Enter Wonder Woman: The Homeschooling Mom

My oldest started kindergarten this year, and we’re homeschooling. This Summer, with great excitement and much trepidation on my part I mentally began to prepare for schooling him. I was giddy and nervous. Was I going to do a good job? I love teaching kids, but I’ve never taught one to read before. What if I didn’t know how? What if I couldn’t do it? What if I couldn’t find the resources I wanted/needed? What if there were too many resources to choose from, what do I do then? How would I know what to get? What if I got something terrible that didn’t work at all and just made him miserable? What if I was so unprepared that we got to Spring and he didn’t know ANYTHING?

I took a deep breath and made myself a cup of Earl Grey tea. Then I huddled away on pinterest for a while till I had calmed down enough to be rational.

I was going to be fine. I would plan, research, and organize the way I always do. I had all Summer to do so, and my mom — who homeschooled me and my six siblings from kindergarten through highschool — was happily hauling out everything she’d saved and sorting through it for me. I was going to reach September with a folder of weekly school lists ready and every book/craft/project/resource I could possibly need all filed neatly in my bookshelf. That’s what I would do; I was going to plan the whole year and have stress-free schooling. I was going to be the On It Mom.

Turns out I’m more of the Almost On It Mom Who Plans The Day Before. Actually it was two weeks before, sort of, and mostly the week before, when I showed up at Mom and Dad’s for the weekly visit and frantically, with Mom’s help, figured out my first week’s schedule and went home with boxes of stuff from her. I have accepted that I am the Almost On It Mom, because even though I have an overall grasp of what the year will consist of the actual schedule only gets made on a week-by-week basis.

And that’s okay. To Roman I’ve got it together and he’s happily learning away, and that’s what is important.

Then, going into the year with renewed confidence, I decided I would be the Make It Yourself Crafty Mom. Flashcards? I’m an artist, I can make flashcards! Pictures for coloring? Who needs to spend all that time researching printables on the computer! I can draw those! Crafts? I am crafty enough, I can figure it out and spend the time to make shapes, draw and design, and cut everything out. Such as this week: we’re learning about leaves for science; what chlorophyll is and why the leaves change color in the fall. For the craft we’re making leaves to either turn into garland or tape on the windows.

I can do that. I’m the Crafty Homeschool Mom who is so amazing I make everything at home!

Turns out I’m more of the Find Printables Online Mom. Because really… when you have three children, all under the age of six, plus laundry, dishes, house care, and schooling… who has TIME to completely do it yourself?! I glared at the inner crafty me who was wailing with guilt, and gagged her. It is plenty crafty to print templates off the computer for school crafts. Think of all the time it saves so that you have the time to actually DO the craft with your child! Think of the time saved to plan other parts of school and take care of your house and other children, instead of being hunched at the table trying to get his next coloring picture done!

Flashcards? That I only, in two months, had time to create four of? I found an awesome printable for that! In color! He now has the entire alphabet in flashcards. Easy peasy.

Fall leaves to decorate the house in? I found an awesome printable for that! I took colored paper (I chose red, orange, and yellow) and printed out a whole bunch of sheets of gorgeous leaves for Roman to cut out and tape all over the house. Shazam.

I utilize many things I never thought I would. I use youtube all the time. Learning about Columbus, I found a wonderful 15 minute video done in dramatized storybook format for him to watch and learn about Columbus. Today, being our weekly Library Day, we’re going to look for some Columbus books. And maybe some other fun exploration books. And a Dr. Seuss or two.

So I’ve made my peace with not being the ‘Perfect’ On Top of It, Awesome, Make-It-Yourself Wonder Woman Homeschool Mom. He’s learning to read. He’s learning a bit of history. He’s learning some science. He’s becoming a whiz at math! (I wish math had been that easy for me to pick up!)

As far as my son is concerned, I am the Wonder Woman Homeschooling Mom.

He’s learning, and he loves it. And that’s what matters.

He was having trouble understanding how Columbus could have made the mistake of thinking he'd reached the Indies. So I found a map and printed it twice: a full one, and then just half of it (the Eastern half, which is the world as Columbus knew it). I taped them together so he could see the 'roundness' of the world, and then pointed out the similar distance between his starting point and intended/real destination, and voila! With the visual aid, he got it!

He was having trouble understanding how Columbus could have made the mistake of thinking he’d reached the Indies. So I found a map and printed it twice: a full one, and then just half of it (the Eastern half, which is the world as Columbus knew it). I taped them together so he could see the ’roundness’ of the world, and then pointed out the similar distance between Columbus’s starting point and intended/real destination, and voila! With the visual aid, Roman got it! He even got a good giggle out of it. That night he nearly ran Sackett Man over holding the two ‘globes’ and explaining about Columbus. 🙂

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Raising Good Kids

I have been struggling as a parent.

I mean, I like to think that I’m a good Mom. Maybe even a great one. I know how to parent. I know how to raise children, even entering into the dreaded new stage with my sons and daughter. My oldest will be entering school— which now makes him cleverer than his siblings, bigger, better, and special. Not that he thinks of it that way; kids never do. He’s also an Informer, a literalist, and a rule boy. Things should be a certain way, and if there is a ‘rule’ about something and one of his siblings doesn’t do it that way… goodbye peaceful existence and hello Mr. Boss. My second son has passed out of the toddler and ‘little’ boy stage and is now Mr. Independent. Which means he is pushing boundaries and doing what he wants regardless. All of which, between the two of them, ends in turf wars, macho matches, and outright disobedience.

Now I’m normally pretty good at handling the kids. I have a chart of misbehaviors on the wall with the corresponding discipline(s) next to it. They know what to expect and I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they misbehave. Which is good, because, ashamed as I am to admit this, I have a flash temper and can get into a ‘righteous fury.’ Not that it’s actually very righteous, but you know what I mean. So the chart is good for me. I take a moment, breathe, go to the chart, calm down and remain in control, the misdeed is disciplined, and we move on.

The fly in this ointment lately has been me. You see, our daughter is teething. TEETHING. TEETHING.

Did I mention she’s teething?

I cannot recall the last time I’ve had a full night’s sleep. I was so sleep deprived a week or two ago that I was shaking, numb, stomach-achy, and had a massive headache. With little sleep at night and a sad child during many a day, my patience and ability to tolerate went way, way down. My temper became quicker. My tongue sharper. My words harsher. My volume louder. Many days I felt that all I did was scold, rebuke, and yell all day long. I was at my wits end; why on earth wouldn’t the boys just BEHAVE? The fighting over toys, the bullying of each other, the mean-teasing, and the incredible lack of obedience was wearing on me. “Why?” I would ask my Sackett Man and my mother. “Why, why, why don’t they get it?! Why won’t they just stop?!”

We went to Church this last Sunday. The sermon was part of a 3-part series we’re going through on “Doing Life Together”. And boy, there are times I am positive that God specially tailors a message or a passage just for me (or us, or you, or whoever). It was about what true forgiveness means, and how to handle it when someone does wrong. That’s the long and short of it; every point in it would take up more room than I have here! I felt like God was gently touching my shoulder and saying “Mary, maybe you need a little help. Take a look at how you’re talking to your kids, and evaluate how you’re handling them.” After Church I browsed their library shelf on parenting and found a book that has turned out to be fantastic. It was like a breath of fresh air reading it, as if all of my exhaustion and frazzled, scattered brain cells were settling and refocusing.

See, the methods we have in our home for handling our kid’s misbehavior were not bad, but I was not using them the way I should. In my exhaustion, which was legit, I began to think more about myself and the inconveniences to me than I was about teaching them what was right and wrong.

So today marked a new tactic. I began the morning with a large cup of coffee, and immediately brushed my hair and my teeth and put on clean clothes. It’s amazing the life-altering difference clean teeth and clothes make. Thus refreshed I deliberately put on a smile. The boys responded by offering to set the table for breakfast (they’re doing chores to earn the movie “Frozen”, which is waiting deep in my closet :-)). The chatter was happy, the giggles infectious. I read several Bible stories to them as they ate, plus a little Aesop’s Fable. They love being read to, so when breakfast was done they were quite cheerful. They went off and found their army guys, with some paper/foam forms (from our newly unpacked Keurig Coffee Maker) to use for landscapes and ships, and played for an hour. I made sure I looked in on them from time to time, smiling brightly whenever they noticed. I consciously made sure to compliment them from time to time, on their playing together so nicely, when one of them went out of their way to help the other, when they picked up their toys and put them away WITHOUT BEING ASKED. (I did a private jig in the kitchen over that one!) When they did misbehave, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that it’s all part of kids testing boundaries and wanting their own way. I would refer to the chart and then take the boy to their room and tell them in plain English what they were in trouble for and then deal the discipline quietly. For some things it was a time out, for others a spanking. I have a wooden spoon designated the Spanking Spoon, and when it’s needed (like when a child hits another child), I take them aside, spank my own arm (which is a great method, especially if you’re angry, to be sure you’re making the needed impression without doing it too hard), and then give them the spanking. I would then tell them I forgave them, and that I love them, and that I want them to learn God’s love, and that part of that is obeying their Mom and Dad.

Do you know what happened?

No more death glares after being disciplined. No more growls, or hiding, or weeping and wailing. They cried a little, sniffed, and crawled into my lap and put their arms around me and repeat that they loved me too. The testing and general “I’m bigger, I’m more independent” behavior hasn’t evaporated. But they are smiling, and getting along better, and learning. Their sister is thrilled. (Being the littlest isn’t always a piece of cake!) I’m no longer stressing, reassured that God has my back, will give me strength when I’ve been up ALL NIGHT and am severely lacking in my own, and that all in all… my kids are pretty great.

And I LOVE being their Mom. 🙂

 

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Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

How does time get away from us? Imagine my surprise (and guilt) when I connected here to discover that the last time I had posted was February 12th, and here it is March 26th.

Shame on me.

A lot has been keeping me busy. We had the Memorial for Sackett Man’s grandmother. Another grandparent had to go to the hospital, as did another, and two of them moved into a nursing home. I’m doing preschool at home with Roman, James outgrew his clothes and I had to go burrowing into boxes in the basement to find any that did fit, and Rose is crawling, walking along furniture, and getting into everything. I’ve written 13 chapters in a ff story, and have been arranging babysitting services for our kids during a business trip Sackett Man and I are taking in April.

But I’m still ashamed. So forgive me.

On the other hand, I’ve had lots of wonderful recipes I’ve been making, and let’s just say that life with children 5 and under is a huge adventure. And we’ve gotten more snow. Again. And again.

I’ve consoled myself by baking desserts for the family and pretending that Christmas is coming twice this year.

Spring is here at last! Can't you tell?

Spring is here at last! Can’t you tell?

Mom and I are also going through the seeds we’ve got waiting in a bag in the fridge, and planning our two big gardens. We’re going to create some mounds in the snow for the squash, watermelon, and potatoes, and we’re going to plow some nice long rows and plant the seeds in the snow. Then the summer thaw come and we’ll sigh as we watch our frozen seeds get washed away in the snow melt. By midsummer we won’t dare mow because there will be little tiny plants sprouting up everywhere in our yard EXCEPT in the nicely plowed garden, and Mom and I will be wandering around with our heads to the ground trying to identify what’s growing and if it’s edible, and hoping that the whats-its and whatchamacallits ‘bear fruit’ before the Autumn snows.

Okay, not really. By May (I hope) there will be bare ground to plant in, and God willing we’ll have a fantastic harvest of squash, melon, potatoes, kale, swiss chard, tomatoes, onions, peppers, green beans, beets, and herbs. Among other things. But right now I feel like Mrs. Beaver stuck forever in a never-ending winter.

On the Plus Side, the cliffs and mountains of snow lining our driveway are glorious in size, and during the few days it’s warm enough our two boys and Sackett Man enjoy going out and digging tunnels through the packed giants. By the time Spring is actually here, we’ll have the BEST ‘underground’ tunnel system.

I, in the meantime, have been indulging in cooking and baking. I made a cake, for no reason at all, and took Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.00.31 AMan entire afternoon on it. Yep. I baked, I cooled, I stacked, I frosted, I decorated. It was pretty, and it was delicious. Raspberry Silver cake with a lemon butter frosting. Mmmm… I love making cakes. I never have the time I would like to do all of the ones I want to do, but then again I guess that’s a good thing… Sackett Man and I have no desire to match our sons’ growth spurts; two inches every two weeks would put us in dire straits!

The ‘flowers’ are supposed to be purple. I’m not sure what happened in the photographic translation… I also decided I need more practice at making flowers. Professional I am not. But the family sure enjoyed it. It was gone in two days.

I also made molasses cookies. These are some of my favorite cookies, but then I’m a big fan of molasses. Rich, dark, deep tones tantalizing the tastebuds… Try a tablespoon in a cup of milk. Yum!

Anyway, I creamed the butter and the sugar and the egg. Then I added the molasses and creamed some more. (Thank you Mom and Great Grandma for teaching me how to cream with a wooden spoon!)

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.04.48 AMAnd this is how I do dry ingredients. I like to sift it all through my mesh sieve. It takes the lumps out of everything (like the baking soda) so that it is all fine and fluffy and partially mixes everything for you. Then you can finish mixing by hand.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.00 AMAfter combining the dry and wet, I ended up with a VERY thick batter. Time to taste test. Yes? No? Not sure? Taste it again. And again. I think three times is the required number.

Mmm!

Roll by the Tablespoons in sugar and line them on your Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.09 AMpan. Little brown, sparkly balls of goodness just waiting to be eaten! Just make sure you bake them first. That’s a very important step.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.29 AMEight minutes later you will have beautiful brown, sparkly balls of slightly crispy, beautifully soft goodness just waiting to be eaten! And it’s okay, because now they’ve been baked. There’s nothing to stop you now. There was certainly nothing to stop me.

Many of them did make it into my apple cookie jar, I am proud to announce. My self control kicked in soon enough!

This is a family recipe. It’s been made many, many, many times.

~ Molasses Cookies ~ Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.38 AM

  • ³/8 C. Shortening
  • ³/8 C. Butter
  • 1 C. packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • ¼ C. Molasses
  • 2 ¾ C. Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Ground Ginger

Cream the Shortening, Butter, Sugar, and Egg. Add the Molasses.
Stir in the dry ingredients.
Scoop by the Tablespoon and form into balls and roll in white sugar. Place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart.
Bake at 350º F for 8=10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Chaotic Kablooey

Sensationally Uncontrollable Chaotic Kablooey.

Seriously. I couldn’t think of a better description for the last two weeks.

It started as a mad scramble to get ready something we’ve been trying to find out the date(s) for for a long time. Emails, phone calls, calendar plannings, more emails. The whole family came down with a wicked “spring” cold (please note the sarcasm between those quote marks). Which resulted in more emails and a rearranging of schedules and more back and forth because it meant we couldn’t make a required pre-meeting.

And then my husband’s grandmother, a woman we all loved dearly, had a major stroke, and passed away almost four days later. That was a miserable time.

But now it is a new week, and while there are still, naturally, the wisps of melancholy floating through the air, it is still a new week, and I am trying to focus on the good.

Which brings me to today. A stay-at-home mother, with three kids ages five-and-under. The youngest learned how to crawl last week.

Nothing is safe anymore.

I just got off of facebook, where my sister-in-law posted the FUNNIEST blog another mother wrote about being a parent; the ideas and promises we make ourselves before we have kids, and then the reality afterwards. It was hilarious.

I’m sitting here, laughing and empathizing with this woman about the day-to-day craziness of it all, laughing as she described her own disheveled state (sometimes forgetting to brush her hair before going out, and the antics of getting young kids READY to go out). I sympathized with some of it, and thought “I’m glad I’m not that crazy” with other parts of it. And then I realized something: my life is that crazy.

Last night I took the last leftover piece of dense, fudgy chocolate cake (a new recipe) to my mom’s, to share with her in decadence and complete happiness. It was frosted with dark chocolate ganache. I delightedly removed the lid to the tuppeware, geared up for the big reveal, and my nostrils were immediately teased by a heavy, deep aroma…

… of garlic.

Yup. The last piece of chocolaty heaven had been put away in a piece of tuppeware that had (previously) housed some leftover garlic.

Chocolate-Ala-Garlic-Ganache somehow just isn’t the same.

I woke up this morning and came into the living room to find my husband’s HUGE recliner set three feet from the entertainment center (which houses an electric fireplace). It was so cold this morning that he had huddled there to eat his breakfast, with the fireplace heating away, wrapped in a blanket and cradling his coffee.

I have yet to move it back. Not only is it huge and heavy, but I’m thinking it might be a cozy place to snuggle up the kids for their mid-afternoon movie. (I can’t wait for the heat wave coming later on this week! 33˚F! WHOOT!)

Now I’m sitting here in yoga pants that are too short because somehow they shrank in the wash two years ago and I have yet to move on to new and better things. My hair is unbrushed (but pulled back in a ponytail), a blue stuffed lamb is on the table beside me, and a cold cup of coffee is still waiting at my elbow— mostly finished except for the half-cup of grounds in the bottom (because the filter decided to collapse in on itself as the coffee brewed).

Roman and James, 5 and 2, put away their own clean clothes this morning. The piles were dragged through the house and stuffed into the drawers, the neatly sorted and folded shirts, pants, and pajamas no longer neatly sorted OR folded, instead looking like the result of a natural disaster that was stuffed and hidden away in an attempt to hide the evidence.

But my boys put their own clothes away. Score!

My daughter took her morning nap on the floor, laying on a couch pillow, and covered with an afghan. When she woke up she laid there and bawled because there was no WAY she could possibly roll over and crawl over a flat pillow!

Now she’s happily playing and crawling after her brothers, traversing stuffed animals and pillows and toy helmets like they were nothing.

I just came back from telling my sons that no, they could not use the kitchen stool they were currently balancing on as a jumping off point to leap and flip over the back of the couch and onto the cushions, and to “put the stool back in the kitchen. Now.”

They were quite disappointed. After all, how are they ever going to join Cirque Du Soleil if I never let they DO anything?

I am, oddly enough, unsympathetic.

And now I’m going to finish my drinking my coffee and chewing my grounds. 🙂

The Plus Side

Some days require deliberate searching. You know the days I mean… the ones where one thing after the next happens till all you want to do is hide under your blanket and hope that the next day is better. Usually on days like that I end up posting about it on facebook in my ladies’ group (the members of which consist of my mom, my sister, and my sister-in-laws). When I get all of my “Why me?!!!” exclamations out, I try to then end the post with the positives of the day, which I head up with ‘The Plus Side: …”.

I started this Plus Side business after a particularly fractious day. Week. Maybe even a month… I don’t remember. Anyway, I was sitting there in my doom and gloom, feeling like a terrible mother because I’d ended up yelling at the children quite a few times that day, and wishing my kids would stop their naughty behavior so that we could get back to being a happy, normal family.

I’m sure some of you mother’s out there have had days like that.

I was sitting there, moping, and I recalled a thing Sackett Man and I learned during a marriage counseling session. Way back when, when we were young and somewhat newly married, we found that the same trouble and problems kept popping up. Okay, they were wreaking havoc. Sackett Man and I are complete opposites… he’s a man of action, and I’m a word person. I would tell him how much I loved him, how wonderful he was, handsome, etc., etc., but I HATED doing dishes and vacuuming. So I would leave them, not till last minute, but I would push doing them out a little. He, on the other hand, would whip through the house vacuuming, mopping, folding laundry, doing dishes, taking out the garbage… but when it came to TELLING me, he would instead tell me everything I hadn’t done. Needless to say, it was turning ugly. We got counseling, which helped us see so many things and how to work at them… it was unbelievable… and honestly, now, YEARS later, I couldn’t imagine being married to anyone but him!

I digress. The point of that was, one of the things we learned was the 5-1 ratio. In that it takes five good things to make up for one bad. So, if at all possible, have at least five things to say throughout the day that are positive and uplifting and encouraging to the one negative thing.

So I took a deep breath, there in the middle of my brooding, paused in typing to my four confidants, and I closed my eyes. I looked back through the day, deliberately looking for the good things. I typed them out, and by the end of it I was feeling a million times better and I could see, much more clearly, what kind of a day I’d really had. Was it a good day? NO. But it wasn’t the precursor to my kids blowing up the house and running wild, either. It was just a normal bad day with a teething infant and two crabby boys.

I’ve been doing that ever since.

Which brings me to today.

This morning started with my eldest telling me “I’m going to throw up!”

Oh no! I thought, my eyes flying open in a panic as I threw myself out of bed. Not again!

See, just a month ago, the stomach flu had run through our house with much abandon and glee. Twice in two weeks.

For the next hour and a half there was tense anticipation as he waited in the bathroom for the inevitable.

In the meantime my second child and I were relegated to the downstairs bathroom as we got ready for the day.

And… the toilet plugged. I fought with it. I argued with it. I got it free.

It plugged again.

I argued more. I attacked it viciously and with great courage, plunging away as I warned it “You don’t want my husband to come home! He’s a plumber… you know what will happen if he has to deal with you!”

The toilet stuck the proverbial tongue out at me, and the bowl filled to the rim… and stopped. The threat was clear: One more move and I spill over!

Point taken. I backed away and shut the door.

Roman, now realizing that he was not sick but had mistaken his stomach ache for SERIOUS hunger pains, happily ate his breakfast and the day commenced. Which of course meant that Rosemary cried when I didn’t hold her, and then when she was content to play on the floor she spat up all over it and proceeded to play in it with every toy she could get her hands on. My boys tried to play with the cars, but ended up arguing over who got to put what car down the ramp. They switched to a puzzle, which soon had James throwing the pieces around and Roman having a temper tantrum. Time for a bathroom break: one boy forgot to aim, and the younger one, still in training, took off his own diaper and went on the floor.

(I’m taking a deep breath now.)

The Plus Side:

The boys set up a blanket between our two couches to create a ‘tent’. I made them a snack-lunch in their two lunch boxes, turned on a nature thunderstorm album on my computer, and for the next two hours they adventured and imagined till I could almost see the the world they were in myself. It was amazing and wonderful.

Rose sat in her swing and played peek-a-boo with me while I folded laundry. This week she’s into tossing her head back and forth as she giggles, which is a hilarious sight.

Rose took a thirty minute nap.

I got a basket of laundry folded, and another one in the washing machine.

The dishwasher is half-emptied. (I hope to get to the other half soon.)

I have a cold, which means I get to indulge in my favorite thing: Tea with lemon juice and elderberry syrup. The perfect tonic for a sore throat.

Sackett Man texted me that he loved me. 🙂

Outside, while in the negative digits, is beautiful and white with softly falling snow.

And I’m finally having lunch, which consists of two fried eggs (runny, of course), wilted greens in butter, a leftover homemade biscuit, and topped with the leftover cheese-sauce my husband had made over the weekend.

Seriously, it’s so good! He made breakfast on Saturday, of eggs and toast and this amazing cheesy sauce that is fantastic. He layers it all, tops it with the sauce, and sprinkles it all with dill.

Heaven!

That’s my Plus Side for a day that didn’t start great, but is getting better.

What’s yours?

Sackett Man's Saturday Breakfast

Sackett Man’s Saturday Breakfast

My Lunch, with Sackett Man's Cheese Sauce

My Lunch, with Sackett Man’s Cheese Sauce