Monday, August 31, 2009

Our new organising systems

Beloved has been away this weekend finishing up the roof rack for the 4wd in his father's shed in Smithton. We need it for our trip to the mainland in October. We miss him terribly!

In his absence I have been filling (overfilling?) my free time with an uber-organising session, getting school tweaked and household chores streamlined. I have created a new system for our jobs with a laminated page stuck up each day with the name and themes of each day.

Our "themes" are as follows:

Sunday: Gardening, building and outdoor work

Monday: Laundry and art

Tuesday: Office work (budget updates etc) and crafts

Wednesday: Errands and poetry

Thursday: Cleaning and Nature

Friday: Cooking and Music

Saturday: Rest and Worship

and BOY, am I ready for that by Friday night!

Why have I created our "theme days"? To break it down and release the pressure AND keep me focused. If I find a FANTASTIC craft that I want to do with the kids, I can schedule it on a coming Tuesday (this week, we're making foot and hand prints for Daddy to have on Father's Day!) rather than

(a) INTENDING to do it and never getting around too it, feeling all the maternal guilt involved in that equation OR

(b) sitting in the middle of COMPLETE chaos finger painting with the kids, having a rollicking good time and - no dinner, late bedtimes, no clean underwear and a paint covered obstacle course in the lounge room.

Big honest moment, the second one is me inside and out! Someone asked me once how I find time for schooling amidst all the housework and taking care of babies. I said, that's easy! It is finding time for HOUSEWORK amid all the schooling and babies I find hard!

On our "day of the week" posters I have a bunch of adhesive velcro dots. I also have a set of envelopes with "Jobs" in them, small cards (about two inches square I guess) with a job on each one. As we do the jobs, we take them off the poster and put them on the envelope. When someone asks if they can do a job for me, I can just look at the poster and give them one. At the end of the job, THEY get to take the card down. It also means I will not get to the end of the day completely forgetting some essential task, it helps me keep focused and on track - something I struggle with! It is also better than assigning a job list for each of the kids at this stage. With such young ones, we need more of an "all in together" system where I can assign jobs according to attention spans and energy, which can vary each day. They also need to work along side me most of the time.

I also have a laminated "ZONE" poster for each of the four "ZONES" in my house, together will a bunch of little jobs that need to be done in that particular area. For example, our current "ZONE" is the bedrooms. I remember that because it is up on my cupboard. I glanced at it this morning and remembered that I wanted to flip the mattresses this week which I did as I changed the sheets. Now, some people keep things like this in their head. I don't. I need visual aids people!

None of this is terribly new to us, most of it was in our household organiser but there are days when I don't open it, or days where I need my reminders to be more flexible. This is working for us at the moment anyway.

A big discovery today was I don't always have time for everything on my list! Here I was just assuming it was because I was lazy and got sidetracked all the time. I remember today. I DON'T remember sitting down. I DON'T remember getting sidetracked. I HAVEN'T gotten everything on the list done. But I did get the important things done and I know tomorrow is a new day. At the end of the day, if I prayed with my kids, if I sang with my kids, if I read to my kids (we read the second chapter of 101 Dalmatians!) and nobody is stuck to the floor or suffering from typhoid, all the rest is details!

Now this sounds horribly chaotic and complex, but it is a system that has been many years in the making and is continually evolving and being tweaked. If anyone has a specific question, I would be happy to try and answer it. Blogs and websites have given me insight into how others organise their time and homes and have helped me greatly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I have been investigating and tweaking a workbox system for our family home school and so far it has been a real positive move. I will go into it more another time (when we are a little more "tweaked") but here are a few workbox links that I found helpful.

For me I wanted an organisational system that more or less runs itself through the days and fits around the various mini-crises that seem to crop up in our house. I also wanted something that would work for toddlers right through to high school if I needed it too. This may or may not be a fit, it is worth checking out though.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Meet Patrice

You know, I've been blogging for a while now and I have gotten to know some of you pretty well. So I think it is time you got to meet some of the people in my head.

Meet Patrice.

Patrice looks perfect.

She is usually dressed in a twinset, complete with pearls. She has horn rimmed glasses that have certainly NEVER been knocked from her face in ANY context - let alone by an over tired, tantruming, child. Her hair is always perfectly coiffed in a french twist and her nails impeccably polished and manicured. Her face is usually set in a demure, unassuming smile with her ruby red lips taking a slightly - predatory look - if she is perturbed. Her speech flows in dulcet tones, becoming slightly clipped if she is strenuously making a point, but never loosing their honeyed sheen. She some how gives the impression of being quite tall although I am sure she is not a bit over three inches tall. She can't be, she lives in my head after all.

Her purpose, so she tells me, is to bring reason and practicality to my choices.

I have my doubts, but that is what she tells me.

She appeared yesterday.

The house was quiet, I was playing with the babies and drinking in every bit of them in a way I seldom can when every one is home.


"Wha..Oh, it's you. Hello Patrice"


"Why are you here?"

"Is that any way to greet an old friend?"

"Cut it. Why are you here?"

"Well, I merely thought it an opportune time to point out that if you limited your number of children or at least SPACED them OUT at a, you would have these moments more often."

"Perhaps. If I stuck a tail on my bottom and started eating carrots, people may think I am a horse. What's your point?"

"WELL, if you're going to be CRUDE..."

"If I am crude, will you leave? Please?"

"Now I am only thinking of the CHILDREN. There have been several, well, incidents lately haven't there? And the state of the house....Let's just say we shan't be on the cover of Home Beautiful any time soon shall we?"

"You shan't, you are three inches tall and you live in my head."

"Be that as it may, I have a point here, do I not?"

"Yes, as painful as it is Patrice, you have a point."

"Could it be the case that you are simply bucking against the establishment for no good reason with your choices, throwing away convention and tossing reason with it. Tossing the baby with the to speak?"

"No, I don't think so..."

Her demure, unassuming, smile glistens as she leans in and places a "Kind and Well Meaning" hand on my arm.

"I am simply thinking of the children dear. Don't you remember all those little activities you used to do with your Little Girl when she was Christopher's age? When is the last time he even got to play with play dough and paints? Don't you think you could be stunting his development with your lifestyle choices? His BEHAVIOUR would be so much better if you had more time to teach and guide him."


She leans in a little further and goes on.

"Just think what he's missing, they are all missing. They need their mother and you are torn in so many different directions, so often. And Jonathan, well, he needs his wife. It simply isn't fair for him to get the scraps of your affection now is it? After he works hard all day. And that precious baby girl you're holding, she deserves more..."

"Patrice, shut it."


"SHUT. IT. I have made my choices Patrice, and we all face the consequences of those, good and, yes, bad. And I will CONTINUE to make my choices, right or wrong. But whatever the choices, whatever the consequences, I will not be asking YOU for help. You don't give help Patrice, you give accusation. Even if it was a poor decision to have an unconventional number of children, at an unconventional spacing, they're here now. Yes, there have been incidents and yes, there are days that I don't feel like enough to go around, but why don't you help me SOLVE that rather than just pointing it out? I KNOW the issues, it is solutions I seek."

I flick my wrist to disengage her glistening nails

"and another thing, what about the GOOD things. Yes, I don't do activities with Christopher like I did with Erin, but Erin had me hovering over her like a neurotic mother hen every waking hour. Erin was Erin, Christopher is Christopher,it is just as impossible to turn back time and make me relax through Erin's toddlerhood as it is to find time to hover over Christopher. When did "different" become "lesser"? True, Anna doesn't have me every waking hour - but she has her mini-minions attending to her every squeak and she has me when she needs me. And I think that is more than enough."

Patrice smooths invisible wrinkles from her twin set as she stands.

"WELL, I was just trying to help..."

"No, Patrice, you weren't. You were here to accuse me. To sap the joy from this moment. You don't help, you accuse - and I am above your accusations. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go and remove that container of talcum powder from Christopher before....well, I need to clean up the talcum powder."

She sets her smile, which never really slipped the whole time we were talking and turns to leave.

"Patrice? How is it that you had your hand on my arm? You are three inches tall and you live in my head."

She says nothing with those glistening lips as she turns on her heel and walks away.

And I go to clean up the talcum powder with my snow white toddler.

Disclaimer: I realise that Patrice is only real inside my head. I have not forgotten to take any medications nor do I need any. And I realise that they only one who accuses me - is me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

How to make your living area sparkle-arkle!

In Five Simple Steps

Step 1: send older two children away as a special treat with Daddy to visit overnight with Nanny and Poppy.

Step 2: put two younger children to bed for their afternoon nap

Step 3:
Eat a whole block of DARK chocolate with bits of raspberry through it while you surf the 'net and otherwise procrastinate. You may feel slightly queazy toward the end of the block, but persevere. Reason that Beloved doesn't LIKE raspberries so it would be downright CRUEL to leave it and eat it in front of him.

Step 4:
Get a sugar buzz/caffene high LIKE NO OTHER YOU HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED and clean everything in sight including the two younger children who have now woken up from their naps.

Step 5:
By the time you have finished step 4 you will have fed and put the children in bed again as it will take a few hours, even totally buzzed. Wonder as you put your breastfed infant to bed why she is so chirpy and wide awake at bed time. Look around at a job well done and push aside the niggling temptation to go and get another block so you can get the kitchen/dining/bathroom area done too.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The end is nigh...

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with Beloved and told him

"honey, I can see the end of my rope. It isn't here, YET, but it is coming. I am exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I am spent. In order to keep me out of the loony bin, we need to do something. I need some head space to do some thinking and praying and reading and I need a block of time to get stuff done. I am tired in every way and I can see a time coming when I just won't be able to deal anymore"

Now this is really, really, really grown up of me because my usual M.O. is to drag myself along smiling happily (scarily?) insisting that I am FINE until I totally hit a wall when I will just squirrel myself away by reading lots and lots or writing lots and lots or spending FAR too much time online until I get it together enough to resurface - by which time children are starting to stick to the floor and Beloved's polite inquiries after clean underwear have been replaced by him just going and buying more underwear.

The approach of the end of my rope has been precipitated by many things I guess. The insanity of the last move, renovations (which, if you read my blog at all regularly, you will know I do NOT love). Beloved's gut playing up more and more over the last two years, finally giving us enough of a scare the other week when he started vomiting blood to get a referral to a specialist. The fact that it has been raining for about, oh, three months now WITHOUT snow on my mountain (looking at the snow on my mountain through rainbows got me through last winter with the move). The feeling of complete and utter defeat where all things domestic are concerned has been another factor. Someone told me once to lower my expectations when I have so many littlies so I have, but honestly, if they were any lower my house would be seized by the UN as a biological weapon of mass destruction. Seriously, how low can they get. There was a "baby vomiting up a foreign object" incident the other week that we shan't speak of except to say that Anna now has a nice, SAFE, playpen set up and Erin has one less hair ribbon. Who knew a baby COULD swallow a 15cm long HAIR RIBBON??????

The feeling of achieving so little gets to me some days. I achieve maybe five things a day. Usually (but not always) involving putting on clothes (On a good day, before 11am!), having songs and prayers, reading to the kids, feeding the family and sometimes even showering. How sad is it when personal hygiene becomes a goal in life? Honestly.

And solitude.

I miss solitude.

Alone time was my personal special treat when I was living in the dorms at college. I would go to a library and find myself a little nest to read for hours. I'd take myself out to dinner and a movie. I'd go for walks and runs that lasted for hours and hours. Over the last few months I have been getting up at the same time as the kids, or moments before, going all day, then once the kids were in bed I still had Beloved with me (usually in the same room as our house is the size of a postage stamp) until we went to bed (usually far too late) and I fell asleep - waiting to do it all again the next day. Seeing as our only toilet is in the same room as the shower I would be lucky to even get a decent amount of alone time in there. Sending the kids outside without me is not really an option at the moment either as the yard is not properly fenced and, well, there was a little incident concerning a certain almost-two-year-old and an extremely busy road with LOG TRUCKS that means he is rarely out of my eye line anymore. I got a tickly throat the other week and prayed fervently that I would get sick enough to require Jon staying home to take care of things while I lay in bed and read a book. Yes people, I prayed I would get sick. FYI, God said No.

Yes, I am probably whinging here and whining and carrying on. But I am not intending to, I am just trying to be honest about where I am and how I got here.

I am not a big believer in "ME time". I honestly believe that going out lots without the kids/hubby with girlfriends or spending hours and hours on social networking sites, using chat, in the blog-sphere and contributing to internet forums, USUALLY, does not make for a contented Mama/wife. It often involves playing "who has the worst behaved kids, least affectionate hubby, most demands in their life" game or a competition on who has it the most together - a competition which everyone looses. I have known women who spend three or four hours a day on PARENTING FORUMS, putting their kids in childcare in order to get a break from them and more time to spend on parenting forums. Is it just me or is there something wrong with this picture? Too often, rather than filling up a person and encouraging them to do their job as wife and mother, "me time" is simply an exercise in discontentment and escapism. So often "me time" becomes an "out" from our real lives rather than a time of infilling that equips us to live our lives well. To have LIFE and live it ABUNDANTLY.

But I gotta be honest, life hasn't been that abundant over the last couple of months. There have been treading water moments. Treading water days and weeks actually.

Which brings us back to where we began.

It was a big thing for me to admit to Beloved that I was struggling. I am hard wired not to admit weakness and not to ask for help - certainly not from people I love. Why? Because I am all to familiar with the soul-decimating experience of asking for help and support and having it not arrive, or even worse, being accused of being "too needy", "spoiled", "asking for too much", of having my needs or pain belittled or dismissed, of being quietly labeled as not hurting enough to need help and sent to the back of the cue while I quietly try not to bleed on anyone's shoes. So yeah, BIG THING.

And he stepped up.

"What can I do to help? How can I support you, love you, better? You mean the world to me and you have been there so much for me lately, I will bring you the moon and go back for the stars if you need me too."

What a guy.

So here's what we are doing.

Each morning our alarms AND TV come on at 5:30am (yes, we need ALL of those to wake us up). I sit up and (blearily) read our morning Bible reading. Then I stumble out of bed and go for a walk. That's HALF AN HOUR of SOLITUDE. My time in the wilderness for prayer. A time to take a drink of living water. Head space. A time to think thoughts and thread them on a string like beads without having them jostled and spilled by the needs of a little person. Then I come back home and jump start the day before the kids wake up. Each night we are in bed by 10pm (or just after) at the latest. Beloved reads our evening reading and we snuggle down for sleep together.

And just now, I kissed him and the older two kids good bye. They have gone away for a weekend with my In-laws. The babies are asleep and I have blogged my little heart out. I have grand plans of cleaning and ordering and organising WITHOUT any little people help!

Then when they come home, I can welcome them with open arms.

And it isn't be so hard to remind myself that the little, beaming, faces that beg to help stir the pancake batter - are my presents from God, my jewels, my investment. That the screaming children who are hurling abuse at each other, are mine to shepherd and teach and correct and THAT is a PRIVELEDGE of which I am unworthy. That the little girl who stumbles, beaming, through her reader will one day, all too soon, read to her own babies. That the tender little boy playing with his dead bee, will most likely become tall and strong enough to sweep me off my feet - literally - then go off to sweep some other woman of her feet. That the chubby terror who makes my heart skip beats on a regular basis will all too soon launch off from this place to reach his stars, climb his mountains, and battle mighty foes. That the dainty miss who grumps through yet another tooth and submits to being dressed up by her big sister with giggles and coos, will one day step into a car, start it up and drive away.

And it isn't so hard to remind myself that the man who keeps bothering me about renovating decisions and paint colours is building me a home. The man who wants me to watch a movie with him is my friend who enjoys my company. The man who cuddles up to me at night, chose to spend his life with me - and still makes that choice every day.

And it isn't so hard to remind myself, I am blessed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Breast feeding

My Two Cents by Debi Pearl

The above is a link to one of the best articles on breastfeeding I have ever read! I have had fantastic feeding relationships with my kids and many things have contributed to those times. The way I feed Anna now, amid the chaos of our current home life, is totally different to the way I fed Erin. The clock still plays a role with Anna, but not such a marked one as when I was feeding Erin. I am less concerned about spoiling Anna than I was about spoiling Erin, because I am now more confident in my own ability to spot a child using their will to manipulate me (though I still get sucked in sometimes!). The only thing I would have changed about Erin's babyhood is I would have cuddled and kissed her more, ENJOYED her more, and stressed a little less about the small stuff. But as the boys left their babyhood days behind them, I felt the same way! So feeding Erin largely by the clock wasn't "wrong" and neither is the more laze fare method I use with Anna. Both work equally well in the circumstances they were used, with the children who were being fed and my body (which has changed markedly in the last 6 years!).

When I am asked for breastfeeding advice, I always struggle to put into words exactly what I mean. Yes, I do wake my new babies every three hours(ish) during the day for feeds, but no, I don't let the clock control me. Yes, I do think that feeding is a beautiful, natural thing that is largely guided by instinct, but it is also a learned skill. The thing is, each child is different and with each child, I am different. There are few pieces of advice that suit every mother and every child. Even with Anna I learned new things and had to adjust technique to her unique needs. I found my midwife an invaluable support during that time and probably will next time too. Next time I am clearing the decks of all but temporary visitors while we go about the work of establishing our breastfeeding relationship because that time is so intense and demanding. Anna took about five days to get the hang of latching properly, and it is only after I expressed and drip fed her to get her blood sugar up that she perked up and started pulling her weight. HOWEVER, I have met some midwives who simply don't have a clue, some people benefit from having a houseful of guests all gathering around to take care of them and 3/4 of my babies have not needed expressed colostrum. So little if any of what I learned from my time initiating feeding with Anna can be generalised to EVERY baby and mother.

Anyway, if you have a moment and are expecting to feed another baby one day soon, go and check it out!

My Two Cents by Debi Pearl

Friday, August 14, 2009

Billy's new pet

is a dead bee which he is keeping in a jar.

It's name is Zippydoo.

Explaining mortality to a three year old is hard.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Does your life ever kick unexpectedly into high gear and all you can do is grab on and yell "WAHOOO!!"?

Mine does.

I am finally getting a feeling of accomplishment going here and it is fantastic!

has added dentist, dental nurse or kid's nurse to her list of "when I grow up, I will be...". She had her birthday party, complete with cupcakes, on Sunday. She had a fantastic time and is looking forward to seeing a little more of her friends now that I have stressed to their Mums in person that I REALLY don't mind if they come around after school for a few hours.

is thrilled with the new lambs over our back fence. He is also extremely proud of his new garden which we built together on Monday. Still very set on the idea of being a dairy farmer. He has taken to pretending that his toy bear and sheep are Nanny and Poppy after our last weekend visit to see them.

started singing "Happy Birthday" when I lit a candle for the tea table tonight. He has taken to repeating the last word of every sentence or question you ask him. The resulting conversations are quite cute!

"Did you hurt your head?" "Head." (nod)
"Aww, do you want me to kiss it?" "Tiss it" (thrust head in general direction of my face)
"Is that better?" "Bedda" (nod)
"careful of the bench next time." "Nes dime"

He is cute as.

has two teeth, is eating solids and is semi-mobile. I know I said that last update but I am still coming to terms with it! Still an absolute delight, even when cranky and teething.

The House:
is drowning in washing that is drying or waiting to be folded. Other than that, we aren't doing too bad!

The garden:
has daffodils, snow drops and mud.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

A mother's conversation with God

He comes and sits beside me.

I stare at my hands, tight lipped.

He looks at me sideways, and whispers, "do you wanna talk about it?"


"OK......Why don't you want to talk about it?"


"'cause why?"

"'cause it was my fault."

"Why does that matter?"

"Why does that matter? WHY DOES THAT MATTER?! Because it DOES!"

"You seem a little scared. Why are you scared? Is it because he could have died?"

"Yes, no. If he'd died the family and I would have lived with the grief and it would have hurt always. But, if he had been put in a wheel chair or had a brain injury that he had to live with every day for the rest of his life...... The pain he'd have to face every day, and it would have been all my fault. That scares me, I don't know if I could live with that and that scares me even more."

"Do you remember the lady who was ushering him off the road?"

"Not really, it's a bit of a blur."

"Do you remember what she said?"

"She said 'I'd never let anything happen to him'. That's an odd thing to say now I think about it."

"She was his Angel"

"That explains things. She must work pretty hard hey?"

"Yeah, a bit."

"Maybe an extra would be a good idea hey. Does this mean he'll never get hurt?"


"What does it mean then?"

"It means that nothing will happen to him that we can't handle together."

"Even if it's my fault? Even if I don't watch him properly?"

"Even then. I have saved his life several times a day every day since he started walking, you know that. I have my eye on him, even when yours is elsewhere."

"I'll try and watch him better."

"I know"

"thanks for not making me talk about it."

"no problem."

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Things that get me everytime #1

a certain almost-two-year-old creeping onto my lap while I am trying to type, covering his own eyes then flinging his arms out while yelling "BOO-YA-HA!!" then saying "kiss" and planting a sloppy one right on my laughing mouth.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Things that get me ever

A cyber-sigh

Currently trying to deal with the guilt of hanging clothes on the clothes horse and using the drier on a perfectly good drying day because getting outside to hang it out was put in the too hard basket.

Even though I did take them out to play later in the day.

I am so up-frugal I am going to send us to the poor house I'm sure.


Monday, August 03, 2009

A chuckle.....

How to wash a toilet
This was simply too much of a time saver not to share it with you.

1. Put both lids of the toilet up and add 1/8 cup of pet shampoo to the water in the bowl.

2. Pick up the cat and soothe him while you carry him towards the bathroom.

3. In one smooth movement, put the cat in the toilet and close the lid.
You may need to stand on the lid.

4. The cat will self agitate and make ample suds.
Never mind the noises that come from the toilet, the cat is actually enjoying this.

5. Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a 'power-wash' and rinse'.

6. Have someone open the front door of your home.
Be sure that there are no people between the bathroom and the front door.

7. Stand behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift the lid.

8. The cat will rocket out of the toilet, streak through the bathroom,
and run outside where he will dry himself off.

9. Both the toilet and the cat will be sparkling clean.

Yours Sincerely,

The Dog