Help me with my blog!

While I love writing and eagerly anticipate all the ways this blog may help me grow as a wife, mother, and all-around decent person, I don’t want to waste your time or mine on irrelevant topics. I want to fill your newsfeed and email box with things that are important to you!

To that end, I’ve created this poll to get your feedback on what sorts of things you would be most interested in reading and implementing in your own homemaking journey. Would you be so kind as to pick your top 3 interests as listed below. And if you think of something that isn’t included in the list, feel free to suggest that as well.

Thanks so much!

Blessings,

signature

HOW TO MAKE A fLeXiBle HOMESCHOOL SCHEDULE IN 4 SIMPLE STEPS

One thing you’ll learn about this blog is that it’s a pretty transparent window into what’s going on in my world. I know this may be a weird time of year for discussing homeschool schedules, but I am really struggling through my homeschool days right now, and I needed to revisit some of my previously-tread paths and find a bit order.

So, this means I have another free printable for you today, even though it’s not Friday. I was making one for myself, so I figured I would share it with you! Scroll to the bottom of this post to access it, or continue reading to find out how I use this in our homeschool.

daily_homeschool_chunking_schedule

Some of my readers are likely much better than I am at making and maintaining a schedule for their homes and homeschools. Honestly, scheduling has always been a real struggle for me. I tend to think of time more as a CONCEPT than as an actual commodity of which I only have a small supply. So I tend to swing on the pendulum that takes me from one extreme of thinking that I have time for everything all the time to the other extreme of wanting to just quit because I can’t find time for ANY of it.

For me, the key to my survival came in the form of LOOPING! If you struggle like I do, and you have not heard about looping, get ready for a breath of fresh air! I learned about looping from Sarah Mackenzie at Read Aloud Revival, and it has given me so much freedom in my teaching as well as other areas of my life. I thought I would discuss some of the ways I have adapted it for my family, and some of the strategies that I used to implement it.

Begin where you are in the homeschool year, with the curriculum you currently have. We’re not reinventing this year’s wheel. But if you’re an overachiever on the ball for next year and already formulating curriculum ideas, have fun with this and see if looping might work for next year as well.

1. Chunk your time.

The more activities that you can combine to create a cohesive chunk of time, the more flexibility you can accommodate in your day. It helps to think in terms of RHYTHM rather than perfectly scheduled time slots. It also helps not to work against the grain of your family’s natural rhythm. Look at the shape of a normal day, and plot your chunks out from there. For example, most people have some sort of morning routine. It might be improved upon with some intentional planning, but you probably already have a set of activities that could be labeled “Morning Routine”.

2. List activities for each chunk.

List out all the activities you would like to accomplish in the course of a week and assign them to a particular chunk of your day. You will not necessarily do everything each day, but you should know what part of the day every task belongs in. For someone as easily distracted as I am, this is CRUCIAL. My natural tendency is to see something that needs doing and deciding to it right then (like writing this blog post—ahem!) For an ENFP like me, whatever is right in front of me is always the most important thing. However, armed with a ‘CHUNK’ schedule, I have some built in discipline that increases my productivity tremendously. So I can look at my schedule and know that the CORRECT time for writing is in the afternoon when everyone is busy with independent school or NAPS! 🙂

3. Schedule the daily/regular tasks

Anything that you want to do daily or at a regular time each week, put these on your weekly schedule at their particular times. These are the building blocks around which the remainder of your activities will fit. Think of these as the “Big Stones”. In order to fit in all the things you want, you first need to put in all those things that are most important to you or most integral to your schedule. Your non-negotiables. You want your jar to look like the jar on the right.

stones-and-jar

Notice how the jar on the left is overflowing because of poor planning. By starting with the most important things, somehow all the other bits get all comfy-cozy right along side the larger prioritites. But if we start with the inconsequential details, they will crowd out the things we really value more. It’s our  over-arching values that give context to the details.

4. Looping.

Here is where the fun begins. From this point, you can put anything into your day that you want. The only 2 rules are:

  • Don’t get rid of your big stones;
  • Put things in the correct chunk of time.

Here’s how it works. First, write down everything that you would like to even consider doing with your time you have allotted for your various chunks: homeschool, your home, your family, and yourself. If you want to do that Egyptian mummy thing (who wouldn’t? ;-)) that you just don’t see how you are going to have time for, write it down. If you want a semi-regular art or music study in your homeschool, write it down. If you know that you need to do science or history twice a week, write it down. If you want a spa night once in a while after the kids go down, write it down. If you want to get that fridge scrubbed clean, inside and out, write it down. If you want to work in the garden, get outside for a walk with the kids or husband, take a day to go to museum, whatever—Write. It. Down.

I hope I’m communicating well here. If you don’t write it down it won’t get done. Plus, there’s the added benefit of freeing up space your brain is using to remember, “Oh, I should get to that someday.” Nope, that won’t work anymore! Write. It. Down.

Next, assign those things to the time of day that makes the most sense. Placing those school subjects during the scheduled “school” chunk generally makes the most sense. Unless your husband wants to teach science or art whenever he gets home from work. Do what makes the most sense for your family and your “chunks” of time.

The next step is to decide how much relative time you want to spend on each item. In the realm of school, let’s say you wanted to cover geography twice a week, but music theory only once. Maybe history is three times a week and creative writing is once. You will want to divide your chunks into segments of time in which you will plug in your planned subjects.  Your “looped” schedule might look something like this:

  • History
  • Science
  • Art
  • Geography
  • History
  • Music theory
  • Geography
  • History
  • Science
  • Creative writing

Notice that no particular time is assigned to any of these subjects. They simply repeat at regular intervals. You may INTEND to hit 2 of these subjects per day. But maybe you failed to notice that the history video you had planned was 1 1/2 hours and the kids wailed when you said you had to stop it. So science will have to wait until tomorrow. (This is just a theoretical example. I really had to rack my brain to come up with this.)

This sort of loosey-goosey planning may stress out some of you more structured teachers, but trust me. After using this plan for the better part of this year, I am happy to report that all the kinks tend to work themselves out.

This is lots of fun to do with other areas of your life as well. I like to keep lots of irons in the fire. For example, in my personal devotion time, I am currently using 2 or 3 different resources.Some days I devote more time for meditation than on others. But if I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, quiet meditation is not going to be a great way to use my morning time. A more active Bible study or journaling might be a better plan.

Another example. For our afternoons, my kids know that Wednesdays and Thursdays are Jiu-jitsu nights, so our afternoon activities are limited. But the other three days (depending on how diligent they are with their work time) we might go to the library, the park, or the museum. Or they might get an extra bit of electronics time. The flexibility is good for them, as long as it happens within the right section of the day. They know not to come asking me for electronics in the morning before school and chores are done. (That doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes try it.)

Evenings can work this way, too. Fridays are movie night, and Wednesday and Thursday are Jiu-jitsu nights. But other nights we might have a game night, story night, remote control car night, evening outings or just a relaxing time around the fire (this last one is NOT the norm in this boisterous household—please don’t imagine that we are a Norman Rockwell family).

I would love to hear how you schedule your day, and if you need any help with “looping”, I have created a chunked schedule that I use for our family. This is an excel document which means that you can edit it to suit your family’s needs. I have also included a poster form that you can use to help keep your kiddos on track for the day. There are examples of both of these for you to look at, as well.

daily_homeschool_chunking_schedule

To get your editable copy of the Daily Schedule and Poster, sign up with your email address below.

Please let me know if you find these helpful. I make a lot of printables to use around the home and I’m happy to share them with you!

Blessings,

signature

Blogger Babes are Sophisticated Bloggers Seeking Simple Solutions and Support

Freebie Friday!

Freezer Meal Planning Workbook

As I mentioned last week, I wanted] to offer you some help for getting your freezer stocked with ready-to-go meals to keep you out of the drive-thru. Let’s hear it for saving some dough. 😉

freezer_meal_planning_workbook

Freezer Meal Planning Workbook

Here’s how I use these forms. After selecting my 10 meals, I make a list of all the ingredients I will need to purchase on the grocery list form. I try to shop 1 or 2 days before assembling the freezer meals so that I don’t have to freeze the meat and the produce is nice and fresh. For the very simple meals that I use, the main part of most of my menus is proteins and veggies. There are occasionally jarred items such as artichoke hearts or sun-dried tomatoes. Or perhaps oats and eggs for meatloaf. Be sure to add these to the shopping list.

The next page is for the assembly day. The Freezer Meal Worksheet. Here I list all the meals, and label freezer bags with the corresponding number. Then I take a few minutes to read over all my recipes to find out what all chopping, slicing, and dicing I may need to do. So for example, let’s say 3 of my recipes need onions. But some should be in chunks to put on skewers for grilling, some should be finely diced for that meatloaf, and some are in slices for fajitas. I will mark it on the chart like this.

Veggies Preparation Amount Bag
Onions Sliced 1 medium 2
Diced ½ medium 5
Chunks 2 medium 8

I complete the chart with all my veggies and proteins. This makes assembling and clean up so much quicker since I handle all the onions at once (along with a few tissues to wipe away onion tears). Then I move on the next veggie, get it cut and sorted, and so on.

The last chart page is for you to keep in your planner or on your freezer to remind you of what you have in your freezer, as well as a checklist for things you might need to finish out your meals (like buns for sloppy joes or spaghetti for bolognese).

I sure hope you find this helpful. If so, please let me know in the comments below.

7 Habits of the Serious Perfectionist ~ Part 2

Wow! Last week’s article got long! Maybe I was getting a little perfectionistic with it. Spell check just told me ‘perfectionistic’ isn’t in the dictionary. Ya know what? I’m gonna let it slide. I think it will be good for me. 😉

Well, let’s finish up this list. As a recap, here are the four habits that I wrote about last week.

  1. Setting unrealistic standards
  2. Procrastination
  3. Self-criticism
  4. Self-defense mechanisms

So, for the next five…

5. Dissatisfaction

Nothing ever being good enough is a double-whammy because it seriously limits enjoyment. Honestly, everything I ever try to do is because I believe it will in some way be good for me or for those I love, and a big part of that is anticipating enjoyment. So, how many of you, like me, have planned an outing or a special dinner that you were sincerely looking forward to, only to spend the whole time thinking, “Oh, I should have done this differently,” or “I hope they don’t notice the plates don’t match”? So something that SHOULD be full of joy and refreshment has no value because of the one or two things that went wrong. Talk about exhausting.

6. Depression

Well, yeah. If nothing is ever good enough, if you can never be enough, and you really start to believe that, you’re going to be depressed. And what I figured out is that God didn’t mean for me to find my significance or worthiness in my own efforts. It just can’t be done. So perfectionism meant that instead of trusting in Christ’s perfection and understanding deeply HIS glories, I was holding up my scraps and expecting them to somehow be impressive. And what I really had to acknowledge (and STILL do battle against) is that I wanted people to worship ME! I wanted people to see a “good Christian” more than a FAITHFUL DISCIPLE. Do you understand the difference? I was leading instead of following. I was shining the light on myself, instead of letting Christ’s light shine through me. And when you see how truly dim a light that is, but you don’t know if you can stop, depression is the result. This is as good as it gets. Depressing.

7. Fear

The root cause of all of this is fear. We fear losing the tiniest measure of control because that could lead to failure. And we fear failure because that could lead to rejection. And the fear of rejection is really just the desire to be loved, but believing that you are not worthy of love. Why do we believe this? There can be so many reasons, and I am certainly not a licensed counselor, so I am just reflecting on my own path. Early experiences of rejection likely play a large part. Who can go through life without facing rejection of one sort or another? Blaming others accomplishes nothing, but neither does blaming oneself.

So what’s the answer?

A change in thinking. And reminding yourself of truths that aren’t always self-evident to your damaged heart. We’ll look at some of these ideas next week, along with a few tips that have worked for me. Some of the strategies are so liberating as I learned to turn some of these habits upside down to get free of them. Sort of like dislocating your shoulder to escape a straight jacket. Except less painful. Till next time.

Blessings,

signature

Meal Planning Mondays: How to save yourself from Mealtime Madness

I’ve had 8 children. That’s meant a lot of time being pregnant, and a lot of time recovering from childbirth. During these seasons, I learned the immense value of planning ahead (admittedly, not my strong suit). The BEST thing I ever did for myself during these times was putting meals in the freezer for those days when I was just too tired to get in the kitchen. When most of the work had already been done, spouse and/or children could even pitch in to help.

The main problem I had with the meals, however, is that they were often lackluster. Food that I cooked prior to freezing had the distinct flavor profile of leftovers. I don’t mind eating leftovers for lunch, or if I plan for them (I’m talkin’ ’bout you, holiday leftovers). But I wanted more from my freezer meals. They just didn’t excite me.

That’s when I discovered the beauty of UNCOOKED freezer meals ~ taking raw ingredients, slicing, dicing, and seasoning them up to your heart’s desire (or to the specifics of a recipe, to be on the safe side), plopping them into a labeled bag, and tossing them into the freezer. THESE meals taste great! They can be cooked in a variety of ways: oven, grill, stove-top, crockpot, and even instant pot.

I rarely cook a meal start to finish anymore. The time I save chopping, prepping, and cleaning up just ONCE for 10 meals instead of 10 different times for each meal means I have more time for other things (like writing this blog post). So, to introduce you to the joy of “fresh” freezer meals, I’ve documented my mini-session from this week.

Freezer Meal Mini-Session

I call this a mini-session, because a full session for me is 10 meals. Since we have pizza on Fridays, baked potatoes on Sundays after church, and a pot of beans usually once a week, a 10-meal plan lasts me just over 2 weeks. But the full session takes 2 hours, and I rarely am able to dedicate that much time for it during the school day. A mini-session is a cool 1 hour. I can do that.

So I start off by choosing my recipes based on what I have on hand and in the freezer (yeah, this was slightly unplanned ~ that’s how I roll). So, these are the meals I decided on.

The pictures are from the handy recipe cards that came with my original freezer meal workshop. More on that later.

First things first: setting up. I read over the recipes to see what all I needed. I gathered meat, veggies, utensils, measuring cups & spoons, mixing bowl, and scale. I don’t need a lot of space for this. I worked at the small L-shaped bar area in my kitchen so I could keep an eye on homeschool happenings.

Notice my sous-chef waiting for a taste of veggies! These are all the veggies for this session. When I do 10 meals, I will prep all the veggies first, using a chart to help me keep track of what veggies go in what recipe and how they need to be prepared. Since I was only doing 5 meals, and 2 of them didn’t even have veggies, it seemed easier to me to just do one meal at a time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The first meal I started on was Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables and Chicken. Since I’m feeding 10 people my bags are always VERY full, so I like to mix things in a bowl. This bowl proved to be too small. No worries. I have learned to be fLeXiBle. 🙂

All I had to do was put the veggies into the prepared bag, measure out the seasonings, and divide the seasonings equally between the bag of veggies and the chicken in the bowl. I mixed the veggies by “squishing” (technical jargon) the ZIPPED UP bag until all the veggies were fairly well coated with seasoning. I tossed the chicken by hand and then transfered it to the bag, and struggled a few minutes before getting it zipped up. That bag of food weighs roughly 6 pounds. Ten people eat a LOT!

I followed the same basic pattern for the remaining meals: mixing in a bowl with seasonings, and transferring to a gallon zipper bag.

And drum roll…

The finished product! That is one happy freezer, folks! It was down to 1 lonely, little meal! Next month, I plan to actually SHOP for food for my freezer meals. And probably do a full 10-meal session.

If you would like specific recipes for these meals, including the particular seasonings I used, or if you would like help in putting together your own freezer meal workshop, let me know in the comments below.

signature

P.S. Soon, I will have a download of the handy chart I use for keeping track of the ingredients for the freezer meals. Keep your eyes open!

7 Habits of the Serious Perfectionist

Those of you who saw my blog post on Facebook YESTERDAY, may notice that this title looks familiar. Halfway through writing yesterday’s post, I decided to split my post into 2 (maybe even 3), since I thought it might get a little long. What I forgot to do was change the title.

Oh, the irony!

You remember, my post on how I am overcoming perfectionist tendencies? Yeah! Well, I am happy to report that no meltdowns occurred. 🙂 I simply chuckled, shrugged, and changed the title, but too late for Facebook, apparently. Oh, well.

I DO have a post for you about some details I’ve worked through regarding perfectionism. Mostly, I’ve gleaned a lot of this from reading here and there and letting it marinate in my mind. I do not take credit for the ideas, because they are not new. But I will write about how the ideas affected me personally, and hopefully avoid blatant plagiarism.

Habits that I do battle with.

1. Setting Unrealistic Standards.

Pinterest. Real Simple magazine. YouTube make-up tutorials. Foolproof parenting methods. All these things have, at one time or another (or even now), created a dissatisfaction with my current life. I cannot tell you the number of times I would sit down to “enjoy” a magazine, only to be driven from my comfy but outdated chair with an extreme vendetta against every speck of dirt in my home. I’m sure we can all say the comforting truths: “These pictures are photo-shopped. No one my age can have that kind of complexion. Those homes haven’t had a child in them for a week while a group of stylists worked night and day to ready them for the photo-shoot.”

Well, while true, these statements are hardly comforting to the perfectionist. Because we what we BELIEVE deep down is different than the reality. “I SHOULD be able to make all the homemade cleaners, grow my own food, raise well-behaved children, etc. because, well, look at all the photographic evidence depicting the rest of the world doing the same thing.” We believe what we see. Even when REPEATEDLY our actual experience proves that we just can’t do it. We press on in vain.

The expectations are rigid and inflexible. And they just don’t jive with humanity. Circumstances change, people need room to grow and change. And relationships certainly don’t flourish under the harsh glare of impossible standards. See, my pursuit of this unattainable life creeps into the lives of those I love. I become frustrated when other people don’t work to help meet the unrealistic expectation I have set. This puts strain on my precious ones, and deprives our lives of joy and peace.

2. Procrastination.

I absolutely HATE setting appointments. Especially doctor’s appointments. This week I am supposed to be doing that very thing, and, well, I guess I’ve got to do it TODAY. Because procrastination.

What I’m good at? Planning. And planning. And planning. I have planned no less than 7 home remodels in my head. In my adult life, I’ve lived in 3 homes. And 2 of them were new. The only one ACTUALLY in need of remodeling is the one I currently live in. I am so thankful to be married to a man of action who is busily chipping away at my plans a bit each week. Because if it were up to me? I would probably just keep planning.

Why does procrastination plague the perfectionist? Because we don’t want to start something without the certainty that it will be perfect. And these things are just not under our control, so we hesitate, sometimes until it’s too late.

3. Self-criticism. 

Once a perfectionist does get around to doing a thing, the next task is to endlessly pick it apart, finding every single aspect that doesn’t measure up, and give herself a beating over it. This was not really one of the traits I had ever experienced until I had children. I could put my work out there and live with the results, whether it was a meal prepared for guests, a house that wasn’t QUITE perfect (only I would have known), a paper written for school, or anything really (except doctors’ appointments).

But when my children came along and could not be controlled by my most ardent efforts, I berated myself continually. Why could everyone else manage to have perfectly behaved children (at least in public), while my own children drew the irritated stares of everyone around them. Let me tell you, this did NOT bless my relationship with my children. It took me YEARS to understand that “train up your child in the way he should go” did not mean that I was given the means to CONTROL an autonomous human being. Yeah, still learning that one.

4. Self-defense mechanisms.

So, while a perfectionist is OVERLY critical of herself (and quite possibly others as well), what she can NOT handle is another person even offering constructive advice. She will get very defensive. Such interactions prove to the perfectionist that her greatest fears are true – she is unworthy of love and acceptance.

I’m an extrovert (barely, but still), so when I notice that I start isolating, I have to stop and ask myself why I am feeling judged. Most of the time, it’s in my own mind. Misinterpreting something a friend says, a sideways look from someone in the store, or even a phrase from a sermon can send me into days of overthinking and second-guessing their intentions. This, as you may guess, makes deep relationships difficult. Well, I’m still navigating this one, and it’s a bit bumpy for me at times.

To be continued…

 

I Love my Tagline!

Before I get too far with this blog, I feel like I should address my tagline.

Embrace the Best. Hack the Rest.

This has been a lesson learned by my utter and complete failure at perfectionism. I used to call myself a “defeated perfectionist”. And even as I claimed the title, the word I mourned the most was “defeated”. How I wished I could drop the word “defeated” and just be a full-blown, successful perfectionist. How much easier things would be if I could just figure out how to get everything under control!

At this point, I can’t say that I’m entirely comfortable with the word “defeated”. But I do rejoice at the fact that I now recoil from the word “perfectionist”. This doesn’t mean that I do not still at times struggle. But I have learned more how to direct my struggle against any false sense of control I am clinging to rather than my former struggle against the entire universe conspiring for my demise by those nasty breadcrumbs that get stuck in the cracks of the table leaves.

This blog is a path. A path that I have chosen in order to figure out the difference between excellence and perfection. To learn what things can be “hacked” through, and what is truly worth pursuing all out. Your definitions and mine will differ (though I am sure that we can all agree that nasty breadcrumbs are not to be tolerated). I welcome any and all input. Let’s sharpen one another, “as iron sharpens iron.”