Friday, May 1, 2015

The Dryer Broke and Other Dilemmas

 We started the day normally yesterday.  At the breakfast table I gave the kids the rundown of what our simple day was to look like:

Personal Scripture study for big kids while Mom tidies the kitchen and takes care of littles
Big kid read aloud time--littles are welcome, too
Math for everyone
Dance practice
Soccer pictures/game
Dinner/Family Scripture Study and Prayer
Evening routine and bed

We made it through personal scripture study and a pleasant read aloud session with Freckles.  When the kids were dismissed to work on math I was nursing Baby L.  I had to enforce some consequences for E15 for not doing her morning chores, and she went off to work on those.  S12 came to me with math questions.  Just as I started to help her with that E15 dropped the bombshell that changed the whole day,  "Mom, because there's too much stuff on top of the dryer, a box of band aids fell into the lint trap when I was trying to clean it, and I can't get them out."

Her attitude was bad.

Really bad.

And now I had a dryer that needed attention because not getting laundry done in this household is a big problem, and my exhausted husband had just gone to bed in preparation for another night at work.  He wouldn't have time to work on the dryer for a few days.  I couldn't face denying him the few hours of sleep he needed just so I could get laundry done.  I determined to solve the problem myself.

I tried to get E15 to help me, but she was unpleasant, and when she disappeared I did not call her back.

I felt unpleasant, too.  I bit my tongue--trying to remember that I was the grown-up in this situation and that kids are more important than dryers.

I managed to get a lot of lint out of the trap with the wire brush I used to dig around in it, but I only managed to shove the band aid box deeper into the recesses of the dryer.

I found a YouTube video that helped me disassemble the dryer.  M13 helped me for a little while, but then it was time to leave for dance, so I sent her to the kitchen to pack some lunch to eat in the van.  I got the dryer apart but found out that there's no access to the vent from the front of the dryer/behind the drum; I would have to go in through the back panel.

At this point we were late for dance, and my dryer was in pieces.

I woke my husband to tell him what was going on so he wouldn't be startled when he got up for work, and we left.

I was going to try to run some errands, including a bit of grocery shopping, while the kids were at practice, but they forgot to put the cooler in the van after I asked them to get it from the garage, and I didn't think to check until we were 2 miles from home.  It's too warm to leave groceries in the van without a cooler, so I skipped shopping.

We were also running too far behind for me to return the overdue library books that I've been trying to return for 3 days.  I just shoved the bag of books in the van and hoped to find another chance another time.

Soccer pictures were cancelled so I had an extra few minutes when we got home to work on removing the back panel of the dryer.  It was hard.  Much harder than I thought, and I cut my hands trying to get the box of band aids out of the vent, but I did it.

Then my sweet, sweet, sacrificing husband got up early (without me asking) and helped me put the dryer back together again--which was especially good because even with his help I was still 15 minutes late getting the girls to soccer.

I worked hard to be thankful throughout the day.

Thankful for . . .
--YouTube videos
--good tools
--the best husband
--the opportunity to clean the dryer thoroughly
--getting the dryer working again
--not scolding or lecturing my daughter
--M13's and J11's help
and so forth and so on.

But underneath my efforts is a very real question: would my children be better off in school where their days would be less interrupted by problems like this?

I know that academics are not the end-all be-all of life.  I know that learning to deal with home and family are good, valuable lessons.  I see my kids learning true life lessons often . . .

but don't kids who go to school learn true life lessons AND get structured, pleasant time to work on academics?

H5 and I3 wanted to watch what Mommy and Daddy were doing in the laundry room.  They were curious about the tools and what the inside of the dryer looked like.  Wouldn't it have been delightful for me to have included them in my work?

But the laundry room could barely hold the disassembled dryer and me.  I had screws and tools and dryer parts to track while I did a job I was sorely uncomfortable doing, and I had little ability to patiently guide their small hands.  I was trying to patiently guide myself!

I offered for them to stand on the toilet (the laundry room is also a half-bath) to see what they could see, but they couldn't see much, and what they wanted was to be right in the middle of everything.  So the learning experience was mine alone.

It was a great experience for me!
*Practice patience
*Remember what's important
*Step outside my comfort zone
*Think of my husband first
*Be flexible

But what about the children's experience?

I don't think I would mind so much if it were one isolated day, but this day coming hard on the heels of 3 months of irregular schooling has left me really questioning my abilities to reasonably facilitate their educations.

And S12 said wistfully as we drove past a public school, "I'll bet kids in school have a lot of fun.  I think I would really like going to school each day."

I'm trying to imagine 10 years from now . . . Will this moment be just that?  A moment?  A blip in the generally good experience of raising my family and educating my children at home?

Or will it be the beginning of a turning point?

I hope it's just a blip.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Week, Briefly (#19)

We are approaching normalcy as Baby L reaches 3 months.  (Kind of supports the "4th trimester" theory according to The Happiest Baby on the Block.  I find that interesting.)

We've had such a long break from our regular school, that we all feel like starting a new school year.  However, we all have work to finish from this school year so we're gently working our way back into where we left off.

The older girls and I are continuing with the daily read aloud time we started with Standing for Something and their hunter education manuals.  We're done with both of the above, but now we're reading from Freckles.  It is an absolute win here in our house--even the littles bring in their coloring/quiet toys to play and listen as I read.  I'm trying to gently work us from just reading/listening to actively listening/narrating so that we can turn this book into a springboard for some nature study this summer

We missed the General Women's Meeting from General Conference in March, so we're watching one talk/video a day right now.  I think we'll finish this session up tomorrow.  All of the talks have been about defending and supporting the family as a sacred institution ordained of God.  I'm really enjoying it!

We started up with daily math lessons again.
*E15 is moving forward with Calculus Without Tears.
*M13 backed up to the beginning of her Saxon 8/7 book and is redoing the practice questions for 2 chapters per day.
*S12 is moving forward in her LifePac 4 math.
*J11 is doing the practice questions in her Saxon 6/5 book for 2 chapters per day.  We have a deal that if she has trouble with any of the practice question groups that we'll slow down and give her more work from the problem sets for mastery.
*A8 is finishing up her math book.  We've been doing a few free math problems a day at IXL math, too, and I'm finding a lot more holes in the Critical Thinking Company's scope and sequence than I previously thought. (So now I'm checking out other math programs for next year.)
*H5 is finishing up the math section of her grade 1 comprehensive curriculum workbook.  I don't think it is very comprehensive, but she sure likes adding and subtracting.  :)
*I3 counts what is interesting to him, draws shapes, and generally learns appropriate mathematical principles by living as a 3-year-old should.

A8, H5, and I3 are working on another Hands of a Child unit about Pond Life.  We're visiting local ponds and just seeing what we see.  We made it to one pond last week.  I'm hoping to go back to that one and then try to see another this week.   We're reading library books about ponds, too.  They're just happy to have organized activities to do.

For morning devotionals we're singing primary songs and reading Old Testament stories aloud.

On Friday and Saturday I was able to attend a Homeschool Conference.  I hope to write more about that in order to process some of the information I felt was valuable.   M13 went with me.  She managed to find some friends with whom she attended classes and roamed the vendor hall.  We compared notes at the end of the day and found we both disliked our first classes but loved the rest of them.

While we were gone, the other kids flew kites.  H5 took pictures:


I erased at least 100 variations of this photo, but that's okay because we still have over a dozen.  The kids were able to fly the kite at the full string length. 

She's rather an experimental photographer. :)

In other news:

S12's arm is not broken after all.  The splint is off, and she's using it well.

A8 got her cast off.  The only repercussion from the waterproof cast is that her skin is sensitive to everything and is broken out in a tender rash.  A little lavender salve has helped tremendously.

Just before heading off to have the cast removed.

And I think this selfie by M13 is super cool.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Catching Up

It is too overwhelming to even begin to go through the photos and events of the past 3 or so weeks.

Baby L and I are just home from the hospital.  He is fine.  He was not so fine yesterday morning when we woke in the wee hours to find he had a temperature of over 103 degrees.  The ER measured his heart rate at over 230 bpm and his white blood count was critically high.  He underwent standard tests--urine and blood--which were so traumatic that I will never forget the look in his eyes as he lay screaming in terror on the hospital bed.  When the docs told us they needed to do a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) I took the chicken route and left the room.  A dose of IV antibiotics and 24 hours later he is well. 

I am grateful for the ability we had to seek medical attention.  I am grateful that he is well.  I am also recommitted to keeping my wait-and-see attitude whenever possible because the tests were dreadful.  To mothers of children who need lots of medical intervention, I take my hat off to you!  And I pray that God will support you.

E15 broke her arm during a soccer game.  She is in a hot pink cast.

S12 might have broken her arm at a roller-skating birthday party . . . x-rays are inconclusive.  She is in a thumb-spike splint until Wednesday when we'll return to the orthopedic clinic for further evaluation.

M13 is off crutches and wearing an ankle brace to protect her from further injury.  She is back to playing soccer after 2 weeks off.

J11 has painful plantar warts.  The podiatrist prescribed Tagamet--apparently it stimulates T-cell production which attack viruses like the ones that cause warts.  She said it works best in kids under 18, so we're hopeful it will work for our girl.

The older girls have finished their hunter education manuals, turned them in to the state conservation department, and had them returned.  They are getting excited for camp this June.

We studied frogs at a recent Explorer's Club meeting.  The little ones explored the frog lifecycle and got to visit with E15's tadpoles.  They also built a frog habitat and received supplies to build their own mini-frog ponds at home. The older kids explored interesting frog facts, anatomy, and classification.

We began reading aloud Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter.  All of the kids love it.

M13 and S12 put on a baby shower for one of their church youth leaders.  It was a success. :)

We tried to work on math for several days, but the medical issues took over.

The sun has come out, so the kids are spending increasing time out of doors.  I'm hoping to join them and encourage some nature studies.

There's more, but I'm too tired to remember it all.  My PPD meds are working, and I am filled with joy each day at the life I am living.  I'm a little confused as to why we're having so many medical issues, and I'll be researching what I can do to improve our general health, but I'm not discouraged or defeated.  I can look at a sunrise and breathe a prayer of gratitude . . . and I do the same every time I look at my husband, my children, and especially the beautiful roly-poly body of Baby L.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Mom--At Home

 Stuck in the van, there wasn't much else for me to do but think.

I was at E15's soccer game on a very, very, very windy afternoon.  E15 was on the field.  M13, S12, and J11 were camped out on the sidelines watching the game.  A8, H5, and I3 were on the playground next to the van (hoorah for that playground!!!!).  I'd already bundled up Baby L and tried to take him outside, but the wind was too fierce for him.  If I covered him completely, he cried.  If I opened the blanket even a peep, the wind rushed into his face, sucking away his breath.  We lasted less than a minute, retreating to the safety of the van for the duration of the game. 

We were perfectly parked for me to watch the game from the van's front window and watch the little ones playing from the side windows, but Baby L and I were cut off from everyone else.  We could see but not hear.  We were warm but alone. 

Baby L nursed and fell asleep.  I was glad he was content.  I cuddled him close and enjoyed feeling his breath on my chest.

At the same time I wanted to be outside in the wild wind.  I wanted to run, jump, holler, and feel the energy of the outdoors.  I wanted to cheer with the crowd for the team and push my littles on the swings.  I wanted to feel vigorously alive!

That was not the first time I have felt pulled in two directions.

When my oldest ones were all small, the only way they could play outside was if I took them out.  That meant that at some point every day I put aside my housework and played outside with them.  I remember thinking how great it would be when they were old enough to go outside on their own while I got the housework finished so that our home was both happy and orderly--instead of one or the other.

Time passed.  The oldest ones got old enough to go outside without me, and they could watch the little ones, too.  It was just what I'd wished for years before, but while I was inside completing household chores I remember feeling somewhat left out.  Now I wished I had the excuse of needing to watch them so that I could abandon my work and experience the sun and fresh air, too.  But our family had grown and so had the amount of work to be done.

(The kids have always done chores; there was just more for me to get done, too.)

As I sat in the van musing over these memories, A8, H5, and I3 left the playground to climb into the van.  Their cheeks were ruddy with cold, their eyes bright with joy, their hair mussed from the wind.  They were chilled and thirsty.  Their arrival brought energy and life to the quiet, slightly stuffy van.  Their excited talking tumbled over and around me, enveloping me in their vibrance.  They drank water; they ate carrot sticks; they warmed their bodies.  Then their older sisters left the sidelines of the game to play at the park, and out of the van tumbled three small bodies, lured back to the wild outside by what novelties the presence of older kids promised.

I3 came back to the van a few moments later because he'd fallen and hurt his hands.  I kissed his owies, and he ran off.

H5 came back for more water.

J11 came back to warm up.

And suddenly I realized how good it was to be in the van. 

The van and I were a safety, a home base for the kids.  With me in the van, they were free to play, to explore, to experiment, to go forth with confidence, knowing always that I was waiting for them, ready to listen, to minister, to nourish in preparation for the next round of adventure.

This is my season for indoor adventures.  My babies have consistently been homebodies.  They need routine and familiar surroundings to be happy.  To give my babies what they need means that I stay home with them (or at least turn the van into a home-y place). 

By keeping home I allow my other children the privilege of sallying forth to test their abilities while knowing they may return to a safe haven when they need it.

I have had seasons of outside adventure in the past.  Someday new seasons will arrive.  For now, though, I will keep home.

When I keep this perspective, I am grateful for the privilege.

Friday, April 3, 2015

I'm Gonna Win This Battle . . . Somehow

I have 2 sticky places on my cheeks--placed there by a mandarin-orange-eating-3-year-old who wanted to kiss me while he was eating his breakfast this morning.

On my bed lies a 2 month old roly-poly beautiful baby boy sleeping after a successful nursing session.

Two little girls are moving through their morning routines, pausing to greet me and ask me questions as they feed the guinea pig and/or pour their own milk for breakfast.

One medium-sized girl is reading on her bed.

My husband and 3 oldest are at the temple, sharing spiritual experiences of eternal importance.

It rained this morning, and the sun is coming out; the lawn and woods are an astonishing emerald green.

I have an exquisitely beautiful life.

I know this with every rational part of my mind.

But, in spite of medication, I am lost in a fog that both infuriates and frightens me.

I have questions--
Do I need a higher dose of meds?
Do I simply need exercise and better eating habits? (Without doubt, these would help, but in my current mental state I just cry when I think of the work involved in getting started.)
Should I consult a mental-health professional?
Should I confide in a trusted spiritual leader?
Should I wait it out?

I was doing quite well for a while, but then some disappointing news threw me for a loop, and I can't figure out how to rise above it and get hold of the faith that I know is somewhere within.

I am frustrated because I KNOW I am blessed; I KNOW I am a daughter of a loving Heavenly Father who holds me firmly and lovingly even (especially) when life gets hard; I KNOW I am surrounded by daily miracles.

But instead of feeling gratitude I feel rather as if I'm missing something--as if I've been denied an invitation to a party to which everyone else has been invited.

That's a sadly self-pitying and selfish way to feel.

I prefer a state of gratitude.


How do I get that back?

I have a hunch it has something to do with this idea:

"When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes."

So, I KNOW I am blessed, and I will hold to that until I feel it permeate every fiber of my being.  I have felt so before, and I will feel so again.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Week, Briefly (On the Bench)

Soccer games started.

M13 is the one in white on the right.

E15 is the one with the bandana on her head--right in the middle of the action.

S12 is #3.
The girls have a winning season so far.

M13 injured her ankle 2 minutes into the second game.  Assuming it was just mildly wrenched (like the last time she hurt it--while dancing) we wrapped it, elevated it, and watched it. 

Looks like she might need a doctor.

And on her way home from watching a soccer game at the field across the street, A8 fell and broke her arm.
They let her wear the hospital gown home from urgent care.
We're waiting to hear from the orthopedic dept about when we get to take her in for a real cast and to find out how long they estimate it will be on.  She's supposed to be baptized this coming Saturday . . . so thank goodness they make waterproof casts these days!

We got the news that we're officially waiting for really big news.  We're preparing for a very-likely-but-there's-still-a-chance-it-won't-happen situation. 

More on that in the weeks to come.

We managed to read a bit together.

We read a lot independently.

I went into E15's room the other day and discovered that her wall is papered with fashion drawings.  She must be spending hours of her free time working on them (and I thought she was napping!).  She's also working hard at the piano, teaching herself by ear how to play hymns.

The older four girls were accepted into a free outdoor camp for girls this summer sponsored by our state conservation department.  Their assignment to complete mandatory hunter certification showed up in the mail.  We completed 2 chapters' worth of assignments.  Only 7 to go.

Our Explorer's Club meeting took place.  The kids listened to presentations from local charities and worked on a toy drive so that we can donate toys to the kids who are served by the charities.  It's a truly wonderful idea in practice, but as E15 pointed out, "Our meetings are starting to feel like church without religion."  She put into words exactly how I've been feeling.  Though we love our friends and we find joy in serving, we are wary of church-substitutes.  More and more I am sure this is our last season of being a part of this club.

We had dance practice.  We're going to have 2 more shows this year--in May.  The rehearsal pressures are mounting, and I'm sewing costumes.

The oldest 4 went to a party with some homeschool friends on Friday night.

M13 and S12 worked on baby gifts for one of their church teachers.  They made hair bows and a tutu skirt for the baby girl due in May.  I don't have any pictures because they worked on them at the home of another church teacher.

Wednesday marked the first day that I produced all of the milk Baby L needs.  Other than a blip on Friday when a few wasted ounces of my milk resulted in his needing a 2 oz formula supplement, my milk supply has stayed high enough to meet his needs.

He's beautiful.

I am less and less sure about how or when to introduce traditional school again.  I am not worried about any of the kids' educations except E15's because she's high school age, and I don't know how to translate such non-traditional life learning into a transcript.  I know there are those who do it, so I will study their examples and see what I can learn.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I Wish . . .

Even though I know better, I am feeling the lure of beautiful curriculum packages.  I wish I could find:
photo credit
(If you follow the photo credit link above, you'll find a great post!)

I wish I our school shelves could look like this:
photo credit
And I wish our days could look like this:
photo credit
So tidy and color coded and organized!

I've been sucked into those perfect packages before.

They're never perfect.

They always cost too much money.

And no matter how pretty they are, real life is, well, real life.

Our school shelves look more like this:

photo credit
(And that's on a good day.  Often they're much less tidy.)

It's just that this has been a hard year so far, and I wish someone could take me by the hand and lead me through the decisions and work that are ahead.  It's nearly time to end our undefined break and get organized. 

I'm rather afraid of the responsibility.

Those beautiful curriculum packages out there feel like a hand holding mine.

We still need to complete the school year we began in the fall of 2014.  We still have all of our incompleted workbooks and project lists.  We still have our goals.  There is no need for anything new.

But new things come with promises and a sense of newness and shiny wrappers.

I kind of need some promises, a sense of newness, and a few shiny wrappers.

So I will turn to this promise:
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I will create a sense of new by organizing a "First Day of School (Again)" day.

Maybe I'll search out some simple school supplies . . . or snacks . . . that come in shiny wrappers.

And I will reach out to the real hands waiting to take hold of mine.