Monday, April 16, 2012

More Effective Homemaking

"She who is the mother and housekeeper in a large family is the sovereign of an empire, demanding more varied cares, and involving more difficult duties, than are really exacted of her who wears a crown and professedly regulates the interests of the greatest nation on earth."
--The American Woman's Home, 1869

Running a household is not for the faint of heart! And since so many women raised in recent generations received little to no training in homemaking skills, we really do have our work cut out for us! (For more on the subject, check out this series of OFM posts.)

I have found that greeting each day with a plan-- even a loose one-- can help any homemaker face her duties with peace and encouragement. I have come up with a list of housekeeping tips that have helped me over the years. Of course, I am not perfect at every one of these every day, but they really have helped the chaos that sometimes encroaches on our home.

So without further ado, here is my list of the homemaking guidelines that have best helped me in my household duties:
  • Wake up at least half an hour before my children. This is an area that I could do much better in-- especially when I'm pregnant. But when I meet this goal, my house runs smoother, the messes are easier to maintain, and my children are happier. I am going to go back to this habit right away!
  • Delegate, delegate, DELEGATE! Our children need to learn life skills in order to be successful adults. And the only place for them to learn those skills is in the home! Not only do assigned chores take much of the load off of moms, they also empower the children doing them. When a child contributes to his or her home in a meaningful way, they feel how much they are needed by the other members of their family. This is a subject for which I have a lot of passion-- you can check out my posts on teaching kids to clean here and how to cook here.
  •  Planning ahead is the key to keeping an organized schedule. When I check my calendar every night before bed, I am better prepared for the day ahead. I like to use Google Calendar, simply because we can see all the upcoming schedules and appointments for each one of us in the family. And when my daughters and I pre-plan our Menu, we avoid the frustration of trying to figure out the age-old question of "What's for breakfast/lunch/dinner?" We plan our menus every Saturday morning before I go shopping. Sometimes, if I'm very organized, we plan a two week menu. But even planning for one week makes every day run more smoothly!
  • Use "Quick Pick-Ups" throughout the day. My favorite times for quick cleaning blitzes are just before my husband gets home from work, and just before bedtime. Our husbands are so encouraged after a long day's work to come home to a clean house. It doesn't have to look perfectly-scrubbed or pristine-- just tidied up from the events of a busy day at home. It's a kind, little gesture that can show the head of the household how much we care for him. And it also shows our children how much we love and respect our husbands and appreciate all they do for us. When we do a clean sweep at bedtime, we all get the advantage of a hopeful, tidy home in which to wake up!
  •  Find and implement the systems that work best for YOUR home and family. The same systems will not work the same for every family. Or even be effective for the same family over the years as situations or dynamics change! Laundry, especially, needs a system that will work differently for each family. There are many systems out there, from scheduling a laundry day once a week, to doing a certain amount of loads every day. Just search out a system that works for you and your family right now, and don't be afraid to adjust it as needed.

 I'd love to hear about the housekeeping tips that have worked best for you! What homemaking advice would you like to share? Please comment below. I look forward to hearing what has helped you nurture your home and family.

I wish you all the best in your homemaking efforts!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Re-Post: Becoming "Un-Dragoned"

Dear Friends,

Due to my present busyness with directing a play, yet with a desire to not abandon this blog without posting, I am re-posting an essay I wrote on my personal blog back in December of 2010. As always I would love to read your thoughtful comments and observations. 

Happy Spring, one and all!


Photo from the movie "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (2010)

"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt."
From The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

My heart and head have been so full these last couple of months. As I alluded to in a recent post, things have been rough this year. Here at home, money has been tight, and clients for Russell have been sporadic, but we're getting more and more used to living on faith alone. This fall, we found out a former neighbor and ward member was killed by his struggling son. And very recently, a hero of our family was arrested and his weaknesses laid out for the world, his family and all his friends to see. So many marriages of those we love have ended or are in major trouble. Dear friends have moved away as our homeschool community has dissolved and scattered to the wind.

Broken hearts seem to be everywhere around us.

Because of all this heartache, my family and I have been clinging to one another even more fiercely and reexamining where our priorities lie. We are rejecting the fruits the world has to offer, because we now see them for what they truly are: flimsy trappings that distract us from the true treasures Heavenly Father offers to all of us.

I love how C.S. Lewis put this in his wonderful work, "The Weight of Glory":
"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Surprisingly, we've found that these things have also brought us to the feet of our Savior. We have seen far too many we care about fall over the edge, and we are moving as far away from it as we can get!

Around the same time that this devastation has been happening, we saw the need to abandon a family tradition that Satan had found a way to poison for us. I know this may seem like "no big deal" and "just a little thing" to many, but to us, it was a HUGE test.

Ever since the first Harry Potter movie came out in 2001, we have gone as a family to the first showing. This was usually the ONLY movie we ever spent money on to see with the whole family. (Movie ticket prices add up, even on matinees, when one has a family of thirteen!) We had read the series out loud in our family circle, waiting with baited breath until the next book came out. And we were experiencing the same thrill as each movie came out in theaters. We'd count down the days, and giggle as we headed out the door to stand in line to get a seat in the theater. (Again, finding thirteen seats all together was a job!)

And then, the news came out that the latest, longed-for, LAST movie had nudity in it.


We were aghast. No, it couldn't be true. We researched it thoroughly. We found out EXACTLY what the scene was, and what was going on in it. Russell and I decided that we would not, COULD not, support the movie. The production team had gone too far, and we could not condone their actions.

We didn't know how on earth we were going to explain this to our children. I held my breath, thinking, "Please, Lord. I pray we have taught them well enough that they will understand."

And I also prayed that Russell and I would stand strong, and not make excuses that would expose our family to something we would never allow in any other movie they might view. We had to put principles ABOVE tradition.

To my great pleasure and relief, when we told our kids the new movie had nudity in it, their faces fell, and they declared that we could not go see it. There was no arguing, no pleading, no whining. The answer was clear.

So, you can see why we felt like we had passed a test. We had been confronted with a choice. Would we choose our family's chosen "idol"-- or the commandments of the Lord?

And after we made this choice, truth seemed to flow into our hearts and home. We have found things to read and ponder on that continue to bring us closer to Christ. We have rejected more of the world than we ever have before. Our "summer cottage in Babylon" is now a pile of glowing coals. Until we stepped out of the shadow of the idols we had set on a pedestal, we couldn't see the rewards and gifts God had waiting for us in the sun.

As a result of this journey to completely leave Babylon, I have been working every day to have the Spirit with me always, and to invite its presence in our home. I've been battling my weaknesses, and the easy path of the "natural man". I must have been really entrenched in Babylonian culture, because all this living close to the Spirit has been hard work-- definitely not for the faint of heart! I must admit, I feel a little like Eustace in the quote above. But as Eustace further explains:
"The only thing that made me bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off... It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."
The other night, Russell and I went with some friends to see the latest Narnia movie, based on "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", in the theater. I still want to weep when I think about it. And now I wish we had the money to take all of our children to see it. THAT is the kind of movie that I want to support. And I am so very happy that the production team chose to quote so much of the book EXACTLY. Even the part where Aslan tells Lucy she can't come back to Narnia. When she replies that she won't meet him again, he says :
"But you shall meet me, dear one," said Aslan.
"Are-- are you there too, Sir?" said Edmund.
"I am," said Aslan. "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."
 One of the sources of our discussions and ponderings these past few weeks, has been a talk that was given long ago by President Spencer W. Kimball. Below is the link, and a couple of excerpts from it. But PLEASE, read the entire article. It has changed my life for the better, and I know it can help others, too!
The False Gods We Worship
"Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry."
"As the Lord himself said in our day, 'They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.' (D&C 1:16)
"What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him? Our assignment is affirmative: to forsake the things of the world as ends in themselves; to leave off idolatry and press forward in faith; to carry the gospel to our enemies, that they might no longer be our enemies."
"We must leave off the worship of modern-day idols and a reliance on the “arm of flesh,” for the Lord has said to all the world in our day, 'I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.' (D&C 64:24.)
His message closes with this electric statement:
"We believe that the way for each person and each family to prepare as the Lord has directed is to begin to exercise greater faith, to repent, and to enter into the work of his kingdom on earth, which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It may seem a little difficult at first, but when a person begins to catch a vision of the true work, when he begins to see something of eternity in its true perspective, the blessings begin to far outweigh the cost of leaving 'the world' behind."
"Herein lies the only true happiness, and therefore we invite and welcome all men, everywhere, to join in this work. For those who are determined to serve the Lord at all costs, this is the way to eternal life. All else is but a means to that end."
NOTHING is more important than returning with our spouses and children back into the presence of our Heavenly Father and our Savior.


Not movies, parties, friends, television shows, clothes, money, ambition, hobbies, Facebook, blogging, Shakespeare, drama, music, sports, lessons, convenience, independence, prosperity, and on and on and on.


As the New Year swiftly approaches, I am examining the things that I am still clinging to in my life that are taking me away from Jesus Christ and my eternal goals.

And it hurts a little. But just like childbirth, the effort will be totally worth it.

Another quote from C.S. Lewis says it perfectly:
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to?"
"The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."
To finish, I want to quote a man who came to know, while he was battling cancer, what it means to submit to God's plans for our lives. The late Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:
"The submission of one's will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God's altar. The many other things we 'give' ... are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us." 
 The sacrifices we make will be worth it. I testify this is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
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