Tag Archives: Homemaking

Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree {Our New Family Tradition}

Jesse Tree

I’ve been reading about this around the web for some time, but haven’t taken the time until recently to discover what Jesse Trees are all about.  So I’ve finally gotten around to it and LOVE this idea!

A Jesse Tree is a way of celebrating advent in the 4 weeks before Christmas, using the story of Jesus found woven through the Old Testament.  The Jesse tree is the family tree of Jesus, and is based on this wonderful scripture in Isaiah 11:1-3:

Isaiah 11

A Jesse Tree is a countdown to Christmas, celebrating Jesus through the re-telling of the story of his coming (advent means ‘coming’), with the story culminating at his birth.  You simply find a way to display and tell the story, using a tree, and devotionals with your family.

Now is that better than a bunch of chocolates behind cardboard flaps?  I think so!

How to Make a Jesse Tree

You’ll need a tree.  Be it a fresh potted tree, a leafless wintry branch in a vase with stones, a wooden stand, a thrift store tinsel throwaway, a cardboard cut-out fixed to your wall.  I’ve seen photos of quilted and sewn trees, of felt trees, of silhouette trees.  Find something that works for your family.

We tried to find a driftwood branch on the beach, but ended up settling with a flax stem with flowers from our back garden which we’ll hang our homemade ornaments on.  We have a pohutukawa tree in a pot next to it, which is a beautiful native tree that flowers just in time for Christmas.  They are not cheap to buy, which is why we’ve settled for a very small one!  But we’ll use this in the coming years for our Jesse Tree. I just loved the idea of having something ‘living’ and native to our country.

When to Start

Some people like to start on 1 December, others start with the 4th Sunday before Christmas.  Whenever you start, make the most of it by having a plan so you have something ready for every day until Christmas Eve.  If you find a great guide online, you can add in or take out pages so you have just the right number of readings for each day.

Devotionals and Decorations

Jesse Tree 6

Our homemade decorations

There are so many great devotionals about, for younger children, for older children and for adults.  Find what works for you (see the end of this post for some additional links).

For this year in our family, we’re going to use a combination of things, including reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible daily using this great plan.  We love how this storybook bible so beautifully portrays the anticipation of the coming of Jesus through each and every story.

There’s also a super one for children, “Jesse Tree Advent Celebration” by Ann Voskamp (‘A Holy Experience‘) that has beautiful colourful decorations to print onto card (we’ll hang these on our regular tree).  We’ve decided to do both for this year, as our younger children will enjoy the Jesus Storybook Bible readings, and my eldest daughter will love Ann’s beautiful words and the accompanying scriptures.

I’ve gathered some beautiful materials from nature including drift wood, shells, and native flax from our back garden, and have made the decorations with our children from self-hardening clay.  They are hung on hemp twine.  Each piece is wrapped individually, and the children will upwrap one a day and hang them on the tree when we read the accompanying daily devotion.  Perfection!

Jesse Tree (3)

Decorations printed from Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Advent Celebration.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is the culmination of the re-telling.  I can’t wait to huddle around His Word together and recount the story…

“…they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

We have three miniature boxes from a local fair trade store, each with a precious gem inside to represent the gifts.  We can’t replicate the originals, but are using precious stones instead.  I’m also putting a couple of drops of essential oil in each to make it that little bit more memorable.

Our boxes will sit under the tree as a reminder that the heart of Christmas is Jesus Himself, the King who came and gave us the gift of Himself.

Jesse tree box

Resources, Ideas and Readings

{Note: This post has affiliate links in it.}

Slow Cooker Apples

slow cooker apples pin

Here’s an easy recipe for all those apples during harvest time – it’s so easy it’s almost embarrassing.  But I’ll tell you anyway since it’s a great idea. 🙂

I’d cut up some apples the other day but had some other things to do besides keeping an eye on a pot simmering. Three bags of organic juicing apples that weren’t too great for eating had to have a purpose before they weren’t useful for anything.

slow cooker apples 1

So the apples all went into my slow cooker for the afternoon, skin and all, and covered with water.  When they came out about 4 hours later I had the most beautifully stewed apples.  [By the way, leaving the skins on provides some dietary fibre].

I blended them up in batches, keep some in the fridge, and the rest has gone in the freezer.

We hung onto the leftover water and the kids had warm apple ‘tea’.  It was so sweet, no added sweetener needed.slow cooker apples 4

If you don’t have a high speed blender, you might be want to peel the apples first as they may not blend up completely.

It’s got me thinking what else I can use my slow cooker for… hmmm… watch this space. 🙂

** If you’re in the intro stages of the GAPS Diet, make sure you peel the apples.

{You might also be interested in Breakfast Stewed Apples}

slow cooker apples 2

The Art of Writing a Thank You Note

art of writing thank you notes

I used to be great at writing thank you notes and never missed an opportunity to send one.  In fact, sometimes I send a thank you for a thank you card received.  I love the opportunity to tell people how much they are appreciated and loved.

And then… enter the busyness of motherhood, hundreds of other things to get done today, and let’s not forget nowadays that a quick Facebook message to say thank you electronically seems to suffice.  I feel I’ve lost the art of writing thank you notes and messages of appreciation.  Perhaps you can relate?

So this is my next area of being intentional.  There’s nothing quite like a homemade thank you card, sometimes a small gift of appreciation, and some thoughtful words tucked away inside your card.

Here’s a random list of ideas for reviving the art of sending a thank you note.

  • Say thank you for anything, no matter how big or small – thank you for time given, a gift given, words given, love given, friendship given.
  • Send your note as soon as you can after receiving something.
  • Hand-write the words instead of typing it.
  • Use a calligraphy pen to write your words.
  • Say thank you, and why you’re thankful.  You might like to include what you intend to do with your gift, for example.
  • Be appropriate for your recipient – if it’s a business thank you, or someone you don’t know well, choose your words wisely.
  • Try not to exaggerate, but say enough to be specific and genuine.
  • Keep your words concise and don’t ramble.
  • Handmade cards and notes can be extra special – you could even re-use scraps and bits that would otherwise be thrown away (eg. paper dollies, cut-outs from old cards and magazines etc).
  • Model this with your children, and encourage them to write thank you notes for when they receive birthday gifts.
  • Don’t forget to actually send them!  As I write this, I have 2 cards ready to send with stamps on them, and one finished card that still needs an envelope.  I’m determined to see this through!

And now I must remember to follow through on all this myself!

10 Ways to Encourage Children In Their Chores

10 ways

After becoming more consistent with assigning chores to my children, it’s apparent that their hearts need a little coaching.  If only it was as simple as giving them chores and having them joyfully undertake them.

I have one daughter that loves helping with chores and has a natural desire to be a homemaker.  And then I have another that drags her feet behind her.   My son is too young to do much but a little of his own tidying.  I think we’ll get there soon!  In the meantime, here are some tips that might help both your reluctant starter and your enthusiastic helper:

  1. Give them lots of encouragement;
  2. Celebrate the chores they are getting done;
  3. Do it with them to start with;
  4. Be cheerful yourself;
  5. Set an example on how to do it, but don’t expect perfection from them;
  6. Teach them to be team players – do some chores together like make beds and washing and drying the dishes;
  7. Have a routine so they know the expectations;
  8. Be consistent: have everyone do their chores at the same time each day (ideal time is after breakfast and before school-time).
  9. Make it fun.  Girls could put little aprons on. Give them bright cloths and feather dusters.  Laugh together and enjoy the bustle of activity.
  10. If they don’t like doing something, let them express it, but teach them to do so in a way that isn’t complaining or disrespectful.

Feel free to share your tips!

(Linked up at Homeschool Village, The Road to 31)

12 Simple Chore Ideas for Preschoolers

chore ideas for preschoolers

My daughter Annabel is about to turn 4, and we are looking at ways to include her in more of the running of the general house.  I must admit that I’ve been much less intentional about this than with my first child, as some days it seems like the day rushes past in a whirlwind of activity and organised chaos without my having really given job allocation much thought.  I’m sure one or two of you might relate to this. 🙂

So here we are with Missy Middle Child, about to turn 4, and clearly needing a little more responsibility and ownership.  We want her to know that in our family we all take responsibility for ourselves, and we also all help out with running the household.

We’re not expecting perfection but are asking her to make her best effort.

  1. Take care of self: get dressed, brush teeth, and brush hair
  2. Make own bed
  3. Help sort the laundry into piles for each family member
  4. Put away own laundry pile in the right drawers
  5. Dust and wipe easy surfaces
  6. Set the table
  7. Clear the table
  8. Pick up own mess

I think this will be all she can manage consistently for a while, and then we’ll add in a couple of other things:

    9.  Help with meal prep
    10. Match socks in washing pile
    11. Help put away folded washing
    12. Help vacuum main areas

Do you have any other tips or jobs that your preschoolers help with?

{Linked up at Homeschool Village}

‘Heart-to-Heart’ Nights with our Children

Heart-to-heart nights

I little while ago I wrote a post about a brilliant book called Grace-Based Parenting that has helped Shawn and I in our parenting approach like no other resource.  Please take a read if you haven’t already!

One of the four things that the author offers for maintaining a grace-based environment is to allow your children the freedom to be candid**.

The freedom to be candid means, they know they can come to you and express their hearts openly without fear of shocking you, or of wearing your judgement.  They need to be able to express what they are going through and where they have failed.  They also need to be able to express where you have hurt or annoyed them.  You’ll need to learn to eat humble pie and ask for forgiveness regularly.

At a practical level, the author and his wife implemented ‘what’s your beef’ each week where their children could share candidly.  During these times, the children were not to bring up positions that their parents had taken in terms of moral standards that they potentially disagreed with, or consequences that might have been taken because of things they’d done wrong.  And for the parents, they were not permitted to defend themselves, despite the temptation to justify words and actions from their perspective.  The point was, regardless of how the facts were perceived, if their children were hurt they were able to share this.

For us, we have called it ‘heart-to-heart night’ where our young children can share their hearts with us, and if we have hurt or upset them in any way then they have the freedom to tell us.  This means that we humbly receive their words, and apologise for how our actions have affected them.

It does NOT mean we justify, make excuses, attribute blame, or anything of the sort, even if at times we feel they are making a mountain out of a molehill or we ourselves feel misunderstood.  The main point is that they feel the freedom to express how we have affected them, and to build trust and respect in our relationships.

Because our children are still very young, we have made the adjustment to what the author suggested in that we can at times give clarification for our actions. It is the exception to the rule and we only do it if it’s absolutely necessary.  In time, we will phase out doing that altogether as their awareness and understanding grows.

It’s our hope and prayer that it will lay a foundation in our relationships that will see us through their teenage years and beyond.

Freedom and unconditional love go hand-in-hand, and this is where we show our children the heart of the Father.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”.

** The 4 freedoms that create an atmosphere of grace: the freedom to be different; the freedom to be vulnerable; the freedom to be candid; the freedom to make mistakes. [Source: Family Matters].

Family History and Homemaking

What does family history research have to do with homemaking?

I touched on it a bit last time, but I thought I’d provide a little more explanation as to why I’ve started posting on something that many people would think is just a hobby.  You might be wondering why researching family history is on a blog about homemaking!

bridesmaid To me, homemaking is more than baking wholesome food, cleaning the bathroom and keeping children fed and clean.  For some of us, homeschooling is also in the mix.  For sure, the physical things matter.  But homemaking is so much more than that.

Homemaking is about the environment you create in your home.  It’s about creating an atmosphere of joy, love, and honour where each member of your family can thrive.  It’s where children learn core values and character habits.  It’s where we, as parents, lay our particular emphasis into our children’s worldview.

I believe knowing your ancestral story provides an opportunity to discover your roots, which in turn brings understanding and perspective to your own life.  You learn that you are part of a continuous story.  You learn to honour the people that have sacrificed for your benefit, and value the freedoms bought by others.  When these things are laid into your children’s core values, I believe it is one of the things that will equip them for life.Alan and Mary

I’ve found that I’ve also learned that mistakes, tragedy, trials and loss, does not have to determine the pattern of the future for us or our children.  God has a redemptive plan whereby life and hope can emerge from the ashes of loss and destruction.  We truly can turn things around for our children and descendants via the choices we make with our lives.

I love seeing the desire my children already have to learn their ancestry.  It is something we study intentionally but also something that we weave into our conversations.  Although long departed, our ancestors stay alive as long as we tell their stories and honour their contribution, no matter how small.

Do you have a story to share on how learning family history has added value to your life?  Please feel free to share.

Next time I’ll start on the ‘how-to’s ‘of getting started.

Finding Joy in Homemaking

finding joy in homemaking v2

It’s not even 8am yet, and already there are books on the kitchen floor, breakfast dishes, porridge mess on the table and floor, yesterdays washing to fold, beds to be made, toys and cards strewn in a trail, and… I would really really like to be dressed before 9am today.  If possible.

We are just coming out the other side of an illness marathon, which took out my whole family for a number of months (except me).  We survived it, are currently in somewhat of a recovery phase, and gradually getting life back on track again.  The nights are still a little busy for me, but I’m down to only getting up about 6 times to children instead of… well 20+ times.  I lost count. 🙂

What I’d really like to do today is read a book in the sunshine, and spend some time with my Father, hearing His heart and pouring out mine to His.  I’m yearning to have my own tank re-filled, which is replenished by time alone.  I’m one of those sorts who needs time away from people to re-energise; unlike my husband who is now desperate to spend time with people.

So how do I pick up my feet today and find the motivation to keep on keeping on?  The housework feels like a grind; the sibling interactions need tending to as the kids are a bit scratchy with each other; our mealtime routine needs to find a better rhythm; our budget needs some attention; the chores have built up more than I would have liked… the list goes on.  Perhaps it sounds similar to your list.

I know the answer lies in Him alone.  His grace is sufficient for me.  His power is made perfect in my weakness.  And I AM weak.  And very tired.  It’s His time to shine in me.  And I have this beautiful opportunity to cultivate trust with Him, as I reach into the well of His goodness.  I know He will continue to meet my needs and hearts desires. Yes the tasks that fill my day need my attention.  But He is with me.  He is always with me.  And in Him, my joy is made complete.  I only have to align the affections of my heart to His.  As I write this, I can feel the warmth of His smile towards me, and my joy being renewed as His presence fills my heart.

So I could write a list here of things we could all do to find joy in our homemaking and child rearing.  I could write things like, find a purpose in your home-making, or read your bible daily to renew your mind, or put the kids in front of a DVD while you have a cuppa on the deck.  Those are some good ideas.

But what is the deepest cry of my heart today?

I don’t believe I can find true joy in simply putting some helpful strategies and tips into motion.  What I really want is to know my God is there in the midst of the mundane, the nappy changes, the spilled food, the sibling squabbles, the constant budget-juggling, the exhaustion, the external expectations that come knocking on my door, and so forth.  I know the answer isn’t in changing my circumstances, although I’m not denying I have some needs that remain unmet at present.

What I really want is to know He is with me.  And He is.
And that I have a hope.  And I do.  🙂

So far today: I wrote in my joy journal; I leaned my heart towards my Father; I listened for His whispers to me; I tried not to lose my patience with the kids (with varying success); I thought about my husband arriving home soon on this day, Friday, and how relieved he will be to have 2 days off with his family; I thought of my lovely friend and the miracle she has experienced this week with a passport victory, I sat here while the kids were occupied and was encouraged by many of your blogs.

I have to keep the bigger picture in mind on days like today.
What is my mission as a mother?
What am I seeking to sow into my children’s hearts?
One day I will know and understand the eternal consequences of my ministry as a mother and wife.  I’m grateful for the gift of this time with my children.  It’s a blessing to my life.  And to theirs.

Now it’s the end of the day (post begun this morning).  How did I do?  Well, the washing from yesterday got folded and the new day’s pile also got folded and put away.  House is tidy, give or take a bit of kid mess around the place.  Kids have full tummies and are in bed.  It’s late and the dinner dishes remain, as do some crumbs on the carpet – something for tomorrow.  But some small victories nonetheless – we should always celebrate those.  And most of all, my God is with me and loving me every second of the day.  I can’t complain at all.

Tomorrow will be another day.  My Father is with me.

Finding joy in home-making… is about finding joy in Him.

Cattle-Watering-on-a-Riverbank (Parker)