Christmas Shorts

Taking a cue from another blog-friend, here are a few tidbits of our Christmas.

–We took it easy this season. Put the tree up, did the advent train, and a single manger scene on the mantel. And a candle on the dinning table with a runner under it. I made cookies with Little Man on Christmas Day (or was it Christmas Eve? no, Day of, I think). No guests. We didn’t travel. It was so nice. I’m realizing I’m not sure how I feel about decorations, per say. I think manger scenes, angels, shepherds and wise men about are quite appropriate, and I do love putting up and having a tree up, but I’m not sure I’m interested in the rest of the hoopla of the season. Though, based on Little Man’s love of the various displays of lights around our neighbor, we might put up a few more lights around the house next year.

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Christmas morning, before anyone else was up.

— We mainly did stockings for each other. Not sure why, but I *love* stockings. Hubby did a great job for his first time doing stockings and got me The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals. Yes, I can google, but having  book is so much for useful when you know its a fox, but you don’t know what kind. I decided I’m pretty sure it was a Grey Fox that came through out yard last May. And that we have Fox Squirrels running around.

–Little Man has become very interested in letters and spelling lately. He can form a recognizable “H” now, which I think is pretty impressive for 2 1/2. He has begun ‘spelling’ things, though most of the time the words are all p’s, g’s and a few c’s. I’m seeing how fine motor skill development really opens a whole new class of activities for a child. (see about the sewing card below)

— I’m thinking and reflecting on goals, habits and 2014, of course. This is just part of who I am! I think, based on my failure to finish any of my 2013 goals, I ought not do ‘goals’ right now. I think its just time of life, really. So, I’m going to focus on ‘habits’. First up, the daily routines habits, like ‘morning routine’ and ‘evening routine’. More on the details of these later…

–I’m still finishing off the Christmas gifts for the niece and nephews. I’m now declaring them ‘Epiphany Gifts’, since I think I can get them to the kids by Jan 6…. I hope. 15 mins of work a day, and they will be finished in 2 or 3 days, but Little Man doesn’t like to let me work unless its what he is doing also. I did create a ‘sewing card’, and he really enjoyed it. I need to remember to pull it out for him more often. I think road trips got easier with this activity. Maybe its time to explore putting together some ‘busy bags’. Might make ‘afternoon rest time’ easier.

working hard on his sewing card

working hard on his sewing card

— Little Man appears to have mostly given up the afternoon nap. I’ve maintained an ‘afternoon rest time’ for my own sanity (and patience), but that has its own learning curve. He is getting better at it, and is understanding better that its as much for me, as for him. I’ve also realized the ‘quiet time boxes’ that I’ve put together are woefully inadequate, so they will get some revamping soon.

There are more things I could talk about, but I think this is long enough! Again, I have intentions of getting back to blogging, but we will see. I’m working to make the internet and the computer a smaller part of my life, but I’m still working to find the right balance, I think. I’m not back on facebook, and I’m still thinking about when I might open that can of worms. I miss some of the interactions of facebook, but I’m also enjoying that I have one less thing to bother with on the computer.

Until next time….

Getting back to writing

I see that its been a LONG time since I put up a new post. Life got difficult, then busy, then better, then busier… but that’s just life isn’t it? Here is a brief run down of the last 2 months…. (in mostly-chronological order)

1. We realized I was dealing with postpartum ‘blues’ after the miscarriage, so I started being more intentional about getting exercise, good social contact and some time away from Little Man. All that has helped quite a bit.

2. We went camping at Lost Maples State Natural Area. Wow, its beautiful and perfect for testing new equipment and general hiking ability. I got to use the ‘new-to-me’ external frame backpack and I LOVE it! And I learned that Little Man is about as heavy as a pack as I would carry. That might have been the last hike I carry him on.

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Little Man had his own backpack for this trip, and its still being used. He really likes it, even if it is hot pink.

3. HubbyMan went on a backpacking trip to Big Bend National Park. He had a ton of fun and we hope to get back there as a family next spring.

4. Little Man has decided that sleep is for wussies. He has wonked up his sleep schedule with napping some days and not napping other days, falling asleep easily at night some nights and struggling for an hour and a half (or more) on other nights. He’s hit some developmental milestones in various areas, and his energy level has skyrocketed. His outside-time need has also gone up rather significantly. Talk about wonking up my schedule!

4. We are excited to host a lot of family this November. We also hosted another family of 5 one night in October. Its the most activity our guest bedroom has experienced in a long time.

5. I hope to be back on the blog post bandwagon again. I’m taking a facebook sabbatical for a few weeks, which should be a lot of regained time. Yep, gonna have to contact me the old fashioned ways: email and phone calls!

My own homekeeping strategies

Here it is… how I organize my own meta-homekeeping. (can I say it that way?)

I’ve tried a lot of different techniques… how to organize your house, how to organize your time, how to keep your home running smoothly, etc. Also remember that I am quite the tightwad, so I didn’t pay for most of them (I purchased one book, and 2 tools). I have the general attitude that its not worth it if you have to pay for it (except a few really good books).
The main thing I’ve learned in all this is…. know thyself. Are you a naturally organized person? Are you a visual person? Do you like pen and paper? Do you have an iphone or such device that you keep about you all day? This is where the rubber meets the road and as you work through different methods you will find what you like, I’m sure of it. This is my personal progression….

Flylady

     I was a dedicated flybaby for several years. What I really took away from that time is routines and zone cleaning. She’s got other good stuff, but this is what stuck.
     If I keep going with my basic morning and evening routines, life runs so smoothly. As soon as I get tired, skip steps, add a few steps because I feel ambitious, get overwhelmed with trying to do too much… well, you get the idea. But routines are what I always come back to.  Flylady recommends 3 basic daily routines… morning, afternoon and evening/bedtime. I have found I work best with 2… morning and evening/bedtime. I’ve learned (still learning) to keep it to a few steps/items. E.g. for my morning routine, I’ve got a few basic things I do… get up, bathroom, brush teeth, get dressed, coffee. If I’m trying really hard, I have breakfast and read Bible on the list, also. Evening tasks include things like set up coffee maker (no compromise here), get out clothes for next day, get bags together for next day. At times, I’ve striven to have ‘sweep tile floor’ on that list, but that doesn’t last long. The idea is to use your evening/bedtime routine to get ready for the next day. The morning routine is to get ready for that day. My routines have regularly shifted around to include different tasks or different ordering at different stages of life, but I always come back to thinking about my routines. Keep in mind that you *do* have a routine, even if its not written down, or well defined. By writing it down, its easier to make it more refined and more efficient.
     Zone cleaning is about dividing your house into ‘zones’ and focusing on one zone each week. I used flylady’s basic zones to define my current home and the tasks related to each zone. If done right, this becomes a part of your basic routines of life and you just know when to do what. If you do it my way, its a helpful way to not feel too overwhelmed as you think about what you need to deal with this week. You’ve got your tasks that need to be done weekly (vacuuming for one) and then tasks that don’t need to be done but once a month (or less), like cleaning windows or switch plates. I listed cleaning tasks for each area of my home (living room, kitchen, guest bath), then lumped those areas into 4 zones. defined 4 zones for this current house and then listed the cleaning tasks for that zone. Now, I have 1 zone to focus on each week. Not that I actually do this all the time, but when I do do it, the house is nicer.

Large Family Logisitics

      I have really enjoyed Large Family Logistics, also. I use/like her Day of the Week plan, where one day is laundry day, one day is town day, one day is kitchen day, etc. I do better having a day focused to a particular set of tasks, though when I take this too far, I give myself more tasks than I have energy for. In all of this, there is a balance act to perform.

Confident Mom Planner

     At the New Year (i.e. Jan 2013) I picked up an ebook bundle from bundleoftheweek.com that included ‘The Confident Mom Planner”. This is a planner that you can print up that has each week laid out with repeating tasks assigned to particular days. I love the idea here, but I’ve found that I don’t like the way she spreads the tasks out over the week. E.g. when I vacuum, I’m going to vacuum the whole house. My house isn’t big enough to warrant only vacuuming children’s room and hall way on one day, then the living areas on another day. Perhaps if I had a bigger house, this might make sense. She’s got a good generalized task list, but I’d rather (theoretically, at least) create my own list with my own tasks that are personalized. You might not care. See… know thyself!

Planning Worksheets

     Now for the specifics of the actual day to day running. I LOVE planning worksheets. I’ve used who knows how many styles and structures while looking for the perfect planning page. I’ve not found the ‘perfect’ one yet, but I’ve found several that work quite nicely. You just have to use them. 😛 I’ve found planning worksheets to be quite customizable, flexible, but they provide some basic structure to the planning. I’m sure that if you google ‘daily (or weekly, or monthly) planning worksheets’ you will get some huge number of hits. I’m currently using the weekly planning page, the weekly menu planning page and the daily planning page from Organizing Life as Mom, an ebook I got in the ‘ultimate homemakers ebook bundle’. You can get these from here (http://lifeasmom.com/organizing-life-as-mom-redesigned-and-updated-ebook).
     She, author of Organizing Life as Mom,  suggests laminating the pages you want to use and getting them spiral bound. I’m perfectionist enough that I’m working towards that, but not yet there. I’ve laminated the planning pages I’m using, but I’m waiting to laminate my pantry stocking pages (a whole ‘nother topic!) till I think they are truly completed, then I’ll spiral bind them. Of course, that might be years away…. For now, I’ve got the pantry stocking pages in sheet protectors. The sheet protectors work much the same way as laminating… you can write on and wipe off, I’ve just found that lamination works a bit better. The wiping off is a bit cleaner and the writing on is more crisp. If you are using sheet protectors, use the matte style, not glossy. Glossy ones are hard to write on as the glossy plastic just doesn’t hold the ink. I use wet erase pens to write (I’ve read you can use dry-erase, but they don’t clean as well, I think). You can use the basic Expo wet erase pens, which work just fine. I, however, use Staedtler Lumocolor non-permanent pens. The point is significantly finer than Expo pens, so you get a much smaller mark and the colors don’t run at all. The pens are such that there is a bit of drag so it feels more like you are writing on an actual sheet of paper, which is something I really appreciate. If there are any teachers out there, these pens are great overhead pens… the fine points and sharp colors let you get so much more detail on overhead drawings and the sharp, crisp lines are great for viewers to see clearly what you’ve written. Can you tell I love these pens?
So, there it is. I’ve come up with a few more ideas, but what questions do you have? Other aspects of home keeping that you want to hear about?
(none of my links are affiliate links. They are direct links, based on my own recommendations, and I get nothing from your clicking or any purchasing.)

Homekeeping resources: ebooks

This is really a huge topic, but I will try to be succinct. (all links given here will open in a new tab/window)

Ebooks

There are a ton of ebooks out; a fair number are good quality books. I, in my tightwad ways, might notice a book I want to read and will wait till I see it free on amazon, or a sign-up-for-this freebie, or somesuch. Most of the ebooks I have, I got for free. Legally. Some have been pretty bad, and some quite good, and the majority in the middle. Occasionally, I’ll pay for an ebook, such as when, last spring, there was an offer of a huge swath of homkeeping-mothering-parenting-and-all-other-topics-that-an-adult-woman-in-the-US-might-be-interested-in ebook bundle. I’ve found the best way to find ebooks you’ll be interested in is to find the blogs that cover the topic you are interested in. Of course, if you just want free ebooks, a site like http://www.free-ebooks.net/ might be what you want.
In general, ebooks tend to be shorter and more focused than bound books (at least in my experience), such as ‘time management’ or ‘scheduling’ in one book, while another book discusses the documents that are helpful in homemaking (to do lists, calendars, etc).
Here are the ebooks that I’ve found most useful in my quest to better my homekeeping skills.
Organized Simplicity, by Tsh Oxenreider (http://simplemom.net/books/) — I got this book as a free amazon book in Jan 2012. She walks you through establishing your own family’s mission and vision, and then helps you figure out your priorities such that what you do lines up with your family’s mission (purpose statement is what she calls it). This is a great book for figuring out how to go about living simply
Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule so you can Live Free, by Annie Dillard (tellyourtime.com). Wow, this book was awesome! The author walks you through defining your roles, using those roles as a guide for establishing priorities, then uses those as foundations for setting up a weekly schedule. This has been the best book I’ve read, so far, about scheduling and how to go about it.
Organizing Life as Mom, by Jessica Getskow Fisher (www.lifeasmom.com). This book is the nuts and bolts of homekeeping and general parental organizing. The book is a compilation of “worksheets and planning pages to help you get your act together”. I use several pages from this book, which I’ve laminated, for my weekly planning. When you buy the book, you get a monthly update with new worksheets and planning pages and a new monthly calendar jpg you can use for your desktop background. I really like this.

Other useful ebooks

There are other ebooks that I enjoyed, learned from, or have good information, but aren’t one my MVB list.
The Homemakers Guide to Creating the Perfect Schedule, by Amy Roberts (raisingarrows.net). She walks you through establishing a schedule for your home. It was straightforward and useful information, ideas, and guidance.
Hula Hoop Girl, by September McCarthy (hulahoopgirl.net). This book more deals with our own tendency to get overly involved and too busy. Are you trying to keep more hula hoops spinning than you really ought? Or perhaps you are trying to keep more plates spinning than you ought? Either way, this book was really good at taking the reader through these issues and focusing one’s efforts.
Do the Funky Kitchen, by Laura Coppinger (www.heavenlyhomemakers.com). My kitchen is the control center of my home. And I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and in the dinning room. This book walks you through getting your kitchen into shape to work for you, which the author admits that she needs to do on a regular basis. I should probably do this again soon.
Next up: What I actually do!
Yep, finally, after how long? I’ll walk you through what I’ve done in the past and what I’m doing and what I’ve found works and doesn’t work and what really doesn’t matter. At least in my life.

School is in the air

Alas, I must finish my homekeeping project… but not today.

So, I’m itching to do some ‘school’. I really enjoy academics and I love to learn. And I love to teach. I just couldn’t help myself when I found (via moneysavingmom.com) this fun set of lesson plans: God’s Little Explorers. I figured we could do as much or little as we wanted (joys of doing ‘preschool’ at home!) and have fun with it.

We did Week 1:  “X” Marks the Spot (God’s Word is a Treasure), day 1 today. I think we had fun.

First, I made some ‘binoculars’ for Little Man. He has really enjoyed them, and they are made from a major heavy duty cardboard roll (I have no idea what came on it) that required a knife for cutting. Hopefully, that means it will last longer.

I see you!

I see you!

We went on a walk with the binoculars, and I think Little Man really enjoyed looking at stuff through them.

Little Man has discovered a special joy in running. Just running. Not to get any where, per say, but just to run. So, for some of our walk, we ran. He’s pretty fast. I can still keep up with him fine, but I can’t just walk, I have to jog to keep up. Which does me more exercise for me. Which is good — so I keep telling myself.

Back at the house, we (I) drew a ‘treasure map’ on the drive way. No, Little Man can’t hop yet, but he had fun jumping through the hop scotch.

start here. then hop scotch.

start here. then hop scotch.

On the way through the treasure map, I also drew up a ‘four square’. Not sure if this is what everyone else calls it or not — its where you each stand in opposite squares and bounce a ball to each other. Except that our ball was flat, it was fun. I don’t think the flat ball affect Little Man’s fun.

finish here. Drink water.

finish here. Drink water.

We played outside for a while more. We even watched the garbage truck come by and the guys pick up our garbage. Little Man loves watching them. We came in for a snack… crackers and cheese. I had put out all the cheese sticks as ‘x’s’ on the crackers,  but Little Man promptly took all the sticks off, lined them up and ate the crackers. (He did eat some cheese).

cheese and crackers... yummy!

cheese and crackers… yummy!

 

I think from here we will do a bit of book reading, and talking about ‘treasures’. I have a few other ideas for fun activities.

I have no expectation that Little Man will learn any letters from all this, its just fun and I enjoy the focus and intentionality of it  — and getting to plan.

I highly recommend Home Preschool and Beyond, both the book and blog. Home is the best place for littles, I think. I don’t think there is anything special you need to do for your child, it is fun for someone like me.

Simplifying, Decluttering and Personalities

Back before Little Man was born, I received the book Simplicity Parenting. It really made since. I aim to keep us home at least 3 or 4 days a week, we’ve aimed to keep toys to a minimum. We aim to sandwich A days with C days.

Then, one day Hubby says that there are just too many toys out. Its too much to clean up, he says. I had to agree. So, I removed several toys that weren’t played with all that much. Put about 1/4 of the duplo blocks into a basket that was put back out; the other 3/4 were put away. The next day, Little Man hardly noticed, but he did play quietly by himself for a while.

A few days later, I read a blog post about a mom who, in response to seeing her daughter’s discontent, put away *all* the daughters’ toys. As in, every single toy. All the dress up clothes, all the toy food, all the puzzles. It took two weeks to adjust, but then the girls started playing happily together.  Then they reached the day when the girls would ask for a toy (such as dress up clothes) that would keep them happy all day.

I was inspired. We’d been trying to teach Little Man to play on his own for months; nothing too intense, just setting him up with something and leaving. Or making suggestions of what he could do. I hoped that it was just a ‘someday’ skill, he is only 2. But I figured this was worth the try.

I cleared out another 1/2 of the toys. Most of the toys left out fit on a small 3 foot bookshelf. The books fit in a basket. There are other random toys around, and he’s acquired a few more ‘toys’, like an empty roll of tape. I didn’t clear out all the toys, because he isn’t old enough to ask for particular toys. Here’s what’s out:

Most of the toys. This is the 3 ft bookshelf.

Most of the toys. This is the 3 ft bookshelf.

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I use a wire trashcan to hold the various balls and a beanbag. If nothing else, it makes a natural target for throwing.

I use a wire trashcan to hold the various balls and a beanbag. If nothing else, it makes a natural target for throwing.

The remainder of the toys that got put away are up in our closet. The books are on a shelf in our bedroom. I figure I’ll trade a few things out every now and then, especially if I see something that isn’t played with all that much.

This doesn’t include outside toys, those are just a different category.

Result: One morning, he pulled out his car and truck and played with them, quietly and on his own for nearly 2 hours. I think he was watching the wheels as he rolled the vehicles over various surfaces. Another morning, at the local children’s museum, he played, quite intently, with toy trains for nearly an hour. And this has continued. He has spent 30 minutes studying the water as it flows ‘down hill’ as he poured it with a cup from the swimming pool (not that we have hills in our yard, but there is enough of a slope in places for the water to flow down).

Last weekend, at my nephew’s 1 year birthday part, at one point I realize that Little Man isn’t out playing any more. I look around and find him back in the bedroom with toy trains, playing quietly on the bed. I realized that Little Man is more like me than I’d assumed. Yes, he likes interaction, but he likes the one-on-one interaction. Big groups seem to wonk him out. And with slimming down his choices about toys, he seems to find it easier to focus on one thing.

And its all way easier and faster to clean up.

 

I think I’m a ‘busy brain’

I started reading The Common Room several months ago and I’m really enjoying it. On Fridays, the Equuschick has been writing on raising a ‘busy brain’. These are kids who try your patience with their curiosity and perfectionism. They might not do well in traditional school settings (think Einstein and such). From the start, I was rather convinced that I was married to a busy brain and that I’m working to raise a busy brain. As I read and thought, though, I began to think “am I a busy brain?” This link here will take you to the ‘Brainy Friday’ posts, and here is the first post that prompted it all.

I’ve never considered myself particularly gifted, and I struggled to get all A’s in school. I was tested for the Gifted and Talented program several times, but never quite made it in.

But I’ve been paying attention to my own thought patterns lately. They are everywhere. And rather unorganized. I can jump from one topic to the next in no time, without missing a beat. I have strong perfectionist tendencies. Somethings come very easy for me, and other things are quite difficult. I don’t think I’m a classic ‘busy brain’, but then who is, right?

Anyhoo, I started that Homekeeping Strategies Project, and I WILL finish it. Of course, I’ve gotten distracted by picking up an old Greek textbook, CS Lewis’s “The Abolition of Man”, several new Kindle books (free from amazon!), and have even considered working on (might I finish it?) my Master’s Thesis which I never finished because I decided to just take the comp exams and graduate. And I’m thinking about this all while I’m working hard to finish a work project on time, get up early enough to have a bit of planning and a bit of bible reading before Little Man gets up, which means getting to bed at a reasonable hour, and keep my home running smoothly — which includes running after a very active and rather passionate little boy. And not drink too much coffee.

Okay, typing all that made me more tired.

With the start of a new school year, lots and lots of folks are talking about their new start, new routines, new goals and new habits. I, in general, enjoy thinking about these things. But then I think nothing will change all that much for me when school starts so why think on these things too much. But you know what, I will have more of a schedule. HelloMornings (and here) will be full swing starting Monday. Tuesday morning Bible study will start up, likely, in the next few weeks.

Yep, got more think about. I hope to have more on homekeeping strategies up soon!

Homekeeping Blogs

I realized that I was far overdue for the next installment of homekeeping resources. The online world is so massive and I decided I needed to reread one of the books I was recommending, so I decided to break up what was becoming a very long post into at least 2 posts (maybe 3?) Here is one part of the online resources: websites and blogs. Okay, just blogs.

The Blogs

The world of blogs has exploded in recent years. There is a blog for every topic and every stage of life. I’m still learning that though I found this blog (or that blog) interesting and useful at some point in the past, its okay to delete it from the RSS reader if its not doing that for me now. Here is a list of current favorites (and how long, approximate) with commentary.
Like Mother, Like Daughter (http://ourmothersdaughters.blogspot.com/) I LOVE this blog. The authors are catholic and so occasionally I might skip a post on ideas for celebrating the feast of this saint or that saint, but as often as not, I will still read the post to see what goodies I might find. See, Auntie Leila, who is the mother of a brood of 7 children and the grandmother of 4 (I think), is the primary author and she offers so much wisdom. It is so worth reading the achieves on meal planning, raising children, loving your husband, and a slew of other worthy topics. She preaches community (which I think is so wise!). I enjoy the Thursday “Pretty, Funny, Happy, Real” even if I don’t post my own. I really enjoy the weekend “Bits and Pieces” which is articles, websites, videos etc that were found interesting of the week before. I find that just as I reread LFL or Home Comforts occasionally, this is a blog I need to come and read articles on certain topics, such as meal planning (I printed that series up and put it in a ‘meal planning journal’) and raising children.
Simple Mom (http://simplemom.net/) This blog is just refreshing. I really enjoy the ‘Weekend Links’ usually published on Saturday or Sunday. The various posts through out the week might cover just being a mother, or parent, or homeschooling, or something fun to do, or a reflection on life.
Money Saving Mom (http://moneysavingmom.com/) This blog could be very overwhelming if you don’t know what you are getting in to. Continually, throughout the day from Monday to Saturday (the blog is quite quiet on Sunday), of shopping deals, ways to earn extra income (think swagbucks and the like), goal setting, and meal planning. She, Crystal, often puts up posts on a topic, such as getting up in the morning, not running out of blog post ideas, or organizing something. I have my feeds set up in feedly, and will, in the index view, mark a whole slew of posts as read without opening them. The post titles do a good job of telling you what is actually in the post.

Why just blogs?

As I wrote this post, I realized that I mostly read blogs. I don’t read many other web sites, though I might read an article here or there via links on facebook or a blog post. I think this relates back to the ‘living book’ aspect of writing. These blogs are written by women who are passionate about what they write about. This is what makes the blogs come alive and makes them worth reading.
So, go out and find a few blogs that cover the topics you care about. If you already have a favorite, leave a link in a comment.

A separate, but related part of home keeping

That is … making good use of mornings.

I have a post in the works on the ebooks and other online/digital resources for home keeping. But its taking me a while to get it completed. There is just so much out there! And I decided to reread at least on ebook before talking about it as its been nearly 2 years since I read it.

In the meantime, here is something that might make a difference in your home keeping.

Christian Community 

I participated in the last 2 challenges (spring and summer) and starting Aug 19, I am serving as an Accountability Captain (AC) for a group. My group is a ‘specific’ group which is targeting stay-at-home-moms. There are general groups with women from all walks of life and other specific groups for particular situations.

Here’s the idea… your morning can really make or break your day. Using your morning well can set you up for whatever task(s) God has for you that day. So, this groups provide accountability for getting up at a reasonable time, spending some time in the Word (a Bible study is given out free through the groups) and getting some exercise (or loving movement as flylady calls it, I like that). If you find you struggle with your mornings, or you feel like your days are always behind or chaotic, consider working on this morning habit.

As for me… well… I struggle with mornings. I’m a solid 9 hours of sleep kinda gal, and if I let myself just run on my own internal clock, I tend towards a 25 or 26 hour day. If I just get up when I’m done sleeping, it will be a tad later than the night before when I’m ready to sleep. Then the next morning I’ll sleep in a bit more, and then stay up a bit longer. I know this because I let myself do this one summer when I was living on my own, had no one else I needed to report to and any work I had to do was just me. All that to say that I just need to get up with the alarm clock, whatever time I was up to the night before. If I’m that tired, I ought to go to bed earlier that night (yeah, whatever! I know this in my head… not that I live it.)

Then, I LOVE to sit with my cup of coffee, read my email, read my blogs (loving feedly.com!), browse a bit of facebook, write a bit, think about my day, drink some more coffee… you get the idea. Alas, if I’m not intentional, this becomes a 3 hour ritual. Which on a Saturday morning before Little Man was born, was totally do-able. Now? Somewhere between that first cup of coffee and blogs, Little Man is up, wants breakfast, wants interaction, wants to go outside. And the day begins.

These challenges are helping me to focus that time. I’ve read enough and heard it preached enough to know that I need a morning routine for getting my day going, and the HelloMorning group has helped provide some of that accountability I need to get that morning routine done. And do it again the next day.

Here’s my plan for the fall challenge: get up at 6 am, get dressed, get coffee, do Bible study, look at day’s plan, eat breakfast. Little Man usually gets up around 7, but if he gets up early, I’ll eat breakfast with him. The laptop won’t come on till after I eat breakfast. (gasp, did I really just say that??? oh, my goodness, I think I really am committing to this…)

Unless there are special circumstances, no napping in the afternoon.

Be ready to actually go to sleep (not just climb into bed…) by 930. This gives me some wiggle time to chat with Hubby, read, or lay quietly in the dark.

You might notice that I have no mention of exercise in that plan… yeah, not figured that out yet. It really can’t be that hard, right? I just gotta decide on something and go with it and keep at it. So says the theory. Here’s my problem…. I want to swim laps. Swimming laps requires driving up to the university pool to do, without Little Man. I am thinking through some strategies, just not figured out a good one yet.

What’s your plan? Gonna join the HelloMornings Challenge? Got your own thing going? Are you looking to the flylady community? Some other group? Are you completely without a plan? Do you even want to do anything about using your morning well? (maybe you just don’t care?) Maybe you already have a plan that works for you?

More on homekeeping books

I am intentionally violating the 500 word post recommendation. There is just too much to say. And maybe I have too many words to say it in fewer words…. anyhoo, here goes.

More on homekeeping books: the ‘how to go about homekeeping’ genre

I love me some coffee at strategic points during the day. As often as not, its just apart of the routine of my day and if I don’t have a good cup of hot coffee at particular points, it can really throw me off. Hot chocolate, hot tea, or chai (hot or cold) can sort of replace the hot coffee (note that its hot, not cold), but its not quite the same.

I have a routine. Its not really a schedule, because much of what I do doesn’t have a set time that it gets done, but things tend to happen in the same order. I’m fairly flexible, such that if something comes up, something gets thrown off, etc, I can float on through and complete my day fairly well. But, oh, am I so happy when I can stick to my routine.
I’ve found this to be even more important with a toddler around. Yes, yes, I’ve read this is multiple places, but its when you live it that the truth of it sinks in. Little Man likes his routine and life goes better when that routine keeps on keeping on.
Every how-to-go-about-homekeeping book I’ve read says the above in some way or another. Keeping house is very much about redoing the same task at some given interval. For example, you might shower each day before bed. And you might vacuum each week on Monday morning. Routine. How each book says it and how they frame it varies book to book. Every author will also declare that to work for you, you gotta think on it and adjust it to fit your life and circumstances.
Some of the books I want to talk about are e-books, and I plan to cover those in the next post.

Sink Reflections, by Marla Cilley

First up, Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley. I read this book once, in 2007, I think, with my ESL class. They were all mom’s and immigrants with school aged children (and some babies) and were struggling to adjust to life in the USA. Cilley’s writing style is laid back and is a quick read, so it was fairly accessible to my students. My love of flylady is mostly email/web based, but her book supports her online message quite well. She teaches about how to establish routines, such as morning or evening, and what kinds of things you might include in that routine. She takes the reader through, step by step, how to set up those routines and start on them. She teaches ‘baby steps’, small changes spaced out. For someone who feels a bit lost thinking about keeping house and overwhelmed at the enormity of the task, this is a perfect first book.

Large Family Logistics, by Kim Brenneman

One of my favorite books is Large Family Logistics (LFL). Don’t let the name turn you off, what she teaches works for families of all sizes and even singles. Brenneman, the author, starts with a comment about why she wrote this book. Its a story that is told by so many in this genre: ‘I didn’t learn it growing up and had to figure it out on my own or with a neighbor’s help. I wrote it all down so that you, reader, can learn in a more straightforward fashion.’ I’m certainly thankful that these women wrote down what they learned, I just wish that I had that neighbor who would walk along side me in this area. But that is a soapbox for another post.
Anyhoo, back to the book. Brenneman approaches life not as much on a daily basis as a weekly basis. She discusses designating each day for a specific set of tasks: planning day, town day, kitchen day, etc. She discusses the routines of meal planning, reading aloud, doing laundry and a slew of other tasks. And she talks about it in the context of… you’ve got a lot of everything. Lots of kids to read to, lots of laundry to do. Thus, if you are like me in that you’ve got *some* to do (but not necessarily *a lot*), you can assume it will take less time to whatever it is.
In part 1 of her book, she does discuss various family dynamics, routines, and attitudes that can either make life run smoother or make it run rougher. I love how she shoots straight and tells it like it is. She discusses Proverbs 31, goals, systems, self-discipline, attitude, how to deal with an interrupted day and a slew of other relevant topics. She has homeschooled her large family, and she discusses how home keeping and homeschooling work together.
Best of all, the book its self is printed on heavy, matte paper (no glare!), on 8.5 x 11 pages and printed in 13 or 14 point font. The book itself is quite non-threatening and approachable. Many chapters are only a few pages long — both because of the size of the book and that Brenneman doesn’t beat around the bush or wax eloquently (not that she is a poor writer…) on and on about the topic.

Other books that deserve a short comment

Home Comforts does address this ‘how to go about homekeeping’ question, but its a short section in the Beginnings chapter. Its useful and informative, I’ve just found that LFL addresses the topic in a more accessible manner. Its really a matter of author’s perspective and experience. Both LFL and Home Comforts are, I think, living books (going with a Charlotte Mason definition of ‘living book’ –see below for a comment on that).
Along the way, I’ve found a few other books that lend something to my thoughts on home keeping. An old favorite is “Nesting, its a chick thing” by Ame Mahler Beanland and Emily Miles Terry, “A Life that Says Welcome” by Karen Ehman, and Martha Stewart Living Magazine (when I can grab a free subscription!).
Things that have fallen flat: Real Simple Magazine, and most other magazines that are about ‘keeping house’. The attitude is usually that housework is drudgery and best avoided, but when you do have to do it, here’s how to do it with the least work. No thank you. I really like flylady’s sentiment: when you keep house, you are blessing your family, so don’t be a martyr. Home Comforts and LFL also take this attitude. MS Homekeeping Handbook does also, but to a lesser extent, since it is much more a ‘text book’.
Until next time, read a book. A homekeeping book. Then, come tell me something you learned, something you liked or what you need/want more on. Deal?
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3. Living Books

Living books are the opposite of textbooks–quality literature (either fiction or non-fiction) written by an author with a passion for the topic. The writer’s passion and expertise breathes life into the book, as opposed to a textbook that gives impersonal overviews of many topics.

Living books present inspiring stories that engage the minds of children and adults alike, providing characters our children can look up to and emulate.

– See more at: http://simplehomeschool.net/7-characteristics-of-a-charlotte-mason-education/#sthash.XFmcK9VC.dpuf

Homekeeping Books

Its not uncommon knowledge that books can be the source of a great deal of information. It helps that I love to read — even just the act of reading. That is, if I’m eating, I want something to read. I’m happy to read the cereal box if that’s all there it. Its very nearly a compulsion. Fortunately, it doesn’t go the other way, wanting something to eat if I’m reading.

Years and years ago, I remember asking a very old friend of my mom’s (as in they had been friends a very long time) how he knew what to read and how did he find so many good books to read. We both had an interest in China and I was amazed at the number of books he’d gathered on that topic (current trends, history, culture). He showed me how he starts with one book, perhaps someone recommended or it was found somewhere, that was good and went to its foot notes/end notes/references. He would look up those books and decide what he wanted to read. Then, from one of those books, he would sort through the references to find other books. I suspect that eventually you’ll have a list of all the books on the subject.
Homekeeping books are much the same; I will sort through and search out any books referenced in a book I enjoyed and found profitable. Unfortunately, most of the books referenced by these books are old, out of print and, possibly, rare. But really, that’s where amazon.com comes in handy. sort of. I like that I can see of those who looked at this item also looked at that item. But that is depending more on the opinion of the masses rather than an educated opinion, I think. I am always open to exploring more books and I’ve always got my eyes open for other homekeeping books that would have good information.
The other down side of the homekeeping topic is that the books all pretty much say the same thing, though the pictures are different, or the context or perspective is a bit different. The trend in the United States these days seems to be personalization, so that if something isn’t speaking to your specific situation, its of no use to you. Poppycock. Its worth developing the reading skill to be able to understand what someone is actually saying because you will find in many topics, everyone is saying the same thing. They are just using different words.
Enough of that soap box, I think.
There are several homekeeping books that I have found very useful. Some I have reviewed in the past, though I plan to run through them again in this project. The old reviews can be found here (https://mamarachael.wordpress.com/book-reviews/).
Of course, now I see the books I haven’t reviewed.
Homekeeping books seem to have two different niches that different books try to fulfill. The first niche is the general reference guide for caring for your home and belongings. Home Comforts and Martha Stewart Homekeeping Handbook fall this niche. The second niche is the ‘how to do it’ sort of guide. These books present a method (of sorts) on how to go about keeping house. Large Family Logistics and Sink Reflections are these sorts of books. There are a lot of ebooks that will fit, for the most part, in this second niche. Finally, there are books that are a subniche, e.g. The Naturally Clean Home. She covers how to make your own cleaning solutions, which fits nicely in the reference guide niche, but doesn’t cover all the topics that the larger reference guides cover. (I want to cover web based sources in a separate post.)
If you happen to be roaring and ready to go, check your local library for any of the books I’ve mentioned. I plan to cover the reference guides, their uses and their failings, in the next post. After that, I’ll cover the how-to-go-about-homekeeping books. Then I will cover the various web based resources I’ve come across. I will NOT be exhaustive, as there is SO much out there and, yet, I have so little time.
Until next time, keep on.

Turning 7

Today, July 28 is my blog’s 7th birthday. hard to believe I’ve been doing this that long.

2006 was a busy year. Well, two things happened that rocked my world. On June 3, I got married. Then, on June 17, my mother died. Doesn’t take much more to make for a crazy year, right? Anyhoo, I think I saw blogging as an creative outlet that I needed.

Here are some more popular and significant posts of the last 7 years:

The first post

Pondering death and grief

Dealing with infertility

Moving across country (and when my blogging rate picked up significantly)

The top 5 posts of all time, in order of number of views:

Hope in the Grief

Moms and Sons

A Day in the Life: One year edition

Geffen Baby Inserts review

I have not fallen off the face of the earth

I will likely never be a professional blogger, at least not any time soon. But I do love to write and hope to keep writing for a long time. I love that people read my posts and hope that anyone who reads them enjoys them.  If you have time, you might consider perusing the oldest posts… as in pre-2009. There aren’t that many, but each post was a rather significant point (unlike these days when a post might just be a ‘day in the life’ kind of post).

Thank you readers! And leave a comment with what you’d like to see more of.

Home keeping strategies: Flylady

I often spend time thinking about how I spend my time. I want to be quite intentional about my time use. And, occasionally, I think about how a woman of ages past might have gotten it all done. She didn’t have all the electronic gadgets I’ve got, like the washing machine and dryer, that save a great deal of time and effort. Add in electric lights and the internet, and I have both distractions and helps in way that she likely never even imagined.

And so I have pondered how life would be different if had to spend a whole day actually doing laundry. And grow *all* our fresh veggies. And sew *all* our clothes. I’m quite thankful I don’t have to do these things!
It has also gotten me thinking about how its likely any woman of earlier times worked on a seasonal basis. Spring and Summer were spend primarily in the garden, perhaps and sewing, knitting and the like focused on during those times when being outside wasn’t reasonable.
Of course, I’ve also given it thought about how my life should run. I realized that July, August and September are the times of the year that one *does not* want to be outside, but the rest of the year is fairly reasonable (except the occasional cold spell in January, February or March). With the right veggies, I could garden from late September to June. From late March to June and then late September to December are the garden intense months.
Feeding the family, obviously, can’t be done seasonally. Though perhaps I could plan to do the cooking heavy tasks at certain times. E.g. defrost the freezer, make freezer meals. Hmmmm…. lots of thoughts.
Sewing could be focused during those times when I just don’t want to go out, like July to September and January.
All of these thoughts lead to a project I have in mind. I am a connoisseur of home management/scheduling/organizing methods and I thought to go through all the various methods I’ve tried and what I thought of them.
First up… flylady.net!
I love flylady. Really. Even though I don’t currently use her system. I found flylady years and years ago, and thought “ugh, website too busy. not going to bother.” Then, only a few years ago, I found her again. Mom had died about 9 months before and I was ready to find help in the home management area (as in other than Mom). And I found flylady.
At the time, I needed flylady. When you sign up for her emails, you will get a lot. Most are reminders, many are testimonials, some are Marla’s own musings on life, the universe and everything. (well, not everything. or the universe. just life.) Her book, Sink Reflections, is basically a remedial study on organizing life. She makes no assumptions that you even know how to use a calendar. She preaches “Baby Steps” which is so important when trying to make changes.
After a time, I stopped getting the emails. Then I got them again. Then I got the daily digest. Now, I don’t get them any more. But my needs have changed.
Her instructions for creating a home management journal are great and I still use her format as the basis for the notebooks I put together. I am exploring a few new options, but they are all variations on a theme, really. I use her method for creating travel journals and any other I-need-to-keep-track-of-all-these-papers situations.
Flylady gave me the foundation of routines. Morning routine, evening/bedtime routine and afternoon routine. I see routines preached just about every where today, and I suspect that they have been the basic foundation of home keeping for a very long time. But some how I missed out on the idea of routines… until flylady.
I didn’t like get so many emails. At the time I was getting her emails (2007 through early 2010) there wasn’t really a way to get just the reminders and not the other emails (like testimonials and general life reflections). I needed those reminders. But I’m not good about just deleting an email I don’t need to read, so I spent a lot of time sorting through flylady emails. I suspect some of the logistics have changed… the internet has changed a fair bit. Blogs are a bigger deal now than in 2007. And flylady has been doing her thing since 1999; the internet has changed A LOT since 1999.
By 2010, I found I didn’t need the reminders. I was on my feet home keeping wise and I was ready to branch out.
She’s solid, she’s consistent. Flylady is a great place to start. And I LOVE the calendar. I still buy the calendar each year.