Ducks in a Row

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Hello, happy homemakers!  How’ve you been?

Me?  Like all of you, I’ve been busy.  And in order to accomplish everything on my ever growing list of things to do I had to give something up.  That something was this blog.  I had hoped that over the course of a few months I’d be able to pick it back up again, and maybe I can again soon.  But right now it’s just not feasible.

On average I was spending at least an hour a day here writing, editing or promoting… and instead of using that time here I’ve been doing things like reading more often to my kids.  I’ve volunteered.  I also joined a gym.  I’ve tried out new recipes.  I sit and snuggle on the couch with my babies and watch a Veggie Tales.  I’ve been preparing for the next school year (C will be in K4!).  I joined a local home school group.  We’ve had a Thanksgiving supper with friends in June.  I’ve started Christmas shopping.  I planned a Hello Kitty birthday party for my sweet four year old.  I’ve enjoyed time with my in laws.  We’ve taken a few day trips to visit new (to us) areas in our state.  I’d like to say I’ve been cleaning more as well but that hasn’t really happened much. ;)

The blog wasn’t the only thing I cut out.  I’ve also cut down on the amount I spend on the internet in general.  Facebook, emails, the whole she-bang.  I have 972 unread email messages right now and I don’t even care.  I read the important ones and get around to the rest (or delete them) when I have a chance.

Basically I’m trying to get my priorities in order.  Get all of my ducks in a row, if you will.

Do I miss blogging?  Yes!  I didn’t realize how much until I sat down to write this post.  But for right now, I need to concentrate on other things in my life.  I plan on posting occasionally, just not a few times a week like I had been doing.

So I hope you all have a great summer and I’ll see you when I see you!  Be blessed!

6 Easy Ways to Build a Morning Routine That Sticks

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This is the first post in a new “How To” series.  I plan to add more posts each month so stay tuned!
how to series

I began implementing a morning routine several years ago.  Largely pregnant with my first child, I realized that I needed to have a routine in place in order to get things done after baby arrived.   Aaaaand I think it lasted maybe one day after I got home from the hospital.

But I floundered along — sometimes getting things done and sometimes not.  Hey, it’s hard to stay on schedule when you have a newborn!  And I used that excuse until we moved and I got pregnant with my second child.

I was sick every day all day (who named it “morning sickness” anyway?) and had a two year old to look after all day as well.  Plus the laundry, cooking, cleaning… unfortunately all of that stuff has to get done no matter how bad mama feels.  We had this nice, new house and I enjoyed how it looked when it was clean.  I just didn’t know how to keep it that way.

And so in desperation (and with the help of Flylady) I built another morning routine.

But this time I did it differently.  I didn’t just make a huge list of things I wanted to get done each morning.  I didn’t overwhelm myself by scheduling a new task every five minutes.  I spent a few days to see what I normally did each morning and went from there.

So if you’re floundering, unhappy with your current “routine” — or maybe you don’t have a routine at all — here are six easy ways to help you build a morning routine that sticks:

  1. Give yourself time.  Don’t just go in half cocked trying to change your world.  Give it a little time to figure out what you want and need to get done in the mornings and build from there.  Also, give your new routine a few weeks before you give up and try something new.  Sometimes it takes a bit of time to get in the groove, so to speak.
  2. Keep it simple, sweetie!   If you have an hour to spend on your morning routine, you can’t try and squeeze three hours worth of work in there and expect to stick with it.  You’ll get frustrated and give up.  So save yourself the stress and guilt and:
  3. Start slowly.  Pick three to five things that you want to implement and do those for a few weeks.  When you feel like you have the hang of it, start adding a few tasks.
  4. Write it down.  Put it on sticky notes and hang them on your bathroom mirror.  Add a page to your homemaking binder.  Use index cards, a dry erase board or a plain old piece of paper.  It doesn’t matter what you write it on as long as you look at it.  You’ll find that as time goes on you’ll probably need to look at it less and less as your routine becomes a habit.
  5. Don’t compare.  Just because Suzy Homemaker mops all of her floors every morning doesn’t mean you have to as well.  Don’t try and be like someone else — YOU are the only person that has your life.  You need to do the things that are applicable to YOU, not someone else.  (I could write a whole other blog post on this subject, but for now I’m stepping down from my soapbox!)
  6. Revisions are okay too.  Life has a habit of changing on us — new jobs, additions to the family, added responsibility, etc. — and you can’t keep trying to use a routine that doesn’t work anymore.  It’s okay.  Routines are not set in stone.  If you find yourself in this situation, just start over with #1 on this list and make a new routine!

If there is one more thing I can add it is this:  don’t forget to give yourself grace as well.  There will be days that just don’t go according to plan.  You all know the kind of day that I’m talking about.  When the toilet backs up and floods the bathroom.  Or your baby is sick and you just need to give some extra cuddles.

Those things happen.  Regularly, it seems.  Do what you can and pick back up tomorrow.  It’ll still be there. :)

And while I firmly believe that each person should have their own routine, I know when I was first starting out I was looking for someone to give me a guideline — some sort of base to start from so I could see how “everyone else” was doing it.  You know, the “normal” people.  (As if there even is such a thing. :))

So here is my morning routine.  I have found that I do better if I do everything in threes.  It just works for me and I remember it easier.

1.  Wake up, make bed, get dressed.
2.  Drink water, read Bible, make coffee.
3.  Empty dishwasher, make breakfast, wake up kids (if they aren’t already awake).
4.  Eat breakfast, morning chores with C, my morning chores.
5.  Reading (or play) time, J nap, C homeschool time.

Your routine may look nothing like this.  That’s okay!  Do what works for you!

All I know is this:  my life runs so much smoother if I have routines in place.  I’m more productive, better organized, and happier.  I don’t run around in circles flitting from one job to the next — never accomplishing anything — and I don’t waste time wondering what I need to be doing.  It’s all written down in my homemaking binder waiting for me to check it off and go to the next thing!

You know what routines give me?  Peace and stability.  And I can always use some peace and stability.  :)

Weekly Menu ~ February 11 – 17

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menu planning

Since I don’t do my grocery shopping until Monday or Tuesday, my weekly menu plans start on Tuesday.  I usually have a general idea about what I want to cook for the week when I go to the store (see this post for details), but I want to be able to have some wiggle room if I find a good deal on something — especially in the meat department.  I always have an eye out for a bargain!

Tuesday, February 11
Breakfast:  Special K Protein cereal, grapes
Lunch:  alfredo whole wheat pasta, peas and carrots
Supper:  black bean tortilla bake, corn, salad

Wednesday, February 12
Breakfast: scrambled egg sandwich, cantaloupe
Lunch:  peanut butter sandwiches, banana
Supper:  out with family/friends

Thursday, February 13
Breakfast: fruit smoothie (banana, strawberry, blueberry)
Lunch:  turkey wienies, carrot sticks, pears
Supper:  pizza pasta, salad, garlic bread

Friday, February 14
Breakfast:  whole wheat oatmeal, blueberries
Lunch:  salad and homemade whole wheat pizza (turkey pepperoni, onion, bell pepper, black olives, tomatoes)
Supper:  steak, baked potato, salad, broccoli

Saturday, February 15
Breakfast: whole wheat waffles, banana
Lunch:  out with family
Supper:  southwest egg casserole, broccoli, butterhorns

Sunday, February 16
Breakfast: at my parent’s
Lunch: at my parent’s
Supper: leftovers or takeout

Monday, February 17
Breakfast:  parfait (yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, granola)
Lunch:  homemade chicken “nuggets”, carrot sticks
Supper:  turkey lasagna, salad, garlic bread

Goals for the Week: February 10 – 16

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Goals for the WeekHere were my goals for last week and how I did on them:

Daily Bible study/quiet time.
Done!
~ Continue reading (or finish) the books I’m reading (affiliate links)Not a FanOne Meal at a Time, Christianish, and Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.
I have been so busy this week that I haven’t picked up a book or even a magazine.  I hope the coming week will be a little less full.
~ Detailed cleaning in the spare suite.
Done!
~ Clean and organize my office desk.
It’s… cleaner and more organized.  I’m not sure it’ll ever stay clean for more than five minutes.
~ Find a few more educational games/activities for J.
I’m ashamed to say that I totally didn’t even think about this goal.  
~ Practice identifying/writing the letter “E” with C.
We took most of the week off from homeschooling due to several “technical difficulties” (i.e. plumbing problems, days away from home, etc.).  We’ll pick back up this week.
~ Finish fixing the plumbing issues.
Praise God, they’re fixed!!  My wonderful, helpful and very handy father came up and fixed the whole thing.  
~ Walk at least 15 miles (aerobic exercise).
Done!
~ Complete my freezer cooking session.
Yeah… this didn’t happen either.  
~ Eat at least five servings of “freggies” (fruits/veggies) each day.
I fixed a big salad most days.  Still find it harder to work in the recommended fruit intake each day, but I’m working on it.

And these are my goals for this week:

~ Daily Bible study/quiet time.
~ Continue reading (or finish) the books I’m reading (affiliate links)Not a FanOne Meal at a TimeChristianish, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode and Successful Losers.
~ Cook a nice Valentine’s Day meal for my hubby.
~ Completely clean out, vacuum and wash the van.
~ Find a few more educational games/activities for J.
~ Practice identifying/writing the letter “E” with C.
~ Try and get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
~ Walk at least 16 miles (aerobic exercise).
~ Complete my freezer cooking session.
~ Eat at least five servings of “freggies” (fruits/veggies) each day.

Have you written down your goals for the week?

12 Months to a Healthier You Challenge: Week 6 Update

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12-Months-to-a-Healthier-You-5-500x800Last month Crystal over at Money Saving Mom issued a challenge:  complete twelve healthy habits, spaced over the course of the year, which would help bring about a new, improved and healthier you.

And since I’m not doing my own habits this year I thought this would be an awesome challenge to take part of.  A few of my 2014 goals center around becoming more healthy.  Plus this challenge has built in accountability!  What’s not to love?

February’s Challenge:  eat more fresh fruits and vegetables 

My Goals for February:  

  • 1,750 (or more) fitness minutes (I’m keeping up with January’s challenge)
  • at least seven servings of fruit each week
  • eat a salad every day
  • try a new fruit or veggie (“freggie”) this month

This Week’s Progress:

So far during February I have exercised 380 fitness minutes.  Not bad, but I need to average more minutes per day if I want to hit my (quite lofty) goal of 1,750 fitness minutes this month.  (Why did I decide on such a high number during the shortest month of the year?  I guess I like to torture myself.  :))

Eating enough fruit has always been hard for me.  I enjoy eating veggies a lot more than I enjoy fruit.  (I know, I’m weird.)  I mean, I like fruit; I just prefer vegetables.  Plus if I want to eat fruit I have to do it while the kids are napping.  If I get out any type of fruit they stick to me like glue.  Maybe that’s why it’s hard for me to eat fruit…

But anyway, I did eat at least seven servings of fruit this week.  Woohoo!  I also ate at least one salad every day.  My favorite go to salad to eat (when I’m tired of lettuce) is a concoction my father in law came up with a few years ago.  You chop up some cucumber, red bell pepper, orange bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, red/purple onion, celery, carrots and radishes and stir in a bit of EVOO and cracked black pepper.  Yum, yum!!  I could eat it all the time.  It’s especially good with fresh, homegrown vegetables straight out of the garden.  (Come on, spring!!)  I also enjoy it mixed with some baby spinach or mixed lettuces.

And now that I’ve made myself hungry, I guess that concludes this week’s update.  :D

Weekly Menu ~ February 4 – 10

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menu planning

Since I don’t do my grocery shopping until Monday or Tuesday, my weekly menu plans start on Tuesday.  I usually have a general idea about what I want to cook for the week when I go to the store (see this post for details), but I want to be able to have some wiggle room if I find a good deal on something — especially in the meat department.  I always have an eye out for a bargain!

This week has been a little off.  I didn’t go shopping until today because I was working on fixing some plumbing issues most of the day yesterday.

Tuesday, February 4
Breakfast:  fruit smoothie (banana, strawberry, blueberry, milk)
Lunch:  went out with parents for salad and pizza
Supper:  broccoli and potato soup, fresh bread

Wednesday, February 5
Breakfast: Special K Protein cereal, pears
Lunch:  ham and cheese rollups, broccoli
Supper:  turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes/cauliflower, peas and carrots

Thursday, February 6
Breakfast: scrambled egg muffins, nectarine
Lunch:  turkey pepperoni and cheese quesadillas, refried beans, guacamole
Supper:  vegetable stir fry, basmati rice, naan

Friday, February 7
Breakfast:  homemade “hot pocket” (sausage, egg, cheese), grapes
Lunch:  salad and homemade whole wheat pizza (ham and pineapple)
Supper:  beef burgers, sweet potato fries

Saturday, February 8
Breakfast: bran flakes, oranges
Lunch:  grilled chicken breast, couscous, broccoli
Supper:  pasta salad

Sunday, February 9
Breakfast: at my parent’s
Lunch: at my parent’s
Supper: leftovers or takeout

Monday, February 10
Breakfast:  whole wheat oatmeal, strawberries
Lunch:  cabbage, ham, purple hull peas, cornbread
Supper:  beef and vegetable stew, fresh bread

Goals for 2014 ~ January Update

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yearly goals

My list of goals for 2014 and how I’m doing on them so far:

Personal Goals:
~ Read at least 50 books.
I’ve finished three so far.
~ Take part in at least four Bible studies.
I am currently on my first one of the year.
~ Complete a 5K.
No progress on this goal… yet.
~ Lose 25 pounds.
I’ve lost 3.4 pounds so far.
Homeschooling Goals:
~ Ensure C is able to recognize each letter of the alphabet (upper and lower case) and her numbers.
We have spent a week reviewing letters A-D so far. 
~ Begin teaching C some sight words.
I would like to finish reviewing letters before I start on this.
~ Read at least 100 books to C.
We have read six so far.
~ Read at least 50 books to J.
We have read three so far.
Financial Goals:
~ Save up and purchase new gutters.
We’re saving, but aren’t there yet.
~ Save up and purchase a fridge. ~~EDIT:  I am changing this to “Save up and purchase a fridge OR a dining room table and chairs.”
We’ll start on this one after we buy the gutters.
~ Save $1,000 cash for emergencies.
Almost there…
~ Save up one month of living expenses.
We’ll start on this after we complete the previous goal.
Homemaking Goals:
~ Declutter my home.
Of course this is a never ending goal, but I want to declutter the whole house at least once this year.  I’m making progress!
~ Declutter the garage.
The decluttering has begun!
~ Declutter the shop.
I haven’t started on this one yet.
~ Try 40 new recipes.
I’ve tried two so far.
Service/Fellowship Goals:
~ Invite friends over at least once a month.
Done for January!
~ Deliver homemade goodies to a neighbor or friend at least 10 times.
I’ll be honest:  I forgot about this goal.  I need to make it a priority in the next few weeks.
~ Deliver items to Salvation Army at least 10 times.
I have one box ready to go!
~ Find two other charities/ministries to volunteer with or help out.
Still researching ideas for this goal.
Blogging Goals:
~ Publish an average of two blog posts per week.
I averaged at least two a week in January.
~ Participate in the 31 days series challenge.
This won’t happen until October.  I do need to start thinking about my subject though…
~ Complete and blog about three crafts.
I’ve been completely un-crafty so far this year.
~ Learn more about Pinterest and use it more often.
I haven’t really done anything with this goal yet.

Overall I think I’m making good progress with my goals.  I’ve realized I do need to keep doing regular updates.  It helps keep my goals fresh in my mind and helps motivate me to complete them.

How are you doing with your goals for the year?  It’s not too late to set them if you haven’t already!

Goals for the Week: February 3 – 9

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Goals for the WeekHere were my goals for last week and how I did on them:

Daily Bible study/quiet time.
    I have done some sort of Bible study each day.  Yay!
~ Continue reading (or finish) the books I’m reading (affiliate links)Not a FanOne Meal at a Time, and ChristianishSay Goodbye to Survival Mode, and A Christmas Journey.
    I’m about halfway finished with Say Goodbye to Survival Mode and finished A Christmas Journey.
~ Detailed cleaning in the utility room.
    Done!
~ Clean and organize my office desk.
    Err… I made a dent in it.  But it’s not finished by a long shot.
~ Find a few educational games/activities for J.
    I found a few — he loves putting objects in jars, etc. — but I would like to find some more.  Maybe find and read a book about it as well.  
~ Practice identifying/writing the letter “C” with C.
    Probably her favorite letter since it starts her name.  :)
~ Find/design a practical storage solution for J’s room.
    Other issues — plumbing related — have put this project on hold.
~ Walk at least 18 miles (aerobic exercise).
    I think I hit about 14 miles this week.  I need to amp it up!!
~ Complete my freezer cooking session.
    Didn’t happen.  I didn’t even try.
~ Take a long, luxurious, uninterrupted bubble bath.  (We can dream, right?)
    Aaaand until we get those plumbing issues resolved there will be no bubble baths for me, uninterrupted or otherwise.

Basically it doesn’t look like I got a lot accomplished this week.  It even seems like a lot less when I’m sitting here typing it up! :)  The plumbing problems definitely put a kink in my plans.  A exterior water faucet froze and had to be capped off (which meant taking off the siding, cutting into the wood underneath, removing all of the wet insulation and realizing that we have no water shut off valve to this house).  And since we had a hole in the house we discovered that my nice big jacuzzi tub has a leak in the drain pipe which has been slowly leaking water under the tile in my bathroom and the hardwood floor in the bedroom and surrounding rooms every time I used it.  Fun times, right!!?!

Fingers crossed, it should all be fixed tomorrow.  I hope and pray.

Anyway, here are my goals for this week:

~ Daily Bible study/quiet time.
~ Continue reading (or finish) the books I’m reading (affiliate links)Not a FanOne Meal at a Time, Christianish, and Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.
~ Detailed cleaning in the spare suite.
~ Clean and organize my office desk.
~ Find a few more educational games/activities for J.
~ Practice identifying/writing the letter “E” with C.
~ Finish fixing the plumbing issues.
~ Walk at least 15 miles (aerobic exercise).
~ Complete my freezer cooking session.
~ Eat at least five servings of “freggies” (fruits/veggies) each day.

Have you written down your goals for the week?

Being Intentionally Focused: Part Two

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intentionally focused1

Last week ago I asked a question:

What would your life be like if you were intentionally focused?

Since then I have been trying to live intentionally focused.  And God has shown me areas in my life that I need to change in order to grow closer to Him.

So let me be completely honest.  We’re all friends here, right? :)

The biggest area of my life that needs to change is the amount of time I spend at Jesus’ feet.  In both prayer and Bible study.  Too often in the mornings I hit snooze and then I’m unable to start my day off with Bible study and prayer.  Because after the kids get up… well, you can just forget being able to have quiet time.  “Quiet” isn’t in a toddler’s vocabulary.

And if I don’t start off my day the right way it is too easy to make excuses that I don’t have time to do it later.  Not only that, but I always, always seem to have a better day when I start the day in prayer and meditation on His Word.

And coincidentally or otherwise (and I really don’t believe in coincidences), this was touched upon in the Bible study I am doing right now.

intentionally focused

Courtney from GMG had this to say:

“The Bible has been read out loud and recorded.  It takes a total of 70 hours and 40 minutes to listen to the entire Bible.  If you do the math and divide that number by 365 days you get 12 minutes a day.  12 minutes a day!  That’s it.  In just 12 minutes a day, we could read or listen to the entire Bible cover to cover -

every.
single.
year.

Doesn’t that seem doable?”

Yes.  Yes, it does.

And in that statement I felt totally convicted.  One of my goals last year was to read the Bible through.  And did I do it?  No.  Sure, there were a lot of days I got sidetracked researching a particular passage and didn’t finish my reading for the day.  But there were also many days that I skipped it all together because I was “too busy”.  Too busy to spend twelve minutes with my Lord and Savior.  Oh, how ashamed I am!

So what does this have to do with being intentionally focused?  If I am not intentionally focused on the one thing that truly matters in this life, how can I intentionally focus on anything else?

Living intentionally focused on studying God’s Word, drawing closer to Him, doing His will, praising His name, talking to Him… That is what should have my greatest focus.  Not the insignificant things this world throws at me.

And if I am intentionally focused on God I suspect I’ll in turn be a much better wife, mother, Sunday School teacher, blogger, friend, etc., etc.  Will it be easy?  No, of course not. Things worth doing are rarely easy.

But it will definitely be worth it.

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This post is linked up at:

womanhoodwithpurpose  Essential-Fridays4-700x700  hopeineveryseasonraising arrows

12 Months to a Healthier You Challenge: Week 5 Update

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12-Months-to-a-Healthier-You-5-500x800Earlier this month Crystal over at Money Saving Mom issued a challenge:  complete twelve healthy habits, spaced over the course of the year, which would help bring about a new, improved and healthier you.

And since I’m not doing my own habits this year I thought this would be an awesome challenge to take part of.  A few of my 2014 goals center around becoming more healthy.  Plus this challenge has built in accountability!  What’s not to love?

January’s Challenge:  developing the habit of exercising more

My Exercise Goals for January:  

  • 1,500 (or more) fitness minutes
  • at least 15 minutes exercise daily

This Week’s Progress:

I knew it would happen.  That point when you lose your momentum and can’t quite seem to get back into the grove?  Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks.

My husband has been working long, long hours this week.  My in laws are coming in a few weeks to stay with us (for two months).  My normally (relatively) well behaved children seem to have been replaced with non-napping, screaming, argumentative heathens.

And this mama lost it.

Oh, I didn’t take it out on the kids (yet).  But I’ve taken it out on me.  I stopped exercising enough.  I stopped trying to get enough sleep.  I stopped drinking enough water and replaced it with coffee.  I’ve worn myself out and really have nothing to show for it but a frazzled, tired woman in desperate need of a long bubble bath and a good night’s sleep.

So I wouldn’t say that I made much progress this week.

I did, however, reach my 1,500 fitness minutes goal.  For the week I did 214 fitness minutes which brings my total (as of yesterday) to 1,547 minutes.  I also still lost 1.2 pounds, which I’m quite pleased about.  I’m also pleased about a few small victories I had — like when I resisted the urge to buy my favorite ice cream when it went on sale this week.

Baby steps!