Friday, August 27, 2010

All Systems Go {A Series}: To Clean or Pay Someone to Clean? That is the Question.

Remember when I told you that I'd sworn off systems? Remember when I said I'd be providing a few tips of my own, tips that are very non-system like?

Well, the wait is over.

Here is where I reveal never-before-seen secrets on how to easily and effortlessly keep your house cleanish while homeschooling three young children, working part-time and living in a small space. {I may even turn this into an e-book.}

Hire someone.

In the words of a dear friend and fellow homeschooling mom, keeping your own house is highly overrated.

My kids help with daily tasks like the dishwasher and laundry but the rest tends to fall upon me and I was feeling increasingly loaded down and overwhelmed. The Man and I discussed this issue and came to the same conclusion: I needed help.

I had our house cleaned the first week of August. Because the house is smallish, it took 3 hours. From here on out, it will take 2 hours once a month which comes out to roughly $1 a day. I have a jar on my counter where we dump loose change and dollars. Sometimes I fine my kids if they're naughty or don't pick up their stuff. It all adds up. Don't worry, I won't hand the jar to my cleaning friend. But I will take the jar to the bank when it's full and feel a little better about money I never missed paying for something that blesses our family. And by family, I mean me.

We are not rich. But The Man and I both know that the time and energy I spend homeschooling, working, and keeping up with the daily demands of home and family is time and energy I do not have for other things, like cleaning. And when you break it down to $1 a day, well, that's just a no-brainer.

Some of you may be thinking that if I managed my time better or gave my children more responsibility, I could save that money each month. And you would be right. But this is about knowing myself, knowing our family's schedule, and accepting what is realistic for us during this season.

You don't need a systems guru to tell you how to manage daily life, you just need a bit of common sense and a hefty dose of freedom to embrace what works for you.

Having the house all clean at once makes it way easier for me to maintain during the rest of the month, not to mention that my floor will actually get mopped every. single. month. Bliss. Once The Man saw how insanely happy the all-at-once clean house made me, he knew without a doubt that this was a good decision for us.

So, this is my system and I'm sticking to it...instead of sticking to my juice-and-lint smeared floor.

More to come.


I'd love to know what you think. Do you have a system that you consistently stick to or do you {gulp} actually pay someone to clean? If you have older kids, did you gradually transition the cleaning responsibilities to them?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What's Inside the Box...

As I laboriously removed the desk hutch from the excessive cardboard packaging, I thought to myself, What on earth am I going to do with this ridiculously huge box? I snipped the tape, folded it up, and abandoned it to the garage, hoping it wouldn't sit there too long.

It didn't.

They had big plans for the box.

It has been a spaceship, a drive-through car wash, and a McDonald's, complete with a very bossy toddler employee who serves all customers a hamburger and orders them to eat it before they drive off.

I saw a useless, oversized box.

But they saw a whole world just waiting to be imagined.


It's Tuesday so you know where to find Emily's of course.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Slate of Expectation

It feels like yesterday when I made the decision to keep her at home. You know, just for a year.

This week we began year four of this school around the kitchen table thing. It's been nothing like I imagined three years ago. It's been far better and far worse, a series of ironies that play out daily in this crazy life of mine.

I am the teacher as well as the student.

I am learning that years of formal education pale in comparison to the school of hard knocks.

I am learning the most; this is certain.

I am learning to work with what I've got and to work with who I've got.

Three years ago I imagined a homeschool room: bookcases lining walls, beanbags for reading, neatly organized everything...the {still} unfinished bonus room as our own personal schoolroom, a sacred space devoted to learning together.

Three years ago I imagined hands-on, creative everything: Egyptian pyramids baking in the oven and child drawings to accompany her phonics instruction.

Enter perfectionist daughter frustrated by her 1st-grade motor skills, crying buckets as she tried to draw the perfect cat that sat on the mat and how it didn't look how she pictured it in her mind.

Enter exasperation over the Egyptian pyramid project turned nondescript lump of crumbly mess.

Enter frustration and perfectionism that precluded much of reading, math, and history that year.

Enter tears. Again. Hers and mine.

The glossy curriculum magazine advertised a creative, gentle, hands-on approach. I read not one disclaimer regarding perfectionistic, frustrated children.

Somewhere along the way we settled on the classical model in its rich simplicity, a non-trendy, no bells and whistles approach. We learn in much the same way our great-grandparents did in their one-room schoolhouse...which is convenient, since a one-room schoolhouse {with one giant, oval-shaped desk} is exactly what I have.

And so I work with who I've got and what seems to work for us all:

Creative, inquisitive, perfectionist, not-loving-to-read daughter. She needs a streamlined, efficient, traditional way of learning so that she can have the rest of the day to be who she is: creative. Extra time in the day also means extra time to {sigh} practice reading...and more time for her book-loving mama to read to her.

Bright, compliant, book-loving, golf-playing son. He needs a streamlined, efficient, traditional way of learning so that he can have the rest of the day to read some more, to practice golf in the backyard...and to let his book-loving mama read to him.

Non-compliant, attention-hoarding, toddler. He needs his siblings to finish school quickly so that he can have everyone's attention...and let his book-loving mama read to him.

Somewhat introverted, contemplative mother who is not naturally gifted in the art of nurturing. She needs her children to finish school efficiently and collaboratively so that she can finally stop talking and hide from said children and have just a few moments of quiet to write...or to let her book-loving self read a bit...or to take a nap.

So that's who I've got, a little bit of every personality living and learning together, a family of 5 in our smallish home, doing school in the space where we do everything else: the eating, the crafting, the writing, the wiping up spills...

The wiping up tears.

It's not a picture of that beautiful sacred space, gilt-framed in my mind. It's a picture of a messy space with tattered edges...

And it is very much sacred, a hallowed ground of sopped-up juice, Cheerios, and eraser dust.

Funny how that out-of-reach, idyllic schoolroom stands symbolic for the rest of this unpredictable journey called home-education. As we traverse the overlapping trails of living and learning, I, the teacher mama, am figuring out that I don't know much of anything...and that what I thought I knew doesn't count for much.

Day in and day out, I am learning to unlearn, to humbly wipe the slate of expectation clean and allow Someone Else to write the story on it.


A parenting post linked up with the lovely
Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience.

holy experience

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ancient History

Blondie pulled out my old scrapbooks over the weekend. She loves reading the story of how her daddy and I met, even though she's completely weirded out by all of the mushy love stuff. My college days fascinate her. She seems to have a strange admiration for that wilder, younger version of her mother.

She does not, however, admire my back-then style. Mommy, she asked, would you be offended if I told you that your clothes looked bad?

No, I replied. I agree that my clothes looked bad too. But that was just the style back then.

Back then? {I thought to myself.} Really?

It's funny how this history still feels rather recent to me, like it was just a few years ago when I donned acid-wash jeans with zippers on the side and wore baggy sweatshirts over leggings.

And all of the fun trips and adventures her daddy and I enjoyed during the 5 years of marriage before she was born? It seems like just a few years ago.

But as she and her brothers gazed at those albums, I had a flashback of looking at my own parents' high school and college yearbooks, of sprawling out on the blue carpet in our living room and studying their old photographs. And I remember trying to imagine them as young, thinking that all the girls in my mom's high school already looked like moms with their Donna Reed dresses and short, bouffant hair styles.

And now, to Blondie and her brothers, that's me.

It's come full circle I guess and I don't know where the time went.

I didn't dress like Donna Reed and my bouffant hair style was a giant mess of spiral-curled, hair-sprayed goodness, but it might as well be ancient history to her, that time when I lived and fell in love and had a rich, full life, yet she was still years away from being conceived.

Watching them look at ancient us felt both crazy and okay. I sort of liked it actually.

Because there's something about coming full circle that feels complete.

Unwrapped with Emily {Chatting at the Sky}

tuesdays unwrapped at cats


On a different note, I just want to thank all of you for the lovely comments and most gracious welcome as I shared my most recent post. I was scared. I woke up that morning with butterflies and fear, but y'all made it so much less scary. It was such a beautiful day for me. Thank you for letting me share my life with you: the good, the trivial, the ugly. In the writing, I have found expression and healing; in the sharing, I have found community and joy.

And thank you, sweet Emily, for the opportunity to write at the place where I've found such inspiration and resonance over the last two years.

Oh and if you read the All Systems Go post, I've worked up a few very "non-system-like" posts that are coming your way this week. : )

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Marriage, Mess and Mercy

This is my first-ever guest post. I am honored beyond measure to share my words and story with Emily {Chatting at the Sky} and her gracious readers who have become my Tuesday sisterhood.


I prayed for months that I wouldn’t throw up or cry as I floated down the aisle to meet him. I didn’t want mascara dripping down my face or nausea ruining my dress. I didn’t want to be a mess. I wanted to be perfect. Looking back, I probably saw God’s answer to my superficial prayers as a good sign that life would be a lovely storybook…just like that day.

Monday, August 9, 2010

All Systems Go

It’s that time of year when mamas and school-kids are gearing up. I always have mixed feelings. Several trips to Staples, going through our school stuff, organizing binders, anticipating a busier fall schedule…and I am feeling the all-too-familiar tug toward systems.

But this year I’ve decided it’s going to be different. I’ve sworn off systems.

I’ve always been a fan of systems, methods that allow me to do life more efficiently and productively. I have a strong-willed tendency to equate efficiency and productivity with success. In theory, systems often seem like the answer. In practice, well, I wouldn't know. I've never stuck with one long enough.

When inefficiency and chaos reign, I feel unsuccessful, which no one ever actually aspires to. Prone to distraction, escape, fussing at children, and downright tiredness, I look to a system as savior, wrongly assuming that the right method will eliminate the madness.

Systems seem to enjoy their annual heyday each fall. There is an endless array from which to choose, particularly if you homeschool. {And I do.} Homeschoolers have a love affair with systems. How else can they milk cows, stitch quilts, grind millet, read The Lord of the Rings, and conjugate Latin verbs all before sitting down to a hand-hewn table of organically-grown-in-the-backyard fare? How else can they do all of this while being so well-mannered, so musical, so National Merit-ish?


I have dabbled in many over the years, always looking for the one that will finally make me a domestic goddess and make our home a beacon of order and tranquility. I’d think to myself, "If I can just cook a month’s worth of meals and freeze them, if I can just divide my house into zones and set the timer, if I can just find the perfect chore charts for my children, if I can just find the right expert or book to make me perfect, make my house perfect, make my kids and family-life perfect, we’ll all just be…perfect."

Ugh. How perfectly nauseating.

Of course I don’t actually think I’m aspiring to perfection. No one ever admits to that. Yet on any given day that’s exactly what I do. I erect perfection and order as a shiny, golden idol and I bow down to it, resenting anyone and anything that gets in the way, myself included.

I’m learning, however, that my failure to adhere to any given system is not actually failure. There is no one-size-fits-all system. I should not equate a system with salvation and neither should you. The best system in the world will not cure my lack of discipline in certain areas or tackle the ugly issues in my heart.

Don’t get me wrong…a system is not bad in and of itself. In fact, I have been helped and taught by many a good system, taking with me the elements that worked and leaving behind those that didn’t. But I’ve found that it’s better for me to know myself, know my husband, know our kids, know our lifestyle, understand our values, and then create our own realistic ways of doing life.

The funny thing is, now that I’ve broken free from idolizing other people’s systems, I’ve found a great deal of freedom and confidence to create and embrace my own. I don't need a book or an expert, just common sense.

I’ve got a lot to say about this, so stay tuned. I’ll be writing more from a real mom’s perspective on home and school and thwarting perfection. I’ll even be sharing some {gulp...dare I say it?} “tips” about what’s working for us right now. And I promise, such tips are in no way, shape, or form system-related.

So what about you? Are you a fan of systems?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Benevolent Blogosphere

I have, without a doubt, "met" some of the coolest girls since I began this adventure of recording life in word and picture, girls who love to write and look at photos and overthink things as much as I do. That's a gift in and of itself, but the bloggy world has been exceptionally sweet to me lately.

About a year and a half ago, I went on a scrap-booking weekend with a couple of girls I knew and dozens that I didn't. As we all chatted it up about life and nonsense and family, it turned out that one of the girls knew about my friend Lily and the Padalily {she'd seen a write-up about her from The Nester.} I told her Lily was my BFF and we all had a big laugh about what a small world it is {as well as some dish about the marvelousness of Amy Butler fabric.}

And then she learned that I had a little blog and I told her the name of it and sure enough, she had visited. Then we had an even bigger laugh and I started signing autographs.

Seriously though, ever since that day Lynne has been one of my most faithful readers, rivaling Lily, my mom, and my mother-in-law. Every time I see her name and the ladybug icon that accompanies, I smile and unwrap the comment love.

Well, I got a package in the mail Friday, a real present to unwrap, and guess who it was from...


The girl has got some mad sewing skillz and she makes up little totes and keychains just for fun and she made one just for me.

Isn't she lovely? I told her that I never met a toile I didn't like. This way I'll still look classy even when I'm wearing black Converse sneakers and holey jeans. It's reversible and has awesome little pockets and pouches.

I cleaned out my old purse and junked this one up on the spot.

And if that wasn't enough, about a week before that I got this in the mail from the one and only Richella. She was doing a giveaway and I have totally been wanting this book.


I guess the giveaway gods smiled upon me because I won!

The book is hilarious and spot on. I knew it would be. I read Jon Acuff's blog and I have the laugh lines to prove it. Run, do not walk, to Amazon and buy it. It makes a great gift for all of the Christian culture junkies in your life.

And right after you do that go visit Richella at Imparting Grace. She is precious in so many ways: a gifted writer, grammar guru, thrifty decorator and beautiful woman of God. I got to meet her in real life a year ago at the Nester's swap-meet.

I know you all probably hate me for the great loot I scored and the swell girls I know but I just had to gush. And thank you, Lynne and Richella, for the great gifts!

There's just something about getting a package in the mail that makes a girl's day.

And speaking of presents, I'm unwrapping this one with Emily today. {Chatting at the Sky}


Blog Widget by LinkWithin