Let the Christmas Planning Begin!

Christmas Planning

You may think it a tad bit crazy to start thinking about Christmas in September, but I’d like to encourage you to start now in your holiday planning because the more plans you put in motion now, the more wonderfully relaxed and blessed the Christmas season will be for you.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Micah 5:2

Think about how you would like the coming season to look, taste, feel, smell.  Consider family traditions you already have established and new ones you would like to start.  Consider how Autumn will trail into Winter and Thanksgiving into Christmas.  Where will your family’s focus be?

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Start practicing hospitality and charity and let it flow through the Christmas season and on into the New Year.  Begin now!

Use the dying leaves to teach your children about a dying world, desperately in need of a Savior.

leavesTake nature walks and marvel in God’s handiwork, His love for us poured out and molded into every branch, every blade of grass, every wispy cloud and woven web.

Determine to slow down and listen to the Lord.  There is hope.  There is joy.  There is One who has come and will come again.  In our anticipation of the celebration, may we understand the sacrifice.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Luke 2:10

Determine to look upward.  Determine to look inward.  Surrender your schedule.  Surrender your school.  Surrender your everything because He is your everything.

Start now.

I encourage you to dig deep this Fall and be purposeful as you plan.  There are some wonderful resources available to help you in this mission (and some of the links below are affiliate links) like this week’s Bundle of the Week:
BundleoftheWeek.com, 5 eBooks for $7.40!

or my very favorite Holiday Planner:

The 12-Week Holiday Planner

 or sites like Organized Christmas.

Use the resources you have (even if it is just a piece of paper and a pen!) and be purposeful in your planning this year!

And next week I’m going to be giving away 3 copies of my favorite Holiday planner, so stay tuned and let the Christmas planning begin!

Meal Planning as the Backbone of Your Day

ORGANIZING_meals

Meal planning is the backbone of your day as a stay at home mom.  Without it, you never feel in control or on top of things.  You always feel like you are scrambling, hurried, stressed.  In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I would encourage you to take a look at your meal planning FIRST if you are feeling overwhelmed by your life right now.  Get the backbone in place and work from there.

Over the years I’ve followed many different methods of meal planning.

Once a Month shopping

I really like to shop once a month and plan an entire month’s worth of meals at once, but sometimes that isn’t feasible.  Sometimes a rotating list of meals needs to be put in play in order to simplify your life.  Sometimes you need to only plan a week at a time.  Sometimes you are lucky to get a few days done and send your husband to the store for those items!

Recently, I decided to change from my old method of a grab-n-go meal list to a more formal meal plan.  (See an example HERE – the photo below is also an example of that list.)

menu list

My grab-n-go list was easy to plan and convenient to use.  I could choose a meal based on what kind of day I was having.  However, it did not allow for any meal forethought, so if I hadn’t thawed the chicken or put the roast in the slow cooker, I was up a creek.  In a large family, this doesn’t work out so well.  I also ended up only choosing the easy, no-prep meals and left the other (potentially more healthy) meals for “another day” – a day that never seemed to come.

While visiting a friend, I noticed her weekly menu plan posted on her refrigerator.

weekly meal planner

Lo and behold, they were from my friend Jamerill’s blog!  They were exactly what I needed!  As a homeschool mom, I need breakfast, lunch AND dinner planned.  And it helps tremendously to have snacks in place as well.

So, let me give you some tips on meal planning that will help you pull together one that provides a great backbone to your day:

1.  Choose where you will get your recipes from.  Sometimes I use cookbooks I have on hand, sometimes recipes from my recipe binder, but lately, I find most of my recipes are coming from my Pinterest boards!

Pinterest recipe collage

Sometimes I can knock out a menu in an afternoon.  When planning several weeks, it can take me several days to get the whole thing finished.  I never wait until I’m out of food and desperately needing to head to the store.  Start early and avoid the stress!

2.  Write in pencil!  Your meals will change due to unforeseen circumstances.  Our stove stopped working a couple of weeks ago, so I had to revamp our menu to reflect this.  Also, any meal you don’t end up using can be erased from its day and written in a new day or at the bottom of the page to carry over to another time if so desired.

3.  Make notes as you go.

notes on menu plan

Remember, I said this is the backbone of your day.  Your meals are a direct reflection of your life.  Write in notes about your day on the menu plan itself.  I have piano lessons and my Weight Watchers meetings marked.  I also have notes like “order Azure” and “make ranch dressing” noted at the top of my page.  But also mark down things like “thaw hamburger” and “soak beans” in the appropriate places.  For instance, say I want to serve beans on Wednesday night.  I need to soak them overnight on Tuesday.  I make a note to myself off to the side of the Tuesday Dinner box so I remember to do this.  Having these little notes is KEY to making your meal plan work.

4.  Make your grocery list as you go.  Don’t wait until you are finished with your menu to go back and input all you need.  Do it together.  Find a meal, list it in a good spot on your planner, scan ingredients and mark down what you need.  I use a Master Grocery List that helps me keep track of staple items as well as new things needed to make the meals on my list.  (Note:  You can find my Master Grocery List HERE, but be aware that your list will probably be different.  In fact, this list is 5 years old and is VERY different from our current list!  Use it as a guide to create your own!)

5.  Plan everything!  Plan your sides, your snacks, even your beverages!  Put Special Night on there and Potluck on there.  Do your very best to pull together a “backbone” that can withstand the pressure of your day.

6.  Look at your menu plan every day several times a day.  Mine is on my refrigerator.  It has to be in a prominent location where you will be able to glance at it over the course of the day to be sure you are on track.  (Mine is next to the Table Chores list and my At-a-Glance Schedule.)  Do you need to get something out of the freezer for tonight?  It’s on there!  Need to prepare for a coming birthday?  It’s on there!  Again, this is your backbone for the day.  Using it to its full advantage is necessary!

Looking for more meal planning related links? Try these:
Large Family Recipes
Once a Month Shopping Series
Menu Planning ebooks from Sheri Graham – I love her stuff and yes, that’s my affiliate link!
My ebook 10 Days to a Peaceful Home has a section on meal planning too!

Click here for more ideas from other bloggers:
ORGANIZING_meals…and here’s a FANTASTIC giveaway for you from a company that has made meal time at our house SO much easier!

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My At-a-Glance Schedule

at a glance schedule

With my busy {and easily distracted} household, I don’t have time for long and involved schedules that tell me precisely what everyone is doing every moment of the day.  I need a schedule I can glance at quickly to keep me on track or get me back on track when I’ve veered off.

I’ve tried the massive schedules where everyone has a column to themselves, but with a lot of littles those types of schedules seem ill-equipped to handle the real needs of our household.

The children are not the driving force behind our day – I am.  Mom is the one needing and using the schedule 90% of the time {in a household with only littles, this percentage jumps to 99.9%}.  Instead of a schedule lining out everyone’s day, I need one that orchestrates MY day.

So, a few weeks ago I jotted down our basic routine.  I’ve noticed for a long time now our afternoon completely disintegrates into chaos come about 2 pm.  We muddle through until dinner prep starts and then pick our evening back up.  These were wasted hours where craziness ruled the house.  I decided to try writing in a few things to fill that gap and see how our day went.  That gap is where I put our snack time as well as our Special School time.  I also wrote in more structured learning and playing during some of those hours.

I wanted to create a more focused schedule for our school day.  Now when I say focused I do not mean highly structured.  I mean guidelines that keep me heading in the right direction…focused.

After a little tweaking here and there, I finally feel like I have a schedule that allows for mom to take a quick glance and refocus any time she needs to.  Yay!

Here is that schedule:

8 am – Morning Chores, Quiet Time, Make Breakfast
(note:  breakfast is prepared by either myself or one of the children)

9 am – BREAKFAST, Table Chores, 15 minute Tidy

9:30 am – Devotions & Missions

10 am – SCHOOL STARTS
(note:  during this hour, my little boys are watching a DVD so I can concentrate fully on my middles)

11 am – Five in a Row with Middles & Littles

11:30 am – Lunch Prep (Mom & girls)

12 pm – LUNCH, Table Chores, 15 minute Tidy

1 pm – Tapestry of Grace or Grammar with Bigs
Middles/Littles – Fun Time (note:  my almost 9 yo is “in charge”.)
Monday – Paint
Tuesday – Playdough
Wednesday – Movie
Thursday – Water Play

2 pm – Rest Time (Girls take turns practicing piano, Mom works on blog)

3 pm – Special School
Monday – Composer/Hymn Study
Tuesday – Tea & Poetry
Wednesday – PIANO LESSONS
Thursday – Art/Artist Study
Friday – Library

4 pm – Projects / Outside Time

5 pm – Dinner Prep

6 pm – DINNER, Table Chores, 15 minute Tidy

7 pm – Free Time

8 pm – Jammies & Night Chores

8:30 pm – Family Devotions

9 pm – Bedtime

Mommy & Daddy Time
11:30 pm – all electronics off (in bed by Midnight)

I have this schedule printed and laminated.  One sits by my chair where most of the schooling takes place.  The other is hanging on the refrigerator.  I can easily grab a glance and see exactly where my day is supposed to be.  The productivity in the house has skyrocketed!

And those crazy afternoon hours?  Gone!  We are actually enjoying them!

Do we still have kinks?  Yes.  You will always have kinks because a schedule can never take into account real people with real lives.  They depend on everything being 100% the same all the time.  That isn’t going to happen, my friends.  Let go of that unrealistic notion and take charge of your schedule rather than letting it burden you.

What you have in this at-a-glance type of schedule is  a place to go when you need to get back on track.  If I can’t get something in one day, I drop it.  I’ll pick it up next week.  If I continually drop it, then it means something is wrong with the schedule, not typically that something is wrong with me!

I also appreciate that this type of schedule does not micromanage.  My older children have their own routines that fit into the slots I’ve allowed for.  I have not scheduled out their day for them because they are old enough to know what they need to get accomplished and how to go about accomplishing it.

Well, looks like it is time for me to get back on track with my day!  If you get a chance, try making your own At-a-Glance Schedule and see what you think!

Living an Offline Life

Living an Offline Life | RaisingArrows.net

The internet is a strange place.  On one hand, it is full of wonderful information, on the other, it can be an out of control vortex that sucks you in and sucks the life out of you.

I enjoy writing.  I enjoy the challenge of learning new things about the internet.  I enjoy interacting with people online, and reaching out to others with the love of Christ.  But, I do not enjoy how much time can be wasted staring at a screen.  I don’t want that for me, I don’t want that for my kids, and I don’t want that for my readers.

It’s a balance.  You cannot simply let the internet happen to you and your family.  It is a tool, and like any tool, it has it uses and it’s place.  Use it properly and keep it in its place, and you have a wonderful resource.  Use it improperly and let it get out of control and you have a monster.

at the computer

Because I run a blog, I must be online.  But, it is entirely up to me how much time I spend online and how productive or unproductive that time is.  I cannot let it become a mindless escape.

I have to live an offline life.

I just learned of an ebook from Sarah Mae on this very topic.  The title says it all – The Unwired Mom (affiliate link).  As I’ve been reading through it, I’ve found it to be so refreshing!

The-UnWired-Mom

This ebook is only $4.99 and could potentially save you from making the horrible mistake of living your life online until the day you look back with regret.

It’s all about balance.  It’s all about living an abundant life in Christ.  It’s all about being present in your family, not glued to a screen.

Live your offline life first so what you do online is vibrant and real, encouraging and inspirational.

What will you be doing this weekend to live life offline?

Yesterday I Did the One Thing That Always Gets Me Off Track!

clock

Years ago, I learned that if I intend to have a productive day, I MUST NOT get on the computer before getting my day started.  That means no drinking coffee or eating breakfast in front of the computer, no taking a “quick peek” at email, no promoting posts if I forgot to schedule them the night before.  NOTHING.

But, yesterday, I sat down with my Greek yogurt and opened my computer and sat there…and sat there…and sat there…

My entire day ended up OFF TRACK.  It was awful.  Today, I refuse to end up there again.

{this post contains affiliate links}

BundleoftheWeek.com, 5 eBooks for $7.40!

I tell you this story because we all end up with off-track days from time to time, but if your life seems to always be off-track, then it’s time you did something about it!  See those books up on that shelf?  That’s where you start!

In my ebook (which is part of this sale), The Homemaker’s Guide to Creating the Perfect Schedule, I mention the fact that I cannot get on the computer first thing in the morning and have a productive day.  I learned that about myself and adjusted my schedule accordingly. Had I tried to force myself into someone else’s schedule that perhaps included a morning time on the computer, I would have fallen flat on my face.

That’s why I am a fan of time management books…GOOD time management books.  The really good ones teach you about YOU and how YOU work.  They help you order a day that works.  They help you order a day that glorifies a God who created order from nothing.

Oh, the mercy He must show me when I do things like wreck my day via the internet!

Today, I’m back on track.  Praise God from Whom all Blessing flow!

Do you want to get back on track?  Then, this set of ebooks can help!

BundleoftheWeek.com, 5 eBooks for $7.40!

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!

Get this bundle for almost 60% off this week only.

Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews
Tell Your Time: How To Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free outlines Amy€™s straightforward, step-by-step approach to controlling your schedule and ensuring the important things don€™t fall through the cracks. It€™s short and to the point with no fluff or filler. This little ebook will help you accomplish not only what€™s on your to-do list today, but what€™s on your to-do list for life.

Honoring the Rhythm of Rest by Daniele Evans
In a culture where many of us are simply moving too fast and pausing less often for a break, for time off or for intentional rest, Daniele offers a better way. Honoring the Rhythm of Rest will encourage and equip you to understand the meaning of true rest; to ask of yourself ,€Am I living intense, or intentional?€; to counteract the myth of doing it all; to consider 3 intentional ways to practice rest; and to journey back from burnout!

28 Days to Timeliness by Davonne Parks
Two years ago, Davonne began working on becoming more timely, and she decided then that if she could ever figure out how to be on time, she€™d write a book about it.  Throughout her journey, she discovered what makes some people late, tips and tricks other people use to be on time and how to enjoy freedom and spontaneity within boundaries as she made significant progress in her own life. In 28 Days to Timeliness, she shares 28 short, easy-to-read segments that take just a few minutes to go over each day with a practical course of action to help you be on time.

Creating a Schedule That Works by Marlene Griffith
In Creating a Schedule That Works, Marlene offers you the tools to help you create and implement a schedule that works for you and your life. Her simple, straight-forward approach shows you how to break your day into bite-sized pieces by scheduling four blocks of time in your day to help you meet the demands of your day-to-day life.

The Homemaker€™s Guide to Creating the Perfect Schedule by Amy Roberts
With plenty of charts, printables, examples and links, The Homemaker€™s Guide to Creating the Perfect Schedule includes step-by-step instructions for creating the perfect homemaking schedule as well as a bonus section on creating the perfect homeschooling schedule. Amy shows you how to work with your unique family dynamics, how to make a schedule stick, how to delegate chores and more!

The Task of Staying on Task

The Task of Staying on Task | RaisingArrows.netI have lots of ideas.  They swirl around in my brain all day long.  I’ve told you how I make lists to keep me on task and get my brain in order, but today I want to dig a little deeper.

Why Can I Not Stay on Task?

The simplified answer to this question is,

Because too many things are vying for my attention.

I tell my husband all the time that I forget things simply because there is too much in my brain, and it occasionally dumps information so as to avoid overflowing.

Not sure he buys that.

But whatever the case may be, I know as a homeschool mom and stay-at-home wife and mother, I have to stay on task or watch the chaos ensue.  Here are a few of things I do in order to stay focused throughout the day.

{this post contains affiliate links}

notebook

Make notes

I recently purchased 3 purple notepads just for keeping by my computer to help me remember things.  So often, I have trouble keeping things straight while working on blog projects and homeschooling.  It helps to have my brain on paper.

However, the one issue I’ve found with making notes is the fact that my children really like my notepads.  It is inevitable that I will find my notepads all over the house emblazoned with lovely little doodles.  Lately, my 4 year old has been practicing his letters and writing “notes” to me and Daddy using my notepads.  I really struggle to reprimand for such cuteness.

The Voices in My Head

It is not uncommon for me to repeat over and over in my head the tasks I need to do.  I’ve done this since I was a child.  In fact, I used to sing the things I needed to do!

Switch laundry, change out toilet paper roll, check math…
Switch laundry, change out toilet paper roll, check math…

And yes, sometimes I just say the things out loud no matter the strange looks I get from my children.

The Immediate Method

Sometimes tasks are urgent, and while I despise the tyranny of the urgent, I also know that  when something needs immediate attention, you just have to suck it up and give it the attention it needs.

For instance, suppose my husband is headed out the door to work and asks me to make a certain phone call.  Chances are, if I don’t make that phone call that very moment, I’m likely to forget.  I have to take care of it immediately.

clock

Office Hours

One thing I encourage other blogging mamas to do is create office hours.  This works for non-blogging mamas too!  There are hours we homeschool, so why not add in hours we work on “office” related things.  Set aside a couple of hours in the afternoon that are your Office Hours.  During these Office Hours, you work through your lists, work on household things, and make new lists for the next day.  This can also be the time you have the children do a 15 Minute Tidy.  This creates the relief of knowing that what you cannot get to right now will eventually get done because you have time carved out for that specific task.

Ditch the Distractions

As I mentioned earlier, there are lots of things vying for our time.  One thing you must do in order to stay on task is shut out the distractions.  For me, this means I do not get on the internet first thing in the morning.  It will suck me in and ruin my day.

Consider the things in your life that distract you from staying on task:

  • your phone
  • the internet
  • social media (Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter)
  • too many hobbies/projects
  • poorly planned schedules/appointments/outings

Take back your life!  Don’t allow these kinds of distractions a foothold.  Put them in their proper place and at their proper time.

Be on the Inside Looking In

An online friend recently told me to never allow your eyes to stray beyond the windows of your own home.  In other words, stop comparing yourself with others.  If you spend too much time looking at someone else’s life, someone else’s curriculum, someone else’s marriage, you are very likely to eventually want to be someone else.  You will find yourself in a perpetual state of unhappiness because you can’t be like Susie-so-and-so.  You think the grass is greener, but its not.

Certainly, we can learn from others, but comparing ourselves and striving to be someone we only know from the outside looking in, will end in disaster and leave us far off course.

God gave you this family.  He has a unique purpose for your family.  He has a unique set of tasks for you to accomplish.  Staying on task is more than just making it through a checklist each day.  It is ordering your day according to His purposes.  You stay on task because everything you do is focused on glorifying God and serving Him.  If there is something in your life that is distracting you from this purpose, then it is time to get back on task!

So, what are your struggles when it comes to staying on task?  What distracts you?  Can you relate to any of the things mentioned above?