Meal Planning

Oh my mercy! If there is one thing that I can NOT SEEM TO CONQUER, it is meal planning. I don’t know why in the world this relatively simple task seems to elude me. I have tried over the years, really I have. There are notebooks scattered all over the house with menu plans scribbled in them. I have binders full of recipes. I have shelves of gorgeous cookbooks.

I have NO excuses. Oh, I have lots of reasons why I don’t like to meal plan, or why I can’t seem to “get it,” but none of them are very plausible.

“It’s too difficult?” Um, really? Picking 5 or more dishes is hard?
“It takes too much time?” Hmmm, isn’t it just a matter of deciding on a recipe and making it?
“It’s too confining! I prefer spontaneity.” Well, couldn’t you “spontaneously” pick out a few dishes to make?
“It’s too hard to have the right ingredients on hand.” LOL! Girl, you live 5 blocks from a major grocery store.
“It takes too much work.” Bwahaha, aren’t you making meals for your family anyway? This does not have to take any MORE time than what you’re already doing.

See! Even the voice in my own head is working against me, crushing my excuses.

Harrumph.

Our first attempt at a new (meal planning) recipe.

Our first attempt at a new (meal planning) recipe.

Since this week (and the last) were sort of limbo weeks for me, and I was a little gloomy anyway, it seemed like the perfect time to spend hours on Pinterest. Oh, and meal planning is just the kind of thing that is ALL OVER Pinterest. Goodness, there are meal plans for gluten-free diets, paleo diets, low carb, low fat, large families, busy families, and everything in between.

Finally, something struck my fancy.

And really, I think it’s all about what would make this fun for MOM here in this instance.

My beautiful assistant.

My beautiful assistant.

Theme Meal Planning

I read how one family enjoyed the simplicity, comfort and fun of having regular themes for their meal planning. I quickly pinned several great blog posts, but, after a little bit, realized I would actually have to get up and do some real planning if I wanted to make it happen. So much more fun to just lose track of time on Pinterest. Sigh.

I made Sarah come and sit at the table with me. I gave her the options of different themes and asked her to help me. We settled on:

Monday: Soup
Tuesday: Pasta
Wednesday: Crock-pot
Thursday: Casserole
Friday: Seafood
Saturday: International
Sunday: Roast and veggies

Next I handed her cookbooks and asked her to pick out recipes. She found a yummy looking chicken noodle soup (with homemade noodles) for Monday, a one-pot pasta recipe on Pinterest, and a delicious enchilada recipe from my Mexican cookbook for Saturday. We already have a crock-pot meal in the freezer. Things were rapidly coming together. We made a list of ingredients and went to the store. Again, fairly easy and painless.

Sarah wrote the meals down on a cute divided picture frame I bought and made sure to put it in plain sight.

Found this on the local FB sale page.

Found this on the local FB sale page.

Who knows, maybe I can conquer the anti-meal-planning giant that always seems to beat me down. And teach Sarah and David to cook in the process. Win-win.

Project 365 – Day 243 (Aug 31)
Kathy

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Homeschool Planning

I have been homeschooling for just over 15 years.

I have graduated 3 students from high school.

I have sent 3 students off to college. With scholarships.

So, ahem, you would think I have this whole homeschool thing completely figured out. And you would certainly think I at least know how to plan out a homeschool schedule for the new year. And you might scoff at the ease of homeschooling just two measly children after a household full of 5 busy homeschooling students.

Well, that’s all somewhat true.

I definitely have a lot of things figured out for our homeschooling family. I know what curriculum we have loved over the years (Sonlight, Horizons Math, Rod and Staff English, Spelling and Health, and of course the EXCELLENT Potter’s School for so many online classes). I know that we have thrived at homeschool co-ops and made some of our closest and dearest friends there.

At the same time, I have made many mistakes. I have neglected subjects. I have spent more energy on people than school, opening up our home to friends during school hours. I have taught according to MY STRENGTHS and not based on my CHILDREN’S NEEDS.

This last week I spent a good deal of time trying to decide how I would map out our homeschool schedule for the fall. I have used a variety of planning schedules over the years – I have printed out individual weekly pages, I have kept loose schedules, I have made detailed charts, and we’ve had months where we plugged along without a written schedule.

Some of our current books.

My current stack of books.

So basically we’ve covered a broad spectrum of organizational plans.

This week I spent hours looking through Pinterest at blogs on homeschool planning. I downloaded files, looked at dozens of organizers and planners, made lists of paper, and tried to determine what was keeping me from just going ahead and making September’s schedule.

A mostly filled out chart

A mostly filled out chart

Finally I went back to the large chart that I’ve used for several years now. It has worked great for us in the past, and I have most of the template already created and in place. I use printable address labels for the individual subjects. The template works perfectly in Word, and I can easily and somewhat simply modify and change each month’s schedule once I have the first one in place.

I divide a 24 x 32 handwriting chart (from Amazon) into two halves (one for David and one for Sarah). I print out a cute graphic for the month, glue on their names, and proceed to fill up the month of curriculum lessons.

The address labels fit perfectly on the lines of the handwriting tablet, and having the document in Word makes it easily editable and changeable. The only thing that is difficult is the time it takes to fill out the assignments, but really that’s true any time you do careful planning.

You can see it more clearly in this pic.

You can see it more clearly in this pic.

This time I decided to just print out the subjects and write in the daily assignments by hand. I had mostly filled out September (which has a bit of a slow start for us with our classes beginning on different dates), when I stumbled on a review for some online homeschool planners.

I found this interesting article which included a graphic for picking the best online planner for your school. It also had reviews of several of the major online organizers. I signed up for several of them, downloaded one, and went with another one. I found myself really enjoying the ease of tracking things online and recording all of our books and info right on the computer.

I can print out schedules, send the kids special messages, track our assignments, move work to different days if we miss something, and so on. I’ve imported most of our September assignments, and am thinking about abandoning my large, oversize chart. We’ll see how the kids and I like it. I know Tim will laugh at me – I’m constantly changing and tweaking things in our school and household chores. I can’t help it, making adjustments, trying new things, and exploring different options, keeps our homeschool experience alive and fresh for me.

I’m also entering into the high school years with David and Sarah, and I want to do everything I can to help them have a wonderful, challenging, creative high school experience.

I finally settled on the Plan, Educate, Record online planner. I am very pleased with it thus far. The price (FREE) was great and the ease of figuring things out (SIMPLE) right what I wanted. I will review it again after we’ve used it for a little bit.

This was the first week of our Three Week School Start. Each week we’re adding in portions of our school. By the week of the 14th, we’ll be fully engaged and participating in all our classes (and our co-op program). Exciting! Once again, I find myself so thankful that I have the privilege and joy of educating my children. I am thankful that Tim has supported and encouraged me to be home with the kids, teaching and learning alongside them.

Here we go! Fall 2015!

Project 365 – Day 242 (Aug 30)
Kathy

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A Discouraged Spirit

I’m working through some Project 365 pictures that I need to post from the end of August.

January, February, March, April and May are all complete. Yay us!! June is only missing 3, two of which I hope Tim going to write about his time at JH Ranch with David.

July and August are an entirely different story. Yikes. I have quite a few back-dated pictures to post and blogs to write. I’m fairly certain, however, that I have a picture from every single day, so the Project 365 is still intact. It’s the small things we cling to, I find, that keep us sane.

So, bear with me as I publish several posts from the end of August.

Last week I was in a bit of a slump. David was in California with his good friend, Marshall. Tim was getting Daniel settled in at college in Murietta Springs. Rachel and Joshua were back in the busy, engaging activities of life at Union University. Sarah and I had a lovely time being together, but I could NOT motivate myself to do anything. I was tired and apathetic. I didn’t want to DO ANYTHING. Whenever I thought about the coming Fall activities, I just felt dread and weariness. It was odd and a wee bit troubling.

Planning school is inevitable.

Planning school is inevitable.

“Well, that’s it. I’m done. This couch looks cozy and that stack of magazines has my name on it.”

I didn’t want to think about house projects, fall ministries or co-op classes. I didn’t want to plan our homeschool schedule. I didn’t have a clue about making the most of this fresh year with David and Sarah. The sun was shining, but I felt too blah to enjoy it.

“Mom, are you okay?”

When your daughter hurries to call you after receiving some rather pathetic sounding text messages, you know you’re not doing a very good job of hiding your emotional state. Ha. One of the delights of my life is how my children bless ME. Rachel has the gift of encouragement, and she NEVER lets me fall into negative self-talk or believe the lies that Satan is so good at throwing around.

“Kathy,” a friend texted me, “you have had some BIG changes in your life this month, watching three children go off to college. It’s going to manifest itself in odd and emotional ways.”

“And you’re not a crier,” another sweet friend messaged to say, “so it has to come out other ways.”

Haha. Oh, how my children and my friends and my husband know me so well!

Thankfully after a day or two of pity parties involving shots of espresso (not that different from my regular parties, now that I think about it), I began to feel my old self. It helped when I made a mental list of all that I had done this summer.

Including:

1. A HUGE overhaul of the garage
2. Completely organized, sorted and labeled all of Tim’s tools and hardware
3. Organized the two sheds in the back yard
4. Emptied and helped Tim clean out our shed in the Duckabush (not touched in years!)
5. Worked for a week on my mom’s house in Texas – emptying, organizing, selling things, giving away stuff, etc
6. Decluttered our master bedroom and closet
7. Painted our bedroom, completely moving everything around, and surprising Tim with a new desk and work set-up
8. Hosted 7 families (and LOTS of kids) for a week of camp
9. Worked with Daniel to plant and landscape the front yard
10. Spent time with my niece/nephew and great-nephew, brother-in-law and sister-in-law
11. Welcomed my son’s beautiful fiancee into the home for a whirlwind (too short!) visit
12. Helped Rachel get ready and set off for college
13. Helped Daniel move out of his room – all his stuff sorted, boxed up or given away
14. Helped David move back to his room
15. Helped Sarah move beds around and switch things from Daniel’s room to hers

I realized that I wasn’t broken or incapable of tackling big projects, I had just done a LOT already this summer.

I let my spirit rest just a bit without panicking or fretting. I got an email from one of the amazing kids in my student government class and realized I had a few fresh ideas myself. I sat next to Tim while he spent hours working on our AWANA website and felt the excitement of the coming year. I went to a meeting with the new directors of the AWANA program and saw what fun it was going to be to work with them. I made plans to meet with some women regarding our mentor program.

And ever so sweetly the Lord breathed renewed life into my spirit. It wasn’t dramatic and startling. It was gentle and subtle. And isn’t He like that sometimes.

May the Lord give strength to His people.
May the Lord bless His people with peace. Psalm 29:11

I am so thankful for His mercies which are new every morning and refresh and refill my soul.

Project 365 – Day 239 (Aug 27)
Kathy

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Living in the Dark Ages

Today, we had a power outage. It was very strange — suddenly, around 10 am, with sunny skies, the power surged and flickered once or twice, and then snapped off.

Living in Western Washington, we’re no strangers to power outages. High winds, tree falls, flooding, ice on power lines; all these can (and do) cause power outages. But usually they happen in winter, and most often in the evening, when they are sure to be noticed. In such cases, you gather what candles and non-working flashlights you can find, gather around the dining room table for a game or a story, and go to bed early.

Our weather this Summer has been hot, and dry and calm, so when the winds picked up this morning, we were quite surprised. Our pretty green patio umbrella blew away and was destroyed, and one of the shed doors was wrenched off its hinges. Then the power went out.

I had been working on my Sunday School class (I write my notes and questions in MS Word, and do most of my research on the passage via the internet) and suddenly I was forced to revert to old-school methods. I felt a real solidarity with monks, living in the dark ages.

On the left, is a Bible presented in a strange form called 'print', and on the right is a quill and some parchment, which were used to record thoughts and ideas by primitive man.

On the left, is a Bible presented in an archaic form called ‘print’, and on the right is a quill and some parchment, which were used to record thoughts and ideas by primitive man.

It is surprising (to me, at least) how much of my life centers around work and entertainment, both of which tend to require electricity. I had planned to split my day between working on our church’s AWANA website and preparing for Sunday School, with maybe a movie thrown in in the evening. Without electrical power, I found myself at loose ends.

I zipped out to the Dollar store and shopped for a few things I needed for Sunday school, and picked up a few biscuits for breakfast (and, of course, a coffee for Kathy). We all caught up on our Bible reading. I read ten chapters of a Gary Schmidt book, What Came from the Stars aloud to Sarah and Kathy, and I developed my Sunday School class on paper. Eventually, the power did come back on (after six hours of barbarian life), and we celebrated by cooking a variation of our favorite Thai dish, Panang Curry.

There is just nothing quite like a good panang curry, for a hungry barbarian family.

There is just nothing quite like a good panang curry, for a hungry barbarian family.

In the evening, we drove to the airport to welcome back David, the returning prodigal, who reluctantly relinquished his life of luxury as a guest in California, in order to reclaim his rightful place in our family. After all, if he’d stayed away any longer, Sarah would probably have co-opted his bedroom as a craft workshop.

Hail the conquering hero's return!

Hail the conquering hero’s return!

Project 365, Day 241
Tim

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Sarah Cooks

It’s been a long week for Sarah. With Daniel heading to Bible college, Rachel and Joshua off at Union University, and David visiting a friend in California, the house has felt pretty empty. Of course, it wasn’t all suffering for poor Sarah.

We managed to – get pedicures, shop for dresses, go out to dinner, order Thai take-out, work through a weekend of Passport2Purity materials, and watch lots of movies.

Thanks for the makeover, Ally

Makeover with Ally

Beautiful new dress for Sarah!

Beautiful new dress for Sarah!

Beautiful 'old dress'

Beautiful ‘old dress’

Dinner out with my girl

Dinner out with my girl

Delicious food

Delicious food

Saturday evening David comes home, and Sarah will no longer be an only child. Whew. The pressure to be the only one doing the dishes, watering and weeding, doing chores and kitty responsibilities, is too much for one girl. Not to mention having to entertain her mom and dad and keep up a constant stream of conversation. Poor thing.

And tonight I realized I have been way missing a HUGE opportunity to exploit, I mean use, Sarah’s skills. This girl can cook (or at least prep) meals. She and David both took Cooking for a Crowd at co-op. Why haven’t I been taking advantage of these talented kids??

Chopping onions

Chopping onions

We're roasting veggies!

We’re roasting veggies!

Come on home, David, we’ve missed you!

Project 365 – Day 240
Kathy

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The musings and ravings of a bloggart family