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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I can't schedule my way out of this.

It's lunchtime on Wednesday. School books, papers, clothes, and suitcases and strewn everywhere. My baby kitchen is covered in dishes, half a birthday cake, two crock pots of beans cooking, more papers, but no lunch. I've been called a "bad screen mom" this morning because I wouldn't let the kids turn on the Wii or the Nintendo 3DS. I stayed up too late last night and in bed too late this morning.  At some point during the day, I need to wrap birthday presents and have everything ready for tomorrow including making a TARDIS birthday cake for my oldest's 12th birthday. We've done math. That was fun. Don't you remember 7th grade math being fun? I've cleaned up a spilled cup. That splurge on a Trader Joe's Organic Dark Chocolate Pecan and Raisin candy bar that was supposed to last me a week? Yeah, it's basically gone. I was shoving chocolate in my mouth like my life depended on it. It wasn't pretty, friends. It wasn't pretty.

And yet, as I sit in here trying to collect my thoughts, my kids keep coming in here. They can't stay away from me. I'm their favorite person. They want to talk to me about the guy on America's Funniest Home Videos that had the mohawk mullet, lactose intolerance, and Bubble Buddy from Spongebob. Now they're in another room laughing and making really weird, loud noises. I'm not even exaggerating when I say that it sounds like the monkey section of the zoo on field trip day.

A little while ago as I was standing in the kitchen trying to figure out what to do next, I did the most productive thing I could think of and checked Facebook on my phone. Because avoidance is always an option. That's where I saw this post from A Holy Experience .  And then I read this quote:

"More than needing schedules and productivity, this week will need a Savior and prayer."
  
Isn't that just the most profound thing you've ever read? Ever?!?!  At least it is for me this week. I can't schedule and organize my way out of this chaos. Chaos is here to stay. Law of Entropy, right? Things will always move towards disorder and chaos. BUT I can pray my way through it. So as I battle my way through a self-inflicted sugar headache, a long list of MUST-DOs, errands, school, cleaning, interruptions that are certainly coming even if I can't see them yet,  I will be praying through it. Asking for grace, eyes to see the lesson and the beauty in all of it, and that things will calm down next week. Because really. This is not a sustainable lifestyle for me. I know most other people live life at 90 mph, but that is NOT my goal. Now to go do those errands...


Monday, August 25, 2014

Week 1 of he...I mean school is done!

As unbelievable as this is to me, I've just realized that this is my 8th year homeschooling. This past week was my 8th first week of school. Eight years doesn't compare to some of my friends who have children married and graduated from college. Still, 8 years is a lot to me. It's the most I've ever done. =)  I can say unequivocally that of all first weeks we've had, this has been the most difficult. I thought the year that Charlotte decided to walk on Tommy's first day of school was tough. I thought the year that I had to actually undertake formal education for two children at different levels at the same time was even more difficult. This year though....this year has reduced me to tears already. TEARS. It's been one. week.

The last month has not gone the way I'd intended. Instead of spending my last few weeks of summer preparing for my oldest to begin 7th grade Challenge with Classical Conversations like I'd planned, I had to basically throw that goal out the window to instead figure out tutoring. I'd agreed to be a CC tutor, and that was an entirely different level of commitment that I needed to prepare for. Then my husband had to work in Charleston for the week, and we needed to go with him. That took away an entire week of prep. Then there was the tire that needed to be replaced. Then everyone got sick. Then another tire had to be replaced. Then the windshield got hit with a rock and started to crack requiring that  to be replaced. Then we started our first week of CC with me tutoring on Monday and my oldest going to his first Challenge class on Tuesday. Then Mr. Inc had to work in Charleston again so we followed. Again. Then another tire blew so our drive home turned into just over 6 hours of slow going and repeated bathroom stops. We got home at 10:20pm on Sunday night. After putting the kids to bed, I did laundry, half packed lunches, finished the rest of my tutor prep, took a shower, and went to bed. The shower was a waste of time because I was so tired that I forgot to actually wash my hair. So I had to take another shower 5 hours later when I got up to get ready for our second week of CC. By the way, that's 5 interrupted hours of sleep because my husband had to leave around 4:??AM. 

Or there was the zip file that beautifully broke down all of Mr. L's work into daily assignments. The beautiful zip file that I could NOT open. So I had to attempt to do it myself. I did it badly. And Mr. L isn't used to this kind of workload and schedule. AND he's taking Latin. Because...you know...let's just torture the poor kid some more. In the meantime, my typical middle child was interrupting every thought with "When will I get to do more school?!?! Why does he  always get to do all of the work?!?!"

Really??? Really.

My 4 year old just ran around, ate Goldfish crackers because frankly, mommy didn't care anymore, and sang his little skip counting song or history song. I love that kid. I mean, I love them all. But if kid number 3 turns out badly, I'm going to feel terrible about it. I'll feel terrible if any of them turn out badly, but kid #3 is my extra sweet one that just loves me without judgement in his eyes. I don't have favorites. Really. That would be wrong.  He's just extra easy, and easy goes a long way right now.

BUT (Yes, there's a but). We made it through the week!!! We got up this morning! I took a shower (again) and remembered to actually use shampoo!  I was at CC on time! My friend brought me coffee (that a kid knocked over and spilled all over the floor, but it's the thought that counts). I even finished my class on time while completing fun, educational review games with my class!!!  The kids all gave me big smiles at lunch while yelling "HI MISS MINDY!!!"  One girl even gave me a picture she'd drawn of me teaching her class. I got the blown tire replaced. I took two separate 10 minute naps that actually helped. I went to my parent meeting for American Heritage Girls. I went to the grocery store for a few things! I got the kids to go to bed! My oldest finished his SCIENCE essay! I ate my kids' leftovers while watching Battlestar Galactica! Okay, that's probably not such a win. He's going to be mad about that tomorrow.  Still...I was hungry. But we made it. One. week. down.

I have promised myself that even though I knew the beginning would be rough, it will be worth it. It also shouldn't be so hard once we actually know what we're doing and have a routine. God, please let it not be sooo hard all year. PLEASE.

So there you go. That was my 8th first week of homeschooling along with the plot twists that lead up to it. Tomorrow, I'm probably doing nothing of tangible value. And I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Week 4 in my battle against school supplies

Sometimes I get into a standoff with inanimate objects. No, I never win. No, it doesn't necessarily make sense. Usually it's an isolated skirmish with books that I can't find a place for. Unfortunately, my current standoff has turned into an all out war within our shoebox home. I have too much pride to show you how bad things have gotten, but imagine the trenches of WWI. My shoebox has turned into a bloody battlefield. Against myself.

 For example...





Here is a picture of my lovely, laminated, sorted Veritas Timeline Cards. They're beautiful, aren't they? I mean, I know they're a mess, but still. It's an amazing educational tool. And they were expensive. They're also useless to me now which is why they're on the floor and have been for weeks. Yes, weeks. Right there, in the middle of the floor. The question I'm sure you're asking yourself (because I keep asking myself) is WHY?!?

And now I will give you a glimpse into my head. Bring a flashlight, it's dark in here.  

Problem # 1 These are great cards that I loved using. Unfortunately, my homeschool group uses a new set of timeline cards which I've had to purchase. I'm tutoring so I need the right cards. But now I have two sets of cards. I neither need nor want two sets of timeline cards in my life.

Problem #2 I refuse to put these cards in my organized basket of  flash cards. The basket is for cards I use. These do not qualify. If I break the rules for these cards, then all of these other fancy educational cards will want to be in the basket too. Then I won't be able to find the cards I actually need.

Problem #3 Have I mentioned I live in a shoebox? I haven't a square to spare...square foot that is.  My best option would be to have a box to put things in that need to find a new home. Then actually find them a new home. I just haven't been able to find a space for said box that's not in the way. Because giant history cards in the middle of the floor for weeks aren't in the way at all.

Solution? In my admittedly disheveled head, I'd rather leave them where they are, as annoying and distracting as they might be, than continue to shuffle them around from space to space. Basically, until I decide what to do with them permanently, I'm leaving them where they are. I told you it doesn't make sense. Even I can see the ridiculousness of it all. Yet that's how my brain works.

I have similar piles throughout the apartment. I had exactly enough space for my old school books. When I brought in all of the books and supplies for the new year, my plan was blown. And don't even get me started with my tutor supplies. Also, don't tell me to get rid of old school books. If that's your solution, you have no clue how homeschooling works. I currently have 7 grades worth of books. It works great in that I don't have to buy new school books for my younger two. I still have the books from my oldest. As my little guy works through them, THEN I can get rid of them.

I tell myself that I'm living with a greater focus beyond the daily home minutia. Why waste time keeping my home spotless when I could be pouring into my kids, reading a book, or doing anything else that's more worthwhile than vacuuming. But honestly, my brain is slightly dysfunctional and would rather live with the problem until a real solution is presented instead of band-aid fixes all over my shoebox.  And there you have it. You can feel a little better about yourself because you can say "At least I haven't had useless history timeline cards in the middle of my floor for a month!"

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Don't miss the village, make your own village!

Over the last few weeks, this "I miss the village" blog post has continued to pop up.  I've read it and liked it. If you haven't read it, basically it's a dream of a mom of young children to not have to go it alone all the time. It's the dream of moms living life together, naturally helping each other and working together instead of every mom for herself. And I get it. It's actually very practical. Why should we ALL cook dinner at the same time when we could pot luck it together or take turns? It would make my life SO much easier!

Here's the thing though. As I was reading through this lovely vision of utopian motherhood, I realized I wasn't really missing the things that the writer was sharing. Sure, I do in some respects, but I've been making my own village of sorts for years. Unless you and your friends are willing to take over a cul de sac or somehow find ways to live next to your favorite people (which I am totally down with doing- friends, you know who you are because we've already talked about how to do it!), you have to modernize your definition of village.

So here is the key to my metaphorical village.  Basically, I started stepping up for other moms the way I wanted them to step up for me. Kind of like the "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you". Sound familiar?  I do it without keeping score. There were certainly times when life was insane, and friends have offered their help to me knowing there was no way I'd be able to return the favor.  But you know, there have been times when I've helped out moms knowing their lives were crazy. The heart of the village concept is that we serve in love, not in hopes of getting something in return.

So here are some specific ways I've made my village. I've given and received these. Both instances are always a blessing for me. In fact, I honestly love being the one bringing dinner to a friend more than getting a dinner. I admit I might love dropping the kids off with a friend more than picking up the extra kids from time to time, but come on. Coffee alone or coffee with 5 kids playing legos/Pokemon/Smash Bros.?  There's a clear winner. Just being honest. =) Anyway, specifics...

  • Offer to keep your friend's children for a few hours. If your friends asks you to watch them for a couple of hours, why not offer to keep the kids for 4 hours instead? Give the gift of time.
  • If you make extra muffins/cookies/dinner, drop it off at your friend's house. You don't have to stay and make a thing of it. I'll occasionally make huge batches of food for dinner. Sometimes I freeze the extra, and sometimes I call my friend and say "Hey, I made _______. Do you want to come over for dinner or I can bring it to you."  Yes, it sounds a little weird, but again, wouldn't you want someone to do that for you if you were having a long week? So do it for them.
  • One time I came down with one of the worst stomach viruses in my life. I had 3 little ones and my husband was out of town. A friend came over and took care of the kids, made sure they ate, and put them to bed for me. I think she cleaned too. Honestly, I just know that we were alive and well the next day. Beyond that is a blur.  =)
  • This same friend's husband almost died from an illness. Actually, he almost died a year after that as well from an accident. He lives dangerously. In any case,  I picked up the youngest kid and kept him so my friend could stay at the hospital without worrying if her 8 year old had eaten that day.
  • Or more simply, this morning my upstairs neighbor was walking down the stairs as I was walking out with 5 kids. I had extra boys today so we went to the park. My neighbor had her hands full with her beautiful baby girl in a carseat on one arm, a baby bathtub in another, a few extra things in her hands, all while talking on a cell phone. I carried the baby bathtub to the parking lot for her. It was no big deal. I'd hope someone would do that for me if my hands were full. Actually, people have done that for me, and it was awesome. Yes, AWESOME.
Like I said, don't offer help if comes with an expectation of getting something in return. That's not service. That would be investing for profit. If you help your friends out, they will probably want to return the favor, and that's where the village part comes in. If you're not expecting it, you get the added bonus of genuine joy from receiving the gift instead of feeling as if you deserved it anyway. Does that make sense?  Obviously don't be a doormat and be realistic in what you can offer. In some slices of life, I can offer a lot to people. In other slices, I desperately need the help! 

So to all of my mom friends, try to be the friend you want to have. You will find the people that will happily come to your rescue when your world is falling apart around you or you've come down with a stomach virus that leaves you chained to the bathroom. It's much easier to find those people if you're willing to be one of those people.

Monday, July 28, 2014

So why do we travel so much?

If you've kept up with me at all, you know that we've been on the move A LOT in the last year. We go to Charleston with Mr. Inc just about every month. We did a whole week in Charleston and will do another week soon while he works. We've done more than one trip to see family or to switch kids off so they get time with friends or grandparents in South Carolina.  The kids are used to the drill now. A 4+ hour drive doesn't phase them because they've been doing this kind of thing for their entire lives.  And yes, it's so much fun.  I'm so thankful we get to do all these, but I would be sharing only half the story if all of my friends thought we led this charmed life of traveling to the beach and staying in wonderful hotels every weekend, everything being beauty and light. Because it's soooo not. So here are highs and lows of the weekend.

Highs
  • We went to a 80s themed pool party and saw lots of old friends.
  • We ate at a BBQ restaurant that Mr. Inc loves.
  • We stayed in a really nice, newly built hotel where they clean for me and cook breakfast. All for free.
  • I got to watch The Pioneer Woman and the prom scene of Pretty in Pink (which is really the only part I wanted to see anyway).
  • We went to the park.
  • I finally used up the last of my Starbucks gift card for a Venti Hazelnut Frappuccino. 
  • We spent the weekend together as a family. This is the point anyway since Mr. Inc travels during the week.
Lows
  •  So. many. bathroom. breaks. on the drives.
  • Mr. Inc forgot something that we had to drive back for. This turned our 4-5 hour trip into a solid 7 hour drive.
  • The kids argued more than once about sleeping arrangements. Do you know what it's like to pile 5 people into one hotel room? It's not very fun, my friend. I was simply thankful we were on the first floor. This prevented the usual "It's MY turn to push the elevator button!" "NO, YOU DID IT LAST TIME! IT'S MY TURN!!!!!"
  • One kid threw up at dinner. I don't know why. He's not sick. He was fine before and after. I think they he did it because he knew it was our one nice meal out. You can't throw up the fast food, can you? Nope. It's the sit-down restaurant meal that ends up in the toilet.
  • More fighting over sleeping arrangements.
  • A general lack of sleep because I don't sleep well in hotels.
  • Sunday was hot and we spent two hours of it outside at the park.  Mr. Inc. gets off work early sometimes so we need to be somewhat close to pick him up when he's ready. 
So WHY do we do this every month? I mean, yeah. It's fun in an exhausting kind of way. But we don't do it for the fun. We go because Mr. Inc has to go for work. So we go with him. If we want to see him, we have to follow him. So we follow him. Granted, it's not the worst place to follow him to, but it's still tiring for all of us. It would be easier on him if we didn't go. It would be easier for me if we didn't go. But we didn't choose easy. Easy doesn't last when things get tough. So next week, we'll do the whole ritual all over again.  The pool, the beach, the friends, the "I HAVE TO GO THE BATHROOM RIGHT NOW!" announcements as we're driving past the rest stop (every. single. time). The restless sleep, the arguments over beds/couches/elevator buttons. Mr. Inc will work every day, and we'll get to see him every evening.
 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

6 months and counting...

It's the second half of July. So what have we been up to over the last 4 weeks? We've spent a week in Charleston, a weekend in Greenville, made a few trips to Charlotte to return or retrieve children that have spent their own weeks with friends or grandparents, and been sick. So...that's it. We are back to our normal lives.

Now that we've hit the 6 month mark since moving to the Raleigh area, I can't help but look over the year so far and compare it to what I thought it would have been. First, the most obvious is our apartment. I continue to have a love/hate relationship with the shoebox. Today I'm leaning towards hate. To my credit, I'm feeling love towards our home about 90% of the time. But today, not so much. I have stacks of books in front of, on top of, and beside my packed bookcases. This is no way to live, and NO. I will not get rid of any more books! Most of them are for school anyway, and nobody is asking you to get rid of your work essentials so why should I?  Last night we had friends over for dinner, and our table is ridiculous. I don't even sit at it unless we're all here and have to. The kids eat at the table, and I sit on the couch because it's such a hassle to get up and sit down while trying to acrobatically get into my seat. I just need ONE MORE ROOM. Just one more room. Just 100-200 extra square feet. That's IT. *Sigh* I'll stop complaining now. 

Obviously I don't need another room. It would just be really nice. You know that most of the time I'm all about less of the material side of things. Having less stuff, using less space. But that doesn't mean that I don't occasionally dream of a giant home with a giant yard full of giant trees. A home with a beautiful library with ladders and stained glass. With a kitchen that more than one person can fit into at a time. A master bedroom with an attached bathroom and room for a sitting area. Wouldn't that be nice? I really think it would. A house with a guest suite so friends and family could visit.  Along with this big, beautiful house I'd like a chef, a landscaper, and a housekeeper. That live in the servants quarters. Because my dream house has servants quarters. I'm not sure what that says about me.

Sorry for getting lost in that rant/dream of owning the Downton Abbey house. Where was I? Oh yes, 6 months. So part of the plan for moving here to was be a part of an organization that we really believe in. An organization that was supposed to launch here...over a year ago I think? Maybe longer? But everyone is still waiting. This affects other people much more than us, but it certainly leaves us with that "So...what's going on here?" kind of feeling. When you expect things to go one way, and they go the opposite direction, you can't help but question what you're doing. Did we miss something? Some nugget of information? What is God doing here? Of course we see a fragment of the picture God is painting. Still, I thought we were going in the sunny, yellow patch instead of the grey, uncertain patch.

Finally, the kids are making friends. They're involved in activities. We're back in Classical Conversations (homeschool group) starting up this August, and I will be tutoring one of the classes. We might have found a church...maybe? I'm cautiously optimistic. We are assimilating into normal Raleigh society very well. At least for now. Until they see how absurdly crazy we are. By then I'm sure we'll be ready to move to bigger and better things. Again. Because that seems to be what we do now. =)


Thursday, June 5, 2014

HOMESCHOOL PLANNING WEEKEND 2014!

It used to be spring break, but now it's all about the homeschool planning weekend.  This summer is the 4th year one of my very best friends (from now on referred to as T) and I have tried to plan a trip or homeschool weekend together. Every year something legitimately serious has occurred to either cause us to cancel (Hawaii) or has made us give pause before pushing ahead. This year was no different. For my end, my dear, sweet husband thought he'd lost his driver's license and hinted that I might have to drive him to Charleston this weekend. Not. Happening.  Thankfully, he found his license and the crisis was averted on my end.

I'm truly not a superstitious person. At all. But after last year's week leading up to our weekend I almost called the thing off myself and swore off these weekends forever. In previous years, things like a dead gallbladder, a smashed leg, and other various broken/damaged appendages have made things a little difficult. Still, we're continuing and looking on the bright side. God gives new mercies every morning. And it's THURSDAY MORNING of our HOMESCHOOL PLANNING WEEKEND!

 So here's how this thing happens every year. I hope all of my friends can find a weekend with a best friend to plan/relax/whatever. Homeschooling is optional.

  • Find a date that works for everyone. This is one of the most difficult points. Two family calendars converging with one weekend that neither mother is needed is hard to come by. This year we had exactly one. One weekend where we were both free. Since we're pretending to work on school plans for the fall, we have a smaller window, but still. One? Whatever. We'll take it.
  • Find a place to work. If you're at home with your kids, it's not a vacation. It's trying to read books or have a conversation while being interrupted 536,643,865 times a day. It's neither fun nor productive. This year my local friend is out of town for the weekend so T gets to stay in her beautiful apartment. For free. I have amazing friends. =)
  • Find a babysitter. I alluded to the babysitter in the last point. It's not necessary, but it's VERY helpful! This could be your husband, friend, or traditional babysitter. My friend has teenage daughters that she forces I mean that lovingly volunteer to watch my younger kids.
  • Prep ahead. I have cinnamon rolls in the freezer, ready for breakfasts this weekend. I have all the meals planned out. I'm cooking dinners, and the kids are making sandwiches for lunch. My meals are crockpot friendly so I can start them in the morning, and be done. 
  • Clean up a little. Don't go all crazy and vacuum the baseboards or anything, but you'll be happier if things are at least decent. Little cleaning will be going on during this weekend so at least start with a clean floor. Mostly. 
  • Do all the laundry. This goes with cleaning. Little laundry will be done over the next few days so make sure everyone is stocked with clothes. 
  • The rest is up to you. Read, go to the pool, plan out your year meticulously, or just refocus on what's important for the next year. It all goes. It's all helpful. 
I homeschool so our lives are little more interwoven than most. We don't compartmentalize everything. School flows into hanging out with our friends which flows into conversations about God and the world which flows into dinner and how to cook. It all goes together for us. In previous years, I've poured through books and planned out my school weeks. This year, I don't need to do that since Classical Conversations is mostly doing that for me. The rest is just "do the next thing". Instead, I will be going through some books that will bring my focus back.  Thanks to my mom buying me my book list on Amazon, I can read all my books on church and prayer without anymore interruption. I'll also look at some preschool stuff for the little guy, but this year is more autopilot. And I'll sit by the pool. It's soothing to my soul, and a soothed soul makes for a happier homeschool mom.