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Home management tips

Renee Ellison's tools for effectively managing your home--including finance and domestic skills..

Feeling overwhelmed? Use a visible project board to get more done with less mental effort

Monday, 15. December 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Feeling overwhelmed as a homeschooling mom?  Here is an instant project board idea that will free up your brain from having to carry so much.  This idea works in and through your zooey schedule and your constant demands for multi-tasking.  For most of us, sometimes it is hard enough just to make it through the day, let alone progress with any additional projects we would like to accomplish ourselves.  In just a few seconds you can set up an easy, do-able project board that can help you get going.  This wall-board will enable you to visualize what you need to do—but you don’t have to actually do any of it until you feel like doing it.

After hearing about the unparalleled success rates of using a professional project board, I recently started a homespun version on the back of a bedroom door, using Post-It notes and my door—that’s it—no other surface—just the door.  I stuck my sticky notes under a number of category headings all over the back of the door.  I put them on the back of that door so that no one sees them, because that door is usually open.  So, the list is against the wall until I want to see it, privately.  My door is now covered with little mini-tasks.  At first I was tenuous about writing notes for it—but now I recklessly throw all kinds of mini-tasks up on there.

You can often find Post-It notes on sale, making the financial toll almost nil—one-tenth of a cent per Post-It note or so smile —not bad for a tool to get yourself wonderfully organized.  For the clearest visibility of what you write on them, I find that the light yellow ones work best; if the paper is any darker, you can’t see your lettering from a distance away.  You could use the more flamboyant-colored Post-Its for your headers at the top of the door, noting each category you want to move forward in.

I’m finding this system more successful than anything I’ve ever attempted as a tool to “manage me”.  It gives a visual oomph to get tasks done.  If you are super tired, or have only five minutes, you look at the door and you may not have energy (or time) for a big task, but you can spot a little something on there and think “Oh, E-Z-P-Z, I can just whip that one out.”  This enables you to “limp when wounded”—eventually accomplishing an amazing amount.

To give yourself a wee reward when you’ve completed a task, transfer the Post-It note to the bottom of the door and watch your accomplishments stack up “down there” (if you need this sort of motivation smile —and some of us do).  Otherwise, pitch them in the trash as you do them.

Here are a few little additional tweaking tips I learned while doing this:

    + Write only one task on each Post-It note (this saves rewriting lists of details over and over).
    + Write out your note with large letters, using the whole Post-It note surface for your short phrase.
    + Write with a marker instead of pen or pencil; it comes out much bolder; you can see it further away.

Happy enhanced brain power, and stacks and stacks of accomplishments to you!

Filed Under: Home management tips

Thanksgiving: Finessing the impossible :)

Saturday, 01. November 2014 by Renee Ellison

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I belonged to the faculty women’s club when we first moved to Durango when Todd was at the college.  One older wife and her husband owned a big mansion on 3rd Avenue (the gorgeous avenue parallel to Main with the big trees down the center).  She did a yearly elegant meal for the whole club in her home, using all the downstairs rooms, the drawing room, the parlor, etc.  One year she asked me to be the one to help her.  While I was assisting her, I was pumping her with questions about her whole hospitality expertise.  Hey, why not!

She revealed to me that she always makes Thanksgiving dinner ahead of time, now.  She had grown sons and daughters and their children coming from several states, and always felt like she slaved in the kitchen and missed time with them, personally.  (Her house was built a hundred years ago, and the kitchen was separate from the area where guests would congregate.)  So she switched to doing all of her preps ahead of time, and loved the results.  This gets rid of the turkey carcass, all the messy pans, etc. ahead of time—so that on that special day her final detail “load” is simple.  She serves the turkey all cut up (on an earlier day she had worn thin disposable surgical/plastic gloves to debone the turkey—no mess on her hands) in a big casserole dish with a bouillon cube dissolved in water poured over it to steam it at the last minute to make it moist, while reheating it in the oven with the cover on, along with everything else she was re-heating.  On serving day or party day she walks around calmly, with elegant tables already set (she sets the tables two days ahead of time and drapes a sheet over the tables to keep the dust off), looking gorgeous and exuding gracious remarks to everyone.  What a difference in her stress load.

Forward this tip to other mothers, if you’d like.  For more on this topic, see No Stress Holidays for Moms.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Tips for organizing your home

Tuesday, 21. October 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Written to mom who feels organizationally challenged:

Now how can we get you on TOP of your circumstances instead of under them?  Sometimes hiring a very organized teenage girl can help you for a one-time boost.  Some people are just born more organized than others.  Is there some girl at church, perhaps? or in another homeschooling family? or some older lady whom you admire, whose family is already raised—to just come over for one day to plow through the worst of it, with you—developing some systems for you?

With or without such help, the greatest principle is to just start moving in that direction.  Pick up one thing and put it somewhere…then the next.  Action creates emotions.  The famous German philosopher Goethe said: “Only begin it and the mind grows heated; simple start it and soon the job is completed.”

Here is the principle: anything you do repetitively, you want to do optimally.

You need a wall of loads of pre-made cardboard boxes with removable lids.  White records boxes (one cubic foot each) work splendidly (obtainable from any office supply store).  Mark the end of each box what is in it.  You want to buy these, because they look tidy all stacked together and the lids are super easy for getting in and out of repeatedly.  Just the look of them will help you and the family stay neat.  Often we aren’t neat because we don’t have a place for everything; this eliminates that problem.  Use them all over the house if you have to.  They are cheaper than furniture, and much easier to organize than drawers, because smaller groups of things can be contained with like kinds.

For your kitchen, purchase a shoebox-size flat plastic container that you toss all dirty silverware in as you use it.  Use a flat container, because if you dump dirty silverware into a large bowl it can tend to tip over, and if you set them on a flat plate they often spill out all over the counter and they don’t get soaked to loosen the stuck particles.  Get this plastic shoebox that will from now on contain all your silverware neatly and will never topple over, no matter how much you toss in there.  Keep it permanently open on the back of your counter, near your sink.  This keeps the dirty silverware out of being stashed in between the plates, making them stack all catty-whompus on the counter, and lets you tightly stack everything in a much smaller space, if you don’t have time to do the dishes right then.  This keeps your counter stacked and clean- looking at all times.

Rinse everything as soon as you take it to the counter.  Rinse all pots and pans as soon as you dump the cooked food out onto dinner plates.  By rinsing immediately you keep your kitchen clean and lessen your future job of washing.  Keep a long-handled brush by the sink and swish it on every dish/plate/pot immediately. The long-handled brush allows you to pre-wash anything, even if you are in a pretty dress and running out the door, because your hands don’t have to get down in the water.  When you do wash the dishes, focus on speed.  I use three white dish drainers and have them sitting on the counter at all times, so that I can just fling the pots and pans into them.  I set the three on a large white towel and keep changing the towel every few days or once a week.  The speed becomes fun: “Okay—I’m going to be a bulldozer—ready, set, go—can I get it done in five minutes? three minutes?”  Work quickly and get it over with.  It helps to have two sinks, and a plastic tub inside each sink; one is for washing in hot soapy water; the other is for immersing and rinsing in clean hot water.  (For lots more tips, order our inexpensive, helpful practical DVD of Kitchen Efficiency Tips.)

Form a habit of swiping a paper towel around your bathroom floor or tub or sink when you are in there already—not as a separate formidable job that you dread.  Do it on the run.

I play a little psychological game with myself, convincing myself that I enjoy taking the trash outside to the big container because it forces me to take little mini-walks all throughout the day—helping me exercise and get sun!

Stop watching TV/media/movies/non-informational movies on the Web.  It is a super time waster, causing you to arouse your emotions over something you can do nothing about.  It is a consummate robber of energy, resolve, relationship, planning, doing, etc.  You’ll notice a difference in your capabilities immediately.  If you use media as a baby-sitter for your children, be terrified of this sure result: “The parent’s convenience becomes the child’s addiction.”  Instead, train your children to work from a very early age.  (We know a toddler whose job it is to deposit his own dirty diaper in the trash.)  Having to clean the house forces you to employ your children in doing something meaningful with you.  Always do it together.  More is caught than taught.

Also: if you just can’t get on top of your energy even without the enervation caused by the TV, check your thyroid levels (through a blood test).  Your thyroid may be under-firing, causing you to feel tired all the time.  A natural bovine thyroid supplement or a plant-based compound tailor made and prescribed by your health practitioner can make a world of difference, if your levels are low.  Also, get off all added sugar, and experiment with getting off wheat (many find that a fatiguing food).

Filed Under: Home management tips

Turn off the movies!

Wednesday, 19. March 2014 by Renee Ellison

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Modern movies are killing the spirits of our children. Make no mistake, modern script writers are re-writing fundamentals, in direct defiance of God.  They are presenting altered realities to the minds of our children.  These are not stories of a boy and his dog, anymore.  These are something else, entirely.

Who is a man?  Who is a woman?  What is a marriage?  (Homosexuality)  What is an animal and what is man?  (Beauty and the Beast—are we supposed to fall in love with beasts?...is sex with a beast next?  The Bible calls this bestiality and forbids it.  We must face squarely that this is where all of this is headed.  It has already arrived in the lyrics of rock music.  This concept is evolutionary at its root—that we are no different from the animals—that we are not made in the image of God.)  Who is the hero?—the one who prays to God, or the one who consults the force and all its minions (wizards, psychic powers, his secret “friend” or aliens of all shapes and sizes)?  Such movies are a deliberate mincing invasion straight into the minds and souls of our children.

In the media, deviance is cleverly always introduced onto the scene or theater first through laughter, but eventually and finally it all becomes normative and wholly acceptable.  Eventually the small excursions in deviance are moved from the edge of theater and from the edge of the plot (used first as sub-plots) to the center.  Swearing, violence, sex and idolatry take over.  These are the ways our children are taught to cope, and the major reality that they now know.  And we desire this?  Foster this?  Enable this?  Do we have three hours of devotions to the living God, in Bible reading and prayer, to offset this?

For 5,900 years parents did not have movies to pacify, calm, or babysit their children, and as a result they produced a different kind of human being.  None of the Israelites allowed someone else to raise their children, either in a pagan school or from a pagan screen.  They did not put them in Pharaoh’s schools, nor in front of the world’s entertainment.  Yes, that meant that Abraham had to figure out what to do with his child all day long.  So he trained him in righteousness, and grew his son’s life skills.  Daniel’s mother, the Messiah’s mother, Moses’ mother all had to do something productive and wholesome the whole life-long day.  This was the norm.

Sadly, today, what is the parent’s convenience will become the child’s addiction. The devil has discovered a way to mainline altered realities into our children, just like a heroin addict mainlines heroin right into his veins.  If a person came into your home espousing these world-views, whispering them into our children’s ears, we would throw him out.  But, instead, because it comes into the home in containment, packaged in living color upon a screen, we march our children to the screen and sit them down in front of these false preachers.  And we leave the room.  These lies about reality are not mainlining into our heads, as parents, for as many hours as they are into our children’s heads.  Not even close, if you add gaming.  We are not experiencing what our children are experiencing, not at all, and we certainly did not experience this degree of unreality in our own formative years.  We are sacrificing our children upon the altar of these deviant realities—the flames engulf their very fragile, emerging souls and spirits, and dive-bomb their entire concept of spiritual truth.

There is another, larger, reality surrounding this one, but we are to go there only through prayer and with God.  He forbids us to enter other realms through mediums, spiritists, wizards, aliens, monsters, supermen and “creatures” found nowhere in this reality.  His warnings are serious.  We can’t handle what is there, and may never be able to get back from there.  Yet we think our children can handle it?! We allow it for hours and hours everyday, while we are freed up to go and do something else?

Our children are not handling it. and spiritual confusion is running rampant in their spirits.  Children now think angels are fairies and that it took magic to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Wake up and determine whether something is devouring the soul of your child.  Realize that if this is so, you will pay for it dearly, both in this life and in the life to come.  Christianity will be a faint memory in the midst of their deliriums, and godly seed will dwindle to hair-raising obscurity—it will hang by a thread.  The scriptures ask: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”  Where is your child spiritually and mentally these days?  When someone dies in your family, which song do you want your child singing at the funeral:  “When you wish upon a star”, or “Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah”?  The choice is made by you, hour by hour.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Financial failure due to ignored fundamentals

Wednesday, 21. August 2013 by Renee Ellison

Image "Fundamentals" are a force to be reckoned with at the base of all economics—and they affect homeschooling families along with everyone else.

The policymakers at the head of the Federal Reserve Board (which has been changing recently at a greater pace than ever before, as they grapple with reducing their stimulus efforts) are looking like a deer in the headlights at this hour, because they vainly supposed that printing money would solve the nation's financial issues. What they hadn't calculated on (via drinking too long at the well of idolizing Keynesian economic idolatry, "as long as you can pay the interest on the debt, you're fine") were the fundamentals of economics.

Fundamentals are the roaring tide of trade that is dictated by a world of independent individuals. No single top-down entity can ever control it or rig it, because there are a host of these fundamentals at work. One of these is people's buying patterns / individuals' buying choices. Sales are sharply down at Wal-Mart because fewer people are buying. And no one can force anyone to buy things.

People buy based on their perceptions of the soundness of the economy (and, based on their decisions as to what they really must have, or really want to have). Printing money does nothing to increase that confidence. There's the rub. What the politicians apparently are short on understanding is that there is an emotional component to all money management that a top-down edict or mandate by a totalitarian state can never bank on. There is also a spiritual component to all money management, by the way. If you abort babies, it isn't going to go well with your finances. The emotions of money and the spiritual verities of money are not to be tangled with. They exist, and it can be like stepping on barbed wire with bare feet if you don't factor them in.

The fundamentals (what 7 billion individuals do, in spite of laws) that shape economies are active on the working end, as well as on the buying end of the economic arena. Nobody can ever force people to become entrepreneurial or productive—which is, of course, the engine that powers the Gross Domestic Product. That happens somewhere in a person's gizzard, in response to incentives. You can't light the entrepreneurial fire without incentives. Printing money (with no hard asset backing ) is no incentive. Moreover, even when there are incentives you don't know who or what kind of numbers of individuals will jump or not jump at the motivation (whether it be lower taxes, less red tape for small businesses, or fiscal rewards for so much productivity).

Economic systems have a will of their own, a powerful will that anything but a free market dares not touch, without horrific fiscal consequences. God's design for economics was two-fold:
***one: to never be in debt for anything. People used to even buy their houses totally without mortgages. That was to be the norm. It would keep an economy true and prices down, commensurate with current and actual work output, or else no house would sell. Houses "found" their sale price on their own.
***and two: to not tamper with a free market, but rather to let it balance itself through supply and demand. Don't touch it. Economies are made up of billions of intricate personal buying and working decisions that are far too complex for any one entity to think that they could ever direct them.

Nonetheless, the leaders of the central economic systems have spurned both principles. We will now, probably quite soon, witness a conversion to a one world currency, another attempt to politically "help" things. The conversion will be nasty, head-spinning, and global, and everyone in the middle will lose personal wealth in the conversion. "Give me your ten bucks and I'll give ten digits." The conversion will be seamless and painless for the powers that be. Only at the store will you scratch your head when you find that it buys far less. Enter the book of Revelation.

So, what should home schoolers do?
    1. Get out of all debt—including mortgage debt, if at all possible.
    2. Develop multiple income streams, and include in them family entrepreneurial enterprises.
    3. Consider whose philosophy you are funding when you make a purchase. For instance, if you don't agree with the values of what is broadcast, don't subscribe to cable tv. If someone you care about is producing a good or service you can use, pay them for it and support their business.
    4. Resolve ahead of time to not accept the mark on the hand or on the forehead that the angel warns us not to take (Rev. 14:9-10 and 16:2), even when it removes you from the world of normal commerce. Instead, barter and trade—and pray.
    5. Study the Greater Exodus (foretold for us in Jeremiah 16:14-15 and Exekiel 20:33-38) and prepare for it, spiritually and practically.


For more on this topic:
Filed Under: Home management tips

Birthdays under the magnifying glass of the Word

Monday, 28. January 2013 by Renee Ellison

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Are you feeling that birthday celebration expectations among your children’s friends could get out of hand?  Do you find that you are spending more and more of your life on birthday party pay-backs and reciprocities?  Does your schedule get eaten up by unexpected additional parties you hadn’t counted on; are you flattered but exhausted?  Are you bothered by the increasing over-the-top materialism, the plastic restaurants that will do it all for you?  You like it, but don’t like it?  Feel trapped?

Are the origins of birthday parties even biblical?  What were its specific pagan practices and for what reasons were they done?  Do we still do those today?  Why?  I remember the day when it struck me as a young mother that playing musical chairs was an AWFUL game.  What kind of values does wanting to hog a chair while pushing another child away, teach?  Wouldn’t I rather like to teach my child to give UP his chair out of deference for another?  There are many things like this that we grew up with in our culture that were simply handed down to us that have not been examined biblically.  Teaching the story of Little Red Riding Hood is another.  What kind of values are in that wretched story of fear and anxiety and unreality?  I can’t name a single person who has ever had to face having a wolf for a grandmother, so why put all that trash in a child’s head?  Whatever FOR?  To what end?!

If you love birthday parties, this blog won’t be for you. But if you have a nagging feeling that something might be off in relation to them, or that you feel more and more uneasy about them, or feel like you are on a roller coaster of expectation from all your friends that you can’t get off from, there might be some liberating thoughts for you from the Bible.  Scripture says to “Love one another”; it never mentions doing that more (or better) on one day over another!  If you were ever to take a fork in the road regarding birthdays, initially, your friends might be outraged that you won’t come to their exhausting parties, but you can be sure that they will cock their heads when you show them more love and thoughtful kindness on an ordinary day, more than they are used to from others.  All our messages about who we are, or who we are becoming, don’t have to get said on a single day!  So here is some food for thought.

The following verse really struck me this morning in a forceful new way:

“They imitated the nations around them, although the Lord had ordered them, `Do not do as they do’ and they did the things the Lord had forbidden them to do” (2 Kings 17:15, NIV).  Apparently it is not enough that we obey the decrees and statutes of Scriptures.  Do we see that we also must NOT do what the heathen do—actions that are typical of heathen behavior?  Should we be putting heathen parts of Christmas and birthdays away, etc., under the ban?  Many of us are still attempting to accommodate both—and this is syncretism.  Are we obeying one and still doing the other?

We, as a family, have grappled with this caving into syncretism in several areas.  Although the pagan practices found in holidays were fairly easy to jettison and replace with Biblical ones, we’ve had a whale of a time jettisoning birthdays completely.  We, personally, as a family still struggle with birthdays.  Although we ended the external parties and invitations long ago, making others focus upon us, which after all IS what happens (and many young mothers have come under the tyranny of ever more lavish birthday parties from ever more friends—coming under a subtle tyranny of giving far more time and money to it than they would really RATHER give), we still privately give gifts to each other, or do dinner, i.e. there is SOME attention drawn to it.  But I’m newly alarmed via this verse about what we perhaps lose of His presence, of His favor, of spiritual heart rest, when we engage in this apparently mild idolatry for a few hours.  Does a mincing degree of it have some death in it for our spirits?  I wonder.

There is nowhere in Scripture where we are told to do birthdays. Accounts of ancient birthdays give us some light on the topic, perhaps.  Pharaoh’s birthday celebration led to the restoration of his cupbearer and the death of his baker, as recorded in Genesis 40:20-22; good for one but not so good for the other?  These ancient birthdays were often occasions of rash behaviors.  John got his head chopped off at Herod’s birthday party (Matthew 14:8).  Job’s sons were apparently doing birthdays, having parties on “their days” and it was apparently not a blessing; their father went out and sacrificed to cover any sins they may have committed, cursing God in their hearts (Job 1:5).

Many birthday practices have heathen origins, not godly ones.  Heathens initiated the custom of making round cakes (in worship of the sun god) on that day; spanking the birthday person to expel wicked spirits; gathering friends, family and loved ones around so as to fend off the attacks of the demons on that day.  Candles were for the sun god.  Wishes were wishes made to demons.

The Messiah Himself never instructed us to celebrate birthdays—not even His own.  He shifted the focus elsewhere to remembering his DEATH, instead: “Do THIS in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24), drinking the cup at Passover.  There is no Biblical mention of giving gifts to each other as a means of celebrating His birth.  The few examples of birthdays that are in Scripture are devastating.

Perhaps the root of birthdays may be a bit of self-worship?  It may be what makes us so uncomfortable when everyone at a restaurant sings happy birthday to us.  It might be that a mere mortal was never designed to be able to deal with “worship”—only God was made to be able to stand it without making Him squirm or having it go to His head.  It may be that the only reason He requires any worship for Himself is that it looks good on us—that it was designed for our benefit—much like we as parents, insist that our children say thank you.  We don’t need the thank you, the child needs to say it to put his own spirit in a grateful posture for his own well-being—to take his spirit out of agitation and death over little issues and big.  It may be that worship of the Almighty is the survival adrenalin from heaven that keeps the mortal life “centered” in the most life-giving place.

If you find yourself wondering about all of this, carefully observe the emotional dynamics among people at birthdays, and see what you conclude.  Consecration could be not only about doing but also about not doing.  Just like with healthy diets; it is not only what one puts into one’s mouth, but what one doesn’t eat, that brings about optimal health.  Thinking biblically about every single detail of our lives may take us in some surprising directions with some surprising benefits.  The important thing is to THINK—and to pay attention to our misgivings.

For further reading on this topic, see our booklets/eBooks:
+ Party Themes and Activities
+ How to Keep Your Kids from Slipping into Materialism
+ No Stress Holidays for Moms

Restoring your sanity in conquering domestic chores

Wednesday, 12. December 2012 by Renee Ellison

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Ever get in one of those loops where you start out to do one thing but when you get there, some other task looms large in front of you, so you momentarily forget the first thing and tackle that second thing and then in the middle of that second thing a third thing presses its way into your path, demanding attention?  How do you navigate it without ending up buried in deep occupation with the TENTH thing, now on the trivial level, instead of the first?

Here’s how: you write down the second, third and fourth things, and continue DOING the first!  Yup, that’s it.  Domestic insanity replaced with “measured-tread”.

Research shows that if a person, no matter whether it’s a corporation president or the humble janitor, or the pulled-in-every-direction housewife, continues with the highest thing on their priority list and KEEPS it the highest thing, such a person makes remarkable SIGNIFICANT progress in life.  A struggling company told all of its employees to write down their highest three goals EACH DAY, keeping them VISIBLE and prominent, and it turned the company into a business dynamo.  Their bottom line profits broke all their previous records.  For the homemaker?  It turns chaos into cheerful calm!

Wanta know even more secrets that deliver domestic progress for you?!  Order our ebooks, Goal Setting and Time Management and Home Management Strategies.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Secrets to surviving company

Tuesday, 04. December 2012 by Renee Ellison

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Expecting company?  Here are seven tips.

One:  Think ENDURANCE strategies.  Tone down your OWN responsiveness.  Wear a warm, tender smile on your face, and that is ALL.  SAY very little from either your own input, or in response to theirs.  Wait until the END of their visit to add your stories, or to become very responsive to them, so that if you collapse it will be at the end of your time together.  Conserve your OWN energy.

Two:  Examine yourself frequently for stress.  Do tummy checks: “Is my tummy tight?”  And breathing checks: “Is my breathing shallow?”  Consciously do bio-feedback.  Loosen your tummy muscles, deepen your breathing, slow your actions, and lower your voice.  As Shakespeare wrote in King Lear: “Her voice was ever soft and low—an excellent thing in a woman.”  This will all have a calming effect upon you.

Three:  Keep a running private conversation going with the Lord.  Pray over everything—even over what to have for dinner.  This sweet internal fellowship will renew you ongoingly.  Praise Him a great deal in your insides.  Praise refreshes, and restores perspective about the big picture.  Relatives often take us down into the minutiae of the little picture.

Four:  If you feel any criticisms or challenges, play dodge ball.  Don’t answer; don’t take it to heart.  Change the conversation onto something wholesome and out there.  Diverting conversations is one of the most excellent strategies to use with relatives; they never figure out that you are doing it.  Put yourself mentally, at those times, into a God-bubble; remind yourself that your “being” and “actions” bring Him great delight, and that He knows your good MOTIVES for the choices of your own lifestyle.  You will stand before Him alone at the great bar.

Five:  If someone is mean-spirited toward you, operate in the OPPOSITE spirit.
  Unhook from the last remark and serve them tea. smile

Six:  Get away, out of the room, for one-minute vacations.

Seven:  Look for shortcuts for everything: only changing pillowcases during your guests’ stay, instead of the sheets, preparing faster foods, etc., and DELEGATE as much as possible TO your company.  This OCCUPIES them productively, gets their attention off from you, makes them feel useful, and lightens your own load.  It is enough to THINK up the order of the day; you don’t have to DO the day, too.  Administration takes mental energy—don’t forget that.  You are the ONLY one in the group who can DO the administration.  That is a job, in and of itself.

For further thoughts, order our ebooks, No Stress Holidays for Moms and Coping with Personally Induced Stress.  Also, Why We Got Off the Christmas Bandwagon.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Strategies for getting homeschooling on track

Wednesday, 31. October 2012 by Renee Ellison

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The very first place to start is to get those to-do charts up and running for your entire family.  We suggest reading our booklet on How to Make Optimal Homeschooling To-Do Charts, cover to cover, and underline anything that you especially want to remember.

Go get some graph paper with half-inch squares (it must be large enough that you/Mom can read it ten feet away, at a glance) or make some graph papers and fill them out for each child, as explained in our booklet.  Make one for yourself, too.  And post them all on the outside of a hallway door or wall and hang a pencil on a string right next to it.  I’ve put scores of women on this program and it has revolutionized their homes and reduced their stress levels because each child carries his own load, both for chores and academic work.  This motivates your children to become high-octane producers, because there is no more dawdling, wondering what to do.  Using the 15-minute chart method, they can race past their peers in every area.

Now go read the rest of the to-do charts booklet to acquire easier days than you ever imagined.

Amusing ourselves to death

Sunday, 16. September 2012 by Renee Ellison

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Our culture is addicted to media.  If you don’t believe it, have your family go for one weekend without it.  Is this REALLY the good life?  What are we trading for it?  Is there any hope of controlling it?

Just because we are getting an abundance of information doesn’t mean we are THINKING.  And just because we are being entertained doesn’t mean we are LIVING.  And social technology may actually be dwarfing relational growth with people right in our own living rooms.  Preference for “cyberspace life” over “real life” could be moving us further and further into territory we hadn’t counted on.

What has happened to our spiritual lives with the invasion of these chronic external stimuli?  Have we lost our spirits beside the road somewhere, while we traffic in the ever-insistent immediate?  Are we praying as much as we are WATCHING?  Are we praying at ALL?  “May the eyes of their hearts be enlightened,” said the Apostle Paul.  This was a blessing prayed over us by a mature brother even where there was NO MEDIA on earth.  He wanted us to put on THESE glasses and SEE these things.  This saint’s coveted wish for us was generated only DURING his prayer (if he hadn’t been praying, he wouldn’t have thought of it) and would only ever be experienced by us during OUR prayer.  Daniel received huge revelations from God only because he was ALREADY praying three times a day.  Those insights were not given to the bum down the street who watched chariot races all day.  Via our intoxication with media, are we closer or further from these blessings of the heart?

Also: because of our ever engulfing submersion in media what has happened to our reach to real need down the street? What have we really gained by chronically riveting our focus onto a 15-inch screen and a 15-second sound bite?  Is information the same as reason?  Is watching the same as doing?  What have we gained by so frequently dropping into altered realities via the visual fantasy life of movies beyond number, as well?  What happens to us when we traffic in moral rot?  What happens if we do even MORE of this?  Where does this LEAD?

Let’s get up and out of our “media caves” for a moment and evaluate what is happening to us.  In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985; republished 2006), Neil Postman showed us incisively how we are replacing READING with watching, and how this is doing devastating things to both our cognition, brain function and our spirits.  This means that information is coming to us outside of a context, outside of a developing and cohesive logic, and outside of reflection time.  Hmm.  Do we become bigger people or smaller people if our brain and spirit are no longer exercised in these disciplines?

If we are at all worried about these trends, how do we gain control?  A good starting place is to give ourselves a moment to evaluate good uses and destructive uses of media.  Then work at remembering our findings tomorrow in the middle of renewed media bombardment.  Let’s purposefully clutch a bit of sanity in regard to our mental diet; insist on its importance in our families.

The bottom line? Give your children a “doing and becoming” childhood, not a “sitting and soaking” childhood.  Passivity was never the starch of heroes.  Applause is simply never given to people who do nothing but watch.

Good uses of media:

Watching conservative evening news (especially for the elderly) can be a good thing if used as a spur to PRAY over these world events, while one’s emotions run hot over these issues.  Commercials would be an excellent time to do a little praying.  But too much news for the midlifers can diminish time to be productive.  Headlines can be snatched quickly on the run.

Any DVD or YouTube video that teaches a SKILL is a wonderful use of media.  Skill development in electronics, construction, cooking, sewing, car mechanics, plumbing, health and nutrition, alternative medicine, etc.  Free education on hundreds of topics is available via the Internet; even excellent job training is available there.  This use of media is not fantasy; it extends our REAL lives.

Bad uses of media:
Using media as chronic white noise in doctor’s offices, restaurants, elevators, hotels, and your own home, is destroying our head space.  What’s the solution for your home?  TURN IT OFF.  Allow your family quiet reflection time as the main ingredient to their days.  Contrary to popular opinion, quiet is not bad.  Quiet has a silver lining.  True progressive UNINTERRUPTED thinking will begin to take place.  Genuine relating will happen more often without the background competition for attention.  A constantly splintered attention span will not produce what you are hoping for in your family.  It is no gift.

What’s the solution for public life?  Take earplugs and a book everywhere whenever you head out (include ones for every child).  Incrementally and progressively become well-read.  Many used bookstores hang the slogan:  “So many books; so little time.”  Tis true.  Habitually reading the rich content of good books will sour you on the shallowness of nearly all media.  Media is swamp and marsh, compared to the mining for gold possible when living in and around excellent books.  And make your reading choices devoid of trash.  Many magazines are insanely dumb; leafing through them is a sheer waste of minutes.  Take your OWN book everywhere.  Reading history frees us from arrogance over the present.  It is a deliverance from popular insistences.

Probably the poorest use of media is to use it as a babysitter for your child.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives didn’t HAVE this option and somehow they all survived.  Neither was this option available for about 5,900 years.  We CAN get our children through the day without it, as staggeringly novel as that seems.  Turn it off and, instead, include your children in your adult dinners and your adult conversations, and your own projects with a little attendant companion project for them, right next to you.  Keeping your children near you and not near media will profoundly alter the development of the child for the better.  Knowing that there are little ears all around you will help you craft your own speech for purity and richness and will grow a mature child before his time.  Teach children the art of waiting for a space before interjecting a comment, and how to be brief with their comments, always aware of the time needed for OTHERS to have a say of equal length.  Time so used will teach them the almost lost art of ebb and flow to all invigorating and life-giving conversation.  “Conversation makes a ready man” (Francis Bacon).  Conversation is a skill which is progressively learned in the actual act—not by passivity in front of a screen.  Most youth today can’t even look you in the eye, they are so doped up by habitually living in a stupor of dull stares upon a frantic screen.

When you and your family have a choice between another VISUAL fantasy story and reading, you’ll get further in life if you pick the reading.  Hour for hour, minute for minute it culminates in a different kind of person at life’s end—and all the way through.  Start with Eric Metaxas’ 580-page two-inch biography of Bonhoeffer (whose family members, by the way, were avid readers, along with performing excellent music in their home for family and guests at the end of each week) and you’ll feel dwarfed in your human development.  Life can be lived on all sorts of levels, and those who live it deeply have much to teach us through BOOKS.  Most in our culture don’t know that such a life is POSSIBLE.  Do SOMETHING about this sabotage.

For further reading, download this eBook: TV Watching Out of Control: Hidden problems for adults and children. and this free eBook especially for godly young daughters: Melanie’s Favorite Books List.

Filed Under: Home management tips