How We Spend Our Lives {The Daily Planner Review}

How We Spend Our Lives

I love planners. I love them big or small, pretty or professional, detailed or plain.  Mostly, I love how they get me thinking about how I spend my days.  Because, as Annie Dillard has said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

So, I was super-excited to review The Daily Planner designed by Sue Hooley, a wife married 23 years and a mom of six children ages 4-20.

2015_Daily_Planner_PicWhat makes this planner unique is that the layout specifically has a homemaker’s needs in mind. For example, it is rare that one day in the life of a stay-at-home mom will be the same as the next, and therefore not all her tasks will fit into the structured time-slots of more traditional planners.

Sectioned off into seven areas (yearly calendar, monthly calendar, weekly planner, tasks lists, projects, information, and shopping lists), it measures about 6” x 8.5” and easily fits into most handbags.

Features of The Daily Planner I especially like include:

Tabbed sections.  Each of the aforementioned sections have easy-to-thumb-through, rounded tabs making it a snap to flip from the year-at-a-glance area to the weekly schedule, etc. Also, within each section, there are pre-marked dotted lines that can be snipped to create even more accessibility to specific pages.

Year-at-a-glance pages. This planner has a page showing all the dates for both the current year and the following year as well as handy “dates to remember” sections for sketching in birthdays, anniversaries, or other special events.

Month-at-a-glance element.  Featured on two-page spreads, every month is laid out for viewing, and the date boxes are big enough to jot down short notes.

Weekly schedules. For every week of the year, there is a two-page spread of dated spaces for writing more detailed notes for each day.

Tasks lists.  Each of the weekly sections has a sizable, lined, blank space for daily tasks. Every mom knows that there are somethings that just don’t fit neatly into a daily schedule… things that might pop up.  This area is a great place to write details for those items.

Projects & Tasks tabs. There are two large, tabbed sections that include ample space for taking notes and jotting down ideas, for making lists and recording a-ha moments.  So many times, organizers fail in this area.  I love the amount of space for note-taking here!

Perforated shopping lists. This is brilliant!  There is a whole section with paper easily separated by perforations that are long and skinny — about 2” x 8” — perfect for keeping a running grocery list, tearing out, and slipping into a pocket.  Love this!

Bible verses. Each week focuses the attention around a different verse from Proverbs that specifically encourages a woman in her homemaking journey.

Price.  This planner is very affordable. At $13.99 each, it is comparable to planners available in big box stores.  And trust me when I say that after pouring over the planners in the big box stores, this organizer is a step above any you’ll find there for an equal price.

I’m excited to tell you that Sue Hooley is giving away TWO copies of The Daily Planner.  To enter, just follow the instructions below.

And if you’d like to purchase a planner (or two or three for friends!), here’s a great deal just for The Better Mom readers!

Happy planning!

Rhonda

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Fall Into Grace: 4 Steps to a More Peaceful Home this Fall

Friends, my family has been through quite a year. We’ve been through health issues, unexpected upheavals and big changes – not the least of which was moving halfway around the world to a place we never thought we would be!

Our little family has weathered the craziness of this past year really well. My husband and kiddos are rock stars!

But gals – and I don’t know about you – I’m tired. Body and spirit, I’m weary. I’m still faithfully spending time in the Word and in prayer; but most of the time these days it feels like my prayers are hitting the ceiling and the words from The Word are hitting plexiglass instead of a pliable, open heart.

And my family, y’all. After a year of change and movement, we need some peace. We’re all tired, we’re a little rough around the edges and we’re all a bit on edge.

How about you? Could your heart use a little bit of peace? Could your home use a little bit of peace in this season of back to school, impending holidays and pumpkin-everything?

(Note: “peace” does not necessarily mean absence of action, or even absence of conflict. Rather, a deep seated contentment in your current season.)

I don’t know about you, but I tend to think/feel, “If only someone would calm things down around here I could be the patient and loving wife and mother I long to be!!” You and I both know that we are the ones who set the tone for our homes and families. If someone is going to usher peace into our chaotic lives, it must start with us.

I know.

Fall Into Grace: 4 Steps to a More Peaceful Home This Fall

So, let’s do this together. Let’s take 4 simple steps to make our homes and families a little bit more peaceful this fall (and all the year ’round!).

1. Choose a theme verse. Spend some time praying, searching God’s Word and talking with your husband. Ask God to lead you to a verse to be your theme for the fall. Commit to memorizing it, praying it daily, and talking about it with your family. I’m thinking about choosing Psalm 119:165:

Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.

I also want to incorporate verses 166-176 into my daily prayers for my family. Print your verse and hang it in prominent places in your home. Is there a song that incorporates your verse? Play it! Sing it! Learn it! The Word of God is living and active and the most powerful resource at our disposal to bring about positive and lasting change in our own hearts and in the hearts of our families.

2. Examine your schedule. It’s hard to have any time of peace or rest if you’re running six ways from Sunday everyday of the week. Talk with your husband and together come up with a plan for how many extracurricular activities in which each child can participate. We can’t do everything, and we shouldn’t try. For our family, in this season, our rule of thumb is one extra activity per child. That may change over the years, but for now it works for us. Decide for yourselves, too, how many extra things you will participate in. Do you really need to lead the women’s Bible study at church, coordinate the nursery rotations, make snacks every week for the youth group and go visiting the homebound every week all while running a blog, personal business website and planning your next mission trip? By all means, serve!! However, let’s find the places He is really leading us, and serve there. It will free our energies to cultivate peace at home, and it will free up ways for others to serve!

3. Concentrated time alone with God. My quiet times have been struggling lately. Oh, I’ve been in the Word. I’ve been praying…or trying to. But as I look ahead to cultivating a season of peace at home, I cannot give (or cultivate) what I myself to not have. We need hearts at peace in order to be agents of peace in our homes. Set aside time daily – a good chunk of time where you will have minimal interruptions – and really spend time with God. You may just need to sit quietly at first and focus on His presence to allow your heart to soften and open. If you’ve been through some stressful times this year, you may have been building a protective wall around it without realizing. This time can be early in the morning, during nap time or after the kids are in bed. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you take it. Set a reminder on your phone, write in on your calendar. Protect this time like your life depends on it – because it does.

4. Accountability and Encouragement. We cannot do this parenting gig alone. Find some friends from church, work, other school moms, whatever to come along with you on this journey of peace. If, like me, like-minded friends in person are a rare find, there are loads of online resources to help you, too! The past few years I’ve been participating in the Making Your Home a Haven Challenge from Courtney at Women Living Well (this challenge will run again this year, every Monday in October). Last year I fell in love with the book, Autumn Bliss, from Denise Thompson. So many great ideas for cultivating peace and rest in our homes.

So, are you in? Leave us a comment and tell us which one of these steps you’re either most excited about…or most terrified of! :)

Blessings,

Jen Deibel

Teaching Children Responsibility

thebettermomParenting is hard work!   There are so many aspects to it, everything from discipline to helping our children make good food choices to winning their hearts!  We also want to make sure we are teaching our children responsibility.  We are living in a culture where more and more grown children are living at home and can’t seem to be able to move on with their own lives.  God has given us the task of parenting and although we will always be our children’s parents we also want to equip our children for real life living!  They are meant to go out and make lives of their own and we want them to be ready for that!

Chores can really help us in this area.  I hear many moms say, “it is just easier to do it myself” or “it is not worth the complaining I will have to hear”, trust me- I HEAR you!!  It is often not easy but we do our children no favors if we continue down this path because in the long run it will hurt them!

Our children can learn basic clean up rules at a very young age.  I recently had my one year old nephew over and he was helping me pick up the toys.  Actually they usually love doing it at this age so it is the perfect time to start.  Setting that precedent early helps you a great deal when they are older.

I write a lot about helping families connect on a deeper level.  Working as a family is a wonderful way to do this!  You may hear complaints at first but if you make chore time and time you all work as a family consistent they will adjust and great conversations can happen when you are cooking in the kitchen together or cleaning out the garage!  Reward yourselves after the big jobs and go out for ice cream together.  You are teaching your children the value of hard work and they will feel pride in a job well done!

Here some lists to get you started:

Younger children can:

Put Toys Away

Feed and Water the Pets

Wipe Down Table Tops

Dust (they love to use the feather duster)

Water Plants

Set the Table

Throw Trash Away

Sort Laundry (great lesson on learning colors)

As they get older they can do:

Meal Preparation – They can wash off veggies and fruit/ help you stir (If you are there of course), and get ingredients together.

Make their beds

Sweep Floors

Vacuum Floors

Collect Garbage (this really helps me on garbage take out days) 

Rake Leaves or Sweep Walkway

Pick up their Rooms

Help with Care of Baby (like making bottles and getting diapers)

Help Clean up the Yard

By the time our children our teens we want them to be able to:

Do their laundry

Cook some meals

Mow the lawn

Do basic car maintenance (like checking the oil and tires)

This is helping them be ready to go away to college or for when they get their first apartment or home!  They will be grateful they know these tasks and often you will find more mature young people who save money and get good jobs at a younger age because of their knowledge in this area!

Remember when you are teaching your children, it won’t be perfect.

But you know what?

It a better thing to be teaching your children about their future and preparing them for life than to have the perfect made bed or swept kitchen!  You are raising soon to be adults and they need you to prepare them!

Blessings,

Angela, Together with Family

30-Minute Clutter Busters {designed to help you balance work & play}

Clock on color wooden plank wallGot 30 minutes to spare? I know, moms never have time to spare. So get up early, stay up late, find 30 minutes when you’re on hold with the insurance company. Just grab half an hour and tackle one of the following tasks, some of which can actually be done in less than 30 minutes. It will help you sneak in a little work during a slight window in your schedule. This will free up some time for you to spend with your family helping you to balance work and play.

  • Dump out one drawer in the kitchen. Sort the contents into three piles: out of place, throw away, and put back. Wipe out the drawer. Replace wanted items. Put those that are out of place back where they belong and pitch the throw-away items. If you find any items that are unwanted but still in good shape, place them in a box to be donated to charity or sold at your next yard sale.
  • Balance your checkbook. Go online or use the telephone teller to see which checks have cleared and which deposits have been made; then do the math to get your current balance. Warning: If it has been a long time since you’ve done this, it will take more than 30 minutes. If you do this every week or two, it will take much less time.
  • Purge your purseDump the contents onto the floor. Get rid of trash. Organize your money. Stash your receipts somewhere where you’ll be able to locate them when needed. And consider getting a smaller purse. If you buy a big purse, you’ll be sure to fill it. Think small! A “clutch on a string” type purse with space for a cell phone should do the trick. You can always keep this inside a larger tote bag or diaper bag if you want. It will be easier when shopping if you keep your main purse small and its contents narrowed down to the essentials.
  • Clean your counters. Move everything to one side of your kitchen counters. Wipe thoroughly. Move everything to the other side. Wipe the second half. Place it all back where it belongs.
  • Disinfect your doorknobs. This is likely the most germ-infested area of your home. Everyone touches the doorknobs, but no one cleans them. Experts say to give them a good rubbing with a disinfectant wipe every so often.
  • Clean out your fridge. Pull everything out onto the counter. Wipe down the inside. Replace only what is not out of date. Pitch the rest. If any items are near the expiration date and not going to be used soon, freeze if possible.
  • Clean out the freezer. Use the same method of attack for the freezer. Discard anything that is out of date and no longer safe or tasty to eat. Can you say “freezer burn”? I knew you could.
  • Mind the medicine cabinet. Check the dates on all your meds, and decide which ones must be tossed. Rid the cabinet of any lotions, shampoos, and products you don’t need. Wipe the shelves down and replace only what you’re keeping. I do this twice a year when the time changes. That’s also when we check our smoke-alarm batteries.
  • Organize the hall closet. While you may not be able to make a dent in a large bedroom closet in 30 minutes, you might be able to straighten up a simple coat closet. Empty it, sweep it out, and wipe down any shelves. Hang the coats back up and reposition other hats, gloves, boots, and such. Consider getting plastic totes to keep like items together, further organizing the contents. Get rid of what you don’t need.
  • Purge the pantry. Remove all canned and boxed goods from your pantry shelves. Throw away what is outdated. Make a pile of what is still good but your family won’t likely eat. Donate this to a local food bank or homeless shelter. Replace items in an order logical to you. Sometimes, see if you can eat for a week with only the items you find in your pantry. I’ve invented some recipes this way. Go online to find recipes that pair items you have on hand. Shop for only what fresh items are needed to round out your meals. You’ll save a bundle on your groceries that week.
  • Fix the fixtures. If you have light fixtures that need dusting and cleaning, take care of them now. If the fixtures have many globes or tulip-shaped glass cups, run them through a rinse cycle in the dishwasher. Dry and replace.
  • Add an address. Transfer any addresses from sticky notes, letter envelopes, and Christmas cards into your address book.
  • Rearrange your recipes. Take a look in your recipe files, and toss any cards or cutouts you don’t use. Rearrange what’s left. If your recipes are in great disarray, this may take more than one 30-minute block. If so, find another friend who has the same problem. Take your recipes, meet her at a coffee house, and have an “Amazon Women” session to get your recipes in order. I did this one night, placing them all in a three-ring binder with full-size page protectors for magazine cutouts and pages designed to hold individual photos for the recipe cards. I made sections for main dishes, side dishes, desserts, and miscellaneous. When I’m cooking, if something splatters onto the recipe, it can be easily wiped off.
  • Give a movie review. Sort through your DVDs and pluck out any your family no longer watches. Save old-time favorites for nostalgia if you have a child who is particularly fond of one. Give the rest to another family who would enjoy them.
  • Spit-shine a shelf. Take time to pick through just one shelf in the garage or basement, ridding it of unwanted items and leaving it neat and tidy. If you do one shelf a day, that area will gradually get decluttered.
  • Give thanks. Anyone you’ve been meaning to write a thank-you note to? Do it now. And to make it easier in the future, place some thank-you notes, stamps, return address labels, and your address book in a basket near your sofa or in a tote bag you can take to the doctor’s office or carpool line. Grab it often to jot a note of thanks or encouragement to someone.
  • Sort socks. Have a basket or bag with single, lonely socks that have lost their mates. Dump the bag and pair up any matches. Better yet, pay a child a nickel a pair for any matches he can find.
  • Peruse your porch. Take a look at what others see when they knock on your front door. Does your front window need washing? The porch need sweeping? Are there cobwebs that could do with a good knocking down? Take a little time to make the entrance to your home look presentable.
  • Deal with your drainsPour some baking soda in your kitchen-sink drain. Next, douse it with a little vinegar. The resulting bubbling action will freshen it up. Or pour some clog-removing liquid down the bathroom sink and tub drains to prevent hair clogs in the first place.
  • Fiddle with your files. Remove three or four files from your filing cabinet. Look through them and make sure the contents are still worth keeping. If you find manuals for appliances you no longer own or outdated paperwork, toss or shred them now. Doing this regularly keeps your files up to date.

Happy organizing!

Karen Ehman, KarenEhman.com

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

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