Monday, March 18, 2019

34 Weeks of Clean 2019! Week 11 - The Foyer

Welcome back!  We continue to be amazed at how many people are sticking with us and taking back their homes from dirt and clutter.  If you are new with us, welcome!  It is never too late to start.  Feel free to jump in where we are at, or, if you are really motivated, go back to previous weeks. (links are at the end of the post)

Also, a quick word about the de-cluttering part of each week's assignment.   Several have asked what they should do with it all.  Some stuff is just old and worn and needs to be trashed.  There is no shame in that.   Bless people when you can, but if it isn't fit for you to keep- ie. broken and falling apart, chances are someone else does not need it either.  For things that just need to find a new home, we take things to the local Goodwill.  So I do not have to make weekly runs, we keep a few bags in our garage waiting to be filled.  Once the bags are all full we load them in the car and off they go.  The advantages to keeping stuff to go out in the garage out of sight are that it doesn't clutter my living space, and it doesn't tempt little hands, or big ones, to reclaim the items.  The struggle is real folks! ;)

OK, so here we go-

This week's assignment- Entryways. 

Now, I know this means a little something different for each person, but let's work together here.  Regardless of what yours "looks like," everyone has an entryway of some sort.  Go out your front door and shut it.  Then walk back in.  There - that is your entryway!

Here is a picture of ours, looking towards the front door.

And standing at the door looking in.

Let's face it, for many people this is a problem area in their homes.  Usually not because they have too much decorative stuff there, but because it is the first place they hit when they come home each day, often making it a dumping ground for STUFF.  Because our family does not enter through the front door often, and I do not have a table in the entry to this house, it is a less of problem for us right now, but it IS still the first place people see when they walk in.  And those half walls make a great place to make a stack- usually for mail going out!

So here is your assignment- clear out and clean up!

  • As usual, clear your space first!

  •  You know the drill by now. Start at the top - yep, those lights are dirty, I am sure of it. 

  •  Wipe down any surfaces.  If you have scuff marks from shoes on the walls and doors, the best thing I have found to use is a Magic Eraser.  I do not want to know what is in those things, but they are truly magical.  Even my all natural girl will break down and use them in a pinch!   
          -Pay special attention to door handles, any glass in this area, and light switches.
          -Wax any furniture you may have in this area! My space is pretty small so we have no extra pieces here.  I keep threatening to add a plant but it hasn't happened yet.  You will only find two of my favorite pictures here but I did wipe them off!

Given to us by dear friends upon our retirement, made by another sweet, and talented friend.

  • Vacuum and wash any throw rugs. If you stop and think about how many shoes hit this area in one week alone, you might even decide to put this chore on a monthly rotation!  We currently haven't decided if we want a rug in this area, so for now I am enjoying the tile.

  • Wipe down the base boards.  Again, magic erasers are great for scuff marks, just saying.  A word of caution- baseboards get dirty!  After years of getting irritated every time I cleaned ours in the 34 Weeks process, I gave up and made it a part of my regular cleaning.  No, I do not wipe them down weekly, but I do wipe them down once a month, usually the first week of the month so it is easy to remember. 

  • Vacuum and/or mop the floors.

  • If you have windows in this area, clean those as well, remembering blinds and/or curtains!  Now is your chance to really clean!

  • Return do-dads to their spots.  OK, only return HALF of your do-dads.  Remember our goal of less clutter!

My one do-dad in this space, but I love welcoming guests with a candle!

DONE!  Not too bad, huh?  I hope this was a fairly easy week for you because, well, the next few weeks will be a challenge!  Enjoy your lighter project and be ready to hit it hard next week!

A few closing thoughts I read recently that struck a chord with me-

Nancy Twigg, "...clutter is anything that complicates your life and stands in the way of simplicity."  hmmmm.... over-commitment,  kids' activities, spending, fill in the blank. 

Nancy continues, "Clutter does more than affect us physically and emotionally; it affects us spiritually because it keeps us from following Jesus fully.  We simply cannot make room for Him when so many other things are in the way."  Ouch!

Don't forget to share your progress on our Family, Faith and Fridays facebook page so we can cheer you on!


Intro Week
Week 1- Holiday Decorations
Week 2-The Pantry
Week 3-Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers   

Week 4- Fridge, Freezer and Floors
Week 5- Recipes 
Week 6- The Stove and Loose Ends 
Week 7- The Dining Room 
Week 8- The Living Room 
Week 9- Books 
Week 10- Bathrooms

Monday, March 11, 2019

34 Weeks of Clean 2019! Week 10- Bathrooms

Welcome back!  With the book organizing behind us, this week should be easier for most of you to tackle emotionally!

Yes, last week was about clearing out books and I KNOW that several of you whined through the project.  I will not name names to protect the guilty.  ;)  I am hoping you at least gave it a try.  I know it is hard, I love books too, be we cannot take them with us to heaven.  They are just things,  just like the rest of the "things" in our lives.  And while they can bring much happiness, we must not let them BE our happiness.  If you love them, keep them.  If someone else will love them more, share them!! I know that cleaning and purging are tough, but it can be done.   Mind over matter!  Let's don't let THINGS take over our lives!!  Find a friend to hold you accountable and jump in!

Get ready ladies, this week is not the most fun, but we can do it!  I am assuming you clean your bathrooms on a regular basis but today we are going to really deep clean and tackle any drawers and cabinets there as well.

This week's assignment- Bathrooms.

This is for ALL the bathrooms in your house, except the Master Bedroom bath.  We will get there, I promise!  Full disclosure, I am usually a few to several weeks ahead of you all in order to document the process.  This week, however, I have had a sick child and one who came home from college and one who turned 25 and I am behind.  So no pictures- instead you will get to see me add them throughout he week as I too clean with you!  Accountability is key!

Let's get started-

  •  Start by emptying all of your drawers and cabinets as well as clear off the counter tops.  Yes, all the stuff out and off.  This will help you get an idea of what you have, what you need and don't need, and maybe spark an idea of a better way to put it all back.  Hold on to your hats - it is ugly!

  •  Now, throw it all away.  Just kidding, though it is tempting, right?  DO take this time to DECLUTTER.  Remember, that is one of our goals in the 34 Weeks of Clean.  Expired medicine - throw it out.  Old makeup - throw it out.  Extra lotions that are not being used - throw it out.  Seeing a trend?  If it is not being used or will not be used in a timely manner - THROW IT OUT!  It is taking up valuable space.

   -A word about kid's tub toys.  Inspect and throw out the old ones.  I am sure you know what a mold holder those plastic ones can be.  GROSS!  If they have holes in them, chances are they are harboring mold.    Feel free to try to bleach them, but in my humble opinion, unless you are committed to keeping that up weekly, it is better to just toss them.  And if you are brave and looking for a science experiment, cut one open and see what you find.  Yuck!

  • Wipe out all of your drawers and cabinets before replacing your things!  Anyone else amazed at how gross these areas can get quickly?

  • Stick any and all rugs in the laundry!

  • Take down your shower curtain and wash it as well.  If you need to replace the liner, now is the time.  Yes, they can be washed up, but for about $4, you can replace them just as easily.  Hey, sometimes we just need to make it easier on ourselves.

  • Curtains or mini-blinds?  Do those as well!

  • Light fixtures need to be cleaned off.

  • Tub, countertops, and toilet are next.  Are you having fun yet? ;)

  • Walls are up next.  Why?  Because if you use hairspray I am willing to bet that the wall behind where you stand to do your hair has a layer of hairspray on it. ;)  Don't forget the light switches while you are there, as well as any pictures or such you have hanging.

  •  Door frames are next.  Again, why does every door have all those cute, but hard to clean decorative grooves? Design fail, I am sure!

  • Off to the baseboards we go and then lastly the floors!

  • More than one bathroom?  Repeat! ;)

  • You can now replace your rugs and shower curtain and then stand back and admire your hard work!

Are you tired yet?  Just so you know, we do not plan to do all three of our bathrooms in one day.  We are not gluttons for punishment, 'ya know!

Speaking of tired - we are almost three months into cleaning and organizing our homes and I know the tendency is to slack off and let things slide a bit. (Exercise New Years' Resolutions, anyone?) Can I just encourage you to get your second wind and keep plugging away?  We CAN do this!  And trust me, together is much more fun.

Don't forget to post those pictures on our FB page when you are done to inspire others  Be sure to check back here throughout the week to see what we have gotten done as well!

Ok friends, time to get cleaning!  Remember, we are taking our homes back, one room at a time.  You CAN do this!


Intro Week
Week 1- Holiday Decorations
Week 2-The Pantry
Week 3-Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers   

Week 4- Fridge, Freezer and Floors
Week 5- Recipes 
Week 6- The Stove and Loose Ends 
Week 7- The Dining Room 
Week 8- The Living Room 
Week 9- Books

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Teaching Them to Study

Studying may come naturally to some kids, but not the ones in my house.  This is the second time we have reviewed Victus Study Skills System, this time using the Level 3 student level (grades 5/6-10/11) and Level 4 (10/11-college) level.  We were also blessed with their amazing student planner!

Maybe it is just us, but it seems that homeschooling does not lend itself to learning how to study.  Yes, we do have our kids take tests, but it is often treated as simply the next lesson, and we do not have any additional prep for it.  Halfway into my second child's high school career I realized she was lacking in study skills, test taking skills, and quite possibly time management skills.  Sad, but true.  Thankfully we had the opportunity to review Victus Study Skills at that time, and saw huge benefits in the program.  How thankful I am that I have this opportunity again, just as my son is beginning to take college classes.  His younger brother working through the program at the same time has just been a bonus.

The Victus Study Skills System is a series of workbooks at four different levels.  Their goal is simple- to help children learn how to better study.  You choose which level to do based on your child's grade level.  The first two levels for younger children also include teacher guides to help you work through the material with them.  Levels 3 and 4, which we have been using, have a separate Teacher's Guide that can be used with both levels.

In the Teacher's Guide you will find a detailed explanation of the program philosophy, teacher instructions and then lesson overviews.  Each lesson (there are 10 total) states the purpose, preparation and procedure.  If you are being given instructions that correspond with the student workbook, pages are referenced.  Most of the preparation is explanation of instructions, the "whys" of what you are doing, and helping the students fill in some blanks in their workbook.

The Student Workbooks, about 60-70 pages each, are a mix of explanation, motivation, and lessons to be completed.  There are fill-in-the-blanks to be completed, questions to be answered, and charts to be filled out.  As they walk through the lessons, the three Foundational Cornerstones of the program are addressed-
  • Where Am I Now?
  • Where Do I Want to Be?
  • How Do I Get There?
The Where Am I Now? section gets the student to think about their current study habits and to identify their learning strengths.

Where Do I Want to Be? discusses mission by encouraging the student to develop a mission statement for themselves, as well as identify their values and goals.

How Do I Get There? This is the heart of the program, in my opinion.  Here they talk about time management and practice those skills with schedules and calendars.  They also learn about organization, study skills, note taking, and test taking.  There are exercises that teach on these subjects and then allow your child to practice the skill.  For example, they read a paragraph and then take notes on it.

The Appendix is filed with additional information and exercises, enough to make several additional teaching sessions!

How we used this program and what we think-
Because so much of the information presented in the different levels is the same or at least very similar, I decided to run through the lessons with both boys, ages 11 and 17, together.  Honestly that worked for about two lessons.  Then, because of frustration, mostly on the 17 year old's part, we split up and he worked through the Level 4 book on his own.

The frustration with that plan is that I did not get to talk through each lesson with him as he did them independently.  Instead, I had to be very deliberate to assign him a lesson and then engage him in a discussion afterwards.  Here is what I learned-
  • Yes!  He is an auditory learner!  No surprise there.
  • No, he is not good at taking notes.  But he said the practice here helped and he wished he had read it before he took his college English Comp class.
  • Filling out a weekly schedule is much better for him than a monthly calendar.
  • Time management is HARD for teens, but so beneficial.

I think that, despite his original hesitation in doing the program, Salem would admit that he picked up a few skills he was lacking.  He has taken ownership of the Student planner and intends to try using it with his next college class that starts next week!  Each week is a double page spread and can be used for six subjects.  It is not dated which allows you to begin using it whenever.

One fun feature is that at the bottom of every page is a "Who Said That?" quote or an "Odd But True" fact.

While the teacher's edition used with the Level 4 workbook offers a lot of good information and explanation, I do think that at upper high school and college levels, they are more than capable of doing the program on their own.

Colby (my 6th grader) did work through the program with me. We spent about 30 minutes on each lesson and covered one a week.  While I think the information is exceptional, he struggled with the "whys" of what we were doing.  When we talked about creating a mission statement, I got a deer-in-the-headlights looks.  It seems that asking my 11 year old where he sees himself in 10 years is more than he can wrap his head around right now.  I think very goal driven kids can benefit from Victus, but right now all my 11 year old wants to plan in advance for is his summer birthday.

The one section he got the most out of was actually one of the very first exercises about learning styles.  We were not surprised that, like his brother, is an auditory learner, but he did enjoy learning about what that actually meant to him in every day terms.  When asked what three things he could do to improve his habits based on that knowledge he was quickly able to choose.  I did find it funny that one of the things he chose was to ask his teacher (that would be me) of he could do a digital or oral report as an alternative assignment.

Since we wrote in pencil, I am going to try to revisit this program with my son in 8th grade.  By then, I hope his maturity level will have caught up with his academic level and he will benefit more from the skills taught.  Regardless, I highly recommend Victus Study Skills System as a way to help improve your child's study skills.

50 other amazing Crew reviewers had the opportunity to review the different levels of Victus Study Skills System.  You can see their reviews by clicking on the banner below.

K through College Study Skills {Victus Study Skills System Reviews} 
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Monday, March 4, 2019

34 Weeks of Clean 2019! Week 9- Books

Before we move on this week, a note from me to you-

We are now 9 weeks into this project (that's two whole months) and I know the tendency is to slow down or drop out.  Don't do it!  Just like those New Year's resolutions we try to make, the excitement and newness wears off and the fun is gone.  Don't give up!  Ladies, we can do this!  I know it is not easy, but I promise it is so worth it.  At the end of this journey you will have a cleaner, more organized home, hopefully a lighter load both physically and mentally, and a HUGE sense of accomplishment.  I know because I have done it, several times. And so have others that will attest to the same things.  Keep up the good fight to take our homes back - one room at a time.

Deep-clean, de-clutter and reorganize- let's go!

Hi, my name is Michele and I have a book problem.  I love to read and I love books.  OK, that is not really the problem.  The problem is that I like to buy books, keep books, and oh, buy more books. 16 moves later, and we still have a book problem.  (Yes, we are a little slow.)

It may have been a packer telling me that all of our weight was in our books, but we have slowly made some changes.  (Luckily for him I did not take it personally.)  But my husband took it seriously and we have since scaled down several times. It was hard and my oldest even blogged about it.

However, since then, someone (probably me, but let's also blame the kids) has bought a few more books.  Plus (read- this is my excuse) I review a lot of books so they sneak their way into my house. 

But here is the deal.  Books take up space. Books not being read collect dust.  Books cost money.

Libraries are full of beautiful books.  I can read them without owning them.  I can also store more on other devices, taking up less space.

So this week's assignment-

Organize your books throughout the house, get rid of those you do not love and decide which ones you MUST keep, and clean off those bookshelves. In every room they reside in your house!


  • Take all of the books off the bookshelf.  Sometimes once you actually lay your hands on them, you will decide you really don't need that particular one.  This also helps you get a realistic view of how many books you really own.

  • If you are a little OCD like me, you can categorize your books! ;)  If I am looking for a certain book I can usually locate it pretty quickly.

  • Only keep what you LOVE!  If you just enjoyed it, pass it on and let someone else have a turn enjoying it.  Hospitals, nursing homes, and health clinics welcome donations.  Even some hotels will accept book donations to have for their guests.

I know this seems like a small pile to move out, but remember we do this yearly.  And now we are in the habit of reading a book and moving it out quickly!
  • Use a hair dryer to dust off the pages of books that have been sitting for a while.  Even our allergist warned us that books are a collector of all things dusty.  Old books can even be set outside on a warm, sunny day to air out.

  • Dust the bookshelf, top to bottom and even the outside.  Think spring cleaning here, not just your weekly fly-by dusting!

  • Replace the books you decide to keep and enjoy the empty space.  You do have some empty space, don't you?  If not, start at the top and do it again! ;)

Got another bookshelf?  Or two? Or more?  Find the next one and start the process over again! Psst- homeschoolers- hold off on THOSE books! ;)  But, yes, even go through the books in your children's rooms.  Here is a peek at a few of our favorites.

If you head to more than several rooms with this project, be careful not to get distracted like my helper did.  Stick to books only this week.  Promise?!

Let me just say, I KNOW this is a hard project for many of you.  Most women I know love books.  I am one of those guilty ones.  Really, I am.  But too many books can take up precious space in our homes.  If each book you own thrills your heart then by all means keep them.  But I challenge you to look at each book in your hand and ask yourself-

  • do I love this book?

  • will I read this over and over again?

  • does this book add value to my life?

If the answer is no, pass it on.  Let's don't allow books to give us value, to make us feel more scholarly or learned somehow, or to just take up space and collect dust! 

And just so you know I am not heartless- or bookless, I want to show you our bookcases.  This first one is a bookcase I keep in our loft with all of the "little kid" books from my kids' childhood.  We bring them out when little people visit and someday I hope to snuggle up with grandchildren and read them.  The bottom two shelves house science and history based books we use for school or that the boys just love.

In our new home we have been blessed with a room we call the library.  It houses 26 years of beautiful memories of my husband's military career as well as most of our books.  Thanks to my oldest daughter, they are arranged on the shelves in categories, as well as spruced up a bit with accessories.  I have always dreamed of a house with walls of bookcases, but have decided that I am happy being surrounded with just the ones I love.

For years I have enjoyed collecting old books where ever we have lived.  They are now housed in this sweet bookcase we had built into an otherwise useless space and it makes me happy.

These are the girls' book cases.  For those who know us, bet you can guess whose is whose!

Ok, get to work...I am off to read a book. ;)

Don't forget to add your pictures to our Family, Faith and Fridays Facebook page!  We love seeing others' progress!


Intro Week
Week 1- Holiday Decorations
Week 2-The Pantry
Week 3-Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers   

Week 4- Fridge, Freezer and Floors
Week 5- Recipes 
Week 6- The Stove and Loose Ends 
Week 7- The Dining Room 
Week 8- The Living Room

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Do You Have a Secret?

Last year after reading Books One and Two of the Secret of the Hidden Scrolls from WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Colby and I began anticipating when the next two in the series would be published.  They are finally here and we are so excited to share a review with you! The Great Escape (Book #3) and Journey to Jericho (Book #4) did not disappoint.  Written by M.J. Thomas, these two paperbacks, about 120 pages each, continue the adventures of siblings Mary and Peter and their dog Hank.  While staying with their great uncle Solomon, they discover secret scrolls that, with the roar of a lion, transport them back into ancient Bible times.

The Great Escape sees the kids transported to Egypt during the times of the plagues.  There they meet a princess, Shephara, and witness the plagues first hand- rivers of blood, uncountable frogs, gnats and flies, dead animals, boils, and finally the death of the firstborn children.  In a race against time, the kids follow Moses into the desert chased by Pharaoh and the Grand Magician, trying to solve the secret of the hidden scroll before it is too late.

In Journey to Jericho Mary and Peter discover their archeologist great uncle was once a spy.  After explaining he had once discovered an artifact that could help prove the Bible was true, he told them he had since dedicated his life to that mission.  Once again, the roar of a lion sends the kids on a new adventure, this time to the city of Jericho.  There they meet Rahab and she helps them escape the city before its destruction.

Written for ages 6-9, with a reading level of 1-3rd graders, these little books are admittedly a simple read for my son who is a sixth grader.  None the less, we LOVE these stories and I highly recommend them for elementary and middle schoolers.  They also make fabulous family read alouds- if you can commandeer them from your child's room.  While they are fiction and embellished for the sake of fun, they do tell the intended Bible story well, backed with facts from the Bible.  They are exciting, well written, and encourage faithfulness and steadfastness, as exhibited in the actions of the siblings, Peter and Mary who don't give up, even when afraid of overwhelmed.


So how did we "use" these books?  Well, of course as soon as they arrived in our mailbox they were whisked away by my son.  We read the first two in the series out loud together, but this time he insisted that was silly and he knew how to read!  Oh, how fast they grow up!  As we do with all our our "school" books, (we are homeschoolers after all) I did require Colby to write a summary of each book after he read them.  This helps me know he understood them, as well as continues to help him improve on his writing and summarizing skills.  I typically have him write one paragraph about the book, and one paragraph on what he liked about the book.

What you probably cannot see is what he said, so let me share with you some of his thoughts-
"The most exciting part is when they have to escape the man in black.  I also like when they sneak into Jericho."  " is exciting and it also shows you what happened in the Bible." "I really like when they get clues to solve the puzzles."

If you are looking for a fun read for your kids, maybe even a fun Easter present, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series is one we think you will enjoy!

Sixty fellow Crew members also had the opportunity to review The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls books, including three that have done amazing video reviews.  By clicking on the banner below, you can see them all!

The Great Escape & Journey To Jericho {WorthyKids Reviews}
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