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

Melting a Heart of Stone

Melting a Heart of Stone - Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com
By Sylda31 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
This day did not start out like a normal day. It actually started out as a rather terrible day. It was the day that Ben was coming home from a trip, which usually means it’s a day that is both exciting and awful all at once. Exciting because, obviously, Daddy’s finally coming home and the kids are bonkers, elated and otherwise screaming with joy. It is awful because time moves at its slowest speed and since we are all so excited our faces hurt from smiling, sometimes patience wears thin and tempers flare as we march through the day until he finally gets home.

Today was just such a day, except today started with one of my children, I won’t implicate them here, informing my still closed eyelids that there was potty on the couch while still dripping with it on the carpet in front of my bed. I flew out of bed to find indeed a soaking wet child as well as a drenched couch. Not only is Daddy coming home, now he is coming home to a pee-soaked former-favorite spot to sit.

Needless to say, I was not amused. I think my patience was forgotten in bed, probably still with my sleepy eyes and my temper was shorter than the coffee I had not yet drunk. With each paper towel, every squirt of any deodorizer I could get my hands on, and towel soiled, my heart hardened. The whole house smelled, breakfast still had to be made, children clothed and we had someplace to be by 10am. Oh, and I needed coffee. Badly.

Children truly are incredible in their ability to move on. The offending party was appropriately contrite, said all the right words and gave lots of hugs. They steered clear for a few minutes, recognizing that Mom was in rather a state. But only for a few minutes. Then, they were back to their happy-go-lucky selves, asking for extra juice and asking me to find a missing toy for them as if I wasn’t up to my elbows in pee and all manner of cleaners, almost desperate enough for a clothespin on my nose. Rather than being inspired by their uplifting attitude, it only fueled my stony heart.

I was turning into one of the disciples in the Gospel of Mark. They had just witnessed Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fish and now were looking across the sea to find Jesus walking to them in the midst of a storm. Mark says they were “astounded.” But at the same time, their hearts were hardened because they did not understand what Jesus was trying to tell them.

Jesus was trying to soften my heart through the cheerful attitudes of my children. Instead, I gave him the cold shoulder.

My mood, predictably, did not improve on its own. I needed some serious help. And thank goodness, I got it. We were driving to our morning event when Rosie asked to listen to the Vacation Bible School music that the kids had just finished that week. If it kept the car quiet and peaceful I was all for it so I turned it on, fading it to the back of course so that such uplifting, happy music wouldn’t influence my sour disposition (because who would want that? Clearly, I was stuck).

Then, very faintly, I heard the singing. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw John singing along to the song playing. Rosie quickly joined him. The next song they added some hand motions and even Clare tried to keep up, clapping and giggling. Slowly, my stony heart was melting. These beautiful, simple children, were praising God to the greatest of their abilities. They were filling the car with joy and adoration. Who was I to stand in the face of that worship, fold my arms and turn up my nose? Who was I to hold onto a grudge that I had to serve my family that morning, even if it was at a time not of my choosing or a task I was particularly fond of? I had been given an opportunity to serve my family with love, patience and and joy. I utterly failed on all counts.

The sweet joyful singing of my children brought me back to reality, sufficiently humbled and sorrowful for the example I had given them. Instead of seeing an opportunity to demonstrate love, I displayed petty anger, frustration and a general yucky attitude. And so I joined in their song, letting all those negative emotions ebb away as I allowed myself to be graced by their song. In those few moments my heart of stone was being melted away and replaced with a softened one capable of seeing God working in our day once again.

I’m not going to say the rest of the day was perfect, because of course it wasn’t. But it was better, so much better than if I had hung onto that stony heart rather than embracing a humbled, soft one.

Melting a Heart of Stone - Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com
The 3 causes for my joy!

Mise en place

Mise en place is French for “putting in place” (thank you Wikipedia). It is a phrase used in the culinary world, typically referring to the preparation and organization of ingredients. When I am cooking, I always feel so much better when I take the time to prep – to mise en place – my ingredients.

Just this past week we celebrated both my baby girl Clare’s first birthday, which also happens to be her great-grandmother’s birthday. We were enormously blessed to have Grammie, as we are fondly calling Ben’s grandma, visit us and to be here for their birthdays. Typically for birthdays we let the birthday person pick the dinner. Since Clare is only 1, we decided Grammie might make a better dinner choice. She asked for something Italian, which is great for me and my cooking comfort zone. I’m not sure what I would have done if she had said, “You know, I’d love some Thai food.” I’d like to think I would have figured something out, but it probably would have kept me up all night wondering if I could pull it off.

The saved frozen batch - I was so excited to eat I forgot to take a picture of the final product! So just imagine the cheese is ooey-gooey and everything is hot and baked
The saved frozen batch – I was so excited to eat I forgot to take a picture of the final product! So just imagine the cheese is ooey-gooey and everything is hot and baked

Anyway, long story short, I decided to make stuffed shells. Basically, think lasagna but instead of layers like a cake, the ricotta cheese and sausage/ground beef mix is stuffed into a jumbo noodle shell and then baked in a marinara sauce and covered in more cheese – delicious! But, very time consuming if you don’t plan and mise en place well. Thank goodness for Grammie who is so helpful in the kitchen.

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