Monday, September 29, 2014

Shortcuts & Drawing the Line

My life has taken on a new level of busy-ness.  There have been days when I thought, "Is this really what the rest of my life (as least until there are no children in the home anymore) is going to be like?"  It's not bad- not by a long shot.  It's just busy.  And full.  And I like staying at home and keeping calm.

Two things have recently vamped up the pace of my life.

First, activities.  I love that homeschooling allows us to get our out-of-the-house activities accomplished during the day so our evenings are free for family time and just being.  But that means they infringe upon the school day which adds a sense of urgency to get work done in a timely fashion.  Our activities include twice a week PE, a half day (once a week) homeschool co-op- our first experience in one, sewing lessons (Sadie gets dropped off on our way to PE and picked up on the way home) and choir.  This may seem like very little for some of you but for the homebody that I am, it feels crazy at times.  Do you realize that this means I have to have my hair brushed and wear something presentable every day of the week?!  See? Craziness.

Second, fostering.  There are naps to work around, doctor's appointments and family visits that all revolve around the scheduling preferences of others.  Not to mention, all the cuddling and changing of diapers.

There are many cuts I've been making just to keep us all afloat and generally happy.  Here are a few...

1) It saddens me to say so but I have only used my clothesline a couple times in the last couple months.  The dryer has become my new best friend.

2) I've been buying lots of convenience-type snacks for the kids.  This sometimes includes fruit that is not in season (or local) and many of them are packaged (organic and fruit/nut based when I can find them).  Just getting a home-cooked dinner on the table feels like a huge accomplishment and sometimes that dinner (or lunch) comes a little later than hoped for so the kids need something to tide them over.

3) I'm using disposable diapers (I just signed up for a trial of these) instead of using cloth like I did with Miriam.  And I use wipes for everything because, you know, sometimes finding a clean rag, getting it wet, rinsing it out and hanging it up just takes too much time and energy.

4) I've stopped giving the garden and my flower beds attention.  They are what they are.  The little people require the tending right now.

jungle garden ~ some deliberate (lettuce going to seed, beets and winter squash yet to harvest, etc.), some not-so-much (weeds, finished plants waiting to be torn out)

5) I've been writing here a lot less.  Partially because of the time it takes (to write, upload photos, etc.) and partially because so much of what I'm doing right now is repetitive.  I haven't been trying new recipes or starting new projects.  This doesn't mean I never will again.  I still have new ideas- they just exhaust me to think about them :-).

6) The beekeeping has been turned over almost entirely to Jamey.  I can no longer leave the kids in the house while the two of us are in the very back of the yard for an hour or more.  So, just Jamey goes out and does the managing.  Our record keeping has greatly decreased because of this but I've been trying to still keep track of major happenings.

With these short cuts (and others), I'm surviving and most days even thriving despite the fact that I still get overwhelmed occasionally. Overall, we're adjusted.

I do know that I don't want things to get any busier.  I know people say that as your kids get older, the activities and busy-ness increase.  I can see how this can happen!  There are so many wonderful things to choose from and expose our children to.  But I wholeheartedly believe that there is such a thing as too much.  And I don't want to get anywhere near that.  We believe that our children need time to just be at home- to rest, relax, play with each other, the neighbor kids and sweet babies.  And even get bored.  When else will they process all the neat stuff they're learning and doing?


So...I'm curious (and maybe looking for some more tips). What shortcuts are you making to survive the busy season in your life?  And what lines do you draw to keep your family from becoming overextended? Pin It


  1. Oh blessings to you. Off the top of my head, the only thing I can think of is that I don't make just one meal. If I make meatloaf, I make a double or tripple batch. Cook up twice as much as needed and put one in the freezer. Night two: cut the 'left over' meatloaf into cubes & you now have your meatballs for spaghetti. Also, you have a meal in the freezer that is cook and serve. Sorry I can't come up with something better:)

  2. Since I began working full time I have been relying more and more on prepackaged foods...frozen foods...and yes, processed foods. I try to keep them to a minimum...but sometimes peace of mind wins out. And if preparing something from a box allows me to have a more relaxed evening after a long day at work? Well, then so be it. At least we're not eating out every night...or eating cereal for dinner (too often!). So I totally get it.

    Something I've been doing is taking some time on Sunday to prep things for meals for the week ahead. It is a HUGE help. I chop vegetables and slice meat for stir fry "kits"...I cook up a big batch of taco meat, for tacos or to add to burritos or nachos during the week. I use my crock pot, this will help with the "late dinner" thing. Toss something in the crock pot before you head off to PE and sewing lessons and dinner will be ready at dinner time. Then I make a very simple side...salad and bread and butter or baked potatoes. Easy. It's such a relief knowing that dinner is cooking away while I'm at work.

  3. Hey, I recognize a lot of those shortcuts from my own life right now! :)

  4. I am grateful that we pretty much stay at home. Homeschooling is enough, especially with 7 children. I enjoy being at home and having a good meal every night. To me, that's more important than the extra activities outside the home that only leave me worn out and comparing myself to others. I am thankful for a relaxing home amid all of the lessons and housework.

  5. You're doing a wonderful job! I no longer have babies (mine are 8, 10 and 12) so I don't feel like I'm "in the trenches" so much anymore. Still, homeschooling and providing home cooked meals most days is a challenge with outside activities thrown in.

    What do I do to ease my stress? Paper plates for breakfast and lunch. It's unbelievable how quickly the dishes pile up! Sometimes I even just put a sandwich and apple slices on a paper towel for them. I always use the dryer. Tried a clothesline a few years ago and it neither saved us enough money to warrant it's use nor did it ease my workload. A lovely idea, just not worth it for me. I also try to double recipes and freeze the extras when possible. This includes measuring dry ingredients for baked items (even pancakes) into baggies and freezing them. It saves a lot of time measuring when I want to quickly make cookies or muffins or whatever. Just add your wet ingredients and done!

    I love your blog and think what you guys are doing in the life of this child (and your own children) is amazing!

  6. Thank you for posting this! We are adjusting to our third child, 5 weeks in! We have three boys now, 4,2, and newborn. While I don't feel the adjustment is as difficult as one to two, the time factor has been difficult. I cook 99% of our meals and enjoy a clean house, make our bread, etc. there is freedom in saying that this is a season, I can put up food next year, the house doesn't need to be as clean as Ike it, and store bought bread can suffice for a time. I read this after only finishing the mashed potato portion of our shepherds pie that was planned for dinner to nurse the babe who doesn't want to nap longer than 20 min without being held. :) So maybe dinner will just be mashed potatoes? Thank you for sharing that I am not the only one in this season!

  7. Bless all you Mamas with little ones. I am soon to have an empty nest, but I do remember having 3 under age 5! I don't have any tips not already covered but I am reminded of my Mama's favorite poem:
    Song for a Fifth Child

    by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton
    Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
    Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
    Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
    Sew on a button and make up a bed.
    Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
    She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
    Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
    (Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
    Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
    (Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
    The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
    And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
    But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
    Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
    (Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

    The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
    For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
    So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
    I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

  8. I can so relate to your post! I just want you to know that so many times your posts have been a huge encouragement to me and my prayer is that God will send someone to lighten your load! Sometimes, when we have our hands totally full, we are reminded to rely on God, and to let Him order our day, and to let everything else go. It will still be there tomorrow, for certain! :-) And shortcuts are totally fine! My husband tells me over and over don't let perfect be the enemy of good (in other words, sometimes it does not have to be perfect or the exact way you'd like for it to be, it just has to be done, even if it is done at a minimal level.)

    It is so counter cultural to NOT be overscheduled. We are currently struggling with this issue in my home. I am currently losing the battle, but I hope to win the war! :-)

  9. I have 5, no longer young, 2 oldest are married and live close,and 2 middle on their own (finishing college and finishing grad school) and youngest is at home (goes to college). I worked, everyone survived the busyness. I don't know if you have grandparents in the area, but my mother moved in with us when she retired from teaching, so she was always a big help. ( When we were growing up my grandma lived with us). I have a nephew that lives with us who works in my husband's business (apprentice).

    My main shortcut as someone above mentioned was cook double and triple and freeze extras. I still do that, I have dozens of quart size freezer containers that I fill, not as leftovers when your're sick of them, but as soon as they are done cooking...chili, soups, brown rice, white rice, cooked beans, baked beans. Casseroles I freeze in foil pans that I have collected and saved. Pie crusts I mix 10 at a time (I think you do that too, if I remember past posts) and freeze them in discs. When our apples come in now I will freeze in foil pie pans, also saved, about 10-15 apple pies, unbaked, wrap well. Put one of these in the oven while making dinner and maybe you have simple beanie-weanies for dinner and some canned green beans but you have a lovely hot pie for dessert. I also make crisp topping (butter, oats, flour, nuts, spices) and freeze that in batches so if I want a crisp I just fill the pan with fruit and crumble the frozen topping over and into oven so quick.

    My family are big dessert people. We have our dessert with family devotions in the evening, like 8 or 9. Either homework would be done then or it was a break from homework, everyone would be home from sports (they all did cross country...that's another way to save time, have them all do the same sport).

    I am not sure what kind of snack you are buying, but my children always liked this one and I still make it. It is 2 boxes of OHS cereal, 1 box of Golden Graham cereal, one bag of pretzels (I use the pounder bags by Snyder, bite size ones), 1 bag of MMs , 1 jar of unsalted dry roasted peanuts. Mix in largest tupperware you have and store airtight. Optional...add a box of raisins. It keeps a long time and makes a big batch. It is just the right mix of salty and sweet and crunchiness. It is from our church cookbook.

  10. Just a quick comment on the disposable diapers: My daughter has an eight month old and was given quite a few of the honest diapers and some from Walgreens. She uses cloth diapers at home but sends the disposables to church and Grandma's house. I have found I prefer the Walgreens diapers and that they have great sales if you watch for them. I've been buying them for shower gifts.

  11. Oh missing from the snack recipe are cheese cracker Cheese Its or Cheese Nips, one large box or two small. The Golden Grahams is a large box too.

  12. The thing that helped me back when I was in your busy situation was a friend telling me that there is a season in life for everything. That gave me the freedom to drop some things such as women's Bible study one morning each week which meant we had to do all of our school work that afternoon. Perhaps you can look at your week that way and ask if what you are doing can be saved for another season. As much as I loved Bible study it had become a burden and it was really a blessing to let it go.

    We are now empty nesters and I really thought things would slow down once the kids were grown. I was so wrong! Now we have our household and their 5 families to juggle and spend time with which means weekends on the road from time to time to visit in their homes. Also we have all of the chores and upkeep of the house and yard to do ourselves. We have to work hard to catch up if we are gone on the weekend. We are never bored!

  13. We too are fostering and homeschooling. We have two biological children and two foster (6mths & 4yrs.). I'm constantly reminding myself that we are to show them God's love and be Jesus' hands and feet. Your story sounds identical to ours. Don't loose heart, and remember you're making an eternal impact on your precious family and little one that you're caring for.

  14. Last year, I served on the board of two libraries, was a board member of the U. of Missouri Co. Extension Service Council, taught piano, taught school, and on and on and on. I resigned my teaching position, quit teaching piano (which I didn't enjoy anyway), and resigned all board position. I have a successful YouTube channel but have not posted a video in 5 months. I was meeting my self coming and going. I have adopted this philosophy; if the job does not require my unique skills, abilities or talents, let it go...let someone else do it! It's been wonderful! I feel like a new person. I never knew life could be so good.

  15. I don't have a family but even so, I swear by freezer meals and freezer half meals. It takes more work in one sitting but it pays off big time in the long run. You can find a million ideas online but basically any meal you can make in a crockpot you can prep and freeze flat in a bag. Defrost the night before and dump in the crockpot the day of. I will double or triple the recipe at one time because hello why not. The other thing I do to save me loads of time is what I call meal half prep. A few times a year I cook a whole turkey. Eat for a day or two but then I pick it and sort into small zip top baggies. Freeze flat. When I cook brown rice, I cook two bags at a time. After dinner, I divvy it up into more zip top baggies and freeze flat. Those two things alone save me loads of time because you can make a zillion meals with that cooked and frozen meat and rice. Add veggies or scrambled eggs or use the meat in tacos or soups and so on.

    Oh and I also do this with cookies. I will make a big batch of chocolate chip cookies, ball them up and place them on a cookie sheet. Pop that in the freezer. Once frozen, toss them in a zip top baggie. You can bake one or all of them as needed. Probably not what you are looking for as a snack but I bet you can do this for all sorts of things like muffins and other snackie foods.

    Clearly I love my freezer!
    KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile


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