Recently we have been battling a flea infestation at our house, as our German Shepherd and our Labrador Retriever are in-out dogs. You would think this deep into the winter it would not be a problem, but the Shepherd's undercoat seems to have been not carefully attended to by me, and the little buggers got a foothold. It's been nearly two months, with constant combing and weekly baths and finally (I have to admit, it took me a while) daily vacuuming and sweeping. Washing their bedding every other day has been a chore. Searching out the best, least toxic route to kill the critters has taken up hours. It feels as though I've turned into a full-time flea eradicator. Ask me anything about cedar oil!
Perhaps we have turned a corner, now that I have found the rhythm that doesn't interrupt the flow of my Shabbat preparation day, which starts Thursday night and ends, ideally, a few hours before sundown on Fridays. The early part of the week, instead of bumming around thrift stores, are now spent engaged in doing laundry, the heavier cleaning such as carpet shampooing and move-all-the-stuff-out-of-the-way dusting and stripping the bed and scrubbing the bathrooms. We have beautiful oak furniture which David bought for us when we got married, and it needs a good oiling every now and then. We do very little eating out, so my kitchen gets a workout, and I cannot believe the junk that makes its way down the front and sides of my stove! And what a mess in the refrigerator! Plus the extra work of cleaning up after the dogs ;-) I've had to move shopping and running errands in town to Thursdays, instead of easing into the preparation day with a little cleaning here, a little there. This flea infestation has made me take a hard look at how I allocate my time and what my responsibilities are here in my home, and how can I get it all accomplished so I can be ready to spend Shabbat evening in quiet, cordial companionship with my beloved.
I have found a useful chart which I've modified that helps me stay on track with my cleaning, which I've posted in a googledocs folder you can access by the link under "Pages." Maybe you can modify it for your own use, and what's better, get your daughters to help you out while you teach them what it means to be a homemaker.
Recently we studied the subject of what it means to "work" on Shabbat, particularly in the context of cooking. Early on in our marriage, David asked me not to run the dishwasher on Friday nights, and to move our big breakfast to Sunday morning, so that I could rest on Shabbat. It took me a good long while to obey him in this, nearly five years! But after carefully studying the commandments around Shabbat, I now see his point and have had to rethink food preparation for Shabbat as well. It has been good to have some extra time on Fridays to 1) prepare the erev Shabbat meal, 2) prepare an appropriate dish to take to the assembly the next day, and 3) prepare something simple that doesn't require cooking for our breakfast on Saturday morning. Now, when we light the candles on Friday evening and enter into the set-apart time, our house is clean, our food is prepared, and there is a feeling of true shalom in our midst.
I do believe these fleas have taught me a good lesson!