Thursday, August 30, 2018

Homeschooling During a Hard Time

This is a topic I've pondered quite a lot this summer as I faced the reality that our summer and fall would be different than we anticipated.  

The blessing is that we homeschool, so we don't have to be away from our children at all during this time.

The challenge is that we homeschool, so I am responsible for their educations whether cancer strikes our family or not! This can feel like a lot of pressure, especially since Finn is at middle school age.  

Earlier in the summer we completed our state-mandated standardized testing and Finn came back in the 98th percentile for his composite (math + language) scores.  He always scores in the 90s.  Standardized testing is a terrible way to measure a child's "academic achievement" (I agree with Charlotte Mason, who wrote that the question was not so much what the youth knows, but how much he cares), but at the same time, it provides a measure of comfort to me.  Because it reminds me to relax.  I wrote a bit about what I've done so far here, and if you read between the lines, it's clearly....not a lot of formal work.  

I love habits and crave routines, but during this season of life our habits and routines are not the usual ones.  It helps to remember that we are learning all the time.  I try to think of our entire day as a time to learn, not just the hours from 9-12.  But, as with habits, I find that a scaffolding for learning is still helpful. So I've dialed my thinking back from curricula and schedules to underlying principles. 

Charlotte Mason's principles are the basis of my own, and I find that I can implement them without as much structure as one might think.  (Her method requires a certain amount of structure, planning, and time-keeping.  But I am focused on principles!)  She wrote that a child needs knowledge of God, knowledge of humanity, and knowledge of the natural world.  So when I think of what my children need, in terms of their education, I can see how we can pursue these things without necessarily imposing a formal structure on our everyday school lives.

How can we obtain a knowledge of God?  Through reading the Bible.  Through talking about the Bible.  Through the narratives of our own lives and the lives of other people. Through praying together as a family.  Through singing or listening to hymns together.  Through talking about religious allegory when we encounter it.  Through discussing popular culture through the lens of Christian life.  (And I'm not talking about simply moralizing.) Sometimes through poetry, art, and music.

How can we obtain a knowledge of humanity?  Reading the Bible works here, too. :)  Biographies, history stories, looking at the globe and talking about how people live, family history, discussing why people do what we do (the intersection of religion and psychology), current events, social interaction. Read Shakespeare!!  Read literature. Read lots and lots of good literature.

How can we obtain a knowledge of the natural world? Get out in it!  Look--really LOOK--at an insect, animal, tree, flower.  Maybe draw it.  Talk about the trees.  Read engaging stories about the natural world (Herriott, Burgess).  Subscribe to an interesting, age-appropriate science magazine (my son loves "Ask" magazine and has nearly memorized every issue he has received).  Find engaging documentaries. Take care of a little veggie patch or garden flower bed.  Grow some basil and eat it.  Taste and see that the Lord is good! When a child asks questions, wonder with him or her and try to find the answer. 

All three of these things are intimately related, of course.  We can't separate the knowledge of God from the understanding of His created world or His human creatures. The science of relations is unavoidable and that brings beauty and richness into our lives. 

Practically implemented in our lives, this is how we are homeschooling through our hard time:

*do some math, read some [good] books (both read-aloud time and independent reading), and write something every day (flexible as to when these things happen, as long as they DO happen)

*talk a lot, play a lot, go outside!

*have an undistracted mother who is willing to learn alongside the child, answer questions, and seek out resources (SO hard and yet SO essential--I think this is the most essential thing of all)

*maintain a consistent bedtime and of course keep to consistent and healthy meals 

*create peace and order in the home not simply through a fairly orderly space but also through human interactions. Cultivate emotional maturity and peace! A peaceful, stable home life is good for everyone. 

That's it.  That is all I am doing during this hard time, and I am confident that this is a solid approach: find the principles that make sense to you, and implement them as simply, holistically, and consistently as possible.  It's not just a good approach for homeschooling during a hard time--I think it may also be a good approach for living life. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Day by Day

How are things going in our little world?

My husband started his radiation and chemo treatments on August 13.  We are living out of state for 7 weeks.  Our dog is living with my parents in Charleston, South Carolina; our cat is living at home under the watchful and attentive eye of our cat-loving neighbor; our chickens are getting cared for by the neighbors.  We are fortunate (that word is so pale and slim and insufficient) to be living with our best friends during these couple of months.  They live less than half an hour from the hospital, in a house in the woods with enough room for all of us, and their 8-year old son is like a brother to Annie and Finn.

I have three primary roles in life right now: nutritional, emotional, and educational. My main goal every day is to get good, nutritious calories into my husband so that he doesn't lose too much weight. He's already a slim lad and we would like to avoid the unpleasant necessity of a feeding tube, which is common in oral cancer patients undergoing radiation treatments.  He can't eat solid foods anymore and so they're all liquid calories at this point.  Already.  And of course I want to feed my children well!  

My second goal is to provide emotional support for my family.  Cancer is a big deal.  Living away from home is tough, even when living with our wonderful friends.  So I'm here to try to help everyone navigate these waters!

And educational: a smidge of schoolwork here and there, mostly science, math, and literature. And my children are getting a very solid education on the medical system, too.  

So it's funny that my habits are sort of shifting temporarily. Life is like this, isn't it? It's not static! 

The habits of exercise, eating well, rest (at night; I'm not getting much rest during the day), and fresh air are all firmly in place.  I am continuing those faithfully.

I have been hit-or-miss with the habits of Bible reading and prayer, time with my children, and prioritizing ideas.  I have had lots of time with my husband, though!  And I do try to read to my children or do something nice with them daily, although much of our day is subject to factors beyond my control.

My tidying and chores are not at all the same here as they are at home. I keep our guest room and bathroom tidy and stay on top of laundry.  Our friends are out of town for a couple of weeks so I've had the kitchen to myself, but when they return Allison and I will share kitchen duty, and I am keeping house in a sort of do-it-as-it-is-needed kind of way. 

{As an aside, I love Allison's house.  It's cozy and welcoming and real.  It's not imposing, grand, or professionally-decorated.  I'm not knocking those things, but I am saying that I am completely at home in her house (as I think she is completely at home in mine!) in a way that I wouldn't be in a more "staged" home.  I love her house because it's an extension of her family; their personality imbues the space. It's creative, sweet, bookish, natural.  There's a cat and a dog, and the children run in and out constantly.  There's a stylishness to it that is offbeat and completely welcoming. I love finding little quotes she puts on the inside of cabinets or other little spots. It's a wonderful place to be.} 

Writing/creativity have sort of fallen by the wayside, although I do have a Moleskine journal with me, and that's my primary vehicle for "creativity"--although really it's for self-expression, reflection, random lists, dreams, fears, and the like.  I think it's a healthy place to focus my limited writing time right now.  My husband has a life-threatening illness and we have two young children: journaling is good for the soul!

I have shrunk over the past few months, and was lucky to be able to go to a "real mall" and do some shopping last weekend.  I actually detest shopping malls, but I holed up in the beautiful dressing room of one department store, had a supremely helpful saleslady/personal stylist, and managed to buy a new pair of trousers (much-needed) and four flowy, pretty shirts (my rule: nothing black, everything had to be pretty) that actually fit me, were well-priced (that's essential and somewhat surprising as I think malls are so overpriced), and are practical for my lifestyle.  It was so low-stress! No dashing from store to store!  And it's good to have clothes that fit again. Whew.

My father came into town this week to help us out, and he babysat our children today. Tomorrow he'll take my husband to the hospital and the children and I are going to have a Fun Day. I'm so excited!  I think it will entail a playground, a used bookstore, and a bakery......

*    *    * 

Blessings abound in the midst of this hard situation. I ask God to keep my eyes open for them. The Holy Spirit is at work, I can see that very clearly. 

There are hard days.  The treatment regime is grueling and painful. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. We are kind of constantly shocked that we've only completed 2 weeks.  We have to take every day as it comes, day by day, and often hour by hour.  Seems like we've been at it for a lifetime already.  

He's 43.  He's a runner. He has never smoked anything, never drank alcohol. No risk factors.

  Sometimes I step back again in shock at how fast our lives changed because of this absolutely unexpected illness that blindsided us.  Life is fragile and precious.  I don't think that means anyone should live in fear of the "what ifs" (that is not healthy), but I think it's good to remember to treasure each day, and treasure our families.  Cancer has changed us, is changing us; my husband and I both readily admit that.  We aren't sure how it will change us long-term, but it's interesting to see that it is having an impact on us.  

Even so: I'm ready to hear a sweet, sweet word that I dream of frequently: remission.  Please, Lord. 

In the meantime, we'll take each day as it comes!

Monday, August 13, 2018

My Daily Dozen: The Habit of Creativity

This year I began a blog series on my "daily dozen"--twelve habits that I use as the scaffolding of my life right now.   The first four (resteating wellexercisefresh air) are habits of fostering good physical health.  The second group of four habits (Bible reading and prayerspending time with my childrenfostering my marriage, and prioritizing ideas) are related to relationships. The last four "daily dozen" habits that I use as the scaffolding of my life during this season have to do with discipline. So far I have written about the habit of doing daily chores and the related (but not the same!) habit of tidying. I realize that chores and tidying up are often considered mundane, but they do bring peace and ease to my days. 

The penultimate habit I want to write about today is the habit of creativity.   My original plan was to title this "The Habit of Writing," but I realized that's very specific to me, and it makes more sense to give a broader category here: the habit of creativity. 

Creativity is an essential aspect of being human.  Unfortunately too many of us think creativity is limited to people who get paid for their creations (famous artists, actors, or musicians). That's not true!  Life is full of opportunities for creative work.

Creative work isn't just painting, writing, or dancing.  It's also acting, flower arranging, entrepreneurship, cooking, dressing, woodworking, composing, sewing, decorating....and so much more. We each have the capacity for creative work in some field or another, and I think most of us have a general idea of what our favorite creative work is.  What was the thing you really loved to do as a child?  I have a friend who dreamed of being a Broadway star.  She still loves to act, dance, and sing.  I never swerved from my desire to write...I even wrote an entire book at the age of 12! I think looking back at childhood and thinking of the dreams and pastimes of those years is the best way to determine what types of creative endeavors to pursue now.  (You may have many--I used to design clothes and houses!  And to this day I love garments and architecture, although I'm neither a clothing designer or an architect.)

Although creative work is often associated with spontaneity, I have found over the years that the best approach to creativity is simply slow-and-steady daily discipline.  Numerous books have been written on this topic; for instance, Julia Cameron advocates writing morning pages every day to help any creative person get through a "block" (see The Artist's Way).  I have done that in the past, although I don't do it daily now.  In The War of Art Steven Pressfield makes the case that commitment to your creative endeavor is ultimately the most important facet of accomplishing creative goals. In The Creative Habit, renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp emphasizes the importance of discipline and habit for any creative person. I'm sure there are many more books out there on this subject, but what it all boils down to is this: if you want to do creative work, you have to work at it. Make it a habit!

What does this look like, in reality?

My first bit of advice is to live in the season you're in and don't wish it away.  Find little ways to be creative each day. One thing I like to do, even during  a busy spell, is arrange flowers for little bouquets. It can take a while or it can take 5 minutes, and my arrangements are usually the 5-minute variety.  You may love to cook and express creativity in meals (I don't! but I LOVE people who do).  Sometimes it's flower gardening. It can even be something as simple as making the family calendar look beautiful and artistic, or spending a few extra minutes each day choosing an interesting and creative outfit to wear. My favorite inspiration for this is Edith Schaeffer's classic The Hidden Art of Homemaking, which contains plenty of ways you can exercise your creative side while simply...making home! 

{a sweet and fancy Japan-themed snack table}

If you have more time and latitude for creativity, then commit to it more firmly. Discipline yourself to write three morning pages each day, or paint for half an hour every afternoon, or write two pages on your novel each morning before the children wake, etc. The key is commitment, which will get you going, and then habit takes over, and once habit is ingrained, the discipline is in place. 

It does take discipline, though.  And you will encounter resistance and obstacles.  Be prepared for that! Do your best to stick to the discipline no matter what happens.  Try it for a week.  Then a month. 

For me personally, writing is best done either early in the morning or late at night.  I try to avoid working on writing during the day, when I should be paying attention to my children and our household responsibilities. Because our current life situation is so challenging (my husband is undergoing cancer treatments), I don't have a super-predictable schedule.  But I'm still trying to write for half an hour or an hour most mornings *or* late evenings. I'm trying to include this as part of my scaffolding each day, and when I can't write for whatever reason, I still try to do something that is a little creative. Just to keep the habit going and keep sparking my interest! 

I encourage anyone and everyone to make creativity a regular habit, and if you need further inspiration, the books I've referenced here all make a fine place to start (I do have a caveat about Pressfield's book, but it's minor--I mention it here).

 I feel it's such an important habit and one that easily gets ignored, particularly when we are busy raising children and managing households.  So if you have any tips on making creativity a habit or struggles regarding daily creativity, feel free to share.

Next week I plan to write my very last Daily Dozen post. If you've missed any or want to read the habits posts I've written so far, you may find them here. Viva la habits! 

Monday, August 6, 2018

My Daily Dozen: The Habit of Tidying

This year I began a blog series on my "daily dozen"--twelve habits that I use as the scaffolding of my life right now.   The first four (resteating wellexercisefresh air) are habits of fostering good physical health.  The second group of four habits (Bible reading and prayerspending time with my childrenfostering my marriage, and prioritizing ideas) are related to relationships.

The last four "daily dozen" habits that I use as the scaffolding of my life during this season have to do with discipline. Last Monday I wrote about the habit of doing daily chores. That's not an exciting habit, but I do consider it an essential discipline!  Today I'm going to write about something closely related: the habit of tidying. 

What is tidying? 

Tidying, according to my definition, is the act of bringing order.  So when I talk about tidying, I'm not just talking about picking up around the house, although it is clearly important to bring order to the house on a regular basis.  I'm also talking about tidying outdoor spaces (like the yard, garden, patio, porch).  And on a deeper level I mean tidying the schedule. 

On most days I can't tidy all of these things (the house and yard that are perfectly clean in every room every day is an unreachable goal in my season of life for sure), but every day I can do a bit of a tidy somewhere. I think if I can "tidy something" each day as a basic discipline of my life, I can generally maintain a sense of order in my home and in my mind. 

Tidying the House

Some of us love this task more than others.  My husband once came home when I had our closet all torn up and clothes across the bed and I was going through everything (mind you, I keep a small wardrobe to begin with) and he smiled and said, "you're really happy right now, aren't you?"

It's true. I love to tidy up.  I even tend to tidy therapeutically; the day my mother died unexpectedly in my arms, I went back to her house from the hospital and just began to tidy up.  I knew it seemed strange in the face of what had happened, but it was a stress-reliever. I did it because the house needed it, and I needed it, too. There are few things that thrill me more than taking a messy closet or drawer and imposing order upon the chaos.  

I know there are people who think people like me are crazy!

In spite of this love of tidying, I do not have a perfectly tidy home.  I live with three other people who do not share my deep joy of tidying up.  (Although my daughter shows potential.....) Imposing my standard of order on everyone else in this household would result in misery, so we just keep things reasonably neat.  And sometimes things are a complete mess!  (Our garage comes to mind.) This weekend I went through our schoolroom and organized it...and let me tell you, it was chaos down there for a few days! But not anymore.

My advice for beginners to tidying is to pick *one* spot in your house that you want to keep clutter-free and tidy, and simply focus on that each day.  That builds the habit, and once you have the habit, you've got momentum, and keeping certain spaces tidy won't feel so onerous anymore. 

Also note: "tidy" is a relative word. What is tidy to you? That's what you're going for. If you're the type of person who doesn't mind a stack of books on the coffee table and a little pile of papers on the buffet and a puzzle in progress on the end table, then fine!  Remember that it's about bringing order. Your home can be in order even if it doesn't look ready for a magazine shoot.

I personally love a Very Tidy space but also don't mind the Tangram game left out on the table for a few days or a few stuffed animals neatly gracing the sofa.  I'll straighten the pillows at night and maybe arrange the stuffed animals neatly, and that doesn't bother me a bit!

Tidying Outside

Sometimes I am so fixated on the inside of my house that I forget the outside. In winter this is no big deal, but in summer things get grimy and out of control very quickly.

Now, I'll be honest: when I had children who were babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, I pretty much made peace with the season of my life and I didn't fret much over the exterior of our house.  A couple of summers ago I instituted the rule that I would weed and mulch every year. Around that time I also drew a to-scale grid plan of my flower beds and realized how many "holes" there were between plants, so I've worked pretty hard over the past few years at filling those holes with plants, thus choking out the weeds! As a result, my flower gardening is the best it has ever been.

Once or twice a week it's nice to go pull weeds and tidy up, and in doing so I save myself the trouble of dealing with overwhelming amounts of weeds. (Trust me, I have been there in the past. Many times.)

Don't talk to me about the vegetable garden. I'd happily turn it back into lawn, but my husband likes to have a vegetable garden. It's just that we can't keep it up, especially not with cancer nipping at our heels. We'll just draw the veil of charity over it!

It is a good idea to establish a basic routine for tidying other outdoor spaces like porches, decks, and patios.  We have some messiness near our patio right now as we're doing some landscaping and have a few "piles" nearby, but I do try to at least keep the piles somewhat tidy.  It's a classic case of doing the best I can do, knowing it's imperfect, and accepting that anyhow.  Choosing one day a week to sweep the patio, tidy up the porch, knock down spider webs, etc. does help things stay reasonably nice during the busy summer months. Remember--it's about bringing basic order, not imposing perfection.

Tidying the Schedule  

This is my favorite. Tidying the house and yard help give us physical peace so we can relax and enjoy other pursuits, but in my opinion nothing brings more peace than tidying the schedule. This includes taking a look at the week or month ahead and deciding what to embrace, what to decline, how to order our days, what types of meals might be nice, what things need our focus, and what other things can be ignored.

Sometimes my schedule is inevitably packed.  During those times, tidying the schedule means looking at it with an eye to efficiency and figuring out what to do to make life easier.  Grouping errands and appointments helps tremendously, as does having simple meals or freezer meals. But I don't want to live with a packed schedule for too long if I can help it!

Often taking the bird's eye view of the schedule will allow me to see what I can cull.  It helps me hone in on what's most important to us in our lives right now. It helps me save time by narrowing my focus. Back when my children were younger and I felt perpetually overwhelmed, I decided to make a short (3-5 items) list every quarter of the things I wanted to focus upon for those months.  It was *so* helpful for me to keep that visibly posted in my kitchen as a reminder not to take on too much, and to do one thing at a time, and keep my focus on what I deemed important during that season of my life.

I think that tidying the schedule is an essential aspect of living an intentional life. It's easy to be swept along on the waves of our days, yet we need to determine where we want to go and navigate in that direction.  Tidying the schedule is the tool that gets us there. 

When To Tidy

I suggest tidying main living areas up each day. You don't have to get it to perfection--just try to eliminate the messes.  (And recruit the children!) I try to Do Something, no matter how small (kind of like exercise!) and just stick to the commitment.  You could pick Saturday as the day to pull weeds and tidy outdoor spaces--and don't worry about it if it's pouring rain.  I love to tidy my schedule on Sundays after church. The new week is ahead, my husband takes a nap, I make a cup of tea, and I look ahead at the week to think through meals, obligations, appointments, exercise plans, school plans, et cetera.  It takes less than an hour and I simply enjoy sitting with the planner and my thoughts!  I feel more prepared when I begin my week that way. When my children were smaller and needier, I often spent an hour or two on the weekends at a local coffee shop doing my schedule-tidying and menu planning, and then I went grocery shopping. We will all do this differently! 

For me, tidying regularly brings more peace and serenity into our home (and into my heart and head), so I do consider it an essential habit in my life.

Next week I plan to write about another habit that involves discipline...but something a little more fun than chores and tidying! 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Children and Chores

This post is a follow-up to the post I wrote on Monday about the habit of daily chores.  When I wrote that post, I included a section on chores and children, but then realized I had too much to write, and needed to allow "children and chores" to be its own post!

Unfortunately the word "chores" often has negative connotations.  I once heard a parenting guru say that in her household, she never had her children to chores because she considered it too coercive.  Her line of thinking appeared to run along the lines of: I want my house clean, but I don't need to burden my children with that, and I can't do it all, so if I can't manage it, I'll reconcile myself with living with chores undone. She wanted to give her children choices, including the choice to say no to doing chores.

I considered this for a couple of weeks, letting my children off the hook while I thought through her perspective.  I finally rejected it soundly and comfortably as a principle that simply isn't right for our family.

First of all, I think chores are beneficial because they are a vehicle for teaching self-discipline.  And self-discipline, or self-governance, is a quality that I consider essential.  

There are a couple of things I repeat to my children often.  One is that there is no substitute for hard work.  No matter how gifted or talented you are, no matter how lucky you seem to be, no matter how wealthy or privileged you are, at the end of the day I believe there is no substitute for simply getting down to business and working hard. 

The other thing I repeat often is "the best thing you can learn to tell yourself is NO." My children giggle when I demonstrate this point by pretending to talk to myself ("But I want to eat five doughnuts for dinner tonight!" "NO!" or "But I want to take all month off from washing the dishes!" "NO"!).  My children see the humor in the things I want to do, but they also see how doing those things--not saying "no" to myself--could cause serious repercussions. 

Second, chores teach children skills and give them training in running a household. Don't scoff!  As someone who was NOT trained in this way at all, I can attest to the enormous struggle it takes to learn how to manage a home from scratch. I barely knew how to do anything when I got married.  I once famously went to blend vichyssoise soup and didn't realize you have to put a lid on the blender.  True story.  The learning curve was steep for me, and I want my children to learn these skills at a much earlier age. 

Third, they help the child feel helpful!  Children love to be helpful.  If we are rude or unkind or weigh them down with far too many chores, they'll lose the desire to help. (I also think it's essential to say "thank you!" when they do their chores well.)  But it just feels good to know you're helping out.  People like to feel like they have something to contribute.  Self-efficacy is important in the development of a healthy human. 

Finally, they teach teamwork.  I don't hand my children a list of chores and then dash of to eat truffles in front of the television.  They see me working hard, and they know their hard work contributes to the well-being of our entire family.  We work as a team to accomplish our goals and meet needs around the house.  

Now if you have a rosy picture of children who thank me every day for giving them chores and do their long list of chores with a happy heart, please don't be deceived.  We are a real family!  But I do see that my children are growing into helpful people who often work on their own accord.  My son helped me unload plants out of the car tonight without my asking him, and my daughter cleaned her bathroom yesterday just because she felt like it.  Do they sometimes groan and resist their chores?  Sure.  But I just respond kindly and firmly, and they know the expectations we have.

We also change things depending on our family's needs and the season.  My children don't do the exact same chores all year round.

Motherhood can feel overwhelming at times because the tasks truly never end.  There is always laundry to wash, there are meals to make, there are messes to clean up.  I'm a proponent of getting children on board with these chores because children are genuinely helpful--just don't expect too much too soon. It takes time to learn to do chores, and some children are absent-minded while others are on top of things (I have one of each in my household), but both types of children can learn to do chores and help out around the house. And believe me when I say that if your children know how to tidy the living room, clean the bathroom, and take out the trash, your life will feel more manageable! 

Monday, July 30, 2018

My Daily Dozen: The Habit of Doing Chores

Earlier this year I began a blog series on my "daily dozen"--twelve habits that I use as the scaffolding of my life right now.   The first four (resteating wellexercisefresh air) are habits of fostering good physical health.  The second group of four habits (Bible reading and prayerspending time with my childrenfostering my marriage, and prioritizing ideas) are related to relationships.
The last four "daily dozen" habits that I use as the scaffolding of my life during this season have to do with discipline

I find that many people shrink at the word "discipline." I suppose it conjures up ideas of punishment.  But I mean it more in the sense of self-discipline; that is, training the self.  And self-discipline is essential to living a fairly ordered life.

*          *          * 

The first discipline that must truly be a daily habit--and I think this applies universally to everyone--is the habit of doing chores.   By this I simply mean the routine tasks of daily life at home: laundry, cooking, cleaning the kitchen, making the beds, caring for pets, cleaning something (not everything, and not all at once!), perhaps wiping down the bathrooms.  In other words: the daily tasks that keep life running smoothly.  

It takes self-discipline to do these chores every day.  The bad news is that self-discipline can be tough, but the good news is that disciplining yourself to do the basic quotidian chores can exercise the muscle of self-discipline, which carries over into other aspects of life!

(This is a bouquet my aunt and uncle sent us in the hospital. I loved these tiny roses!)

Choosing the Chores

What are the chores *you* must do each day?  We don't all need to do the same things every day, but we *do* all need to do some things every day, and the trick is figuring out what chores you must complete daily, given the unique circumstances of your life.

For me, the basic daily chores are making the bed, doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, wiping down the bathrooms, taking care of pets, and of course cooking! I do other chores on other days, but these are the daily essentials and those are the ones I'm focused on here.

Do I do my chores perfectly every day?  No.  I do not do every chore on every single day. But I hit most (or all) of them on most days, and a few I simply never do escape unless I'm staying in a hotel (those are cleaning the kitchen, making the bed, and feeding the animals!).  I am human and sometimes I skip a chore, but the daily chores I mention here are those that, if undone, tend to get worse and worse.  Laundry and dishes pile up, food goes unused, surfaces get grimy, bedding becomes dirty, et cetera. These chores must be done every day, or almost every day.

Managing the Chores

I find that the easiest way to manage these routine chores is to compartmentalize them. Creating morning and evening routines is so helpful!  My morning routine includes sorting and starting laundry, feeding pets, making our bed, wiping down our bathroom, cleaning the litter box. The evening routine includes making sure the kitchen is spic-and-span, getting the laundry folded and put away, making sure the chickens are tucked into bed, and looking at tomorrow to be sure we're all set on the menu plan. Just create a simple, straightforward routine that you can memorize and then do almost effortlessly.

 Last night my best friend and I were talking about how overwhelming life can be, and I mentioned the fact that Steve Jobs always wore the same clothes, thus eliminating that decision from his life and streamlining his decision-making.  Now I would *never* take the Steve Jobs approach to wardrobing because I love picking out my clothes for the day, and I enjoy variation in my clothing choices, but the principle behind that is useful when applied to certain routine tasks.  If you don't have to decide each evening to clean the kitchen--you just do it out of habit--life is easier and more efficient.  Setting up your repetitive daily chores in a way that reduces your need to decide what to do and when is a genuinely helpful approach to managing the home.

Now I will admit that when we are not doing schoolwork or we're in an extended period of unusual scheduling, like we are right now, I am more flexible about when I accomplish these tasks. But they still need to be done, and if I get too flexible, they start to fall by the wayside! I have learned the hard way that life runs more smoothly in my home when I stick faithfully to the morning and evening routines.

And our children help out, too.  In fact, I have an entire extra post planned for later this week on children and chores.  I began writing it and realized it needed a post all its own, so I'll publish that soon.

(A really fun bouquet our pastor's wife left on our front porch. Those sunflowers make me so happy!)

One additional thing to remember is that sometimes we dread a chore so much that we put more mental energy into not doing it than we would put time into doing it.  I know someone who dreads washing the dishes so much that this person simply didn't do it for a long time--and then had to throw away dishes and get new ones!  In reality the time it takes to wash dishes, even without a dishwasher, is quite minimal.  I would bet that this person spent more mental time feeling irritated about those dishes than they would have spent just washing them each day.  So: chin up! It's so much easier to just do the chore and not have it hanging over you.

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 I am always interested in how other people manage and tackle the routine tasks of life.  Do you have any tips on accomplishing daily chores? Please share them if you do!

If you are interested, you may find all posts on habits here.

Now time for me to make the bed!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

My Daily Dozen: The Habit Hiatus is Over

Earlier this year I began a blog series on my "daily dozen"--twelve habits that I use as the scaffolding of my life during this season.   The first four (rest, eating well, exercise, fresh air) are habits of fostering good physical health.  The second group of four habits (Bible reading and prayer, spending time with my children, fostering my marriage, and prioritizing ideas) are related to relationships. 

I took some time off from this series--and this blog!--while we processed my husband's cancer diagnosis, but I'm ready to start back up and write about the final four habits.  I plan to publish the habits posts over the next four Mondays.  And the more I write about habits, the more I feel like I have to say! There's so much I have to leave out of the blog posts in the interest of saving space.

If you are interested, here's the link with all of the "habits" posts.

In the meantime, is your lavender in bloom?  Bobby at the local nursery told me to prune, prune, prune mine in order to keep it from getting woody.  So a few days ago I pruned and harvested!  And while I worked I thought of England in July of 2005, and how it smelled to drive a country road with the windows down....