When You Aren’t June Cleaver

The following post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure, click here. 

When girls become women and begin managing their own homes, they often have an ideal in mind. This ideal looks something like June Cleaver from the television program Leave it to Beaver. Ever calm, ever organized, and cooking in pearls and high heels. We picture a home that stays clean, nutritious meals that don’t leave the kitchen looking like a tornado passed through, and appliances that don’t break down.

Reality often looks a bit different.

We think that managing a home should be easy. We think we should automatically know what we’re doing.

However, like anything else in life, homemaking is a learned skill. 

I’ve been married for a little over two years now, and in that time I’ve come a long way. Even so, there are areas in which I could improve. (A bathroom cleaning schedule, anyone??)

That’s why this year, I’m investing in myself and my home by participating in the 2017 Homemaking Ministries Online Conference.

The theme is “Find Purpose in Your Home.” That speaks to me. At times, I have struggled with feeling as if my work did not matter. I wrote an entire series on what I’ve learned about why motherhood matters. Shining my sink tends to pale in comparison, unless I remember the people I’m serving. I’m looking forward to being rejuvenated and motivated by this year’s conference!

Sessions I’m Pumped to Attend!

Finding Purpose Through Creating a Haven – Hilary Bernstein – It might just be me, but when I feel like my home is out of control, it doesn’t feel like a peaceful haven any more. I’m interested in hearing how Hilary makes her home feel like a haven!

Training Children to Help at Home – Amy Roberts – Amy Roberts is just the sweetest person! I did an interview for her blog about homeschooling a few months ago. She has nine living children.so I’m sure she has plenty of experience with teaching children how to do things around the house. My 17 month old is at an age where he wants to help, but just isn’t quite able to pull off most tasks. He is quite cute when he takes clothes out of the dryer and hands them to me to fold though. This session should be helpful as I look towards teaching him how to do more things in the future.

Two Baby Steps (But Crucial Ones) Toward Healthier Living – Stacy Myers – I am a firm believer in incremental change, simply because it is more sustainable for most people. Making drastic changes overnight just results in burn out. Stacy is also hilarious! I’m sure her presentation will be engaging as well as informative.

A Heavenly Minded Home – Katie Bennett – Katie is a good example of the meek and quiet spirit that the Bible talks about in 1 Peter 3:1-4. I like how she always ties things back to what ultimately matters in life: serving Jesus wherever we are. I can’t wait to see how she applies this to homemaking!

How Writing the Word Can Strengthen Your Faith – Victoria Osborn – I have a Write the Word journal and honestly have not done much with it yet. I’m hoping this session will get me inspired! I can see how the physical act of writing out verses would help me to keep Scripture in my heart and mind.

Finding Purpose in Your Home – Keynote – Jami Balmet – The conference is over a span of five days. Each day, Jami is going to do a keynote session centered around the theme of Finding Purpose in Your Home.

Details on the Conference

The conference will be live from September 25-29, 2017. However, all of the sessions are recorded and will be available to watch later if you can’t attend live. Buying a conference ticket gives you lifetime access to all 27 sessions. I plan to watch as much as I can live, but realistically, I’ll need to go back and watch some sessions later. I have a toddler. 😉

The conference features 23 different speakers. You may recognize some of these names if you’ve been reading blogs for a while.

If you’re reading this after September 29, it’s not too late to buy a ticket! Since the entire conference is recorded, you can buy tickets even after it’s over and work through the sessions at your own pace.

Tickets can be purchased from the official conference website. 

Jesus Loves You – A Book Review

jesus loves you christine topjian

I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own. The following post also contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure, click here. 

Jesus Loves You! by Christine Topjian evokes memories of the perennial favorite Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. However, Topjian focuses on the everlasting love of Jesus, rather than the love of a human parent. The narrative follows the life of a little boy, and how God was with him all along.

Topjian shows how God’s love is with us through every step of our lives. She begins with how God knits us together in the womb. From starting school, to getting married, to caring for an aging parent, the boy in the story sees the hand of God.

jesus loves you

The book serves as a good reminder of the biblical principle that God is always with us, and that we are never forgotten.

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. – Luke 12:7 KJV

God walks with us through every moment of our lives: the happy, the sad, the angry, and everything in between.

For He hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” – Hebrews 13:5b

While Jesus Loves You! is a children’s book, it provides a good reminder for the parent as well. I firmly believe that filling our minds with the truth of the Gospel is important, no matter how old you are.

Jesus Loves You! is available for purchase on Amazon. 

How to Try Cloth Diapers (When You Aren’t So Sure about That!)

get started with cloth diapers

Previously, I wrote about why I chose to switch to cloth diapers, after years of being adamantly against the idea. If you haven’t already, you can read that post here. 

I firmly believe that cloth diapers are not for everyone, but they can be great for some people. But how do you know if you would love them or hate them?

The best way is to try!

Buying New Diapers

First, you need to decide if you feel comfortable with used cloth diapers or not. If you don’t, then you’ll probably want to order a sampler kit from one of the various cloth diaper websites.

Nicki’s Diapers offers a 15 day wash and return program. You can find the full details here. Nicki’s Diapers is a great place to order brand new diapers. They offer free shipping with a minimum purchase of $10. If you’re on a budget and need to accumulate your diapers slowly, that low free shipping threshold is helpful!

If I were starting completely from scratch, I would get the Nicki’s Cloth Diapering 101 Starter Kit. It provides you with examples of several types of cloth diapers.

Some other options include the prefold diaper trial package or the one size cloth diaper trial package, both from Diaper Junction. 

As you can see, these options can be expensive. I decided to go the used route for that reason.

Buying Used Diapers

Buying used is a totally valid option. Just make sure you bleach soak them first! Fluff Love University provides thorough instructions for bleach soaking. 

You can find used diapers at some children’s consignment sales, on sites like eBay or Craigslist, or in Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade groups.

We have a ton of children’s consignment sales in my area. It’s awesome. 🙂 I bought 12 cloth diapers and a large wet bag for $25. This was enough to justify a load of laundry, but not enough for me to feel as if I had wasted a lot of money if I decided not to stick with it.

I bought several different brands, since I wasn’t sure what would work best for my little boy. I had previously tried to determine from the internet what brand and type of cloth diaper is best. This is roughly as useful as trying to figure out from the internet what homeschool curriculum to buy. It depends on too many factors.

  • It depends on you.
  • It depends on your kid.
  • It depends on what your motivation is.
  • It depends on your philosophy.
  • It depends on if you have a long and skinny baby or a short and chunky one.

I highly recommend trying different things yourself so you can learn what works on YOUR specific child!

The Great Cloth Diaper Experiment of 2017

After I had thoroughly sanitized the diapers, we began The Great Cloth Diaper Experiment of 2017.

Our first hurdle was seeing if my husband would still be willing to change cloth diapers. Quite frankly, my husband changed a LOT of diapers in the 15 months prior to this experiment. If using cloth meant losing my help, that was a deal breaker for me. I’m just being completely honest here. 😉 For this reason, I only bought all-in-one or pocket diapers. Putting those on and taking them off is simple and very similar to using disposables.

My husband was cool with the switch, as long as he didn’t have to dump poop in the toilet. I handled that part. (Toddler poop is actually pretty simple. Just plop it into the toilet and flush).

We are currently sticking with disposables for overnight and for when he goes to nursery at church. I haven’t found changing them while we’re out and about to be a problem, so I do that if I’m going to be with him. I have a travel sized wet bag that I keep in my son’s bag. I might try using cloth diapers overnight at some point, but I haven’t so far.

After a week or two of this, we determined which brand worked the best. We like the Kawaii pocket diapers. They’re reasonably priced, even if you buy them brand new.

Would I recommend this for everyone? 

No. If you hate laundry, cloth diapers are going to drive you insane. I think I would personally be overwhelmed if I attempted to cloth diaper and work outside the home full time simultaneously, though there are people who can pull it off!

In my opinion, the most important factor to cloth diapering success is having easy access to a washer and dryer. It’s theoretically possible to cloth diaper and do the laundry at a laundromat, but it would be much more work.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

You certainly can cloth diaper from birth and use only cloth at all times until your child potty trains. However, you can also choose to use cloth part-time. Many people who usually cloth diaper 24/7 will use disposables while they travel. Cloth diapering only during the day is also an option. Some people like to use cloth at home and disposables while out and about.

Cloth diapers generally come in two sizes: newborn and one size. “One size” is not truly one-size-fits-all, and usually doesn’t fit  babies until they weigh about 12 lbs. Most babies don’t fit in newborn cloth diapers long enough for it to be cost effective. If you are using cloth for environmental or health reasons, it might still be worth it to you. Alternatively, you can use disposables until your baby is large enough for one size diapers.

Remember that even part-time use will save you money. 🙂 Happy diapering!

A 100% Honest Look at Cloth Diapers

cloth diapers for beginners

My mother used cloth diapers on me, my brothers, and my sister. When my brothers and I were in diapers, she used prefolds with those plastic pants and diaper pins. By the time my sister was born, we lived in a place where there wasn’t a cloth diaper service, so she had various types of modern cloth diapers.

My 13 year old self was thoroughly amused at the brand names. Bum Genius. Fuzzibunz. Happy Heiny. Hilarious. 

My Relationship with Disposable Diapers

Later in life, when I was pregnant with my son, I was absolutely adamant that I was NOT going to cloth diaper.

  • I found the idea of potentially poking the baby with a diaper pin stressful.
  • Our washing machine came with the apartment we rented and wasn’t truly mine, so I was completely uncomfortable with the idea of poop going into it.
  • I also knew that we were going to move at least once, but possibly as many as three times, while my son would be in diapers. During the course of the first move, my son would be three months old and we would be temporarily living in a hotel.
  • It was just too much stress.

I don’t really regret that decision. I couponed an enormous stash of disposable diapers. I generally paid only 60%-70% of the regular retail price. That was enough money saving for me. If you’re interested in going that route, I would suggest checking out The Krazy Coupon Lady.

Why Did I Switch?

I am expecting my second baby in February, which means that I’ll have two kids under two and…two in diapers. 

Upon this revelation, I decided to rethink my diapering approach. I ultimately decided to make the switch to cloth for various reasons.

Couponing required buying 4-5 boxes of diapers at a time when the price was right. For two kids, I would need to buy 8-10 boxes at a time. When I was pregnant with my son, I had considerably more storage space than I do now. Currently, I have nowhere to store that many diapers until they’re needed.

I feel uncomfortable supporting a certain business now. I bought the majority of my disposables at a certain store. In the time since I did my stockpiling, they have implemented some policies that make me uncomfortable. I try to avoid shopping there when possible. Even though couponed diapers are significantly cheaper, buying my diapers there would still cause a sizable sum to be going to this company. No matter how you do it, diapering two children is going to be expensive.

I really highly doubt that my firstborn will be early to potty train. I have heard of kids who have it down at 18 months. I completely believe that they exist. I also believe that it’s pretty unlikely that my kid will be one of them. It’s just not how he rolls.

For me, these reasons were enough to make the switch.

Would I Recommend Cloth Diapers?

Maybe. It depends on a lot of factors.

Do you have laundry under control? In my experience, adding in diaper laundry is not particularly difficult IF you already have a good handle on laundry in general. I don’t like to let my diapers sit for more than 3 days before being washed. I previously wrote about how I got my own laundry under control.

Are you grossed out by poop? The level of grossness involved here varies based on the age and diet of the baby. My toddler’s poop can be plopped into the toilet easily, but a younger baby’s poop takes more work. Dealing with poop is part of parenting, but some people don’t want to deal with it more than is absolutely necessary. I completely understand that. If you’re in that camp, cloth diapers probably aren’t for you.

Do you aspire to be crunchy? I am what I like to call “accidentally crunchy.” I didn’t set out to be this way, but sometimes “crunchy” things just work well for me and I go with it. Some moms are attracted to cloth diapers because of the environmental benefits, or because they prefer to have natural materials on their baby’s skin.

Do you have a child with sensitive skin? Some babies cannot tolerate any brand of disposable diaper and need to be in cloth for health reasons. In that case, cloth is a great thing.

I personally don’t believe that cloth diapers are for everyone. However, they can be a great option! Next week I plan to share more about the most inexpensive way to try out cloth diapers.

Lessons on Finances, Lessons on Grace

The following post contains affiliate links. I also received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. For my full disclosure, click here. 

If I had to describe Erin Odom in one word, it would be gracious. I don’t do everything exactly the same way that she does, but I never feel demeaned by her writing. In the present climate of the internet, that can be a rare quality! When I discovered that Erin was writing a book, I knew I would enjoy reading it.

More Than Just Making It is part memoir and part practical tips for learning how to do more than just scrape by. Those who are struggling with their finances will be encouraged by the Odom family’s story of making it out of low income living. However, even those who are currently doing just fine financially will benefit from reading this book. Erin addresses common misconceptions about people who are low income and challenges the idea that “only bad or irresponsible people need assistance.”

As a result of reading this book, I learned several lessons about finances, and about living with grace.

Lesson #1: Buying a house might not make your dreams come true. Houses are not inherently bad things, but they are huge investments that should be considered carefully before making the plunge. We have the idea as a culture that renting is “throwing away money,” but it’s far better than being saddled with a mortgage that you can’t afford and a house you can’t sell. Ultimately, buying a house at the wrong time created a lot of heartache for the author’s family.

In retrospect, we should have rented longer and saved for a larger down payment, which would have prevented us from eventually being stuck with an underwater mortgage and a home we couldn’t sell during one of the worst economic crises of our nation’s history. – Erin Odom

Dave Ramsey has a great article about the right time to buy a house, which you can read here.

Lesson #2: We become more gracious when we are aware.

When describing a financial planning class that she took with her husband, Erin wrote, “And he was annoyed that the rest of the class looked at $50,000 a year as a ‘lower’ income while we were making it on less than half of that.”

Now, I live in the same state as the author and I was aware that we are poorly ranked in teacher pay, but I honestly didn’t know that it was quite THAT bad!

More Than Just Making It also discusses the issue of making assumptions about people. Many people don’t know that foster children get WIC benefits, even if the foster family they are currently staying with does not get WIC for themselves. Foster kids have been through a lot and need the help. However, this can lead to situations like the following…

You see a family with normal groceries in their cart. They have some cheese, peanut butter, and milk. But they also have a DVD. The woman pays for the food with WIC, and then buys the DVD out of pocket.

Those people! you think to yourself. Abusing the system! Welfare queens! Sucking up our tax dollars! Ugh!

But in reality…you can’t know everything about this family from one brief encounter in the checkout line. If the woman was a foster parent, she may have wanted to get the child a treat. There is really nothing wrong with that. You just. can’t. know.

Lesson #3: Money alone doesn’t solve all of life’s problems. 

Money can buy many things, and we certainly do need it, but money can’t buy contentment. Without contentment, no amount of money will ever seem like enough.

more than just making it

More Than Just Making It encourages the reader to see the little things as “kisses from Jesus,” which is another way of saying blessings. Perhaps you found a really great deal on something your family desperately needed. Maybe someone brought you some dinner. These small things breathe encouragement into a weary soul. My fellow launch team members and I are using the hashtag #kissesfromJesus to share stories of those little gifts from God. Feel free to join us!

Lesson #4: You can spend time or you can spend money. Which is better depends on your situation. 

Using coupons or cooking from scratch does save money. They cost time and effort. In the author’s situation, she was staying home with young children and had time to do things like cook from scratch, meal plan, and hunt for bargains at thrift stores. I wrote a post about things I cook from scratch and things that I still buy. Sometimes it’s worth it, and sometimes it’s not.

Buying used is another good way to save money. I love consignment sales. The key is to keep a list of what you need and your children’s sizes. You don’t want to buy something that you don’t need just because it’s a good deal. You can always save 100% by refusing to buy things that you don’t need. 😉 Hunting through consignment sales or thrift stores takes longer than shopping in a regular store, but if you have more time than money it’s worth it.

Lesson #5: Budgets need to be detailed. Very, very detailed.

Erin lists her family’s budget categories, which are detailed with incredible precision. It made me think about my own budget and tweaks that I’d like to make. Ideally, you should have a zero-sum budget in which every dollar is accounted for. There are several apps available that can help you track your finances more closely. We use Mint for our family.

Lesson #6: There is a way out if you are struggling with finances. 

It might require a career change, making radical cuts to your budget, or having both spouses work for some period of time. The book goes into various income generating options and the pros and cons of each one. The author and her husband worked various side jobs for a while before they landed on the solution that was right for their family. Today, they have made it out of poverty and are even able to send their kids to Christian school.

More Than Just Making It will be released on September 5, 2017. If you’re reading this before then, check out the preorder bonuses at morethanjustmakingit.com. There are over $220 worth of bonuses – just for preordering!

More Than Just Making It will be available at Amazon, Target, Christian Book Distributors, Barnes & Noble, and Books a Million. 

She Isn’t Doing it All…And Neither Am I!

comparison

Pinterest is a blessing. I taught myself how to cook mostly using recipes and tips from Pinterest. Cooking is a useful skill, and it’s far easier to learn in the digital age. Millions of bits of information are available for free. Even if we already know how to cook, we never have to get tired of eating the same old thing. A new recipe is just a click away.

For all its benefits though, Pinterest can also feel more like a curse. Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed at the sheer number of things “everyone” is doing?

Eating all organic. Running marathons. Making busy bags. Going screen free. Going processed foods free. Making an income from home. Cooking everything from scratch. Having a lot of children. Homeschooling. Curating the perfect home decor. Spending $10 a week on groceries for a family of 67. Okay, maybe that last one is an exaggeration!

Comparison is the thief of joy. – President Theodore Roosevelt

You would think I would have this down by now, but I still find myself falling into the comparison trap. I helped to launch a book on this very subject earlier this summer. And…I still fail.

As the old hymn goes, Prone to wander, Lord I feel it…

I follow a very large blogger who seems like a really sweet person. I really do believe that she is and admire many of her qualities. But she does NOT do everything. Her blog is her family’s sole source of income, which means her husband does not work outside of the home and he does a lot of cooking and child care. They do not have any babies or toddlers. They have a house cleaner who comes in periodically.

Once I realized that, it was freeing. How often have we compared ourselves to something that isn’t even reality?

With that in mind, I want to share with you what I do…and what I DON’T. My goal is for this blog to never be a source of guilt. I want you to feel encouraged and equipped, and never torn down.

Things I Do:

Things I Do NOT Do!

  • I do not have a large family. I have one toddler.
  • My one child is not involved in any extra-curricular activities. People with older children often spend time driving them to their various activities. We are not in that season of life yet.
  • I do not homeschool. I have a 1 year old and I do not believe that formal school is necessary at that age. I just parent.
  • We do not eat all organic.
  • I make a very small amount of income from my blog, but it is not the primary income source in my home. Not even close. I’m perfectly okay with that, because I need to put a lot of time and energy into parenting right now.
  • I don’t do much of anything with home decor. The decorations in my home are all either repurposed from my wedding, or they were gifts.
  • I do not get up at 5 AM every morning. I struggle with being anemic and sleep is important if I’m going to be able to chase my toddler all day.
  • I do not blog after my son goes to bed at night. That’s my husband time and I’m not willing to give that up.

What do you do? What do you skip? Let me know in the comments! 

A Simple Method for a Sink that Sparkles!

by Davi, Guest Contributor

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in keeping a clean home is the power of homemaking habits. Repeating the small, boring chores makes a big impact on your home. Intentional habits allow us to better organize our time. They allow us to spend less time with chores and more time with family.

Morning and evening routines are important because they enable us to start the day with a purpose, rather than reacting to what the day brings. My morning list includes making the bed and wiping down the bathroom counters. In the evenings, my list includes cleaning the high chair, sorting the mail, and cleaning the kitchen sink. Every evening after dinner, I rinse the sink and empty it of any dishes. The sink is the heart of the kitchen, and when my sink is clean, my whole kitchen feels clean.

Once a week, the kitchen becomes the focus during the day. This is the day I wipe down appliances, straighten the pantry, clean out the fridge, and deep clean the kitchen sink. Cleaning the sink last feels like the frosting on the cake- the last step when I give myself a pat on the back and admire the room.

Steps for a Stainless Steel Sink that Shines

Step 1: Quick Clean the Basin
Using warm water and a sponge, rinse out the sink to remove any food particles and empty the strainers.

Step 2: Scrub the Basin
Sprinkle baking soda in the basin and scrub in a circular motion with a soft sponge. This will remove any stuck on stains, but is gentle enough that the baking soda won’t damage your sink. Don’t forget the area around the disposal and to scrub the strainers as well.

Step 3: Remove Hard Water Stains with Vinegar
White vinegar is one of my favorite cleaning tools. It’s an excellent way to remove hard water stains, soap scum, and a great general use cleaner. I keep a 50/50 mixture of water/white vinegar in a squirt bottle for cleaning purposes. Spray the vinegar into the sink (the baking soda/vinegar mixture will fizz) and then rinse with warm water.

Step 4: Clean the Garbage Disposal
My favorite way to freshen up the garbage disposal is to drop a slice of lemon into it and turn the disposal on. The lemon cleans while also making the disposal smell great. We have a lemon tree in our backyard so we always have frozen lemons in the freezer.
Another easy, inexpensive way to clean your disposal is a garbage disposal refresher. The DIY refreshers contain ingredients you most likely already have.
Finally, using a dishcloth or paper towel, dry your sink basin.

Step 5: Make it Shine
The last step is my favorite because it makes my sink look brand new. Buff the sink basin with a dish cloth or paper towel using baby oil (olive oil also works great too).

Avoid These Mistakes With Your Stainless Steel Sink

  • Don’t leave wet sponges or rags on the sink to dry. This can cause bacteria to grow and leaves water stains. Rubber dish pads should be taken out to dry for the same reason.
  • Steel wool or steel brushes are too abrasive for your sink and can cause permanent scratches.
  • Leaving dirty items in the sink can cause stains that are difficult to remove. Wash dishes as soon as possible.
  • Don’t use bleach in your sink. I’ve made this mistake by soaking clothes in the sink in a bleach mixture. The sink will look very clean afterward, but over time the bleach will remove the finish.

Following these steps will leave you with a sparkling sink that looks immaculate!

What is your “must do” chore in the kitchen?

Davi writes at Homegrown Simplicity about intentional living, motherhood, and minimalism. She is passionate about helping mothers find joy in the ordinary by removing the clutter from their homes, minds, and life. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter for simple living inspiration.