In the count down to this baby being born, I am probably better prepared than I ever was for my other two! This is partially because I have had to be. You just can't fly by the seat of your pants as much when you have two other little ones! There are other times in life when you need to prepare for the down time too - like when you are getting ready for Christmas, visitors coming, weddings, holidays etc. General life! So I thought I'd put down what I have done so far to get ready.
* maintain the routine. This is something that I did struggle with initially. I'd get all excited about preparing for the baby, cook up a storm on cooking day (Friday) and make so many dishes and wear myself out so much I'd just get it cleaned up the next Thursday! When I learned to slow it down a bit and maintain the status quo FIRST it made the rest a lot easier. Also, because the cleaning was maintained, I haven't needed to do a great big spring clean.
* never cook just one meal! At the moment I have a sausage and bean casserole in one crockpot and brown rice in the other. This will be tea, but there is also enough for at least one serving to go in the freezer - probably enough rice to defrost to make a whole meal of fried rice one night.
It took no more effort to cook than if I made just enough for tonight but stocked up the freezer. I also make bulk veg when I cook - especially mashed potato - then every few days I smush it all together with eggs, cheese, milk and flour and then fry it into fritters for lunch. Yummy and healthier than it sounds!
* Each cooking day, cook a couple of things just for the freezer. Casseroles are great, so are soups - especially those where you can just throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning and dish it out at the end of the day. I tend to do quite a few pies and pasties to stick in the freezer too - good for lunches or a quick tea. We always have a stock of frozen muffins which are great for afternoon tea, breakfast or unexpected guests. Desserts during down time often consist of ice cream or custard with fruit (very easy for me!) but I do have a few baked items that I have made up to the point of putting in the oven and in the freezer. I just take them out, allow them to defrost and put them in the oven. Yeast stuff like Pizza dough and challah bread (a special Jewish Sabbath bread I make) also work well if you do this with them so I always make at least a double lot.
* "Value add" as you put raw meats in the freezer. Put chops and chicken breasts in a marinade before you freeze them, make mince into meatloaf ready to be defrosted and stuck into the crock pot or oven, make a giant batch of spag bol which can then be used for lasagne, spaghetti, pasta bake and about a million other things.
* Streamline your housework. I moved one of our couches so I can now vacuum the whole lounge without unplugging the vacuum cleaner. Probably saves me 50 seconds of effort but believe me it adds up! I also gradually organised the kitchen so things are in a logical place and I don't have to wander all over the kitchen while I am cooking.
* Declutter! I have removed all our knick knacks that don't earn their keep - to earn the effort of me dusting them they have to have great sentimental value and make me smile every time I notice them. Items that people gave me because they thought were funny and cute - well, the joke wears off about the tenth time I dust it! I can appreciate the kind thoughts while passing the item on to charity where it will do FAR more good than sitting on my shelf being resented! I know some people who remove even the items they love and put them away for safekeeping during a big down time. Bringing them out again is just like Christmas! Prevention is also a great thing. Only buy things practical that you will use and love or consumable items, don't burden yourself with stuff!
* Tame the toy monster. Cull any kids toys that are broken, items that are not age appropriate need to be packed away. Items that you hate because they are noisy or otherwise annoying need to go, or at least be put away for special occasions. Soft toys breed - they also breed dust mites! They also hold limited play prospects and kids get bored with them if they have too many. Each of my kids have two or three "special" soft toys - their first teddy (which Daddy buys them) and another one or two given by grandparents that are very special. The rest go into a baby's bath that slides under the bed. If we get a new soft toy given to us, one of the old ones have to go to make room or it finds its way straight into a charity bag. Again, we can appreciate the thought without burdening ourselves with items that won't be cherished or cared for. Someone else will love them more! Teach your kids to only access the toys put out for them, to put them away each day and to care for their toys. Too many kids are overwhelmed by the amount of STUFF well meaning friends and relations give them. It leads them to be careless with their toys and does not teach good stewardship. If anyone has any tips for me on how to ask people nicely to give the kids one good quality item for Christmas and birthdays rather than bags and bags of stuff please do! But it is possible to be very thankful for the time and effort put in then quietly, discretely, pass on the blessing to someone else. Kids can do much more with a rock and a stick than with most things that need batteries!
* Finish projects. Make a hit list of projects and jobs that need finishing and stick it to the fridge. Don't start anything new until everything is crossed off and your down time is over! The feeling of accomplishment is fantastic. It also gives other members of the family an opportunity to see what needs to be done and jump on board. Older children may be offered an incentive for helping out with the list! We still haven't anywhere near finished my list on the fridge, but the highest priorities are done and I am happy with that.
These are the major things I have done to prepare for this time. I have actually found it so helpful that I am planning on doing many of them in the normal course of the week. That way, when unexpected down time hits, such as illness or unexpected guests, we are already prepared!
Incubating happily still, waiting for our down time to arrive!