How I Make Time to Read All of Those Books

“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”  – Rudine Sims Bishop

Reading is SO GOOD for the soul. In October 2017, after watching a very inspiring master class about reading journals, I decided that I wanted to start a reading journal for myself and the kids so that we can have a record of all the books we’ve read individually and together, as well as a place to record thoughts about the book, our favorite quotes or passages, and things of the sort. We are now 5 months strong and in that span I’ve read a total of 55 books!  My oldest daughter is ahead of me at 60 books.  We have this little competition going on that she is clearly going to win because she has WAY MORE freedom to pursue reading and she is as much of a voracious reader as I am.

Each month since November, I’ve been posting on Facebook and Instagram the stack of book that I have read for the previous month. Reading an average of 10 books per month begs the question, “How do you find the time to read all of those books?!”  In order to try to answer that question, I’ve compiled several of the ways that I have been able to get some good reading time in, while also juggling work, homeschool and family life.

How do I make time to read:   

  1. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there:  MSN ran an article calculating how much time we spend on certain activities during our lifetime and it stated that on average, we spend about 45 minutes – 1 hour per day just waiting.  Waiting for transportation, waiting in traffic, waiting in lines, waiting for water to boil for pasta, waiting for our kids to put their shoes on (or to find their shoes)…etc. I find that most of my reading gets done in 5 – 10 minute spurts throughout the day.  Whenever I leave the house, I ALWAYS bring a book with me, even when I know I probably won’t be able to crack it open. You never know when those 5 minute surprise moments pop up, and when they do, I’m prepared.
  2. Intentionally carve out the time:  I intentionally carve out about 20-30 minutes each afternoon to read.  This is usually after I put my daughter down for her nap and I set my son up for his own quiet reading or play time.  The whole house is silent and this is the perfect time when me and my big kids sit on the couch and read our own books.  We homeschool, so my kids are expected to read 30 minutes per day anyways. And reading time is always better when mom joins them 🙂  Further, it is very important to me for them to see reading for pleasure modeled, especially when there are so many other things vying for their attention.  I also read aloud to my kids everyday for about 10-15 minutes (mostly middle grade novels). I add the books that we read aloud together to my monthly book stack (excluding the picture and board books that we read because we read hundreds of those hundreds of times). We are averaging about 1.5 books per month. Finally, as part of my self care routine each night, I take a relaxing bath with a book in hand before bed.   ***if you are unable to carve out some time during the day to read, try maybe waking up 10-20 minutes earlier.
  3. I read lots and lots of fiction (middle-grade novels the most):  I don’t know if this is true for you, but it takes me A LOT longer to read non-fiction.  If I’m reading a parenting book, spiritual book, motivational book, or a biography,  I tend to read slower and only a few pages at a time in order to take it all in and maybe wrestle with some of the ideas written or talk to someone about it.  My absolute favorite genre of books right now are middle-grade fiction. These are books recommended for ages 8-12 and they read very easily, which is why I am able to devour them so quickly.  Listen, there are SOOOO many books available in this genre that are very rich and satisfying and some of the best books that I have ever read in my 30 years of life. C.S. Lewis says, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”  I could not have said this better myself.
  4. I have a few different books going at a time:  I almost always have 1 fiction, 1 biography and 1 non-fiction book going at one time.  Depending on my mood and energy levels, I just pick up whatever is appealing in that moment. I suggest to only have 1 fiction story going at a time because if you have more than that, you start getting mixed up with the plot and characters (or this may be just me).
  5. I listen to Audiobooks:  Audiobooks are an AMAZING way to get more reading in and is definitely more convenient to people who are on the go a lot and don’t really have the time to sit down with a book in hand. I just want to say that listening to audiobooks are totally not a cop-out and counts exactly the same as sitting down with a book. The ONLY difference is that you are reading with your ears rather than with your eyes.  I will probably always be a person who prefers a book in hand rather than listening through ear buds, but I have come to really appreciate and love listening to audiobooks. I can write a whole post on just audiobooks and their benefits.  We listen to audiobooks in the car, I listen to audiobooks in the mornings when I’m working or washing dishes or as I’m watching my kids play in the park. Audiobooks are so very beneficial to kids as well, especially if you don’t have much time to sit down and read to your kids yourself.  This is a great way to get the grammatically correct and sophisticated language patterns in their ears.  The most surprising thing for me as I’ve started to listen to audiobooks more and more is noticing just how much I have been mispronouncing words all of my life, hahaha.  I’ve been reading those words all of my life, but when you don’t hear them read out loud and properly pronounced, you kind of just do your best to say it the way you think.  Ah! I LOVE AUDIOBOOKS!
  6. Trade-offs/Putting down my phone more:  We are all given the same amount of time each day and we all have the freedom to make decisions on how we want to spend our time. Yes, I read a lot, but in order to do that, I’m giving up something else.  Life is about trade-offs. Because I want to read more, I don’t watch TV very much and I give myself 5 minute time limits when I am on social media. I have all the alerts turned off on my phone except calls and texts so that my phone is not a constant distraction. Is it hard to stay disciplined in this area?  Heck yes!  But I’ve definitely noticed how, over time, the more I pick up a book rather than my phone when I have a few minutes of down time, the more easier it is and how it is now becoming a habit.

So there you have it.  I hope this post was helpful for those who really want to squeeze in more time to read for pleasure.  I would love to see your book stacks too.  Even if it is only 1.  If you have any tips or suggestions on how you squeeze reading into your busy life, I would love to hear about it!  Happy Reading Friends!

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Simplifying Meals and Healthy Eating with Meal Planning – Part 1

“Mom! What’s for dinner!?”  This question makes my top 3 list of questions that I passionately dislike, and is especially true if I don’t have an answer for it.   How many times a day do we have to contemplate this question?  And, at least for me, that question takes up a lot of my mental energy. Mental energy that I would much rather spend on other things, like solving sibling squabbles, and helping my kids with long division.  You know, the things that really matter in life 🙂 But the truth is, it doesn’t have to.  Would you believe me if I told you that if you invest 1-2 hours at the most for 1 day at the end of the month, that you can have that daunting question answered for the next 30 days?  Well friend, read along.

Here is the run down to planning for simple, delicious, and nutritious meals for your family. Eating healthy does not happen on accident. You really have to be intentional about it. If  not, you will find yourself in the drive thru again and again. Or serving up that 3rd bowl of cereal for the day. I’m not being judgmental, I’ve been there. I think it is safe to say that we have ALL been there.    It has taken me a while of tweaking different things to fit our lifestyle to finally get this figured out to where I am confident to share what works for me.  Even if everything here does not work for you and your family, maybe this post will set you on the trajectory to finding something that works better for your family and lifestyle.

  1. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A PLAN – No brainer right? I mean, this is a post about meal planning. I know. There is really no getting around this. For all of my readers who say, “I just love being spontaneous and having variety,” there is room for spontaneity and variety in having a plan.  For all of my readers who say “I’m just not organized,” could I just preach to you for a moment? This is an excuse. Everyone has strengths and things that require growth. I also totally understand different personality types, but that doesn’t change the fact that the most organized person in the world still has to sit down and put pen to paper and do the work.  Anyone can do this, organized or not. You can do this!
  2. CHOOSE A THEME FOR EACH DAY OF THE WEEK – I’ve tried several different meal planning methods and this one is by far the quickest and easiest. It also takes the mental energy and overwhelming feelings out of scrolling through Pinterest or flipping through cookbooks for a recipe to fill up every day of the week. Sit down and think about what you usually eat. You will probably notice that you cook a lot of the same meals over and over each week.  And BTW, that’s ok! Take that information and assign it to a day of the week.  For example, here are our themes for the week:

Sunday = Santiago Tradition (roasted chicken, green beans and basmati rice)

Monday = Burgers

Tuesday = Mexican

Wednesday = Santiago Favorites/New Recipe

Thursday = Asian

Friday = Brinner (Breakfast for dinner)

Saturday = Slow Cooker/Instant Pot Meals

Sunday = Santiago traditional meal. We have this meal every Sunday.  It has become our own “tradition,” hence the name.  Monday = Burgers (we alternate between chicken and beef burgers to switch it up a little…variety right?). Tuesday = Mexican (we alternate between beef and chicken for these meals as well). Wednesday = Santiago favorites/New Recipe days – I leave this day open to be spontaneous (there’s that word again). I will either make one of our  favorite meals that doesn’t necessarily fit under any of our themes or this will be the day to try that new recipe that I’ve been eyeing. Thursday = Asian inspired. Friday = Brinner (Breakfast foods for dinner). Saturday = Instant Pot/Slow Cooker meals.  You can change these themes on a month to month basis if you want or not. I don’t change my themes very often. When the warmer months come around, I’ll be changing my Saturday theme to either BBQ or “from the grill” days.  The sky is the limit with themes.  Some more themes are: pasta days, seafood days, meatless, vegetarian or vegan days, or you can even schedule a certain day of the week for take out.  Get a piece of paper and write down your themes:

 

3.   Now that you have your themes, putting together a meal plan should a breeze. I meal plan for the entire month and at this point, it takes me no longer than an hour to fill in my calendar, write out a grocery list, and shop for the items I need online. The first thing I do is print out a calendar for the month. You can google “printable calendars” and find one there. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Or if you have a daily/monthly planner, you can use that. Here’s what my meal plan looks like for February.  Fill in your plan.

Feb meal plan.png

 

4.  Make your grocery list.  I also suggest cleaning out the fridge, freezer and pantry before you start this step.  Make this a part of your meal planning rhythm. Here’s where you can do what works for you and your situation and depending on how often you go shopping. You can write out a list for each week all at once if you go grocery shopping weekly and just add to it if something runs out for that particular week (you can title it Week 1, Week 2…etc.).  You can write a grocery list 1 week at a time the day before you shop.  Do what works. Here’s what works for us:  I do most of my grocery shopping online.  I write out all of the places that I shop and as I’m looking at our meals each week, I’m filling in what I need.  I order my meats for the entire month through U.S. Wellness Meats.  I order all of my dry goods/pantry items for the month through Thrivemarket.com.  Lastly, I make sure my subscribe and save items through Amazon are all set and will get here when I need them.  My grocery shopping days are early Saturday morning and I usually write my grocery list the night before or morning of Saturday for the week.  Here’s what that looks like:

grocery list.png

So there you have it!  I hope this post is a help and start for you to jump on the meal planning bandwagon.  There’s a reason so many people are on it!  I really does make a difference 🙂

Do you meal plan too?  I’d love to hear about it!

{Websites we love}

ere’s an on-going list of websites we love.

 

This is a site that often helps me focus on who matters the most : shereadstruth.com

This is a site that I (Joyce) visit regularly for homeschool and parenting encouragement. I have all of her bible studies and my kids and I have a great time digging into God’s word and learning about obedience, loving each other, contentment and more.  We re-visit all of these bible studies at the start of every school year.  http://www.notconsumed.com/

I (Joyce) am super passionate about books and reading aloud to my children.  Want some inspiration?  visit http://www.readaloudrevival.com

We really like Norwex. Life could be rough without friendly cleaning options