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Holiday Combo Set (includes 12 Week Holiday Planner for Preparing for a Peaceful Christmas series - $12.95 with code: HOLIDAYPEACE - exp 10/10

Making Your Mealtimes More Leisurely

Leisurely MealsHaving kids sort of sucked the joy out of mealtime for me.  It meant no longer focusing on myself and my own food.  I now had the full time job of cutting up meat, cleaning up spills, and trying to have an adult conversation over the din of childish chatter.  The thought of having a leisurely meal was laughable, and rather discouraging to boot.

But several years ago, I was blessed to learn from another family what taking leisurely meals with a lot of little ones actually looked like.  It was like a ray of sunshine in my day!  I realized I really could have a wonderful mealtime with my family, but it would mean letting go of a few preconceived notions and a whole lot of anxiety.

A glimpse of Heaven…

When we sit down to fellowship over food with our family, we need to keep in mind that this is a foretaste of our fellowship in Heaven.  Things are not perfect here, but they can still give us an idea of what we can expect when we are truly Home.

Start the meal calmly…

It is so easy to start a meal with chaos.  It happens all the time here.  If we don’t all sit down together, take a deep breath, and thank the Lord for His provisions, we end up resembling pigs at a feed trough!  Don’t expect a meal to be leisurely if you don’t begin it that way.  And if it does begin in chaos, it is never too late (unless someone has left the table) to start over.  Have everyone put their forks down, take a deep breath, and begin anew.

Be aware of your surroundings…

Sometimes we forget to even look up from our food, let alone take the time to notice and engage the other people at the table.  When you eat with adults, conversation typically naturally flows, but it isn’t the norm at a table full of hungry little people and tired parents.  You have to make the effort to look up from your food and smile at everyone seated with you.  Start with the littlest one and work your way up.  Ask each child a question or simply smile at them.  This is the start to healthy dinner conversations.

Expect mishaps…

Because this is not a perfect world, we need to expect mishaps and be as prepared for them as we can be.  Have a towel handy for cleaning up spills, and try to take the attitude that the little mishaps in life are not something to dwell on and fuss over.  Remember, a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11) – in other words, speaking calmly and kindly when mishaps occur is a thing of priceless beauty.  Don’t let your words be ugly over something as minor as spilled drinks, dropped forks, and the like.

Learn to be still…

This isn’t just for wiggly little boys, this is for wiggly mamas who jump up and head off to the next thing on her list after wolfing down the last bite on her plate.  Train yourself to stay seated after you are finished, or better yet, slow down your eating altogether.  Give your brain a moment to relax.  Put your fork down, take a deep breath, and wait.  You might even want to bring a book to the table that you can use as a read-aloud at the end of the meal to help everyone stay in their seats and learn to be still during mealtime.

Feast & fellowship…

We don’t often think of eating with our family as a time of feasting and fellowship, but it truly is!  It is a time to reconnect after everyone has been about their own business during the day.  It is a time for you to share and for you to listen as others share about their day.  It should be fun!  It should be a celebration!

That’s where my free gift to you comes in…

FREE 33 Family Dinner Games |

Our family has compiled 33 Family Dinner Games that don’t require a ton of forethought and preparation.  You can print out the list and instructions, and keep it handy in your dining room.  These 33 Family Dinner Games are FREE to subscribers of Raising Arrows and will be delivered to your inbox shortly after signing up so you can begin to enjoy your family mealtime tonight!

Get your Free Gift!

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Each game spans multiple ages and encourages an open and festive atmosphere for your meals!

Now, go and give those babies a big hug and kiss, do the same with your husband, and welcome them all to family mealtime tonight!

(Already a Raising Arrows subscriber? You’ll find the 33 Family Dinner Games on the Subscriber Freebie page!)

How to Keep the Kitchen Clean

How to Keep the Kitchen Clean (clear the clutter, get it clean, and keep it that way!) |

Early on in our married life it became apparent a clean kitchen was not going to come naturally to me.  Even before I had children, I couldn’t seem to keep up with the kitchen work.  It was not uncommon for me to throw towels over the messes whenever company showed up unexpected.

It’s no wonder that FLYlady and A Slob Comes Clean start with learning to clean your kitchen.  It seems to be a common trouble spot for all struggling homemakers.  In fact, I think you can tell a lot about a homemaker’s skills based on her kitchen.  Ouch.

Honestly, I still don’t have an immaculate kitchen, but I have learned what it takes to clean a kitchen sufficiently and keep it that way.
{affiliate links included}

How to Keep a Kitchen Clean {clear the clutter, get it clean, & keep it that way!} |

1. Reduce clutter

Clutter is the enemy of clean.  Keeping a kitchen clean depends on keeping a kitchen clutter free.  Because the kitchen tends to be the hub of a household, it also easily becomes the dumping ground for all sorts of stuff, i.e. clutter.  There are several ways you can reduce the clutter in the kitchen, but ultimately, this will be a never-ending battle.  Do not despair.  Follow these suggestions, and stick with it!

*Don’t use more dishes/pots/utensils to make a meal than you have to.  I’m a large family mom, so this has become painfully clear.  The more things you use to cook your meals, the more you have to clean!  For me, this means not only do I have all the dishes we eat off of to clean, but I also have all the dishes I cooked the meal with too.  That can easily become an overwhelming pile!  Learn to do more with less.  Serve in the pans you cooked in.  Make one-pot meals.

*Minimize what you have on hand.  Do not have every plate and cup you own stored in your kitchen because every plate and cup you own will end up on your counter.

If you’ve been reading Raising Arrows for any length of time, you know we are big fans of DrinkBands for this very purpose.

DrinkBandsWe stowed away most of our cups and kept only the cups with DrinkBands (and a few extras for guests) in our cupboards.  Each child has their own color DrinkBand so I know whose is whose and we can reduce the cup clutter.

You can do something similar with plates and silverware as well; however, I’ve found it is not nearly so daunting to have a lot of silverware.

*Keep your counters clear.  A few years ago, Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom wrote about how she keeps her kitchen counters clear.  I was inspired by that post, but at the time, I didn’t have the storage space to really make it work.  In our new house, I do, so I’ve been working at keeping my counters as clutter-free as possible.

*Don’t let the kitchen be a dumping ground.  I know this is easier said than done, but with a little concerted effort, you can make your kitchen a clutter-free zone.

Start by looking for the places people dump their clutter.
-Where do these things belong?
-Do they have a REAL home?
-WHY are they getting dumped there?

This is your starting point for ridding your kitchen of clutter.
-Do you need to retrain (or train) certain individuals?
-Do you need to create homes for the things that are getting dumped?
-Do you need to get rid of some things or find a better organization system?

2.  Clean as you cook.

I’m still not as good at this as I should be.  The concept is pretty simple, though.  The idea is to clean as you go.  Hot, soapy water in the sink is a great way to do this because you just throw things in as needed.  However, we use a lot of cast iron and stones which should not be in hot, soapy water.  These we save to the end after we’ve loaded the dishwasher and washed the knives.

And be sure to wipe down counters and appliances as you go too.  Dry, caked-on is typically MUCH harder to clean.  The only exception to this is bread dough.  I let my Bosch set until the dough is dry so I can easily dump the dried dough remains in the trash.

Keeping the Kitchen Clean Tip - let the dough dry in your Bosch, then dump the dough remains in the trash | RaisingArrows.netIt is also easier to clean up cooked pasta and rice if they have set just a bit to dry out.  This is especially true when it comes to sweeping the floor.  You’ll end up with mushy streaks if you don’t clean it up by hand or wait just a bit until it isn’t so mushy.

{Don’t forget to mix up a batch of my All-Natural All-Purpose Cleaner to have on hand!}

3.  Make a Kitchen Clean Up List & post it.

Our list looks like this:

Kitchen Chores List {helps to keep your cleaning on track} |

{remember, your list will look different, but this is a starting point!}

It hangs on the wall where the individual Clean Teams can easily see it and follow it.  You may not have a clean-up crew of children, but if you struggle to keep your kitchen clean, YOU need a list to keep yourself on track the same way I need a list to keep my kiddos on track.  In fact, I regularly refer to the list when I’m doing clean-up duty to make sure I don’t inadvertently miss something.

The Kitchen Clean Up List is basically an orderly list you work through after each meal to ensure the kitchen gets back to a clean slate every time.  A clean-slate kitchen makes cooking a joy!

4.  Build an efficient kitchen.

This one takes time and patience, but has a nice pay-off in the end.  A kitchen needs to be efficient.  Items in your kitchen need to be organized in a logical manner.  Having recently moved, I find myself moving the things in my kitchen around frequently as I try to find my “kitchen groove.”  Utensiles, pots and pans, dishes and cups, plates and appliances all need to be where they are used the most.

If your kitchen is small, consider storing rarely used items elsewhere to give yourself more room.  Don’t make things difficult to access because if they are hard to get to, you are less likely to put them away.  Place things where they are most likely to save you steps, and place like items together.

5.  Be consistent.

Here is the key to the entire thing – consistency!  You have to WORK to keep the kitchen clean.  You have to clean the kitchen over and over and over.  It is not going to clean itself. You have to do the work (and enlist the help of others).  The more you work to be consistent, the more it will become second nature, and soon you will automatically do the work.  Autopilot is a very good thing!

One more piece of advice when it comes to cleaning your kitchen is to make it fun!  Build memories!  Cleaning a kitchen takes time, but turning on music, having meaningful conversations as you work alongside your children, or even cutting loose and being silly while you work will make the work more enjoyable.  Kitchens are natural memory-makers. Consider what memories you want that room to hold.

Want to have a little fun with us in the kitchen?  Here’s a taste of what our kitchen clean up  is like!

Looking for more Homemaking help? Click the icon below!
Homemaking Basics plain 500

A Birthday & Two Super Exclusive Discount Codes!

Blake and Megan

Today, is my first born’s 16th birthday!  Wow!  Where did the time go?  He is an amazing young man and we are so very proud of him.  Happy Birthday, Blake!

Remember how I told you a few weeks ago about my new household binder system that was entirely paperless?  Well, I have an awesome discount code for the ebook that taught me how to set it up (it was a HUGE lifesaver during the move!).

Paperless 125Not only can you get Paperless Home Organization for 40%, this code will work for ANY and ALL of Mystie Winckler’s products!

CODE:  raisingarrows
gives you 40% off:
Paperless Home Organization
GTD for Homemakers
and/or Simplified Dinners
{expires 3/1/14}


And I have another code from another company near and dear to our hearts – DrinkBands!  They are celebrating a milestone just like my son -whose DrinkBands color happens to be blue!

The Miller family has owned the company a whole year now and they are celebrating by offering Raising Arrows readers a super exclusive discount code!

CODE:  rafirstyear
gives you: 20% off
your entire DrinkBand order!
{expires 2/28/14}

This Move

We’ve arrived!  We moved in a snow storm, but got it all unloaded before the big one hit.  From there, we were sitting under about 16″ of snow and bitter-cold temps.  Nearly 2 weeks later, we are digging out and settling in.

Our living room (see my daughter being silly as she tries to get out of the room in time!)

Our living room (see my daughter being silly as she tries to get out of the room in time!)

At first, I was super pleased with our progress.  Boxes were being unpacked and things were finding homes, but this week, as we began a bit of homeschooling again, I found myself frustrated and overwhelmed.

Then, I remembered this always happens.

Every time we move, I end up needing to deal with a few bad habits we’ve gotten into in the previous house.  Sometimes the issues are direct results of the move itself.  This move was, and is, no different.

1.  I am sick of the paper trail my children leave about the house.

I am all for creativity, but oy! the paper trail is maddening!  I snapped this photo the other day and then asked my little moms-of-many group to please advise (feel free to offer your own advice as I’m still working through it all!).

papers in living room

This scene is recreated all over my house every day of the week, and most every child in the household contributes.  My bigs try to be a bit neater about their paper, as do I (yes, they got this from me), but my littles draw and dump at will.

This sort of thing needs to stop.  Problem is, I’ve been too lazy to stop it.  I’m to blame for paper and pencils and crayons and scissors *gasp* and glue being TOO easily accessible.   So, this move, those things are finding a new home with new rules.

2.  My little boys stand (and often jump) on the furniture.

We had discipline for this in the old house, but I wasn’t always as consistent as I needed to be with it.  I didn’t stick with it as is needed to actually break bad habits.  This move, I am determined to nip this in the bud and stop this behavior once and for all.

“Method?” you ask?  Every time they stand on, jump over or off of the furniture, they must stand, nose to the wall, for as many minutes as their age.  The 3 year old gets 3 minutes, the 5 year old gets 5 minutes, and yes, my newly turned 8 year old gets 8.  (Eek!  Can you believe the 8 year even stands on the furniture sometimes?!  You ought to be feeling better about your parenting skills already!)

3.  I need to do better about the “place for everything and everything in it’s place” rule.

I’m just going to be honest here, my organizational skills are severely lacking.  Every little thing I organize has to be brainstormed and often reworked before it actually makes sense.  It is a painfully slow and ugly process.

When we move, I have to find new places for things and then learn where those place are.  About the time I learn those places, I realize where I put things makes no sense and needs to be reworked.  (We have a saying here, “As soon as you know where it is, we’ll move!”)

This move, I am hoping to get things organized sooner.  (As soon as I typed that, I sat here blankly for a few minutes.  Who am I kidding?  I won’t get organized any sooner than I normally do because I haven’t somehow magically gained 4 more hours to my day or grown an extra set of arms or a more organized brain.  Yeah, scratch that...)

This move, I am hoping to get things organized sooner.  There, that’s better.

So, there you have it…a little taste of life in our new home.  Never a dull moment!

What Encourages You as a Homemaker? {Welcome Home Wednesday}

What Encourages You as a Homemaker?  {Welcome Home Wednesday Homemaking Link Up on Raising Arrows}

The purpose of the Welcome Home Wednesday’s link up is to offer a place of community meant to encourage one another in our homemaking.  Today, I want to ask you what kinds of things encourage you the most?

Is it MARRIAGE advice, like this post from Yes, They’re All Ours on Accepting Our Husbands?

Accept your HusbandMaybe it is PARENTING encouragement like this post on Teaching Children Hospitality from Homemaker’s Heart.

Perhaps you like the RECIPE links left here like Beckie’s Mexican Cornbread from Kentucky Sketches.

Mexican cornbread

Maybe it is PRACTICAL advice like the post on Canning Essentials from Seven Springs Homestead, or SPIRITUAL encouragement like what you’ll find in Mama Gab‘s post Putting Sunday First.

There’s no “right” answer to what encourages you.  In fact, I’d venture to guess it changes every week, if not every day!  That’s ok!  We are here to learn from each other, encourage each other, and be there for each other as sisters in Christ!

So, leave me a comment below and let me know what is encouraging you in your homemaking today!  Then, read through some of the great links left here each week!

And by the way, the number one clicked post last week was Christian Homekeeping‘s Video Nursery Tour – proving once again, my readers love all things babies! :)

Welcome Home Wednesdays
<div align="center"><a href="" title="Welcome Home Wednesdays"><img src="" alt="Welcome Home Wednesdays" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

Does It Matter When I Wake Up? {Homemaking Basics}

Does it Matter When I Wake Up? {Homemaking Basics Series on}

This is one of those questions that can quickly divide a room of homemakers.  It is a question of productivity and what time a woman has to wake up in order to be a “good homemaker.”

Because I manage the home my husband works hard to provide for us, I thought the best place to start answering this question would be from him.  Here’s what he said when I asked if a woman needed to wake up at a certain time to manage her home properly:

“No.  Your days need to be flexible.  If you stayed up late to take care of something or someone, then sleeping in is justified.  However, be certain you are not using your time to play and then shirking your responsibilities the next day.”

Now, bear in mind this is my husband’s answer to the running of my husband’s home.  Your husband’s answer might be entirely different with entirely different reasons.  There will also be a lot of you with husbands who simply do not care.  I’d encourage you to seek your own husband’s thoughts on this matter before asking your girlfriends for their input or creating some guilt-ridden schedule that has you going to bed at midnight and getting up at 5 in the morning every day.  You’re much more likely to get a response from your own husband that fits your household.

That said, if your husband gives you a vague answer or truly does not care, there are a few guidelines you can follow to help you decide what time you need to wake up in order to manage your household.  So, grab a cup of tea and take a moment to really think through this minus the guilt, minus the craziness, and minus a bunch of preconceived notions about what your wake up time “should be.”

Does it Matter When I Wake Up?  {Homemaking Basics Series on}

Your Wake Up Time Should Match Your Responsibilities

Is there something that requires your attention first thing in the morning?  Do you have early morning chores or a baby that needs you?  Perhaps there is a toddler who wakes up early and must be supervised or your husband prefers you get up to see him off to work.  Your wake up time needs to match those responsibilities.  Just as a husband who has the responsibility to clock in at a certain time for work has to show up at the right time to fulfill his work responsibilities, you also must be “on time” to fulfill your responsibilities at home.

Does it Matter When I Wake Up? {Homemaking Basics on Raising Arrows}

A Homemaker’s Responsibilities Vary From Day to Day

Just as Emily Ryan in Guilt-Free Quiet Times speaks of how Jesus rose early, but also stayed up late, we too must be willing to take care of our responsibilities whenever they arise.  We have generalized responsibilities like feeding our children and keeping the house clean, but we also have unforeseen incidentals that require focused energy like caring for sick children or guiding a child through difficult school work.  Your wake up time may not always be the same due to these incidentals.

Does it Matter When I Wake Up? {Homemaking Basics on Raising Arrows}

It’s Okay to Take Comp Time, But Don’t Expect It

Comp Time is a beautiful thing.  Sleeping in can be sweet compensation for a hard day’s work.  However, you should not demand it because it won’t be long before your expectations will not be met and you will find yourself resentful of your work as a homemaker.

Does it Matter When I Wake Up? {Homemaking Basics on Raising Arrows}

Be Reasonable With Your Wake Up Time

There are seasons in life when you can rise early consistently.  There are seasons in life when you cannot.  When you consider what time you should wake up in the morning, don’t forget to consider your season and be reasonable about when you truly can hit the ground running.

Also remember, you don’t always get to pick your season.  When we started moving last Saturday, I had had a very rough night.  I did not want to get up and start my day, but I had to.  It didn’t matter that I had only had about 4 hours of sleep.  It didn’t matter that there was snow on the ground and my youngest had a cold.  My “season” was not the one I would have chosen, but it was what it was and I had to keep going.

Does it Matter When I Wake Up? {Homemaking Basics on Raising Arrows}

Factor In the Rest of Your Day {and the night before too}

As you write out a trial schedule, keep in mind your wake up time is not necessarily the beginning of your day and it definitely isn’t the end of your day.  Figure in what your night before looks like.  Figure in your husband’s schedule and your season in life.  Set a time, but be flexible.  There is no Wake Up Time Rule and no one outside your household has the ability to tell you when you ought to wake up in order to get your day off to the right start.  You have to choose a time that allows you to meet the demands of YOUR day.

Ready to get started?

Think through all of this, talk to your husband, pray over it, and then set a time!  After that, consider HOW you’ll get yourself up.  Do you need an alarm clock or will your husband be getting you up?  Or can you set an alarm on your computer or tablet?  What sound does it need to make?  (mine sounds like a phone ringing b/c in my head, that is a “Get Up” kind of sound.)  Try your wake up time for a few days and then tweak as needed.

And with that, I really must go to bed…so I can wake up refreshed in the morning!

What Time Should I Wake Up? {Homemaking Basics} |