Monday, September 12, 2011

Design, Not Default

Everything came to a head.

It was as if God's grace disappeared all of a sudden.

Maybe it was the extreme heat that led to dehydration that led to poor milk supply that led to fussy baby and the need to nurse all day long, leaving everything else undone.
Maybe it was the un-pluggable milk duct.
Maybe it was the stress of the first week of a new school year.
Maybe it was the messy house and the piles of laundry everywhere.
Maybe it was the fleas we somehow ended up with and the fact that *I* was their new host.
Maybe it was the sleep deprived camping trip and all the packing, hauling, and orchestrating along with the logistical complexity of camping with a four month old.
Maybe it's the late night blogging ;-p

Whatever it was, I have been covertly losing it over here! As much of a 'do-er' as I am, I have come to the very end of my physical and mental ability and have entered a state of sheer discouragement by the fact that all my efforts thus far have amounted to nothing more than a big pile of muckety muck!

Kids bickering, shoes scattered on the floor, books and toys left all over, teetering piles of laundry stacked up everywhere, hungry mouths to feed, spilled food under the table, sticky stuff on the table, lego's they're 'still playing with' all over their room, piles of stuff out front waiting to be put away... AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

And this is *after* I implemented my new schedule that I talked about here and here.

And my first guilty thought was "I should be content in this circumstance and just accept that this is the way it is. I need to learn to bear this yoke with joy. Shame on me for being frustrated, discontent, angry, short with the kids, miserable. If I would just stop getting upset, then everything would be fine!"

And there is absolutely truth to that, yet we shouldn't stop there. We should continue to pray and strive and seek wisdom and discernment, because in most cases, we don't 'just change'.

My husband once told me that he thinks the idea that you can go from problem to solution without hard work in between is one of the greatest tools of deception. It breeds discouragement. Because we try once, fail, and then resign to the fact that we will never be able to change. We tried and couldn't do it.

My husband actually takes people like me on as clients - to help them learn how to optimize their business rather than their home, but it really is so similar so I took my situation to him, as I often do, and he helped. A lot.

Sometimes you just can't see the forest through the trees when you're right there in the midst of it.

So for starters, he told me to make a list of all the problems I have in the home - on paper. It has to be on paper.

Here's the list I came up with off the top of my head:

-Meals sneak up on me and not everyone likes to eat the same things.
-Kids not patient about waiting for me to help them with school.
-4 month old fussing at times instead of eating, burping, playing quietly and going down immediately for a nap as my ideal schedule calls for.
-Child #2 dragging feet to get started when asked to do independent work.
-housework still undone even with kids doing their chores - dishes, laundry, vacuuming, clutter, etc.
-animosity between #2 and #3
-No time for grocery shopping/leisure in the afternoons.
-no time so I'm always rushing
-closet nightmare - my clothes are in piles so everything is wrinkled, I have to dig forever to find anything to wear.
-kids don't put things back.
-so frustrated with the condition of the home that I'm grumpy and unable to play and enjoy my kids.

Going over my list, he empathized with me. He then said some things that hit home.

"Whether you take the time to plan or not, you are living by a plan. Unfortunately the plan you have is a default plan and, how's that going for you?" {ouch!}

"What you want is a plan by design, not default."

"Because you have no good plan, you compensate by exerting control." {boy, did that remind me of CM's talks here and here.

He continued... "You lack discipline, not because you aren't capable of it, but because of a lack of focus. You have been disciplined and consistent in other areas before, just not in these areas. You've just never taken the time to focus on a good plan for everything you do."

"And then there is no joyful spirit in the doing - the kids obey, but Galatians 5:22 is out the window. And without joy, you resort to outlets."

In my case; chocolate. It makes me feel sooooooo much better. for the moment. But why stop there? Indulge in some bad thoughts; selfish thoughts and start blaming others. {ugh} {sigh}

So now that he had me feeling so fantastic about myself, he pointed me to the sensibility of a plan that I could have confidence in through prayerful discernment and wisdom.

We looked at the list again and he told me to pick out the top two things that cause me the most angst. So I picked meals and closet. Then because meals come three times a day, closet comes once, we decided meals was the place to start to give me the greatest relief.

He asked "What do you want your meals to look like? What would be ideal?"

My mind turned to how I currently open the fridge at lunch time to try and come up with some sort of lunch from the existing components - "how about cucumber and mayo on a tortilla?!"

So I answered, "I want to be able to make healthy, quick and easy meals that I don't have to think much about. I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes sometimes, but I need a standby plan that I can fall back on." So that became the goal.

By this point, I was figuring out what all I needed to do now. I started making another list of things the kids like to eat for lunch:

lunch meat sandwiches
bean & cheese burritos
chicken tacos
buckwheat noodles w/seaweed
onigiri (Japanese rice balls)
pasta w/olive oil & salt
fried rice (quick with leftovers)

From there, I made a shopping list of all the ingredients I would need to have on hand to make those items. My husband, who also used to create systems for a living as an engineer, said think of it this way:

Keep a stack of tuna in the pantry in the same place always. The kids know where it is and can always find it when they're looking for it. It's in the tuna spot. When you take a can and there's only 2 cans left, automatically write 'tuna' on the shopping list so you don't run out.

Sounds like creating good habits. This was nothing less than revolutionary to me. I have never had this kind of order in my home and am just now learning it. I'm sure this is all common sense to you all. Unfortunately, I never learned it.

Now, every which way I look, the wheels are turning in my head, wondering what else could be done more efficiently to simplify our lives. I'm hoping between the meals and the closet, I should be able to shave close to an hour a day.

Even though I've only figured out one tiny corner of a plan, and actual implementation is yet to be seen, I feel soooooo much lighter already. The entire tone of the home is lightened.

In the end, I don't think it was God's grace disappearing, it was His grace abounding! It just took a bit of intensity for me to come to terms *again* with my shortcomings and His perfection. And isn't that so often the way? In the valley we look to Him, seek Him, find Him. And in to the valley He sends us for our very own good.

If you have any tips on how you manage your home that you'd like to share, please do post them in the comments for us all to benefit from!


  1. I'm sure it comforts many of us to know that we are not alone. I certainly can relate to what you are saying.

    It sounds like you have a very wise and understanding husband; you are fortunate. I've had similar lists and sometimes it's hard not to be where you were. I always say that my husband is who keeps me sane, real and focused. I'm great at CM (school) planning and implementing because I so very much enjoy it. Those other areas...they can feel like a drag and not interesting enough for me to take the same focus/initiative. It does take a little push from dh to see this. He doesn't do it in a blow up way but more of lets teach by example way. The kids won't get in the habit/routine if we don't. (He's never read any CM but oh do his words resonate habit formation!)

    Like you've said, one corner at a time. I've made it a priority to keep certain areas of our living spaces clear free at all times. The kids are now used to this and can in a manner of minutes pick up messes. Areas like their bathroom my dh has made it his routine to check as soon as he gets home everyday. This has helped tremendously with that room. The kids know it's going to be inspected and make that extra effort to run in there before dad gets home, it looks and stays so much better since we started this routine. Meals, I'm still working on this but I make great use of our crockpot especially on days I know we're very busy. And I keep stocked those healthy things on a weekly basis so we can just grab for snacks and meals.

    These are just some things from my list that we have been working on. There is so much more, but one challenge at a time. Next, is working on getting the kids room tidier on a daily basis by them not me! (I've been working on biweekly clear sweeps of those areas).

  2. Thanks Naomi! I think I'm going to go and make that list. My husband has been suggesting for a long time that I make a meal plan. I even have little cooks to help me now. I just never get around to it, but I must!

  3. Oh Naomi, you cannot imagine this post coming at a more perfect time.
    All those things you are feeling--me too. Last week when I was going to start school, I was already behind.
    We were gone for the weekend, which was good, but it didn't allow for me to be ready the way I envisioned.
    On Wed I came down with the flu and it turned into a sinus infection. I was totally down for 2 days which meant school didn't start, and the state of the house got worse.
    We had plans Fir, which I felt good enough to go to, but again, no scholl, no house.
    Sat I woke up with mastitis.
    I was down again for the whole weekend.
    And while I did start school this week and the first 3 days have been good, really good, I feel so terribly behind in the rest of my life.
    And that makes me stressed and grumpy and feeling like things are out of control.
    I always think if I can "just get everything done, then..." like my life will somehow be magically perfect from here on out if everything is done.
    It won't.
    I love that you went to your husband and brainstormed with him.
    I admit to being terribly afraid to do that.
    Nit because he'd be mean or critical, but because I hate to have my shortcomings pointed out and I hate to be told what to do.
    Even if it is helpful and needed.
    I admire and appreciate your courage.
    Thank you for sharing that your world isn't perfect.
    It helps me when mine isn't either.
    Love from,

  4. Love the post Naomi! I want to take more time to read it again. So true about the necessity of planning and priorities!

  5. GnC - lol, sometimes my hubby pours it on to help with the sanctification process. When I pointed that out, he said "Is it my fault if I am a vessel for God? Is it the knife's fault that it cuts? Is it the moon's fault that it shines?" He can be so poetic when he wants to be ;-p I could use a few new crockpot recipes. I think I only have 2 :( I'm going to look into that.
    Greta - so glad you were encouraged. Anytime anything goes wrong with nursing, it affects EVERYTHING! I'll pray for your mastitis to get better and yes, we need to lean on our hubbies, it's always easier once I recognize he's on my side and has my best interest at heart :)

  6. Here is a comment from Pam that I received via email. Thanks for the ideas Pam! She was unable to post it here so I'm posting it for her.

    You are close to life vs. survival! Hang in there. Keep the good habits going. Give yourself lots of grace! Let your man help, counsel, and brainstorm stuff with you. What an awesome testimony!
    Here are some things I use around our busy home. Use as you may/dump the rest:

    *Simple meals. Older one gets out stuff for them. Younger cleans up with mom.

    *Earn any rewards (a movie, outing, treat, even lunch): we all pick up for 10 minutes without stopping. Timer is set. I keep them busy.

    *Simple schedules for school. A general one: group time by 10, math and reading first thing, etc. Then a list of choices to go with: for group or circle time we can do these_______. For reading the book choices are these ______.

    *Tackle the closet with a child helper. Pay him with a handful of pretzels or something. That one runs the stuff to the laundry, give away pile, keep pile, or wherever. Only work on it for 10 minutes a day unless you are on a roll!

    *List meals you like for on a windows blank calendar: 2 weeks worth. Print it, post it. Rotate it. Shop by it. Use it, change it up, make it suit you.

    *Play obedient games. While you nurse or whatever, they each run one quick errand for you. They come back, you praise them for how fast they did that. Keep them running and keep praising. You get a lot done and little kids love it.

    *For your exercise and peace of mind: set a timer for 10-20 minutes each night and jog around picking up stuff. Bending, running up stairs, going here and there. You get healthier and your home is in ship shape for morning.

    *Pray often. Keep worshipful music on. Kids praise and scripture is great too. It's catchy and sets the atmostphere of the home. Brings peace.

  7. I can't even tell you how much we are like one right now. My life seams to be happening faster than I can keep up. As far as breastfeeding (cuz if that's not going well everything seems to fall apart)make sure you are drinking lots of water and I mean lots. You need to sleep. I know that is something to laugh at but it really needs to happen for your milk supply and for your mind. I have so many great ideas that I have gleemed from others that I would like to share and I would love to hear all of yours. We should gather a few of us together and brainstorm these issues out. Husbands are great! My husband just gave me the run down of how I can do better with my time. It's hard to hear but I have to admint he is right. God did give us husbands to lead us and our household so of course they are going to be a big help. It just takes me breaking down to remember that. Hang in there my friend the sun will peak through those clouds soon.:)

  8. Thanks for your honesty. You are certainly not alone. When I first started reading about CM and habis I was shocked to realize that I had no homekeeping habits of my own. I had learned the "pick it up when mom tells you to" or "wait until it gets really bad and do an overhaul" habits.

    For meals, when I was in desperation mode. I did the one month worth of meals that I just repeated month after month. I could buy things on sale and I knew they would be eaten b/c it was on the menu. It really helped get me over the hump.

    Good luck! It sounds like you are on the right track.

  9. Such a good post!!! I have a new baby coming in a few months and it's good to remember all the nursing things that arise and be prepared! I menu plan for two weeks at a time. I started this a couple of years ago and it has been a LIFESAVER. I can't recommend it highly enough. I just run to the chart and see what I planned and I know the ingredients are in the house since I created a shopping list that I copy from my menu plan. If something happens where I don't have the time to make what I have on the plan for that meal/day, I just take one from the next day, circling the one I didn't make. Then I go back to that one when things are quieter! I second the crockpot also. The evenings are hard for me and if I throw something in the crockpot at lunch then I have it ready when I'm so tired! In a pitch, baked potato bar (with whatever veggie, meat, cheese etc toppings are in the frig) is my go to meal. It is great for leftovers too! We also have clean out fridge meals too where we eat fruit, leftovers, etc when we are in a hurry. We also have been known to have popcorn (it's a whole grain ;)) and apple slices w/peanut butter or something for a meal! :)