Saturday, March 28, 2009

The most valuable lesson

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly. --Thomas Huxley

As Thomas Huxley said more than a hundred years ago, the most important thing our children can learn (aside from their catechism) is how to do what they need to when it is needed. You can help plant this understanding by assigning your children household tasks from a very young age. Little ones can set the table, empty small wastebaskets, make their beds, feed the cat, wipe off coffee tables and kitchen tables, and so on. Insisting on everyone's pitching in also conveys the idea that family members pull together--Mom and Dad aren't supposed to do it all.

When it comes to table-setting, I came up with a shortcut many years ago. This also cut way down on the number of times we opened and closed the flatware drawer in our kitchen each day! Get an attractive plastic flower pot and stand your spoons, forks, and table knives in it. Keep it on the counter or the table. A plastic container is better than ceramics because those will chip with the wear and tear.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tea parties for today

Things taste better in small houses. -Queen Victoria

Did you know that in Victorian times, women often brought their own tea cups and spoons to a friend's house for tea? These were expensive items, and the hostess was spared having to provide good china cups for the whole gathering. Ladies escaped their domestic responsibilities for an hour and caught up on one another's news.

For women today, especially the stay-at-home mother, isolation is the enemy. With so many women off to paycheck jobs during the day, you can feel alone unless you make a real effort to get together with other women. This is also a special problem for the single working mother who does not seem to fit in with the couples scene or the singles scene.

A tea party provides a great way to connect with other ladies. It does not have to be fancy. And if you don't like tea (although that's hard to imagine!), you can serve coffee. Choose a time when the children are off to school or can be amused with a video or when Grandpa can take them to the park. The important thing is for you ladies to relax and share stories without being overheard by children or husbands.

You might dress up your table with an old-time tablecloth from a thrift store or antique mall. You can often find ceramic tea pots there as well left by all the ladies who meant to throw tea parties but found they never did. Consider letting your friends bring along their favorite cups, or just use what you have. Accompany hot tea with simple cookies like shortbreads or lemon crisps.

Don't fuss about cleaning the entire house before letting a few people into it. Wipe down the bathroom and provide a clean table and let your party roll.

Remember to invite friends or relatives of all ages--a good mix provides the best conversation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

About this site

Welcome to mothers everywhere! A special hug to those who are struggling to be saints while cleaning up again from someone's muddy shoes. This task characterizes the challenge we face if we strive for holiness--great or small--while raising a family rather than living a focused life of prayer in a remote cloister.

I have had two marriages and four children. My present husband brings another daughter to our family, happily. All our children are now young adults, and we find it's true that being a parent lasts a lifetime. Most of my adult life I have worked at one job or another in addition to being a mother and homemaker, and I spent many of my middle years as a single parent. And from my early twenties, when I would sit in Dupont Circle in sunny D.C., eating my homemade sandwich on a hurried lunchhour while my tiny son spent his day in the church basement, I have pondered how can a woman go off to work and still be an effective mother. Who raises the children? I never found a good answer. Today I advise against mixing working-for-a-living with being household manager if you can possibly help it.

The work of the homemaker is critically important to her family and to society at large. And it requires all kinds of skills and knowledge. I will be posting bits of experience and insight gained through the years that I hope will be helpful in your demanding position as Lady of the House.

Thank you for visiting, and God bless.