  It is how I show my family love.  My day revolves around food, thinking about what are we going to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert, and snacks.  Most of my day is the kitchen.  Thus, I eat too much and have no self control with food.  So, last year I made a bold decision to do something about it. 

Weight Watchers worked for me.  It taught me how to control my eating.  I can have a cookie, just not six of them.  I can eat real food, just in sensible portions.  It was not a magic fix or a diet, but a lifestyle change.  It was difficult at first to adjust to my new eating, but after a while the pounds just came off.  It was great.  I felt normal again.  I felt healthy.

Now I have gained about 13 of those pounds back.  Ugh.  Frustrating.  However, I know the problem is not Weight Watchers.  The problem is me.  The past 3 months have been hard on me.  This move has been emotionally draining.  It has been stressful, with a lot of details to handle.  Out of necessity during our transition, we ate out a lot.  I felt like I deserved it.  I threw out all self control to indulge my hurt in food.  I want to turn to God during these times.  Instead, I turn to food.  I know this does not make logical sense.  Why would I gain back what I worked hard to take off?  I don't know.  It is a constant struggle between the spirit and the flesh. 

I am raising four girls.  They will deal with these same issues, just as I see my mom, sisters, and aunts deal with them.  I do not believe for one moment that beauty is only what you look like.  I don't want my girls to think they need to be skinny.  I don't want their weight to go up, then back down, in a never ending cycle.  I want them to know that following God's commands will fill them with peace and joy.  His love for them makes them beautiful.  For them to know that, I need to model that. 

Because of all this, I am back at it again.  Hello, Weight Watchers.  It is me again.  I am counting points and getting myself back under control.  For some reason, those stupid meetings are so helpful.  You feel like you are at an AA meeting.  My name is Erica and I'm addicted to food.  But, it works.  I guess I will be working on it for the rest of my life. Just like I work on my spiritual walk, my relationship with my husband, my care of my house, and so on.  Why would I think my health would be any different? 

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner saved by grace.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Need shoes?

I hope you have all heard about Groupon.  If not, I'm so sorry.  Now is the time to sign up!

Groupon is a daily deal for many cities around the country.  You can subscribe to a city through the site, then get an offer for a drastically reduced service, gift card, or purchase.  Some of the deals are for local businesses.  Other deals are for national organizations.  Today, you can purchase a $40 gift card to Shoebuy.com for only $20!  Shoebuy is a fantastic place to buy shoes and bags.  They have quality items at already reduced prices.  Then, they often run additional incentives to buy.  I bought an adorable $80 Kalencom diaper bag for a Christmas present for only $35!  If I had this gift card deal on top of it?  Wow.  I purchased all the girls' winter shoes through Shoebuy.  They have free shipping and free returns, so it is easy breezy.

To get this wonderful Groupon deal for today, follow this link:  Groupon!

Friday, January 14, 2011

This week was the start of Mark's busy travel schedule.  With the snow and freeezing cold weather we got this week, it was a long week for Mommy.  We were stuck in the house from Sunday afternoon until Wednesday night.  When Mark is gone, there is nothing to break up the day if we don't get out.  We were all getting a little stir crazy, but got some cleaning done, played games, accomplished a lot of school busy work, read a lot, ordered pizza, and even did a craft.  We welcomed Daddy home yesterday afternoon with a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies.  Nothing shows loves like chocolate chip cookies. 

My fair damsels

We have been studying medieval England the past couple weeks in history.  We (as in Mommy! and the girls) have been learning about the feudal system, knights, kings, and castles. Who knew that history was so fascinating? 

We are also reading through "Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis this winter.  We just finished up "Prince Caspian."  These are delightful read aloud books, with such great lessons for mom and the kiddos.  Right now we're taking a break from Narnia to read "Canterubury Tales" and "Robin Hood." 

The girls have been using our moving boxes to make castles, swords, and coats of arms.  Madeline does a great English accent.

I found this art project on Deep Space Sparkle and thought it looked doable. I cut out shapes for a castle, such as long rectangles, a big square, roundish rectangles, triangles, and more.  Then the girls traced around the shapes to create their castle.  I showed them how to draw bricks and add landscape around the castle.  Then they used water colors to finish. 



Wednesday, January 12, 2011


“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labours, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can imagine how this can exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.”

G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The fashionistas

With four girls, there is a lot of fashion going on over here.  I'm slowly figuring out that every girl is different and may not work with her bigger sister's attire.  So, here is what's happening...

 Anna has decided that she wants to wear dresses.  Everyday.  Not just any dress.  "Beautiful" dresses.  If you ask her why she wants to wear a dress, she says "Because I'm a girl."  Got it.  Here she is with a beautiful dress, accessorizing with a headband, pearls, tape measure, and her infamous pink boots.  She wouldn't be Anna without them. 

When Madeline was five, she decided that she would only wear jeans.  No comfy pants, just jeans.  That means I have a tub full of jeans for Lydia at age five to wear.  However, Lydia is a skinny minny with no behind.  She has nothing to keep jeans up with.  After seeing one too many "rear views" from her, we are going the legging route with her.  Seriously, she even has trouble keeping leggings up.  (This is from Mark.  Not Me.)  With a cute pair of boots, she is styling as only our Lydia can be.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Decorating help

Since we have been back home from Christmas, I have been busy making this house feel like a home.  Before Christmas, we got everything moved in and organized.  Then it was preparing for Christmas.  I decided I would not worry about curtains or hanging anything on the wall until after Christmas.  Well, it is after Christmas now and I've been having a lot of fun.  Here is a preview of some of my favorite finds, and a shot of a room that I really need your help with.

This is the dining room, where we eat supper.  Nothing in the house is really done yet, but this room is getting there.  I've had the red mirror for a long time and have always hung it horizontally.  I like it vertical in this room, and am not sure if I'll hang it or just keep it leaning.

This chicken makes me smile.  I got it from TJ Maxx (Love TJ's!).  I am trying to buy things that I like, even if I don't have a specific spot in mind for it.  I think it is great in the niche above my kitchen sink.

The piano room. I have no vision for this room.  It is a big room with high ceilings, right when you come in the front door.  We're planning on getting a comfy chair for the corner.  Other than that, I'm at a loss.  Any bright ideas?

This is the front entry way.  I wanted to get a color table.  But then I saw this table, liked it, was a good price, and small enough for the space.  I have some frames for it, but what else does it need? 

I love these pillows!  The first and third pillow are from Pier 1 Imports.  They were clearanced waay down.  I wasn't sure if they were going to work, so I just got them and brought them home.  They really brighten up the room and I love them.  The red pillow is from the good ol' standby Target.

Another TJ's find.  I have renewed my love for TJ Maxx and Pier 1.  I had forgotten about them for quite some time.  But they have my undying devotion again.  I love the colors in this rug.  Happiness by the kitchen door. 

I was really drawn to this print in the store but really didn't know if it would work.  I brought it home and it sat in our kitchen for a few days, growing on Mark and me.
And of course my three all time forever and ever favorites in this house.  Chocolate chip cookie faces and all!