I have spent the past couple weeks mulling over the goals I'd like to reach this year. And honestly it's been overwhelming just to try to plan what I'd like to accomplish, much less to try to actually accomplish it.
You see, I have some genetic mutations that often throw a kink in my day-to-day plans. I never know when I'll be doing well and when I'll be doing…not so well. When I feel good, I get all excited and make all sorts of plans and run like superwoman and do all the things. But then, I get reminded that this body I live in is a little bit messed up. I crash, and I do none of the things. I drag myself around, trying to hold things together as best as I can until I have another upward swing.
Although I will never be “normal” and I will most likely always struggle with having bad days, I really would like for those to be as infrequent as possible! But that's not going to happen if I lie around feeling sorry for myself. Hiding under my covers and snacking on cookies is only going to make me worse off than I already am.
So as I've pondered what needs to happen to see some more improvement and hopefully see fewer bad days, I know deep down that my body needs some major TLC this year. Don't get me wrong, I've been working on this for around, oh, maybe 5 or 6 years. You would cringe to look at our grocery bill. We buy organic fruits and veggies, pastured meat, raw milk, etc. – everything as high quality as we can get without being ridiculous. Junk food and sugar is kept to a bare minimum. But…I need more.
It becomes such a chore sometimes to make sure I'm NOT eating the bad stuff, that I just don't eat enough, period. (Or else, I grab the “organic junk food” for a snack because let's be honest, it's easier to grab a bag of chips out of the pantry than to cut up vegetables and mix up some homemade yogurt dip.)
But I'm giving my body zero nutrition when I do that, and I need to quit making that a habit. It's fine and dandy for a treat, but not for a regular part of my diet.
Exercise is so hard for me. With the problems I have, my muscles are very weak, my heart races, and I get out of breath very easily. (As in, it hurts for me to brush my hair sometimes and I get so winded I can barely speak.) However, I really feel that if I can push through some of that (in a very gentle way) to get regular exercise, it will end up helping me feel better. Part of what keeps me sick is that my body is unable to process toxins on its own, so I stay full of junk, which makes me feel terrible. But exercising regularly will actually help me get rid of some of those toxins and it will also send more oxygen to my cells, which will help to rejuvenate them. It's going to take some pain and really hard work, but I need to do this if I'm going to have more good days and fewer bad ones.
I'm doing pretty well with this already. I got a huge water bottle that contains all the water I need to drink for the day. Now I don't have to keep refilling something and trying to remember how much I drank. I just make sure I drink one bottle full each day and I'm good. I need to keep this up because letting up even just a little makes a big difference in how I feel.
All of these things are critical to my being the best version of myself I can be, yet they all to often get pushed to the back burner to make way for other, “more important” things.
I'd love to share with you all of the things I am determined to do in regard to caring for my body – things like eating the proper balance of protein, fats, and carbs; eating all of my meals at the same time each day; moving my body; doing regular detoxing regimens – but that would take entirely too long.
Along with giving my body some major TLC, I need to do a better job of taking care of my family's health as well. Too often I am struggling to drag myself through the day, which means they end up with peanut butter sandwiches for supper or whatever they can find in the fridge. (Shout out to my mom who has cooked countless meals for us over the past couple years. She has taken care of my family when I couldn't, even though she doesn't always feel the best herself.)
I want to focus heavily on preparing good food this year – for my own health and for the health of my family. Some days I will probably not be up to it, but on the days when I am able, I want to put more time and effort into preparing good food. I'll be honest and say that I have never enjoyed cooking and preparing food. I really only do it because everybody needs to be fed. Consequently, meal preparation gets treated like a dreaded chore – I put it off and do it half-heartedly when I finally get to it. And the result is most often a less-than-stellar meal in the nutritional department (and not always big on taste since I'm being honest here.)
Side note: I think the real reason I dread cooking is because I am so messy! I know I'm going to have a lot to clean up when I'm done, so I try to ignore the fact that it needs to be done and hope it will go away. Only it doesn't. So I might as well just choose to enjoy it!
Anyway, I feel like I'm starting to ramble, so I'll get to the big point of this post.
You know how it's popular to choose one word to define your year? Sometimes I do it and sometimes I don't. It just depends on how the Lord leads as I pray about and plan my goals. I wasn't planning on choosing one this year, but last night as I stood at the sink washing carrots for supper (yay me!) a word came to mind that I realized was the perfect summary of my hopes and dreams for this coming year.
That word is:
I feel like focusing on this one little word will bring big changes in lots of areas without overwhelming me. All I need to do is ask myself in each situation, “How can I NOURISH ____? (my body, my family, my spiritual life, my marriage, etc.)”
I am thankful that the Lord brought this word to my mind because I believe it is exactly what my family and I need this year.
I will be sharing updates as I am able.
I'm looking forward to what this year holds!
Did you choose a word this year? I'd love to know what it is!
Do you need help staying on top of menu planning? I've created a set of free menu planning lists and shopping lists for you! Pretty things always make these tasks more fun!
To receive the printables, just enter your information in the form below.
Have you all ever used Trello? It's an app that can be used on your desktop, phone, or tablet, and I use it to organize pretty much everything! (It's also free!) I can share boards with my husband, and they will sync to his phone or sync to the desktop. So, for example since I make my menu and shopping list on Trello, I can have him stop by the store if he's out, and I don't have to give him a big list of stuff because it's already on his phone.
There is so much you can do with it, but I'm just going to show you how I use it to plan my menus and shopping lists.
First, I created a board called “Menus”. Here's what it looks like:
Now, on that board I can add as many lists as I want. So you can see that my list on the left is called “Dinner Menu Ideas”, and then I make a new list each time I create a menu.
Once I create a list, I can create what are called cards. I can also add as many cards as I want. So I created a bunch of cards, each with a dinner idea. I added family favorites, and I also add recipes I come across that I'd like to try. I name the card whatever the meal is, and then I can click on the card to add comments to it. So I add things like the link to where the recipe is or tweaks I made to the recipe that we liked.
Now I have a good list from which to draw whenever I make my menu for the week, and I don't have to start from scratch.
Each time I'm ready to make my weekly menu, I create a new list. (I actually have been making a 2-week menu and shopping only twice a month. It's working out great!)
I make a card for each day of the week, and then I click on it and add the meal I potentially want to have that day. I try to think about what is going on that day and whether I'll need something quick and easy or a crockpot meal or whatever. But I don't spend a ton of time thinking about it because I know things will end up getting switched around. The important thing is that I know what groceries I need to buy so I have them on hand for whatever day I end up using them.
Once I have enough meals decided on, I go through and add all the ingredients to my master shopping list. When things are busy and I don't have time to create a brand new menu, I just choose one that is already made, and I already have the week's shopping list made out for me.
I add every ingredient to the list even if I already have it on hand because if I ever use that list in the future I may not have that item on hand then.
If you're the type who wants to cross items off your list as you go, but you don't want to end up deleting all the items off your master shopping list, here's a way around that. Click the card and select “copy”. It will create an exact copy of your shopping list, and you can use that list when you shop. Just open it up on your phone and delete the items as they go into your cart.
I am loving this system and how quick and easy it is! And the great part is that it gets easier over time because there are more and more menus from which I can choose if I ever want to skip planning a new one.
If you feel cross-eyed opening up Trello, you could do this same system just using a notebook and pen.
Dedicate a page to your dinner ideas, and then dedicate a page to each week's menu and shopping list. Save your notebook, and over time you'll end up with a nice collection of ready-made menus that you can pull out and use.
If that still sounds like too much work, there is always the option to use Build a Menu's “Done 4 You” menu plans. Each week they email you a pre-made menu and shopping list. And if you have special dietary needs, they have lots of options such as gluten free menus, paleo menus, Trim Healthy Mama menus, etc.
You don't have to feel overwhelmed, guilty, or stuck any more!
Join the 5 day meal planning challenge, and learn how to:
This year has been so busy and stressful for our family, and we really needed some time to get away and just be together with no other distractions.
We could not have been happier with our accommodations in Gatlinburg, Tennessee!
The quiet setting was just what we needed to focus on spending time together and unwinding from some of the stress we'd been under.
Special thanks to Gatlinburg Falls Resort for providing a cabin for us in exchange for this review.
Gatlinburg Falls Resort is just a few minutes away from the main part of Gatlinburg. It was nice to be able to drive out to the cabin and feel like we had “gotten away from it all”, yet be super close to food or other activities when we felt so inclined.
We also drove into Pigeon Forge a few times during our stay since it was only about half an hour away and there are tons of activities to do there too.
The cabin we stayed in was perfect for our large family (if you consider 4 little ones and a baby a large family – most people seem to!)
The only thing that would have been nicer is if it had more property where the kids could have gone outside. However, the inside of the cabin was so large that the kids didn't have any problem with “cabin fever” while we were there. They had plenty of room not to feel cooped up inside, plus the arcade games kept them well occupied!
When we arrived, we found that there was a large stack of coupons provided for area attractions.
Having a large kitchen made my part of the vacation so nice! We saved a lot of money by bringing our own groceries and doing most of the cooking at the cabin rather than going out. The kitchen was well stocked with everything I needed to prepare healthy food for lots of hungry mouths.
The upstairs also had a living room, master bedroom, and master bathroom.
This was the view from the master bedroom deck! It was sooo relaxing to wake up and go sit out on our porch and look at this every morning!
The downstairs had another bedroom, a separate bathroom for the kids, and a large game area. This is where the kids spent most of their time (of course!)
Also, not pictured is the hot tub out on the downstairs deck. I forgot to get a picture of it because we were too busy enjoying it!
We are a pretty laid back family who prefers our vacations to be slow-paced. We don't need to run around to a million attractions and restaurants, though we enjoy having options available to us.
Our family's personality made Gatlinburg Falls Resort the perfect location for us to spend time as a family. We could spend lots of time just hanging out at the cabin doing pretty much nothing. It was bliss!
Yet we were close enough to both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to eat out a few times and do a few activities together (like riding Go-Karts!)
We found everything in the cabin to be clean and in good working order.
The staff in the office were helpful when we needed extra linens.
I can't think of any problems that we had during our stay; everything was taken care of for us.
Although we were provided with a complimentary stay, my husband and I were both impressed with the prices listed on the website.
I hope our review has given you a good idea of where your family might stay next time you're looking for a family friendly vacation spot!
“Something's got to change. Something has to change NOW.”
I was completely overwhelmed and defeated as a mother.
Oh, sure, I had made a lot of changes in my mindset and overall I was happier and less stressed.
But things at home were still not flowing terribly smoothly.
A lot of that stemmed from my battling of chronic fatigue and other health issues (more on that in another post) and the fact that we just could not get into a routine because of it. Some days I'd be up well before the kids, some days found me sleeping until embarrassingly late hours of the morning because my body was too weak and tired to get up any earlier.
4 kids and a sleeping-in mother DO NOT mix well, let me tell you. They could get breakfast for themselves, but they sure couldn't clean it up very well. 🙂
We managed to get a lot of the chaos under control by instituting a rule that no one was allowed to come out of their rooms until mommy was up. For the most part they obeyed (other than the toddler who would just come snuggle with me and I sure didn't mind that.)
But regardless, on the days where I slept late we all felt behind all day. It was frustrating to both me and the kids. I tried so hard to get up earlier because I knew that it would reduce a lot of my stress and in the long run help me to feel better. (Reducing stress is a huge component of battling chronic fatigue.)
Step number one in that process was to focus on an earlier bedtime for the kids. They were often up late because we started our day late, which then pushed every activity of the day back by a couple hours, which pushed bedtime back way too far, which kept me up late, which exhausted me and stressed me out, which left me with that “I've-been-run-over-by-a-truck” feeling the next morning, continuing the vicious cycle.
I'm learning that the biggest changes come when I learn to focus on one small thing.
So getting consistent with bedtime was my first “small thing.” And it had a domino effect. The earlier bedtime allowed me to be more rested, which helped me start getting up earlier, which helped me stay on top of my days better, which helped me to have the kids ready for bed earlier, which reduced a ton of stress, which made me feel more rested, which continued that positive cycle.
And all I had to do was one simple thing.
It made such a drastic difference that I was telling all my mom friends about it when they would talk about how exhausted they were or how stressed they were.
They probably thought I was weird, because don't most moms put their kids to bed at a normal, decent hour? But I wasn't doing that. So I figured that even if most moms have the bedtime thing down, there are probably some that don't.
We still don't have the bedtime thing down perfectly. Things happen. But when we get off track, I go right back to shooting for that early bedtime the next night.
In the beginning, I literally had to focus on bedtime all day long. The focus of the entire day was on how I could get everyone in bed on time.
And it was great!
By focusing on one thing, my organizational skills improved in so many other areas as a natural result. I got meals served in a timely manner because I knew that a late supper would mean a late kitchen cleanup and a late bedtime (or no kitchen cleanup if it got to be too late which would definitely increase the stress of the next day!) I got baths given and laundry put away sooner rather than later so it could be done before the kids went to bed. This one focus area affected so many other things, but yet I didn't feel like it went against my naturally disorganized personality because I wasn't trying to think about a bunch of stuff every day. I only had to be good at one thing, but it automatically made me good at other stuff.
(Full disclosure here: by the phrase “good at”, I really mean, “a lot better than I used to be, but still not even close to perfect.”)
Once I had the earlier bedtime down fairly well, I began to work on a morning routine for all of us. I knew I needed something that would work regardless of what time we got up in the morning.
And I have been SO PLEASED with how things are going. (Here is an update on the Morning Routine for Kids that Changed Our Days.)
We still have a lot of progress to make in our pursuit of smoothly flowing days. And I realize that with a bunch of little kids, “smoothly flowing” is always going to be a pretty relative term. But I can handle the hiccups with a lot less agitation now that everyone knows where they're supposed to be and what they're supposed to be doing.
Update #2: I've done a lot of tweaking and learning over the past few years, and I developed a daily planner that helps me see exactly what I need to focus on each day so that I can be intentionally working toward bigger goals for myself and my family. Check out The Ultimate Goal Setting Planner here.
I understand what it's like to feel like life is never-ending chaos.
It's depressing. Boy, do I know.
I'm so thankful the Lord has given wisdom and help to come up with simple solutions that even someone as disorganized as I am could implement.
Friend, if you're struggling through that vicious cycle of staying up late, being tired and grouchy, feeling behind all day long, and going to bed late yet again, can I encourage you to not be afraid of the simplest solution?
Can I encourage you to focus on just one thing?
For me it was the earlier bedtime for the kids. For you, that may be preparing supper first thing in the day because it will in turn reduce the evening chaos. It may be something else. But pinpoint one small thing. Stop trying to fix your whole life all in one shot, and just narrow it down to one thing.
You may be surprised how much of a difference it will make in your home.
I've been a mess for so long, and I know how miserable it is. I also know how relieving it is when the tornado-like winds start slowing down.
If you're still in the middle of the chaos, I want you to feel that relief. If I can find a little calm amidst the chaos, I think anybody can!
What is your one focus area going to be? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!