Friday Frivolities 4: Fashion, funnies, and furniture notes.

It’s been a very rainy week and as such we’ve been indoors a lot, with exceptions for a couple of trips to our local library which has amazing activities, events, and classes to beat the dog days of summer doldrums in our city. Even if it wasn’t raining all week, it would be a sweltering sauna all day, followed by a hand swatting mosquito farm at night. Such as summertime in a tropical climate. We’ve made good use of the time though.

The life changing magic of tidying up rather than reorganizing old, useless stuff:

We’re doing some much needed redecorating and painting of the interior of several room in our house which offered the perfect opportunity for some much needed purging.  I have been following along as Annasach documents her adventures in minimizing her spaces, and I found it rather inspiring as well.

Our children have faced this purging of their things with mixed results, but when their room is restocked, it should be much easier for them to keep clean when there is less junk in there to contend with.

They don’t make things like they used to:

The man and I recently shopped for living room furniture. After visiting every major store in our area, I narrowed down what I liked best; a sectional which easily seats the seven of us plus one more person and an oversized matching ottoman.

Before finalizing the order and ponying up the cash, we did some research: reviews, etc. We couldn’t find anything about the particular furniture I’d chosen, (new release), but we found plenty of negative reviews about the company I’d chosen to buy the furniture from.

Before I panicked and headed back to the drawing board -since I really liked what I’d chosen- we decided to check consumer websites for reviews of every major furniture store in our metro area. After all, people usually on put their thoughts on record when they are disgruntled  rather than pleased and the company I was ordering from is pretty big.

I included stores known for producing high quality furniture as well, since I was prepared to get what I paid for and shell out more cash for better pieces which will last many years. I am glad I decided to do that, because the results were telling.

Even among companies such as Ethan Allen and Thomasville furnishings, it was easy to find numerous complaints of workmanship, service, delivery times, etc. While that was a little bit discouraging, it did settle me down about the choice of furniture I had settled on since there was clearly no guarantee that going with another company, and buying something I didn’t like as much (I’d already been to all of them anyway) was necessarily going to yield better results. Bottom line is that they just don’t make things like they used to and all the stuff is probably being made by the same company anyway. Just another one of those little things that you miss from yesteryear.

Feminine fashion and perception:

Every couple of months or so I click over and see what interesting stuff has been presented at the website Beyond Black and White. I have a whole lot of opinions and thoughts about their overall agenda (some favorable, some not), but one thing I appreciate is the blog hostess’ push to encourage black women to embrace a more feminine attitude and persona.

Recently she discovered the lure of the pinup girl look after seeing a lot of women dressed in vintage wear while on vacation. She decided to try the look and was amazed at the reaction she got from people. People were suddenly drawn to her, and she the only thing she’d done differently was girl up her look. A lot.

I liked the post because we have known about models like Angelique Noire, the black pinup for a few years, and I wrote before that one of our daughters is very drawn to the highly feminine vintage clothing look.

In reality, it’s not just black women who could use some girlying up. Women as a whole have lost touch with the innate desire to embrace and be beautiful, but black women do have a steeper curve when it comes to the perception of femininity, which is one of the things I do agree with Mrs. Karazin about.

Friday funnies:

I am not, I repeat NOT like the parody Kyle Exum masterfully presents here in his “Mom Rap”. However, our 10-year-old says that there are a few lines in this funny video that for sure remind her of me. It is very funny, so enjoy, the Mom Rap:

 

And enjoy your weekend!

 

 

 

Friday Frivolities 3: Els’ Potpourri

We once went to a restaurant with an appetizer menu titled “a little bit of this and a little bit of that”. That’s what this is: a random mix of things I’ve thought about that won’t shake the world, but which I find interesting or enjoyable.

~My quest for the perfectly made bed: I make our bed every day, but I usually go about it the short and sweet way: pull the sheets on straight, smooth out the quilt, throw the pillows on top. In other words, just enough so that when we get ready to get in it later, it’s somewhat orderly.

I’m not sure what came over me Wednesday, but I was suddenly possessed with a desire to make our bed “right”. Y’all know, the whole “You can bounce a quarter on it” test.  By the time I was done, there would be no quarter bouncing on my bed, but it did take a long time to strip it, smooth the mattress pad, put on the sheets, straighten, fold and tuck them, put on the quilt, straighten it. Put the pillows on nice and neat, then arrange the decorative pillows just so.

We have a big bed so just walking around it repeatedly to get things perfectly straight took longer than usual. 15 minutes to make a bed that I usually make in three.

It didn’t look very different, but I put in more effort. If the husband responded positively, I’d keep doing it. He didn’t notice it at all. This is one task that I will unashamedly continue to do in shortcut version.

~ Fashion, proportion, and figuring out what works for you: Hearth posted a link demonstrating why women her height look better in skirts above the knee regardless of age. The woman in the linked post definitely looks better in a shorter skirt, and it wasn’t the least bit immodest.

It was a reminder to learn how to personalize your style based on what looks good on you and hold arbitrary rules loosely. I’m much taller than 5’4″, and much curvier (meaning larger bust, smaller waist, wider hips; not rolls of fat). So the lesson in her example wasn’t necessarily for me but there is a lesson in it.

~Birthday season has arrived in our house! Six of our seven birthdays will come and go between now and September 1st, not to mention a double college graduation celebration thrown in for good measure. This means perpetual “dieting” to compensate for all the communal feasting that will be taking place.

One thing I find very helpful during times like these is the motivation provided by non-scale victories that I will gain from eating healthy 75% of the time as the 25% of the time I don’t slows down the ability to lose the few extra pounds I want to lose over the summer. You can find a list here. Approaching health holistically has been good for me. Last but not least:

~Dance Party!!!

This is low culture and I realize that, but one of the ways I decompress and focus is by putting in one earbud, cranking up music with a good dance beat, and using it to keep up my momentum as I clean house. It’s good cardio too.

So, here are a few of the tunes I bounced to yesterday as I did my work.  I know that there are people who dance and people who don’t,  so your mileage may vary. Just find a way to infuse some joy and energy into you life this weekend.

Better When I’m Dancing from The Peanuts Movie, by Meghan Trainor:

Beautiful, by Mali Music:

Adventure of a Lifetime, by Coldplay:

Beautiful Day, by Jamie Grace:

This last one is by a rapper one of my kids is into. Apparently ALL of his music is free, which hasn’t hurt his popularity one little bit. I don’t do rap and never have even when I was young. However, since the girls are geared up to hit the road to go see him this summer, he’s an unashamed professed Christian (that not without controversy), and this hit song is his tribute to his grandma, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a listen.

Sunday Candy by Chance the Rapper

Have a fun, family-filled, worshipful weekend, huh?

Friday frivolities 2: Natural living

We live in the suburbs and drive a lot, but we really enjoy nature and time outside and have to take it as we can get it.

Fortunately, some of my in-laws live in the country on a sprawling bit of land with lots of natural beauty all around. We get up there a couple of times a year, and even stay in a beautiful log cabin my uncle-in-law and his wife built with their own hands. They belie their years, not only in appearance, but energy.

Recently we took a jaunt up for a few days and walking along dirt roads with no signs and forests as far as the eye can see is a wonderful respite, both mentally and physically:

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Here at home in my own back yard, spring has sprung. With it, we started our gardening and so far, so good:

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Purple peppers

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Mint

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Tomatoes

 

The recent drought down here, coupled with water usage restrictions, cause me a little concern but things are growing nicely. It seems the afternoon rains of the wet season are about to return as well, which brings the challenges of pests which to date haven’t been much of an issue. But they will.

Y’all get outside this weekend and have some fun. I certainly plan to, after I finish torturing myself at Saturday morning boot camp.

Have a blessed weekend!

Modern practice and ancient principles aren’t mutually exclusive…

…but they are differently applied. Expecting the lifestyle of a suburban Christian family of 2017 to look like the lifestyle of a family who lived in 1900 -or even 1950- is an invitation to all kinds of battiness and heading off the rails.

I’ve considering several different takes on the subject of the Proverbs 31 wife and how she translates in our current era. Depending on where you look and what you listen to you, can find countless books, commentaries, and discussions on the topic. For example, here and here.

Many debates, in my opinion, miss the point of the “ideal woman” vignette and it’s too bad, because there is a lot to be learned from it, and most of that has little to do with the practical matter of how one keeps house. That matters, but too much criticism and too little thought are given to the strains of postmodern homemaking because a lot of the physical demands have been mitigated by modern technology.

Life today offers many opportunities for leisure and with that the attendant mischiefs. I often think about Maslow’s hierarchy and how perfectly his pyramid applies to postmodern life.

maslow-pyramid

In the absence of a need to focus on survival, we fall prey to distractions, some of which seem good, but are their own form of mischief. One of the ways this manifests is in our insistence that the solution to today’s problems is to live life exactly the way it was lived when the struggle for survival occupied the majority of people’s time and thoughts. And so wives are advised:

  • We should sew our clothing even though it’s often far less expensive to buy comparable clothing ready to wear.
  • We should grow large portions of our food even if we live in areas or climates which again, can make this difficult and expensive compared to buying produce.
  • We should eat the cheapest food available to save money even though we know that many of those processed foods are not nutritious or good for our long-term health.
  • We should have one car while having many children despite living in areas where public transportation is inconvenient to nonexistent.
  • We should spend all our time at home, with little contact or support from other believers. Even though this is not how families and mothers lived 100 years ago when multi-generational and woman to woman support was a significant part of family life.

This is far from an exhaustive list, but as I contemplated it I remembered something written a few years ago by a prolific blogging friend of mine, and she pretty well captured a lot of the inherent problems with trying to pretend that we can live a simplistic, 19th-century lifestyle in the context of the isolated, atomized 21st century with its complicated economy, proliferations of choice, and higher expectations and standards which most all of us embrace:

We are incredibly mobile now, and getting my children in and out of the car is so stressful that we need 30 minutes head-start in order to get everyone buckled in without a meltdown. There is one day in the week where we undergo that particular torture 4 times, and by the end of the day, I’m exhausted even though I haven’t really done anything. I’m increasingly purchasing with local businesses, many of whom will deliver for a small fee, in order to spare myself a bit of that pain.

Visiting friends and relatives is equally grueling, as everyone lives at least 15 minutes drive away. We visit grandma at least once per week, and it’s a 1.5-hour drive in each direction, longer if there’s traffic. And there’s usually traffic. In my MIL’s homemaking days, everyone lived in the same neighborhood and visiting her sister entailed walking two blocks down the street. She was also never in the position of caring for her children while nursing a fever, or alternating making them snacks and vomiting up her own lunch.

I’m lucky that my husband supports me letting the children play outside, and that our house is small and sparse enough that cleaning it is short work, but other women aren’t so lucky. I know women who clean four bathrooms twice a week, as opposed to my 1.5 baths, and cleaning the floors takes them hours and involves lugging a vacuum cleaner up and down stairs to clean their wall-to-wall carpeting. The truth is, anyone who had a house larger than mine “back in the day” also had a cleaning lady or shared the house with other women who could help her.

Yes, you have a washing machine in your basement, but you used to only have three changes of clothes per person, and many had their laundry washed for them. I know this for certain, as my aunt’s family used to run a laundry service and she swears that her family washed the laundry for the entire urban neighborhood. Women bought washing machines, which killed the washerwoman business, but then everyone’s wardrobes grew exponentially.

For all of the talk of “pioneer women”, they were a small minority of women and tended to all be dead before they hit 50. Most women 100 years ago were doing a similar level of housework and homeschooling as I am, but they didn’t have to take on the additional chauffeuring duties, they weren’t as isolated, and they weren’t expected to look like a lingerie model and turn tricks in the bedroom that would put some prostitutes to shame. The workdays were also shorter before cheap electric lighting and most people got more sleep.

So spare me the rewriting of the past. Spare me the rewriting of the present, as well. Far from the “Desperate Housewives” meme, the majority of homemakers are in the lower and working classes. The equation has flipped precisely on its head: the middle-class homemakers are now middle-class workers and the lower-class workers are now lower-class homemakers. And the latter are increasingly male.

I’m not complaining, as I enjoy my life, just pointing out the obvious: then and now aren’t really comparable.

Am I saying that the Proverbs 31 ideal woman is irrelevant or obsolete? Absolutely not! She is more relevant that ever, in context. One of the first areas of the passage that I focused on when I stopped running from it several years ago was this:

The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.

This alone encompasses a lot, and when I focused on this with my whole heart, a lot of things came into clear focus and instantly fell into place. Along with that, every single item on my bullet list above? It became unnecessary or at least pared down significantly.

Most of my days are quite full, although without very young children underfoot, I certainly get more breaks than a mother of many littles. The priorities of my days are the priorities which will keep me in line with the verses I highlighted above, and my husband is very much a postmodern American man. Take that as you wish, but coupled with faith,  this means a combination of modern things executed in the spirit of eternal truth. Mostly it means lots of editing: of memos and emails, or other stage management type deals. Also, lots of cooking. The proliferation of food choice has certainly infected this family.

So, while there is a small garden, a bit of sewing, and even homemade bread from time to time, for me Proverbs 31 means that at the end of my child-rearing years, I will prayerfully be able to look back over the decades and see where I struck all the ideal woman notes. I cannot get it all done today. Trying to do so would illustrate a stunning lack of regard for the priorities of the man whose heart’s trust I am trying to maintain and the ultimate goal of a life which represents a woman who fears the Lord.

It’s not a bargain if you don’t need it.

As I’m purging my kitchen of unneeded gizmos, receptacles, and gadgets (and also watching my husband gradually purge the garage), I realize how many times I picked up something because it was a “steal”.

The problem with buying into that notion is that these things steal needed space which makes clutter and extra work when it’s time to clean house.

Anything that hasn’t been used in 12 months is probably not needed. Additionally, anything that does something you rarely need, or only does it once a year (exceptions for Christmas and Thanksgiving, of course, may not be a steal, although it is a stealer of space and peace.

So far I’ve rid myself of:

  • 5 sheets sets
  • 10 board games
  • 5 water bottles
  • 2 kitchen gadgets
  • an old tea kettle
  • countless “Tupperware” containers

I’m not looking forward to the toy box and closet of my youngest children. Maybe I can get their sisters to take them somewhere to spare us all the wailing, gnashing of teeth and beating of the chest over toys they haven’t touched and clothes they haven’t worn in a year or more.

I’m digressing. what was the lesson here? Oh, yes:

It’s not a deal if you don’t really need it.

Life Hacks #1

There are a lot of things I wish I would have figured out sooner that save time and money. Thankfully, the Benevolent Dictator is always one step ahead of me on things like that, but I’m a quick study and have learned a few things of my own along the way.  Today I have three life-enhancing things that I have found many people don’t know.

Before you replace it, call the manufacturer.

Irons, blow dryers, hand mixers, kitchen faucets, food processor parts and even paint are things that we have either gotten replaced brand new from the manufacturer (if we couldn’t wait) or gotten reimbursement for our purchase price (in other situations such as the paint).

In Home Depot last week, my husband encountered a woman in the store looking for a Moen faucet to replace the one she had that broke. He asked her if she had called Moen, and she didn’t understand why she would do that. Well, almost all Moen faucets have a lifetime warranty. It breaks, you call them, they send you a brand new express mail one free of charge. She had no idea and her faucet was functioning enough that she could wait the three days for the new one.

Oh, the same thing goes for Fitbits. They send you a new one no questions asked if yours break. My SIL had replaced 3 before we learned and told her to stop wasting her money.

Sometimes it’s smarter to buy used.

In our breakfast nook, there was a cute little round dinette table with a glass table and 4 chairs. It was probably time for a new look in there anyway, but to nudge me along into shopping for a table, our 8-year-old broke the glass.

After a couple of weeks of the occasional trudging into furniture stores as we passed them, I settled on a set at Kane’s Furniture and was all set to stop by there on Sunday to buy it and have it delivered to the house.  I need to make a relevant parenthetical detour:

I have something of a *thing* about withholding as many dollars as possible from the consumerist machine. One of the reasons I love online classified sites for everything from homeschool materials to exercise equipment is that each one of those purchases denies the state more sales taxes and the junk consumer good market more dollars. There is only so much one can do in the context of suburban life, but I do what I can, to my husband’s amusements.

So, I was all set to bite the bullet and replace the dining set when my husband was in bed surfing Craiglist, and on the feed popped up a nice looking dining set for $250. It was very similar to the one I was about to buy, so we texted the guy and asked to see it. He agreed and not only was it in excellent condition, but his table was solid wood and much sturdier than the table I was about to spend $599 for:

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Excuse the paper towel. I’m shooting this out on the lunch break.

And look! Same chairs:

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That was a coup.

Waffle irons are good for more than just waffles:

I really enjoy freshly made hashed brown but in order for me to get them to that perfect crispness, I have to cook them in small batches. For 7 people, that can take longer than I feel like spending on breakfast some mornings. On Saturday, our oldest daughter suggested that we try doing it this way, which wold yield two servings per batch. It worked!

 

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These were very good.

Well, those are my three life hacks from the past week. I also planted several herbs in the holes of painted cinderblocks but until I yield something we can eat using that idea, it doesn’t qualify as worthy of passing on. We’ll see.

Feel free to share any tricks and tips you use that can make life easier.

 

Work what works for you.

When I first discovered Christian housewife blogs, there was a lot of stuff our there that seemed to promise that if you just follow the right system, your home would run like a well-oiled machine. There were homemaking binders and systems for sale from just about every one. Even after more than 15 years as a housewife, I still felt inept and wanted to be a productive and orderly wife. The kind God would approve of.

Those ideas spoke to me because there are few things I like more than a good list or supposedly fool proof system. Spontanaiety or flying by the seat of my pants doesn’t work for me. For the sake of balance, God decided to marry me up with a spontaneous guy who occasionally enjoys flying by the seat of his pants. Who says He doesn’t have a sense of humor? Nevertheless, the binders and rigid checklist system didn’t work, not even for me. Our life and schedule simply won’t support extreme rigidity, even when the Benevolent Dictator is not here.

A few years into the homemaking binder craze, there seemed to be something of a backlash against the very idea of the perfectly organized homemaker with her binder which made everything go off without a hitch. In fact, there was a saying floating around: Just do the next thing. Some Chrisitan women were so disgusted by the idea of home run like a professional office job that they began to compare homemaking binders to the law, as described in Galatians 3: They might help as a short term solution for the new homemaker. They can serve as a tutor to help work out some of the kinks, but at some point, we should be doing what we should without rigidity and lists. Some even suggested that the need for lists necessarily defined those who use them as lazy and inept. And so, as much as I hate to admit it,  I bought into the idea that the need for tutors marked me as a spiritually immature homemaker, and committed to staying busy, and trusting that everything would get done.

That didn’t work for me either, and I found myself back to the lists. Even if things go a bit awry from time to time, there is no denying that in our home,  a lot more gets done when I have a list to check off than when I do not. Rigid schedules and homemaking binders aren’t really my thing, but I at least need a loose framework to keep me moving in the right direction. In other words, I didn’t fit neatly into any of the Godly housewife boxes and needed to find what worked for me, my family, and our household.

First up was homeschool, which demands a schedule of some sort if our children were to receive anything resembling an adequate education. And should the county decide to randomly audit me, it can only help to have one. The schedule I have below is detailed, with plenty of time built in to make adjustments as needed for errands, appointments, and outside commitments, which are a requirement in this family. Staying locked inside with only ourselves and our books for company, scrubbing and cleaning in the interim to work our way into a picture perfect place of godliness? My benevolent dictator isn’t having that anyway.

school-schedule

I found this year that one area which I thought I had conquered was not conquered at all. When February 2016 began, I was in the best shape I had been in since I last gave birth 8 years prior. I was about 10 pounds overweight, but I was running, lifting, eating squeaky clean and full of energy, and had been for the better part of a year. A sudden, major and unexpected loss set me off track and by the beginning of February of this year, I had put on 10 more pounds. In a year.

I know my father would want me to follow through and finish the quest for good health that I had begun. He hated the idea of not following through on something.  But quite frankly, I didn’t know how to get back executing what I know. Therefore I made a list, that lays on the countertop, and gets checked off as reminders of the things I want to do to recapture optimal health rather than get caught up on avoiding and thinking about what I can’t have. This is what works for me.

healthlist1

For laundry, I need a schedule. I need to conquer it in bite-sized pieces so that I don’t have what I have on occasion: several loads of washed, dried, unfolded laundry.  And so:

laundry

When I have the time to do more than just clean whatever room I am in for the 20 or 30 minutes I have free to do it, I like the lists provided by housewife how-tos. I pull up one of the lists and simply go down it in order for as many minutes as I have to devote to the task at hand.

There are lots of other areas that I might be better served in by making lists or keeping a binder or doing any number of things to keep me doing the “next thing”, but loose roadmap with room for detours and the ability to be of use to someone else rather than a slave to my schedule is what works best for us.

If it hasn’t become apparent yet, learning to live within the reality of my own life and limitations has highlighted for me how important it is for each of us, under the direction of our own husbands, and considering the needs of our own families, to do what works best for us. I am of course referring to practical matters of daily living.

Living as a Christian wife and mother does not mean subscribing mindlessly or slavishly to the dictates of anyone else’s understanding of what it means to be a “godly wife”, “godly woman”, or righteous person. We are called to unity, not uniformity.

You’d be surprised how much you can get done even without living in a way which would get you nominated for the Oppression Olympics. You can have a clean [enough] house, good enough food., educated kids, a godly life, a satisfied man, and still go out for coffee with a friend a couple of times a month. We found our groove, without all the guilt I’d get following the commandments of tose who don’t know anything about me and mine.

Work what works for you.

*All the lists shown are partial and not in their entirety, although none are a mile long.