Tag Archives: homemaking

Labor that may or may not deliver

Meanwhile in attempts to lift poor children from having little or no opportunity to go to that kind of place, or any college, to grow up educated and provide a decent living for their families, Bill Gates and other business entrepreneurs (a.k.a. social entrepreneurs), in partnership with the federal government, have launched their attempt to education everyone with “twentieth century skills,” ready for the work force.

Good, but why does that have to mean, among other things, less reading of fiction in favor of more extraction of meaning from informational text? Why limit the finer opportunities still available to those whose brain functions have not been culled by stress and poverty, who possess the desire and ability to long for deeper connection, more  far-reaching vision, a deeper understanding and expression through the arts and literature. Let’s not dumb down the culture in making it a more egalitarian one, elevate jobs and “productivity” over education in the best sense of the word.

And what about the obvious conflict of interest in having the owners of the tech corporations provide the software and classroom supplies and pedagogical philosophy for these children’s education experiences? We need workers, they say—this is the twentieth century as we envisioned it, so let us help you fit into the future we are creating, and all of us will be better off. If something has to go, let it be anything that makes workers question how we already know we should be doing things. You know, growing the economy, competing with other market powers, preserving the American way of life. Which is democracy in the sense that those with the power to sway the majority (those with  twenty-first century skills–not cumulative up to the twenty-first, but the latest set and open to re-training) can do so efficiently by means of a database so comprehensive and powerful that it allows media and “educational” products to be created that cater to each and every individual learning style.  And the part of democracy that allows us all to choose from fifty kinds of breakfast cereal in the aisles of the local supermarket and either traditional or “Simply” ripple chips, all produced by a few central manufacturing facilities staffed by twenty-first century workers. We can help students learn so effectively the practical skills they need to be “productinve members of a global democratic society” that the neural pathways needed to understand 1984, Brave New World, the MaddAdam trilogy, Animal Farm, The Hunger Games, and That Hideous Strength will be unnecessary and therefore atrophy.

An apology for the convoluted nature of my sentences, and how they go on and on, and have too many clauses. I’ve been told the “Ten Ways You Can …”, say, “Fight the Machine” format is so much more effective, but I haven’t mastered that twenty-first century communication style yet.

This existence of seems so contrived—since when in these thousands of years does one wake and not have to go about making a living? Making in the sense of obtaining food, shelter, and cultural context and materials from teh ecosystem. All aI have to do is create—to write, sew, paint, create and maintain human bonds, and that mainly based on the compulsion of angst about this modern life: what is it? What does it mean? Why are things not fair and I have this free time while others are laboring to the point of exhaustion for bread for their children and something to hide from the drunken consort? Why is it considered more valuable to go into database architecture, or game design, which pay a lot of trade tokens, than being a parent, home maker, friend of neighbors in the community, or teacher? In the division of labor, some make money doing work that is of dubious historic or spiritual value, so that others can do the important, though unpaid, work.


Tags: , , , ,

Ms. Grumpy-pants

Ms. Grumpy-pants

Took my older dog for a run in the still, damp air to see if I could shake off what shook me up the other day. The dog is always happy to hear the leash jingle, but the whole journey away from the house, I have to tug every few seconds to keep him from being a literal drag. And there’s the problem of unpredictability. He’s bit several people without warning, several times puncturing the skin. Upsetting, not okay, even scary, but we can’t see our way to putting him down, only redoubling our efforts to keep him from hurting anyone. I cinch his leash toward me and ready myself each time a jogger approaches, and try not to release any stress pheromones he might interpret as a call to protect me. Meanwhile I wish good morning to the passers by. There are no incidents, no lunge attempts. On the way back he heels nicely from a forward position, eager to return to familiar territory. And I feel like dragging, because I don’t really want to go home right now. Wondering why things were so fine for weeks, and suddenly tense and hurtful so I’m responding from my reptilian brain, also known as bitch. I hate being grumpy, makes me grumpier still.

The main thing is I’ve been tense about for days is housekeeping and chores. Four kids, and I thought I’d put a lot of effort into teaching and training them to pick up after themselves and pitch in on general household tasks, but not one of them ever (it seems) does any chore without being asked, and even when they are asked (or told), I often end doing it myself, fuming. Busy, too tired, feel sick, “just a second” that turns into an half hour, didn’t make the mess, already did a chore, etc.

Part of it is that I take very little satisfaction and virtually no enjoyment from housework, laundry being the exception (especially using a clothesline). I’d rather be gardening, installing trim, sewing, painting, baking, doing finances, mowing the lawn, almost anything. So I think it’s only fair that the burden be shared, and when it isn’t, I take it personally. I too want my share in recreation, personal scholarship time, creative pursuits, and so on.

The other part is that I see a pattern of irresponsibility and insensitivity that could affect other areas of their life and relationships. Truth is there is no just escape from housework, and the sooner they get used to, and skilled at it, and learn to balance it with everything else, the more successful they will be at those mundane foundations of modern living. It’s for their own good that they should do chores. Why can’t they see that? I have explained it.

Finally, I feel guilty, and inadequate, because in this aspect of parenting, I feel a failure. I have neither been an effective teacher/motivator, nor dictator/disciplinarian, nor organizer/delegator, nor loving, merciful self-sacrificing person who people just want to help out.

Run, sweat, shower, breakfast, coffee, writing time. I feel a bit better. Now it’s time for me to re-read my housekeeping resolutions post, and pull myself together, with God being my helper.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A stay-at-home-mom looks toward the future

A stay-at-home-mom looks toward the future

Am I missing a strategic time to get back into a paid career path, by taking yet another year at home with my children? I’m back at home full time this year, with one son who is learning at home. My other three went back this year–one to community college (in Running Start, so technically he’s still in high school), one in regular high school, and one in middle school.

I enjoyed the work substitute teaching last year–it was a confirmation for me that I do want to keep working with teen people and that I have something to offer, if I can keep it alive. I keep coming back to that drive–to help kids busting into that abstract thinking, individuating stage figure out who they are as learners, knowers, feelers, doers, communicators. It’s a charge just to be with them–they’re so interesting, so varied, and so important to this world–not just in the future, but now. And they need all the help they can get as they develop their ethical principles, ’cause without ethics, how can they keep from adding to the mess this world is in, let alone be useful, or genuine leaders and heroes of all kinds? Over and over, when I read and hear of corruption and dishonesty in our leaders, and bovine acceptance in the workers under them, I get fired up about it–ethics! Ethics! And I mutter under my breath with Uncle Digory, “I wonder what they do they teach them in these schools.” And at home. Fresh-faced young people, some of whom are not so fortified against the temptation to incorporate cheating, meanness, theft, bigotry, conformity, laziness, exploitation, tyranny, arrogance, … into their personal repertories in some effort to succeed, rebel, or make a mockery of the best intentions of educators. So we work at that, questioning, encouraging, setting examples before them of greatness, and ask that question: Who do you intend to become? Not just what.

I still have the appropriate teaching license, and still feel young enough, though I would need to update my skills and learn a new groove–regular schedule, call in a sub when I’m sick, rules, paperwork, accountability to lots more folks. Coursework in the new technology, latest educational research, current cultural and psychological considerations. An internship or two would be great, and I need to make contacts in my home district, which was closed to new substitutes for several years so I had to commute.

But I am just not done with being a stay-at-home mom yet. Nor could I imagine having enough left over after teaching all day to keep up with home management and staying connected with my kids. Even with three in school full time, I’m amazed at how much of a challenge it still is get the house clean (they all still make messes, and have hardly any time now to pitch in), the pantry stocked and a bit of yard work done, organize bills, accounts, inputs and outputs, supply clothing, school supplies, and so on. And of course there are the roles of homework helper, proofreader, sounding board/consultant, after school driver, and planning assistant. I don’t do near the job I’d like to, though I’m making progress, and the kids are more independent, which counts for a lot. The older ones actually liked to hear about my substituting experiences, and were tickled to see me so energized.

I’ll take it a year at a time. My husband is currently shouldering the money burden so I can be at home more, and homeschool our youngest boy. We weren’t in a financial position to do that for several years, so it’s a privilege now. I feel very useful in my current position, for the housework and logistics even, but more for the homework help, support, just being there, having enough physical and mental energy to field concerns and questions my children bring to me, the ways I can try to fortify each young person in his or her individuality, sense of responsibility, commitment to becoming equipped to use their skills, knowledge, gifts to be a blessing. I get to ask them in various ways who they want to be, remind them they’re practicing with the folks at home who they’ll become. Not so pretty sometimes, and I’m not so proud of my own example sometimes.

On occasion I’ve try\ied to get out there, volunteer a bit, go to a few meetings, but when it comes down to adding more responsibilities, I have had to back off. I don’t want to hear myself turning a kid down for homework help, a tea date or invitation to walk the dogs together because I have to do a write-up or make a poster, head out for an event or make a bunch of phone calls. All I can manage is a few late nights to myself blogging, to see if I have anything to say, and learn to say it better.

1 Comment

Posted by on October 19, 2013 in Parenting & Family, Personal Growth


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A new kind of personal training program

A new kind of personal training program

To keep fit and maintain my energy, I run a few miles as many days as I can. I was never much of a runner, never pushed myself to the point of the second wind, the rush of endorphins others report as being so addictive. But I’ve been inspired by others to push a bit harder, and I love the sense of growth that comes, as well as the satisfaction of consistency. In the summer I try to swim several times a week, and have discovered some fast twitch muscles I didn’t know I had. Makes me hope I might enjoy training for a triathlon in the next year or so, even though I’ve never enjoyed races (I prefer contests of strength and skill).

This last month I had to save my physical energy for a big floor refinishing project, and that, grueling a physical as it turned out to be, also brought additional strength and a sense of accomplishment. I hope that strength and endurance will transfer to swimming and running as I return to those forms of training. As, I am sure, and more properly so, the running and swimming gave me strength for useful labor.

But perhaps it’s time for some work in an area in which my habits have been slack, my motivation weak and easily quashed, and my metaphorical abs not supportive. This time, it won’t be mainly for myself. Yes, I mean, I am going into a training routine in homemaking.

The floor is done, the furnishings mostly back in place, and I am determined now, first of all, to prepare decent and regular meals. Not to say cook, since some of the best meals don’t require it. I’m starting with supper. We can coast at the other meals a while longer and have (whole grain) cereal, fruit, yoghurt and instant oatmeal for breakfast, and leftovers or self-prep sandwiches for lunch. Plus three of my children enjoy making waffles or pancakes occasionally, so we’re good there. A sit-down supper, on the other hand, we need, in order to to improve our protein and vegetable intake as well as reconnect and enjoy each other’s company. And review mealtime etiquette, I’ve already noticed. When possible, I’ll even try to make (or delegate) dessert. At least once a week, I’ll bake bread or something similar like I used to. All that requires planning, at least when the garden slows down and I have to rely on groceries more.

Second, I am determined to work harder to train and engage everyone in sharing household duties and responsibilities. On the fly at first, catching people at leaving dishes around, eating in their rooms, failing to put things away, leaving work for others. Nabbing helpers for meal prep, cleanup, fetch and carry, laundry and other necessary tasks.Then, back to attempting to organize specific responsibilities and keep everyone accountable. I will do my best to be encouraging but firm, appealing to the best in each family member.I regret to say that I was a poor household helper when I was young, but I think my parents should have taken me in hand on that account. I mightn’t have become such a housekeeping slacker and taken less time to adjust to my new life as a housewife. I hope I can do my children (and their future housemates) a service by this training and preparation.

Third, and here’s where I’ll need all the inspirational literature and motivational RSS feeds I can get, I will try to keep the house clean and orderly, even if others don’t care or aren’t willing or able to pitch in. Which is occasionally the case, you may be surprised to know. I have found that my mood and creativity are negatively impacted when things are in disarray. Since it looks like I will have the most time this season, and because I care about order and beauty, I’ll have to take responsibility for those in the main. In some ways I’m looking forward to that, as it means a few sewing, painting and furniture refinishing projects. At least projects, unlike general housecleaning, stay done. And part of this work will involve selling or giving away stuff we don’t need any more, which is liberating.

Finally, I will try to be more of a “yes” mom whenever I can. Mom, can we go shopping? Mom, will you help me make this? Mom, will you look over my essay? Can I play a computer game? Can we do something special? I’ll even try to surprise the children and my husband more often with something they enjoy or appreciate–a treat, a special time, an outing, a gift.

You see, it’s new year’s resolution time for me, which, I just realized, is appropriate. The Jewish new year is coming up (Sept 5-6, sunset to sunset). I’m not Jewish, but I do think fall is a better time for the new year to begin. I’ve always felt a new energy then. So l’Shanah Tovah, Good Year, to you.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

From one golden berry patch to another and back home to make jam

From one golden berry patch to another and back home to make jam

Daughter’s doctor appointment cancelled–no brown recluse bite after all, just suffering from a lack of window screens as we rid the house of floor finish vapors. She says she has been bitten by fleas from the blue-eyed puppy that wasn’t supposed to be in bed with humans. Pup is carried in at night so as not to scratch the floor finish, not yet, anyway. Such a beautiful floor–golden, and browns, striped, variegated, long and and dashed lines of grain, a visual wonder; no need for furniture any more, maybe just some large pillows on the floor. I congratulate myself because someone forgot to do that (quite enough) when I was growing up, so I say to myself: You did it! Look what you can do! And all by yourself, too! Way up in the corner by the ceiling a long-limbed, caraway seed-bodied house spiders weaves a fine new net. I let her be, since she is as good as a screen, and tremendously more artistic.

Today I teased a silk spider nest out of a door groove, but into an appropriate alternative hatching location. Baby spiders to watch soon, pouring like sand out of their home, landing on clothes and skin, then disappearing so small. Weeks later reappearing visible in large, if not so extraordinary numbers. The orb weavers, displaying perfect spider body, each with its own pattern of exoskeleton adornment. They pull silk and carefully bind their polygonal nets, laying them across the evergreens, rose bushes, and paths we walk, too late and hoping she walked quickly away from the epicenter when she realized the level of perturbation, and isn’t swinging down to cling on the sleeve or hair. Mornings are misty and reveal web designs, which fade in afternoons warm and golden, the golds of August. Even some of the maple leaves have rusted away to gold, tired early and rustle paper down in the still air, while the rest wait patiently green for rain and perhaps frost before expiring.

Light pours in the windows, first east, then west. Lighting the colors of the oak boards softly gleaming. The other half of the house is a maze of relocated bookshelves, bed parts, musical furniture and bins of unsorted treasures. A cautionary red cloth hangs from the leg of a new bunk bed, bought online and partially blocking my bathroom door. Perhaps it was not a wise purchase, but we will try to create space on the floor, if not at eye level. The bookcase between the toilet and the sink is not a good fit (and contains the wrong books for this location). Still, I don’t really mind the desk in the bedroom, despite the frequency of new bruises inflicted on my hip as I pass it in the night.

An electric fan is drying blueberries in the garage that has never been a garage, only laundry, storage, and a cramped shop counter. For the last few weeks, half kitchen and dining room (the other half outside under a tarp canopy). Perhaps soon a bedroom for little brother so big brother can have his own space for at least a while before he flies off somewhere (will he feel close to us, and call?). I enter into his possibilities, which I once had–off to study, travel, work, find himself in individuality, personal community, the larger world. All very fine, and I am happy for him. He was supposed to pick blueberries today with me and the siblings, but fell asleep on the way and slept in the car the whole time we picked, plunked, put, poured and portered. Small berries without extra growth substances, each flavorful, a little dried already from weeks of just enough but no wasted water. Should be perfect for drying, to be put in granola, energy bars, and freezing for muffins, not turning them soggy like the megaberries. And eaten readily as long as I refrain from using a high proportion of whole grain, however freshly ground. It will be a fine thing to restore the oven to its place, and the first thing I shall make will be bread. Having made bread always feels right. Along with growing food, saving seeds, and sewing, what I am meant to do, and a way of feeling the cords that bind me into that great web of the creation, the nature of things.

Evening has shadows remembering the gold of late afternoon, ground still warm but air fresh. Beans are climbing, beets swollen, wild weeds race to drop, shoot, send to the updrafts their seeds. And I pull them and restrict somewhat the races which may reproduce in my realm. I call my little boy and daughters in turn to sit with me on low camp chairs and roll seeds from brown cilantro switches and paper pea pods. I insist, telling them they need to understand how this works, and enjoy working together in this mundane essential life.

Tomorrow will be a raspberry day, and I will see who will come with me. Even my young smart phone users must be made to feel the pull of real, essential things together with me. Raspberries in the morning, a picnic, and back at home I’ll wash the spiderskin cast-offs from my dusty jars and fire up the camp stove. Raspberry jam aroma will rise and enter other senses. Raspberry is the very best kind of jam, and I will not buy it imported from France. If I do well I will also freeze many quarts of raspberries for smoothies. Next, with my son to pick wild blackberries with our ladder, clippers, and long sleeves.Then it will be cobbler and ice cream (with an appropriate proportion of whole grains in the biscuit topping). Amen.


Tags: , , , , ,