Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 8: Home Manual- Weekly Plan

As a stay-at-home mom, if I don't have a plan for my days, they tend to have a plan for ME! I learned fairly early in the motherhood experience that I needed to write down things that I needed to accomplish during the day, because if I didn't, then at the end of the day I would scratch my head and think, "Now WHAT did I do today?"
To help my 'Mommy Brain' stay on track, I have created a Weekly Plan worksheet with a place to write what I plan to do each day of the week, as well as note any important 'to do's, appointments, phone calls, and e-mails that must be sent. You can download it for free at GoogleDocs by clicking below:

Since I didn't get to post yesterday, today you get double posts! I'll be back this afternoon for another 30 Days post...stay tuned! :o)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Super Sandwiches

Lunch at home, particularly sandwiches, can get pretty boring. So, here are some ideas to make your sandwich lunch visually appealing for your 'lunch crew'. 

  1. Give your kids an assortment of small food items (M&Ms, carrot sticks, olives, chocolate chips, cucumber slices, etc.) and let them make a face on their sandwich bread. Then, they get to eat it off! Slightly gross in concept (LOL), but it gets them to try foods they might not, ordinarily.
  2. Use cookie cutters to cut sandwich bread into shapes and then add fillings. This works well with fillings and/or cheese...ham and turkey, not so much. 
  3. If you usually serve fresh bread for sandwiches, try grilling or toasting. Just a subtle change can make a difference in the flavor of the sandwich.
  4. Try some new flavor combinations or new fillings. Pimiento cheese, chicken salad, tuna salad, rye bread, pumpernickel, even pita pockets...these are all out there waiting for your child to try! 
  5. If all else fails, slice the sandwich differently. I like to cut my sandwiches into fourths on the diagonal when we are serving soup. I place the soupbowl in the middle of the plate and the sandwich fourths around the edges. If you are not planning on serving soup, you can also try what we did for lunch yesterday. See below!
When we ate at McAlister's this past week, I noticed how their sandwiches are displayed on the plate. They cut the bread diagonally and then cut one of the halves in half. The large half stands up (sliced side down) in the middle of the plate, and the two smaller halves are placed at a perpendicular on the plate. One neat feature of this is that it divides your plate into fourths, so you can sneak carrot sticks, celery, chips, etc. onto the plate and it is neatly divided. NOTE: This works best with toasted or grilled sandwiches, as fresh bread won't stand up! (Yes, I learned this from experience.) :o) Enjoy! 

Day 7: Home Manual- Routines

routine \rü-ˈtēn\ : habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure

Routines. You either love them or you hate them. As a former hater-turned lover, let me tell you the arguments I personally have countered for both sides. Haters claim that, being free-spirited, routines cause them to feel hindered, cramped, and overly structured. Routines keep them from being spontaneous. Okay. Now, are you ready to hear the other side of the coin?

Routines create structure that ALLOWS for freedom and spontaneity. For example, when I have a phone call that friends are coming over, I don't panic. I know that my routines have set me up in such a way that I can have a 5 minute cleanup and we will be ready for company. Then, I can enjoy the visit, rather than wondering if my friend will accidentally open up the oven and find my dirty dishes. Whoops. :o)

I discovered the beauty of routines when I stumbled across the Flylady website many years ago. At the time, I was a new mom and even the smallest of tasks seemed insurmountable at a given moment. If you are unfamiliar with Flylady, take a hour or two (No kidding!) and visit her site HERE. It will completely change the way you look at keeping your home. I promise. 

Flylady essentially advocates that you begin establishing routines one babystep at a time. Now, being a Type-A perfectionist, I thought this was basically hogwash and tried to make a list of routines to begin all at once. As you can guess, this didn't end well. I threw in the towel after the second day, convinced that I would never 'fly'. A few months later, I came across the link again and re-read her instructions on 'babysteps'. I determined to begin one new habit: starting the dishwasher before I went to bed. 

It was amazing. Doing this one little thing (and emptying it when I got up in the morning) kept the dishes from piling up in the sink, which I kept shiny and clean. It was a miracle. I was hooked, and so the process of building my routines began. If you re-read the definition of 'routine', you see that it is habitual or mechanical, and that is what my routines have become. I basically dance through my day! Here is a rundown of where I am now, in the morning, afternoon, and evening. 

  • Get out of bed. (Yes, I actually have this written down!)
  • Get dressed, put on makeup, and do hair.
  • Make the bed.
  • Grab the dirty clothes and start a load of wash.
  • Empty the dishwasher.
  • Start breakfast and make coffee; Check Home Manual and calendar for day's chores & events.
  • Check the boys' rooms to make sure they have made their beds; gather laundry.
  • Check Libby's room to make her bed; gather laundry.
  • Eat breakfast and clean up dishes. 
  • Prep for the day's homeschool. 
  • If time, check my favorite websites. (I set a timer for this as I get sidetracked easily!)
  • Do homeschool with the family. 
  • Eat lunch and clean up dishes. 
  • Complete homeschool. 
  • Do afternoon chores and read with children. 
  • Put Libby down for a nap.
  • Fold the load of laundry from earlier and put clothes away.
  • Relax and get something to drink. 
  • Prep for supper. 
  • Put children to bed. 
  • Get dressed for bed- pajamas, clean face, brushed teeth.
  • Lay out clothes for tomorrow. 
  • Read my Bible, watch TV, and spend time with my husband. 
  • Start the dishwasher. 
  • Go to BED!
Now, does this sound like a lot? YES, it does! Did I wake up one morning and decide to do all of this? No, although I wish I could have. The fact is, it takes at least 21 days to make a habit; so this list has taken me over a year to assimilate and become habitual. Do I still 'mess up'? Well, I've discovered that there is no 'messing up'...I just jump back in where I am and do what I can. Eventually, if I'm diligent, I'll get to the point where I'm ready to start a new day and don't feel overwhelmed. 

Does this seem like too much to you? Try this: Pick a habit. One that will be a difference-maker for your home. And no, "Keep my house clean" is NOT a good choice. Try something smaller at first, like starting a load of laundry and finishing it each day, or starting the dishwasher before bed. Do it for 21 days. Then, add another new habit. No pressure. Just build your system and make it work for you. Everyone is different- you may try my list and it may work for you. Just will eventually become mechanical, and you will find yourself shifting into mental 'neutral' and still getting your work done. 

Below is a free printable for you to write your routines so that they will become a habit. Take a few minutes to jot down in pencil what you would like to do to get your day going on the right foot. You can even use some of mine to get your mind on track. Then, trace over the one you're going to start with in PEN. This is the only habit you need to try to complete for the first 21 days. Flylady recommends 'shining your sink' as your first habit, but the dishwasher worked for me. Find the key that works for YOU. Enjoy! 

Check my sidebar for more free printables to download! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 5: Home Manual

Our home is a busy one, and to keep it running efficiently, I use a tool called my Home Manual. I have seen this reincarnated in many ways on the Web as household binders, homekeeping notebooks, etc. Essentially, it is a command center to keep all of the things necessary for our home in one, easy-to-find place. To create this binder, I used:
  • a 3-ring binder (I prefer a 2" one with a clear plastic cover so I can change the look);
  • clear page protectors;
  • index dividers (or clear packing tape to create your own dividers);
  • and LOTS of printer paper. 
Don't get overwhelmed thinking about what will go inside! Just start with the basics- we'll take it step-by-step through the rest. If you would like to print a cover similar to mine, click on the Download button below to visit GoogleDocs

Tomorrow we'll look at creating routines that will have your home practically running itself! Enjoy! 

Two Pirates and a Princess

They came, they saw, they got candy. 

We had fun at a church festival last night where our children got to jump in a bounce house, see a puppet show, eat hot dogs, and go on a hayride. They all fell asleep within five minutes of hitting the pillow. :o)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 4: The Church Bag

After many, many Sundays of carrying my purse, church bulletins, children's crafts, choir music, returned casserole dishes, and more...I finally came up with a solution for holding it all! What you see above is our "church bag". When we have items that must be taken to church, they get put in the bag so they are ready to travel with us to the next service. This bag has been invaluable to our family, and, again, is one of those simple solutions that makes a big difference!
I knew I wanted a bag that would be easily identifiable as our family's (just in case it was accidentally left at church), so I searched on Ebay for personalized boat tote bags, and found the Embroidery and Gift Store. The bag you see above cost me $20 plus shipping, and I got to choose my font, design, and colors. Here is a link to the page for the bag itself and also a link to the page which shows additional lettering choices for the tote bags. I chose a two-tone selection in the 'Katy' font with black and red. You can see a close-up below:
We love our bag, and it has held up well in the wash. She offers many other bags in prints as well as basic black. This has been a wonderful solution to help us carry all of our 'extras' to and from church so that we have arms to carry our children too! :o)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 3: Homeschool File Boxes

Yesterday I showed you our work binders, but today I wanted to share how we organize class work for the week. Before school began for this year, I took a day and printed off lesson plans for the first 10 weeks (we use Veritas Press' scripted program of pre-written plans) and organized them into an accordion file. This has saved me countless hours of planning each week, and after Thanksgiving, I will do the same for our second 10 weeks. Each week, I pull that week's files and put them into a binder according to days- each day's worksheets are placed in a page protector labeled with that day of the week. Behind the page protector are the day's lesson plans. (You can view the front cover of Christopher's lesson plan binder through the file box at the top of this post.)

Within the filebox, I keep all of the teacher manuals and various supplies that will be needed for the week. For Christopher, this includes my Saxon Math 3 manual, our Shurley2 Grammar books, his Phonetic Zoo linguistics flashcards, the literature book he is currently reading, and our Latin books. In the rear of the box, I keep completed work, stapled together by week with that week's schedule attached to the front (along with the dates for the completed work). This work will soon be transferred to the accordion file as it is outgrowing the filebox...a good sign that we are completing our work in a timely fashion!

With our being in an apartment right now, there is not a lot of room for storage, so we have to make the most of what we have. This has also emphasized to us the importance of choosing activities and supplies wisely, so we don't have a lot of clutter in our workspace.

Next week, I will be moving on to a tour of our Home Manual, as well as placing printables online for free download; but for now, I think we'll just enjoy a relaxing weekend! See you on Monday! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011


A scary monster? Nope, just my middle child showing off his "Monster Mask" during our study of the letter Mm!