Monday, July 28, 2014

Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?

Nope. I didn’t write that backwards. I have seen the “bad things to good people” approached so many different times that I couldn’t beat that horse any deader.

We have all heard or even said at some point that we didn’t understand why God allows something bad to happen to someone good. It seems extremely unfair when a pastor, a good friend, a great mother, a caring husband, someone who volunteers a lot, or goes on mission trips dies. We lament the loss of that good person and we question God’s wisdom. But what if we have it wrong? What if bad things don’t happen to good people? Ever. What if there is no such thing as a good person?

In general, even Christians know that there is a worldly definition of good. Caring parents=good, neglectful parents=bad. Of course, since the world has no standard of absolute morality, these definitions vary greatly from place to place, but you will generally know what is considered good in your culture. But Christians shouldn’t be taking their definitions from the world, and neither should we be putting God on the same moral ground as ourselves. So who does the Bible say is good?

Mark 10:18b No one is good except God alone.

That is right, NO ONE. There is no such thing as a good person! When we start to look at ourselves from a biblical perspective, it becomes much easier to look at circumstances from a biblical perspective. God has never allowed bad things to happen to good people because good people don’t exist. However, He does allow good things to happen to bad people. In His infinite wisdom, grace and mercy, God himself has allowed everyone what they don’t deserve. Merely our existence is a direct view of God’s grace. The fact that we are not all instantly struck down is evidence of His mercy.

Psalm 86:15 15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

God is not without compassion for us through our suffering and while our fleshly state requires His perfect justice, He is also a loving God who does not leave us with no hope. We will never understand the mind of the all knowing God. We will always struggle with accepting that "the Lord gives and He takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!", but we can come out of our grief knowing that God will be glorified.

Psalms 46: 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3  though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

Hebrews 11:11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

I Timothy 4:10
 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.


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Monday, July 21, 2014

A Place for Everything Part 5: Home Sweet Home

(WARNING: This is the longest post I've ever written. You'll want to grab your favorite cuppa and relax for a while. But I hope you'll enjoy!!)

We had been married for one year and searching for a good 'starter home.' We found this cute, vintage two bedroom and one bathroom home. It was a perfect fit for us and we planned to sell it in two to five years to purchase a larger home. We figured we'd have a family and need the space. No matter how often we looked at other homes, the Lord closed the door. So, seventeen years and two children later we were very excited when a fantastic opportunity landed in our laps. It looked like we were finally moving. We even collected boxes to start packing. But again, the Lord closed the door. He really likes for us to be in our small 'starter home.' At least for now. And I'm thankful for His provision!

A year has passed and this spring I did a little thinking. I decided a couple things. First, if we were really going to move, we needed to prepare by de-junking our eighteen years of 'stuff.' I didn't want to be in a mad rush trying to pack all that 'junk'. Let's face it, most of it really was just junk. Why do we let it take up valuable real estate in our homes if we don't really love it??

More on that later...

And the second decision... if we weren't moving, I had to make our home more liveable. We have four people sharing two beds and one bath. On a small lot in town (my heart is really in the country.) We need it to feel roomier than it is. When you walk into a home that is staged for sale, you want to move in on the spot. Why? It's clean, organized, simple, airy, open. Did I mention clean? It feels lovely! So I decided it was time...

We'd stage our home...

for ourselves!!


I mentioned in Part 1 that I have a split personality. I can be very high energy, a bit flighty, a little ADHD (SQUIRREL!) But I also have Type A side that I have to nurture so my ADHD side doesn't take over. Nothing gets done if I don't keep my Type A happy. But despite the high energy side, I also have Adrenal Fatigue and Thyroid troubles. So I can be very tired and unable to keep up. When my system is depleted, the house has to run itself. Clutter causes me stress, which wears me out. But when I'm wiped out, I can't do much about messes. I need rest. But I can't rest when things are a disaster. Yikes, huh?

Clutter and chaos are 'noise' to me. They create wasted time, frustration, and they give me less time to enjoy life. I can't rest. Also, FlyLady calls it "CHAOS"... Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. She's so right, who wants to invite someone into their home when they can't find a place for their guests to sit?

Order, on the other hand, means I can rest. I can have visitors. My time is more productive and efficient, leaving me more free time to enjoy hobbies and play with my kids. On the days that my Adrenals don't cooperate, the house still runs far more smoothly because there is a system in place. Simplify, minimize, peace!

A few other perks? Thanks to my label maker and organized bins and boxes, my sons know where to put things. A place for everything and everything in its place! They can be more helpful around the home because they know where to find things and where to place things. And at first it seemed like a good idea. But when the boys had thanked me for the labels, it seemed like a great idea. And then as my youngest son, who has a sensory processing issue, started thanking me for the labels and how they made things so much easier for him, I realized it was a terrific idea! My sons are learning a lot about running an organized home and they are a larger part of keeping our home in order.

I love container shopping. Most girls love clothing and shoe stores. Not me. Give me a container or office supply store and I'm like a kid in a candy shop. My budget (and hubby) are so thankful that we don't have a Container Store or Staples in our town. But I have found very thrifty ways to organize my home, and you can too! In fact, this past Mother's Day my hubby asked what I wanted. I said "A trip to Dollar Tree!" We met at the register and he just laughed when he saw my basket full of bins and containers for organizing!

A few tools that might help... (Many of which I bought at the dollar store!)

* Bins, tubs, baskets, boxes with contact paper. Anything that helps corral like items.
* Labels. A label maker, stickers, markers, chalkboard labels, etc.
* Removable mounting putty
* Zip style plastic bags of all sizes, even big enough to put blankets in!
* Poly evnelopes
* Hooks, over the door hooks, command strip hooks, etc.

Many of the tools I use were things I had around the house. Bins came from the Dollar Tree. And you'll see an occasional item bought from Target or Costco. Anything I purchased was purchased over time. Not all in one shot. And all of it was very reasonable. We are on a single income, so I can't afford to spend money on all the organizing tools that I want. Frugal is fabulous!

Quick How-To 101

1) Pick a small (AKA not totally overwhelming) room or closet.
2) Empty all the contents.
3) Have 3 boxes, one for give away, one for throw away, and one for put away.
4) Sort all your items. Be brutal. Ask yourself, do you LOVE this object? Do you USE this object? If not, buh-bye. Let it go! Less stuff= easier to maintain.

There are so many articles, blogs, and pinterest posts about how to organize, I won't go any deeper on this topic. So grab your give/throw/put away boxes, some bins, and some labels and let's press on!

My home is still in progress. But I thought I'd share some photos of my progress so far in hopes that maybe it would motivate and inspire you!

Welcome to my home!

I am still putting the finishing touches on the homeschool book shelves. My living and dining are basically one large room. And the school room is located in the dining room. We do eat all our meals at the dining table. But we have 4 large book shelves in the dining room, plus my rolling cart for tea and an entertainment center that has been turned into a homeschool area and computer desk. It's a busy room! All the books look like clutter, but I love them and we need them. So what to do? I decided to use small brown fabric covered boxes from Shopko (2 for $4) to store our Field Guides, Geography, Biography, and Grammar resources.

Tapestry of Grace has several AMAZING books. So I cut cardboard boxes into 'magazine file boxes' and covered them in contact paper. Then I ran a strip of washi tape down the side, put a label sticker on the bottom (from Michael's) and typed up a label on my label maker. I like the clean look so much better!

I just finished the desk area. It was a matter of cutting some boxes in half and covering them with contact paper. I have nice, organized places for my files, my planners, my sons' school planners and papers, and my homeschool magazines. No more stacks of papers. That's been a serious eye sore for me! (The orange post-its are covering my sons' names... normally they are not on the boxes...)

I made this box to match the magazine boxes. It holds various CDs that I need to have handy. I have a poly envelope with our Tapestry of Grace CDs, I also have the Teaching Textbook CD-roms in this box.

On the shelf just above my shelf of planners, I have the All About Spelling cards in a cute wooden crate, and next to it I put the Phonetic Zoo spelling in a poly envelope, along with the CDs and headphones! You might also recognize my caddy with my markers and washi tape that I mentioned in an earlier post. Behind that caddy is my trusty label maker.

We do Tuesday Tea in our school, so the rolling cart is all set up with the tea goodies and books we are reading. We also do Word game Wednesday, so a handful of word games are on the cart, too. I'll explain the 'Stuff Box' in the next photo. There is also a microscope under the cart which I'll explain as well...

We are studying Biology this year. Oh dear, books, dvds, critters, dissection tools, what to do?! Poly envelopes to the rescue and a cute Stuff Box to hide it in! Envelopes are from Dollar Tree, Stuff Box is from TJMaxx.

I didn't care to look at the brown shipping box with the microscope inside. So, out comes the contact paper, washi tape, label sticker and the label maker!

Our playing card boxes are falling apart! So, I found these GREAT boxes! The smaller one that holds one set of cards came 2 for $1 at the Dollar Tree. They are the perfect size for card games. And they lock shut!! The larger one holds lots more cards! Phase 10 and Five Crowns use more cards than a normal deck. I found the larger boxes at Fred Meyer, they are from Sistema. They also lock shut and now all our cards are safe and sound!

While I'm talking games... I did our own episode of Hoarders in our basement. First I worked on the most civilized half of the basement. I got it all set up, homeschool book overflow shelves (not the ones I use most often) from Costco were all set up, board games were stacked on the built in shelf, nothing was on my basement floor. This is good, because we've had a couple floods down there! I felt pretty good about my week of effort. The day after I got everything put on the shelves, I walked into my dark basement and heard hissing. I flipped on the light and saw water spraying from a pipe, right over the board games and books! We've never had a flood from above! So while nothing was on the floor, it was in the wrong place for a flood from above! Well, everything went out on the yard to dry out. And now I had to do some thinking. So, I put the books back on the shelves, but I put all the Tapestry books into one tub. When we finish year 2 I'll put those into the tub also. And label it. This way no water will damage these most valuable books! I put a shelf liner on the top shelf where the plastic science stuff sits. This will at least help stop water from going down onto books.

And the board games. Here you can see them finishing their airing out process from the flood.

I had to toss all the boxes.

So I bought some clear poly envelopes and found MOST board games fit perfectly inside! I slid the game pieces inside, labeled the side of the envelope, and now I have plenty of room for all these board games. And they are water resistant! Perfect!

I'm still sorting papers and setting up goodies on the shelves. But so far I love having a place for everything in my basement!!

While we're in the basement, let me show you the couple of things I added to the laundry room. I dug out a couple glass containers I had and bought a drink dispenser. Now I love the way my detergent and borax and clothes pins are displayed. And it's easier for the kids to use the detergent rather than lifting a Costco sized jug of soap!

My husband built these shelves years ago. He rocks. I picked up the pretty, new laundry baskets at Costco. It was time. I had owned my old baskets for as long as we've owned the house. They were in bad shape! I put washi tape across the front of the shelf and a chalkboard label so that the kids can help me sort.

And he built these shelves right next to the laundry shelves. This has become my party headquarters! I love a good presentation at parties. So I have shelves just for my party goodies. Drink dispensers, mason jar mugs, you name it.

I have a tub on one of my party shelves that is full of zip style plastic bags from the dollar store. In here I put all the smaller items. Happy Birthday banners, table decorations, that sort of thing. Easy to find, no more stacks of stuff to sort through in hopes of finding that one party item.

I also love to have wrapping paper, bags, and tissue paper handy. I put 2 shoe shelves (which I've had for years) back to back to make a nice deep set of shelves. (Wish I could have gotten a better photo...) Now I have one shelf for variety wrap, and one for Christmas wrap. No more wrinkled wrap! I have variety gift bags on one side, Christmas gift bags on the other. And I have a tub full of tissue paper, tape, and scissors. I have a plastic shoe box that holds bubble wrap. Now I can keep these items looking fresh and pretty, and accessible! If you can't get to your stuff, then it no longer has value.

I can't show you the rest of the basement. But suffice it to say, it's under construction. It was our 'storage unit.' We emptied the entire 18 years of stuff onto our yard and spent the day sorting and tossing. Two dozen black lawn bags full of 'valuables' (they must be valuable, we saved them for years!!) went out to the garbage. Two Suburban loads went out in a yard sale. And all those cardboard boxes we had things stored in, flattened and bundled and GONE! You shouldn't use cardboard in a basement anyway. So anything that was staying went in a tub, was labeled, contents were written on a 3x5 card and put in an index card box. Now we know where everything is and if we move, we just toss tubs in a truck! Someday that small room in the basement will (I hope) become a small family room. One baby step at a time.

Welcome to my kitchen! I designed my kitchen years ago. But we left one area empty because we couldn't decide if we wanted an eating area or something else. Well, now we have a chest freezer and 2 store bought pantries. The pantries are something I've always hated. I didn't like trying to find things in them. I hated putting stuff away when I grocery shopped. But now I love them! And thanks to labels, the boys can even help put stuff away from the store! I put contact paper in a pretty color on the shelves. I love that! Then I used dollar store bins to put like items together, and I labeled them!

The top shelf is all about snacks. I have a snack bin for the kids.

The second shelf is for breakfast. I bought the big cereal boxes from Costco. We only buy 3 types of cereal, so this works very well for us. I used one for pancake mix, too. I made sure to use packaging tape to put the nutrition label on the front of the container.

What to do with all those little bags of things? I couldn't justify the cost of containers for each of them. So I bought ice cube bins for the freezer and used them to corral items! I also save my pasta sauce jars for nuts. They fit perfectly on this shelf.

I also used the cereal boxes for flour and one for my big Costco sized baking soda. I have half gallon mason jars for most other products, like almond flour, oats, etc.

I keep my onions and potatoes in dollar store bins on the bottom shelf.

My second pantry has our naughty treats in a bin (pre-packaged cookies, cakes, brownies, etc). All the boxed teas fit in one bin. Chocolate chips are in one bin. Sandwich stuff is together as are the pasta items. One shelf is dedicated to taco night!

Then there's canned goods. I go through a lot of white beans, so I covered a box with contact paper so I can slide it out and put new beans in the back of the box. I used more bins for dry beans, too.

Now I love my pantries!

I love them so much that I had to do the same thing to my fridge. I used the dollar store dish washing tubs to put condiments in, and another for dairy items like cottage cheese, sour cream, etc. I used small dollar store bins to put cream cheese and butter in. I even put one dollar store basket in the produce drawer to keep delicate items separated. Then I labeled. But labels were boring by themselves. So I backed them with pretty Washi tape. I liked it so much that I washi taped and labeled everything in the door, too!

I did the same in the freezer. More dollar store bins, more labels, and more washi tape! No more shuffling through stacks, now I know where things are and I know what I'm running out of when I prepare to grocery shop!

These simple changes have made it so simple to put things away, to find them when I want them, and to figure out what I need when I am preparing my grocery list!

Under the sink... Cleaners hang from a tension rod, other cleaning tools are in bins, and a shelf found at TJMaxx holds my cleaning cloths! I used a paper clip to hang my rubber gloves. I also put a small basket inside my door to be my mini-garbage. I have larger garbage cans by the back door, but when I need to toss small items near my sink, I use this! I empty it every couple of days. It is held on by command hooks. The small, white basket above the gloves is also held by command hooks.

Before we leave the kitchen there are a couple small goodies left to show.

My junk drawer is organized thanks to the dollar store bins!

And for fun I made a coffee station so that the mugs, cocoa, and pumpkin pie spice (love that in my coffee) are all handy. I have a cabinet that hides the filters, bean grinder, vanilla, and stevia. I used a salt and pepper shaker set from the Dollar Tree for the cocoa and pumpkin pie spice, used washi tape and the label maker to label them. The sugar is in my favorite Great Aunt's sugar bowl. The matching creamer has a crack in it, but it works well to hold the dry erase markers and chalk for my wall planners.

And for fancy tea, I have this tin which I adore!

Oh, you remember my week-at-a-glance from one of my earlier posts! It's above my coffee station.

I love to keep paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils, and cups handy for parties and BBQs. But I hated shuffling through the piles of them. Thank you Dollar Tree! This cabinet is above my refrigerator. It perfectly fits these 4 bins.

The plastic utensils are also separated into zipper bags. Forks in one, spoons in another, and knives in another.

The bathroom is teensy. So I used more dollar store bins to organize my drawers and under the sink! And yes, washi tape and labels are my friends! I even found a small sugar packet container (white box in the corner of the drawer) at a thrift store. It holds my essential oils for the bath.

One tip I learned on the drawers... Use poster mounting putty under the bins to keep them from sliding around when you open and close your drawers! It works!!

I found the cute cotton ball/q-tip container at the dollar store. Yes, washi and labels again!

I decided to label the towel cabinet, too. And my sons thanked me! My husband and I found the cabinet on clearance and put it above the toilet several years ago. There is no linen closet or towel storage in this home, so this little cabinet is fantastic! And I can fit a lot into it! I like to fold the towels so the nice rounded side it facing out, and yes, I like the bath towels to be in a pattern of ivory, beige and ivory (since it just happened that I have 4 ivory towels and 2 beige...) I have a funny thing about towels being in a pretty pattern. (You might have noticed my kitchen cleaning cloths were blue and yellow alternately. hehe)

My bedroom. I cannot wait for it to be finished. I wanted it staged, so I wanted very little on my dresser. Normally I have photos and what-nots. But not now. (The horse drawing will be hanging on the wall soon, and I'm proud to say my Mama drew that!!) I have three LED candles that come on and go off automatically each night. I love it! I smile every time I walk in! {Obviously, the dog enjoys it as well!}

Remember the Hoarders episode in my basement and the yard sale I mentioned? I sold a bunch of stuff and bought a new quilt (on sale at Fred Meyer), I also bought fabric to cover my old decorator pillows. I always disliked my lamp. So I spray painted it and bought a new lamp shade! Now I love it!

Inside my nightstand drawer, you guessed it, more dollar store bins. I have only the necessary things like lip balm, allergy drops for my eyes, notepads, pens, nail clippers, etc. My phone charger hangs from a command hook in the back of my nightstand.

And my dresser drawers! I started folding my shirts and 'filing' them vertically so I could see them!

Under my bed I used the bottom drawer from our old broken down dishwasher. Now I have a 'drawer' for my workout clothes and sweat suits! (By the way, a few years ago my awesome husband found three credenzas on sale. He put them in a "U" shape and set our mattress on top. So we have all this wonderful storage in our small bedroom!)

I use old blanket bags and the zip-lock style bags to store my blankets under the bed.

In my closet, I saved up and bought new hangers from Costco. Only $10 for a box of 35 hangers! These hold the clothes well, but are super thin so your closet looks more spacious. And they are more durable than so many I looked at in other stores.

I found a shelf/shoe holder at TJMaxx that hangs from the closet rod. I needed a place for my Miche purses, and shoes, and hats.

This process is still going on regularly. Please know that I'm only photographing the organized places in my home! I haven't shown you the messes. Don't think for a minute that I have it all together! Ha! My home will never grace the cover of a magazine. There will always be messies. But I'm doing what I can to make my life feel more sane and my home more presentable. More open. More available. More simplified. More peaceful!

I'm making a favorite recipes book to help cut down on the cook book clutter. I'm updating my household notebook. As I chip away at areas that have driven me nuts, other areas pop up. "Ya know, I always disliked this!" And I tackle it and feel so great when it's done! You will too! I hope this gets your creative juices flowing. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. And please comment and share your great organizing ideas!!

To be continued...


Don't miss A Place for Everything Part 1
A Place for Everything Part 2
A Place for Everything Part 3
A Place for Everything Part 4

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rod and Staff English Review

Look inside HERE
It is rare that I come across an item I feel compelled to review all on my own, but after such a long quest of looking for English/grammar programs that are rigorous without being ridiculous, finding Rod and Staff has been such a blessing that I had to share!

When we first started homeschooling, going on six years ago, my main focus was of course phonics. I didn't see the need to purchase fancy curricula with multiple books and excessive numbers of worksheets. We went with a simple approach and used Explode the Code. It worked great for the girls. I credit the girls learning to read more to that program than I do to myself. Once we left the phonics world, I panicked. Reading, writing and being able to speak properly are very important to both me and my husband and we wanted to be sure that we were doing the best we could for them.

I am going to be honest, I got swept up, for a short time, in the it has to be short and fun craze. I did not particularly enjoy the curriculum that I was taught in school (Abeka) and I didn't want my kids to feel the same way. I also had this desire to be the fun homeschool mom that everyone wants to be. So, we tried Easy Grammar. I didn't hate Easy Grammar, in fact, I still think it is a fantastic supplement, but the longer we did it, the more I realized that it wasn't going to meet our requirements for a complete English/grammar program. Because Easy Grammar only covered the grammar portions of English, I also tried IEW writing. I flip flop back and forth about IEW. I think the program is probably fantastic for those who like the system. Our very own contributor Christa, put her sons through it and it really worked for her family. However, for ours something just didn't quite click. I really believe it was because I had my heart set on a traditional writing program and IEW follows a different, not bad, but different pattern of teaching. I digress, back to English.

This year, I have decided to come out of the it has to be super-duperty fun and look nothing like traditional schooling mindset and decide that sometimes, traditional methods of learning work for us. In fact, most of the time traditional methods work for us. In part because of learning style, in part because of teaching style and our goals for our children, and in part because the schedule of a competitive gymnast will make it impossible to do anything if you don't have a really solid plan.

Rod and Staff is a Mennonite publisher of an entire line of homeschool curriculum. For the purposes of this review, I am only covering the English 4 Building with Diligence book. If you are considering coming from another program to English 4, I suggest looking carefully at the website to be sure your children are placed correctly. My children were actually both doing grade 4 last year, but the rigor of English 4 by Rod and Staff, made it necessary for us to repeat 4th grade English. I would say the books are a year to two years ahead of most English programs.

Rod and Staff English Pros:

The most notable pro is the price. All of R&S curriculum is affordable and can easily be found used even cheaper. A lot of the books are non-consumable texts once you reach the 4th grade, so the books can also be resold to recoup some of the cost of purchase. This English program is a rigorous traditional English program that uses "old school" methods such as diagramming and writing to teach grammar concepts. It covers English grammar usage and structure as well as writing. Writing is interspersed throughout the book so it is introduced gently, but at a good pace. Because the company that publishes it is Mennonite, you will get scripture and religious themed sentences, but it is not so overwhelming that if you felt the need to leave those out that it would change the program or even make it unusable if you were looking for a secular option. There is a good mix of oral review and written work and quizzes are mixed in as a way to measure retention. The teacher manual is solid and while not scripted, offers enough information and prompting that even a parent who struggles teaching English can follow the program.

Rod and Staff English Cons:

It is writing intensive. The book is a non-consumable text so much of the work is copied. To some this is a good way to help the student retain the information, others may need to make more of the work oral or skip some of the problems.

Other Points:

 This is not a program for parents who don't want to be involved. The teaching of the concepts will require some teacher prep and some parental involvement with teaching. I find that once a topic is introduced, I will need to be available for two to three lessons after to help the children solidify it before they are comfortable and able to do it on their own. Since almost every lesson introduces a new concept, I am always required to teach at the beginning of a lesson if nothing else.

  As mentioned above, this is a faster paced program than most that we have seen.You will have to consider moving your child down in grade, and/or slowing the pace for those students who struggle or need more time.

Over all, I have been very pleased with the intensity and the methods used by Rod and Staff. If you are looking for a traditional English/grammar program, this is definitely one to look into!

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