Monday, September 14, 2015

Five Routines Keeping Me Sane This Fall

With our fall schedule in full swing, I'm starting to appreciate the structure of our week and relying on some pretty firm routines to help keep things under control. We're a pretty extreme case as we go from everyone home all day in the summer {read: no schedule} to a whacky routine that changes every 3 months based on my teaching assignment and what childcare we need, but we're starting to get in a groove that works.

Anyway, I have some methods for making the weeks run smoother that I thought I'd share, and that I can look back on in case I need reminders should I fall off the organized track.

1. Meal plan. I don't want to be overdramatic, but this has literally changed my life. About a year ago I realized that I would get anxious and frustrated whenever dinnertime rolled around, especially when Jason asked "what's the plan for dinner?" So, I had this novel idea: make a plan! I use printouts I found here {but if you search Pinterest for "meal plan printable" there are lots of great options} and have them hung in the kitchen in picture frames so that I can write on them each week with dry erase markers. On Sunday, I write out our schedule for the week and use that to plan our meals, taking into account if Jason or I will be gone some evenings for meetings and the like. 

There are so many reasons I love this. First, I use a meal planner with a grocery list next to it, so I include any needed ingredients in the shopping list for the week. This actually makes our grocery bill lower, too, because we're not buying unnecessary ingredients or things we already have in the house. Second, it makes it easier to use up food so it doesn't go to waste. For example, if I'm buying certain veggies for one meal, I make sure to include another with those ingredients so we can use up the rest. Third, it makes us try new recipes. I am admittedly not an awesome cook {luckily my husband enjoys cooking}, so if I don't have anything planned, it's not easy for me to whip something up with ingredients I happen to have in the cupboard. A day with no plan usually results in frozen pizza or pancakes for dinner {Don't get me wrong. Sometimes pancakes is the plan. What is life without brinner, really?}. When I have all the ingredients I need for a recipe though, I have found I enjoy cooking more and I think I've gotten much better at it since including this blessed weekly ritual. And most importantly, it has completely eliminated the anxiety that used to come from the question, "what's for dinner?" 

2. Snack plan. Okay, so this could be included up above, but I recently decided to be more intentional about planning out snacks along with dinners for the week. It's a big money-saver {not to mention healthier} to make things like granola bars and muffins, rather than relying on store-bought snacks. So as I make our meal plan, I also decide on two or three snacks to make throughout the week. This way I include ingredients I need on the grocery list and even plan out which day I'll make each. Again, it makes our food stretch further and helps with the budget, too.

3. Don't sit down until the dishes are done. I'm definitely still working on this one. I find that in the evening, once dinner is done and the boys are headed to bed, my preggo feet are ready for a rest and all I want to do is sit on the couch, get some work done, or watch Seinfeld with Jason. But this usually results in the kitchen not getting touched for the rest of the night, which means I wake up in the morning to dirty dishes in the sink and no time to do them before leaving for work. So, my new rule is that I can't sit down in the evening until the dishes have been done. A clean kitchen in the morning is a really beautiful thing.

4. Alternate bedtime with the kids. A few months ago Jason and I found ourselves in a conundrum every night. Each of us had work to do and secretly hoped the other would volunteer to do bedtime with the boys. This actually was causing some animosity between us each evening {stress and pregnancy hormones and exhaustion may have played their part, too}. So, we took an idea from some friends who had been alternating nights doing bedtime with their kids. I think we have both said at some point that this method has saved our marriage {we're all about the melodramatic around here}. It's not that I don't love reading books and singing my kids to sleep, but as teachers we both always have work to do at home and usually need the evening to prepare for the next day. Plus, the boys put up a huge fight for Jason if he only does it sporadically. By taking turns, our kids are now used to both of our techniques, go to bed easily, and we never have to discuss whose turn it is. This works great for our family and may or may not have saved our marriage...

5. Have a designated laundry day. Everyone has a chore or two that they just can't stand. Laundry is mine. I usually let it build up or just throw in a load or two when there's something specific we need. This makes for such a hassle! I could be {and was} doing laundry every day of the week at that rate, and since it's such a dreaded task for me, this was definitely not working. I decided to make Tuesday my laundry day, since I don't teach that day and I know I'll be home to get it done. Everything gets washed, folded, and put away every Tuesday. I start the first load as soon as I get up in the morning, after stripping the beds and gathering all the towels and I usually put the last load away before I go to bed at night and say goodbye to that chore for the rest of the week. Hallelujah! 

While we're only two weeks into the semester, I really feel like these routines are going to help us stay on top of everything as life get crazier and closer to the holidays and baby-time. Any other good tips for a girl just trying to play the part of a real adult?

Friday, September 4, 2015


Our years seem to be divided into very distinct seasons around here. Some are predictable: baseball season, summer, the start of a new school year. Others, less so: my schedule each semester, kids' phases and needs, other random life things. I started the fall semester this week, Jason goes back to work next week, Gehrig begins school the week after that. And so another season begins around here. We say goodbye to a summer of camping, house projects, sleeping in, visits to and from family, and hanging out just the four of us. While I'm reluctant to let go of the freedom of summer, the structure of our fall schedule is always inviting and sort of exciting. It also makes me want to buy new pens and a backpack and organize my whole life. Does that happen to anyone else?

Anyway, before we jump full-on into the busy-ness of the next few months, I need to document some noteworthy things about this season right here. Because before I know it we'll be entering winter and adding a third kid and everything will seem so very different.

Gehrig is a big kid all of a sudden. Neighbor kids ask him to play and he gladly runs out to join them. He tells made-up jokes {the punchline of which is usually something to do with eyeballs? They're never funny, but that doesn't stop him from trying}. He is still the pickiest eater I know. He asks everyday how many more days until Christmas, only because he's ready to meet "our baby." His stubbornness is frustrating and he has started to tattle on his brother a bit too much. He wants to sit and read books for hours each day. He completely took us by surprise while Jason and I were playing a board game about brands and logos and he {unprompted} read the words Gap, Luvs, and Bing. So I guess we have a budding reader on our hands. He's thoughtful and observant. I recently gave the chair in the boys' bedroom a makeover by painting the upholstery and after it was back in its usual place for a day, Gehrig ran across the house to tell me, "Mom! The couch in my room looks really nice!" Apparently "words of affirmation from a 4-year-old" is one of my love languages because it was a highlight of my week.

Milo is almost as tall as his brother, and maybe weighs more. Despite being a tank, he spends most of the day climbing up on my {shrinking} lap to cuddle. About a month ago he started calling me mommy, which neither of my kids has ever done {I've been mom, despite my protests, since Gehrig started talking}. I think Milo senses my excitement over the change because about ten times a day he snuggles into me singing "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mooommmmyyyy." We call him a cartoon character because it's The Milo Show all day around here. He makes all of us laugh constantly and as he keeps learning to string longer sentences together, he gets more entertaining. He can be such a stinker, usually instigating fights with his brother or throwing an epic pout session when he doesn't get his way. He got a time out for jumping from our ottoman to the couch after being told not to. Afterward I told him to give hugs and say he was sorry for disobeying, so he tenderly hugged the ottoman and whispered to it, "sowwy." Am I the only one who cannot keep a straight face with their 2-year-old? 

Babe 3 has been pretty good to me lately. I got all nesty a month ago and, thanks to a motivated and helpful husband, cleared out a ton of junk and rearranged our house to make it more usable. We moved all the toys downstairs into a well-organized playroom and our living room, where we spend most of our time at home, stays pretty clean for the most part {...she typed while sitting between five giant piles of laundry on the living room floor}. I have a pretty fair amount of energy these days, although I noticed myself getting out of breath while teaching the other day. Maybe I talk too much? Maybe I need more cardio in my daily routine? I'm not proud of it, but it happened and I'm calling it a pregnancy symptom and hoping it doesn't happen every day this semester. I also have crazy red, dry spots on my face and I'm not sure what to do about them. Coconut oil helps a smidge, but I'm in the market for some kind of redness-reducer/concealer/foundation for dry or sensitive skin and I know nothing about skincare products. Help a lady out with some recs.

So now we say goodbye to my daily nap and spending all day with these boys and having ample amounts of time to hang out with my husband and spontaneous trips to the zoo or park or friends' houses and slow mornings when I can sit and enjoy my cup of coffee while Jason makes us breakfast and this really awesome season of our year that I'm really really thankful for. Bye bye, Summer. You've been a good one.