A Balanced Plate: A Balanced Life

A few weeks ago I made a ravioli dish for dinner. Chicken, mozzarella, and rosemary. Now don’t get too impressed, it was frozen from Costco. But good nonetheless. We have made them before and usually I toss them in olive oil. This time, however, I happened to have some basil pesto about and pesto is one of our favorite pasta toppings, especially since we figured out Clare can eat it as well.

As you might have guessed, something went wrong with this meal. Though I love rosemary, and I definitely love basil, for me and my palate the two do not mix well. When I made the choice to use basil pesto I forgot about the rosemary in the ravioli filling. Too focused on the chicken and mozzarella I guess. So when we started eating, there was a war in our mouths between the basil and the rosemary. For those who like to keep tallies, the rosemary won.d

Doesn’t life feel like this sometimes? Especially if you are a family with kids, nights and weekends fill up fast with practices, games, recitals and playdates. How do we pick? How do you choose what activities to participate in, which ones to say no to? How do you prioritize?

We are just entering this stage of parenthood. I know things are going to get busy and I know we are going to have to make tough choices. It’s one of the joys and sorrows of having kids spaced so closely together. They do so much together, which is great, but there are only so many hours in the day when they start doing their own things.

We are going to need to evaluate and reevaluate our priorities each time we add or let go of an activity. The key is striving for balance.

balanced plate 2
Seesaw by Gabriel Pollard (2008). Flickr, CC.

Have you ever noticed how on a teeter-totter there is a center point on which the arm rests? It’s easy to focus on one end or the other, or try to find the exact weight needed to achieve perfect balance. But here’s a secret for you – it will never balance if that center point crumbles or is removed. If our lives are likened to teeter-totters, can you guess what the center point is?

God

Hopefully that isn’t too big of a surprise. Before we can achieve balance, we need to have a sturdy foundation to balance upon. Mass, prayer (both personal and communal), service, sacrifice, thanksgiving, forgiveness, praise and adoration – all these and more help us to build our relationship with God, the foundation for our lives.

In light of this, one of my goals for our upcoming school year (yikes! it’s August already?) is to attend daily Mass at least once a week and, if things continue to work out, go to Confession every other week/once a month minimum. We are homeschooling, so 1 daily Mass should be well within the realm of possibility. I am so thankful we have found a couple other homeschooling families that also want to attend. The goal is to try to get to Mass early one day every other week or so and take turns watching all the kids so the moms and those kids old enough can go to Confession. It’s happened twice so far and it has made a huge difference in my accountability, my responsibility and how I am going about my day.

Balance. Be it on the plate or in our life, is difficult to achieve. But difficult does not mean impossible and it is certainly worth working toward. How do you achieve balance? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Embracing a Plan

In my last post I alluded to a new system I’ve been working with that has been helping my organization and general well being. It’s not super complicated and didn’t cost a bunch of money. A simple planner has completely (maybe not completely completely, but a whole lot) changed the way I am operating.

This decision to embrace a planner was not random. Upon reflection I can see God guiding me toward one for a while. I’ve actually tried to use planners before with limited success. I would forget to bring them with me or leave them in my purse for days. I wouldn’t have a pen or some other excuse. This time is different.

The first step toward the new planner-me was re-discovering the Fly Lady and her methods for keeping your house clean. This new method inspired my whole series of Advent posts. I’ve been tweaking the Fly Lady’s ideas to fit my needs and family’s needs fairly successfully since November. I am a whole new cleaner.

The second step was reading a blog post (I wish I remember whose so I could give credit! Thank you whoever you are) that was about a blogger’s Christmas gift, a new planner. At first I thought, well whatever floats your boat. She had some pictures of the planner and I admit it was very pretty. I decided to click on the link to check it out more since this blogger was so passionate about how wonderful this planner was and how she utilized it in a number of ways – daily tasks, appointments, homeschooling, blogging, cleaning, meal planning – basically all the things I have been trying to keep straight in my head. (I’ll give you a hint – my head isn’t big enough)

Oh how I wanted this planner! It looked beautiful and seemed to be the answer to so many problems. I was so eager as I went through the website, choosing all the extras I thought I would want. Then I saw the prices. Yikes! Beautiful as it was, I knew I had failed with planners before. Until I knew this was something I could stick with, I couldn’t justify spending so much just because it looked nice.

However, my overly positive reaction to using a planner was surprising to me, so I decided to try it out on more of a DIY scale. $10 planner from Target, some washi tape and colorful pens was a much better route. I took some time and invested in “beautifying” my simple planner with the tape and pens. I also made some inserts to hold post-its and a meal planning pad of paper – thank you Pintrest.

Embracing a Plan by Kate Taliaferro at DailyGraces.net
My planner with Pintrest additions. I love having these tabs handy!
Embracing a Plan by Kate Taliaferro at DailyGraces.net
I love the owl tape! And now I will remember when Daylight Savings is thanks to some scraps of the blue-green tape.

I’ve been using this planner since mid-January. It’s only been a month but it has made a huge difference in my life pre and post-Eliza. Here are just some of the ways:

  • I am keeping a cleaning schedule – and actually accomplishing all the cleaning tasks I set out for the day (and if I don’t I am rolling the task over to the next day). Thanks to the Fly Lady these tasks are realistic, evenly distributed through the house and I try not to put more than 4 a day so I don’t get overwhelmed
  • I am meal planning in advance, which means I have much more complete grocery lists, which means less trips to the grocery store
  • I am remembering to write thank-you notes because I have a post-it for that
  • I am remembering all the things we need to accomplish in these last few weeks before we move because I have a post-it for that too
  • I will *hopefully* get most of the birthday cards out on time this year because I took the time to write down 2 weeks before each person’s birthday a reminder to buy a card and a few days before their birthday to mail it
  • Using the planner has also introduced me to bullet journalling which I’m also giving a go. It’s only been a little over two weeks with that though so the jury is still out. So far though I’m loving it

I never, ever thought that a simple planner could hold so much grace for my family. I am more calm, collected and less stressed. Plus, our home is cleaner than it has ever been. I look around (most of the time) with joy at how much more smoothly our family is operating because I am operating more smoothly. So much of our family dynamic is influenced by how well Ben and I are coping with whatever our current life situation is. As we continue in our transitions – moving again plus a new baby while Ben is in training – having one place for me to put basically everything has been game changing.

I wish I had done this sooner. I wish I had dedicated more time in my previous attempts at planners so that it wouldn’t have taken me this long to see how much I needed one. But I am so thankful that I finally got the message and am able to receive all the graces God has waiting for me in its pages.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Worth the Making

For me, holiday season means baking season. I know we aren’t quite there yet but this weekend I made a big batch of sugar cookies for Halloween. I didn’t decorate them like I normally would have which makes me a little sad, but we truthfully don’t have the counter space or storage space for such an endeavor. Just making the cookies themselves took me 3 days. The kids helped make the dough on Friday and then I spent 2 days baking them.

Normally, it doesn’t take 2 days, just a few hours. But when you are living in a space that isn’t your own and you don’t have your regular tools and pans, things can get a little tricky. Like in this example, where the largest “cookie sheet” I have isn’t actually a cookie sheet but a 9X13-ish cake pan. The most cookies I got on that thing was 9 at a time and that was pretty squished. This recipe made nearly 60 cookies (I know, I should have halved the recipe, I usually do. I blame pregnancy on that particular decision-making moment).

As I was going through this baking marathon, before I had decided not to decorate them, I found myself wondering if it was all worth it. I mean yes, these cookies are good, but they aren’t the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. Yes, they can look super cute when they are decorated well, but to truly decorate them well would have taken at least another 2-3 days depending on how long naptime was. To really go all out with these cookies is a multi-day extravaganza that usually leaves me with cramped hands, sore feet and no tupperware left.

For what? Someone to walk in and eat 2 cookies in under 2 minutes. Days of work for a brief moment of enjoyment. Surely it would be easier to go to H.E.B. (Texas’ version of Kroger/Jewel/Raley’s) and buy a box of cookies. Why pour my soul into something so fleeting?

I believe that we do these kinds of things because of the way we were created. God didn’t make us up or imagine us, He gave us life as a reflection of His very self. God poured His breath into Adam while fully knowing that this firstborn of creation would choose disobedience over obedience. God creates us still knowing that now, because of original sin, our lives on earth are but sparks in the night, there for a moment and then extinguished.

We are capable of reflecting God in all things, even in our creativity. Think of someone who is passionate about gardening. They work their soil, preparing it for seeds year after year, constantly trying to improve its nutrients and suitableness. They weed, they prune, they cultivate. They marvel at each flower and enjoy the fruits of their labor. They do all this, knowing full well that these plants that they have loved into existence will die come winter.

Or consider the people who have booths at your local craft fair or fall festival. These people have worked all summer, some all year, long to bring you their merchandise. The hours spent deciding on paint color, harvesting the right kind of wood, repeating the same pattern over and over, was done out of love for their craft. Of course, the financial compensation is also a motivating factor, but for many items these crafters are making pennies on the dollar when you consider an hourly wage and the cost of the materials. Their passion is both a testament to their creativity but also a reflection of the creative God who made them.

Naked pumpkin sugar cookies from the post "Worth the Making" on Daily Graces at dailygraces.net
Naked pumpkin sugar cookies. Copyright Kate Taliaferro 2016

So yes, the cookies are worth it. Even if this time they are naked =)Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com