Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thank you! and, things are looking up

Dear Readers,
   Sometimes I think of you as friends I have not met.  Thank you for your comments and your encouraging emails, I appreciate them.

  I've been feeling a lot better these past couple of days, both in body and in mind.   I have also been feeling more content and much happier about life in general.

  So, this is just a quick post to reassure and to thank you.

All is well here at Our New Hearth.  Mothering is going fine, traditional marriage roles are working well, and my 3rd pregnancy is less taxing than it was last week!

Thanks again,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Needing Encouragement: Feeling alone in my homemaking

Alone in my homemaking.

This was how I felt recently when my sweet sister came for a week long visit.

Let me explain, and I hope that in doing so I can connect with someone who could offer some support.

In our household, we follow traditional household roles: I do the housework that is indoors and most of the child-related stuff, and my husband is the breadwinner.  He works outside the home all day from 7am-6pm, and does our yard work and takes care of the trash.

Right now I am expecting our 3rd child, and I of course mother our 1 year old and our 3 year old.

So the way I see it, both my husband and I work very hard pretty much all day long, at different tasks.

But here's what happened.

My sister is an excellent houseguest, she pitches in with whatever needs doing, cleans up after herself, is a model auntie with the toddlers, and is just all around great to have here.

However, she was ultra sensitive/aware that my husband was not helping with house stuff.  I cook every meal, change most diapers, clean up everything, do all the laundry, you know, all that stuff.

When my husband comes home, he is of course a good father to the children, but household stuff isn't part of what he does.  So I felt Very Very Awkward when my sister got fairly huffy about this.

Since I am having a somewhat taxing pregnancy and am feeling sick and exhausted all the time, things seemed even more difficult at home.

"You do everything!" she announced, fire in her eyes.  "And that is all I'm going to say," she finished, I think slamming something in the kitchen for emphasis.

It was 12 hours into a hard day of homemaking.  I had no words.  No anti-feminism philosophies to share, no reasoning to give, no explanations at all.  In fact, I felt wrong. I felt tired. I felt ill. I felt judged, I felt alone.  My sister has never made me feel alone before.  I'd never felt ashamed of my marriage before - but I felt vulnerable and exposed, I felt like a failure who had been found out.


Can anyone relate to this?

I stood by the sink and just felt like that, and thought of all the ironing, all the dishes, all the cleanup that remained.  And my husband was sitting in the next room, getting to rest because when he is at home, he is at rest. But because I am a homemaker, home is not a place of rest for me until a certain amount of work is done.

And that amount of work had not yet been reached.

I know in my head that everything is fine and that I have just been recently bullied into thinking this way - - but? Oh, I need some encouragement.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

As Knitting is to Blogging, stress parallels stress...a confession from a reluctant blogger

Hi there,
  I am blissfully domestic.  For years after leaving my parent's home - throughout college, throughout various jobs, apartments, roommates, churches, and regions I struggled to realize and accept this innate longing that I have to be a homemaker.

At age 26 I met the man who would become my husband.  About 2 and a half months after we met, we were at a point where we were both nearly sure that we were on the cusp of engagement. During that fateful (aka God-filled and God-blessed) conversation during which we discussed and explored the idea of getting married, for the first time we broached those potential deal-breaker  topics of future family size and I gently but firmly made it known that I preferred to become a full time homemaker upon getting married.

Apparently my inner struggle against society's popular norms for an American young woman was over! I came to terms with what I wanted and how God had created me to be, and I was somehow brave enough to, in a non combative way, put it out there as a must-have. This is me. Here I am, wanting a large family and the occupation of homemaker.

Miraculously, wonderfully, joyfully, it turned out that Jeff and I were on the same page.  He was thrilled that this was my desire, that I wanted this.  What a relief/shock.  It was amazing to me; there we were in Central Park in New York City, surrounded by nothing like what we had just agreed on wanting.

(What I mean is, I absolutely adored living in NYC, but no one there or anywhere else I'd lived had ever modeled this wanting-to-be-a-young-married-and-hoping-for-a-large-family homemaker idea. No one. )

It wasn't until about half a year after we got married that I stumbled upon the online homemaking community.  I was floored, completely shocked and ecstatic that there are other people like me!!!!!!!

Nobody in my life was being openly judgmental or negative about my decision to be a homemaker, but I had no support, either.  I'd moved from NYC to Ohio to marry, and friends and family seemed to assume that I was "unemployed" simply because of the relocation.  When I would explain otherwise to friends and family, they would get this patient look in their eyes, clearly humoring me and biding their time until the day I'd snap with their anticipated "boredom" and "need" to "get out the house".

People questioned how I was handling being at home after my big - time adventures of living in NYC and always being on the go and in the know and all that supposed stuff.  "Aren't you bored?" they'd curiously inquire.  My mother thought I'd gone off the deep end when I started making my own laundry detergent.  My in-laws kept gently badgering my husband with a car they wanted to give him a good deal on, most likely to try and make it possible for me to go out to work.

It was pioneer-ish and lonely, in a way, being a young homemaker with no known team of supporters beyond my husband, my grandmother and my great-aunt.

But! God blessed me with support from the Beautiful Womanhood website, the Homemaker's Mentor program, The Homemaker's Cottage, The Homespun Heart, and Lady Lydia's wise words over at Home Living.  Then Aunt Ruthie (not really my aunt, but that's how she refers to herself) came along, too. Then I found Raising Homemakers!  This online community of support is amazingly encouraging; I am not alone, I am not crazy.

I founded this blog, with the help of 2 nice friends, so I could try to be more of a participant and less of just a lurker/onlooker.  I wanted some way to have an identity here on the internet so I could in some small way "meet" other homemakers.

But!  I am so low-tech.  I just am.  This blogging thing is starting to drain on me, it doesn't come naturally, it doesn't feel fun or refreshing.  I also don't feel like I'm representing myself very well here because my low-tech-ness looks so out of date...I feel like I'm at a party dressed all wrong. My blog is so plain compared to everyone else's it seems, I'm just very discouraged.

So!  Here's my knitting analogy, in case you've been waiting for it.

Knitting is supposed to be so relaxing, etc, etc, you know?  Well, it stresses me out completely.  It is so not for me.  Give me a sewing machine and some thread any day, but those knitting needles?  Last week I packed 'em up and gave them to a good friend who is such a great knitter she even does socks.

 For pete's sake!

I kind of feel like blogging and knitting are pretty similar for me.  This blog, just sitting here on the internet looking all empty and shabby and embarrassing, is a lot like that stash of knitting needles and yarn (that sat untouched in the closet for 4 years!).  It kind of stresses me out, knowing this blog is here waiting for me to make another entry. Blogs aren't something that seem to end, they are cyclical like sweeping and then mopping the floor - it doesn't stay clean!  Though I am perhaps mixing my metaphors, I'm not sure I want yet another cyclical task on my list of things to do.

Because I loooooooove being part of the online homemaking community, I will keep my blog, be it ever so humble.   But don't expect anything flashy or high tech.  If you came over in person you could appreciate my clean floor, the nice quilts I make, a clean cup to drink water out of, nice little girls who are clean, well dressed and pretty well behaved....but here on my blog, I'm afraid not too much of that shows.

Anybody understand?  Isn't life humbling sometimes?

Friday, April 27, 2012

I want to join the D.A.R., not Facebook.

My mother is the family genealogist, and I have picked up a great deal of our family's names-and-dates type of history from her.  Many an afternoon I spent as a child wandering graveyards looking for specific relatives with my mom, clipboard in hand, ready to write down even more dates and locations.

As an adult I treasure family recipes and stories about the ancestors on the family tree, even more than I treasure the specifics of the cradle to the grave set of dates.  It is also fun to use my great grandmother's crochet pieces and teach my little girls what a doily is!

However, I have zero interest in certain other things, namely, joining Facebook. I will not do it.  I have no inclination to do so.  I am opposed to how it is changing discourse in our culture, and wastes precious minutes of people's lives.

This week my parents flew out for a visit with our family, and my mother and I did a little research after I announced:

"I don't want to join Facebook! I want to join the D.A.R.!" (Daughters of the American Revolution)

I really wanted to know, am I eligible?  After a little bit of studying the various branches of my family tree  and choosing which branch to lead us back to someone who fought in the Revolutionary War, we found it!  I am indeed eligible, as my great great great great great grandfather was John Dow, whose family had already been in the colonies for 2 generations.

Anyway, I look forward to learning more about him, and also to someday joining the D.A. R.  It is not something that is a priority to me just now during this phase of motherhood, as every ounce of my energy is put toward being a wife and mother and our first 2 children are both under age 3.  But!  I'm excited!


Life is just packed with important doings - like finding a way to do a Bible time with the little girls in the mornings (which is working out well)

and the Important Things In Disguise - like keeping house despite all the forces which conspire against that monumental task

and the Invisible-but-ever-so-real-undercurrents-of-thought - which accompany us every minute and help shape attitudes and actions.  Lately I've been full of thoughts on finding community; I struggle with feeling rooted, or not so rooted, as we know that we will be moving at some point in the future.  Whether we'll be leaving in the next month or the next couple of years depends on the vicissitudes of my husband's career.  This unsettled feeling bothers me, because I long for the peace that I imagine comes with settling someplace for good.  Of course, a hundred sermons and devotionals on dwelling in peacefulness above and despite circumstance echo in my head!  We aren't supposed to let circumstance determine how joyful or peaceful we are....

but it would still be wonderful to

-live near-ish to old established friendships and family members
-plant a garden in our own yard
-or even have a yard, I suppose
-really settle into a church, knowing that we will dwell alongside these fellow believers for years to come

oh, excuse me, am I rambling?

In the meantime, I am blooming where I'm planted (at least I hope I am) and am enjoying palm trees, wearing sandals and sundresses during all but 2 and a half months of the year, and all other good aspects of our urban desert home right now.  I've even continued to settle into our apartment: I've hung up 4 more pictures on the walls and installed even more hooks where I've needed them....all the while thinking, "Heather, should you bother installing this? are we moving next week?"

very unsettling.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Frilly tea party girls!

Hello again. My tea party-picnic habit is catching on around here!

Yesterday my girls and I did another family picnic at the park for breakfast. This time our picnic was at 8:45am - ish, well before our scheduled 10 am play date there with dear friends. While I was packing up the picnic at home Elena, age 2, suggested that we pack enough hot cross buns for our friends to have, too. I was so proud!!!

Again, it was lovely to sit in the quiet morning and have an al fresco breakfast with my little ones, with all our vintage linen and my china cup. As I poured my tea I thought of my own dear grandma, who is now in Heaven, who always packed a thermos of hot water and a tea bag to bring with her when she was going out.

After our breakfast was over and we were playing on the playground with sand toys, bubbles, a ball and the swing set, it was wonderful to watch our friends as they picnicked with the snack we'd packed them. The mother and 3 daughters made a lovely tableau - daintily eating hot cross buns while sitting on our red and white checkered picnic cloth, in the shade of an olive tree.

Then this morning, little Elena invited me to have a tea party with her on the living room floor! She had spread a baby blanket on the rug and had her china doll-sized tea set out. "Mama, come have a a tea party with me." she beckoned. "What kind of tea is it?" I humored her, wondering what sort of answer my 2 year old would come up with.

"English breakfast!" she announced cheerily, holding up her tea pot.

Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather.

You can bet that I attended that tea party right away, after giving her a big hug and telling her how much I love her. Oh, I almost cried I was so happy.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tea time with our little girls

Took the sweet little girls on a picnic in the park for breakfast today! It worked beautifully, I'm so pleased. I used a real basket, along with some of my great-grandmother's crocheted table linens, a quilt I made and a red and white checkered cloth that is sooooo classically picnic-y. It was so delightful. Brought along scones, a jar of jam, fruit and yogurt, a thermos of hot tea, and a real teacup and saucer, each swathed in tea towels for safety. It all worked so well, and as it was just me and my daughters, nothing felt show-offy or awkward.

Lately I have been feeling lonely for fellow tea drinkers, nostalgic for tea times shared with good friends who understand (that is, as Anne Shirley would say, kindred spirits). Kindred spirits who do not think it pretentious or irritating to use cloth and china even on a picnic.

--in case you are new to my own story, I am new-ish to my current region and am thousands of miles away from my New England tea drinker family and friends!--

Somewhere along the line I began to feel sad about not being near those friends, and then I decided that I should just go ahead and have tea parties with my own little girls. Even if they do only drink from sippy cups, and even if we are in the hot desert where everyone seems devoted only to cold drinks.

Today I found great freedom in simply packing up our wee picnic breakfast just exactly the way I wanted to, and eating it with the girls in the park. If we had been meeting anyone on a play date I would have felt like a show-off with such a basket. But since it was simply a family affair, I didn't have to consider the perceptions or reactions of others, and I was free to do things in exactly my own way, which was an incredible relief. God makes everyone differently, of course, and I think He made me to do things with frills. For me, it isn't showing off, its just the way I am.

Madeline and Elena were blissfully unaware of any of my over-processing, and they greatly enjoyed the novelty of eating breakfast at the park.

There was a Highland Festival at the park this morning, so during our breakfast we were serenaded by distant bagpipes, and lots of kilted musicians and Scottish enthusiasts strode past us. It was marvelous.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Houseguests: Preparing for them, then enjoying them

Enjoying company is a little easier for me these days. Now that I avoid overhostessing, things are better. There is still a tremendous amount of energy required to prepare for house guests; even a generally clean household needs a few extras before guests can comfortably be absorbed into the home.

I feel like I have read a lot about Christian hospitality and how our attitudes are supposed to be welcoming and how we are to show love to travelers and friends by opening our homes to others. We read in the Bible about how the early church met in homes, about how Chloe (wasn't it Chloe?) opened her home so believers could meet, learn, and worship together. And then there was that couple in the Old Testament who had Elisha over to eat and sleep often on his travels through their village. As I prepared for house guests this time, I thought about that couple. They really were not just fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants hospitable, they were organized. As you recall, they built Elisha a room onto the side of their house, so that he would have his own special place to stay whenever he needed it. Wow. Now that's hospitality.

Hospitality is hard, at least for me. People don't talk about this aspect of hospitality, at least not while I'm in earshot. Maybe no one wants to seem unfriendly, so they gloss over all the upheaval hospitable behavior can cause. We need to be hospitable anyway, because God told us to be. While I was preparing for guests, here are some things I did:
-Planned our flexible menu and grocery shopped accordingly.
-Baked some breakfast treats that are fast "before rushing off to the 8a.m. church service" food options for everyone.
-Talked with my toddler about our guests to prepare her.
-Moved our potty training area to a guest-free zone.
-Put a welcome sign up on the door of the guest area, along with some welcoming toddler masterpieces.
- removed often-used items out of the guest room, in our case this consisted of baby care and baby clothing items
- gave the guest room an extra dusting, sweeping, and overall freshening-up.
- Washed the quilt and linens on the guest bed and brought the air mattress out of storage.
- Washed the guest bathroom really well, after removing all the children's bath toys and towels from it.
-Set out fresh towels and new bars of soap and extra TP.
-Prepared the dining area for guests.

So while I did all that, over the course of the week which led up to the arrival of the guests, I thought about how truly hard it is to do all of that in addition to keeping up with the needs of our household and our family. Because that little list I just wrote doesn't cover any of my usual must-do housekeeping activities, and all of those household cycles (laundry, dishes, meals, childcare, joyfully repeat) continued throughout all that preparation.

And people ask homemakers what we do all day! *smile and chuckle*

Anyway, the act of opening our homes to others requires work, organization, creativity, and then when the guests come we need to show them patience and kindness and attention (yet not overhostess, of course) and enjoy them.

It seemed like a great deal of the preparation involved physically removing our own things from the guests' space, anticipating what their needs would be, and providing for them accordingly. It felt like an object lesson, like I was learning that hospitality is putting someone else's needs first.

So now the guests have been with us a couple of days and I'm realizing that despite the enormous
amount of work, it is so great to have 2 new personalities in our daily routine. They have transformed our household into a place with a lot more laughter and a lot more goofing around, it is really enjoyable. The visit is a treat for all of us. I am glad they have come.

Now I'm off to go prepare for a company dinner and a company breakfast while the little ones nap.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"How do you spend your day?" the trouble explaining homemaking

It happened again: another person asked me a variation of the question "what do you you do all day?/ how do you spend your time at home? / how can you stand so much time at home? etc. etc." This time the question truly was asked in the nicest possible manner, with absolutely no judgement or meanness.

I remain baffled and shaken up by it, though, because it was asked by a pretty good friend with whom I have a great deal in common. We're both Christians, about the same age, we have the same number of children (who are even the same age), and we live in the same city. We have been getting together each Tuesday morning at the park for a play date with one other family and have been having a picnic snack mid-morning.

And today conversation amongst us three mothers led to lunch food ideas - "what do you usually give your kids for lunch?" she asked, looking for ideas for her own routine, no doubt. I mentioned that yesterday we had leftover dinner food at lunch: fish, broccoli and baked potato. Boring, balanced, tasty, easy enough to just reheat and eat. Trying to keep the conversation going I politely asked how she usually handles lunch. She pointed at the picnic spread of portable sandwiches, fruit, crackers and water and said that they have this every day, that they never have lunch at home, they are always out and always have something pretty similar to what she had packed. I was stunned. "You never eat lunch at home?"

Never. Eat. Lunch. At. Home. The picnic lunches she packs are perfectly healthy, that wasn't what stunned me, it is just baffling to me that she can prefer to be out of the house so much on a regular-like-clockwork sort of basis.

Conversation progressed and we sort of compared (in a very friendly way, no animosity or argument that I sensed) how we each function.

My house and life would be a wreck if I were not home most mornings and afternoons - the continual cycles of household cleanliness, food preparation, child care rhythms all keep me utterly occupied. Rarely in my life now do I get to indulge in the lovely sewing projects or recipe experiments that I used to do, and that in a future season I will once again do. Right now, with my about-to-turn-3 yr old and my 11 month old my life is a lot more about keeping my head above water and keeping things fairly clean, so that we can just get ourselves happily to the next meal, the next bath, the next outing, the next nap time. I don't mean to express those thoughts in a desperate way.

But! I was stunned when my friend said that after they do their morning routine of getting dressed, breakfasted, and getting the kitchen cleaned up, she and the kids are completely bored by 8 or 8:30am. So they pack a lunch and go out - to a different playgroup, children's museum, library story time, Bible study group or park for each day of the week!

Curious about our routine and about how we do not live like that, she posed that dreaded question which i already mentioned. I then felt my brain seize up and my words refused to flow at first. I thought of my online homemaker blog friends (bless you, fellow happy homemakers! I am so encouraged by you and wish we all lived in the same neighborhood!) and wanted to phrase my words/explanations to her in a loving, inspiring way that would help her.

And I hope I did help, though I suspect I didn't. I mentioned that my girls play well independently, even Baby Madeline, and are always busy with something, and that I feel that my homemaking activities are never really done, so I am always busy, too. I shared all of what I just shared with you, readers, and I also mentioned that as a Christian I think of homemaking as a calling, and I mentioned Titus 2's admonition for women to be keepers at home. This is an important job, and if we don't do it, it will not get done. However, we were more focused on the question of how to fill the day, rather than whether to be homemakers or not, so bringing up Titus 2 felt a little off-subject.

So here we are back home from our morning out and now the little girls are napping. Although I have 5,000 things I need to see to instead (see note) I just had to blog about this, because i have no other outlet for such an ordinary-yet-extraordinary conversation.
Things I need to do:
defrost meat for dinner
clean both high chairs
Take dry diapers out of the dryer
Empty dishwasher
scrub the bathtub
take a stack of cardboard boxes to the garage
sweep the dining room
carpet sweep the living room
mail 2 letters
update the grocery list, while finalizing next week's menu in anticipation of house guests
prepare 2 loads of laundry for 7pm when I can once again use the washing machine
get to the filing my husband asked me to do
do the ironing

and if I were to go on and write out all my other tasks that need doing, goodness gracious, we would all be here forever. When someone asks me what I do all day, or if I am bored with things (who has time to be bored? and who can get bored with 2 adorable little girls to care for?), I get rattled inside and don't quite know how to unrattle myself.

How do you respond to such questions? And how do you share, in a loving manner, how to become content at home? I would looooove to hear how other homemakers handle such things, or how you stay/become unrattled.

Update, on Wednesday morning:
Ok, so I shared my concerns with my husband last night. And he listened. But he just calmly asked me why I was so dismayed by that conversation, and continued to ask me variations of "why" until I began to feel .... like maybe I'm just crazy? Are there other homemakers out there who understand me here, or am I the problem? I could really use a little encouragement.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Loaves and Fishes Thoughts

For months now, I have been feeling wordless, or at least inarticulate when I try to write anything. Letters, journal entries, notes - - all have been few and short. All my energies instead have been funneled into my roles at home.

I remember how Jesus took the little boy's wee lunch of the loaves and fishes and multiplied it to feed the masses. I'm going to be praying that He will do similar miracles with my small amount of energy these days: take it and multiply it so I can bless my family with good wife-ing, mother-ing and homemaking. Dear Father, Please stretch my energies and multiply my efforts so I can fulfill my role here and be the girl You want me to be. It is so much easier to read about homemaking and mothering than to actually do good homemaking and mothering! I need your help, please. Amen.