Growing up House-Humble

All those houses I lived in had two common things. We made do with what we had and they were home. Until we moved to PA, my parents moved about every 2 years from rental to rental until the new house was done, and then we only lived in it two years. When I look at it now, 30 years later, I realize that it is actually a very modest size compared to the norm for Amish homes. It was not extravagant in any way, except that the floors didn’t sag and the drywall was brand new.

Not once do I remember my mom consulting decorating magazines, to figure out how to make it a homelike place. I know she gave it a lot of thought and effort. She was always working on some project. She made her own curtains and throw pillows and even reupholstered our disreputable looking couch that still had a sturdy frame. The afghans were handmade and nobody worried if they “went” with the rest of the decor. They were for keeping us cozy when the cold winds blew, duh. We could use those afghans to make tents over upside down kitchen chairs and stretch them out as much as needed.

The only criteria for replacing a piece of household furniture was that it had to be thoroughly worn out. Think actual holes, broken springs, falling apart. We could do experiments on the table and not worry if something spilled or scratched a little. Nobody panicked when we tore around the house or bounced off the couch. In fact, our Saturday night tradition of playing bear with my dad and roaring around the house is among my fondest childhood memories. Sometimes stuff crashed off the walls, and mom would shake her head kind of helplessly until we wound down.

Oh, Mom was always cleaning windows and shining her cupboard handles and she ran a tight ship in the kitchen, with nourishment appearing at regular intervals. The mashed taters tasted just fine on the old-fashioned Correlle dishes with little green flower borders. We had to change our sheets every week and were not allowed to throw clothes or towels on the floor. Little things did matter, but it wasn’t so much for looks as for comfort or cleanliness. It was unloving to leave shoes right by the door for others to trip over, so we had to put them away.

Once we got invited to a fancy house for dinner. The lady was so kind and gracious, but she had deep plush carpets that were white, and her house really did look like Better Homes and Gardens. I felt anxious about breaking her China or ruining something the whole time we were there. I know it’s because we were little country bumpkins, but we were happy bumpkins.

Let me quickly say that I believe wholeheartedly in home-making. A house is a habitat, and the atmosphere in it matters. The attitude of the one making the home infuses whatever goes on in the house.

  • If the air is slovenly and muttery with unhappiness, it wafts around and affects the other inhabitants with its poison.
  • If the prevailing desire is for more and nicer stuff, the dissatisfaction permeates the home and nobody ever has enough.
  • If the homemaker is always fussing about not getting this dirty and not touching that fragile thing, the tenseness in the home drives the ones away that are supposed to feel at home there.

This is what I learned as I was growing up: Our houses served us. We didn’t serve them.

That long round-about way is just to give you permission, if you need it, to scorn the idea that your home isn’t right unless it is swathed in the latest of styles with a few pots of succulents on every sunny windowsill.

  • If your guests feel welcome and happy in your living space, they don’t mind if your carpets are a bit squashed down in high-traffic areas.
  • If you are glad of their presence and pour the coffee generously, they could care less that your mugs are all shapes and sizes.
  • If there are some cookies in the jar, your children don’t notice if the kitchen counters are made of concrete or granite or cracked formica.
  • If the little people are allowed to splash clean in the tub, that matters more than the towels matching the stripes in the shower curtain.
  • If you tuck the children in with hugs and kisses, I can guarantee that you won’t ever be accused of neglect because their dresser didn’t match their bed.


Because the story is only a little bit about the stuff and the rest of it is the relationships.


( free photo source:pexel. text:mine.)


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?

What Life is Like

We sat outside in the mellow air at 10 PM, talking over the day when Gabe got home from work. His patients had all been nice people, so that was a good day for him. I had done something that bothered me all summer: pressure washed the algae and road dirt off the deck and railings. It took me 5 hours. Then I came into the house and wished I could pressure wash it and just be done. The children had done a clean blitz and it was acceptable, but not optimal for going into the weekend. That was when I just turned around and walked back outside. There is just a limit and I had reached it. In grasping for a  description of how this feels, I told Gabe, “It’s like things just keep flying at you. Like one of those early electronic games we had where you had a bat to hit the balls that got pitched, and the faster you hit them, the faster they came flying. Finally you just die.” Gabe came up with an even better analogy, “No, it’s like Tetris, where you have to stack the blocks and you never know what shape is coming next.” I might add that the more efficiently you stack them, the faster they drop out of nowhere.

I am not sure whether to feel sad that life is like that, or to just KBO. Remember Churchill’s “KBO”? That’s what we have been doing. Like everything. I don’t know of any way to get out of it or I would, trust me.

About every ten years I have an epiphany that changes my life in some way. For example, at 10 I discovered that two people can have the very same name and be totally opposite people. One might be someone I can’t help loving and the other might be someone I didn’t really enjoy, but I couldn’t draw conclusions until I actually got to know them. At 20 I figured out (after those teen periods of agonizing embarrassment) that people really didn’t notice me and my mistakes that much. It was a great relief. Around 30 I made up my mind to make a joyful career of mothering instead of wishing I didn’t have to always be the adult. And now, just before I turn 40, I think I have had a sort of epiphany about more and more work and my relationship with it. It’s unavoidable. Might as well embrace it and take it down.

On a more spiritual note, I think of Matthew 25 and the Parable of the Talents. I used to read that and dream of the day when my “being faithful with a little” would turn into “being set over much”. I am not sure whether the much is referring to the present, or in the Future because they were “entering in to the joy of the Lord”. One point is clear, the slothful person who was afraid to do anything with what he was given was extremely displeasing to his lord.

This brings me to my writing goals and how they just don’t seem to happen. About five years ago I thought that I was supposed to compile a book. Then I accidentally lost three years worth of writing and I will admit, it took the stuffing out of me. I had brainstormed titles, chapters, outlines. All gone. So I just kept blogging and holding it there in my hands, loosely. Now I find I don’t even have time for that anymore. It makes me sad. There have been many days in the last months when I wrote in my head, but yeah. Not so much use in the long term. Add to this the fact that much of what is either tragic or hilarious in my  home life right now involves adolescents whose feelings I will not hurt by sharing confidences online. So I am in this holding pattern and I don’t know…could I eliminate some T-shaped blocks to make room for others? Am I being slothful/undisciplined? Or am I just supposed to wait for a different season to get serious about writing?

Sometimes my desk looks like this when I feel a sudden urge to write (I share in the interests of transparency)


and I feel the creativity flee as I slink away for another time when I have a block of time to get the chaos under control.

Last but not least, I have been reading Calvin Miller and feeling like a very small tadpole in a shallow puddle beside an elegant dolphin who flings shining words about in the ocean. I suppose even a very small tadpole might have things to say, but it seems a little presumptuous. Still, I guess I just did that. It felt good. 🙂

Have a great week, my friends.

State of Affairs

  • State of the blog: So I suddenly realize that it isn’t June anymore. Actually, I noticed that it is past mid-July and I haven’t written anything besides a daily sentence or two in my diary. If it weren’t for that, in future one might assume we went dormant for a month in the year of twenty-sixteen.
  • State of the homeschool: Last year we had our first day of school on July 16. I am a duck out of water here, okay, but not totally okay, if you know what I mean. I cannot scrape up even a modicum of enthusiasm for the pond that is school and books, even though it is simmering in the back of my mind that I really must dive in very soon. I bought paint for the schoolroom and I organized the new books on shelves. That is all. We don’t have a single new pencil in the house. All of them are ground down to little nubs and the copier paper is gone, down to a teeny stack in the printer. All this means back to school sales and stocking up, which is actually fun. I will take the troops and roust out the deals and then we will sharpen new Ticonderogas and feel the sap of learning rising.
  • State of the garden: Gasping with gratefulness for the thunderstorm that settled the powdery dry dust last night and greened up all the wilty things. We are in a lull currently. Nothing but Swiss chard, cucumbers, (for fresh eating only. I no longer make pickles. I don’t enjoy it and we hardly eat enough to bother, so I gave myself a permission to skip it.) And we are awash in raspberries. It is a very good kind of flood. I am flash freezing them on cookie sheets and putting them in gallon bags, literally. We are fondly waiting for the first vine-ripened tomatoes and when that happens, we will be at the pinnacle of summer. Oh yeah, I forgot zucchini.
  • State of the house: You don’t really want to know, but in the interest of humble honesty, it’s not so great. We live outside and trail dirty bare feet across the floors and all the places could use a scrub, especially the windows. The little girls’ room did get a facelift last week because someone who likes to pick at things had peeled a huge circle of paint off the wall. They have wanted purple for a long time. I tried to gently steer them to more neutral colors in the paint chips aisle, but finally caved and bought “lilac bouquet”. After I started rolling it on, I wasn’t sure I could handle it so I decided to do an accent wall with yellow to break it up and my sister-in-law helped me paint bubbles on the yellow wall in exchange for a bucket of raspberries. We added some wall stickers from good old Wally World and their floral/polka dot bedspreads work just fine, seeing as we have all the colors going on anyway. yellow wallwalmart decalscurtainI let my inner child loose on the curtain and warned the girls that any picking of yellow bobbles or new paint will be prosecuted. I might just mention that I did not Pinterest this room project. I winged it. That might explain a few things, but my girls are thrilled and they thank me every day for their purple room. So, as Ma Ingalls said, “All’s well that ends well.”
  • State of the schedule: Normal. Busy is normal, yes? Events stacked up, picnics, impromptu swimming parties, VBS for the children, inspirational mom-webinars that get shared with friends over iced coffee. I completely lose track of what day of the week it is pretty often. I am pretty sure today was Sunday although not like normal people’s Sunday since my husband had to work. That means tomorrow will be Monday, and that means laundry, but from there on I am not sure. I have to consult my calendar. Seriously. But it is fine because:
  • State of the body: Healthy. Blessed. Two teeth fixed and no more dentist appointments for a year. Stouter than strictly necessary, but not going to let that ruin my day. (Anybody want some homemade ice cream with those raspberries?)
  • State of my mom’s health: Lots of you know my mom and will rejoice that she is improving daily. It was pretty much six solid weeks of infirmity and debilitating pain before she started to gain ground. She is puttering in her house and kitchen again and looking as positively as she can at the long haul of recovery from Lyme disease, which ended up being the dastardly culprit behind all the neurological symptoms. We thank God for healing, and for healthcare professionals who pour out themselves to help along the healing.
  • State of the soul: Wanting to get fatter, but definitely not as lean as earlier this summer. It is a known fact that feeding the souls of others, specifically my children, requires reserves in my own soul. I learn slowly, but I do learn. I think. And Grace is so… kind. I feel keenly the kindness of God, the “daily loading of benefits”. I want to share them. I don’t want to keep them all in my own cellar. Here, children, have some goodness today, and you are welcome.
  • State of the bookshelf: Well, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich on audio is hard going. I have been working on it for a very long time and am only halfway through the 50 plus hours of narration, at the point where Germany is bullying Poland around. I only get the high points. It is a tedious history with very many footnotes and quotes. But there are some striking impressions. I didn’t know that the German people voted Hitler into power. He promised to make their country great again, to bring back economic prosperity at all costs. Enough people had this as a top priority, so that he came into his position as dictator at least sort of legally. There was plenty of weirdness going on behind the scenes, but the people did really want what he was promoting. Unless they were Jews, of course. And the propaganda fed to the public was just ridiculous. It is interesting to draw comparisons in an election year in America. :/ To offset this heaviness, I just finished reading the Princess Bride which is definitely  the most amusing thing I have read in a long time. The author is extremely clever. It is fantasy, so if you don’t like when things don’t totally make sense, this is not the book for you. To offset the frivolity, I have been reading Philippians again and again. “Finally.” I have been looking up all the times Paul said that in his letters. He seemed to condense his last bits of advice at the end, kind of like mothers say, “Now be good and don’t forget to thank the hostess for the food and help with any chores they have,” as their children go out the door for an afternoon at a friend’s house. The Philippians “finally” is so simple and profound.

 Philippians 4:8  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

This week I want the God of Peace with me.


QOTD: I leave you with a quote from one little girl at VBS, leaning over to my little girl and whispering conspiratorially while the teacher is reading the story, “Shall we pick our scabs?”

The Only Way a Towel Can Kill You

At the advent of swimming season this year I considered my options for sanity and decided that one way I could save on a lot of laundry would be to buy each child a vastly different print of beach towel so that there can be no question of whose is whose. If you are wrapped in the one with gaudy pineapples and it belongs to your sister, you are out of line. Yours has palm trees. Even the most absent minded can remember that, even though you apparently cannot remember that white bath sheets do not ever go to the pond bank, not even when Mama isn’t looking. What’s more, I can tell at a glance who hasn’t hung up their towel to dry because there are no hibiscus flowers on the line.

There was a day of intermittent showers and sunshine, the kind of day where raindrops just squirted out of the sky with little warning. The children had a blast dancing through the puddles and wiping out in the grass. I looked on indulgently because this is a rite of childhood, after all.

Suddenly everybody was chilly. The beach towels, one for each child, their assigned towel to take care of and hang up to dry after every wet episode… Well, they were all either hanging on the clothesline or sprawled across our canoe trailer from the swim in the lake the night before. Five bath towels got handed out and everybody dried off. I failed to make sure that all these towels got hung on hooks. They didn’t. After all, we have plenty of floor for towel disposal and I, the mother, was retreating for an hour to read and relax behind a locked door.

There was a knock on the door. “It quit raining! May we go swimming in the pond? It’s really warm. We checked. Please???” All five scampered off, little ones dragging life jackets and what was that I saw draped around their necks? MORE TOWELS? Clean bathroom towels for drying off from the pond? But the beach towels, one for each child, their assigned towel to take care of and hang up to dry… They were undeniably wet from hanging on the line during the rain.

I sighed and gave it up. The only way this can kill you, lady, is if you knuckle under and let it smother you, after all. I saw myself, one feeble arm reaching out from a mountain of soggy terry cloth. “Help!”

No, I am tougher than that. I would remain chill about it.

An hour later they all trooped up on the deck. “We’re cold! Can we have baths?”


Life on a Loop

Notice that I did not say life in the loop, because I am so busy running  faithfully in my own space that I hardly have time to stay informed as to the world at large. The hamster wheel was spinning dizzily this morning as I pedaled along full tilt, doing laundry loads and checking tests and quizzes and filing them in 4 separate portfolios. I had brewed the very last of my coffee beans from Honduras, taking special care to press them exactly the way they should be pressed and it was the fragrant coffee of dreams. Of course, one cannot sort laundry while cradling a mug, so I set it on my desk until that task was done. When I pulled out a teacher’s book, I nipped the edge of that mug and there went my coffee, my beautiful coffee, all over the tests and quizzes.

A few frantic minutes of mopping and draping of papers over the edge of the trash can later, and I could at least check them well enough to give my sons credit for their grades even if those particular tests won’t be filed. Then I remembered that I had saved the last cup of coffee for Gabe who was still sleeping after his long night shift and didn’t need it anyway.  I went for a refill. Right there I made a strategic mistake: I used the same mug. It is pretty and green and has a leaf imprint, but it has this weirdly tapered round bottom that should be illegal. This time I set it on my sewing table while I did some mending on garments that were cycling through the laundry in a disreputable state. I picked up a pair of pants, and there went that stupid coffee mug again.

I know. I don’t let my children use that word, but sometimes under extreme provocation… There were no more refills. If I weren’t so frugal I would take that mug out and smash it on some rocks just for fun. I wonder if that would feel better than saying “stupid”.


I keep doing this loopy stuff. On Sunday I couldn’t seem to quit driving to church. I was already struggling a bit with daylight saving time, getting the family dressed up nicely by myself since it was Gabe’s day to work. (You need to go brush your hair, Buddy. And clean your ears. Yes, I know nobody cares about your ears, but go wash them anyway. Do you know your Sunday school verses? Let’s practice while I do your hair. What? You don’t want a bun? Okay, your turn, Olivia. What? You want two braids? Sorry, that takes too long. I will make you two braids tomorrow. Alex, can you help Addy put on her good shoes? etc. etc. etc.) We had fellowship meal food all ready: a special layer cake Alex had decorated with yellow marshmallow Peeps and a crock pot of Taco Chicken. I was combing the last little girl’s hair and called out to Alex to take the cake out to the Suburban and load up everybody else. I twisted an elastic on the wispy little ponytail, sent the small girl outside and whisked the crock pot and my purse off the counter. We were actually going to get to church before the singing started. I felt a little proud of this feat, especially since my little girls even had socks on, not just bare feet in boots.

As we pulled in at church, Alex gasped, “The cake! Did you bring the cake?” Well no. I didn’t. It’s only 3 miles, so we u-turned  and went back to get it. If I hadn’t forgotten my phone, I could have texted Gabe to bring it when he got up. He had been mandated to stay at work longer the night before due to short staffing, so he hadn’t gotten home until 4:30 AM.  We got the cake and the phone. After church I texted him about bringing a plate of food home and he said sure, but he had to leave again soon for his next shift. I hurried the children away from their friends, and took that plate of food home, hoping we could visit a little before he was off for another 12 hour shift. Alas, he was sitting in the car, ready to leave when we got home. There was no time for anything but a quick kiss and a food hand-over.

Then Alex said, “Um, I forgot the cake plate again.” And everybody clamored, “Can we go back and play for a while?” So we did. We went to church again for the cake plate. I found a circle of friends and sat there and visited for another hour. And I ate a piece of my friend’s marvelous lemon raspberry cake (yes, the same friend who made the salted caramel shortbread bars last month) with cream cheese icing. I needed that bit of fortifying and endorphin-boosting.

I ordered some pantry-organizing Tupperware for my mom’s birthday weeks before her February birthday, but didn’t actually receive it until this week. I had bought a lovely card that I was saving to give with her gift. Meanwhile my desk got conscripted into a poster making project for a safety fair at the hospital and the card disappeared without a trace. I settled for a generic one and gave my mom her present. Two hours later I found the card that I had been scouring the entire premises for. I don’t know what to tell you. The really scary thing is that all these items should be/always live “right there”.

But remember that journaling Bible I lost before Christmas? I found that  while I was looking for the card. And my phone charger turned up just recently too, after Gabe had borrowed it and mislaid it. That too, was something we had searched for with diligence. Again, I don’t know how to explain this stuff. If you were to come to my house, I think you would consider me a reasonably orderly person. We do have Alzheimer’s in the family and that is too frightening a prospect to even consider. So I am letting my brain off the loop and I am going to walk in the woods and laugh hysterically whenever I feel like it. Take that, hamster wheel.


(Just for your information, if you want to enter for the giveaway I posted last time, you have until noon tomorrow. Go ahead, don’t be shy.)


7 Spring-Madnesses to Try

I just amused myself with a lame click-bait title. Hardy-har. Yesterday my Facebook feed offered me the worst one yet: 15 Reasons You Should Give Your Dog Coconut Oil. I am sorry, but this is just preposterous on so many levels. Who has time to research and write about the urgent health benefits of coconut oil for dogs? Who has money to spend on coconut oil for dogs?? What’s next? 5 steps to teach your dog oil pulling? There was a photo of a dog licking out of a squat little container of the really pricey stuff and I just giggled and did NOT click on it.

March has been gorgeous, gorgeous, warm and balmy! This is my season. I roll around in it, figuratively speaking, of course. My children do it quite literally and when they are done in the bathtub, there is a layer of silt on the bottom. I get back energy that I forgot about, and no, I didn’t start drinking Plexus recently. It’s my built in solar panel booting up the systems for an all-outdoors bash. I did a few things in the last week that made me feel really alive again.

  1. I sat in brilliant sunshine to eat lunch. Outside. In bare feet. And I had chocolate covered strawberries too.
  2. I saw a Craftsy project that I really wanted to do, but I didn’t want to spend $20 on their kit, so I bought a whole bunch of gorgeous fabric and trims and buttons for $16 and made it myself, trial and error.
  3. I sewed more than one project with the fabric: a petal-skirt dress for my smallest flower, and some pretties I will show you tomorrow. And then I will give one away to one of you.
  4. I pruned the grapevines and raspberries, pulling all the weeds that had flourished and died out over the winter. Then I asked Facebook if anyone local wants the extra raspberry plants and the first ones to reply were from North Carolina and Ohio and Georgia. I may need to do an instructive post on the meaning of “local”.
  5. I treated those plants to composted horse poo and I enjoyed doing it. I thought to myself, “Goodness, I am turning into my mother!” when I remembered how she would haul barrows full of poo from the barnyard to the flower beds while we children went EWWW.
  6. I trimmed my lavender hedge that lines the stone walkway to the backyard. A lavender hedge is romantic and lovely when abloom, but requires rather more maintenance than I knew before I planted it. Have you ever spent a therapeutic hour plucking maple leaves out of twiggy stems? At least it is fragrant work.
  7. I tilled down the cover crop in the kitchen garden, so that I can plant peas by St. Patty’s Day. That is my hope. I could have planted yesterday already by the condition of the soil. We are Zone 6, folks! It would definitely have been an early record for me, but I remembered the fiasco last year, how our peas didn’t germinate because we hadn’t killed the cover crop first.

I told you it has been amazing and warm. That is some of the reason why I dropped off the face of blogdom again this March. Also, after I have scratched out 28 posts in February, I feel a bit dry, so I just sink into it for a while and get all private. One thing that perplexes me and even makes me feel a little queasy is this: who am I actually writing to? Who is my target audience? Am I writing to homeschoolers? Maybe to their children, who I have been told read my stuff. What about the men? Yikes. I am suppressing all my birth stories for their sakes. Well, not quite. What if I write something insensitive to someone who is hurting? What if I write something unflattering about someone and they recognize themselves? What if I want to write a childhood story about a girl at church who had halitosis and she ends up reading it? It’s just this bit of paralysis that strikes occasionally and I realize I am taking this way, way too seriously. But I gave myself a break.

I will tell you a secret. When I get stuck like that, I write to Becca, my sister-in-law who was first my friend before she married my brother. She is the one who kept telling me to blog and she “gets” me and encourages me, so I just told her my 7 Spring-Madnesses to Try and I am saving a bunch of raspberry roots for her, even if she lives in North Carolina.

Brain Dump

My assignment for today is to try to set up a plan for a regular feature on the blog. It’s a good idea, really, but I don’t have any idea how to narrow down the options. What if I don’t feel Wacky or Wordless on Wednesday? Suppose Thursday slips by without a Throwback? Maybe Sunday Salute won’t work every weekend.

That’s why they gave the assignment: impulse bloggers like me, who wait to write until the words swarm, are supposed to get a bit of structure and discipline so that people can count on a regular post. We are supposed to have posts ready ahead of time and scheduled to publish whether we are online or not. That’s what serious writers do as a courtesy to their audience. Sometimes I don’t even have a clue what will be for dinner on Wacky Wednesday and I just start stirring around in the fridge until something pops out. I could probably learn to do the same with writing if I had a little help. Here are some examples.

  1. Stream of Consciousness Saturday
  2. What’s Underneath?
  3. Sweet and Sappy Stories
  4. Making of a Mom
  5. Day in the Life… of someone..?
  6. Homeschool Highlights
  7. Routines for Rest
  8. Growing Goodness
  9. The Dish on Dieting
  10. Best Books to Buy

Okay, see my problem? I can’t think of anything catchy or clever enough to hit me between the eyes. Besides, I am running out of steam here. I feel like a chicken that has laid 24 eggs in rapid succession. That’s where your help comes in. Please, tell me what you would like to see as a regular feature. I will set out a list and you can give me votes or suggestions. I won’t make any promises, but it would help me. Don’t bother with number 9. It was a joke.

Wonderful Wordsday

I have been writing from my little girls’ vantage point, but there I will stop. It’s one thing to post an occasional humorous bit about adolescence and a whole other thing to write an entire post about it. 🙂 My oldest son has said, “Mama, please don’t write about me on your blog. Total strangers have come to me at church and said, ‘Hey, I recognize you from your mom’s blog!’ and that is embarrassing!”

As we all know if we have any memory at all, one’s entire early-teen life is fuel for embarrassment. Having “Happy birthday” sung at fellowship meal is enough to make one wish to disappear. I am striving to be respectful to my boys and there I draw the curtain. I level with them when I want to post potentially incriminating details before I hit publish. This idea of handing them the spotlight for a day would never pass their filters for what is okay to write.

Once I met the daughter of Dorcas Smucker from Life in the Shoe. I have read her blog for years, so of course, I recognized her daughter immediately when she visited a friend at our church. I said those infamous words, “Hey, I think I recognize you…” and she finished for me with a little sigh, “…oh yeah, you probably read my mom’s blog.” Mrs. Smucker says she paid her children for especially good stories that begged to be told. That’s an idea, and one I may try on my easily embarrassed offspring in the future.

Today’s prompt for a post was to pick out some great words that are not really common and tell why you think they are interesting. I learned a few new words recently. The first is “blego” which is a blogger’s sense of importance online. I squirm with the suggestion of narcissism implied by blego and think maybe I would be a lot better off being completely anonymous. I would have name assignments for my children like First Son and Third Daughter and I could call my husband Sig-Other or something slightly more original than Hubby Dear. That would spare us any repercussions from too much blego, don’t you think?

I also learned about “digital dieting” which is a necessity ever since there is documentation that internet addiction exists and complicates people’s lives. A digital diet is when people limit their screen time and go for long walks to reconnect with nature, or force themselves to eat out without taking a single foodie photo to post on Instagram.


Last on my list of wonderful new words is one we all know we have needed for a long time. After all, “okay” is so generic, so unsatisfactory to convey the subtleties of layers of meanings we need to convey. So I think I will just go to bed now, mmkay?

How to Clean Your House in One Hour

cats cleaning, color(source)

The house was a wreck. I am hardened to mess, but this? It was what my mom would have called a Royal Mess. The sun was shining outside and I knew I needed to harness the man-power before it disappeared out the door. My strategy was a simple cleaning blitz, which is what we do when somebody calls and says they would like to stop by in a little while. It’s all hands on deck swooshing away toys and marching shoes to closets. It’s fast and looks great, though not totally thorough, if you know what I mean.

We had six rooms on the main floor to contend with and six people to be contenders. I divided us into three teams. Alex got the little sister who adores him unequivocally. I got the little girl who tends to sit and sigh despairingly at the sheer scope of what she is being asked to do. The two middles got each other and a kitchen with a lot of problems.

“Okay, guys, we have one hour before the sanitation officer comes! Let’s be done by then.” Dividing the huge chunk of picking up and putting away is the best motivation I know for staving off disheartenment. Even so my helper kept languishing and had to be encouraged with itty bitty jobs, one at a time. The middles very diplomatically divided the kitchen work and churned through it in record time. Alex’s team was done first, sitting on the couch with books long before the rest of us were ready for inspection.

Each person then got to inspect one room and the persons responsible for any problem spots had to accept the critique without fuss and fix the issue. I liked this way, because I always end up being the impossibly picky sanitation officer and now they got a chance to do it. They were quite detailed in their inspections. Even one of my rooms didn’t pass.

Lest you think it was all peaches and cream, I should mention the child weeping because her teammate made the bed with wrinkles and he walked off in disgust because she wouldn’t tell him what was wrong. The team that was done first had toys stashed in corners and coloring pages behind the couch. And some of the things went into drawers and cupboards where they definitely do not belong. Also, you shouldn’t go down to the basement. But that is one way to do it-clean your house in one hour.