Popping in to say Hi

I’ve been quiet here. The second half of this year has been pretty full, even a bit stressful and as a family we’ve had to shift and reshuffle to adjust to yet another season.

Families move through seasons. It’s natural. Ours seem to change thick and fast; such are the dynamics of raising teens alongside toddlers, I think. It’s not all bad. We just need to regularly stop, catch our breath and regroup, lest we become overwhelmed.

My life was brought sharply into perspective a few weeks ago. Although Amié could have waited to write her matric next year, she wanted to get it over and done with and so, with an intense increase in pressure and workload, the preparations for exams began in August. It had been one of “those” days, ferrying her to and from flute exam rehearsals and tutoring sessions, in between supervising Jess’s schooling and music practice (for two music exams), trying to manage the demands of a busy household all the while wrangling two toddlers who seem to find new and creative ways to get up to mischief the moment my back is turned.

Amié had just finished her 4th tutoring session of the day and we were inching home in rush-hour traffic, admittedly with a stunning sunset to admire, courtesy of Johannesburg’s smog. Amié got her learners license a while back so I was talking her through lane-changing and following distance and Cael and Cadence were voicing their disapproval of yet another car-seat confinement, probably their 10th that day, from the back. I realised I was travelling in my own car as a passenger, with my eldest capably at the wheel beside me while my youngest wailed loudly behind me, wanting “drinkles” (she’s still nursing) and a nappy change.

In that moment I wondered if this was the sort of scenario playing through peoples minds when they questioned how sanely I had made the decision to have more children when, with our girls then aged 9 and 13, we could have been free, clear and done, our children adults and out of the home by the time we were 40?

I see their point.

But we’re having fun. Most car trips are more jovial, even exciting, as the very sight of an orange Putco bus ignites squeals of “LOOOOK!!!!! BUS!!!!” from our baby, and being stuck behind a cement truck or brick lorry is hardly a hardship, on the contrary, travelling in its wake at 20km/h gives us all the more time to admire it with our truck-loving boy! And it’s cool to have my daughter drive me around. And she thinks it’s cool to drive her siblings around. And it’s kind of neat to think that while one daughter finishes school, another will start potty training.

Some say it takes a village to raise a child; I have come to believe it takes a family to get a homeschooled teen through matric. Every one of us have played a role, in some way, every day. Some days have gone better than others, and with the end of the exam-road in our sights, I dare say we’ve all been on a learning curve, together, and it hasn’t been all academic.

So yes, it has been busy. Some days pass in a whirl, others drag, but none are dull. Amié has 4 more exams left and we’re talking through choices and decisions for next year, like will she live at home, will she continue piano lessons and how much paying work will she manage alongside her studies. Jess will start highschool. Boy will begin violin and Baby will join in almost all of the above, toddling in and out of rooms and activities as her interest leads. Andrew will hopefully grow his business and continue his degree. We hope the Lord will present more opportunities for us to serve and love others and trust our current work among the youth and young adults will continue to bear fruit.

So I don’t think life in the Timberlake home will be slowing down much. But that’s okay. It’s good work. The kind the leaves you exhausted but fulfilled. The best kind.

I love my family. I love the crazy age gaps. I love the journey.

Tea-parties & art classes – REALLY?

A few days ago someone said something that really got to me. In fact, its been chewing me up quite badly.

She commented that her husband  must now work and save extremely hard (he is in his 60s) because of all the years he “had the kids and no support”. What she meant by this is that this man’s first wife was unable to work as the result of severe, untreatable illness, so his was the only income in his household.

This was not the first time she has made such comments. She has often spoken about how “unfair” it is that some husbands are solitary earners in their households, and speaks of their wives as “lazy” and “useless” and “enjoying tea parties and art classes all day”.

And yes, she speaks of these things, in a tone of utter disdain, to me, a wife whose husband is our household’s solitary earner. Does she do it because she knows I’m different? No. She does it because really values her own opinion and she wants everyone to know very clearly what her opinion is and to make anyone who doesn’t fit her mold of ‘acceptable’ feel very small.

So I wanted to correct her. To tell her that quite contrary to being lazy, I actually work very hard. That Andrew and I are a team – he works hard to earn the money, I work hard to stretch it really far. I wanted to tell her about our savings accounts and investment plans, that, ahem, (and you can ask Andrew – he’ll be the first to agree), I am to thank for. He is the big spender here, I am the saver. Those savings have been carefully carved out of a modest budget and purposefully set aside through some very careful planning and spending on my part.

I wanted to sit her down with a calculator and show her how much it would cost to send our children to school (no such thing as free education in South Africa), how much the uniforms and fuel for the car and classroom supplies and field trips would all add to that. And then compare that figure to what I would earn if I went out to work instead of homeschooling them. I have no higher education. My earning capability is basic, at best. I’m not proud of that, but I’m not ashamed of it either. It just is what it is. The truth is, with four children, I would need to earn the same as Andrew to afford to send our children to school.

Tea parties and art classes are nowhere to be found in my schedule. Nope. My schedule is full of things like piano, violin and flute lessons, swimming classes, horse riding lessons, youth clubs, getting our eldest daughter to her babysitting jobs. When it came to fitting child-related activities into her schedule, they would have taken the form of  “mid-term break: collect X from boarding school”.

What is more, my schedule frequently involves running errands for Andrew and doing other things that help and serve him. Quite the opposite to abusing my man by making him work so hard and using all that free time all for myself, I actually do things for him.

But truthfully, I would be wasting my time and efforts if I engaged her on this subject. Her mind is made up.

So why did it bother me so much?

I don’t know. It could be because I know there is nothing wrong with how we have set up our lives. It could be the frank and open insult. It could be that this all seems very rich coming from a woman who has such strong opinions on right and wrong in marriage but her own ended very sadly in bitter divorce after her husband had an affair.

Probably the closest reason I can get to is that no one has any right to tell anyone else how to live their lives. We can have ideas and opinions, but they are our own and we have no place forcing them onto anybody else. Andrew and I love the way we have set up our lives. It works very well for us. He doesn’t feel unsupported or that it is unfair that he brings in our income alone. In fact, there are times when I have considered picking up part-time work and actually, he really prefers me to be fully available and focussed on our home and family.

So now I just need to take a deep breath and, in my thoughts at least, tell this person to take a hike. We’re happy. We’re different. But we’re happy. Our life works for us. So deal with it.

* It is also worth mentioning that the man who, in her opinion, needs to work and save harder is actually extremely wealthy and without debt and has, by his own admission, plump retirement accounts. He harbours no hard feelings against his first wife (who died many years ago) because she couldn’t work.

Meal Preparation for Busy Moms: How?

Every family needs to eat. My family actually really enjoys eating, and the act of sitting down to meals together is part of the rhythm of our family that we all value.

Most mothers provide meals of some kind for their family most days. Some moms make regular use of fast food and drive-thru meals, others rely on ready-meals purchased from a supermarket while others cook a meal of some kind every night.

For me, preparing daily meals for my family isn’t drudgery or a chore and I used to cook every night. I never indulged in fancy recipes or ingredients but for several years heartily enjoyed preparing a meal every single night for Andrew and our two girls. But, as Amie and Jess have grown older and we’ve added two babies to our family, the limits on my time have been stretched far beyond what I ever anticipated. It may be hard to believe, but, with the demands of a large busy home and homeschooling family, preparing a cooked meal every day has become almost impossible.

Life changes……

In the last two weeks of my pregnancy before Cael was born I prepared a few meals and froze them. There are no words to describe how grateful I was for those meals while adjusting to having a new (and somewhat demanding) little baby in our home! I was also grateful to have taken the time to teach Amie how to make a few basic meals. Between her, the meals I prepared in advance and the kindness of a few friends who brought us meals, we didn’t starve during Cael’s first few months and we didn’t subsist on take-away either.

That was when I realized that having a few meals stashed in the freezer helps on so many levels.

It helps prevent dinners of toast or fast food on days when, for whatever reason, preparing an evening meal just isn’t going to happen. It helps make the most of ingredients that are selling inexpensively. It also saves energy, both electricity and mom-power, because the same or only slightly more energy is needed to prepare double or triple the amount of food  in the same amount of time.

So how is it done?

Some ladies take the Once-A-Month-Cooking (OAMC) approach when, over 1 or 2 days, they’ll shop for and prepare a full months worth of meals to be stashed in the freezer and reheated as needed each day. Some use their crock pots to make this even easier, such as Katie at Who needs a Cape? and Kirstin at kojoDesigns. I’ve never tried this but can see the appeal.

Some, like FishMama, have freezer cooking days where, every so often, they prepare several meals or meal components for the freezer, but not necessarily a full months worth. Her new book, Not Your Mothers Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook, is selling well and is a good resource for anyone wanting to get started or learn more about freezer cooking.

Crystal over at Money Saving Mom used to approach freezer cooking days like FishMama but, with the busyness of 3 children and homeschooling, found that it was simply no longer practical to take 1-2 full days out of her schedule to shop, prepare for and cook/bake several freezer meals. She now schedules frequent mini freezer cooking sessions, where she aims to cook 2, 3 or perhaps 4 different things that will take around an hour of her time.

That is a nice idea but……

For this season, setting aside even a full, uninterrupted  hour to cook a few meals can be asking too much of me some weeks! I needed to find yet another way to feed my family tasty, healthy, inexpensive meals every day without cooking every day or for 2 whole days every month!

Join me again and I’ll share more about how I do it!

 

See more posts in my Meal Preparation for Busy Moms series:

Meal Preparation for Busy Moms

Meal Preparation for Busy Moms: How?

Meal Preparation for Busy Moms: How I do it

Meal Preparation for Busy Moms: Building a supply of freezer meals the easy way

 

Meal Preparation for Busy Moms

Managing a home and family can be tiring. Added to our primary roles of wife and mother are a myriad of other interests, pursuits and responsibilities, all of which demand our energy and attention. I often feel like I just don’t have enough hours in the day to get through even a fraction of what I’d like to accomplish!

I am constantly looking to improve how I do things in order to manage my family well and still have time to pursue my interests and involvement in Church. I know I am not alone. Wives and mothers can become quite weary as the pace of life seems to be increasing to ridiculous levels and our days just get fuller and busier.

Mom, whats for dinner?

One thing most mothers are responsible for every day is feeding their family. We desire to serve healthy, tasty meals that fit within a budget, and most of us also value time as a precious resource. Regardless of how busy (or sick or sad or tired) we are, our family needs to eat and that question will always be asked, usually around 5pm in our house: “Mom, what’s for dinner?”.

I’ve been asked numerous times for tips and advice (and even a book!) about how I approach meal preparation. So, I thought I’d write a few posts about this topic.

What to expect:

I’ll chat about how I manage preparing meals for my family that are:

-simple but tasty,

-easy to prepare in bulk (2-4 family servings at a time),

-freeze well, and

-are reasonably healthy.

We all have differing ideas about what healthy is and these ideas suit what I believe is healthy enough for my family.

In addition, I work within a tight budget so keeping costs down is an underlying theme, and I’ll share how I do, that together with some meal plans and recipes.

Please share your own ideas with me and other readers. I’m always looking to learn more and try new things!

 

See my other posts on Meal Preparation for Busy Moms Here:

Meal Preparation for Busy Moms: How?

Meal Preparation for Busy Moms: How I do it

Meal Preparation for Busy Moms: Building a supply of freezer meals the easy way