Wednesday, November 03, 2010

My Little Helpers

First of all, Look! I'm on a horse!

Ok, so, it's not actually me, but I do love that guy. Funniest commercial ever.

Anyways, as you can see from the picture below, things have been a little hectic around here. Not bad or anything, but just really busy. We had to rehome our Great Dane (he and our other dog, Annie, couldn't stop fighting and we were worried one of them would get hurt), we traveled out of town a few times, and then just the regular busyness that comes with homeschooling and having three kids has kept me running from sun up to sun down.

Funny enough, though, during the course of the crazy season, I found two websites that have helped me tremendously. I mean, HUGELY. You know, I'm not a bad cook. And I keep a pretty decent house. At this stage in life, though, it's not my abilities that are holding me back from good meals on the table and clean bathrooms. It's the fact that there are just so many hours in the day and I can never seem to find the time to sit down and plan anything. Enter in 5 Dinners in One Hour and Motivated Moms. The first is a meal planning website and the second is a chore planning website. And DUDE, they are strong.

Neither of these have reinvented the wheel or anything, but for me - right now - I can't say how much "thinking time" I've saved by using them. Because right now my "thinking time" is going mostly to homeschooling and making sure I've got all my ducks in a row there, and it is supremely helpful to have some one else tell me what to cook, what I'll need to cook it, and when to change the air filter and mop the kitchen. Obviously the answer to that last one is "when your socks are dirty from walking across it" but you don't always have the time to fix it when you notice it, right? There have been times in my life when these websites wouldn't have been as useful for me, but right now they are hitting the nail on the head and keeping me on the ball.

Here is the scoop on each of my little helpers:

5 Dinners in One Hour:Michelle (the blog owner) gives you the recipes, the shopping lists, and the directions to make five dinner meals in one hour. You get your grocery list, buy what you need, and then block out an hour at the beginning of the week for assembly. I usually do mine on Sunday afternoons while the littlers are napping and Dave takes Tot to Christmas Musical practice. After about one hour (it has taken me longer, but I'm usually interrupted about a thousand times) you have 5 meals set to go with minimal work for the night you'll actually eat it. Not every meal has been a grand slam, but we've liked 90% of them and I've done this for about a month now.

It has been a HUGE help for me to not have to think about what to cook, to not have to assemble the grocery list (I do still have to add things to it, of course, like breakfast stuff and snacks) and then to just know what's for dinner each night. I'm pretty sure that last one is Dave's favorite part as well :) It has made us try things we probably wouldn't have tried, and has saved me from my endless inability to just pick something to eat because I'm so paralyzed by all the options. Again, not every meal is a winner, but most of them are great and the time I've saved has been priceless. There is a free trial week on the blog (on the right hand side) and the meal plans are $5/month. In my opinion (and Dave's) they are worth every penny.

Motivated Moms:

Now, this is the be-all-end-all of no frills. They don't really even have a graphic. This is really just a weekly calendar with a list of cleaning/organizing/maintenance jobs for each date that you purchase and download. There is a column for Daily Tasks that has boxes to check for all the things you need to do every day like Quiet Time, Vitamins, Make Beds, Feed Pets, Load Dishes, Load of Laundry, etc. Then there is another column for Weekly Tasks. It has each day separated with 5 or so tasks to do. For example, yesterday my tasks were to change the dishcloth in the kitchen, clean out my purse, clean the tubs, clean the bathroom mirrors, and vote. It is date specific, so like on yesterday (Election Day), I was reminded to vote and on the weeks leading up to Christmas I am reminded to do certain things to get ready for the holidays.

Like I said, there are times in my life where this wouldn't have been helpful, in fact, having a list like that staring me in the face would have been the opposite of helpful. But right now, I have plenty of physical energy, I just don't have the mental energy or time to sit down and plan out what days work best to clean the bathrooms and do I want dust today or should I work on windows and did I remember to empty the bathroom trash? It is SO NICE to have the thinking done for me and I just work through the list as time permits. Some days I don't get everything done (like today, I highly doubt that I will dust my bedroom), but I am getting much more done regularly than I was before I started using this.

There are a few options on how to use this. For starters, the calendars are $8 each. You download them and then can either print them in their entirety, or print off one week at a time (what I do). There are several versions, including ones with daily bible readings and with half sized pages. Personally, I use the full size planner and next year I plan on using the full size planner with bible readings.

So, there you are - my little helpers. I can't tell you enough how much they have helped me in this season of busyness. And now that I have my blogging shoes wet again, maybe it won't take me a month to write again :)

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