Monday, May 31, 2010

Home Alone

Once again, I'm on my couch with my swollen feet up.  I don't really think it helps relieve the swelling, but it does put less pressure on the already swollen. 

My due date is this Thursday.  Hard to believe it's almost time.  Any time now, I could be having this baby.  I wonder how life with change with another child in this home.

If I did Daybook posts, I'd have fun with the "Outside my window..." prompt today.  Dark clouds.  Rain and wind.  And my family out in it.

My husband, daughters, my brother, and my parents are off to visit a cemetery in the city where we have great-great-grand parents buried.  Andrew plans to say some prayers at the graves and scatter some bay leaves from Holy Saturday.  I've always wanted to see the site myself, but I've been up in the middle of the night with a sick two-year-old two nights in a row now, and I need some rest.  I instructed my husband to take pictures.  Although, with the aforementioned weather, I question whether they will even get out of the car.

The two-year-old insisted on going along with the outing despite being a bit feverish.  My Dad convinced me that there really wasn't any reason to keep her home when she'll just be on a family outing and being held there instead of at home, so I let her go, happy to have some quiet time to myself here and not to have to deny her the car trip with Grandpa and Grandma.  Why do kids get such a kick out of riding in other peoples' cars?

My coffee is lukewarm.  A perpetual occurrence in my life.  Brew.  Sip.  Interruption.  Microwave.  Sip.  Forget to drink any more because microwaved doesn't really taste that good.  Rediscover mug.  Microwave.  Sip.  Blech.  Microwaved coffee.  Forget....  But having that mug sitting around unfinished brings me some kind of odd sense of comfort.  Like I could sit down at any time, pull out something I wanted to read or work on and sip my coffee in peace.  I think in the scenario, though, I expect it to taste hot and freshly brewed.

I don't really have anything profound to say in this post, so I think I'll stop here and work on some of the other posts that have been brewing (still thinking about that coffee, I think) in my mind for the last couple of days.  Then I'll have to find something to make the crew for lunch when they return from their wet excursion.  And finally, my sickie and I will take a nap.  :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Apostles' Fast and Summer Learning

While I am nearly through actively planning homeschool lessons for the summer, we will continue to do a few learning-type activities into Summer.  We'll be working through the Bob Books series along with the exercises designed to go along with them at Letters of Grace (at a lazy summer pace).

I'd like to increase our time outdoors (even if it's just sitting in our backyard) by getting into doing a Nature Notebook.  Keeping one of these journals by sketching wildlife (or taking photos?) can be a gentle introduction to the scientific world.  As a bonus, the drawing combines the subject with Art, and the notebook can include Poetry if you are creative.  I may start doing this on my own before I foist it on the girls.  If I do a few entries, they'll probably ask to make one of their own anyway.  Then, it's their idea, not mine!

Eventually, I'd like to purchase a copy of The Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock to facilitate our learning in this area.

Since we are nearly into the Apostles' Fast, I'd like to do some kind of activity related to the apostles with my kids (although, since I am about to give birth, I don't have any big plans).

Some of the resources I am considering include:

  • Go and Make Disciples at ~ a Jesse-Tree-style list of twelve readings and accompanying symbols to color or craft.
Finally, for our summer education, we'll continue to use the Let Us Attend program at to prepare for each Sunday's Gospel reading.  I like to do this on the Thursday or Friday before that particular gospel is read so the girls have something to listen for during the actual reading at church, and something to look for in the icon, if the coloring page corresponds to the one we will venerate at church.

With Bob Books, Nature Notebooks, a Let Us Attend activity each week, twelve apostles to read about from Ms. Mayer's book, and twelve readings and symbols from Go and Make Disciples, I think we will have plenty to keep us busy this Summer.  I'd like to lay out some of these resources in some kind of orderly fashion to give it some kind of structure (sound vague enough?), and if I do, I'll post it here.

What Else Are They For?

Nursing has been on my mind lately--wonder why?  ;)

50 Reasons for Breastfeeding, Anytime, Anywhere

Thanks to Michelle for the link!

A Nineteen-Year-Old Martyr from 1996

A friend posted a brief life of Great Martyr Evgeny on her blog and I thought I'd share it.  I wasn't aware of this saint, and his is a particularly inspiring story.  He was only 19!  And he was martyred so recently--in 1996!

Makes our faith seem "relevant," doesn't it?

But more importantly, it makes me think even more about how am I raising my children.  Will they at 19 have the faith to withstand torture and death for Christ?  Of course, no mother wants to think about this possibility for her children, but the other possibility--failing to raise children who would make this choice--is no more heartening.

Great Martyr Evgeny, pray to God for us.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our Parish

A friend of mine has put up a beautiful set of photos of our church building on her blog.  It must have been from Bright Week because we still have the beautiful chaos of bay leaves from Holy Saturday adorning the floor.  If you're interested, check out...

Purple and Fine Linen

And our official website is here:

All Saints Orthodox Church

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Seasonal Chores

In her recent post on the second section of her Cycles of Grace Notebooks, Mary provided various detailed and incredibly helpful housekeeping lists.  I am working on my own set of these notebooks.  I began this year after a fairly organized Nativity Fast, in which I was able to do most of the preparations for Christmas that I had set out to do using FlyLady's Holiday Control Journal.  I had the idea that I would add to the binder by continuing to print out portions of that planner to be used with other holidays during the year that require preparation.  Early into this process, I discovered Mary's Cycles of Grace Notebook system (including her set weekly menus), and I was hooked!

One question I wanted to answer for myself regarding the section she calls "Beauty in the Home" (the housecleaning and routines section, similar to FlyLady's original Control Journal) was why would I want to include this section in a set of seasonal notebooks as opposed to having one notebook for this section alone that does not change?  My daily routines remain pretty much the same, don't they?  The lists Mary provided for Monthly, Quarterly, and Annual Routines looked like they would also remain the same.  So why print out 5 copies for 5 different notebooks?

Suddenly, inspiration struck.  I had just been getting through a bunch of tasks that I would probably need to do at the same time next year (ie., switching out the kids' clothes, boxing up mittens and winter coats, etc.).  It turns out that I do have certain chores that should be done during certain seasons--so why not create a set of To Do lists individual to each Cycles of Grace Notebook so I don't have to reinvent the lists next year?  Isn't that the whole beauty of the other sections of these notebooks?

I have begun a list of these chores that will take the place of the Quarterly and Annual Routine lists.  I think I will keep the Monthly list, determine how many months that Notebook will cover, and add an appropriate number of little boxes to check off next to the items on this list.  (Incidentally, I've noticed that my Daily Schedule and Routines will also change slightly in the next season as we shift into a lighter homeschooling schedule and more time outdoors.)

Here are my lists for Notebook 4: The Pascha Season.  The first contains chores that need to be done in my home.

The second contains tasks that are more planning in nature.

I have also created a Projects page that is filed in my housekeeping section, a tab behind my Monthly and Seasonal Chores.  (My housekeeping tabs are Homemaking Journal; Daily Schedule & Routines, Weekly Routine; Monthly and Seasonal Chores; Projects; Household Inventory List.)  It's basically an ongoing To Do list sheet.

These are works in progress, but I am very excited about the prospect of using this next year.  I am starting to think more about Notebook 5 now, and hopefully, I will be posting some more of my creations for that notebook soon.  I am also eagerly awaiting Mary's post on her third section "The Year of Grace."  I have my own ideas for this section that aren't strictly church-year-related.  I'd like to include tabs for various secular holidays that we celebrate in some fashion, possibly a tab for birthdays or other gift-giving occasions, and of course I do have church year information filed there too.  I'm sure Mary (and others) will have ideas I haven't thought of and ways of organizing them into lists that will help me to organize my own notebooks.  Looking forward to the discussion!

Justified Computer Time

Since my ankles are swelling into small tree trunks, and my doctor told me to eat more protein and put my feet up, I have downed a hard boiled egg, and am now resting on my couch, with feet elevated, looking forward to playing with my Cycles of Grace Notebooks and some blog posts.  I am able to sit back and enjoy this break because I have most of my personal Morning Routine done (showered, dressed, kitchen cleaned...), the girls and I said our prayers, and we played a board game together--that was definitely their Math lesson for the week.

I have 9 more days until my due date.  When I was this pregnant with Maggie--well, I wasn't pregnant any more!  I'd had her early in the morning, 10 days before she was due.  Susannah, however, came four days late.  I had a prenatal yesterday, and I wasn't dilated at all--so, really, I know nothing!  I am still apprehensive of the pain of labor, but I am ready to meet my baby and get over being pregnant already!

I'm glad that labor is something I have no control over.  Since I can't do anything about it, I am less tempted to worry about it.  It will come when it comes, and I will get through it by the grace of God.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Quotidian Comforts

In combining the titles of two of my favorite books dealing with homemaking, I have found an appropriate category title for my posts regarding housekeeping, routines, and the like.

The two books that have inspired me:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Housekeeping Progress Report: How Did This Happen?

It is my second Friday of following (read: attempting to follow) a new homemaking/housecleaning routine/schedule/suggestion.  And somehow, by about 9:30AM, we were actually ready to do our morning installment of homeschool.


No pull to check my email and blog?  No pressing cleaning project?  No new Seasonal Notebook entry to work on just really quick and then we'll get to homeschooling right away?


I ran with it.  I've been wanting to do our Prayers and Circle Games followed by our Reading Lesson (with Bob Books) in the mornings, just after my basic morning routine, and before I delve into the day's Daily Focus.  And today, I actually did it!

Of course, I wasn't comfortable being totally on schedule, and since my routine said I could take "email breaks" during my Daily Focus time, I did just that for a while.  But the morning was nice.

I know that I need to give myself time to settle in with this new routine.  The beauty of my new system is that I do not seem to be fighting the way I naturally work.  I love FlyLady and most of her system.  I am seriously indebted to her for helping me to change my way of thinking about housecleaning and daily routines.

Actually, I think this new system would be a quick "crash and burn" if it weren't for my FlyLady training:

  • It's OK for something to be good enough.
  • I don't have to do everything that needs to be done in the room to check it off on the list.
  • It's OK if I don't get to something today or this week.  There's always next week.
And so on.

I just never got very far with FlyLady's Weekly Home Blessing Hour, so my house didn't get cleaned well very often.  I get the concept--it's kind of that "quick tidy" you do before company arrives, assuming your house was mostly clean already.  And I get the idea that FlyLady encourages people to keep their homes "15 minutes worth of messy," meaning that you could quickly straighten the house in 15 minutes.

While I really benefit from the AM and PM routines I have set up, and I like the idea of Zone Cleaning, I don't manage to do it regularly.  Therefore, my home is never "15 minutes worth of messy." It's not a disaster, but to do the dusting and the mopping, I want to spend a little time straightening the room, maybe attacking a project in that area that has been nagging me.  Then I can get to the maintenance cleaning and dusting.  I'm sure FlyLady would disagree with me and tell me that I am thinking about it too hard.

But then, when do I get to these projects?  FlyLady would say that I should do them after my AM routine is done.  With my new system, I am seeing major projects (OK, by "major project," I mean something like washing my shower curtain or going through the bag of miscellaneous objects that's been sitting in the dining room for two months) actually get done!  And then in the interest of checking off most of the list, I do the dusting and mopping too!

So, here I am on a Friday, with the list of distractions shrinking, project by project.  I am looking at a relatively clean house.  One where I've recently gone through the girls' clothes, packing away the unseasonable items or the ones that don't fit.  One where that bag of mystery junk has been sorted.  One where the shower curtain, while retaining some mildew spots to be worked on, is back to being mostly white.  And on top of that, the floors are clean, the tub has been scrubbed, and most of the dust is gone.  Should I add that we have actually stuck with our homeschool plan for the week and I've accomplished all the activities I've planned?

This is definitely a "Go Me!" post, and I assure you that most of my weeks do not go this smoothly.  But it sure is nice when one does.  Oh, and don't worry, in a few weeks, I'll have a newborn in the house making all of the above impossible for a good long while.  ;)

We Are Seven

by William Wordsworth

A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.

“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”
“How many? Seven in all,” she said,
And wondering looked at me.

“And where are they? I pray you tell.”
She answered, “Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.”

“You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.”

Then did the little Maid reply,
“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.”

“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.”

“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
And they are side by side.

“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

“And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

“The first that dies was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”

“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”

“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
’Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Baby Constantine

One year ago this evening, while I was in the middle of making dinner in our Pennsylvania kitchen, I completed the miscarriage, at eight weeks' gestation, of our third child.

Little Constantine got his name when his Daddy returned home from vespers at St. Tikhon's for the feast of Sts. Constantine and Helen.

Andrew suggested this name, and I'll admit I wasn't crazy about it at first. I doubt I would have named any of my living children something so foreign-sounding. ("Constantine! Time for dinner!" just didn't sound like our family.) We read through an entry in a calendar containing saints commemorated on that day, and since nothing else sounded any more normal to me, I resigned myself to going with either Constantine or Helen.

"You know, with our track record," (which is two girls) I said, "it's probably a Helen." Since I was only 8 weeks along and the baby, according to the ultrasound a few days prior, had ceased developing around 6 weeks gestation, there was no way of knowing the sex.

My husband replied, "Well, this might be the only boy I get."

"Ok," I agreed. "He's Constantine."

I had been encouraged to name our third child by our family doctor in Chicago (who talked me through the actual miscarriage), and I became very glad I had. Not only did it humanize the baby that internet literature referred to, among other things, as "the products of conception," but it was practical.

Back in Chicago after our move, my girls and I were visiting our good friends who had just had a baby. My four-year-old daughter was delighted, as she always is by babies. Sometime into the visit, she turned to me and said, "Mommy, what is our baby's name?"

Somewhat confused, I asked, "You mean, Susannah?" We still, to this day, refer to her as Baby over half of the time, but I didn't understand why her older sister needed to ask what her name was.

Maggie shook her head, and a thought occurred to me. "Oh, you mean the baby that was in Mommy's tummy? The baby that went to live with Jesus?"

"Yeah!" she said.

"His name is Constantine," I replied, delighted that she still remembered her little brother.

I marveled after this exchange that my four-year-old didn't ask if our baby had a name, but simply assumed it. And later on, when we met a Baby Constantine visiting our church, Maggie was thrilled that he had the same name as "our baby."  She still talks about him, and continues to associate the name Constantine with "our baby who went to live with Jesus."
Here are some photos from last May.  We were blessed to have been able to retrieve the tiny amniotic sac and have a small burial service on the grounds of St. Tikhon's Monastery in Pennsylvania where my husband was attending seminary.

We adorned a tiny box made by Andrew's father with a fabric cross from the vestments my mother was in the process of making.

A small cross (intended to hang in a window) hangs over a brick engraved with our last name, which serves to mark the grave.

Two priest friends of ours lead the prayers for the soul of our departed Constantine.

Our parents happened to be able to be present, along with another seminary family with whom we'd become close over the year.

The children present were very much at home.  They were delighted by the other little markers in this section of the cemetery.  This one has a small sheep on top of the tombstone.

Father and grandfathers filled the grave with earth.

After the prayers were offered, we placed flowers on the grave.  A monk friend of Andrew's promised to tend the grave for us once we had moved back to the Midwest.

This cemetery is a beautiful place filled with many saints.  Only a few paces away rests Fr. Alexander Schmemann.


Once again, I am pregnant, and very close to delivery.  This time, the baby will be full term, as I am already 38 weeks.  God-willing, our little one will be healthy.  But as God knows, anything can happen at any point in a pregnancy, labor and delivery, or life.  In all things, I pray that we are able to give glory to God

Whatever happens during the course of any of our children's lives, they will all be remembered and have a place in our family.

This mosaic icon is located on an obscure rock wall at St. Tikhon's Monastery.  It's up a little hill, so of course kids want to run up to it, climb the uneven rock steps, and venerate it.  Perfectly placed.

But Jesus said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."  ~Matthew 19:14 

Rotating Art Wall

In searching for a way to display rotating icons, picture study subjects, and the kids' art, I have come across this nifty gadget.

I found it at IKEA for $5.99.  It may have even been cheaper than the website price--I can't remember.

I would really like to have something like the frames Mary uses in this post instead.  But I couldn't figure out how they would work if the art I wanted to display was going a different direction from the frame.  Could I rehang it?  Maybe I'm over-thinking it.  Anyway, this proved to be a little cheaper, if somewhat less elegant.

Relieves the fridge of some of its clutter.  It was very nice of IKEA to exactly match this product to our wall color.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is that a contraction?

I think I actually had one today.  OK, maybe it was my second--I may have had one a day or two ago, not that I'm thinking about it.  I've been having these tightening ones that don't hurt "down there" for a while now, but this was similar and started hurting in all the right places.  It was mild, compared to being in real labor, and I wasn't really aware of what it might be until most of the way through.

I am measuring 41 centimeters (the measurement in centimeters, for those of you who don't know is supposed to correspond to the week of pregnancy), although I am only 38 weeks.  That would be part of why people ask if I'm having twins.  (Happens with every kid.)

I've been feeling kinda yucky this afternoon, and just now, when I was up sweeping up under the dinner table, I thought I felt the tightening with the hurting (just a little, but in the right place) again--so would that be #2.5?)  I've never had a labor start like this, but then, the other two started completely different from each other anyway.

It would be quite a coincidence if I had Baby tomorrow.  But I'll tell you why tomorrow.  Unless, of course, I am otherwise occupied nursing a newborn.

A contribution from my two-year-old: mmmmmbbbhhhhhffffffffffffffffffdddddddddddxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxllllllllllll

And one from my four-year-old: maggie

Thank you for indulging them.  :)

Apostle's Fast Menu

In about a week and a half, we will be entering the Apostle's Fast.  As per the last post, I have created a set weekly menu for our meals during this time.  I'd like to share our menu and possibly some recipes as I am able.  Mary is my inspiration in this.

I don't know how far I'll get with this project during the Apostle's Fast, or even if I'll do much cooking from this menu--I'm about two weeks away from delivering a baby and my mother will be in town to take care of household tasks for a while.  :)  But I'll be recycling this menu for the Dormition Fast in August and can pick it up again then.

My menu may look much different from another family's fasting menu.  I won't go into all the details--many will be obvious from looking at our menu.  What one actually eats during a fast should be decided in consultation with one's spiritual father.  I'm happy to answer any questions, though.

 With that said, here is our proposed (and un-tested!) Apostle's Fast Menu:

One of the recipes on our menu is Moroccan Couscous Salad.  I developed it from a favorite crock pot recipe from a Saving Dinner Menu Mailer.

A huge thank you to Mary for the inspiration to work on this; for layout, font, and illustration ideas (being an incredibly generous person, I know she won't mind how similar my pages look to hers); for tips on getting my Mac to create these images; and for all the amazing resources she provides.  It has been a pleasure getting to know her a little through her blog.

A Set Weekly Menu

Since about the middle of Lent, I have been experimenting with a set weekly menu.  It changes based on the Fasting and Feasting seasons of the church and according to the seasons of the year.  This is a rather big shift for me.  I used to be the type that cooked something different nearly every night--or at least planned to cook something different and lived off of leftovers when a dish happened to make a particularly large amount.

This method works, but it involves a lot of planning every week.  I spent at least an hour or more (usually many more, I think) once a week taking inventory of our shelves, leafing through cookbooks to find recipes that would use up our stores and take account of our allergies, and making up a grocery list.

While I enjoyed the variety, there was a far amount of unpredictability.  Some dishes I would put off for many days (or indefinitely) because they just seemed like they would take too much time or effort to prepare.  When making a new dish, I wouldn't know how long it would take to make or how much food we would end up with.

Sometime early this year, I decided that I at least needed to come up with some standard recipes for things like Tuna Casserole or Pea Soup.  I started listing the menus that worked for us after I'd made them.  Then I stumbled upon evlogia and started reading about her set weekly menu for Lent.  Could it be that this woman actually cooks the same lunch every Monday, the same dinner every Thursday?  Inconceivable!

But I was intrigued, and so I came up with a set weekly breakfast and lunch menu and a two-week dinner menu for the rest of Lent.  What a relief not to have to menu-plan every week!

As I cooked through our Lenten menu, I found that certain dishes were just too complicated or too rich to be cooked every week.  Those got dropped from the main rotation.  When I was setting up our Pascha menu, I began with a similar set-up--one week of breakfasts and lunches and a beginning of two weeks of dinners.  However, I never got around to completing two weeks worth of dinners, and I found that it was so easy to shop when I knew that we'd be using up extras the very next week.  The one-week menu have made it easy to shop for a two-week period too, for the weeks I've had to skip a major Errand Day due to my prenatal appointments.

For the Pascha season, I managed to add a working grocery list into my seasonal binder in addition to the menus.  That really makes grocery shopping a snap!  Even if I don't take stock of our pantry the day before Errand Day, I can stuff the list into my purse and do it mentally while I'm shopping.

One fear I had was that making the same thing each week would spoil the kids into not wanting to try new foods.  On the contrary, they rarely like (at first taste) what I am serving or everything on the table anyway.  Serving the same dish (such as Fried Rice with lots of "stuff" in it) every Tuesday evening allowed the kids multiple exposures to this dish over a fairly short period of time.  Last week, my eldest (4 years) declared that she likes "stuff" in rice now, and while she didn't eat everything in the Fried Rice, she ate without complaint!  Huge success!  I've had similar reactions to other meals too.

There have been some adjustments along the way.  I haven't rigidly stuck with a dish if it isn't working for our family.  During our Pascha menu, I'd planned to serve Chicken with Mole on Thursday evenings.  I just got tired of it.  I swapped it for a nearly identical (in many respects) Chicken with Thai Red Curry.  That is something I could eat often!  Fortunately, my husband doesn't seem to care what he's eating (with about two exceptions).  He even usually eats dinner leftovers for lunches (so he's seeing the meals even more often than the rest of us).  In fact, I've checked with him several times, and almost every time he says that he wouldn't even have noticed that we ate it last week if I hadn't told him.

And the best part of all this?  While all this tweaking, planning, list-making, font-choosing, illustration-sizing (aesthetically pleasing is a good thing) is somewhat labor-intensive this year, it will be all done for me next year.  Do you know how excited this makes me??  I will be able to pick up the season's binder, dust it off, do a couple of tiny tweaks here and there, and be good to go!

So far, we have switched Fasting, Feasting, and yearly seasons often enough that I haven't gotten tired of our menu (or if I have, I know we are nearing the end of it).  It seems that this will continue with a small exception of the beginning of the Church's New Year (Sept 1) until the Nativity Fast.  I may extend our Summer Feasting Menu into September and switch at October, even though September 1 would seem the logical time to switch binders.  I'll see what works for us.

Next, I'd like to share some of our menus and recipes!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Towards Being Able to Keep House

It is 11pm and I find myself cleaning up my kitchen--loading the dishwasher, scrubbing out a pan, washing out a plastic bag, tidying up.  How did I get here?  How did I become the person who gets to wake up to a relatively clean kitchen most days?  I don't want to imply that it is clutter-free, spotless, or free of piles, though--just not piled high with several days' worth of dishes.  When I was in college, this was often the case.

Somehow, this year, I have conquered the dishes.  (Let me stress that this is most days, most meals, etc.--it has at least gotten to the point that I feel weird piling a meals' worth of dirty dishes by the sink and just going to bed.)  It may be partially that I this house has afforded me the crutch of a dishwasher for the first time in my adult life, but I've also learned that if one fails to empty the dishwasher, the dirty dishes don't clean themselves.  It still takes the development of routines for emptying the dishwasher and cleaning up after each meal to arrive at a clean kitchen.  I'd like to think that at this point, if I had to give up my dishwasher, that I would be able to continue my good dishwashing habits (with a little extra work, obviously).

This brings me around to my point: I have been working (since about my senior year of college) on developing routines and learning to keep house.  I remember feeling like my life was complete chaos, and my Mom pointed me in the direction of FlyLady.  Her routines, her emails teaching me how to retrain my thoughts (about cleaning or doing household tasks) and my eyes (to actually see "dirty" or "untidy"), and the Yahoo Group I joined all helped me peel away the layers of mental obstacles to learning to be an organized person and setting me on a path towards being able to keep house.

I "crashed and burned" with her system at least twice.  The third time, it stuck to the point that even if things became chaotic again, I could get out of them without a major mental overhaul.  But parts of the system never quite worked for me.

Although I have benefited from her suggestions on using a timer to time my breaks or to start an overwhelming task, I don't find that I am ultimately very productive that way.  I used to be able to make use of her "15 minute day" idea (generally, I'd make a list of all the major things that were nagging me and just cycle through them 15 minutes at a time so I was accomplishing all of them "at once" instead of hyperfocusing on one), but now that I have kids, I often don't get many 15 minute cycles in a row.  Mostly, I just need to finish a task so I can forget about it, rather than add another "still have to do" to my already overtaxed memory.

I am a huge fan of having a weekly plan.  I do my errands and grocery shopping all on one day.  Partially, this is due to our only having one car currently.  Therefore, I have to get up and get us all breakfasted, dressed, and out the door early enough to get my husband to work to get access to the car, and this exhausts me, so it only happens once or twice a week.  This necessitates menu-planning before I shop.  But many other tasks that I would like to assign to particular days get postponed.

I have also never really been able to get into the groove of the "Weekly Homeblessing Hour" (although I love the euphemism) or working in Zones doing one task a day.  I have usually chalked it up to us still having too much clutter or just not being tidy enough.  But if that continues to be the case, maybe I should be planning for that scenario instead of allowing it to be the reason why I don't sweep or clean the tub as often as I should.

So that is a brief look at my homemaking background.  I am truly indebted to FlyLady's guidance in many ways.  Shiny sinks, "just 15 minutes," "housecleaning done incorrectly still blesses your family," daily routines, babysteps, meal planning, the idea of a  Control Journal  (although mine has never fully come together), and many other tidbits have helped me immensely in developing my homemaking skills.  However, the snags I named above combined with the success of others have encouraged me to embark on a slightly different system inspired by Mary's recent homemaking post.

At some point soon, I'd like to reflect on my experience of trying out a new weekly cleaning routine similar to Mary's.  There are some kinks to work out, but I have had some exciting revelations too.  And it helps that Mary's pages are so pretty.  Really.  But I'll get to those things at a later date.  It's late enough tonight already.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I have a tendency to get "lost"--as my husband calls it.  I find it often happens after meal times.  Here's the scenario: I work hard coordinating everything that goes into preparing a meal for my family.  We eat.  And then I wander over to check my email or work on a planning page or chart on my computer, and an hour later, I wonder how I could have spent so much time there.

Does this happen to anyone else?

In analyzing this phenomenon, I notice that after a meal, the kids are usually content to play on their own for a good, long stretch, which leaves me free.  But I rarely use this time for something on my To Do list.  Instead, it's blogging, "checking" (ie., my email--my eldest's term for it), surfing, finding a cute picture with which to illustrate a page and making it work just so (that could encompass a post unto itself).

I know that I tend to have a lot of inertia (and I wonder where my first-born gets it...).  What I'm doing, I want to keep doing for a long time, and I don't want to think about where I need to be next.  Staying on schedule takes a lot of mental energy for me.  I'm a task-oriented person, rather than time-oriented, and getting a bunch of things done in one day requires a bit of both.

I've been experimenting with a new homemaking routine (somewhat based on this), which I'd like to post about in-depth at some point, but I am finding that, mainly, I can still get only one thing accomplished in a day (in addition to all the childcare activities and cooking that I do), be it homeschooling, cleaning a zone of the house, or walking to the library.  After that, I get lost. 

Do I just need the time to recharge my "schedule batteries" with some unstructured "play" time like my kids do?  Is this something I should build into my day or something I should try to curb?  I am currently undecided, but I know that pretending that I won't continue to do this is not an option.

Muffin Tin Meals?

Here's a great idea to use up leftovers or just be creative with lunches:

Muffin Tin Meals

Friday, May 7, 2010


In my recent post on Simplicity, I mentioned my desire to create a space for myself, which I figured would also do nicely as a nursing nest once Baby makes his or her appearance. It came together in a fairly simple fashion--appropriate, don't you think? I only moved one small piece of furniture. (I'd had visions of relocating a medium-sized chest of basket drawers, but that proved unnecessary.)

The icon I choose is a favorite of mine that used to reside in my kitchen: She is the Mother of God, Nurturer of Life. I picked it up at St. Tikhon's bookstore during our stay in Pennsylvania last year while my husband was completing his seminary education there. If you look closely, you'll notice she's nursing Christ. My little ones really relate to this icon.

Within easy reaching distance, I placed a basket stocked with prayer books, a non-fiction (but gripping) mystery novel, a homeschooling title, and a favorite homemaking read. A bottle of air freshening spray was added to combat the effects of the unfortunately located catbox behind my chair. Our apartment is small, and I can't come up with a better place for it.

I relocated a plant to the window sill, figuring some greenery would be pleasant here, since I will undoubtedly spend countless hours in this chair.

As with my first two, I plan to do as little as possible outside of my home for the first six weeks (or thereabouts) after Baby is born. My doctor encourages this practice, but it also has root in the tradition of the Orthodox church. It is a beautiful time to bond with Baby, establish your nursing relationship, let your body heal, and let Baby begin to acclimate to life ex utero. It also gives the older ones some time to adjust to a new member of the family. Most of all, it encourages Mom to rest and regain her strength. The church blesses this time away and gives it a joyous end in the service of Churching the Mother and Child.

Lots of pillows, a coaster, and a footstool complete my nest. I've been using it daily already. While I had nursing in the back of my mind when I set to work on it, I didn't undertake the project with that solely in mind.

I have noticed that a busy homemaker often needs encouragement to sit down and rest--and to do so away from the computer--to recharge her batteries and actually enjoy the fruit of her labors in her home. Many of the living rooms I have cleaned for my family in the past few years rarely saw me taking advantage of their comforts. However, this spot has been calling my name since I completed it. That it will serve as an appealing and functional nursing nest for my little ones and myself is a nice side benefit.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


The title of my blog being what it is, I think it's appropriate to share this article from

A Typical Dialogue in Our House

I was helping Susannah into a new princess costume, and the following dialogue ensued. [Mommy's note: the names below refer to the fairies in Disney's Sleeping Beauty.]

Maggie: "Are you Flora?"

Susannah: "No."

Maggie: "Are you Fauna?"

Susannah: "No."

Maggie: "Are you Merryweather?"

Susannah: "No. I'm pink!"
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