Anchor Points

Life has been rather chaotic around here lately.  I would love to say that things are smooth and I have adjusted to life with five children, but the reality is that life with a newborn is rarely ever smooth!  There are constant bumps in the road, and every time you start to get into a groove, something major changes and you have to readjust all over again!

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, with the holiday season upon us in full-force.  With everything that has happened in our life in the past 6 months, I have had a tendency to allow the busyness to derail us from truly living. At the same time, I have had an almost panic desperation about cherishing every moment, knowing how fast this stage of life will be all over.

I need to find a way to cherish all the important moments, but also keep the laundry and dishes clean – know what I mean?  The mundane and the priceless collide everyday in these parts, and I feel a bit lost as to making the most of it all.

The other day I was remembering reading about the value of “anchor points” – places in your day, week, month, and year that “anchor” your family.  Essentially, the idea is that no matter how crazy your day, week, or month becomes, if you stick to your anchor points, it will bring rhythm to your days and help calm the chaos.

So I’ve been thinking about what these “anchor points” are in our family, and I thought I’d write them down here – share them with you – and maybe it will help you in your journey of mothering!

Daily Anchor Points

1. Breakfast Devotions: I lead a short devotional every morning as we eat breakfast together.  This usually centers around character development, and right now we are going through “Our 24 Family Ways: Family Devotional Guide,” by Clay Clarkson.

2. School Time: I’m working to make school time a more anchoring time for us, and not a point of struggle.  I am trying to achieve this by focusing on connecting with my kids instead of focusing on educating.  Relationship is primary, education is secondary.  🙂

3. Tea Time: My kids are so much like me in that they can’t get enough quality time.  I also have a love affair with good tea and coffee!  I enjoy my morning cup solo, but in the afternoon, we are working on establishing a “tea time” together while the younger two nap.  They LOVE it, and it helps everyone stay in good spirits, which of course helps school go well too!

4. Daddy’s Return Home & Dinner: I’m working on also remembering a daily clean-up time right before Mark gets home so that the house is inviting and all put together before dinner. I try to play fun music to help motivate them, but sometimes this is still a challenge!  Still working on it though.

5. Bedtime: We are pretty involved in bedtime.  For the 3 older kids, bedtime includes lullabies (really worship songs) and backrubs with a “lullaby rub” I made with coconut oil and a blend of Young Living Essential Oils.  It smells amazing and knocks my kiddos out.  😉  The younger two both nurse and rock.  I usually lay my toddler-girl down and hold her hand while she falls asleep, and I rock my baby to sleep and transition him to the co-sleeper.

I also have my own “anchor points” in the day that are strictly for me – my morning quiet time (which has been rough-going lately due to way too many nights of teething and little sleep) and my evening time.  After the kids go to bed, I try to get some reading in, enjoy a cup of tea with my hubby, and maybe get a fix of Downton Abbey or another show we’re currently addicted to.  😉

Weekly Anchor Points

1. The Sabbath: The Sabbath is by far, the most powerful anchor point our family has.  Given to us by God, the Sabbath offers a reprieve from the world’s demands and influence – a day to rest our bodies and invigorate our souls.  We keep a Biblical seventh-day Sabbath in the traditional way, from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, but the principle of resting applies if you rest on a Sunday too.  God gave us the Sabbath because He in His divine wisdom knew that we needed that day to rest and focus ourselves back on Him.

Practically speaking, for our family this means we only do work that is necessary for our family to function in peace (I have to still feed my family, make sure we have washed dishes, strip peed in beds, etc.).  We keep the TV and computer off as much as possible (although we still stream live feed from our Seattle congregation).  We enjoy relaxing pursuits such as drawing (kids), crochet (me), playing music, or playing games together. And most importantly, we worship together as a family and study the Word together, as a family and with other believers.

2. Wednesday nights: Wednesday nights are an anchor point, mostly for me.  Every other Wednesday we alternate between our date night, and my ladies’ Bible study.  So I know that Wednesday nights are always a night for me to be refreshed – a very important thing for a busy mama!

3. Sunday morning church: We’ve recently begun attending church on Sunday mornings again.  We’ve found a community where we can serve and grow, and are looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us there.  After church we resume our normal Sunday to-do’s and such, but Sunday mornings are now another anchor point.

Annual Anchor Points

1. Holidays: Keeping the Biblical holidays has always given our family a full calendar of anchor points throughout the year, but I will admit that there have been many times that a holiday has passed us by without getting the full weight that it deserves.  Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to bring more meaning and memory into our holiday celebrations.  I am working on a family devotional for the Biblical holidays from a Christian/Messianic perspective that I hope to share with you all as I complete it. I’ve also been taking advantage of Pinterest to find ideas that we can use (sometimes changing slightly) to add to our celebrations.

2. Seasons: I really want to do more to embrace the seasons that God has given us.  I’d like to work to develop seasonal traditions, learning to appreciate the year in a more cyclical way.  I’m thinking I’m going to get this book: The Rhythm of Family for some inspiration in this area.

3. Birthdays: Having a family of 7 people, we celebrate a lot of birthdays around here!  All of our birthdays fit almost exactly into 6 months of the year, and I have been thinking about also doing little celebration for the 1/2 birthdays during the other 6 months.  I have heard some really neat ways to do this, and I really love the idea of honoring my kids individually again during the year.  We are also working on developing more birthday traditions as the kids get older, but right now we keep it simple with the birthday child choosing the 3 meals of the day, and cake/presents after dinner.  We also take off of school for birthdays.  🙂

 

So, what about you?  Have you ever thought about establishing “anchor points” in your family’s life?  What anchor points to you already enjoy?

Blessings!
– Judy

Cultivating a Peaceful, Purposeful Home

Home management is something really important to me. I’m pretty sure I would have completely lost my mind by this point if I wouldn’t have picked up these tips along the way.  I originally prepared this material for a La Leche League enrichment meeting, knowing how valuable this sort of advice can be, especially for new moms.  I thought I’d share it here in hopes that it will helps some of you!  Enjoy!

Areas of Home Management:
1. Time – Family Activities, Time Spent Together, and Daily Routine

Managing time is the first major aspect of home management that every mom must learn how to do.  There are so many things that we need to fit into each day or week! Developing a method of managing your time is so important. 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a family calendar (either physical or digital, whichever works best for you), and use it regularly!  Check it every night before going to bed and look it over at the beginning of each week.  Make sure you and your spouse do this together so that you are on the same page about your schedule.
  • Create a written routine.  Or a lot of them!  I have a loose daily routine, a weekly cleaning routine, and a list of extra cleaning jobs that aren’t weekly.
  • Use a timer to help manage your time in chunks.  If you’re like me, you may get carried away with one thing, allowing it to take up way too much time.  Or you may feel overwhelmed with a large project, and breaking it into pieces makes if feel lighter.  Egg timers (or your microwave timer) can be so helpful in many cases!
  • Incorporate your kids input into your routine.  Allow them to help design your routine, and keep them posted as to what is going on that day and week. (See This Post)
  • Assemble a home management binder.  I started doing this a year ago and love it!  It keeps all of my stuff together – calendar, finances, meal planning, routines, projects, etc.  Type in “home management binder” into Google and you’ll get all sorts of great ideas!
2. Food – Meal Planning, Grocery Shopping, and Cooking

I tend to go through seasons in my meal planning and cooking life.  Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it.  Sometimes I’m a rock star about planning everything out and never forgetting anything, sometimes I go for a week or two on last-minute throw-togethers (“Is spaghetti okay again, guys?”)

Here are a few things that help me:

  • Have a weekly meal routine.  Each day is assigned a different “genre” of food – for example: soup/bread day, pasta day, rice day, meal salad day, etc..  This takes so much out of the guesswork of creating a meal plan and helps you to incorporate new ideas easily.
  • Keep a list of favorite meals that your family enjoys (with page #s to recipes), that way you can quickly make your list rather than thumbing through your shelf full of cookbooks every week.
  • Take advantage of your freezer and slow cooker.  I make certain things in bulk (marinara sauce, marinated meat, ice cream… wait, ice cream doesn’t count?!), that way when a day goes differently than I planned, I can throw a freezer bag into a bowl of hot water and thaw it in no time.  And I love my slow cooker (or my cast iron dutch oven) for fall and winter days.  Mmmm…
  • Try seasonal eating!  By varying your menu by the season, you will enjoy a variety of foods every year, and not get tired of the same thing over and over.  Certain foods just taste better in their proper season, and bonus – you will save money at the store by buying your food in season!
3. Cleaning – Home, Car, Closets, Purse, etc…
As a mom with 4 young kids who I also homeschool, our home is never spotless.  But, I can also honestly say that if I stay on it, I am able to keep our home regularly clean.  Everyone has different solutions that work well for them, so take what works here and leave the rest!

Ideas to help keep your home clean:

  • Get rid of clutter!  Seriously, I think I could (and probably will!) write a whole blog or several about decluttering and keeping a simple home.  For now, I will simply say that the less stuff you have, the less you have to keep clean. 
  • Take the time to organize.  Another topic I could talk about for hours.  I’m actually one of those nerdy types that loves organizing, but even if you aren’t, I still strongly recommend you give it a try, at least for your most hectic spaces.  Keep it simple, and easy to maintain.
  • Have a daily cleaning task that stays the same each week.  For example: Monday is laundry, Tuesday is vacuuming, Wednesday is kitchen thorough-cleaning, Thursday is the car/garage, Friday is laundry again.  Something like that, anyway!
  • Do a 15-20 minute “sweep” of your home every day.  We do this in the early evening before Mark gets home from work, and I get the kids involved too.  We usually pump up some Newsboys and make it fun.  
  • Teach your kids to take some responsibility for their own stuff.  Help them remember to clean up one activity before taking out another.  Teach them to take care of their own laundry and make their beds.  
4. Self Care – Mom must care for herself in order to be able to care for others!
This is such a big deal in our home!  It’s easy to spend every moment of the day cleaning and cooking and maintaining – there’s always another thing to do, isn’t there?!  But if we don’t take good care of ourselves, in the end it will all crumble apart.  We serve our children and husband by taking good care of ourselves.

For me, as a major introvert, I get overwhelmed easily by the constant needs and company of my little brood.  The most vital part of my self care is making sure that I get adequate time alone.  But it has taken me a long time to realize just how important this is and learn how to make it a priority.

Here are some other ideas of ways to take care of yourself.  This post (click here) also has a few ideas on hitting the “reset button” on a rough week.

  • Develop a morning ritual.  Mine is tea, my gratitude journal, my Bible, and a book (for personal/spiritual growth, not entertainment).  Yours can be whatever helps you most.
  • Exercise.  Make sure you don’t care for everyone else while neglecting your own body.  This will eventually catch up with you!
  • Eat well.  I know, we all fall into the habit of eating whatever we can scrape together in the middle of everything else we’re doing.  But with just a bit of planning, you can feed your body what it needs to thrive instead of simply exist.
  • Get out!  Go to a mom’s night out or even playgroups where the moms can hang out while the kids play.  Both are valuable. Try to go on a date with your husband on a regular basis.  Have tea with a friend at night after the little ones have gone to sleep.  Get up early and hit up a nearby coffee shop before your family arises. 

I hope this post helps you!  Below are a list of links to resources that have really helped me.  I hope they help you as well!  Please leave a comment with any great tips that have helped you to better manage your home!

~ Judy


Resource List:
Websites:
Books:
Smart Organizing, by Sandra Felton
Organized Simplicity, by Tsh Oxenreider
Binder Helps:

What Does Routine With Kids Look Like?

In my last blog, I wrote about how I’m focusing on 4 priorities in our lives right now.  They are:

  1.  Foster an environment for our family that is God-centered, peaceful, and joyful.
  2.  Develop and implement a routine for myself and our children, and support Mark in his own routine.
  3.  Develop local relationships!
  4.  Finish my associate’s degree
 
 Today I want to chat about #2 – Routine.

I believe routine is critically important raising kids!  Without a semi-predictable routine, it’s very hard for kids to feel settled.  I mean, if you think about it, we have access to our calendars, we make the plans, and we know every day what is planned for the next day.  For the most part, we are in charge of our lives and our kids just do whatever is on the docket for each day.  When the day’s plans change frequently, or when every day is different than the one before, it is very hard for kids to feel like they have any kind of control over their lives.

When planning out a routine for children, there are a few key things that I think are important to keep in mind.  First of all, the routine should be simple and age-appropriate!  If I tried to get my kids to stick to a complicated routine that involved a lot of things that they can’t do yet, the routine will fail.  Second, a routine should be flexible.  Clinging to tight to a ridged routine will make everybody stressed and trapped. On the flip side, having a healthy structure will feel freeing (just like a good budget, but that’s another post!).  Last, a routine should be easy for children to understand.  The more simple the routine, the easier it will be to understand, but it can also be conveyed in ways that help kids understand (for example, with pictures instead of words for non-readers and as few words as possible).

If you’re feeling inspired to work on a routine for your children, here are some examples of some ways we’ve incorporated routines in the past.

 This was the first routine chart we made with Eliza when she was 2 1/2! We took photos of her doing each of these things, printed/laminated it, and kept it on the refrigerator. She loved it!
I made this one to help Eliza and Judah become more independent with their bedtime routine.  They can flip each card over when they’re done, which is fun!
This is Eliza’s waking routine.  I give her a new one each week and she checks off each thing as she completes it.  Pretty basic, but she likes the step of checking things off.  🙂
I just made this yesterday, and I’m pretty excited about it!  It helps teach the kids the days of the week and rhythm of the days, as well as gives them an idea of what to expect that week. Thanks to my friend Jenn for the idea!
Lastly, this is the new routine that the kids and I wrote up (planning on doing a pictorial chart on the wall):
– Wake up, get ready (Eliza’s waking routine, boys just get dressed)
– Breakfast together
– Devotions with kids (mine are done before breakfast)
– School time with Eliza (both kids in the fall)
– Playtime
– Lunch together 
– Naps for Caleb & Avigail
– School time (if more time is needed to finish)
– Playtime
– Dinner together
– Family time (we’re trying to do walks/bike rides in the summer)
– Bedtime routine & Bedtime
Is establishing routine hard for you?  Easy?  What kinds of things do you incorporate into your routine?
Have a wonderful weekend!
~ Judy

Uncomplicating My Life a Bit

After a wonderful date with my beloved hubby last night, I took some time to re-assess my priorities.  I tend to over-complicate my life with massive to-do lists, projects that I take on without considering the ramifications, and unrealistic expectations for myself and others around me.

So I decided to figure out what my top priorities are right now, and put the rest in a “closet” for the time being.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Top Priorities:

  1.  Foster an environment for our family that is God-centered, peaceful, and joyful.

I’m going to do this by praying with my children daily, focusing on maintaining a right attitude in myself throughout the day, and modelling godliness for my children.

  2.  Develop and implement a routine for myself and our children, and support Mark in his own routine.

To do this, I’m going to create a routine chart for my kids (and stick by it!).  Major focuses will be our start-of-the-day routines, focusing on school when we’re doing it, and getting to bed on time.

  3.  Develop local relationships!

This might be challenging (especially for my introverted self), but we’re going to do our best to reach out and meet people.  I will hopefully be able to get our Mom Heart group started up soon (if you live locally, please contact me if your interested!), and we will be starting a weekly HaYesod group to study the foundations of the Christian faith on September 8th (again, if you’re interested, let me know!).  I’m also going to connect with a local homeschooling group as well as La Leche League.

  4.  Finish my associate’s degree

I will be taking CLEP tests in US History, Sociology, and Human Growth/Development over the next couple of months, as well as probably enrolling for a science course at BSU.  I’m planning to graduate in May 2013.

I think the hardest thing about all of this is all of the things that I have to put away in the “closet” for the time being.  I have so many goals that I am working towards that I need to set aside in order to make this happen.  It’s so hard to admit to myself that I can’t do everything, but I know that it is for the best.  Hopefully in a few months, I will be able to dig a few of those long-term goals out of the closet again and tell you about them!

~ Judy

An Early Bird Stuck in a Night Owl’s Body

I’m convinced – I am an early bird who is stuck in a night owl’s body! If left to itself, my body will naturally wake up around 8-9am and go to bed between 12-1am. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember.

For years, I have wished that I could wake up earlier without extreme effort. In high school, I had to put my alarm clock on the other side if the room AND cover the snooze button with cotton to keep myself from turning it off in my mostly-asleep state and going back to bed. In college, I got the worst grades in my earliest classes, often because I just couldn’t get myself there. And now, as a mom, it means I wake up with my kids and get my alone time late at night.

This might work out fine for me except for one *small* detail – those rare days when I wake up early are amazing! I love them. I love waking before my family and spending time alone in prayer and thought in a quiet house. Being the introvert that I am, I get my energy from those alone times, and starting my day that way gives me such a better perspective and attitude about the rest of the day.

Back when I was pregnant with Avigail, for the first time as a parent, I was able to get into a routine that enabled me to wake up early. For a couple of blissful months, I woke up around 7am, got ready, and went downstairs to read, pray, and think before the kids woke up for the day. The trick for me at that time was buying a new coffeemaker that I could set the night before. Knowing that I would get my fix, hot and fresh, as soon as I got downstairs was enough to coax me out of bed most mornings. Well, that and the fact that if I waited too long it would be burnt! It was still hard, but so worth it. And with each day my resolve grew stronger.

But eventually Avigail was born, and my time was no longer my own. Sleeping through the night became a faint memory, and I returned to my former pattern of late nights and late mornings. Even on the mornings when my babe didn’t allow me to sleep in, I was still living in a constant state of new mom sleep deprivation.

So, that brings me to today. It’s been over 9 months since our little girl entered our lives, and while sleeping through the night is still an elusive escape artist who I’m pretty sure won’t be returning anytime soon, I’m ready to put my game face back on! Life is flying by at a dizzying speed, and I desperately want to be at a place in myself where I be present in and can cherish every moment. And for me, I know that will include bringing out the early bird in me!

And so it is with great trepidation that I share my morning routine!

– Bedtime (with a clean house, preferably): 10:30-11:00pm | First of all, an early morning has to start with an early bedtime. This has been a major struggle for me, but Mark and I are on the same page, so we’re trying to encourage each other in that area.

– Wake up, shower, get dressed: 7:00am | My ultimate goal is 6:30 so that I have a half-hour to work out, but for now this is where I am.

– Head downstairs for tea, Bible reading, and prayer time: 7:30am | I recently gave up coffee in favor of the less-intense effects of tea. I quit cold-turkey and felt like a rock star. 😀

– Kids & Breakfast: 8:00am | This is when the kids typically start making their way downstairs. I’m working on making a habit of spending a few minutes focused on each child as they wake up (inspired by a friend of mine). Then I start breakfast and do dishes, and on goes our morning!

My morning isn’t complete without these two things.  Well, and the iPod.  🙂

Is there anyone else out there trying to become more self-disciplined about their personal time?  Anyone other early birds stuck in night owl bodies?  Leave a comment and let’s encourage each other!

~ Judy