This past week while a friend and I were attending the Patriot Spouse’s Club January luncheon we found ourselves trading meal prepping secrets. As working moms with hectic careers, busy children and even busier spouses, we shared how we often found ourselves dragging home after 7 exhausted from a long day, only to find a household of hungry inhabitants. As the conversation progressed, we exchanged recipes and other time saving ideas.

As a working parent, time is dear. There always seems to be more to do in a day than there are hours. Caffeine, detailed to do lists, and my planner are my best friends. Each day I hit the ground running and do my best to not pause for too long or I lose my momentum. Some days I manage to stay awake long enough to have family time, but most days I fall asleep as soon as I sit down, anywhere.

As busy as my days are, I have to brag about my family. My 16 year old daughter, B, often does laundry, starts dinner or some nights cooks dinner. She helps clean the kitchen, packs lunch, feeds the dogs and any other needed chores. My husband, Rick, takes turns doing all of the above and helps with errands. We more than share the load in our home, and yet there are so many weeks we are barely making it, running on empty or continuously running out of items. The chaos of life has created a hamster wheel of activities driven by stress and time limits which we cannot escape, nor can we get ahead of. We are doomed to always be overwhelmed, tired and short on time together.

Or are we? Looking back over 2019, I learned a lot, grew more than I knew I could and conquered several fears, including my fear of birds. For our family supporting our local community, volunteering and investing in the future of our daughter and other children is our priority. Running needless errands is not. Working with Rick, we created a plan to take back our time, to come together as a family to recharge for whatever the future holds.

The plan? A weekly meal plan covering breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks shared on all smart devices. A weekly running grocery list we all add needed items to. These two items combined with grocery delivery by Aldi has gained us an entire day a week. In addition, we now plan our errands, working to combine prescription pickups and grab other needed items.

The addition of time to our schedules has been unreal. We are all working out, training for a 5K run, watching shows together and working on art. We even get naps! The overall stress level of the house has dropped and there is more laughter, squeals, practical jokes and family time. Even our dogs are happier. Their happiness could be due to more walks and runs, or the increase in cuddles and belly rubs.

2020 is a year of growth and change for our home. This year my husband graduates from Graduate School, my daughter becomes an upperclassman and will start concurrent enrollment and me, well I have my own goals. But more than anything, 2020 will have more time for us to just relax.

I love hearing from my readers, you can reach me at believestrengthpassion@gmail.com.

Sara Orellana-Paape lives in Lawton.

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