Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Home Management: Simplified and Streamlined, Decluttering

First off, I am so sorry this post is going up so late! It has been a fun and busy week with my mom in town. I've also been working feverishly to finish up a lengthy paper (which needs to be done by tomorrow at the latest and I still haven't finished!)--so that has been occupying all of my writing time.

Last week's project was decluttering. If I was not almost 8 months pregnant and busy keeping up with two other children, I would have loved to do a top-to-bottom de-clutter of my entire house. But, I knew that just wasn't realistic so I didn't even go there.

However, with Mom's help we spent about 5 or 6 hours one afternoon doing a big declutter project that I really, really wanted done before Joshua's arrival (due date is 6 weeks from today!). We were able to go through all the children's clothes in my entire house and sort them into things to consign, things to go to Goodwill, and things to keep for future babies.

I meant to take a picture, but totally forgot until after I dropped things off at a consignment store and Goodwill. But, seriously, I could not believe how many clothes my children had. Goodwill got a big black trash bag plus three normal-sized white trash bags (it felt so good to hand those bags over), I was able to sell some items to Once Upon a Child, and I'm working on getting the remaining things washed and packed away (either to save, or to consign during other seasons)--except the newborn and 0-3 month boy clothes, which will be washed and put in Joshua's drawer (awwww).

It feels so good to be mostly done with this project, as I've been wanting to do it for months. I think Mom and I will probably be able to button it up completely today before she heads out tomorrow.

Week 11 Project: Cleaning Routine
This week, Rachel and I are going to be working on developing simple cleaning routines. I feel like I do pretty well if I can just stay on top of daily stuff--but mopping, dusting, etc. are a wee bit neglected in these parts.

Be sure to head over to Rachel's post at Intentionally Simple to see her decluttering results! I really admire her low-clutter lifestyle and would like to have her decluttering skills when I grow up. ;)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Getting ready for Baby #3

That photo of our little man was taken almost fourteen weeks ago. Y'all, that means I have less than 7 weeks until his due-date!

I am getting really excited to meet my sweet baby boy, and my brain has definitely transitioned into "getting ready for baby" gear. Since this is my third time welcoming a baby into the world (and it's been less than two years since I had a baby boy), we have basically everything we need. It's just a matter of organizing and getting ready. And, since I have some experience, I also know what things will matter to me after the birth and be important in making for a speedy recovery and peaceful transition.

A couple of weeks ago, I put together a list of things I want to do and things I need to (or would like to) buy before Joshua makes his appearance.Thankfully with help from Ben and my Mom, I've been able to chip away at my list.

To do:

  • Organize all our children's clothes. Sort things into hand-me-downs for Joshua, a few special girl items to save, and items to consign/give to Goodwill.
  • Wash, sort and, and store clothes Joshua will use. Put newborn and 0-3 month clothes in his drawer.
  • Put together a toy organization system Katie can handle by herself.
  • Fix the cabinet door on the children's dresser.
  • Make cloth wipes
  • Clean and set up bassinet
  • Freeze at least 10 dinners worth of food, plus breakfast items 
  • Order more cloth diapers (I'm thinking 10-12 more) and get them washed and ready to go
  • Get noise machine, hamper, and GoodNite Lite for Katie and Benjamin's room
  • Pick up a new DVD or two for Katie and Benjamin (not because I advocate rotting their brains in front of the TV all day--but I know there will be the occasional moment when I really need something to hold their attention during the transition into life with three babes)
  • Purchase a Baby K'Tan carrier (I've finally settled on this to add to my baby-wearing arsenal)
  • Order birth kit
  • Gather other birth supplies
My goal is to have everything finished by September 10, so we're ready a month before the due-date (just in case he comes early--though I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen!).

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting this site!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Goals for This Week

It's a goal 

I have been reading Eat That Frog! this week on the Kindle app. on my phone and felt inspired to start setting weekly goals again after not being diligent in this area over the past several weeks. I spent some time yesterday afternoon thinking through our week and my priorities and came up with goals for this week.

Waking up on a Monday morning with an aim in mind for the week makes such a difference, in my opinion! It helped that Ben very sweetly helped me clean the entire house on Saturday. Waking up to a nice, tidy house makes it a lot easier to be productive, too. :)

Here are my goals for this week:

-Exercise four times (yoga twice, cardio/toning twice)
-Start the Make the Most of Your Mornings Challenge

-Have breakfast ready by 8:30 every morning {I know it may seem silly putting this as a marriage goal, but it makes a big difference in Ben's work day to get out of the house at a reasonable hour!}

-Work with them at picking up their own toys every day. {We just put a shelf in their room on Saturday that can hold everything, so I'm hoping to have this responsibility completed handed over to Miss Katie before we meet Joshua!}    

Home Management:
-Have the whole house tidied up at least once every day.
-Decide right after breakfast what we'll be having for lunch {instead of waiting until everyone is hungry!}
-Sort through ALL of our stored children's clothes. Pare way down on little girl clothes (planning to take things to a consignment shop) and get hand-me-downs washed, ready, and organized for Joshua {My mom is coming into town on Thursday and we'll be working on this together!}

-Finish and send in my essay

-Post at least three times

Home Management: Simplified & Streamlined, Breakfast & Lunch

Just as a note, Rachel and I decided to switch to posting for this series on Mondays instead of Fridays.

Our project for last week was to focus on ways to streamline breakfast and lunch. Our family usually eats all three meals together each day, and especially at breakfast, it seems to take forever to get a hearty meal on the table and manage to eat and get on with the day in a timely manner. Most days, it's the same with lunch--rather than a quick, filling meal, we end up with a major interruption midday.

I certainly wasn't perfect in getting breakfast and lunch on the table quickly every day last week, but there were a few things I did that definitely worked well for us.

::Plan ahead. I do have a menu plan every week, but I never don't always follow it religiously. Knowing for sure the night before what we're having for breakfast and figuring out right after breakfast what we'll have for lunch helps tremendously.

::Prepare ahead. Baked oatmeal can be mixed up the night before and baked in the morning as can breakfast casserole. One night, I mixed up the dry ingredients for a batch of muffins and had the other ingredients ready to go and breakfast came together a lot quicker. Anything that can be done ahead of time (at a more convenient time!) helps. I also stashed some extra muffins in the freezer, which made for a nice quick breakfast--thaw them out over night, scramble some eggs, and serve it with some fruit for a nice, hearty breakfast in under 15 minutes.

::Plan for leftovers. I try to make enough dinner to eat leftovers for lunch several times each week. This is about as simple as it gets, and often provides me with a little more protein than typical lunchtime staples would.

::Have back-ups available. Yesterday, I figured that today we'd have enough leftovers to eat for lunch. I was wrong. So, we had oatmeal for lunch. Is it our favorite? No. But, it worked (I do grocery shopping Monday evenings, so we were out of several staples!). Keeping things on hand for a quick lunch of smoothies, macaroni and cheese, quesadillas, a snack-y lunch, or other simple meals is a great way to get some healthy food in your kiddos midday without taking forever.

What do you all do to get meals on the table quicker?  Be sure to visit Rachel at Intentionally Simple to see how she's streamlining breakfast and lunch!

Week 10 Project:
This week, we're moving out of the kitchen and into the rest of the house. We'll begin by focusing on decluttering, since the less unnecessary stuff we have to clean, to easier cleaning is. I've got a big de-clutter project to get done before Joshua is born, so I'm going to try to get that done this week. We'll be back next week with an update and the next project!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pregnancy Update, 32 Weeks

32 weeks, 1 day

32 weeks already?! That means I only have one more prenatal check-up until my midwife and birth assistants come for a home visit--and after the home visit, we go to weekly check-ups until this little man makes his appearance. Basically, I'm going to blink my eyes a couple of times, and this babe will be here.

We had a check-up with my midwife yesterday, and everything looks great. I've gained 23 pounds so far. My blood pressure was still good (106/60--it has been right around 100/60 the whole pregnancy), Baby is measuring right on (32cm.) and sounded good. He is head down and in a great position for birth already. Last time I went he was quite low, and gratefully he has moved up some. It was a little early to be feeling the pressure I was feeling!

He is a busy, busy guy and is the first of my three to actually wake me up during the night with his antics. I will be interested to see if his personality matches his busy-ness. With Katie and Benjamin, this did prove to be the case! I think it's pretty fun to have several months to begin getting to know your baby before you give birth.

I am feeling pretty good overall. I've started to waddle a bit and bending over are getting a little more difficult, and the past few days I've had a hard time getting back to sleep after waking up to use the bathroom in the wee hours of the morning. I'm really hoping that is just a passing thing, and not something that will happen all the way until I'm waking up with a baby in the wee hours of the morning!

I've been thinking more earnestly about actually preparing for Joshua's arrival and have a list going of things I want to do/buy. So far, nothing is crossed off. But--my mom is coming into town next week, and I'm hoping to make a good dent in the list while she's here. I'll probably share a little more about my plans with y'all before too long.

How are you other pregnant mamas doing? I'd love to hear your updates in the comments!

PS: For those who are interested, here is my 32 Week update from when I was pregnant with Benjamin.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Menu Plan, August 13-19

With obligations away from home Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday (twice!), and Saturday, I feel a little stressed out just thinking about how busy this week is going to be. I try to be careful not to "overbook" myself, but sometimes it's just unavoidable.

It was really nice to have my list of meals to refer to when planning this week's menu. I don't know why I didn't put that together soon!

I'm sticking with mostly simple meals this week, in hopes of alleviating the little bit of stress of being busy away from home. Does anyone else feel like if they're away from home more than usual in a week, things just fall apart? There's enough time to make a mess, but no time to get it all cleaned up.

Breakfast~Oatmeal pancakes, scrambled eggs, fruit
Dinner~ leftovers from the weekend

Breakfast~Something snack-y on the go (have to be out of the house with both children by 8:15!)
Dinner~Crock-pot Stroganoff over pasta, salad

Breakfast~Baked Oatmeal
Lunch~Leftovers and/or smoothies

Breakfast~Leftover Baked Oatmeal
Lunch~leftover chili
Dinner~Cheeseburger Potato Casserole, fruit, salad

Breakfast~Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit

Breakfast~Easy Breakfast Casserole ,muffins from the freezer, fruit
Lunch~leftover pizza
Dinner~Filet Mignon with Pepper Cream Sauce, baked potatoes, salad

Breakfast~Same as Saturday (I make two casseroles, and bake the second one Sunday morning)
Lunch~ snacks
Dinner~ To be determined

What are y'all cooking this week? If you need some inspiration, head over to OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Home Management: Simplified and Streamlined, Menu Planning

This week's focus was streamlining with menu planning. As I said last time, I have always been pretty consistent with having a menu plan (when you're almost 20 miles from the grocery store, it's not really optional!), but lately I've been feeling like I've been spending way too much time each week on the actual planning process.

I set out to change that this week by making a list of all our favorite dinners, organized by protein. Inspired by Stephanie at Keeper of the Home, I wanted to have a list of 21 meals.

As I scrolled back through almost 9 months of menu plans, I was amazed at how little variety we have compared to what I actually thought. We really do mostly rotate through the same meals with simple variations based on what I have on hand, and an occasional new recipe thrown in when creativity strikes. Seeing this, I was even more amazed at how much time I spend on menu planning every week. Ha!

Here is the list I came up with based on previous menu plans. It is actually 23 meals instead of 21.

Biscuits and gravy
Homemade pizza (gluten free, whole wheat)
BBQ Meatballs
Taco salad
Cheeseburger Potato Casserole

Grandma’s stroganoff
Seared steaks with cream sauce
Italian roast beef over pasta
Shredded beef tacos
Country Fried Steak

Potato Soup (with turkey bacon)
Roast Chicken
Garlic chicken pasta
Slow-cooker orange chicken
Sherry’s Aussie Chicken
Homemade chicken nuggets

Salmon Patties

Easy Breakfast Casserole

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Rice and beans

I think having this list on hand when I do my menu planning each week will help a lot. If we eat the same bunch of things all the time, there's no sense in spending a few hours trying to decide what we should eat. ;)

Week 9 Project:
This week, we'll be focusing on streamlining breakfast and lunchtime. I know in our house, we eat a big breakfast most days and it ends up taking a long time between cooking, eating, and then cleaning up the mess. Lunch is usually pretty quick, but some days we end up having "snacks" for lunch and we don't really have substantial snacks around--so Ben ends up being hungry. I think my attempts at streamlining will be focused on doing more preparation ahead of time for breakfast and lunch, and planning better for lunch each day.

I'd love to hear what suggestions you all have for serving healthful, hearty meals at breakfast and lunch without spending enormous amounts of time in the kitchen!

Be sure to visit Rachel at Intentionally Simple to see her two week menu plan!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Breastfeeding the second time

It's World Breastfeeding Week. I have written before about my experience breastfeeding my firstborn. While we had a rough start, it was 'smooth sailing' after a couple of months and while I hadn't "planned" on extended breastfeeding, we continued until Katie weaned herself at 16 months (during my second trimester with Benjamin)--and I shed tears on more than one occasion after the fact.

When Benjamin was born, we had a much easier time starting out. I had very little soreness, he latched on really well, and since he was born at home I was able to begin nursing him within moments of his birth (perhaps even before my placenta was delivered?).

Benjamin in my arms just moments after his birth

Part of what made nursing easier the second time was the confidence I had from 16 sweet months of nursing Katie.

We also did things a little differently. During the first weeks with Benjamin, while I did try to make sure he got a full feeding every time he ate, I did not worry at all about a schedule. I let him nurse whenever he wanted, for however long he wanted--sometimes he'd nurse for a couple of hours at a time.

The result was that the first weeks of his life outside the womb were so much more restful than our first weeks as first-time parents had been. My milk came in much faster, my baby was content, and he got back to his birth weight before the two-week mark. Since I wasn't worried about making sure he didn't nurse too long, I got a lot more rest because I was okay with falling asleep while nursing him in bed.

And my little man loved (really, really loved) nursing. He didn't eat many solids at all until after 10 months, so for most of that time he was nursing every 2-3 hours during the day (he was a big boy!), and he nursed during the night too (that part was admittedly exhausting after a while--I got spoiled with Katie who slept 7 hours at less than 6 weeks).

As I approached my second trimester in this pregnancy, Benjamin was down to nursing just a couple times each day. Once we went down to once a day my milk supply began to dwindle, but he continued to enjoy it so much I kept going. I enjoy the sweet snuggles too--and the look on the face of a baby who's fallen asleep nursing is simply priceless.

Eventually, I had so little milk left that I was getting sore when he nursed. One day, I just didn't offer it to him and he didn't seem to miss it. And after 17 precious months, that was that. For a month or so, he would pat my chest most days and say, "All gone?" But he doesn't do that anymore either.

It was a wonderful 17 months. While I still miss the snuggles with my little man (who is just so busy these days!), the slow weaning process went really well for both of us--and I didn't plan to tandem nurse, so realistically, the timing worked out well too.

I have spent 33 out of the past 41 1/2 months breastfeeding. And truly, nursing my babes has been one of my most incredible, treasured experiences on my journey as a mama. I never dreamed before Katie was born that the benefits of breastfeeding would extend beyond free and perfect nutrition for my babies--but at least for me, that benefit, while certainly fabulous, was only the beginning.

And as I look forward to meeting this sweet little man growing in my womb (in just 9 weeks or so!), one aspect of life with a newborn I'm most looking forward to is having a nursing babe in my arms once again.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Menu Plan, August 6-12

I am really looking forward to this week. For the first time in quite a while, it looks like (for now, at least), I only have one day I'll need to go into town for something. I'm hoping this will make for a productive week, after a few weeks of just feeling super busy. I want to get back into our normal routine and I have a huge mountain of laundry calling my name. I'm hoping the kids and I will be able to tackle that this afternoon.

I also wanted to mention a great deal to y'all. Through midnight tonight, Tropical Traditions is offering free shipping with the code 682212. This is a great opportunity to try out some of their excellent products without paying shipping costs. Their Organic Palm Oil Shortening (which I love) is on sale for $23.59 for a gallon, and their 2.2lb bag of Coconut Flour (which I have fallen in love with--especially now that Ben is gluten-free) is on sale for $9.99.

But, anyway, here is our menu for this week. I'm hoping to continue freezing some things here and there as well--it adds so little prep. time, and I think it will end up saving me a lot of time (and stress!) on busy days.

Breakfast~Oatmeal pancakes (served with butter and real syrup), fruit
Dinner~Simple Beef Gravy over Millet Biscuits, salad, fruit

Dinner~BBQ Meatballs (from the freezer), mashed potatoes, salad

Breakfast~Hashbrowns, scrambled eggs
Dinner~Crockpot stroganoff over gluten-free pasta, glazed carrots, salad

Breakfast~Baked Oatmeal
Dinner~Creamy Cauliflower Soup (with turkey bacon), coconut flour cheddar biscuits, salad

Breakfast~Leftover Baked Oatmeal
Dinner~Homemade pizza, salad

Breakfast~Breakfast casserole, Sweet Brown Oatmeal Bread (from the freezer), Fruit
Dinner~ Crockpot BBQ Beef Short Ribs, salad, scalloped potatoes

Breakfast~Leftovers from Saturday morning
Dinner~Family dinner at the farm

What are y'all cooking this week? If you need some inspiration, be sure to head over to OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday!

This post contains referral links. Thank you for supporting Covenant Homemaking!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Home Management: Simplified & Streamlined, Stocking the Freezer

This week's project was to freeze one item each day, in an attempt to streamline our efforts in the kitchen. I am so pleased to have some food in the freezer, and even more pleased at how little effort it took to get it there!

This week I was able to freeze:
::Strawberries (3lbs)--I just wash, dry, and freeze them whole (leaves and all) for smoothies. We don't notice the leaves once they're blended up, and this makes it super easy.

::Bananas--I asked the man in the produce section at the grocery store to mark down 8 bunches of organic bananas that were already getting brown. He was happy to, and I peeled, halved, and froze most of them for smoothies. It ended up being two full gallon-sized bags.

::Sweet Brown Oatmeal Bread (1 loaf)--I made this for breakfast yesterday and doubled it. We ate one loaf and I froze the other. To freeze, I let it cool completely, sliced it up, wrapped it in plastic wrap and then put it in a freezer bag.

::Meatballs (2-3 meals' worth)--We had these BBQ Meatballs for dinner one night, and I froze 2/3 of the meatballs raw to thaw out and bake up on other nights.
I also have some homemade beef breakfast sausage browned and ready to freeze (I use this mainly for topping homemade pizza) and about 2 cans' worth of cooked beans, but I don't have any small freezer bags. We're going to be in town this evening, so I'll stop at the store to grab some.
 I am hoping to continue the habit of regularly freezing meal components to help me spend less time in the kitchen, and I'm hoping to try freezing some whole meals before this baby makes his appearance this fall so I can stay (mostly) out of the kitchen for a while.

Week 8 Project: Menu Planning
This week, Rachel and I will be focusing on menu planning. I have been pretty consistent in this area for many months. My plan is to make lists of our favorite meals (by protein--beef meals, chicken meals, etc.) to reference each week in order to streamline my planning process. I'd also like to make a consistent breakfast menu to repeat each week--and perhaps even designate "themes" for each weeknight. I'll have to play around with list-making and see what I think will work best for us.

Be sure to head over to Intentionally Simple and see how Rachel's week of stocking the freezer went!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mamas need to obey God too (and sometimes it's hard).

One day last week Katie was obviously tired during nap-time, but (as exhausted children so often do) was fighting sleep. For a while she played quietly in her bed. Then she started wanting to come out, and I sent her back into her room (several times). She finally had a meltdown, which woke up Benjamin in the next room (who had not been sleeping long enough and was sure to be a grump for a while).

At some point, I lost my cool and yelled at my daughter. I then carried her back to her room again and left her there, feeling very irritated as I listened to two tired children crying in their separate rooms and lamented the fact that I would be denied a beloved period of mid-day peace and quiet.

So, I went into Katie's room to talk to her.

"You know why Benjamin is crying? He's crying because you wouldn't obey mama and you were being too loud and you woke him up. You can't do that, do you understand?"

She laid down in her bed and started sucking her thumb, with a sad look about her. Feeling a little guilty for losing my cool, I sat down next to her.

"Are you okay?" She nodded her head.

"Are you sad?" She nodded again.

"Why are you sad?" With that, she started crying.

"Because you yelled at me," she said through her tears.

I scooped her up and hugged her, and I started crying too. After a moment she looked at me and asked, "Why did you yell at me?"

"I shouldn't have yelled at you, Katie. I did it because sometimes mamas have a hard time obeying God too."

As we snuggled, I was amazed how the Lord uses my children to grow and convict me in ways I never imagined. 

My number one goal as a mother is to teach my children to obey Christ. If they learn nothing else before I send them out into the world, I want them to know the importance of submitting themselves to the Lord.

When I raise my voice at my child because I am upset she's not obeying me, I have lost sight of the goal. My children don't need to obey me because I want them to. They need to obey me because it is what God requires of them. Raising obedient children is not for my own benefit, but for God's glory.

Just as God requires parental obedience of my children, He requires me to be kind, patient, gentle, and selfless as I train them up. He requires me to lovingly and faithfully point them to Himself and not sin against them (and Him) by being ugly to them in the process.

No amount of instruction will impress upon my children the importance of a godly life if I fail to model godliness before them. If I want my babes to obey God, I have to obey Him too.