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Archive for the ‘home management’ Category

It occurred to me that with regards to having a large family, I have learned to think differently about a number of things.  I have learned to draw inspiration from industry in managing our home.  I know, for example, that a $40 blender will not perform the way I need it to around here.  I know we will wear out carpets four times faster than other families, that our door hinges take more abuse, and that toilet paper runs out at an alarming rate in our home.  When I face a home management issue, I often ask myself, “What would a business do?”  I know a commercial kitchen would not buy wooden spoons at the dollar store and expect them to last through heavy-duty cooking, so I don’t either.

I have been hobbling along in our homeschool for quite some time, now.  I just can’t seem to get everything done.  Long ago, I let go of unrealistic expectations of doing art, nature and music studies.  In our home though, sometimes even the basics are not finished by the end of the day.  As I have been praying about what to do differently, it occurred to me that I am missing a good potential source of inspiration.

School.

What do schools do well?  Crowd-control.  What do I have?  A crowd.

Thus began my initial brainstorming about a week ago.  I pulled out my red cloth-covered home management notebook and started making a list.  What are some things that schools do to help manage large numbers of students that I could make work in my home?  Things such as ‘teacher does not breastfeed any one during teaching hours’ and ‘drug unruly students’ were not going to be practical, of course.  However, other things caught my attention:

  • start at an exact, set time each day, not simply ‘after breakfast’
  • teacher does not wait for students who are not ready
  • breaks are scheduled and taken at a set time regardless of what has or has not been accomplished

These are only a very few ideas that seemed to turn on a light-bulb in my head.  I am in the process of thinking and praying about what changes I will be making to the way our homeschool runs.  I am feeling very hopeful and excited…if only I had more uninterrupted time to think things through!

The best part is that within about two days of coming up with these ideas, I had a wonderful confirmation that I was on the right track.  Our family was invited to my friend LB’s home for a short, impromptu visit.  (I love LB.  Her home oozes cleanliness even though she has five children.  It is such a pleasure to visit her home.)  During our short visit, I started spouting forth my idea of looking to schools for inspiration for our homeschool, particularly for managing lots of people.  When I paused for a breath, LB said, “Let me tell you what I came up with this year.”  Then, she began to describe almost exactly some of the things I had been thinking.  Not only had she decided to try these things, they had actually been working for the entire school year so far.  It was one of those moments that I know God must have orchestrated.  I left so encouraged, as I always do after spending time with LB.

In my next post, I will describe in more detail how our morning has been changing in accordance with our school-y inspiration.

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Yesterday, I was having an awful day. It is not a regular kind of bad day, where I am just crabby or tired or frustrated.  This was one of those despairing days where I question my whole life, where I think I have ruined my husband’s life, my children’s lives and my own life.  Everything is hopeless and too hard and I just can’t carry on one more minute.  It was a day where I just want to run away.  Far away.

Instead of running away, I called a friend. This friend always understands me and never judges.  She also always says the most wonderful things.  I know she is in the trenches with me because I have had the honour (and I really mean honour) of similar phone calls from her once in a blue moon, though I suspect she has her act together more than I do.

After she talked me down from the ledge for 20 minutes and changed my desperate sobs into a few good laughs, I was able to take a deep breath, hang up the phone and face the rest of my day.

A short while later, I opened my e-mail to find she wrote me most wonderful prescription which I now share with you.

Hot ChocolatePhoto Courtesy of julesjulesjules

Prescription for a Day off Homeschooling

  1. Recognize that no matter what you try to accomplish today, it will turn sour!  LOL!
  2. Immediately turn on a movie for the littles and middles (maybe even two).
  3. Make tea, find chocolate (a must!!).
  4. Find knitting or what ever else makes you feel productive.
  5. Pray, pray, pray.
  6. Don’t feel guilty; tomorrow will be better.
  7. If it’s not, repeat first 6 instructions!

Isn’t she great?! What would I ever do without her?

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Today when I walked downstairs into our basement,  I could feel the decluttering urge become unbearable.  I can no longer resist.  Our basement has never been a place that we have kept spic and span, but it is not usually this bad.  We normally survive because we keep our main living areas generally tidy and decluttered.  Right now, our basement is such a disaster that it has become virtually unusable.  While it is supposed to be a place for storage, laundry duties, rec room relaxing, exercising and sewing, it is almost impossible to do those things in its current state.  I’m off in a few minutes to the hardware store to buy some nice, strong black garbage bags to stuff full of almost everything in my path.  I hope our favourite thrift store has lots of space available!

Are you inspired to do some decluttering?  SimpleMom had a post yesterday on 4 Common Roadblocks to Decluttering you might find helpful.  There are loads of great decluttering resources on the internet for the how-to, but really, I think the mental blocks we face are really the issue.  The how-to can be helpful, but really…you pretty much just toss stuff or put it in the thrift store bag, right?

I’m not sure how our homeschooling will go in the next few days, but I really need to be able to access the summer clothing and my sewing machine, so I’m diving in. 

Wish me luck.

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Making your own cultured dairy products is not only highly nutritious, but also seriously easy. Seriously.  Have a look at Making Cultured Buttermilk, Keifer and Sour Cream at Heavenly Homemakers and when you do make some buttermilk, try their Creamy Orange Cooler.  By the way, if you don’t have the special culture for buttermilk, you can easily just buy a small container of buttermilk from the health food store and use the instructions in the Heavenly Homemakers article for making subsequent batches using buttermilk saved from your last batch as the culture.

I really enjoyed this Simple Mom post on The Beauty of Living Slowly. I hope it will inspire you with some wonderful ideas for slowing down.

Design House Digital had a neat post on making some seriously snazzy gift wrap and bows. It would be much nicer for our family birthdays than our usual scrunched up, used gift bag.

Reading Aloud to Children has so many wonderful benefits. Steady Mom’s blog tells all about the advantages of doing so in The Importance of Reading to Children.

Enjoy your weekend.  I hope you are able to spend loads of time together with your loved ones considering the beautiful gift of our Lord 2000 years ago.

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Home Haircutting

Back in the day when we only had 4 children, I found myself wondering if there was an alternative to spending a bunch of money on haircuts every 2 months. I asked my friend, then a mom of 6 (now of 9), what their family did. She said they cut the children’s hair at home. Aha! I immediately decided that’s what I would do, too. Afterall, how much would a 4-year-old complain if her hair wasn’t salon-perfect?

Today’s haircut was for my daughter who is six. Here she is BEFORE — very shaggy:

I finally took the hint that I’d better get around to cutting her hair when, the other day, she trimmed her own bangs saying, “I couldn’t see!”  Oops!

AFTER her mom-cut she looks much nicer:

I have been cutting my family’s hair for several years, now. Even my teenage daughter will trust me to cut her hair once in a while.  I don’t have a very wide range of skills, but I can manage trims, basic guy cuts and little girl ‘bobs’, like the cut I gave my daughter, which I think looks good on most little girls.  My main challenge is taking the time to actually do a cut…as my daughter demonstrated above with her self-cut bangs.

I thought you might like to know what tools I find helpful to do our family’s haircutting at home.

1.  Haircutting for Dummies by J. Elaine Spear: I learned all I needed to know from watching stylists cut our hair and from this book.  I am not married to this particular book, however, so I would say that any decent basic haircutting book for non-professionals would do.

2.  Good Barber Scissors: We got ours from a local Beauty Supply Store.  Don’t bother with the ones included in your Electric Clipper kit especially if you have a department store kit.  They are not good at all.

3.  Electric Clippers: We just upgraded a bit from an inexpensive kit at Costco to a clipper from the Beauty Supply Store, where we paid in the neighbourhood of $45.  It didn’t have an extras like clips or scissors, but I much prefer to buy those things separately and have my money go toward making the clippers good.  Ours is rechargeable and cordless, which is very nice to have.  It is also adjustable, so only has 2 attachments.

4.  Good Quality Clips: I think ours are usually called, ‘Section Clips’, but I often see them just called clips.  Again, the ones with the cheaper clipper kits won’t do a good job of holding the hair up.

5.  Tail comb: Ours is just a cheap one.  It is really just the pointy end I use, anyway, for sectioning hair.

6.  Thinning Shears: Optional for many people, but both Steve and I have tons of thick hair, so our children have been very blessed in the hair department.  For us, this is a must have item for anyone about 8 years+.

The only other thing I would like to have is a decent barber cape. It would make a nice alternative to using towels that get all hairy.

When I tell people I cut my family’s hair, they often ask if one of them cuts my hair.
No way.  I go to the salon.

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Do you have times when you are overly stressed out about projects hanging over your head?  Times when you are simply over-tired and dragging?  Times when you just feel dull and need a change of pace?  Maybe it is time for a break from your normal homeschool routine.

Even though we just finished a lovely and restful week off while Steve was home from work for March Break, by Saturday night, I knew we still needed another week to complete some projects, do some preparation for next year’s homeschool and work on some Spring cleaning.  When I am at the point that I realize we need some time off, I have two choices.  I can either press ahead without taking the needed time off or I can plan for an effective week.

Many times I press ahead. Sometimes, this works out fine, but if we are truly desperate for a break, we generally drag through the day (or week) and our homeschool is no fun and not very efficient.  However, If I decide early on to just accept that we have this need, we can have a much more successful week.  On Sunday afternoon, I took out my home management notebook and got to work planning our week.  (Don’t be intimidated…at this point, my home management notebook is just a spiral notebook with a canvas cover.  It has no fancy sections.  I just use it to keep all my to-do lists and notes to myself in one place.)

Here are my suggestions for taking time off that you can feel good about:

1. Decide the purpose of your time off. Is it home management time you are needing (clearing up some projects, decluttering, getting a garden ready for Spring)?  Are you or your children desperate for some rest and relaxation?  (I know…who isn’t?  We’re talking about more than the usual tired, here.)  Are you just feeling kind of stale and need something different to perk things up?  (This is a pretty typical November or February/Early March sentiment.)  Since we just had a nice rest last week, what we needed this week was focussed home management time.

2.  Decide the length of time off you need. Generally, this will be either a day or a week.  However, when I have a baby, I plan ahead to take 6 weeks off.  We decided to go for a full week this week partly because of the amount of things that needed doing and partly because toward the end of the week, our homeschool would be disrupted anyway with 1/2 the children going off to visit Grammy overnight.

3. Plan your time. Now that you have determined generally why you are taking time off, decide the specifics.  Are you resting?  You might plan to stay in your P.J.’s until noon and read some blogs or pick up a novel to linger over.  (Maybe you are not as relaxation-challenged as I am, but I find that if I plan to relax, I feel less guilty that if I just don’t manage to do my normal routine.)  If you are taking ‘Change of Pace’ time, plan ahead for whatever you are going to do.  We like to sometimes simply visit another branch of our library.  We have several that are about a 1/2 hour drive from our home, so it is an ‘event’ to visit one.  We can all choose from a different selection of books, take some home and return them to our home branch — for FREE!    Maybe you want to head out for an entire morning at a park or do something on a bigger scale such as visiting a Science Centre or a Museum.  Home management time off needs the most preparation, but will be very rewarding, too.  I just open my notebook to a fresh page and start listing out the things I want to get done.  I try not to overplan (I want to feel successful, afterall!).  Once I have a good idea of what I want to get done, I schedule in my activities by writing them down on a specific plan.  I also made a list of ‘service opportunities’ for the children so that they would be making a good contribution this week.

4.  Plan your meals. Don’t overthink this step or hyperventilate at the suggestion if you are not a meal-planner.  Simply think about meals that will fit in well with your plan.  Meals for resting should be very simple and, if possible, prepared by children.  I usually look after dinner and assign children to breakfast and lunch.  If you are taking ‘Change of Pace’ time and are going to be heading out to a museum or a park, plan food that can be toted along if you want to avoid buying while out.  Or, plan ahead to go out for lunch or to pick up bagels and cream cheese when you are on the go.  (Pack some snacks, napkins,  knives and water.)  If it is home management time, do yourself a favour and plan a simple crockpot meal for dinner.

5.  Communicate your plan. I like to wait to let our children know we are taking time off from school until I am clear about the when, why and what.  Otherwise, they will just think it is a free-for-all and will not be happy when I start doling out extra chores.  This week, the children clearly understood that we would be working.  The list of jobs that need to be done are clearly written down in my notebook and during work-time chunks, they may simply pick something to do.

In case you are interested, here is what I have planned for my Home Management Week:

Monday:
- finish up conference talk
– make buttermilk and pickled beets
– cut 6yo’s hair

Tuesday:
– make bread, yogurt and granola
– print off next year’s AmblesideOnline booklists
– cut 8yo’s hair
blog post:  taking time-off

Wednesday:
– create list of items to purchase/look for at conference
– get conference handouts/overheads copied
– blog post:  haircutting at home

Thursday:
– paint remaining kitchen drawers
– blog post:  gluten-free guests

Friday:
– work on decluttering basement
– blog post: reading links

As you can see, my list is conservative and also more sparse toward the end of the week. This is good because as you can also see, I only got one thing on my list done yesterday.  When I plan fewer things toward the end of the week, things I don’t get done are easily shifted along.

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I thought you might enjoy a few of the blog posts I have enjoyed recently:

Keeper of the Home has a terrific post, Organization in the Real Food Kitchen:  Knowing and Using What’s In Your Freezer, that almost inspires me to organize my freezers!

We made these terrific breakfast bars, which can take the place of granola or cold cereal (not that granola is very hard to make!).  While the author of Large Family Mothering has 15 kids, I made her whole recipe which will feed our family for about 3-4 breakfasts.  I just cut up the bars and then froze them.  It is easy to take out what we need.

Well, I am stunned, but this Homemade All-Natural Deoderant from Passionate Homemaking actually works for me.  I have never tried a natural deoderant that works before, but I have been using this for several weeks with great success.  It is definitely worth a try.  I can’t speak to how it works in the summer, but until now all natural deoderants I’ve tried in the past have failed me even in the winter.

If you are into Digital Scrapbooking, you might enjoy this How-To Guide:  Printing Photobooks and Albums for Digital Scrapbookers from The Daily Digi.  If you aren’t into it, you should go and get inspired, anyway!

While I love every single post that Ann writes at A Holy Experience, I thought I’d share this one with you.  It is a post entitled, Words Worth a Tree:  Readings for Lent a booklist for Easter.

Have a wonderful weekend.


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Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking has an excellent entry entitled Tips on Maintaining a Simple Home, posted yesterday.  It is definitely worth a read.  I particularly like the idea of the annual re-haul of the entire home.  I think I will start to work on that one.

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On Monday, I will be posting about my top 4 favourite cookbooks: why I like them, anything I don’t like about them and what my favourite recipes are within each book.  I would love for you to join me and let me know what your favourite cookbook is.  Next week, I will also post more about Cultivating the Habit of Calm in ourselves as Mothers.

For now, I thought I’d share with you a few posts that I have enjoyed at some point on the blogs of others.

How to Can Dry Beans without PreCooking at 11th Heaven’s Homemaking Haven.  I am definitely going to try this!!

Organized Trip Packing for Kids at Small Notebook.  This will be very handy for future trips.

A Cleaning Tool for Large Families at Large Family Mothering.  (Sherry is going to be delivering her 15th baby today!)  This little inspection game sounds like a great idea.

Inexpensive Original Art…Made by Children by Angela.  This looks like a ton of fun.

Look Great with a Five Minute Face by Sarah Vistas.  I think I’ll do this today.  :)

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I just can’t stand the Tupperware cupboard (and by Tupperware, I mean the generic word indicating all plastic-ware). First of all, I don’t like the way everytime I open the cupboard, things spill everywhere.  Our only saving grace is that the doors have childproof openings.  Only because of this do the doors even stay shut!  I don’t like that I can never seem to find a container and lid that matches. I also don’t like to store food in plastic, but I am not at the place where I can or want to invest in something else.

Yesterday was the day I would conquer the cupboard.

Here was the situation before I started:

Before the makeover -- not pretty.

Before the makeover -- not pretty.

Here is what I did:

  1. I pulled everything out of the cupboard.  (I had a head start with the stuff spilling out.)
  2. I wiped down the shelves to make them nice and clean.  It wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be.  You would think that a plastics cupboard wouldn’t be very dirty, but that was not the case.
  3. I found a bunch of small to medium sized boxes and got a sharpie for marking them.
  4. I sorted the containers by shape:  rectangular (including square), round, oval and plates/bowls.  Each shape had its own box.  I only put a container in the box if it had a matching lid.
  5. I devoted a special box to containers without lids.  This box wasn’t returned to the cupbaord.  Useable containers will be donated and the others will go to recycling/garbage.  (I should have devoted a box to ‘Things that belong to my mom’!)
  6. I labelled the boxes and put them back into the cupboard.
  7. A few larger things were put in loose, but they aren’t generally a problem.
  8. I admired my work, patted myself on the back and took some photos.
  9. The hard part will be training the kids to put things back properly, but I do find that once things have a VERY clear place to go this task is much easier.

Here is the after pic:

After --  Ahhhhh...much better.

After -- Ahhhhh...much better.

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