Surprises and Getting Back Into Things

Nearly two weeks ago I surprised McK with a trip to Toronto. I had kept this trip a secret for nearly 4 months, telling next to no one about it for fear that they would trip up and let even a tiny morsel slip.

When she woke up that morning, thinking she was going to school, she was oblivious to the butterflies in my belly. I played the morning ritual out like it was any other day. Wake her up at 7 am. Drag her out of bed at 7:10. Listen to her wash her face and brush her teeth and wait for the “Can you come straighten my hair” call. I chatted with her while we fussed around in the bathroom, like it was any other day.

She sat at the island like she always does. “Juice?” “Sure.”

Then, as it by some weird stroke of magic, I just HAPPENED to remember that my friend Leslie sent us a video and hey kiddo, you should watch this.

And then I saw the confusion in her face, the furrowed brow that appears when she is trying to work something out that makes no sense to her initially. She has had it for years. A look of “I should know what’s going on but I don’t”. Suspicion. Confusion. All emotions rolled into one.

The video ended with Carter and Leslie talking about meeting us in Toronto for a concert by one of her current favourite bands, The GazettE. I asked if she’d like to do that, like to go to Toronto. She looked a little giddy and said YES. Then, because I don’t think she realized the immediacy of it all, I told her it was that day, that we were leaving in a half hour to go to the airport and no, she would not be going to school for the next three days.

More furrowed brow.

“But…I’m not ready!”

Oh yes you are. I had it all taken care of. And off we went.

It was awesome. 

It reminded me how much I loved planning things for people I care about. How much I loved going to new places. How much I loved coming home.

It was very, VERY hard getting back into the swing of things once we got back. Its been a week now and I am starting to feel like we are back into our routine. Odd how 3 days away during the week can throw you off like that. Doesn’t typically happen when you venture out over a weekend because those were days that are meant for exploring.

But disappearing for half a week when you should be at work and school? That is scrumptious. And hard to recover from.

Alas, lunches don’t make themselves, groceries don’t appear in the fridge by magic, laundry doesn’t suddenly become clean all on its own. We are back and we are gearing up again.

And yes, I am planning more stuff.

Of course I am.

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Back to Routine

It is rather astonishing, how quickly routine can falter when a piece of it is modified in the slightest way.

I suppose that a week off for McK (Spring Break) is more than just “a piece” of our routine though. When there is no requirement for her to be up at a certain time, things change, the morning doesn’t flow like it typically would.

Add to that we had a day off on Monday, and two days of work-from-home for me and there was really no reason to set my alarm at all. There were no lunches to be made, no bags to sort through, no schedule to keep.

It was a week of waking up when the body decided it was time, having brekkie when you got hungry, watching the sun fill the room at leisure.

But that’s over, we are back at it again. Alarms are on, workout gear set out, coffee prepared, lunch bags open, backpacks ready.

There is something to be said for the blissful state of laissez-faire, where nothing is urgent or planned. Where the contents of your day are decided as they happen and not a moment sooner.

But there is even more to be said for maintaining the routine, day-to-day, scheduled plan where everyone knows what they are to do and what comes next. It doesn’t fit with every family, but it fits with ours.

So yes, I will take my lazy mornings, and 2 coffees before getting dressed, and bacon and eggs with my kiddo. But I will happily jump back into the swing of things when the calendar dictates.

It would appear it dictates it today.

Back at ‘er, fam!

order foundation

Good order indeed!

 

How do you get back into the swing of things after some time where schedules don’t matter and calendars are altered? Do you just jump right in or do you have tricks to ease back into it gently? Do tell!

Meal Planning for Dummies

I am not a chef.

I believe I referenced this in my last post where I highlighted my ability to melt chocolate chips (honest moment: it took awhile to learn how to do that successfully without burning them or making them into solid, gritty piles of nothing).

So when I think of what to make for a weeks worth of dinners, I flounder a little. Add to that my child exists on pasta and my husband has the stomach of a most delicate flower, my options shrink.

I have a roster of “hits” that I can make knowing they will be eaten and appreciated. But even the most steadfast repeat-eater (def: one who can eat the same thing regularly and not get sick of it) will eventually tire of the same 5 meals rotating through their belly.

Every now and then I try to get a little fancy. I attempt to broaden my horizons, expand my reach if you will. Once, I even made mahi-mahi. That’s right. (It’s a fish, I had to look it up back then too). Upon completing the mahi-mahi masterpiece, I was asked if it should be given to the dog or just thrown out. (For real, this happened, and yes, we’re still married.)

Keeping that SUPER successful experiment in mind I occasionally have to reign myself back in and abandon the crazier looking results from my Pinterest searches. These searches now typically involve the keywords gluten free, easy, quick, three ingredient, slow cooker, picky, did I mention easy?

When I meal plan there are two rules:

Keep it simple.

Know your audience.

We typically will have something with beef, something with chicken, something super fast, something that doesn’t require cooking, and something that is typically a little bit piece meal.

This week, for example, we will have:

Chicken, gravy, potatoes and veg (yes, I buy the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, SO EASY!)

Beef tacos with all the fillings on GF tortillas.

Homemade pizza on GF crust.

Italian sandwhiches on GF sub buns with salad.

End of week usually nets you a grilled cheese and some potato chips. Its Friday. Live a little. Or we’ll pick up some Thai. Either way, low effort, bits and pieces, easy for me.

By adding these meal ideas to my Meal Planner Worksheet I can begin to see what I already have in the house versus what I need to add to my grocery list for the week. Knowing this, I can then determine where I will go to get my groceries. While just about every grocery chain has a plethora of gluten free foods available, there is just one nearby that has the GF tortilla brand that doesn’t crack into a million pieces when you try to actually roll something up in it!

So with my meal plan prepared I can now add the “needs” to my grocery list and I am good to go. Grocery shopping becomes quick and easy and I don’t end up with an abundance of things we won’t use before they go bad or multiples of things we already had tons of in the pantry.

Keeping things on the simple side, knowing the likes and dislikes of who you cook for, being aware of the inventory of your fridge and pantry, these things give you back time in your week and contribute to a smooth transition into dinner time.

No matter who in your house does the cooking, spending a few moments getting prepared each week is something worth investing in. Some people plan a week at a time, some plan a month at a time, some use spreadsheets, some use meal planners like the one I made.

However you choose to equip yourself for the meals ahead, know you are adding efficiency into your life. By doing this one step prior to the start of your week, you have taken an often frazzled and stressful task  and turned it into a simple undertaking.

Simple is good.

Especially when they want to eat every night!

meal planning for dummies

Meal Planning for Dummies makes dinner easier!

 

What do you do to make your mealtimes a success? Any pre-cooking tips? Found any great recipes? Share in the comments!

And download your own copy of my Meal Planner Worksheet! Save yourself some time each week!

Keeping Up Appearances

The word multitasking has become such a catch phrase that everyone and their dog thinks it needs to be on their resume, in their everyday terminology and their biggest sell feature when selling, well, themselves.

But the word has been mangled and misinterpreted for some time now.

People are confusing the word multitasking with “looking busy”.

Running around, pretending to be putting out fire after fire, frantically fixing issues and taking longer than you should for things is not multitasking. It is an inefficient use of time.

What multitasking used to mean was the ability to work on multiple things at once. Which, when you break it down, is actually kind of impossible. But it sure sounds good.

What multitasking actually is, is somewhere along the lines of being able to be fully engrossed in one project while having the ability to stop if something comes up that requires your immediate attention, deal with it, and then return to your original project without skipping a beat.

When you look at it like that, and realize it does not mean jumping from one thing to the next without prioritizing or actually completing a task, you realize a good number of people need to go and do some deleting on their resume.

Stop confusing busy with productive.

Multitasking is not the ideal quality that we have all been led to believe if you are defining it the way we used to. Busy is not the ideal way to run your day. If you can be organized, plan for certain things, allow flexibility and agility when things change, you will be a thousand times more productive than you will be busy.

When you allow yourself the ability to learn how to effectively multitask when the need arises, you will find less fires and less issues. And you will discover more time and more successes.

The glorification of busy ends here.

busy vs productive

Looking “busy” doesn’t mean you are accomplishing things!

 

How do you organize your day so that you are effectively using your time and able to properly multitask? Are you able to stop one project and go to another task or do you lose all track of what you’re doing? Comment above, lets help each other out!

If You Do One Thing…

Making the bed. Emptying the dishwasher. Putting your lunch bag away at the end of each day.

We all have that one thing, that one little annoying task that we know, if we do it, we will feel a million times better than if we left it. There are things I have gotten in the habit of doing, things like making the bed, that I do daily because I like the way it looks and I like the way it feels when I get back into it at the end of each day.

But there is one thing that I negotiate with myself about week after week. I promise myself treats and good things if I just do it and do not procrastinate. I even use positive self talk to convince myself that doing said task now will save me precious time later and will send me into the week on a positive note. I tell myself if I DON’T do it, I will feel like there is always something left to be done, always this nagging little voice saying hey you, yeah you, you forgot about me, I’m still here and I’m not going anywhere.

I’m talking about the dreaded putting away of clean laundry.

Believe me, I can stare at that full basket of clothes for DAYS.

I can pick out just what is needed if anything is required from it.

I can live out of it like a freaking suitcase if I have to.

I start out with good intentions, doing all the laundry on a Sunday, load upon load. And typically, right up until that last basket, I get everything put away, ready for the week ahead.

Until that last basket.

My nemesis.

So my new promise to myself is this. Finish what you start. Don’t leave it for later. Save your precious “later” moments for things that count.

The odd dish or two? They can wait.

The messy blankets all over the couch? They can wait.

If you do one thing…make it something that will affect the rest of your week in a positive way.

Go put the laundry away.

thedreadedlaundrybasket

The dreaded laundry basket…just DO IT.

 

What is the one thing you know you should just do, and yet you still manage to talk yourself out of it week in and week out?

How do you get yourself in the mindset of just doing it and getting it over with? Tips and tricks to share? Comment above!

Calendar Girl

If it is on the calendar, consider it golden.

I track my day-to-day in a number of ways. As previously noted, I write myself short, little emails that outline what it was that I was thinking of at that very moment that was at risk of being forgotten if it was not jotted down at that precise time.

I keep an ever-changing, ever-growing to-do list in my work notebook and my home notebook that I often reflect upon at the end of the day. Sometimes the next day’s to-do list is a carbon copy of today’s but that’s just how life goes.

Most importantly, I keep a month-at-a-glance calendar on my fridge that gets updated every month to ensure we are where we are supposed to be at any given time. I learned my lesson the hard way.

I was that mom who pulled up into an empty school parking lot, wondering briefly where everyone was before realizing there was no school that day. I was that mom who got the call at 2:15 to remind her that school was out at 2 that day. I was that mom who stopped at the store on the way to the kids party to grab a gift card and pay way more than I should for a pretty, little gift bag.

No more.

Once McK entered grade 7, knowing what “school day” it was became paramount to knowing where we were meant to be each day. You see, previously it did not affect us one way or the other, knowing what the school day was. But now, on every Day 1, she gets to sleep in a little later but more importantly, I have to remember to drive her to an entirely different school!

It took just one panicked text saying “MOM COME BACK I HAVE TO BE AT SHOPS NOT SCHOOL!” for us to start to really pay attention and get our collective calendar butts in gear.

She actually checks the calendar daily, just like I do, and adds her little comments here and there. Mostly it is the birthday’s of her favourite musicians or an outing she is particularly looking forward to/hoping we will go on.

I have, however, since decided that along with the month-at-a-glance, I could benefit from a weekly planner. I used to buy planners but wound up not using them to the fullest, skipping entire months, or getting bored by them. But I have made myself a worksheet that is a week-at-a-time printable that I can fill in with things that are important and specific to me.

Knowing what is going on each day gives me a sense of organization and calm and replaces the frazzled nerves that pop up when I realize I have forgotten things. So if you want to know what’s what….

“Check the calendar!!”

calendar

Our fridge calendar is a life saver!!

 

Don’t forget to download your own copy of the A Peek at the Week worksheet printable!

How do you remember special dates and weekly items? Are you strictly electronic? Calendar reminders pop up? Do you have a calendar actually hanging on your wall? Share in the comments near the top of this post.

 

Downsizing

When most people speak of reducing clutter and simplifying their lives, they often refer to it as downsizing. Getting rid of the car. Buying in to the tiny house craze. Going minimalist with your furnishings.

Not me.

Downsizing to me means getting rid of the stress. Buying in to the “me time” craze. Going full-on-comfort with your furnishings.

Downsizing need not leave you feeling empty, like you have lost your “things”. Clearly it means different things to different people but in my mind, if you can eliminate the items/people/tasks that added clutter and disorganization to your mind, then you have downsized. You have reduced. You have simplified.

This holiday season I enlisted a few close friends to fall in with my new plan of rethinking the way I did Christmas. Back on my About page I mentioned the conversation I had with a customer many years ago and finally decided it was time.

There were three rules:

  • No gifts over $10, if any, to see how far a tenner could go.

  • If you could make it, bake it, or create it, it was fair game and the sky was the limit.

  • And we would do something together with our kids that somehow made this crazy world a better place at some point within the year.

And it was probably the best Christmas I have had in a long, long time. Not only did I get to unleash my creative beast, but I got oodles of my favourite cookies, hand made woolly items for cold winter days, and snacks for miles!

I have decided to carry that into all holidays and birthdays with my amazing tribe of women. I cannot thank them enough for bringing a dose of fun and creativity back into the holidays with me.

It did feel weird though, to not have a closet full of random presents that I had to try and keep track of for a month or so. It also felt weird not to stop and buy, buy, BUY leading up to Christmas.

When you are actively NOT buying, it becomes very easy to see why you actually DO keep buying right up to the big day. You lose track of what you have. You see that one more perfect thing. You figure oh its only a few bucks. And before you know it, you have more than you need, more than they’ll use, more than is necessary.

So a challenge to you all then. I don’t expect everyone to go all Martha Stewart right away, but give some thought to downsizing your holiday stress. Is there someone in your world who might actually appreciate a handmade item, no matter how decidedly UN-crafty it may end up looking? Do you have a friend who has told you they LOVE your baking? Does your partner keep mentioning wanting to volunteer together at a local event?

Let that be your gift.

 

How do you think you can simplify a stressful holiday season? Got any great tips on easy-to-make gifts, baking hacks, or cool craft ideas? Share in the comments!