Thursday, October 13, 2011

Purging and Procrastinating

I do not like housework. I like to cook, bake, even iron clothes, when my house is clean & tidy, and above all QUIET. Which pretty much never happens. I still make an effort to cook and bake when I can muster the fortitude, because the payoff is so worth it! I do love food. But then, I do not like housework. And cooking and baking have the unfortunate side effect of creating more of it.

Another blogger mentioned amongst her radical purging that she kept only enough dishes and utensils for one meal, and enough clothes for 7 days. Although I have considered such measures for clothes, it never occurred for me to do the same with dishes! I usually thank God I have so many dishes, so I can get through a whole day of meals (and then some, depending on the meals and who is home) without having to do dishes. But after sitting crusted with food from breakfast until late evening, cereal bowls get harder to clean. Forcing myself to use fewer dishes in a day - what a fantastic idea! I feel all pumped to do some purging, but first I need to wash the dishes that are currently dirty.

I also badly need to purge the kids' clothes (they have more than they will ever wear!), but first I need to wash all the clothes that are currently dirty. And I desperately need to purge my mismatching tupperware pieces! But first I need to find, wash and sort the tupperware that is currently dirty.

So, to help me get ready to purge our unnecessary belongings, I think I'll spend the afternoon looking for quotes from Molly Maid and competitors. ;) I need help.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How Much For Groceries?

I must confess I have been doing much more blog reading than blog writing! One of the many blogs I have been sporadically following made the following comment on budgeting for groceries:

"If you are on a particularly tight budget, it is realistic to spend $100-$150 per family member for the month."

The author also noted that this includes toiletries, diapers, etc. as needed. So, for our family of 6, not counting the 3-4 times a week we are feeding an extra 2 people, we should be spending... $600-$900?? I realize that this is highly subjective depending on what area you live, cost of food, etc., but this blog post was from July 2008! Here we are in 2011, and when I spend $600 a month for groceries, we are definitely over budget! Is my budget unreasonable? I do cook at least a few meals a week from scratch, and I don't buy pre-made meals. My "fast-food" dinners are things like hotdogs or spaghetti. I also have 3 kids in diapers (one almost done toilet training) and one still on formula.

Let me ask you, how much do you spend on groceries per month? How many people are in your family? Are there special reasons why you would spend significantly more or less? Why do you spend the amount you do?

Monday, July 4, 2011


I came across a great blog last week, on a side trip from I'm An Organizing Junkie, of a mom who describes herself as a slob on a journey of de-slobification. She talks about her difficulty maintaining (isn't that always the kicker) a clean home, and how her ability to see/solve/be-motivated-to-tackle small to medium size messes differs from what she calls "normal people". This strikes a chord with me, even though I have been doing fairly well with keeping my kitchen and dining room in order and nearly keeping up with the laundry recently.

The fact is, my poor husband grew up with a normal mom whose house was always neat and clean, except perhaps for brief interludes in a particular room when her kids were playing indoors. Andrew naturally enjoys order, and notices when things are NOT in order. This is not to say that he always picks up after himself (after all, he was the only boy in a good Dutch family with four girls - he had many things done for him) but I must admit that his own tendency to tidyness has slipped slightly since sharing a matrimonial home with me.

It's inevitable, really, when you live with a slob, that one starts to lose a proper perspective on a "clean" house. In fact, the state of our home has been the primary source of any ongoing arguments in our marriage. There have been pleas, raised voices, recriminations and tears over towels on the bathroom floor, no clean clothes, yesterday's dishes on the table, last week's pot on the stove... and while I have worked hard to make improvements in my housekeeping skills, there is always inevitably a time when the house is yet again an embarrassing mess.

So Nony's de-slobification blog is inspiring me to add some small steps to my routine - or maybe, simply to have a routine! - that will slowly build "normal" cleanliness as a habit and eventually turn even this messy mommy into a competent housekeeper.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Learning In Every Form

Today I am in Belleville taking a course on therapeutic relationships and the effects of complex trauma. I find that no matter how much study, research, and real-life experience one is exposed to, there is always something more you can learn or improve upon. Sometimes when I am in the position of being taught by someone recognized as an authority, I find myself interposing my own values and philosophies and questioning a lot of what I am being taught. Do you? Is this a bad thing?

I have heard quite a lot of people say that it is wrong or disrespectful to question authority, but I think I disagree. We should take hold of what anyone tells us (in person, in writing, or through whatever medium) and turn it over, examine it closely, critique it, take it apart and assimilate what is true and useful, then discard or store away the rest. In doing so, we take ownership of what we know and believe, and can better appropriate / apply it to our own circumstances.

In this case I am learning a lot of psychology and child development theories that conflict with my own deeply held convictions and start from a completely different worldview, but still I am finding truths and strategies that are incredibly useful for my success in parenting and relationships. I believe in absolute truth, and truth can be found in many places. We know that the most deceptive errors are those that contain some truth, and if we can clearly discern where the error lies we can still recognize and glean the grains of truth from those things.

My encouragement, then, is to search for truth wherever it can be found. Be open to learning something new and useful even from sources that are less than ideal. After all, a prophet named Balaam once received a divine message from an ass. Seek wisdom, love learning, discern truth.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Beautiful Abundance

Our family has grown so quickly over the last three and a half years that most days feel like a little corner of chaos. My three youngest children are in diapers, and my two oldest are excessively hormonal teenagers! We are in the midst of renovations to add space for another child, and my darling husband is trying hard to balance two different jobs with the demands of our family life.

Yesterday, notwithstanding the usual chaos, I had my most enjoyable Mothers' Day yet. In the morning I had Cheerios and Earl Grey tea in bed, while I read my favourite blogs and enjoyed a half hour of quiet time. After church I had a lovely and relaxing visit with my mom-in-law and sisters-in-law while the children played outside, and later we enjoyed a walk around our quiet neighbourhood in beautiful sunshine before a quick leftover dinner and bed. After the children were asleep I laid down for a catnap and then played a game on the computer for a little while, and my husband brought me a McD's late-night snack. What a treat! Each of my girls (and each of my mothers!) made me feel loved and appreciated, and my sweetheart really stepped up to the plate to take on the responsibilities of childcare and chores so I could enjoy an easy day.

For many people our family life would be overwhelming. Not many would wish to take on three children under the age of 4, let alone the demands of foster care and the added mess of renovations, but for me each of these have been very rewarding. My little ones tell me every day how much they love me, my older girls are each proving what a difference a loving family structure can make, and our new basement is looking fantastic (not to mention increasing the value of our home). I am learning by trial and error how to manage a household and to keep order in our home. I am learning how to be wise, self-controlled, and resilient. Somehow I doubt that a "normal" life - having 2.5 children and working outside the home - would have these kinds of results. Thank God for the beautiful, chaotic abundance we have in our home and our hearts!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Perfecting The Perfectionist

Anyone who has known me for a long time can tell you I'm FAR from perfect. I'm messy, disorganized, chaotic, spontaneously irrational, a procrastinator, and frequently just plain lazy. I yell when I'm angry, I am inconsistent, and my housekeeping skills are poor. I don't take time every day to enjoy my children. I binge on fatty, salty, and / or sugary foods when I'm stressed or depressed. I don't intentionally exercise. I speak before I think. I don't keep in touch with friends and family. I don't take enough care of myself. And, I'm not very humble. ;)

As it happens, I also have a lot of great qualities, which I prefer to focus on. Sometimes though, every one of us sees (or reads / hears about) someone out there who succeeds in all the areas we fail. Maybe it's a blogger mom who is super organized with an orderly house and great time management skills. Maybe it's a friend who has the perfect marriage (whatever that means to you). Or maybe it's just someone in your family who sticks to budgets, saves their money, and has paid off their mortgage. Do you, like me, sometimes feel discouraged by these paradigms of domestic virtue? Do you feel like you will never measure up? Let me share a few words of wisdom that have encouraged me.

First, get a proper perspective. You can only see other people's lives from the outside, while you have an insider's knowledge of all the down and dirty parts of your own. Each person has their own struggles and weaknesses, I assure you. This goes along with the old adage, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Or, as the late great Erma Bombeck humourously put it, the grass is always greener over the septic bed.

Next, ask yourself if you are comparing apples to apples. The couple who have their mortgage paid off and are debt free may be phenomenal money managers, or they may simply have had 15 years longer to get established. Too often couples with young families feel like they are poor if they don't have the same standard of living as their parents' generation. The reality is that the older generation has had more time to pay off debts and save money, especially once their children became independent. Here is another example: Your mother-in-law may be the best housekeeper that ever lived, but was she so proficient when she was your age, with children underfoot? (Unfortunately mine was, so that excuse doesn't work for me!)

Remember that lasting change takes time. If you want to be a better spouse, parent, homemaker, employee or whatever, set realistic goals and identify small steps you can take on the way to achieving them. I want to highlight realistic goals, because too often those of us with perfectionist tendencies can get caught up in the "best or bust" mindset. It is so tempting to just give up when you set goals that you know or suspect you cannot reach, or if you expect perfection and experience a minor setback. Celebrate every small step as getting you that much closer to your destination. Know when to say "good enough for now."

We are ALL far from perfect. All of us are also valuable. We are worthwhile. I believe God made each one of us - you and me - as entirely unique individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses, each for a very special purpose. I may not know the whole purpose of my life, but I can discover parts of it in each day: to love my family, to cheer someone who is sad, to encourage someone who is despairing, to celebrate Truth, to give glory to God. Don't be chained by your limitations. Know that what seems impossible to you is entirely possible to God, even perfecting the perfectionist.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

By Request

Hello dear readers! It has been several months since I last posted on this blog, since the life of a large family has consumed much of my time and resources. From time to time I have thought of The Happy Domestic blog, as issues have come up on which I felt I had something of value to say or share, but mostly these have been shelved for a more opportune time.

In recent days, however, I have had a number of people ask me when I will put up another post, and tell me that they miss reading my day-in-the-life stories, encouragement, and recipes. So, dear readers, I will try to set aside some regular time (weekly, perhaps) to blog about things that I hope will be helpful or humourous for you to enjoy.

Stay tuned to get the latest on some great new recipes that I have discovered, and some life lessons I have learned in the last year! I look forward to renewing my creative outlets here, on The Happy Domestic.