Preparing for Spring: Heart, Soul, Mind, and Body

Preparing for Spring: Heart, Soul, Mind, and Body

I don’t know about where you live, but I saw the first sign of spring a few days ago.  Here in the Texas Hill Country, we don’t really consider it spring until we see bluebonnets.  It immediately cheered me up and got me thinking of how I can get ready for the change in weather.

Prepare your heart for spring

With spring comes new growth.  How have you nurtured your own walk with God?  During winter I find it hard to focus and read my Bible, but spring gives me hope.  I see the buds on the trees, and I see God’s promise in tangible form.

  • Take a walk and thank God for what you see.  Pray for your neighbors as you pass their houses.  Pray for the children you see.
  • Look up the word new in your Bible concordance or using a website such as
  • Find a new praise song mix.  Lately I’ve been encouraged by old Rich Mullins songs from my teen years.

Preparing your soul for spring

We are spiritual people.  When asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”  So how are you nourishing your soul?  Have you gotten together with friends recently just to have fun or gone on a date with your spouse?

  • Plan a date.  I need to bold, highlight, and put an exclamation point on this one!
  • Plan a play date for you.  Go out see a movie or do something else fun
  • Take some time by yourself such as snuggling up with a blanket and your favorite fluff book.

Preparing your mind for spring

We made all sorts of resolutions in January, just a few shorts months ago, to read books or learn more.  How are you doing at those goals?

  • What book can you read to learn more?  A parenting book?  Nonfiction?
  • What hobby do you have?  You are more than just a homeschooling parent.  Your life should not just be your children. What did you do before they came along?  Can you still do it?
  • What class could you take?

Preparing your body for spring

Are you like me and ditched your exercise routine during winter?  To save money, we canceled our gym membership and said “We’ll go walking more often.”  And we did.  Then it got cold.  I don’t like cold.  But it’s not cold now, and we can walk again.  In a month I’m going swimming regularly.

  • Find a time to exercise.  Find what works for you, not what the experts say.
  • Get what you need to exercise.  If your walking shoes are worn out, buy a new pair.
  • Find accountability.  Who is going to keep you honest about exercising?

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to spring, and all it will bring.  Especially the chance for new starts.

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Give a Gift of Love to Your Preteen Daughter

Give the Gift of Love to You Daughter | @PoeticLotion & @BrightIdeasTeam

Life is hard. Sometimes I feel like I don’t do anything right. Other times, I feel like nothing would get done right without me. I’m forty-years-old (just barely), and there are days that I feel unappreciated, under-valued, unloved, sad, lonely, misunderstood, and just plain depressed. And I’m a forty-year-old woman. Imagine if I were a twelve-year-old girl, just learning to grow up. Do you remember being twelve? Now that was hard.

A Gift to Remember

I recently celebrated a birthday, and I received the most fabulous gift from my twelve-year-old daughter, Annie,–a gift that I will cherish forever and reuse constantly. It is a gift that every mother would love to receive, and more importantly, one that every mother should consider presenting to her own preteen daughter.

Gift of Love by @PoeticLotion & @BrightIdeasTeamAnnie gave me a jar filled to the top with happiness, love, support, hope, self-esteem, pride, humor, and memories: a glass Mason jar with a funky duct tape lid filled with hand-written notes spanning the months leading up to my birthday. Each note had Mom written on the outside, but never in the same way. Some simply read Momma or Mommy, while others were the word mother in foreign languages, including Mandarin phonetic symbols and the finger spelling for Mom in American Sign Language. Some were pictographs. Some were nicknames.

Each note was dated and included a little bit about what was going on in our lives. Many held encouraging messages. She told me that I was a good mother, doctor, teacher, and friend. She said she loved me or missed me or wanted to hang out. She talked to me.

She wrote, “I want beef… in jerky style.”

And, “I’m sorry I broke your glasses.”

And, “I told you that I thought you were pretty. You didn’t believe me. I hope you change your mind.”

She included quotes in many of the notes. Some were inside jokes. Some were quotes from our favorite movies. Some were Bible verses.

She made me smile, cry, laugh out loud… think.

What a great gift.

Shouldn’t we give our daughters – during this precious time of growth and development – the gift of self-esteem? A touch of humor? A reminder that they are beautiful?

My Daughter & I by @PoeticLotion & @BrightIdeasTeam

How to Make It

My daughter simply used a Mason jar, a mini-notebook of paper, and a pen. She decorated the jar’s lid with colorful duct tape. I love this idea because I have handwritten pieces of love. I love that the notes are in a clear jar because I can see them even if I don’t open the lid.

However, there are other ways of offering the same gift of love to your daughter (or son). Try any of these. Just do it in a way that is comfortable to you and not something that you will put off or procrastinate about. It’s too important of a message to delay.

  • Write a book of love notes, doodles, and photographs. Many companies such as Snapfish or Lulu offer low cost book printing.
  • Fill a notebook with letters to give to your child on a special day such as a Sweet 16 birthday or the first day of high school.
  • Hide notes or cards with hand-written messages for your child. Whether you leave a weekly or monthly card, it doesn’t matter. You can always hide it under her pillow or randomly throughout her room or in her schoolwork. (Be careful not to invade her privacy. Pre-teens do not like the idea of Mom rummaging around her room.)
  • Send regular emails or e-cards as a reminder of how important your child is to you.
  • Mail a card to your child. Trust me, kids love getting personal letters in the mail as much as adults do.

Regardless of your method, the important point is that your child knows without a doubt that she is smart, pretty, funny, loving, helpful, needed, wanted, and loved. If she isn’t hearing it from you, from whom will she hear it – if she hears it at all?

Psalm 127:3  Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.

Top Photo credit: Flickr! | jessica.diamond

All other photos by

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Keeping Your Kids on Track: A No-Hassle Chore Chart

No Hassle Chore Chart | @BrightIdeasTeam & @PoeticLotion

Are you tired of reminding your kids to brush their teeth, make their beds, or do their daily chores?  Do you feel like you are nagging your children to do things that they should remember on their own? At our house, doing chores was a constant battle that I felt like I was continuously losing. I even felt that I was losing my mind during the fight! It was time to do something about it.

I found many chore chart systems online. Some were costly, and some were free; however, none of them seemed ideal for our family. I found printable chore lists but didn’t want to waste the ink and paper to print weekly charts. As a homeschool family, we already go through both paper and ink at an excessive rate. A friend uses her white board to list chores, but, unfortunately, I doubted my ability to keep up with it.

I decided to revisit a solution that I used when my girls were little, before they learned to read. The system puts the responsibility of keeping up with chores in your kids’ hands, not yours.

List of Chores

The first step is supplying each of your children with a piece of paper and pencil. Then have them list the chores or activities that need to be regularly completed. This list can include:

  • chores, such as feeding pets, folding laundry, and emptying the dishwasher
  • regular school activities, like practicing times tables or memorizing Bible verses
  • every day responsibilities, such as brushing teeth and taking a bath.

Older children can help younger ones with writing the lists. For my youngest, we included activities like getting dressed, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, and other simple tasks so that he could grow accustomed to regular responsibilities. Make sure that the chores are appropriate for each child’s age level.

Making the Chore Cards

I folded and cut letter-sized cardstock horizontally into thirds, creating three tall pieces of sturdy paper. Be sure to cut enough so that your kids have plenty of cards for each item on their list, possibly even making two or more for activities that get repeated throughout the day such as setting the table or brushing teeth.

Instruct your children to write one chore from their list onto each card. Encourage them to illustrate each task and color it in. For younger children, you can draw the item and allow them to color it so that they are able to distinguish each activity.

No-Hassle Chore Chart | @BrightIdeasTeam & @PoeticLotion

Putting It All Together

While the kids prepare the cards, you can make the chore chart holder. Taking one manila folder for each child, cut two windows in the front of the folder. I used clear contact paper to cover both front and back of the holes to create a clear window. On the tab, I wrote each child’s name and tapped the sides shut, so none of the cards could fall out.

Each morning, the kids sort their cards in the left side of the chart, which can be labeled To Do. As they complete a chore, they move it to the right side, which can be labeled Done. The kids may also want to personalize their folders with stickers, stamps, or drawings.

I have found this chore chart method extremely effective because my kids can literally see what they have to do. With this system, they have accomplished their work each and every day. They try to see who can get through their chores the quickest. And Mommy doesn’t have to monitor chores and nag the kids to do them anymore!

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Abracadabra! Turn Fighting Siblings into Friends

Abracadabra! Turn Fighting Siblings into Friends | By @PoeticLotion & @BrightIdeasTeam

Every night our family reads Bible devotions together. The lessons often draw out interesting conversation among the children such as how a five-year-old envisions heaven or which actions the kids consider sins. Last night’s lesson was Genesis 14:1-17, where God saves Lot from his enemies.

Our devotional asked, “Do you know people who are mean to you?” My eleven-year-old was appalled when both of her younger siblings named her.

Addressing the Mean

Anyone who knows my daughter is aware that she is not mean. She is kind, sweet, and helpful. But to a younger sibling, the oldest child knows more, has more privileges, and is often left in charge. Because she has recently earned her babysitter certification, I have been allowing her to watch her siblings to earn money to pay for her cell phone service. I hadn’t realized that this change in position had caused any problems. But apparently my younger two children feel that their older sister is “mean.” This conflict needed to be addressed.

Siblings will argue among themselves.

They bicker.

They tattle.

They say nasty things, make ugly faces, and sometimes even swing on each other.

How do we, as parents, take control of our children and prevent “meanness” from seeping into our relationships?

Siblings as Friends | by @PoeticLotion & @BrightIdeasTeam

“I’m telling Mom!”

The next question that our devotional asked of us was “What can you do when someone is mean to you?” My younger children yelled out in unison, “Tell on them!”

Well, no.

If my children are being harassed by neighbors, friends, or online bullies, then by all means, tell on them! However, if your sister won’t let you jump on the bed or throw your toys down the stairs, then please don’t tattle on her.

But suppose you feel that your sibling is truly being mean? Is there something you can do or say to let him or her know that you don’t want to fight? We discussed this very idea last night and came up with a great solution that appears to be working well.

Say the Magic Word

We made a reminder word, a special word to be used when one of the kids feels that someone is being mean. We chose “coyote,” because… well, we just did. But you could make it any word.

The catch is that you can’t just shout out “coyote.” You have to work it into the conversation like, “Boy, it’s raining cats and coyotes out there!” Or “I’m so hungry, I could eat a coyote!” When the reminder word is used, the other sibling must do his or her best to be friendly and kind. No need to tattle and no apologies necessary.

How do you encourage siblings to treat one another with kindness and respect? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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Make a Meal Monster

Meal Monster Dinner Helper by @BrightIdeasTeam and @PoeticLotion

December is such a busy month that the last thing any family needs is to stress over what’s for dinner. If you’re anything like our family, you have several meals that your family loves but that you tend to forget. Perhaps, like me, you fall into a rut of endlessly rotating meals until everyone in the family is sick of them.

During the holidays, taking the time to prepare for original, unique meals seems to become even more out of reach.

My family implemented a fun idea for remembering those meals that everyone wows about so that you don’t forget them. This method also helps you mix up your meal plans and prepare your grocery list.

Make a Meal Monster.

  • Get a clean container. It can be an empty coffee can, a clean milk carton, or a box. Cut a flap for the mouth so you can reach in and pull the papers out. A coffee can is ideal because you can cut a slit in the plastic lid for the mouth and remove the entire lid to pull out the different cards.
  • Cover the container. Use fabric, felt, or paper to make your monster’s fur. My kids repurposed an old shirt to cover our meal monster.
  • Add features.  Children love decorating the meal monster with eyes, hair, horns, and antennae. Let them be creative in designing the family monster, and they’ll be more likely to use him.
  • Feed your monster. Write down favorite family meals on slips of paper and feed them into the monster’s mouth. Involve everyone in the family to ensure that you have plenty of choices in your monster. Don’t forget that you can always come back and add more meals.

Grocery Shopping Help

Another benefit in making a Meal Monster is in preparing your grocery shopping list. Older children can help you write down necessary ingredients for each meal on the back of your meal cards. Then, when it’s time to write your grocery list, simply select the meals for the next week from your Monster and copy the ingredients to your list.

Always keep blank slips of paper near your Meal Monster and encourage your family to write down foods that they are craving. Little ones can draw pictures of their choices and older siblings can label them.

Meal Monsters help remove the “meatloaf again?” complaints and add plenty of “this was my meal idea!” to your dinner times.

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Homeschool Children Can Minister with Operation Christmas Child

When we hit this time of the school year, when the air is overly crisp, when the schoolbooks are no longer new, and when the griping has begun, we need to be reminded of the blessings of homeschooling. One of those blessings is the flexibility to spontaneously participate in life-changing ministry.

I received a late morning phone call from a friend who is the Relay Center Coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in our county.

“Melissa? A while back I told Dale Gaertner at radio station WLEN that I would write some PSAs (Public Service Announcements) and do an interview.  It kind of snuck up on me, and I’m headed over there today at 3:00. Would your daughter Bethany be interested in helping us do a PSA?”

Bethany? On the radio? What a fantastic opportunity! Of course she would!

When my friend arrived, we put the schoolwork aside, and my seven-year old and I sat down to rehearse the PSAs. They were 60-second and 30-second dialogues between Bethany and Joel, and it was important they not run long.

Bethany was to begin one script singing, “I’m dreaming of a shoe box Christmas.” I was nervous; it became clear that she had never heard that Christmas song. So I worked to teach her the tune which she finally nailed at almost three o’clock. We jumped in the car and headed to the radio station where we met Jamie and Joel. Jamie did an interview first, so Joel and Bethany had time to practice the scripts together.

After working for about fifteen minutes, it was time to head into the recording studio. The space was small with equipment everywhere. Bethany and Joel sat in front of the microphone and were given instructions to speak clearly and not to wiggle. This is tricky for a nervous seven year old.

They started with the 60 second spot, and she nailed the song. Score!

Joel, at age 13, read like a champ. I wondered how the radio station would handle the couple of odd breaths Bethany added. After re-recording a section, Dale had what he needed. There were a few verbal flaws, but through the magic of modern recording devices, Dale lifted out Bethany’s extra breath. As Jamie said, he literally took my daughter’s breath away!

Once again, I was reminded of the many extra benefits we have when we homeschool. Because our day-time schedule was free, we were able to respond to Jamie’s call, work on the PSAs, and show up at the radio station. Because he homeschools, Joel was able to both write and record the PSAs. Best of all, we were able to support Operation Christmas Child, an outstanding organization that helps needy children around the world by collecting shoe boxes full of gifts and delivering them at Christmas.

Many thanks to 107.9 WLEN and Dale Gaertner for providing the PSAs so you could hear them!

Operation Christmas Child PSA 1 2012
Operation Christmas Child PSA 2 2012
For more information on Operation Christmas Child, visit Samaritan’s Purse and Build a Box online.


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