Monday, 27 June 2011

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? What the heck is that thing anyway?

It is a well known fact that one of the most effective ways to achieve great things is to have a know, the whole "if you fail to plan you plan to fail" thing....but when you have seven kids, sitting down to write a mission statement and a set of S.M.A.R.T. goals is not necessarily easy to do no matter how you feng shui your environment. However, with seven kids things tend to get slightly busy so having some sort of organizational strategy is pretty important to keep things from ending up in a complete and utter catastrophic failure. At the very least, it helps keep our laundry on track.

So the third instalment in this three part series on balancing time, life and everything in between, is about the the power of WRITING LISTS.

Basically, if you want anything to get done around our house you have to write it down. If you don't write it down, you run the risk of loosing the idea of that which you wanted to have done in the ocean of other things that swim in the current of time.....sort of like my train of thought right now......where was I again?

Oh yeah.

Writing lists has become a pretty important part of our daily, weekly and monthly routines. Everything from, "buy milk" to, "remember to change the toilet paper" goes on one of many different lists we have going on around the house. You should see my "honey do" list. In fact, writing lists has saved us literally HUNDREDS of dollars at the grocery store! In a later post I will talk about how meal planning saves us time, money, and reduces food wastage (which is one of my all time pet peeves).

Here's how it works: when you write your list before you go grocery shopping, and stick to it, you drastically reduce the amount of impulse buying you engage in. However if you like cookies, or chips, then just make sure that you put it on the list! We don't buy chips but we make pop corn...not the microwave kind, but old school, on the stove top pop corn. $2.99 buys enough popcorn to last a few months.

If you have ever felt like you were stuck in a rut, it is probably because you did not have a clear idea of where you wanted to go next. Writing lists is a powerful way to get your life going in the direction you want it to go. It is sort of like making a road map as opposed to a set of directions. Directions are good to a point, but if the road is blocked you will not know where to go. With a map it is possible to see alternate routes. And besides, if you do not know where you want to go, how will you know when you get there? If you had a list of desirable destinations you could check them off one at a time.

When you have a list, you can jump ahead if one task can't be done right away. Also there is something quite satisfying about looking at a list of items, or tasks you were able to check off.

Now there are lists and there are are some pointers that have kept me off the naughty list...although these days the only lists that I seem to be on are (junk)mailing lists.

  • Keep things simple: if a list gets too complex, then it is an indicator that you need to break things down into more manageable chunks.
  • Check things off once you have done them: the thing about having a million things to do is that at times it seems overwhelming, but there is a psychological response to checking things off.
  • Distinguish between the macro and the micro: where you want to be in five years time goes on a different list than "buy eggs this week"
  • Keep a list journal as opposed to having random pieces of paper...this will cut down on clutter, and it serves as a handy dandy reference....very useful for winning arguments...but who's arguing?
  • If you are writing a list for your life plan, keep in mind that if you make a 5 year plan today, 365 days from now it should be a four year plan...otherwise you have not made any progress.

Right. So now that this nowhere near exhaustive, brief introduction to how we manage our time is done, I can check it off my list of possible blog posts.

Next week: Leaps of Faith and sayings I never thought would come out of my mouth.....


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Ordered living: you want fries with that?

This weeks post is about ordered living. But should you read this thinking that our house runs like a well oiled machine, or a fine orchestra with all the parts moving in perfect harmony, I can assure you that it does not. Our house sounds more like Jazz. Not the Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble kind of jazz, more like Avant Garde experimental jazz; The kind of jazz where it seems to be going in a certain direction and then the musician climbs into the piano and starts playing the strings with his teeth.

Ordered living is the second principle in this, the second post in the three part series on managing time and balancing life.

Basically it works like this: life tends to run more smoothly when things are in order. On a physical level, when everything is in its place, on a personal level, when you have your priorities straight, and on a spiritual level, when you are harmony with the with your higher power....check that, when you are in harmony with the HIGHEST power. If you feel stressed, especially financially, there is a strong chance that one or more of these aspects of your life is not in order.

Think about it this way: nothing is more frustrating, at least to me, when a job that should only take 5 minutes or so, ends up taking two hours because the tool needed for the job was not in the place it was supposed to be. I am getting stressed-out right now just thinking about it.........

Once again I am going to reference the teachings of Catherine Dorhety, who taught: order, simplicity and consistency. In other words, in order to establish order, keep things simple, and consistent.

Lets face it, million dollar corporations spend big bucks and tons of resources to maximize efficiency. It is ironic that we don't spend as much time as we should trying to maximize the efficiency of our homes, and I'm not just talking about minimizing energy consumption.

Here is the math:

Lets say that you make a salary of $75 000/ year.
That is roughly about $1500/ week (assuming you take 2 weeks vacation)
That puts your hourly rate at $37.50/ hour.

Divide that by 60 and you make roughly $0.625/ min

Now let's take time spent wasted because you forgot to put something back where it was supposed to be. If you spend ten minutes looking for it, you waste $6.25 of your time! If you do that once a day, five days a week, that is $1562.50/ year worth of your time!

Now granted there are things that you will not be able to control that will take up a lot of your time. But the bottom line is, time spent dealing with disorder, is time taken away from your kids.

How much is that worth?

Next week: Now what was I supposed to do again? The power of writing lists.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Right about now if you hurry......

Before we get started with this week's post, I just wanted to say thanks to D for letting me know where to find blueing agent! I will let you know how it goes when I get around to it.

Which brings me to the topic at hand....time. Specifically, balancing time between work, home, time with kids, "me" time, couple time, taking out the trash, doing the laundry........

There just was not enough time to write about all of these things in one post, and even if there was, I am sure that it would be so long that most of you would not have the time to read it. Which would then make the effort spent in writing this week's blog a big waste....of time!

So in the interest of keeping things simple, (you thought I was going to make another time reference didn't you?) this is going to be the first of a three part series about managing time....or at least how we manage our time between seven kids, dance class, martial arts lessons, church picnics, etc.

The guiding principle we use to help us balance our time and the rest of life comes from the writings of Catherine Doherty, who founded the Madonna House religious community; it's called, "The Duty of the Moment".

The Duty of the Moment involves asking yourself the following questions:

1) Are you doing what you are supposed do be dong right now?
2) If the answer is "Yes", then are you doing it to the BEST of your ability with great love for God?

Incidentally if the answer to question 1 is no, then you better stop what you are doing and get to what you should be doing!

Think about it this way: to succeed at anything you need to "show up" i.e. You can't expect to win if your head is not in the game. The same goes for any aspect of life. You can't be a good father if your head is still at the office. Just because you don't have any paperwork with you does not mean that you aren't bringing your work home with you. Your duty of the moment is about where you are right now. Sometimes it means reading your kids a story instead of taking a nap. Sometimes it means changing a dirty diaper in the last 10 seconds of overtime. Sometimes it means pouring breakfast cereal for your three year old who asks you to do it just as you are walking out the door to go to work. Mothers know this reality all too well, but seeing as I am writing this as the TiPSI Dad, I figured that it was important to point this out because sometimes as dads, we get so caught up trying to keep up with the bill payments, office politics, eating healthy and 10,000 other things that we have to DO that we forget who we truly ARE....Husbands and Fathers.

I should also point out that if your duty of the moment right now is to rest...then TAKE A REST. You are good to no one if you are burnt out. You will only end up with an ulcer. Ulcers suck.

In another post I mentioned that the best advice that I ever got was to never confuse who I am with what I do. At some point in our lives most of us go through a phase where we want to make a big impact on the world in some way. What I have realized in the last 13 years of our marriage is that no matter what accomplishments I may achieve professionally, they are not going to be as important as the impact I will have on my children. At the end of the day our professional life is just what we did to put food on the table. The impact we have on our own kids is going to last for generations.

Next week: keeping things in order, in other words, how NOT to step into the squashed banana your kids left under the table.


Monday, 6 June 2011

The hills are alive...oh wait it's just the laundry.

We do a lot of laundry. That is not an understatement. One of the life lessons you learn when you are a TPSI family with seven kids is that boys get dirty. (In case you were wondering, we have four boys and three girls) In fact, I am convinced that our three year year old (Number 5) is a hidden artistic genius, who views clean clothes as a blank canvas on which to create his latest abstract masterpiece with his chosen medium....dirt.

If our piles of laundry were mountains, poets would write sonnets about the sheer awesomeness their presence inspires. To be clear, our kids are not necessarily any more dirty than average. In fact per person, we generate about the same as any average individual. However when there are nine people in a household, one of them being a seven week old ( i.e. seven weeks at the time of writing this blog)....those of you with newborns know that a newborn produces about twice the normal amount of laundry...mostly from puking all over your fresh clean get the picture.

Now before everyone sends me messages about being green, and needing to conserve water, and protecting the environment etc....let's get a few things straight. First, one of the things we invested in was a high efficiency front loading washer (yes, which we bought debt free...more on debt free living in a later post) Second, we also bought a GAS dryer (also debt free) which did cost a bit more up front, but has saved us loads in energy bills! Before I get into the numbers, I have to say that I was sold on the first load when our gas dryer completely dried out a SUPERSIZE load of towels in 40 minutes!

Just to give you an idea of how much a gas dryer saves on electricity, our last bi-monthly hydro bill was $175.62, that's $87.81 a month. Or monthly gas bill is averages about $90 in the winter and $65 - $75 in the summer. We also have a gas stove and a natural gas barbecue which we use all year too. In our area our water bill averages about $42 a month. Which is pretty good considering the amount of laundry our house of budding abstract artists, extreme dirt bikers, mud pie bakers, and backyard gymnast produces. Not to mention the lawn cutting, dandelion pulling, garden planting TiPSI dad and TiPSI mom.

Anyway, as you can imagine, we do a lot of laundry. Which requires a lot of laundry detergent. The interesting thing is that we got into making our own laundry detergent because we have a lot of sensitive skin issues. Making our own detergent allows us total control over the chemicals that get into our clothes and onto our skin. By the way these formulas are also septic safe and environmentally friendly!

So here is the math:

Or initial outlay involved buying a 5 (US) gallon bucket at the local Home Depot. The recipe requires Borax and Washing Soda (not to be confused with baking soda!!!) Which we picked up at the local Walmart. We also bought a lid for the bucket....which we also got at Home Depot.

5 (US) gallon (17L) bucket = $5.95
Lid = $3.95
Borax = $4.49
Washing soda = $5.99
Ivory soap (10 pack) = $4.29

Which brings us to a grand total of $24.67 initial cost.

I should point out that after two years of making our own laundry detergent we are still on our first box of Borax and Washing Soda and only our second (10) pack of Ivory!

Here is the recipe,

On the stove, heat 2 litres of water (not to boiling, just warm)
Grate 2 bars of Ivory soap into the warm water. Stir frequently to dissolve.
In the bucket dissolve 1 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup Borax in 10 litres of HOT tap water.
When soap water is dissolved, add to bucket. Mix really well. (These days I use a paint mixer bit that I have for my cordless drill, but that is unnecessary)

Let the mixture set over night, and stir well again in the morning, or any time.
To keep things manageable we still re-use the last laundry jug we ever bought and pour the detergent into it.
This makes about 5 months worth of laundry detergent for us!

A couple of things to note, if you want you can fragrance your detergent with a few drops  of essential oils...I like to use tea tree. Also if you want to get your whites whiter you can use something called blueing agent...I have not been able to find any and I have been wanting to try it so if any of you out there know where to find it, let me know!

The original recipe calls for a bar of Fels Naptha soap, but we replaced it with Ivory because of the skin issues I mentioned earlier.
Just in case any of you were wondering.....yes we did get this recipe from the Duggars, and yes we are big fans, but we are perfectly content to let them keep the other words, no we are not going to try to beat them.

Well, look at the time! Next week, all work and no play makes people tell me to have more fibre. Balancing life, work and everything in between.


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Give us this day our daily five minutes or less.

There are few things more appetizing in this world than the smell of fresh baked bread. Thanks to modern technology experiencing fresh baked bread is as easy as throwing six ingredients into a bread maker and pushing start. You know that you have one lying around somewhere...or if you don't you can always join your local freecycling network! Freecycling is one of the greatest things since, well since sliced bread! Freecyclers are folks who would rather see their still useful stuff go to someone who will use it instead of a landfill. Just look up and check it out.

But back to feeding the multitudes with loaves and sandwich meat (one of our kids has a fish allergy so we don't do fish).  When life is moving in relative order....relative being the key word (look for the post on Ordered Living) we usually get bread into the bread maker right around dinner time, set the timer, and in the morning we wake up to the smell of fresh baked bread.....I am getting hungry just thinking about the butter melts right into the soft warm bread...mmmmm

Another little tidbit about us is that we whip our butter (no we don't get it straight from the cow, we buy the butter and we whip it in our kitchen aid stand mixer) whipping for about 10 minutes doubles the volume and keeps the butter spreadable. It is like getting two sticks of butter for the price of one.

Anyway baking our own bread saves a ton.

Here is the math: (keep in mind that our family goes through one loaf a day)

Buying bread from the store:

$3.49/ loaf x 7 days = $24.43week

$24.43 x 52 weeks = $1270.36/ year

Home baked bread:

We buy flour in bulk for $15.29/ 20kg which lasts us about 2 months. It would last longer but we also bake cookies and cakes, not to mention the pancake breakfasts.

So $15.29 / 2 = $7.65/ month on flour.

Yeast costs us about $6.00 for a 5 month supply so that is $1.20 a month we spend on yeast.

The other ingredients like oil (2 tsp per loaf) and water are so small that their cost per loaf is negligible

So, $7.65 + $1.20 = $8.85/ month

Which means that baking our own bread costs us $106.20 a year!!!

That is a total savings of $1164.16. That is a lot of dough.....maybe even a mortgage payment! You will never look at a gingerbread house the same way again.

How's that for food for thought?

Next week, keeping it clean....with homemade laundry detergent.