Thursday, October 31, 2013
Meredith has been studying astronomy this year and has to memorize the 15 brightest stars, the constellations, and the zodiacs. Science became a lot more fun when Kevin took our kids, and some friends, outdoors to find these theoretical 15 brightest stars. We saw some of them at night, and some we saw before sunrise. "Oh my goodness, so THAT is Capella." And, "Arcturus does look reddish, doesn't it?" were things that could be overheard. Everyone thought it was pretty awesome!
(Yeah, I couldn't help but post this picture of Carson, in his superhero shirt. He gets lots of compliments.)
Friday, October 25, 2013
Hard got harder a few seconds later, when I opened an email from another child’s teacher stating that there was an incident of looking over at a friend’s paper and copying answers (i.e., cheating) and it was a second offense. We never knew about the first offense, so we had never addressed it.
Time stood still--except for the screams and onion smells swirling around me--as I thought about what punishment would fit the crime and how we could reach the heart of this child so she would truly understand the seriousness of what she had done. Part of the problem was my pride, because I couldn't believe my daughter had done this. She should have known better. I don't really want to be known as the mom with the kid who cheats. I find it really difficult to separate my pride and inconvenience from the equation, and just focus on reaching the child's heart with the correct form of discipline.
So often, parenting stretches me to the near-breaking point. If I were working for just a paycheck, I would have quit a long time ago. But this job is for keeps, and there are souls at stake, adorable souls whom you love, and so you steel yourself against the winds of opposition, try to swallow your pride, and keep marching onward.
The injured child was examined more closely and started calming down once her dad got home. Thank you, Lord, because, although it’s never a good day to go to the ER, we would really appreciate not having to go today.
The child in the moral quagmire was removed for private discussions. Where to begin? Cheating is lying and stealing. How do we make this child realize the gravity of this offense? Is she even listening? Are we getting through to her? I’m so glad I have an astute spouse to team-parent with or this all would be entirely too overwhelming. Kevin spent an hour or more sitting down with her and going over bible verses pertaining the offense. He also told her--and I thought this was so wise--that he loved her no matter what she did. Not that cheating is ever right, but it's important for a child to know they are loved unconditionally. After all, that's how our heavenly Father deals with us, when we sin.
As a parent, you give your life, not by dying, but by doing something that is arguably more difficult: denying yourself; living each day sacrificially.
These things are not fun. I don't enjoy them, really. But, I think to myself, "Should I SURVIVE, they are meaningful, constructive, and ultimately rewarding." They are necessary. They teach us humility. They teach us the meaning of grace. They are sanctifying.
The younger kids and I made it to the pumpkin patch twice this year. Here we are at a preschool program, with my mom's group. What's not to love about a hayride? (Oh, maybe itchy hay finding its way into your socks and other unmentionable places?)
Saturday, October 19, 2013
As we get into our routine, and the kids and I are seeing more patterns in the homework expectations, Mondays are starting to get a little better. At Highlands, homework expectations skyrocketed as soon as Meredith walked in the door of the third grade classroom. We feel that third grade has been a lot harder than second grade. I am simultaneously ecstatic by the depth and quality of learning and educational standards, and I am also, I will admit, overwhelmed.
Last Monday I decided to jot down some chronology of events so that someday I can look back … and remember.
[Probably the biggest challenge I have faced is parenting kids who are at different stages and have very different needs. I have a baby, a three-year-old, a first grader and a third grader whose academic load is getting more difficult and who is also an emotional, budding tween! It's hard, and I know other moms find it hard too. I’m stretched every day, but especially on Mondays.]
Here is what I wrote:
4:05—It must be the deepest part of my sleep cycle. Through the fog, I detect three-year-old Sophia at my side, complaining because her PJs are itchy. I calm her down, change her PJs, and escort her back to bed.
5:30—My alarm, that necessary evil, goes off. “I need to change the tone to something less shrill and invasive,” I think. Even though I will probably regret it later, I turn it off because I am simply too tired after the itchy pajama episode.
I usually get up really early because I still haven’t figured out any other way to “do” my life and still have time to sit and think for a few minutes. If I don’t have that time before the kids get up, I find myself slipping into depression. Time to myself, and consistent cardio exercise, are the best ways I know of for me to avoid the blues.
6:00—The next alarm goes off. “If I don’t get up now, I will have the worst day ever.” I creep as quietly as possible down the stairs—my kids are such light sleepers! My friend Robin recently said: “Quiet time with God is not about duty, it’s about relationship.” I don’t beat myself up if I can’t get to it every day, and a lot of days I can’t. I try to live in the spirit, reading my bible to foster relationship, and not out of obligation. Today I work on my Ezra bible study and read passages from various scriptures about God’s anthropomorphism, where he is described as having physical, human characteristics.
6:18—Carson starts fussing. Great! My plan was for him to sleep at least one more hour. I try to ignore him and keep reading.
6:22—He settles back down, thankfully. I utter a quick prayer, based on my reading: “Thank you God that your hands, ears, eyes, and outstretched arm guide me and preserve me. You understand and sympathize with my weaknesses. Your presence is here with me. Guide me today.”
6:24—Is that Sophia up there talking? Good grief! I close my study with Col. 3:23-24, which is fitting for a Monday: “Work heartily for the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive your inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
6:29—Yes, it was Sophia. And, Carson is stirring again. I send Sophia back upstairs, telling her it’s too early to get up. Crossing my fingers!
6:31—I read an email from Meredith’s teacher, Mrs. Miller. Mer has a Christian Studies Unit 1 test coming up, and also a New England states quiz, and a test on the 10 capitalization rules. I remember a conversation I had with a mom (“Brenda”) of a girl in Meredith’s class. The girl is an only child. Brenda shared with me all the work they are doing (flashcards, etc.), preparing for these exams. I try to suppress those thoughts. I don’t have the same time that Brenda does, but I want to help my daughter do well. This is a transition year for Meredith, where she is studying more on her own, but she still needs a lot of help from me to learn good study habits and how to be thorough.
6:38—Carson seems to be quiet again. I get coffee.
Maybe someday they will have an I.V. hook-up on coffee machines so I can just pump it into my blood stream and thereby jump start my day? Mmmmm. But I do love the multi-sensory effect of coffee. Warm mug, steamy, aromatic vapor, bitter creamy flavors, hot liquid pouring down my throat and into my belly, the affect of caffeine waking up my mind and sharpening my senses. It’s wonderful. Let’s face it, coffee is a drug.
6:41—I wake up Meredith to start her Christian Studies homework. I do oral review with her, based on highlighted material in her book. Usually we begin the day with math but after reading Mrs. Miller’s email I realize Meredith will need to use her Sacred Morning Time—the time before her siblings wake up—to study for her unit test.
Meredith is a highly distractible kid. I might even still be homeschooling five days a week if it weren’t for this fact. She is playful and creative and fun, but she often can’t focus to save her life, if her siblings are playing nearby. I frequently refer to the younger siblings as The Circus because there might as well be a three ring circus in the living room when they are playing and Meredith is trying to study.
7:10—I tell Meredith to write down the order of the days of creation and a few other things while I read more emails. She starts telling me about someone in her class who has a Kindle bible. I tell her to “Hurry and do your work before The Circus wakes up!” I get out some maps for her to work on. She has to memorize the location of 23 places on her Mesopotamia and Canaan maps.
7:29—Carson, wakes up again. He is making happy, babbling sounds. This means that he probably pooped.
I go get him and take care of all his needs. Everyone is awake now. And, honestly, I’m lucky today because usually they all are up before this.
I assign some work for Clara to do. Thankfully her teacher sent home a bunch of busy worksheets, which is not normal. Clara, as a first grader, still has lots of free time. And that’s how it should be when you are six! But she likes worksheets and so I am grateful that she has a few to work on right now.
7:44—After lots of “Mom, mom, mom!!” shouts from both Clara and Sophia, and Meredith asking questions in the mix of all that, breakfast is still not made.
I spend time trying to find one of those large erasers. The kids keep taking these things. It’s hard to stay organized when kids walk off with stuff all the time! At one point I tell Meredith to stop talking and do her work. There are tears! (How am I going to handle the teenage hormones if we are only eight and crying over small things? Seriously!)
Meredith is frustrated because she says I don’t understand the 10 capitalization rules test. I read Mrs. Miller’s email aloud to her. Clara keeps trying to talk to me while I am doing this.
The toast in the toaster is now cold. Buttering cold toast is so much more difficult. I get Clara to work on her cursive and urge Meredith to stay on task with her English grammar. In the meantime, I hear Sophia singing at the top of her lungs upstairs and I hear Kevin getting ready for work. He usually leaves the house by 7:00—and on Mondays he plays basketball at 6:00—but he wasn’t feeling well last night.
8:11—Kevin leaves for work. Everyone has had breakfast, except Carson still needs solid food. I feed him while I read the bible to the kids, sing our Psalm of the month, and go over both scripture and poetry memory. Clara is memorizing a cute poem about frogs going to school. We read God’s World Magazine, which is a favorite.
In the middle of all this, Clara interrupts because she can’t find scissors. I also get up to make her a warm wash cloth to place on the sty on her eyelid, which she hates and complains about. But if we don’t do it now, we will forget to do it later.
After Carson is put on the floor to play, he starts being cute and everyone is highly distracted. Sophia is by his side and refuses to come to the table, because she wants to play with the baby. I take five minutes to deal with this discipline issue.
In the meantime, Meredith has been distracted and decides to fill out a Sunday School form.
“Where were we at again?” I wonder, as I take a few sips of very cold coffee. It’s a good thing I like coffee any way it comes. While I find my place, all the kids get up to go play with Carson. Sigh.
8:47—The younger girls get dressed. I ignore toast crumbs all over my floor and I do New England states review with Meredith. I look for a visual resource that is helpful to her, but I can’t find it because the kids took it. Grrr! I also do math flashcards with Meredith. She did her math lesson on Saturday. I sometimes have her do math on Saturday, partly because Mondays are so full and partly because she really needs extra math practice. Since doing this, her math scores have gone up every week. It’s nice to know it’s working.
Every five flashcards, Meredith comments on something Carson is doing. I tell her to please focus, using the most patient tone of voice I can conjure up.
Sophia and Clara enter the room, dressed up in their frilliest attire, like they are going to visit Queen Elizabeth or something. They go to play with Carson and he starts screaming, not liking that his freedom of mobility is being infringed upon. They are fighting over him, each of them calling, “Mom, mom!!!” They need a mediator and that mediator is me.
9:18—Meredith is now working on Latin. I email Mrs. Miller (I’m pretty sure that they don’t pay that lady enough!) to further inquire about the upcoming exams.
Clara works on an assignment where she has to color, cut, and paste pictures with different vowel sounds into the right category. (Did I ever mention that I thank God for worksheets?! If anything, it cuts down on fighting and interruptions!)
Carson starts fussing. I make a mental note that I need to put him down for a nap soon.
But if I don’t start laundry first, quickly, it will never get done. I get out laundry and start sorting it. There will be seven very full loads today, which is typical.
9:26—I realize that all the kids are now playing together with Carson’s baby toys and singing very loudly. I tell Meredith to get dressed and finish her Latin worksheet, and then her spelling lesson, and then she can take a break.
Sophia and Clara are now fighting over Carson again and simultaneously banging on the piano. Is that Carson banging on the piano too? Please no! But, yes, he is doing it too. I tell Clara to read a book aloud to Sophia while I put Carson down for a nap. I suppress feelings of guilt that on Mondays Carson is largely ignored by me (although, he is largely handled by sisters always).
I take a speed shower and get dressed in my yoga-pants “mom uniform.” A little lip gloss helps me feel that I’m not too frumpy.
I strip the sheets off my bed to wash those too and notice that Carson is fussing a little in his crib and Sophia is singing.
10:01—Clara is crying (real tears), saying that she wants a break, like Meredith. I think to myself, “Your whole life is practically a break,” but I tell her she can have 10 minutes and Meredith can have 20 minutes. Meredith cries because she wants more than that. Sophia is hungry and eats leftover cold oatmeal.
Sophia then drops the heavy oatmeal bowl on her toe. She cries like her leg was chopped off or something. I get her the ice cold “ducky” we keep in the fridge to soothe her. I also get her two floor puzzles, to keep her busy, and then I turn to check Meredith’s work. I am impressed that she looked up some bible passages on her own, using my phone. Maybe she is getting more independent after all?! Yes!! I clear the breakfast dishes and notice that Carson is finally settling down. I look ahead at what I need to do with Clara and Meredith later in the day.
Meredith and Clara decide to play school during their free dime. They are fighting over who gets to be the teacher. I silently hope they figure it out without me having to intervene. (They did.)
Meanwhile, Sophia is crying for me to help her with the puzzles because they are too hard. I can’t. I feel so busy. I go upstairs and get her a few easier puzzles and promise that I will help her with the harder ones on another day.
I realize I still have some cold coffee in my mug and swig it all down. Carson is crying again. What is up? He usually goes down for naps so easily.
While I’m scanning Clara’s assignments for the day, Sophia wants me to WATCH her while she sings “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” “No, mom, watch me!!” So I stop looking at my stuff and give her my undivided attention for a few minutes, which she sings the song multiple times.
10:19—I go to print a spelling page for Clara and get distracted reading an article that Kevin sent me, about a new development here in Zionsville.
I go to rock the baby but notice he is quiet again. I change the laundry and give Clara her spelling sheet, which Meredith happily supervises, as part of their “pretend” school play time.
Sophia reminds me (third time) that her nose is running and she wants medicine. Meredith and Clara say they are STARVING and need snacks now or they will die. I get snacks and medicine.
10:31—Okay, the poor boy has been neglected enough. When Carson starts crying AGAIN, I get up immediately and go to rock him. He burps three times and then falls asleep easily. I pop a few pretzels in my mouth—I’m hungry too!—and get my phone out to research how to remove a dry erase marker stain from Meredith’s skirt.
10:42—I give Meredith and Clara more flashcards to work on, with each other. I work on the stain, noticing a mountain of dishes in the sink, but choosing to ignore it for the time being. Sophia is happily doing puzzles. Puzzles save the day!
10:47—The stain is out. I add “rubbing alcohol” to my grocery list.
I compliment Sophia’s puzzle prowess, calling her a “magic puzzle lady” which makes her giggle out loud. I assign Meredith some Greek Myth’s review work, astronomy review, and some more math.
I sit down to do reading, phonics, and math facts with Clara. We are interrupted by Meredith, who wants to tell us that her dream is “to ride a trotting horse.” Later, she wants to tell us that she thinks “there is fungus on the flowers” in the vase by her side. All I have to say is: “Do your work girl!!!”
Sophia starts interrupting. A lot. I decide to send Sophia upstairs with the iPad to help eliminate distractions.
11:32—I assign Clara a world geography coloring page. Sophia screams from the bathroom that she needs help wiping her “big, squishy poop” (her exact words). So I oblige. And, I must say, her description was apt. When I return, Meredith and Clara are playing with some bracelets. “Stay on task girls!!”
I look at my personal to-do list. Dream on, girl! Nothing you want to do/feel you need to do is getting done today. Today is about survival. I start making lunch. I give Clara her spelling test.
11:55—I enter Clara’s spelling words on the spellingcity.com website, to give her extra practice. I finish making lunch, while providing moral support to Meredith to please finish Greek Mythology.
12:07—While passing by the front door, I notice someone had rolled up the entry way rug. I unroll it. Meredith asks me, “What is the golden apple of discord?” at the same time Clara asks me to please come see her spelling score. I yell to Clara to wait a minute while I try to figure out this apple-of-discord thing.
No one is screaming or asking for anything right now so I hurry and change out the laundry and halfway unload the dishwasher. I pick up the table for lunch, ignoring the rest of the dishes and ignoring all the crumbs on the floor again. Crumbs on the floor drive me crazy.
12:21—I divvy up the lunch. Sophia spills her entire bowl of macaroni and cheese all over the floor. After cleaning it up, we sit down for lunch. I read a couple of chapters of “Gooney Bird Greene,” which the kids love. We have a conversation about how important it is to work. In our family, we work hard and we play hard. (Only on some days, the work seems really disproportionate!)
Sophia spills her drink, splattering it up the sides of the cupboards and on the floor. Clara helps clean it up (thanks, Clara!).
Sophia gets injured and needs her ice “ducky” again to comfort her.
12:49—I assign Meredith more astronomy work and send Clara and Sophia to play outside. I finish the dishes and transfer more laundry.
Carson is now awake again. I make him a bottle and give it to him. Meredith is doing an amazing job right now of staying focused. It’s about time.
1:13—Meredith needs help reviewing her literature guide. I change the baby and sit down to do that with her.
Noise levels reach a crazy pitch. There is a big fight over who gets what coloring page and Sophia simply does not understand that I can photo copy it and multiple kids can do the same page. The attempt to reason exhausts me and I send Clara and Sophia upstairs with the baby. “Just keep small objects away from him, okay?”
1:59—I send Meredith outside (it’s a beautiful day) to read 27 pages of “Farmer Boy” and fill-out her literature guide page / copy work on the back patio. Laundry needs to be transferred again. Then it’s time to feed Carson his solids. He is a hungry, growing boy!
Clara asks for help to complete her spelling work that she failed to finish before lunch. She also needs help because everything on the computer is enlarged. I finally figure out that the “magnifier” has been messed with and fix it.
The kids ask for juice and I get it for them, not wanting to risk more spills. I tape up a bunch of puzzle boxes that were already in a bad state of disrepair but, after Sophia handled them, are now completely falling apart. Sophia and I work together to pick up the puzzle pieces, scattered all over the floor, so Carson will not chew on them and thereby destroy them or conversely choke on them.
Clara informs me that her spelling words timed-out on the computer, and so I need to retype them for her.
I wipe up the baby and give his high chair a quick wipe down, but you would never know it by looking at it. His high chair is absolutely disgusting.
I read my email. Mrs. Miller had gotten back to me. The maps memory and grammar rules memory requirements seem like a lot right now. Yikes! I hope Meredith is ready for these exams. I make a list of a few things that Meredith needs to work on, for tomorrow.
2:40—The coffee pot starts calling my name again. I make more coffee, this time with a little bit of celebratory pumpkin pie spiced creamer. Meredith is done with school now and is playing “ball” outside with Carson. The rest of the day should be downhill, right?
Actually, I’m in a celebratory mood because today we finished school a full hour earlier than we did last week and the week before. Maybe we are getting better at this routine. Relief washes over me.
I put on my iPod so I can listen to my book—“A Year in Biblical Womanhood” which is giving me a lot to think about—while I put away school stuff, clean up the kitchen, sweep, finish dishes, and try to make more headway with the laundry. I walk around the house closing toilet lids, since Carson’s new favorite pastime is playing in them.
3:14—The kids fold and put away their laundry, while I fold more laundry, and we listen to Story of the World history CDs. Carson goes down for a nap. Our friend Eden comes over to “help” with laundry and then stays to play. I keep folding. Three mountains down, two more to go …
3:50—A friend comes over to talk about a personal crisis in her life. I had missed the text message that she was coming over. She came even though I didn’t respond and I was glad she felt comfortable doing that.
4:34—My friend leaves and Meredith asks me to move the van out of the garage so she can sweep it. (Yes! She loves sweeping. I am lucky.) At this point I realize that not all of the laundry is getting done today. This is why I start it on Monday, to ensure it’s done by Tuesday afternoon so the kids’ uniforms are ready for school on Wednesday morning.
My “reading” (audio book) is very interesting. I am conflicted over it. I’m glad for the opportunity to think and learn and absorb language while I do chores.
5:06—Sophia asks me to examine a praying mantis with her. She is very excited to talk about all of the details of its body. My girls love creepy crawlies.
I tell the kids to start cleaning up outside and get ready for their grandpa to come and take them (Meredith and Clara) to Bible Study Fellowship.
5:20—Grandpa leaves with the older two kids. I order a pizza. I deserve it! I figure that can load the kids up in the bike trailer and ride my bike to go pick it up and it will be just about the right timing. So, I give Sophia a bottle to feed Carson in the bike trailer, put on my helmet, and we are off.
I need the cardio (see above). And I desperately want to enjoy this beautiful fall weather we are experiencing. The colors on my ride are so pretty, the leaves so crunchy, and it’s so enjoyable to feel the cool wind and sunshine on my back.
6:22—We arrive back home and the pizza is surprisingly intact. I make a salad and play with Carson and read “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed” by Mo Willems to Sophia, which is supposed to be funny but instead generates like 57 questions.
6:57—Kevin is home now. We are eating a candlelit pizza dinner. We are watching a hot air balloon sail across our backyard.
Not a bad way to end a crazy Monday.
And since I'm so behind on pictures, here are the kids on the first day of school, right after Labor Day.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
I have one for the annals of the Christian Parenting Hall of Shame. Can you beat this one?
Earlier this week Sophia, age three and a half, was contentedly scribbling on paper with crayons. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she was drawing a looming rainbow with a figure of someone underneath. Then she drew a smile and hair. She announced, "This is Jesus. I love her."
"What?" I asked. "You mean you love HIM. Jesus is the SON of God, a male. A man."
Sophia's blue eyes turned stormy gray and she pressed her lips into a thin, angry line. "Jesus is a girl! She has long, curly hair and she is so pretty and I love her!"
Well, I guess the good news is that she loves Jesus, right? In other news, I feel like the biggest Christian loser parent in existence! How could she think Christ is female?
I guess this goes to show that, no matter how many thousands of times Sophia heard the pronoun "he," what mattered most was the visual image she held in her mind that convinced her that the curly, long hair defined the gender.
Kevin remarked, "Isn't that like us?" Many of us have this vision in our minds of who we think God is. How often is our image of God accurate? Do we take God for who He says He is, as revealed in His word? Or do we conjure up our own images of Him and reconstruct reality, to whatever suits us best?
And now I'm trying to decide what to do about Sophia's theology ... And I'm laughing at how cute she is!
Here are some pictures of my little sweetie, taken recently when we were hanging out together in the kitchen: