Routine Makes the Abnormal Tolerable

Our house is still screwed up.  Badly.  The insurance adjuster isn’t supposed to be out until tomorrow and then it’ll be even longer until the repair work is done.  Shane was saying it could take up to a month depending on the contractors, which kind of deflated what I thought was an overestimate of another week.  Just to give you an idea… our brand new carpeted house that looked awesome when we moved in, had a drainage pipe of some sort collapse.  It was underneath our laundry room and it was causing all of the water in the house to back up into the boy’s bathroom.  Here are some pictures of the current damage, just so you know your day went better today than mine has recently lol:

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About half of our carpet has gotten torn up due to water damage and even some of what is left is damaged.  As you can see, a third of the walls have been cut away for the same reason  The tile that was brand new when we moved in is utterly destroyed due to the repair work they had to do, jackhammering through the floor to get to the collapsed pipe.

So, that being said, you may be wondering, HOW am I getting on with life?  Well the simple answer is – routine.  I’m sticking to my routine, but I relocated it.  Shane moved our recliners upstairs to the dining room, which has become a makeshift den.  We moved the baby gate upstairs to Sierra’s room and let the children play in there (or destroy it, however you want to look at it… boys + confinement are NOT a good combination!).  I’ve been doing school as usual, meals as usual, and now that our water is working again, I did a double baking day Saturday.  Today I just went right ahead and clicked off the tasks for downstairs because the only rooms that can be cleaned right now are the master bedroom and bathroom.  Everything else has carpet torn up or a bunch of equipment in it to dry up the floors.  Plus, for example, in the mud room, the floor is super sticky where they pulled up the tile.  It’s challenging getting to the washing machine because my shoes stick so badly to the floor.  And I have to wear shoes everywhere or I’m pretty sure I’d go insane.

However upstairs, it looks great, except for what the kids have been breaking in Sierra’s room.  I swear one day I will solve the mystery of what kind of storage facility to have with kids.  I’m seriously thinking canvas.  It is cheaper but that’s not the reason… the kids have destroyed wooden furniture, metal furniture, and plastic furniture.  I’m running out of materials!  I’ll have to experiment with that and post my results here!  But back to my point – the upstairs looks good.  We’re keeping the kitchen tidy, I’m on the kids about cleaning up the landing (for some reason all of the mess from their rooms likes to escape onto my landing outside my kitchen and dining room – as though it had a life of its own!)

I’ve been doing school every morning with the kids and trying to keep things as fairly routine as possible.  We’ve had a few adjustments, such as not watching the TV, but I’ve let the kids time to time watch Netflix on my tablet instead.  Not often, though, which I like, but they hate!

Having the routine in place is one thing that is normal in our lives.  It’s the thing we do.  The chores, the schoolwork, the baking, the cooking.  It’s always the same and the sameness is comforting when my house is a disaster.  It helps a lot to prevent me from sinking into some pithole of depression.  I am grateful that God has gifted me with this ability to be comforted by routine.  I know some people are bored by a rut, but I find it familiar and soothing.  Change is scary!  Well maybe not scary but stressful for sure.

All I know for sure is that at the end of the day it is comforting to sit in my recliner and play computer games, knowing I’ve cleaned up what I can and that my children are happy, healthy, fed, and clothed, and life is good.  I can say that.  Despite the pictures you see above, life is good.  I guess this means I’ve learned patience because I know that this will pass and life will go on same as usual.  A minor speed bump in my road of life.

God is a Rock

Last weekend, our plumbing started acting up.  We have three bathrooms – the master bath, the girls bathroom which is upstairs, and the boys bathroom which is downstairs.  For about a week or more before last weekend whenever you would flush the boys toilet, water in the drain of the shower would gurgle and sometimes the toilet wouldn’t flush right.  We thought the boys had flushed something inappropriate like a toy or a humongous wad of toilet paper.  So I budgeted some money for a plumber to come out after pay day which was a little over a week away.  Then last Sunday, sewage started oozing up out of the shower.  Obviously freaked out, we called our home warranty people immediately.  They didn’t get back to us until Monday.  The plumber they contracted didn’t come out until Thursday.  By this point, there was standing dirty water in the entire bathroom and the carpet all in front of the bathroom, across the entire length of the den and into the boys bedroom was damp.

When the plumbers came, they walked around and decided there was nothing they could do unless we wanted to pay $2000 then they could use a camera to try and figure out what was wrong – notice that estimate didn’t include actually FIXING the problem.  To make matters worse we had not been able to use the upstairs bathtub or toilet, run the dishwasher, wash dishes in the sink, or wash clothes without more water coming up out of the shower and flooding the bathroom and further soaking our carpet.  We were at a loss as to what to do.  I called my dad and he agreed this was urgent and agreed to foot us the $2000 to cover the costs of the repair.  We called the plumbers the same day they came and told them this.  We were ignored for three days.

Finally Sunday came.  We’d gone an entire week without cooking dinner (eating sandwiches and chips which we had to go off-budget to buy because that was unexpected expense), without bathing, and without washing clothes.  It was pretty close to horrible.  The tears were imminent.  I could feel the panic rising in my chest every time I stood up and SAW the wet pathway on my carpet – because it was literally a pathway.  Dry spots on either side and wet spots (almost where pipe would be….. hmmm).  Finally Shane had had enough.  He called another, reputable plumber, and they came out within a couple of hours – we were contacted within the hour to say the plumber was on his way.  As soon as he got there and assessed the situation, he told us it looked like a main line had bust, or was somehow damaged.  He got another couple of guys there and some equipment and they got a makeshift solution – enough so that we could wash dishes and clothes last night while we waited for them to come today.  Then today, on emergency status, they came in, busted everything up and found out that the drainage pipes from the house were old and had just collapsed.  It wasn’t anything the boys had done just bad timing.  To fix everything has cost thus far about $2300.  We still don’t know what it will cost to get the home insurance to fix the carpets and walls that were soaked for a week due to incompetence and not giving a crap on the behalf of other people.

I feel blessed that I have a dad that is willing to help out with stuff like that (we will be adding that to our tab of what we owe him) but if we didn’t have him to help I don’t even know what would be done.  I would hope they would bill us because that’s crazy otherwise.  We’re just now getting back on our feet and then this happens.  Luckily we were able to cover the plumbing work from yesterday, and my dad will be billed for the stuff today which we will pay him back.

If it weren’t for God, and trusting that He was directing our paths, I think I would have a complete come-apart right now.  It often seems that when things get bad they get really bad.  But having God as my Rock – it gives me comfort.  I can rest comforted in the following facts – we were able, in just what He’s provided us, to get a temporary fix such that we could use 2 out of 3 bathrooms, the dishwasher, and the washing machine.  We have our health.  We are still able to afford groceries and even though it would have previously destroyed our budget, having to pay the plumber yesterday was a “mild inconvenience”.  Truth be told with tax refund we could have paid for the entire thing ourselves, but we haven’t filed yet because we’re waiting on Shane’s last W2 – next year at this time we’d already have our refund most likely.

I rest comforted in the fact that with all the stuff that has happened the past week or so, God has provided ways for us.  Our budget was minimally impacted.  I’m still able to buy Jordan a birthday present tomorrow.  I’m still going to be able to buy Valentine’s candy for the kids.  I was still able to buy dog treats for Bruce.  I had to adjust some of the medical bills I was paying back and reorganize those but the sheer fact that we were able to cover all this AND be able to pay the plumbers who did nothing – that is a tremendous comfort to me.  God has immensely blessed us.  This experience has lent credence to the saying that God won’t give you more than you can handle.  Back when we had less money, our tremendous emergencies were a lot smaller – they required some creative thinking, but they, too, were things we could handle.

Sometimes it feels like it’s too much.  Sometimes the kids are acting absolutely crazy or have broken yet another item in our house.  There’s always a stresser, always a frustration, especially in a crazy house like ours.  But with God’s grace, I can make it through.  He guides my decisions – sometimes in ways I don’t like but still it’s guidance.  I have to wonder if this debacle is for me to shift my focus to the repairs we needed in the bathroom and laundry room instead of the other areas I was looking.  Time will tell.

DESPITE everything that has happened this past week I have to say – God is good.  Life is good.  It feels absolutely crazy sometimes.  Sometimes I want to hide under the covers and cry.  Sometimes the stress makes me feel so tired I could sleep for 3 years.  But then with the morning, and an ok night’s sleep (hey I do have an under one-year old still lol!) there comes perspective.  Things don’t seem as hopeless today as they did two days ago.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is NOT God.  Because God walks with me, holding my hand as I go to that light.

10 Time Saving Tricks

There never seems to be enough time in the day.  Ever.  Especially when you’re the working mom of 7 kids and they all expect your time at any point in the day.  It’s a rather common occurrence for me to get mobbed seconds within walking in the door.  In fact as soon as one of them hears my voice, I hear a chorus of “MOMMY!!!” and then a bunch of little feet scampering over baby gates and up stairs to get to me.  Not that that’s a bad thing but it is a reality.

With such a busy schedule, and I’m sure other people have equally if differently busy schedules, one might wonder how to possibly fit everything into the finite amount of time that we’re given.  Here’s some tips that I use to accomplish everything on my to-do list on a regular basis.

1. First, HAVE a to-do list!

Nothing makes life easier than not having to remember what’s going on today.  For my memory-saving tool, I use Wunderlist.  I like Wunderlist because I can sync it across android and windows, plus I can share lists with the family.  So I set it up on all their devices and when their are tasks they need to do, I can just assign it to them.  THAT part doesn’t work as well as I’d like mostly because Lilly and I are the only ones who regularly check it but one can hope.

In Wunderlist, I have lists set up for all kinds of things.  I have daily, weekly, and monthly recurring lists for all the chores that need to be done.  For example, each day I have a recurring task to read my Bible, make my bed, and set my clothes out for the next day.  I also consider it a “daily” task to start a load of laundry, and to clean out my bathroom sink, but I don’t do these two tasks on Sundays.  I set up weekly lists for all of my weekly cleaning and it displays on Mondays – it gives me all week to get the chores done before they recur, and it gives me the added incentive of finishing ON Monday so my list is empty the rest of the week.  For weekly chores I have kind of general cleaning  tasks (like Clean Master Bathroom), but underneath those tasks are the specific items (windex mirror, clean counters, clean toilet, clean bathtub, change linens, etc).  I can check off the sublist items too so as they get done by me or others we can keep track of what’s been done so far.  Same goes for monthly tasks but this is more for things like washing the car, or re-organizing the clothes and school supplies.  Things that still need to get done just not that frequently (though more frequently than I’d like!!)

I also track my baking list, my shopping list, and my list of projects.  Believe it or not I’ve already started making Christmas presents for this year!  I assigned myself 1-2 a week but I’ve already finished 7 (1 a day since Monday!)  Some of them are just short little projects that don’t take long but I am working ahead in my free time.

I have Wunderlist set up so I just look at Today.  It shows all the things I need to do Today.  This is a wonderful motivator for getting things done.  And for those who might be thinking “Well I assigned my kids a job to clean their room but I know it won’t get done and then that’s something I’ll have to remember to check their lists for…” Not at all!  I have the same issue so I just added matching recurring tasks on my list, but instead of saying “Clean your room” with all of the subtasks listed, I made “Ensure Lilly’s room is clean” with all of the subtasks.  That way it’s at my fingertips and it gets done because since it’s on my list, it reminds me to go look and see if, in fact, they did their chores.

2. Along with that to-do list, utilize a calendar.

I use Jorte for my calendar on my android devices.  Really it’s using Gmail, and truly any kind of calendar will work – I just like things to be pretty!  I know I tend to use things more if they’re prettier.  If you’re that type of person, take an hour, two, or more when you start this system and make it pretty!  I gave every person in my family their own Gmail calendar, with their color (Lilly is pink, Sierra purple, Jordan blue, David yellow, Mark green, Luke orange, Matthew black, Shane red, and I am sometimes pink, sometimes purple, whatever looks good that isn’t someone else’s color lol).

I set up a Master Schedule calendar so I can keep track of whose day it is to do such and such a chore.  Right now it’s just tracking early morning kid duty on the weekends, but at one time it was tracking who makes tea that day, who cleans up the kitchen, whose bathroom duty day it is, etc.  As our household has evolved, so has what is needed to be tracked.  However the master schedule eliminates arguments and fighting because it’s there, plain as day, whoever it’s supposed to be.

I even do my menu planning on Gmail.  During the week (or at least on days I work) I plan breakfast, and I plan a dinner for every night.  I plan a week in advance so this helps me on baking day – I just put on my baking list whatever it is I’ll need to prepare for the week for breakfast (french toast, sausage biscuits, egg muffins, whatever it may be so that my kids have 5 hot breakfasts a week), plus three sweets, plus any supplies I need to restock on (like brown sugar, powdered sugar, and barbecue sauce).

Every time someone has an appointment, I mark it on my calendar, under their calendar.  This allows me to easily see if an appointment might conflict – and it also helps me to not forget appointments!  You could set them up with reminders, but I regularly check my calendar so generally I don’t need reminders.

I also have a calendar for finances with a listing of when my bills are due.  I have them setup to recur too – every 30 days, once a month, every first of the month – whatever that particular bill is.  This part took me a few months to figure out because I wasn’t 100% sure on all of them.  Now that they’re there, though, I can see when each bill is due which helps me when budgeting to know which pay period a bill needed to be in.

Finally I have a school calendar.  I use this one, along with my other calendars to plan out school days.  I automatically make all holidays and birthdays a school holiday, as well as any vacation days I have off work.  Then I fill in between that with the 180 days of my school year.  I do this a week at a time when I do lesson planning.  Then I know at a glance which day of the school year we’re on.

3. Make a baking and preparation day.

I cannot tell you how much time this saves me during the week.  When I was growing up, every morning for breakfast was cereal.  Which was ok because I liked cereal, but there’s something old-timey in my bones that makes me want my kids to have a hot breakfast every day.  And hot cereal every day just won’t cut it.  Besides there’s so many yummy hot breakfast foods and I just don’t have time to make them during the week, and I usually feel too lazy to on the weekend.  The solution?  Baking day!  I make french toast, pancakes, sausage biscuits, omelets, bacon egg muffins, sausage gravy, all kinds of things – and then freeze them.

When you buy frozen biscuits they’re not cooked – so I thought – why not make my own and freeze them?  So I usually do this once a week – biscuits are easy to make and hot and yummy in the morning.  Especially with sausage gravy, or sometimes sausage biscuits.  I’ve made breakfast burritos and frozen them.  I have made egg muffins and frozen them (uncooked) and then cooked them in the morning.  About the only mornings either I or Shane cook  breakfast is on oatmeal, grits, or toast day (cheese or cinnamon toast).  I usually do 3 days a week of pre-prepped breakfast food.  This morning, the kids had biscuits with jelly.

I also prepare my from-scratch items.  I make my own barbecue sauce, maple syrup, brown sugar, powdered sugar, and other things.  I’ve made my own coffee creamer before.  It just depends on what I need that week.  In the semi-near future I’ll probably keep ranch dressing made up – we can’t really have salad right now because we haven’t gotten Shane’s lower dentures yet so he has trouble with raw veggies so I haven’t really made much ranch lately.

Finally I prep my three sweets for the week.  One of these is always some kind of brownie or cookie product so I can have a snack in my lunch during the week.  I almost never buy cookies.  I will buy animal crackers, but that’s usually it.  I make the rest of the sweets for my kids.  Coffee cake, sweet tea and lemonade cake, brownies, pudding, fudge, muffins, cakes, pies – whatever is seasonally appropriate.  At Christmas I had fruitcake cookies, a gingerbread house, and gingerbread cookies on my list.  On birthdays I put a cake on the list.  At Thanksgiving, the three sweets were the Thanksgiving desserts.  On weeks where Shane lets me know in advance there’s a football game, I make snacks for his game (that last later than the game of course!)  But my rule of thumb is always 3 sweets a week.  For a smaller family that might be too much and for a bigger family that might not be enough.  But 3 a week usually lasts us through the week.  Not always but usually.

Another thing I do to save time during the week is pre-prep all of my lunch stuff *FOR THE PAY PERIOD*  I get paid less than once a week – it’s twice a month.  So I have to prep lunch foods for the 15 days between pay periods, but only week days.  Originally this just involved bagging cookies and brownies.  Then I evolved to cutting up pickles and bagging them too, as well as bagging up chips.  Now I have everything in assembly line form.  I made all my sandwiches, chips are bagged, pickles bagged, yogurt is in individual containers, fruit is ready to go, cookies are bagged.  It literally takes me 30 seconds to pack my lunch for the next day now.  The only down side to this method is that I don’t have leftovers ready to go for the next day’s lunch but on a particularly yummy leftover day I’ll ask Lilly and Matt to set me some aside in a smaller container when they clean up dinner that night, so it still works out.  Plus I have the added advantage of already having all of my lunches prepared so it’s not as big a deal if the kids eat all of the bread because we’ll have more groceries before I need it again.

4. Locate items in convenient and easy to access places.

This one might seem silly and well duh, but let me illustrate with some examples from my household.

We have three bathrooms, and five chemical storage areas (well ok, it’s just four right now but when the boys get older and stop getting into stuff in their bathroom it will be five).  Each bathroom, the kitchen, and the mud room has the same sets of chemicals: windex, paper towels, all purpose cleaner, mop detergent, toilet cleaner, etc as is appropriate for that room.  The upstairs bathroom uses the mop detergent from the kitchen, and the downstairs bathrooms use the mop detergent from the mud room.  Having the chemicals separated out like this saves a lot of time.  Yes it means I have about 6 bottles of windex in my house between storage areas and “stock”, but it makes things go smoother.  On Monday mornings when I get up – I go to the bathroom and get dressed and spend less than five minutes cleaning up the bathroom (leaving only the tub, and vacuuming and mopping the floor to do in the afternoon) because everything is right there.  I don’t have to go upstairs or into another room to get anything I need.  Similarly, I keep my spare bed linens downstairs in the mudroom so it’s super close when I exchange the sheets.  Makes things really easy.  Everyone also has their own hampers.  The girls have one in their bathroom, Matt has his in his room, and the boys have theirs in the mudroom only because they apparently can’t be trusted with ANYTHING in their room so we’ve banished everything from their room except their bed (that’s a whole other blog post there!)

Having multiple storage locations makes things super easy to access.  It’s an obvious concept too – think about the kitchen.  That little bucket of utensils beside the stove – it’s usually filled with the most commonly used utensils.  For me that would be whisks, wooden spoons, and rubber spatulas, along with a few other things.  I also keep salt, pepper, and my spray bottle of oil handy for easy accessibility.  I still have a long road ahead of me on kitchen organization, but some of it is there as far as ease of accessibility.

5. Multitasking

I’ve posted about the wonders of multitasking before but really it is a tremendous time saver.  As usual, some examples.

I’m sure there are some people out there who are awed by the wonders of their baby as they nurse them.  I am not one of those people.  I’m more of a “ok, he’s nursing… and his eyes are closed… now what?” type of person.  So it was obvious to me that nursing children was the perfect time for catching up on email, facebook, even the occasional blog post.  I also will take that time to research recipes that I need soon, perhaps an idea I had about how to improve some aspect of my life, and much more rarely I will watch Netflix.

When I’m playing World of Warcraft with the family, it’s not non-stop action.  Frequently there are breaks.  Someone has to go to the bathroom, Shane gets us coffee, kids need to be corralled, Shane takes a smoke break – any number of reasons for a break.  During these breaks, I multitask while gaming – and work on crafts.  So I can spend time playing games and working on the crafts I need to be doing.  This is another reason I like getting all my chores done on Monday – it means I don’t have to multitask by cleaning then!

People make fun of me for multitasking.  I often have ten tabs open in my browser, using all of them for different mini things I’m working on at the moment, and knowing exactly what is on each of the tabs.  The way I’m able to do this as effectively as I can, though, is I mentally plan and prep.  When I’m laying down at night, after prayers, I lay out my day in my mind.  I check my calendar and to-do list, and I imagine how my day and week will go.  In this way I know – oh I don’t have a project tomorrow, maybe I can work ahead.  Or, oh it’s going to be sausage red beans and rice tomorrow for dinner, I need to soak the red beans in the morning and have kids pull out the sausage to defrost.  Little mental notes.  This isn’t the BEST method because sometimes I forget those but it does give me a general idea of how my day will go.

I save time during the work day by working while I eat lunch – I know that option isn’t available to everyone but if it is by all means take it!  For me anyways, I’d rather be at home with my family for that extra hour, than at work.  Plus having an earlier start to my evening (4 instead of 5 or later due to traffic) makes life easier.

I even multitask when I homeschool.  While one child is doing a lesson, I set the other children up with lessons, and then check what’s next on my list.  In this way my 45 minutes to an hour in the mornings is maximized with the kids and I’m usually able to finish all three of the boys’ preschool lessons and about half of Sierra’s first grade lessons.  Plus now I’m trying to encourage Lilly’s grooming into good habits by brushing her hair and putting it up in pig tails every day – she’s yet to reach the age where she actually cares about her appearance yet, even if I do care!  So that’s our compromise.  It takes five minutes of my time but then I don’t have to see her with a giant rat’s nest in her hair.

6. Utilize every moment of available time with something productive.

This one might seem like a well-duh one as well, but here’s some things you might not have thought of.

In the office environment, at least, it seems like a good bit of time is “wasted”.  Now I don’t mean to say that work doesn’t get done because that’s not the case at all.  Work gets done but in between work getting done sometimes there’s downtime.  This might manifest as smoke breaks for some people, or chatting at the coffee pot, or an extended lunch break, or anything like that.  I would say instead of engaging in those activities, find productive things to do during that time.  For me this is checking up on my family – seeing if they need anything from me for homeschool, adding to my blog, working on school lesson planning, etc.  I’ll admit sometimes I feel like this is a gray area, particularly as a Christian.  But then – there’s only so much work you CAN do.  Because after that there is no work available.  It’s a little talked about thing but you can actually work yourself out of work.  And I’d rather have a little bit of work here and there than a long period of no work.  So during slow times I balance.  During busy times I usually get so lost in work I forget to notice it’s time to leave and I end up working later than I intend, but eh lol.

I would imagine that in every job there are down times.  And while every job might not allow you to have, say your cell phone with you (mine does, but Shane’s didn’t even though he would do it anyways), you could still perhaps have paper and a pencil and do a menu plan while you’re waiting for more work, or jot down some ideas for school plans, or whatever the case may be.  A spare five minutes here and there can make all the difference.

7. Take a day of rest.

Whoa wait, DON’T be productive?  WASTE time?  By utilizing the time you can find with productive things, it makes later times easier and more relaxing.  For me I work hard six days of the week so I can basically do nothing on Sunday.  Sometimes I work so hard there’s practically nothing to do on Saturday too!  Besides that, I think seasonally too.  By working hard now on my projects, it will make Christmas so much more relaxing.  This past year I finished up Christmas presents by December.  And it made a world of difference not stressing about whether I’d be done by Christmas or not.  For me that was a big thing.

The Bible says to take a day of rest and I think sometimes people think it’s like a punishment or something.  But really it’s a blessing.  It’s a day you’re given divine permission to NOT work lol.  Focus on God, relax, go to church, pray, read your Bible, and relax your mind and body.  By resting one day a week it gives you a two-fold benefit – you have something to look forward to each week which is encouraging (would you really feel like getting up every day if your first thought was ‘ug more work today’) and you start your next week refreshed.  I read a blog yesterday that talked about starting your week on Sunday instead of “being lazy”, but I wouldn’t do that.  It’s tempting to try and get started on your week early, but really, to what end?  What day of rest would you then be working towards if you work on your day of rest just to get to the next week?

8. Delegate and feel great!

At least that’s what someone told me once!  Whether you’re a working parent or not, sometimes you have to delegate.  And truth be told this is not a big ugly D word.  Kids need responsibility.  Kids need the opportunity to do work.  Idle hands and all that are a bad thing.  I can strongly attest to that as can my overly-destructive-because-they-get-bored-too-often children.  I think it’s healthy for kids to have regular chores (like cleaning their own rooms and bathrooms) but I also think it’s important for them to chip in on family chores regularly as well.  The older the child the more family responsibility they should have.  When I was growing up and both of my parents worked, my sister and I had to do all of the weekly cleaning.  Now I don’t shuck all of the cleaning on my kids but I will delegate.  For example, if I’m in the kitchen cleaning counters, appliances, and cabinets, then I’ll ask Lilly to sweep the porches and deck outside while Matthew and Shane (not a kid I know but still he asked me to delegate to him!) work on getting the downstairs windexed and vacuumed.  If we all work together we can get all of the weekly chores done in less than an hour.  Which means by 5 I’m sitting down waiting on dinner to cook, instead of still cleaning at 7 and dinner’s not done.  Makes life go a lot smoother, especially when you consider I still have to finish Sierra’s homeschool when I get home from work.

9. Sometimes you have to eliminate obligations.

I think six days is plenty to get all of your work done.  If it really isn’t and you’ve done everything you can do and delegated what you could and you STILL don’t have enough time, it might be time to cut out some tasks.  I had to do that.  I had signed up to work on a volunteer Bible project when I was unemployed and we weren’t sure what the plan was.  I didn’t hear anything back from them.  Then we decided I needed to work so I started looking for a job.  I hadn’t found anything but I heard back from the Bible app people so I started working with them.  It was a volunteer position so I still had to find a job.  I did finally find one but then I had the problem of too much to do and not enough time.  At the time I was working, trying to do that Bible app, working on my own personal programming project, doing crafts, homeschooling 7 kids, plus cooking from scratch and the regular cleaning.  It was too much.  I couldn’t do it all and some of that stuff I just couldn’t delegate.  Some of it I wasn’t willing to stop doing either.  I was committed to homeschooling, keeping my house clean, doing my crafts, and cooking from scratch.  I had to work.  So that meant the volunteer programming project had to go.  By bowing out of that, it freed my mind of so much worry.  I actually felt guilty for  not being able to put in time to a volunteer project because I was too busy.  At some point in my future life might be quieter and I might have time then.  But in this season of my life I am too busy with other responsibilities that I think are more important for my family right now.

Sometimes you just have to eliminate to save time.

10. Find your most productive time of day and run with it.

When I was a stay at home mom my most productive time of day was nap time.  I could get through all the homeschooling that was left then, and get chores done while kids were sleeping, with enough time to catch a quick nap myself.  Now that I’m working the mornings are the most productive time of day for me.  I can get a good amount of chores done, get most of my homeschooling responsibilities done, and finish the day’s work at work in the morning.  Which is a good thing because I start feeling braindead around 1-2 in the afternoon (aka siesta time!)  But since I work I can’t nap so I have to muscle through it.  Knowing when I’m most productive, and knowing the rhythm of my day, helps me to plan out when and how to do the chores that I have to do.

In practice what this looks like is this – I do my usually weekly chores in the morning on Monday before work.  If it’s the first of the month, I wait until the next day a lot of times and do them all in the morning too.  This isn’t a hard and fast rule but I usually try and get everything I can get done in the morning hours and then during my less productive afternoon hours I try to work through what I can, even though it’s harder to focus due to sleep deprivation issues associated with being the mother of a baby lol.

Since the morning is the most productive time for me this is when I get homeschool done.  I do my best to finish school with the boys every day before work.  In order to do this, I get to work about fifteen minutes later than I would like to but those fifteen minutes in the morning would be like an hour in the afternoon trying to get the boys to focus at that time.  Just wouldn’t be as time effective.  It’s kind of like when you buy something and overall it’s cheaper than another item, but per unit it’s three times as much.  I go with the cheaper-per-unit item.  Same with my time.  Go in a little late to work, leave a little later, but get a lot more time in my day.

So there you go.  Ten ways I use to save time during the week.  I hope some of these are useful to you.  There are probably other things I use as well, but these seemed like the big ones I use regularly!


Different Chapters of Life

Some people might read some of my posts and think to themselves, “There is no way I could ever do that!”  Why do I suppose this?  Because I’ve read other people’s blogs and thought the same thing.  I’ve found myself thinking “Man this is a great idea, but I just don’t see it happening right now.”  But that’s ok.  Things happen in different chapters of our lives.

Take yesterday for example.  Yesterday was Monday.  It was cleaning day.  I went home, went upstairs, made my lunch for tomorrow (along with enough lunches for the rest of the pay period to save me some time over the next week and a half of work), then I did my weekly cleaning upstairs – windexing all the appliances and counters, cleaning the coffee pot, wiping down the trash can lid, organizing the school shelves, etc.  I started dinner (chicken pot pie), and I mopped the kitchen floor.  THEN… around 5, 5:30, I went downstairs, changed clothes, and nursed Luke.  Now… he is almost ten months old.  Even THREE months ago I would NOT have been able to do this.  Even such a short time ago, I had to come home, MAYBE I could make my lunch for tomorrow, but then I had to scurry downstairs, change quickly, and nurse him because he needed me and he needed me NOW.

But now I’m in another chapter.  I’m in the chapter where all my children are toddlers or above.  The chapter where while he still nurses, even for nourishment, I’m not his SOLE source of nourishment.  I’m not his sole source of comfort either.  So I have a bit more time to get things done without having to rush to his attention.

When Lilly was a baby, and just before she was born, I was in a chapter in my life where I could keep things immaculate and they’d stay that way.  Now I’m in a chapter in my life where I can’t keep anything clean for ten minutes lol.  But that’s ok… eventually my kids will grow up.  This phase of life is short.

When Sierra and Jordan were little, I was in a phase of life where I really couldn’t have much time to my own… those two left to their own devices for even a short while… well that’s how I ended up with a gigantic ketchup stain on my carpet… RIGHT BEHIND ME….

I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years.  I’ve learned a lot about how to handle various situations.  It is true that different children are different in reaction and demeanor, but still life ends up looking similar because of how that phase limits you.  There have been chapters in my life where I’ve done a little cleaning every day because five minutes was about all I could spare.  There were chapters where I wasn’t so frugal and there were those where I spent a lot of money in the process of LEARNING frugality.

Everything I’ve done – every life experience I’ve gone through – it’s all been in a chapter of my life.  So just because you read something in someone’s blog and think you can never do that, think instead that maybe you can one day, when your life has reached a calmer chapter.  And who knows, maybe there are some ways you can take ideas and make them your own in your chapter of life.  I’ve done that with homeschooling – taken ideas from various sources and made it work for us.  I’ll post some details on that after it’s been going a few weeks.

Enjoy the current chapter of your life!

The Value of Stocking Up

If you’ve never been poor, then maybe this won’t make much sense.  I have been poor a good portion of my marriage.  Not for any reason other than Shane was a welder and I was staying at home with the kids and welders just don’t make that much money unless they travel.  And he didn’t want to travel and constantly be away from me and the kids.  So we made do with what we had.  Unfortunately making do with what we had meant constantly being out of stuff.  It was a life of “Oh darn it the light bulb went out… guess we’ll sit in the dark until payday”.  It was definitely a paycheck to paycheck experience.  It’s not fun. 

Granted it was a time where I learned a lot of frugal tricks – like making my own laundry soap.  I can make about a 4 month supply of laundry detergent (maybe more – and remember I do a load of laundry 6 days a week!) for about 2 bucks.  That’s a bar of Zote soap and a cup of Borax (the box of Borax is about $5 and lasts multiple loads of soap, and the Zote is $1).

I learned about wild yeast, because while I knew making my own baked goods seemed like a good way to stretch my dollar, it didn’t really feel like it when I had to pay a buck and a half for a tiny packet of yeast.  So I learned to cultivate my own yeast, starting from a small jar of raisins.  Yeasty has been alive and well for about 3-4 years and has survived 3 moves.

I’ve learned about buying per pound and that while some meats SEEM like a good deal because overall they’re cheaper, per unit they’re a LOT more expensive and thus don’t last as long.

Now, however, life has changed.  I’m working, and as a programmer, I make a very good living.  We are able to comfortably support our children, but since we have so many, we’re still not “rich”.  However we have the tools to keep our expenses lower than our income finally, which is awesome and is allowing us to start paying off our debts.

More importantly though, it lets me stock up.  I don’t just mean always having what we need.  I mean having EXCESS of what we need.  Storing up for a rainy day, so to speak.  Allow me to illustrate.

We bought a deep freezer several years ago and for so long it has really just acted as a second freezer and pretty much stayed empty month to month.  Now, however, I’ve been buying meats when they’re cheap and storing them in the deep freeze, even though I have no immediate use for them.  Chicken breasts at $1.99 a pound, a pound of sausage for $1.50, turkeys when they were .69 cents a pound, ham when they were less than $2 a pound, 10 pound bags of chicken leg quarters for less than $7.  Now my deep freeze is not huge, but it’s stocked to the brim with food I don’t even need this pay period.  THAT is a good feeling when you’ve gone to bed hungry, or had to listen to a child cry because they were still hungry after dinner’s meager offerings.

Or consider this – the simple case of toilet paper, or paper towels.  Things people take for granted.  We used to have so many instances where I just had to not clean because there were no clean cloths and we were out of paper towels.  And we’ve had to use baby wipes instead of toilet paper time to time.  We’ve had to use rags instead of baby wipes for the babies.  But now…. the kitchen has 4 rolls of paper towels, my bathroom has like 7 rolls, the mud room has about 5 rolls, and the girls bathroom has at least 6.  We are not running out any time soon.  We are “running low” on toilet paper I feel because we only have 12 rolls in stock.  Seems crazy doesn’t it?  But consider where we came from – when it was a super luxury.

We used to run out of basic supplies like flour, or baking supplies like chocolate chips.  Fruit was a rare commodity.  We often ran out of spices and had to do without.  Now I have a backup of almost every spice I use, including spices I very very rarely use like bay leaves.  I have large bottles of honey and olive oil with backup stock.  That way when I use up a container, there’s still more and I can put the new backup on the shopping list with enough supply to last until the next supply of groceries comes in.  I have extra cleaning supplies, and we even are able to have hand soap for every sink. 

This did not happen in one check.  In fact this has taken half a year to reach this level of stock, though I am still not done.  I started with food, buying a little extra here and there as I could afford it.  I made certain to have a budget and stay in budget.  Sometimes that did mean going without certain things.  Or going with less.  But that was a choice I made.  Some pay periods I chose more veggie based meals, and I stuck with my formula of very little meat in the meals (I usually use about 1 1/4 pounds of hamburger in spaghetti for example, to feed 9 people).  Little by little it’s added up.  I would make chicken dishes like chicken pot pie, chicken and dumplings, and chicken noodle soup by boiling 3 or 4 of the chicken leg quarters out of the ten pound bag.  This still left at least half a bag and I usually ended up making 3 or 4 chicken meals out of ONE ten pound back of leg quarters, making the meat of each meal less than $2.

I started by building up my very very basic stock.  I made sure I had a surplus always of my baking supplies.  I always bought enough eggs, butter, flour, cheese, and milk as I needed to do my baking.  I started buying chocolate chips as I could, starting with what I usually tried to buy every month and trying to build up stock.  At first I used my stock down to almost gone every time.  But little by little a product would reach the limit of what I used and the extra would be stock.  Like this past grocery day.. I bought 2 bags of chocolate chips, but I already had several in the pantry.  So I’m good there.  I actually had to buy LESS than the normal amount of flour I buy over Christmas because I had TOO MUCH in stock.  Now THAT was a good feeling.  The hilarious thing about that is I do extra baking at Christmas, so that should illustrate how awesome having a stock is.

I think the most important thing to remember is that this is not an instantaneous change.  For me I focused on the end goal – a goal I still haven’t quite reached.  I have hit some milestones, with which I’m extremely happy, but I haven’t quite arrived at where I want to be.  I have a few more grocery and cleaning/personal toiletry type items to finish stocking up on and then I’m going to tackle medicine.  We’ve never really had a full medicine cabinet and so when a child was sick, we’d have to pull money out of a budget bucket to buy medicine.  My plan is to stock up on basics – throat spray, fever reducers, pain relief, teething gels, cough syrups, etc.  That way when they’re sick, it’s right there.  Instant relief. 

I anticipate that it will probably take me at least another half a year to get to where I want to be with my stock, even longer if you count the “money stock” (aka savings) I have planned in my budget.  It’s taking a while because I don’t allow myself to cheat.  I stay to my budget.  It’s not easy.  Right now there are several items I want to get off my shopping list, but I resist because it would put me over budget by even just a few dollars.  But by not cheating, it makes the acquisition of the items I planned for that much more satisfying.  Best of all, should something catastrophic happen – I get laid off, get sick, somehow am without income for a while – we will still have supplies for a while.  And that is a good feeling, knowing God has blessed us to build up this supply.

The Analytical Mind of a Child

The majority of the holidays are gone and past.  New Year’s is soon to come but for the next few days anyways all is calm and quiet.  I’m off from work for the week so we all got the weekly chores done early today.  It’s kind of funny how you can see who REALLY slacks on their chores when you’re their to do the cleaning yourself.

Anyways this past weekend I was giving Luke a bath.  He got a new boat/stacking bowls bath toy and he was having fun chewing on the plastic fish that came with it.  He was just splashing around in the bath when he noticed the faucet.  It’s an annoyance we’ve been meaning to fix and just haven’t had the finances to do so yet, but our bathtub faucet drips. 

Luke saw this dripping and I swear I could see the scientific process at work.  First he watched the dripping for a few minutes.  The look on his face was saying, “What is that?  Why’s it doing that?”

Then he reached his hand out.  He put his finger on their to try and plug the dripping.  Of course every time he moved his finger it started dripping again, but being a baby, he didn’t know that.  He just kept experimenting, and then was surprised when it started up again.  It was a simple gesture but I could just SEE the analytical processes working.

Things that we find annoying or petty… They were an opportunity for scientific discovery for Luke the 9-month old.  Sometimes the little “annoying” things little ones do aren’t intended to be annoying.  They are opportunities for learning.  Proof positive that children are always learning.  Even if it doesn’t seem like they’re learning.

Early Christmas presents aren’t bad

I’ve heard some people are very anti opening any gifts early. I’d never really given it much thought until I heard my supervisor talking about the subject. Apparently her mom thought she was a bad mom because already gave her kids their Christmas gifts and so there were no presents under the tree. Now I’m a traditionalist and I will always have SOMETHING under the tree for my family to unwrap Christmas eve but even still we’ve already opened some of ours. However it was from necessity.

We planned to go to church this past week but the kids needed shoes. We thought my mom might have gotten them shoes but it turned out to be sheets. They desperately needed those for beds though so it was good. To date they’d been sleeping directly on the mattresses because of all the things we had to buy, sheets just weren’t that high of a priority.

Then Shane thought my mom might have gotten US sheets so we opened our present. It was some specialty cornmeal that’s they only sell where my mom lives and that I love. It’s stone ground cornmeal that makes awesome fried cornbread.

Then Lilly got gifts from her biological dad. I knew it was shoes, socks, and clothes so we let her open them so she’d have things for church. Then Shane gave me one of my gifts which was clothes. So I gave him one of his gifts which was a cologne he really likes.

Even still there are a lot of gifts to go around. So I think it’s ok sometimes to open gifts early. When I was growing up we’d visit each grandparent. One would be early and the other at Christmas itself. So I guess we’ve always owned presents early.  And consider… The twelve days of Christmas was a present every day! 

All in all Christmas is about love. It’s about Jesus. Not presents. It’s important to remember that in the flurry of the season. I’ve been making it a point that when I get my kids excited because “Christmas is almost here!” that I ask them why do we celebrate Christmas. Sierra’s old enough she understands. The boys still guess then agree wholeheartedly with Sierra when she tells them the answer lol.

In the next few days, I’ll be remembering the baby who grew to be a man and died on the cross for me.