Category Archives: The H Word

A Daunting List

I started small. I made a list. It is long. There’s a lot to do. And I didn’t even start listing all the improvements/fixes that need doing. This is just the list of things that need to be cleaned or reorganized. And every room has at least three tasks. My bedroom needs the most work. It’s always bad when we have a baby sharing the room with us. Usually I make some improvements when they move out and then it goes back downhill when we have a new one. I wouldn’t change the sleeping arrangements but it does make it hard to put things in their proper place every night when the baby is sleeping there.

Anyway, the list is the small start. Each item on the list may actually be broken down to multiple tasks if they are too daunting in their entirety. One little thing at a time.

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Starting Small

I asked the question, “Where do I start?” and the answer I got was, “Start small.”

The concept of starting small is nothing new, but it’s amazing how often I bypass it to try and tackle everything all at once. I start on one part of the house and get distracted and end up moving on to something that seems simpler, only to be distracted again. I end up with a dozen half-finished projects.

When I heard this answer so clearly (yes, I do think it was God’s voice), I assumed it only meant to start small in my house. Start with some small project and finish it and I’ll feel better about the big picture. When I sat down to eat lunch with the kids today, I realized that “start small” could apply to anything. I’ve struggled every day this week with my kids, trying to tackle everyone’s individual issues and not having much success at all. Normally, lunchtime is rough. I usually eat before or after the kids, and I don’t often sit down with them while they eat. Today I made us all the same meal and sat down just after they did. And it was better. It was just a small thing to change, but it actually made a big difference. They ate without throwing food at each other or on the floor (yes, my kids do that from time to time) and they all ate a decent amount of food, which doesn’t always happen at lunchtime.

It occurred to me while I was sitting there with them that this was starting small. I may not be able to prevent Elias from having a fit every ten minutes or keep Erik from screaming when anyone touches him, but eating lunch with them calmed them down for a short time. It wasn’t perfect, but it was different. I’ve seen this happen before, but for whatever reason, I tend to forget how much it helps.

After seeing this small change make a big difference, I turned my sights on Elias and his fit throwing. I suspect that this is a typical attention-grabber. If that’s the case, he may just need a little more positive attention from me during the day. Every time he started to have a fit this afternoon, I grabbed him and hugged him or had him sit with me for a short time. I talked to him calmly and quietly instead of yelling. This is very much against my natural response, but I think it might be what he needs. The trick will be getting Mike to respond the same way. There is a line that has to be drawn with Elias, and obviously, if he crosses it, he’ll have to be disciplined somehow (time-outs seem to be somewhat effective). My goal is just to respond as gently and gracefully as I can when he first starts to lose it. I’m sure I’ll have to re-evaluate if this doesn’t make a difference, but I have hope that it will work to some degree.

The big question right now is what area in my home can I make a small start on? There are so many things to be done, and maybe the best thing to do first is to make a list of small things I can do. I think small in my book is something that can be done in twenty minutes or less. So instead of cleaning my entire kitchen, I might just clean out one drawer or cupboard. Instead of tackling my entire desk (it’s a huge mess right now), I may just clear off one part of it. All I know is that something has to be done, and looking at it as a whole is downright scary. Starting small may not seem to make a big difference, but a dozen small starts may complete a big project.

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Filed under All things mommy and daddy related, The H Word

Home Sweet Messy Home

We’re home. And it feels good to be here. Unfortunately, we came home with more stuff than we have room for. We also came home to a house that wasn’t all that clean to start with…so now it’s a total wreck.

I’m trying to chip away at the mess this week, but I’m still recovering from the nasty bug we all got when we were away, and so are the kids (which means grouches abounding). I’m tired and would really rather lie around all day. I have so much to do and wish it could be done this week, but I’m a realist and have to admit that there’s no way that’s going to happen. So I’ll just do what I can this week and try to work hard over the weekend when Mike is home to help with the kids.

No matter how messy it is here, it is good to be here…sleep in my own bed, cook in my own kitchen. Vacation was good, but I’m always happy to come back home.

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Filed under Holidays, Home Sweet Home, The H Word

My Feelings about Housework

Every so often, I think it’s a good idea to reflect back on the reason I started this blog, and in particular, the reason I named it what I did. I’m going on four years of blogging in June, and while I mostly talk about my kids and my “everyday life”, I still feel pretty much the same about housework. Otherwise known as “The H Word”.

Just before Christmas, I found a brilliant fridge magnet that sums it up: it says, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste on housework”. My thoughts exactly. Thank you, fridge magnet creators. You read my mind.

I go back and forth between guilt and peace when it comes to the state of my house. It’s small, for one thing, so it’s very hard to keep clean. The lack of storage means that there is a lot of clutter. The four children under the age of six mean that there are lots of toys, book, clothes, etc. These factors make me feel okay about the way things are. I’m at peace with the fact that this is not the time in life to expect spotless floors and clear countertops. There will be crumbs on the floor and dust on the shelves. I have my hands full with the needs of my husband and children. And really, I would rather hang out with my kids than clean up after them. They’re only young for so long and then it’s gone.

The other side of this is the terrible thoughts I get when I imagine people dropping by unannounced. I imagine that pretty much everyone keeps their house cleaner than I keep mine. I know that it’s not true (um, have you seen Hoarders? Shudder…), but can’t help but think that way anyway. My mother and mother-in-law are both very neat people by nature who like things in their place. They don’t seem to mind a bit of cleaning, unlike me. I feel like pitching a fit every time I’m forced to do it. I feel better afterward, but feel like a pouty teenager when I’m in the middle of it.

I tell myself that things will be better when we have a larger home. Right now, we live in 768 square feet. Yes, it’s small. Very small, especially for six people. I wrote about that in a previous post, but it’s very relative to this subject as well. Maybe I use the size of my home as an excuse to avoid cleaning, but it works well enough for me.

Anyway, when it comes down to it, I try to do the basics. Keep the dishes and laundry done. Keep the bathroom from growing unidentifiable things in the corners. Make sure there aren’t too many things on the floor for Ben to munch on. It might sound lazy and irresponsible to some, but I know there are other people who feel the same way. There will be a time in my life when my kids aren’t home anymore, and maybe then I’ll spend more time on housework. Or, maybe I’ll spend all my time in my studio (the dream one), writing and creating. Who knows.

For now, I’m happy to spend my time getting to know my kids, who are growing up way too fast. Spending my free time using my brain instead of my elbow grease. I’m not alone in this, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

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Filed under Home Sweet Home, The H Word

Drumroll please

Get ready for what might be the strangest thing you’ve ever heard from me.

Yesterday was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

Why, you ask?

Ready?  Are you sitting down?

I spent it cleaning.

Yep, that’s right.  I cleaned like a maniac.  Well, for me, anyway.  My kitchen was, to put it nicely, filthy.  It is now sparkly and clean.  Okay, so the counters, sink and stovetop are sparkly and clean.  I didn’t quite get to the floor. It felt so good to look at it after  hours of work (yes, hours) but the rest of the house was still trashed. I gave up for an hour or so and decided to put the rest off until another day.  Then Mike called at 4:45 and said he’d be home by 5:30 and I just knew I could finish it by then. 

So it’s still looking pretty cluttered in certain areas, but you can see the floor now and it’s not covered in crumbs and dust bunnies.

I get the feeling that regardless of what is wrong with me, this whole feeling down thing has become cyclical: I feel bad and so I don’t feel like cleaning my house.  I don’t clean my house, it gets messy, which makes me feel bad.  See what I mean?

Anyway, things aren’t perfect and I’m well aware that I’m still on a bit of a high from the results of my cleaning spree, but at least now I know.  Apparently a good bit of productive cleaning – not the kind where you just move the mess around – is good for my mood.

A small step.

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Filed under Home Sweet Home, The H Word

Improvement

Something tells me I’ve used that title before.

Yesterday, I looked around the house and said to Mike,

“Something’s gotta give.  Things are bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.”  And maybe I said “bad” a few more times..maybe.

So he and the kids cleaned up some and I cleaned up some, and things improved.  They are not perfect…but I’m only kidding myself if I think my house will be perfectly clean at any point while my children are still young.

Our health has also improved – Mike got sick on Friday and stayed sick through the weekend, but seems to be better today.  I am mostly over this thing – thank goodness – but Ben is still fighting it.  He’s lost his voice a bit and has this squeaky little hoarse cry.  It’s rather pitiful and also quite funny.  I took a video of it and posted it on Facebook – because that’s just the kind of mom I am.  Not only do I want to laugh at my kids, I want others to as well.

Just kidding…..sort of.

Jenny is needy today.  It’s hard on me…I wish she had a sibling who could keep her entertained for this two hour block of time every day while the boys sleep.  She and Elias tend to fight when he doesn’t nap – probably because he should be napping and not up playing.

I sent her to the living room to sit on the couch.  Now she’s crying and making me feel like bad mommy for wanting some quiet time where she’s not asking me questions constantly or telling me stories.  I enjoy her creativity and like doing things with her, but I need some space!  Don’t we all??

It’s just about time to make supper…another day is gone and Mike will be home soon.  I end up feeling torn when he comes home – part of me loves the time we all have together as a family and the time we have alone together, but the other part just wants to take advantage of him being home to take off and do something alone.  We seriously – SERIOUSLY – need a date night soon.  Maybe if we had regular date nights, I wouldn’t have this issue.  As it is, we haven’t had a real date since my birthday. 

Just so you know, I sometimes ramble just because I need to ramble, and I hope that maybe something I say will make another mom feel better – knowing that she’s not alone feeling the way we all do at times.  Even if I knew for sure that no one read this, I would still write.  It’s who I am, even if that identity gets pushed aside most of the time by the wife and mother identity.  I was a writer long before I became a wife or mother.

There.  I got a lot more out than I thought I would.  And Jenny isn’t crying anymore…she’s talking to herself instead.  Which is worse, I wonder?

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I’d break some dishes but mine are all Corelle.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation so frustrating that you just feel like screaming or breaking something? Or both? 

This is all about this mess of a house.  Thankfully my frustration has nothing to do with my husband or children.  Yes, a day alone with my house, a dumpster and a large empty shed would be nice, but the presence of Mike and the kids isn’t really making things worse.  They were already bad. 

We’ve been in this house for five years now.  Five years and three new babies brought home to this house plus one existing little girl with loads of stuff to begin with.  What that means is junk – lots of junk.

I’d like to keep some of it, maybe even most of it, but at the moment, we are out of space.  Not only that, but I need to paint the interior of the house and make it look far more appealing before we attempt to sell it.  I just can’t do that with all this stuff inside. 

I looked at sheds today when I went shopping.  One aluminum shed has promise – under $300 for the display model.  The shed we already have is pretty full now and we’ll need to store furniture  soon.  I looked into renting storage space but in the end, it makes far more sense to buy a cheap shed so we can have everything close to home and avoid paying $50 a month to rent.

See, it’s not about the laundry, dishes or general cleaning that this house needs all the time – it’s about all the stinking clutter.  I’d like about a hundred boxes to just pack it all up and put it away so I can see the space in front of my clearly instead of looking through stacks of papers, books, games, clothes, etc.  I’d post a picture, but it might make some of you vomit.

Anyway, priority spending for this month is on windows – we replaced one on Saturday and it cost us $200. We have three more to go and two of them will almost certainly cost more than the first did.  But that shed is calling my name.  If only there was someone selling one used for about $50 – then I could buy it now!  Unless I find one for under $100, it will have to be budgeted for specifically and waited on.  Windows are much easier to install in the summer, so it’s very important to get them done now.  It would be easier to put a shed in the yard before the snow comes, but we should have at least another two months until it comes to stay.

I think I’d better either pack something or go find something I can break.  Or take a nap and dream about a clutter-less home. 🙂

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One day at a time.

Things are better. It turns out that it doesn’t take much to wake me up. I’ve started attending a Bible study with a few other girls. We’re studying the book of Romans. Last night we talked about living by faith and not being ashamed of sharing the gospel message, but being eager to share it. I realized how often I’ve heard God’s voice but because I’m not in communion with him, I ignore it because I’m afraid – or ashamed. I want to be obedient to His voice – in whatever He calls me to. I’ve seen before what happens when I’m obedient – God uses me and it’s pretty incredible.

I live in fear a good deal of the time. This keeps me from following through on things I think God may have spoken to me. I also live every day as a perfectionist. Last night I read Romans 3 before bed. The thing that jumped out at me was that all have sinned. Not just me – but everyone. This also means that no one is perfect. I have so many responsibilities and I tend to shirk them unless I can do them perfectly. The Bible is pretty clear on this, though – it’s not going to happen. We can strive for perfection but none of us are perfect.

I can’t keep my house perfectly clean, so often I go for weeks without doing much more than dishes and laundry. My floors get dirty, the sink in our bathroom looks like it belongs in a truck stop; clutter takes over. If I can’t do it perfectly, I just don’t do it.

I can’t keep to a perfect diet and exercise program, so I do nothing instead of making an effort to get what exercise I can and eat as well as I can. I can’t get to my “perfect” weight fast enough, so I figure – “why bother?”

I can’t be the perfect wife and mother – I read blogs and books about women who do so much better than I do and I feel like giving up. But those women (unless they’re fictional) have problems, too. They aren’t perfect, even if they appear as though they are.

I can’t be the perfect Christian so I don’t bother trying. I can’t read just the right amount of my Bible every day, keep regular devotions, have a prayer closet, go on missions trips, devote myself to nine different ministries within the church, etc. So I let myself drift away from God out of fear that I’m not good enough for Him.

Let’s face it – stay at home moms in particular must try very hard to make time for all these things. I’m not saying other people have it so easy, but we are overwhelmed by demands all day long. We sometimes put in a full twenty-four hour day, give or take snippets of sleep when we can get it. My typical day right now does allow me “time off” when the boys are napping – but I only really have free time if Jenny leaves me alone for those two hours. And just about every other day, I’d rather lie down and read a book or have a nap than do anything remotely productive. Is this wrong? I don’t think so.

But what is the answer? How can I find the right balance of housework, attention to diet and exercise, time with my family, time spent in ministry and time spent with God? I don’t know. I’m not there yet. I don’t want a written schedule but maybe I need a bit more structure throughout my day.

I do know that when we talked about living by faith last night, it rang true with me – “living” encompasses all my time, all my responsibilities and my time off. If every moment is lived by faith in communion with Christ, the details will work themselves out. Maybe at this point in my life I can’t read – and process – three chapters in my Bible every day. Maybe I don’t have time for more than one small ministry outside of my family. Maybe I don’t crawl into a closet to pray three times a day. But there will come a day when my kids are grown up and I’m left at home without babies to tend to and then I’ll be able to devote myself to doing things that way. I have to take what I’m given now and give what I have without sacrificing my sanity or my family. This is a one day at a time kind of thing. But that’s what living by faith is about – living one day at a time by faith. That’s as much as any of us can do.

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Filed under All things mommy and daddy related, Faith, Life, in general, The H Word

Still here

Just so you know, we’re still alive and kicking.  I always hate it when bloggers go off the map for months at a time, but it seems I’m about to be guilty of that myself.  At the moment, Ben is sleeping on my bed so I can sit forward in my desk chair and type (instead of sitting sideways with my right foot rocking his chair constantly).  I’ve been suffering from pretty extreme exhaustion almost every day AND my dad and brother were up last weekend so things have been a bit crazy for awhile.  The exhaustion may be iron deficiency again, so I’m back on my iron.  Things are getting done, amazingly enough, but certainly not at break-neck speed.  I do laundry; it sits in baskets for days at a time.  I do dishes but then don’t feel like emptying the dishwasher so the dirty dishes pile up on the counter, making it harder for me to prepare food, making it tempting to go out to eat all the time.  It’s a vicious cycle.  One I’m prepared to ride for a bit longer.

If I’m depressed, it’s because of my weight and the amount of time I end up home alone with the kids.  Mike is putting in ten hour days now and will probably be working at least eight hours on Saturdays as well.  By the time he comes home, I’m worn out and usually on my last nerve and just want to run away for an hour or two.  But I still have to take Ben with me everywhere and it often doesn’t really feel worth it to load him up and cart him everywhere I go.  As for the weight issue – my weight loss stalled in a big way – I only got rid of half my baby weight and then completely quit losing it.  I’m not saying that I expected to lose fifty-five pounds (ouch) in seven weeks, but it would be great if I could lose a pound a week..or maybe five pounds a week.  Hey, a girl can dream, right?

With the stall in weight loss comes the need to re-examine what and how much I’m eating.  I can chalk some of it up to nursing, but I can’t excuse eating junk when I’m already satisfied.  I just want to eat all the time – I certainly don’t need to.  Ben is still eating every two hours throughout the day so he’s helping me burn a few calories but I know I have to cut way back on certain things if I want to get back to normal.

My addiction to carbs is the big thing – I eat primarily whole grain, good carbs – I just eat too many of them.  I’m trying to make a point of starting my day with a bowl of yogurt with a small amount of granola and one or two eggs (not in the bowl of yogurt, by the way).  I find that it is the best thing for me to eat to keep me satisfied until a few hours later.  I’m eating unsalted cashews and string cheese as snacks and trying hard to stick to water to drink, although I’m going to have to wean myself off of coffee, slushies, root beer floats, etc.  It’s not an everyday problem, but I often grab something when I’m out running errands.  As for when I’m home, if it’s not in the house, I can’t drink it.  The same goes for eating, so I’m going to stop buying a lot of the things I’ve been snacking on. 

Anyway, I know this is going to be hard at first because it always is, but for me, it’s not a diet; it’s just getting back to eating right and not overdoing the sugar and carbs.

Well, as per the usual, this has taken me a few hours to write, with all the various interruptions.  A very large box of Melaleuca products showed up, which got the kids bouncing off the walls in excitement, lunch has been made and mostly consumed and it’s nearly time for naps.  Ben is still on my bed, but mysteriously is just lying there looking around not making a sound.  Weird kid. 🙂  Oh, yeah, did I mention that he has slept from 10:30 or 11:00 until 4:00 the last two days??  I don’t want him sleeping all the way through the night but this is great.  I could get used to it.

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Filed under Life, in general, The H Word

Making things work

I can’t explain it, but somehow my house is not currently destroyed.  It may not be perfect, but I don’t feel as though I’d be embarrassed if someone just came by unexpectedly (after all, that mess in the living room with all the couch cushions and blankets and pillows was made by the kids just this morning).  Even with Ben at the breast every two hours throughout the day and Mike working overtime so he’s not able to do much around the house when he gets home – I’m managing.  People with fewer than four children all seem to think I’m nuts or brave or sick in the head (okay, no one has actually used that phrase on me), but I don’t see how it’s all that different than before.  You know, aside from having a little human attached to my chest for half the day.

Okay, so how am I doing it?  One little bit at a time.  At the moment, I do have three loads of laundry to fold and my sheets badly need to be washed (mostly thanks to Ben spitting up all over them every night).  But my bathroom is in pretty good shape – the toilet and sink recently cleaned – my kitchen will be easy to tidy up – just the dishwasher to unload and reload and the counter to wipe down.  The floor needs sweeping again, but I did it yesterday which means it won’t be a big job.  Cleaning up often means pulling myself away from mindless net-surfing or choosing not to crash on the couch in the middle of the day.  But even a few minutes here and there make a difference.

I will say one thing – the tradition of “lying in” (see my friend LaSandra‘s post on her church’s take on it here) feels mighty tempting to me at times.  To have someone come even once in awhile to help me out with housework or older kid stuff so I could just relax and recuperate sounds pretty good.  The catch is that people literally go nowhere other than to the doctor (or they’re not supposed to) for six weeks.  I think I’d have a hard time not taking my baby to church the first Sunday after birth, like I have with all my kids, or not going to my in-laws the day we get out of the hospital, something we’ve done with three of our kids now.  On Monday of this week, I met my sister-in-law and nephews at the park – it was a bit of work getting everybody out by myself, but it was good for the kids.  I went to Wal Mart that night with Ben and picked up a movie on my way home.  Last night we went to supper at my sister-in-law’s house – it was her turn to make me a meal and she decided to have us over instead of bringing it to us.  I just think I’m too social to be confined completely.  But hey, staying home during the day most of the week and having someone here to help me some of the time?  Sure, that would be great.  As much as I’m saying keeping the house clean isn’t that hard, I will admit that I would probably feel even better right now if I didn’t have to do it.  If I could just rest with Ben and get to know him one on one.  Sleep in, take naps in the afternoon instead of baking birthday cakes.  Maybe I don’t understand the concept very well, but if I could have it my way, lying in would mean spending about 75% of the time at home, being helped by another woman (no, not by my husband…it would just make him grumpy to stay home for weeks and do housework :D) and going out on occasion when my sanity demands it. 

But lying in is something I doubt anyone up here has ever heard of (at least anyone under the age of sixty) and aside from a few days of Mike being home and a week of suppers that ladies from our church bring over, I’ve always been expected to take up the housewife role within a week or so of giving birth.  Who knows if I would actually be healthier by resting more – I think I might be in a better mood, but only if the house was clean and meals were made in addition to my being more rested.  Maybe I wouldn’t be losing weight so fast (twenty-three pounds down after eleven days – nine of those between the 28th and the 1st).  Anyway, just a thought.

I’ve been at the computer long enough this morning to give me a bit of a headache – or at least aggravate the one I was already starting to get when I woke up.  I have my citizenship test one week from now and have been studying and taking an online practice test over and over again hoping it will work to prepare me enough that I’ll pass it.  A twenty question multiple choice test should be easy, right?  Well, my brain HATES history…so we’ll see.

Oh, as for my “little” boy – he’s up to 9 lb 10 oz and 21 1/4 inches – twelve ounces and a quarter inch up from birth twelve days ago.  Go, Ben, go!! 🙂  Hooray for breastmilk!

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