Right now I’m:
I’m thinking about which artists and composers to choose for our school year. We’re studying the 1800s, which is a fabulous century for the arts, so I’m trying to narrow it down. If you had to choose four to six artists and four to six composers to represent the nineteenth century, who would you pick?
…Furnishing my mind
A book I’m reading about how to structure work when you’re a “creative” has me thinking about the things I furnish my mind with and how they influence what I write. A lot of my work involves branding and marketing, so I try to be mindful about what advertisements I take in so that I’m not subconsciously influenced–I figure if I’m paying close attention, I will be less likely to inadvertently use the same phrasing or idea. But it’s interesting to consider how everything we see, hear, and read influences our thinking and creating. It’s sobering really, and a good reminder to be a careful consumer.
One thing I love about history is connecting eras. I think in school it’s easy to see history as a series of discrete events, but really it flows into itself and each time period or major happening influences the future and is influenced by the past. Right now I’m learning about World War I, and love how what I’m reading dovetails with what I previously read about the Great Influenza and the Dust Bowl.
…Living the Good Life
My parents took the big kids to stay with them and do fun lake things for a week and a half leaving us with only Eliza. Y’all. The last time I only had one 14 month old child around, I was about eight months pregnant with Jack. Not the same thing. I love my big noisy crew, but I can’t even tell you how delightful it was to have a week of greater mobility and quiet, with lots of date nights out (taking one baby somewhere seems so much more doable than it did when we had our first baby), time to take long walks, the chance to take care of some house projects, get work done, sweep the floor without it needing to be swept again four minutes later…it was a perfect break–just long enough to help me feel rested but they came back before I started to get bored.
We have one last week of summer term before taking our last summer trip (my cousin is getting married so we’re hauling back east again!) and then the school year will commence in earnest. I’m solidifying goals, purchasing the last pieces of curriculum, and laying out plans. The nice thing about this year is that, other than Spanish, I didn’t have to choose anything new. We are in a great groove with curriculum and it feels good to continue with what’s working rather than scrambling to find alternatives. Hopefully those do not become my famous last words.
While the big kids were away, I undertook a complete and massive overhaul of their bedrooms. It’s the sort of thing you just can’t do while kids are actually living in their rooms (at least not on this scale!). I painted walls and furniture, moved furniture from room to room, switched out mattresses, sorted all the toys and whatnot, and
purged edited contents heavily. I’m hoping that by making the rooms more beautiful and organized, they will be easier to keep clean. Because I’m not a design blogger, I didn’t think to take before pictures, but here are the afters:
I mentioned last time how I had painted some of Eliza’s furniture. The dresser and bookshelf on the left were from Josh’s room growing up (although they were a lovely 1980s brown then!) and the changing table dresser on the right was in my nursery when I was a baby (it was yellow then) and still has vintage 1978 wrapping paper lining the drawers!
Here is the rest of the room–including a Peter Rabbit rug that my dad hooked for my nursery before I was born. If you know my dad, that will probably strike you as funny. Also, note the reading baby! That’s my child!
Sarah asked for a “purple princess” room, so I did my best. The paint color she chose was “Lavender Sparkle” because she liked the idea of glitter paint. In real life the paint does not glitter (I have to draw the line somewhere). I painted her dresser and the top of her desk/art table pink from a free sample paint can I picked up a couple of years ago, and made the canopy out of some super cheap Ikea net curtains and a wire hanger. She has some other art prints on the wall, her castle dollhouse (which happens to the be exact coordinating shades of pink and purple!), and a new bin organizer (Aldi, $15) that are not pictured. Her existing sheets are pink with pink and purple princess fairies on them, so it all goes together nicely, if you’re into pink and purple princess fairy themes like Sarah.
It was really sunny when I took these pictures; the wall does not really look as reflective as pictured in real life. Jack’s Star Wars room includes some Pottery Barn pillowcases and shams purchased on super sale last year, cut outs of his Star Wars drawings mounted on poster board, and a cool framed print of R2D2 that my parents gave him for his birthday. This room is also our guest room, so when visiting us you are, sleeping with Yoda will you be.
Jack’s friend Adam’s dad made this awesome Jedi Jack sign for Jack’s birthday. I’m hoping that his new organizer shelf thing (also from Aldi) will help Jack keep his room clean. He has so many Legos and other building toys that it’s often overwhelming for him to keep things picked up. Maybe having them easily visible and sortable will help. A mother can dream.
Last, but not least, here is Hannah’s new room. I painted the desk and chair (also from Josh’s childhood room) and headboard a fun coral color left over from when I painted the backs of the bookcases in my office. Her “new” bedding was from Pottery Barn when I was in college. Not pictured is her toychest, which is sort of like a bench and is full of doll clothes and accessories. I lined the inside of her closet with some bookcases left over from other areas of the house, because Hannah loves to play “worlds,” which is kind of like dollhouse mixed with fairy house mixed with bits and pieces of assorted whatnot repurposed for imagination play. I used to play like that too as a child so I want to encourage her, but previously it was a huge mess all over her room so now she can keep the worlds contained on the shelves and shut the closet door on the whole thing! This may also cut down on messy room issues as well as keep the baby out of the tiny bits of tinfoil and acorn cups and whatnot.
It was a lot of work, but I’m so happy with the results!
I’m almost through the first chapter of Colossians and it really is helping me to think more deeply about this piece of scripture. The kids are starting a new passage next week–Philippians 2: 1-18. I’ve been working on a new system for organizing and reviewing our memory work, based on this post from Sarah Mackenzie (scroll down to see her memory notebook system). I’m doing one notebook for our poetry and Shakespeare memory work, and another one that we’ll keep upstairs where we do family worship that will hold the hymns, Psalms, and Bible memory. Hopefully this will help me stay organized about review.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to cultivating a calm and happy home this fall (and yes, I do realize that “calm” is an elusive goal with four children, but I think I mean calm in the sense of the opposite of frenzied and frazzled, not calm in the sense of pin-drop quiet). Some of that comes down to order–having a routine, leaving margin–but I think it also has to do with choosing for beauty and relationships rather than more activities or a more packed schedule. I’m a fairly driven person, and it’s easy for me to take on too much. That works sometimes, but often it results in having to hurry and play sheepdog snapping at everyone’s heels to move through the day rather than being loving and mindful. As I mentioned in my review of Essentialism, when things are crazy it is helpful to pause and ask, “What is the most important thing this very minute?” I guess if I were a person given to being snuggly and whatnot, asking that question might result in more disciplined learning or routine, but in my case I think it probably means loosening the tight ship and refocusing on ultimate goals (that my children would be well educated, love learning, and value beauty) rather than immediate tasks.
…Building the habit
I’ve been thinking about the habit of orderliness. Keeping things in order helps my mental state, and I think it also helps the kids to feel less stressed when everything is in place. As part of my huge upstairs overhaul, I spent a lot of time sorting and organizing their things, and coming up with systems that might be easier to keep in place. I’m hoping that this fall we can all work on order–keeping the kids’ rooms clean, getting through our chores, and even keeping our schedule orderly. I don’t want to be rigid about it, but I think Gretchen Rubin has it right about how outer order contributes to inner calm.
I listened to three entire audio books while painting bedrooms, and found it a great way to get my mind off of my aching muscles and redeem the time. My husband figured out how I can play things off of my phone through our in-house speaker system so now I can listen to audio books or Pandora stations or whatever else whenever I’m on the main floor or in the basement. Technology can be amazing.
What are you bookmarking this week?