Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Litany of Laundry (and other ordinary things)


Housework or "home-making" can seem tedious: the daily ritual of chores that once completed, only needs to be done again and again.  For parents, "making a home" is the never-ending work of meeting the needs of others.

Making beds.
Cleaning bathrooms.

"When considered in terms of their enormous life-giving importance, the feeding and clothing of a family and maintaining of a household can be undertaken in the contemplative spirit. They become, like prayer and worship, acts of love that transform us and, in turn, the larger world around us."
-Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries

Just as the sun comes up every morning and sets every evening, housework, too, is repetitious and has to be done over and over, but it certainly does not need to necessarily equate monotonous or futile drudgery.

Mother and Daughter Wash Day, 1870 [source]

No matter how busy our schedules are, many of these daily tasks, "quotidian mysteries", can be enjoyable and fulfilling.  Haven't we all experienced the satisfying feeling of walking into an orderly room, with the bed made and clothes put away? And who doesn't look forward to the aroma of freshly baked bread? Or the crisp feel of clean sheets, just brought in from the clothesline (okay, maybe towels, warm and soft - straight from the dryer - are more your style)?

Housekeeping may seem mundane, but it's not simple!  Industrialization did not eliminate or reduce "women's work", it vastly increased the productivity of women working at home. Doing the important things (providing healthy meals and a clean - not immaculate - home, reading aloud to your children), and not being constantly led to the point of distraction by the urgent things (telephone calls, emails, unplanned interruptions, etc.) can be challenging.  Sometimes the important and urgent intersect.  We need to take time management seriously and set priorities for the different seasons of our family life.

Another challenge with keeping house can be one's expectations.  Pinterest is fun and helpful (I even have a practical "Quotidian: Daily Care of Home and Family" Board), but this current fad can also be a source of distraction and unrealistic expectations - which can lead to procrastination.  Margaret Kim Peterson, in her book Keeping House, notes:
"There has surely always been a gap between the way people keep their houses and the way they would like ideally to keep them.  But many of us, I suspect, are demoralized by the task of keeping house in part because we know that our houses, no matter how well kept, will never look like the palaces in the dream house publications.  And so we give up, preferring unattainable ideals to less than perfect realities."

Realistic?  No - Architectural Digest Home Library [source].

Her answer to avoiding this temptation?  Humility and gratitude for what we have, and willingness to create in our homes and habits "enough order and tidiness to promote convenience and peace and hospitality."

What's got me thinking about all this?  My soon-to-be-born grandchild and a new, old-fashioned restaurant...

I've enjoyed watching my daughter, Mary, wash and meticulously fold all the newborn baby boy clothes her sister-in-law recently passed down her.  I could hardly wait to present Mary with my baby-smell-in-a-box-secret:  Ivory Snow.  She's been gleefully doing laundry ever since, busily nesting while she awaits the arrival of her little one.

Speaking of waiting, after eight weeks of being on bed rest to avoid pre-term labor, my daughter is up and around now (and due in two weeks)!  Yesterday we went out (we made our beds first, of course) for a visit to her hospital and an enjoyable late morning breakfast at a new restaurant/bakery I've been excited to take her to: Le Pain Quotidien (literally "Daily Bread").

Le Pain Quotidien, Newport Beach
Amazing, right?  We had a frittata and fruit, too.
Mommy Mary and Baby Peter are doing great!

Kids can learn a lot about the joys of hospitality and home-making from books: Laura and Mary were constantly helping Ma and Pa with chores and cooking in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And I love this picnic scene from The Wind in the Willows --

“... he got out the luncheon-basket and packed a simple meal, in which, remembering the stranger's origin and preferences, he took care to include a yard of long French bread, a sausage out of which the garlic sang, some cheese which lay down and cried, and a long-necked straw-covered flask wherein lay bottled sunshine shed and garnered on far Southern slopes.” ― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Books about Housekeeping and Laundry:
The Quotidian Mysteries, by Kathleen Norris (for Moms)

The Tale of Miss Tiggy-Winkle, by Beatrix Potter (for kids)

We Help Mommy, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin (Little Golden Book)

Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems (lost bunny at a laundromat!)

Books about Baking Bread:
Sun Bread, by Elisa Kleven. Winter's gray chill has set in and everyone misses the sun-especially the baker. So she decides to bring some warmth to the town by making sun bread. And as the bread bakes, rising hot and delicious, everyone comes out to share in its goodness. Everyone, including the sun itself. With a lilting, rhyming text, colorful illustrations, and a recipe for baking your own sun bread
The Woman and the Wheat, by Jane Meyer.  An excellent choice for teaching children about the mystery of the bread that becomes food from heaven, in Holy Communion.  And Jane has an excellent blog about baking - see my past post about her books and website/blog, here.

You might also enjoy my past post about cooking/food/books:  The Secret Ingredient: Learning (& Fun!)


  1. Hurrah for the little things!! And now our room for baby is done, along with all his laundry!!!! Thanks for sharing, mommy. I just wish you could share the taste of that AMAZING French baguette we enjoyed together yesterday. :)

  2. This is a wonderful post! I usually feel very overwhelmed by these things. Thanks for sharing :)