Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's a little too early to predict,

but I might have figured out Mt. Laundry. I'll wait to report for certain after at least two weeks have passed, because unrealistic schedules usually get thrown out after six days, so I have to wait a little longer to see if this one is a true possibility to maintain! I'll keep you posted . . .

In other super-exciting news, after unintentionally starving the puppy for two weeks ("Read the fine print, Sarah!" Those five words should be highlighted and in bold print on bags of puppy food.), we've adjusted his feedings to the correct amount, and he's gaining weight faster than I'd previously thought possible. He's supposed to be 100 pounds by six months, which is only three months away, and at this rate, I think it might actually happen. Let's just hope he's housebroken by then, or I'm going to have a hard time picking him up mid-stream to carry him outside! Yikes!! He is incredibly sweet and mellow, though, so I can forgive him his little accidents. For now, anyway.

And in other, somewhat-related news, thank you so much for the reader who linked to this blog for me in my earlier post. I am slowly reading through Leila's posts on laundry, housekeeping, and meal planning, and there is so much helpful stuff in there! Bridget and I figure that we should read the blogs of women with at least twice as many children as we have, because those are the women who can't afford to be laid-back about home management. You can let it slide with three kids for a while, but not with 6, 8, or more! (And actually, you can only let it slide for a while with three before you end up bald because you've pulled all your hair out.)

So that's what I've been doing lately. I've been armed with clipboards, spreadsheets, and cleaning supplies, and my children will tell you they've been armed with schoolbooks, dusting rags, and the broom, and things are seeming a lot easier around here. Again, we're only a matter of days into The New Plan, but after years of Failed Plans, I think I might've found a Keeper. Information forthcoming :)

Now, back to menu planning. And speaking of dinner, what are you having? I need some more ideas for my list!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Putting Feet to the Plan

Well, I've spent the last half of last week and all weekend working on new chore charts, routines, school plans, and purging closets, so today is the day I see if any of this is realistic! I'm famous for making wonderful plans that never make it past day one, they're so unrealistic. I'm an idealist, to be sure!

I'm loaded with my clipboard, hot tea, and new ideas, so I hope I've found the answer to taming the chaos and making steps forward! I used to be so disciplined; then I had three children in four years, and now my car and my kitchen and my life are all a little bit wild! Addison is about to turn four, so maybe we've come far enough along the road, past toddlerhood, that we can get a little bit organized? I hope so, anyway!

If any of this works, I'll let you know. I'm trying a new laundry system that I hope is the salvation of my Mt. Laundry. It involves brightly colored tubs and a plan. Now all that's left is my actually doing the plan! We'll see!

I hope you're having a happy Monday morning, too, with lots of coffee or tea to warm you, and hope for new goals and ideals! (And if any of you have at least three kids, preferably at least two of them being boys, and you've scaled Mt. Laundry and won, please pass on your tips!!)

See you tomorrow!
Sarah

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Cleaning, Sort Of

Today is the first day of spring, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw SNOW in the forecast for this afternoon! Boo! I appreciate that you Northerners deal with this a lot, but if you could keep your snow up there, instead of sending it down here, that would be great. We were supposed to paint part of the house today, and instead we'll be sitting inside, freezing. That seems just really bad and wrong for the first day of spring in Texas.

On the other hand, I have serious spring cleaning fever! Not only could my house use a good dose of suds and elbow grease, after a long winter and a new puppy, but our school closet and overall organization is getting an overhaul, as well. I spent the better part of Wednesday at the library, with laptop, notebooks, and lists, and now I've been carrying out all my plans. I've redone our schedule/routine, including meal planning, cleaning jobs, etc., and in the days since, I've been holed up in our schoolroom, working. We use the Charlotte Mason method entirely for our school, and the blessing of that is that there are three websites devoted to that, AmblesideOnline, SimplyCharlotteMason, and the one I just found, CharlotteMasonHelp. I've combined parts of Ambleside and SCM for the last two years, but the actual organization of things like record keeping, timelines, and picture study is really well done by Lindafay at CharlotteMasonHelp. I've spent hours at her website this week, writing down great ideas and using her free charts and documents.

If the weather doesn't turn to snow too soon, I'm going to sneak away to Office Depot to buy some binders and journals, and then come home to start organizing, my favorite part of cleaning! (That's why my closets are organized, but the floor isn't mopped nearly often enough. I like to organize, not necessarily clean.)

And then next week, unawares to my stuff-loving family, I'm purging every area of this house and taking a huge load to Goodwill. Between that and actually getting to the mopping, by this time next week, when it's really supposed to feel like spring, I think we can paint the house.

Unless, of course, it snows.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Fever

Here I sit, already late for co-op and not even ready to go. Spring is calling; I really just want to get a book and go sit on the porch all day. The kids have spent probably 10 hours outside this week already--it's beautiful here, with the trees leafing out, and my garden is waiting patiently for me to get out there! I love co-op and our friends there so much, but the thought of sitting inside doesn't sound as fun today, when I hear mowers and smell the fresh-cut grass outside and see baby goats jumping on fallen trees next door. Spring is calling me hard.

Unfortunately, the laundry, meals, vacuuming, and lessons are also calling.

I do have to go to co-op, but after that is up for grabs. We'll see who wins today.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Deaf Ears

Today I'm googling making baked potatoes in the crock pot,

painting sparkly clovers and happy leprechauns with the kids,

eating vegetarian corn tacos from Chipotle,

and then working on lesson plans at the library in peace and quiet,

before I'll come home to spend the afternoon reading Heidi with the kids,

and then make salmon, salad, and sweet potatoes for dinner, (Hello, Alliteration)

before I crash on the couch to embroider while watching "Luther" with Pace, (If I can talk him into it.)

and then going to bed to read "Pilgrim's Inn," which I'm loving so far.

Notice what's not on the list:
cleaning, though my house says otherwise. Be quiet, house. I'm not listening to you today.




Monday, March 15, 2010

Today's Agenda

Today's agenda involves fun things,
  • play outside (Yes, that's me who's playing!)
  • read first chapter of "Pilgrim's Inn" and "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase"
  • eat hot bread with butter and honey
  • go for an afternoon walk
needed things,
  • bake bread (Or #3 above won't happen!)
  • finish lessons for the day
  • do laundry
  • pay the bills
  • finish staining the steps outside
  • bathe the stinky puppy
  • write thank you notes
  • mop all the hard floors
  • keep potty-training the puppy
and much-needed things,
  • have my quiet time,
  • make dinner,
  • spend time with Pace,
  • read aloud to the kids, and
  • take a bath.
I love a day that's productive, but I think that falling into bed tonight is going to be very, very welcome!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Cheerful Friday

It's a happy day at our house--Pace got up early and made us all blueberry pancakes, "Pilgrim's Inn" has arrived at the library and is waiting for me, and I have focused plans to finish sewing the pillow covers for the boys' window seat. (The project has only lagged for, say, a year or more.)

Furthermore, the day is sunny, the boys are busy playing "hugging dragons," (Don't ask; I don't know.), and Addie is devoted to playing house in her bedroom. We also discovered Librivox, a site of free podcasts of books read aloud, and the play cottage is open for business--I foresee several hours of uninterrupted bliss this afternoon!
The play cottage last summer

And right at this moment, for the first time since November, nobody here is sick.

This is shaping up to be a very nice day!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hello, Spring

Just for my own records:

Today is the first day I dug around in the garden, pulling weeds, putting away old garden stakes, cleaning up around the compost pile, and spray painting the old metal seat bright red. "Snappy," Caiden said.

Today is the first day we noticed the halo of green surrounding a tree in the field next to us. It was right after I told Caiden to be on the lookout for the green halo, and when he asked what it was, "There!" I shouted.

Today is the first day we saw buds on all the oak trees, ready to open soon, we hope. We also saw tiny leaves on the vines by the chicken yard fence, and even the mysterious tree by the barn, the one we can't identify, has tightly curled buds.

Today there was dirt under my fingernails again, and this morning's rain smelled like spring, instead of winter.

Spring, you are very welcome this year.

Life in the Rainforest

Today, no surprise, it's raining again. The morning dawned sunny and clear but quickly turned dark, and now it's pouring, with good-sized hail thrown in for fun. Scout, my deeply-loved but deeply-neurotic golden retriever, is frantic with fear over the thunder, so he has been kenneled, and the other two dogs (the ones who are usually kenneled), are sitting in front of his crate looking at him in puzzlement. He's not having that much fun.

We, however, are having fun: I'm doing some cleaning, after letting the house languish while I've been sick, and the kids are having a dance-party while cleaning their rooms. I'm not sure how much cleaning is going on, but they're flickering the lights and dancing wildly, and I figure that'll burn some serious energy off.

There's nothing like vacuuming the rugs and taking out the trash to feel like order has been restored. (That's really all it takes here, which makes me wonder if I understand what order actually looks like.) The antibiotics have finally kicked in, and so I'm a happy girl, although not yet cured. The boys spent a happy hour at the table this morning creating a pirates/dragons picture book with their markers, and Addie ate three bowls of oatmeal while watching them. We've made it through our Scripture verse and our devotion, although that's about as far as we've gotten.

No matter. When it rains we stay home, since Scout literally goes beserk if I'm not here to assure him he won't be struck by lightning, or something like that, so I have serious plans for reading library books on the screened-in porch while enjoying Scout's worst enemy, drinking lots of tea for this still-sore throat, and feeling very thankful for the green spring we're sure to have.

Gratitude is a lot like that--giving thanks in every circumstance means giving thanks with hope, that even though it's raining, sunny days are around the corner. Daffodils are poking up their heads, and I noticed blades of grass, still tiny, peeking up through the dormant lawn. Spring is almost here, and if I want to see some flowers, it'll have to rain first.

p.s. Thanks to each of you for all the prayers, and thank you Mom, Leslie, Angie, Bridget, and Brittani for calling and checking on me--I am surrounded by the best girls ever!


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Flame Swallower

I've never really understood why flame swallowers think that sounds very fun. Exciting, yes, but not fun. I'm sure there's a secret to the trick, but watching a person willingly swallow a flame, or sword, makes me wonder if we're really all the same inside, after all. I mean, really, who wants to swallow something painful? Have you ever actually meant a college student who says he wants to be a flame swallower when he finishes his degree? I can hardly swallow a large pill without clenching my teeth.

On that note, I have decided that there's not much in the world worse than being sick while your children are young, and your husband can't take off work. From the stomach virus to strep throat to migraines, there are have been a multitude of times when I was literally on-the-couch-sick with not a soul to help me, and little kids running around everywhere. It's amazing how three kids seems highly multiplied when you're sick, isn't it? Three doesn't seem overwhelming until you're half-dead on the couch, and they're suddenly much, much faster than you are. Then you just gaze at them helplessly while they carry around markers and Vaseline and those orange-dyed Cheetos. You can see where that's going, can't you.

I've lived away from my parents for about 16 years, and that means I've lived through three pregnancies with severe morning sickness, multiple episodes of the stomach virus (6 just when pregnant with Addie, alone!), over two years of monthly migraines, a couple surgeries, and an untold number of cases of strep throat--all without help. (Actually, we flew my mom in to help me after my foot surgery because Pace and I quickly realized I was helpless on crutches with three kids 5 and under in a two-story house.) But in my day-to-day life, I've been largely on my own when it comes to toughing it out while sick. And call me a wimp, but it makes me want to cry. Nothing is lonelier than a mama with the stomach virus, a husband who has to work, and three healthy, active kids.

Which brings me to the present. Saturday my throat was scratchy; Sunday morning it was on fire. Monday I went to CareNow, where I was misdiagnosed, and now it's Tuesday night, and I'm miserable. So miserable that I've missed two get-togethers with friends, and that's saying something! My throat feels like I'm swallowing glass, and I've had enough cases of strep to know it when I see--and swallow--it. Of course my husband has to work late tonight, and I'm not ashamed to say my kids ate pistachios, raisins, and cantaloupe for dinner. Fortunately for me, they're not picky, and they were so happy to have a picnic in the boys' room that they didn't seem to notice they were eating hors d'ouevres for dinner.

Bridget and I reminisced the other day about her recent episode with strep--she was so sick she dragged her three kids (also 5 and under, of course) to the doctor to get an antibiotic shot, and the nurse evidently hit some nerve, and Bridget was temporarily paralyzed, which understandably terrified her, but by the time she got some feeling back, she also felt better. We decided today that her scenario was preferable to being misdiagnosed and not getting any treatment at all for several days. Only slightly, but still. (And you can see why we're friends--it's always something with her, too. You should stay away from us unless you, too, want to always have something crazy going on.)

So tonight I finally have two full doses of antibiotics in me, and I've used the "Magic Mouthwash" that's supposed to numb my throat but really doesn't, and I'm waiting to feel tremendously better. In reality, I still feel like I've been hit by a truck, and I'm also feeling a little sorry for myself, that today was the prettiest day of the year, with 75 degree temps and a cloudless sky, and I spent it on my bed, watching my children run around like a herd of cats, eating whatever they could find and playing in the mud. Grayson decided it was warm enough for swim trunks and the sprinklers, and you can see where that went.

The good news is that they're none the worse for the wear, having spent a pretty happy day reading new library books, eating odds and ends, and playing in the mud. Ask a kid, and he'll say that's a spectacular day.

Just three more weeks, and my mom will live within driving distance the next time I'm half-dead with a random illness, and you can bet I'll be calling her number!

As for me, I'm holding out hope that tomorrow will be better, and my throat will feel like a normal person's should, because I never said I wanted to be a flame swallower, after all.

UPDATED 9:33 a.m. Wednesday: Addition to the gratitude journal today, "Thank You Lord for the inventor of penicillin. Amen."


Monday, March 08, 2010

Gratitude

I feel like I've been transported to another state, it has been so gray and rainy here these last few months! Truth be told, I'm a little tired of the rain, but I know it's my friend. We don't have a sprinkler system, so we need all the free and easy watering we can get. Today, however, when I wouldn't be watering anyway, I'm ready for it to stop. Between three kids and three dogs, I want somebody to go play outside!

I started today at 5:30 with a super sore throat, progressed to 8:30 at CareNow, and now am home again, doing the regular Monday things--laundry, school, and thinking about dinner. (If I don't think about it before noon, it won't happen!) It's hard to feel cheerful when your throat feels on fire, the dogs keep tracking in muddy footprints, and kids are restless with pent-up energy that turns into bickering.

So it was especially fitting that this week's Scripture memory verse was this:

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you, in Christ Jesus."
I Thessalonians 5:18


So that's what I'm working on today. That, a little laundry, and disinfecting all our germy surfaces. Maybe tomorrow it'll stop raining, my throat will feel fine, and we can go on a walk. Either way, we're giving thanks regardless, because that's where joy lives.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

New Mercies

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning,
great is Your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

This is a new morning, with new mercies, already evident:

birdsong, sunrise, flickering candle and hot tea,

sharing siblings, sleepy puppy, peanut butter and banana sandwiches for breakfast,

chores completed, hope for the morning.


I didn't mention earlier that this full week has been on my own--Pace has been out of town since last Sunday. Hence the getting up with the puppy, adding in extra special outings with the children so they wouldn't feel his absence too hard, and resulting weariness. But today, he'll be home. It's a new morning, for sure!

New mercies every morning, and we're welcoming those that belong to today.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

It Has Been a Week!

Remember how I went to an amazing conference this past weekend? It's sort of like how you pray for patience, and then, wham! You find yourself stuck in the longest line of traffic ever when you're late for your own wedding, or your great-aunt Mabel shows up for an unexpected 3 week visit. You know: you pray for a virtue, but instead of handing it to you on a platter, God gives you the chance to develop it. Then you remember that you really didn't want to be patient after all.

So I went to a conference on being a great mom, and God thought it would be nice to let me develop those great mom qualities when I walked in the door at 10 p.m. Saturday night and was greeted by Addie throwing up in her bed. I hadn't even hung up my purse yet.

A word about Addie's bed--her covers consist of a comforter covered with a duvet cover I made (It took me something like two months, but who's counting?), quilted pillow shams, and hand-made quilts. It takes forever to put it all together, which is why I'm glad she's such a clean girl. If she went to bed dirty, I'd have to wash that thing all the time, and she'd sleep in a sleeping bag instead.

Anyway, she threw up all over the pillow shams, two quilts, the duvet and cover, and of course her sheets. And her lovey and nightgown, for good measure. I hauled them all to the laundry, remade her bed with other quilts, pillows, and covers, and put her back to bed, thinking it was a fluke vomit. (I was so tempted to make that sentence rhyme, but the "p" word is just gross.) And of course she threw up again, all over her second set of covers, sheets, pillow, and nightgown.

I, in the quest to fulfill all my plans and oaths and whatnot from the conference, considered it a gift from God to nurture her, rather than mutter under my breath that I just wanted some time off, for Pete's sake! That resolve was slightly tested when she threw up more than 10 times over the next three hours, and I slept on her now-stripped bed with a pillow and thin blanket. I was freezing and woke up every 15 minutes to help her to the bathroom. Lots of nurturing went on, as well as praying and the laying on of hands--totally serious here--and when she finally stopped getting sick sometime around dawn, I was exhausted but victorious.

Monday was a good day, too. The children played nicely, we read and drew together, and everybody was happy and cheerful. Except for taking the puppy out four times in the middle of the night in our scary backyard with possums and such, it was great.

Tuesday the road started to veer downhill. I started the day with a migraine but powered through, until I got a second one before bedtime. That just seems cruel, doesn't it? I haven't had migraines in almost a year, but sleep deprivation always ushers them in. A week of getting up with a puppy evidently counts as sleep deprivation to my brain. Anyway, if I remember it right, Caiden put Addie to bed, and the boys tucked themselves in. And I again got up with the puppy, feeling slightly like a new mother all over again, except for the slight variation that I don't have to breastfeed the dog, and he sleeps in a crate. Getting up to take out a puppy in the pouring down rain at 4 a.m. isn't as charming as nursing a sleepy newborn in the night, however.

Wednesday we went to the science museum, and that was fantastic. The kids loved every minute of it, except for the overzealous lady in the Innova rooms, who wouldn't let Grayson touch the marbles game because "it's only for 8 and up," despite the fact that we were the only people in the entire wing, I was there to supervise and make sure he didn't eat the marbles, since we all know near-6 year olds still eat toys (seriously?) and we have the marble game. She was very nice about it but was unyielding, and we were very nice about it, but I'm thinking perhaps the children's museum might not be her best fit. Gray did love, however, the Tinkertoys room where he got to play with electrical circuits (the lady in there was much more relaxed), and it was indeed fun watching my 5 year old play with electricity yet not get electrocuted. That's always a winner, in my book.

By the time we got home, I realized I was exhausted, and so we ate breakfast for dinner, and then we pretty much crashed. I literally went to bed at 9:30 and let the dog cry it out, figuring I needed sleep more than he needed out.

I was rewarded for my strong approach with poop in the crate this morning, and henceforth I'll take poop in the crate as a sign I should just go back to bed.

By 11 a.m. I was ready to give away my children to any willing relatives, and then when Caiden came in crying that he'd broken the puppy's leg, I wanted to sit down and cry. Instead, we begged the vet to let us come in, and we hopped in the car. For the record, none of my kids matched or had brushed their hair, and mine was straight from the shower, no stying at all. Come to think of it, it still looks like that, 13 hours later.

$118 later, the dog is perfectly fine, and I gave in to the kids' cries of starvation and took them through a drive-through for lunch, which is a first in literally three months. I cursed myself about five minutes later, when Saint not only peed but also pooped in my car. That is a first for me, and I think we've had oh, about 7 dogs. Even Shadow, the formerly-worst-dog-on-earth, has never pulled that one. I had to pull over and wipe up dog urine with Caiden's sweatshirt, then use old napkins to pick up poop, and it seemed wildly unfair, considering I don't have any kids in diapers and haven't actually touched poop in a long, long time. This tickled the boys greatly.

We got home, had a relatively calm afternoon (possibly because it was naptime), then drove to Half Price Books and Pei Wei for an evening outing. Neither one went particularly well, by the way.

As an aside, do you know what we noticed yesterday? Lots of dead skunks on the road. We meant to look it up, to see if it's skunk mating season or something, because we smell them every morning around our property, and there are new ones on the roads every time we leave our driveway. Caiden mentioned tonight that if the dogs ever get sprayed--we've lived here nearly two years and they've never gotten sprayed, so I have no idea why he was worried--we don't have enough tomato juice to bathe them. That was 8 p.m.

I put the kids down, after delivering a stern and un-great-momlike lecture to the boys for their typical rowdy nighttime behavior, and then I went upstairs to sew and listen to Moby Dick. (I've never read it and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was shocked to find myself actually giggling by chapter 4! Who knew there was humor in there??) I came downstairs at 10 p.m. to let the puppy out and was greeted by two frantic, thoroughly-skunk-soaked dogs. Have mercy, they smelled so badly that when I fled from them, puppy clutched to me so he wouldn't stink, too, I literally reeked just from being in their presence! What are the odds that they'd get sprayed tonight, of all nights?? I couldn't believe it.

So now it's past midnight, and I'm pondering this last week, realizing I've come nearly full circle from last Saturday's end-of-conference-greeted-by-stomach-virus drama. On the good side, my husband is finally over his severe bout with the flu, nobody currently has bronchitis, and the puppy's leg isn't broken. I didn't have a perfect week of achieving all the things I'd hoped for while at the conference, but I will say this: considering I dealt with mass quantities of vomit and laundry, a puppy with a tiny bladder, taking the kids out in public a number of times, a trip to the vet, dog poop in the car, extra rambunctious boys, and now a skunk spraying, I think I did okay.

And some weeks, okay is pretty good.

Imagine what would've happened if I'd prayed for peace, after all.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Mellow Monday

My heart is so full from the MomHeart conference I went to (Hello to the girls I met there!!), and I can't wait to put down onto paper the big things I carried away from it. If you didn't get a chance to come to this one, be sure to check out Sally's website and see if there's one closer to you--it's a life-giving time, for sure!

It's a cold, rainy day again, just perfect for Monday. I love writing the new days on the calendar, and the rain seems to wipe everything clean for a new start. I'm listening to Joel Clarkson's CD of quiet piano music, and candles are burning. It's a quiet, peaceful day, despite three small children and three dogs underfoot!

Our new puppy is so sweet, and even though he cried the entire first night, he has settled into a rhythm here. Mastiffs are so calm, and it is a nice breath of fresh air after having our last puppy be a lab! Caiden said today that Shadow seems older and wiser now that we have a new puppy--sort of like how your 2 year old seems older and more mature when the new baby arrives! I'm not sure how wise Shadow will ever be; he tried to drink out of my bath last night, but he is certainly endearing himself to my heart. I let him sleep in my bedroom last night for the first time (He always sleeps in his crate.), and it made for a restless night; I'd wake up every hour or so to make sure he hadn't chewed the legs off my bed! He did fine, and I think Scout was glad for his buddy to sleep next to him.

After a week-long severe bout with the flu, my husband is doing much better, and Addie's short episode of a stomach virus has passed, so we seem to be settling down into a period of general healthiness (?). It seems scary to write that down, knowing anybody could wake up throwing up at any given moment. The nice thing about sickness is how calm the formerly-sick are when they're recovering (I'm looking for blessings anywhere I can find them, obviously.). Addie has spent the better part of two days listening to nursery rhymes in her bedroom while dressing her dollies. Grayson is obsessed with his new Picture Bible. As a pre-reader, he can follow the pictures easily while Caiden reads to him. If you have boys who love action and adventure, I'd highly recommend this to you. Anyway, he has been camped out on his bed looking at it, all day. It's a nice thing to have occupied children when it's raining, you've had sick people in your house for a week, and there's a puppy who needs to be housetrained!

So that's what's up around here. Nothing big, and that's nice, for a change.