"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." Ephesians 1:7-8

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tot School Tuesday

Here is what Aaron will be working on today. 
Matching worksheet with Mom.

Finishing the patterns

Alphabet puzzle

Putting Elephants in order 1-10 using a number line for a guide.

Guidecraft 3D feel and find

Lauri Number Pegs

Elephant Size Sort

Book on tape


Unifex cubes (make patterns, sort colors, build, etc.)

All the elephant activities are from Confessions of a Homeschooler Letter of the Week Curriculum. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Howdy Partner

Look who joined us for school today... Cowboy Ethan!


 I was born with red hair. When I was about 18 months old it 
began changing and eventually became brown. 

Darin was born with blond hair which darkened as he got older. 

Luke has light brown hair and Ethan's hair is a dark blonde. (lighter in the summer)

Aaron's hair is red. 
The most common question he gets from strangers, friends and family is, 
"Where did you get your red hair?" 
Everywhere we go people comment. He usually hides behind me. 
After all, what would you expect a 3 1/2 year old to say to that question? 
Until one day recently, when he answered quickly and boldly. 

                                               Man: "Aaron, where did you get your red hair?"
                                               Aaron: "GOD!"


Sunday, January 29, 2012


For those of you who read this post and commented or emailed... the winner of the giveaway of this book:

is.... drumroll please...

CINDY!!!! I'll get it to you sometime this week. :) 
Thanks to my trusty helper, Luke. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I've been absent from blog land this week and I miss it!! The big news (that I can now share publicly) is my mom and dad have sold their house in New Jersey and have put a contract on a house in Virginia about 23 minutes away from us. We're very excited and busily helping them prepare for their move. A very big deal for them after living in New Jersey for their entire lives! (More on the details of God's faithfulness to my parents as they found a new home here... coming soon.) They were here this week for the home inspection and brought a load of fragile boxes they don't want the movers to handle. In the meantime, we've kept up with school and every day life.  Phew!

Here are two pictures from our week until time permits more blogging. 

I put some pony beads and pipe cleaners in Aaron's workboxes this week. 
We talked about patterns, sorting, etc. He asked sweetly, "Mommy, why am I knitting?" 

Apparently, it's more fun to do your math work on TOP of your desk in summer jammies!
One more reason to love home schooling. :) 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I have to admit that I am a huge skeptic and often distrusting. If someone is trying to sell me something over the phone, I rarely believe them. What they are offering always seems too good to be true. The same goes with beggars on the street. Often I end up judging their plight and really wondering how much is real and how much is an act. It's awful of me... I know. Unfortunately, it's the truth. I have heard that there are homeless folks who "earn" $50,000 a year begging for money and for some reason that doesn't sit well with me. Why not just get a job? Anyway, I know that the Bible tells me I shouldn't judge others. It tells me that I should be generous and giving, but I'm not sure what the right answer is when it comes to people begging on the side of the road. What is the wise thing to do? Frankly, I haven't had to deal with it that often so I haven't put much thought to it.

Yesterday, I was out and about with the boys in the car waiting at a stop light. Sure enough, a girl and her dog stood right by the cars waiting with a sign asking for money. Something told me that I should give her money. Maybe the Holy Spirit?? The boys were very curious about her and her cute little dog. I knew I didn't have much time before the light changed and I didn't know what to do. I just couldn't ignore her. While I was praying, I looked around the car for a granola bar or crackers in packaging to offer her, and came up empty. So, I did something I never do. I reached in my wallet and gave her some money. I'm not sure it was the right thing to do, but I can't stop thinking about this girl. Only God knows what she used the money for. Hopefully something helpful.

The one thing I do know is that it opened lots of dialogue with the boys. They have asked about her a couple times today and we have prayed for her. Ethan suggested that we buy some small Bible's so that we could have them handy the next time we are near a beggar on the street. He said what she really needs is Jesus. Out of the mouth of babes.

Isn't that true about all of us? We need Jesus! Especially me, the skeptic! God can use the most interesting things to teach me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Window into the Heart

We've had three cold and rainy days and I've been faced with how hard it is to be a mom. I'm seeing their sin and my sin. They've been selfish, unkind, disrespectful and unloving towards each other. Are they mimicking my sin? The volume in the house is too loud. Their energy is about to combust. They have scratches on their cheeks from where they've pinched or scratched each other. Mealtimes have been a circus of silliness and bad manners. If their actions are a window into their hearts then we have a lot of heart surgery to do!!

I've had moments of feeling like I need to be fired from my job as mom, but I'm reminded and encouraged at this moment that somehow this is the job that God has called me to do. I'm so thankful I don't need to do it alone. Actually, it's impossible to do it in my own strength. God is with me and I NEED HIM!!! That much is abundantly clear.

It seems that cyclically I need to be reminded of the importance of my job as mom and the endurance that is required. If I get lazy and attempt to check out mentally, things go downhill fast! It was exactly 4 months ago that I wrote this post about training my children. It's time to remember the part about "training" my little apprentices and not just commenting on their inappropriate behavior. And NO MORE SCREECHING!!!! :)

So, Holy Spirit, I'm ready!! Teach me and lead me. I'm on my knees praying for guidance and wisdom. I've got three little boys that I want to grow up to be men of God who are following You and Your ways. I can't waste another moment.

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6

"...bring [your children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4

It's so tempting to focus on just wanting them to change their outward behavior, but my true desire is to figure out what their behavior is saying about their hearts. So, with that in mind I'm scouring scripture and re-reading the book, "Don't Make Me Count to Three! A Mom's Look at Heart-Oriented Discipline" by Ginger Plowman. This will be the third time I've read this book and I'm praying God will use it and the scriptures I read to guide and direct me. If you have a favorite parenting book that addresses the heart issues that tie into discipline, I'd love to hear about it.

Ohh.. and I'm praying for some sunshine tomorrow so these boys can get some exercise! :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lego Glut

I'm embarrassed to say that we have a Lego problem. I mean excess, overabundance, plethora... you get the idea. Ever since Luke turned 5 we have been lavished with gifts in the Lego genre and I'm very grateful. Every birthday and Christmas for the past 3 years he has received Lego sets from grandparents, aunts and uncles and some from us. Not to mention the 7 large sets that were Darin's as a boy that his dad saved very nicely for him. And now, Ethan has turned 5 and has entered the Lego realm! Oh my!

Now, don't get me wrong... I'm all about Legos. I think they stretch the brain, spatial awareness and creativity. It has built a lot of confidence in my shy, tentative firstborn. However, I'm starting to wonder if we have too much?? Is there such a thing? We have a room in our house that is designated the "Lego Room." (Something else for which to be very grateful.) Definitely something to ponder and be aware of because it can all definitely lead to greed and wanting more.

In the meantime, we had to come up with a plan to organize all these Legos and I love to organize! So here is what we've done. We have an old train table that we use to display all the sets that are put together and made a little town scene. (too embarrassed to show you just how many sets we have so I haven't taken a picture) Sometimes they get moved onto the floor to be played with more easily. Typically when a set is taken apart it is put into a ziplock bag and stored in the original box. However, we do have some random Legos not from sets and other pieces from sets that have gotten misplaced.

So, we have sorted all the Legos by color and size. 

I bought the bins one at a time from Michael's with my 40% off coupon. 
Then we had a sorting party. I did most of the sorting, but the boys helped. 

When something has been taken apart, it typically gets thrown in this blue bin until it gets resorted. I found that when we had all the legos mixed up together, they always DUMPED the whole bin out to find a piece and that was driving me crazy. The legos were getting scattered everywhere!! 
It takes some maintenance, but it is much more manageable now. 

Then I decided to buy a little file folder to store all the directions for the Lego sets. 
They were getting mistreated or misplaced and this system works much better. 

Hope this system will help someone else out there!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Abraham Lessons

We've been studying the life of Abraham in Community Bible Study this year. My 2nd grader is in a home school class while I attend the adult class. They have a spiral notebook similar to the adults where they complete their lessons and participate each week. We spent a lot of time this fall talking about how Abraham waited for 25 years to have his son Isaac. We talked about how God was at work in Abraham while He was waiting for the son God promised. So, with that filed in the back of Luke's mind, we had these conversations.

Luke: Do you think Grammy and Poppy will have to wait 25 years for God to answer their prayers? Will it be 25 years before they move to Virginia?

Luke: Grammy and Poppy are finally going to be closer.
Me: Yes
Luke: I bet while they were waiting, God was changing them.

I love to see the little wheels turning in his head applying what he is learning!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I am warning you now that this post is going to be very long and very disjointed. My head is swirling... let's see if you can make it to the end. :) I have no idea how to organize my thoughts.

* This weekend was truly tiring, but I'm still in awe of how God even cares about the less important details of our lives. So humbled by how he uses situations to draw His people to Him. So thankful that He shows His love for us.  "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" 1 John 3:1

And really, the weekend circumstances were all about trusting Him. Do I trust Him with everything? Do I trust Him to take care of my family and me? Do I trust Him only when things are good or do I also trust Him when things are hard? When I trust Him, then I will find strength.  "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust are your strength." Isaiah 30:15

* I recently read an interview with Ann Voskamp on the blog Preschooler's and Peace. It really got my brain thinking and pondering. The question was "How do you grasp the idea of living a 'spiritual life' as opposed to having a 'Bible Time' as part of school?" I loved her answer so I'm going to copy portions of it below. You can read more here.

~This, for me, is at the heart of what kind of life I am praying to live. I
don't want to box up God into a "quiet time," as if that is the only place I
can meet Him. I want Him to flood all of the messiness and craziness and
beauty of every moment of my day. I think everyone wants that. But what does
that look like? What does that really mean? 

To live a spiritually holistic life, one can't simply have "Bible time" and expect to nourish an intimate relationship with Jesus. It is about keeping company with Jesus for the other 23 hours of the day, speaking with Him, singing to Him, praying to Him, calling out to Him, resting in Him--living in Him. -Ann Voskamp

* School this week has been different, but good. I like routine and I know that the boys benefit from routine, but our routine this week has been off. 
     On Monday, we were all still recovering from our weekend and we didn't start school until 10:30am! (gasp!) This is very unlike normal and it was VERY hard to rein the boys back in after they had a couple hours to get involved in play. However, we did finally work on our lessons and after some coaxing were able to focus and finish up strong. None of us wanted to do school, but we did and I'm thankful for the freedom that home schooling allows. Especially the freedom to stay in jammies!!
     I was wiser on Tuesday, so we started on time. Somehow though it felt more relaxed. A lot of time was spent reading and cuddling and that made me thankful for home schooling again. Thankful for those moments with the boys. We did not go to art class mid-day on Tuesday due to some cold germs and that eliminated the rush out the door -- and allowed the boys to stay in jammies again
     Today, Ethan had a low fever so we stayed home from Community Bible Study... another break in our routine. I decided we would do things a little differently for school and it worked. I put Luke and Ethan's name into a box and had them draw out one name. Whatever name I pulled out was the boy I worked with independently while the others played cooperatively upstairs. Then we swapped.  And again...another day in jammies for the boys. Of course I don't like when they're not feeling 100%, but they sure are mellow. :)

* We're continuing to fill in our thankful journal at meal times, but not as often as I would like. 
     I am thankful for:
     203. Christian music! I love singing along to songs with good words.
     204. Little voices singing boldly along with the Christian music
     205. dinner in the crockpot
     206. warm days in January
     207. good books
     208. jammies

* This was a verse we memorized with Luke's curriculum and I love it. 
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

For those of you who made it to the end of this crazy post... ** SURPRISE** leave a comment here or send me an email (djlsmith@verizon.net) by January 27th and I'll put your name into a drawing for a free copy of "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. Make sure you include a way for me to contact you. :) I've always wanted to have a give away. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Building and building

If you have kids who like to build I HIGHLY recommend this toy. We received it as a gift last year for Christmas and it is definitely a favorite. We have the Kapla blocks, but I think there are other brands with the same idea. They are just uniform sized wooden planks but the possibilities are endless. I love to see their creativity.

Initially Luke just played with them, but now they all do. Check out some of their creations.

He says it is a church and the lego people are on the worship team.

A close up of the worship team with drums and singers.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sewing with love

If you've been reading this blog for a little while, you'll remember that I mentioned I was working on one special sewing project for a Christmas gift this year. Well, the recipient finally received it so I can share it with you!

After lots of thought, I decided in December the best gift to send my two nieces (4 years old and 5 months) for Christmas would be a homemade one. Much easier and lighter to mail something to western Canada made from fabric! I decided, somewhat impulsively, to make matching dresses for the girls. I love to sew, but I am definitely a beginner. I've never made any clothing before, unless you count the simple and cheesy skirt I made in high school home economics class. However, I was determined and had a wonderful time stretching my brain and my sewing skills. With lots of help from my sewing mentor, Carla, I learned how to read the pattern and  get started.

I really tried to pick a pink fabric, but I just couldn't do it. I am definitely a blue girl and having boys I've never had to get used to pink. I settled on a lovely aqua floral fabric.

So without further ado... here they are. These gifts were definitely made with much love for my precious nieces I don't get to see nearly enough.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


What a weekend! I'm exhausted, but exhilarated. I can't even publicly go into all the details of our weekend, but I have to shout from the top of my lungs PRAISE BE TO GOD! How great is our God!
I spent a lot of time this weekend talking to Him and praying and He made His presence known. He leads and guides his people. His fingerprints were on many details of our weekend.

In Community Bible Study this past week, we were studying Genesis 24 and the story of Abraham's servant who was entrusted with the responsibility of finding a wife for Abraham's son Isaac. This is an awesome chapter I highly recommend reading! It's the longest chapter in the book of Genesis, so I won't type it here. I was struck by the servants devotion, prayerful obedience, and the success of his mission.

The servant prayed for direction. (Genesis 24:12-14)

The servant acted. (Genesis 24:10-11, 15-17) With much wisdom, he set out on his journey to find a wife for Isaac. He brought ten camels and many gifts. He went to a place where he would be most likely to find women.

God answered. (Genesis 24:15-16, 18-21, 24-25) Rebekah arrived. She offered him water and water to his camels. (10 camels that can hold up to 25 gallons of water each! I'm really struck by Rebekah's servant heart.) She met all of the requirements that Abraham had specified and was a direct answer to the specific prayers of the servant.

He worshipped and praised God. (Genesis 24: 26-27, 52)

And because God is a gracious God, He enabled me to follow the servants example. I prayed. We acted. God answered and I praise Him!!!

**If you want to know more details about our weekend, feel free to email me. 
I'm just not sure who is reading. NO, we were not looking for wives for our boys this weekend! :) **

Thursday, January 12, 2012

It's the little things...

Years ago I found this little wooden heart. I'm fuzzy on the details, but shortly after Darin and I married we began exchanging this heart. I would hide it in his lunch bag and then a few days or weeks later, he would hide it for me to find at a time we weren't together. We've been hiding this heart for one another for 13 years and I love it! There have been times that the heart was hidden too well and then forgotten, but I'm thankful we've continued this activity over the years. I love putting on a sock to find a wooden heart inside with a sweet reminder.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Let's work together!

Since we are home schooling, we're together in the house A LOT and we make a HUGE mess. Remember my post here about our dirty toilet problem? :) Hiring a cleaning service is not in the budget, so we need a plan to keep things in check... at least somewhat! After much thought and prayer, here is what we've come up with for now. It's just a variation of what we've done this fall, but will be easier for me to manage and stick with. As well as accommodate some growing maturity and capability.

So here is the plan! 
I bought this pocket chart in the Target dollar bins in the summer of 2008. 
They seem to bring out the teacher stuff each fall... but this particular year they had really large charts.  I have hung it on the door to our garage with magnets. 
Here's a close up of the bottom of the chart. It is a list of our daily jobs beside each boys picture. Obviously, we don't need the images for each job because we have 2 readers now, but I think it makes it fun, and helps Aaron. I went room by room and took pictures and also grabbed some free clip art online. Then I printed the cards on card stock and laminated them. It's driving me crazy that one card is crooked in Aaron's row, but I'm too lazy to go take another picture. :)
The boys are responsible for doing the tasks in their row each day. As they complete a task, they flip it over and see the encouraging sticker. (Thanks Carla, for that idea!) That way they can also see the completion of their tasks. Each night before I go to bed, I simply flip the cards back over and switch things around as necessary. I swap who sets the table or cleans the floor after breakfast. Also, I trade back and forth who empties the dishes and who puts away the clean silverware. 

At the top of the chart is a list of all the jobs I'd like to have completed weekly. I have decided that during the winter months, it will work better to have a cleaning afternoon (based on weather or what else we have going on). Then the boys choose which jobs they'd like to do and get going.  For example, yesterday since it was raining we had cleaning time. I put on fun energetic cleaning music and we got busy. Since we were all working together, they were very eager. I felt a little bit like a ping pong as I jumped back and forth getting them set up and assisting, but we got a good bit done. After they completed a job, I came to inspect and determine if it was done well enough for their capabilities. 
If it was completed well, they move the card to their little envelope on the side. Now here is the exciting part for them... for each card in their envelope they receive some coins. (The older two are very motivated by money.) Once a week they get paid. A portion of their earnings goes to their tithing jar, money bank (for savings) and wallet (for spending). After they've been paid, the cards go back up into the row for the next week. I also made a few blank cards and laminated them so I can add extra jobs I may have forgotten. 

So that's our system for Family Service 2012. I'm hoping we can stick with it. There will definitely still need to be some deep cleaning and there are certainly other jobs that I'll need to take care of myself, but this puts a small dent in the list and hopefully teaches them a little too. If this system suits you, feel free to ask questions or I'll gladly send you the word document I made the cards in. 
Happy Cleaning!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kid Thanks

Here's a quick simple thank you note idea for kids...

The boys received lots of thoughtful gifts from family for Christmas and I think it's important to have them write notes of thanks. However, one per day is all we can manage on top of our school work. 
(So it's taking us a while to complete them.)

Using the boys fingerprints, I made these cards. Not fancy at all, but cute. (I just colored their fingers with washable marker and made the print. It easily washed off at bath time. I attached the white paper to a folded piece of cardstock, and put the thank you notes from the boys inside.)

Luke did the majority of the writing and Ethan added a word or two and his name. 
Aaron's contribution was just his fingerprint -- which was fine with me. 6 down, 2 to go! 

Monday, January 9, 2012


Okay... so I know it is now January but I have one more Christmas post to share with you!

My husband is nostalgic. He enjoys the feelings and memories that are associated with Christmas. He is certain to watch the classic Christmas specials (Charlie Brown, Grinch, etc.) and every Christmas, we watch Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase. Although he prefers to watch it with his brother-in-law, Michael, who shares a similar sense of humor and really laughs out loud. :) My husband starts playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving and enjoys looking at Christmas lights just as much or more then the kids. He is all about decorating and one year soon I'm going to have to give in and allow some more colored lights to grace our decorations.

As a kid, his parents had a table top ceramic tree that lit up. Last year, he decided we needed one and did some hunting. When he couldn't find one in stores or online, he asked if he could have his parents, but it was missing. So, I decided that this year it would be my mission to find one for him as a Christmas gift. I found one at Color Me Mine (a paint your own pottery store in the area). It turns out that his gift was a gift for me too. I arranged to go one evening after dinner and secretly work on my project. (I knew this would be too difficult of a task for the boys and it would drive me crazy trying to work on it with them!) A kind friend met me there while I painted, and she even helped me paint too. It was a delightful evening painting and chatting!

Here is the finished product and he loved it! 
Hard to tell from this photo, but I did 3 base coats of lighter green
and then added accents in a darker green in the shadows. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Trimming and Sawing

When you don't have a truck and you don't have a wooded back yard, you have to get creative in how to get rid of your Christmas tree. I had a great helper snipping and sawing off all the branches and gathering them into a bag. Then together we sawed up the trunk into pieces with a hand saw. What great weather for this activity with my special guy! It was 60 degrees. Christmas decoration removal complete. Hooray!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Needing TRUTH

This home schooling path is not an easy one for me. Frankly, motherhood is not easy for me. Some days I face it with determination and strength from the Lord. Other days, like today, I really struggle to believe the truth about myself and my children. Today, each poor choice that has been made by my children and by me screams, "You are a failure!" My emotions seem to get in the way of any rational thought and I find myself behaving like a toddler. Oh God, why did you make me so sensitive and over emotional!?!?! Why do I have to feel things so deeply? Or maybe it's just pre-menopausal hormones? yikes!

There have been lots of tears today and lots of crying out to God. Grieving another hard school day and wondering how to deal with some ugliness cropping up my in children's hearts. I don't have any answers concerning our future home schooling. I don't have any great parenting wisdom. The only thing I have is a God who loves me despite my sin and I'm needing to cling to that today... even though I'm tempted not to.

So, I share this all on here just in case there is someone else out there who can relate. To give a clearer picture of life over here and to be honest about life not being perfect. However, I'm not blind to the fact that there are others who face greater challenges and trials.  I just want to be sure that I don't fool you in to thinking I've got it all together, because I don't. I certainly don't snap photos of the undesirable moments unless I can make a joke about it later.

And really what I need is to preach the truth to myself:

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust in your strength." Isaiah 30:15

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31 

"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Phillipians 1:6

I am no longer a slave to my sin. He has set me free! He is renewing me and changing me as I repent for my sin. It is He who gives me strength. My identity is not in being a mother or teacher of my children. My identity is in Christ.  Amen!

** Oh and a last minute realization... my kids are sinners too. Why am I so surprised when they sin?
Lord, give me strength to love and offer forgiveness to the boys. Help me to train them and reach their hearts. Help me to teach them to follow Your ways. Help me to model humility, repentance and forgiveness. Thank you that they rest in your mighty hands! Thank you that You are always with us. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Family Service

We start them early around here doing chores. 
As soon as they can hold a broom they are expected to chip in with the housework!
I wonder who this little over achiever takes after? 
And no, I definitely do not miss our old kitchen floors that were once white but stained yellowish. 
Sometimes, they just walked around holding the broom looking cute and escaped their chores. 
It's all about the attitude. Cleaning is FUN!
It's a little tricky for Mom and Dad to use the shortened swiffer.
Lots of bending over required, but it's worth it if the kids do their part. 
And no clothing required! (JUST KIDDING!!!) :)

Hopefully you know I'm just kidding, but I do think there is great value in teaching the boys early to participate in keeping the house clean. I prefer to call it family service instead of chores. 
"Chores" just seems to have a negative connotation and I think it's great to teach them the value in serving their family.

So, here is where I need your help or prayers. It's a new year and we need a new family service system. We've tried many different methods, some of which have been very successful for a time and others that failed pretty quickly. 

Here are my thoughts and goals:
1) There are certain jobs around here that are expected of them just for being in our family. Most (NOT all) of the time they actually do a pretty good job of doing these jobs because it's become habitual.  (cleaning floor under the table after a meal, clearing their dishes, setting the table, emptying the dishes and silverware, putting away their laundry, etc.) Obviously Aaron (being 3) has less expected of him.  I need a system for assigning the boys their daily jobs. I've tried pocket wall charts and weekly schedules printed out and marked with stickers. Maybe I should revisit one of those? Any other ideas?

2) There are certain extra jobs that they should do when asked, but they are more above the daily stuff. I'm comfortable with rewarding them with a small allowance for completing these jobs (and have done so in the past). Jobs like: windexing windows, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning toilets, cleaning mirrors, cleaning stainless steel fridge, etc.  Trying to figure out if it's best to do it day by day or have a set cleaning day that we all work together. We've tried both. Any thoughts?

3) I want to set up a system that once set up is easy to manage and I'll be able to follow through with. 

4) I like the idea of cleaning being a team effort... especially since we're here all the time and put a lot of wear and tear on the house. I think we would all appreciate a cleaner living space. I want to teach them the value and discipline of keeping things clean and that takes effort! At times it feels so much easier if I do it myself, but I'm determined to patiently teach them what they are capable of learning. 

SO... do YOU have any methods you'd like to share? Any books or websites you can recommend? I'd love to hear what works for you.  I'll be sure to share what we decide to do. 

* Can you tell which boy is which in the photos above? :)