Saturday, March 31, 2012

Time Management and Tomatoes, Connected?

When we left off, I was just getting ready to tell you about my newly discovered time management system - the Pomodoro Technique (PT).  (Don't you like the way I worded that to make it sound like I was blogging just a few hours ago instead of ..... longer? "Am I getting good at excuse-making, or what?"...she asked rhetorically.)


As one of my astute commenters recognized (Hi, Laura!), a pomodoro is actually a type of tomato, which is an unlikely title for a time management system. Janet and Lea also get credit for already knowing about this system - but points will be taken away for not telling me about it. (So, they're actually running in the friend deficit. Although Lea has accumulated bonus friend-points for all those eggnog lattes over the holidays. And gee whiz guys, I'm just kidding! I would NEVER keep score in any of my valued friendships. At least not on paper.)

Did you notice how I went from time management to tomatoes to friendship to lattes? That's the reason I'm drawn to (and without a doubt need) the Pomodoro Technique. Unlike a few (gazillion) other time management approaches I've seen, this approach doesn't spend much time helping the user define his priorities - don't most of us know what we need to get done today?-  but rather instructs in how to work in focused, short time sprints. It's made for the organized, yet concentration-challenged. 

Francesco Cirillo defined the Pomodoro Technique in 1992 but he came up with the basic idea while he was in college frustrated over his low productivity and unstructured studying. Man, I have some kids who should be able to relate to Francesco's dilemma! His breakthrough came partly thanks to a red kitchen timer shaped like a pomodoro (the Italian word for tomato). He kept his goal realistic and at first attempted to study- really study- for 10 minutes. Time became his friend and his tutor - and the Pomodoro Technique was born, or should that be sprouted?

The book I'm reading, The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated, is written by a guy sharing his experience using the system vs. the guy who came up with the technique.  While the author does a great job explaining the theory and brain science behind why this works, most of the book is spent on how to practically implement the technique. Plus, there are pictures. And the book is short (lest we lose focus, right?) You can read a sample chapter here, and see a picture of the author holding a tomato.

 I got the book from inter-library loan, but I may buy it (and not just because I've extended my due date twice without finishing it.....and definitely not because it's due today and the library closes in 50 minutes.)

 Here's a few lines from the book that explain the simple system, "Decide on a few tasks you will do that day, set a timer for 25 minutes, and then start the first one. Instead of feeling anxiety about deadlines for this hour, this day, this week, or this month, you set the timer for 25 minutes and completely focus on the task at hand. When the timer rings at the end of the 25 minutes and you're still working, it does not mean that you have failed to finish. On the contrary. It is a round of applause for your completed timebox." 

I'm digging the idea of the applause. Hooray for me! I finished a pomodoro! But here's my struggle.  I have no problem making a decent to-do list. I've even gotten pretty good at remembering to look at it :) But I find I err in one of three ways. (1) I spend too much time on a project, to the neglect of some other stuff (aka children/husband). (2) I underestimate how much time I'll need and get frustrated, or (3) I don't even start an item on my list because I don't think I have the chunk of uninterrupted time I might need.

There is much more to the book than just telling the reader to work for 25 minutes without succumbing to an interruption. The author gives instruction on how to handle the inevitable interruptions (aka children/husband), and actually learn from them for the next time; how to figure out how many pomodoros (25 minute slots) are realistic for your specific lifestyle (he doesn't mention children or homeschooling but it's easily adaptable); and the reasons it is not good to work past the 25 minutes without taking a short break.

Part of the system is gaining an understanding of how many pomodoros (or is it pomodoroes or pomodori?) each activity might take. The premise is that if something on your list takes more than 25 minutes you should break it down into smaller increments in order to complete it effectively and realistically.  He had me at 'realistically'.

For example, when I finish this blog post (which has taken a bushel of pomodoro) I am going to plan my co-op lesson for Monday. I have it listed on my To Do Today sheet, but it will most likely take three 25-minute slots. If I follow the PT I will take a 5 minute break after each 25 minute slot. This sounds wimpy to me, but the truth is....if i don't plan those breaks I will most likely lose my focus anyway - and possibly more frequently than every 25 minutes.

As usual, I'm the last one to find out about anything cutting edge (see the post where I "discovered" the Getting Things Done time management plan....on it's 10 year anniversary....), so there are already pomodoro products being produced to go along with the system. You can get an adorable tomato timer here - but the reviews for it are horrible so I guess I'll have to go for a different vegetable/fruit. This lemon one is cute, but made by the same Chinese company that made the rotten tomato one (pun completely intended :)    Never, ever knew there were so many timer choices available! Maybe I should buy the Joie Piggy Wiggy version to tell me when to stop eating the Oreos.

I've practiced the PT several times during the last few weeks - and not done particularly well. I'm pretty sure it's because I have an ugly timer. There's a slim chance it's because I lack the self-discipline to stay on task. Which is why I need this book.  But I need to take it back now because it's due in 15 minutes.

Fortunately I know enough about the system to keep at it without the book. Next time I blog I hope to report on my overwhelming success - or tell you that my pomodoro is rotten. (I am on a roll today, folks :)

P.S. The Pomodoro Technique forms are online here - along with the original (free) book. I like The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated  better than the original book, because obviously there was a need to expound on the first one (and add cute pictures.) 

P.S.S. Even though I'm not trying (very hard) to have a popular blog, I'm also not trying (at all) to have an unpopular blog. So here's some token, success-producing pictures from my recent trip to see my amazingly adorable grandchildren.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Welcome Back, Me! (or is it, Welcome Me Back!?)

Here's something that sounds like a joke, but definitely is not. Q. How do you know when you've been away from your blog  too long? A. You can't remember your password. AND the donuts in your header have been eaten. Seriously, did you notice they're gone?! What kind of a world do we live in when people can steal donuts from a blog header?! 
(Update: Donuts are back; looking no worse for the vacay. And yes, children, I did just type vacay. I told you I was cool!)

But I'm smart. So I figured out my password (I use the same two all the time. Please don't tell the blog thieves.) It's not like I've been vegetating while not blogging. I've been learning stuff. Plus, doing stuff. And helping other people do plenty of stuff, too. (But no vocab stuff, obviously.) And I'll get some more donuts. Geesh.

I'm sick of hearing my excuses for not blogging, so I'm sure you are. But here's the thing ( knew I was going to give an excuse, didn't you?), I stopped because I started doing some Blog Introspection, which led to some Blog Discouragement.  Not because I read a lot of discouraging blogs; quite the contrary. There are so many great ones. And there are plenty of great blogs that are also willing to tell me how to have my own great blog. 

For awhile there it seemed to me like there was no need for me to blog if I wasn't going to attempt to have a Great Blog....with lots of readers (although I did break 100 followers .... while I wasn't blogging....Go Figure.) .... with advertising...and guest posting...and other people linking to me world-wide. 

I get tired just reading that last sentence. Too much pressure. (Too much work.)

Two things worked together to rouse me from my Blog Slump.  (1) Reading my two daughters' blog updates. See my sidebar for the addresses since I don't know how to link to both of them at once. Granted, they are both amazing girls who could totally have World Wide Blog Popularity if they wanted. But they are simply blogging through life...and I'm so happy they are.  I love reading about their lives - and I honestly think their children are going to look back one day and know their moms in a deeper way because they took the time to chronicle their lives this way. 

Sure wish my mom had had a blog. What books would've been on her sidebar? Which of her friends would she have linked to? Would she have put cute pictures of me on her blog? Pictures of me with a tight perm, that I would have later tried to delete?

It'd be like looking through a scrapbook, with digital running commentary.

(2) The longer you don't blog, the harder it is to get back to it. This is true of anything. Exercise. Bible study. Getting dressed :)   And then the project takes on gargantuan proportions so that one might feel like one would never have time enough to accomplish said project. But recently I came across a time management technique (which I am using this very minute to accomplish this long-procrastinated goal of blogging) called the Pomodoro Technique. 

And I'll tell you about it  next time I blog. Because my pomodoro is up.

But in the meantime, the blog experts say I will never have a successful (by their def.) blog without pictures. But when there are grandchildren, there are pictures :)    Top: GrandMama and Sophie at Christmas. Don't you love her 'camera smile'? Bottom: Newest granddaughter, Eleanor (10 days old today :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculously (time-consuming, expensive... yet) Ugly

Well, let's get right to what you want to hear about, OK? Because there's no use pretending that you're all that interested in the good.  You'd rather hear about the bad and the ugly, admit it. Well you're getting 2 for 1 with the following pictures of my latest (perhaps last?) DIY project. They are indeed both BAD and most definitely UGLY. So ugly they are now in the trash. (No green comments, please. You'd have to see them to realize how unrecycleable they are...)

Maybe first you should see my inspiration. I am not super creative, but I am usually a first-class copycat. So I googled 'painted curtains' and found this post. I have the same Target curtains, and the pictures looked exactly like I wanted mine to look - so I had my willing "craft assistants" tape all NINE of my family room curtain panels for me. (Winston on the right, and my visiting son-in-law Nathan on the left.... Nathan loves doing projects for his favorite mother-in-law...especially if it's the night before he leaves...and very late at night!)

I went ahead and splurged on 3 bottles of fabric paint because, after all, I did have 9 panels.

It took every last drop to get ONE SINGLE PANEL painted. It might have been because I used disposable foam brushes, which the never-wrong-internet said would be perfect for the job.

Here are the other 8 panels hanging in  my carport, expertly taped and waiting their turn. My plan was just to do one after the other until I hung them up in my family room later that day - my family room which would eventually be as gorgeous as this one.  (Note that she sewed her stripes on... Which means she obviously has more discretionary time than me....Or a lot more smarts! Most likely the latter.)

I don't have a picture of Alex, my painting assistant, but he did mention to me that he thought the paint was going to show through the back of the curtains. (Alex is smarter than his mom.) It definitely showed through, but I figured we could line them (next year...or the year after...). Plus they are on the back doors that line our pool deck, so maybe I wouldn't care. And it was dark when we put them up so my biggest concern was just whether the yellow/gold was too much with my green walls (It was...)

 Turns out my biggest concern shouldn't have been the color... cuz when daylight came, we noticed a bigger concern. You can see every doggone paint stroke from the blasted, paint-eating foam brushes.

Moral of the story? Next time I get that creative urge (sometimes confused with discontent...) I will just do something cheaper and fail-proof, and more temporary.  Like move furniture.


I realize no one will be able to muster even an ounce of sympathy for me when I say that my living room is too big (whine, whine..) but it has been very difficult to figure out how to place my furniture in this room. But I keep trying. Because my husband enjoys the thrill of never knowing where the couch is. (This is especially fun in the middle of the night!)

My pictures are grainy (I need you..and your camera...Lea!) but you can see my idea was to try to create little "areas" within the big room.







It feels good to be blogging again. Even if my impetus was to vent over the stupid striped curtains.

And did you notice I didn't even try to make any excuses for my continued absence? I'm tempted to blame it on a visit from these guys... (but they were only here for four short days, so I guess my multi-month sabbatical is not wholly their fault.)







Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Time Out from Organizing to Get Rid of a Little (or a lot of) Sin

The last two weeks have been crazy-full of preparing for the new homeschooling year, plus getting my older two (oldest 2 of the youngest 7? whatever..) ready to launch on their post-high school endeavors.

Then last week was even worse - I was forced to actually start teaching. Everything was going so great until the students showed up :)

 I've confessed before that the planning and organizing (and purchasing!) is much more fun for me than when my children come into the picture and start messing with my plans and my organization and my purchases.

Here's a few pictures of my messy schoolroom. I have no excuse - this room is great. It's the reason I wanted this house. A library with orange grass-cloth wallpaper and two walls of glossy black, built-in bookcases. And it's amply big (that farm table in the picture is 9 feet long.)  Don't hate me if you're doing school in your dining room. This is my 25th year of homeschooling. I consider this room part of my survival package.

I'll try to redeem myself by posting some "after" pictures when I've put everything away. Our guest bathroom is in this room - so I usually keep it fairly neat. But not during the first few weeks of school. I just pray for No Guests those weeks. At least not guests with small bladders.

 They say that homeschooling is a lifestyle - but my goal is always to get to the place where it's just a part of our life and not the crux of it - translation: I don't want to have to think about it on the weekends. Especially not on Sunday.

All that has very little to do with this post I'm linking to for your reading pleasure - and definite edification...and possible conviction.  I doubt if I'm even in the target audience for The Gospel Coalition blog since I believe it's aimed at full-time Christian workers (which is actually all of us, right?!), and the authors are over-the-top intellectual, so sometimes I spend too long looking up their words in and I forget what they're talking about.   But I don't unsubscribe because many times one of the posts REALLY, REALLY speaks to me and answers some sort of deep, theological application question that's kept me up nights. (Yes, that is exactly the kind of spiritual mom I am - the type who ponders deep issues as her head hits the pillow at night ...  unless I'm wondering what to cook tomorrow...or if my children will be abducted...or sneak out.)

The question/fear/anxiety this post answers for me is "Will my children be sanctified young adults since we  go to a less exciting, yet God-centered, church where they hear the whole counsel of God preached, in adult-speak, sans crafts and drama and easy-to-sing praise tunes?"

Wouldn't they have a better chance to walk the narrow path if we went to the fun church with the Discipleship program and the T-shirts and the accountability groups and the culturally-aware Pastor who cracks (appropriate) jokes and wears clothes they've seen on commercials?   Don't get me wrong, I love my church. Every single solitary sermon speaks of Christ; Who He is, and Who we're not  - and occasionally our beloved Pastor (who doesn't read my blog, praise Him!) even hints at application - but many, many Sunday lunches are spent trying to bribe my children into remembering something....anything (!)  from the sermon. (We used to offer dessert to those who could tell us what they learned...but we got tired of eating cake alone.)

I realize my real problem is a lack of trust in God's love for my children..and me. And His abundant provision and mercy and plans to prosper them...In His timing. But a mom's gotta fret over something other than how many meals she can get out of a whole chicken, right? (and the answer to the chicken question, at least for our family, is....half a meal. A whole chicken is practically a snack food around here.)

Since I know some of you will not click on the link and read the article (the non-commenters are probably non-clickers :)  - Even though the author basically tells us how to put away sin -  Here's a small part of the blog post from the beginning....

"So when we preach or teach passages that exhort our listeners to turn from unrighteousness and pursue holiness, to put to death their patterns of sin and walk in godliness, inevitably, we will get questions along these lines: But how do I change? How do I stop looking at porn? . . . losing my temper? . . . despising my husband? I want to put to death my sin, but I can’t."

And this part towards the end...

"Should we conform our minds to the truth of the gospel and remind ourselves of its truth? Yes. Should we bring to bear all the imperatives of the Bible, with the knowledge that Christ has already qualified us for heaven? Yes. But let us also open up our Bibles and search for Jesus, meditating on his glory, rejoicing in his perfections, tasting and seeing his goodness, and, then, let us put to death our sin as we are being transformed into his image, from one degree of glory to the next."

Now go read the whole thing! And come back and tell me whether you agree that knowing God, and showing Him as irresistible, to my precious children, is the answer to all my fears.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Go read my guest post...Or don't, I'll be fine..

Today I am guest posting at Jonesville.  I was supposed to share some homeschooling wisdom. Go on over and see if you think it's wise. If not, keep it to yourself please. I'm the mother of 7 teens right now and my ego is fragile as I'm daily informed (sometimes, by them...) of how much I have to learn. I would tell you to leave a glowing comment to help my self-worth, but I don't want to sound self-patronizing (and then if you don't....down I plummet.)

This is only the 2nd time I've ever guest posted anywhere, and the first one was for a fashion/beauty blog - NOT my area of expertise. This time I may actually have something worth emulating.

Thank you!  "You is kind, you is smart, you is important." (not good grammar, but a great quote from The Help movie..)


P.S. When you see the pictures I sent with my blog, please remember that I don't normally let my big boys dress up like girls. They were recreating (really spoofing, but don't tell Will...) Hamlet. They dared me to put that picture in the post, and I'm all about doing what my children tell me.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Go with me to the homeschooling conference!

My friend Christina, from Jonesville (which I believe is the made-up name of a town, sort of like if I said I was from Pittmansburg...), is hosting her 3rd annual Homeschooling Blogging Conference.  I "met" Christina through my oldest daughter, Brite, and even though I'm most likely old enough to be the grand matriarch of her pretend blog city, she lets me hang out over there.  I'll be guest posting tomorrow - and don't you worry your pretty little heads, I'm more than happy to be your personal secretary, ready to send you right back over there tomorrow so you won't miss anything important.

 And go on over there today to 'register' (sort of like your cyber name-tag) and introduce yourself. And read her first post. She's hilarious and witty in a totally effortless sort of way. So even if you don't homeschool, you'll enjoy reading about her life and times.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Two Minute Tasks - Just Do It, Baby!

(This post is linked to Kristin at Works for Me Wednesday but I'm too techno-dumb to figure out how to put her cool logo here, but you can go there and see it. It's a very nice logo.)

Yep, it's me again. Posting, pretty much on the heels of my last post. No biggie. I'm just super consistent like that.

Oh, and a big shout out to my new followers. I'm on my way to getting that blog re-do thanks to you. I am so sick of whatever that green 'border' is by the donuts on my header. And my pictures aren't crisp (which I'm sure has nothing to do with my camera...)

Hundreds Many of you asked me to elaborate on how I've revolutionized my time management skills by refusing to put off doing anything that takes 2 minutes or less. Well, first of all let me just tell you that many tasks take much longer than 2 your head. But actually Doing Them takes much less time.

For example, this week it took me less than 2 minutes to:

~ Go through the home school card pack that came in the mail, keep the one card I might actually use and throw the rest away.  I have now thrown even that card away. Mail is a no-brainer. The whole process should never take more than 2 minutes.  You either file it (to be paid, to be answered, etc.), can it, or put it on your husband's desk :)

~ Put the camera back in the camera bag....with the lens cover on.....And take it back to where I store it.

~ Figure out a permanent place to store said camera bag :)

~ Hang up my clothes. This actually takes nano-seconds, not minutes...unless you never do it, and are a 19yo girl living in my home..then it would definitely take 5-6 of your precious minutes.

~ Enter all my debit receipts into my check book. I know this is foreign language to those of you under 35, but some of us are married to men who still balance the checkbook and think online banking is of the devil. Of course it would be quicker to just record them as you use your debit card, but we don't want to get all OCD about it, now do we dear?

~ Make my bed. I started doing this years ago, even before Flylady. In fact, I'm pretty sure she got the rule of not even going to the bathroom until your bed is made from me.  Makes for some mighty fast bed-making in my small-bladder household; MUCH less than 2 minutes - and that includes a duvet, four pillows, a European sham, and 3 decorator pillows. (YouTube forthcoming?)

~ Empty your amazon cart. This may cost a lot of money, but it's very quick :) 

~ Delete some emails. The 2 minute thing really works for me here. I can take out about 5-7 emails in 2 minutes (2 seconds if they are forwards.)   The goal is to see each email only once, just as if it was a piece of paper. File it, delete it, print it, or click unsubscribe. Simple Mom, who writes on productivity for home managers, has a good blog post up today bemoaning the size of her inbox and giving some suggestions on how to tame it. For a gal with no vowels in her name she has some great advice :)

~ Comment on someone's blog (sorry...couldn't resist! But it's true...It takes so little time and gives such warm fuzzies to the blogger.)

~ Take my pills. Again if you're 30something, you might be saying, "What pills?" But the older you get the more challenging it becomes to get them all swallowed, rubbed in, or chewed in less than 2 minutes. And then, for the love of all things decent and orderly, Put them Away. No one likes to walk into a bathroom and know your whole rash history.

Speaking of Things that Work for Me - Here's a picture of my sweet boys giving my "new" kitchen chairs a make-over. Winston (who is going to be a super-duper handyman about 20 years) sanded them and painted them a glossy black. Then Alex cut the black toile fabric using the old covers as a guide.  Here's a picture of the two of them stapling and nailing and pleasing their grateful mom.

I think they're wonderful! .....The boys and the chairs :)




 P.S. My friend, Lea, is coming over later today. Lea is creative, and smart, and funny (and she thinks I'm funny...which makes her even more funny) and she has an amazing camera, which she uses brilliantly. She's going to take some pictures of some non-2 minute projects I've been working. Can't wait to show them to you!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Here's what's working for me right now

(Once again, I refuse to lower myself and demean my three remaining readers by offering inane excuses for not posting in... awhile. So how 'bout if we all just assume that I've been very productive, doing tons of blog-worthy things, improving myself, serving others, and honoring God. OK?) 

Not that it's been such a ridiculously-long time since I last posted, but I did find it necessary to read through my last few entries to remind myself what exactly my blog is all about anyway. (Is it really a laundry blog?!)  And I realized I have left quite a few loose ends over the months which I now plan to remedy.

Remember this post where I once again apologized for not blogging told you about a book I had read on productivity? Well for goodness sakes people, aren't you even a little curious about whether the methods in the book transformed my life like the book jacket said it would?!

 (Didn't think so....Do you even remember who I am?!!) 

 Actually, I'm happy to report that there was one suggestion in the book - one seemingly small time management tip - that helped me cut my to-do list to post-it note size.  The author of the book suggests that if a task will take you less than 2 minutes then you should just do it right away vs. writing it down to do later. I've been amazed at how many things I do each day that take less than 2 minutes. And how many very short tasks I had previously put off doing. Maybe not life transforming, but definitely an attitude change. 

(I'm also still doing a regular Mind Sweep, which I told you about here. My Mind Sweep takes a stack of post-it notes but I'll let my therapist deal with that.)

Another idea (one which I would describe as brilliant, except that I came up with this one myself and I do not like to praise myself with such flamboyant adjectives) which has saved me oodles of time this year - and kept me lookin' good ( least that's what my friends say...) is to focus on refining one part of my wardrobe at a time. 

 Two summers ago was the year of the T-shirt. My mission was to find the perfect T for me.  After some experimenting around at Kohls, Target, and a few nicer stores, I realized a petite fits me best (without fitting me TOO well, if you get my drift) and is the right length for me - even though I'm not petite height. So now I know exactly what brand of T-shirt is 'mine' and I will not even give those others a second glance. So there.

Last year it was denim - I kid you not, I found a pair of jeans that made everyone ask me if I had been seeing a personal trainer. That would've been reward enough, but the bonus is that shopping was uber-easy since when I went to a store or a website, I was only looking for jeans or capris, not shirts (that was last year) or skirts or shoes. No ambling through Marshalls for me. Nope. It was straight to the one row of jeans, then back to the car.
Easy peasy.

 2011 has been fun and low-cost. It's been my Sandal Year. I discovered that shoes really do make the woman, or at least the outfit. I bought these (in brown and in grey) and these , and of course these in black and for 1/2 price (and a few other pairs that I would show you but my sandal financier occasionally reads my blog.) 

Because I'm only shopping for one type of item, I am in and out of stores more quickly and I have a better idea of what is a good deal. I'm not keen on shopping (except for book shopping, I'm real keen on that...and they always fit and never go out of style, and you can buy them even on your fat days. 

One last thing that has worked for me recently is to use the lazy days of summer to teach my children a few skills that will make  my their life easier once school starts. Here's a picture of Daniel and Andrew having a banana bread bake-off. It was a tie :)

Oh, and here's something that didn't work for me. I had another birthday.  I can now get 25% off at Goodwill on Tuesdays, which is such comfort as I look into the mirror and see my mother staring back at me.

My family lavished me with construction paper promises of back rubs, foot rubs, and car washes. And my husband got me an ipod docking station - which means I now need a construction paper promise to teach me how to use my ipod.

Here's my amazing birthday meal; Pioneer Woman's caprese salad, sauteed asparagus, steak, and dear husband's now-famous boston cream pie (which is really a cake, so what's up with that?)

See you in a few months!  (I'm trying to keep my expectations low so I can surprise myself.)

Actually, when I hit 100 followers my son has promised me a blog refurbishing. So....that should be sometime later in this century. I'm excited!

Monday, March 14, 2011


I wasn't going to blog today (shocker!), but I knew some of you might be having some serious laundry-post withdrawal so I put my selfish writer's block (aka laziness) aside to come over here and link to this. jewel.

Of course, my motivation was higher since she said such nice things about me. (Please note the title she gives me. And use it when you speak of me in the future, please.)

I love success stories, don't you? And I'm amazed at how seemingly small things (...and I confess, I was worried when she first emailed me pictures of her too-small-for-my-family laundry bins)
can make all the difference in how we view our daily tasks.

Seeing Kristin's success (almost) spurs me on to continue my Making It All Work series. I've implemented about 2% of the system, but it's transformed my calendar and my to-do list.

More later. (Do I say that a lot?)

P.S. Can I get a witness to Kristin's offer to come clean my shower stalls? Do you think she does tubs, too? (Do you think she remembers I have 7 sons?!)

P.S.S. Kristin is a new blogger - but you'd never know it from the way she writes. And wait until you see her amazing revolving slide show of her gorgeous children. No sinful, coveting, blog envy here. Just the facts.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mega Laundry Solutions

Some Moms Who Should Definitely Know are sharing about laundry systems, and I couldn't help but jump right into this 'agitating' discussion. This is one (and about the only) area of homemaking I have down to a sweet smelling, neatly folded science. 

 And I'm sure  now that I've proudly stated that fact, I'm bound to wake up tomorrow morning to a house full of wet bunkbeds (and it wouldn't be the first time, I can assure you of that.)

Here's the link to my previous post on laundry - complete with cutting-edge pictures of my family's amazing, individually labeled, (white, plastic) laundry bins. After you read that post, be sure not to miss the sequel. Because just like everything else in a large family, we needed more than one (booths in a restaurant, pews in a church, carts in a grocery store, refrigerators in a kitchen. It always takes two.)

 I'd write a new laundry post but why should I?  Don't need to.  My system is still working like a charm. Seriously. The only time it gets slightly out of control is after a Boy Scout campout, when my 5 Scouts come home stinkin' to high heaven. (And if that's what high heaven smells like, I'll be completely happy to stay in the lower part, thank you very much.) 

Maybe I should start a new blog called Pioneer Woman Washes
and Dries. 

This just in - One of my favorite, and more attentive, blog readers just reminded me of the sequel to the sequel laundry post. In this post I tell about the dot system - and get an award for Bravest Blogger (and most embarrassing mother.) I'm so proud of me!

After you've had your fill of my laundry solutions, be sure you get all the dirt from these gals.

Check out the other All in a Day Bloggers...
Carrie @ Our Full House
Monica @ Natural Mama
Renee @ Bakers Dozen

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My 8th Sixteen Year Old

(I have no idea why my pictures are grainy. Use your imagination to make them clearer. And if you're my older son, and you're reading this...Help! I just noticed I also have some kind of weird borders around a few pictures. What, I'm supposed to write, then do my own tech support, too?! Ridiculous.)

Sixteen is definitely an age that causes rejoicing. Although it makes me a little sad.

When I met Alex he was a small, brown, absolutely adorable, stuttering, speech impeded, extremely shy, bad-boy - brought to a McDonalds Play Place by his foster mom, to have a visit with his four brothers and their two foster moms. When the boys had been abandoned on Christmas Eve, it had been impossible to find a place to take the 5 of them, so they were split up - and it just became easier on everyone, except them, to keep them separated.

Pictured above: seven kids, ages 2-8, and four older ones (the life savers!), ages 12-18. Bad picture, great kids.

I've never hidden my boys' story from them. Some of them are old enough to remember a few details anyway.
A couple of them prefer the made-up version they use to block out the memories.

Their story is sad. They all have plenty of excuses to give their therapist for any future dysfunction, but thanks to a God of mercy,  they also have a story of saving grace and sovereignty that would make a marvelous men's retreat testimony one day.

Alex, a big-eyed, smiley 3 year old, was put into foster care because of neglect and abandonment. Alex, a shy, insecure 4 year old was taken out of foster care because of abuse. And Alex, an angry, adorable, scared-to-love 5 year old was adopted into our home because of love, faith, temporary (or not) insanity, and a big dose of over-confidence on our part. 

We didn't change any of the boys' first names since it seemed like they had plenty of new things to get used to already. Not only did they now have two, older, pale-faced parents; they also had four new sisters and two more brothers. They were now part of a chaotic family of 13.  They were now homeschooled, slept in a room with 3 sets of bunkbeds, and were gawked at like a circus act when we went ....anywhere!  

I never blamed anyone for staring. One time we parked in front of a mirrored window and I was able to see what others saw as we filed out of the van.  Children ages, 2,2,4,5,7,8,8,12,13,15,18 (mostly dressed alike...which did not help our case for normalcy....) exiting a large green van and lining up with buddies. I had to LOL. A long, hard LOL (although,it would have been longer and harder had it not been MY family...)

From that point on I knew we would always be a walking infomercial. Either husbands would look at us, nudge their wives, and whisper, "Have you taken your pill today?!"...Or they would see a glimpse of Jesus Loves the Little Children.

 We gave them each a new middle name, one with a vision and some character attached to it. A name they could live up to. Alex became Alexander Elliot - named after the martyred missionary Jim Elliot.

Some of my 16 year old man-boy's struggles have gone by the wayside. He miraculously no longer stutters. Apparently, that was an emotional response to something. Maybe he started stuttering when he lived in a car with his 4 brothers and parents. Or maybe it started the day the police officers took the five sickly, malnourished boys from their crack house.  Or perhaps it was when he was burned with a cigarette by his older foster "brother".

I'd love to tell you that with lots of love and consistency and prayer and discipline, I can see his name sake rising within him.

But I'm not sure yet.

 He still has fits of anger when he's caught stealing food (Maybe some kids never get over that feeling that the next meal is not a given...), or when the medicine he takes for his OCD, ADD, and Tourettes makes him unable to sleep so he gets up and turns the computer on - and gets caught. Because he's a horrible liar. Praise God.

When he's particularly mad, he folds himself into a little ball and gets as far under his covers as he can, trying to make himself invisible. I can tell he's hiding from something; us, the world,  himself. 

The same boy is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G in a thousand and one ways.   

Alex writes wonderful (and frequent) notes of apology. He totally knows what he's done wrong, right down to the wrong thinking that caused it. And he writes non-apology, just cuz notes, too. 

When your child is adopted, notes like this mean more :)
He is the first one to give a gift, and the last one to ask for one. He rubs my back. He kisses me goodnight. He's not embarrassed to sit close to me at church or ask for my opinion in front of his friends. He prays that his Dad would make enough money "so he could keep some for himself instead of spending it all on us and groceries." Spoken like a true, sensitive teenager.

He runs like the wind, winning cross-country races with perfect form, although no one has ever taught him how to do it.  He excels at soccer, tennis, swimming, skateboarding - anything athletic. When he takes his shirt off he looks like a muscle man (sorry, girls, no pictures.)

He's smart - doing algebra, dissecting crayfish in his biology class, studying latin and logic and reading through the classics in his homeschool co-op. I wonder what the neurologist, the one who told us Alex would probably never read, would think about that. Someday maybe Alex will drive me down there to ask him :)

Oh, and Alex should be getting his Eagle Scout rank in the next few months. And his Dad and I will stand beside him, proud and amazed, probably crying - and taking very little credit, knowing that God obviously has a plan for this guy, and our job is to persevere (a big job, I humbly add...) and watch it unfold.  And try to keep him out of jail. That would be good, too.

Happy Birthday, Alex.  I love you, son.