Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Revised Cleaning Routine

      A balanced cleaning routine is essential in my homemaking. I cannot possibly keep up with the housework and the children without a plan in place. I don't have a lot of time to devote exclusively to cleaning our home, and so I need to be able to divide the workload among the week days. 

     I've long had a cleaning routine, but I'm finding that it is in need of a few adjustments as our family has grown and changed. (Plans should always be able to be adjusted as needs change!). I still aim to tidy just two rooms and complete one deep cleaning task each day. This amount is the minimum that I can realistically accomplish presently with two very young children. 

     Even with so few tasks, I still don't accomplish all that I plan. Some days there is housework that needs caught up, or children who need a little more playtime with and attention from Mama. By the end of the week there may be a day's worth of tasks remaining. They still need done, and so I try to find some time on Saturdays to do them. This isn't ideal for me because I want to rest during the weekends too. Having less to do during my weekend provides good motivation to work hard during the week.

    Part of working hard is to also work smart. As I work out a plan, I can see what aspects do and don't work. I can then make necessary revisions so that I may continue to strive for excellence in my home. For this new routine, I switched up some of the rooms to be tidied and repeated certain deep cleaning tasks. For instance, I grouped both bathrooms together so that I am using the same tools and actions. I also found that with as much traffic as our kitchen and dining room floors see each day, they are in need of more frequent mopping. (Our linoleum traps dirt in those deep dimples and is a task to keep clean. I hate linoleum! haha). I believe this will work much better for our family right now. 

(Click image for larger view)

    I insert the printed cleaning routine into a plastic page protector, and then have it displayed in the main area of our home so that I can easily see it. When I complete a task I happily mark it off the list with a dry erase marker. There is great satisfaction in seeing the sheet turn pink or blue or green etc! I also copy the tasks into my planner book as part of my weekly planning

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Simplifying Hospitality

Image used with permission per Creative Commons Attributes license.
Copyright belongs to Elln B. No alterations made to image. 

     We recently invited friends and their families over for dinner at our home. It had been a while since we had done such. As much as I enjoy having guests, I honestly shied away from it a bit fearing that hosting an event would add so much more work and stress. But, I know that gathering with others is so good to incorporate in my life, and into my home and family. I particularly want my children to grow up to understand that the home isn't just a place for ourselves, but also a place for welcoming others. 

      Yet, I know that they will not have a favorable perspective of hospitality if I'm overwhelmed and stressed out by it. Right now in this season of very little children hosting a gathering like we have in the past would do exactly that.  Previously, we would make absolutely certain that the house was spotlessly clean. We would also make a homemade meal, and eat on our regular dishes. A significant portion of the day may have been spent in preparation. This was fine then, but wouldn't be feasible now. To make this endeavor successful we would need a new approach.

    We did the following aspects different this time around:

  • House cleaning
    • Maintain a cleaning routine. A quick clean is only possible when the housework hasn't been neglected during the week. For me, the best way to keep a home tidy, especially with young children, is to do a little each day. If not, it will build up to far more than one person can tackle..while watching young children and preparing for guests. 
    • Accept clean, but not necessarily spotlessly clean. We cleared the clutter from our main living area. We also mopped the kitchen floor as it was obviously in need of attention in places. We did what would be noticeable. My perfectionist eye caught tasks that could have been done (dusting, vacuuming etc), but I knew that no one else was going to be looking that closely. We made sure that our home was clean, but not necessarily perfectly spotless. 
    • Divide and conquer: cleaning with two little ones is challenging. We knew that we would be able to get more accomplished in less time by being able to focus. So, David took Annelise out, and I cleaned while Tennyson napped. It worked beautifully! (In fact, we might start doing this on a regular basis to create the opportunity for completing any remaining weekly tasks) 
  • Dishes
    • We opted for using disposable dishes. This isn't the most cost, or eco-friendly option. It also goes against the old etiquette of offering your best to your guests. However, I weighed my options: waste on disposable products or waste life-enriching opportunity to gather with others. I choose the disposable products. It was fabulous not having lots of dishes to wash from eight or more sets of tableware and the cookware used to prepare the large meal. Instead, we were able to promptly get the children to bed, finished whatever we needed to for the day, and then enjoy each others' company. Did I mention we were in bed by 9:30 p.m.? I would definitely have still been up doing dishes previously!
  • Food
    • We chose to go really simple with the meal, and utilized convenience foods. Fully homemade meals are really nice, and perhaps feasible for serving one extra family. Two or more families begin to require greater preparations and clean-up. Things like frozen meals (lasagna), casseroles and boxed desserts are great alternatives. If possible, we could make some of these meals homemade and then keep them in the freezer. Or, we could have a pre-packaged meal on hand in the freezer. If we want to still do something homemade, then we could trade off a prepared meal and homemade dessert. Or have the meal be homemade and the dessert pre-packaged. There are several options that will meet the need for one evening. 
      The main idea is to capitalize on convenience so that we may direct our attention elsewhere while still being able to open our home to others. There may come a time in which we are once again able to do the things we once did in preparation for guests. Right now, though, we must consider what is realistic and what will or won't bring joy into the endeavor. 

      Doing things this way has renewed my joy in hosting. My soul needed that gathering together with others. We all needed a moment to pull away from ourselves and our everyday. I'm encouraged to continue to try to invite friends and their families over for a meal at least once a month. I think I can handle this new way to extend hospitality in our home and family! It's all about finding what works well for you. :)


Monday, October 12, 2015

Shadow of My Doubts

Image used with permission per Creative Commons Attributes license.
 Copyright belongs to "Zooey." No alterations were made to the image. 
I'm not good enough
I'm such a failure
I'm always disappointing someone
God can't use me
People don't like me
I have nothing special to offer
I fuss and fret too much
I can't find balance in life
I can't follow God consistently
I'll never be able to change

     These are the thoughts that hover over me. I've lived in these shadows for most of my memorable life. From time to time, doubts enter my being like dark clouds. A storm rages within. I emerge- conscious bruised and heart torn.

     And, yet, it is in this fractured and fragmented state of being that God calls out to me with even greater tenacity and love. He is fighting for me and pulling me from the shadow of my doubts.

     I find myself in that dark place each time my thoughts fixate solely on myself- how well I measure up and how well I'm liked. I try and try, but to no avail. I step back into the shadow. When my attention is on myself, then it is not on God. I believe lies, not truth. God is the source of truth, and that truth shines light into darkness. 

     I must turn my thoughts completely to God. I've written above how I often consider myself, but how does He consider me? How much greater is He, His strength, and His consideration of me than my own? 
     I wasn't created to find light elsewhere or to be light. Such attempts will always produce a storm. God desires for me to live in such a way that my life radiates Him and His truth. I was created to confidently live in light, not shadows. He is drawing me out, and drawing me near. 

      As I consider my children sweetly sleeping this morning, my heart is burdened for the storms and shadows that will surely arise one day in their lives. A renewed sense of purpose swells up within me. I feel the Lord urging me forward into light in my personal life, not just for myself but for these children. I pray that His light might shine so bright in my life that the children can't help to be drawing to it- to Him. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tot School: Unit 3- Corduroy

    This week, we read the book Corduroy by Don Freeman, and enjoyed activities inspired by the story. The story of Corduroy has become a classic. It is an endearing tale of a little bear who sets out on an adventure to find his lost button, and in the meanwhile finds a home and a friend in a little girl named Lisa. His search for something insignificant like the button ends with the discovery of far more meaningful entities like a home and a friend. While it can be used to teach deeper life lessons, we'll be keeping things pretty simple. We'll be focusing more on things like exposure to color recognition, sorting, gross motor movements, sensory, and a couple of fine motor activities. And, of course, simply enjoying our time together and having fun! (These last two are the greatest purposes for activities for this age (20 months)!) 

 *Note: This post contains an affiliate link to I am a personal affiliate with, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!).
     After reading the story, I brought out the counting bears and cups. I've seen quite a bit about these little guys. I offered Tennyson two cups of bears. He had a good time picking each bear up and placing them into the other cup, pouring bears from one cup to another, and of course dumping them out onto the table to watch them scatter. We played a little game in which he'd put a bear in a cup, then I would, and so on and so forth. Each time, I'd count- "one red bear, two red bears etc." For whatever reason, he got a laugh from it. This activity didn't last terribly long, but he enjoyed it. I foresee these little bears and cups reappearing when it comes time to do more purposeful skill work on colors, counting, sorting etc. 

    Later in the week when I needed a quick activity for him while I cooked dinner, I offered him some jumbo buttons in the cups. The bears are small enough for him to place in his mouth, and so I keep a watchful eye when he's playing with them (and I don't want them lost). The buttons are big enough that I'm not too worried (but use your discretion in regard to your own child and the potential choking hazard!). 
Day 2: Lacing Button
      We began by reading the story once more. In the story, Lisa sews a new button onto Corduroy's overalls. So, we're doing the same with a lacing button! I offered him a lacing button (see next paragraph) and lacing string . At first, I would poke the string through the hole and he would pull it the rest of the way through. Then once he got the hang of it, he would poke the string through by himself. He still doesn't have the concept of continuing to weave the string in and out of the holes, but I'm sure he'll be able to soon with more time with lacing activities. (This was actually his first lacing activity). This activity is small enough that it will easily double as a busy bag activity (yay!).

     To make the button: I found an image of a button online and printed it on colored paper. I then laminated it for durability. (Note: I discovered that I could just run the button back through the laminator to reseal it if the button piece was overly crumpled in little hands).  
Day 3: Find the Button Game
       We read the story again. Afterwards, I hoped to incorporate some movement (gross motor skills) into our "tot schooling." Corduroy went looking for his button, and so I had Tennyson to find some buttons as well. I taped several colored large buttons (same image of the lacing buttons but enlarged) around the room. I then would say, "Button, button! Can you find the ____ (green, red, blue, or yellow) button?" He was semi-successful at the game. It's tough to keep his concentration for an activity when he's not seated at the table! Exploration for a busy little man is never ending! haha
Notice the whisk attachment in his hand! Ah, my funny little guy. haha
Day 4: Coins in a Piggybank
     Lisa "counted the coins [she'd] saved in her piggy bank" in order to buy Corduroy. So, today we talked about saving money to buy the things we want. (I don't believe he really understood this discussion, but we always like to talk to our children in a mature manner. One day he probably will understand all that we're telling him, but for now he at least gains valuable exposure to language!). He enjoyed dropping the coins in the slot and hearing them clink against the sides of the bank and against each other. 
Day 5: Texture Book
      We read the book for a final time this week. Then, we flipped through a diy texture book. This book plays off of the main character and his overalls- Corduroy! Various textures represented by materials are a great sensory activity. Tennyson will flip the pages back and forth feeling the different textures on each page. 
     To make the book- I collected several pieces of scrap material from my sewing friends and family. I then purchased an inexpensive flexible 8x8 scrapbooking album. A 3x3 square hole was cut in alternating pages. The fabric was placed behind the holes, and the two pages glued together. Gluing the pages added a great deal of durability and kept the fabric from being accidentally pulled out during use. 
This book makes a great car ride activity!
Busy Bag: The lacing button card and string doubles as a busy bag.

Extension Activity: We've started a baby book club! We meet once a month with friends and share our book or theme activities. Corduroy was our first book club selection. We're looking forward to doing many more baby book club gatherings! :)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Baby Book Club


   I really enjoy creating activities for Tennyson. It's become a passion of mine to find creative ways to excite and engage him in interesting books and activities. (Plus, it keeps him productively occupied and out of mischief!). 

     Recently, I've been considering extending our "tot school" to others. (Because when you find something you really enjoy, you want others to enjoy it as well). I wasn't sure if others would be as enthusiastic about the idea, though. Everyone does things differently, and we seemed to be the only ones without a large amount of toys and in free play all day. But, to my surprise several people signed up to attend!

     It was a good first gathering that I think everyone enjoyed. It also provided me with several points of insight to consider for our next gathering. We had five children 0-3 years old (and five more 0-9 months old). The children played for a bit after they arrived. Then, we sat down to enjoy our book and snack. I read Corduroy by Don Freeman as they nibbled on their teddy bear crackers, strawberries and cheese sticks. By the end of the story, there was only a couple of children left sitting at the table, mine and a three year old. I realized that perhaps the story was too long for the age range. (We're up to beginner reader stories with Tennyson, but I wonder if it would be better to go back down to simple board book stories for the group?) Most of the children were scattered about playing with toys, but I decided to try to introduce our group game of having them find some large colorful buttons on the floor (like Corduroy!). It was no use, the pull of the nearby playroom was too strong. (Even my own child had wandered away to the toys). So, I told the mamas about the other activities and encouraged them to explore them with their child. That didn't work either. 

      I think one of our greatest challenges was that the home we were gathering in has a very large toy collection (one mom commented that being there was like a residential Toys R Us! haha). The toy room pull was too powerful to compete with, especially with children unaccustomed to sitting down and focusing on a more hands-on activity. While I am grateful for the hospitality and generosity of the mama who opened her home for us to gather in, I think a new location would be better for future gatherings. Fortunately, the public library offers a community room which is just a basic room with tables and chairs. This space would allow us less distractions, places to set up activities in stations, and then a play area nearby for a free play time afterwards. 
     The second area for improvement would be parent-child interaction. I had really hoped that this would be a "mama and me" book and activity opportunity (perhaps I should change the name from to "Mama and Me Baby Book Club?"). One aspect of our home tot schooling is the one-on-one time Tennyson and I get to have. These moments have come to be so meaningful for us both! I had hoped that the same would be achieved in our group setting. I've learned, though, that it's hard to break the tendency to send the children to "go play" with toys while the mamas chat. (This is good, and even necessary, but not helpful at a book club gathering). This time I set the activities up high, which necessitated the moms to introduce the activity to the child. I think next time I'll set them up on the children's level so that their natural curiosity will lead them to it and to draw in their mama's attention.   

     The kids got an opportunity to play, hear a story, and socialize which are all good things. But the book club component of the gathering kind of got lost. Hopefully we can make a few changes and continue to enjoy this opportunity. 

     David and I talked this afternoon about the baby book club idea. We talked about creating this event elsewhere when/if we move. I liked the idea of having a group for activities, especially since we intend to homeschool. We've also talked about using this group idea to reach out to children who may not have an early literacy influence in the home. We could create a bag with the book and all pieces of the activity and even parts of the snack to give away. So many ideas! So much potential! I'm very prayerful that this baby book club idea may be a success!
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