7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 231)
Hello and welcome! If you haven’t stopped by since last Friday, you may notice that the site has a new look! (Thanks again to my awesome designer, John Flynn.)
Quite a few folks offered the constructive criticism that the picture of me at the top looks too much like “hunchback in scrubs” (I’m summarizing lots of comments/emails for brevity). I hear what you’re saying, and I tried showing more of my arms in the picture, but then it just looked like “puppetmaster with man-arms in scrubs.”
I think the way it is now is the best I can do. Aside from the possibly-Quasimodo-esque picture, I’m still thrilled with John’s design!
September. Wow. This is shaping up to be quite a month, and we’re, what, six days in? This week I reached a level of busy-ness that I didn’t even know existed. There were days when I ran around frantically, jumping from one task to the next, from the moment I woke up in the morning until the moment I
locked myself in the bathroom to scream went to bed at night. No checking email, no glancing at Twitter, just craziness and toil, all. day. long.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the systems I’ve created for homeschooling and house management are pretty good, and with a little tweaking, I think we can get things under control over here.
In trying to get my house organized for Fall, I came to a seemingly obvious realization that has eluded me in all my years of parenting: that creating schedules and systems to keep your house running smoothly is an ongoing process, not a one-shot deal. Here’s what I mean by that:
I used to spend lots of time thinking up elaborate plans and schedules to keep the house running smoothly. When I’d put them into practice they inevitably wouldn’t work quite as well as I thought they would, so I would promptly give up and declare that I fail at everything always. I don’t know how it took me eight years to get this, but in the past couple of weeks I realized that it’s unrealistic to think that you can dream up a system in your head and have it play out perfectly in real life. Of course you’re going to need to make a few adjustments once it’s actually put into practice.
Now I see the process more like this:
- I design a new system for some area of life (for example, a plan for the flow of our homeschool days).
- I try it out, and make notes as I go along of what works and what doesn’t (i.e. I do not shake my fist at the heavens and cry “I SUCK AT EVERYTHING!!!!” just because one aspect of it fell apart).
- Each weekend, I think of what adjustments I’ll make so that things will flow more smoothly next week.
- I keep doing this over and over again until we have a system that works for us.
Just a little wisdom for you from the “things that are obvious to other people but are revelations to Jen” files.
This week the kids and I set out to find which kinds of coffee cups keep coffee warmest. We put our homeschool to the service of humanity and tested the temperature of boiling water poured into four different types of cups: a regular ceramic coffee mug; a tall, insulated travel coffee mug; a regular ceramic coffee mug with a lid; a tall, insulated travel coffee mug with a lid. Here’s what we found (click to enlarge):
What we discovered was:
- Putting your coffee in a tall, insulated mug significantly impacts how warm it will stay.
- If it’s in one of the insulated mugs, it doesn’t really matter if the mug is covered.
- If you must drink your coffee from a regular ceramic mug, covering it will keep it about 15 degrees warmer.
I recently discovered the blog Harvard Homemaker, and I’m addicted. Her post about managing laundry actually had tips I’d never encountered before (which is amazing since I read a lot of laundry management advice), and her 100 ideas for organizing your home post makes me think I’m ready to win at life. A must-read for moms who love analysis and efficiency.
I am currently trying to resist the temptation to make myself a multimillionaire by implementing this idea I have for a kids’ foreign language program. I’ve been trying to get my kids to learn Spanish, which has been about as fun and successful as trying to get them to develop a taste for raw onions, and it occurred to me the other day that this would be no problem if I just taught them what they really wanted to know. If I skipped over all this “How are you today?” garbage and started teaching them how to say “You’re a poopy butt,” or “Someone farted,” they would be fluent by the end of the week.
I realize that this is a completely crass suggestion that no person of character would ever put into practice. I’m merely noting that, if getting your kids fluent in a foreign language quickly were important, it would work.
This week I pulled some random container out of the freezer and served it for dinner. All I knew was that it was a beef dish, but when I tried it I was blown away by the amazing flavors. My dad, Joe and all the kids were raving about how delicious it was. It took some inspection of the ingredients to figure out the name of this dish, and I finally realized that it was Slow Cooker Pepper Steak, which is as easy as it is delectable. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it!
Don’t forget that Pope Francis has asked us to dedicate Saturday, September 7 as a day of prayer and fasting for Syria.
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