Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Gentleness Challenge

I know I'm months and months behind, but right now I'm reading and trying to complete The Gentleness Challenge, from Womenlivingwell.org. I have definitely been struggling as a mother of two small children (my daughter is 4 and my baby boy is just now 10 months old), losing my patience too quickly and raising my inside voice to levels only really meant for outdoor purposes. It's only my daughter I get upset with -I look at the baby and think well he's far too little to know what the right thing to do is, so nothing he does at all phases me, and yet I am so quick to expect a 4 year old to react and behave as a responsible human being would. It doesn't make sense really, does it? She's just a baby too, and I need to remember that.

It's the times when "I'm trying to do something!", as I'll scream, that I comp,etely lose all patience and rational expectations of her. She's pulling her brother's toys from his little hands, leaving him distraught and crying on the floor while she skips around him, waving whatever it is she has taken. She is yelling at me 20 times when I've answered her the first second I heard my name. But she knows she doesn't have my full attention and so she says my name another 19 times, at which point I want to scream, I want to yell (and sometimes do) "I heard you the first time!". Then I'll fully turn to her, my eyes to hers, and ask nicely what she wanted. She'll make up something right then and ere, clearly having only yelled my name so many times to get my attention back to her from whatever it is I was doing.

If I'm on the phone to my best girlfriend who lives far away, as I try to be a few times a week, she will act up even more than usual, pulling her brother around until he cries again, carrying him from room to room, chasing after me. The noise is unbearable, and I feel my temperature rising. I inevitably shriek something and storm to the other room, apologise to my friend and try to keep talking. Se has things she needs to discuss with me and I feel torn between knowing she needs me and knowing that my daughter is desperately trying to get my attention.

This is all normal behaviour for a 4 year old child. My own mother has told me how my brother and I would always "act up" when she was on the phone when we were little. My expectations of my daughter are way too high, I've realised of late. She is a baby too, despite the fact that her vocabulary rivals my own and she knows so so very much. It is up to me to help her more, be there for her more, and model what I wan to do. She yells, for example -I wonder where she got that from. Instead of waiting for her to calm down so I can finish my phone call, I should just go to her more readily. I should gve her my eyes when she calls my name the first time, and I should start packing up blocks with her instead of insisting that she is old enough to do it herself. The Gentleness Challenge is making me rethink all the ways in which I could be more gentle. I need to soften my voice to my daughter like I do for the baby, and go to her level I instead of staying up high where I seem so unreachable. I need to be way more gentle for my daughter, to keep our love and our bond strong. It is true that our harsh words and loud tones turn our children further apart from us. They do not respond well to that. They will respond better to love and attention. Already I have seen a change - when I soften myself and instruc my daughter where before I was being too hard on her, she looks at me differently, she responds more willingly, and it makes both of us feel better.

Have you tried The Gentleness Challenge? Search it and Womenlivingwell on google and you can find the 4 weeks of the challenge.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Meal Planning and food ideas

I've been reading a lot recently and watching a lot of vlogs on meal planning and grocery shopping. It's all very interesting to me, I think because it is something that comes quite naturally to me, as I am quite the list-maker and organising freak. I see a lot of women planning their meals out of cookbooks and shopping weekly for everything all at once. But for me, being the planner that I am, I often have a good stock of things in my pantry and freezer that can create a meal easily. I keep a good stock of tinned tomatoes on hand, carrots in the fridge, potatoes in the cupboard and frozen peas that can accompany a meat meal at a moment's notice. When I plan the meals for the week, as I have been doing it without really realising until I saw that there was almost a cult following of such procedures online, I do it in my head by quickly assessing my stores and then the freezer.

I also like to plan meals that I know will be good for a day or so in the fridge, as I am fond of appreciating my culinary efforts for longer than just one meal. I rarely, if ever, make a meal that lasts for only one meal. I think it comes from being the leftovers person in our little family of four when I was growing up. My mum told me recently that she hates leftovers, and now I see that they were given always to me, not to anyone else in the house. It explains why I treasure the ability to eat a roasted meal for breakfast now when it would make others gag to smell cooked meat at 8am.

I also see the merit in cooking meals that can stretch the contents of my freezer or pantry. For example -I might have a lot of chicken in the freezer and use it for two meals that call for chicken cooked the same way, so I save time on the method and end up with a little variety. It may look as though I've worked twice as hard but the first step of the two meals was to cook chicken in a pan. I do that for a half kilo of chicken and then separate the meat to continue two separate processes. I might do this to make both a buffalo chicken dip and a chicken and tomato pasta recipe in the same space of time, then have one in the oven while the other is on the stove top.

Right now I know I have a lot of chicken in the freezer and a lot of minced beef. I have a chicken curry on the stove as I write this and am planning to eat that for tonight's meal and tomorrow's (I made double this time because Shan's 'chicken curry' spice mix is a favourite of ours and we often wish it lasted longer than it does when I make the regular quantity). I have a good stock of lasagne sheets in my pantry and a few bottles of pasta sauce, so I will make my husband's favourite lasagne when the chicken curry is finished, and I will make the lebanese kibbe (ground beef baked with bourgel and pine nuts and cinnamon) that he likes after that. Each meal that I plan is large, as my husband is terrible with time and seems to come home anywhere from 6pm to 9pm some days so gone are the days I would think dinner time was at a set time and make him steaks or chops to see them dry out waiting for him to get home. I make him curries and casserole-type meals so he can just put things into the microwave when he gets home or is hungry late at night, and as I am almost always tired after 4pm these days with a baby and small child I find that cooking at lunchtime is easiest. Then I have the rest of the day to tidy (or try to tidy, in our tiny and toy-filled space).

So while writing this I have planned my meal for the next 6 days. 3 main meals, to be eaten over 2 days each.
If you make sure that each time you go shopping you stick to a list and buy a good stock of ingredients that your family will use up regularly, you will never run out of things or need to keep running to the shops at the last minute. We only run out of fresh bread and sometimes snacks the kids go through too quickly. We never ever run out of the essentials like toilet paper or pasta or shampoo or tinned tomatoes or potatoes. List making is key. If you keep a magnetic notepad on your fridge and simply add too it as you use things up, you will never run out of anything.

This week's list of meals with ingredients is as follows:

Chicken curry - chicken breast, onion, garlic, shan curry mix, dried ginger, natural yoghurt, rice.

Lasagne - ground beef, onion, tomato pasta sauce, oregano, lasagne sheets, butter, flour, milk, cheese.

Kibbe - ground beef, bourgel, cinnamon, onion, pine nuts, bay leaf, butter, salad greens, natural yoghurt.

Of course we have extra salad greens and fresh tomatoes with our meals, and we may have leftovers for lunches or eggs with toast or quick sandwiches, but those ingredients are part of our regular food stores too. My husband has favourites he likes to eat regularly so I stick to those, as well as adding invented meals every now and then if the mood strikes me.

I hope this has been useful xx

Sunday, 6 May 2012

My New Weekly Cleaning Schedule

I have been reading a lot of other blogs and getting ideas about cleaning schedules. In particular, I credit Thankful Homemaker for the ideas that finally pushed me to create my own weekly cleaning schedule. I felt revved up after reading the advice on her pages -under her "Homemaking Binder" button at the top of her pages you will find links to her morning, evening, weekly cleaning schedules and so on.

I wanted to share my own ideas here below. I am only in the first week of putting the schedule into practice, but already I can see an improvement in the cleanliness of my home. My husband also noted how fresh it seemed, as if I'd done so much more than usual. I am unsure whether I've done more or whether just by doing the main things each day as well as 1 or 2 important large cleaning jobs it made such a difference after a couple of days. I know sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees -I get so hung up on all the little jobs here and there that I may make no large difference. But anyway, this is working really well for me. I think I may add washing to every day, not just two days a week, as with 2 small children things can pile up quite quickly.

Here is my new weekly cleaning schedule:

Full kitchen clean, including cupboard doors
Wash clothes and put away
Wipe over laundry

Full clean of bathroom
Dust living room and dressers

Wash bed sheets
De-clutter living area
Mop bedroom

Wipe out fridge -outside too
Wipe out microwave
Wash clothes and put away

Mop bathroom floor again
Mop kitchen floor again

Baking, easy day

A day of rest

Of course I am still doing the daily chores along side these (like the daily wiping under my daughter's table and the kitchen floors, the bathroom sink, and de-cluttering of the loungeroom and tidying of toys) but just by having this list set out on the fridge and being able to look at it each day a few times to make sure I am up to date on what needs to be done, has been extremely helpful. I may also develop my own morning and nightly routines as described on the Thankful Homemaker site. It is such a wonderful thing, to find a list that can help you or spur you on to achieve more in your day or feel that you are being more productive. I really like my list so far. Do you do weekly cleaning schedules or similar?