Just Heather

menu-plan-mondayI truly believe in the importance of weekly menu planning. It’s the only way to get dinner on the table before bedtime and it keeps us out of the drive thru. However, it always seems to be the first to go when I backslide on any semblance of organization. It definitely went by the wayside during our chaotic summer. I’m determined to get back on track, starting with Menu Plan Monday.

My parents had our children all weekend so Spencer and I could celebrate our 12th anniversary. We spent a chunk of our childfree weekend at the grocery store. Because, really, what’s more romantic than shopping without kids? (Well, pedal boating down the canal, but we did that too!) Our pantry is now stocked, our produce is fresh and we have a variety of meat in the freezer. Meal planning on a week like this is pretty easy, but I’m all about baby steps! By next week, our supplies will have dwindled and the menu will get a bit more creative.

Monday: I have a meeting so this one will be a bit thrown together and/or on Spencer. Had I planned last Monday, I would have been ahead of the game for tonight. I’ll be organized tomorrow next week someday. I hope.

Tuesday: I have a Girl Scout meeting in our home so it needs to be something with easy cleanup. Maybe a pressure cooker roast, potatoes and veggies—only one pot to wash!

Wednesday: Fried Steak, mashed potatoes and green beans.

Thursday: BBQ Chicken, Crash Hot potatoes and sweet corn

Friday: We need something fast before we head out of town for the weekend—I’m thinking a one dish meal with the stew meat we bought. Let’s call it beef stew! I can even toss in any leftover veggies from Tuesday. Bonus!

Saturday: This one is easy. We’ll be at a reception so dinner is done for us.

Sunday: Still out of town with family so we’ll end up with a big lunch and probably leftovers for dinner. Holiday World had also been discussed as a possibility, but not recently so who knows.

Monday: Labor Day – We still haven’t decided when we’re leaving for home. We’ll either leave after hamburgers & hot dogs with my Mom or have to leave early enough to cook them ourselves. It’s kind of a thing. We’ll toss in corn on the cob and baked beans. Probably a last of the season watermelon too.

And then there was one (who still requires a backpack and insists on being in the picture)

And then there was one (who still requires a backpack and insists on being in the picture)

I don’t make traditional New Year’s resolutions because they just aren’t fun. Plus, Back to School time is the real reset in our household. Brand new backpacks, sparkling lunchboxes, newly sharpened pencils and clean, white notebooks—it all just feels so fresh to me. I use an academic year calendar so I can start August with clean, white pages.

It won’t last long—Brenia’s first Brownie meeting was earlier this afternoon. Stacia’s Girl Scout meetings begin next week and my dance class starts the week after that. The calendar hasn’t even arrived yet (of course, it would help if I ordered it!) and already we’re filling it up. School events, Scout meetings, dance class and whatever else the girls will decide to do this season are quickly filling our days.

It’s time to get back on track after slacking off all summer. The first thing I need to do is get back to planning a menu. Chaos has reined for the last several months. I do better with a menu plan and I’m making an official School Year’s Eve Resolution to restart the process. Step 1: Go grocery shopping! Yeah, I’ve been slacking off a lot there too. On the upside, our expenses have been greatly reduced but it will be nice to start having some food around here.

While the girls are at school tomorrow, Lorelai and I are setting out for a series of errands, with a trip to the grocery store at the top of our list. I think I’m going to take a cue from a few of the great gals in the new Inexpensively network and jump on board with Menu Plan Monday. That should provide both a productive use of my blog and proper motivation. Besides, everyone else is doing it!

I hate feeling out of control. With 3 kids this is a common occurrence, but after many years I finally managed to gain control of my calendar at least. I carefully write each days activities into my daily planner, transfer it to the family calendar and add it to Outlook so I can send it to hubby’s cell phone. It sounds like a lot, but it really is a simple process that helps me out. I get to physically write every 3 times so that by the time it’s written everywhere it needs to be I have it memorized anyway. Next to each day, I also write down my menu plan. Plan being the operative word, but we do fairly well. It helps to plan dinner next to the day so I know if I’ll be away from home or too tired to cook.

Last month made me crazy because every time I planned something I had to follow it up with “unless my sister has her baby.” I felt like I should be writing that each day in my calendar. Nothing made me happier than when the doc agreed to schedule an induction so that Daddy could come home from his base. The mean military nixed that idea by telling him when they sent him home at Christmas because base camp was closed he used up all his leave for the first half of the year!

I’m in a strange sort of limbo again, though it is not nearly as bad. This month, my cousin is due with her first baby. As soon as the little princess is born, my own family will arrive to visit. Everything I do now is with the thought that I may have a full house by morning. Both of them have been due right in the middle of the month so it throws everything off kilter. She could go two weeks in either direction so the entire month of May is up in the air. At least this time I don’t constantly need to have a bag packed and the gas tank full.

I loved having everything planned out with my last two pregnancies. We scheduled their birth dates 3 weeks in advance. Granted, the last little bugger decided to arrive a week ahead of schedule, but I didn’t have that out of control feeling about it. Now, of course, she keeps me off kilter on a daily basis.

I am looking forward to summer when all the babies are born and my calendar frees up a bit. It will be filled only by made-up things and fun (free) events. I will plan our summer days and actually write things like Library Day on the calendar. This way I have a plan in place, the kids know what to expect and hubby knows where we are on any given day so he can ask the girls about their day at dinner.

In a way, I still have no control. My calendar controls me. And I love it.

I am not an organized person, but schedules I can do and do well. I write it down immediately in my calendar and I count backwards to figure out when I need to start getting ready and/or corralling kids. I’m rarely late on my own, though 3 kids and a husband who don’t know or care about my schedule often change that.

All this to say, if you tell me a time I’ll be there. Or, in the case of a morning bus stop, I’ll have my kid there. Our bus stop time is 8:20am, as per the postcard mailed prior to school. It states all times plus or minus 5 minutes so the time in my head and on my calendar is 8:15am. The bus has come earlier and earlier each week since school begain. Recently it has occasionally driven by as early as 8:10 with my child not on it. The last two times this has happened I have left messages with the transportation director.

Today I also called the scheduler/dispatcher. I just received a return call from my daughter’s bus driver letting me know that the bus stop time was changed several weeks ago to 8:12am. Doing the math? That means the bus can come as early as 8:07—a full 13 minutes earlier than the officially scheduled time. When asked why no one was notified of the time change, he said “They don’t usually do that.”

What the heck?! Needless to say, our entire morning routine will have to be revamped around the idea that the bus could come long before it should. Kids will be getting up earlier, getting less sleep and being crankier at home. This makes for a lovely start to each morning, not to mention the rest of the day! However, had they simply called or sent out a second postcard with the time change I would be much less cranky myself.

Or not. I really like sleep.

This afternoon, I was lamenting our fall schedule to hubby. I mentioned that tomorrow was our last free evening for the next two weeks, with the exception of Sunday which is totally clear (though I’m sure that will be filled with leftover home improvement projects). He shrugs it off and decides to go see a movie about snakes on a plane.

Fast forward to this evening while I’m at the grocery store buying ingredients for a nice dinner since this is now our last free evening for 2 weeks. He calls to let me know he’s having dinner with the guys for what ever reason. I have no idea what; I heard the word free and am not genetically engineered to turn it down.

I say, well there goes our free nights for 2 weeks. He is stunned by this statement—which only goes to prove that he never listens to me. I, naturally, am not at all surprised that he didn’t hear me say that very thing just 5 hours prior. Apparently, he thought I was kidding.

If wishes were horses…

Summer is a rough time around here. My kids are very into their routines and thrive on structure. When things change, it typically takes a couple weeks to iron out the rough patches and get into a new routine. So when school ends, it takes about half the summer to get settled and then we spend the rest of the summer preparing for school. Summer seems to drag on with no rhyme or reason, days blend into days, and I’m left with restless kids running in and out of my house all day long.

My solution this year was to schedule the summer a bit. It gives it more structure & routine and reminds me to actually get out there and do stuff with the girls instead of just hanging around the house counting down the days until school begins again. On Tuesdays, we head to Regal Cinemas for the free family film festival. On Thursdays we hit a local park—we are so blessed to live in an area with 2 great park systems.

On Wednesdays or Fridays we go to the library, depending on which day has the most exciting activity schedule. Last week was Jungle John and his Care of Magical Creatures. The girls saw a dragon, an owl, and a the big hit of the day—a tarantula. Our library sponsors great specials all summer, plus the girls have each earned the first prize level in the summer reading program already.

The idea seems to be helping. They are having fun summer experiences even though we have no vacation plans. Plus, I am keeping them busy enough to warrant an afternoon nap most days—which, as we all know, results in quiet time for Mommy. Now if only I could use that time to get caught up enough on my scrapbooks to records our summer fun activities.

The job of a SAHM is not an easy one. It is packed with carpools, runny noses, doctor appointments, and household chores. That image of the housewife sitting on the couch with her bon-bons? If only. But at the end of the day, I’m left looking around my trashed house wondering what it was I did all day that made me so tired.

A few months ago, we completed an exercise in my women’s ministry that shed some light on my daily life. I knew I was busy, I just didn’t realize how busy I truly was. We were given a grid with all the hours in a week and told to start filling it in. Begin with standing appointments and known tasks, then move on to things that aren’t scheduled, but require time out of our day. For example, I calculated that I spend 2 hours each day feeding and diapering the little one. That’s a task that is 5 minutes here, 20 minutes there, but adds up to a decent chunk of my day.

Turns out I have several such tasks—they don’t warrant a note on the calendar, but they do require much of my time. Supervising homework, returning non-sleeping kids to their beds, and cleaning spilled milk (yes, this is a daily one!), not to mention how many times this given-birth-3-times body goes to the bathroom each day. Once I filled in all the daily items, mundane chores (including laundry, coupon-clipping and grocery shopping), and, um, time with my husband—and allotted for 7 hours of sleep each night—there wasn’t a white space on the calendar.

So what happens when soccer season hits and each weekend suddenly needs nearly 5 extra hours—1 for practice, 1 1/4 for each game, and travel time back and forth all 3 trips? Or the bathroom crashes through the dining room and I’m pulled in 3 different directions for cleanup and repairs?

You get one over-worked, sleep deprived, celibate cranky mommy.

I had my final doctor’s appointment today. My doctor is on vacation so we visited “the train doctor” as my toddler called her substitute, Dr. Trainor. She’s on call for the next two days so she stripped the membranes in hopes of kick-starting labor. It was so not a fun process, but I’m hoping it works.

Basically, the doctor shoves her hand inside and pulls the water sack away from the cervix. Believe me, it is as painful as it sounds. I’ve been having contractions for the last 2 hours now though, so if it works it was all worth it. They are about 3 minutes apart, which would concern a lot of people, but they are not strong at all. The on-call doctor said to sit tight for now and head to the hospital if I feel like they are changing.

They have internet access there, so I’ll be sure to update if this goes anywhere.