Category: Home and Haven

Sharing Life Around the Dinner Table

Sharing Life Around the Dinner Table

What are your memories of the dinner table growing up? Do you have happy memories of time with your family? The dinner table is a place where meals are shared, stories are exchanged, homework is done, milestones and holidays are celebrated and relationships woven. The dinner table may just be the center, the heart of home.

I have bright memories of my family’s dinner table growing up. It was the one time in the day when all of as a family would gather around the table and talk about the day’s events. It wasn’t just a place to eat, it was a forum for debate, a place to laugh and share thoughts and stories. To this day, when my siblings and I gather around the table with my parents, the conversation is spirited, and at times, it’s a lively competition to get airtime to speak.

Growing up, our parents were very committed to putting nutritious food on our table. My mom is a great cook, and some of her staples were chili and cornbread, sloppy Joe’s on homemade whole-wheat buns, or spaghetti sauce with ground beef and spaghetti squash (long before it became a popular, low-carb option!). She always made sure we had a large beautiful salad, accompanied by her homemade poppy seed or honey mustard dressing. One of our favorite meals was her grapefruit and poppy seed salad, made with grapefruit, butter lettuce, fresh avocados, sunflower seeds (which she toasted in a skillet) and her homemade poppy seed salad dressing (Recipes below!). On the side, we would have whole-grain garlic bread, buttery and warm , served from the small electric “bunwarmer” on the sideboard.

We never watched television during dinner, the exception being during the ’92-’93 NBA season. We were huge Phoenix Suns fans at that time and I do remember watching one of the nail-biting playoff games during dinner. If we brought anything to the dinner table, like a book or something we wrote, it was there to share with the family. There wasn’t a spoken rule about it in our home, it was just known that dinner time was family time and we didn’t know anything different.

Once dinner was ready and the table was set, we all gathered around and prayed.  We would take turns saying the dinner prayer each night, usually a short and simple thanks. My parents had a little tradition of kissing (one quick kiss, to clarify) after the prayer, and for the longest time, I thought that’s what all married couples did. After I was first married, I nearly gave my husband a kiss after our dinnertime prayer a few times, which he was not expecting!

During dinner, my parents were great at asking us questions.  They genuinely wanted to engage us in conversation and hear our thoughts and opinions. We talked about the happenings on our little five-acre farm, how the animals and garden were doing, and about the irrigation schedule. We talked about what we were learning and reading, and about politics and world events. My dad, an electrical engineer, would sometimes explain his latest work project, providing illustrations on his napkin with a pen he kept handy in his shirt pocket. We talked about the ephemeral and the eternal, the rising cost of alfalfa hay, God and everything in between. My dad would sometimes recite scripture relevant to the topic from memory, and I loved to hear the sound of it – still do.

Best of all, we laughed a lot. No one shares your sense of humor like the people you got it from! The prize of our uproarious laughter would go to the most clever pun or witticism one of us could muster. There were somber dinners, too, when one or all of us were going through a tough time, but those along with the happier memories all contributed to the grounding theme of my childhood dinner table and set a precedent for me.

My husband had a similar experience growing up in his family, so we both have committed to television-free dinners. We have to work at it (and sometimes I slip here) but we also try to ensure we don’t bring phones to the dinner table. If we play a clip on a laptop, it’s a YouTube to share with everyone else. (Sometimes dinner DOES need to stop for a video of a cat petting a pig’s head as they nap together, right?)  Each family dinner begins with a prayer; sometimes our daughter Ellianna says the prayer now too. We also try to makes sure that what goes on our table is nourishing to our health and well-being. We buy organic (no chemical) foods for the most part, and focus on fruits and vegetables and protein.We also love a good treat and to celebrate special occasions. I’ll never forget when my husband rigged a small chocolate fondue pot using a bowl, two cans and a candle for Valentine’s Day.While schedules don’t always allow us to all sit down to dinner, but we have more dinners together than not.

The memories of my childhood dinner table nudge me to consider my own dinner table and the tone it sets for my family. I want to be present for them, to serve them (and to be served -many times my husband and Ellianna serve me something they’ve made together). I want to come to the table ready to engage with some of the dearest ones in my life and not to miss the opportunity to build memories in these simple, precious and fleeting moments.

The dinner table is a symbol of sharing life together: to celebrate, to take time in the day to pause and thank God for our abundance, and for each other. It is an opportunity to look our loved ones in the eyes and really “see” them, to hear the things that matter to them; to connect, to share stories and laugh heartily. It’s a place where we can nourish our bodies with whole foods and serve one another. To think about the dinner table and what it represents in your home is a simple way to examine the essence of life and how you and your family are experiencing it and will remember it.

Recipes from my Mom’s Dinner Table:

Delightful Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1 1/2 cups raw honey
  • 4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/3 cup raw, organic apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups organic safflower oil
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup water

Mix honey, vinegar, and water in blender. Slowly add oil, keeping the blender on low. Continue blending until dressing is starting to get thick. Stir in poppy seeds. Refrigerate. Dressing keeps for weeks

Grapefruit Poppy Salad

  • Washed butter lettuce leaves
  • Avocado, cubed
  • Grapefruit (peeled and sectioned, only the membrane)
  • Sunflower seeds, lightly toasted and salted
  • Delightful Poppy Seed Dressing

Place lettuce leaves on individual plates. Top with avocado and grapefruit. Sprinkle on sunflower seeds. Drizzle with poppy seed dressing. Serve with whole grain garlic bread for a delicious and complete meal.

Enjoy!

My Whole 30 Diet Before and After Pics

My Whole 30 Diet Before and After Pics

Before I started the Whole30 eating plan, I dreamed about what my before and after pictures would look like. I took several “before” pictures in anticipation of starting Whole 30, thinking each photo looked worse than the last and how great it would contrast with my fabulous “after” picture. But time kept passing and I still wasn’t ready to take that money “after” shot.

Finally, after being on the Whole 30 plan for about 5 weeks, I was ready. Here you go, my before and after:

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drumroll please….

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Before

 

After

I wasn’t after weight loss or how I would look in my clothes, I wanted my house to look better! 

Far too many days my energy has been stuck in 1st gear. When that happens and you have two little children, the energy goes to the children, and there’s not much leftover. So the house would slide, and slide……. to my everlasting frustration. I have a lot I want to accomplish, plus I want to be able to have fun and enjoy my children without being stressed because I don’t have the basics covered (like having clean laundry!).

I went on the Whole 30 plan for the full 30 days. The Whole 30 Plan includes vegetables, nuts and seeds, eggs, meat and some fruit (barring any allergies to these items). No sweeteners of any kind, grains or dairy products are part of the plan. It felt restrictive until I found some recipes to add variety.

The great thing about Whole 30 is that it is a life plan. It eliminates foods that are common irritants to our biology – corn, gluten and dairy products – and then once the 30 days are up, you gradually try these things to see if you are sensitive to them. I know that dairy causes stomach issues for me, and I just generally feel better when I’m off dairy and grains.

After about three weeks of doing the Whole 30 plan, I started to have more energy. I’ve been on the plan now for close to six weeks, and the difference is like night and day. It’s like living a different life. I used to feel drained all the time, and many times I would feel drowsy and exhausted. Today, I heard my baby upstairs and I ran up the stairs! I wasn’t even thinking about it till it struck me how I would have never run up the stairs as many as three weeks ago. Beyond energy, my moods have improved (another productivity booster) and I no longer have chronic stomachaches.

All this adds up to giving me the energy to have and enjoy a cleaner and tidier home, and to do the things that will help make my home a haven. It is high motivation to know that I will not be able to achieve this and other dreams if I don’t stay the course with taking care of my health.

This is my story, or a piece of it. Not every day is perfect, and I am not always perfect in taking care of myself. Every journey has hills and valleys, but as I continue on this path, my goals will come to fruition.

Tomorrow I will talk about how I make this way of eating do-able and workable for me so I can maintain it long-term. I’ll also talk about how it has helped me with my ongoing battle with emotional eating.

I Needed More Energy to Make a Haven

I Needed More Energy to Make a Haven

I’ve written about several ways I’m working to make my home a haven. But I have not yet posted on one of my most important things I need to make this happen. It’s something I’ve been working on for some time, long before I set out to systematically work on organizing my home. What is this critical key? HEALTH. Energy, stamina, strength, mental focus and vitality.

Not feeling well and having what I call bad days (where I feel more like going back to bed than facing the day) has made it difficult to achieve some of my haven making goals. It has led to endless stress and frustrations. One day I was looking around my house at the clutter, the dozens of projects that needed to be accomplished. I was thinking of the needs of my children and of my professional goals. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never be able to accomplish all that I dreamed with my current energy level. I would not get beyond bare survival. Because my energy level was in the tank.

My sister was doing the Whole 30 diet, which has zero sweeteners, grains or dairy products. It’s a “jumpstart” program designed to help people get to a sustainable healthy eating plan. I decided to join her and proclaimed it on Instagram for the extra accountability. It took about three weeks on the program, but I started to get more energy. Once my Whole 30 was done, I slid back into some of my previous habits. It was a reminder of how I feel when I eat certain foods. Now I am on a dedicated, structured plan, with some planned exception days (like Thanksgiving and Christmas).

I’m no stranger to healthy eating. I grew up eating organic food, with no sugar or additives. I’ve been on everything from a vegan, raw food diet (only fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds) to a whole food Paleo diet and have done cleanses and juice fasts (long ago). My husband and I grocery shop at Whole Foods and Sprouts and for the most part, and eat whole foods. We don’t drink sodas or eat anything with chemicals, food dyes or preservatives. It all sounds great, but then there are still organic, healthier forms of ice cream, chocolate, cookies and chips, which I tend to eat more than my share.

Having a healthy eating plan has made a huge difference for me to stay on track with foods that fuel my energy. I am able to function much more optimally, and have much more energy. Health is always a journey, and every day isn’t perfect, but I’m continually having more good days than bad. I’m sticking with this because for me, I really need health to make my haven.

Tomorrow I will talk more about the Whole 30 / paleo plan and what a difference it’s made for me and my home. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Haven Making is Overwhelming

When Haven Making is Overwhelming

I used to have someone come in and clean my house every other week when I was working. I loved it, because just when my house would really need a cleaning, there was this magical day when I would go to work with a dirty house, and come home to a sparkling clean one.

When I quit my job after our son was born, I decided I wanted to save money on housecleaning so I could use it for more fun things, like books and hobbies since I had a little more time. Which means that I needed to find some housekeeping skills I had not used in a very long time. (How hard can it be, right?)

We like to cook a lot, we have two small children and two cats. That adds up to a whole lot of mess very quickly if we don’t stay on top of it. The house quickly becomes overwhelming. I’m probably not unusual in that there are few things I like less than cleaning a big mess. It literally gives me anxiety so I like to procrastinate. #honesty

I miss having someone clean my house. But, as my dad says, “It builds character.”

anthill-140643_640In the book, “9 Things You Simply Must Do” (a must read), I love author Henry Cloud’s example of “acting like an ant.” He observed that ants build an entire city, with a complex network of tunnels, hills and valleys, by carrying one grain of sand at a time.

img_3370-1If the ant picks up a grain, the city will get built. But if the ant looks at the grain and says, “That is not a city! What a waste of time!” there will be no city in the end.

 All-or-nothing thinking keeps people stuck in destructive ruts…. All success is built and sustained just like a building is built, one brick at a time. But one brick seems too small and insignificant for all-or-nothing thinkers. They have to have it all, and one brick, one dollar, one pound, one new customer, is not enough for them.”

 
img_3358I observed something similar when I was learning to snowboard. I would stand at the top of a run, look down a steep mountain run and think, “How am I ever going to get down??” When I looked down the mountain, I would be paralyzed with fear. But then I decided to focus on one turn at a time. Point my board down the mountain and cut across the run, turn, and do it again, turn, back across the run. I focused on one section and one turn at a time. Before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the run. Eventually I got to the point where I could fly down the hill without even thinking about it.

I am a 100% all-or-nothing thinker and I get overwhelmed by big tasks. I’m the one sitting at the top of the mountain with my snowboard, looking at Instagram on my phone so I don’t see the steep hill. I’m the ant looking at all the grains of sand saying, “That doesn’t look like a city!” I see dirty dishes on the table, and because they don’t look like a clean kitchen, I leave them till later. I see clutter on the floor, but because it doesn’t look like a clean house, I save it for later. I see a dirty sink, but since quickly wiping it out doesn’t look like a clean bathroom, I save it for later. But later doesn’t come often enough, and when it does, it’s a miserable game of catch-up.

The concept applies to all of life. Saying no to a donut at work, taking a 15 minute walk, eating a salad, cooking a healthy meal – all little tiny grains of sand that add up to waking up feeling so good you could build a city. Changing the dirty diaper, wiping the little face, making a snack, crawling under the kitchen table to clean up a spill, saying a bedtime prayer, giving a hug – all little tiny grains of sand that will one day be the finished city of our children’s adulthood.

So when things feel overwhelming, I start moving the grains of sand. When the kitchen sink is piled high with dishes, I start with one dish and put it in the dishwasher – a grain of sand. When the children need mama time and I have a mile-long to-do list, I take 10 minutes and read a book to them – a grain of sand. With God’s help, I am making my home a haven one grain of sand at a time.

Because people, I’m carving down my mountain. I’m building a city. And you are too.

Set a Timer to Outwit Perfectionism

Set a Timer to Outwit Perfectionism

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal. I either want to clean a room until the very farthest corners are pristine, or avoid cleaning it altogether. My sister Shannon still laughs about the time when we were kids, helping my mom tidy up for company coming over, imminently. Shannon was whizzing around, picking up the big things, and I was cleaning the blender buttons with a toothpick (I’m not making this up). This does not bode well for keeping a tidy home.

To help me overcome my all-or-nothing, perfectionistic tendencies, I’ve been using a few tricks. When I’m working on cleaning, I tell myself, “It’s not going to be perfect,” to set the expectation for myself that good enough is just that, and to not spend too much time on perfecting the details when other things (and small children) are begging for attention. I’ve lived the adage, “perfect is the enemy of done” too many times.

Another thing that’s helped me tremendously is to set a timer. It’s easy for me to look at a big mess or a big project and be quickly overwhelmed to the point where I don’t want to do anything (my child is the same way). Setting a timer gives me a time constraint to do a task, and helps me get started. I can pretty much do anything (apart from medieval torture) if it only lasts for 15 minutes. This is very helpful for helping children to do tasks as well.

Jon Acuff and other writers use this method to write, and to ensure they are getting enough writing done every day.

Here is a tweet from Acuff on his writing method:

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-2-47-00-pm

(For a great article on using a timer to achieve your goals, see Acuff’s blog post here.

I’ve started setting a timer in the evenings to pick up the house after the day of play and work. Just 15 minutes makes a huge difference in clearing the clutter and chaos.

Here are my tips when setting a timer:

  • Clear distractions so you can 100% focus while the timer is going.
  • Keep it short – 10 minutes to an hour.
  • Put on some fast-paced fun music (or whatever music is suitable for the task).
  • Race against the timer – make it a game to see how much you can get done before it goes off.
  • Stop when the time is up (or shortly after)

Ellianna and I used a timer to clear her craft table area while Weston was napping. We played Chris Tomlin’s “Adore” Christmas album since we both love Christmas music and Dad wasn’t home J and set the timer for 15 minutes.

Here’s what happened:

  • We had fun
  • We had team camaraderie since it was us against the timer
  • We found things we had been missing
  • Ellianna found a craft project she wanted to do when we were done
  • The pick-up energized us, where before we had hit the afternoon “blah’s”
  • It pushed us to make “Toss or Keep” decisions quickly
  • We didn’t want to stop when the timer went off because we were on a roll
  • I ended up picking up a few other things around the area
  • The timer created urgency for a task that really needed to be done, but was not urgent.

We ended up spending about 30 minutes on the project, including taking out the garbage and recycle bin and vacuuming.

Here are the “Before and After” results:

 

messy    clean-area

 

This wasn’t the formidable project it appeared to be. What a difference 30 minutes can make!

When you’re feeling stuck with too much to do, try setting a timer. Let me know how it works!

Is Our Home Serving Us Well? Little Projects that Make a Big Difference

Is Our Home Serving Us Well? Little Projects that Make a Big Difference

wine-bottlesOn one of our nearly annual trips to Colorado to visit my brothers, we had fun stopping by a beautiful winery and doing a tasting. Later, one of my brothers gave us a bottle of wine from that winery as a gift. We savored it on a date night, and because of the sentimental value and a pretty label, we kept the empty bottle. We’ve always kept our wine in a decorative rack in the corner of our kitchen next to the toaster, along with a pretty bottle of limoncello from a trip to Italy, so the empty bottle went there too.

One day, I realized a sentimental empty wine bottle was cluttering an area that we use every morning when we are trying to make breakfast and lunches before the rush out the door. It’s been this way for some time, but I only recently thought about it. Now the bottle has been relocated and toasting our bread is less awkward. The outsider may say, “Of course, why wouldn’t you clear the area by the toaster?” But as the resident of my home, I’d gotten so used to it, I just didn’t think to change it.

Personal growth experts often encourage people to examine their lives and identify if changes need to be made. Sometimes we get so accustomed to things being a certain way, we no longer question if it’s valid for them to remain as they are. For example, a job change may be needed, or a return to school, a relationship may need to be severed, or new friends made.

We need to do the same analysis for our homes. For me, some items become so part of the landscape that I don’t realize a small change can make a big difference for the better. Changes in our family (like having a little one that loves to crawl around and explore now), also dictate adjustments that need to be made.

Recently I’ve been taking a look around our house and asking myself what I can change to ease stress and make things easier. It didn’t take long before I identified several quick projects (and I will continue to have many more!):

  1. Weston kept crawling into Ellianna’s craft table area downstairs. I rearranged the furniture so that he has a segregated play area, away from tempting craft supplies that may be unsafe for him.
  1. maxWeston LOVES to play in the cat food and water bowls. He will crawl as fast as he can to the cat food and grab a big handful and put it in his mouth. Ellianna did the same thing when she was his age. (We do feed our children, so I’m not sure where this comes from). Our days at home were filled with either my husband, our 5 year old daughter or me chasing after Weston to keep him away from the cat food.

We have a very open floor plan and there are very few good places for the kitty bowls, but we got                    creative and moved the bowls to a clean bathtub that is never used. We all can relax now a lot more                downstairs when Weston is on the loose!

  1. I moved one of my treasured artisan benches out of our great room downstairs and up to our master bedroom at the foot of our bed. I was always concerned about scratches on this bench, because it’s just too easy to pile things on it downstairs. (In fact it did suffer a significant gouge that I’m hoping to repair). This freed up space downstairs and gave us a nice sitting spot in our bedroom.
  1. We took an unused (beyond piling things on top of it) table downstairs and created an area for my inbox and for items needed for pending projects (e.g., a gift that needs to be wrapped, a card that needs to be signed, a book that needs to be returned to the library). Previously, these items may have gotten buried in a pile, but now I have visibility to the things that need attention.
  1. We buy a lot of produce, and typically have several items that don’t need refrigeration on our kitchen counter. (Bananas, potatoes, onions, etc.). These were either scattered and taking up counter space, or in a bowl, which wasn’t ideal because we couldn’t use the bowl for other purposes, and the food in the bowl wasn’t overly visible, so some items would go bad before we used them. I found a wire rack on sale at Costco for $15 to place our fruits and veggies now, and it keeps food out of the way, yet visible.
  • bananas
    Before

    veggie-counter-rack
    After
  1. I love books and have piles of them everywhere! I never thought to place them in our main living area for display, but decided to stack some on top of a storage chest. I loved the result – not only are the books decorative, the room reflects something that I value.

All these changes have helped our home and our possessions to better serve us in this stage of life. And I didn’t spend more than $15 in the process. Fancy organization systems and other costly items are simply not necessary to make great home improvements. I’m continuing to look for stress points or small areas of improvement and asking myself if a change is needed. If so, a little project is in order.

Have you tried looking at your home and your things and asking yourself if they are serving you and your family well? Try it, I’ll bet you‘ll find some little changes that will make a big, positive difference.

 

 

Haven Making: Time-Management

Haven Making: Time-Management

A big part of successfully making home a haven is being very organized and prioritizing tasks. Having hundreds of things to juggle without solid organization skills will inevitably lead to some important balls getting dropped. I was talking with a woman who mentioned a mom who has eight children. I shook my head and said, “I don’t know how she does it.” She replied, “She is extremely organized and systematic.” “Kind of like a CEO of her family,” I commented. “Exactly.” she agreed, “She could be a CEO!”

Now, I will never be the kind of person who runs a household of 10 like a tight ship (or even be able to keep the ship afloat). I think God knew that, so he gave me two children. But the idea of being a family CEO and finding efficient systems that work connected with me. I’ve always been organized and efficient in my jobs throughout my career, but have not been quite as successful on the home front.

Even with just (?) two children, there are challenges. Children present so many uncontrollable variables. Sometimes Ellianna likes to entertain herself and do her art, and sometimes she is craving to do activities with Mom. Some days Weston is catching up on sleep and takes a nice long nap, and other days he may take a few catnaps. Some days the children are very well-behaved, other times it would seem they’ve forgotten everything I’ve ever told them, and extra coaching is necessary. If you have children of your own, you could probably cite a hundred more examples.

Then there’s my energy level, which may be the most important factor of all. My energy is higher some days than others. Some days I seem to get stuck in low gear, and others, I feel like super-mom.

I’m always looking for ways to be more productive. I really love organization and time management books. I consume them voraciously like page-turning mystery novels, only the mystery is how much better organized I’ll be once I’ve finished the book. Of course, applying the book is the key, not just reading it, (if reading counted, I would be president of the United States) so I’ve had some disappointing endings.

I’ve tried many techniques, like the time I made a detailed color-coded list of everything I needed to do with some new colored pencils. It was beautiful. But this system only lasted a few days. With the workload I had, the time it took to maintain wasn’t manageable. I’ve tried scheduling out my day by the half-hour to make sure I get everything done. What I’ve found is that I tend to have unrealistic expectations for my day (even before I had kids). When I got behind schedule, (it was 9 pm and I still hadn’t finished things I’d planned to be done with by 10 am – do you know the feeling?), I would end my day in frustration and defeat.

I also love to buy planners and calendars. I’ve bought countless planners from Franklin Covey and Target. Once again, I feel my dollars will buy me some new organization. But this is like buying exercise equipment, a gym membership, and the latest technology in running shoes without a solid routine to use them, and expecting to become strong and lean.

I’ve bounced around quite a bit and am still working to achieve a rhythm and routine, but overall, here are some of the best tips I’ve gleaned so far, and am practicing:

  1. Make a plan for my day the night before or first thing in the morning
  1. Pick THREE things that MUST get done for the day and do those first. This does two things:                  a. It forces me to choose my priorities for the day out of my long list of to-do items and tells me where to focus.                                                                                                                                                           b. If the day gets crazy with endless urgent activities, I will at least have done the top three important things. This is a great way to still make a little progress, even on whirlwind days.
  1. Make my to-do list and calendar VISIBLE. I’m finally learning that I am an out-of-sight, out-of-mind person, and if my to-do list is not handy, I will forget it and do the next urgent thing.
  1. Enter all appointments and events into Google Calendar and SET REMINDERS! Again, out-of-sight, out-of-mind. I think the default reminder I have on Google Calendars is 10 minutes before an event starts, which is much too late if I’ve forgotten all about it. Now I set multiple reminders so I see it coming.fullsizerender-5
  1. Have a designated space for an “in-box” where family members and I can deposit papers I need to process or file. This keeps all my important things together in one spot (bank statements, school activity notices, etc), ready to process. Again, this has to be in a high-traffic area for me so I will see it and be reminded to clear it out. The goal is to check the box throughout the week, but once a week, clean it out entirely. If you can do something in two minutes, do it right away, otherwise it needs to be designated as a project and scheduled for another time. (Great advice from Getting Things Done by David Allen).img_3271-1
  1. Write out a plan. I have a large desk calendar that I think through the month with by writing out everything coming up. I also use it to plan books to read (based on library due dates) and exception days to my Paleo health plan (more on this to come).
  1. As I plan, know that there are trade-offs: I’m such an optimist when it comes to my time and energy! I think I can get it all done, but in reality, if I’m overscheduled, something is going to go, and it may be something that shouldn’t (like sleep, tasks tied to future goals, etc.)

These are some simple strategies that are helping me to run my ship a little tighter and achieve more of my goals. I’m always continuing to learn – my next thing I want to try more is a bullet journal. I will be taking a course on it early next year. I love the fluidity and flexibility of a bullet journal.

What are your favorite strategies for being more efficient with your time? Share in the comments!

Haven Making: Live Well – Laugh Often – Love Much

Haven Making: Live Well – Laugh Often – Love Much

I was just watching little videos of my daughter when she was one year, and now here she is, a big girl in Kindergarten. Of course, you know what I’m going to say next. How the years have flown. One of my constant goals is to savor this season of life with my two little ones as much as I can; before I’m ten years down the road, crying and looking at pictures “when the kids were so small.”

This point was driven home for me recently in a very tangible way.

the-ponderosa
My dad standing on the ground that would be our homestead for the next 29 years -“The Ponderosa”. The year was 1985.

When I was about 9 years old, my parents moved to a 5-acre bare piece of land – literally nothing but dirt. It was so raw, (more…)

Haven Making Triage

Haven Making Triage

I have dreams and visions of getting my house beautifully organized and decorated. But sometimes, there are more important things to do. My son has been a little under the weather, and I’m playing catch-up on lots of things this week. I think every mother has a mental triage for tasks that need to get done. In the heat of the day, mamas are constantly juggling priorities. Here is how I generally triage my day:

  1. Children’s safety – above all, is my child safe? If a child climbs up on something or puts something in their mouth, there is NOTHING more important than a prevention and rescue mission!
  1. Children’s nourishment – The next most important item on the agenda is feeding a hungry child! They have ways of not letting you forget this urgent and important task. (One might be led to believe a delay of 5 minutes could lead to malnourishment bordering on collapse).
  1. Diaper changes – especially critical if they are leaking (see next bullet)
  1. Spills cleanup – spit up, food, etc (see previous bullet) before your carpet or other flooring has permanently changed and someone slips on a slippery surface!
  1. Keeping the kids occupied (with arts and crafts, and activities I found on Pinterest… Sesame Street anyone?)
  1. Laundry when the clean underwear has run out– you can usually scrounge up an outfit, even if it’s last year’s clothes, but clean underwear is a non-negotiable.
  1. Coaching/ Training: my child, please, please, please, please listen?
  1. Picking up so there is a path to walk in the house (again, safety first! J )
  1. Prepping dinner (sometimes this means warmed up mac & cheese and a veggie for Ellianna, and later…. Did I mention my husband grills?)
  1. Dishes – Click here to see my kitchen challenges

And in between, in the brief times of quiet, e.g., during Weston’s naptime and when Ellianna is at school, squeezing in reading, writing, and things that require some extended time of focus, because those things are not possible when little children are afoot.

Then, when all the above is under control, projects like deeper cleaning, de-cluttering and organizing can be done. Some days, I don’t get past the first 5 items and barely squeeze 6 in if the situation is desperate. Other days, I get so much done, I’m having visions of finishing my goal list early for the year (because I have frequent bouts of insanity).

weston-and-eThe important thing I have to remember is, there is nothing more important, no higher calling, than caring for my children. If I don’t get beyond the basic tasks, I have still had a very successful day as a mama. Though the tasks are small and repetitive, if they are done with love and cheer, (let’s say most of the time), mamas get a gold star. This is a season of life, a snapshot of the journey, and it’s totally ok.

Puppy Dog Hellos and Goodbyes – Don’t Miss Your Cue!

Puppy Dog Hellos and Goodbyes – Don’t Miss Your Cue!

Sometimes the simplest gestures can mean so much, but in their absence, relationships suffer. One of the things we do as a family to make our home a haven is to practice “puppy dog” greetings. If you’ve ever seen a dog say goodbye with a little “please don’t go” whine, or greet you at the door when you come home, barking and jumping, tail wagging with sheer joy and excitement at the very sight of you, this is the picture of a puppy dog greeting. Think Max from “The Secret Life of Pets” (if you have not seen this movie, make sure you do!)

One of the simplest ways to convey “I love you” is to greet children and other family members with enthusiasm and joy! When you say good morning, when you’re waving goodbye, when a spouse comes home from work, when a child comes home from school. A simple, “Hello!! How was your day? I missed you today!” and a big hug and kiss is just right (adjust as needed for the person’s comfort level – this level of enthusiasm may not go over well with a teenager, but works great for kindergartners J ). Or make sure your loved one gets a hug and a wave as they run out the door.

It’s also really important not to miss your cue. I like to read a book or look at my phone when I’m waiting to pick-up Ellianna from school. But when the time gets close for her to come out of school, I keep my eyes open and the door in my peripheral view. I don’t want to be looking down when she comes out. . One of the biggest keys for me is to put the phone AWAY! Distraction free greetings and goodbyes are so important. I want to be waiting, expectantly, ready to give her a big hug. She usually eagerly returns it.

Shortly after I was married, my dad told me to make sure I greet my husband this way when he comes home. My parents were a big role model to me in this; my mom always prepared for my dad to come home and made a little fuss over him when he did. Their hellos and goodbyes have always been very sweet.

I’m not always perfect and sometimes I do miss my cue. Sometimes my greetings for Andy are more like my cats’ than a puppy dog’s (no where in sight, they come out when they’re ready). Andy on the other hand, is diligent to make sure I’m the first one to get a kiss <3. It’s a value we hold and one to practice – both in the sense that practice makes perfect, and also to make it a practice in our lives.

puppyWeston, our 8 month old, is a great example for me of heart melting greetings. He has the biggest smile and kicks his little legs with joy when he sees his sister, dad or me come through the door. He’s got this thing down!

Our loved ones can be so easy to take for granted. The “puppy dog greeting” practice is a good way to remember to be thankful for them. The days are long, but life is short, and we will not regret one single joyful hello or goodbye.

 

 

(Photo sources: Still frame from The Secret Life of Pets movie; http://blog.imgur.com/2016/03/23/happy-national-puppy-day/)