Coddiwomple

coddiwomple

This word pretty much sums up my parenting strategy lately.  And yesterday, when both I and six-year-old Sam awoke grumpy, there was a whole ‘lotta coddiwompling.  My irritability increased throughout the day.  So did Sam’s.  School was choppy.  As I read The Burgess Bird Book For Children, I couldn’t help but notice his glazed-over eyes as he slumped in his seat.  But I kept my eye on the prize: a 4:00 pm date with a 4-mile trail in the most beautiful 700-acre park nearby.  Alone.  Without kids.  Just me and nature.

At long last, 4:00 arrived and I sprinted for the front door.  Finally-Me Time.  I glanced over my shoulder as I closed the door, yelling “Thank you” to my husband for keeping the kids, only to see Sam slouching on top of an end table.  Grumpy. Lashing out at siblings. Bored.  Eyes glazed over. Not his most endearing traits.  Yet in that moment, I felt so much compassion for him.  I saw me.  And I realized we were experiencing the same kind of day and that commanding him to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘just be happy….or nice…or good’ would be as helpful to him as it would’ve been to me.  Not so much. And just like that, the very person I longed all day to escape, I suddenly felt compelled to invite to join me….in the woods…in the rain…for a 4 mile run.

Maybe I can help him.

It took him about 15 seconds to slip into his boots (he’s really embracing the South) and haul his bike into the trunk of the van.    IMG_6366.JPG

As we drove to the trails, we started talking.  Not a scripted parental talk.  Just talking.  Like 2 people trying to figure out life.

Me: What are you feeling today?

Sam: Grumpy.

Me: Me too. When did you first notice you felt this way?

Sam: Right when I woke up.

Me: Me too.  What do you think might be causing this?

Sam: I think I’m tired.

Me: Wow!  That would make sense.  We were out late with friends last night and didn’t get as much sleep as we normally would. I hadn’t even thought of that!

Maybe he can help me.IMG_6362.JPG

We spent the next 4 miles  mostly in silence.  He rode his bike, occasionally pointing out cardinals and sparrows as described in our reading of The Burgess Bird Book that morning- the book I thought he was totally despising- and we did a lot of smiling.  And I think we did a lot of healing.  IMG_6360.JPG

Maybe we can help each other.  

Travel together.

Toward that as-yet-unkown destination.

 

Good ‘Nuff Meal Plan

Looking for a fresh strategy for meal planning?  One that is super-detailed down to the smallest ingredient?  That plans out elaborate lunches and dinners for 31 days at a whack?  Meals that your whole family will love?

Sorry, you’re not gonna find any of that here.

However, if you are looking for a simple, sustainable, half-planned/half-spontaneous strategy for feeding the mouths in your family while also preserving your sanity and offering flexibility, then perhaps you’ll enjoy this post.

But first, the backstory:  I like cooking. Really like cooking.  Well, I did until I found myself having to prepare 3+ meals a day for 6+ people.  That’s 18+ plates a day folks.  That’s about the time I started reconsidering my convictions surrounding healthy, wholesome, home cooked meals.

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I’ve gone through seasons of cooking multi-ingredient, labor-intensive meals and really enjoyed it.  Some of those recipes have stood the test of time and I can now make them in my sleep. Hurray! I’ve also concocted impressively detailed shopping lists in the past and really enjoyed it.  There can be something so satisfying about crossing items off of a well-crafted list! But alas, that season has passed and I have bid it adieu with gratitude. Life just currently feels a little too full to add on detailed meal plans and shopping lists and multi-ingredient dinners that require more than 20 minutes of my time.  And that’s ok.  meal-planning

So for the past 5 months, I’ve been implementing what I lovingly call the Good’nuff Meal Plan.  Basically, this consists of 4 categories: Protein, Produce, Prep, and Purchase. It’s as simple as that.  I list all sources of PROTEIN and PRODUCE currently in my fridge and cross them off as I use them.  I add a tic mark for every pound of meat in the fridge/freezer (ex. I currently have 6 lbs of ground beef, or I I I I I I). This helps form the backbone of our meals while also ensuring our food doesn’t spoil before I get to it.  I also list items I’d like to PREP this month as I am able; cravings, comfort food, Pinterest-inspired plates.  But only if it feels enjoyable to me.  No obligatory cooking here.  No trying to impress people.  Just trying to feed my family healthy meals with minimal stress.  Lastly, I keep a list of items I need to PURCHASE next time I’m at the store. Which isn’t  very often anymore thanks to Walmart grocery pickup (more on that below!)img_5384

How’s that for unpretentious?  I don’t even have a picture-worthy white board!  Granted, this strategy assumes you already have some skills in the kitchen and don’t need to follow recipes (or that you’re creative enough to simply work with what you’ve got.)  But overall, this has been a fun and freeing food adventure.  And I’ve even discovered some unexpected tricks and benefits along the way:

  1. I spend far less time thinking through meals. Protein. Produce. Done.
  2. Recipe searching (i.e.surfing Pinterest) has turned into an enjoyable perusing of meals I would LIKE to try vs. meals I MUST execute
  3. Shopping has become more enjoyable as I’m able to browse aisles rather than engage in a stressful hide-and-seek with the items on my shopping list
  4. I don’t try to please all of my kids at mealtime.  Instead, I’ll supplement a less-than-desirable dinner with healthy smoothies (frozen fruits, yogurt, protein butter/powder and my homemade kefir milk) and noodles loaded with grass-fed  butter.
  5. Walmart grocery pick up.  Heavenly!  Place your order online, schedule a pick up time,  drive to Walmart, pop trunk.  In fact, if you try it out using this link, you’ll get $10 off:  http://r.wmt.co/eYQiz  I’ve been impressed with their variety of organic goods, and you can even buy things like batteries, lightbulbs, and paper goods.

I hope this post offers a breath of fresh air to your meal planning.  And if something is working for you, please share!

The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

As I catch my breath from 2016 and glance at 2017, I have hopes.  Hopes of trying new things, growing in new ways, adventuring through whatever presents itself.

A wise woman recently shared this quote from The Harvard Business Review, and it’s just too good not to pass on.

If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the ‘undisciplined pursuit of more,’ then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, but constantly reducing, focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones.

This year, I’d like to continue putting effort into educating my children, improving my health, and securing consistent time to write.  In order to do this, I have to get rid of those time wasters.  For me, that looks like docking my iPhone during the day so I’m not glued to it.  Going to bed earlier to wake up earlier (10 pm bedtime and 5:30 am wake time seems to work for me).  It also meant declining a group fitness position at the Y; something I’ve loved doing for years.  That was a hard one.  Really hard.  But I reminded myself, “you only have so much time and energy.  What’s the best use of it?”  Teaching classes just didn’t make the cut.  And don’t you know, as soon as I made that decision, it made room for a creative idea that helps me achieve both my health and writing goals with 5 kids in tow: Drop the kids off in the Y Rec room for 2 hours, work out for 1, and write for 1.

So that’s as New Year’s Resolution-y as it gets. I’d love to hear your hopes for 2017. What are your time wasters?  What are your priorities?

Wishing you a year filled with the disciplined pursuit of less!100_2955

*I also found this article on the disciplined pursuit of less and it’s worth the read:

Family Chores

A few thoughts on the daunting task known as running a home that contains real live human children.

  1. It’s HARD!
  2. What works one week/month/year may not work the next.  So it requires continual evaluation and evolution.
  3. Mine and Micah’s hope is to foster a family that interacts as a community of mutual generosity.  We all serve each other in whatever capacity we are able, and we appreciate each other’s efforts.
  4. Trustworthiness is top priority in this endeavor; saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
  5. Timing is how we do that.  As in, “I’ll come see what you made in 5 minutes” means I set a timer* for 5 minutes and, when it dings, I come see what you made.  Or, “We’re going to clean the garage for 15 minutes” means I set a timer for 15 minutes and make sure the task ends at minute 15.  We don’t want our kids to feel trapped in a time vortex, which eventually gets interpreted as “I can’t trust my parents to mean what they say.”

timer

*We’ve mostly used our iPhone timers to accomplish this, but recently received this timer and plan to start using it instead.

So here’s our latest and greatest in how we are accomplishing these goals.  But before I dive in, I really want to preface this post with 3 things:

  1.  I’ve often peaked at how others run their family’s schedules and chores and felt completely overwhelmed or inadequate. That certainly isn’t the goal here.
  2. Much of our strategy has been gleaned by wise mentors who have successfully survived ‘the little years’ without traumatizing their kids or their marriage or themselves.
  3. My husband is great at Excel.

So here’s a glimpse at our daily chores as a homeschooling family of 7.

chors

mia-chores

judah

 

JOBS: Pretty basic, age-appropriate jobs.  Took a little time (and a lot of praise) to teach them what each job entails. Sam’s aren’t included here since they’re almost identical to Silas’s, but I can tell you he takes great pride in cleaning the downstairs toilet.img_5327

TIME: We give them time limits so they will neither dilly dally or fear that they’re entering that time vortex.

PERIOD OF THE DAY: You can see their jobs are divided into 6 blocks of time: after breakfast, before lunch, after lunch, before dinner, after dinner, and before bed.  This gives the kids bite-sized concepts of time and helps them see their accomplishments.  It also allows some wiggle room in our schedule and breaks up the tasks.

REWARDS: You can also see that there are 3 daily rewards throughout the day: 1 hour of media, dessert after dinner, and the privilege of listening to an audio book in bed (our kids love Story of the World.)  We’re trying to foster appreciation for and satisfaction in their efforts, and media and dessert do the trick!

COMPLETION TRACKER: Lastly, we offer them an allowance of $1 at the end of each week if they’ve completed all their chores.  Still haven’t  finalized  how we will guide their spending and savings, so stay tuned!

A word about SPEED CLEAN since many have asked: This is something I came up with years ago when the kids were all very little with very short attention spans and very limited cleaning capabilities.  I’d let them pick a song with the challenge being that their particular chore had to be done before the song ended.  It usually ended in kids running around laughing and sweaty and- lo and behold- cleaning.  Now that they are getting older, speed clean has turned into 20 minutes of “all hands on deck” to accomplish whatever I decide the need is.  Wiping down doors, cleaning windows, dusting, an extra load of laundry, vacuuming the stairs, yard work, organizing a cabinet, cleaning out the fridge…you name it, we’ve done it.img_5328

Bottom line, we’ve probably all witnessed the two extremes of running  a home that contains real live human children.  Either the parent turns into the full-time maid, or the children become the medieval serfs. Our hope is to find a more moderate approach; something that looks more like a family functioning as a community where we all serve each other and our efforts are appreciated…even when the toddler brings the clean dish towels down to the kitchen and proudly plops them into a soapy, marinara-sauce-coated pot that I had soaking in the sink.

If you are interested in our spreadsheets, here they are!  And if you have something that is working for your family, do share!

kids_chores  (PDF)

kids_chores  (excel)

 

 

 

Micah’s Birth Story

Micah Corban’s projected due date was July 24th, and though the majority of my children were born between 41 and 42 weeks, I was sure this would be different.  I had been experiencing prodromal labor for weeks and went to bed most nights thinking “ok, THIS is it” only to wake up shocked that I was still pregnant.

Not only was my growing girth alarming me, but also our timeline.  Brace yourself for this roller coaster:  Micah Sr (that’s fun to say!) was scheduled to fly to Atlanta on August 6th for his first week of residency at Georgia Tech’s Executive MBA program.  And then we as a family MOVE to Georgia Augst 15th.  As in 22 days from due date.  So you can imagine the looming anxiety as I sat up most nights laboring, eating, showering, repeat.  When would this baby get here?  Would my husband be here?  What if he misses another birth?  What if I’m not recovered enough to travel?  And when exactly are we packing? So. many. what if’s.

Yet we have experienced much peace as we have entered into this journey.  A journey filled with what if’s and unknowns.  And we’ve experienced how the next step has always presented itself at the appropriate time.  Always.

So on Thursday night (July 28th) as we watched a movie, I secretly timed contractions that I assumed would go nowhere.  We went to bed around midnight, and at 1:30 I woke up- for the first time in 5 pregnancies- to my water breaking.  Not convinced it actually had, I took a shower and felt nothing but mild cramps.  Not convinced I was going into labor, I went back to bed at 3:00 am and- BAM- waves of contractions that were breathtaking.  They were 5 minutes apart, so I called my midwife to say we’d stay home for a while, but that this was finally it.  Ten minutes later, contractions were TWO minutes apart and brutal.

Enter Taskmaster Tommi.  I woke Micah and began barking commands.  Poor man; I know he was biting his tongue as I pointed him in ten directions at once.  Make the bed.  Call the babysitter.  Pack the van.  Stop making coffee.  Hurry up.  Encourage me through this next contraction.  No, stop talking.  It’s not working.  Ok, talk again.

Side-note on what worked: looking myself in the mirror and encouraging myself through each contraction.  I’ve never been able to pep talk myself like this before, but this time was different.  It was very powerful.

We left for the birth center at 3:45 am; Micah was running every red light and trying to avoid every bump as I knelt in the back trying not to deliver a baby in a minivan surrounded by 5 carseats.  My cousin Nicole was here from North Carolina to help with the children and attend the birth.  She’s studying to become a midwife and also happens to be a great photographer, among other things.  She drove to Katie’s house, our 15-yr old family friend who’s also interested in labor & delivery and would be attending the birth.  Together they met us at The Birth Center at 4:00.

I LOVE The Birth Center and everyone who works there and had a lovely experience when Judah was born.  For some reason, though, when I walked into the bedroom, it felt wrong.  Everything  felt….off.  I was hot and felt like I would pass out.  I couldn’t find a comfortable spot and I began feeling like a caged animal.  Not to mention the contractions were piling on top of each other before I could get my mind settled.  Within 30 minutes, I was at my limit and knew I needed help.  Some sort of help.  Through one whole contraction I wrestled with my pride- heavily invested in natural childbirth- before I surrendered it and asked, “What are my pain management options.  I need help.”  The options available didn’t sound right- I didn’t wan’t to be ‘loopy’ or to ‘care less’…I wanted pain relief and QUICK!  So I uttered the words I honestly had never even considered before in all 4 births: I need an epidural.  Now.  And it felt wonderful.

After a very brief conversation about “Are you sure” which was cut short by me saying “There’s no time to discuss this.  I need help now”  we all hustled to the minivan to drive across the street to the hospital.

Funny side-note: my amazing midwife piled in the back with me, and I remember her looking around trying to figure out where to sit.  You see, we’ve grown accustom to 5 carseats, but apparently it’s a surprising sight to others 🙂  She knelt down next to me and applied pressure to my back as we made the forever long drive across the street.

The hospital received us at once and I was welcomed by a second midwife/friend who teaches classes with me at the Y.  It was lovely to have another familiar face.  All I kept thinking was how this labor was so different from all the others.  I wasn’t sure I could get through it.  But within 30 minutes I was ready for the epidural…only to be told I missed the window and, oh by the way, it’s time to push.

Push?!  I don’t want to do that!

So I looked to the ceiling and asked God for strength.  My husband says that he had to take 3 full breaths to my one, and then, just like that, I was holding a baby!  Two fast and furious pushes- maybe all of 90 seconds, and he was in our arms.IMG_4985

A faster labor definitely wasn’t easier.  In many ways it was more difficult.  Like being dragged behind a galloping horse.  But oh I would do it all over again to hold this sweet baby.  IMG_5021

He and I spent 2 glorious days together in the hospital, which definitely felt like a Bed and Breakfast.  Oh that amazing little “Call Nurse” button, how I miss thee.

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The kids came to visit and the amount of giggling and excitement will stay with me forever.

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Micah and I even had a bedside dinner date AND breakfast without the kids, during which time we discussed things like “it’s so quiet”, “I can’t believe I’m eating a meal that’s still hot”, and “this is awesome.”  IMG_5028

Baby Micah came home with us on Sunday, July 31 to many loving arms and countless kisses from his siblings.  Hours later, we learned that Sammy’s best friend, the 5-year old son of my dear friend, was just taken Home suddenly in a tragic accident.  Even as we grieve, baby Micah provides a comfort, a peace, a ray of light.  Every micro-moment of this life is a gift- even the dark, middle of the night ones.  I’m deeply humbled to be given the gift of a fifth child and pray that his days on earth bring light and life to all who have the joy of knowing him.