Balancing Chores, Indoors and Out

It’s that time of year. Time to plant, time to weed, time to keep the lawn under control. There are new seedlings to tend and unwanted critters to chase off. And I can’t remember the last time I spent most of my day indoors.

Which is how I’d rather have it. I’d spend just about all my time stooped over in the garden, if it were up to me. But I’ve got this house that somehow goes to shambles–even though no one is in it most the day. Does that happen to you, too?

Fact is, if you’ve got a serious garden or animals to care for, then you NEED to be outside right now. But somewhere, we’ve got to balance both our needy worlds, inside and out.

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Make hay while the sun shines

I never thought much about that statement until recently. But I have a friend who mows hay for her family’s farm. And really, her schedule is dictated by the hay. She plans everything around the weather and the grass. I totally understand that. After all, if they are too cavalier about it, they’ll pay big time in winter. No hay–no food for the cattle.

And on a much smaller scale, it applies to us right now, too. My garden is more than a hobby. It’s food for my family. We count on it. And if we want to eat from it’s bounty in the fall, then we better put in the hours in the spring and summer. So when the weather is good, that’s the time to get outside and take care of what needs done.

Just like my friend’s hay fields, my week will be planned around the weather and the garden. It will get first billing on my to-do list right now.

Image Credit

Image Credit

But what about the laundry?

I have to confess that a string of gloriously beautiful days have kept me outside. And the laundry (clean and otherwise) has been piling up, begging to be dealt with. Not to mention the rest of the house. Right now, my cleaning strategy, though somewhat lopsided, is to make the most of the bad weather days. Those will be the days to do some serious cleaning and catching up.

But I don’t want to live in squalor in the meantime. So here’s our strategies for keep up with the housework during the busy outdoor season:

Find stolen pockets of time. I kind of talked about this a while back in this post. It’s keeping your eyes open for a pause in your day and taking advantage of it. Waiting for the pasta to boil? Tidy up the kitchen table. Have to come in and make a phone call? Fold some laundry while you do it.

And if you’re going to be outside ALL DAY, then this works well first thing in the morning and just before bed as well. A few minutes of tidying up before your posterior finally hits the couch (or the sack) will make a difference in the long run.

Recruit some help. You know, those little folks running around. (That somehow make such a large mess.) Right now, while I’m trying to finish up all the planting, my kids are doing a few daily chores indoors. Wiping down bathrooms, emptying the dishwasher, taking care of their laundry. It’s all stuff they help with all year, but I especially lean on them right now. I like to think of a family as a team effort, and it takes all of us to make this house run well.

Take a cleaning shortcut. Sometimes, good enough is good enough. For instance, I have hardwood floors downstairs. The hard floor attachment on my vacuum does the best job of getting all the grass and dirt and debris off the floor. And I HATE dirty floors. But it’s a big old canister vac, and sometimes a pain to drag out. So on busy days we break out the broom and dust pan. Good enough.

Good enough also means that sometimes, we cart the basket of clean clothes upstairs to get it out of the way, and we might not get it folded right away. Or the stack of mail and papers might be put into a tidy stack instead of filed then and there.

I’m not saying this is a good long term plan. Eventually things will drive me crazy enough to abandon the outdoors for a day and bring my kingdom back under control. But maintenance is the key.

It’s definitely a busy season. But’s it’s by far my absolute favorite!

How do you balance your chores this time of year?

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Our Summer Schooling Plans

School is outta here! Last week my girls had their portfolio evaluations required by our state. I sent my oldest to testing (you can do either in WV) earlier in the spring and we are eagerly awaiting his results. So for all practical purposes, our more formal/structured learning time is finished until fall!

But a homeschooling mama’s work is never done, right?

Even though everyone is eager for a well deserved break (including the teacher), I’m well aware that if we put our brains in neutral for nearly 3 months, then come fall, I’ll end up re-teaching a load of skills. So we try to keep the learning going–summer style.

My criteria for summer learning– uncomplicated, quick, and confidence building. We don’t want or need to spend all morning on things. Just a few minutes, then it’s outside to play!

For the youngest

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Really, I’ve found that for the early elementary crowd, a few math problems a day and lots of trips to the library are all you need to keep their skills sharp. Ella is taking her sweet time memorizing her math facts this year, so we’ll plug along in her Alpha book from Math-U-See. It doesn’t really bother me that she’s not finished with it yet. (Which would have totally freaked me out with the first one.) We’ve got all summer. And pushing her through it will only serve to frustrate her and me. I know from experience that her retention of math facts will be better and future concepts much easier if I make sure she’s really ready to move on.

As far as reading goes, I have no worries. We frequently find her in a corner somewhere reading a preschool Bible or one of her other favorite books. She likes to read a little board book to her cousin before nap time nearly every day. But to keep the phonics skills moving along, I’m planning on having her work through Explode the Code, book 7. I’ve used the Explode the Code series for phonics with my middle child and it’s usually pretty easy for them to work independently.

For my middle child

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Abby did a really great job this year and got every single thing done early. So for her summer work, we’ll do a few review math problems (I love that the Math-U-See website lets you print review worksheets for extra practice!) and work on some word skills, mostly spelling and vocabulary development. She reads like crazy, but sometimes words frustrate her, and she’s expressed a desire to work on that this summer.

For simple, quick work in this area, she and I will be going through Sequential Spelling (which really works with word families and spelling patterns–very helpful for her) and I plan to pick up a book of Wordly Wise so she can work through some vocab on her own a few days a week. All this shouldn’t take more than 30-45 minutes. We’ll tackle it right after breakfast, so they still have plenty of their summer days to enjoy.

 

The oldest

(Who retreats to his room to do school…so no pics.)

My firstborn will be entering the high school level next year. Yikes! He still has a few lessons left in his Algebra 1 book, so we’ll plug along through those. When that’s finished, I’ll probably have him work on some computation stuff that we all tend to forget, like fractions, long division and decimals. Yeah, I know, not really fun for anyone out there. But if I only give him 4 or 5 problems a day, I think we’ll both survive it just fine.

He does like to read, and is a great reader, but sometimes he just doesn’t seems to make that happen often enough. So right now, I’m working on some incentives to get him to carve out more time for reading. During the school year, I assign different books for him to read, but for the summer, I’m hoping he’ll get back to enjoying it on his own a bit more. A girl can dream, right?

And I”m also considering having him work through a Wordly Wise book for his grade level as well, and continuing with it through high school so we can be better prepared for all those lovely college entrance tests that are looming in the distance.

 

The bottom line is, giving a little time to summer schooling (and I really do mean little) gives us the luxury of not having to cram as much in during the school year. We can take a more comfortable pace, which I’ve found helps the kids tremendously on retention and plain old enjoyment in their studies.

So what kind of learning do YOU do in the summer?

 

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Our Favorite Afternoon Treat–Almond Banana Chocolate Pops

 

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This post is part of Gluten Free & DIY Tuesday at Allergy Free Alaska and The Baking Beauties. And also at Pennywise Platter Thursdays at The Nourishing Gourmet.

It’s getting hot out there folks! We’ve been practically living outside the last couple weeks. And with all this heat and activity, my people need a cool, refreshing, and filling snack. I’d like it if it were on the frugal side and super low in added sugar.

This little treat fits the bill. You can make it allergy friendly. Whips up incredibly fast. Creamy and it’s surprisingly sweet even though we don’t add any sugar to it!

It’s more of a method than an exact recipe, so play with it until you find the perfect version for your family!

Almond Banana Chocolate Pops

  • 1-2 frozen bananas, broken into smaller pieces (I probably end up with a total of 1 1/2 bananas, but I just pull chunks out of the freezer that I’ve put in there previously. Great use for over ripe bananas!)
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of almond butter (or nut butter of choice)
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • milk (dairy, coconut or almond)

Break out your blender and add all ingredients except the milk. Pour in the milk until it’s nearly 1/2 to 3/4 the amount of other ingredients (The amount of milk you’ll need depends on how powerful your blender is. You’ll want something in the end that’s really thick–like a stiff milkshake–but still pour-able. If you’re blender is on the wimpy side and you have to add more milk to get it moving, don’t worry, it will still be great!)

Blend on high until it’s moving around in there pretty good and all the ingredients are well combined. Give it a taste. We find that it gets plenty of sweetness from the banana and vanilla. But if it’s not quite enough for you, feel free to add a drizzle of maple syrup or stevia powder and blend some more.

Adjust the flavors to your hearts content!

Pour the mixture into popsicle molds (Don’t have any? These are a good buy.) Freeze for a few hours and then enjoy!

And totally off topic…I thought I’d be totally real and show off the piles of yard sale stuff in the background of my daughter’s picture. Your welcome.

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The Mother of All Yard Sales

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog lately. And not without good reason. Last week, my family hosted a yard sale. But this isn’t just any yard sale. Nope. This is the mother of  all yard sales.

Every May, right after Mother’s Day, the insanity begins. It takes a full week to set everything up. The whole shindig takes place at my in-laws. It’s our family’s stuff, their stuff, the neighbors’ stuff, and my brothers and sister-in-law’s stuff. But wait, there’s more. They also sell of anything that people  leave behind when they move out of a house–with full permission to do whatever they want with it. And we also had quite a few pieces of donated furniture whose proceeds were to go to a children’s cancer research fund.

It was a LOT of stuff. The pictures don’t do it justice. Plus all the furniture was across the street in the neighbor’s driveway.

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As usual, the weather was less than cooperative for the majority of the week. But the sale must go on. So my husband constructs what he refers to as “Little Haiti.” (Please don’t misconstrue that as a derogatory label. He actually was in Haiti. So I guess he would know.)

Tarps, tarps and more tarps. So folks can shop, rain or shine.

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And rain it did. On Thursday, hubby spent all his time adjusting tarps, re-sinking tent pegs, and tightening ropes.

 

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The kids were troopers. They unpacked glassware, manned their bake sale, counted out change and otherwise fine tuned all their hard earned yard sale skills.

 

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We got rid of a lot. And we may have found a few new treasures. I’m sure Ella can’t live without her new specs.

 

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It seems every year, we find more items we just don’t need, and we’re happy to pass it on to someone else. A little extra cash and a little more closet space. A lot of exhausting, hard work. But worth it!


Feeding a Crowd of Kids–the Nacho Bar

In case you can’t tell, I love feeding people. I’m kind of like that little old lady in The Wedding Singer who got excited watching Adam Sandler eat her homemade meatballs. (Except I don’t rap. If you haven’t seen the movie–never mind.)

And believe it or not, I like my kids’ friends. (A perk of homeschooling is having a little more input in the friend department.) Middle schoolers were always my favorite group to teach way back when and I like having a crowd of kids in my house from time to time.

Abby had some of her friends over for a birthday celebration recently. And I gotta feed them, right?

There are a few tricks to this whole thing. There are different diets. Different tastes. Different appetites. Plus, I wanted something super simple that was make ahead friendly, easy on the budget, and nutritious to boot.

nacho bar

Nacho Bar to the rescue. This is crazy easy, people. Brown up a load of seasoned ground beef (being generous with salt, pepper, chili, garlic and onion powder). Add some bowls of shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole and a big ole bunch of chips (I do like to choose organic for tortilla chips) and you’re done! Let the kids dig in and help themselves.

They can customize their plate to their hearts’ content. They can easily get seconds. So simple, I actually have time to eat.

And if you want to be super lazy (like me) you can buy pre-shredded cheese and jarred salsa. (I know I usually do that myself. But every once in a while isn’t going to hurt anyone.)

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I did actually make the guacamole myself. Cause anyone can smash an avocado.

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Everyone’s bellies were happily full and all I had to do to clean up was put a bunch of bowls in the dishwasher. Yay! Another victory in low stress entertaining.

How do you feed a crowd of kids?

* Want another easy entertaining idea? Check out the Sandwich Bar post!


The Power of Two Little Letters…OK

power of ok

Around here, we subscribe to the power of “OK.” Oh, the magic those two little letters possess! Short. Sweet. Not a trace of argument or pretension or pride or frustration…ya know, if spoken in a tone of voice that matches :).

Cause maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the people in my house (yeah, me included) seem to LOVE to add their two cents. We love to give our excuses. We love to add our input and comments and recommendations. We love to correct and inform and yes…be a little bossy sometimes.

Enter the power of “OK.”

Could you empty the trash, dear son?–“OK, mom.”

I’m cranky today and I need you to do something quietly in your room.–“OK, mom.”

You need to get along with your siblings today.–“OK, mom.”

And it works for SO many other things. Your spouse venting or ranting about family or work? Maybe…just maybe…he or she doesn’t want you to *fix* the problem. Maybe he just wants you to listen (all the way to the bitter end) and say “OK.”

Or when your incredibly brilliant teenager takes forever a moment to download all he has discovered about the fantastic new gaming device he plans to buy…for the 20th time. Maybe this mom should just smile in my most interested fashion and say, “OK.”

I can’t say enough about OK. It’s more than just a quick reply. It reminds us that maybe we don’t need to say EVERYTHING that pops up into our little heads. It reminds us to listen. It reminds us to be agreeable instead of argumentative.

Now, I realize there are exceptions. I certainly don’t want my kids to say “OK” to just anyone out there. Common sense and wise discretion still apply here. But in the day to day interaction with family, it goes a long way.

Give those two magic letters a try. Preach their virtues to the family. And let me know how it goes.

OK?

Oh, and just for kicks, our favorite way to say “OK.” Courtesy of Phineas & Ferb.


The Kind of Mom I Want to Be When I Grow Up

I’ve been a mom for over 13 years now. Sometimes it all just seems like a blur. Sometimes I don’t remember life before they were here. And then other times I feel like I just started. I certainly have moments when I feel as clueless as that 24-year-old crying along with the colicky baby in the wee hours of the night.

When Mother’s Day comes around, I think about my mothering. I think about what I’ve learned and how far I still have to go. You see, what they don’t tell you is that when you become a mom, you grow up right alongside your kids. You quickly learn your strengths and weaknesses and as soon as you get a handle on things your little darlings plunge you right back into unknown territory.

It’s stretching. It’s humbling.

It’s a glorious gift. 

I’ve still got a ways to go. And I figure all the learning and stretching will just go right through their adulthood, too. When we finally reach that point, what kind of mom do I want to be?

I want to listen a whole lot more.

I want to measure my words with seasoned wisdom.

I want to always cheer them on from the sidelines.

I want to be their safe shelter from the difficult world of adulthood.

I want to celebrate their victories and somehow heap their broken moments onto me instead.

I want share freely everything I have.

I want to serve our God together.

I want to have an endless well of patience and forgiveness.

I want to be their most faithful friend.

I want to be like my mom.

Because she’s always been all those things. And when I grow up, I want to be just like her.

 

May you have a blessed Mother’s Day.