Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday Home Management

All last week it alternated between cold, sort of bright days and cold, rainy or hailing days.   Last night there was a grand thunderstorm and our roof got pelted with hail.   I guess I was over optimistic when I planted my tomatoes. 

The Homeschool

My husband and older children were all gone last week visiting Liam in Oregon, so I was alone with the three younger boys.   We ended up more or less taking a week off.   My 15 year old still did minimal school -- he is finishing a couple of courses from Homeschool Connections, one on the Odyssey and a Latin one.  And he has several books he is working through:

So it's pretty lowkey right now.   Paddy is only doing piano.  Aidan has been doing lots of floor puzzles recently and is getting really good at them.    I guess this is Memorial Week. I had hoped to do some planning for next year but only worked on that a little bit.  Maybe this week.  

The House

After I did all that cleaning in the spring, I haven't done very much at all in the past week, and it's showing.  One thing I learned from Speed Cleaning that really helps me is to work in a circle.   You can do this with every room, or as I have been doing it, you start somewhere in the house and then progress in a big circle from there.    For some reason this really helps me orient myself -- I have trouble with that first step in every project.  I used to think it was laziness and maybe that is part of it, but now I think it is partly an executive function problem.  I can visualize the whole thing and feel motivated to do it, but I have trouble figuring out where the rubber meets the road.     Once I get started though, I'm usually fine and then the problem is to keep from overdoing it -- that is, cleaning the whole house while everything else drops!

I may have mentioned this already but my daughter got rid of two big bags of clothes and I got rid of another bag plus a bunch of K12 books (shipping back the non-consumables, discarding the used workbooks) so according to my sidebar I'm up to 100 bags.   Though it seems like I hit that total earlier so I will have to go back in the archives and double check!  

The Kitchen

When Clare came home from college, she brought a friend, and I had so much fun making somewhat more elegant meals than usual.   Notice I qualified elegant.    No chef-level cooking around here, but I paid more attention to complete effect and presentation.  I made roasted broccoli, and sweet potato spicy fries, and other things I hadn't tried before.  And it was SO MUCH FUN, though rather exhausting, probably because I'm not used to it.  For the first time in my life, perhaps, I realized why some people cook as a stress buster and as a creative outlet. 

However, this week, with two kids who like simple American style food and one who likes the vegetable -leftover stirfries I make for myself,  we kept it extremely simple.   It was all about homemade pizza and storebought chicken tenders and pancakes-for-dinner, and tuna pasta casserole.  That kind of thing.  

This summer, if we ever do have a summer, I want to keep trying the Fun Kind of Cooking I so briefly experienced.

Health and Fitness

I am trying to avoid weighing myself more than once a week.   In about 3 weeks I've lost three pounds.   But I think it's better than that because I have been riding the stationary bike every day.  I allow myself to read fun books during this time, which ends up being non-fiction about education, psychology or other similar things.   Furthermore, I'm allowed to quick-read, in Mortimer Adler's inspectional style, and then if the book is a good one I can go back and read it again more carefully.  So it's easy to keep cycling as I get caught up in the book.   I have been setting my bike to the calorie setting and I usually cycle about 500 calories a day, which takes about 2 hours, but it's fun.  

For all of last year I could rarely cycle more than 20 minutes.   In the past I would have felt discouraged about not really progressing, but approaching age 50 is a wake-up call and I knew 20 minutes was the minimum so I just congratulated myself on keeping up with that minimum.   But suddenly I did this jump into a much higher level.  So the take-away lesson for me is to keep persevering with what I can do and be patient, not expect an amazing change right away.    

Recent Reading Mileage

These are a few of the books I've been reading as I ride the bike. 

Forever Lily.   A story of a woman who went to China to support a friend who was adopting a baby, and ended up adopting the baby herself.   The main story was interesting, but it had a strange italicized dream story about an ancient Chinese empress who gives birth out of wedlock and loses the baby -- so the modern story was supposed to be a kind of reincarnation of the old story.   Certainly it kept my attention but it would not be my first pick for a resource if you want to learn more about international adoption.

Free Range Kids.:  How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Kids Without Going Nuts with Worry  I guess some people don't much like her humorous writing style -- she sounds sort of like a 21st century Erma Bombeck to me.  Personally, I laughed at the funny parts.   The basic thesis is that America is actually as safe nowadays as it was in the 70's when most of us were allowed to ride our bikes all over town, take the city bus, and explore the woods by the hour without even a cell phone.   She doesn't recommend skipping the car seatbelts or the bicycle helmets or sending your children to walk through the inner city at night, but she does think that because of media influence and parental peer pressure we have become much more paranoid than is good for us or for the optimal development of our kids.    I enjoyed the book.

Cutting Myself in Half:  How I Lost 150 Pounds One Byte at a Time.   Fun read.   It is written by a very bright teenage boy who used to weigh almost 300 pounds.  By exercising and watching his calorie intake he managed to get himself wonderfully fit and lean and even got asked to carry the Olympic torch during one stage of the relay.     Since he loved video games he structured his weight loss efforts like a game, allowing himself a calorie "budget" and thinking of weight -traps as obstacles in the game.   He tells about how he thinks life stresses like his parents' divorce turned him from an ordinary chubby kid into a morbidly obese teenager, and how a YMCA membership and some support from a trainer there started the changes that revolutionized his life.   He offers a plan for the teenager that wants to lose weight that is sensible and not gimmicky or dangerous.  It would probably be a good book for a teenage boy that wanted the inspiration and some tips to lose excess weight.  (my boy of that age is trying to gain some weight -- he's about the same size as the boy in the book got when he lost enough weight, but he wants to bulk up at least 10 or 15 more pounds since he's a football player).

Why We Run:  A Natural History
This is a book by Bernd Heimlich, a good natural history writer who was born in Germany and emigrated to the US with his parents, who are also natural historian.  It turns out he is also a competitive long distance runner who ran in high school and college, dropped it for years, and picked it up when he was 40.  Good inspiration for my exercise efforts.  He talks about how different types of animals run and applies some of that perspective to how people function as runners.  

Just a Phone Call Away:  Secrets of a Master Networker
I didn't read all of this book, because it's really about networking in your business, but I read the parts that seemed to apply more to everyday life.  His idea is that getting to know people, networking, helps you succeed in business and in life.   He doesn't promote networking to "use" people or do the hard sell on them, so much as he believes that networking is beneficial for everyone.  He likes to do favors for people by getting them in touch with each other even if it doesn't directly benefit his own interests.   So he has sort of a win/win, synergistic approach to the concept of networking.    The second part of the book was about forming a networking club and I wasn't too much interested in that but I did like his approach to getting to know lots of people.   Incidentally, I think a lot of women do this intuitively from what I've seen.  They are in touch with lots of different folks and do more than their fair share of keeping the community connected.  Our real estate agent is also a natural at networking -- I love listening to him talk, he gives out information about the community like a gift -- it is not gossiping because it has a positive function in helping people know who other people are and what they are engaged in.

Well, I'm off now to vacuum and play with my 8 year old and then make dinner!


  1. Yes, the tip to start in one place and work around the room has been a serious aid to me when I look around a crazy mess and wonder, "Where do I start?!"

    I read Free Range Kids last year and thought it was fun. :)

    Wow, 2 hours of bike riding! Good for you!

    I enjoy fun cooking, but it can quickly wear one out. I had forgotten my quick and simple meals (and I'd outgrown most of them anyway, as my standard pantry contents has evolved over the years), so I compiled them finally a few weeks ago and now have them handy on one sheet. After I use it for awhile and make sure it's all usable and correct I plan on sharing it. :) I love roasted broccoli and sweet potato fries. I've decided anything is better roasted or grilled. :) Tonight I'm cutting up my own chicken fingers out of chicken breasts and freezing half for another day.

  2. Oh, I hope you do get around to sharing the menu list! I tend to do the menu rotation where you do pasta one night, Mexican the next, stir-fry the next, etc. I could make slight variations and use the ingredients we had around, but I always knew what we were having that night. That saved my sanity when I had babies and medical crises. I still do something like that but it's getting more stale and I really want to spend more time gaining some new skills.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!