Tasks that Can Be Done One-Handed

(hard, but possible with a baby in the arm)

making the bed
drying and putting away the dishes
sorting and putting laundry in the washer or dryer
most homeschooling
reading the Bible
dusting with a feather duster
polishing the coffee tables
wiping windows
setting the table
clearing the table
phone calls
small writing jobs

Tasks that take two hands:
(impossible or dangerous with a baby in arm)

folding the laundry
cleaning out the fridge
cleaning the bathroom
washing the dishes
large writing jobs
wiping large messes off the floor
changing sheets
moving furniture

I'm finding it's easier on me to have a mental list of things I "can do" with a baby in arm, since she won't be put down most of the time, and another mental list of things I "better do RIGHT NOW" to run to when she is sleeping or otherwise occupied. That way I don't feel so lost or frustrated at my current limitations.

Today is so Random

This morning we had to make a semi-emergency trip to the orthodontist for Miss Rose, who needed an adjustment to the braces she had worked on, on Saturday. Stopped at the bread outlet, not much joy there.

Looking specifically for food that I can eat more of, for less calories. Of course. Got WW meeting tonight, have to weigh in. I did good for 3 days and lousy for 3 days. I have no idea what the scale will say, but I did learn something this week: if there is something in the house that I ought not to eat, I will eat it. So I need to make some good choices about what I'm putting in the grocery cart tonight, and not go buying things "for the kids," because I can't be trusted with it.

Got more to say about "Mama Guilt" on Thursday, but one thing that I will bring up now, is how terribly hard it is for me (mentally and physically) to lose weight when I am nursing a little one. Either way, I have guilt confusing the situation. I feel guilty if I am full, and I feel guilty if I'm hungry. I have a little one to feed! But I am overweight. Darned if I do and darned if I don't. WW gives you more calories to eat when you are breastfeeding, to compensate for the calories used by milk production, but still...the nagging voice that is always with me in every situation, says what it always says...you aren't doing it right, and you're going to fail with nursing, or you're going to fail with losing weight. Just like always.

I'm way behind on my Management Monday -- I really needed to have done my menu for this week and my grocery list, yesterday; and gotten at least this week's school planning done. The end of the school year is fast approaching, and the children will need to do some modified schooling over the summer so they can start their new year's curriculum on schedule in the fall. I need to pick n choose through the remainder of their curriculum, to make sure that they A) get the best of it, B) cover the things presented that they don't know yet, and C) are prepared for their standardized testing which we will most likely do in July.

I should have been working on it yesterday, but I was just so tired, and really fried mentally. I was feeling like I was on the edge of a breakdown, so I went to take a nap instead of working on it. But then the baby would not let me sleep, so I just layed there, thinking about thinking about things, and then the day was pretty much over, so that was that. Bummer.

Having all this junk hanging over my head all the time is really wearing me down.

I listened to a brief talk (Q & A) by Victoria Botkin last night, via Internet. I really enjoyed her relaxed, peaceful voice, and her smoothly interesting vocal cadences. She sounded like a gentle mama teacher, which I so needed to hear. She said, "When you are a mother of little ones, you CAN NOT do everything. You must only do what needs to be done. Spend time with your children." (paraphrased, LOL!) I was pleasantly surprised and a little cheered up by her talk. Not that it wasn't anything I haven't heard before, but it was just the right time and the right tone.

Went to see about the other talks in the series. She is doing an 8-week course through the end of April. I thought I might sign up and listen to the rest of the series.

Until I was sadly surprised to see that it would cost $49. Well, never mind then.

Carry on.

Thoughts -- Reading

...the baby's life was more real to her than her own. His life was full of needs: actual and urgent needs, which she could supply. What was her own life, by contrast, but a series of gnawings, ill-defined and impossible to satisfy?

All the while, when Nazneen turned to her prayers and tried to empty her mind and accept each new thing with grace or indifference, Chanu worked his own method. He was looking for the same essential thing. But he thought he could grab it from outside, and hold it against his chest like a shield. The degrees, the promotion, the Dhaka house, the library, the chair-restoring business, the import-export plans, the interminable reading. They were his self-fashioned tools. With them he tried to chisel out a special place, where he could have peace of mind.

--Brick Lane, Monica Ali

Picked it up to read last night, very good book so far.

Sorry for no post yesterday, things are a little demanding around here.

School is More Fun in Spring

Since Spring and mild weather has arrived, suddenly, as always (I took this photo just a week ago and it already looks so much more lush, green and grown out there!), we've been enjoying whatever work takes us outdoors, including school work.

I didn't order a science curriculum for Roks this year, since he is only 5, and not quite ready to be bored to death with a formal science study. So I have put together a little science/nature course for him, and we are focusing on seasons/observation/plant study.

This child is very artistic and loves to draw, amongst all the other artistic things he does. Right now, one of his most favorite prized posessions is his nature journal (working on his second one now). I make the journals at home since all those little books are so expensive at the ed. supply store. I just fold used printer paper/junk mail/old assignments so that the clean side is showing, then staple the loose edges into the fold of a piece of construction paper, for the cover. I made a whole bunch of them this year and we use them for Roks' language arts assignments, journals, or any time he wants to write a book. They are fun and free. :-)
Yesterday we went out to observe "nature" -- taking note of what we could see, hear and smell. Some of the things we could see and hear were: redwing blackbirds, a woodpecker, a hole in the tree, the next-door-neighbor's dog, a big hawk, bees and ants, blue sky, and lots of green grass with drifts of little pink-white flowers. We smelled lilacs-- just starting to bloom, jonquils, and a sampling of all the herbs that are reappearing this year. Mint, chives, thyme, parsley, sage, and lavendar. Then Roks drew an ant. :-)

Joman has a really interesting curriculum this year, studying the nations of the East, including Australia. Many neat enrichment activities with this curriculum.
Of course, the nice weather is so distracting....
and so is this.

Going to Weight Watchers (updated at bottom)

Hello! Hope you had a nice weekend. We did. The weather was good, some projects were worked on, and everyone is healthy. We had a speaker from a missionary organization come and talk about their work in Mexico and Papua New Guinea -- fascinating as always. Ever since I was a little girl, whenever the missionaries would come, after hearing them speak and seeing the pictures, I was ready to get on the next plane. Things haven't changed. I'm mentally off to Papua New Guinea this week. Makes me wish I'd gotten that medical degree after all since I'm qualified to do exactly nothing on the missionfield. Maybe one day that can be rectified, I don't know. Six children isn't ALL that many, right?

I was planning to do a Wandering Weekend post but since we didn't go anywhere, due to the current need here at home for curriculum planning (got new science curriculum that needed looked at and planned for), yard and garden work, and stuff like that. Annie turned 4 weeks old yesterday, so she is still a little young to tote around to public events anyway.

Recently I got the movie Babe from the library for my little kids -- they loved it, and I was hoping to get them to a local sheepdog demonstration this past weekend. But, never mind. I know they do the demo's at the local fairs in the summer, so we'll have a look then. I grew up watching sheepdog comps and I love them. Such well-trained, clever little dogs.

I will share with you that I am, today, getting serious about managing my weight. I'll also share with you the previously top secret info that I currently weigh at least 225 lbs! Considering that is only 4lbs less than what I weighed 4 weeks ago at 41 weeks pregnant, that's not really a good omen for the future. And my body is complaining a LOT. I have joint pain anyway, have for years, but the past few weeks have been torturous with pain in my lower back and hip joints. It's always worse after I have a baby, due, the doc says, to fluctuating hormone levels. So just when I plan to feel better, after having a baby -- I don't. And I guess all the extra weight doesn't help much.

So tonight I am toddling (waddling?) off to Weight Watchers, to sign up for the umpteenth time. I need retraining. And an audience. And encouragement. And to lose at least 75lbs.

I'm putting a ticker in the sidebar for bragging rights for me, or nagging rights for you. Accountability is a good thing, right?

I spent some time this weekend writing appropriate recipes that I would actually use, on index cards. I have all the recipes that I use on index cards. It's easier than looking them up in the collection of cookbooks. Also, when I make up my weekly menu, I can just pull the index cards, keep them in an easily-accessible spot, and I can see at a glance which side goes with which main dish, what ingredients I need, and whether I need the crockpot or the oven or what (I code for these things in the corner of the cards).

So today I will make up my menu for the week, since tonight is also grocery shopping night, and get the recipe cards out, and make my grocery list, and I'll be good to go.

Now, I have a question for you. Does anyone have a good way to keep raccoons from fishing from your garden pond? The kids have already lost two of their koi and we are pretty sure it's raccoons. Not sure what to do about it. Nature is awesome. LOL.
---------------------------update below -------------------------------------------------------
So, I just got back from my first WW meeting. First in a couple ways: first American meeting, first using their new Momentum program, and first time I've ever gone away from a WW meeting with a sugar high and melted chocolate on my jeans. (Is this a good thing? I think yes. I mean, no. Or whatever. Yum. Sigh.)

Bad news: According to their scales, I weigh 5lbs more than I do on mine. Which puts me at, yes, ONE POUND HEAVIER THAN WHEN I ARRIVED AT THE HOSPITAL, 40wks, 6days pregnant, TO HAVE THE BABY, FOUR WEEKS AGO.

Oh my.

See why I didn't wait to go.

Wish me luck!

Prairie Dress

I have actually finished quite a few things between Christmas and now, to my own pleased surprise :-) , but I'll go back to January, and show you something I made for my niece, for her birthday.

Christmas of 2008 I had made a prairie dress and apron for Miss Rose, and Niece E seemed to really like it. Grandma sometimes takes the girls to square dance events, and Miss Rose eventually won a prize for her costume dress. So, since I had another pattern in (what I hoped was) Niece E's size, I thought a prairie dress would be a nice gift for her too.
The dress itself is a navy cotton with a purple and lavender tiny floral print, and the apron was made from a very light lilac broadcloth. The bonnet was made from a light purple gingham. It was sort of an unusual combo, but I think it worked.

Niece E really loves it, so that made the project worthwhile. :-)

In the meantime, Miss Rose has grown about six inches, and now needs a new prairie dress again, herself. But there are several WIPs that need done before I get on to that!

Home Comforts -- a rant/review

There are several things in life that I am just not cut out for. That, to say the least, do not come naturally to me, that are a constant struggle for me, and that I find sometimes difficult and the rest of the time defeating. One of these things is motherhood, and another is housekeeping. My deficiencies in motherhood, I am sure, will be the subject of many future Thoughts for Thursday posts (just skip Thursdays, there's a thought for ya,) but today I have a book to review for you.

Let me tell you how this went down. I was ordering some Weet-bix online. American cereal manufacturers seem to only be able to produce cereals that are 99% sugar or 99% cardboard, and nothing in between. Weet-bix is one of the most perfect breakfast cereals ever. You can eat it crunchy, mushy, hot, cold, sweet, as-a-snack-with-butter...it's an ideal baby food mushed up with a bit of warm milk. In Australia, you can get it in nice big kilo boxes, in several different brands, and it's one of the most economical cereals out there.

Here, you can sometimes get Weet-bix in the natural-foods section of some stores, for somewhere between $5 - 6 a box (1 lb).

I searched Amazon, and found a six-pack of boxes for the relatively cheap price of $3.90 per box, which was close to-- but not quite --getting me free shipping. So, I decided to order a book to push me over that free-shipping cost line.

I saw this book, Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson, briefly discussed in positive terms on someone else's blog. A blog I like to read. Which I can't find now, so if you have seen it, and know which blog I'm talking about, please remind me.

I admit, I was suckered in by the title. Home Comforts. Because that is a big area of confusion for me. I want to have a comfortable, homey, nurturing home. Which is clean and orderly and organized. But I can't seem to make the two ideals co-exist to my satisfaction. So, knowing from the blog that this was a book about keeping house, and presuming from the title of the book, that it was keeping house in such a way as to provide Comforts, well...I bought it.

I've tried a lot of different home cleaning plans, such as Flylady and others. This is because I have no real idea of How Much Is Enough vs. How Much Is Expected vs. How Much Is Ideal vs. How Much Is Realistic With a Large Family vs. How Much More Work Does a Large Family Really Create vs. Do I Still Get to Do Anything Else or Is My Life Over; with a little of How Do You Clean That Anyway?

And, okay, I have six children including a newborn who are home 24/7, and amongst other things, need to be fed, clothed, and schooled. By me. In a very large and slightly broken house with a very large and slightly out-of-control yard. I realize this would be challenging for most people; at least I hope so, and don't burst my bubble if you don't agree, because I am fragile here, okay.

So, the book. Started out great. Written by a lawyer with slightly feminist leanings who was raised in a big family on a farm. And who now (and I should have realized at this point that things were about to go awry) lives in New York with her second husband, (who, unlike Husband #1, is able to put up with her domestic excesses) and her one non-homeschooled-child in her fully-mod-conned apartment. Ahem. (Put the book DOWN, Moey, put it DOWN...) Okay, so I gave her the benefit of the initial doubt because she works. And that puts her out of the house for a good portion of her day, which necessitates that she provides Home Comforts in the time that she has at home, which I thought probably evens the playing field between us. Right?

In the introduction, Ms Mendelson makes some excellent points and observations. Here she summarizes what I assumed she would be addressing in this book:

This sense of being at home is important to everyone's well-being. If you do not get enough of it, your happiness, resilience, energy, humor, and courage will decrease. It is a complex thing, an amalgam. In part, it is a sense of having special rights, dignities, and entitlements -- and these are legal realities, not just emotional states. It includes familiarity, warmth, affection, and a conviction of security. Being at home feels safe; you have a sense of relief whenever you come home and close the door behind you, reduced fear of social and emotional dangers as well as of physical ones. When you are home, you can let down your guard and take off your mask. Home is the one place in the world where you are safe from feeling put down or out, unentitled, or unwanted. It's where you belong, or, as the poet said, the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in. Coming home is your major restorative in life.

So, her prescription for accomplishing the "sense of home" is laid out a few paragraphs later, thusly:

What really does work to increase the feeling of having a home and its comforts is housekeeping. Housekeeping creates cleanliness, order, regularity, beauty, the conditions for health and safety, and a good place to do and feel all the things you wish and need to do and feel in your home.

And her views on the defense and rigors of housekeeping:

No one is too superior or intelligent to care for hearth and home. Domesticity does not take time or effort but helps save both. It is just an orientation that gives you a sixth sense about the place you live in, and helps you keep it running with the same kind of unconscious and effortless actions that keep you from falling when you walk down stairs.
Seen from the outside, housework can look like a Sisyphean task that gives you no sense of reward or completion. Yet housekeeping actually offers more opportunities for savoring achievement than almost any other work I can think of.
Housekeeping requires knowledge and intelligence as well, the kind that is complex, not simple, and combines intellect, intuition, and feelings....The ability to split your attention in several ways and stay calm is essential. You need to exercise creative intelligence to solve problems and devise solutions: efficiency measures that save money or time; psychological or social measures to improve cooperation; steps to improve physical comfort; analyses of why and how some routines break down. Housekeeping comprises the ability to find, evaluate, and use information about nutrition, cooking, chemistry and biology, health, comfort, laundry, cleaning and safety. Above all, housekeeping must be intelligent so that it can be empathetic, for empathy is the form of intelligence that creates the feeling of home.

All good, yes? We'd agree that yes, housekeeping looks like a Sisyphean task "from the outside," (and from the inside too, from my perspective, but I expect at this point that our intelligent, educated, sympathetic author is going to anticipate and remedy this perspective in the following chapters.) We would also agree that housekeeping could be the primary way in which we create the environment for ourselves and our families; and naturally, especially for those of us who are thoroughly bounded by our home duties, we like to feel that the activities which require all of our time and energy also afford us the dignity of the acknowledgment of some intelligence. True?

Warning flags should have popped up, then, at this point in the introduction:

At a minimum, we should avoid thinking that time spent on our homes is wasted time, or that our goal should always be to reduce the time and effort we spend on them. Much housework is discretionary, but not all housework is. Minimum standards of cleanliness and order are inescapable necessities for health and happiness. It is up to each of us how to choose the dimensions of "necessary" in our own case.

Now, I do need to clarify at this point that I have only read the first, oh, tenth of this 850-page manual. There is only so much angst one can have in one day, and there are only so many days in one's natural lifespan, so, this book may just have too many pages for me to be able to read it all *and* deal with the consequences, before I die.

A few pages into the second chapter, this little paragraph jumped out at me:

In my experience, the most common cause of dislike of housework is the feeling that the work is never done, that it never gives a sense of satisfaction, completion, and repose.

Yes, yes! Exactly. There is never the reward of a job well done. Even if your paid job is ongoing, at some point in the day, you pack up and go home. At some point, even if your employer doesn't sing your praises, your time spent is validated with a paycheck. There is a stopping point, and there is a reward system built into paid employment. Generally, there is also laid out for you a certain set of expectations, for which you will be respected if you overachieve, rewarded with a paycheck if you meet, and be corrected (or fired) if you fail. If the expectations are too high for the rewards, you look for other employment -- that's your prerogative.

No one in their right mind fires the mother housekeeper, and goodness knows, she can't quit.

It's said that defining the problem is half the solution. So Ms Mendolson has half the solution in the first 15 pages, and can't find the other half in the remaining 840+ (judging from the chapters I've read so far). I began to realize this was the case when I read the following sentence:

You need different goals for ordinary times and times of illness, stress, company, new babies, long working hours, or other interruptions of your home routine. People with large houses, many children or guests, active households, or invalid parents will have to spread themselves more thinly and should not expect to be able to keep house like the Joneses [or the Mendelsons]. Also, the fewer your resources of all kinds -- money, help, appliances, skills, time -- the more modest will be the level of housekeeping you can realistically hope for.

All at once I realized that Mendelson's "ordinary times" are nothing, and in no way, like the "ordinary times" I experience. In a (large) house filled with eight people, half of which were born in the last five years, what are the chances that I will experience any length of time at all without a baby, (plus a toddler, preschooler, kindergartner, and two middle schoolers), or without being ill myself or needing to take care of an ill person, or have a house size that is managable, or looking after 8 sets of personal belongings, endless dishes and laundry, school supplies, shopping, storage, etc? These aren't the interruptions to my routine, they ARE my routine. And these "interruptions" are the very ones I'm trying my darndest to make Home Comforts FOR.


Well, having given her the benefit of the doubt so far, I thought I would at least see what she suggested adding into a housekeeping routine, since it is so important and a foundation for the book itself.

Her Daily list was nothing too much out of the ordinary, with the exception that I would switch out her suggestion of "cleaning sinks and tubs after use (including drains and traps)" with "wash, dry, fold, and put away several loads of laundry and keep up with the ironing or you'll be doing it in an 8-hour session like last time" and "oversee schooling for four children while breastfeeding the baby and keeping the toddler from climbing the bookshelves" and "clean the high chair, the floor around the high chair, and the walls behind the high chair after each meal."

It's the weekly list that I take issue with. Changing the bed linens twice weekly? For eight? Vacuum the upholstered furniture and lampshades? Wipe the fingerprints and smears off everything (weekly is not enough for this in our house). Wash all washable floors (ditto). Wash down entire bathroom: toilet, sink, tub, wall tiles, toothbrush holders and all fixtures, cabinets, mirror, floor (again: we have four fully-utilized bathrooms so this is a full day's work right here, plus, we wipe down the toilets and sinks daily anyhow.) Clean air-conditioner filters and humidifiers according to manufacturer's recommendations. (no humidifiers, and what is an air-conditioning filter, where is it, and why clean it weekly, exactly?)

Here is a telling statement:

In many respects, the old routine no longer makes much sense. Sewing and baking are anachronisms. Those of us who still bake and sew do it for fun and count it as a leisure activity. Many people do little or no ironing. The number of major household chores [referring to laundering, ironing, sewing, marketing, cleaning and baking] has been reduced to three, perhaps three and a half, and some of these, especially laundering, do not take anywhere near the time or effort they used to.

Begging your pardon, Ms Mendelson, but many of us out there do, indeed, bake, sew, and iron, and we do it not for reasons of enjoyment but for health and economy and because we have eight mouths to feed, and eight bodies to clothe, seven of whom are home all day, every day, making all sorts of messes while we are doing it. If I did laundry once weekly, as you suggest, I would indeed spend the entire day doing it. Ditto the ironing, ditto everything else. Add in schooling, and you have a housework schedule that either needs simplifying (which you dis-recommended earlier) or is not humanly able to be accomplished.

The rest of the book, not to overly summarize, but because I really really have to go do other things and not keep sitting here blogging; is how to do every chore you've ever thought of, and some you haven't, and to emphasize the dire importance of it all, and somehow still remain almost entirely irrelevant to the challenges I and most of the women I know, face as mothers trying to create a HOME and still have time to enjoy it and feel fulfilled in doing it, since there isn't time nor option for anything else.

My big question now: is this book merely physical and mental clutter or is there enough good reference info in the remaining hundreds of pages to justify the space it takes on my shelf, that could be utilized for school books? Will I ever find out? And who was the crazy blogger who posted about it previously? I need to make a comment!

And excerpts from a much better review (with a different perspective) than I have just given you, amongst others, is from the Amazon review section, by "A Customer" -- There's A Difference Between Homemaking and Housekeeping:

Basically, this is a book on how to do the work of a full-time housewife with the income from two prestigious, demanding careers. I think this shows that the author - not her dissatisfied readers - has some leftover feminist issues. All her disclaimers notwithstanding, the sheer heft and excessive wordiness of the book show that only major projects meet her standards for dignified work. She dismisses as frivolous any notion that creative activities, rather than cleaning and organizing, could form the fundamental basis of home life. Such mere "hobbies" as sewing and baking, she sniffs, can never substitute for gleaming floors and sanitized countertops. (Apparently while she was working on that philosophy degree she never came across a book called "Leisure, the Basis of Culture.") Several readers have rightly commented that her standards of cleanliness seem more appropriate for institutions than for a house. Indeed, the book's unspoken message seems to be that we should bring the level of organization and energy found in professional workplaces into the privacy of our homes. Sadly, the very structure of the book is a confession, painful to witness, of the author's unfinished business in the professional realm. Apparently she didn't quite cut it in her original academic vocation, so at this late date she makes up for it by weaving philosophical ramblings into her book on housekeeping, where they just take up space, offend some readers, and make the real info hard to find. Similarly with the legal profession and the several mostly irrelevant chapters on "legal issues" at the end of the book.

And that ends my Thoughts for this Thursday. Got guests coming in an hour, gotta go.

Big Kids' Fish Pond

WIP Wednesday is brought to you by Miss Rose and Joman.
This is their Koi pond, which they designed, dug and built themselves. Their young friend (and helpful advisor/digger) across the street had built one at his house, with encouragement from another friend up the road who had built one and raises fish there.

That's peer pressure for ya. :-)

This picture was taken on the first day I ever saw the pond. I had no idea that when they said they were building a fish pond, that they meant a 7x4 foot, 36" deep, lined pond with all the trimmings, plus a planned (and now mostly dug) garden area surrounding it.

The pond is now home to three happy orange-and-white Koi, and the kids plan to purchase some butterfly Koi when the weather plans to stay warm.

Thanks kids, for sharing your WIP, and thanks, Deb, for the blog idea. :-)

Easter Annie


3 weeks old

Stay tuned, will try to post again later today. Busy busy busy!
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