Foster Family Organization: Meal Time Essentials

One of the organizational systems in our house is this lazy susan on the table.
kitchen table

It helps makes keep essentials on the table so we don't have to locate them every meal time. The items we keep in the center of the table are napkins, hand sanitizer, salt and pepper, hot plates, and occasionally vitamins. I always loved this heavy wooden lazy susan but never bought one. We've used several different plates just sitting on top of the cheap plastic one we already had. It worked okay but the decorative plates I used weren't flat so you couldn't use the entire thing AND if kids turned it too quickly, everything flew off.

lazy susan centerpiece tray

I found this awesome metal tray at Wal-Mart on sale. It was inexpensive, matched the look I liked, and was bigger than the plates I'd been using so it worked great. Well, except the part where it was bigger. That meant if things got off centered on the plastic lazy susan under it, it would tip OR it would slide around on it. Easy fit to make this the perfect decorative center piece and organization system for meal time essentials: hot glue! Permanent but not total permanent if I changed my mind later.

custom lazy susan

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Foster Family Organization: Keeping Our Home Ready and Running

I'm a planner for when you couldn't tell. So when we started fostering it was very difficult to keep myself calm when you just never knew how to prepare for the children coming into your home. There are a few things that I've learned that helped us me cope by keep some order and being ready for any age that may come.

2016

It may seem odd but if you know or are a foster family, you understand that each family is unique in what they can handle and who they family will be able to care for. For us, at this time, we are only taking males under Jamin's age. That helps me tons in way of preparation but still leaves a vast area from infant to mature preschoolers. I want to share some things we've learned that can still be pre-planed to keep your sanity in such a transitional life-style. 

Foster Family Organization sanity-saving things to preplan in such a transitional life-style {a peek inside a foster family's home}

Some of the things I've already shared about so you can click the images below to read more about those.

The Great-Wall Transformation

Having a simple way to keep shoes, hats, bags, and coats makes life less cluttered. This mudroom system right in our living room is so easy my 2-year-old knows exactly who's what goes where.


Living OUTSIDE You Home with toys #missionalliving

Having a fun "parking lot" set up for my kids riding toys allows for fast and easy clean up after outside playing.

DIY Dry Erase Monthly Menu

Having our dry erase menu and our "boarding" month planned out takes one more thing off my plate.

master bed boy room girls' room guest room

Having bedrooms set up with some wiggle room allows us to not have to over think when a new call for a placement comes in, no matter how late at night it is. Our room is ready to receive an infant. The guest room is ready to receive an infant through a child. Jamin and Ellie share a room currently but we have a bed ready for her if a child needs to share with Jamin and a trundle ready if it needs to be moved into the guest room.

guest closet diapers and bedding guest closet hanging bar guest closet clothing storage

Our guest closet is socked but at the same time trying to make it still feel like a child's own closet rather than a guest closet. We have diapers of almost every size, blankets, baby toys and gear, air mattress and bedding {for guest not fosters}, and a few pieces of clothing for every size from 0-3 months to size 6.




lazy susan centerpiece tray
medicine cupsmedicine log

My biological kids are all on daily allergy medicine and foster kids often come in with their own set of medications. The only kicker is you can't leave medications out to help you remember to give them because they would then be accessible for littles. Depending on the age of the child, I leave the vitamins out on the custom lazy Susan but otherwise everything goes in the locked cabinet and I leave medication cups out to help me remember. Fosters have to have all medicines recorded so we place a clipboard with the medicine log out in the open with a pen hanging on it so we can quickly record everything.

counter cleanup

Babies come with all kinds of things like bottle, formula, burp clothes, and diaper that need to be readily available. Therefore leaving your house in survival mode. That doesn't mean it has to be unattractive. I decided to wrap a formula can in cute scrapbook paper so leaving it on the counter next to the drying bottles wouldn't be a total eyesoar.

I hope this glimpse into our home was fun, helpful, or just interesting. I know I like snooping in other's homes with great detail and thinking through things with them about why they do certain things. Any questions?

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Spring Break Plans 2016

This week is spring break for a lot of families. Even though we homeschool, we try to do most holidays and breaks that the local school does since that's who we want to minister to ans well as do-life with.

as Jules is Spring Breaking

We'd fallen a bit behind compared to where I wanted to be in our school work so last week I bribed my big girls and trudged through a lot of work to get caught up, allowing us to take this week off from school paper work. Now we can focus on what I'd rather be doing: playing with friends OUTSIDE, enjoying our last days with our #spidie before he possibly heads to provisional care, spring cleaning purging, recovering after a traumatic baby injury, and doing a special unit about EASTER! That's just the stuff we plan to do at home, not including the valley stuff like working on interior construction, cleaning, partying at the building with friends, cleaning out storage units, preping for our Easter service, and normal weekly responsibilities.

El's ER visit

maybe someday I'll be able to talk about this...but not now

If I write all this down, maybe several things will happen, I'll have a better picture of what I want to accomplish and maybe I'll actually do the things on the list! #accountability

I was planning to publish a post last week about minimizing toys in your home BUT then I realized that toys had taken over again. They were everywhere. Requiring way too much of our time during our day to clean up. Having fosters who have been overly *blessed* with stuff as well as 3 birthdays and Christmas in resent months, I had not been diligent about keeping them out of the house.

Playroom Purge

new playroom shelves last year vs this year

The purge plan includes sorting items into #spidies toys to go with him, toys to be donated to the valley, toys to sell at Duck Duck Goose, and then a few toys to keep. The toys that are being kept will be open-ended toys that require imagination, are manipulative for school, and or are educational all by themselves.  

community easter egg hunt

Our Easter plans include the resurrection garden we made Friday night, helping prep for and attending the community Easter egg hunt, the holy week calendar that I'm already behind on, sinning rocks that we usually don't do until good Friday, and teachable Easter baskets that I'm doing similar this year but rather than 4-5 baskets, I'm doing one large "family basket". My hubs and I already had a date night and purchased all the things for it but they're currently in the trunk of our car in the baby pool because...where do you hide that? hehe

We also already have the stuff we plan to use to make our spring baskets for our neighbors. Now we just have to figure out how to get those items out to make the baskets for them without my kids seeing the other stuff. 

I like planning to just stay home. Its nice to be able to plan flexible trips with my family while others are in school. PLUS, lots of our neighbor friends don't have big plans either so we can play lots more with them. What are your plans for spring break?! 

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Our Family’s Monthly Menu

Menu planning can seem overwhelming and for the only super-organized types but I'm here to say it can be crazy easy and simplify life so much!

MONTHLY Summer MENU

Even before we did our decided to eat rice and beans for a month, I found out the benefits of being a "boring menu" planner. Identical weekly menu planning still has all the benefits of of monthly menu planning and still gives you enough variety to not get sick of things and enough wiggle room to allow for changes in your days from month to month.

This is what works for us. There are lots of random variables that got us to this summer menu but for starters, the weather- we want mainly light foods. While I'm going through our menu and why we do what we do, think about the routines in your life that could make a "boring menu".

Breakfast Menu Sunday-Saturday

Sunday mornings, we need something the kids will eat fast so we can get out the door to the valley. Mondays and Thursdays we can take our time so we have waffles with peanut butter and syrup and fruit. Friday we used to do "movie day" so I did cereal, no milk, so they could have it in snack cups in the living room. Even though we don't always do that anymore, we just kept it and Tuesdays as well just because...I wanted a pattern. Wednesdays we have a small lunch I wanted them to have a big breakfast sot hey wouldn't get grouchy. My hubs is off on Saturday so he uses his awesome electric griddle and makes the kids fancy pancakes- breakfast and a show!

blue breakfast menu

Lunch Menu Sunday-Saturday

Some lunches are because it was easiest to remember alliteration according to the day of the week so I don't have to think too much about it while doing school, like Mondays and Fridays. Sundays are my day off from cooking, so we go out to each after the valley. Tuesdays are when we try to get the most school work done so chicken nuggets make for an easy, no fuss lunch. Wednesdays we have Valley Group at our house so we do a lot of picking up/cleaning so hot dogs make for a simple, quick lunch. On Thursdays, one of my kids goes to Nanna's for the day and she always makes them PBnJ so we have it at home as well. And Saturdays we like to do a lot of resting so we do a snack lunch or sliders which are super easy and have to the option of having a living room picnic while watching a movie.

gray lunch menu

Dinner Menu Sunday-Saturday

I try to make a crockpot meal I can turn on when we leave for the valley so I can rest the rest of the day and have a real meal Sunday nights. Manic Mondays is when one of us is usually in town with the big girls for dance/gym so we have several easy chicken meals to choose from but sometimes we trade Wednesdays pasta meal if its easier. Tuesdays is...tacos! of course but some times its a form of "tacos": nachos, enchiladas, fajitas. Thursdays are Nanna days like I already mentioned and that means we usually go out to eat for Family Dinner. Friday nights are just a fun night to do a movie {sometimes Red Box} and pizza night: biscuit, french bread, homemade crust, frozen, occasionally take out pizza. Saturdays offer plenty of time to put together a beef meal or a new recipe.

yellow dinner menu

 

I hope this was helpful! HERE is a free printable menu if this particular one works for you. You could also make a dry erase menu board using some fun scrapbook paper and a thrifted, upcycled, painted 8x10 picture frame.

DIY Dry Erase Monthly Menu

Recipes links for some of our favorite meals:

Ranchy Chicken and Potatoes
Chicken Casserole
Tacos
Fettechini Alfrado
Shepherds Pie
Stuffed Meatballs
Chicken and Stuffing
3 Cheese Noodles
Biscuit Pizzas
Potato Soup
Mexican Chicken
Nachos
Taco Soup 
Stir Fry
Fajitas
French Bread Pizza
Baked Ziti

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Eating Rice and Beans for the Month of Love

Have I mentioned how awful our Monday Nights are? Yeah, I don't like them.

image

For the first couple months of transitioning to Manic Monday evenings, our 2 "big" girls and the parent who took them to dance and gymnastics grabbed fast food between classes. It was the easiest chose, saved me from having to think up and pack something that would last for a couple hours in a picnic bag before eating, allowed us time to grab some groceries in between classes most weeks, and to be honest was kinda fun.

Then Monday, February 1st 2016 happened.

We finished dance class, scurried around the corner to the Dairy Queen, because it was the closest fast food restaurant and the girls had never eaten there before. While staring at the menu trying to decide how to order the cheapest {we often share meals and get waters} I realized one of the main factors we have never eaten there...$$$. I couldn't find a cheap alternative so I chose to 'go big' and get everyone their own meal With drink. WOW! When we finally sat down to eat with little time to spare before having to be back for gymnastics, the girls opened their kids meals to find Mustard and onions on the burgers.

The world as we knew it had apparently shrunk up and therefore ended that night. There was whining, nashing of teeth, pouting, and fit-throwing when I explained that I would help them wipe the mustard and onions off but I wasn't going to take the burgers back. There wasn't time and they needed to learn to be thankful, better yet, GRATEFUL that we were beyond privileged to eating out weekly, especially between our not-so-cheap "extra curricular" that are paid for my their grandparents. {HELLO!}

I was appalled. I couldn't believe I'd created such entitled children. We've gone to extreme measures such as

  • minimizing the number of toys they have, never buying just-because toys
  • paying "commission" for chores to help them learn budgeting as well as having just-because-you-live-here chores
  • doing the 30 hanger challenge along with only buying clothes from consignment events
  • only allowing a single "extra" and only when they're 5 years old
  • having them always share rooms
  • becoming a foster family as a way to serve and open discussion about struggles we may have never known

and the list goes on and on. Where had I gone wrong?! Where was the "thanks for the pricey burger mom!"?

I continued to fume as I took my gymnast to her class and my dancer grocery shopping with me. I text my hubs and angrily announced, "Mags has just earned the family a week of rice and beans. Ungrateful, over-privileged, punk was non-stop complaining about the mustard on her expensive burger."

After talking through the awful night with my hubs, the decision was made to do a month of teaching through rice and beans lunches for a month supplemented with videos about children in 3rd world nations that have to eat this meal, videos about ministries that help these children, and lots and lots of conversations about how privileged we are.

One Month of Rice and Beans for Lunch one families attempt to learn gratitude

Negatives to the month-long lunches of rice and beans:

  • although our children understood the basic idea of why were were doing it, selfishness still exists
  • even with major efforts to make the experience a teachable time, it still ended up feeling like a punishment to the kids
  • our stomachs suffered...I have to admit that the last few days, I had to skip lunch or alter the meal by just eating rice with milk or something to try and finish out the month.
    This isn't the healthiest meal to provide children in poverty but it is the cheapest. 

Positives to the month-long lunches of rice and beans:

  • simple menu planning- we already have the same things, depending on the day of the week for breakfast and similar things for the night of the week for dinner
  • less than 10 minute meal prep- we cooked the rice/water for about 7-8 minutes in our large micro-cooker and the can/can and 1/2 of beans for about 2-3 minutes in our small micro-cooker. {side note: we use these almost daily for lots of recipes including browning our mix'n chopped meat. You can find them HERE.}
  • low grocery bill- we went through 2 large boxes of minute white rice and close to 35 cans of beans {mainly black but some great northern}
  • my kids could Easily help with making lunch
  • no options- there was less and less fussing about what we were having because they just knew what lunch was going to be. They could eat a little of it or a lot of it {I've seen similar effects with scheduling routine meals other times}
  • we all learned how privileged we are- all of us, even parents quickly saw how we were accustomed to having too many options when we didn't feel like eating something
  • we became more grateful for the gazillions of options we have
  • we became more interested in ministries that can help children without our options are are hoping to use money we saved on groceries to support them a little

What are you main concerns with scheduling an intentional rice and beans meal with your family?

 

I found very few simple recipes to try and switch up our lunches during the month of February. Most recipes I found on Pinterest only differed in the way they prepared the rice/bean {ie in a slow cooker or pot on the stove} Our fairly standard recipe was as followed:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white minute rice
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 Tbs garlic pwd
  • 1 tsp onion pwd
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Stir water and rice into large micro-cooker, attach lid, and microwave for 3.5 minutes. Open and stir to reduce overspill. Cook 3.5 minutes until all the rice is soft and water is fully absorbed.
  2. Open can of beans and pore beans into small micro-cooker. Stir in seasonings. Attach lid and microwave 2 minutes or until bean are completely warmed.
  3. Serve

 

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