Stressed, Overwhelmed, & Anxious – But What Do We Do About It?

The other night I was contemplating the WHY behind so many people feeling anxious and overwhelmed when we’ve been doing the same things other people have been doing for hundreds of years.  In fact, we have more help than ever, and yet, we are more stressed out than ever.

This article seemed to offer the most reasonable explanations for WHY, but it didn’t offer any remedies.  For a moment, I wondered if there were any remedies, or are we Americans doomed to a life of worry?

I just can’t accept that.

Americans are some of the most stress, anxious and overwhelmed people on the planet.  Homemakers and homeschoolers are no exception.  But, what can we do about it?  | RaisingArrows.net

The article cited above gave 3 main reasons for anxiety and stress in America.

1.  Loss of a real life community.

2.  Information overload. (Remember, when I wrote about Homeschool Information Overload?)

3.  The inability to sit with our feelings without medicating them in some way.

I agree with these findings.

My happiest memories of my adulthood involve being a part of a church that was like family, having wonderful neighbors who spent time together, and having family nearby.

I also know I am bombarded by more information than I can possibly sift through every single day.  I’ve felt my anxiety level rise as I’ve lifted the lid on my laptop, knowing my inbox would be overflowing, my Facebook feed teeming, and voices from every direction sharing ideas, suggestions, and how-to’s that are guaranteed to make my life better.  Except they don’t.

I’m also familiar with the desire to run from my feelings…or eat them.  Food is my medication of choice.  The numbing effects of chocolate and sugar rescue me from feeling bad.  I’ve also used the computer or other media to drown out the sadness or fear or loneliness.  I don’t want to feel bad.  Who really does?

Can you relate? Are you affected by a lack of community? Do you feel like there is too much information bombarding you every day? Are you afraid of uncomfortable feelings and turn to “medication” to avoid feeling them?

But, let’s not stop there…

Like I said, I’m not willing to throw my hands up and say, “Oh well, I guess this is just the way it is.”  I KNOW a slower, simpler, less stressful life is possible.  And for those suffering from anxiety, adrenal fatigue, and any other condition exacerbated by stress, it is IMPERATIVE we learn how to fix this.

So, first issue –

What can we do to foster a REAL LIFE sense of community?

 

1.  Go to church.  Actually, don’t just go, BE A PART of things.  We may not always be able to be near family, but the Church offers that family atmosphere in a God-ordained community. I know personally how tough it is to keep going when you aren’t rooted in a church.

2.  Work on friendships.  Friendships are difficult for a mom of many who homeschools, but they are possible.  They often come from relationships built at church or homeschool groups.  You will also have to make an effort to build friendships.  But, you don’t have to make it hard on yourself.  Invite another family over.  Have a cup of tea together.  Loan a book.  Learn more about the people around you.  And PRAY for godly friendships!

3.  Go outside and be visible.  This might strange on the surface, but think about something for a moment…what happened to front porches?  Do you know very few homes we have lived in over the years have had front porches?  We currently live in a house that does, and we have met more people simply by sitting on the front porch!

Next issue –

How do we sift, filter, and slow information overload?

This one is tough for me.  I like information.  I like to dig for answers, try new things, make notes and bookmark tidbits.  But it is killing me.  I don’t manage it well because it truly is unmanageable.  We are living in the information age.  Information bombards us at the speed of a keystroke.  It’s in our inboxes, on our social media, it’s pinging our phones, and popping up in the corners of our lives every second of the day.  We are drowning in it.  And getting out from under it feels impossible because so much of our lives involve “devices.”

I’m not even going to pretend to know all the answers here, but I can tell you what I am doing to slow the flow of information.

1.  Spend less time on the computer.  The less time I am on a computer or phone or tablet, the better I feel.  The more I live life, the better I feel.  I may not be writing as much here on Raising Arrows, but rest assured, when I do write, it’s because I actually have something to say that has been sparked by my REAL life.

2.  Shut off the notifications.  Yes, I may miss something.  It won’t be the end of the world.  I don’t need all those emails, notifications, pings, and promises clogging up my real life.  If God wants me to see that information, He will put it in my path!

3.  Put the internet in its “box.”  My life is made up of boxes of time that act as boundaries and regulations.  The computer needs to be in its box.  It can’t be allowed to invade every other box of my life.  This means when I pull up information for a homeschool lesson, I either need to print it off or I need to make a concerted effort to avoid going down a bunny trail, checking my email, or jumping on social media for a second.  And when it is time to check email or social media, I do that, and then I’m done.  This may mean shutting off the computer, putting it in a room that isn’t easily accessible, or choosing not to have my phone near me at all times.  Yes, I do miss calls and texts and emails.  Even if no one else understands, I know that my life cannot revolve around a digital device.

And lastly –

How do we cope with feeling sad, angry, or lonely without simply putting a bandage over it and pretending it isn’t there?

There’s really only one answer to this…

Cry out to Jesus.

There is pain in this life.  Constantly running away and avoiding it makes us reliant on ourselves (or a magic pill – that doesn’t REALLY help).  We have to allow ourselves to feel.  We have to allow ourselves to just be.  We have to allow the Lord to work in our lives because we know fully well we can do nothing else.

Something that article, and any other from a secular source, will never tell you is that you NEED to be SAVED from all this worry, stress, and strife.  But, it isn’t a WHAT that is going to save you.  It’s WHO.

Faith is tough, folks.  It’s not the easy road. There are a lot of voices out there telling us we should think for ourselves, we should “get help”, we should do whatever it takes to get away, all the while avoiding the TRUTH.  The answer isn’t a better ME.  The answer is a perfect Savior who doesn’t need me to meet a certain standard, feel a certain way, or have the perfect plan.

Sometimes we try too hard.

 

 

This slow-down is an ongoing process.  It takes time to build, repair, and learn the art of abiding.  Thank you, Jesus, for saving me from myself!

Now, it’s your turn…

Are you struggling?  Have you had victories?  Share them here!  Raising Arrows isn’t a REAL LIFE community, but the readers here REALLY DO CARE!

Is Your Plate Too Full {or is it something else?}

There have been times in my life when everything feels chaotic and overwhelming, and the only answer I can think of is to run away.  (In the Fight or Flight Model, I’m a Flight – all the way.)  My sense of duty and propriety keep me from it, and I continue to muddle through, finding the other side of the mess eventually.

Because this has been “one of those years”, I’ve found myself often considering those feelings of being overwhelmed and mulling over how they came about.  One thing I have arrived upon is that you can’t always trust the thought that your plate is too full.

Is Your Plate Too Full? {or is it something else} | RaisingArrows.net

When things were at their worst earlier this year, I listed out everything I had to do (or felt I had to do).  The list wasn’t huge, and it certainly could fit into a 24 hour day.  Even with a new house and new baby, I knew what I was feeling could not possibly be due to what was on my plate.  Nothing that was on my plate was outside my domain.  Nothing that was on my plate was outside what the Lord had handed me.  I knew there was more to this, and I had to stop blaming the plate.

Do you feel like there is too much to do in a day, yet, you cannot figure out where to carve out any more time or how to get rid of any responsibilities?  Perhaps it isn't the stuff on the plate that is causing the problem... | RaisingArrows.net

Is it hormones?

I really hate it when people make excuses for what you are feeling with the word “hormones,” but I must admit, sometimes it truly IS hormones.  I don’t consider myself a hormonal person.  Most people describe me as even-keel.  However, I have noticed the times I feel the most overwhelmed are after having a baby and before my monthly cycle.  Hmmmm….

If the plate feels too full because of hormones, there are a couple of things you can do.

1.  Wait it out and take it easy while you do.  Sometimes all you need is a little time.  For instance, after having a baby, it is crazy to expect life to normalize the day you get home from the hospital.  What you should really do is bring your life down to the bare minimum, and give it time.  The key here is to be able to RECOGNIZE what is going on, and not freak out over what you are feeling.

2.  Fix what needs fixing.  If time is not fixing things, then you need to explore options.  I’m not going to tell you what you need to do, but I can tell you that you will know when you find the answer.  I do not believe God intends for us to do nothing if something hormonal can be helped.  He created us and expects us to care for His temple to the best of our ability.  You can read about what I did to help balance my hormones HERE.

Is it a lack of rest?

This is literal and figurative.  Literally speaking, we can become easily overwhelmed when we are not getting enough sleep at night or when we push too hard for too long.  You simply cannot handle all life throws at you when you are tired.  Get more sleep at night or take a nap if you can.  Force yourself to do this one thing, and you will find your outlook on life greatly improved.

And don’t forget to take a Sabbath rest.  Work hard, rest well.  God put this cycle in place for a reason.  Don’t ignore it.

Need help finding rest?  Read THIS POST.

Figuratively speaking, are you running through your day in a frenzy?  Are you breathing at all?  Do you spend most of the day in a frantic pace, afraid everything will fall apart if you stop moving?

“Be still and know that I am God…”
Psalm 46:10a

Psalm 46 closes with those words, but it opens with something even more telling…

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
Psalm 46:1-3

If you are overwhelmed by your day, remember on whose strength you must rely.  Slow you pace, so your can see Him work.  Things may feel overwhelming, but God is still Lord of all.

Is there something on the horizon?

Sometimes those overwhelmed and anxious feelings come from upcoming events that are in your subconscious, but haven’t managed to make their way to the surface as yet.  Perhaps you have a difficult family member coming for a visit, or a difficult holiday is coming up.  Maybe you are nervous about an upcoming event or afraid you won’t be prepared.  You may not consciously KNOW why you are feeling overwhelmed, but your mind is an amazing place, and often sends out distress signals long before you are fully aware of what is causing the distress.

I have learned to be in the habit of thinking through what I am feeling (especially if it is a sudden onslaught of emotions), and considering what might be on the horizon that is making me feel as if I have too much on my plate.  This is simply a matter of learning to be aware of how your emotions are linked to your circumstances.  Learning to deal with both your circumstances and your emotions are a whole different can of worms!

Is it expectations?

Often, this one is inextricably linked to the previous question.  Is there someone in your life who has placed certain expectations on you, and you are dreadfully afraid you won’t live up to them?  Are they coming for a visit or have you been spending too much time with them?

Or perhaps, YOU are the one who has placed unattainable expectations on yourself.  (Read my post on how unrealistic homeschool moms can be.)  I want so badly for my home to be perfectly decorated and cleaned and orderly at all times, but that is completely unrealistic.  I know my home can be company ready in 15 minutes (or so), but still, I have a standard that tends to stress me out.  And when I am stressed, I tend to be a rather UNfun mom.  As our friend Dan says,

“I was having a bad day…until I lowered my expectations.”

Is it sensory issues?

While a lot of factors go into sensory issues in moms (read more about that HERE), when it pertains to “too much on your plate,” it is usually noise that is the thing that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.  It’s the toddler screaming, the boys laughing as they run in the house, the 6 year old saying Mommy over and over and over.  Your plate may not actually be too full, it may just be too loud.  Before you throw the plate out the window, step outside (or wherever it isn’t as noisy), and take a breath.

Is it priorities and stewardship?

Here’s where I hit a nerve…mine to be exact.  Sadly, more often than not I feel overwhelmed because I have not been a good steward of the things on my plate.  I have chosen to give priority to the wrong things.  My blog cannot be my priority.  The internet cannot be my priority.  Projects and hobbies cannot be my priority.  They can be a PART of my life, but they cannot trump my main responsibilities.

If it is stewardship and prioritizing that is your issue, it might help to actually write out IN ORDER your priorities and post it in your kitchen, near your computer, or wherever you need a little reminder.  Put the stuff on your plate in the proper order, and you will be surprised how much you actually get done in a day!

Is your plate too full or is it something else? | RaisingArrows.net

What if your plate really is too full?

Truthfully, there are times when you have bitten off more than you can chew.  The too-full plate is real, and if this is you, then need to address the truth.

Can you let go of something?

If yes, then just do it!  A few years ago for me it was a mass email delete.  I was on information overload and had put upon myself a need to read every email that came to my inbox.  I could not do it.  I needed to start over…even if I missed something.  *gasp*

More recently, it was saying “no” to a very worthy project.  It was blog related and would have been a great fit for the Raising Arrows audience, but I was maxed out.  And when I’m maxed out, all of my readers can feel it.  It’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to you.  So, I said no.

What if you can’t let go of something?

Sometimes you just don’t have the option to let something go.  Either you need to fully complete a commitment or the massive amount of things you have on your plate are something you must deal with for a season.  For instance, you need to ramp up a home business while your husband goes back to college or you need to take in your sister’s children while she walks through a messy divorce.  When this is the case, the answer is to do things that help you handle the stuff on the plate with as much grace and joy as possible.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

1.  Pray your way through it – Let a prayer always be on your breath.  Put on the praise music.  Keep your Bible at the ready.  And cry out to the Lord!  And don’t forget to thank Him when He answers!  Be grateful for the trials, the tears, the big and small answers, the mercy, and the love beyond comprehension.

2.  Take short breaks – You may not be able to fit in a lengthy rest, but do what you can to catch short breaks here and there.  (Read my post on creating a place to relax.)

3.  Exercise – When you are in a flight or fight situation, your adrenaline kicks into high gear.  You NEED a release for that pent-up adrenaline or you WILL go into adrenal fatigue.  Exercising will help you avoid this.  And when I say exercising, I do not mean a 2 mile run or an hour on the elliptical.  I mean exerting more energy for a longer period of time than your normal every day activity.  It might be playing tag in the backyard with the kids or doing several sets of lunges in your living room.  Don’t get hung up on the word.  It’s not as bad as you think it is.

4.  Eat right – Yeah, I know – you are busy and food is about the last thing on your mind.  Well, I hate to say it, but when your plate is over-full, you will need to do your very best to not give in to the ease of eating junk.  No, you don’t have to soak your grains and buy only organic, but you will need to reduce the sugar and eat as much REAL FOOD as you can.  Don’t make it hard, but do make it nourishing.

5.  Drink plenty of water – When your plate is full, you tend to run on caffeine and sugar.  Don’t.  Get a bag of ice, a sack of lemons, a pretty cup – whatever it takes to make the water appealing.

6.  Guard your time – Try not to add anything to your plate.  When the pastor’s wife calls and asks you to do the music for VBS, say, “I’m sorry – I can’t this year.”  Remember, this is a season.  You can add things to your plate (as the Lord leads) later.

Also, try not to tackle the major things on your plate that require your concentration in a time slot that will only frustrate you.  Making business phone calls while your toddler is in 4 o’clock crazy mode is NOT a good idea.  Put a time management plan in place that makes sense and won’t make you feel like you are living one big emergency.

7.  Surrender  – Give the entire plate over to God.  You should be doing this no matter how full the plate is, but when the plate is overflowing, there won’t be any possibility of doing this in your own strength.  Let go of the notion that YOU are going to have to do this, and let God take over.  His strength will become yours if you remember to let Him handle the plate.

So, is your plate really too full?  Or is it something else?

Managing Computer Time for Kids

Managing your children's computer time - ideas for keeping track of their screen time | RaisingArrows.netAs long as we’ve had kids, we’ve had limitations on how long they can be on the computer.  We didn’t have any serious convictions about screen time, but we did have clear cut evidence it wasn’t good for our children.

When our oldest was a preschooler, we noticed that after a while on the computer, his ears would get red.  It is a phenomena caused by adrenaline, so we limited his time on the computer.  It became blatantly obvious this was the right choice when a few years later, he visited a friend and they played video games nearly all afternoon.  He came home sick.  He laid on the couch and cried.  His ears were red, his face was red, and he was sick to his stomach.  After a little rest, he was okay, but we never forgot that afternoon, and the physical manifestations of too much screen time.

Over the years, the limitations have changed as our children have aged.  We’ve also taken into account each individual child’s digital needs.  But, I must say, given the addictive nature of all things electronic, it has been a constant battle to teach our children balance and boundaries in the digital age.

I’ve been told our computer rules are rather strict – even in homeschooling circles.  That said, you have to make decisions based on your family’s unique identity.  Some families will allow more because more things in their home revolve around the screen.  Some families will have even less than we do because they do not have much need for screen time at all.  I’m not here to argue the finer points of giving children computer skills, or at what age they need a cell phone.  This post is simply to share OUR guidelines and methods, and offer a few thoughts for consideration.

So, let me start with giving a run down of how much time our children are on the computer and how they are using that time.

Our 17 year old son –

Recently, we gave him full control of his computer time.  We feel his computer needs have arrived at a level that he must now learn to manage his time for himself.  He has several school subjects that require computer time, and several worthy interests that revolve around the computer as well.  He keeps up with the news online, blogs, and does a tremendous amount of research for himself and our family via the internet.

We do have one stipulation for him (and the other children as well) – no games during the week.  Saturday is Computer Games Day.  The computer is a tool, and should be used as such throughout the week.

Our 14 year old daughter –

She does school and runs a blog, she is also our family photographer and requires time on the computer to edit and download photos.  We recently gave her her older brother’s time slot – 1 hour/3x a week.  She used to have 1 hour/2x a week.

She has never been one to play games on the computer, so her 1 hour of “game time” on Saturday is made up of time on Pinterest and Instagram.

10 year old daughter – 

She has no desire to do anything online, subsequently, she doesn’t have any computer time during the week, and so far, none of her school requires a computer.  She’s my Little House on the Prairie child, so I’m not sure she will ever have much of an affinity for the online world.  On Saturday, she has 40 minutes of game time, and she chooses to use her time to watch a movie on her choosing.

9 year old son –

He just started asking for computer time during the week.  He plans to use it to write a story about a knight and put together a family newsletter.  He will get 30 minutes once a week.  He has no school work that requires a computer.  On Saturday, he gets 40 minutes of game time and uses it to play games with his brothers.

6, 4, & 2 year old sons –

They only play on the computer (or other electronic device) on Saturday for 20 minutes a piece.  They tend to sit together and watch each other play, so they are spending everyone’s time in front of a screen as well.  We are happy they spend the time together, but we also want to guard against the time they are staring at a screen from being excessive.  I’ve also noticed it is very easy for them to become addicted to the screen, begging for more and more of it – every. single. day.  (We are working on a way to combat this – I’ll share when we get the results we are looking for 😉 )

How to manage your kids' screen time | RaisingArrows.net

We have a few Device Rules as well –

1.  No earbuds or headphones.  It’s been our experience that anything that shuts off your ears, shuts out others as well.  Computer time is a family experience.  We also feel it could be potentially dangerous to allow children to shut themselves off from the rest of the family with a device that has access to the internet or has the tendency to encourage escapism.  The only time we allow earbuds with devices is when our older two children needing to listen to something audio while working side by side at the computer.  We would also potentially allow them if we had a child who was easily distracted.

2.  Once you start your time on Game Day, you have to finish it.  No splitting up your time.  This came about because we had children taking 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there and stringing out their game time all day long.  It was nearly impossible for anyone to keep track of.  The exception to this is when mom and dad call the child off the computer for another purpose.  The timer is stopped and the child is allowed to return where they left off.

3.  If you are unkind or disrespectful to anyone in the house while you are using a device, it will be immediately confiscated.  One phenomena we have found in our household is that being on a device lends itself to bad attitudes and snapping at others.  I think it is because our awareness of the world around us is dulled.  We block out a lot until we are suddenly snapped back into reality and realize we are bothered by something someone is doing.

4.  Computers stay in a common area.  Closed doors and the internet are simply too tempting.

An of course, there are exceptions…

1.  French lessons – Our daughter takes French lessons via Skype.  During her lessons, she is allowed to be in her bedroom or other private area so as not to be disturbed or disturb others.  (You can read more about the website we use to take foreign language lessons via Skype HERE.)

2.  Special Night – On each child’s Special Night (which falls on a Tuesday), they are allowed to play games.  (You can read more about Special Night HERE.)

3.  You can respectfully ask for more time.  Quite often, my 14 year old will ask for more time to finish a blog post, edit a photo to send off, or finish one more chapter in the novel she’s writing.  9 times out of 10, if one of the children respectfully asks for a little more time on the computer, we will grant it.

How to keep track of the time children spend on the computer.

Use a Timer

Managing Computer Time for Your Kids | RaisingArrows.net

For years, we just used a good old fashioned kitchen timer to keep track of computer time.  Have the child who is going to be on the computer check in with you, set the time and keep it in a place where everyone can hear it when it goes off.

We often use our phones to set a timer as well.  When you set it, make sure you have it on a sound you can hear well and the volume on your phone is turned up!

Most internet browsers have a timer extension you can download that will appear right in the browser.  These are good for older (responsible) children who can set their own time and have the self-control to stop when the timer goes off.

There are also apps that will lock you out of websites once you’ve used up your time on that site; however, I haven’t found those to be real practical.

How to help children learn to manage their own computer time.

From the time your children are very young, they need to be taught balance and moderation.  There are several ways you can help them learn to manage and be accountable for the time they spend using an electronic device.

Computer Time Notebook

Managing Your Kids' Computer Time | RaisingArrows.net

Keep a small Computer Time Notebook near the computer area and have each child sign in when they get on the computer.  From there, they are to immediately set their timer or ask mom or dad or an older sibling to set it for them.

You could even require them to write down what they did during their time on the computer as a further measure of accountability.  This would be a good way for them to see where they are spending their time and if they might need to change how much time they are spending on certain sites in order to give them more time on another.

Name Tags/Cards & Hooks

Managing Your Kids' Computer Time | Raising Arrows

We use old countertop samples that have holes drilled through the top and the children’s names written on them in permanent marker as Computer Cards.  (photos will be added later)  However, you could use just about anything you can hang on a hook like keychains or one of these tags – just as long as you can personalize them.

Managing Computer Time for Your Kids | Raisingarrows.netcomputer time tag idea2

It is especially helpful if the tags are different colors so even the youngest of children can know which tag is theirs.  (Or you can use a symbol for your younger children.) Write each child’s name (or symbol) on a different color and be sure they know which is theirs.

Put your hooks side by side on a wall or cupboard, and hang the cards/tags on one side.  When the child wants to start their computer time, they either come to you to move their name tag over or they move it over themselves and start their time.  This has been helpful with my little ones who need something tangible to show them they no longer have any computer time left.  They are also learning to make better choices with when they take their time because they don’t want to be done by 9 am with the rest of the day ahead of them and not another chance at computer time.  It’s been a win-win situation because they are choosing to do other things to occupy their time and then taking their computer time later in the day.

No matter how you choose to set boundaries on your child’s computer/device time, I still feel it is very important to do so.  (I do not agree with this article that says screen time should be unlimited.)  There is a time to start letting go and letting your child learn to set boundaries themselves, but that time should come slowly and with great fear and trembling.  Your children will more than likely struggle at some point throughout their lives to keep the devices and screen time under control.  Setting good examples and limitations now will help them navigate those times when they will have to ratchet back on their own.

What are some of your favorite tips for keeping track of your kids’ computer time?  Feel free to share in the comments section! 

Other posts you might like:
Weaning from the Screen
How to Get a Mommy Break Without the Help of the Television

Being a Wife When the Kids Take All Your Energy

The day started with a bang.  Literally.  My glass mixing bowl in pieces all over the tile floor.  Next came a whiny child who was certain the multiplication tables were trying to kill her.  Then came the brothers who couldn’t seem to stop jumping off the furniture and knocking each other down in the process.  My teens needed a couple of hours of heart-to-hearts with me, and my newborn needed to be changed and fed.  And the toddler?  Oh no?!  Where was the toddler?!

I know I looked bedraggled when my husband walked through the door.  I couldn’t help it.  It had been a day.  It seems like it is ALWAYS “a day.”

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be there for him, but there was no way I could be.  I had spent the entire day in damage control, and there were still several more hours of it to go. Not a chance was my husband going to make my priority list that day.

Sound familiar?

wife graphic

Thankfully, I don’t make a habit of this, but many women do.  Not because they mean to push their husbands to the backburner, but because they are barely surviving their own lives day in and day out, to the point they absolutely cannot see a way to grab a big enough break to spend time with their spouse.

They don’t have enough time to be a wife because it took everything they had to be a mom.

How to be a Wife When Your Kids Take All Your Energy | RaisingArrows.netWhen you have a house full of obligations 4 1/2 feet and under, life is hard.  You often lose sight of how these little people got here in the first place!  But I firmly believe a strong marriage will actually HELP your ability to mother these little ones, so let’s talk…

Keep in touch via phone, text, or email throughout the day.  Keeping in touch with your husband is the key to keeping your marriage at the forefront of your mind.  In this day and age, nearly every wife has instantaneous access to her husband via some form of digital communication.  Try to stay connected during your day and you will find it easier to stay connected when he is home because both of you are aware of what has gone on in your respective domains throughout the day.

Try to knock out the big stuff before he gets home.  Sometimes I have a major blog post I want to write or I need to go shopping sans children, but I try not to take up “our time” with projects.  If you do need to do a big project, try to do it together (or at the very least, in each other’s presence.)  An example of this would be going grocery shopping together.

Take a nap – if you can.  Yes, I know – a mom of many littles is probably not going to get a nap.  This is one of those things that comes and goes, but is such a blessing if you can manage it.  I’ve had some seasons where I’ve been able to successfully implement a Rest Time for everyone in the house, so you might try that first.  You are WAY more refreshed when your husband comes home.  But, if you cannot manage something of that scale, try to get a decent night’s sleep and try to find some time shortly before he comes home to unwind.  Find a place to take a break and prepare your heart and mind for your husband’s return.

Establish a bedtime (or rest time).  We are a Routine Family.  Our life doesn’t fit neatly into rectangles on a spreadsheet, but I do try to have a round-about bedtime set for the kids, and most of the time, we adhere to it.

I will tell you that having bigger kids has made having a bedtime MUCH harder.  Big kids don’t like to go to bed at 8 pm.  What we ask of our bigger kids is that they respect “our time” and take that time to rest or relax.  Yes, they would certainly LOVE to watch the movie we are watching, but they understand that isn’t always feasible.

Have a ritual or tradition that is just for you and your husband.  For us, it has become coffee on the front porch before Ty heads to work.  No one is allowed out there with us.  I have to admit, the younger ones like to call to us through the windows giving their nine million reasons why they NEED to come out there.  (You know, things like they are just checking the weather or they thought they heard us call them out there.)  So, our coffee time isn’t always peaceful, but child training is occurring, and our children are well aware of how important that Mommy-Daddy time is.

Traditions and rituals are signposts for a marriage.  They tell our story.  They keep us connected.  They create memories – not only for us, but for our children who see how important this thing called marriage is.

Make the Fruit of the Spirit the fruit of your marriage.  Ty and I have been talking a lot lately about the Fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.  A lot may divide marriages (and Christians, for that matter), but if our lives, marriages, and homes are characterized by these Fruits, little else matters.

For more great ideas to keeping your marriage a priority, check out these posts:

Frugal Date Nights

How to Make the Most of a Day Out with Your Husband

Marriage-Centered Family – my guest post on To Love Honor and Vacuum

Follow Amy Roberts {Raising Arrows}’s board Marriage on Pinterest.

My New At-A-Glance Schedule {2015}

Make your day run smoother by using an At-A-Glance Schedule! | RaisingArrows.net

For those of you new to Raising Arrows, let me quickly explain what an At-A-Glance schedule is…

An At-A-Glance Schedule is a rough sketch of your day.  It is not a schedule for the entire family.  It is Mom’s Master List.  It isn’t super structured or binding.  It is a bare-bones approach that keeps you on track without making you feel guilty.

I was looking back at my old At-A-Glance schedule and realized how very outdated it was.  We haven’t had piano lessons on Wednesdays in well over a year!  Ideally, an At-A-Glance schedule would be re-assessed as circumstances change, or at the very least, every year.  It may not need to be changed every year because remember, it isn’t a tight schedule, so you won’t have things like “Baby’s Nap” on there or other things that change often.

This past weekend, I quickly worked through my old schedule to create one I believe will be a good fit for this year.  By the way, when I say “year”, I mean “school year.”  About this time of year, I am going through all of my homeschool materials and resources to see what I need for the upcoming school year, and figure out what that school year should look like.  (I like to be able to share with my readers what the intricacies of our homeschool looks like, so expect upcoming posts that highlight the changes for the 2015-16 year!)

It really is very easy to revamp an old At-A-Glance Schedule once you have the template of your day, so if you can find the time to put together your first one, any that follow will be very simple to make!

{affiliate links included}

Here is a quick guide to creating your first AAG:

1.  Write down the natural rhythm of your day.  If you get up at 8 am, don’t write down a wake up time of 7 am.  If you start school at 10 am, don’t write down 9 am.  This is the REAL routine you follow.  There will be time later to decide if you need to change your routine.

2.  Make a list of the things you would like to do in a day that are not on your “natural rhythm schedule”.  Don’t get crazy, but do get it all out.  This is a good exercise in realizing what things you THINK you should be doing, and the actuality of what can be FIT in to your schedule.  This list is there to help you work through what’s in your brain and start releasing the guilt you have for not doing EVERYTHING.

3.  Prioritize, Plug In, and Cull.  Sometimes all it takes is being purposeful and plugging it in.  Sometimes you have to have the sense to just let it go.  By writing out the things you WISH you had time for and comparing them to the natural rhythm schedule you wrote down in #1, you can see if you really do have the time for those things.  For instance, I would love to get back to sewing, but this isn’t the season for that because there are other things that NEED to be in the schedule.  I can let go of the guilt of not sewing because I know the things I have plugged in are PRIORITIES.

When you have a list of things that truly NEED to be on the schedule, then you can think about where they go.  Again, your AAG is NOT a full-blown schedule, so you are not looking for a place to plug in every single thing, but rather you are making sure there is enough MARGIN in your day to accommodate the things that are truly important.

Margin by Richard Swenson is a good book to help you understand the WHY and HOW of margin in your day.

4.  Write it out, type it out, post it.  I always write a rough sketch, go over it in my head, go over it with my older children and my husband, and make sure it is doable and everyone who has a choice is on board with it.  Then, I type it out, laminate it (with this laminator) and post it.

I always make more than one copy.  One copy is near my “office”, one is on the refrigerator, and one is with my homeschool materials.  (In the new house, my “office” is separate of my homeschool materials.  You’ll notice in this post, my office and homeschool area are the same.)  The reason for this is so that you truly can see the schedule AT A GLANCE!  It’s everywhere you are when you might need a little EXTRA focus.

5.  Tweak as needed.  I know, I know – I ALWAYS say this, but it’s true.  I was an English major – every paper was a rough draft!  Every SCHEDULE is a rough draft!  This gives you permission to change something.  HOWEVER, just because your AAG didn’t work the first or second, or even third time you tried it, does NOT mean it isn’t the “right” schedule for you.  It simply means it is NEW.  If after a week or two of really trying, it still doesn’t work, THEN tweak.

You will find that your day RARELY goes the way you plan, but having an At-A-Glance Schedule will help keep you on a track that moves forward and makes sense.  It is never meant to tie you down or stress you out!

Would you like to take a peek at my new AAG?  You will notice a couple of things:

1.  We are late risers.

2.  I sometimes (not always) rely on audio and video to keep the younger crowd occupied during a section of school that requires me to stay focused on the older crowd (I just put it on the schedule as an option).

I’m also including some links at the bottom of this post that I’ve written about specific items mentioned in the At A Glance Schedule.   These will help you understand more about how our day runs and what I mean by certain sections on the schedule.

CLICK HERE TO SEE MY AAG!

Helpful Links:
Morning Chores
Quiet Time with Small Children
Another Take on Quiet Time
Christian Mom’s Guide to Blogging
Table Chores
Schooling the Little First
Easy Homeschool Lunches
Laundry Ideas
Special School
Art & Artist Time
Special Night

Making Lunch Easy

It only took me 12 years of homeschooling and 9 kids to figure out how to make lunch easy.

Gah!  Why did I wait so long?

I finally figured out how to make lunch easy! | RaisingArrows.net

To be completely honest with you, what finally forced me to simplify our lunches was this new job/new house/new baby thing that all took place right around the holidays.  We did just about every major life change all in a matter of 6 weeks!  Go big or go home!

I was really struggling after Aspen’s birth (that’s another post) and needed to make life as simple as I could until I was back on my feet and fully present.  I made a list of all the things that were causing me stress, and one weekend I took some time away to pray and work through as many things on that list as I could.

Lunch was on that list, and the solution came in the form of 3 S’s:

Soup ~ Salad ~ Sandwiches

Make Lunch Easy with the 3's - Soup, Salad, Sandwiches | RaisingArrows.net

Soup

Last week, I told you about our Kitchen Sink Soup.  This is our go-to soup.  We make it a couple of times a week to finish off any random leftovers in the refrigerator.  I don’t really plan any soups besides this one.  When I originally made the 3S Plan, I was going to add in some “original” soups as well, but implementing that proved to be more work than I cared to do.

I try to keep a loaf of bread on hand to go with our soup.  I prefer it to be homemade, but will often grab some sort of specialty loaf from Aldi just in case I don’t get around to making something.  Sourdough or French bread are favorites here, as well as our homemade whole wheat buns.

Salad

Before I had Aspen, I ate salad almost every day for lunch, but rarely had the kids eat it.  Now, if I’m eating it, so are they!  The two salads we make most often are Taco Salad and Chicken Fajita Salad.  For the Fajita Salad, I buy chicken fajita strips at Aldi in the freezer case, warm them up and throw them in with salad greens and cheese.  Corn chips add filler to both of these salads.

Sandwiches

Because I need things to be as simple as possible, I purchase a couple of loaves of bread a week and keep sliced cheese and deli meat, peanut butter and jelly on hand at all times (although, I’ve never eaten a peanut butter & jelly sandwich myself, most of my kids like it).  If we have homemade bread, great, but if not, I know we can still throw together sandwiches with the store-bought loaves.  We will have the occasional deviation from these two types of sandwiches with something like my son’s fried egg sandwiches or my daughter’s grilled cheese or bagel sandwiches, but that is fairly rare.

This plan makes shopping for lunches super simple too!  My weekly list will always have these things on it:

Chicken broth
Shredded Cheese
Salad greens
Fajita Chicken
Chili Beans
Corn Chips
Peanut Butter
Jelly
Deli Meat & Cheese
Bread

I keep us stocked with those items so I always have what I need to make lunch easy!

**Huge sigh of relief!**

How have you simplified lunch at your house?  Or maybe you’ve learned to simplify another meal.  I’d love to hear your ideas!