Thursday, December 22, 2011

{phfr} A Few Nights Before Christmas...

...and all through the house...


I've been a little lacking in {pretty} or at least, I've been lazy about photographing it.  But I do think this is pretty.  Actually, there's plenty of it in progress, only we aren't finishing our decorating until tomorrow when Fr. Andrew is off and it's right before Christmas.  We don't like to decorate too early, in order to maintain the spirit of preparation and fasting for Advent.  (Sorry about the quality of these photos.  It really is time to replace our camera instead of making do with the iPhone, isn't it?)

Playing church.
We were babysitting some boys and the youngest just loves church things.  He went around the house and collected as many crosses, icons, and church things as he could find.  Then he set up this little altar to "play church." He actually wasn't satisfied with this amount and wanted more "Jesus stuff."  I'll be very surprised if he doesn't end up serving behind the altar in some way later in life.  Isn't his lectionary stand creative?  (It's a nursing footstool.)


You'll notice a theme here:

All three cuddled in, watching something on TV.

She just loves babies.  Good thing, too, because there will be more in her life!

She loves to read to John too.  Here they are cuddled around the board book basket.
It's a good thing my eldest likes babies, because she will be their second Mommy!  Most of the time, she does an excellent job—especially when anyone needs cuddling.  It works out well for her because she's such a touchy person.  I just don't have as much cuddling to hand out as she wants from me.  So she gets a lot of it elsewhere.  And it makes for some pretty cute photos.

Oh my.  I almost forgot {funny}!

So, one day, I gave the kids a bath.  I put John in his jammas.  I began to let the water out of the tub, and then I turned my back.

A tiny bit of water remains....
Guess who jumped back in.  Necessitating new PJs.

Oh, but he was proud of himself.


Anyone recognize this meal?

It's a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving lunch.  With added fish.  This was the weekend after Thanksgiving, I think.

I think the toast went largely ignored.

A new tradition?
OK, back to the Christmas prep.  I'd also like to get out of the house with the kids today.  They've been kind of cooped up all week.  I think a trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory is in order!  Let's see if I can make it a quick one!  (I'm not very good at that.)

A blessed final days of Advent to you all!

round button chicken

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

St Lucia Day Swedish Meal

Hot Mulled Cider
Sparkling Pear Cider

Cold Course
Smoked Salmon
Vinegar Potato Salad
Pickled Cucumbers*
Pickled Mustard Herring
Cole Slaw
Lingon Berry Preserves
Limpa and/or Flatbread

Hot Course
Broiled White Fish with Dill
Lingon berries
Boiled Potatoes
Roasted Beets
Swedish Brown Beans*

Vegan Rice Pudding* served with lingon berries
Saffron Lucia Buns*

*We'll see if I get around to linking any of these to recipes, but a lot of it is self explanatory and possibly even prepackaged.
**This meal would contain more meat and cream sauces, etc., if it were prepared outside of the Orthodox fasting season of Advent.  In fact, we'll have something similar to this as our main Christmas dinner, which will include a mustard cream gravy, potato sausage, and pot roast.  But I'll stop there!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Daybook: Mid-Advent

I don't often do a Daybook post.  I'm really wanting to keep up this blog, but I just don't have any great epiphanies at the moment.  Too much to do!  Must keep doing the next thing!  I'm getting to the point in my pregnancy where I cannot make it very far into the evening without a nap during the day.  This usually happens while John is napping, which is a little bit of a shift to me because I had that time slotted for Maggie and Susannah's Math and Handwriting.  However, recently, they've been insisting on doing these on their own.  This is a part of homeschooling I'd love to get into, the self-taught thing.  I mean, in addition to schooling them, I have babies to care for, the house to clean, the food to cook.  If they could get into the habit of doing some school on their own (with my checking over their shoulders, of course), that would be just fantastic.  So, maybe the timing works out....  (Ha.  I just suggested to Maggie that she do some school by herself—"I can't do it by myself!"  We'll see!)

Daybook: Monday, December 5

Outside my window...

The gray-ness of impending Winter.  Do I want to open the blinds completely to let in as much light as is available, or keep them down (but open) to somewhat mask the color of the sky?

I am thinking...

That we are over halfway through (Orthodox) Advent.  I awoke this morning, my mind buzzing with Christmas preparation lists, grocery lists, school lists.  It's a list day, for sure.

I am thankful for...

My husband's jobs.  He works hard and provides for our family.  May God help me to manage what we have well.

From the school room...

Regularly, we do prayers, reading (Bible or saint story, poems, a fable, and either Beatrix Potter or James Harriot), handwriting and math, and a focus book.  (I'm not sure what else to call it.)  Right now we are working through Paddle to the Sea.  Oh how I would love to finish it before Christmas!  It's the part of the day I so often forget to do.  Maybe we should do it first for a while?

From the kitchen...

Fasting food:  Tuna Tettrazini, veggie pizza (cheese-less, which my weird kids actually prefer, although, theirs doesn't even have the veggies), hummus (so much hummus), pasta with red sauce (Johnny's favorite), broiled salmon and baked sweet potatoes, tomato soup, mushroom shrimp pasta.  This week?  Hmmm... I think everything on my menu is missing a vital component, which means I either need to go shopping or make a new menu or both.  Low on tp, here, so the shopping is a must!

I am creating...

I'm a little embarrassed to say... friendship bracelets!  No, actually, I am not embarrassed at all.  It's just that I don't have anything much to do with what I create.  I was at a fabric store for something else and was wandering the aisles (very dangerous, however, turns out they have a lot of nice wooden toys and other creative, longer-lasting type toys... who knew?), and I happened to spot a friendship bracelet pattern book for about $6.  I used to do these when I was a kid, and I am enjoying the repetitiveness of making something with a pretty pattern.  I would love to be working on something more useful (quilting, please?  Someone teach me!!) or trying to knit or crochet, but there's a lot of sharp things involved.  Friendship bracelets only require the thread, a pattern (most likely stored in my head), and a safety pin.  That's about all I can handle with my little kids running around right now.  I'm hoping it will lead to bigger and better things in time.  At least, I can use them as bookmarks.  We always need another bookmark.

I am going...

Not many places.  There is so much to do around my house that we go to church, an occasional store, and we stay home a lot.  Not for everyone, but it works for me!

Well, actually, I take that back.  This week, I'll have a prenatal on Wednesday with a stop at Trader Joe's afterward, a trip to IKEA for some Swedish Christmas fare (family tradition) and some household basics, and hopefully, I'll be able to make it to Vespers on Wednesday.  I decided last week that I'd like to try to get our family to weeknight Vespers, at least for the season of Advent.  There are no extra services at our parish like there are during Lent, and I think the kids are all old enough (and going to bed late enough) that we can manage this.

I am reading...

Hmmm.  What am I reading?  Most often, Like Mother, Like Daughter and Praying With My Feet.  But I think of this question as referring to a book or some type of great literature.  Most recently, I finished Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, went on to Little Men, and finished with Jo's Boys.  Very much enjoyed them all, though I think I preferred the first.

I am hoping and praying...

For Mat. Anna in the loss of her baby at around 12 weeks gestation.
For a families at church going through deaths, extended hospitalizations, and other hard times.

I am hearing...

The pitter-patter of John's little feet as he runs around the house.  He was sick for a couple of weeks and it makes me appreciate having him healthy again.

In the music department, we've been playing hymns to St. Nicholas, the Akathist of Thanksgiving, Handle's Messiah, and other Advent-y type things.  Right now, though, it is silent.  That might be the first thing I'll need to do today is pick a soundtrack for the planning I have to do today.

Around the house...

Oh the house.  This is an exhaustive list, isn't it?  Bathrooms need attention.  The floors need to be swept.  The girls room needs to be sorted once again.  It takes so much upkeep, and while they can help, I am the one who needs to spearhead the organizing efforts.  Make me want to hide it all in a closet.

A few plans for the rest of the week...

Monday: Lists and planning; laundry/housecleaning; school.
Tuesday: Possible visit from a friend; or IKEA trip; school
Wednesday: Prenatal, with glucose test.  Blech.  At least I get to drink real juice instead of that watered-down orange pop stuff; Trader Joe's; Vespers.
Thursday: Bulletin; school.
Friday: Possible visit from a friend; school.

Here are some picture thoughts I am sharing...

Sorry this is soooo blurry.  Maybe we'll replace our camera soon.  The iPhone camera is just not cutting it.  Anyway, this is Susannah asleep in a chair, and Maggie cuddling with her while watching TV.  It's the only way Susannah will consent to cuddling with Maggie (most of the time)—by being asleep.  :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Home again, home again...

No jigs, though.  Just sickies again!  Thank God for a mid-week Liturgy in celebration of Thanksgiving!  I wondered about whether to go (the kids were fussy, we were trying to pack to leave town that night or the next morning), whether to receive communion (we were somewhat late, was I prepared enough?), but ultimately, the reality of Winter with three kids who are passing around colds and fevers hit me with enough force for me to think, "Who knows when I'll have the opportunity again?"

And as I'd suspected, we're home again this morning.  Susannah had a slight fever last night and hives.  She slept in a lot (after tossing, turning, and itching through parts of the night), has lost the fever, but the hives remain.  Anyone have any magical ideas on how to convince a picky four-year-old to take benadryl?

Thankfully, my little guy is mostly back to normal.  Fever's been gone a week, and I finally get the sense he has slept and eaten enough to make up for being sick for several days with a high fever.  His giggly, inquisitive personality is back, he chatters up a storm, and he tries to scale various pieces of furniture once again.  Just now, he crawled into my lap and nursed to sleep.  Cutie.

Well, I'm off to try some more tactics on the benadryl front.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We Thank Thee Dear Father

We seem to have a history of illness at Thanksgiving.  (And Christmas, for that matter....)  When we lived in the tiny apartment, it was stomach flu.  The next year, we spent Thanksgiving with dear friends in Pennsylvania.  I think I had a bad cold and a breast infection.  I don't remember the next Thanksgiving, but the one after that, the week previous we had a horrible stomach bug (Noro virus or something like that—it was going around Chicago) and then the actual week of Thanksgiving, nearly everyone at my parents' house (except us because we'd had it the week before!) had the same thing.  Ugh.

This picture makes me happy.  Stomach bugs do not.

This year, it's a bunch of sniffles, colds, a fever for the baby (that lasted forever and accompanied other symptoms, but he's now on the mend), and other stuff for other family members.  I'm sure we'll all be well enough to travel (barring any unforeseen stomach flus!), but it's been a little hectic getting ready for the big day and trying to fit in some school while a certain cute boy wants to be held all the time.

This is a healthy Johnny.

Who happens to be diving into a bowl of bacon.

What's odd about that?

What's been nice today is that the kids have been coming up with all kinds of things that sound to my ears like "school," all on their own!  Maggie wants to start a weather chart to document the daily weather.  Later she did some phonics at Starfall, and then she followed that up with inquiring about "curvess" (cursive), pulling out the letter formation chart to check it out (she was shocked by the cursive b and also surprised that the uppercase E looks like a backwards 3), and finally tracing some block letters to spell various words.  Next on her self-made agenda is playing the game Mastermind (which I think fills the Math void for the day).

Baths followed by french braids provide the curls.

Meanwhile, her sister Susannah tagged along and while Maggie was tracing, Susannah was writing out the alphabet from start to finish.  Right now, they've been playing happily for some time, and John has again fallen asleep in my lap, as he still seems to need about three naps a day to recover from his illness.  At least he's cheerful today and letting me put him down to go to nap occasionally!

Something intellectual, certainly, going on here with Grandpa K.

Most of our days are not quite so free-form (or at least, I do make them sit and do various workbooks and read from previously chosen—by me—books), but it's so helpful for them to have so many interests all on their own on a day when I need to get our lives back together after tending to a sickie!

Fr. Andrew and Grandma K.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my kids' inquisitive minds, for our (mostly) healthy bodies, for the good food we will have, and for a holiday that brings my dispersed siblings back together in the home of our parents once again. Yes, there will be plenty of sibling revelry this weekend.  God bless!

This girl gives me lots of love.  :) 

*Photos from our trip to Schmidt's Sausage Haus and Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.  Isn't it impressive that we managed to capture all of us at some point on this outing?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mug Shot

I'm very particular about the mugs I use.  This quirk of mine particularly struck me tonight as I gazed into our china cabinet at over ten different mugs, considering the merits of each, and instead of choosing any of them, went to the dishwasher still in progress.  Out of the steam, I picked the one I'd been looking for, my North Park University mug.

Thinking about it, I've been this way for a long time.  I've given my Mom several mugs over the years, and in all the instances, part of the impetus towards the gift was to provide me with something pretty and feminine to drink out of when I come to visit.

More recently, my brother used to live with us.  He owned a set of colorful stacking mugs that sat in our kitchen.  One day I confided in him that there were certain colored mugs that I refused to drink from because I disliked the hue.  I think he just shook his head.  But as I was visiting his new apartment a few days ago, and the coffee was nearly ready he asked, "So, would you feel more comfortable drinking out of an orange mug or a blue one?"  Definitely blue.

The one's I rejected tonight?  First of all, my regular set, which we registered for when we were married.  I really like these dishes: white with a blue border and blue backs.  Sturdy, hardworking, easily matched with other patterns.  But not in the evening.  Not after a long day.

My regular set is my go-to for morning coffee.  They are the right size: not too small (too little beverage) or too large (beverage gets cold before I can finish it).  No words to read early in the morning.  Just calm white and blue mugs that evoke images of hearty farm-house crockery.  But in the evening, I can't face their peppy shape.  All day long they are telling me to wake up!  Get the kids dressed!  Let's get doing our school for the day!  Get that clean!  Figure out what's for dinner!  What do you have to do tomorrow!  You can do it!  Rah!  Rah!  Rah!

Not now.  At this moment I crave a mug that can receive my exhaustion.  My NPU mug is not my idea of pretty or feminine.  It's a dark blue and has straight sides.  In a way, it's "all buisness."  It is connected across what feels like many years to dim memories of studying through the night in college.  It's there to keep me going just a little longer.  It's not for a night of cheery, intentional relaxation as would be my over-sized Touchstone or AFR mugs, but for an evening of "Finally, I'm done."  Hard work was done today, and now you may rest, this mug tells me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Giveaway at Praying With My Feet

A good bloggy friend of mine, Mat. Anna at Praying With My Feet, is celebrating 1000 posts and having a giveaway! 

Click on over to her post to enter to win the above lovely handmade quilt!

Congratulations on reaching this blogging milestone, Matushka!  Many years and many more posts!

Monday, September 19, 2011

September Busy-ness and Some Baby News Thrown In

I'm sure that as soon as I get into writing this post, John will decide his nap is over, but I'll start anyway.  :)  We have been into our homeschooling schedule for about three or four weeks now.  I'm pleased to say that it is actually rather enjoyable, the kids have declared they "love math!", and the house is in no more disarray than it usually is.

Today, instead of jumping into our usual homeschooling day, I planned a housecleaning day.  I've been intrigued by this idea of once-a-month cleaning.  I have the suspicion that I probably only get around to changing the sheets, scrubbing the tub, or mopping the living and dining rooms about this frequently (or less), so it wouldn't be a radical change.  But by doing it all at once and scheduling it in, I wouldn't have to feel guilty about not checking these things off the weekly to-do list for weeks on end.

Of course, instead of actually getting into the actual cleaning, I instead opted to clean up from the massive explosion of clothes upstairs as necessitated by (a) the weather and (b) my new shape—wow, wait!  I've been so busy homeschooling, etc., that I haven't announced why I have a new shape.

Yes, we are expecting Number Four!

(Did I really just say four?)  I am due March 14 (anyone want to hope for a St. Patrick's Day baby?).

OK, so with that out of the way, back to the clothes.  I sorted through many random laundry basket, have resolved to get myself a dresser (rather than the baskets-under-the-bed-and-in-the-closet "system" I've had for a while), laundered two loads of towels and have a lights load ready and waiting for me to get off the computer, fed us all lunch, straightened the kitchen counter, and got the dishwasher running.  I'm even dressed, showered, and somewhat groomed!

(I'm mainly typing this out to convince myself that I have more to show for my morning than two loads of towels!)

So, I now hear the boy waking up—that's my cue to get the next load of laundry in and then get him.  I hope to get back here soon with a photo of our new living room wall art!  :)


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Walk Accomplished!

We made it out again today for a little walk before starting a sort of trial school day.  (We're officially beginning on Monday, but I need a few dress rehearsals to remind what I still need to do!)  Since we had luck with the flower garden in a neighbor's front yard last week, we ambled over there again today.  We also visited yesterday, but as it was raining, there was no wildlife to spot.

A cursory glance did not reveal any butterflies, but suddenly I noticed something bigger!  A small, bright yellow bird perched on a flower and nibbling at it!  I hushed the kids and tried to point it out quickly.  A few moments later it was gone.  Maggie (6 years) had seen it, Susannah (4 tomorrow) had not.  I promised I'd go home a look up a photo online.

I discovered many photos that looked like this little fellow:

From on the American Goldfinch page.
Then I wondered what the American Goldfinch sounded like and at the above website (, I found a place to listen to birdsong!  Lovely.

Now, maybe I was imagining it or just so unfamiliar with different birds' songs that I can't tell the difference, but a song that was quite similar to the American Goldfinch's kept wafting in the open window as we were sitting in our school room doing our math....

I'm really enjoying Charlotte Mason's focus on nature and especially becoming familiar with the plants and animals in your particular area.  How useful!  I feel so much more connected to my surrroundings just knowing a tiny bit about them.  That's a Maple, this is Queen Anne's Lace, we just saw a Red Admiral and an American Goldfinch!  The internet makes it so easy to identify the wildlife you see on a brief walk.  And of course Anna Botsford Comstock had something to say about it too.  And then there's plenty of fodder for the Nature Journal, which is just the first step into Science.

Oh, and for fun, I was going to add this video, too.  For some reason, this bird comes to this family's window every day and knocks!

Monday, August 22, 2011

One More Week, Kind Of

The school year is approaching!  Amazingly, I'm looking forward to reclaiming routines.  While in some ways this feels like The First Real Year of School (we actually have a math curriculum this year), in other ways, I've been here before.  I've done Fall.  I have some resources and ideas stashed away (somewhere) and some activities that would be fun to repeat.  (Leaf window art, anyone?)

Lovely books are coming to our house almost daily.  I finally ordered a new calendar for this year.  Fr. Andrew and I have used these for several years and love them.  I didn't order one last year because I was going to try going digital, but it totally destroyed my calendaring abilities!  I entered things in there and then because I am apparently rather visual, it was like they were just gone!  I'd completely forget they existed.  I even tried printing paper calendars from iCal to hang on the wall, but then I was entering info in two places again.  So, paper it is!

I looked at the Ambleside curriculum I'm planning to follow, and to use their week-by-week schedule and be able to take off the weeks where I know school just won't happen (and to avoid having to go too long into next Summer), we actually need to start next week!

So, this week, we need to get the school room cleaned up, for one.  We've been starting to get back into a semblance of a morning routine, and I'd like to continue adding things to that this week, maybe even Math.  (A wise, veteran homeschooling Mom friend of mine once told me not to start everything all at once, but rather to stagger.  Genius!)

I'm a bit worried about how I am possibly going to stick to a school schedule and still get all the household things done.  I'm not good at doing little bits of everything all day long... I do better with big chunks of time.  If I plan to school in the mornings and then assign a household chore to the afternoons, it looks something like this:

  • AM: School
  • PM: Housecleaning and Quick Laundry
  • AM: School
  • PM: Desk (bills and budget, planning, menu, bulletin... this is way too much for one afternoon)
  • AM: School (somewhat shortened?)
  • PM: Groceries (This is not an ideal time. Don't all the sales start on Thursday?)
  • AM: School
  • PM: Baking and other cooking projects (stock, etc.... I wish I could confine this to one day, and one consistent day.  Maybe my kitchen would be less likely to explode that way.)
  • AM: Homeschool Co-op
  • PM: Laundry and Quick Clean
I'm still not sure about this.  The Friday tasks seem like a lot for a day I've spent out of the house.  But I suppose they can be tweaked.  I was going to start doing these this week, but I've already had to be out of the house today (to visit with a moving friend, so it was completely worth it—plus, I just can't stay inside on these perfectly temperate weather days when I know disgusting, cold, Chicago Winter is coming).  I do still have a little time for at least some straightening and maybe some bathroom scrubbing.

I haven't had a housekeeping plan for so long on purpose, and I hope I'm not going down the same route again by trying to make one.  But I do feel like certain things are being missed.  I think I also need some detailed checklists for the tasks that I'm planning to do so that I don't have to stand around scratching my head and reinventing the wheel each week.  But that can wait until I've had a few weeks to practice.

This may be another post where all you veteran homeschooling Moms are guffawing into your elbows, so bare with me.  And come back and comfort me in a few months when I am doing None of the Above.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

{pretty, happy, funny real}: New Living Room!


Remember last week when I was lamenting that I had a less-than-pretty view when I opened my front door?  Well, it turned out that moving the homeschool shelf was the missing piece to my living room jigsaw!

Here's the before picture to refresh your memory:

Looking back at this, it's not exactly ugly, it's just that the first thing I noticed was the pile of papers on my desk.  :(

Here is what I've got now!

I'd like to improve the wall art, but this is so much better!!


My desk is now (at least initially) hidden behind the door.  And actually, I love sitting over here by the windows with the breeze blowing around me.  The internet is a tad slow being this far from the modem, but we'll have to see what we can do about that....

I've had fabric meant to recover that chair for years.  Must. Acquire. Crowbar. And. Staple gun.


What would a {phfr} post be without some photos of this guy?

I put out the ottoman for one of these shots... reminded me why I don't leave the ottoman out.  Not to mention the underside is all cracked and full of nails sticking out at odd places.  Nice for putting up feet, though!

I then put away the ottoman, but John protested so much I gave him the pillow.  He likes to "sleep" on small pillows like this.  Normally, he gets the right end on the pillow, though.


As in, we REALly need some storage back here.  I was hunting around on craigslist for something to put in the place of the homeschool shelf.  Good thing I didn't find anything I really liked, because that was where the TV needed to go to make this new arrangement work!  Now I'm hunting for some kind of long and low shelving or buffet or cabinetry to put back here under the windows.  I do love that it's open now, but we need the book storage space!  And I also like couches in front of bookshelves.  Makes it feel like a library.

Linking up...

round button chicken

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Walks and Butterflies

I always envy people who go out and take walks.  I'd love to make it a part of our routine.  I tend to spend a lot of time at home: I'm just not coordinated enough nor can I transition fast enough to do a lot of quick outings.  I tend to go out and stay out all day.  But a walk—even just around the block—to get some air and look at our neighborhood, should be doable.  Even in the Winter we can handle something short!  And I have nice memories of going on evening walks with my Dad (often reciting poetry such as The Cremation of Sam McGee, for some reason).

But in general, getting out of the house, even for a 15 minute stroll, usually eludes me.  As do many of my daily responsibilities at times.  Sigh.

But today—success!  I was showered, all were dressed, we said our family morning prayers, read from the Bible, and made it out for a walk!  Now, in theory, this will all happen before we do school in the morning and it will happen at more like 9:00 AM instead of 10:15 AM, but seriously (all you seasoned homeschooling Mommies are guffawing into your elbows, I know), this was progress!

And in reward for our little around-the-block jaunt, we saw one of these in a sweet wild-flower-esque front yard not far from us:

I didn't think to bring the camera.

The above is an illustration out of this book from a trip to the Chicago Nature Museum, which (among plenty of other things) features a "butterfly room" where you can stand around as they whiz around your head and possibly land on you!

I don't think John had any idea what was happening.  As you can see, Maggie (on my right) is not too happy about a giant bug landing on her Mommy.
Anyway, I'm pretty sure that the Red Admiral is what we saw.  I looked around for some pictures online and found quite a few.  I then stumbled upon this neat resource:

BAMONA: Butterflys and Moths of North America with specifics on the Vanessa atalanta species of butterfly.

Of course, then I started daydreaming about planting some kind of butterfly garden next year to attract them to our house.  Anyone have any experience with this?  Maybe I'll read up on it this Winter.  We actually planted and had success with tomatoes and some basil this year (with lots of help from our downstairs neighbors, who planted flowers and lots of other veggies, and did lots of clearing and watering).

I'd say if we manage to do this three times a week (even twice a week!) I'd be happy.  But I'd love to shoot for daily!

Maintenance Laundry Day: Recovering from laundry paralysis

First Load: Outfits to last until the next available laundry day (I use the laundry on Mon, Wed, and Fri, so my list reflects that):
  • 2 complete outfits per family member (don't do what I did and forget Dad!)
  • 2 pairs underwear per person (add undershirts, etc., as desired)
This is the bare minimum.  I added these optional, but helpful, items:
  • 1 pair pajamas per person
  • 1 swimsuit per person (we're going to the beach—I hope!—at the end of the week)
  • 1 church-worthy ensemble per person (that way I'm not surprised with nothing respectable in their closets if I we can swing Wednesday evening Vespers)
  • a few extra onesies for messy babies
  • as much additional underwear as fits!
Second Load: Towels
  •  Kitchen towels or bath towels—whichever is most dire
Third Load: Sheets
  •   Master bed sheets (unless another bed literally is unfit to be slept in)
This is what I did on Monday.  I read a tip (probably a comment somewhere on Like Mother, Like Daughter) to do the one outfit per person part when you have a mountain of laundry to do.  There are few things more frustrating than spending a good part of one day doing loads and loads of laundry and to wake up the next morning and find that you managed not to actually clean an entire outfit that actually matches!

I plan to sort the rest of it today so that it's all ready to go in the wash tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I'm so relaxed knowing that I have clothes for today and tomorrow!  I may even make my first load tomorrow another one which I know contains enough outfits to get us to Friday.  Or maybe I should just start with the bottom of the basket first.  ;)

Friday, August 12, 2011

A School Room of Their Own

Does the "to have a school room or not to have a schoolroom" debate just seem endless to you?  I've been on both sides for awhile.  I thought the idea of a dedicated school room sounded lovely.  A little table.  Surrounded by bookshelves.

But then, downstairs, we literally did not have a room to spare.  We did school at the dining room table.  I enjoyed being in the heart of our home (we spend so much time at the dining room table), in the company of our icon corner, being startled to discover that my kids really wanted to learn things from me and actually listened to what I had to say a good part of the time.  As long as I didn't go on too long....

The Entrance of the Theotokos Feast Day Box from Orthodox Christian Craft Supply.  How we love these—must order a few more for the Fall.
But then we moved upstairs and gloriously found ourselves in the possession of more rooms!  A dedicated floor for bedrooms!  Even if there are only really two rooms up there.  And you have to walk through the first to get to the second.  And there's no bathroom up there.  But still!  Lying in our giant king-sized bed (which had formerly been squeezed into a typical Chicago apartment bedroom—I kid you not, we could not even close the door) in our giant master bedroom, looking up at the sloping ceilings because, yes, really, it is the attic of the building: well, it is like this blissful cocoon in which to slumber and forget about the stresses of the day lingering a flight of stairs below.

The little not-really-insulated-heated-or-air-conditioned back room that had been (downstairs) my husband's office was freed to be something else, and since my kitchen is awkwardly filled with doors and doesn't exactly have room for a table, we settled on the back being a breakfast nook.

Breakfast by candlelight on a dark snowy day

And it really did a lovely job of being that.

Our view of snow-covered garage roofs, which I quite like.

But in my quest to provide some order to my house and not always have piles everywhere, I gradually begin to remove the kid things from the living and dining rooms.  Out went the tiny toys in the corners of the windowsills, the bag of blocks, the kids' books that were always just being pulled off the shelf into a pile by the baby.  (Don't worry, there were still some kid books down there.  I love to see my kids poring over books!)

I thought that doing that, combined with confining them to the back of the house when I couldn't be mentally present to chaperon them in the adult living areas would do the trick.

But their homeschooling stuff and craft supplies were still out there.  Any time they wanted to make a drawing of a sun with girl eyes and legs or cut a piece of paper into infinite tiny bits, there it was on my dining room table (and floor) to be picked up mostly by me when I'd surfaced from whatever consuming household chore or project I had happened to have been engrossed in at the time.

An answer came to me slowly.   After a visit to a friend's house that contains a small school room in the back of her house, the thought, Move the school stuff.  Make the breakfast room into a school room, began to float in the back of my mind.  Rather, it nagged.

The breakfast room was really difficult to keep clean of food debris after all.  The table had awkward gate legs that were hard to sweep around and it is a tight space for that big table and all that seating.

I began looking on craigslist for a tall table and stools to replace the chopping block cart/island in the kitchen.  Then we could eat small meals in there if we wanted to.  (For a picture of what I found, go back one post to this one.  Scroll down awhile to see the table.  Just yesterday, I picked up two more stools so now Mommy can sit down and eat too!  Very important!)

Then I did it!  I moved the table to the other side and folded up one side of it to make some room.

(Goodness, I am finally getting to the point of this post!!)

This is just after I cleaned the floor.  But nothing has been put back on the corner shelf yet.  The table is full of little projects the kids have come up with: Feast Day Boxes, sorting beads into cups—I love what they do of their own leading!

Then we moved a corner shelf—which we call the "homeschool shelf" and which had not been hitherto residing in a corner in the upstairs apartment— into the only available corner in this room.

Nothing organized yet....
I sort of let the kids run amok in there for several days.  I have to go through and toss or store what doesn't apply to this year.  I also had to actually order this year's books but that is finally done (mostly!) so I didn't want to waste time "organizing" when I was really procrastinating from getting our actual books.

She turned and made this face just as I clicked the button, I swear.

Yesterday, I shooed the big kids outside while I attacked the floor of this room.  I wish I had a before picture!  Just imagine the above table contents (but individual items about 90% bigger, as not to be choking hazards for Baby John) all over the floor.  But one of the organizational ideas I had was this:

Blocks in one, random baby-friendly toys in the second, little board books in a third (unpictured).
I'll get back to you on whether this system has any merits!

I know this post has gone on forever already, but here are a few other corners I wanted to show.  I was browsing Like Mother, Like Daughter (when am I not?) for some motivation to get back into our routines and schooling very soon, so clicked on the "education" category and found one on Nature Tables.

So I repurposed the top of this tiny bookshelf to serve as such for the time being.  We'll need more space later on, and maybe I'll get a bookshelf to put between the tiny one and the homeschool one.  But this will do for now.

Let's see rocks (top left and continuing clockwise) from Grandma and Grandpa's house, wooden cross from craft shop, jar of shells from a lake at a camp I went to as a girl and from beaches in France (!), acorns and buckeye from a nature walk at the start of school last year.  Small collection, but we had no place to display them until now!  We'll add to it this year.

Of course, nothing prompts interest like a new arrangement!
So that, mostly, is that!

Here's a fuller view of that side:

The little chaos-maker himself on the floor....
School should be extra interesting with John around this year.

Thank you, Auntie Leila, for the motivation to make many of these changes and for this post on educating children at home in particular!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Less Messy Entry

I can't quite bring myself to call it something along the lines of "pretty," but I'm joining a linky over at Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Here are the befores:

 This is what awaits just around the corner of the backdoor.  It's not really where guests come in unless they've gotten a ride from us (which happens), but it is where my husband comes in every day, and I think it's important to spruce up what he sees first.

Why does everything end up here?  There's about half a square foot of space there and for some reason, that's where I unload my purse as I'm coming or going.  I do like to store my purse on this thing, mainly because I just need somewhere in the kitchen for it to live (there's a tiny bit of entrance hallway—which I may show you later if the kids don't all mutiny at once while I'm writing this—but it is already quite tight).

But this is not what I have in mind for it, generally.  

Notice this little book in the middle of the chaos?  Confessions of an Organized Housewife.  Clearly, I need this book.

So, I don't have any pictures of the process, but I took everything off of the cabinet and sorted it into piles.  I had the idea that the piles needed storage here somehow, that that was why they were there.  I even went searching for this odd organizer thingy I'd made a while back.

But you know what, as I sorted, 90% of the stuff could just be put away on this floor.  I did repurpose a little basket for all the tiny toys and kid stuff that ends up down here somehow and that needs to go back upstairs.

Here's what I came up with:

That is where the purse usually lives.  But look just above the purse.  There's a cute little head up there....

Let's pause for some cute baby.

Boy, do I know I'm cute or what?

OK, back to organizing.

So, I don't really consider this "pretty" or even ideal, but at least it is neat.  

I think I'm going to have to say goodbye to that island thing next to the cabinet and then I'll need some more storage over there....

There.  Not too bad.  Don't like the radio antenna hanging all over, but it's the only way to get reception.  Also don't really like the stuff on top of the radio and speakers, but again, it's neat.

Here's the rest of the first view of the kitchen from the back door:

So from that picture, the whole kitchen just looks covered in dishes.  And it is.  I could give you the excuse that I'm sick (which I am), but even when I'm not, the evening and bedtime circus often leaves the kitchen this way.  But you know what makes it instantly better, if only slightly? 

Clean table.  Ah.  At least it doesn't look completely out of control now.

And just for good measure, here are few other views, of which I do not have before shots:

This is the aforementioned tight back entrance.  No room for a big bulky purse/diaper bag.  I severely edited what is hanging on this thing.  It's somewhat necessary right here, but it's also what you see right when you come in.

I have since mopped those back stairs, which really brightens my day when I open the back door.  But picture that landing nearly covered with boxes.  I decided that it just clogged up my life to have things living down there.  That one remaining box is full of glass bricks and I'll have to get one of the men in my life to move it.

Hmmm... I need a better shot to end this post with.....

That's better.  This is slightly related to entries since it's one of the first things you see when you enter my front door.  It's fun because I really like those pillows and because I repurposed a duvet cover to cover that couch.  The arms are still bare, but they actually match the blue of the checks, so it works!


You know, I keep wishing I'd done the real front guest entry... but it really is just a door into the living room which views my desk of all things!  I am terrible at keeping THAT clean.  Here are the before and after pics of that:

Before: kinda cluttered.  A pile on the desk.  And while I like that display of cards, it just looks like a mess in this photo.  Maybe I should edit it?  

Desk pile cleared... but really... what to do when you just walk into my living room and dining room?  I've relocated most of the toys and kids books (which I'm not so sure about because I like to watch them lounge around reading...) and the school stuff is now in our cute little schoolroom, which I should show you all when it gets organized.  Part of the problem is that when I go online for something, the kids sort of run amok behind me.  Maybe if I started bringing the computer into the back half of the house and stuck to Aunt Leila's rule about confining the kids (and myself when online!) then maybe that part of the house would stay tidy?  Thoughts?
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