I've been thinking a lot about planning and organizing and writing it all down. I love lists. So, I've been thinking, thinking, thinking. I've been thinking while I drive and thinking while I vacuum and thinking while I sort a million boxes of out-size, out-season clothes. I've been thinking while I pack up some of the Christmas decorations, thinking while I clean out my closet (which previously held all the Christmas chaos), thinking while I de-clutter and streamline the learning room. I've been thinking while I go to ballet, to basketball, to indoor soccer, to outdoor soccer. That's a lot of thinking. And the thing I think the most is that whatever I commit to paper or 'puter, it's got to be simple because for all my thinking, there's just not a whole lot of time to write it all down. In this family, we've been open to life for twenty years and now, our house is teeming with life, thank God. So, mostly my thinking has been limited to what's working, because, frankly, I haven't time to waste on what's not working. Let's just go with what's good enough and get on with the show. For 2008, "good enough" is the new excellent.
It's working to divide that original Home Companion Book into three: The Faith Book, The Kitchen Book, and The Home Management Book. There are calendars specific to each of them and that works just fine. I guess there should be a book for "school," but honestly it's all in the computer and it's much less cluttered there.
In the Faith Book, there are dividers for every month and a divider for Lent and the Easter season (since those don't fit neatly into a particular month). Behind each divider, I am saving novena prayers, tea and a craft ideas and craft of the week ideas, and ideas from other bloggers. I'm printing from Catholic Culture as necessary and making notes of my own middle of the night inspiration. I have found that when a great idea appears on my computer screen, it helps me enormously to cut and paste it to a Word document and print it. Then, I put it in the binder and I try very hard to let go of any guilt it has inspired. If it is possible for me to get to that great idea and put it into action in my house in the near future, I do. If not, I know it's there. It won't disappear if the website does. It is not urgent. If it's a great idea this year, it will still be a great idea next year. Or when I no longer have a nursing baby. Or when I'm looking for something wonderful and creative and nurturing to do with my grandchildren. The liturgical year goes around and around and around again. Ever old, ever new. We don't have to do it all today; we can save some for later. That's the beauty of the binder. No guilt.
Another component of the faith binder is a page with the Mother's Liturgy of the Hours, taken from Holly's Notebook. Here's where I've sketched out a general rhythm of prayer. Again, the plan is in place, but it sure would be a shame if I made myself unavailable for a child who needed me or cranked up the cranky to meet the schedule, thereby sinning in order to pray. God knows that good enough is the new excellent.
The Kitchen Book holds all the things it did when it was a section in the big book, now updated to reflect the current state of my kitchen.
- a Basic Kitchen Inventory Download healthy_kitchen_basic_inventory.1.doc which I use to generate a grocery list
- A weekly menu. Yes, this used to be a three week cycle menu. No longer. Now, it is the epitome of
boringsimplicity. It works for me. The grocery buying is fine tuned to the point that I do my co-op ordering and then I can send a teenaged boy into Costco and have him emerge with the week's groceries eighteen minutes later. That's pretty streamlined:-). I cook. I love to cook. But I'd rather spend my time in the roll-up-your-sleeves, tie-on-your-apron place than in front of the computer or the cookbooks planning meal after meal. If I can get a homecooked meal on the table every night and feed everyone reasonable lunches and dinners, that's good enough. And good enough is the new excellent, remember?
- All the recipes that go with the meals in the cycle menu are in the kitchen book which is kept in the kitchen:-).
- The co-op order form (we order all our poultry, eggs, butter and many dry goods from a Virginia farm once a month) is in the kitchen book so that I can make pen and paper notes during the month. Ordering happens online.
- An inventory of all the food in the upright freezer (twice a year, we order a side of beef) is kept current (or as current as possible when midnight marauders eat steak surreptitiously and think no one will notice).
- Then, there is a calendar section to this binder, too. Here's where the seasonal recipes go. The pumpkin cake we always have on Halloween, the Seder dinner recipes, the Easter menu and recipes and directions for the lamb cake, the peppermint bark recipe--it's all here ready to remind me and to take the stress out of continuing traditions.
- Finally, I've included diet diary forms from Holly Pierlot's Mother's rule of Life Workbook. It's helpful for me to see exactly what I'm putting in my mouth. 'Nuff said there.
The idea here for me is to commit it to paper once and then let it go from my brain. I'm not going to think about what to have for dinner on Monday night until the seasons change again. I'm finished thinking about it. I'm not going to think through a grocery list. If the menu plan isn't perfect (and it isn't), it's adequate and everyone is growing well. So, I'm moving away from the plans and onto the real world in my kitchen.
The Home Management notebook is remarkably unchanged since the original post.
I did download Motivated Moms 2008 schedule. For $8, it's a bargain. It isn't adequate to cover the housekeeping needs of a family my size in a house like mine, but it's a good start. I refer to it in order to update my weekly chore list with things that I might not have considered. Since the original post I have re-written the chore chart to reflect the departure of my greatest asset (Michael left for college).For the children, having the chores committed to paper is crucial. There is no confusion about whose night it is to clean the kitchen or whether the family room needs vacuuming. For me, the discipline most required is self-discipline. I know better than to expect what I don't inspect. I need to do a whole lot of inspecting.
Finally, there's the Home Education component to calendars. Sigh. I heard it once said that homeschoolers don't put their children in schools because they can't find an adequate algebra program, they put them in schools because they can't find a pair of matching socks. I cannot tell you how many times that sentiment has echoed in my head as my husband has tried to pack for a business trip. What is it with laundry?? Really. What is it? All the Catholic homemaking systems have to work at least reasonably well or the final component --the education at home component--just doesn't happen. It has helped me to take the chore list and the diet diary sheet and the weekly menu and do the clipboard thing. I have a million kids.I need to think things through carefully and then I need visual reminders. What is most important on that clipboard is a global checklist of all the possible school things they could or should be doing and who could or should be doing them. This is where I'm concentrating. No one is going to be idle because I've got a clipboard and by golly, if they are idle, I'm going to
whop them upside the head with it consult the clipboard and gently remind them of what remains to be done.The chart is still in its testing stages, but it looks sort of like this. Download planning_chart.doc
Now, let's get real. The thinking, thinking, thinking is important. I don't think anyone can manage a household and a large family without giving earnest thought to goals and routines. We need to be thoughtful; we need to consider constantly where we are and where we want to be. But, we also need to recognize, that, in the words of a wise mother of many, "some stuff is going to happen." Every day, usually several times a day, some stuff is going to happen. And it won't be the stuff on the lists. It will be other stuff. And because of the other stuff, some stuff is going to be undone. The prayerful planning allows us to focus, but it's the willingness to relinquish the plans for the greater good that leaves us open to His abundant grace. And that--that openness--is what it is to truly be open to life.
Visit Red Sea School for the Carnival of Homeschooling and more calendar ideas than you can imagine. I'm not exaggerating; I've never seen such a huge carnival!