planning with littles and no outside help

Tuesday I talked a bit about how my mother’s helper is really my sanity in the summer.  She is here twice a week for a few hours in the morning to play with the kids, and it allows me to get a lot of much needed planning done.  I love being a stay at home mama, and one that homeschools, but sometimes there is just a bunch of craziness up in this house, and I need some quiet.  Part of that is due to being an introvert, and part of it is due to being a mama, our attention is on a million things every day.

What do you do if you can’t get some outside help?

I was thinking about this recently when I received an e-mail from a blog reader about how she doesn’t have the resources available during her current life stage.  That is definitely a challenge, and one that I have also faced.  How do you accomplish what you need to when you feel like you have no time or outside help?

I would suggest waking up early.  I know that being an early bird is not everyone’s cup of tea.  In fact, I’m sure that come October when we have another little one in the house, getting up early will be the last thing on my mind. 

Waking up early is a difficult habit to get into.  I think that a lot of us carry over staying up late from our pre-children days, college days, whatever, but getting up early in the morning, while there is still quiet will allow you to get some planning and other important to you tasks accomplished without many interruptions.

But, what do you do if you are a night owl?  If you are able to stay up late and wake up when your kids get up and jump right into your day, good for you!  I am sure you would be able to accomplish quite a bit in the hours after your children go to bed.  Unfortunately for me, I am pretty much useless at the end of the day, and can really only think about sitting on the couch watching TV, reading or knitting.  If you are able to get your planning done at night for the next day, then you should by all means do that.

I think that we often will stay up later than we should (when I say we, I mean I do this) and then end up paying for it in the morning by not being able to drag ourselves out of bed.  It is incredibly easy to get lost in a book or mindless television flipping, trying to unwind after a crazy day, no thought about tomorrow.

Instead, we need to make it a priority to get up in the morning, get going, have our quiet time, exercise, if we are able.  And plan.  Plan what we need to get done during the day.  Do we have all of our homeschool books set out so that we can start right after breakfast?  Or are the backpacks packed and ready to go for the bus in the morning?

Having the time in the morning to sit down and work on special projects, like homeschool planning, like blogging, like journaling or personal development, is incredibly important.  You can only run on empty for so long before it catches up to you and you collapse under the weight of it.

If you have trouble waking up early in the morning, I would start by trying to get up 15 minutes earlier.  You can do it!  It is only 15 minutes.  It could be as easy as getting up when your alarm goes off the first time, instead of hitting the snooze button.  Program your coffee pot so your coffee is ready and waiting when you get out of bed.  In addition try going to bed 15 minutes earlier.  And turn off the electronic devices at least an hour before you turn in.  You want your brain to have time to settle, and it won’t if you are watching a screen right up until you go to bed.

When you have that time in the morning, you become more centered.  Even if your morning time initially consists of only having coffee and sitting with a journal in front of you to write your thoughts.  Eventually you will realize that you are able to get more and more done, and having that time in the morning will become more important than the extra unwinding time at night. 

What strategies do you use if you are unable to get uninterrupted time away from your kids for specific tasks that need to be accomplished?  Do you try to utilize the morning hours before your children are awake?  Or are you able to get a lot done in the evening, after your children are in bed?

knitting and reading

My grand plan for this last week was to start on some socks for Emma.  However, I did not account for not being able to find a cute sock pattern online!  Who knew searching for a little girl's sock pattern would be so difficult?  

I started looking through my knitting books after the 5th free pattern I downloaded was either a.) too small, or b.) not cute.  I know it is subjective, but if anyone has an idea of a sock pattern for a little girl who wears a size 12 or 13 shoe, I would appreciate it!

I did find a really nice hat pattern though, and realized I had some pretty purple Alpaca yarn in my stash (how did I miss that before?!).  So I started knitting it.  You knit the ribbed band first and then pick up stitches to knit in the round and make it a hat.  I love the seed stitch it uses.  I'm not sure who will wear this hat, but it is pretty nonetheless.  And I needed to work on something pretty.

Reading.  I am still reading Hands Free Mama.  It is still very good.  But, most of my time, like last week, has been spent on homeschool planning.  Next week we will officially start, and I think that I am just about finished with what I need to do pre-start day...I think.

What are you working on this week?

Having a Mother's Helper

This summer is the third summer that I am lucky enough to be able to have a mother’s helper.  The first summer it was more for my own survival, but now I actually am able to accomplish some tasks that I need uninterrupted (day) time to get to.

When my husband and I decided to have me stay at home, I never really thought about needing time away from my kids.  I also didn’t realize how many interruptions I would have in one day with littles.  So, when my old boss mentioned his oldest daughter might be interested in helping me out during the summer, I jumped at the opportunity.

What does having a mother’s helper look like for me?  Well, she comes a couple days a week, and plays with the kids for a few hours in the morning.  During that time, I am able to go upstairs into my office and work on what I need to.  This summer, it has mainly consisted of homeschool planning.

These few hours of *mostly* uninterrupted time has become such an important part of our week.  It helps that the kids absolutely adore our mother’s helper. 

No matter how hard I try during the week, or on the weekends, to get some of these important tasks done, it is difficult to do with the littles.  There are always emergencies that come up.  Now, I know that it is definitely a luxury to have this option, but I think there are some ways that it can work for people who are unable to pay for someone to come to their home.

I would first look in my community and see if there are other moms that would want to trade off; you can watch my kids, and then I will watch your kids.  Oftentimes it gives the kids the opportunity to run off some energy and you are able to get some much needed work accomplished. 

Another option, if you are able to afford it, is to look at the local high school aged students.  Most kids can’t get a real summer job before they are 16, but they are more than able to come and help you out.

Finally, you can always look to family around you.  Unfortunately we don’t have family available locally, but I’m sure that some of you must!  Maybe your sister or cousin would be willing to trade off a couple hours once in a while, or the grandparents might want to spend time with their grandkids.  Mainly, you need to think outside of the box.

I’m a little sad to think this may be our last summer with our current mother’s helper.  I am sure she is going to want to get a real job next summer…and I’m not sure what I am going to do then!  Especially since I will have three to run around after!

As for now, I am enjoying the quiet time that I get to think and plan and really figure out what I need to get done over the next few months.  It is amazing what you can accomplish in a short amount of time with few interruptions.

Do you have a mother’s helper, or someone to help you with your kids during the summer?  Is it something you are interested in?  Or do you prefer to spend all your time with them while they are home on that short summer vacation from school?

garden happenings

How can it already be the last week in July?!  This month has flown by.  I am really enjoying having these garden happening posts each week.

It seems like all of the greens are doing really well.  I wasn't sure how they would do during the hot hot days, but they are still going strong.  The lettuce isn't bitter, which I was surprised about.  I am going to put some more lettuce seeds in the ground, and hope for the best.  The farmers at the farmers' market say you can keep planting right through September, so we will see.

My cucumbers are starting to produce, and I am happy about that especially with all the cucumber beetles and stink bugs we have been contending with.

The biggest surprise was that my yellow summer squash plant started to get some flowers on it.  I hope that means I will get some summer squash...just much later than normal.

The broccoli is finally starting to grow little broccoli heads.  I think maybe it has been too hot?  I did get a kind that was supposed to be good in the heat, but maybe it was just too hot.  I haven't grown broccoli before, so I really have no idea.

The peppers are still going strong, I am going to go through and pick all of my jalapenos and then throw them in the freezer.  I love how easy they are to preserve, and then I can have them all through the winter - especially important with all the chili I make during those winter months!

It is time to pull the garlic, and if I had been paying attention to the weather, I would have done it at the end of last week.  Of course it is pouring out now, and was yesterday as well, so I am waiting.  I did pull one to see how they were doing, and the head was about the size of my fist, so that is making me very happy!

I have a few sungold tomatoes that are just about ripe, but most of them are green.  And all of my other green green.  I know that we are about a week behind with how the weather was at the beginning of the season, so I am still hoping I will have a ton of red tomatoes come the middle of August.

How is your garden growing?  

One Local Summer revisited

Way back in 2007 I had another blog, My Journey.  It was the start of my whole foods journey.

That summer I came across a wonderful blog called Pocket Farm.  Unfortunately Liz shut down her blog several years ago.  But, the summer of 2007, she introduced me to One Local Summer.

OLS was a kind of link up before there were link ups, a challenge I guess would be more appropriate.  The goal was to share pictures and details of one completely local meal each week during the summer.

It was during that summer that I started to realize the abundance of food available in my local community.

I thought it would be nice to bring back the One Local Summer Challenge - albeit a bit later in the summer.  This week I am sharing our *almost* all local meal.  I am using an onion, which is not local, although if I had thought ahead about doing an OLS meal, I could have picked up some onions at the farmers' market.

If you would like to join in, please leave your link in the comments below.  If you don't have a blog, you can use a link to an instagram picture or a Facebook post.  And you can think about linking up next week if you haven't made an all local meal!  It can be as simple as local eggs and sauteed greens with garlic scapes - yum!  Actually that might be my next OLS meal now that I am thinking about it!

This week my meal is local pork chops with a fresh tomato salsa, sauteed kale and swiss chard, and mashed potatoes.

Local: pork chops and potatoes from indoor farmers' market, tomatoes from local farm, jalapenos, kale, swiss chard from my garden, milk and butter also from local sources.

Not local: olive oil, onion, salt, pepper, cumin.  

Overall I was very happy with this meal, and everyone enjoyed it.  I can't wait to see if any of you are making all local meals!

knitting and reading

I am happy to report that the scarf that I have been knitting for quite some time is *mostly* done.  I need to weave in some ends, and then I will take a picture of it.  I never seem to get FO pictures, instead getting them in their *mostly* done stage.  I am going to try and take FO pictures now though!

I haven't cast on anything new yet, but my next project will be socks for Emma...once I find a pattern that I like.  I already have some super cute purple yarn for my purple loving girl, so if I can find an equally cute pattern, I will be happy!

I am in the thick of homeschool planning right now.  We are planning on starting school again the first week in August.  This is incredibly early considering we typically don't start until after Labor Day, but with a new baby coming at the end of October, I think early is better.

Not that we stop learning during the summer, instead we concentrate more on science and nature.  With formal lessons on the horizon, I have been going through the above three books.

I like to feel like I am "on track" with what the other kids in our community are most likely learning.  I typically go to the public school website and print off the curriculum they are using too, just to make sure we are checking all the boxes.

Probably not the most exciting reading and knitting post, but I feel like I am accomplishing a lot, and that is a good thing in my book!

What are you working on this week?  When do your kiddos start school again?

garden happenings

Are we really getting into the end of July?  How is that even possible?  This past weekend I walked into Target and saw all the back to school stuff.  Now, I love me some new office supplies...but it still seems so early to be calling quits on summer.  Especially when the garden is just starting to produce!  At least mine is just starting.

For harvesting, peppers seem to be the big thing.  My jalapenos and green peppers are growing amazingly well this year, so I am starting to pick them.  I am washing the jalapenos and putting them in the freezer whole.  It is so easy to freeze peppers, and I love having them available in the winter when we make a lot of chili and other Mexican dishes. 

Then the greens are also doing great.  My kale and swiss chard seem to get my attention the most.  I am able to be out daily grabbing kale for green smoothies or some swiss chard to saute up with scrambled eggs.  

My cabbage is doing well, although I have to say that the slugs are definitely getting to my green cabbage.  Yet, for some reason have left the red cabbage, which is right next to it, alone.  Not that I am complaining.  I would prefer not to pick cabbage next month just to cut into it and see a slug - yuck!

The garlic looks great as well, but I don't know when I should pick it.  I have to look back and see when I picked it last year.  It looks ready, but maybe I will wait another week or so.  I don't want to pick it too early, and I want it to cure.

I have a ton of little green tomatoes all over my tomato plants.  Some of the potted plants have gotten a little too much water with the deluge of rain we received over the past couple of weeks and I think I will need to get some nitrogen into them.  But, they are still alive!  And that is always a good thing in my book!

How is your garden growing?  Any surprises thus far into the season?

July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month!

Technology is definitely here to stay.  I know that I, myself, have fought it a lot.  I have this deep desire to have a balance but also be connected, but sometimes balance is hard to come by when you have a phone attached to you at all times.

As a mom, I want to set good standards in etiquette for my children, and cell phone usage is no exception.

There are days when I feel so run down after running around with the kids all day, and all I want to do is pick up my phone and peruse pinterest or Instagram for as long as possible.  Oftentimes I have caught myself just checking my phone and telling my kids to wait for me to finish.  Is this the example I want to set for them?  Absolutely not!  I don’t want them to see the phone as more important than whatever they are trying to talk to me about. 

One of the ways that I try to combat this is to look at my children when they speak to me, instead of just yessing them and nodding my head, actually look them in the eyes so they know that I am paying attention to what they say.  I’m sure my e-mail or text message will wait the two minutes it takes my son to tell me a story about one of his toys. 

A feature that I love on the Apple iPhone5s is the “Do Not Disturb” setting.  You can set it to come on automatically at a specific time during the day, which I did as soon as I got the phone.  I have the Do Not Disturb come on at 6pm and go off at 7am the next day.  Part of the reason is because I don’t want my phone dinging through dinner and all night long, but also because I want to just put the phone away.  Don't worry, if it is an important call, the second time the number tries to call you it will ring through.

A Pew Research survey found that 67 percent of cellphone owners find themselves checking their phones for messages, alerts or calls – even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.

Another interesting statistic - *According to a recent U.S. Cellular survey, 37 percent of users say others get upset with them for phone use, while 63 percent say they get upset at others for phone use.

Essentially, other people bother you with their cell phone usage, but you don’t bother anyone?  Interesting thoughts.

That statistic seems crazy to me!  I think that technology is incredibly useful in our everyday lives, but sometimes we forget to be in the here and now, and are instead constantly in the online worlds we have all created for ourselves.  And while I love that I get amazing coverage through US Cellular, I don’t need to constantly use it when I am out or at home.  I can take a step back and enjoy what I am doing instead of rushing through and not observing what is around me.

Some tips on improving courtesy by busy cell phone users:

            Set the ground rules; especially with your children.  If you are eating dinner, make it a point to put all of the electronic devices away.  US Cellular offers a great contract agreement between parents and children to fill out and set the ground rules in your own family – you can find that here.

            Seek to understand.  Everyone's needs for cell phones are different, and so is the way that they use them.  It is helpful to understand the ways that someone uses a cell phone.  Focus on the similarities instead of the differences and it will help you be more courteous to others' expectations.

            Don’t be a buzz kill.  The vibrate function on a phone is awesome, but not so much when it is sitting on a table in a meeting, or at your dinner table.  Put the phone in your pocket, it will still notify you that you are getting a call or message, but it won’t notify the rest of the people in your party.

What are some ways that you are trying to be more courteous when using your cell phone?  Do you find that it interferes in your everyday family life?

*Between November 15th and December 2, 2013, 500 nationally representative online interviews were conducted among smartphone users in partnership with Maritz Research.

I am part of the US Cellular Blogger Brigade Ambassador program, and this was a sponsored post.  However, the opinions, as always, are my own.

knitting and reading

It is amazing the progress that can happen in a week!  Of course, I am not talking about my knitting or my reading at this point.  Instead I am talking about my garden which got a major weeding over the weekend!

I have made a bit of progress on my scarf though, and that is what matters.  I'm sure that soon I will sit down and just finish it, hopefully this week since it seems to want to rain every day.  The rainy days drive me indoors and let me sit down a bit...sometimes.

As far as my reading goes, I am still reading Hands Free Mama, and I am still enjoying it immensely.  I really like how she gives you "weekly intentions."  I think it is important to be able to follow up the reading with action.

One of the intentions I like the most is declaring to your people that you are going hands free.  It is all well and good to tell yourself, or even your online community that you want to go hands free, but unless you are excellent at keeping yourself accountable, I don't think it would work.  By telling your family and friends, they will be there to remind you when you are waiting at a restaurant, or going to the playground.

The other intention is letting your kids help you with chores.  I think that a lot of times I just want to get it done, so I do it myself, but I am missing out on a lot of fun with my kids (my kids are a riot when they help me with the laundry).  Sure, it won't be done exactly how I want it to be, but is it really a big deal if they fold their clothes *wrong* when they put them away?  Or is it more important to spend the time with them, and give them another life skill that they will need when they grow up?

And one book that I am not reading yet, but very much looking forward to is the last in the All Souls trilogy, by Deborah Harkness, The Book of Life.  I have been not so patiently awaiting its release, just to realize that it is not on my library's e-book site.  So now I need to put my name on the list for an actual hard copy of the book, and I am afraid it will be a very long wait.  It may be one of those books that I just need to purchase because I want to find out the ending!

What are you working on this week?  Have you been reading any good non-fiction lately?

Linking up with Ginny and Nicole

garden happenings

The biggest thing that happened this week in the garden is that my husband cleaned up all the crazy weeds.  I was so happy that he got out there with me to do some weed whacking around the garden beds, as well as being a boss at weeding.  I think he is much better at weeding than I am...perhaps he will continue doing it in the future!

The garden is producing quite well.  All the lettuce that the woodchucks had eaten earlier in the summer miraculously came back to live and I sampled some lettuce over the weekend.  It was delicious, and I love going out to pick part of my lunch.

My peppers are doing amazing.  I have jalapenos and green peppers growing right now.  Out of everything I grow, I never thought that peppers would be the one vegetable that I seem to excel at...not sure why they are growing so well, but I will not complain!

There are a ton of little tomatoes all over my tomato plants, and lots of flowers as well.  I hope they start to get bigger and eventually turn red.  I'm sure soon we will be eating tomatoes for three meals a day.

I finally pulled my zucchini plant.  It was totally dead, and it wasn't going to come back.

My cucumbers seem to be doing quite well, there are a ton of flowers, and a ton of tiny little cucumbers.  Hopefully they will grow and become big cucumbers that we can eat...hopefully.

I picked the first kale and swiss chard this past weekend as well.  I sauteed it up with a little olive oil and salt.  It was delicious, as always.  I am looking forward to green smoothies with the kale, and as soon as my cucumbers start getting big enough, green juice fresh from the garden - yum!  

I haven't seen any more stink bugs recently, but there are still a lot of cucumber beetles on my potted cucumber plant.  I keep trying to squish them, but they seem to be getting faster on the jump and fly away when they see me coming, or maybe I am just slower these days.  

The japanese beetles, however, have moved in, and have overtaken my rhubarb plants.  I find it entertaining that rhubarb leaves are poisonous, but these beetles seem to thrive on them!  Oh I wish we still had our chickens, because these beetles were such a treat for them.

You can follow my instagram if you want to see more pictures of my garden and what I am harvesting.

How is your garden growing?  Are you finding any new and exciting pests to try and combat?