Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Yarn Along: Storyformed Addition

Yes, I'm knitting and reading on vacation too.  I'm working my way through the books I got from the Mom Heart Conference, many of them written by members of the Clarkson family.  The book I went through quickly this last week was Caught up in a Story.  This is written by the eldest Clarkson girl, who is a talented literary critic, and she is currently studying at Oxford.  I have other books by Sarah, and I have heard her speak before (she's fantastic).  So keep in mind, this review is coming from a fangirl.  My children love every book she has ever recommend that I give them, and Silje will now read any book I hand her without hesitation when I tell her "Sarah said this one was good."

As an educator, I love how she explains the importance of stories on brain development in a child.  It's easy to see that math and science are important for job security or technology.  However, she talks about how stories, and music and art form the brain of a child in a way that science cannot.  If we teach a child that the only thing that can be trusted are facts that can be proven, and things they can touch and feel and explain, then we are limiting them indeed.  There must be fairytales.  There must be legend.  One must also teach a child to wonder, to imagine how big or grand, or awe-inspiring something can be if they are to ever believe in a God.  They must understand that they are not unconnected, and that every life is a part of a story.  Cultures are always steeped in stories, and eliminating stories as well as the arts, is virtually limiting the foundational thinking of that culture from the psyche.  Her explanation of how stories actually form a child's brain how to think is worth reading the book in itself.  But there is more.

In our little homeschool, Silje and I have been studying elements of a story: exposition, rising action, crisis, falling action, and denouement.  All major stories follow this flow, and Sarah takes this basic premise, and applies it to the life of a child.  Children go through these phases of a story, and need stories to walk them through.

Drawing from her own life, and the lives of stellar authors like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, among others, she talks about how stories helped her sort through various circumstances in her Christian walk.  Each chapter is based on one of these elements of story, how it applies to a child's life, and at the end of each chapter, she makes suggestions for books that would help a child through this story-phase of their life.

These suggestions are not organized and thorough like her book Read for the Heart, so don't expect extensive book lists.  If that is what you want, get her other book.  She tries to limit each chapter to 10 suggestions at the end, though you can tell she struggles to limit herself to a number that low.

People I think would enjoy this book:
-adults who are well read
-adults who wish they were well read
-parents who are looking for guidance in choosing children's literature
-parents who are looking for inspiration to make literature a part of their children's life
-parents who don't care what their kids read
-every educator
-literary buffs
-non-literary buffs who need enlightenment

Granted, I got my degree in literature.  Sarah Clarkson is preaching to the choir with me.  Her passion and knowledge for how literature shapes the lives of kids, though, is so exciting.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sunny Skies

After much preparation, we packed up everyone and headed out to visit my family down in Arizona and California.  We have traditionally driven down in the 2 day (15 hours each) drive, but last year we skipped it as I didn't think I could make the trip with my bad neck, and the year before was especially bad with 3 of the kids getting sick on the way down.  This year we finally bit the bullet and flew us all down, even though it required we drive 3 hours to a cheaper airport.  While the 3 1/2 hour flight beat 2 long days driving for sure, it wasn't a piece of cake either.

Ingrid and David had the toughest time, but the rest of the kids were pretty good troopers.  Solveig kept telling me.  "I'm not afraid of heights.  I like looking outside."  When we landed, I instinctively put my hand across Ingrid, and I think the landing startled her so bad that once we slowed down and I put my hand down, she grabbed it and put it back on her tummy just in case it happened again.

We are here now, though.  My neck is in bad shape.  Handling the kids along with Knut, and just sitting for so long which hurts, was rough.  Actually, at baggage claim once we landed, I was feeling nauseous from the pain, and sat in a pile of coats and backpacks.  Knut took the kids over to get the checked bags.  One by one he brought the ornery, overtired ones back to my pile of stuff, and after a few minutes, I was sitting with my head in my hands, on a pile of stuff, surrounded by 3 kids who skipped naps and were over an hour past their bedtime, screaming, and Knut and 2 other kids (Silje and Elias) were helping him haul the rest of the bags over to us.  We had drawn quite a crowd at that point, of people chuckling about how tough it is to fly with kids, and a very nice service man loaded up all our bags on his cart and brought it out to the drive-up for us where we were to meet my parents.  Really, we encountered only friendly people who were delighted to see kids running around the whole trip.  Even business men, would pull out their phones and show us pictures of their kids they were missing.  That made me happy that our crazy brood was welcome everywhere.  In the past I remember getting glaring looks whenever we brought an infant with us on a plane.  It wasn't so this time.

It is so good to be "home" though.  This morning I woke up feeling better, and the kid have been having fun being at Grammy and Papa's house.  I'm taking it easy.  The kids absolutely love not having to wear coats.  When taking into account wind chills back home, it's nearly 100 degrees warmer here.  Well, not today actually.  It's the coldest day today for the trip, being in the low 60s.  It will soon be much warmer.  My mom is trying to bundle my kids for this cold spell, which they find funny.

My mom got each of the kids a blank notebook and a bunch of scrapbook supplies so they can document their fun vacation.  They're really having fun with that.

David is having the toughest time, not understanding the lack of wide open spaces, and wanting to run and run, and not having quite enough back yard to suit the speed of his legs.  Thank goodness for parks!  I'm looking into getting adjusted while I'm down here, as I'm still hurting from the trip down, and honestly a little nervous about flying back already.  I need to not think about that right now.  Right now we have some lovely days with my parents and grandparents, and then we're driving to San Diego to visit my sister and her family by their new home just a few short miles from the beach.

Then we will visit my brother out in Los Angeles, who has a very special surprise for them that is so secret, that I shouldn't even blog about it.  We'll also see some dear friends of ours, and then head back to my parents for some rest before we head home.

As a mom of 5 kids, I'm loving so much being "mothered" by my mommy.  I have missed not being here.  My kids felt at home instantly (even little Ingrid), even though they hadn't been here in 2 years.    My mom is showing them pictures of my brother and sister and I and they are all getting so much attention.  My Papa (wonderful step-dad) had to work a bit today, and David has been anxiously waiting for him to come home so they could play chess.  Papa was his original chess teacher, and I have a feeling there will be dozens of games before we make the next leg of our journey.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Yarn Along

The knitting for the "Norsk Cloak" as I'm starting to call this pattern is still coming along.  It's quite a huge piece, so thankfully this will be a nice project to just keep going on for awhile so my brain can focus on other things.  I have the color work portion memorized now, so it's easy to just pick it up whenever.

I'm finishing up Own Your Life though you'll probably still be seeing it in my Yarn Along posts for awhile because I feel compelled to read it again, this time with a pen for underlining.  I meant to underline as I went this last time, but never seemed to have one available.  There's just so much in here that I want to sink in, that I don't think I'm done with this one yet.

I am also doing some finishing work for my Plucky Yarn pullover sweater design which will be called "NĂ¥de."  It is inspired by one of the family heirloom baptismal gowns my kids wore.  It's so close to being done, it will soon be in my "for goodness' sake get this edited and published!" pile in no time.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along, and joining other bloggers as we share what we are knitting and reading this week.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet Faces

It's been quite the weekend with Knut being gone at his big ski race in Wisconsin, and even my in-laws (emergency babysitters!) were out of town on a retreat as well.  I fed the kids waffles, which is usually reserved for special occasions.  Maybe I was just trying to cover up the vulnerableness and anxiety of being alone with some sort of "let's party!" attitude portrayed to the kids.  It worked.  

Actually, David is strong enough to do most of Knut's chores around the house, and that's been a big relief to both Knut and I when he is away.  It eases up my burdens quite a bit when I don't have to worry about hauling firewood into the house or lift large, heavy buckets of corn for our corn-burning stove in the basement, or shovel snow off of the driveway.  All those things get David really excited.  He's just built for that sort of thing.  Silje was also a huge help, and we had some great talks this weekend as we were stuck inside due to the extreme colds.

Unfortunately, Solveig and Ingrid both had fevers yesterday, (a few days after these pictures were taken).  They were a low grade, all day sort of thing.  I'm hoping they will be over it soon.  I have to admit, that if I have to deal with sickness in the house, the snuggly kind like this is the best kind to get.  It's not the best for productivity, but it is great for hibernation.

Knut got back last night.  It was a hard race for him this year, and he's pretty sore.  There is so much to be done this week, I'm trying not to get overwhelmed by it, or dream up what I'll do if this sickness works it's way through everyone.

I'll get back to my writings on rest soon.  In the mean time, I'm going to try to work on prioritizing what needs to get done in my house.  Sick kiddos change everything.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Quest for Clean

So I've mentioned a few times my quest this year to just have a better handle on housework.  I know with 5 kids home all the time, it's not going to be perfect.  I just want the feeling of drowning to go away.

Throughout this process of focusing my attention to housekeeping, I'm realizing there is an "art" side to it, and a "craft" side to it.  The Hidden Art of Homemaking is a beautiful book by Edith Schaeffer.  It talks about how to be intentional in creating beauty in your home and within the context of home.  I'm so inspired by this side of homemaking.  It's not about scrubbing toilets.  It's about arranging flowers and leaving love notes for your kids, and bringing out your fine linens and putting a small vase on a tray when bringing it out to a homeless man asking for a meal on your porch.  It's about crafting an atmosphere, a space that reflects the beauty and grace of God.  If you are a homemaker, you must read this book.  It will make you see your job so differently.

But like painting, acting, photography, writing and knitting for that matter, there is a craft side to the art.  There's a way to do it right, and do it well.  The craft is the structure on which the art is built.

I've also mentioned that I am not naturally tidy.  I don't like crumbs and sticky stuff, and usually address that first.  But piles of junk?  That's pretty common with me.  I lack in the structure side of homemaking.  Many of my friends pointed me in the direction of "Fly Lady."  It doesn't cost anything, it's just a cleaning schedule that you can do to rotate all the jobs in your house.  Over the course of a month, everything gets clean.

If you go to the website, you can sign up for email accountability, and to be honest, the website is a bit confusing.  I could start at the baby steps, but I just felt that was more for someone who wasn't in the habit of cleaning at all.  I was cleaning all the time but felt like I was spinning my wheels and not going anywhere.  I didn't need to get in the habit of cleaning, I needed a plan, or direction for my cleaning.

I spent about 2 evenings just exploring the site.  There were things I liked: the cleaning zones.  I liked that you focus on deep cleaning areas of your house every week.  I also liked the morning and evening routines.  It sounded very doable.

There were things that didn't fit us perfectly, and really no system will fit 2 households perfectly.  For instance, she suggest that you do one load of laundry a day to stay on top of it.

Haha.  That's cute.

If I did one load of laundry a day, we'd get behind in a hurry.  Also, the zones only address 1 bathroom and we have 2.  It names a living room as a zone, but leaves out family room and finished basement.  The other complaint I've read is that it doesn't give jobs for various people in the family jobs.  I like her explanation of that.  She says that if you want something clean, you need to take initiative, and not just stare at it wishing someone else would do it.  I like that.  Knut does many chores, but most of them take place outside the house.  He does do dishes and scrubs things down from time to time, which is nice.  But he's not home all day to keep it clean.  I am.  I live in the mess, and I need to take a hold of it.

The other issue I had with the system is that we're not just a family that can tidy up the house, and go to work/school, and come back to a clean house.  My house is very lived in.  People are always here.  Messes are continually being made.  Keeping a house this lived in clean requires constant cleaning, not just a few times a day.  The system definitely needed tweaking for a large family that's always home.  The bones of the system are good.  It just needed some customization for us.

As I was 1 week into her baby steps, one of my friends posted about an app that coordinated with Fly Lady.  It's called Home Routine by Wunderbear.  It does cost $5, but in comparison with how much it helps me, I'd say it's worth it.  I went ahead and got it.  I'm so in love with this app.  I was able to delete jobs that just don't apply to our house, such as "wipe down bench" since we don't have a bench.  I was able to add jobs, so that I could check off vacuuming each living area, or sinks in both bathrooms.  I was able to custom make the Fly Lady system for my house, and the specific needs of my house.

As far as spreading out the duties, it's pretty simple.  After every meal the kids and I do chores.  I would just look at the list on the phone, and hand out duties, taking the bulk for myself.  It's just nice to have a plan that I don't have to think about.  When one of my kids says "what's my chore?" I don't have to look around the house and see what needs to get done.  I just look and see what's next on the list.  That doesn't mean I don't look around and change it when necessary, it just means that when my brain is overloaded, I have something to base jobs on without much thought.

I have noticed that the first month was hardest because there was some jobs listed that had quite a built up of junk to go through.  I started back in December, and I'm now on my 3rd month going through the house zones.  It's so much faster now.  The frequency of the rotation has actually made the build up less, and the jobs faster.  I'm liking that.  I did fall off the bandwagon for about a week, the but I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't push me back that far.  I had already over a month of foundation of keeping things clean that it took me no more than half a day to get myself back on track.

The app (which was created with the Fly Lady system in mind, but is not endorsed by Fly Lady that I know of) has morning chores, evening chores, a list of things to be done for the zone of that week, as well as a weekly list.  It also has a timer built into the app.  For instance, I customized the morning chores to look like this:

(It's not done in any particular order.)
-Get dressed
-Start washing machine
-Check calendar
-Breakfast dishes
-15 minutes in focus zone
-Take vitamins
-5 minutes putting out hot spot.

In all honesty, sometimes I don't get through this list until about 3pm.  But it has been getting done, and that's the point.

On a side note, I hate putting devotions on my to do list, most especially next to taking vitamins.  It feels like it's lowering, or lessening it's importance.  It's just that I'm easily distracted, and have a whole army in this house that is working hard to keep me distracted (or at least it feels that way) and this list helps me keep priority things that are important to me.  It's not perfect, but it has been beneficial for actually getting me in the Word.  So it stays.

So when I have a 15 minute opening where the kids are occupied, I pull open my zone list for that week, start the timer, and complete as many things on that list as I can until the alarm sounds.  It's a pretty fantastic alarm too, akin to Dave Ramsey's "We're debt free!" vibe.  You can set alerts to do certain tasks at certain times (for those of us who are easily distracted).  I can then set the timer for 5 minutes and work on the kitchen counter where clutter piles up high nearly hourly.

I think what I like about it is the jobs are so bite sized.  The scale on which I have to clean may be big, but if I just stick with the 15 minute clean ups and 5 minutes putting out the "hotspot" an incredible amount actually gets done.  I can actually do them without feeling like a failure. For someone like me who needs to feel like something is done well, and can never accomplish "clean kitchen" I can handle "wipe down kitchen chairs."

Right now I'm doing the bulk of the "weekly chores" on Saturday.  This works out logically with homeschooling, but has been difficult with my neck and chronic pain.  So many of the chores I have for that day I simply cannot do back to back.  I have relied on the kids a lot on this day, and we work on this list as a team effort, when none of us have to do any school related work.  So far I've only been able to do half the weekly list every Saturday, and the other half on a different Saturday.  However, it's so much better than what I was doing before.

I love that I can just set up the plan in my app, and I don't have to write out a to do list every day.  Scraps of paper left everywhere in my house is now a think of the past, and I don't spend any time writing out the list every morning like I used to.  I used to spend 15-20 minutes every morning (or sometimes the night before) writing out a to do list.  That time is now spent actually cleaning, using a pre-set to do list.

Things I wish were different:

-I wish I could somehow get meal planning coordinated with this to do list.  That's just another big area that I have to juggle.  So far my meal planning still takes place in a 3 ring binder.  I've added "make bread" on my weekly/Saturday list, but I'd love to have more space to move around involving food in this app.

-There is no reminders to de-clutter or get rid of stuff on the app as there is on the Fly Lady website.  I'd love to be decluttering spaces more on a daily basis.  Of course, I could add this into each zone, but I'm not sure I need to declutter that often?  Maybe I should be, but I'm not right now.

-I wish there was another category for afternoon chores.  In our house, I have learned that in order to stay on top of the mess we do a quick clean up after each meal.  It's short...less than 30 minutes.  (I get mine done in about 15 minutes, but the kids work a bit slower than me.  Actually if their attitude is just right they have the ability to drag out the 15 minute chore to 2 hours even somedays.  They're talented like that.  They have learned that they don't like doing that much anymore, though.)  The app only has morning and evening chore lists, as I imagine most families are not at home around lunchtime.  It would really be nice if I could add a list for afternoons.  Right now I just sort of ad lib for our afternoon chores, and have the kids pick up their school books, and we just tidy up the kitchen and fold one load of laundry.

I find myself cleaning up little messes a lot quicker, because I just do it once I'm on a roll cleaning.  The biggest thing I like about this system is it gets me started.  Looking around at a messy house, and knowing  that you can't conquer it but you should get up and try to anyway is incredibly depressing.  But putting small goals in front of me, I start, and often don't stop because it feels so good to make a beautiful space.

I still have to look at it as making a space beautiful, rather than "cleaning it."  The artist in me relies heavily on that inspiration side of "cleaning."

So that is my unbiased, unpaid review of both Fly Lady and the Home Routines app.  I think that both those 2 resources work incredibly well together.  I'm loving it, and I'm allowed to slip up from time to time without falling down in failure.  The kids and I are in much better habits, and although our house is not by any stretch a picture of cleanliness, the stress of the mess is much, much lower.  I don't feel so panicky- out of control about my housework anymore. least not as often.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Yarn Along


I'm still knitting the same thing, and reading the same books. (Pattern my own.  Books: Own Your Life and Nothing to Envy.)

This is how bloggers get writer's block.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February News

So, my kids are attempting to take over my computer.  That accounts for the lack of blogging.  Our television broke, and I made the mistake of showing them a Netflix move on my computer so they'd be quiet for just a few minutes.  Now they think that my big expensive laptop that not even Knut is allowed to touch is theirs.  Come to think of it, Knut takes it over in the evenings and watches Nordic ski races on it after the kids are in bed.

I don't want to get another television, but I seriously need to take back my computer.  I can't get any writing done these days like this.  I saved up my knitting money for this computer 2 years ago, and password protected it so it would be one thing that was just mine and I wouldn't have to share.  I was sick of standing in line in this house to use the computer.  2 years later, I find myself in the exact same situation.

Weird picture of me in my jammies with old slippers.  It's an odd picture, I know, but I haven't been taking many pictures this last week either.  They say blog posts should have visuals.  There ya go.

One of my best friends is in the hospital.  She and her husband went to Chad, Africa a few weeks ago, and she started getting achy and then feverish a few weeks after they got back.  She's been on oxygen, and they're treating her for a range of things that it could be.  They have ruled out several things, but have not pinpointed exactly what it is.  I got to visit her, and I just wanted to take this from her, whatever it is she has.  It is such a helpless feeling, seeing someone you love in pain.  Could I beg some prayers that they would be able to diagnose this, and that she would have a speedy recovery?  I know her husband and 3 little kids miss her at home tremendously.  She is on my mind throughout the day, through all school and chores, etc.

In other, less important news...

We got a new kitchen table this weekend.  Actually, we got it off of a local Facebook buy/sell/swap page for cheap.  It turns out that it was this perfect condition table of an older woman who just had to move into a nursing home, and her daughters were cleaning out her condo.  We can now fit 7 chairs around this table, and that means that Knut or I don't have to stand over the counter to eat, or hold our plates on our lap around the table.  We can all sit together again.  Plus the table is so wide that the kids can't reach to get the food they want.  They have to ask someone to pass it.  I think our table manners have increased 150% in the last 24 hours.

Adding new furniture meant that I had to move around some other furniture.  We moved an old hand-me-down buffet that was in the kitchen to the front entryway just to have a little bit more space for the bigger table.  To move it, I had to empty it out.  If I'm emptying out, I might as well wipe down the insides and put everything back better organized.  Actually this whole thing has started a chain reaction of spring cleaning that I wasn't quite ready to start.  My house looks great because of it, though.  That's happy.

It's happy, but also just one more thing to juggle at the moment.  I'm smiling a lot seeing everything fall into place as to how I've always wanted it arranged in the first place.  It's also got me thinking about refinishing the old buffet  this summer.  The finish on it is in awful condition.  I'm wondering if I should try a chalk paint project with it?  I'll have to start exploring some colors.  I may ask my sister-in-law whose how I visited over the weekend for a baby shower.  Her painted projects are gorgeous, and she pulls colors together in a way I just can't.  I somehow consistently pick colors about 2 shades off from what I want consistently when it comes to paint.

There's lots going on in our house this week.  David will be testing for his next level of Tae Kwon Do belt (don't ask me what color).  Knut his his huge annual ski race this weekend.  He's nervous, like always.  I'm planning on spending my evenings this week actually on my computer and actually finishing all those patterns that have been floating in limbo since before Christmas.  I'm really going to do it  this time.  Promise.  Then maybe I'll have the money to get the kids their own "school" computer.  Then I can have this one back to myself.