Worth Quoting

Sometimes the Lord calms the storm, sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Getting Ready for School - Meal Calendar

It is hard to believe that the summer is almost over! School starts in 2 weeks. I am already feeling the sadness of Matthew being gone during the day. He is LESS than excited about going back. He'll be in 1st grade this year. His teacher from last year offered the option of her students staying with her for 1st grade (looping), but she and Matthew didn't seem to mesh too well, so we opted for a different teacher for 1st grade. Not that I blame her, Matthew is quite "spirited", but someone a little more motherly might be better.

Nevertheless, we made the trek to get school supplies, some new clothes and a haircut (Sarah only got a bang trim).

The school supplies list was quite manageable and I really can't complain. I am pretty grateful that my child is able to get a relatively free education in a great school - such a blessing. He does has to wear uniforms and some of his things from last year had definitely seen better days. So, a few hours of shopping and gathering and we're ready. Next week, we're moving bedtime down to 9:00 pm and the following week to 8:00 pm to get him ready. I'm sure he'll miss the sleeping to 10:00 am! I, am LESS than excited about 6:45 am wake time. Ugh!!

So, in preparation for the beginning of school and a much tighter schedule, I am also focusing back on the family meal planner. When I was a teenager, I babysat for a family in Panama City and on their refrigerator was their "month of meals." I can remember thinking that was pretty cool, but it was a completely foreign concept to me. My mom was/is a great cook, but there wasn't typically a thought out plan for our meals, unless it was a holiday. When I got married, my cooking skills were less than great. We ate a lot of grilled chicken on a tabletop grill. Brad, my husband, is a great guy...super, but his palate is quite bland. So, if I wanted to venture out a bit on a recipe I would find, it usually wouldn't be eaten. Sorry, Brad..it is the ONLY complaint I have about you.

Many years later of trying to expand my recipe collection and picking up recipes from friends along the way, I finally had a pretty good assortment of dishes that were relatively easy to cook and that my family would eat. Last fall, I decided to actually try to plan out our meals for the entire month. I am HAPPY to report it is one of the BEST things we could have done for our family. I always hated when I'd ask my family what they wanted for dinner, they would usually say, "I don't care." There are several problems with this statement. 1st - "I don't care" is not the name of the dish and it doesn't help at all. 2nd - everyone usually does really care, but they don't want to make a decision. So, how did I help tame the meal craziness at my house?

1 - We took a Family Night and with each person's input, we made a list of the things we liked to eat.
2 - I used Microsoft Word and printed out a simple, plain calendar for the month.
3 - We took the family calendar for the month and put in any special dates/events/travel on the "meal calendar."
4 - Then we started filling in the desired meals on the "meal calendar."
5 - Be sure to use a pencil. Life changes and sometimes you do have to switch things around.
6 - I typically use the last Sunday afternoon of the month to plan the meals for the upcoming month.

Our family loves tacos with fried tortillas and fresh salsa! They're good, filing, cheap and fast. It's not uncommon to have them twice in one week. So, some weeks when I know the schedule is busy, I'll write in tacos for Monday and Thursday. We have also come to love homemade pizza and spaghetti and it's usually our Friday night tradition. Saturdays and Sundays are usually something that can be grilled, cooked in a crockpot or something that is not very complicated - it's the weekend and I don't really want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Also, I always leave a day for "leftovers." I try to cook enough at a meal that there's some left for lunch the next day or even possibly for dinner the following night. Lasagna is perfect for this. The remaining one or two days, I fill in with another meal from the list and try at least twice in a month to test out a new recipe. Did you notice just how fast the week filled up? It really doesn't take much kitchen time when you plan your meals and cook wisely.

Another huge benefit of having a month of meals planned is the opportunity it gives you to plan ahead on your grocery shopping. You can buy when things are on sale because you know when you'll need them during that month rather than just buying on impulse when you have to have it for that night. You'll also notice that you eat out less and this means more money savings.

I really used to think this idea was a little too over the top for me. I had a few friends that had done it and I just didn't think it would make much difference for us. But, I can promise you that it will save you SO much stress. Also, no one has to ask what's for dinner - they just look at the "meal calendar".

So, if you think it would help at your home and need some ideas for meals that are quick and appeal to the majority...here are some that we use:
Chili, Chicken (enchiladas, grilled, parmesan, pot pie, rotisserie (pick up at grocery for $4.99), smoked), Hamburgers, Japanese night (sauteed chicken/shrimp, fried rice), Lasagna, Pizza, Pork Chops, Roast, Soup, Spaghetti, Tacos.

Here's to less stress at meal time and better family time!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's Time To Blog

Several friends have told me that I should start a blog. I like reading the ones that my friends have and have thought it would be a good idea. I selected a template last year and that's about as far as it went. When I came to actually putting something down, I was at a blank. I stay in touch with my family and wasn't sure who would want to read anything about my life.

Then I thought maybe instead of just putting down the things about my life as a mom to two fabulous children and wife to one terrific husband (because honestly, how often does someone want to read that?), I thought it would be fun to spice it up with all the "projects" that occur in my life. So you're wondering what kind of projects...well, I can assure you they are ALL over the map and growing all the time. I don't know if it's because it's the summer and my 6 year old, Matthew is out of school with Sarah and I, my almost 2 year old, but I have been filling my free time (not a lot, but some) with things I wouldn't have usually attempted.

By nature, I'm an organizing "guru." I almost said freak, but even though I love to label, it doesn't include my sock drawer. However, they are grouped according to style, but I promise, there are NO labels! For a short bit of history, when I was growing up, I shared a bedroom with my sister. We were constantly fighting because she wouldn't keep her side of the room clean and neat. One day I remember that we put up a piece of rope and draped a sheet over to officially separate the rooms. I was so excited to know that “my side” was going to stay tidy. Then, she purposely threw stuff over and under to make my side of the room messy. I realized then that sharing a room was not going to work for me. I should have realized it when she peed on the electric bedwetting sheet just to hear it go off, but I am an optimist and thought we could come to a peaceful solution. Finally, my parents had enough of the complaining and made some house changes and moved her to another room. THANK YOU, mom and dad for saving my sanity!! J

However, from that point on, I really wanted things to be put away and kept neat. My mom always had lots of stuff out and I was constantly making piles all over the house. It became the running joke that if something was missing to just ask Elizabeth, “she probably put it into a pile.” It did hurt my feelings a bit, but it was better than having stuff all over. I only found out this past year that my family wished they were more tidy and were giving me a hard time because they were jealous. Wow, I wish I had known that many years ago.

Fast forward many years to 1st year of college, getting married at 19 and starting a job at a community college while finishing my business degree. I started at the bottom of the employment barrel as a switchboard operator and then moved around a bit as a Secretary for Athletics, Admissions Clerk (spending over a year entering old admission files – secretly loved this job that no one else wanted) and finally as an Assistant to the College President/Employee Records Clerk. In this position, I HAD to keep not only myself organized, but the college president’s schedule, important papers, and all employee records. This fueled my “paper/organizing” obsession.

Then on a personal note, after 8 years of trying to have a baby and MANY disappoints along the way, I finally found out I was pregnant. Immediately I knew that I wanted to stay home with this highly longed-for baby and not work, if I didn’t have to. It was a hard choice; I loved my job at the college and was working with the most amazing group of people. After Matthew was born, I went back on a part-time basis and cried every time I had to leave him. It just hurt so deeply to leave him in someone else’s care when I had prayed so long for him. Fortunately, we found a way for me not to have to continue working full-time and we scraped by on side jobs and really pinching our pennies.

When Matthew started getting older, I started doing some research on-line to find some kind of work I could do from home and not go back to an 8-5 job. During my research, I found that there were people that did professional organizing. It was like a spot light exploded over my head. I can still remember where I was sitting when I read about it. For the first time, I finally felt like it was okay that I liked to be organized. There WERE other people like me. Then I thought, wow, I might be able to make some money helping other people.

It wasn’t long after this that I did some networking and my best friend landed me a job with a physician in Atlanta. One of the offices in the building had been turned into the storage room because no one knew what to do with all the stuff. Within a week, I had cleaned out all the clutter, shredded the unimportant stuff and made some beautiful files (trust me; colored alphabetized files can truly be beautiful)! The physician was happy with my work and had me tackle another job of finishing a remodel at her residence. My husband and I had built a house and I had been involved in some of my parents’ remodels and within a few months the physicians house was ready and she was moving in. At the conclusion of that project, she asked me to organize her entire office and help with the staff duties. I continued with that project until the month before the birth of my second child. All during this time, I was picking up additional organizing clients and loving the challenge of helping mothers organize playrooms, husbands’ study, garages, kitchens, bedrooms, and closets. I loved the happiness that comes across someone’s face when all the clutter is gone and they can easily find things. There truly is a peace that comes from being organized. Even now, when the kids have played hard in the house and things are in complete disarray, my mood is less than happy. But, when we all begin to work and put things away, the peace returns and mom is happy again.

So, that’s me in a nutshell. A stay-at-home mom to two wonderful children that the Lord blessed me with. For many years I didn’t think I was going to get to be a mother and I have enjoyed so much the blessing of being with them each day, all day. I am also a wife that tries to keep up with meals and schedules and just being kind. That’s hard, sometimes! Then, I am the Organizer that thrives on labels, rearranging the linen closet for the 3rd time – that blog will soon follow this one, a monthly meal planner (possibly one of the best ideas, ever), and always trying to keep life and priorities in order. Mostly, I am a daughter of God that is so grateful for the blessing of life, love and complete happiness.

Follow me on my new adventure of blogging as I share more of who I am and the everyday joy of family and being organized.