Haha! I KNOW that "practicalness" is not really a word...but it just had a ring to it...
Seriously, though, I have been thinking about a handful of practical tips that have made such a difference in my home. I decided to break away from the normal perspective-shifting diatribe and venture into the land of all things domestic! So, here are my 5 all-time best "practical tips":
1. White vinegar, baking soda and tea tree oil can clean pretty much everything in your home.
I use white vinegar to mop my laminate and tile floors, run it through my dishwasher on occasion and have used it to soften calcium build-up in my bathtub and shower. Baking soda has removed many a foul stench from my home and car - it can even soak up vomit and remove the smell! Tea tree oil, although more expensive than vinegar or baking soda, is a very effective cleaner and also has topical medicinal benefits. I have used it several times to help deep bruises disappear - it's amazing! Aaaaaaaand...all three substances are safe and nontoxic alternatives to chemical cleaners. Click the highlighted words to find out more...
After my son had his second ear infection as an infant, I decided to get down and dirty with the war against germs and bacteria. I marched myself into the health food store and asked what I should do...and came home with a few wonderful products that have made all the difference in my children's health. One of which is powdered probiotics. There are several brands, and different strengths/doses for children and adults. I just put 1/4 tsp. of the powder into my son's milk every morning and he hasn't had a significant cough or cold in at least two years! It is always wise to get advice from health professionals when introducing something new into your diet or your children's diets, but I HIGHLY recommend probiotics to keep everyone healthy. (this is the one I use)
3. Establish a "per-meal price" when meal-planning.
As you get a grasp on feeding your family, regardless of the number of mouths, it helps to set a cap on what you can or want to spend per meal. As I plan our family's meals and make my grocery list, I try to make sure the average price of each dinner is at $5. Doesn't sound like much, I know. But a little creativity and humility can make all the difference in the bottom line of the grocery money. A few nights a week, we will eat for SUPER cheap: rice and beans, spaghetti, pancakes and eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. Those meals for my family of four (actually three, since Graham doesn't eat) cost us $2 or $3. Then, I can choose a couple of meals that are the highlights: steak and baked potatoes with a yummy salad, or fish and fancy veggies, etc. You will have to adjust the per-meal amount for your own family, but I think it is a great way to get a handle on what you spend and the meals you plan.
4. Set achievable goals and offer rewards.
You can do this for your children and even for yourself and your spouse. Have specific things laid out to accomplish - whether it be daily responsibilities or specific projects - and designate an appropriate reward when that task has been completed. Both of my children, ages 6 and 3, respond extremely well to "putting stickers on their charts" when they have done what I asked them to do. Once they fill up a certain amount, they get the carrot I have been dangling in front of them as motivation. My daughter has a couple of expensive toys on her most-wanted list, so when she reaches 100 stickers for doing homework with a good attitude, I will probably be taking her to the American Girl Store... If you need motivation to get something done, set a time limit and decide what you will give yourself as a reward - it could be anything! A Dr. Pepper, extra time to yourself, a new pair of earrings, a nap. (A nap is GOLD in my book!) Rewards are the spoonfuls of sugar that help the medicine go down!
5. Pray first.
This is my trump card. Before you pick up the phone to call your mom, your best friend or your husband to tell them what just happened, pray. As you are trying to figure out how to get your baby to stop crying and go back to sleep, pray. When you have taken a serious emotional hit, pray. When you need to make a decision, pray. When you want to buy something, pray. When you are overjoyed, pray. When you have won, pray. When you have lost, pray. You see, prayer is not some religious ritual that must be checked off your list. Prayer is your lifeline to God. It is conversing with Him, connecting with Him and hearing Him. His voice is the most important one to speak into your life. His thoughts about you are the thoughts that matter most. He has all the answers and He loves you so much more than you can even imagine. He is just waiting for you to pick up the other end of the line. This is the most practical thing I could ever pass on to anyone.
And there it is, folks. The Fab Five. Take 'em or leave 'em, but I pray you are blessed going in and blessed going out...and that everything you set your hands to will prosper!