Keeping up with the house when life keeps putting things on your plate starts to feel like jogging up the side of a muddy hill. Over the years I've acquired tips from blogs and friends that have made things more manageable. I wanted to share my three favorite.
1. The Weekly Cleaning Schedule. It is the worst, isn't it, when housework piles up and piles up until you are left with enough to keep you busy three solid days. When I was a teacher, long before I had kids, my sister showed me a weekly cleaning list. She had found it on a blog. Since then I have modified it over and over. Each time I move or life changes, I update the list. Above is the one I am using now. If you would like to download this word doc click on the image above. I love this list. Everyday there are just a few things to get done which gives me time with my girls and time at the end of the day to relax. If you work, this will let you get some things done before or after work and allow you to actually have some downtime on the weekend.
2. Keep the cleaning supplies in one spot. When you go to clean something it feels like insult to injury to have to hunt down your supplies. I keep all mine under the kitchen sink. Bonus: If you group certain supplies in a little bin you just have to grab and go when you have to clean particular rooms. The image on your left is my bathroom-cleaning bin.
3. Time Yourself. I told you it was weird. There are a lot of chores that can be far from a favorite of mine. A few years ago I was going to clean the windows on the outside and bemoaned that I would spend the whole morning doing it. I got the quirky idea to time myself and discovered that it only took a half-hour. The magic of this tip lies in two things: you stay focused because you are being timed and you find out that those dreaded tasks might not be as horrendous as you thought therefore you might not procrastinate so much next time. Besides, it adds a little fun to an otherwise mundane task.
There you go, my three favorite cleaning tips. But, what works for me will not work for everyone. In the comments section below share your own favorites. Who knows, I might just need to revise my list and you might be helping someone else out as well.
But everything should be done
What to Do on a Sunday
I love Sundays. I love the lazy morning, waking at the last possible moment, cooking up pancakes with Adela, and sipping my coffee slowly. I like getting dressed up for church and doing the girls' hair. I love sitting in the church pew, singing beautiful songs, and connecting with my neighbors. Sundays are often the day we have dinner with family or do special things with each other.
I love this God-made day of rest. I do. But, I have to be careful or the day can slide by and slip into the same routine as the others of the week. After all, I am often spending most of it in my home with the duties of motherhood securely in place. However, if I don't somehow make this day special, the rest of my week begins on a rough note. Life starts to feel lack-luster. I have less energy to do chores and less enthusiasm to do things with my family. If you are like me, you might feel the same. So, here are some tips that always help me make Sunday special.
Plan something ahead of time. Plan a meal with family or trip to the park with your kids. Get out and do something different. Celebrate your relationships and the people that will be coming alongside you through the approaching week.
Take as many chores as possible off your plate. Mix up pancake batter and put it in the fridge the night before. Get a meal prepped in the crockpot or make a cold noodle and meat salad. Let the house clutter up. And, if you feel extra daring, don't do the dishes, take out the trash, or fold laundry.
Do something just for you. Have some quiet time with a good book. Call up a friend for a soothing chat. Cuddle with your kids as you select a family-friendly film that even you can enjoy. Sunday is about your rest, too, you know?
Rest. This day is about rest and worship. If there is a particular aspect of your self right now that that feels worn--heart, soul, body, mind--then make an extra effort to rest that part of yourself. If that means putting your cell phone on silent or sneaking in a nap then do whatever you can to get it done.
And, of course, worship. This is a beautiful day to devote some extra time to God. Church, personal devotions, singing praise--it is all worship. God likes to find Himself in your heart.
This week began with my shoulders relaxed and a smile on my face because I was blessed enough to have a day of rest. I hope you are able to do the same. Perhaps you can't have this day on Sunday because of work or commitments, but I challenge you to find a day that can be given to rest and worship. Be good to yourself and set your week up for deep-seated joy and peace.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
God Honors What You Do
The sun skids above the horizon a few minutes before Adela squawks her morning "Mama! Mama! Donde estas?" Where am I? I am next to the kitchen sink trying to gulp down a bit more coffee while it is still somewhat warm.
But, to be honest to my heart, the feel of Micaela's arms around my neck and the sight of Adela's sweet smile are both ever more delicious than my coffee ever could be. In moments like this I remember the years that I longed for a child, longed to be called "Mama". Motherhood is just as precious as I ever thought it would be.
Yet there are days that I think about all the other things I would like to do besides braid little girls' hair and sing nursery rhymes. The other day I met with some women and we talked about a project we were working on together. I bemoaned the fact to the group that I didn't seem to have time anymore for novel writing. I could squeeze in blog-time and social networking, but I have no large enough blocks of time that I can put solid work into the detailed and complex thoughts of a historical romance.
The other ladies all nodded their heads in sympathy. They had all been where I am and were enjoying having more time that belonged to their own goals. But, one lady smiled at me and said, "God knows what you are doing for your children and all the sacrifices you make during these early years. He honors that. I promise you. He will honor what you have done for your family."
Her words resonated in my heart. God will honor this.
He honors our hard work and sacrifices.
He honors the dreams that go unpursued and the frustration we will squash down as we remember how important this time is for our children.
God sees everything. And more incredible than this: God knows the amazing present and future that is part of your life story.
In 1 Corinthians 2:9 it says:
However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived"
the things God has prepared for those who love him
God has good things, no, great things in store for you. Not just in the far distant future, but here in this day. He sees all the things you do, what you give, and how you serve your family.
And, He honors you.
When This Phase is Over
Today I looked at Adela's goofy grin as she handed me a toy Brachiosaurus and told God, "Please. I can't play dinosaur queen anymore. I just can't. I am going to go insane." Wearily I danced my dinosaur up Adela's toy castle and pretended to be brushing dinosaur teeth. Again.
I felt like my eyeballs were about to dry up. Nothing could be so very un-fun as this: making two toy dinosaurs pretend to get ready for bed in a castle over and over and over again. Seriously God, Save me, please.
It was about that moment that Micaela looked at me and gave me a very loud, angry screech. I set the dinosaur down and walked over to her. My mommy-instincts cringed. I took a deep breath and grabbed a plastic spoon to pry down Micaela's tongue. Oh, no. Doctor time.
We spent the afternoon on a doctor's visit as we tried to find answers to Micaela super-swollen tonsils. It looks like a virus.
Sometimes the mommy-life weighs me down. It feels like we lunge from one phase to another. During the newborn phase all we can think about is the day we will get to sleep again. Then we wonder if we will ever be free to socialize when our baby figures out how to crawl, wants to eat everything, needs naps, and it is a chore to leave our safe baby-proofed house. Then there are tantrums and picky eating. We think, "Oh, when they start school..." but they start school and life actually gets more complicated.
Today, as I held Micaela and waited for blood tests, it occurred to me that we never win this way. We never win looking forward to that next phase.
We have to love this day.
Yes, that means loving making snoring sound effects for a princess dinosaur and holding a cranky sick toddler. It doesn't matter if it can get worse or better. We don't own the future and yesterday is gone.
I know it is hard. Believe me, I know.
But just remember, if you are holding your newborn and blinking back weeks of exhaustion; this is the only time in your life that you get to hold your child, so vulnerable, so small, so completely yours before the ideas and opinions creep in and your arms become so much less needed.
If you are tied down by that awkward exploration of your baby, let yourself look in wonder at the thousand discoveries that little one is making today and love that front row seat.
Tantrums and uneaten food are no fun at all, but at this age they are just as enthusiastic about they things they love as they are passionate about what they refuse.
And, as you pack that school lunch thank God that your child has teachers and an open world to go into and a loving home to come out of (not all children are blessed in this way).
This is where we are.
Wherever you are today, find the love in it. This is the only day you have. Yesterdays are memories and tomorrow you have no way to own yet. Love today.
After the Oompa Loompa Dance
I laid down for a five-minute nap today after a rushed trip into town. The phone rang. One of Micaela's care coordinators had some paperwork to do and needed a signature. By the time we ended the call, Adela's favorite part of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had ended. "All hands on deck!" my mind shouted. Naptime was over.
I smiled as I kicked my feet out of the bed and went to heat a cup of coffee. My heart hummed. I did an Oompa Loompa dance with Adela as Augustus Gloop went up the pipe. Then I settled down to my computer. In that moment, I realized that I am so different than how I used to be. A half-day like today with the summer heat, cranky children, and an unexpected errand that took four hours would have made me feel quite defeated. Instead, I shrugged it off and decided it could be the adventure that Adela proclaimed it to be.
The woman I am today is so different. She is so different because God never stops working on me.
Isn't that a peaceful idea? God never gives up on us. He surrounds our life with intricate understanding of who His children can become and He is ever working towards that goal.
Today I have more energy, a better attitude, a more peaceful heart, and a more solid faith than ever before in my adult life. And it isn't me who has done these great works. I was never cut out to properly fix a thousand flaws of which half I can not even see and the other half I give up on time and again.
But God, He is different. If God were to hand out a business card He would promise to be a life instructor, counselor, trainer, father, and friend who never turned His back on us no matter how undisciplined or un-invested we were. God's treatment of us is not in any way related to who we are and is everything about who He is.
As God's children we have been given unlimited access to guidance that will bring us far beyond the perfect us we imagine and crave to be.
I have to remind myself of this. I want so much more from myself than what I am today, but faithfully I remember that God is always working. Sometimes he is gently sanding off my sharp edges and sometimes he has taken a hammer and chisel to slam away stubborn faults. Whatever His methods, the results I can see, I can feel.
Take a moment today to thank God for all the miraculous changes you see and feel in who you are. And thank Him too for all the work He still has to do, for coming along side you, and in you, and breathing new life into your every day, your every moment.
As for me, Violet is turning violet. Looks like I have more dancing to do.
The Cure for Healthy Living
Have you ever had a goal, one that shone brilliant and bright before you? You knew it was the right way, the right thing. But, making progress towards that goal felt something like trying to carry a ton of gold up a hill? I have a couple goals like that.
Today I wanted to be honest about where I am in my health and share my struggles.
When I was 21 I found out that I have incredibly high cholesterol with the overall number in the 300s and the bad cholesterol nearing 200 (that is the cholesterol numbers you would expect to find in a grizzly bear, not a young lady at a healthy weight). For a while I tried to eat healthy and was on medication. We got it down to a less alarming number. But, then I had kids and more or less put all thoughts about the physical condition of my heart on hold. My last checkup showed the cholesterol levels were worse than ever.
Time for change.
Change means cardio work-out, letting go of sweets and chips, and becoming as healthy as I possibly can. In theory I am totally on-board with the change and excited to become fit and disciplined. But the day-to-day reality is often disheartening. One little change in routine or a day of heightened frustration and I flippantly put all my good intentions on hold.
Lately I've done a lot of praying about and studying my Bible and have found these truths.
1. In my mind I am ready to give up. In my self-talk I do not build myself up, reminding myself that I can do it and that I don't need that chocolate or those salted peanuts. Instead I lament about how hard life is and how I deserve the smallest little thing that can take an edge off the difficulties of life.
The cure: Instead of telling myself that I need those unhealthy things, I should celebrate that I am able to take care of my body now, to cultivate a stronger me that is able to better deal with whatever comes. My self-talk needs to turn living healthy from a stress into a luxury.
2. I have no plan. For some reason I have expected the world to simply bring success to my doorstep. As if healthy eating options are going to be magically easier and more desirable to eat than the spoonfulls of peanutbutter my four year-old consumes. Lucky girl.
The cure: Plan week-long menus before I go grocery shopping so that I know what I can eat each day and will have it ready when hunger strikes.
3. Exercise has no priority. It doesn't. I say "I'm going to run today." or "I will do those ab exercises at some point." But I don't. There is just too much on my plate. From the moment my feet touch the bedroom floor it is just go, go, go until I am brushing my teeth for bed.
The cure: Give exercise a top spot on my list. I need to do it. It will feel luxurious to allow taking care of myself to become important. I remember, nobody wants me to break down right now, especially not me. So I need to take care of myself.
4. I have excluded God. This has become an area of my life that I have forgotten to invite God into. It feels so little, so trivial next to my concerns as a mother and a wife. But, God knows even better than I do that this body of mine must do His will and carry out His works.
The cure: I am praying about it. I am talking to God about how much I want to make a batch of no-bake cookies and how my low energy levels makes working out seem pretty impossible. Funny, but when I discuss it with my Heavenly Father I am given an accountability that makes my living choices simple.
In a world and society where fleshly pleasure surround us, it is no mystery why so many of us struggle with diet-related health issues. I am not going to let the world win. God in me is so much stronger than a Cambell's Soup ad.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The Other Child
When I was pregnant with the twins, I looked at Adela and was sad. It would no longer be just her and I. I would miss that. Little did I know that Adela's sisters would take so much of my time, attention, and emotions away from Adela. Through it all--months of bedrest, months of NICU, and subsequent months of doctors and therapies for Micaela--Adela was resilient.
Until she would not do it anymore.
My sweet quiet Adela recently flipped a switch. I know part of this is being four. I know part of this is her finding her feet and testing the ever-rippling waters. But I also know, deep down, that Adela is needing me.
Because when you have a child like Micaela who requires you to hands-on help her learn eating, moving, and talking, it becomes desperately impossible to give equal portions of yourself to that "other child". That other child: my sweet beautiful side-kick whom I have always felt so blessed to be a mother to.
Thankfully, God never gives us impossibility. And, as I wiped tears away last week when I couldn't reason with Adela, make her listen or cooperate, I realized that there has been more than Micaela being prioritized above Adela--things that I could let go even if it meant I needed to let the grass and weeds get taller and my current novel-writing be delayed.
I held Adela tight and was thankful that she has started to fight me, to insist that she get a portion of life. I have excluded her from so much simply from habit. But she is not the eighteen-month-old that saw me on bedrest, pregnant and sick. She is a four year old watching her mother rush around, anxious and busy, and rarely inviting her into my world.
Oh, my love, my little sidekick. I do hope you wouldn't mind if we start doing this together, all this life.
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
And Two Became One
I know the story does not end with the prince sweeping the princess onto his horse and riding off into the sunset. No. That is when the story begins.
This weekend, Annah and Noel took that first step forward in the adventure of marriage. How perfectly beautiful and blessed that they get to go on life's journey together. And, as I hold my own other-half's hand, I hope for them not only the sweet moments, but the bitter ones too. I hope for the challenges that will make them grow stronger together. I pray for the laughter that allows them to remember the friendship that holds their love. I hope their fights end with kisses and that they never form battle lines that separate their hearts.
And, even if they do, for these things happen, may God fix their eyes on love.
I could never be the woman I am today without my husband. Without him I would have never emerged from my shy, insecure shell. I wouldn't have saw the world with only a duffel bag to my name. I wouldn't have been mother to Adela, Micaela, and our angel Isabela. I am so different from the girl he took on a first date but have been made more his wife, his friend, his love as each passing year melds our souls together.
What sounds so scary as giving yourself, your life, to another person was divinely designed to bring fullness to your future that could not have been realized alone.
Today, I raise my heart and my hands as I pray for Annah and Noel and for the greatness that God has prepared in their journey.
Congratulations, my dear friends.
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"...and God was already there with me."