7 Quick Takes #53

  1.  I’m not a huge fan of the term “paper pregnancy” (used by some adoptive parents to refer to preparing their dossier), but I can see the analogies right now.  Since we are expecting our USCIS approval–the last document we need for our dossier–to arrive any day now, our paper pregnancy is approaching its due date.  Just like with my actual pregnancies near the due date, every morning I wake up and wonder if this will be the day.  Just like having a bag ready to take to the hospital, I’m packed and ready to drive two hours to get a copy of the approval apostilled.  My emotions are all over the place–nervous anticipation as I wait for the mail to come every day, disappointment when the approval isn’t there, excitement that our dossier will soon be on its way, and frustration with the delay.  We were hoping to send our dossier to Valentine’s country with a family that is traveling this weekend, but it’s too late for us to get it to them in time.  We’ve lost a week now, because the next family is traveling next weekend.  If only I hadn’t missed that one stupid checkbox and the USCIS officer hadn’t missed the sentence that was correctly written in our homestudy, our dossier would be submitted to the government in Valentine’s country by now.
  2.  Early last Saturday, I went on a journey of love.  At 7 am on the first Saturday of each month, I get together with some friends at a local bakery/coffee shop.  I remembered that Don prefers for me to let the engine warm up a bit rather than driving away immediately after starting the car in cold weather, so I sat for a moment before leaving.  As I did so, I remembered the advice a friend’s father offered many years ago–before beginning to drive, place your hand on the steering wheel and say, “Now begins a journey of love.”  Feeling a little silly, I did it.  Then I backed out of the garage and hit the passenger-side rear-view mirror, breaking the plastic around it.  That was not an auspicious start to my journey.  I tried to pull myself together and headed off to meet my friends.  We chatted and laughed and caught up on each other’s lives.  Afterwards, one of my friends sent an e-mail to all of us expressing her gratitude for our get-together.  She had had some family drama over the holidays and hanging out with us was good for her soul.  I realized then that I truly had gone on a journey of love.

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    Clara modeling some clothes she got for Christmas while standing on her favorite present, a plastic slide.

  3.  We stuck with the traditional date (January 6th) and celebrated Epiphany on Saturday.  I made a galette des rois and Simon found the fève (a little ceramic treasure chest that came in a Red Rose tea box), so he was the king for the day.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared enough to have a crown for him (I need to buy a costume crown to keep on hand for these occasions–I always think I can get a paper crown at Burger King but either I forget or they don’t have any, and besides, our family celebrations shouldn’t really be promoting a fast-food restaurant), so King Simon had to wear an imaginary crown.  We took down our Christmas decorations and did a very slightly modified version of this house blessing.  I did the actual chalking while everyone else watched from the window of our dining room because it was something like 4 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 degrees Celsius).
  4.  I have a saint for the year.  Jennifer Fulwiler has a saint’s name generator that will randomly choose a saint for you; she encourages people to use it to choose a saint for the year each year.  I’ve done it a couple times in the past and wasn’t inspired, so I wasn’t planning to do it this year.  However, there was a humorous thread on Facebook where people were posting their saint’s name and their word of the year together as a full name (like John Frolic, Martha Revolution, and Wenceslaus Wink).  I decided to try it for fun. The saint name generator gave me not one, but two saints in a row who were listed as the patron saints for people with Valentine’s medical condition (I stopped after trying it twice–it seemed like it wasn’t playing around and so neither should I).  I did a little research to see which was the more popular saint for Valentine’s condition.  Then I said a novena to him for a smooth and successful adoption process, starting on New Year’s Day.  I also asked for his intervention when dealing with the Request for Evidence we received from USCIS.  I’m confident that, unlike previous years, I won’t forget who my saint of the year is.
  5.  Don and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary on Wednesday.  Twenty years!  How did that happen???  We enjoyed going out for Chinese food, just the two of us, while Peter was at a church event and a friend took care of Simon and Clara.  It was the first time I left Clara with someone other than family and apparently it went well; my friend’s 10-year-old daughter enjoyed entertaining her and even gave her a doll to keep.

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    Clara getting in on the homeschooling action.

  6.  I got a thumb’s up and a “Yeah!” from Peter when I told him that I ordered him the next Life of Fred math book.  Don told me that this kid, who used to throw tantrums over his public school math homework, was telling his friends about his cool math books at his last Boy Scout meeting.  I agonized over the decision of which math program to use with him when we started homeschooling again; clearly, I made the right choice.  I told Peter that I was going to buy the Life of Fred kindergarten-level books for Simon to do over the summer and he immediately asked if he could read them (that’s how entertaining the Life of Fred books are!).
  7.   I’ve given up on the idea of a Valentine’s Day fundraiser.  It seemed like a great idea to do one, capitalizing on the “Valentine” nickname and only for a limited time, but I don’t have the energy to deal with it.  After Christmas and New Year’s and traveling and trying to get back into homeschooling after the holidays and then our anniversary and with two boys’ birthdays coming up in early February, I just don’t have it in me right now.  I already have more things to do than I have time to do them in; I don’t need more on my plate.  We’re expecting to take out a loan for the adoption costs beyond what we already had and what is donated to us; at this point, I’d rather just take out a slightly bigger loan than tackle another project.  We’ll get this adoption paid for one way or another.  If you’d like to help, you can make a US tax-deductible donation to our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account here.

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7 Quick Takes #52


If you’re following along on the story of our process in adopting “Valentine” (the 10-year-old boy from Eastern Europe that we hosted this summer)–there’s news!  But I will keep my quick takes in roughly chronological order so you’ll have to make your way down the list.

  1.  We went 5-pin bowling as a family outing while we were in Ontario.  Don and I both enjoy 5-pin bowling.  We even own our own bowling shoes (I never would have thought when I was growing up that I’d be the kind of person to own bowling shoes), though we rarely wear them.  I don’t know why 5-pin bowling is virtually non-existent in the United States because it’s much superior to 10-pin.  [If you’re not familiar with it, it’s sort of like a cross between 10-pin bowling and the arcade game skee-ball.  The balls are smaller and lighter and don’t have holes for your fingers.  The pins are set up in a V-shape and have different point values–5 points for the head (center) pin, 3 points for the pins on each side of the head pin, and 2 points for the pins on the outside.  You get to bowl three times per frame.  Strikes and spares work the same as in 10-pin.]  We got to wondering about what it would cost to install a 5-pin bowling lane and did some internet searching that evening.  Don found a 5-pin bowling alley with a 3-bedroom apartment above it for sale in a small town in northern Ontario.  We’re not in a position to buy a bowing alley right now, but we had fun dreaming about it for a few days.
  2.  We took advantage of grandparent babysitting.  Don’s parents watched our kids while we went out for an early anniversary dinner (our 20th anniversary is next week).  Then my parents watched them while Don and I went to a Great Lakes Invitational hockey game at the new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.IMG_0583 smallIMG_0580 small
  3.  We enjoyed seeing the Christmas lights and decorations on people’s houses.  We took particular notice of them because few people decorate their houses where we live.  (I read a blog post recently that suggested driving around to look at Christmas lights as a low-cost family activity and I realized that that wouldn’t work here.)  Don’s theory is that it’s because our electricity is so expensive; my theory is that it’s because it’s so cold and snowy that it would be challenging to set up the decorations.
  4.  The discomforts of being away from home reminded me of how good I have it.  My hands smelled different because I was using soap with a different scent.  I had to adjust to sleeping with different pillows.  I didn’t have access to the same foods that I would find in my own pantry or refrigerator.  But when I thought about how many people in the world don’t have adequate sanitation, their own bed, or enough food to eat, I knew that those things weren’t worth complaining about.
  5.  When we arrived home on Tuesday evening, we had mail from USCIS.  Don recently signed up for the new service where the postal service scans our mail and e-mails him pictures of what’s coming, so we actually knew it had been delivered that day before we checked the mailbox.  We were excited because USCIS approval is the last thing we were waiting for to complete our dossier; we’d been waiting for two months and didn’t expect to get a response until mid-January.  However, when we opened it, our hearts sank.  It was a Request for Evidence (RFE), a notice that USCIS needed more information in order to make a decision on our application.  They wanted us to send back a copy of the RFE with a completed copy of page 4 of the 12-page application form and a home study update/amendment addressing our preparation, ability, and willingness to parent a child with special needs.  We despaired, thinking that this would cause such a delay that we wouldn’t be able to get our dossier to Valentine’s country and submitted by February 3rd.  That would mean that we would have to re-do all our medical documents and probably also get new copies of our marriage certificate, adding time and expense to the process.  (All documents must be less than 6 months old when they are submitted.)  Although the trip home was less grueling than the drive down, I was still very tired from being on the road all day and the RFE was unwelcome news.  I decided to say a prayer for God’s help, try to put it out of my mind, and deal with it the next day.
  6.  I got things straightened out with USCIS on Wednesday.  I looked at the application I had sent (I keep copies of everything) and realized that I missed one yes/no checkbox on page 4; it was a fillable PDF so I’m guessing that I double-clicked it and accidentally unchecked it.  I scanned the RFE and sent it to our social worker and the US contact for our adoption facilitation team to ask about the home study update.  Fortunately both were quick to respond and we had a three-way e-mail conversation going on during the day.  It turned out that what USCIS wanted in the home study amendment was already in the home study, so our facilitator suggested calling them.  It took a couple tries, but I talked with the USCIS officer who was filling in for the officer who sent us the RFE and she agreed that the language in the home study was sufficient and no amendment was needed.  Then I asked if I had to send a paper copy of page 4 of the application or if she could take my word for it over the phone and mark my answer down for me.  She said she would review our file, ask her supervisor, and call me back.  After a couple hours of anxious waiting, she called and told me to e-mail the USCIS international adoption unit, explaining the situation and what the answer should be.  She said that as soon as she got the e-mail, she would issue our approval.  Of course, I thanked her and sat right down to send the e-mail as soon as I was off the phone.  I got an acknowledgement from her early Thursday afternoon, so our approval letter should be coming soon!  We should still be able to get our dossier to Valentine’s country in time to get it submitted without having to re-do documents.  I will continue praying for a smooth and successful adoption process.
  7.  Do you have any Valentine’s Day fundraiser ideas?  I’ve been straight-up asking for donations of money rather than trying to sell people things they don’t need or want at inflated prices because I don’t like buying such things.  Plus, I’m busy enough without trying to make a bunch of crafts or fudge or something to sell.  However, since we’re adopting a child with the pseudonym “Valentine,” it seems like I should do something for Valentine’s Day.  If you have any ideas, please share them.

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7 Quick Takes #51

I’m at my in-laws’ house in southwestern Ontario, Canada, trying to get a blog post up before Clara wakes up from her afternoon nap.  Here goes:

  1.  We had a lovely Christmas at home.  Most of the time, we’re visiting family for Christmas, or, when we lived close enough, we did Christmas morning at our house and then left in the afternoon to drive to visit family for the next several days.  We thought it would be a nice, quiet day to enjoy ourselves without having to go anywhere or do a lot of work.  We went to Mass on Christmas Eve and Don even cooked a turkey dinner on Christmas Eve so we just had to heat up leftovers on Christmas Day.IMG_0482 small.JPG
  2.  However, we left on Boxing Day morning (or the day after Christmas, for those not familiar with Canadian/British holidays).  In retrospect, it was a stupid decision.  We didn’t even start wrapping Christmas presents until something like 4:30 pm on Christmas Eve, so we were up late getting everything wrapped and set up.  Christmas Day was fun but busy, with three kids noisily enjoying their new toys.  Then, when we would have rather just spent our evening relaxing, Don and I had to run around packing everything and trying not to forget anything important so we could leave first thing in the morning.  We ended up staying up too late for the second night in a row, which was not a great way to prepare for a very long day of driving.  From our house to my in-laws’ is usually about a 12-hour trip, including stops.  We got a late start, it was snowing, and the road conditions and visibility were bad, so we were going about 40 mph for the first hour.  We made up some time by eating both lunch and dinner in the van (not the easiest thing in the world, especially eating dinner in the dark) and managed to get here around 9 pm.  It was a REALLY LONG day.
  3.  I love my kids, but I don’t enjoy traveling with them.  At least, not the ones who are not yet literate.  Peter can stick his nose in a book and read for hours, so I don’t mind having him on a road trip, but the other two require a lot of attention.  It can be good quality time–Simon and I had fun singing together and I finished reading him My Father’s Dragon (which was Peter’s favorite book when he was in kindergarten so I kept it special for this trip)–but it’s exhausting.IMG_0524 small
  4.   I gave Peter a lump of coal for Christmas.  In my defense, I didn’t know that I was giving him a lump of coal.  Because he’s studying earth science this year, I got him some things from a mineral museum gift shop.  I bought him three mystery bags–brown paper bags with prices marked on them.  You couldn’t see what was in the bags until after you bought them.  One of them contained coal, among other things (including some native copper).
  5.  Clara is a master at fake coughing.  Whenever anyone coughs, she will cough too.  My in-laws’ dog started making barfing noises (though fortunately did not actually barf) and Clara took that as a cue to start coughing.  It cracked me up.IMG_0401 small
  6.  In the spirit of the season, instead of asking for donations towards our adoption expenses, I will point you to the Reece’s Rainbow Miracle of Adoption Christmas Campaign.  The goal is to raise at least $1000 in grants toward the adoption expenses of each of the children selected for the MACC this year.  Please click the link, scroll down, and look at the faces of these children who are waiting for families.  Each one of them deserves a family to love them and help them reach their potential.
  7.  Finally, I know two women who have been widowed in the past two months.  Neither of them could be considered elderly by any stretch of the imagination; one of them has three school-aged children.  Their loss is a painful reminder that we should not take the presence of our loved ones for granted.  In this Christmas season, with its emphasis on family togetherness, let us be mindful of those who are grieving.

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7 Quick Takes #50

I’m back again this week with five quick takes about our adoption of “Valentine” (the 10-year-old boy from Eastern Europe we hosted for the summer) and two more takes to bring it up to the requisite seven.  Again, these aren’t official 7 Quick Takes because Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum isn’t hosting 7QT for Advent, but I’m making the effort anyhow.

We are now on vacation from homeschooling.  Simon was done on Wednesday; Peter needed one more day to wrap up his assignments, so he finished yesterday.  My plan is to start back up the Monday after Epiphany, on January 8th.  We’ll be celebrating Christmas at home but then traveling to visit family, so that will give us some time to relax after we return home before starting up lessons again.  We can all use the break.  Since we’ll be away from home, I’m not promising a post next Friday.

  1.  To stay sane as a parent, I think it helps to appreciate the irony in addition to noticing the beauty.  Case in point: Simon decided to dress up more than usual for church on Sunday.  He looked so handsome that I helped Don pull out a proper photo backdrop so he could take pictures of Simon while I was getting Clara dressed.  Don ended up taking this great shot:IMG_8953 smallThen, when we got to church, I realized that Simon forgot to bring his church shoes, so he had to wear bright blue snow boots with his three-piece suit for the whole Mass.
  2.  We made holiday crafts.  A friend of mine recently posted photos on Facebook of the elaborate gingerbread castle that she and her four children made.  She baked the gingerbread herself; her kids painstakingly assembled the castle and decorated it with candy.  That’s wonderful for them, but I am not in the season of my life for making homemade gingerbread castles.  We made paper snowflakes and I called it a win.
  3.  And now to adoption updates.  First, the bad news.  Valentine’s country just passed a new law, effective December 15th, that international adoptive parents must now wait 30 days, instead of the previous 10 days, after court before taking custody of their adoptive child(ren).  That adds almost three weeks to the adoption process and means that children who have families ready and waiting to take them home must now spend three more weeks of their lives in an orphanage.
  4.  We received the last package of apostilled documents.  With 31 apostilled documents, our dossier is now ready to go except for the USCIS approval, which we expect to receive mid-January.  Here’s what it looks like (the two that don’t match are our FBI clearances, which were apostilled federally; the rest were apostilled by the State of Michigan):Dossier small
  5.  We applied for a passport for Clara.  We haven’t yet made arrangements for our kids when we travel.  We don’t plan to bring Simon to Valentine’s country at all.  We intend to bring Peter for one of the trips, because he’s old enough to appreciate seeing where Valentine comes from.  We disagree on what to do with Clara.  Don wants to leave her, while I’m inclined to bring her with us.  Yes, she’s not the most fun person to travel with, and it would be stressful to bring her.  However, she’s so young that she wouldn’t understand if we disappear (particularly me, since she’s with me practically all the time).  It would stress her out, especially if she’s in a strange environment instead of at home, and that would cause a ton of stress for whoever is caring for her.  I don’t want to traumatize her and I don’t want to make the already-challenging job of caring for our kids in our absence even more difficult for whoever is doing it.  At this point, our compromise was to get her a passport so we have the option to bring her, but no final decision has been made.
  6.  We don’t have Christmas presents for Valentine.  He won’t be home for Christmas.  He won’t be home for his birthday in the spring.  At this point, our rough guess is that he might be home in June.  Nevertheless, as I prepare for Christmas, I think of presents I wish I could give him.  If I could, I would give him a watch, so he could continue to practice telling time (something we were working on over the summer).  I would give him a pair of ice skates and a hockey stick because he really wanted to try playing hockey, though I doubt he’s ever been on skates before.  An electric toothbrush may not be an exciting present, but both Peter and Simon have one, so I wouldn’t want Valentine to be left out.  Every time I see something for sale with a Batman logo, I think of him, since he loved superheroes.  I’m not a huge superhero fan, but I would get him a water bottle or some pajamas or something with a superhero logo.  Of course, the most important gifts I wish I could give him are not ones that can be put in a box and wrapped up–the gift of unconditional love, the gift of family, the gift of belonging.  He doesn’t even know that we are working to adopt him.  He may dream of being adopted, but he doesn’t know that he can look forward to it and anticipate it really happening.
  7.  Our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account is now at $2931.  As always, we are incredibly grateful that people care enough about Valentine to help with the expenses involved in getting him out of his orphanage and into our family, where we feel he belongs.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and in case I don’t happen to post next week, Happy New Year too!

Taking a week off

I am going to break my streak of writing 7 Quick Takes Friday posts.  It’s been a rough week, and the last day has been particularly tiring.  Here are some highlights; I’m sure you’ll understand why I don’t want to put in the effort to write a full-blown 7QT post today.

10:40 pm–went to bed, a little later than I wanted but the earliest I went to bed all week (too many important things keeping me up–grocery shopping on Monday, putting together paperwork for the homeschool partnership program on Tuesday because it was due Wednesday and they just finally acknowledged on Tuesday afternoon that they lost the paperwork that I turned in back in August that I had been asking and asking about, and finishing our Christmas shopping on Wednesday)

11:00 pm–Clara woke up before I fell asleep; she had been feeling under the weather

midnight–I gave up trying to get Clara to sleep in her crib and decided to try sleeping with her in the bed in her room

1:30 am–after many alternations between sleeping briefly and screaming uncontrollably, Clara puked on herself, me, and the bed

~3:00 am–I finally fell asleep, after putting the puke laundry in to wash and settling in with Clara on the couch in the living room

7:00 am–Simon came downstairs and woke us up

8:30 am–I put Simon and Clara in for a bath

8:35 am–Clara pooped in the bath, prompting me to drain and clean the tub and start over again

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This cute bath picture belies the drama.

And so it goes.  Ah, the joy of parenthood!  I hope to have a regular post next week.

7 Quick Takes #49

Welcome to another week’s notes on our family life, including an update on our adoption process for “Valentine” (not his real name), the 10-year-old orphan from Eastern Europe that we hosted last summer (though it’s not particularly exciting news).

This isn’t an official 7 Quick Takes because Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum isn’t hosting 7QT for Advent, but I’m in the habit of writing weekly and I don’t want to fall off the bandwagon.

  1.  We’ve nearly made it through the first week of Advent.  As in years past, we have our Advent wreath set up and we’re singing a verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” before dinner instead of our usual grace.  This year, for the first time, we’re doing the Holy Heroes Advent Adventure–a free, low-prep daily program aimed at kids ages 5 to 12 (perfect, as I’m doing them with a 5-year-old and a 12-year-old).  We got a lot out of the Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure so we were all excited to start the Advent version, and it hasn’t disappointed us.  Although we don’t do all of their suggested activities, both my boys enjoy the videos and we’re doing a paper Jesse tree on our living room wall.  We are all learning from our participation.
  2.  Advent is a time of waiting, of hopeful expectation.  For all three of my children, I was pregnant during Advent, waiting for the child growing inside me to be born.  Now we are in the adoption process during Advent, waiting for all the paperwork to be complete so we can travel and meet Valentine again, waiting for everything to be done so we can bring him home with us.  The Advent experience is enhanced when you’re waiting for a child to join your family.
  3.  We celebrated Saint Nicholas Day on Wednesday.  It’s another of those little holidays that are fun to add in; we celebrated it last year but I think that was our first year.  Even Clara got candies in one of her little shoes; she enjoyed sucking on the candy cane (which I held onto for safety and to prevent a sticky mess).  Simon was thrilled with the gold-foil-covered chocolate coins.  I used to get them in my Christmas stocking as a kid and I didn’t care much for them, but at least now I understand why they are traditional (the story is that Saint Nicholas threw bags of money through a poor widower’s window at night so that his three daughters could have dowries to get married, and the money landed in their shoes that were set out to dry by the fire).
  4.  Winter has arrived.  Although we got a good dump of snow at the end of October, most of November was remarkably mild for around here and the majority of the snow melted.  I savored the ease of getting around while it lasted, knowing it wouldn’t be for too long.  A winter storm hit here Monday night, bringing snow and high winds, and causing school to be cancelled Tuesday and Wednesday.  We’ve had a good amount of snow every day since.  Peter was not happy that homeschool lessons weren’t cancelled too, even though I reminded him of the many times that he hasn’t had lessons when school was in session (the most obvious being that we start our homeschool year a week after the public schools start and that he went to his grandparents’ house for a week in October).  I can’t say I’m thrilled to be clomping through snowdrifts in my big black winter boots again.
  5.  We’re still adjusting to a one-nap-a-day schedule for Clara.  Unfortunately, Peter’s band class at the middle school starts at 1:44, which is when Clara ought to be napping.  When she was napping twice a day, I was dropping Peter off early, around 1 o’clock, and he was hanging out in the library until it was time for his class.  However, if she doesn’t nap in the morning, she’s too tired to make it home without falling asleep, and then it’s iffy whether or not she’ll go back to sleep after I carry her inside (especially with icy wind whipping her in the face between the garage and the house–I can see the appeal of having an attached garage).  Peter already doesn’t get home until around 4:30; with certain lessons that he needs to do at home and with lunch, it just doesn’t seem very do-able to drop him off even earlier.  So instead, I’ve been putting Clara down for a nap around 10:45 so she can get a couple hours of sleep before we take Peter to school, leaving here around 1:15 to get him there about 1:30 (with a little fudge time so he’s not late if the roads are bad).  That means that Clara sleeps through lunchtime, so I need to feed her after we get home from dropping Peter off, which means she’s eating lunch around 2 o’clock (I do give her a snack before we go).  Having to feed Clara when we get home has messed up doing lessons with Simon in the afternoon.  Then on Fridays, the boys have swimming lessons at 11:30, and on Sundays, Mass is at 10:30, so she can’t nap on a consistent schedule all week.  The whole situation is not ideal, but I don’t know how else to make it work (other than pulling Peter out of band, but I don’t want to do that to him).
  6.  In adoption news, yesterday we received ten apostilled documents in the mail.  It took three and a half weeks from when I mailed them to Lansing until we got them back.  We’re waiting for a second package of apostilled documents that we sent just after Thanksgiving; presumably we should have them by Christmas.  Once we have those, the only thing we will need to complete our dossier is a notarized, apostilled copy of our USCIS approval (we’re not expecting to receive the approval until January).  Once we get the USCIS approval, we’re planning to drive two hours to a state office where we can walk in to get it apostilled the same day so we can get our dossier to Valentine’s country without any further delay.
  7.  In this season of giving, if you feel moved to donate towards our adoption, it would be much appreciated.  Donations to our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship account are US tax-deductible.  We currently have $2640 in our account–it’s such a wonderful feeling to see our account grow and know that friends, family, and even strangers are supporting us in this endeavor.  A gift of any amount qualifies you to contribute a picture to our Hearts for Valentine photo collage poster.

Thanks for reading!

I will be the first to admit that I am not a master of time management.  Yet, over the years that I have been a stay-at-home mom, I have learned a few things and developed some systems that work for me, which I will now share in case they might be useful for someone else.

  1.  I have a short list of what I call my “core areas”: dinner, dishes, laundry, lessons.  I run through this list in my mind at various times during the day to remind myself what needs to be done.  I figure that if I keep up with these tasks reasonably well, I’m doing all right.  Everything else around the house gets done either when I notice that it needs doing or when we have company coming over.  Trying to schedule chores like cleaning the bathrooms or mopping the floor just ends up stressing me out when they don’t get done.
  2.  The “dinner” category includes everything related to food–making a weekly meal plan, putting together a grocery list, actually going shopping, making lunches, and preparing dinners.  I have a spreadsheet with lists of food that we like in various categories (soups, meatless, chicken, etc) that I refer to for inspiration when I plan meals.  During the week, I try to look a day or two ahead at my meal plan so I remember to do things like pulling chicken out of the freezer to defrost or starting a crock pot meal in the morning.  I only plan meals for Monday through Friday; Don usually takes care of weekend dinners.
  3.  I don’t think I have anything inspiring to say about dishes.  Fortunately, we have a dishwasher.  (Once upon a time, we didn’t, and I was very grateful when God gave us one.)  We load dirty dishes into the dishwasher as we create them and run it when it gets full.  The designated dishwasher-emptier for the week unloads it when the dishes are clean.  Stuff that doesn’t go in the dishwasher piles up on the counter next to the sink, waiting to be hand-washed.  Even if I don’t have time to do all the dishes, I may wash a few of the larger items so that the pile doesn’t take over the counter.  Sometimes Don washes a few dishes while he’s waiting for something else in the kitchen, sometimes I deal with them, and sometimes I assign them to Peter as a chore.  If all the dishes get washed and the counter is clear at some point during the day, I consider that a success.
  4.  Laundry is an ongoing process.  We have two laundry baskets in the hall outside our bedrooms for everyone to put their dirty clothes into.  Colored clothes go in the green basket and whites go in the white basket.  When a basket gets full, I tote it downstairs to the laundry room.  Ideally, each load gets washed, dried, folded, and put away in one day, but in reality, I often have one or more baskets of clean clothes sitting on my bedroom floor waiting to be folded (I keep an extra laundry basket in the laundry room that I pull out when necessary).  Generally, I fold clothes while kneeling on the floor in my bedroom, making piles of clean clothes around me, grouped by family member.  When I am able to fold clothes with no kids around, I enjoy listening to podcasts, which makes the laundry-folding almost fun.
  5.  “Lessons” means homeschooling during the week, and prep on the weekend.  With my more flexible approach to scheduling this year (mentioned in this post I wrote about why this will be the best year of homeschooling yet), prepping on the weekend for the upcoming school week doesn’t take long (except for watching the training DVDs for Peter’s writing program, but I don’t have to watch them every week and I only need to watch them this year because it’s our first year using IEW).  Overall, I probably keep up the best with the “lessons” part of “dinner, dishes, laundry, lessons” because I prioritize my children’s education over having clean pots and folded underwear.
  6.  Establishing a morning routine has been helpful.  When we hosted “Valentine” (the 10-year-old boy from Eastern Europe that we are now in the process of adopting) this summer, I made a morning routine visual schedule for all three boys and posted it on the side of our refrigerator.  With clip-art illustrations, it’s easy for even non-readers and non-English-speakers to understand, and I can just point at it to remind kids to stay on track.  Tasks to be completed are: eat breakfast (which implies cleaning up afterwards), vitamins/medicine, get dressed, put pajamas in your dresser or the laundry basket (Simon has a habit of leaving them on the floor), brush teeth, comb hair, and unload the dishwasher or clean the kitchen/dining room floor if it’s your week (we rotate weekly between setting/clearing the table, cleaning the floor, and unloading the dishwasher).  During the week, I wake the boys up at 7:30 if they’re not up already.  They have until 9 o’clock to finish their morning routine, or else they lose 10 minutes of time playing on the Wii (which they can make up by doing an extra chore, if they choose).  If they finish their morning routine early, they have free time until 9.  On the weekends or days off of homeschooling, the timing is more flexible, but the same tasks need to get done.
    Morning routine

    The current version of our morning routine visual schedule.

    Chore wheel

    Our chore wheel showing who has which chore for the week.  I made it by attaching a large paper plate and a small paper plate with a brass fastener.  The outside wheel with the names rotates clockwise one spot each Sunday morning.  I originally made it for the three boys, then I took over Valentine’s spot when he left at the end of the summer.

  7.  Finally, I make sure to have some leisure time.  Years ago, I read Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog post on having the courage to rest.  When she sat down and tried to schedule out everything she wanted to get done, she realized that it simply wasn’t possible.  She needed to stop and rest, even if everything wasn’t done.  That message stuck with me.  I work hard every day.  Being a stay-at-home mom is way more than an 8-to-5 job.  But after the kids are in bed in the evening, even if there are dishes piled up or clean laundry is waiting to be folded, I take a break.  I need a little time to check out Facebook or watch Stephen Colbert with Don (we record it and watch it a day late so we don’t have to stay up).  These things help me stay sane.  I’ve been trying to make Sunday something closer to a day of rest.  I can’t take the day completely off of work, but I do try to make it different from the rest of the week more than just going to Mass in the morning.  I’ve designated Sunday as my day to get caught up with e-mails to family and friends.  Keeping up my relationships with those I care about is a rewarding way to start my week.

You can find more 7 Quick Takes here:


[Why this post instead of my usual assortment of 7 Quick Takes?  Yesterday evening, Clara and I went to a lovely Advent tea at a friend’s church.  We sat at a beautifully decorated table, ate too many treats, chatted with tablemates (or at least I did, while she tried to put cookie crumbs down my shirt), then went into the sanctuary for an Advent program with readings and singing.  Clara demonstrated her newly-developed walking skills for those sitting in the back (she just started walking on Saturday) while I watched her to make sure she didn’t get lost or cause too much of a distraction (to other people than me).  By the time we got home, I got her to bed, and got Simon to bed (both considerably later than usual), the thought of writing my 7 Quick Takes for the week had completely slipped my mind.  I didn’t have any notes from the week and I did have this draft, so I put this together on Friday morning while Simon and/or Clara interrupted me at least every five minutes and while trying to keep Peter somewhat on track with his schoolwork.  I am fully aware of the irony of writing about time management while doing a pretty lousy job of it.  Anyhow, there’s no new news on the adoption front and I hope to be back with my usual variety of notes about family life next week.]