Variety Is the Spice Of Life!

I know the last few posts have been a lot about organizing and feeling pulled together, and not much about Haiti specifically. Though, if you can step back and come in the back door, it’s all about Haiti. Haiti and life here, is what drives me to this place because it’s what helps keep my sanity.

So, yesterday I mentioned that I’ve been working on more variety, especially with breakfast. As I said, we eat a lot of eggs in the morning because they’re easy and one of the more inexpensive food options here. We get a flat (30 eggs) for about $4.50 – about $1.80/dz. I usually try to have about 2 flats in the house per week, which I use for meals and baking, unless we have visitors. If that’s the case I get more accordingly.

I also mentioned yesterday that Olivia doesn’t really like eggs because of some bad experiences with an early morning gag reflex. She will eat the white part if they’re poached or hard boiled, and will eat quiche. This is one of those things we don’t force because she has good reason to not want to eat them. In her case if we’re just having eggs & bacon, for example, I’ll cook her bacon and pop a piece or two of bread in the toaster and give her jam and peanut butter on it.

I only actually started planning breakfast meals a few months ago. I was getting bored with eating almost the same thing every morning, and so was everyone else. I also wanted to lower our grocery costs a bit, so while we splurge a bit and regularly have bacon in the house, I wanted to cut back on how much we used.

While I wanted more variety with breakfast, let’s face it, it’s breakfast. Breakfast is not supper, so variety is good, but it doesn’t need to be a different thing every morning. What I ended up doing was coming up with two weeks worth of meals and I just alternate them. It looks like this:

Breakfast Menu JPEG

OYO (On Your Own)
On weekends Chris still wakes up early, but he lets me sleep as long as I want to, which usually is only until about 6:30-7:00 am because my body is so tuned to getting up early. The point is, I don’t have to be up at a certain time and can catch up on a bit of rest, especially if Alex has been up a lot during the night through the week. We start work at 6 am, so there’s no room for sleeping in even if I’ve been up multiple times and am working on 5-6 hours of sleep. (As and aside, he slept for the ENTIRE night last night!!! First time in a long time. I think he was so worn out from being down in the yard all day that he slept like the dead. In fact, I checked him a couple times to make sure he was still breathing because he hadn’t even moved around in his bed!)

On weekend mornings I try to make sure there’s easy stuff around, like cereal, that Chris can just throw together for the kids so they don’t turn into little crazy people.

Oatmeal
Yesterday I mentioned that we don’t eat a lot of oatmeal, even though I know it has great health benefits. The problem is that it doesn’t keep either Chris or I feeling full for very long. It’s not a huge problem, but if I know we’ll be traveling, for example, I’ll choose to swap this out with something that I know has more protein in it just because it’ll help us stay full longer.

Breakfast Sandwiches
We love breakfast sandwiches! You can change them up in so many ways. Bread (toast), biscuits, English muffins, croissants… so many options just in the outsides. Sometimes we have them with just a scrambled egg and a bit of cheese. I might put some bacon in it, or if we’ve had deli meat in the house I might fry a slice of ham to go along with the egg and cheese. I like mine with a few slices of raw onion too. Pretty versatile, and also an easy meal to take on the go if you have to. Just wrap it up in a paper towel.

Poached Eggs On Toast
We love Eggs Benedict, but let’s face it – high calories! I do make it from scratch as a special treat from time to time. Because we couldn’t get English muffins here until I started making my own, I substituted a piece of bread. When I wanted to do a healthier version I discovered that a poached egg or two on a slice of toast with a smear of cream cheese was delish! If we have it (as in, we’ve done a grocery run in Port) I might saute some fresh spinach and do a slice of toast and cream cheese, the spinach, then the poached eggs with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of dill. I like my eggs a bit soft and I like to cut them up so the yolk runs. SO good. This is actually one of my favorite breakfasts, and I was really excited when my parents came because my mom brought me a second egg poacher insert so I can cook eggs for all of us at once.

Breakfast Bake
This can be any kind of breakfast bake, with any ingredients I have around the house. Maybe it’s more like a fritata one week, and baked french toast the next. It’s flexible.

I save the Breakfast Bake and Pancakes for Friday’s because Olivia doesn’t have school, which means a bit more time in the morning and less running around and managing. It means I can spend more time focusing on breakfast.

Waffles
Waffles? There aren’t any waffles on the list… Ah, yes grasshopper, you are correct. But, we eat them!

I had been wanting a waffle iron for years, so I finally bit the bullet and got one before Christmas. I don’t plan to make waffles on any given morning because it’s time consuming. Waffles are one of those meals you make when you have time to sit and visit and no where to go. Each one takes about 5 minutes to cook, so it’s a time commitment. That said, what I DO do is make up a double batch of batter and spend a few hours every couple of weeks cooking them all up, then I let them cool and I break them into quarters, dump them in a big Ziploc bag and freeze them. In the morning when I need something else for Olivia, or on weekends when we want a quick breakfast for the kids, I just take the bag out of the freezer, pop a quarter in each toaster slot and push town the handle. The toaster makes them nice and crispy again, just like a waffle should be. The kids love them and so do we. So, while they aren’t on the rotation, we do actually eat them as a supplement instead of toast, or on their own as a meal.

So that’s my basic Breakfast Menu Plan. I will say that it changes regularly based on the season we’re in as a family. If something isn’t working, I ditch it and replace it with something else. Because the ingredients are simple and stuff we have on hand most days, if I feel like changing it up I do. Even things like Daylight Savings affect it because it means adjusting the start of our work day. My whole goal is to have some place to start so that when I get up bleary eyed I don’t have to be grasping for ideas or trying to think. Chris and I are working together to eliminate stress first thing in the morning so we can all have a good start to the day, and this is part of that.

~Leslie

Subtle Stress

It’s always amazing to me how stress can creep up on us. Over the years Chris and I, because of some of the major issues we’ve had to deal with, have gotten pretty good at managing things. Typically, when something comes up now, we just do what we need to do and often catch ourselves talking about it later and noticing the differences in how we’re processing or coping in a situation that several years ago would have had us not sleeping, reeling and not able to focus on anything else. When we were back in Canada on our sabbatical in 2010 one of the best things that we did for our own personal well-being, as well as family and marriage, was to spend a couple of months in Post Traumatic Stress counselling.

Aside from connecting with an amazing counselor that we now have in the friend category in our lives, we were able to learn some tools to help us cope and process.When things are going on, those things are deeply rooted and are a natural way of dealing with things now. On that list are things like voicing things like fear, frustration, etc. Actually allow ourselves to feel, I guess. As we share, it’s recognizing that we each will process things differently, and that all of those processing things and feelings are valid, even if they aren’t the same as what the other might be going through. Sometimes it’s okay to cry. For me this is a big one because I’m a natural crier and it’s my body’s way of physically letting go of those feelings. I usually feel wasted, but lighter afterwards, like I’ve flushed out all the crud. I think one of the other big things is perspective. Being able to emotionally step back and put things in order of importance, deciding how much time and energy to give something, and seeing where it fits in the bigger picture of things is something that we’ve gotten better at.

Despite all those things though, the stress can still creep up and invade, and sometimes we don’t even really understand where it’s coming from until we start taking off the layers. That’s where I’m at right now. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, but under the surface and didn’t realize that’s what it was until yesterday. I’m doing life and yet just sort of feeling “off”. Like I’m not quite there yet. When I start feeling that way, it’s hard for me to be a good mom and wife. My patience is limited because I just feel agitated. Once I start realizing the causes, I need to take time to work through the process of taking care of the things that I can, to essentially bring myself down a bit.

So, what’s been going on here?

Well, all in all things have actually been pretty good, thus the subtlety. I honestly didn’t realize I was feeling this stressed out.

You’re going to laugh when I tell you the first part of this, because it is so obviously something that should be incredibly stressful – but we were pretty chill about it and just rolled with it.

Back story… when Chris’ parents were here last week his mom mentioned that their shower in the dorms was backing up a bit and asked if there was any chance the septic tank was full. I smiled and said that it wasn’t a big deal, sometimes the pipes in the round house get clogged and the shower backs up, I would have Chris check on it after they left.

And then Yonese went down to start cleaning up the dorms on Friday after their visit. And she told me there was a big problem in that shower because it was full of water. Chris checked it out. Yeah, it was full of sewage.

I wish that was where it ended.

He came upstairs a few minutes later and very calmly said, “Um, yeah. I need you to stop what you’re doing and come downstairs because we have an emergency on our hands. I need you and Yonese to help clean out the dorms while I try to unblock the shower in the small dorm and get the septic to drain into the tank. I think there’s a big blockage.”

He was so calm about it that I thought he was exaggerating. (Because he does that from time to time…) I *may* have let out an exasperated sigh and said something along the lines of “Is this really something I need to come help with???”

And then I went downstairs. And yes, it was bad enough that the large dorm shower was full of water. But what was worse was the that small dorm had not only a full shower, but also 1-2 inches of standing sewage water through most of it. The bathroom. The main room. The small storage room where we keep everything from sheets and towels to our personal luggage and our bankers boxes of previous years filter forms.

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This was after at least half an hour of sweeping. Anywhere that’s wet had sitting water.

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Chris going in to snake the shower, which had about 10 inches of standing water in it.

And then we went to work. Yonese and I grabbed brooms and just started pushing water out the door. And the whole time I just kept thinking things like:

“I’m so grateful we live in a place where it’s all concrete construction and not drywall, carpet etc.”

“People often think what we do is amazing and “glamorous”. I don’t think they realize that sometimes it means you get to be ankle deep in poo water.”

“That just splashed my face…”

“We always try to make sure that we don’t ask our staff to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves. I guess tandem poo water sweeping is pretty much the definition of that…”

And I would try not to focus on the fact that there were shreds of toilet paper floating by me.

Now we are in the process of digging, and sadly not a swimming pool like Olivia was hoping. Our septic tank was full and overflowing and it wasn’t the type you could pump. Needless to say we’re making some design changes on the new one…

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Busting into the leach lines to do the first assessment.

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The not a swimming pool hole and the third load of dirt to go. And our poor lawn…

And yes, it’s been stressful, but definitely no where near where it could be.

  • We’re grateful for the fact that we have several buildings on the property, and each one is on it’s own septic tank. This means we can go and shower and use the bathroom and do laundry down in the round house during the day and feel mostly normal.
  • We have a fabulous staff that have been rock stars, whether it’s been Yonese bleaching the things that she can clean up at this point, or the crew of guys that have been digging a hole in our yard for the last few days.
  • The sewage smell has really been minimal. And this is a miracle in and of itself because we had to cut open the section of pipe coming from our building into the tank to let the pressure off and give it a place to drain the overflow. We literally have a pit of standing water with a section of 6 inches missing from the pipe. It’s mostly grey water going down there now from doing dishes, so I think that helps. BUT it could be so much worse.
  • We’re thankful this happened days after our last visitors of the season left. We have nothing else scheduled for a long time and no pressure to make it all better before a certain date. While it’s a minor inconvenience, it’s not the end of the world.
  • We have a trained plumber on our staff, who is meticulous in his work. He did all the plumbing in our building and does a great job. Being able to keep this stuff in house means less cost to the mission when stuff like this comes up.

So yeah, that is a bit of the stress causer right there, but honestly, it hasn’t been that bad. I feel it a bit in the sense that we’re having to think about how we use water in our house every day, but we should be thinking about those things or be reminded of them regularly. And honestly, I think the biggest stressor out of all of it is Alex. He wants to be where the action is, but sometimes gets in the way. It doesn’t bother the guys, but frustrates Chris, so then I have to try and keep him occupied while trying to do other things and get stuff done. And the whole time he’s fighting it because he wants to be back down in the yard. It’s times like this where I’m reminded of what a blessing Yonese is to us because she’s that extra set of hands and eyes and helps us out with him SO MUCH.

So that’s one thing.

Yesterday I came face to face with a surprise stressor. This might sound totally crazy, but hear me out.

Our printer/copier.

First off, we love this thing for so many reasons. Part of my job is to get things like training manuals printed and put together, training posters printed and laminated, and all of our installation forms printed and ready to go, just to name a few.

All of these things are double sided, so back in the day when we just had an inkjet printer I would, no exaggeration, spend two weeks printing. I would have to do one side, then the other, or just use more paper and do single sided pages. But I had to babysit the printer because the ink would run out and the printer wouldn’t stop. When we upgraded I specifically wanted something that would do double sided printing in color. Four years ago when we were looking for printers the only real option was a more office grade printer/copier that would do duplex in color.

It does a nice job for the most part, but the toner cartridges are expensive and need to be brought in specially. If we haven’t had regular visitors or I forget to plan ahead and make sure we have a supply here in country, running out means we can’t use the printer – period. It shuts down with an error message and until you replace one toner, it won’t work.

The drum unit, the part that holds all the toners, needs to be replaced every 1-2 years, depending on use. Last fall our printer started dumping ink all over the page. I ordered new cartridges, because sometimes the old ones wear out, especially if you refill them. Replaced them, but the print quality was still poor. We ordered a new drum unit and drum belt (the part that pulls the paper under the toner rollers) and they came in with Chris’ parents. They’re fragile. They didn’t travel well. I tried to put them in and while the printer works, the color print quality isn’t fabulous.

As I was working on things yesterday and doing everything recommended I was able to get to a place where I could be logical about the whole thing. Chris and I had already talked about the fact that the drum unit might not work well. We do have an inkjet printer as a back up and had been using that for the last 6 weeks or so but it just ran out of two colors of ink and when I tried to find them at the office supply store we checked in Port a couple weeks ago they didn’t carry them.

I realized that we could just keep using the big printer/copier for most things. Our day to day is things like printing in black and white, which works fine, or running things off that aren’t important and just for in house. If there are other things that are more “special” we can still use the inkjet, right?

Ah, but the ink!

This is the other part of the subtle stress. This stuff always happens when we really need the printer. Never fails. Definition of Murphy’s Law.

As we moved into the new year I realized that I wanted to put the effort into making an organization binder, so all of the things running around in my brain can be in the same place. I do have a day timer, but it sits next to my computer and it’s more for jotting down work stuff that needs to be done.

To give you an idea, I wanted a place where I could do my meal planning and master shopping lists for bigger grocery runs, plan blog posts (or jot down ideas so I might actually write the posts), a “wish list” so as I think of things we need to order to come in with people or bring back I can write those down, a cleaning and organizing chart, a place to check in with my yearly goals, packing lists, menu and planning pages for when we do get togethers at our place… so many things.

As I looked around on Pinterest there were a lot of great, free printable family/home binder planner pages out there, but a lot of them didn’t quite get the job done. Much of the stuff in them didn’t apply to our life here, and most of the stuff I needed wasn’t included. So, I made my own. And I love it! I spent a couple weeks designing all the pages, and being really methodical about what I wanted it it. I made my own dividers, and can add whatever other pages I find I need as the year progresses. Next year I can change dates and see what worked and what didn’t, then make changes accordingly.

The only hitch was that as I was finishing up one of the ink cartridges ran out. As in there was no more fluid in the resevoir. I kept going though, and the print quality wasn’t affected. I decided to wait until Chris’ parents were gone, then put the big printer back together and try to print things on it. Well, when it would work in the way I needed it to I felt frustrated.

Waiting on being able to use this thing, I realized, has had me feeling really disorganized for the last month. And knowing that it’s just been sitting there, and that using it, if I could, would alleviate that feeling has been hard. Using the binder will also mean that I can clean up my work space too, by taking down four clipboards off my wall, giving me more white space and a calmer, cleaner place to do my job. That’s a big deal for me because my “nook is about 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep (have I mentioned how excited I am about getting an actual office at the new property???).

After realizing I wasn’t going to be able to get the big printer to do what I wanted it to do, rather than getting really upset and agitated I made a quick decision to let it go. I set the inkjet up on our kitchen table, went through my computer file of all the pages that are supposed to go in the planner binder, how many I still needed to print off in total, and then decided which were the most important and how many I need to print for the next two months. I then fired a message off to a friend who is leaving next month for a few days and who has already offered to bring something small in and asked if she would be cool with transporting some printer cartridges for us too, that would allow us a bit of breathing room. And on top of that, made plans to make an order to build up our stock here, for Chris to bring back in April. Then, I sat down at the table and I just started printing, telling myself that I would do as much as I could until I couldn’t print any more because the cartridges were EMPTY (another was almost gone, too).

Let me tell you, it was a loaves and fishes situation.

I got all of my essential stuff printed, and a few extras that will allow me to work on stuff into March without having to madly print stuff off in the 24 hours after our friend gets back and I leave on a trip (big excitement to share!). As this was all playing out I felt a layer of stress come off me. I didn’t realize how feeling disorganized and not “together” was affecting me, but when I thought about it I realized I had regularly been thinking about it, whether it was wanting to use it to write a big shopping list or work on next months menu plan, or wishing the “wish list” was in place to be writing down the things I know I need to get when I’m away. Basically not having a place to “dump” all that meant I was trying to remember all of it and my head is very tired.

When Chris came back from a meeting and I explained the status of the big printer the first thing he said was, “You know what? I’m kind of done with it and I’d like to get a new printer that is better for what we need, doesn’t need all these consumable parts and has less cost for the ink.”

And another layer came off. And I realized how big of a source of stress the printer had been for me over the years. Yes, I loved it and the work it would do made my job easier, so I dealt with it, but it has been a headache on and off, and always at the least opportune moments.

We can get everything we want and need for what we do in a much less expensive printer that won’t have the high cost toner cartridges. We can even bring one in our suitcases, rather than having to ship it in. I love how technology keeps advancing.

And, another layer off.

Life here takes so much more work than back home. Even the act of buying the food to feed our family requires more work. Because of location and availability, I have to plan what I buy and when. St. Marc has a large percentage of the things we need and use regularly, but some things we can only get in Port au Prince, so I have to plan specific shopping lists for the once a month trip to the store there that Chris makes. Weekly I need to look through the menu plan I have in order to make the Thursday market list for Yonese. Not planning means we buy fresh fruit and veggies, and they get wasted because we don’t use them before they go bad. Truly fresh food in a warm climate doesn’t have the same shelf life as it does back home.

Yesterday as I was grocery shopping for the first time in a couple of weeks, I got to the cashier and as I got to the end of my haul I realized I exhaled. Had I really been holding a breath and feeling stressed out because I needed to go shopping?

Yes. I had.

Some days it’s getting breakfast ready and realizing we’re out of bread and trying to figure out what to feed Olivia because she doesn’t eat eggs (gag reflex leading to several bad experiences, not because she’s picky). Others it’s trying to figure out what to eat for lunch because we don’t buy a ton of things like deli meat, so sandwiches are harder. Anyway, you get the idea. It just takes more work. And it takes planning because we have to drive 20 minutes to the nearest small store where I can shop for most of the stuff, aside from fresh stuff.

Another layer off.

Today my goal is to spend a bit of time on self-care, doing the things I need to do in order to feel more pulled together. Meal planning for next month. Dumping some of my brain stuff out in the right places. Tidying up my work space. Spending some time working on my women’s Bible study lessons so I don’t get behind.

What are your subtle stressors? What makes you feel like you can decompress a bit?

Ringing In A New Year

It always feels biter-sweet to me to take down the Christmas decorations. Christmas is my favorite time of year. I just love the hunkered down feeling. I always try to take quiet moments and just sit and enjoy the Christmas lights and the quiet that seems to come with winter, even here. When it’s time to put everything away for another year, while I love the fresh clean feeling of space after it’s all down, it’s always hard for me to put things in a box and close the lid for another year. As I did it the other day I just kept thinking about the anticipation come November when it’ll be time to bring it all out again. And then I cleaned! :)

I feel like this year I’m easing into the new year. Usually we come back in a flurry of travel, and have a day or two to unpack and settle back in, then it’s back to work. This year has involved sleeping in, slowly getting things like my 2014 day timer set up, and tidying things and thinking about what I want to see happen in 2014.

I’m not a big “resolutions” fan. They seem fake and like you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment if you can’t do what you set out to do. Over the years I’ve set small goals, and if I don’t make it, it’s okay. As I’m thinking about the year, these are the things that I’ve decided I want to focus my attention on.

Health

Weight Watchers:
I haven’t done an update in a while – maybe two months? The truth is, I hit a road block in November where I hovered at the same weight for over a month. I realized that the issue was I was anticipating the holidays, and all the stuff we would be doing. I love to celebrate the holidays as fully as we can here because I think it adds a sense of normalcy that helps us to feel more at home, so for me this involves having food that is familiar to how we would celebrate back home, just scaled back a bit. This means Christmas treats and special meals like the traditional turkey dinner. My problem was that I was starting to find reasons to not track my food so I wouldn’t feel ashamed about eating the stuff I liked. I finally go to the point where I realized I was sabotaging myself by telling myself I shouldn’t want those things. Most of them are things I wouldn’t normally eat in any major quantity through the year, just at Christmas. I didn’t want my success to date to be for naught, so I got honest with myself and when I realized I was starting to look at tracking my food over the holidays in a negative way I made the choice to stop, and give myself a break. I know that for this to work over the long term I can’t ever let my relationship with Weight Watchers become something that I look at with disdain. So I took a break, and gave myself permission to eat what I wanted for the rest of December without guilt. I weighed myself weekly as I normally would, just to keep tabs on things, and it was a good reminder, but at no point did I tell myself I couldn’t have something. I enjoyed everything, and listened to my body. I also knew that come the beginning of January we would be going back to our normal eating patterns and normal food that was available in the house.

The great news? When I got on the scale this morning to do my weigh in I was less that one pound up from the last time that I was regularly tracking. And today was my “back on track day”. I’ve been having internal conversations with myself to gear up to it and as I woke up this morning it was kind of freeing to know that today was the day to get back into routine. I’m not harboring any negative feelings and am looking forward to getting back on track with things. I know this program works for me, but I also need to give myself space to enjoy life if it’s going to work over the long term.

Drinking Water:
You would think that 8+ years of living in the Caribbean would have me in a place of sufficiently hydrating every day, but sadly, no. Drinking enough water every day is a major challenge for me and I feel the physical effects daily. Often I feel sluggish, and I can get headaches. My first word of advice for anyone else is to drink more water, but I don’t do it enough myself. So, a goal for this year is to make a bigger effort in this department.

Today I downloaded a free app for my phone that lets me check off glasses of water each day, and it has alarms that you can set that go off at your chosen times to remind you to stop and drink. I want to try it through January and see if it helps me get more fluid in my body, and in turn how I feel if I drink enough.

Another part of this is not just hydration, but also replacing electrolytes. Living in Canada I didn’t have an issue with this, but here we sweat a lot more, even with little activity. A person can hydrate, but if we don’t replace those electrolytes our bodies have to work harder. It’s not something I’ve really put a lot of thought into, but a friend here who was drinking a lot of water told me she was still feeling sluggish until she started drinking one glass of Gatorade per day. Chris and I are going to try it and see how it works for us.

Spiritual
I’ve been going to a Bible study weekly with a group of other missionary ladies from our area and I’ve really been enjoying it. I want to be more intentional about working on my Bible study lessons through the week rather than madly working through them the day before so I get more out of them.

I also want to find a good devotional so I can be more regularly reading my Bible. I know it’s key for helping me stay centered in all areas of my life, but often it’s the last thing on my priority list.

Time and Organization

Social Media – Facebook:
I’m becoming less and less in love with Facebook. Recently Chris and I have been really reminded that it’s a very poor platform for conversation. The whole thing has always been funny to me in the sense that I think it gives us a sense of more importance than we really all need. I was hardly ever on it until the earthquake, then it was the fastest and easiest way to keep everyone updated on things here. Since then, it’s just kind of stuck. But, I don’t love it. In fact, when I think about how I use it, I often feel frustrated. I waste a lot of time scrolling through status updates that aren’t always that interesting. I have people on my “friend” list that I never communicate with in “real life”, and because of it I feel limited in what I can share because it doesn’t feel personal any more.

This year I want to be intentional about stepping back from Facebook. I’m not leaving it behind, but rather being more intentional about how I use it. I think limiting myself to one check per day and setting a time limit to it is healthy. It’s so easy to kill hours on there. I also decided that I’m not going to post or get involved in hot button conversations. It’s not the platform for where those “conversations” should be happening. The truth is, a lot of people will say things on the internet that they would never say to someones face, and I don’t want to be part of those conversations any more. I’m going to limit my use of Facebook to occasional status updates and photo postings, and only share the information that I think is truly valuable or important. It’s also a time thing for me. I need to better use my time. Facebook isn’t it.

Blogging:
I know that people love reading our blog, and I enjoy writing it. The problem for me is when I start comparing myself and my blogging to other bloggers. It’s so easy for me to feel inadequate, usually in the realm of how frequently I post, and that there aren’t a ton of pictures. The truth is, I have ideas for blogging all the time. The catch is I don’t often have the time. When I do sit down and blog I am frequently interrupted and it takes even more time to finish a post. This post for example, I’ve been interrupted by the kids more times than I can count. I sometimes have a window in the mornings during the work week where Chris is gone to take Olivia to school, and Alex is happily playing outside, where I can have focused time on the computer. When those moments are there I can get a lot done, but it’s hit or miss. I need to step back and stop feeling like I’m not meeting the mark on this one. Our present reality is that time is limited. Aside from the fact that I’m a wife and a mother to young kids, one of which who is still home during the day, I also have a lot of responsibilities with the mission administratively and otherwise. I just don’t have the time to post more than once or twice a week, no matter how much I like the idea. So, for this year, I’m releasing myself from any expectations and will blog when I feel like it and when I have time. I’m not a professional blogger, I’m a wife, mother and missionary.

Homefront

Menu Planning:
This is something I’ve been doing for years, and I plan on continuing. Where I need to be more diligent is checking the plan in the morning, even earlier in the week, and doing any preparations needed whether it’s making a loaf of bread to have with dinner (I use a great no-knead recipe that literally takes about 10 minutes of work) or looking ahead and making sure I put everything on the weekly market or shopping list that I need so I’m not scrambling come dinner time. We’ve found that meal planning helps to save money, so that’s another big part of it for me. As I plan I want to be intentional about planning meals that are lower cost, but balanced and enjoyable. I can’t tell you how often we talk to people here who talk about a poor diet, yet Haiti is bountiful in fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, rice, various meats… I could go on. Anyway, I want to be more intentional about being prepared, and eating what’s available to us and seasonal. We benefit health wise, and the mission benefits with lower food expenses.

Organization:
I did quite a bit of work last fall to go through the house and purge each room. Now I need to stay on top of it. I’ve already put together a check list for each room that is a great reminder of what needs attention. Yonese is great with helping keep things tidy through the week, but it’s my job to control our stuff. I have a binder that I used to keep myself organized through the holidays, and I plan on making it work year round for general household organization. Part of it will have space for meal planning each month, and there will be the check list to go through the house and stay on top of keeping things organized.

I should say, that over the last year or so I’ve realized that while I like things organized in the sense that I want our house to be organized because it’s small and we need to know that things have their place, where they are, what we need etc, BUT we also need to be able to live here. As in, while I enjoy the 5 minutes post cleaning where everything feels fresh and sparkling and it’s in it’s place, that’s not reality most days. Most days the floor needs to be swept and there are things on the counter that need to be put away and shoes splayed three feet away from the door. That is just the way it is right now. When we build and move to the new land, there will be more space and new ways for us to store things and live. But that is not now. I have to relax to a certain extent and accept that there are four people in our house and we all have different needs. So organized, but not anal about it.

Personal Care

I’m really horrible when it comes to doing things to take care of myself. Little things like actually washing and moisturizing my face. Seriously. So, I want to work on that.

I have back problems, and repeatedly my chiropractor has told me that simply taking the time to stretch certain muscles will do a lot to relieve that. So, I want to work on stretching and see if I can help my body heal. I’m good at complaining about it, but not doing the work to help it get better. Stupid, I know.

I want to finally grow my nails. I’ve been a life long nail biter, but I want to grow them. Not crazy long, but so they look nice. Olivia loves “doing nail polish” and the crazy thing is that Chris has become her go to person to have her nails painted. I like having polished nails and toes, I just don’t take the time to do it. So, I want to do it. I have a bunch of fun new colors and glitter polishes coming with Chris’ parents (thank you Ebay!) to have fun with. When I take the time to polish my finger nails, they grow and I don’t bite them. So, that’s a goal.

I want to be more intentional about looking after my skin. I’m 35. It’s time. I’m not a person who is crazy worried about wrinkles, but also don’t like when my skin feels dry or rough. I know that when I take the time for a day or two in a row to take care of my skin it feels better. Again, it’s a laziness thing. Time to grow up a bit!

Hobbies

Knitting:
I know I’ve mentioned on here that I enjoy knitting and really started to pick it up in the last year or so. It’s relaxing for me and gives me something to do with my hands. I’ve also realized after talking to a lot of people that it’s one of those things that comes naturally to me, and that already in the last year I’ve challenged myself with projects that most people don’t attempt in their first year of serious knitting. I know that for me it’s a case of needing something new to challenge me and keep my interest. After we came back from holidays in August I started working on Christmas stockings. Wow, pushing through to finishing number four was a trial. It was too much of the same thing without a lot of variation. I love how they turned out, but wow, I was happy when they were done.

My goal for this year is to have fun with my knitting and enjoy it. I had set out to make several Christmas presents, but as the holidays got closer and things got busier it became more and more of a burden. I was loathing how much knitting I “needed” to do. Then I realized that I didn’t “need” to do any of it. So I stopped. And I knit a dishcloth, because I needed something different and small and mindless to get my groove back. I switched up the gift giving and no one but Chris and I were any the wiser (except now my parents will be wondering what I didn’t make). And I felt free and enjoyed the holidays without the pressure of be a slave to my knitting needles. A couple of days ago I cast on a sweater for Alex to wear when we go camping. It’s my goal to knit each of us a sweater for the summer, but that’s a loose goal. And it might sound crazy to want that for the summer, but when we go camping mornings are often very chilly for us because of the fact that we live in the Caribbean, so having something to bundle up in until it warms up is needed. And, we can wear them when we go home in the winters. Anyway, I’m having fun on Alex’s sweater and am anticipating the yarn coming with my in-laws for Chris and I. I love the words “If you’re going to spend two plus months knitting a sweater, you might as well use good yarn!” Especially when they’re uttered by my husband :) (As an aside, if you know anything about Chris and his “special” sweater, you’ll understand what a big deal it is for him to have actually asked me to make him a sweater…) So, knit more and have fun with it. If I need a break from one thing, cast on something else that is exciting.

Photography
I won’t lie. At least once a day I find myself thinking, “My new camera is coming, my new camera is coming!” I’m so excited that it’s coming with Chris’ parents :) But, it also means I need to be committed to actually working on how to use it well. I had so much fun playing with our friends camera when we did our family pictures that it has me completely excited to get mine. I want to be intentional about learning how to use it well, and practicing with it regularly. And, it doesn’t hurt that I have two super cute subjects to practice with. I also want to set the time aside to work on editing those photos and actually sharing them. Ahem. So, maybe you’ll see more pictures on the blog this year… That is, whenever I get around to posting them because I’m not pressuring myself, remember? :)

So those are the big things for 2014. They are gentle and good for me types of things. Things that improve my quality of life and things that are worth working on. No guilt. No shame. No feelings on not meeting the mark. Maybe as 2014 comes to a close 12 months from now I’ll be able to look back on the year and feel a sense of peace and happy accomplishment. Maybe :)

What goals have you set for yourself this year? Do you even set goals, or hate the whole practice all together. 

~Leslie

Monday

The last two weeks have felt anything but productive for me, and it’s funny because it’s not that I haven’t been doing anything. We’ve had a stomach bug, rash and bowel issues going on in our house for various members. Two weeks ago Chris spent two days under the weather, and I was down one day. We had a great weekend, then the kids and I got hit with the same bug so there went the first part of last week.

When I say not feeling productive I guess what I’m saying is that I didn’t get much work done. When I came out of the sick ward I freakishly got this second wind and organized half of our house in one day. Granted, our house is not huge, so we have less stuff, but there were some big projects done, like the storage room… I love walking in there now and knowing where things are, what I need to get, and not having things fall on my head.

Aside from house projects, I’ve been working on some knitting things too. I actually have a pretty big list of stuff I want to get done before the end of the year. Did you know this about me? Not sure if I’ve even mentioned on here that I like knitting. I learned in college from a Martha Stewart magazine article, but never finished that scarf. Last year I earnestly picked things back up and have fully committed. I’ve made a variety of things from dish cloths, a pair of socks, a bag for Olivia (which I hated, by the way), sweaters for my brother and sister in law’s littles, some fun little ornaments and am now working on Christmas stockings. One more to go, and then I can move on to something else. I’ve realized I like variety and totally understand why knitters may have several projects on the go at once. I’m making myself finish these first though because I want them to be all done and ready for when it’s time to decorate for Christmas. Don’t want to be madly finishing one so I can get it up.

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Some teeny, tiny sweaters that will probably be on our tree this year. So hard not to love these!

I have a few more things I want to do before the end of the month. October seems to be my project month, I guess. Stuff like:

  • Work with Yonese and get all the marks on the walls scrubbed off as much as we can. Did this last fall before the property was appraised, but little hands have been busy since.
  • After that’s done, touch up paint around the entire house. It’s been 4.5 years since we moved in, and our walls are off-white, so it’s time.
  • Build a removable shelf to sit above the washing machine so we don’t keep losing things behind it that fall off the side of the bathroom counter. (Our washer is in the bathroom, right next to the sink)
  • Finish sorting the last few cupboards in the kitchen. Did most of them last week and what’s left is simple.
  • Maybe clean and move up another couch???

I do do other things around here besides house projects, just in case you were wondering :) I just haven’t gotten a lot of those other things done in the last week, but hopefully this week I’ll finish some of those things off. It’s my goal to hack through all my back burnered work projects (stuff that has taken a back seat to other things) before the end of November so I can enjoy December and move into the New Year with a clean slate and focus on other things.

On that note, it’s time to get to work! Have a great Monday :)

~Leslie

Enter Me, the Whirling Dervish

You get two posts in one day!!! You’re so lucky :)

Yesterday I slept in a bit to recover from a night up with the kids at various points, and I think it was enough to not only bring me around the sickie corner, but it also must have given me my second wind because somewhere between finishing my eggs and drinking my coffee I decided to tackle a big organization project.

I should back up a second though…

I’ve mentioned that we’re staying in Haiti this year for Christmas. With that in mind, and a few things filling up the calendar, and MY PARENTS COMING TO VISIT (!), I decided to put together a holiday planner/organizer. You know, something to keep gifts sorted, plan certain get togethers and meals, etc. When we have to order things in and plan for several bigger events where I might have to take advantage of trips to Port au Prince, I need to be organized. I just looked around on Pinterest for some ideas, then put together my own pages, printed them on card stock, and stuck them in a binder with dividers for each month. It’s already been really helpful! For example, for the Thanksgiving party, I was able to plan out who was bringing what, what was needed etc, all on one page. Then I could pop it out and carry it around with me as I was getting stuff ready.

In that overall planning process I saw a pin on Pinterest called “50 things to do to organization your home before Christmas”. Or something like that. I pinned it because while we try to keep things fairly organized, sometimes we get busy and there are little things that nag away and we don’t give them the attention they need. I’m also not a spring cleaner, I think because we don’t get that “new” season coming where we want to throw open the windows, air everything out and get the dust bunnies out of the corners. The windows are open every day, and the dust bunnies get attacked regularly. Also, I find September/October is when I seem to want to do most of the organizing tasks around here. I think the coming back from vacation, it’s starting to get cooler, going back to school thing feels like a new season to me, and I tend to have more energy than in the spring when it’s starting to get hot.

Anyway.

I got the idea to take the list as a jumping off point and make an organizing, then upkeep page for each month. Each month has the same tasks on it. October would be the month where any major organization that needed to be done, would get done, then the coming months would just mean quickly revisiting each item to check up on it. If it needs some tidying, it gets tidied. If the organization of the previous month wasn’t working, it can get adjusted. You get the idea. I basically went through each room and thought of what wasn’t typical cleaning and was more of an organizational thing. For example, organizing the kids drawers. This needs to be done monthly. They both get in there and mix things up, and sometimes when Yonese puts clothes away things don’t go where I would put them. So about once a month I take 30 minutes and go through and sort things. It’s also a good time to move anything out that they don’t wear, has stains beyond hope, or doesn’t fit. Anything needing to be moved into rotation does.

One of the biggest, most procrastinated about and complained about projects was the storage room. When we were planning this apartment Otto, our engineer friend who did the designs, added the storage room in. Chris wanted to take it out. I told him it was a non-negotiable because the other house had zero storage built in and I was done with making due. Now we have everything from pantry stuff to fuel conditioner for the Santa Fe in there. Office supplies? Check. Computer parts? Check. Toys and books out of rotation? Check. Craft and sewing supplies? Check. We seriously have a little of everything, and it had gotten to the point where we were just sort of finding a spot and filling it. Things weren’t together, and stuff kept falling on me when I’d go in. I would buy extra things, like ketchup, because I couldn’t see that we already had two in the pantry. I think it had been about 2 years since I’d done a good overhaul. It was time.

So, I started with the stuff closest to the door and went shelf by shelf. Professional organizers say the best thing you can do when organizing a space is to empty everything out, go through it, toss what needs to be tossed, donate what needs to be donated, and decide if what was there and where it was works for you. If not, change it.

I tossed 3 garbage bags of stuff. A lot of it was packaging from consolidating items, or stuff that was broken, outdated, etc. I think when you’re a missionary it’s easy to hold onto things because you might need it “one day”. Things like broken electronics or stuff that’s outdated. Because maybe you’ll need a backup. But then you remember that the reason you got a new router was because they old one didn’t work anymore. Ahem.

So I did it. I went through every section of the room. Took everything out, wiped shelves, sorted, tossed, donated and then reorganized things and even labeled stuff! I realized that the two shelves we have for pantry stuff needed some adjustments. I have a lot of things in baskets already, they just needed some cleaning and sorting. The biggest thing I realized though was that I needed to put the baskets down a shelf and put the stuff that just sits loosely, like cans etc, up a shelf. It’s easy to look down into a basket and see what’s there. I was buying multiples of things, like ketchup though, because I would have had to bend over to see all the way back to the shelf the loose stuff was on. Now that it’s at eye level I can see what we have and what we need easily. The rest of the room saw like being put with like and just basic editing down. Now all the office supplies are on one shelf. The stuff we use the most is closer to the door. Things like that. It’s nice to walk in there and not have things fall on me!

That whole process led to tidying up the cupboard above the linen cupboard, behind our bedroom door, the office shelves (gah!) and our closet. They were all things on the task list, I just wasn’t anticipating doing them all in one day. I realized though, that I’m not one of those people that does 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there like most pro-organizers recommend. I like to take a day and tackle a lot. I feel freer when I do that because I don’t feel like I have another job nagging at me. I LOVE crossing things off the “to do” list. Because of that I literally knocked out half of the list yesterday. I still need to go through my kitchen cupboards and do some tidying and sorting in the kids room, but for the most part I’m done. For the next few months I can go over the list, put things in their places and just stay on top of things.

What always strikes me too, when I do this, is how much was all let out a deep breath. I sometimes think I’m the only one that feels claustrophobic when these things need to be done, but I think it’s because Chris just isn’t as vocal about it. He’s also realizing that what might bug him, like a very full storage room, he’s contributed to. Yesterday as I was going through everything, he was making comments of appreciation. When it was done, he just said thank you, and I knew he meant that he felt like there was breathing space too. I wasn’t going crazy and throwing stuff out, but rather asked him about consolidating and moving some things around so it wasn’t just my project, but something we could both get behind, even if I was doing the work. A few things he just shook his head and said something about not being sure why we even still had the item. I concur. I think we’re both wanting to live more simply, and that means asking ourselves if we really need or use certain things. As our kids get older we’re able to pass on a lot of the stuff that has cluttered our small house. One of the next things to go is our kids dishes. We already use melamine dishes every day, so having extra kid dishes in the house is feeling redundant. Alex is big enough now that he can use regular small forks like Olivia and eat off the same dishes we do. He doesn’t need special cutlery. The only thing we’ll hold on to are sippy cups.

As I’m working through this the thing I keep in mind (or maybe the thing that pushes me?) is the upcoming holidays. I know it might seem crazy since it’s two months until Christmas, but it’s my favorite time of year. I’m looking forward to spending Christmas here in Haiti, even though I’ll miss the typical things we would enjoy back home. I want the time to be fun and restful. I don’t want to feel bogged down by stuff or things that are nagging at me. I can use this time to be going through our house to simplify things so the work load is less. The less you have, and the more organized it is, the less work you need to do. Did you know that I rarely do housework on weekends? I want my weekends to be a time of rest, not a time to get stuff done. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever do it, or that I don’t do projects around the house. I do, but I don’t save it up and do it on the weekend. I think over time as we’ve simplified things and there’s been less work to do, well, there’s been less work to do. When I do find myself doing something, it’s usually sweeping and mopping because the floors are a disaster, or maybe a load of laundry because one of the kids had an issue. We don’t have a dishwasher, so dishes are obviously on the list. My point is, I want to make time to relax and look forward to the holidays, and one of the ways for me to fully do that, is to know that our house is in order.

Do you do any organizational projects in the fall to get ready for holidays?

~Leslie