The Reluctant Cook’s Guide to Meal Planning: Homemaking Series, Pt. 5

In this final post in the Homemaking for Real People Series, I am getting really, really real! I am going to admit that I don’t like meal planning. But I still find it absolutely indispensable to the general health and happiness of my family, not to mention the maintenance of our budget. I also have to admit that I actually am not a big fan of cooking. Eating, yes. Cooking, not so much. It’s not that I can’t cook. I am actually a pretty good cook! I just don’t love it. I know some people who go bake or whip up a new recipe for the pure enjoyment of it. I don’t. I cook because I like to eat, and, as a matter of fact, so does my family! Since we believe that whole, natural foods are the healthiest way to fuel our bodies, we also like to eat food made from real ingredients. And having food allergies and sensitivities makes it even more necessary that I do a decent amount of cooking on a daily basis.

In order to manage all this cooking, I have to have a meal plan. But how does a reluctant cook go about doing this?

Enter, the Reluctant Cook’s Guide to Meal Planning:

Step 1: Make a Master Meal List

Make a master meal list of 20-30 meals that are simple family favorites that you can rotate again and again. For a lot of people, this means just dinners because they have about the same things for breakfast and lunch, like toast or cereal, and sandwiches or salad. Our family, however, doesn’t eat cereal except as an occasional snack, and since we have a wheat allergy, bread for sandwiches is a real pain. I also like a lot of variety, so I do actually have lists of our favorites for breakfast and lunch, as well. Your master meal list is something you can always fall back on when you are lacking creativity or just need a default for meal planning. Obviously, it is good to try new recipes, too, but it sure is handy to know you have this list of meals everyone will enjoy when you just need to hit the easy button.

Step 2: Find Your Style

This part takes some trial and error, in my experience, but once you find your groove, you’ll be set! Some people like to have a monthly meal plan, others plan weekly. I’m a weekly gal, thought sometimes I do plan for up to two weeks at a time. You may prefer to have a paper plan that you post in your kitchen, or a digital meal plan system like Plan to Eat. I actually put my meal plan right in my Happy Planner along with all my other weekly to-do’s so I can see everything all in one spot. There are myriad meal planning calendar printable online, so I encourage you to try out a few different styles until you find your sweet spot.

Step 3: Look at Your Calendar

Before you start writing out your actual meal plan, you need to consider what you have going on in your week. Knowing how much time you are going to have for meal prep each day helps you choose what to make. For example, I know if I’m going to be gone most of the day, I either need to plan to have leftovers for dinner or make a slow cooker meal that will cook itself while we are out. Also, consider the season and weather when choosing meals. If it’s going to 90 degrees and humid, you probably aren’t going to want to plan a lot of baking or roasting if you can help it.

Step 4: Make Your Meal Plan

Once you’ve got all the preliminaries done, all there is left to do is plug in meals from your master list (or maybe a few new recipes from a Pinterest board)! I like to write down breakfast, lunch and dinner in that order. For breakfast and lunch, I don’t have as many choices to rotate, so that goes pretty quickly. We like to try more new things for dinner, so sometimes it take me a bit longer. As I go, I have my grocery list alongside me, so I can write down any ingredients that we need for the coming week as I go. I also try and write in any prep-work that may need done ahead of time in my planner. If we are going to have soaked baked oatmeal on Sunday morning, for instance, I write down that I need to get the oats soaking while I’m making dinner Saturday evening.

Step 5: Follow Your Plan

So, you’ve gone to all the work of making a meal plan. Now you need to put it in a place where you will see it and do your best to follow the plan! I know there are times when plans change and meals will get switched or left out all together. I am fine with this as it is MY plan, after all. I have the freedom to change it as needed. But I also know that if I don’t take care, produce purchased for a specific meal may spoil, or meat may not get thawed in time, etc. If I want to be wise with my time and money, it helps to stick to the plan. And, yes, I do build leftovers into my meal plan as much as possible! It is frugal and time-saving, and even my kids have no problems with eating leftovers (most of the time).

Step 6: Have a Good Attitude

Okay, maybe this should have been first…and it certainly isn’t reserved just for meal planning and cooking! Having a good attitude and thinking positive about your role as cook and meal planner for your family will go a long way toward making it a more enjoyable experience. I know that I am always proud when I put a healthy, hot meal on the table for my family. It is satisfying to know that this is one way I can serve and bless my husband and children, and it really is not all that much trouble after all. Even on a frugal budget, we can enjoy good meals when I plan well and execute that plan. And so can you! So, go ahead. Make a meal plan and go cook something wholesome and delicious!

That wraps up our Homemaking for Real People blog series! I’ve enjoyed sharing a little more in depth on how we run our home, and I would love to hear what you’ve thought of the series! Would you like me to write more on topics of homemaking, planning, or routines? Leave me a comment below. I’m all ears!

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

20 Daily “Quick Wins:” Homemaking Series, Pt. 4

Keeping the Laundry Monster at Bay: Homemaking Series, Pt. 5

20 Daily “Quick Wins”: Homemaking Series, Part 4

Welcome back to my Homemaking for Real People blog series! This week I wanted to give you a list of 20 Quick Wins– small tasks that you can do when you are short on time that still make a big difference around the house. Most of these ideas are things that you should be doing daily, or at least weekly, anyway. All of them can be done in a few minutes, except perhaps washing a full load of dishes. For tasks that may take longer, or areas that have become overwhelming problem areas, try setting a timer and see how much you can get done in a 5-15 minute time period. I suggest printing off this list and posting a copy somewhere you will see it when you have few spare minutes. One great place to stick this list is in your planner so you will see it when you are checking off your to-do’s for the day! Also, if you have kids, many of these tasks are things your children can and should be taught to do, too. After all, as the saying goes, many hands make light work! Here goes:

20 Daily “Quick Wins”

  • Make the bed
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Put shoes away
  • Clear off kitchen counters
  • Wipe bathroom counter and sink
  • Wipe kitchen counters
  • Wipe down microwave
  • Sweep kitchen/dining room floor
  • Fold throw blankets and fluff pillows
  • Hang up jackets
  • Fold a load of laundry
  • Put away clean clothes
  • Wash dishes
  • Put away clean dishes
  • Do a quick pick-up of one room
  • Empty waste baskets
  • Take out trash/recycling
  • Sort mail
  • Straighten a bookshelf
  • Clear off your desk/dresser/nightstand

How many quick wins will you have today? Click here to get the free printable list of the above 20 Quick Wins to help you make the most of your housekeeping time. It is formatted to print 3 lists on a page, so you can cut them apart and post them around the house where you will be able see them often. Happy cleaning!

 

 

 

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

 

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

Welcome to Part 3 of the Homemaking for Real People Series! Last Monday I wrote about my why behind the idea of  “Good Enough Housekeeping.” Today I’m going to talk about how we can start keeping our house in good working order and relatively clean without being total neat-freaks. I think most of us would like to have a house that feels uncluttered and could be “good enough” for company in under an hour. So we have to find a way to balance keeping order and not getting caught up in the details. Let’s get to work!

Define Your Priorities

The first step to creating a workable housekeeping routine is to take a good look around your home and decide what areas are the most important for you to keep clean and neat. You can do this a couple of ways. First, think about the areas in your home that get the most use, like the kitchen and bathrooms. Those are probably going to be your highest priority for getting and keeping clean because they need to be ready for use so much of the time.

You may also want to go through each room in the house and identify “problem areas” that seem to perpetually get messy or cluttered. Once you have identified all the problem areas, you can (hopefully) think of a solution to help keep those messes at bay, whether that be adding a daily “clearing up” time specifically for those spots, or better organization, or maybe just better habit training for your children (or yourself!). 

Take some time to write down a list of the areas of your home that are the highest priorities for you to clean, maybe even listing them in order of importance. I would also challenge you to write down at least one area that is NOT a priority for you right now, and give yourself permission to let it go for a while.

Divide Up Your Tasks

Next it is time to think about what specific tasks need done in order to keep your priority areas neat and tidy. Write each task down, then note how frequently you would like it to be done. In my kitchen, for instance, these are the main tasks that need to happen on a regular basis: 

  • Wash dishes: at least daily, preferably after every meal
  • Wipe down counters and table: at least once daily, preferably after ever meal
  • Wipe down stovetop, sink and faucet: once daily
  • Sweep floor: once daily
  • Mop floor: once a week
  • Empty trash: once a week, or as needed

There are some extra deep-cleaning tasks I could add to that list as well, but they are things that need done less frequently, like cleaning out the fridge, reorganizing the pantry, and cleaning the oven. 

Once you have written out what specific tasks you have and how often you need to be doing them, take a good, hard look at that list and make sure you have reasonable expectations for yourself and your family. When I look at my list above, for instance, I know that although I would like to have the kitchen and dining area mopped once a week, that rarely actually happens. So I need to decide if it is my routine or my expectation that needs to change.

Decide on a Plan

Finally, it is time to make a plan. This is the most personal and flexible part, so I am not going to give you specific instructions on how to make your plan. You need to find a routine for cleaning that works for you and your family. If you have children 3 and up, they can be taught how to help with some basic chores. If you are married and your spouse is willing, perhaps you can divide up some tasks between you. It may help to create a short list of morning tasks and evening tasks that you can post somewhere in your house to remind you to get those key things done daily. You may want to assign specific days to specific rooms, or to specific weekly tasks so that you know they will get done on a regular basis. 

The key in our “Good Enough Housekeeping” routine is having grace and giving ourselves permission to miss a day here and there. Maybe you even need to plan a “day off” every week in which you purposefully don’t do any housework beyond what is absolutely necessary. Keep your expectations reasonable. Don’t compare yourself or your current situation to someone’s pretty Pinterest or Instagram photos. Do what you can, when you can. Remember to put relationships first. Housekeeping is an act of service to your family and those who enter your home, but it is not the end all be all! 

Previous posts in this series:

Part 1: Intro to Homemaking for Real People

Part 2: Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping?

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

The Backstory

Before I jump into the how of creating a “good enough” housekeeping routine, I wanted to give you a little backstory on the why. When my husband and I were newlyweds, we both started working outside the home right away, and when we were home in the evenings and on weekends we generally shared the load of housework pretty evenly. After he finished seminary and got a full-time job in music ministry, we decided I would stay home. But we did not have children for a few years, so I got used to having a lot of time during the day to do whatever needed done whenever I wanted to do it. Since time was at a maximum, I didn’t really need to learn to manage it well. Then, when we finally started a family, I was completely thrown for a loop. Life was messy for us on a whole lot of levels (that I won’t go into here), and I did not have a clue how to manage a house while caring for a baby and our pets and still be a halfway decent wife. 

Unreasonable Expectations

When I finally did what any normal internet-age housewife does and hit up Pinterest and Google for “home management planners” and “housecleaning schedules” and the like, I was immediately frustrated and dismayed. All the lists of all the things I was “supposed” to be doing just overwhelmed me even more! Some people’s lists included tasks that did not apply to my house at all. Others seemed to have no grounding in reality at all, at least for a mother of an infant or toddler. In an effort to measure up to these goals of housekeeping perfection, I would swing to the extreme and try to clean All the Things, All the Time. But I would quickly burn out and not to do any housework for days, if I could possibly help it. Obviously, this did not work well at all.

Finding Balance and Grace

I am glad to report that this crazy cycle did not last forever. I finally did find a balance and learned how to keep a reasonably clean house without going crazy over the details but not living in squalor, either. The key was GRACE. I had to recognize my own limitations, get over my perfectionism, quit comparing myself to others, and give myself grace. Once I received the grace of not having to measure up to someone else’s (or even my own unreasonably high) expectations, then I was free to do what needed to be done without any guilt. Yes, I still had to work at keeping a clean house. But I was released from the idea that it all had to be perfect or had to be done a certain way. It just needed to be good enough for our family. And that was a huge game-changer for this little rule-following momma! 

What’s Your Struggle?

Maybe you struggle with some other aspect of keeping your house in “good enough” shape. Perhaps it isn’t perfectionism that has you overwhelmed like I was. Perhaps you just plain don’t see the messes as a problem. Perhaps you are overwhelmed by too much stuff and don’t even know where to begin. Let me know in the comments what your biggest struggle with housekeeping is. I would love to get a conversation going and see how we can help each other out! I may have some extra helpful resources to share at the end of this series, so come on back next week for more!

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Fitting in Fitness as a Stay-at-Home Mom

 Let me preface this post by saying I am by no means a fitness fanatic. In fact, most of my life I have tried to find ways to avoid strenuous exercise such as running or lifting weights. It is highly unlikely you will ever find me joining CrossFit or Camp Gladiator or the like.

However, as a wife and mother inching ever closer to that “dreaded” decade beginning with the number “4,” I am becoming increasingly aware of my need to take better care of my physical health. It’s not about being a certain weight or fitting into a certain size of jeans…hey, sometimes I think about giving up jeans altogether and just living in comfy pants and skirts year round! What fitness is about for me is being healthy enough to serve my family, friends and community well. I want to have the energy to chase my kids around the yard, to take long hikes through the local nature parks, and to get through long days of housework and homeschooling and not be too tired to enjoy time with my husband.

And those are just things I want for myself in the present stage of life. As I focus my thoughts on the future, say 20 years from now, my motivation for staying physically fit changes a bit. I want to be able to get down on the floor and play with my future grandchildren without worrying that I may never be able to get back up again. I want to be able to travel and enjoy the empty-nest stage going on new adventures with my husband without the concern of preventable health problems.

As a busy stay-at-home mom with young children and a budget that prohibits extra expenses like a gym membership, the trick is finding creative ways to fit fitness into my daily routine. Honestly, even if I could afford to go to a gym all the time, I really wouldn’t do it. I’m a major homebody and introvert, and I hate, hate, HATE working out in public. So it works best for me to find things I can do at home that are either very inexpensive, or, even better, free! Sometimes I get up early and work out first thing in the morning. Sometimes I use a few free minutes during my daughter’s nap. Others I unwind with a little exercise at the end of the day after the kids are in bed. The key is making it a priority and being intentional!

Here are a few of the ways I have found to fit in fitness even as a busy homeschooling mom who doesn’t really love to work out in the first place:

  1. Getting a FitBit and working on upping my steps. This is the most recent change that my husband and I have both made, and we are loving it! He works a desk job, and I sit on the couch and read to kids for a large part of the day. It is easy to become “couch-shaped” when that is the norm! Now that I have a FitBit to keep me accountable and remind me to get off the couch, I am becoming more active throughout the day. One creative way I’m getting in more steps is by walking around while I read a book. Exercising my brain and my body at the same time is a win-win!
  2. Doing 30 minutes of yoga every morning. I love, love, love doing yoga but had gotten out of the habit after having my daughter (3 years ago now, yikes!) My current favorite routines are “Yoga with Adriene” videos  on Youtube. I’m working my way through her 30-day “True” challenge from the beginning of the year right now, and it is so yummy!
  3. Following Fit2B workout paths. Beth Learn has created such a wonderful wealth of mom-life friendly workouts to do at home. She is a gentle coach, both motivating and encouraging. I have done many, many of her workouts since I found her membership site when my son was just a little guy, and I still love them all! Whether I am in need of some gentle stretching or a more challenging workout, I know I can always find something to fit the bill at Fit2B.

If you are a homeschooling mom, or a mom of littles, I would love to hear how you stay motivated and find time to work out on a regular basis, especially if fitness does not come naturally to you. I can always use more creative ideas to fit fitness into my daily life!

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Part 1

Do you ever look at images on Pinterest or Instagram and ask yourself, “Does she ever do anything besides clean or cook and take pictures of the results?” Or maybe you are more tempted to ask, “Why can’t my house ever look that picture-perfect?” Either way, going down that rabbit hole of comparison is a dangerous path to take, isn’t it? We have to remember that those little pictures are not the whole package. We can only see a small piece of someone else’s life, and what we see may or may not reflect real life.

Why write about homemaking for real people?

The fact is, we are real people with real life situations and real busy schedules. As a result, sometimes our houses are going to be a REAL mess! And that’s okay. We can, however, aim to take control of the mess and find some order and beauty in the ordinary. Over the last 14 years of marriage, and even more so the last 7 years of motherhood, I have been finding ways to make homemaking a priority without sacrificing relationships. After years of swinging from perfectionism to sloth, I am finally able to keep our house in a tolerable state of cleanliness, to have a manageable schedule in most seasons, and to keep healthful food on the table and in the pantry. Thus, the inspiration for this blog series!

What is homemaking for real people?

Homemaking for real people is all about having grace while also getting things done. It is about doing what you can, when you can, to keep a balanced household without killing yourself. This series is for anyone who has a home, whether you are married, single, have kids in the home or not. I will talk a lot about routines and systems we have in place currently, which means they include my husband and our kids. These are things I wish I would have learned how to do a lot earlier on in life so that good habits had been in place before I became a mom. I will also weave in little bits of wisdom regarding our attitudes toward homemaking and having grace with ourselves and those who share our homes.

Topics I will cover in this series are as follows:

  • Good Enough Housekeeping Routines– Why and How
  • Daily “Quick Win” Tasks
  • Keeping the Laundry Monster at Bay
  • The Reluctant Cook’s Guide to Meal Planning

Every Monday for the next month, I will be sharing a new post from the list. I would love to hear from you as we go through this series. If you struggle with a specific area of homemaking I didn’t mention above, we could tackle that topic, too. Just leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page. If you have an extra tip to add, please share that with us, too! We can all learn from each other. Join me back here next Monday, and let’s embrace this concept of homemaking for real people together, one real day at a time.

Time for a little update

Wow, I really didn’t mean to take an almost 2-week long blogging break! Life around here has been a bit busier than normal, and I have had a lot going on in my head, too. I just could not seem to get my thoughts in order enough to even consider writing anything until tonight. It’s been a while since I just sat down and wrote a chatty post about what our family has been up to lately. So I thought I’d do that now. I hope you don’t mind!

House Updates:

In answer to many, many months of prayers, we finally have a buyer for our Illinois house! We will be closing that sale in 2 weeks or less, hallelujah! We are so ready to have that burden off our minds. We pray the house will be a blessing to the new family as it was for us as long as we lived there!

The really crazy house news, however, is that just a couple of week after we close on our Illinois house, we will be finalizing the purchase of a new home here in Tennessee! We were not originally planning on buying a house here quite this fast, but the right house in the right location for the right price came across our path. We will be downsizing a bit, so we plan to unload a few more boxes and pieces of furniture we haven’t used since moving to Tennessee. And we will be painting the whole house and replacing all the carpet before we move in, so…um…there may be more unintentional long blogging breaks coming up in the next few months!

Job Updates:

I am not sure if I’ve mentioned it before here or not, but I started working childcare one morning a week. We’ve been attending a large church in the area for several months, and I found out they needed more workers for their weekday morning Bible studies. It has been nice to have a little paycheck, and the kids are able to come with me and play with friends while I work.

Again, the bigger news is that my husband will be starting a part-time music pastor position in the next few weeks. We visited and led worship at the church this past Sunday and enjoyed meeting the congregation. It is a small church that was started just 7 years ago as a church plant, and the people seem to genuinely care for one another and to be seeking to grow together in Christ. I look forward to growing along with them for however long God has us there to serve!

Homeschool Updates:

Homeschooling is going along well, in spite of our usual morning schedule being interrupted at least once a week. I don’t enjoy doing school in the afternoon, but it does work on those days when we have to be out of the house in the morning. My son is reading so voraciously in our free time that I am having to be very resourceful in coming up with age-appropriate, quality books to check out from the library. Thank goodness for the AmblesideOnline Advisory lists of family favorites that are not part of the AO curriculum. I simply do not have time to read everything before my son does, so I have to find people I trust to give me good book recommendations!

Random Updates:

It’s spring consignment sale season here already. The timing is actually pretty good since I need to get rid of some more stuff before we move! This week I have been pulling boxes out of the basement and washing, ironing, and tagging the kids’ clothes from last spring. I also am going through old toys and books and DVDs to see what else we might be able to sell. Next I need to work on my kids’ spring capsule wardrobe list so I know what to look for when I do my own shopping!

And the best thing about having all this time sitting tagging items for sale? I get to sit and watch the Winter Olympics and not feel at all guilty that I’m wasting time!

Now that I’ve shared all my news, I would love to hear what’s new with you! Leave me a comment and let me know how 2018 has been treating you!

Growth: Slow and Steady Progress

Here we are at the bright, shiny (and very cold!) beginning of the new year–2018. I cannot begin to describe the ups and downs that our family experienced in 2017, but I can say with certainty that we are happy we came through it all. We are stronger, closer, and I pray, more faithful now than we were when the year began. It was a year of hardship and testing, of waiting, of uncertainty, and of more waiting. We received many blessings and many of our prayers were answered in amazing ways. Other prayers still wait for answers, but that gives us something to look forward to in the year to come, does it not?!

I have been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, not intentionally, but because I have been spending a lot of my free time thinking and planning and writing in my journal. My thoughts have needed time to sit and soak before I could put them into words. Even now as I sit down to write this post, I am hesitant to put my thoughts into print because I am still in the process of sorting things out in my mind. Still, I wanted to begin writing some things here, partly for accountability, partly just so you all would know I am still alive over here!

If you happen to have come to Tuning Hearts from my old blog, then you may remember that a couple of years ago I jumped on the “Word of the Year” bandwagon. I don’t actually remember if I chose a word for 2017, though. And if I did, it probably should have just been “Survive” because that pretty well sums up what I felt like I did all year! But this year is going to be different. This year we are going to thrive!

Recently, through various social media channels, I found out about Lara Casey’s Goal Setting blog series. Even though I had already started planning and sketching out some goals for 2018, I decided to try her steps as outlined in the series. Can I just tell you how glad I am that I did this? Lara’s posts have inspired and challenged me to think even more deeply about the changes I hope to see in my life and in the life of our family in the future. And the best part of all her steps (for me, at least) has been the forward-thinking nature of goal setting. She challenges her readers not just to think about what they want to accomplish in 2018, but who they want to be when they are 80 years old. When you frame your plans and goals in light of who you want to be when you come to the end of your life, it really changes your perspective! Now instead of thinking just about how my goals and desires can help me “do better” in certain areas of my life,  I am thinking about what I should pursue to become the person that God wants me to be and how that will affect my family, friends, church and community as well!

The hopes that I have for 2018, the changes I want to make, all point to this one theme: growing what I have already been given. The Lord has been good to me. He has set me on a path, and I am moving forward. He has given me a strong foundation. Now I need to keep on track and grow in the things that He has set before me to do. I need personal growth, relational growth, growth in my work and in my habits and in my recreation. I never want to stop learning and growing and becoming more of who God wants me to be. I do not want to stagnate.

I know there is hard work ahead.  A lot of my goals are going to require a good deal of self-control and discipline to accomplish. But I also know that it will be well worth it if I keep moving steadily forward. I am not expecting or chasing after perfection here. I am just looking for progress. I am aiming for small improvements over the course of each day, each week and each month, until at the end of year I can look back and see a track record of steady growth.

In another post, I will talk more in depth about some or all of my goals. At this point, I am still fleshing some of them out, so I am not ready to write about them yet. So be looking for that post later this week! Until then, I would love to hear if you have a word or phrase that you are going to focus on in 2018. What do you want to see God do in your life this year? Tell me about it in the comments below! Let’s cheer each other on and keep each other accountable to keep moving forward and doing the next right thing!

Weary Wanderer: An Introvert’s Reflections on Finding Friendship

I knew this would be challenging, moving to a new place and having to start all over again finding friends. But maybe I was not prepared for just how difficult it would be this time. You see, in past moves, I have always had some form of built-in community. When my husband and I first married and moved to Texas, I got a job right away and made acquaintances at work. When we moved to Illinois, it was for a church job, so right away I was in the middle of the busy life of the church and made new acquaintances there. I could have worked harder at finding friendship and being more outgoing elsewhere, and eventually, I did start branching out after having children. But I didn’t have to, at least not at the beginning.

This time, that is all different. I don’t work outside the home. And I don’t have a church I can call home yet. There is no predetermined community for me to settle into. Finding friends for me and my kids…it is all on me this time. I have made contacts here and there, gone out of my comfort zone and met new people and taken the kids to homeschool outings and such. We have visited more churches than I care to count, and I think we have decided to stick with one for the time being until my husband is called to lead the worship ministry someplace. But, here’s the thing. All this going here and there and putting myself out there to meet new people every week—it is EXHAUSTING! My little introvert self is completely worn out at the end of every Sunday morning, drained by the constant need to introduce myself and make some form of small talk. It takes all the energy I can muster just to get the kids out the door to go to yet another homeschool park meet-up, knowing that I may or may not actually have meaningful conversation with another mom in between pushing my toddler on the swings.

And there’s the heart of the matter. I crave meaningful connection, true community, not just surface conversations about where I’m from or what grade my kid is in. I long to be known and to be accepted and loved. As an introvert, I am wearied by all that superficial stuff, not to mention large group gathering. But when I have a heart to heart talk with someone and feel like we understood each other and really connected? That gives me life and makes me feel energized. It makes me feel that all the work and energy it takes to get out of the house and be around people is really worth the effort. So, here I am, lonely and longing for real, deep friendship. I know that it will take time, energy, and sacrifice on my part. I also know that if I keep trying, it will be worth it. So, here’s to another day of getting out of my comfort zone and meeting new people, because maybe one of them is a weary wanderer, just like me. And maybe we need each other to put out that effort one more time.

 

The Life-giving Habit of Mother Culture

Mother culture

There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth.

from “Mother Culture” by “A.” in The Parents’ Review, vol. 3, no. 2, pgs. 92-95

I had never heard the term “mother culture” until about two years ago when I was listening to Leah Boden talk about it in one of her Periscope broadcasts. At the time, I was knee deep in the duties of caring for a young infant—diapering, nursing, feeding, bathing, soothing, and all the rest. I was also in the infant stages of homeschooling our son, and that in itself felt like a full time job. The rest of life did not stop, either, just because I had many demands at home. There were outside commitments snd situations that also depleted my physical and emotional energy. I was definitely feeling “used up” in those days!

Thankfully, since I had so much time to sit while nursing a baby, I started to read during those many hours each day. I don’t remember how intentional I was about it at first, but I knew I needed to give my mind something more nourishing to chew on than Facebook, Instagram and random blogs. I am not sure I had read Brandy Vencel’s wonderful post on Mother Culture then, but if not then, I know I read it sometime not too much later. She does a great job of pulling the meat from that article in the PR magazine from which I quoted earlier and distilling it down to give us a good working definition of this thing called “mother culture.”

Basically, mother culture is another way of saying that we as home educators, and arguably, even parents who do not keep their children home for their schooling, must continue to education ourselves even as we teach our children. If we do not, our minds will certainly stagnate, and lapse into unhealthy patterns of thinking. I do wonder if I had developed this habit of mother culture when my first child was born, perhaps I would have lessened the degree of my postpartum depression. We will never know, I guess, but I certainly believe it helped keep me out of the doldrums with my second baby! And now that my children are older and learning and growing in their education, wide reading and other habits of self-education are important for me to continue feeding my mind and growing as I pour out to teach and train them. Perhaps this will become even more crucial as they enter the high school years and are encountering books and ideas that I never had the chance to explore in my own formal education (Latin, for example).

There is no education but self-education.

Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.

Charlotte Mason

If the above statement about self-education are true for our children, how much more so are they true for us as adults, when we are no longer under a formal course of study? It seems that as mothers we must form habits of tending our own minds and hearts as much as we help tend to those of our children. Also, even though the original article on Mother Culture only mentions wide reading, I do think that these habits of self-education extend to other areas of study. I have found for myself that it is equally life-giving to practice handwriting, drawing, nature study, and watercolor as to read a book. It is refreshing to my soul when I listen with attention to an opera or symphony, when I knit or crochet or do needlework, and when I commonplace quotes from my own reading. The important thing is to do something which is expanding my mind and my skills, not mention my own habit of attention, so that I do not stagnate or drain myself dry.

So now I want to encourage you, whether you are in the toddler years, or the teen years, do something that gives life to your mind and soul. Read a stretching book to challenge you to think deeply. Learn a new skill to do with your hands. Take in a piece of art or music, paying close attention to the beauty in its details. Walk out in nature and take notes on what you find. Whatever small habits you can begin to cultivate your own education, I do believe that developing your own mother culture will be well worth the effort! What will you do to fill yourself up today?