wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

A Material Post

That’s not fabric, for any who may feel concern. I am embracing my maven side to share with you some of my favorite products, specifically those acquired during the last year. Ever hear the term, “You vote with your dollars”? That’s what I am talking about. Certainly money cannot buy happiness, but it can buy stuff that puts sparkles on the happiness you already have. Let me just take a spin around the house and show you a few products, how about it?

I start with office supplies. Always I have felt that a skipping, scratchy pen is the worst implement. It depresses me worse than a rubber spatula that has gotten knicked in the blender, and that is saying something. It deserves to die. These days businesses give out decent pens all the time. These are the ones you put in a cup beside the phone for all comers to use. The pen you use for writing a letter or drafting an essay or journaling… that is another pen entirely. The right one makes the words flow like silken threads and even the ruthless edits feel slightly elegant. My personal favorites in this genre are the gel ink untra-fine tip Uni-ball style. You can buy them in a range of colors and sizes at any store that has a good stationery section. I just bought a year’s supply for $7 at a Staples sale, and I have to admit, they make me happy. In the year 2000 a friend introduced me to Bible journaling and the suitable pens for it. It marked the new millenium for this girl! I have been loyal to the brand ever since. They do not bleed through the pages and you can write super-small and legibly right in the text if you want. These are the Sakura  micron pens; the 005 size is the one I recommend for Bible marking. The links I am providing are just for the visual, or what comes up first when I google them. I buy them when they are on sale at Christian Book Distributors (also a great source for journaling Bibles) or in craft stores. In this day you may not ever use a pen for writing, but I feel a little sorry for you if you have never experienced the pleasure of a pen that is a friend. I leave you to your own opinions about keyboards.

I decided to get the older children quality mechanical when school started this year. Each has a different color and I have been pleasantly surprised at how well they keep track of them. I did tell them that if they lose them, that’s it until next year. Aren’t I the sweetest mama? 😀 My idea was to remove the ultimate school child stall of grinding away at the pencil sharpener. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way because it turns out there are about 15 ways to mess with lead and run out of lead and twist or break the nifty erasers. For times when they feel a need for a stroll, they can dredge up more dull colored pencils than you would believe possible that simply must be sharpened for map skills study. At least we don’t have horribly smudgy homework done with a stumpy Dixon No. 2.

How about we trek to the laundry room? This year I did my laundry with Norwex detergent, just to see if it was what is was cracked up to be. The very worst aisle in any store for me was the detergent one. I would nip in quickly, grab my unscented Purex or whatever, and leave before I sneezed my head off.  I had a very expensive and frustrating washer repair where the expert said I am using too much detergent and it gunked up my HE machine. Allrighty then. When I compared prices, I discovered that Norwex compares to Tide for price per load, which I sometimes resorted to when things started looking dingy from the lower priced soaps. I am very happy to put this little bitty scoop of detergent into a ginormous load and have it emerge smelling, not like Irish Spring or somesuch, but just like nice, clean clothes. And it doesn’t make me sneeze.

Then I thought, what about those dryer balls? Everyone is supposed to know how toxic fabric softeners are, even the unscented ones. The wool balls have been a really good investment. They really do cut down on drying time. If I do 4 loads in a day and it takes 10 minutes less per load, that’s a whole 40 minutes saved, or 25%, just like the company says. I no longer use fabric softener for anything except stuff that doesn’t go through the dryer, because I cannot stand static in winter and I haven’t found another solution. I can even hook you up with the best little Norwex consultant you ever want to meet. 🙂 Hi, Rose!

A kind friend gave me a wonderful tool for hair time. Sometimes after baths I look at the mass of tangled heads and wonder about dreadlocks. Well, not really. But my girls have the tangliest hair. Enter the Wet Brush to the rescue. You have to feel it to believe the difference! They panic when I pick up the old brush, and actually manage to get most of the snarls out by themselves. Thanks, Ellen.

rita

“Work smarter, not harder,” the successful people say. In my quest for household fluidity, (is that even a thing? maybe it is just an elusive quest…) I noticed that my old vacuum cleaner was ready to put to pasture. I had used my mother-in-law’s rollerball vacuum cleaner and liked it so much that I started watching eBay for a replacement. I endured months of email notifications and Facebook ads before I found an affordable deal on Black Friday for the Dyson Ball Animal cleaner. We chose that one because we have animals and we have children who love animals. I feel like a clean freak when I vacuum my house and empty out the dirt canister. It’s a novel feeling and it makes me more than a little happy. Was I happy before? Absolutely. But you have to clean your floors, whether you like it or not. This is just a different layer of happy, a fascinated thrill that the dirt is no longer in the carpet.

Our favorite property investment this past year is our barn, representing days and days of sweat and splinters. It swallowed up our spare time for the year and taught us a lot of skills, some we never hope to need again. (Like putting on the ridge cap.) Sometime I will do a start-to-finish post on that project, but here it is: the view from my kitchen window this morning. We feel actual affection for that structure!

barn-in-winter

My husband is a master of repurposing, wouldn’t you say? But wait until you see what we put in the bottom story!

The little girls are thrilled! They love all creatures, but especially furry or feathered ones. First thing in the morning, before she has even rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, Addy asks to gather the eggs. She doesn’t care if it’s cold and nasty outside. Sometimes it takes her so long that I worry she may have gotten hurt, but when I check on her, she is just holding a chicken or petting the piglets. There are 25 pretty red laying hens and they all look the same to me, but they can easily recognize the favorite. One day they came in breathlessly excited, “Mama! We can ride our goats and they don’t even sag!” I thought surely the thrill will diminish, but it has been months and they are as enamored as ever, completely undeterred by yucky stuff on their boots and multiple baths. Expense and extra work aside, the animals have been a good investment. The three goats are all very pregnant, so the thrills continue!

In the photos of Addy you can see her favorite accessory of the year, the very popular puffer vest. One of the cousins had one, and then we found 4 of them at Goodwill! Alex is still waiting for one in his size, but he is a hoodie kind of guy anyway. Our children hate to play in coats, unless of course, there is snow. With Pennsylvania winters turning mild, this is just the ticket for outdoor play. Don’t be too shocked. Children in Siberia run into the snow to play in their undies for a few minutes every day in order to build up their immunities. This is a much discussed fact around here, and at least the vests are a little warmer than that. 😛

Well, I seem to have meandered outside and my time is up. As a career SAHM, I send you cheer and my best recommendations for some stuff that may make your life easier. This is a pretty rough career I would say, but one I am happy to pour my life into. Blessings on the new year! May your pens never sputter and your Goodwill trips be fruitful! May your laundry smell fresh, no matter how you do it. May all the tangles in your household hair come from healthy activities and may God be the Sun you crave upon your face.

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Talking About Favor

I read that paragraph again and again,

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 2:28-30)

That word “favor” puzzled me. We know about favor: someone paid for my coffee at Starbucks, someone put gas in my car, someone gave me a house. Post it on Facebook and there will surely be cryptic comments: Favor, man. The favors are as varied as the people reporting them and the assumption is that God must really love them special. I don’t doubt that He does, but I had two questions: Why does no one ever proclaim it “favor” when unfortunate things happen, like missing a plane? What if favors are sprinkled all through life and they don’t always feel good? Could it be that our short-sightedness is blinding us to loads of flat-out-favors because we won’t acknowledge them unless they look pretty? (I know, that’s three, but the last one is purely rhetorical.)

I got out some study materials and looked up every single reference to “favor” or words related to it in the Bible. Then I wrote them down with their meanings and roots and cross referenced them. I am not sure what I was looking for… maybe some huge oversight in our current use of the term so that I could challenge our narrow ideas. But there it was, “bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior… acceptance… good deed… merciful kindness.” There are lots of references to this sort of favor is in the Old Testament. David especially used the word a lot to describe the unique blessings of the righteous. Sometimes it is translated as “acceptance”. However, in the New Testament there is only lowly little Mary receiving favor from God. The word seems to change to “grace”, which is a term I like a lot better. I think it’s interesting that our prosperity-loving culture picks up an OT term and flings it around so recklessly.

Doubtless the person who missed his plane on 911 realized what a mercy that was just a few hours after the initial frustration. And those stories of people having flat tires that keep them grounded safely away from a pile-up at the intersection? What looks like disaster turns out to be favor: pure, undeserved grace.

Look at little Mary again. She was greeted with “the Lord is with you.” That was the whole foundation of her favor. It was what enabled her to move beyond being “greatly troubled” to saying, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.” This is a very strange teen pregnancy we are talking about. It had to be excruciating to have that conversation with her fiancee. There was a terrible donkey ride in her third trimester and fleeing in the dark of night from an angry tyrant. Then there was the prophecy of Simeon about a sword piercing her heart. And remember how Mary had all these things she hid in her heart as her son was growing up? Then there was broken weeping at the foot of her son’s cross as He died. She did not have the book of Luke to read or the whole picture to gaze at. She just had promises and the Spirit of God pouring grace onto her.

It wasn’t all free lattes and fuzzy slippers for Mary. I take a leap of fancy here and assume that she would hardly understand our narrow interpretation of how we can tell that God loves us. Someday I want to talk with Mary, but for now, I want to be like her. I want to live richly in the fact that “the Lord is with me” and that is favor, no matter what the circumstances. I want to rest in that.

tumblr_lupqu4y0vo1r3fkjno1_400 (source)

Have you found favor grace recently? What did it look like for you?

 

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Efficiency Tips for Martha

We all need more white space to ponder and pray and take care of the really important things, right? And how, we ask, do we make this space to be like Mary? The stuff to do keeps coming at us and it isn’t going to quit anytime soon. I have compiled a list of things I have learned about keeping house. These are tips for homemakers, okay? Don’t laugh if you have never been one and maybe you think we just sit and drink tea. You. have. no. idea.

  • Never go up or down steps without checking if there is something that needs to be carried up or down. The same goes for room to room. Don’t step over the brush in the hallway 11 times. Scoop it up and put it into the bathroom while you are walking that direction anyway. It’s a lot easier than mounting a full scale search party when it’s time to brush your child’s hair before church.
  • Throw away ALL junk mail immediately. If it’s a company with a website, don’t keep the catalogs. If it’s a Lego or American Girl catalog, let the children look at it until it is soggy with drool, then immediately bury it deep under the eggshells in the trashcan.
  • If there’s a load of laundry, just do it. Don’t ever worry about running out of laundry. Keep your used towels and washcloths in a separate basket/hamper so you can do them often and avoid that stinky, musty smell.
  • Do not put stacks of folded laundry on beds or on top of dressers. It might take 20 seconds to open the drawers and put them away. The same 20 second rule applies to hanging up coats instead of draping them over the nearest chair. Buy hooks until every piece of outerwear has a place to hang out when you aren’t wearing it.
  • Do not store stuff you don’t need or have no sentimental attachment to. If your cupboards or closets are stuffed, sort through them and donate anything you haven’t used for a year to someone who will be grateful for it. (Or put it in storage out of sight.) Stuff can seriously bog you down, did you know that? If you have stuff that nobody would want, well… what are you doing with it?
  • Buy a tote for each child to store their sentimental keepsakes in. Help them decide what they want to keep when you are deep cleaning their room. (Within reason. Some children cannot seem to part with anything! But they probably won’t ever look at those Sunday school papers from 10 years of childhood. Sometimes you just have to disappear things. Unless, of course, you have access to unlimited space for totes.)
  • Keep your fridge organized. It is so much easier to find the ketchup if the ketchup has a spot to live in the fridge. This is not to say that the absent-minded child won’t stand there and gape for the longest time before they find the ketchup. Also, it is much easier to use up food before it spoils if it is visible in the fridge. Buy clear storage dishes. Odds are pretty high that leftovers stored in old cottage cheese containers will grow mold.
  • Avoid ironing clothes if at all possible. Learn how to tumble-dry the permanent press clothes and hang them on hangers while they are still damp. If you forget to get them out of the dryer and they get sadly wrinkly in there, just give them a quick rinse cycle and try again. Life is too short to spend hours ironing.
  • Mulch your garden heavily. And your flowerbeds. Mulch everything. Put newspapers under the mulch. Do not let those weeds come up and spread their noxious seeds.
  • Invest in cleaning tools that your children can use, preferably tools they fight for the privilege of using! That mop with the little water tank that squirts out when you press the trigger?.. Those microfiber window cleaning cloths?..The fun feather duster? Even the Lysol wipes… All these things will make your life much easier than just scrubbing away with a rag cut out of old shorts. Seriously.
  • Delegate. If a child can do it, then let them do it. See above. ^^^Learn to be okay with imperfection.
  • Have a pair of scissors/gluestick/tape roller/sharpie that is verboten to all but yourself. So many motions are wasted while we scurry hither and yon, tracking down the missing household item that someone carted off to make a kite in the garden. I know this.
  • Whenever it is practical, double up your meal prep and freeze the extra. If you are frying a pound of burger, you might as well fry 5 pounds and freeze 4 of them for later use. When you have chicken, make bone broth in the crock pot overnight and serve it with the leftover bits of chicken in a nourishing soup the next day. Make friends with one-dish meals.
  • Keep a schedule, as loose or tight as you need to feel happy. If you know that Thursday is downstairs cleaning day, you can calm down about the mess on Wednesday because you know it will get hit the next day.

Of course, these things do not mean you don’t have to work hard to keep your home free of chaos. The goal is to work smarter, not harder. Ever heard that one? You can then discover a little pool of white space and just enjoy it. Maybe you can find a piece of paper, or if you are artsy, you can get some paint and a board and make yourself a motto:

“Smile! It’s life and you’re living it!”

And now, do tell, what are the ways you have learned to simplify your homemaking?

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