Monday, June 20, 2011

Ten Years Ago This Month

Ten years ago this month, our niece and nephew moved in with us, and our family has never been the same. :) 

For ten years, I have tried to fulfill the "mom" role in their lives.

I've tried to teach them about fashion.

I've tried to teach them about modesty and about biblical manhood/womanhood.

I've tried to make dental hygiene a priority.

I've tried to encourage them to stand out in a crowd and not try to be like everyone else.

I've taught them to have good table manners... always stay clean and neat...

...and to never fall for practical jokes.

I require total attention to schoolwork...

...and I've also tried to encourage an interest in politics, particularly during the historic event of the election of President Obama.

And last but not least, I require that the children at least TRY to get along.

**You may want to click on the pictures for a larger view of them!**

And on a more serious note, I'd just like to say that it has been a blessing to have the privilege of mothering these two. God knew that they would need me when their mother walked out... and that I would need them years later when my son moved out. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

31 Days to Clean... Day Five

You can find all previous "31 Days to Clean" posts here!

Today's Mary Challenge:

Come up with a list of priorities that make sense for you and your family (I suggest rating them, 1-5, to evaluate how you're doing).

I have yet to do this one! I put it off that day in order to wait until I had enough time to really put some thought into it, and now I just keep forgetting to go back and spend some time on it! I'll try to remember to post a revised blog post on this once I've done the challenge.

Today's Martha Challenge:

Kitchen - Wash your window treatments and/or clean your blinds. Wash the inside of your windows.

31 Days to Clean... Day Four

You can find all previous "31 Days to Clean" posts here!

Day Four's lesson was about creating a home where people feel free to just relax and "put their feet up." My favorite thought of this lesson was: 
"Cleaning isn't just about scrubbing floors, making beds, and clearing out clutter (although those are good things), it's also about creating an environment that encourages people to feel welcomed [and] loved."
It also talked about how most people know what it feels like to enter a home that is just too perfect; a home that feels untouchable. I personally don't know if I've ever actually been in such a home, but I can certainly imagine that feeling. On the flip side,I have been in some homes in my life that were so dirty (I'm talking about filthy homes, not homes that are cluttered, or just haven't had a good cleaning lately. HUGE difference!) that it's impossible to feel comfortable. So I can imagine that homes on both ends of the spectrum could give visitors an uncomfortable feeling. A happy balance is definitely the key! 

However, I don't believe AT ALL that visitors can only be happy in a clean home. I don't think I'll ever forget the time that a man from our former church invited us over for lunch after church, completely on the spur of the moment. His wife didn't even realize that he had asked us until we were all leaving the parking lot to drive to their house, which was about three minutes away from the church. (Now, I can't say for sure what was said in that car during the three minute drive, but if she was upset, she deserves an award for the world's best actress, because NEVER did I sense an upset vibe from her at all.)

This was the first time we had ever visited their home. We got there, walked in the door, and... WOW! When I say that every inch of the living room and hallway was covered with toys and clothes and miscellaneous items, I'm not exaggerating at all. I know from personal experience that if anyone had walked into MY home while looking like that, I would have been mortified. And, in fact, I would probably have done whatever it took to keep anyone from coming in! But they led us into their house without batting an eye. The wife started pulling some individual serving size containers of leftovers out of the refrigerator and telling us of our options for lunch. And never once did she or her husband say a word about the state of their house. No "please excuse the mess" or "I have to warn you about how messy our house is"... no nothing! 

It was awesome. :) I can't really put it into words, but that experience really taught me a lot that day. I learned the value of putting hospitality and fellowship before your own pride...and I learned the importance of obeying God rather than fearing men. I also learned to have more of a "this too shall pass" attitude.  

Today's Mary Challenge:

Invite over a friend and allow them to "put their feet up." Don't worry about making everything just right; instead, enjoy their company.

Today's Martha Challenge - Kitchen:

Clean your oven and microwave. Try putting slices of lemon in a bowl of water and microwaving for 2-3 minutes; the steam will loosen up food particles. Don't forget to wash the exteriors!

31 Days to Clean...Day Three

You can find all previous "31 Days to Clean" posts here!

Today is my seventh day of working through the book 31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way. It's really been a helpful book! Although I made a decision to focus on the Mary challenges, rather than both the Mary challenges and the Martha challenges. I have bigger fish to fry during this month off of school; namely, a couple of big household projects, as well as studying different ways of saving money on grocery shopping. So my focus really needs to be on those things right now.

One last thing about this book: I think this would be a great book to re-read every single month. At the very least, it would be a good way to stay motivated and stay focused on the goal of a clean and organized home. And if you're a person who needs (or prefers) to have someone else telling you what cleaning task you should be doing that day, this would be great for that. I already have cleaning routines written out for all various scenarios (daily, weekly, monthly, twice yearly, etc.), so I don't necessarily need the cleaning task assignments each day, but what I do need, and have been getting from this book, is motivation to work on better time management skills.

Ok, so here's what I have failed to post in the past week! I'll post each day separately.

Day Three

Today's Mary Challenge:

Ask your family what makes them feel the most loved when it comes for you caring for your home - ask them to be specific so that you can begin (or continue) to give life to your domain.

This question was met by blank stares. When I pushed my nephew to try to think of something (anything!), he gave me a classic answer: "When you tend to my every need." haha!

Although the asking of the question went nowhere fast, after putting some thought into it, I was able to come up with some ideas, based on my own observations. If your family can't answer this question, don't be discouraged! You probably know your family members well enough to at least take at least an educated guess. 

My own educated guesses: I can tell that my husband is happiest when he has clean clothes, his own food supply (he is something of a health fanatic and doesn't eat with the rest of us), and a clean cooking area. So if I were to answer this question for him, I would say that he feels most loved when his laundry has been kept up, the groceries have been purchased on a regular basis, the dishes are kept up, and the sink/stove area is uncluttered.

I can tell that my brother-in-law is happiest when the kids and I do things to make things easier or a little more relaxing for him. He feels a large amount of stress when he is running around trying to get ready in the mornings, or any time when he feels like his hands are full and/or feels crowded and/or feels like he's running late... whether it's him getting ready for work, or ready to go to bed. So if I were to answer this question for him, I would say that he feels most loved when the house is picked up, and his family is helping him to accomplish things that are stressful to him. For instance, making his lunch for him the night before, getting his lunch out in the morning and gathering the things that he needs to take to work that day, and making sure that there's no clutter, etc that would cause him unnecessary stress as he tries to get ready in time.

And as for the kids, I think it's pretty basic. They are most happy when we stay on a good cleaning schedule, because when we keep on a good schedule, it allows us to have free time. :) As opposed to falling into the trap that I so easily fall into... I start working on a big project. The house falls down around me. The kids and I then have to work for two days straight on cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, and everything else that has been neglected, and then we all start feeling like we haven't had any down time in months! So if I were to answer this question for them, I would say that they feel most loved when I am feeling good about the state of the house, and when we aren't having to run ourselves ragged trying to get caught back up.

Today's Martha Challenge - Kitchen:
Dust tops of refrigerator, cabinets, and shelves. Clean and shine the outsides of drawers and cabinets.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

31 Days to Clean... Day Two

You can find all previous "31 Days to Clean" posts here!

Today's Mary Challenge:

Start looking at your domain as something to make come alive! What can you do today to bring life to your home, your children, your husband, and your sphere of influence?

Hmmmm. Well, this doesn't have much to do with the cleanliness or organization of my home, but for me I think my answer has to be relationships and attitudes. My relationship with God, my relationship with each member of my home, and my attitude can make or break my family. The opposite of life is death. So if I let any of these relationships become sick or die, or if I wound others with my attitude or my tongue, I am doing the opposite of bringing life to my family.

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. Proverbs 14:1

So this is a good reminder to me to not get so caught up with cleaning and organizing my home that I end up (a) neglecting my time with God, (b) neglecting relationships with each family member, and (c) not controlling my attitude and tongue.

Today's Martha Challenge:

Kitchen - Clean out and scrub down the refrigerator and freezer. Try using 2 tablespoons of baking soda per 1 quart hot water to wash interiors.

Well, since today is Sunday and we have church and family obligations, I'll be putting this one off until tomorrow. However, may I say that this is quite timely!!! Be afraid of my refrigerator. Be very afraid!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

31 Days to Clean... Day One

I recently received a free copy of the e-book 31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way. I realized the other day that this was perfect timing, because the kids and I finished our school year yesterday, and we have exactly 31 days until our next year of school starts! (We do nine weeks on and four weeks off, year round.) So my hope is that by the time we start back to school, I will have a firm housecleaning schedule that is part of our daily routine, and that I will have accomplished several household projects that really need to be done! As I mentioned to a few people recently, May 22nd was my one-year anniversary of being home full time... and my house STILL isn't clean! (Ok, it's clean today, but it wasn't clean on the actual anniversary date.) :)

So today was Day One. And true to form, I am finally tackling this at 11:00 at night! In this book, each day has a "Martha Challenge" and a "Mary Challenge". 

Today's Mary Challenge:

Identify specific reasons you want to make your home a haven, and then complete a mission statement based on those reasons. 

  • I want my home to be a haven because my home should be a haven. You should enjoy coming home! The saying "Home Sweet Home" should really be true. I can say from personal experience that it is awfully depressing to come home to a messy home. I have been heard walking in the door and announcing "Home Sweet Trashpit" more times than I would care to admit! I have really stayed on top of the housecleaning this past week, and the mood of me and the kids this week has reflected it. It makes a huge difference (at least to me) for us to start our day with a house that is already in shape, as opposed to working around messes... or spending all day straightening up the house instead of being able to accomplish other things... or to have the luxury of not needing to accomplish anything at all!
  • I want to be able to enjoy company, rather than being disgusted with the state of my house...or worse: being irritated by unexpected visitors. Unexpected visitors can be a delight when your house is in order, and can be a fright when your house is a mess! :)
  • I want to keep the stress level down in our house. By most people's standards, our house is too small for our family, since we have one person sleeping on the couch. To us, it's pretty much just right (there were six of us in the house for seven years, so in comparison, having just five of us for the past almost-three years has seemed down right roomy!), BUT the doorways get rather stressful. A common phrase heard in our kitchen doorway from a certain adult member of the family is, "Doorways are meant to walk through, not stand in!" :) All five of us in the kitchen at the same time (generally when I'm trying to put away groceries, and everyone else has swarmed to the kitchen to see what food we have) could cause major coronary failure. So there are definitely areas of the house that tend to be more stressful than others, and if you add messy rooms to the mix, it's just a disaster waiting to happen.
  • Some people seem to be able to function well in disorganization (or worse), but I am not one of those people. I get easily frustrated, so life goes a lot more smoothly for me (and those who have to live with me!) when things are organized.
  • Lastly, I want to run my house, rather than letting my house run me.   
In summary, I want to maintain a clean and organized home so that I and those I live with can enjoy coming home, being at home, and having other people in our home.  

Today's Martha Challenge:

Look over all of the Martha challenges in this book and make a list of any supplies you need to get - organizing supplies, cleaning supplies, etc.
Luke 10:38-42Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.