New directions

Hello all,

I just wanted to write a quick note to let everyone know that I am going to be temporarily shutting down my writing on this blog. I am taking a season to evaluate where I am at in my writing, what direction I want to go and how I want to spend my energy as a young mom. I debated taking the blog down, but I think I will leave it up for now. There may come a time in the future that I completely rework it, but for now I will leave it where it is at for anyone who may come to see it.

Hoping you all are well and praying that there will be a time for writing in the direction and with the energy my heart so desires in the future.

On a quest for joy in the journey,
~ Melissa

Important…or urgent?

I am generally a social, outgoing person. But I have found that with two kids and a busy husband, my life can get caught up in the crazy life of just trying to keep up with the urgent needs around me. Eisenhower spoke truth when he said, “Most things which are urgent are not important, and most things which are important are not urgent.”

For me, this means that I get caught up with chores, with appointments, with bills and schedules. I forget people, relationships, laughter, rest. I forget to open my doors and spend time connecting my heart.
Today I was honored to have a house full of kids. There was a lot of chaos, laughter and messes. A few tears. Some coffee. It was perfect. I let go of the “urgent” (I really need to clean my bedroom) and did what was truly important.

It isn’t always possible to ignore the cleaning – in fact, it can sometimes be the important thing. But most often it is playing with your child, or opening your home, or being brave enough to ask someone for help, or making tea and skyping a friend.

I urge you today to ask yourself – “What has my attention and time? Is it the urgent or is it the important?”

~ Melissa

Escape v. Rest

If you are a medical wife, or the wife of anyone with a crazy schedule, then you know how precious “down time” can be. This month is especially busy for my husband, and this past weekend was the first days off he had since the month started. Not to mention that he has been getting home no earlier than 6 (and often around 10) each night of the week. And did I mention the 5am wake-up time? Suffice it to say, it was really precious to have time together.

One thing I have noticed, however, is that whenever my husband and I have down time, we can often find ways to escape the busyness of life. For us, escape is usually found in the form of mindless entertaiment. TV shows or movies. We sit side by side and engage in another plot that is not our own. And while it does give our brains a few hours of relief, we have both found that our hearts are not refreshed afterwards. Because here is the truth – escape does not equal rest.

This past weekend we sat down and made a list of all the things we needed and wanted to do with our weekend. He had charts to catch up on. I needed to kick some laundry in the booty. I wanted some alone time. He wanted to catch up on sleep. We both wanted to initiate our outdoor fire pit. We also wanted to catch up on our current TV show, but as we put together our wants and needs, we saw that the TV show would definintly need to be the last thing on our list if we were to try and have a truly restful weekend. So he worked on charts during our girls naps, and I folded clothes while he distracted our toddler. And then, instead of zoning out to the television, we wrapped ourselves up in blankets and lit a fire. We talked about our future – about our hearts post-residency and the dreams that brought us together. And when our heads hit the pillows, we felt rested and connected.

So what am I saying? I am saying that you need to watch out for the things in your life that are escape but not rest. And it doesn’t mean you can’t do them (we actually did squeeze in a movie one night), but it means that when you do them you recognize that at it will not put your heart at rest – that it won’t connect you to your spouse. You recognize that at the end of whatever it is you will have disconnected from stress, but not necessarily connected to life.

Your marriage isn’t mine. So movies & TV might truly be restful for you. But it might be helpful to ask yourself, how do I try to escape stress? What are ways I can rest with & connect to my spouse rather than just retreat into escape mechanisms? Perhaps it might behove you to turn off the TV and light a fire. You don’t even have to have a deep conversation. Just get some tea and think of fun memories. Laugh. Stay silent. Hold hands. Connect.

Find joy in the journey,
~ Melissa

Refocus

Sometimes it takes a month of doing something to realize that you aren’t pursuing your heart. Last month I completed 25 posts during my 31 Days to making a home series. And I heard from many of you that it was encouraging and motivating. And I am glad. But as I was writing I couldn’t help but think that writing about a homemaking binder wasn’t the reason I started this blog. My heart is to write mostly about marriage and family, and specifically marriage to a doctor. Especially in my time as a medical student’s wife, I found myself lonely and discouraged by the journey I found myself on. I heard so much negativity about my marriage and future. I needed a ray of hope. And I am writing to share my experiences and be that ray of hope to others.

It is my goal to try and post twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays – so feel free to check in on those days. I am excited as I have a few posts that have been in my heart for a while. You will hopefully forgive me, as well, if my posts aren’t very picture-heavy. I love photography and editing, but with two littles at home it is quite a challenge sometimes to find the time to edit. So I am releasing myself from the burden of always having a pretty picture, or one that “matches” the subject I am writing about.

I hope you continue with me on this journey. I am looking forward to it.

~ Melissa

Day 31: Home

I could not think of a better way to end this journey of making a home than this:

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do.
~ Mother Teresa

Go and make your homes, my friends!

Here are all the posts from this month:

Day 1: What is a Home?
Day 2: Make a Plan
Day 3: The smell of home
Day 4: Tackle the monster
Day 5: The Homemade Touch
Day 6: Worth fighting for
Day 7: Live in your home
Day 8: Taz the House
Day 9: Less is more
Day 10: A little William Morris
Day 11: One small thing
Day 12: A very personal touch
Day 13: A safe place
Day 14, 15 & 16: A welcome & the present
Day 17: Safe to be
Day 18: It doesn’t have to be perfect
Day 19: Find inspiration
Day 20: Ignore others
Day 21 & 22: The heart of your home
Day 23: Tackle the master
Day 24: To tomes, with love
Day 25,26 & 27: A message in it’s season
Day 28: A homemaking binder
Day 29: A homemaking binder, pt. II
Day 30: A homemaking binder, pt.III

Day 30: A homemaking binder, pt.III

A homemaking binder is one of the most important ways that I keep my home sane and running smoothly. As I wrote yesterday, I keep mine not only for the practical, but for the dreaming and visionary too.

Today I want to show you my practical.

Menu Planning

Ah, food. I have such a love/hate relationship with food. More specifically, I love eating & often hate the time/work that goes into creating good meals for my family. When I was single I always ate well – I just ate whenever I wanted. But now that I have kids to feed, and they have the audacity to actually want dinner at the same time everyday – I have to have a plan. This means making a weekly meal schedule. And that’s not just dinner. I plan breakfast, lunch and snacks too. It is more work in the moment, but so much less stress during the rest of the week.

Here is my menu-making process:
1. I look over the calendar for the coming week & write down all pertinent plans at the bottom of each day (when is my husband on call, do we have any meals out planned, is anyone coming over, do I have an especially busy day).

2. I look in the fridge to see if there are any ingredients I need/want to use. Lots of spinach about to go bad? Leftovers from the week before that need to be used? Those become lunch or dinner plans.

3. I plan dinners first. Since breakfasts & lunches are really on a rotation I usually start with dinners. I think through each day & pick out something to cook. I try to write down our complete meal, not just the main course, so I can make sure I shop correctly. And again, it’s less stress to have it all written out then to get to that night & only know I am making chili. With what? Rolls, cornbread, a salad?
I have another sheet I reference during this time. At the recommendation of this blog post, I created a list of my most well-loved meals. I have been adding to it over the last few months & now have a pretty good list to refer to that help me keep things creative & on a good rotation. I will admit that I often try 1 new dinner a week. It keeps me on my “food toes” and if we like it then it goes on the master menu list. Also, I usually have at least one night a week that is easy – think sandwiches or egg-in-a-holes or leftovers. Sometimes I have two or three nights like this – depending on the week. It’s super important to note that if I have a leftovers night then I intentionally make more food so I will actually have leftovers.

4. Once I have completed my dinners I go back & fill in my breakfasts, lunches & snacks.
I rotate through the following for breakfast: cream of wheat, oatmeal, cereal, toast/yogurt and muffins/yogurt. It’s easy, simple & my daughter and I both really enjoy all of the above items. If my eldest enjoyed eggs I would rotate those in as well, but eggs are pretty much the only food she has never liked since first eating them.
I rotate through the following for lunches: PB&J, ham sandwiches, tuna salad and leftovers. Again, all things I and my daughter like. Also things that are easy, easy, easy.
Snacks are a combination of: fruit, graham crackers, goldfish crackers, pretzels, applesauce, yogurt and the little squishy packets of mushed up fruit. In the summer we also do smoothies.

5. I make my shopping list accordingly. I usually keep my list on the fridge throughout the week & write things down as I notice they are running low. Then when I menu plan I fill in with the ingredients I will need to make the week work.

6. I shop, cook & eat!

I use the weekly meal planner from Money Saving Mom. I actually have two printed & in clear sheet protectors that I write on with a wet erase marker. Each new week I clean it off & write on it again so I am not constantly printing off new copies. Also, having two keeps me from having to wipe off the meal plan for the week I currently am in as I usually plan through Sunday & shop on Saturday.

I really urge you to go read the whole series that OurMothersDaughters has on food prep. You need to watch the far right column on the page as you scroll down until you get to “Happy Home: Food Organization”. Really, really good stuff. Actually, all of it is really good stuff and I might as well wish you good-bye because once you start reading their blog posts you can get lost for months trying to read all the backposts they have! These ladies are some of my all-time favorite female bloggers so enjoy!

Keeping House

This tab is filled with my schedules for cleaning my home. I am, by nature, neat rather than clean so it takes work & planning to ensure my house actually sees some form of cleaning solution during the month. On my daily flow sheet I have a few different times in the day I set aside for chores. I am talking about 10-15 minutes a few times a day. And by the way, I count making my bed, prepping dinner, cleaning the kitchen and tazing my house as chores. Then I have a weekly chore chart where I list the “real cleaning” I need to do daily. Monday, for instance, I try to clean our bathroom. Tuesdays I mop the kitchen & dining room. You get the idea :) This helps me tremendously to keep my house tidy & clean without feeling overwhelming. And you know what? I often don’t get to these “major” chores as often as I would like. The days get busy. I blog instead (hello!). But at least I have a plan, right?

The other thing I keep in this tab is a list of all the items I would like to purchase/make/find for my home. I have each room listed as a “heading” and under it I am constantly writing things I would like to invest in for that space. This keeps me focused when I go shopping for my home, and also helps me keep an eye out for deals!

I use the Daily Cleaning List from Money Saving Mom. I also use her Monthly/Semi-Annual Cleaning List. They are both under “Cleaning Lists”. I also referred to the Master Weekly Checklist from Simple Mom to make my own household to-do items.

Seasons

This tab just keeps things I only need to refer to seasonally. Right now the only thing in it is our “Family Road Trip Packing List“. It’s a helpful list for when we travel so that I don’t forget anything we need. I never needed this when it was just my husband and I – but good heavens, having kids changes that, doesn’t it?
I printed the list from Money Saving Mom & have customized it to fit us.

That’s it!

I hope this was a helpful journey through my homemaking binder. I also hope you are inspired to find your own ways to keep your home organized and flowing smoothly.

Tomorrow is the last day in October! I am just a little excited.
~ Melissa

Click here to see a list of all previous 31 Days of Making a Home posts

Day 29: Homemaking Binder, pt. II

Yesterday I gave a brief and general overview of a homemaking binder. Today, I want to talk about what is in mine.

First, I have links to the places I printed all of my pages from at the end of this blog. Also, I have most of these pages tucked into the plastic sheet protectors. Then I just take a reusable marker & write on top of the pages. This allows me to erase what I wrote earlier & add new ideas without having to reprint the pages. I actually discovered what is called a “wet erase” marker that only comes off when you use something slightly damp, so it doesn’t smudge when I run my hand across it. I use the finest tip I can find so it feels like a pen in my hand & so far I have been very happy with it.

Now, onto the first part of my binder!

Daily Docket

The first page in my binder is what is called the “daily docket”. It is my overview page for each day. It lists my to-do’s for that day, what I am praying & thinking about, and it’s where I jot down ideas for tomorrow. The daily docket I actually show here is one I printed & is actually a little complicated. I thought it looked pretty, but honestly, filling out all that info every day can feel like a task! And the goal of this binder is to reduce stress, not add to it. So, in reality, my daily docket will contain these things:
1. My top 5 to-do’s for the day. If I can accomplish one, it’s been a good day. If I get two of them done, it’s been a great day. Three means its amazing. Four means it’s phenomenal. And five means it’s been miraculous. These “to-do’s” are on top of the regular housework/cleaning work (that I will talk about tomorrow). Whatever doesn’t get done today will get moved to later in the week.
2. My meditation for the season. This is usually a verse, but can also be a quote (or two). These are just life-giving reminders and things that are good for me to see daily.
3. A place for notes – these are reminders I might need for that day, or a place to jot to-do’s for later in the week. Honestly this takes up most of the room in my docket – I am always remembering something I need to do!

That is pretty much it right now for the most “usable” parts of my docket. I am probably going to change over my current page for this one as it’s much simpler.

Life Flow

The first tab in my homemaking binder is called “Life Flow”. In it I keep an updated running flow of the rhythm of the season my family is in. It is essentially a running flow of mine & my girl’s days, starting with waking up and ending at with going to bed. It’s a “flow” rather than “schedule” because although it has general time markers on it, it really isn’t a time schedule. There is a “flow” to our mornings – eat, individual play, playing together, chore time. The afternoons include naps for the girls and “dream time” for me. Evenings are dinner, family time and the bedtime routine. I reference this often as I am looking at the day ahead, because in it I keep ideas about what types of one-on-one activities I want to do with my eldest each day (puzzles, coloring, etc.) I also list what shows on TV I feel are acceptable for her and when they are scheduled so I can include them in her day if I want to. It also just helps me to keep focused on the fact that I am making an effort to have a rhythm to our days & not just a random assortment of minutes all packed together. The idea of having a “rhythm” to my day, rather than a schedule was a result of these two great books:
Steady Days
Simplicity Parenting

I highly recommend them!

Dreams

Under the tab “Dreams”, I have several pages.
1. Goals
My “goals” page is where I keep a running list of some of the things I hope to accomplish in the short-term. These are divided up into several categories – Beauty (of the homemaking sort), Cleaning, Out with the Old, Organizing, Planning, Blessing, Marriage & Leading (things I want to do in conjunction with the Bible Study I help lead for the wives in my husband’s residency program). This is the list that I refer to often when making my daily “to-do’s”, and I try to keep it updated often with not only the practical (cleaning, organizing, etc.) but with some bigger picture things that really speak to my heart (blessing, marriage, etc.)

2. Blog Weekly Calendar
This is where I plan out my blogs. I keep a list of running ideas I want to talk about, as well as the schedule I need to keep to stay on top of it. I don’t always do great, but it’s a place to keep my personal goals/dreams and ideas for my writing.

3. My “dream time” calendar
This is just a short list of things I want to do during what I call “dream time” (i.e. the few hours..or minutes in the day where both of my girls are asleep or content). For instance on Tuesday I like to try & bake something for my home for the week.

My Dreams tab is so important to my heart because it reminds me that life is bigger than just the daily tasks of cleaning my home & cooking dinner. Those are important things (which I will talk about tomorrow), but opening up my binder to see ideas for things bigger than just today keeps my heart energized.

I hope getting a peak into the very practical way I make my house a home is helpful! Tomorrow I will talk about menu planning, keeping house & seasons. Do you use a homemaking journal? What is most effective for you to keep your home organized & running smoothly?

~ Melissa

P.S. Here are those links I promised you:
My current daily docket from Ann Voskamp – she has much better explanations for what the various sections are
My “steady days” routine came with the book, but you can essentially write down your own daily schedule on paper (like I show in the picture above)
My Goals This Week printable from Money Saving Mom
My Blog Weekly Calendar from Amy Locurto

Click here to see a list of all previous 31 Days of Making a Home posts

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