Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Busy Mom's Weekly Menu #1

For those of you who are new to my blog, let me share with you my mission:  to chronicle my successes and failures at leading an organized life as a busy mom!  Now, this blog began a few months ago with me sharing menu ideas.  Check out Blog Beginnings: Menu Planning to get the full story!  I will reiterate that these meal ideas are not for the gourmet cook or the woman with two hours to cook every night.  Most of my ideas are 30 minute meals or slow cooker meals.  They are home-cooked alternatives to fast-food!!  So here goes a meal plan for the coming week, followed by a shopping list for the week:

Sunday:  Pork Chops and Gravy

Monday:  Tacos

Tuesday:  Spaghetti

Wednesday:  Club Sandwiches

Thursday:  Roast and Veggies

Friday:  Eat Out

Saturday:  Baked Chicken Spaghetti

Weekly Shopping List #1

Canned/Bottled Goods
1 can chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cans seasoned veggies of choice (to go with pork chops)
1 bottle medium salsa
1 can Hunt's Four Cheese Spaghetti Sauce
2 cans Rotel tomatoes
1 small can sliced black olives (optional for chicken spaghetti)
1 can sliced mushrooms (optional for chicken spaghetti)

Seasonings and Staples
1 pkg. dry pork gravy mix
1 pkg. onion soup mix
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
2 pkg. McCormick's pot roast seasoning
Italian seasoning
honey mustard

4-6 center cut pork chops
2 lbs. lean ground meat (93/7)
1 pkg. bacon
sirloin tip roast
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Boxed Goods
instant rice
12 ct. taco shells
1 pkg. angel hair pasta
1 pkg. spaghetti

2 bags Dole Ultimate Caesar Salad Mix
3 large potatoes
small bag baby carrots

sour cream
shredded cheddar cheese
parmesan cheese
2 - 8oz. Velveeta cheese

Frozen Goods
2 boxes sliced garlic bread
1 small bag frozen seasoning blend (chopped onions, bell peppers, & celery)

sliced whole wheat bread
chips (to go with club sandwiches)

(Buy larger quantities of meat and cheese if you want sandwiches for lunches, not just for the club sandwiches on Wednesday evening.)
1/2 lb. sliced cajun turkey
1/2 lb. sliced honey ham
1/4 lb. sliced swiss
1/4 lb. sliced American or cheddar

Roast and Veggies

I prepare this roast in the slow cooker.  It's super easy and absolutely delicious!

sirloin tip roast
3-4 large potatoes, cut into chunks
small bag of baby carrots
2 pks. McCormick's pot roast seasoning

1.  Line a large slow cooker with a Reynold's slow cooker liner.
2.  Add roast, potatoes, and carrots.
3.  Add water to seasoning mix as directed on package.  Pour over roast and veggies.
4.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Serve over rice.

Quick n Easy Spaghetti

Here's an easy way to prepare spaghetti in less than 30 minutes:


1 lb. lean ground beef
1 can Hunt's Four Cheese Spaghetti Sauce
1 can Rotel tomatoes
2 tsp Italian seasoning
angel hair pasta
Dole Ultimate Caesar salad mix
garlic bread

1.  Brown and drain ground meat.
2.  Return meat to pan and add spaghetti sauce, Rotel, and seasoning.  Simmer.
3.  Prepare angel hair pasta as directed on package.
4.  Heat garlic bread and prepare salad.

Sports Mania

     Since I started this blog in October, my purpose has continued to evolve from meal ideas and menu planning to home organization ideas and tips to personal reflections on the life of a busy mom. While I have to believe that there are many other moms out there who are just like me, I'm sure there are others who don't relate at all (or at least some who think we are crazy for leading such a "busy life"). But we wouldn't have it any other way! We are a family of sports fanatics. My husband has coached high school football for 13 years and even spent a year as a graduate assistant coach at a Division I university.  My two boys (Big B and Little B) began their sports careers playing soccer at the age of four.  Since Big B was four years old, we have never taken a season off. When he was younger, he participated in soccer, swim team, baseball, and basketball. Later we added football to the mix.  In addition to football, basketball, and baseball, Little B has even tried karate and tennis!

       Because of my husband's coaching schedule, he has rarely been able to help with the boys' sports practices. This "busy mom" has been responsible for most of the kids' after-school activities for the last 8 years!! But, that's all about to change. We are entering a new phase of our sports' life!  Yesterday, Big B completed his physical to be eligible for middle school sports. In just a few weeks, he will participate in middle school spring training for football. And guess what? That makes him Daddy's responsibility, not mine! He will go to practice right after school, then walk on over to the high school field to meet his dad. No longer do I have to run him to practice, sit there for hours watching his every move, and get him home again. Daddy gets to take over! No longer will I have to juggle two different practices on two different fields, (sometimes) in two different towns. For the next four years, I can focus on Little B's sports. Of course, I'll still be Big B's #1 fan at games, but practices are no longer my job!
      The realization that we were beginning this new phase of life is somewhat bittersweet. I am thrilled for Big B, who is passionate about his sports and can't wait to play for the middle school. I can't wait for him to put on that middle school football uniform and try to earn his place as the 7th grade quarterback. I am looking forward to spending more time with Little B!  BUT...this new phase also means that my babies are growing up. How did it happen so fast? Seems like they were just going through the terrible two's! (That's a whole 'nother talk show! There's a reason that Little B had toddler nicknames like "The Tiny Tornado," "Mr. Destructo," and "The Holy Terror.")
     We are now one step closer to the teen years, high school graduation, college, and an empty nest! (Yes, I know I'm projecting far into the future, but it is moving so fast.) What will I do when they are all grown up? Our lives revolve around their sports. Of course, I'll still have my husband's high school games, so that will fill a little of the void, but what will I do the rest of the time? Will I know what to do with myself when there are no practices and games? I've said on many occasions that I'll have to pick up a few hobbies when they are gone. Maybe I'll pull the sewing machine out of the attic, learn to quilt, exercise more? Will I miss the hustle and bustle? Of course I will! As hectic as our lives sometimes are, I love my role as a sports mom. The excitement and anticipation before a big game, the cheers and the thrills when the score gets close, the joys of victory and the agony of defeat! Have I mentioned that I was captain of the cheerleaders and "Most School Spirited" in high school? Some people never change...I love it! That's why I know how much I'll miss it when their sports days are done. For now, I have to savor every minute of it! 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Organizing Kids' Closets

Ok, lately I've shared with you some of my past struggles and my recent messes (LAUNDRY!!!), but tonight I wanted to share with you one of my successes:  my kids' bedrooms, particularly their closets!  I've heard other moms talk about the never-ending piles of toys and the dreaded task of locating clothes and shoes amid the mess.  I know this can be a source of stress and tension in a busy family. However, I believe that an organized approach to a kid's room - especially the closet - can save you time and eliminate these headaches! 
Step 1: Clothes
As with any closet, clothes should be sorted into a system that makes sense for the child. For example, if the child wears school uniforms, all of the uniform pieces should hang together neatly in a designated place in the closet. All of my boys' uniforms are sorted into sections for khacki shorts, khacki pants, and polo shirts. 
Additionally, short sleeve shirts go together, as do blue jeans, button-downs, jackets and sweatshirts, etc. I established a system in my kids' closets years ago.  When the boys were as young as five or six, they helped put their clothes away in the proper locations. My 8-yr-old, who is learning to fold and hang up his own clothes without much help from me, knows exactly where everything should go because I modeled this system for him as he helped me when he was younger.  Why does this matter? I do NOTHING to help my 8 and 12 yr olds get ready for school in the morning. Because their closets and dressers are organized, they can find everything they need and get ready without my help. They have done this for years, not because they are naturally independent, but because they have been trained to be independent. And the organization certainly helps!
Step 2: Toys
As early in my children's lives as I can remember, I began using clear plastic tubs (Sterilite or Rubbermaid from Walmart) to sort their toys. As a 2-3 year old, my oldest son could put his toys away with only a little prompting from me. Why? Because everything had a place where it belonged. There was a box for blocks, a box for Little People, a box for Rescue Heroes, and the list goes on and on. Of course, he couldn't read to put them away based upon a word label. So, I found clip art, coloring books pages, or photos representing the contents of each box and decoupaged the pictures onto the boxes.  The super heroes box had a pictures of Spiderman, the Power Rangers box had a pictures of the Red Ranger, and so on.   As they were learning to read, I added word labels to the boxes. Now, most of the pictures are gone and the words remain. 

When they were young, I tried to encourage them to take out only a few boxes at a time. (I tried to stick to the one box at a time rule at first, but I decided that it would inhibit creativity if the "Cowboys and Indians" couldn't play in the Lincoln Log houses, and the Lego guys couldn't ride in a fire truck.) For the most part, they knew that they had to clean up the first mess before making a new one. Now that they are older, it doesn't take much prompting from me to have a clean room in no time. If my 8-yr.-old lets his room get out of control, I do have to give him "steps"; for example, I tell him to pick up the Legos, and I check back in a few minutes. Then I tell him to pick up the Hot Wheels cars, and I check back in a few minutes. I continue with this process until everything is put away.
This system of organization is now so ingrained in my kids that they can make sure that friends help them clean up when we have company. Last month we had a Super Bowl party, and several of our friends brought their pre-schoolers with them. When it was time to clean up, the moms and kids helped and we were able to straighten everything up in a matter of minutes, again, because everything has a place to call home! All of the toy boxes fit neatly in the closet and can be "out of sight" when necessary. Now, at ages 8 & 12, the boys have very little trouble keeping a clean room.   Every night, the oldest cleans his room while the youngest takes his shower and vice versa. This insures that the rooms don't get out of control after days of neglect.  However, even when we slip up and let things go wild for a few days, the organization systems we have in place help us to quickly restore order!!  My kids' closets are definitely one of my success stories!!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

     I have many good things in my life:  my husband, my kids, my teaching career!  At times, there are bad things too: lack of sleep, not enough time in the day, adult acne!  But, there is one area of my life that is just down-right ugly:  LAUNDRY!  I have to believe that I am not alone.  Surely, other folks out there feel the same way.  You see, when David and I first got married, we made the deal that he would do the dishes if I would do the laundry.  It seemed like a fair deal at the moment...but that was before two busy little boys.  Even at my very best, when I am keeping up with all of my housework on a daily basis, it takes a minimum of two loads of laundry a day to keep up with my family's dirty duds.  The busy football coach husband often wears two set of clothes a day.  Oftentimes, he leaves dirty clothes in the locker room and brings home a pile all at once, easily getting me off-track with my daily wash. The busy boys have school uniforms, play clothes, and sports uniforms.  When there are multiple games and practices in the course of the week, uniforms and sports gear must be washed daily.  Even this busy mom wears one set of dress clothes to work, then comes home and changes into comfy exercise clothes for the evening rat race.  Don't forget about sheets, towels, and wash cloths!  Laundry is certainly a never-ending battle for me. 

     Well, as of last night, I had officially lost the battle.  We have hit the peak of our "busy season" -- the one point of the year where two sports overlap.  Basketball season hasn't ended, yet baseball tryouts and practices have begun!  This overlap only lasts 2-3 weeks each Spring, but it is crazy nonetheless.  We have stayed so busy during the last week and a half, that the laundry started to pile up.  At times, I managed to sneak in a load here and there, but it was wash, dry, and DUMP!  Yes, many of the clothes were clean; however, the piles quickly began to take over the living room...climaxing to the point that my living room looked like this:

     Now, I had a plan to deal with this mess.  My kids go to church youth group for two hours on Wednesday nights.  Normally, my husband and I have a dinner date during that time, but I asked him to take a raincheck and decided to spend the evening washing and drying the dirty clothes that remained, and folding, hanging, and putting away the clean clothes.  What happened next caused me to laugh in order not to cry!  You southern folks will understand when I say that "everybody and their mama" showed up at my house!!!  Friends, neighbors, my father-in-law, the list goes on and on...  You can only imagine my humiliation at all these people seeing my mess.  I pride myself on having a nice, clean house, especially when I know that company's coming.  But instead, I had a messy house and no idea that company was coming!  Fortunately, it turned out to be a nice evening, mess and all.  We love visiting with family and friends, and now they all know that I'm only human (as if they didn't know this before)!!! 
   This afternoon, the entire family teamed up to get the laundry finished.  There isn't a single dirty piece of clothing in the house.  So for this moment, I have won the battle of the laundry.  Maybe I've learned my lesson about laundry, maybe there won't be a next time, maybe I'll keep it up for a while...or maybe not!  Only time will tell.  For now, laundry is on the "good" list.  Who knows how long that will last??