Now that work is back in full swing, I am loving the "me" time I carve out for myself each morning. I have a set routine that really allows me to fill my glass for the coming day. There is something refreshing and calming about a quiet house. I hear sounds I am never able to hear during the hustle and bustle of the day. The tick-tock of the clock as it moves the time incrementally forward is mesmerizing. The fridge actually hums a song to greet me each and every morning. There are no people or chores vying for my attention. This allows me time to accomplish my daily -five, many beginning with the prefix re-. Dictionary.com defines the prefix re- as, "verbs beginning with re- indicate repetition and restoration." Both repetition and restoration are key to me staying grounded during the school year.
Morning is an amazing time to reconnect with the Creator. The fajr prayer is often an overlooked prayer, as it is one in which many find difficult to roll out of bed. However, I think it is the one that I feel most vulnerable and open to receiving guidance from Allah. The amount of gratitude that I feel for being given a new day and new opportunities is transformative. The quiet tranquility of the morning seems to resonate with dhikr as it rolls off the tongue after prayer. I also feel that it is a perfect opportunity to read the Quran and gain wisdom from it. As the day begins to pick up speed, much of what might have been learned can be clouded as life becomes a distraction. After prayer, I often take an opportunity to reflect and reassess through my planner so that I can see exactly what I need to focus on during the day. It feels really amazing to go forward with the day having direction and a plan. Reading time is my favorite time of the morning. However, it is also the time that I most often neglect. Words are incredibly powerful and moving, and I believe they can have an amazing impact on your day. I love to read anecdotes and inspirational stories in the morning. This is a really good time to check out blogs that you find uplifting. Anything to give a positive spin on the day. Finally, I focus on rejuvenation. It is important for me to be in the state physical state that I was the day before. A quick shower and a great breakfast is a perfect way to accomplish this.
As you can see, I didn't go in depth into my morning routine. This is definitely the skeleton of how it goes. As a mom of two girls, it doesn't always happen completely or in this order. However, maybe it gives you something to think about. How do you utilize your morning time to present your best to the world?
I truly thought this was going to be a test in patience. I remember when my girls were younger and we made plans to travel. So much of our time was consumed with meeting their needs while trying to retain some enjoyment in the vacation. The amazing thing about traveling with adolescents is that they don’t require as much attention as they did when they were younger. Surprisingly, they actually enjoyed the experience of the vacation better than they did when they were children. Let me take an opportunity to share some of the things I learned on our road trip this summer.
This is the first time that we have really tried to include the girls in choosing our daily activities. I also think it was the first time that we didn’t engage in a battle if they didn’t like our suggestions. While we were visiting Mesa Verde, both my husband and I wanted to take a tour that required climbing latters, being in confined places, and involved a great deal of walking. The girls were okay with the walking but we learned that both suffered from a bit of claustrophobia. Instead we opted for a self-paced tour that my husband and I had taken 14 years before. It was really nice to reminisce about that trip while making new memories with our girls during the current trip. I learned that vacations are not just about what I want as a parent. It’s the girls’ vacation as well and they have a right to enjoy the experience.
We always stay in hotels during the actual road trip. We always try to find a facility that has an indoor pool and continental breakfast. The breakfast helps prepare for a day of driving and makes budgeting for food a lot easier. Once we have reached our destination, we switch over to vacation homes for lodging. This is perfect for our family because it gives off the feeling of being at home. Once we have arrived, we stop at the local store and stock up on meals that I have planned for our stay. We keep it super simple. At this point, the only meal that I usually purchase out is lunch. This gives us an opportunity to sample some local fare and sometimes eating out locally can be part of the adventure.
I really tried to encourage my clan to travel light this year. Our oldest definitely deserves an award for the achievement of family minimalist. One of the blessings of renting a vacation home is that we always have an opportunity to do laundry. Each of us were allowed to bring a duffle bag or backpack. After seeing how we packed, I know we can make it on a longer, farther vacation. Minimizing our things also impacted our stress level. The less stuff you have, the less likely you are to leave it behind. I can’t stress enough the need to minimize your expectations of the trip. I found that just letting go of all my lofty expectations really freed me to enjoy the trip. I remember spending an afternoon on the porch with my daughter practicing the art of selfies. Some of the pictures we took were hilarious. I know that we created memories that we can look back on and get a good chuckle out of. I found that letting go eased tension and helped me to really see the value of the relationships I have with my family.
So I encourage each of you to take time to travel. Seek opportunities to see the beauty of our blessed creator. I can’t tell you how many times I felt in awe of a mountain or a field of beautiful, colorful flowers. I was mesmerized by the knowledge that He has imparted upon us to create communities and connections with our natural surroundings. Sharing these experiences with those you hold dear is a very beautiful and rewarding thing.
Why take on this project?
Several years ago, I actually completed an overhaul of my pantry. I wouldn't say that my pantry has fallen back on hard times, but it just needed a go over and an organizational push in the right direction. Over the summer, I have really tried to analyze where our money was being spent and if there were any ways that I could be a better manager of it. I realized quickly that we were throwing our money away with the food we were also wasting. Since I didn't necessarily have a clear plan for weekly meals, we were also throwing a large chunk of money away on eating out. Our fast food lifestyle was definitely not good on our wallets or our family's health. Not only were we compromising the quality of food we were eating, we were not sitting down together as a family. And if there is one thing I learned this summer, it's that our meal time really demonstrates the pulse of our family. I can find out more in 20 minutes of dining with them than at any other time during the day. So after making this analysis, I was ready to attack my pantry and fridge and make them more family meal friendly.
MEAL PLANNING 101
This is something you will have to carve out a chunk of time for. Be prepared to do some planning and it will completely help you focus on your shopping trips and help you cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen during the week.
SETTING UP MY KITCHEN
I had an idea that if I could just create a space in my pantry for the meals I am cooking each day of the week, life would be so much easier. So that is what I did. I actually created areas in my pantry for different types of food: canned foods and dry foods, baking materials, spices, and cereals. The important thing for me, however, was being able to see everything in my pantry. I then bought 6 wire bins that fit perfectly on the shelves, placing a number tag that corresponded to my meal plan list on the front, which made finding ingredients a breeze. Now, if I am making roast on the first day, I can easily find all my cooking items within that bin. No more digging around the pantry trying to locate things. The best thing about this organization plan is that my family is not allowed to touch anything in the bins. So those beautiful Hawaiian Rolls in basket 3 are off limits. I sort of have to protect certain things from being eaten before their time.
Truly organizing the kitchen has transformed our weekly meals. Planning ahead for the week has seriously impacted my stress level, family time, and wallet in a positive way. I feel as if I have more time and energy to get a good meal on the table knowing that everyone is going to be satisfied. I feel it is important to put a disclaimer here. This does not ensure that everyone is going to love the meal. We have a rule that meals will be revisited if at least 3 out of the 4 people at the table like it. If someone doesn't want to partake in the meal for that evening, they are still obliged to sit with us for dinner and make themselves a peanut butter sandwich. Of course I would love to hear feedback or feel free to share your ideas on how you have organized your meal times.