Friday, August 2, 2013

Homemaking 101

My brother and I were talking once about and all the things we wish we had been taught by the time we were off on our own.  Like budgeting, and why it's important to stay out of debt.  For example, I never knew how to buy a home, and all the intricate details of escrow, home inspections, etc., so now we are paying for it.  Literally!  If I could go back in time, I would have checked things our better, paid far less for our home, and saved a substantial down payment first, and only got a 15 year fixed loan, and made sure our monthly payment was only 1/5 our take home income.   Along those same lines,  no one ever teaches you how to do taxes, make a resume, save in an IRA (how important it is to start young), do a job interview, understand the stock market... etc.  We learned the Pythagorean theorem (a lot of good that did us), and yet not the most essential things to help to navigate life successfully.  There's a lot of good we learned, but a lot missing and so many people, like us,  have to learn the hard way often through mistakes that can mean life long pain!

Then there are the things of a spiritual nature for me.  I feel like there was never any time spent on how amazing it is to be a homemaker, or a stay at home mom. (The flipside of this for guys, I would say, is how to be a man, and what Godlike manhood is, means, and looks like.)  Anyone could maybe do it, but do it well?  That's like the difference between a teacher who just fills a spot, and an AMAZING teacher.  I'm not saying I'm an amazing homemaker either.  It's like the more you learn about anything, the more you realize how much you still need to learn!  Homemaking is like 10 professions rolled into one.  Even though I don't get paid for my work, Pat and I both feel it is just as valuable as his work, if not more so, and that his paycheck is ours- equally earned.  You wear so many hats as you manage a home, and love your family along, helping each person achieve their fullest potential while they're with you, and preparing them to be a good citizens when they go out into the world.  There are endless amounts of things to be learned in the home!

Women can perform amazingly in all walks of life, as we have varying talents, but the more I live, the more I admire the women in my life who are great nurturers in their homes, and among others.  Dickon's mother, Susan Sowerby, in the book The Secret Garden for example, though fictional, is someone I really admire.

Being able to manage a home and family well, with love, patience and wisdom is a huge accomplishment!  Much more difficult than the many jobs I've had, since it's so many jobs rolled into one, and more rewarding.  I have nothing against women in the work place, but I wish they weren't made to believe that they have to do it.  In some circumstances they may have to, but most women are told a lie that they can have it all, that they should be working, and that they need it to show their worth.  Or the lie that they have to have nice things that only money and a job can buy. 

“Godly womanhood … the very phrase sounds strange in our ears. We never hear it now. We hear about every other type of women: beautiful women, smart women, sophisticated women, career women, talented women, divorced women. But so seldom do we hear of a godly woman – or of a godly man either, for that matter.We believe women come nearer to fulfilling their God-given function in the home than anywhere else. It is a much nobler thing to be a good wife, than to be Miss America. It is a greater achievement to establish a Christian home than it is to produce a second-rate novel filled with filth. It is a far, far better thing in the realms of morals to be old-fashioned, than to be ultra-modern. The world has enough women who know how to be smart. It needs women who are willing to be simple. The world has enough women who know how to be brilliant. It needs some who will be brave. The world has enough women who are popular. It needs more who are pure. We need women, and men, too, who would rather be morally right than socially correct.”
~Peter Marshall

And yet, there is little teaching for this most important work of managing a home and family in todays society.  At my school they didn't have classes in sewing, cooking, car repair, music, etc. Many moms come home with a baby and not a clue how to care for it.  Or people (like me) enter marriage without a clue what marriage means and requires to succeed.  At church, the women's class used to be called Homemaking, and they used to teach skills that homemakers need, everything from the spiritual aspects like patience and kindness with our spouse and family, to caring for teenagers, cooking, sewing, and staying in a budget; But not so much anymore.  Maybe that's in part because of some feminism- thinking it's degrading?  Who knows?

I'm glad they teach the doctrine now and women have so many opportunities, but I feel that the old stuff was still really important!   I always wish I knew how to sew and do other neat stuff like that.  Long ago women were known for these hard earned skills and I think they're really neat!  (Along with all the jobs and fields of study women are able to enjoy today).

And I'm not excusing myself either.  I wish all those years growing up I had not wasted so much time watching TV and actually did something.  I've heard it takes 10,000 hours to really master something like an instrument, or a language, karate, etc.  So how many 10,000's of hours have I wasted?  How much could I have done?  Now I have to take time away from my family to develop skills I wish I already had (if I want to make that sacrifice). (Kids- I hope you can understand someday, that this is why I discourage all the time spent in front of screens).

Now I'll share some gems of homemaking wisdom that have been helpful to me.  If my kids are reading this someday- this is what we used to do...
My favorite homeschool schedule.
I like to make schedules and lists, chore charts, and be organized.  But with a baby and a growing family, nothing is ever set in stone- it's always changing.  I used to get frustrated by that, but now I just go with the flow...  And that's why I usually never post our schedules for homeschool or chores, etc.  But I have been able to plan some things lately that have lasted and really help!

For example, the kids have chores they have to do every day (like always), but I added Pat and myself to the schedule too.  Just one thing a day- bills, the bar, bathroom, our bedroom, etc- and a load of laundry!  Anyway, it's important to keep it simple- it's hard enough to do just one or two things a day, but the payoff is that it makes it so we don't spend our whole Saturday cleaning and doing laundry and have more time for fun!  Also, when people show up unexpectedly, the house is not too bad.  It doesn't look like a tornado hit!

Here's another great help:  After dinner, everyone does dinner clean together.  So I have this list on the fridge and we all pick something to do and the kitchen is clean pretty quickly and we feel unified working together!  Thanks to my friend Julie for this idea.  She mentioned it once, and it has been a great help since Pat and I used to take turns doing the whole kitchen alone.  It was a habit from when we had tiny children. 

Weekly we have a Family Night where we have a program and planning for the week and treats and fun!  When you have a large family, getting everything accomplished requires planning!  And being a fun mom requires planning too! 

(By the way, we added a hook to our Family Night board, and made the swamp guy Charlie.  We labeled it: Performance.  Charlie had a performance last week, and let me tell you- His hips don't lie.  El tiene las caderas muy sueltas!)

Living within our means, with a fixed budget for food, has been a learning experience.  If there is one thing everyone should learn it is that!!  Budgeting and food.  I always thought we were being frugal before, and I am really good about not being wasteful, planning a menu, making things from scratch, but now I've had to really bump up my planning so we don't run out of food and money before the end of the month!

It's also nice to just be purposeful and plan ahead.  We look at our calendar on family night and see if we need snacks for soccer, or dinner for friends or the missionaries, and adjust the meals to make up for those extra expenditures.

A shopping list is essential.  (Especially if your only needing two things at the store but come home with 10!).  Below is a picture of my shopping list ready to be filled in.  I found lots of ideas online for grocery shopping lists, and then I just hand wrote what would work for me and photocopied it a bunch of times so they're ready to grab and fill in each week.

First, after checking the cupboards, I sit down with my recipe binder and pick out some dinners.  (There's also things I've seen online that are waiting to be tried so I work those in as I can).

Second, I write in the sections (see shopping list) what I need for those dinners so I don't waste time at the store going back and forth. It has the major sections of the store separated, and a section for Costco stuff, Family Night stuff, Baby stuff, and good Vegetables to go with any dinners- the ones that have the least amount of carbs!  I plan a week or two weeks of dinners at a time. I used to do a month at a time but found it was too far out.

On my list, in parentheses I just put reminders of what to base the meals around for our needs (white beans one night, chicken the next, potatoes, lentils, etc).  I don't always follow it, but it helps me when I'm thinking to stay in budget.  We try to eat a lot of different bean dishes because they're healthy and inexpensive.  But you could also make Mondays Mexican night, Tuesdays Chicken, Fridays Pizza, etc.  Think about the what your family likes to eat...(or what you want them to eat!).

I take this list shopping with me and then pin it up on the fridge so I remember what to make each night, and what to pull out of the freezer!
Nutrition is another thing I wish everyone could learn.  I was at Kohl's once and a boy was having a huge fit.  His mother was screaming that he was dehydrated and he needed a Coke!  She was having a fit trying to locate a soda machine while standing right next to the drinking fountains!

At church, we are blessed to have a lot of healthy people around (nutritionists, dieticians, doctors, etc.)  I've been influenced by them as well as neighbors, family and friends to change the way I eat, and each year I feel like I do better and better.  It's hard to change all at once, but little by little.  I really do believe we are what we eat and that it's really important to eat well so our bodies can function properly and we can feel our best and have the Spirit with us. I do think the Spirit is displeased by gluttony, and junk food, but basic nutrition is another super important thing that many are never taught!  They might just show you the food pyramid in school!  For some people the food pyramid is a huge step in the right direction, but for others who know better, it is so lacking!

For example, my neighbor came to visit the other day and told me how after cutting salt out of his diet, he could finally put socks on again.  His legs had been too swollen before.  Nutrition affects everything!  I especially learned this testing my blood 4x a day while pregnant with Charlie.  Watching what food did to my blood sugar was a real education that I have not forgotten.  I still prick my finger occasionally just to see.

Also, my dear friend Lisa, who recently passed away in a car accident, once took a sample of my blood and we looked at it under a microscope and saw what looked like shards of glass, and cells stuck together rather than floating freely, which were all indications of lack of nutrients or too much sugar compared to healthy blood patterns.  Those 'shards of glass' congregate in our joints and cause arthritis.   What a wake up!  I'm constantly working on eating better as I learn these things, and when I do, I have so much more energy and am so much happier.

Anyway, I believe, in addition to following the actual Word of Wisdom, we each have our own personal word of wisdom that God lets us know about.  I don't think everyone needs to eat the same because we all have different genes and conditions of health.  But if we ask, God will lead us to where we need to be.

In case you're interested, I'm sharing our Breakfast and Lunch menu's below-  take it with a grain of salt- because even we don't follow it 100% of the time.  For example, I would love to do everything organic, and buy only the freshest fish from the ocean, but we can't.  I don't believe God would make it only possible for the well off who can afford that stuff and added supplements to be healthy, so we do just what we can and have faith that it will all be okay.  So even though it says organic milk on my menu (no pus or hormones), we currently only drink powdered milk because we are trying to get out of debt.  And we have ham sandwiches and our big unhealthy breakfasts when Pat is home since we want to keep him happy :) Although I do have to say, he is wonderful, and eats all the things I cook and never complains or is anything but grateful.  He really is the best husband ever.

These menus really help me save time deciding what to eat.  For me, meals need to be 1) Simple, 2) Frugal, 3) Healthy, and have some 4) Variety so we could get various health benefits.  We've been following these menus for quite some time and they're great!  When I get ready to shop, I just look at our menus and know right away what I need, and I only have to plan dinners.

Breakfast menu... GS is Green Smoothie. (This is what I make for the kids, but my breakfast is almost always GS + Toast). 

Lunch and Snack menu... (By the way, all the little notes are mostly for me.  I don't watch my kids carbs or calories or whatever.  Their sensible and they eat what they need to.)

When the kids know whats for breakfast, lunch and snacks, they don't eat things I have reserved for other meals, and they don't eat ALL DAY LONG.  I think having to wait is not a bad thing.  I don't want them to "starve", but in most situations in life, they cannot eat all day- and it costs a lot of money!

We totally love our Green Smoothie every morning.  I know I've blogged it before, but it's essentially an immune system boosting smoothie that is full of vegetables.  If you enlarge the Breakfast sheet, you'll see GS in the top right corner and all the ingredients we use.  Basically a can of pineapple in it's own juice, a TON of spinach with a handful of parsley or kale along with the spinach, a banana, about a cup of plain healthy yogurt, and a tray of ice.  We sprinkle Chia seeds on top at the end.  Of course this makes over 6 cups so beware!  Also, all those greens = lots of iron = it can back you up.  I don't have that problem, but if you do, add an apple, prunes, or lots of water, which is important anyway, to your diet.

I can't always afford a piece of fruit for everyone each day, but at least they get fruit in the smoothie.  They also used to get huge bowls of yogurt for snack, and we were always out of yogurt.  Now they just get some yogurt each day in the smoothie and it's good enough and easier on the grocery bill.

(We were given a used juicer once, but I don't like how it separates all the fiber out, so we gave it away.  They also sell those $300+ fancy blenders, but for that much money, it better make my smoothie for me!) 

I try to do some raw vegetables with every meal.  I dislike making salads.  Don't get me wrong- I LOVE a good salad, but it takes so much time to wash and chop all the ingredients.  Like I just did a ton of work for the main dish, and now I have to make a salad?  We just try to eat our vegetables raw since that's better for you, and don't do much to them.  If someone wants to dip in ranch I don't fight about it, but my kids are pretty good about just eating things plain.   Like this wedge of purple cabbage.  Or raw broccoli, 1/2 a green bell pepper, etc.  It's not always pleasant, but I think it's good to work your teeth.  And it's definitely better than doing nothing because you don't feel like making a salad.

Here's our Granola bar recipe. 
Favorite Granola Bars
2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. wheat germ
1/2 c. oat bran
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. nuts or seeds
1/2 c. coconut
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c. honey or agave
1 egg
1/2 c. oil of choice
1/4 c. peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 pan.

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients, then make a well and add the wet ones.  Mix most of the way and then add the chocolate chips and make sure everything is incorporated.  Use hands.

Dump into pan and pat it down evenly with your hands.  Bake for 30 minutes until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges.  Cool for 5 minutes and cut bars while still warm.  Don't allow the bars to cool completely before cutting or they will be too hard to cut.

Dinners are blessedly varied, so we can make whatever suits our current mood!

Things will change, as they always do, but for now this is some stuff that really helps our family.  What helps yours? I love being a SAHM, and the though I may go back to school or work someday (you never know!), I am constantly being educated in my role as wife and mother and daughter of God.  It is a great blessing. I would never in a million years trade this time at home for time spent climbing some ladder at work.  There would be so many important lessons I would have missed out on.

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