It’s warm and muggy outside today. Overcast, but I doubt it will rain. A little breeze dips in and out, keeping things just comfortable enough. The garden is flush with tiny green tomatoes, plump green beans, and colorful chard. The sweet peas nod; the Carolina Wren flits by, carrying food to her babies. The mockingbirds call out from the pecan trees. When the figs are ripe, we’ll hear them less as they feast on floral brown fruit.
Today marks one month until college starts again for me. I’ll be full-time, with my preschoolers home with me until/if preschool restarts in the fall. It is critical that our lives are simplified, planned out, and automated as much as possible in that season. I’m taking this month to gently train us all back into the schedules and routines that will make up our days for the remaining year. And although I love puttering in the kitchen and my garden, those things can add more stress rather than fun while I’m studying.
Here’s the tools and routines that I’ll be using. None of this is sponsored in any way. Writing it out for the blog helps me to refine my own ideals.
PrepDish – this meal planning service gives us four Paleo/GF meals a week, plus ideas for breakfast, dessert, and snacks. I still have to tweak most things for our food allergies (dairy, wheat, egg, peanut) but this particular service has required the least tweaking out of all that we’ve tried. I also like that I can prep ahead for one morning or afternoon and have it all ready to heat up for the rest of the week. Meal planning, whether or not you use a subscription service, is helpful during busy and stressful times because it reduces the things you actively and constantly thinking about, thereby reducing brain fatigue. I’m also going to keep some things on a rotating meal plan. Less decision making all around!
Go-To Recipes – I said that I would make this post back in April, and promptly forgot about it. April was busy and stressful. I’m already working on this list for Trello, so once it is done I’ll post about it for any fellow food allergy families. That post will also include some of our go-to “safe food” companies and favorite sources for recipes that are food allergy friendly/gluten-free/vegan. We’ve found that using and adjusting vegan recipes is very helpful when working around dairy and egg allergies.
Trello – I am still working out exactly how I want this to work for me. It needs to function as my “second brain” – a place to store ideas and lists and tasks that I do regularly, but don’t want to carry it all around in my brain all of the time. Here is a screenshot of my current boards. Since I’m going to be “simulating” doing schoolwork at certain times of the day in preparation for July, setting up Trello for maximum efficiency is one of the big projects I’ll tackle during those time periods.
Time Blocking – you can find details on how to do this with a quick internet search. I learned about it from Jordan Page of Fun Cheap Or Free. I don’t follow this in any sort of strict way. I arrange the day in a “Morning” and “Afternoon” block and move around what tasks will go where depending on what we need to do that day, weather forecast, and so on.
Routines – I have simple routines for myself and the kids each day for morning, lunch, and bedtime. Mr. Norseman has his own as well. I keep a little list on my phone, and I’ve got them written out and posted for the kids. Having it written out means we don’t forget anything while building these daily habits. Here’s an example list for mornings:
Children – Morning
- Use Potty
- Get dressed
- Fold & put away pajamas
- Brush hair
- Make bed
Recurring Tasks – these will be scheduled out daily/weekly/monthly and will also be in Trello. One cleaning task and one laundry task a day. (These may not even be every day, but rather every other day.) Weekly tasks may include a bit of yard or garden work, errands, meal prep day. Monthly tasks could be a major yard or house project, a sewing project, planning an event, and so on. I’ll be sorting this out as we go along.
Preschool Curriculum – Preschool should start again, but if it doesn’t, I’ve got a few simple workbooks that they love, and a couple of curriculum sets that we could pull out and work on with minimal planning. I will have to prep print-outs and buy a few more things for math/reading work, so that will be something that gets done this month. Here’s a short list of what we have/use. (We do not use all of it all of the time, but rotate and pick/choose out of them what works at the moment).
- A, B, C, D books by Rod & Staff, ordered from Milestone Books
- Scholastic workbooks (Walmart/Target/Online)
- The Gentle & Classical Preschool, Levels 1 & 2, found here
- Bible Stories to Read with Coloring Book by Rod & Staff, ordered from Milestone Books
- Jesus is Better podcast with Alicia Yoder
- Montessori Print Shop language art & math albums (look into Family Nest Printing for affordable options)
- Library/Thrift Stores/Amazon: for books, manipulatives, and other supplies
Fitness – Mr. Norseman and I are doing this together. We signed up for Nerd Fitness Academy – which will not appeal to everyone! – and it has us accomplishing mini challenges in nutrition, fitness, and mindset. The outside accountability is that “little bit extra” that we both need to keep on track with it. It’s also automated – we just log in every day, log our workouts and check off our tasks, earn experience points, and keep on going. I use MyFitnessPal to track food/water. I like that NFA uses bodyweight and things you already have at home for most of the workouts.
That’s it! These areas are our particular pain points. I hope that this helps you to consider how you might find and address your own pain points if you are struggling in productivity or keeping up with things. I’m going to add the things that I’ve cut out in order to have enough margin for studying.
- Late bedtimes/late mornings
- Play dates/outings/optional Bible Study & Fellowship events (not a big deal until July, but once school starts I will literally not have time to go anywhere during the week, just like a working woman would not.)
- Heavy/non-fiction reading (I have multiple books going at once normally. When I’m studying, my brain cannot process much unless it is very different from what I’m studying. Fiction books are helpful, but I won’t have time to read many).
- Recipe experimenting/complicated recipes (Sourdough, vegan cheeses, and so on will not be happening.)
- Hobbies (I will be doing minimal gardening, and minimal work on hobbies. Knitting is soothing for frazzled brains and repetitive, so I’ll likely stick to just that. Sorry, poor sewing machine.)
I’ll be done with the coursework for my degree next summer. While it’s hard to give up so much and a bit boring to stick with “the same old thing”, it’s going to be worth it. So very worth it.