Saturday, August 27, 2011

It's Good to Be Back

So... THIS is the sewing room...

We've been in our house for almost a month and a half now. The boxes have been unpacked since week 2 or 3, and we've already had 10 or 11 overnight guests and many more dinner guests.

What has taken much longer is getting into a regular routine and making time for sewing. I've owed projects to people since spring, but our move really did set me back quite a bit. Now that school has started for us & I have our schedules ironed out, I've purchased some sewing time for myself.

A while ago, I posted "before" photos of the sewing room, followed by photos of Caelyn, who ended up being the first to use it. I can now begin to make up for lost time.

This nursing "bib" (as I like to call it) is for a friend whose baby was born around the time of our move. Sadly, I wasn't able to make it before our transition, and that friend has already received a cover from someone else. Still, I wanted to keep my word; so now she'll have a back-up "bib" for travel.

I felt super guilty for making my sweet friend wait so long for the nursing bib, so I decided to throw in a couple of bonus items:

A reversible baby bonnet, from this tutorial

An embroidered burp cloth

All of this was made possible by my two new favorite tools:

Quick Turn tool (for turning fabric tubes right-side-out) (Fabulous! Nigh miraculous!), and OLFA Rotary Circle Cutter
The best things since the Vita-Mix

It's good to be back in the sewing room again. Now I can begin to check off that pesky list of "owed" projects, as well as some brainstorms that keep me awake at night.

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Town Square

The big girls spent the day north of the city today with friends, so I loaded up G, G, and CG, and went for a special outing. (It sounds like I have little children, doesn't it?)

After a quick lunch at Cafe Express, we walked to Town Square for a history mini-lesson.

I love that the ground is covered with a general overview of local history. It was so hot, and the children were longing to sit in the shade; but I made them read every word.

Having just lived here a little over two months, I can agree with Mr. Austin's quote above.
(But whom am I kidding? Ha! We're the Wandering Whitlocks! I'm sure our adventures will carry us to new territory in the future.)

Graham spent most of the outing seeking shade.

G & G next to Stephen Austin

Craig Grayson was having a Skype conversation with my mom on my phone.

Gabriela wants me to clarify that she was not intentionally posing. 

Imagine being a slave and not knowing until later that you had been set free...

They endured until the end! It was very fascinating, but they were ready to get out of the sun. Thankfully, Starbucks is right across the street.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

[Necessity ÷ (Time x Tasks x 7)] + Initiative = Organization

I like to live by lists; but after another major relocation (3 in under 3 years!), I've been remiss in making & keeping up with lists.

I own a few books on organization, and I follow a few blogs that provide ample inspiration to get my act together.
Genetically speaking, I'm Wally's daughter, so it's safe to say that God has fully equipped me to be thoroughly organized.

But alas!
I've had to regain the discipline necessary to take initiative in this crucial aspect of homemaking/homeschooling.

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and my desire for order and sanity has made it necessary for me to (finally) get everyone into their right places throughout the day so we may again begin to measure progress.
Therefore, I have re-invented the proverbial wheel, so to speak, by bringing together some older and some not-so-old methods of corralling my family & tackling household jobs.

Something that takes the lion's share of our day is the idea of eating. It entails meal planning, list making, grocery shopping, slicing, chopping, grating, baking, roasting, grilling, sauteƩing, clean-up, loading/unloading the dishwasher, washing dishes by hand, setting the table, clearing the table, wiping the counters, sweeping the floor...
All of these jobs - along with many other chores - require workers, obviously. With seven people in our home, it would seem daunting; but years ago, I adopted the adage, "Many hands make light work."

I hope this isn't disappointing, but it seemed logical to me. It's a bit difficult to read here, but it has each one's name in a specific color, making it easy to locate each one's turn for fixing a meal, washing, or drying dishes.

I'm an old-fashioned paper-and-pen kind of gal (although we probably own more apple computer products than most American families).
I don't like the thought of having my life stored on a device that could crash or become obsolete. 
So, each year, I start with what my generation once considered an administrative staple: 
3-hole-punched, lined paper & the best pen ever manufactured - a blue Bic cristal.

All of my lists are kept in a cute 3-ring binder, purchased at Target.

Told ya it was cute! It reminds me of a particular fabric that I should have bought but didn't.

And if you're ever blessed with the opportunity to go to the Vera Bradley Factory Warehouse Sale in Ft. Wayne, IN, you, too, can score some adorable little binder clips like this one! It holds things like the scary list of DOs & DON'Ts from the E-Z Tag store, and other small paper items that don't really go into the rings.

Getting back to the matter at hand, this year I started by simply making lists of all that needs to be done. Once this was accomplished, I wrote names next to each task and made a note of which might be the best days of the week for each to be done.

Deciding which chart method to use was a bit tricky for me, as I tend to be indecisive if given too many options.
Years ago, I discovered Teri Maxwell's Managers of Their Homes. Despite the encouraging testimonies given by moms with much more responsibility than I've ever had, who successfully used Teri's method in their own homes, I waited like a scared cat for two years before finally taking the plunge into accounting for every single minute of every single day for every single member of our family (minus Craig, who goes to work).
On that first day, several years ago, of implementing M.O.T.H., my children actually thanked me.
("Yay, Lord! You gave me children who love lists, too!")

I've decided against the actual color-coded time-slot charts this year, in favor of simply writing each one's routine on a "Daily Schedule" list taken from this resource that I bought very early in our homeschool experience (before it was available on CD-Rom in colorful packaging).

I used marker for each child's name for easy ID, and pencil for each time slot, in case any adjustments need to be made.

Each room of the house has a "master list" of what needs to be done daily/weekly, with a person's name underneath the day of the week for each task. These master lists are kept in my home organization binder for a quick overview, but each individual chore chart is kept on a separate sheet, on the reverse side of the page protector holding the daily schedule.

When I start brainstorming ideas for my lists each year, I usually visit Donna Young's site. It's the mother lode of home-organization resources. If Donna Young were my neighbor, she'd hate me, per Proverbs 25:17, as my foot would OFTEN be in her house! 
(Actually, she's probably a very sweet, patient woman who delights in pesky neighbors who assume she has all the answers & bring pies to her doorstep with selfish motives.)

OK, back to meal planning. This seems to be the biggest monster a lot of moms face. Fortunately, we love to eat, so we're motivated not to fall too far away from a meal-planning regimen.

I have several spiral notebooks that have served as my sloppy, unattractive, but easy and convenient mode of making menu lists over the years. These notebooks are like scrapbooks, in that their pages hold scores from games we've played with each other and with guests, guest lists and menus from holidays and other occasions, song lyrics, and other random things that I deemed worthy of inclusion in the menu notebook.

I've tried to use days-of-the-week menu charts in the past, but I tend to follow my cravings rather than a schedule for meals. It helps to know, in general, what's available; then I decide either the day before, or even that same morning, what to have for dinner. This works for me just fine, and no one is complaining.

This is our current menu notebook, along with a "system" I tried to implement a couple of years ago. It hasn't worked for me due to my whimsical personality, but it was still a good idea. The list on the printout is similar to the lists in the notebook, with one exception. There are seven dinners (with fewer lunches/breakfasts, which are easy to throw together with leftovers, etc.), and the reverse side includes a shopping list for each meal.

This is the shopping list for one menu list. I haven't used these because when I set them aside for a while, I plan meals according to my craving. Then when I try to return to one of these pre-printed lists, I find that we've recently eaten a few items on the list. Not wanting to repeat, I set it aside, and the cycle continues. By the way, I have several of these lists. My original plan was to be able to forget about menu planning for a couple of months at a time. Try it. It may work for you.

Here's how my life really looks. :-) This is the same basic list system mentioned above, but in my own handwriting inside the spiral notebook. I like to think that posterity will appreciate my having done this - as long as posterity tends toward the grandmother's habit, rather than the grandfather's computer-dependent system.

The result of well-laid plans?

Happy children who take joy in checking items off the list!

Friday, August 5, 2011

I'm In a Cheeky Mood

An Imaginary Scenario:

My five children and I are standing in line at a store, and we notice a mother and her adolescent-age child minding their own business.
Being the "social" animal that I am, I decide to strike up friendly conversation.

Me: "Is that your only child?!"

Other Mom: "Oh, yes. My hands are full."

Me: "Yikes! Do you need me to tell you how to have more? I assure you, the process is quite enjoyable. Perhaps you and your husband should turn off the TV once in a while and give it a try!"

Other Mom: [Speechless; stunned at my audacity]

Me: "So, how long have you homeschooled your little prince?"

Other Mom: [Appalled at my assumption] "Homeschooled?! I could never do that! He happens to go to one of the very best schools in the state!"

Me: "Oh, my! You should really consider taking him out of school and teaching him yourself. Aren't you afraid he'll pick up bad habits from all of his peers, who still need to learn, themselves, how to behave properly and respect others?"

Other Mom: "Don't judge me!"

* Think that's bold and rude? *

An Actual Scenario:

My five children and I are standing in line at a store, minding our business, when another mother - wanting to distract herself from an argument she's having with her child over (insert item) - strikes up a conversation with me:

Other Mother: "Are they all yours?!" [Displays counting skills, not forgotten since Kindergarten]

Me: Yes, they are.

Other Mother: "Any twins?"

Me: "No."

Other Mother: "Wow! You must be crazy or something! I have my hands full with just this one. I can't imagine five! Don't you know what causes that?!" [Laughs at own (stupid) joke]

Me: [Silent; not dignifying last remark with a response]

Other Mother: "Well, are you done?" [Expecting the obvious "right" answer]

Me: "We'd actually love to adopt!"

Other Mother: [Flabbergasted at not hearing what she had hoped] 
"You want more?!" 
[Scans the crowd to see if anyone else will reinforce what she obviously thinks of this]

Me: "Oh, yes. These children bless my life! My husband and I are thankful for every one!"

Other Mother: "So, where do they all go to school?"

Me: "We homeschool."

Other Mother: "Wow! You homeschool, too?" [Shakes head slowly in pity] "So, what about socialization? I mean, do they know how to interact with other children?"

Me: "Well, they're learning to get along with each other, which is something most children don't do well with siblings. And we are a very social family, so they have no shortage of opportunities to interact with others. Really, the socialization question isn't an issue for us as it was for the pioneers of the movement over twenty years ago, when homeschooling was nearly unheard of."

Perspective is a funny thing.

The Perpetrators of Controversy:

Caelyn (19)
The Care Giver
Compassionate; Gentle-Spirited; Servant-hearted (Philippians 2:5-7); Loves a good joke
(I'm so glad that birth control didn't work!)

Morgan (17)
The Negotiator
Insightful; Methodical; Frank, but kind (Ephesians 4:15)
(I'm so thankful that she lived through having the umbilical cord wrapped thrice around her neck!)

Craig Grayson (15)
The Protector
Strong; Unbending (Proverbs 4:27); Affectionate; Not intimidated by anyone
(I'm so glad that, in God's economy, it was perfectly fine to have another baby while Craig was back in college & we had almost no money!)

Graham (13)
The Observer
Discerning; Loyal (Proverbs 17:17); Caring; Inquisitive
(I'm so thankful that Baby #4 came along in God's perfect timing, and that he has overcome the health struggles he had as a baby!)

Gabriela (12)
The Hostess
Joyful; Adventurous; Relational; Considerate (Philippians 2:4)
(I'm so glad that God gave her to us at a time when it seemed, from the outside, that another baby was more than we could handle - "I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me.")

 "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well... All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."
Psalm 139:13-14, 16b

"Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate."
Psalm 127:3-5

"The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
He will bless the house of Israel,
He will bless the house of Aaron,
He will bless those who fear the Lord -
small and great alike.
May the Lord make you increase, 
both you and your children."
Psalm 115:12-14