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Crazy schedule


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Saturday, January 29. 2011

Today was one of those days that ends up being an exercise in orchestrating the schedule.
9:00 hockey game child #2
10:30 hockey child #3
11:00 Dad drops off computer he was working on for a friend
11:30 -1:30 babysitting for the neighbor child #1
12:00 buy gift for child #3 to take to a birthday party this afternoon
1-3:00 child #3 has girl scouts
12:45 - 4:00 mom has to help out with the girl scout meeting and then fill out paperwork to get site for the upcoming meetings, clean up etc
1-3:00 child #2 has a play date at our house
3:30- 5:00 child #2 has soccer skills winter training
3:30 to 5:30 child #3 has a birthday party
4:30 child #1 has a hockey game
7:00 mom and dad have dinner with a friend to celebrate her birthday
9:00 child #1 babysits again for the neighbor while she walks the dog because her husband is out of town

At about 3:15, child #4 declares (after having been away from home for 5 hours) "I don't want to be dragged around to anything else. I want to go home! I don't want to go to anymore hockey." After explaining to him that he had been born in the wrong spot in the birth order if he didn't want to be dragged around because that what tends to happen when you are the youngest. I told him that he would soon be in his own things and that the others would be waiting for him. I was ready for a huge whine fest as I knew he had to feel "done" because I did. Sure he had fun playing outside during one hockey game, sledding and more play outside with the girl scouts and helping his sister pick out a birthday present but I also knew he was ready for some quiet time at home. Instead of whining, he just accepted my answer and moved on.

It seems like there are days/weeks where everything falls at once. Girl Scouts is once a month and of course it would fall on the same day a a birthday party! Some days are just like that and others are more free flowing. It is wonderful that we have all these opportunity. Now I just need to find as many opportunities for housework! What's that you are saying? They are there, I just need to notice? I know.

Family Ski Time


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Friday, January 28. 2011

Many years ago, BK (before kids) I used to belong to a ski club that would travel 3 or more hours on a Friday evening and spend the weekend at a ski area and return home Sunday night. You packed all your gear into one bag plus your ski bag and boarded a bus. It was great fun and never a dull moment.

Now my weekend bag (bag with 2 zippered pockets on the ends for boots and and inside area for all your clothing for the weekend) is used to haul around 6 pairs of boots. The zippers don't really do up as it is over capacity. I carry another large bag with ski pants, mitts and other pieces of clothing. We have 5 cloth bags for helmets (one hold two because when I made them we didn't need the 6th) and I don't have a ski bag that could hold 5 pair of skis, 2 sets of poles and a snowboard so they are carried separately.

Instead of standing in the lift line with a bunch of my friends, I stand in it with my kids wondering if they will all get on and off safely. The older two are completely independent on the lifts and so is A-girl for the most part except that she keeps catching the back of her ski/binding and losing her skis as she approaches the chair.

Late yesterday afternoon/evening, we went for a family ski and I realized how things have really changed over the years and that now, we really do have a family ski time. We skied as a group. Three in one chair and three in another. Wait at the top, pick a run, head down, regroup at the lift line. Magic.

Some of LJ's fears have been replaced with a dare devil attitude ("Let's take the jump!", "Let's go in the trees with those kids", "Go faster mom!") but he pretty much relies on me to get him down the hill but he can maneuver around on his own on the flatter parts.

As I looked at the red cheeks and big smiles, I realized how incredibly wonderful this experience is. Yet again I was reminded that I wouldn't trade my skiing now for my skiing then. Both are fun but there is just something so special about skiing with your family.

Music man


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Wednesday, January 19. 2011

This evening, LJ sat at the table banging a utensil on his plate. I was in the kitchen and couldn't really see what he was doing but could hear the banging. AJ was asking me something at the same time A-girl was talking and each was getting louder and louder to be heard over LJ's noise and I couldn't really understand anything. I asked LJ to stop. He continued to bang. I asked again for him to stop banging on the plate. He replied "But Mom! I am playing Jingle bells on my plate with the fork!" As I thought about it, yes indeed he was playing a version (very close actually) of Jingle Bells. I just needed to slow down a bit, be less caught up in the chaos and hear the music in the noise. Thanks for the reminder LJ!

Happy 4th Birthday LJ


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Tuesday, January 18. 2011

I was hoping that I could post a couple of pictures of LJ on his special day but I wasn't able to upload them.

Today was a very special day for a very special 4 year old. LJ was so excited about this birthday that is was just so much fun to be able to celebrate with him. He chose his cake (a monkey of course) helped pick up the pan, pick out the icing colors and also had a lot of ideas about his party which we are having in the near future.

We weren't really sure how this day would look with S working all day and in school all evening, me working this afternoon, the kids having activities in the evening and the push for the end of the semester with school work. We managed to find a way to celebrate a very special little boy. S came home at lunch time and we had cake, then went out to lunch. Then it was off to work and after work we were able to connect with a friend for a treat at DQ. Being able to eat cake twice in one day and talking to anyone and everyone about the fact it was your birthday made his day.

LJ is a character through and through. He loves life and lives it with a passion. He tends to be an observer in new situations but definitely not in familiar ones. There he tends to take over and run things and we are left wondering where he comes up with the things he does. His sense of humor is really starting to blossom and I see a lot of laughter in the near future. He is a very sensitive, loving boy who is quick with an "I love you so much!" just when you need it most. He is such a blessing.

Happy Birthday special boy!!

Oh, in that case....


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Tuesday, January 18. 2011

Tonight as we left AJ's hockey game, I somehow ended up carrying AJ's hockey stick (actually it was A-girl's as his was in S's car instead of the porch where i could get it). He and LJ were running ahead and A-girl and I were walking together. I called out to AJ "Hey, How did I end up carrying your stick?" No reply. A-girl then stated "Well maybe you should just leave it in the snow bank and next game he won't have it at all. If he isn't going to carrying it then he really doesn't need it." (where did that parent sounding 6 year come from!) I answered, "Well this is actual your stick." "Oh, in that case I think I'll carry it!" she proclaimed.

A Comedy of Errors


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Monday, January 17. 2011

There are days that my life feels more like a comedy of errors than anything else. Today was one of them.

This morning, my son who is usually up before the sun, decided to sleep in. I got caught up in trying to get some lessons completed with the other kids before heading to work figuring LJ would be awakened by the noise factor alone little lone the fact he doesn't sleep in. He didn't. I realized that we had been relying on him to stir things up but since he didn't, we were all deep in study. I ended up having to wake him up, quickly get him ready to go and give him a bagel for the ride. Not his preferred method of starting his day, but he adapted very well. We were running late at this point and I had barely enough time to get gas, drive to work, get the younger kids in childcare and on the pool deck by the time I needed to. LJ decided he needed a drink before he could leave which I didn't mind as I was grabbing my bag anyway. He took a drink of his juice from a plastic bottle and then stopped for a breath. A-girl decided to help him with that and pushed the bottle back up to his mouth and the entire contents dumped down LJ's face, onto his coat, shirt, pants, socks and shoes. He burst into tears and now we had a full fledged re-dress/clean up going on.

We stop to get gas and the first pump I stop at, has a malfunction in the credit card swipe and won't allow you past the first screen if you are not a something or other points card holder of which I am not. I had to get back in the van and pull forward to the next pump. It started off the same way and I figured I would be forced to find another gas station but it did let me proceed where the other one didn't.

Get to work, can't find a place to park because it is a holiday for some today and there is no school. The check in line for child care is about 6 families deep, there is no where to hang coats and LJ is already wigging out because he doesn't like large chaotic groups of people (oddly enough he lives in one!) and he has figured out the childcare is going to be crazy. Finally get to the childcare room and it is more crowded than I have ever seen in my life. LJ starts to panic, his little body shaking, tears welling up and his voice cracking, I have less than 5 minutes til teaching time and I am still not down on the pool deck little lone dressed. I quickly found a worker he likes, passed him off in tears and got to class.

Later this afternoon, I was trying to complete a lesson with A-girl. All she needed to do was record her reading and send it to her teacher. Simple enough task, although it didn't flow well. First we managed to delete her recording by hitting the red circle instead of the black square that wasn't a square nor black on our screen. Not once but 5 times. Then she finally got it completed and before she hit the appropriate button to allow us to listen to it and submit it, LJ decided he would get in on the action and decides to recite a couple of lines from the story. Then A-girl gets tired, doesn't project her voice loudly enough and the mic can't pick it up. Several attempts later she seems to have the right volume however as we listen to it, we realize that the noise in the background is AJ in the bathroom. The mic can't pick up the child's voice as she reads less than a foot from it but can pick up her brother in the bathroom which is across the hall in another room. We finally get it recorded but she sounds like she is a robot because she is so tired of repeating it. Since they were looking for the fluency of the child's reading and she had none, it will be an interesting assessment.

LJ has been asking for a monkey cake for his birthday. We found the perfect pan and he has been begging to go pick it up since last Friday. We finally got there between things this evening. When we got home, we realized that the booklet that is to accompany the pan (has recipes for frosting and ideas) was not with it. Since the cake has to be made tonight and decorated tomorrow, we had to make the trek back to the store after picking up AJ from swim practice. Luckily LJ was so excited about his cake pan that he tore the paper liner from the pan and I found out before they were closed. It was also lucky for us that one of the 4 pans they had actually had the book.

As I was trying to get everyone ready for bed this evening, I was feeling the pressure. We didn't get enough school work completed today. We have activities on tomorrow that takes out any extra school time. Friday, the last day of the semester is fast approaching and I an worried about completing everything. I was feeling pretty frustrated. I was with LJ in the bathroom and suggested he go again before going to bed. He lifted the lid and bust out into hysterics. Complete bottom of the belly laughter. I looked down at the toilet seat and saw what he was laughing about. I start to say "AJ..." and LJ interrupts me, barely able to get his words out between the laughs and tells me that it was him who had done it. I honestly had thought AJ had done it as it would be right in line with his sense of humor. LJ went on "I took a pea off my plate and put it right there and then squished it with the lid. (pause due to uncontrollable laughter on his part). There is pea on the seat!" (again uncontrollable laughter). He goes on and on about pea on the seat and the other kids come to see what he thinks is so hilarious about something that usually irritates each of them. Then they are all cracking up thinking that LJ is the most hilarious kid in the world. I am not sure I can handle two boys with the same bizarre sense of humor!

Lucky for me, my life pretty much is a comedy and usually I can see the humor in things later even if I can't in the moment.

Absorbed in School


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Saturday, January 15. 2011

It seems as though the past 5 months has had little focus other than school. S started his master's program in the summer and then the three oldest kids made the transition to an online school at the end of August. Things didn't really click for us with school. The reality of S's school schedule was much more time consuming than we anticipated. The kids didn't just jump right in loving their new way of schooling the very first day. It was all new and we struggled. I kept thinking that we would soon find our way, that things would start to flow and it wouldn't feel as disjointed, stressful or forced. We were used to a rhythm that was based on family dynamic, interests, schedule and routine. The children learned together. They shared in the joys, discoveries and "firsts" as well as the frustrations and disappointments. This fall, things really changed. Instead of learning together with some periods of time for individual or different work, most of the day was spent with the kids in totally different things and little to no time working together. Distraction increased. Sibling relationships were strained. Learning seemed forced. Days were incredibly long. We were now having to spend 6 hours a day in school related activities per child, completing lessons on a much stricter schedule and the children had online lessons they had to attend which certainly took any flexibility we enjoyed before out of the equation. We had ups and downs just as we have had in all years previously but things just were not flowing well. I kept wondering when it would all come togehter. The one who had the hardest time (well other than me) adjusting was L. It was heart breaking to stand back and watch her fall further and further behind knowing she was very capable of doing the work but that for whatever reason she just wasn't getting or couldn't get it done. I wanted desperately to help her move past this, to just accept that learning isn't easy and always fun but that it is rewarding but I couldn't She had to figure it out. We would start school first thing in the morning and then still be doing it late in the evening as each of them needed their lessons covered and they needed me to assist them and it didn't seem we could find a way that everything would flow well. We started doing fewer and fewer things outside of the online schooling that we had enjoyed for the many years before. We had less free playtime, less downtime. Stress increased as did tension in relationships. Kids started blaming each other and school for activities being missed because one was not down school or because Dad's school schedule didn't allow for his assistance or participation and I couldn't' make it all happen. S's school kept him away from the house most evenings. The kids' school was pretty much taking over our days. For me, it was the first thing I did in the morning, what I did for most of the day and then what I did the last thing at night. The word "school" was starting to carry so much negativity in our home. Resistance, complaining, frustration, resentment, tears. They really didn't like the new school. It had taken away flexibility and freedoms. It didn't have to be this hard, but the reality was that it was extremely hard. I sought support, feedback, anything that I thought would make a difference. Things continued to be hard. L sunk further and further behind and her self confidence and self esteem sank as well. Stress and anxiety mounted and that just made it harder to push forward to get the work done. Nothing was working to motivate her. The reality quickly sat in that this was not going to be a good semester for her grade wise. A lot of learning was taking place, it wasn't however how I had pictured it and the result was far from what I could have ever imagined. L had a very poor attitude especially towards school. She hated it. In fact, she more than hated it and if I could find a suitable word to describe her intense dislike for it, I would use it. She slipped further and further behind. I kept asking for assistance from the school but seemed to get no where. In fact the things they were putting into place (consequences for falling so far behind) were adding to the stress, causing her to become even more disconnected from the teachers, the other students and the course material and had a very negative impact on her final grades or the semester. No matter what we did, we seemed to be less connected as a family, relationships were very strained, tensions were high and the fun of learning was lost and had been replaced with the monotony of just getting things done. It wasn't just school, it had filtered into every aspect of our family life. Things were strained for all of us. The end of the semester is fast approaching ( less than a week) and we were anticipating the negativity hitting new highs. Then suddenly things shifted. The attitude of "why bother anyway, since I am going to fail and can't get it done by the end of the semester" faded this week. It was replaced by a calmer child. One who was giving things her best shot despite major time restrictions. One who was finally after months of not really talking to anyone, was emailing teachers to ask questions to clarify assignments, asking friends for feedback on her writing assignments. Glimpses of light in a lot of darkness. I do not fully understand nor can I explain what is happening or why but I am embracing it fully. Things are not all smooth sailing and come this Friday when she is no longer able to do anything about the lessons and grades from the first semester we may have a very hard time (for me to feeling all the "if only I had done or tried......."). The reality is though, we are all learning. Like I said before, it may not be what we had hoped, but we are learning. I am starting to see glimmers of what made learning at home so enjoyable for the past several years appear again. We are starting to find our way. It has been a tough journey but we are still moving forward. I am very hopeful that soon, we will find what will work for us to make this process a lot more fun. People that we know that are having success within the program have fewer children needing teacher assistance and several have a different work/family arrangement so that both parents are involved in the formal teaching process. I am slowly learning that what works for them likely won't for us. I also have three intense kids with an idea of how things are going to flow and very different learning styles and abilities. This has been a hard 5 months for me and at first glance, I wouldn't want to do it again. I have not been the kind of mother I wanted to be. I have not modeled appropriately for my children and I have fallen far short of the standards I had wanted to achieve. I have been tested to the limits. Yet as I look closer, perhaps the learning that was supposed to take place, the lessons in life we were supposed to uncover were more about dealing with life than proving what you have learned in a class. Here's to next semester, may I be less absorbed in school and more absorbed in what is truly meaningful to our lives.



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