What I Learned From a Game App!

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It’s amazing sometimes when you get those moments of clarity in life when things just suddenly make sense. They can come from the most unexpected places, can’t they? My latest one was from a game app!

My kids love playing an App called Hay Day. I don’t mind them playing it because I think it has a lot to teach them about responsibility, money management, multi-tasking, etc. They enjoyed it so much that I decided to download it myself and we often sit and help each other manage our farms. If they are getting low on wheat to make chicken feed, then I might sell them a few at a low price. Later on, they might help me out with an apple pie for my farmstand.

The game starts off fairly simple and you just have a few things to maintain. But as you “level up” you get more responsibilities. More animals to feed. More crops to grow. More people to take care of via boat, train, farmstand, truck deliveries, etc. And then begins the juggling act. And it’s at this point where I was feeling like it was one more thing to have to squeeze into my schedule. My husband would often say, “It’s suppose to be fun!” But no, there I’d be having to make sure every animal was fed and all my crops were at a reasonable stockpile.

I would have things I’d want to achieve like purchasing a pie oven or a pet cat. Or upgrading my barn to hold more things. (Always a stockpiler, even in a fantasy world!) And I tried to do it all. But I couldn’t. I didn’t have the money or the time or the resources. And I began to feel like I was failing at everything as nothing was properly being taken care of. And it was at that moment that I had one of those moments of clarity: By trying to do it all, I’m not getting anywhere.

So I decided to set one goal and just maintain what I could beyond that. OK, so I’m going to save for that pie oven. I sold all my resources I didn’t need. I didn’t save up anything for the barn, train or boat. And I only spent time on what I could. And what do you know, I bought that pie oven FAST! My animals didn’t die. And I was having a bit of fun again.

I took this new found “knowledge” and started applying it to my every-day real life. Instead of trying to get 10 things done at home each day, I focus on one major thing I’d like to accomplish. And maybe I won’t finish it in one day but I keep putting my time into it until it’s done. Maybe the laundry isn’t 100% caught up or there may be a spattering of rinsed but not washed dishes in the sink. It was OK. I didn’t need to stress about it. And here’s what I discovered: I got my goals done FAST!

I cleaned out and inventoried my pantry. I came up with a great deep freezer organization solution (sharing with you soon!). My bathroom cabinets were back to a state of organization again. And our closets are out of their previous state of chaos. And with each task I finish, I’m getting closer to the life I want to be able to lead. I won’t be wasting time trying to find things and can use that time for my end goal: getting back to more homemade and healthy cooking for my family. And quite honestly, I know I can’t get everything done on my own. That is truly the hardest part. But I’m slowly realizing that it’s OK to ask for help. That my family doesn’t mind doing a few odd tasks if it means more time together in the end. They are loving how the house is looking and I see them doing what they can to help keep it that way.

I am also applying this “wisdom” to my blog. I have so many wonderful things to share with all of you but I’m trying to wrap up a few things I’ve already begun. All energy focused on one goal to achieve a bigger goal in the end.

I wanted to share this with all of you because I have a feeling several of you are in the same situation I was in. You are spreading yourself too thin. Taking on too much and only able to put bits and pieces of yourself into each one. And in the end, you are feeling like you are failing at everything. You’re not. But you need to change your path before you are in too deep. Life is to be enjoyed. Sometimes, you need to say, “No” to people when you are truly overloaded and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t mean you are weak. Not at all. It just means you are wise and know that you deserve to feel like things are fun again.

So take a little “me time” this week and see if you can have your own moment of clarity. I’m hoping you find your way back to the fun you once felt, too!

Re-Cap for Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses Series

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

I wanted to take a minute and re-cap the Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses Series so you can easily access any that you may have missed. There are a total of 20.

I’m hoping that you are enjoying the series and finding some tips to help you reduce some stresses in your life, too!

1) Laundry
2) Email & Mail
3) Spending Less
4) Exercise
5) Fridge/Freezer
6) School Lunches & Schedules
7) Meal Planning
8) Work/Parent Time
9) Dishes
10) Clutter Spots
11) Healthier Meals & Snacks
12) Finding Friend Time
13) Finding Family Time
14) Keeping the Bathroom Clean
15) Morning/Evening Routine
16) Saving and Smarter Shopping
17) Keeping a Clean Car
18) Having Necessities on Hand
19) Reducing Food Waste
20) Time to Myself to Recharge

Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: Finding Friend and Family Time

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

It seems that the older I get the more I realize just how fast time truly does fly by. As time goes by, we seem to add more and more things to our daily schedule which leaves little time for anything else. But what I’m hoping you all are finding is this – we need to make time for the things that are important and that includes our family and our friends. It can be easy to get caught up in the rush of this or that and before you know it, it’s been months since you’ve talked to your closest friends, seen your parents or had an entire day devoted to just your kids.

Here are some ways that I’ve brainstormed to help me find time to spend with friends and family:

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FRIENDS

1) Plan ahead and lock in dates throughout the year for “girls’ night out.”

2) Make sure and find time to call at least one friend each week to catch-up on life. While Facebook can be nice for quick chats or seeing random updates, nothing compares to hearing a friend’s voice and sharing in some laughs.

3) Swap time with spouse so we each get at least one day a month to hang out with a friend – even if it’s just a quick lunch together on a Saturday afternoon.

4) Invite friends over with their kids to a dinner at my house. Who needs a birthday to all get together–random dinner nights can be a lot of fun! My friends and I used to do this awhile back calling it the “Dinner Club” and we’d each take turns hosting one.

5) Try to plan at least one major event a year with my friends to do things together like a concert or a 5K race, etc.

6) Go out together with our kids to places such as the zoo or the movies.

7) Get out of the frame of mind that “meet-ups” have to be long periods of time and just find a place to meet randomly for a cup of coffee and a quick chat.

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FAMILY

1) Set up one day a month that is “our day” and nothing else. No housework. No work. No outside obligations. Just a whole day devoted to whatever the kids want to do.

2) Include the kids in my workout sessions. This helps me squeeze in fitness time and spend time with the kids. And to be honest, they always have the best ideas on how to stay active and have fun! Add to this things like hiking, biking and scavenger hunts together.

3) Set one day a month where the kids cook us a meal. Of course, this would be a supervised event as my kids are still little. This helps us spend time together and get dinner on the table!

4) Quarterly overnight trips somewhere. These won’t be big trips but just somewhere that we can enjoy a full day’s activities and enjoy an overnight stay in a hotel.

5) Surprises! Oh how my kids love surprises! Try to get in a fun activity every once in awhile after school. Simple things like a movie day or ice cream store visit, etc.

6) Weekly Library Visits – A free activity and some new books to make each week a new adventure! Continue to find new chapter books that interest the kids.

7) Continue to check our local area for free activities to do together and get them scheduled on the calendar so the day doesn’t get filled up with other things.

8) Take the family fruit-picking when in season. So far we’ve done blueberries, apples and strawberries. It’s a fun thing to do together and I get to freeze the extras for smoothies and treats later.

9) Playdates – Take turns with friends having a short playdate together at each other’s houses. Just make sure time is spent with the kids and the focus doesn’t turn into friend chit-chat.

10) Themed Days – Find themes that I can turn into week-long fun by finding meals, books and crafts that relate to that week’s theme.

11) Power Cleaning Sessions together followed by a treat. We’ve done this a few times over a weekend. We set a timer for 30-60 minutes and everyone helps out cleaning parts of the house. When the timer goes off, we sit down and have a treat together and a fun chat.

12) Make sure something is scheduled on the calendar each month for family time with parents and/or siblings. We usually have luck with this just with birthday parties and holidays. Plan a Crockpot Night when the weather gets worse so we can still feel we are doing something together.

These are just a few of the ways I’ve brainstormed to find more time for family and friends. In what ways have you found that help you stay in touch with friends and spend time with family throughout the month?

Stay tuned for another day of brainstorming tomorrow on another “stresser.”

Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: Work/Parent Time

UPDATE: Recap for the week will be posted next week. Enjoying a little family time over the holiday weekend!

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

There are many, many advantages to being able to work from home. But one of them is not the ease of finding time to fit in that work. It can be a struggle trying to focus on getting things done when your mind wants to tackle other things that are in front of you such as household tasks, the great outdoors outside that patio window and on the days when they are home: the kids. I make it a rule to always, always put my family first but at the same time the work still has to get done.

Juggling family and home has been something I’ve been struggling with constantly over the past 5 years as a blogger. It wasn’t until I implemented a rule called, “adjust” that I started to feel a sense of relief over this struggle. The “adjust” rule is simply this: when something comes up that affects my planned agenda, I adjust. Things get shuffled. Things get delayed. And that’s just how it goes.

And as a parent, I am often working at finding time to get in some extra education with my kids–this is especially true over the summer months when they aren’t in school. I am a fan of “hands-on learning” so I try to get them out into the world to experience as much as I can. And I try to keep the learning experience fun so they’ll *want* to learn and not just feel it’s something they *have to* do.

So here are some ways that I’ve brainstormed on how to keep up with the work at home task and the at-home parenting time for extra education for the kids:

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WORK-AT-HOME

1) Schedule time each week for work. Be sure to stop and allow breaks to re-group. Stick to short blocks of time to avoid burn-out. Set timer for 20 minutes before end-of-work time and start wrapping up loose ends when the timer goes off.

2) Set-up weekly, monthly and yearly goals. It’s easier to work when you have a plan in place and something to aim for rather than just working aimlessly.

3) Outline those goals and break them up into possible time-frames. Add these time-frames to my work calendar to try to stay on course. Set up email/phone reminders to help keep motivated. And when these goals are met, allow myself small rewards.

4) Be sure to continue to check progress/stats to make sure things are moving smoothly forward and not backwards.

5) Take time each night to create a to-do list for the next day.

6) Allow for at least one day a week to take off work. Allow for a day or two each month of “vacation time” and allow myself to do something fun just for me and/or my family.

Note: If you don’t work from home, you can still apply most of these to your job outside of the home.

 

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PARENTING EDUCATION TIME

1) Set goals that I’d like to achieve with the kids.

2) Plan for monthly brainstorming sessions. This will allow time to come up with fun ideas for us to do together.

3) Create a “bucket list” of things to do with the kids each season. Be sure to add educational items to the lists. You can see the ones I’ve made for the kids this last year for Summer and Fall so far.

4) Continue to find resources online for free printables and ideas for fun themes we can attempt.

5) Create a Pinterest board for collecting ideas to help stay organized and motivated.

6) Subscribe to magazines for unique monthly ideas: Parents, Family Fun and pick up free local area magazines at library.

7) Plan trips for educational purposes. Ideas: Museum of Science & Industry. Field Museum. Planetarium. Perhaps ask for a membership to one of these places for Christmas.

8) Sign-up for free classes in the area. Ideas: Home Depot. Michaels. Libraries.

9) Create “themes” of things to do together. Ideas: Fun meal times. Special Days i.e. “Wacky Wednesday” etc.

10) Start reading more chapter books and books that I can turn into a fun theme afterwards.

These were just some of the ideas I had for staying on top of work and keeping up with additional education at home for my kids.  In what ways do you keep up with both or either of these things?

Stay tuned tomorrow for a re-cap of the “stresses” I’ve shared so far along with a few pics of the progress I’ve made on a few of them!

Brainstorming Solutions to Stresses: School Lunches and Schedules

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In case you missed it, you can read this post to see what this series is all about.

It didn’t take long for my kids to be in school before I started thinking I almost needed a personal assistant to keep track of everything school-related. Have you ever felt this way? Our school is also cutting back on paper expenses so we often have to print out several of the forms ourselves that get emailed to us for certain school events, etc. While I don’t mind helping with expenses, it can be a bit much to keep track of if one is disorganized.

As if we didn’t have enough to keep track of with daily homework, permission forms, event sheets, etc, then we toss in making school lunches and it can be quite a handful. Our school has a limited lunch menu with mostly unhealthy choices so I make sure my kids get a homemade lunch almost every day. I do let them have hot lunch randomly because my Mom would always treat me to a hot lunch on my favorite days so I want to do the same for my kids. I like to give them something to look forward to and I selfishly love having a day free of making lunches! :)

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Here are a few things I’ve brainstormed for streamlining stresses related to school:

SCHOOL FORMS, EMAILS & SCHEDULES

1) Immediately print forms from the school and handle them and put them in the kid’s school folders to be returned to school. Designate a folder for them to be put in if the kids aren’t home at the time. Handling them also includes writing the proper checks that are needed for expenses for events. I’m keeping to the rule that email is not to be checked if there’s no time for responses, as well.

2) Immediately add important school dates to iphone AND calendar. Set up a reminder to go off the day before an important event.

3) Get in the habit of checking email in the morning to make sure there are no last minute reminders from the school.

4) Set up folders in my email account specifically for school things. I’ll need a “School: Needs to be handled” and a “School: Archive” folder.

SCHOOL LUNCHES

1) Make a list of all possible choices for kids’ lunch options. Hang this next to my master meal plan so I can look at it for ideas when I do my weekly meal plan. Start testing out new items, such as soup and hot items in thermoses. (I’ll share this list and some pics when finished with them!)

2) Continue to search online for more kids’ school lunch ideas and update the list, as needed. Also I’ll take note of which things are not finished in lunches to either cut-back on the food sent or to leave them off the list of choices if they don’t like them.

3) Prepare as much of the kids’ school lunches as I can the night before. I often use Divided Ziploc Containers so I can get parts of their lunches ready in advance, often filling them with fruit/veggies leftover from dinner.

4) Create a “snack cart” filled with snacks and lunch choices to streamline the process of both lunches and snacktime for the kids. It will also be used to store lunch bags and containers to help keep the kitchen more organized.

SCHOOL HOMEWORK & CLOTHES

1) Set up an area for school items so the homework process can go smoother. Make sure supplies such as pencils, crayons, glue, etc. are replenished as needed.

2) As soon as we get home from school, folders are gone through to make sure no important notes were sent home. These will be handled immediately and school bags will be hung up in their properly place afterwards. Lunch bags will go into the kitchen so ice packs can make it to the freezer so I can be sure they are frozen in time for the next day.

3) Get in the habit of laying the kids clothes out the night before. This will help reduce the chaos of searching for them in the morning.

4) Planning Ahead – Making sure I have things on hand for things such as: picture day, Christmas/Spring programs, school events and special days at school.

5) Get in the habit of adding a nightly check to my evening routine to make sure all school things are properly handled.

These are just a few of the ways I’ve found to keep up with all things school-related. What tips do you have for staying organized with school things?

Stay tuned for another day of brainstorming tomorrow on another “stresser.”