Yesterday was a hard day for counting individual items. My daughter received a potted flower as a gift for her performance (instead of cut flowers which die immediately but which don't create clutter). My mother gave me a bag of things she has collected for me -- a couple books she finished reading, some magazines she's finished -- but which will leave again naturally. I will drop them magazines at a senior lounge, the books will go back to my mom when I'm done.
Yesterday was really much more about my second goal, making home peaceful. Yesterday was not a peaceful day. We were up early for church, as usual, but instead of leaving a tidy home, the kitchen was a wreck. My husband usually washed up the breakfast dishes while I shower and dress, but he was hit by a dizzy spell and had to sit until it passed. The dishes continue to stare at me as I write this, 24 hours after we ate that breakfast. After church we were off to the theatre, grabbing lunch out. Quick run to the grocery for flowers (and dog cookies, they were sadly deprived of their morning cookie) then back to the theatre. The show was marvelous, then out to dinner with my parents. Dinner was slow, and too loud to converse. (We ended up playing pictionary using an online charades generator.)
By the time we got home we were all exhausted. The loud music at the restaurant had worn our nerves down. This is not the feeling I like to have Sunday night, looking forward to a week of work and school.
(Now, I need to explain something. We have an Advent calendar for the kids, but I'm not crazy about putting candy in every night. So I include activities for lots of nights, like "decorate the tree tomorrow," or "make cookies tomorrow." It is exciting to the kids, it lets them look forward to specific things for a day, but it spreads out the anticipation so the season isn't too overwhelming. One of their favorite is "have a candle night." We turn off all the lights (except the tree) and use candle light. Usually my husband or I read aloud. I know we sound pretty saccharine, but this started when we were reading Little House in the Big Woods and it has stuck.)
I had promised a candle night in the Advent calendar the night before. We only had about half an hour before bedtime, but I figured a little was better than nothing. So we got home, lit every candle I could find, and turned out the house lights. The kids put on their pajamas, and we sat on the sofa for 20 minutes reading picture books aloud. And something amazing happened: I felt rested. I felt calm, and peaceful. That 20 minutes of sitting in the dark, reading Bear Stays Up for Christmas, was enough to create the peaceful mood I want home to represent.
Then we went to bed, and slept the sleep of the exhausted. But this morning we were all rested and ready to "do the things that need to be done." (In the words of A Prairie Home Companion.)
I know I've written a lot this morning, but I'm excited about how this scheduled quiet time, without distractions and as a family, created the goal feeling of calm and peace in a day that was anything but calm and peaceful.