Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Rainy Days Clean My Toilets

Before I get going on this blog entry, let me say a few things. Firstly, I want to make it quite clear that I am definitely not in a shiny floor and dessert with dinner stage of life. All of my children are still pretty little, my house is big, and I have to be more careful than ever before to safeguard my finite energy. Secondly, everything I'm about to write is just as much to remind myself as it is to pass anything along to someone else. Lastly, I'm getting there, but I'm not there yet. My house is not perfect, but it's decent and - with God's grace and strength, I'm trying. It does me so much good to regularly remember this quote from Stepping Heavenward:

"If you could once make up your mind in the fear of God never to undertake more work of any sort than you can carry on calmly, quietly, without hurry or flurry, and the instant you feel yourself growing nervous and like one out of breath, would stop and take breath, you would find this simple common-sense rule doing for you what no prayers or tears could ever accomplish."

I've never had to pace myself like this before. I have to go slowly. I need those restful days of sitting beneath a tree every bit as much as my children need the open air and grass to run around in. I need naps. It's different for me now than it was even a couple of years ago. It's no secret, anyone with small children and no older children will tell you that although we are immeasurably blessed and would not trade any of it for all the world, this stage of motherhood is exhausting.

But, my toilets are still dirty.

My husband still needs clean underwear to wear tomorrow.

It would be good if we didn't order pizza for dinner - again.

I am just beginning to figure out a few things that help me get on top of my main responsibilities and stay there. Some of these ideas have come from precious, older moms whose advice I praise God for! :) But, honestly, I have lower standards right now than I have in the past. I'm not trying to win awards here, I'm just trying to do what the Lord has really given me for today. It does no good to stress about what I cannot get to. The Lord will give the strength and the time for His work.

Now, about the rain cleaning my toilets. Did you wonder about that one? Well, all I really mean is that I count on a few rainy days here and there to get some good cleaning in. Even more than that, I plan my week depending upon the weather and any exstenuating circumstances (doctor's appointments, service opportunity, dinner at in-laws, etc.). I do not plan out our school term all at once. For me, this is key. I do have a fairly good idea of what I want to cover in the course of the school year and, more specifically, each term. However, I do not sit and write down lesson plans or even a daily schedule or school "to do list" more than a week out. I've tried it before and I can never stick to it. Life is too variable. I do much better with short term planning and we have been able to be quite consistent with schooling this way. So, this is how planning all of my spinning plates looks on any given week:

1) I throw out any spinning plates that do not matter this week. The weeds are in check, not gardening this week, for instance.

2) I check the weather for the week.

3) I write the week's forecast in on my simple, little planner from Walmart.

4) I ask the Lord for wisdom in "ordering our days aright" and check in now and then with Hubby to see how he's feeling about my priorities.

5) Depending on the week's weather, I then write in high priority non-school, non-house commitments like my mom's birthday dinner or spending time with a friend whose husband is deployed or whatever. I work to keep these very limited - I get spent up too quickly if I do too much back to back. This week we're going to Sam's parents on Friday night because they're moving on Saturday. Sissy asked us over for dinner Saturday night, but I know Sunday is a bear for me as it is - so we picked the Friday night and turned down the Saturday night. Everyone has different limitations here. This is reality for me right now.

6) I block out the prettiest day or two for light to very light school days (depending on how much we've been able to be outside lately. A gorgeous day in January calls for *no school*, but a pretty day in June when pretty days are a dime a dozen may only be a little lighter than normal.) Sometimes, we go the Sonlight route and take school outside with us. I had the loveliest time reading lessons to SweetP at the arboretum the other day with Little Dude on my lap and Punkin and Shug romping in the leaves not too far away. Don't worry, SweetP romped both before and after the reading ;)

7) I block out at least one, better two, days a week for much less time outside and more time inside cleaning. Today and the next 3 days are forecasted for heavy rain. That's four days total of not much time outside! Yikes. But, I know ahead of time that I will have 4 solid days with a little extra cleaning. I can't go hog wild (still that exhaustion factor), but if I work solidly and purposefully, I can get a lot done.

8) I look at Ambleside Online and my own little booklist and I schedule in our schooling for the week. Somedays are very light, but no day is chock full. I just don't plan school days with so much in there that I'm going to be stressed to fit it all in. That's a recipe for one grumpy homeschool. If the work needs done, it has to be spread out. For this reason, I can't have more than one very light school day a week or two somewhat light school days a week. I don't want to be trying to jam everything in on Friday. Sometimes, if there's really no reason to sweat it, I just let us miss a lesson. Math, for instance, is on no set schedule. I don't miss often, but if I do it's not like we're behind. Reading, too, has more flex to it since both girls are reading fluidly and with comprehension.

9) I have to accept that things are probably going to have to be adjusted even after they're written down on Sunday night. Some weeks everything stays right where I first put it and I make my merry little check marks, knowing that I have thought through and planned for our time each day. That's so nice. But, sometimes the van needs new tires and I can't go to a park on the one dry day all week or sometimes I wake up with a whopper of a migraine (last week) and I actually have to ditch all school that day and call in reinforcements so I don't pass out on the baby. That's not so nice.

10) As far as the housework goes on the "extra" housework days, I keep in mind Elisabeth Elliot's reassuring motto: "Just do the next thing". It's not about scouring the house in one afternoon. I already admitted there's no way. I know about Flylady. I've checked out Flylady. I don't do Flylady. I think Flylady must have a very small house. I'm not mopping this kitchen floor in 15 minutes, honey. I remember asking an awesome older friend of mine (over 60) in Virginia for tips on scheduling housework. She looked at me like I had three heads. "Why do you need to schedule housework? You don't need a chart to tell you there are dishes in the sink?!" LOL, she's so sweetly blunt. I took it to heart, though. Anyway, I just have to do what needs done most and pray for the spirit to do it calmly and cheerfully - then choose to not stress about the rest. I try to get the dishes out of the sink and one load of laundry done (if I'm caught up) everyday. I'm training the girls to help out in certain things. We have a place for almost everything and try to get most things in their place each afternoon and evening. I swallow my pride and ask my husband to help me every so often. Dear sweet man. I do a little more on rainy days with a little bigger cup of coffee. No real golden nuggets of profound wisdom really, but I hope maybe a little reassuring to someone.