It feels like it has been a long time since I have been able to blog. I kind of miss it. The reason for the delay was a case of the stomach flu at our house. Now that it is done and over I find I need to get my house and meal plans back in order. As I was thinking about what needed to be done I thought I would share some ways I manage here at the Lebens.
God has given us a great help in this area in our husbands. It is important to ask him his standard and then try and make it yours as well. Many times I have gotten all out of whack and started serving my home and had my attitude all wrong when my husband will remind me that he doesn't care if I keep a perfect house, he does care if I have a bad attitude though. Other times I haven't paid well enough attention to what I should and I have had to be reminded that I am being distracted! Either way I feel so blessed and at peace when he sets the tone. It honestly brings me freedom to know that I don't have to live up to my own standards in these areas only Pete's.
The care of our home as far as cleaning and upkeep go has had several different forms depending on where we are at with life. When I had less children and more time I would simply have a certain day each week to do tasks like cleaning, baking, or shopping. When we started schooling and my daytime hours to dedicate to home got cut in half that had to change. I would try and do a little each day at the same time the children did their chores. Then we had a baby and inevitably she needed to be nursed or cared for during the time I was suppose to be doing my portion of the chores so then they got moved to whenever I could get them done!
Things seem to have stabilized with our schedule once again and I have fallen into another pattern that seems to be working well for now. For cleaning I try and dedicate Saturday mornings to doing a house clean with the children. Throughout the week I will upkeep what needs to be done more often as I see necessary. Our children (with the exception of baby Gretta) all have daily chores that they do. We have set aside a time after breakfast to do our morning chores. Each child has a chore chart to refer to if they can't remember what to do. They have the standards like brushing hair and teeth but also age appropriate items that will help their family. For the 3 year old it is taking care of dirty laundry and emptying the garbage's. The 5 year old it's organizing shoes and helping with her kitchen chores. The 7 year old feeds the chickens and cleans the bathrooms. We also do chore rotation, it seems that the children do their work more contentedly and well if I switch up the chores often. None of our children are at an age where they can do the work as well as an adult which is expected however, their help makes it easier for me to deal with less of a mess less often.
We also have mealtime chores. At each meal the children have a job to do whether it be setting and clearing the table, loading and unloading the dishwasher or sweeping the floor. Recently our 3 oldest children were gone and I found that I really missed having them help with these things. This is a tremendous blessing for a homeschooling momma who cooks for hungry people 3 times a day and snacks in between! A couple of things that have made this work well is that I spent a long time training the children on these chores and staying with them in the kitchen. We would sing together and laugh and visit so it didn't seem overwhelming or monotonous. Patience is key in getting the children to help with the household chores because it takes a long time to train them and then an even longer time to see really great work, they are only children! I try and keep my expectations at a place that challenges the children to do a good job, but doesn't exasperate them into not wanting to help. One more note on this area is that our children have stepped out and asked to help at other people's homes when we've been out. The responses I have received from others has been great. My sister-in-law once said, "I will have to ask you how you get your kids to help so well when I have kids I want mine to do that." I think it is great that people notice and I always hope it gives us the opportunity to share with them that it is not us but, the Lord being the center of our lives. Our goal isn't to have children who are adept at keeping house rather, we want children who see a need and fill it, who serve others joyfully and who want to bless others.
The biggest help to me no matter what life has been like is having a plan. I always and I mean ALWAYS have a planning chart going. On it I write a meal plan, school plans, social plans, to do list and chores that need to get done. I can easily look at my chart and know what is coming next or write down a to do for later without fear of forgetting, although I still seem to forget plenty.
Meal planning is another necessity in our home. I find that having a plan in place helps me to keep things on hand that I will need and scramble at meal time less often. A couple of things that I have found helpful are keeping a few freezer meals ready to go for the days I get a little lazy and not over complicating things. I keep a list of healthy meals our family enjoys with my planning chart and every now and then I try a new meal. I now do my meal planning once per week and then shop one to two times per week. This is a pretty good fit for now since keeping fresh foods in the house is important to me.
When I go to do a meal plan I first think of what I have on hand that needs to be used up. Generally I start with the meat items in the freezer and find ways to use them. Buying meats on sale is by far the best way to save on them, so I stock up and then incorporate them in future meal plans. Anyways I start with meat, create a meal around them and write on my menu what day we will eat it, taking into consideration the time it takes to make and the commitments that day has. Then I fill in lunches. We eat leftovers for lunch whenever possible, which is rare here since Pete takes leftovers for work lunches. If there are no leftover options for lunch I have another list of lunch staples we enjoy and plug them in. I have a standard breakfast routine, this is great because each day has a certain item Mon. is oatmeal, Tues. is cereal, Wed. is yogurt parfaits, Thurs. is muffins and eggs, Fri. is oatmeal, Sat. pancakes, sausage and berries, Sun. is eggs, toast and smoothies. Ahhh...I never have to think about what to make for breakfast it's a good feeling. Are you sensing I get a little excited about meal planning yet? I do. I would gladly sit and meal plan over any other household thing I do each week.
I am by nature a planner. I often find the planning much more fulfilling than the execution. Over the past 7 years I have tried alot of different plans but slowly this is the one that has taken course. It has brought peace many times to know that there is a plan in place and I don't have to stress at the end of the day trying to sort out the next day. It has also been a blessing to be able to deviate when times call for it. During the summer we have a less lax schedule and do a little more go with the flow. Again we don't want to be serving our homes and schedules but, have them serve us.