Parenting

My Chalkboard Sanity Wall

I finally got my chalkboard wall. Seriously. I started prepping this wall in my kitchen over a year ago.

A YEAR AGO.

When we had just moved into our home back in 2005 and my kiddos were one and three - I was totally overwhelmed with the move and hired a painter. I LOVE to paint. I've never hired a painter, but I realized my limits with two toddlers and a whole house to unpack. Sadly that painter reminded me of WHY I'd never hired a painter (horror stories abound), as he painted over wallpaper in our kitchen that he was supposed to remove first. Almost 2 years ago I got the bug (ummm ok, inspiration?) to paint a chalkboard wall in our kitchen, so I stripped the wall and there it sat. About 90% stripped. The remainder needed a heat gun to remove and well, a ladder, and time - and thus 18 months passed and there sat the ugly wall. Guests came and went - and there sat the ugly wall. Sounds kinda like the life of a busy mom who works, cleans, cooks, and runs the household! 

Enter my amazing client, Erika, who LOVES to paint. She's my soul sister in her belief in the prep work (90% prep, 10% actual painting)! She offered to paint that wall for me and darn if that didn't inspire me to get my heat gun out, ladder, scraper - and finish that remaining 10%. I patched the holes - she primed and painted it over the course of a week while I was at work and here you go, my new sanity saver: 

I've been playing around with it for a few weeks, and at this moment I'm trying out my kids chores on the left. The chores flip weekly so each Sunday we simply switch the initial above the chores they are responsible for.

So there is NO confusion, NO arguing (um, right - like that EVER happens!). 

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On the bottom right I'm trying out a list of my go-to entree inventory. Close up below: 

I plan my dinners out weekly. On an ideal week I set aside a few minutes on Thursday to look at the upcoming week, see what I have on hand that needs to be used, balance my work and kids activities with my availability to cook - and the weekly meals are planned. If all goes as planned I am able to do my shopping Friday or Saturday, batch cook one or two things on Sunday and I've can start the week with a plan. 

In my household my husband is a far more talented cook than I am; he really earns the title of Chef. I'm FAR from that, but that's a whole separate blog post. We divide up the dinner duties so that I am responsible for dinner M-F (when he is commuting 3 hours round trip to work), and he cooks Sat/Sun. He usually tries to make at least one of those dinners big enough to have leftovers for me to plan on for a weekday meal - BONUS. 

You'll notice little notations (the letter U) beside some of the entrees. Those indicate our upstairs freezer, as opposed to our full size basement freezer. This helps me when I need to grab that entree - to know which freezer to look in. I could NEVER survive my cooking at home, and striving to serve my family nutritionally dense food, if I didn't have an extra freezer. It also falls into the category of sanity saver. 

Just in case you're inspired to paint your own chalkboard wall here's a great website to reference. And by the way, guess where I got my chalkboard paint? ALDI! For 3.99 can. LOVE me my random Aldi finds! Now it's something they may never carry again (it was a special buy) so in case you're itching to get started and don't want to hit your local Home Depot, I'll link to some of my favorite tools that can be found on Amazon:

I've been using chalk I ordered on Amazon (simply because I didn't want to spend time running to/from the store - and there's the small issue of going into Target or Staples means I'll come out having found 67 other things I just HAD to have)...

These are seriously my most favorite brushes EVER!

The Best $5 I've Ever Spent...

Years ago meditation was suggested to me as a coping tool for anxiety. 

My response: "Um NO. I don't have the time for that." My counselor just smiled and let me sit there with my resistance, my refusal to even contemplate TRYING meditation. 

It would be several years before I was even willing to try. I started and stopped a bunch of times. I tried and never found any mediation "tools" that worked. I had a really big misconception about meditation. 

I thought I had to do it perfectly. I thought if my mind wandered away from the meditation ... it meant I had failed. 

A few years ago a client shared with me that he had been using this app to facilitate his guided meditations. Now this isn't some Birkenstock wearing, long haired crystal squeezing hippy. Insert disclaimer here: I have long hair, love my birkenstocks and have nothing against crystals; just using the above to paint a mental picture of what this guy isn't...

 

This guy owns a Porsche, and a Lexus, and a Mercedes, is in wealth management and wears custom made suits. He raved about the app he was using, Buddhify. He had such positive things to say about it that I purchased it that day. It's a flat $5 one time fee.  This was over two years ago and I haven't tired of it yet. 

It has the prettiest color wheel with a diverse assortment of meditations you can use in different circumstances. There is a wonderful variety of voices, and I love the variety of lengths, especially so many short 4-6 min meditations to fit anywhere into the day. 

Here are just a few:

Going to sleep

Waiting around

Pain/ Illness

Difficult emotions

Eating

At home

Traveling

 

Once you tap on the category you want to explore, you have options within each category. Each one tells you the length of the meditation. 

The meditations vary in length, with most averaging from 4 to 7 minutes. Some are around 10-12 minutes, and a few even longer ones. This app truly has something for everyone. 

I've even gotten my kids to use several of the going to sleep meditations. FADE is their favorite. It's come in very handy when we are traveling and in a hotel room. 

Studies show "there’s evidence that it (meditation) may reduce blood pressure as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people who have had ulcerative colitis. It may ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and may help people with insomnia."1

A few minutes a day, or even a few times a week, is worth experimenting with and seeing if you perceive any benefits. I've also used Headspace which requires a monthly subscription, and Smiling Mind (which is free). I always gravitate back to Buddhify. Buddhify guided meditations have so much compassion built into them they helped me overcome my feeling that I had to be a perfect (non-mind wandering) meditator. 

I find I can approach parenting and stressful situations with far more calm than when I don't prioritize a few minutes of guided meditation. I encourage you to try it and see what you discover.

Coach G


1: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm#hed3

It Doesn't Happen By Accident

 

The fine folks at Precision Nutrition (PN) have an awesome little saying: "Unless you're lucky enough to live at a health spa or have your own personal chef: Eating well doesn't happen by accident. So, you have to make it happen with planning and prep."

What is meal planning? And how do you do meal planning?

At its' essence ... Meal planning is whatever way you organize yourself to cook a meal, whether that's breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is the plan you make before you shop. For some - it's the plan they make after they shop. Whatever works for YOU; neither is right, or wrong. At its very basic level meal planning takes effort, consciousness, intention. Meal planning doesn't really happen by accident, just like saving for retirement requires some forethought, some intention, some effort and eventually a destination, a goal amount. But I digress...

Some people plan a week in advance or a month in advance, freezing neatly-labeled packets of soup and stew. Others may wing it, shopping for that evening's meal at the grocery or farmers' market and picking up whatever looks good to them. Meal planning is a truly personal thing. What works for you may not work for me. The goal is to find a process that is both enjoyable and effective.

Perhaps you have no plan. That was definitely me in my younger days. I spent my 20's and my 30's as a Flight Attendant for a major airline. In those days my version of a meal plan was to buy a 6 pack of Thomas Blueberry bagels, toss them in my suitcase, and live off of those, and airplane food, for the course of 3-4 days. I never thought about planning a meal. I just went to the store occasionally, bought things, and would look in the fridge around meal time and feel lost. This was seriously me even just a mere 14 years ago as a new Mom.

There was even a pivotal "come to Jesus moment" my husband had with me around the hot dogs, veggie burgers and cereal for dinner that I came to rely on as a new Mom. These options were the extent of my go-to repertoire for meals. He grew up with family dinners around a family table. I did not. I truly did not know any different. But this is a story for another blog post...

Now ... Fast forward to 2016 and I've tried a lot of different ways to meal plan. Along the way I've learned to cook a whole lot more and I enjoy the process now, which helps! I've morphed into THAT person who has a white board on my fridge and uses it to sketch out my meals for the week based on my schedule. This may be you - and perhaps you too have evolved your own finely tuned system that's working for you. If so - smashing. Keep on keeping on and consider sharing any of your survival tips in the comments.

 

My Version of My Meal Sanity Saver for the Weekdays: Here I normally list the proteins I have on hand to make meals from, anything I need to use up (like the goat cheese), plus my meals listed for the weekdays (burgers, gumbo, pork chops, thighs). I normally list any produce I have on hand so I can think ahead to the veggie sides I'll prepare. I also LOVE to make large portions so we can eat leftovers several times throughout the week. My husband cooks on Sat/Sun, so that planning isn't on this board. 

Or ... Perhaps you aren't one to have a white board with menus written out for every day of the week. Perhaps the old version of me resonates with you, or you fall somewhere in between. Consider for a moment where you currently fall on the spectrum of meal planning. One "split the distance approach" is to purchase the staples (e.g. Chicken, ground turkey, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, spinach, eggs) and throw them together into an easy, spur of the moment meal. The upside? No complicated recipe to follow. The downside? You may end up eating the same meals (e.g. scrambled eggs with spinach, greek yogurt with nuts, cottage cheese with fruit, turkey burgers, canned tuna over spinach) again and again, and get bored. If you are a planner (like me) this "not-knowing" may stress you out, but if that is the case you may already be leaning more towards my whiteboard approach, even if it means repeating some go-to meals/combos.

Consider what action you might take today to move a little bit further along towards planning your meals. Perhaps you can scour around for some recipes and put together a grocery list for non-staple items that you may need for those recipes. Maybe the first step is to simply start with tonight's dinner. ONE meal, because this mere concept stresses you out. Or perhaps you want to simply start by planning ONLY your dinners for the week, or your breakfasts. Think about your style ... Are you a planner? A non-planner? Or an in-betweener? If you need a template to start working with check out The Sisters Cafe for several downloadable and printable options. The basic template can be used to sketch out just one set of meals for the week (think breakfast, lunch OR dinner), along with a separate grocery list. Or you can go "all-in" and pick the template that has you plan all 3 meals; at the bottom is a spot to make your shopping list.

Remember, eating well doesn't just happen. It doesn't happen by "accident." What has your meal planning style been? And as my friends at PN also are fond of saying ... How's that working for ya?

Coach G.