Mothering, Old Wisdom, Studying God, Time Management

Too exhausted to read the Bible (or pray)…

Julie / February 22, 2018

Written October 2017.

Most kind and loving people have admirably low expectations for mothers of young children.  People constantly reassure me that my failures are okay, whether it’s that I forgot to bring something, do something, answer an email quickly, or even if it’s something more important: “Nobody can be perfectly patient all the time.”  “I didn’t read the Bible for years when we had littles.”  “They won’t remember the bad times.”  “The important thing is that you’re trying.”  “God knows what we need even when we’re too tired to pray.”

Even great pastors like D.A. Carson and Martyn Lloyd-Jones are hasty to reassure us of the legitimacy of our struggle, the impossibility of being a mother of young children and a devotee of Scripture at the same time.

There is much kindness in such reassurance.  I have no doubt that it is well-meant.

But while pithy reassurances are comforting, they aren’t necessarily biblical or helpful. My heart is bleak; I am not strong enough to stop burying myself in the Word of God.  And letting go of my desperate hunger for it is not what Scripture teaches us to do.

God didn’t tell David to stop writing psalms while he was on the run for his life.  Job, in the midst of his incomparable affliction, tells us (23:12) that “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.”  The prophets were persecuted, starved, locked up, and dumped into muddy wells, yet God continued to call them to very active servanthood.  In Scripture, we see so many situations that were so much worse, so much more time-consuming, so much more emotionally demanding than motherhood, and yet there was no message to those people saying “okay, maybe you’d better cut back on the morning prayer time.”

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In fact, one of the most stunning examples of hardship in Scripture I can think of—Jesus in the desert—is also one of the clearest.  When Satan attempts to get Jesus distracted by His physical needs, Jesus answers him very clearly, pointing out that hunger isn’t satisfied by “bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).  Though His hunger was physical (v. 3) and acute, His most necessary food is spiritual!

This is us, too.  When we are exhausted from a lack of sleep, we need “rest for our souls” (Matthew 11:29).  When we “eat the bread of anxious toil,” we need the blessing of the sleep God alone provides (Psalm 127:2) to ease that anxiety.  When we are struggling with impatience from relentless toddlers, what we need is not a momentary break, but the fruit of the Spirit which is patience (Galatians 5:22).  When we are sad and downcast, we need the joy of the word of God to lift us up (Psalm 119:2).

Our physical and emotional challenges require spiritual solutions.

J.C. Ryle, in his little pamphlet about the importance of Bible-reading, specifically addresses those who struggle to find the resources to read the Bible, and his words are convicting and ring true:

You are the man that is likely to “get little comfort from the Bible in time of need.” Trials come at various times. Affliction is a searching wind, which strips the leaves off the trees, and exposes the birds’ nests. Now I fear that your stores of Bible consolations may one day run very low. I fear lest you should find yourself at last on very short allowance, and come into the harbor weak, worn and thin.

You are the man that is likely “never to be established in the truth.” I will not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, and the like. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. Like the Benjamites, he can “sling a stone at a hair and not miss” (Judges 20:16). He can quote Scripture easily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to be able to fight a good fight with him. Your armor does not fit well. Your sword sits loosely in your hand.

You are the man that is likely to “make mistakes in life.” I will not wonder if I am told that you have erred about your own marriage—erred about your children’s education of spiritual things—erred about the conduct of your household—erred about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, and reefs, and sand bars. You are not sufficiently familiar either with the search lights or your charts.

You are the man that is likely to “be carried away by some deceptive false teacher for a time.” It will not surprise me if those clever, eloquent men, who can “make the lie appear to be the truth,” is leading you into many foolish notions. You are out of balance. No wonder if you are tossed to and from, like a cork on the waves.

All these are uncomfortable things. I want every reader of this paper to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you this day. Do not merely read your Bible “a little,” but read it a great deal. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Do not be a mere babe in spiritual knowledge. Seek to become “well instructed in the kingdom of heaven,” and to be continually adding new things to old. A religion of feeling is an uncertain thing. It is like the tide, sometimes high, and sometimes low. It is like the moon, sometimes bright, and sometimes dim. A religion of deep Bible knowledge, is a firm and lasting possession. It enables a man not merely to say, “I feel hope in Christ,” but “I know whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12).

I have seen this in my own life over and over again.  I have seven children, and, oh, they are small.  They are relentless.  If you are a mommy of small or needy children, you know what I mean.  I understand why wise men like Lloyd-Jones and Carson think we mommies don’t have the time to read Scripture.

But what happens when I stop?

The well dries up.  See, when I do find time to be in the Word every day, there’s this fresh ever-bubbling source of spiritual nourishment that is continually applicable and new.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; God still uses it.  He promises in Isaiah 55:10-11 that His word is like rain:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Even when I’m doing a lousy job of reading—when the words begin to blur together because I’m so tired, when my brain is so fried that I would have zero insights to offer to a group study, when I’m distracted by screaming toddlers—still God’s word does not return to Him empty.

Truly, it is amazing.  As I write this, I am exhausted.  Baby seven was born three days ago after a difficult and long build-up to final labor—which was itself a very rough time—and our days since then have been consumed with more medical appointments and stresses, and I am at the point where I can barely remember what day it is.  I’m a wreck.  But I have been able to read the Bible passage that is programmed to arrive in my email inbox every day, and spend a little bit of time praying (albeit fairly incoherently!), and in return, there have been many—three or four—incidents every single week of the past month when something I have read right now has been immediately applicable to my life.  Either it has served to encourage me, or been relevant to a spiritual conversation I’ve been having with someone else, or it has provided a great example of a principle I’m trying to illustrate to my children… in short, even my very bad Bible comprehension right now is bearing a lot of fruit, and it has been a powerful testimony and encouragement to me of the inherent usefulness of reading Scripture.

Even in the midst of my exhaustion and physical struggles, the time and energy that I invest in the Word are amply repaid, over and over again.  And not just in little soundbytes of encouragement here and there.  So often God enables my feeble mind to snag on some item in the text that I hadn’t noticed before, and make tiny little gains in spiritual knowledge and understanding.  Scripture feeds me in the now, when I desperately need it, and it builds up spiritual food-stores that God will continue to use and grow for His glory in the future, too.  Though I feel like I have the I.Q. of a turnip and struggle to comprehend some of the Bible’s longer sentences, time in God’s word and time in prayer bear fruit.

But if I don’t find that time?  If I decide I’m too tired, or that it can’t possibly be worth the effort to even try?  Nothing happens.  There are no fresh spiritual insights floating into my brain, no recent flash of biblical wisdom to share with those around me, no encouragement waiting to shore up my soul.  There’s no growth.  The things of godliness are not lurking in my mind ready to help me deny sin and pursue righteousness; they’re buried deep in somewhere that I’ve been “too tired” to think about recently.  I may still retain the head knowledge that being impatient with my children is wrong, but it’s been a while since I’ve been reminded of the consequences of that kind of sinfulness.  God’s justice and fearsomeness are not freshly impressed on my mind.  The well—the very well which gives us life and leads us to holiness—is running dry.  The Christian cannot live like this.  The Christian Mommy cannot live like this.

The times when we don’t have the energy or motivation to spend time in God’s Word is the time we most need to do so anyway.  The person who is too parched with thirst to drag themselves to the stream is the person who most needs a drink; the person fainting with hunger who can’t contemplate the effort of cooking a meal is the person who most needs nourishment.

So, when you are too exhausted to read the Bible, read it anyway.  It will give you life.  Find a way, find a time, because God’s word is more essential than food, and times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord.  He is the answer to our exhaustion and inability, and He is faithful!

Mothering, Studying God, Time Management

Always prepared to give an answer?

Julie / January 22, 2016

Today someone asked me how it is that I always seem to be so peaceful.

Someone whom I have no reason at all to believe is a Christian; someone whose relationship with me does not generally entail talking about religion or personal beliefs at all, in fact, whose relationship with me (i.e., “professional”) makes such conversation socially verboten.

…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…
(1 Peter 3:15)

Needless to say, I was caught off-guard by her question.  I have a neat litany of excuses for my failure: the irregularity of the conversation, the exhaustion deluging my brain, my todo list burning a hole in my pocket, the rarity of my interaction with nonbelievers at all now (as a SAHM)… I was very much off-guard.  Secondly, the subtlety of the question threw me—”peaceful” didn’t immediately turn my brain to the Gospel.

I have lots of excuses.

The conversation was not a total flub, because for some odd reason, she kept pushing it and, surprisingly, turning it in ever more spiritual directions.  I felt like I’d stepped into the twilight zone and was off-balance and uncertain the entire time.  Looking back, I feel like the conversation was enough that God could use it, or that I could bring it back up again on the strength of the conversation, but I’m also really sorrowful at my own ineptitude and inattention and lack of focus.

“Always being prepared.”  I would have done better if she had asked me a direct question, like, “how do I go to heaven?” or “how does your faith help you remain calm?”  Or, “why is this theological confession better than that one?”  I could have done well with any of those questions, had my brain snapped into focus and put on the evangelism track.

But sadly, preparation doesn’t mean knowledge here.  It doesn’t mean ability to argue theological points.  Peter is talking in the context of suffering Christians in a hostile world, and what is the source of the “preparation” he names?  “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”

My problem was that my brain was going a thousand places this morning, none of them focused directly on Christ.  I was totally being “a Martha.”  I’d thought plenty about theology this morning, but not much about its Author.  My fellow conversationalist actually asked me (if you’re a Yankee, you know how shocking this is) if I prayed in the mornings—and all I could think of was, well, I sure hadn’t THIS morning!  My answers were all over the place because my heart was all over the place.  God gives me peace when our son has facial palsy—a peace I have very much clung to in the past week and a half—but somehow, the lesser things, I act like I can strike out on my own.  I can bundle my kids up and out the door, carefully-organized schoolwork schedules in hand.  I can get everyone breakfast, everyone in shoes, raggle-taggle hair tamed, snacks packed… all in my own strength.

But I can’t.  This morning was absolutely shattering to my self-inflated spiritual ego.  It doesn’t matter how much Scripture I read or recite, how many theological terms I can rattle off, or how excellent of “Christian” parenting advice I can dole out when others ask me… if my very own heart is not filled up with honoring Christ, it’s all rubbish, to quote Paul.

It’s a quiet little sin to simply lose focus, to stop feeling thirsty for the refreshment of the Spirit, to stop depending on Him and glorifying His holiness and instead to fall into pride and self-focus, distraction, and worry.

Such a quiet little sin.  But such a lethal one.  I’ll never get this morning back.

(Written July 2015, forgot to post it.)

Mothering, Time Management

The worst version of myself.

Julie / September 2, 2012

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On one of my favorite chick flicks, You’ve Got Mail, at one point Tom Hanks’s character asks, “Do you ever feel you become the worst version of yourself?”

Oh, boy, Joe, do I ever.

I am exhausted much of the time.  I am pregnant quite a bit, too.  Even on a good day, my brain has four separate threads dedicated to each one of my four-and-under children, making sure they aren’t drowning in the toilet or secretly acquiring diaper rash.  If you’re lucky, my kids are elsewhere or amusing themselves happily so that I can sit down and have a nice conversation with you… more likely, though, my kids are crawling all over the place (and probably in cahoots with your kids, should you have any), and 75% of my mental powers at any given moment are completely dedicated to watching them.  But even if they’re being little angels (or absent!), my brain is just not used to grown-up conversation anymore. I’ve gotten really good at repeating myself, and my memory has officially gone on vacation.

In other words: I am one of those horribly rude Mommy-people who occasionally leave off in the middle of sentence, and never return; who talk a lot about poop and throw-up, regardless of whether or not you are also a Mommy who likes to talk about such things; who struggles to talk about current events (what are they and why on earth should I even care?); who struggles to talk theology because right now I’m clinging to all my might with the nitty-gritty of the Gospel that even a five-year-old can recite… and that’s probably not what you were hoping I’d contribute to your Bible study.

In short, I think I probably come off really self-absorbed, because I probably talk a lot about myself, my family, and whatever current child-rearing adventure has reared its head, and because I have an almost complete inability at this point to actually pay attention to any kind of real, linear conversation.

I feel like I have become the worst version of myself.

At least I hope this is the worst.  I’m forever plumbing new depths of how fallen I can be.

Exhaustion, in particular, has been a really profound learning experience.  I can even be kind of psycho, at the end of week of stomach-bug-induced sleeplessness followed by a week of trying to restore some kind of order to our house.  Or at the end of two months of relentless morning sickness surrounded by toddlers watching my every heave.  I didn’t know I could be such an unreasonable person—surprise!  Sleeplessness is the mirror that shows us our wretched selves.

I’ve begun to look at it like this is when I am having trouble not sinning.  This is when I have trouble not being quick to anger.  This is when I have trouble keeping my mouth shut.  This is also when I have trouble stringing together a coherent sentence.  This is when I have trouble listening sympathetically.  This tiredness, this distractedness… this is making my sin real.  It makes it come out to play.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
(Romans 7:21-24 ESV)

It’s always good to be thrown helplessly into the arms of grace.  I appreciate that it makes me appreciate my Savior, appreciate my own inability.  It’s pretty easy to pass for a nice person when we’re refreshed and happy all the time, isn’t it?  It’s hard to be a nice person when we’re grumpy and tired.  It’s hard to be kind.  It’s hard to be a good friend, even; it’s much harder still to be a good wife and a good mother.  It’s like a pot with tiny flaws being constantly held up to the light so they can’t escape notice.

Maybe one day I won’t be tired and distracted anymore, and I’ll be able to do a better job of hiding away all these flaws that are magnified right now.  In the meantime, I’ll keep struggling with them, and struggling to improve them, to “depart from iniquity” and become “useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim 2).

And feel free to tell me I’ve talked enough about poopy diapers for the day, and help me talk more about the things that matter.  My brain might relearn old paths and I might be able to speak intelligibly again. Smile

Homeschooling, Printables, Time Management

To-dos; homeschool day 1

Julie / August 23, 2010

So, here is the revised version of The To-Do List:

screen2

The other one was technically working fine, but as it grew easier to stay in routine (both from building habits and from decreased mess to work with), I decided that it would be wise to try to work in all the little recurring tasks that still need done every once in a while, but which would be overwhelming to try to check every day.  So now the list has two parts: a daily routine, which is repeated all the days of the week and is the main thing that keeps our house in order, a weekly routine, which is more the tasks that only need to be considered once a week and are tackled Monday-Thursday, and a monthly routine, one part of which is tackled every Friday.  

I’m hoping that the extra routines gradually eliminate any of the mess areas in the house that had heretofore been mostly ignored–like dusting the baseboards. I also formally added mopping to the routine, which wasn’t exactly neglected before, but does require a lot of planning (because it works vastly better without children scampering about).  I still use the principles of different types of cleaning, but I didn’t delineate them in the list because I’ve found myself doing a lot more cleaning-when-the-mess-is-made (which are very short but frequent and unplannable) and a lot less cleaning bigger messes all at once (there aren’t any to clean).

 

Pre-K2

Here’s a little printable: flash cards for the alphabet, with lowercase and uppercase letters separate, and no “hint” pictures.  So simple, I know, but I haven’t actually found any in store-bought packs without pictures, which is dumb, imho, because my two-year-old gets totally distracted by… distractions.

screen 

We officially started Pre-K2 today.  I wasn’t feeling well, and neither was E, so it was definitely a light day.  We started with some letter flashcards (this was before I made these) and learned our uppercase and lowercase A, then read some books and found the A’s in them. 

Our formal reading book of the day was The Little Engine that Couldlittlenginethatcould, which is probably my favorite children’s book now that I also had in my own childhood.  I’ve seen it redone a number of times, but I like the original one best.  It’s kind of a two-pronged message, both a Good Samaritan tale and an exhortation to do your best.  Anyway, I really like it, and since we have it, it was an easy addition to our Pre-K2 reading list.  E seemed to like it as well; there were a lot of characters (Humpty Dumpty, dolls, oranges) that she recognized, and she loves trains, so even though it was a pretty long book, she stayed focused the whole time. 

We played lots of “find the letter” games throughout the day, mostly initiated by E.  Somehow she already knows quite a few letters–I’m not sure how!  Once we get more into the swing of things, I want to get her to work on drawing the letters as well her hand coordination is sadly lacking (compared to an adult’s, anyway!), but I think that it will help her learn the shapes of the letters better, if nothing else.

I’m also going to start doing sight words with her, but I thought it would be good for her to know a few letters first, so she has something to latch onto in the words to learn to distinguish them.  We hadn’t had much luck with sight words so far.

Homemaking, Time Management

Using Evernote for Homemaking

Julie / August 19, 2010

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Evernote is, I admit, relatively new to me.  I’d read about it quite a bit, but didn’t quite realize that it was free or so completely cloud-based (i.e., everything syncs to online).

Using multiple computers scattered around the house is definitely an essential part of the way I do home organization.  Part of this is because our house is two-storey, and part of it is because I don’t have a good laptop to drag around (and my arms are usually full anyway).  I find it indispensible to have a computer in the kitchen, and so there lives a very old rickety crash-prone laptop that literally dies if you move it too much.  That’s the main one I use, and that’s enough about my computer habits for this post!  On to Evernote.

Because of the fact that I use a number of different computers, it’s more or less useless to me to use local file storage–everything I can possibly throw in the cloud, I do, with the added benefit of then being able to access my whole life in digital from other peoples’ houses and public spaces.  (And if I could justify a smartphone, grocery stores would be a very important addition to that list.)  Evernote, although new to me, is very clearly the cloud-based brain that I’ve been looking for.  It lets me do everything I’ve already been doing, but in a newly unified, extremely-rapid way.

I’m convinced that the key to loving Evernote is to devote some serious time to thinking about specific ways it can work for you, and reading articles and blog posts discussing such specific ways.  Evernote is extremely blank when you first begin, and the hardest part is definitely figuring out frameworks to create and use–how to meld it to your own brain, in other words.  So, without further ado, here are some “frameworks” that have already been saving me immense amounts of time while helping me get even more things done and organized, in the realm of homemaking.

Recipes

I’ve talked before about how I create my meal plan, and Evernote really enhances the results and speed of that process.  I use the web-clipping tool to clip the entire recipe, photo, and prep instructions, put it in a notebook called “recipes,” and tag it with a few of the significant ingredients (in our house, usually that means the meat).  If the recipe is bad and we won’t try it again, I delete it.  If I want to add my own notes to the page, or literally rewrite part of the recipe, I can do that to my clipped version–which of course I couldn’t do to the original website.

I am thus creating a sort of digital cookbook, personalized for our family.  The important thing to remember here is that recalling something from Evernote is much faster than pulling up a webpage would be, yet adding a webpage to Evernote takes only seconds.  It also eliminates distractions from the page, is easy to email to someone else (or myself), and easy to print; again, all my personalized version of the recipe instead of having to work with the default.

The biggest downside to this is that automatic shopping list generation (as per the sites I mentioned earlier) no longer exists.  But this isn’t all a bad thing

Shopping Lists

It has been a source of endless difficulty for us that there are maybe five stores that we shop at semi-regularly and need specific lists for (ShopRite, BJs, Walmart, Target, Trader Joe’s), yet refrigerator lists don’t work very well for us and five is an unmanageable number of literal paper lists at any rate–especially because some items are truly store-specific (can only be bought at that store) and many items are generic (just most likely to be bought at that store) and so we end up with items crossed-off, duplicated, forgotten it turns into a mess.

There are two different ways I can think of to manage lists online: to make a separate, simple list for every store (in Evernote, a separate “note” for each list), and use some common sense and multi-tasking abilities to think of picking up one’s ShopRite list while at Target; or to have a separate item (a separate “note”) for every single item and tag it with all the store names where it is sold, so that calling up all items listed with “BJs” would yield a complete, current BJs list.  The latter option is infinitely more organized, but it’s also a pretty big trade-off in terms of work I prefer five lists and managing cross-overs in my head instead of on the computer.  Either way, a digital list is much neater, and can be added/removed from wherever you are, or wherever one’s husband is!  And even with the auto-generated lists, I still ended up usually manually reordering it, because going to the store with two tiny children is far, far easier if the items are on your list in exactly the order they are in the store.

Bills

This one is really a no-brainer: I have an Evernote notebook and I put all our outstanding bills in it.  If we had more bills, it would be helpful to tag them by month due, but we don’t have enough (that aren’t on auto-pay, that is!) to make even that tiny effort justifiable.  I’ve set up most of our bills to have email notifications (Mint can often do this even if your bill company doesn’t) and I’ve set up my email client to automatically file the bills into Evernote.  So the bills don’t clutter up my emailbox or my calendar, and I can just flip into Evernote and remember at a glance which bills I still need to take care of.  The very, very few bills that don’t have e-notifications can be easily scanned, as can other mail that you “need to keep” but don’t really want to find a physical home for.  Remember, too, that Evernote finds the text in images and makes it searchable.

On a sidenote, here’s the search string, found here, that you need to add to Google Chrome or Firefox to make it easy to search your Evernotes:

https://www.evernote.com/Home.action#v=t&b=0&z=d&x=%s

Research

This is one area where Evernote really shines.  Know you’re going to need to buy a crib soon?  Want to comparison shop?  Just do your regular browsing on the web, and if you think something is worth coming back to look at again, “clip” the relevant info (pic, price, dimensions, features) to Evernote, add a note of your own if you want, and either tag it with “crib” or put it in a “crib” notebook–depending on the size of your research.  At the end of the day, instead of a hard-to-sort-through list of links with meaningless titles and no other useful information (not to mention you’re dependent on the various server speeds and page-renderings to even get back to the information you already saw), you’ll have a neat little collection, almost like 3×5 cards, all assembled in one neat little place and ready to flip though at a moment’s notice.  Need to send one to husband to review?  Click, done.  Send him the whole set?  Click, done.  It’s not just faster, it actually makes it easier to get an overall picture and make clearer decisions.

Information Collecting

I’m all the time running across information on homeschooling that I think would be really useful later.  And sometimes I can’t find it later (lost in the sea of bookmarks), or I can find it but it’s gone, taken off the web.  Evernote is a way of taking those miscellaneous little tidbits of information and articles and bringing them all together in a coherent, organized, searchable, and tagged way: a way of creating your own sort of sub-internet.  As with recipes, it also lets you get rid of all the extraneous distracting information that you don’t need, so when you go back to read that brilliant article from six months ago, that’s exactly what you find–and all you find.

Our munchkins are obviously not old enough to be using the “˜net yet, but I foresee some real uses of Evernote in terms of assembling digital items for their review, as well.  If I find some great diagrams, essays, and a fiction story on ancient Egypt that I want them to read while we’re studying Pharaohs, I can clip them all into Evernote and send them the collection–void of distracting links to follow, questionable advertisements, site downtimes–instead of giving them a list of links to check out on their own.

It’s important to note, too, that with a premium account, Evernote lets you put all kinds of files into it, which really lets mixed-media collecting take off.

Home Improvement Ideas / Inspiration

I honestly don’t spend much time reading home decorating magazines (or doing home decorating, for that matter–I think we have literally two pictures hung in our entire house after four years of living here), but occasionally I’ll run across a picture or an idea or a product that really strikes a chord with me, and if I don’t do something about it right then, then of course it continues on its merry way of falling back out of my brain again.  Evernote lets me grab on to those rare (for me) moments and file them away until I do have the time or resources to deal with it more thoroughly.  Right now I’m just throwing them all in a great big “household” notebook and trying to tag them relevantly–if I had more inspiration moments, I’d probably need to come up with a more detailed organizational scheme.

I’m sure there are many more ways to use Evernote with homemaking, and I hope to discover them as I use it more and more.  It definitely “works for me”!

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Time Management

When Mommy’s sick.

Julie / August 16, 2010

So, our nice little routine hit a big hurdle this weekend: I got really sick.  Some kind of weird, short-lived, severe stomach bug, but suffice it to say, I wasn’t getting anything done at all.  I ventured out of bed just once to try to make myself a cup of tea and promptly threw up before I made it back upstairs.  I started feeling somewhat ill on Saturday afternoon–enough so that I actually didn’t clean up from dinner, for once (at that point I thought “oh, I’ll get it tomorrow when I feel better”) and then I stayed really sick all the way through until after I went to sleep on Sunday night.  This morning I woke up and quickly discovered that I wasn’t quite better still, and called my mom in somewhat of a panic because I was definitely headed toward another day of throwing up and/or passing out.

She came, of course, and I very quickly went back to bed, and after that, I did wake up somewhat recovered.  I can tell my body is still much the worse for the wear, especially my stomach muscles, but I can at least take care of myself and the girls.  Still didn’t feel up to cooking (or eating) dinner tonight, but that’s not terribly unusual just from being pregnant!

Anyway, though, the thing that was really bothersome was that my nice little housekeeping routine DIED.  I can’t emphasize enough how much it died.  It started its demise on Saturday with the aforementioned dinner mess going uncleaned, but then yesterday while I was ensconced in my room, it fell all to pieces.  I woke up this morning to disaster, without having remotely the energy or wellness to fix it.

So, of course, the question is–how on earth does one plan for sickness?  I was very thankful that things were organized enough that I could direct Seth where to find their clothes without getting out of bed myself, and that things were neat enough to begin with that the mess wasn’t truly insurmountable this morning (if I had felt like my normal self, it would have just been a more-difficult-than-usual day, but nothing untamable).  But still, I didn’t feel well enough to even load the dishwasher (and I made myself sick trying to load the washer), and looking around the house was soooo discouraging and made me wonder what we could have done to prevent it.  It wasn’t Seth’s fault–he’d been up all night with me needing help, then up with the girls from 5:30 onward, up through their nap (which I usually sleep though), and then not home until late (they all went to my parents’ so I could rest).  And when he was home, he spent a lot of time playing fetch for me!

Very thankfully, my mom could come over and she actually pretty much cleaned everything back up this morning!  While watching the girls, to boot.  It was a definite “fix” to my problem!  Probably the most logical fix–if she couldn’t have come, and if I’d been well enough to be on my own (I really wasn’t; I think I would have had to call Seth back home or something), then I think what we could perhaps have done is make a concerted effort after Seth did get home where one of us watched the kids and the other one tried to straighten the house back up. the important part being creating a purposeful, highly-focused, highly-energized time to try to whip things back in line.

But looking back, I think it would have been better if we could have had a plan for the house to get less messed up to begin with.  For one, although I had no idea how sick I was going to be on Sunday, if I hadn’t put off cleaning up the dinner dishes on Saturday, we would have been in much better shape, because dishes and pots and pans snowball.  (Clutter begets clutter.)  So onward, if I’m well enough to possibly complete a task, I hope I learned my lesson and will actually do it.  You never know when the next day  is going to be ten times worse!  I legitimately didn’t feel like it, but afterwards I really regretted leaving it undone.  If I felt that crappy, I could have asked Seth to do it then, before it got all piled up.  Secondly, I could have given Seth lots of suggestions for how to prevent clutter in the first place.  I really didn’t care, on Sunday; I was too sick to care!  But there are so many ways that I know, because I’m here and deal with the two munchkins all day, to keep the clutter down.  There are rooms that they can play in for a really long time without ever making an unmanageable mess, even if totally unsupervised, and then there are toys that turn any room into a disaster area within moments of being gotten out.  I could have said a really simple sentence, like “to try and not have a big mess for us to clean up when we actually feel capable of cleaning, why don’t you keep them in the nursery all morning and play with the Fisher-Price toys?”  That’s like five or six sets of toys that they could get out all at once and still be able to clean up in less than ten minutes.  Our biggest problem might simply have been that I wasn’t thinking about the mess that was happening, or the difficulty I’d have in reining it all back in.  And there were some points even on Sunday when I could have handled the kids for the five minutes or so it would have taken Seth to keep the kitchen manageable.  It’s all about small chunks, especially when you’re sick.

All-in-all, it has been an interesting and insightful experience.  It was definitely less disastrous than it could have been, because the house wasn’t particularly out of order before the weekend happened.  I did need to do laundry, especially diaper laundry, today, but there wasn’t much and it definitely wasn’t a build-up.  If I’d been sick another day or even two, it still would have been okay.  So, in short, it was nice to see some of the real effects of the routine-keeping.  On the other hand, it also really pointed out a need for focus, even in sickness, because I hate that things still got so disorderly after only two days, especially since our weekends had been going “cleaner” in general.

Live and learn!  🙂

Homemaking, Time Management

A peek inside the routine.

chores
Today has been a definite “off” day–the kids were fussy, I woke up exhausted, naps went poorly, and my mom couldn’t come over for very long (during the summer she has been coming over a lot!).  So, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to explain how my routine actually works out… on a bad day.

Before breakfast, I set out the meat for dinner.  Item one checked off the list.

After breakfast, without the routine, I probably would have thought to myself, I’m exhausted, the house isn’t a wreck, I’m just going to do laundry and then chill with the kids a bit.  But the routine beckoned.  I’ll admit I didn’t do as much as I would on a “normal” day, but by naptime I’d restored the rooms to “normal,” done two loads of laundry, stuffed/folded the rest of the cloth diapers, gathered up the bath toys and dumped them in the kitchen sink with some bleach to soak for a few hours, and started in on clearing off the top of the refrigerator (one of my projects I’d determined to accomplish today).  On a more normal day, I would likely have finished the laundry and the fridge, done some actual cleaning in the bathrooms instead of just decluttering, and probably attacked a few piles of clutter in the areas I “normal-ized” so that tomorrow would be even neater than today.

Anyway, I decided to save the vacuuming (small task with a good cordless stick vac–I can’t recommend them enough, mommas!), the rest of the top of the fridge, and the laundry-folding for this afternoon, along with cooking and giving the kids a bath.  I also was able to declutter some outstanding “hotspots” upstairs, research some issues I ran into with cloth diapers, and spent a good amount of time chilling with the munchkins this afternoon, all even before my mom showed up!

One thing that is really working with this new routine is that it has an enormous amount of flexibility and daily autonomy.  So on days like this past Monday, when I have energy and drive paired with a complete lack of children, the routine motivates me to really get a lot done.  And on days like today, which is easily my worst day so far this week, the routine makes sure I don’t fall behind and end up in an even sorrier state of housework tomorrow.  I think this is the single biggest key to finding a routine that I can continue to follow from day to day and week to week.  It’s also kind of funny the way that it’s teaching me some basic principles instead of just being a list of items to check off.  It also makes me think consciously about what things I need to do today, tomorrow, and for the rest of the week, and make a real implementable plan for when to get them done.  The whole “nighttime routine” idea–just thinking about the next day and making sure I have the answers to some basic questions–has deeply changed the way my day goes.  I wake up knowing some of the big things I need to get accomplished, knowing whether or not laundry is one of them, and knowing what I’ll cook for dinner.  Small things, granted, but making these decisions on a different day than I actually have to fulfill them helps me to be more honest and ambitious in my plans.

I’ve also noticed that knowing I’ll have to do things the next day makes me infinitely more likely to take care of them the night before.  I’m strongly motivated to clean up the kitchen after dinner, because otherwise I know it’s one of the first things waiting for me in the morning.  If I see a pile of things waiting to go up or down the stairs, I’ll probably grab it the very first time my hands are empty–and put it away properly–because I’m going to have to do it in a moment anyway, may as well do it when my hands are empty!  Dirty clothes on the floor?  I’m obsessed now with picking them up right away so that I don’t have to go around the house in search of them.  At the same time, though, the fact that these things aren’t actually on the schedule until “later” helps me not get stressed out and feel overloaded by them.

“Clutter begets clutter” is such a true statement!  And for me, at least, having a lack of clutter to begin with–and obsessing about maintaining that lack–is an essential motivating tool.  I’m terrified of it getting out of order!

(Written earlier this week.)