Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Finding Our Way

I've been away from my computer/the internet for a good while now, on a regular basis.  I've gotten really involved in life here.  I've missed reading the many blogs that I follow, of feeling connected to many of you who've become my support system online.

There are days I feel very overwhelmed with all the things I feel like we need to be doing and are doing.  I've revamped our 'out of the house' schedule and am now tailoring our 'in the house' schedule to better meet our ever-changing needs.  I'm reevaluating my decisions regarding homeschooling (how we do it, what we do, what we use), allowing for what each of us needs at this time.  I'm contemplating how we could better do things, making the day go a bit smoother, less stress for me (yeah, it's true!), finding activities that will work for each of my children on the multiple levels they function on. 

For the past month, we've been doing a lot better about involving everyone in chores.  I am thankful that these 'little' jobs make such a big difference on the amount of time/energy I spend in doing them alone.  Last year I spent a lot of time looking and finding ways to limit our consumption and creating of waste.  This still remains a priority for our family.  However, some of the things I was able to do previously, without a whole lot of drama/stress/etc. on my part, have now become that.  I shared with a dear friend the other day that MY SANITY costs and there are definitely times when that--the care of me--is going to come first.  So one of the first things I've put into place is everyone's involvement in keeping our kitchen in order.  We are blessed to have an energy-efficient dishwasher with several cycles/options for washing.  With everyone rinsing and loading after each meal and selecting a short cycle wash, we're using less water and no one person is stuck with washing all the dishes (nor am I in the kitchen all day!!).

Another thing that is helping with keeping me OUT of the kitchen is that I let the girls make lunches.  They take turns and make several different lunches, that have been planned at the top of the week, for each other.  Although they take longer in prep time than I, they are building up their skills and really pitching in.  They are also learning to appreciate what I do (smile)!

I've also started doing less laundry.  Yeah, you read that right! lol!  Everyone has their own clothes basket in which they put their dirty clothes.  I assist on 'their day' to wash their laundry, but after the clothes have been washed, they must either put in the dryer or hang up themselves.  They then collect their dry clothes, fold them and put them away.  This is another area in which I've been pleasantly surprised!!  This method is working for us and actually limits the questions of, "Mommy, where are my socks?" or "Mommy, I don't have any clean...."

We've also made a little chart to keep up with whose turn it is to feed the pets and other wildlife in our lives (birds, squirrels).  We rotate daily as they each like frequent turns at each job.  There are the dogs: food and water, the Koi in the pond and the bird and squirrel feeders--which don't need daily attention (thank goodness!).  Although I do have to oversee all of this, for all the obvious reasons, we're developing patterns/rhythms for the days that will come when I won't have to.

Now that we're settled (for the most part) in our new home, it's easy to give each of the children responsibilities for keeping different area in order as well.  Years ago I remember joining The Fly Lady's email list and reading her blog/website.  Several of her tips I've kept although I don't get those 10-minute reminders flooding my email account anymore! (smile)  Taking 10-15 minutes two times every day, once in the morning, once in the evening for us, and "restoring the environment" makes for a space where company can actually 'drop in' on us unannounced!  (However, I phone call and plan prior to your arrive is appreciated! lol)

After working hard to purge and organize our classroom, our learning time has definitely worked better for all of us.  Everyone has there own designated area/space/drawer with all the supplies they need.  It makes it easy to see who needs what at the end of the month when we restock.  The children have done extremely well (better than I'd hoped) in keeping our bookshelf in order.  I gave them lessons on how to restore things and did set limits on just how many books they could take off the shelf at a time.  I just think we were all excited about things being in a order that worked for all of us.  There are shelves they can't bother books on (top two rows) and after getting detailed explanations as to why, I've had no issues.

Perhaps we're all just growing up.

I'm also putting perimeters on our involvement in our community.  It's been exciting to be 'back home' and we've jumped right back into the flow of things--connecting with old friends, participating in our local homeschool group, joining in library events, making friends within our neighborhood.  For awhile there, we were spending most everyday OUT of the house.  Which was fun, at first, but then became a struggle.  I've helped to start a friends' group for our neighborhood library and although that hasn't put me out of the house more, it has changed my computer time--I do things for the group, which can be time-consuming, and then don't find my way here!  That seems to be the nature of the beginning of things, I guess. 

I also organize our local homeschool group.  Since being back in the area, I've sought to reconnect with those I know and make connections with those who have joined during my absence.  That has been interesting!  Many of the mothers that I started out with are no longer homeschooling.  I've talked with others who would like to see the group be more this...or more that...learning, anew, that you can't please everyone; realizing that I don't really want to.  I've also made some wonderful new connections with others who are looking for similar things as I.  This has taken a lot of energy and time as well.  I'm making plans with several mothers who are committed to developing a supportive community and putting some things in place to make that happen.  Having others to encourage me and be of encouragement to is something I need as a woman, mother and homeschooling parent.  I'm thankful to be finally in a place where they can be a positive thing!

We have joined some new friends in our neighborhood in working in/on the community garden.  This is the third one to be started in the neighborhood--there are waiting lists to join the other two. So I jumped at the opportunity to meet/work/get to know our neighbors while growing food for the late summer/fall.  We have finally found a day that works for us and have been going regularly to weed and check on our crops!  Another homeschooling family joins us there too.  The peppers, squash, tomatoes, and beans are growing nicely--plants that is, no fruit just yet.  But just wait!! :D

Our personal garden is coming along.  I have vision of grandeur that haven't quite come to fruition.  I don't have everything in the ground yet. Mainly because we have puppies (that need forever homes) and I don't have chicken wire to cover/separate everything just yet.  Our little plants are fairing well and I may even do some containers to house the others permanently.  Either way, I am making plans to do some canning later in the year.  We have a field trip to a strawberry farm next week to pick a gallon or two of berries.  Remember last year?  I sure do!  I'm on our LAST jar of strawberry preserves so am looking forward to doing this again with the children.  I also want to can some green beans and tomatoes (mainly sauces).  We'll see how our growing season goes!

I guess it's all a balancing act, really.  There are ebbs and flows to life.  This is definitely a flowing time for us.  I'm choosing to enjoy this time/space knowing that the ebb will come.  It's funny how you can get caught up in living in the other time/space, missing that time, wishing you had it back, instead of living in the present.  I have to remind the children of this as well.  I remind them of days gone by when they were 'tired of just being in the house' or 'wanting to be with friends,' etc.  It helps to remember these times as it gives perspective.

Right now, I'm looking out the window at what my children have created--a tent and pretending they're living during the frontier days.  And isn't that just how it should be?  Enjoying the sunshine, being present in the moment, creating, imagining, exploring, dreaming....

I think we're all learning as we find our way.

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