4 Fluid Hours

A couple of months ago, I tried to take a realistic look at my schedule and everything that I was trying to get done in a day. I ended most days feeling like a failure because I had listed out everything that needed to get done and I never seemed to get it done. DH would look at me like I was a dragon with 3 heads when I expressed my feelings of failure, because to him, I was knocking it out of the park. I was getting worn out by the constant feelings of failure and the burden of always feeling in “catch-up” mode. So I gave myself a big kick in the rear and started to think about things from a different perspective.

The first thing that I did was list out everything that ACTUALLY had to get done in a day and how long that each would take realistically considering my family and their needs and personalities. Here is what I came up with:

  • Sleep – 7-8 hours
  • Morning Bible study – 30 min
  • Meals – 2.5 hours
  • Daily hygiene – 1 hour
  • Cooking – 2 hours
  • Morning farm work – 1 hour
  • Afternoon farm work – 1 hour
  • Kids’ bedtime routine – 1 hour
  • Dishes – 30 min
  • 2-3 loads of laundry start to (hopefully) finish – 1 hour
  • Cleaning up the kitchen after meals – 30 min

When I totaled everything up, it came out to about 20 hours out of my day! That gave me 4 hours to do EVERYTHING else. That includes structured school time for the kids, working the horses, tending the garden and orchard, farm projects, cleaning the house, house projects, mowing the always growing 7 acres of grass, etc. I started to think about those hours as my fluid hours. I realized that if I had 4 fluid hours in a day, I could really only plan for about 2-2.5 of them being usable, because inevitably someone would have a meltdown or get hurt or decide to take twice as long doing the morning farm work because we had to stop and study a micro-habitat that exists under a water trough that we were supposed to be scrubbing or kiddos get into a huge fight over who was supposed to brush their teeth first after breakfast which resulted in a 30 min discussion about treating each other with love and respect. You get the picture – life happens. 🙂

As soon as I realized how much I was actually getting packed into that tiny span of time and how much I was getting done out of necessity without thinking about it, I started to feel much less like a failure. I also started making much, much shorter to-do lists. I made loops for everything that needed to fit into those hours: school subjects; fun activities with the kids; barn work; etc. Whatever doesn’t get done today, just get’s moved to tomorrow. I have let go of having a clean house for now. When the kids are older, they can help more. For now, we farm and school and live in our house. It’s never going to be perfectly clean, let alone Pinterest-worthy. I celebrate the days that when I go to bed, the dishwasher is running and the kitchen is clean. But most nights, some dishes are soaking or there may be a stack on the side of the sink. Often, DH and I have some quality time and laughs watching something silly while we fold the day’s laundry that’s stacked on our bed.

I still have days when I feel like a failure, because I haven’t lived up to my expectations. But they are getting fewer and further between. I wrote the phrase “Remember, you only have 4 fluid hours in a day, so only plan for 2-2.5 of them.” in big letters on the rub-away board by my kitchen table. I see it multiple times a day. It is sinking in. My 4 fluid hours realization is freeing me to be in the moment with my family, because I’m not feeling the constant pressure of that to-do list of doom that was always unachievable and setting me up to fail.

Tips for Vacuum Sealing Soups

Tips for Vacuum Sealing Soups

Here is how I vacuum seal soups in bags to go in the freezer:

1. Use the large bag rolls.

2. Make the bags at least 18 inches long.

3. Double seal the bottom of the bag. I had a seal fail once, and it made a huge mess when I went to move the bag to the vacuum sealer! I had to move the stove out and clean puddles of soup out from under it.

4. Use a bag holder while you are filling the bags and fold the sides of the bags back about 1 1/2 – 2 inches before you place it on the holder.

5. For an easy way to monitor how much soup is going into each bag, ladle the soup into a 1 quart container. Then pour it into the bag. I use one of those twisty food storage containers. This also seems to minimize splash.

6. Find a space of counter that has a shallow drawer right under it. Place the vacuum sealer a couple of inches away from the edge of the counter. Place the bag of soup into the drawer and then place the open end of the bag into the vacuum sealer. This allows the vacuum sealer to do its job and keeps the soup from spilling in the process.

7. Once you start the vacuum sealer, watch VERY carefully. As soon as the top goes flat and the liquid from the soup starts to get sucked up the bag, press the “SEAL” button to stop the vacuuming process and seal the bag.

8. Double seal the top end of the bag to protect against leaks.

9. Freeze bags of soup flat for easy stacking.

A New Twist on Laundry

A New Twist on Laundry

We all know the normal way of doing laundry – sort everything according to color: whites, lights, and darks.  Years ago, I found it somewhat frustrating to be folding a load of laundry and have to run the folded items to six different rooms.  I started thinking about the fact that few, if any, of my clothes ever bled their color and those that did were usually washed separately or with a color catching sheet (one of the best inventions to hit the laundry world).  What if I did my laundry by location instead of by type?

I tried it and it worked wonderfully!  I now have hampers in various parts of the house and, when those get full, I wash a load for that area.  Folding and putting away is much faster because I simply carry the basket of folded items to one place.  The kids have a hamper in their bathroom, and all their clothes and towels go into it.  When it’s full, I wash a kiddo load.  We sort their clothes as we fold them into piles depending on dresser drawer that they go into.  Each one has their own small laundry basket, and we stack the piles in the baskets.  Then they carry their baskets upstairs and put their clean clothes away themselves.  I have a hamper in the kitchen for kitchen towels and bibs (which the kids still ask to wear when dinners are especially messy).  The kitchen load gets carried into the kitchen straight out of the dryer and put away as it’s folded or whichever kid is on laundry duty that particular month folds it on the sofa and puts it away  Our (meaning the grown-ups) laundry gets split up into a couple of different hampers: delicates (anything that needs a cold, gentle wash and needs to be dried on low); normals (mostly farming clothes that require a heavier wash and can get dried on high: jeans, t-shirts, etc); towels (including the ones from washing the dogs – which happens frequently around here); and the load that we endearingly call “stinkies” (DH’s sweaty undershirts, etc that seem to need hot water and vinegar to come out of the wash smelling fresh).  All of our hampers are labeled and in our bathroom closet.  I have one more hamper labeled “other” which is a catch all for random things that need washing, like dog blankets and cleaning rags.  I wash all of out bedding on Fridays or Saturdays a couple of times each month.  I just strip the beds and throw the bedding into the wash, so that doesn’t need a hamper.

So there you go.  It’s a new spin on laundry management.  Try it and see how it works for you.

Rest

Rest

Have you ever noticed how, when kids get tired, they go in a downward spiral from bad to worse.  This can be especially true if they refuse to nap or have had a very long busy day (like lots of errands, appointments, activities).  It’s not just true of preschoolers, either.  School age kids and teenagers suffer from this problem too.  Even grownups suffer when we don’t get to rest.

Have you ever noticed that, when you don’t take a break, EVERYTHING seems harder?  Our work load seems bigger and more overwhelming when we are tired.  We get less done because we are stressed.  The less we get done, the more stressed we get.  It keeps snowballing until we have this avalanche of being completely overwhelmed and overloaded.  Chores pile up.  We yell at our family, are melancholy with our friends, and get so worn out that all we want to do is cry.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Why?  Because we are trying to be superwomen.  We try to do everything and be everything for everyone all the time.  We don’t stop.  We don’t rest

But rest isn’t just important because we need a physical recharge.  God actually commands that we rest.  The 3rd commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.”  Now God thinks that this is so important that He put it right after the 2 commandments stating that He is to be our only God and nothing should come before Him.

Hebrews 4 talks about how the Israelites were disobedient in the wilderness and God said that they would never enter His rest.  The Israelites could have had 40 more years of enjoying the Promised Land but instead they wandered around in the desert for 40 years.  40 years!  All those who had been disobedient died.  Their children received the promised inheritance.

We have got to stop resisting and give in to the need for rest.  We all need to give ourselves a Sabbath.  For our sakes.  For our kids.  For our spouses.  We don’t want to fall under a curse like the Israelites and wander around in a wilderness of stress, grumpiness, and being completely overwhelmed and stress paralyzed for 40 years.  We need to teach our kids the importance of rest.  With today’s world of go, go, go and packed schedules, it’s so easy to get caught in the flow of doing all the time.

I challenge us all to stop and take a day, or a couple hours, every week to focus on our Creator and cherish our families.  I also challenge us all to take at least 30 minutes every day to stop and rest and recharge.  Drink a cup of tea or coffee (while it’s still hot!) and eat a snack (I don’t know about you, but I forget to eat most days then get really hangry around 4 PM.)  Listen to a praise CD and worship the Creator and thank Him for knowing that we need rest.  I know it can be hard, with kids, schedules, work, life, etc.  You may have to be creative and find a way to work it in.  If you are stuck, pray.  Ask God to show you how to find a time of rest in your day and in your week.  He will show you where.  He blesses those who walk in His ways.  He may ask you give up something, but it will be worth it.  Things always are when we are walking in obedience.

Routine – Day 20

So I have come to the conclusion that consistent sleep is my biggest hindrance in getting a routine established and being a sane individual.  I know.  I know.  This is a HUGE surprise to everyone everywhere.  🙂

Last night, I actually got enough sleep, and it was fairly decent sleep too!  I have been a happy, pleasant, effective, efficient, productive human being today!  I got so much done.  I got my entire pantry set up and organized.  More on that is coming soon.

I had dinner ready by 5:45!  I was able to take a breath and deal with crazy, random kid input and temper tantrums and not explode!  I was able to filter playful snarky comments from DH and laugh instead of taking it personally.

The dishes are all clean – well almost.  😉

I have been able to laugh at myself.

Sleep is good.  We should all get enough sleep.

To all you busy, exhausted mamas out there.  Take care of yourselves.  Eat regularly.  Laugh.  Sleep more.  Exercise a least a little everyday (even if it is just having a 3-5 min dance party with you kids).  Laugh again.

That’s it for today.  97 days to go, and I feel like I’m making progress.

Giving Up the Good for the Better

Sometimes it can be really hard to let go of something good.  For the past 2 years, I was a children’s leader (CL) at BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) in the preschool program.  Once a week, I got to show God’s love to a room full of kiddos while playing, praying, singing hymns, and teaching a Bible story.  It was hard work but so worth it and so much fun!

We bought our farm at the end of the BSF year this spring, and I knew that I couldn’t keep up with both.  Being a CL requires going to training another morning every week, planning a lesson, showing up early for set up and staying late for clean up on class days, and extra time with my own BSF lesson.  It leaves you joyful but utterly exhausted by the end of class each week.

Let me tell you.  I miss it so much!  I volunteered to help watch kids on the leader’s initial training day.  I cried almost the entire drive home.  We have met for class twice.  The first week, I was in my adult group (boy was that strange – but nice).  This was the second week, and my group had group serve (where the women from the adult classes go help as volunteers with the kiddos to assist their CLs).  It was sad being back in a class with the kiddos and know that I can’t be there every week.

I know that I cannot handle being a CL this year.  (It goes from a 3-4 hour commitment each week to 14-16 hours).  I want – no I need – to spend quality time with my kids and with my mom.  Responsibilities around here are the higher calling.  Still, it is incredible how giving up the good for the better can still hurt.  We only get so many days with the ones we love.  Right now, I am called to be here for my husband, and my kids, and for my mom.  In the future, I may be able to go back to being a CL but now is not the time.