Thursday, October 23, 2008

Homework, homework, gimme a break!

My seven-year old (in second grade) had 14 pages of math assigned tonight. He was supposed to read all of this for tomorrow -- ooops, I just remembered, we were supposed to play a game on one of the pages. For his reading log, I told him to write "Math Book" for his entry today. I am sure he will find something else to read, because he does enjoy reading. But the idea that I have to log and monitor and quiz him on his comprehension annoys me. He has twice as much homework as his older brother (in third grade). Both boys have a test tomorrow -- one on butterflies and one on astronomy. I am not concerned about my oldest, he is self motivated. My middle son, however, is overwhelmed. I had to corner him in the bathtub to start reading his math pages to him, and we finished at the dinner table, so in essence the homework permeates our family time. Additionally, he has weekend homework this weekend. He is supposed to create a "spiderarium" -- bring in a spider in a jar to class. I asked him how many kids in his class, and he said "24." So, uhmmm, his teacher wants 24 spiders in the class? We have an awesome spider on our side porch -- it has created a great environment for itself right near the light, where all the bugs are. No way am I going to move this spider. It is happy where it is.

I am not sure what I am going to do about this homework and in general. Sometimes we all pitch in and help. There was one cutting, sorting, gluing and coloring project that the whole family worked on. I cut it, he sorted it, matching sentences to pictures, I glued it, and we ALL took a turn coloring. I am not worried that he is going to fail cutting, gluing, or coloring. The comprehension part is what was important to me. The kid is incredibly artistic and he creates "active drawings," unlike anything I have ever seen.

Now, the kicker is, my son is supposed to "loop" with this teacher, meaning he will have her for third grade as well. He has already told me he wants to opt out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The third shift

I guess this would be called the third shift (I did it last night, too) -- "going" back to work after I put the kids to bed. But tonight I am procrastinating. I am burnt out from the third shift. We had Pasta Night tonight, and celebrated three birthdays (with lemon bars, chocolate chip brownies, and monkey bread)! Six ladies and nine kids altogether, and miraculously, my house didn't get too messed up. My own kids were a little sassy, which I imagine is normal when it's their house, but I do not let them get away with it. They also are very "needy" right when we get home and I am trying to cook, so thank God Grandma was here to help tonight, and to pick up the Bigs from Extended Day, because I was cutting it close to 6:00. I just want to get through the first shift, so I can enjoy the second shift. Never mind the third shift. Just never mind. Work will always be there tomorrow, right?

Tomorrow I will be driving my youngest to daycare, so I ought to check my calendar anyway to find out what I have to do tomorrow morning, and how long he can hang out at home with me. I told him we'd go to the supermarket to get some fruit snacks for the front desk drawer at school. It seems that *everyone* knows about the stash of fruit snacks, and the two boxes we bought last week are long gone.

Today I was on a customer interview and my manager IMed me and asked me to send him a few sentences about the implementation (I publish customer success stories for my day job). I said, "hang on, I'm on the conference call now." He pressed a couple of times, and I asked him if he could wait, we were talking about benefits and metrics. Finally I had to say, "Can you give me five minutes?" He did, but I took longer than that, to write about 300 words. I pinged it back and he asked for something shorter. I asked him what was the audience, so I'd know what to cut. I mean, is it product focused, 30,ooo foot view, what...?? Then he said never mind, he'd sent it (to his boss's boss's boss). Then a little while later, he pinged me again and asked when is the case study interview. I said, "I was just on it!" and then "Let me know if you need anything else, I took really good notes until the end..." I delivered the write up in real time, basically. Sometimes I amaze myself.

Okay, well, I can't write any more about that. I just need to get it over with and take a quick look at my work...I might as well, it's renting enough space in my head.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday dinner and the Game of Life

Today after church, my friend and I decided we would have Sunday dinner at her house. We've been wanting to figure out a weekend gig for a while and this seemed to be the right time. She told me she had some corned beef, we could have boiled dinner. So, I set off to get appetizers, drinks, salad, and dessert. The boys and I went to the supermarket and somehow spent $81, though we did get a few things for pasta night. I only had the Bigs, and my friend has two kids, so it was a nice small crowd, like a sibling group, really. I decided I'd bring over the Game of Life and the Guiness Book of World Records (this sure has changed since I was a kid) and the kids didn't have the TV on at all.

We had a little time at home in between the supermarket and our dinner, so we had a neighbor boy come over to play Lego's. We got a new table yesterday from our friend who is moving and it is perfect in the living room -- it's a big square. Perfect for Legos, or a board game (the kids were so excited about the Game of Life that they wanted to play it again when they got home).

On our way to dinner, we stopped to get some birthday presents for Grandma and another friend, whose birthday is today. We'll celebrate on Pasta Night, which is actually my mom's birthday.

The kids were so excited about "winning" at the Game of Life. What a timely and relevant game for them, since they have been talking lately about what they want to be when they grow up. Tonight they asked me how do you afford college, how long do you have to go, do they want to get married and have a family, what kind of car or home is a good investment...I had bought this game for my oldest for Christmas and we never opened it. I guess timing is everything.

We fed the kids first (we do this at pasta night, too, since both of us have smallish tables and not too many chairs!), and then they got right back to their game. As my friend and I had our dinner, we talked about how these were the memories our kids would have when they grew up: how lucky they are to have Pasta Night, Ladies' Night, and now Sunday Dinner.

(My middle son had requested "Ladies Night" when asked what kind of party he wants for his birthday for the past two years!)


I still have a column to write for tomorrow! Not sure how that's gonna happen...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Night out -- not!

My mom texted me at 2:30 this afternoon and asked me if I wanted to go out tonight; she would come and watch a show with the boys. I told her she was welcome to come over and watch a show, but I doubted I'd want to go out. (Sometimes I feel like I should seize the opportunity, but am then stumped for what to do with it.) So I asked if she could come by 5:30 so I didn't have to drag the Bigs to get my youngest at daycare. She did, and took them shopping at WalMart. I took my youngest to the supermarket. We had an episode about the fruit rollups that I refused to buy. I couldn't justify it when they were $5 a pound more than fruit snacks. I wasn't going to buy the loaf of bread I really wanted for $5.69, so no way was I going to shell out for $8-plus/pound fruit rollups when the plain old fruit snacks were in the $3/pound neighborhood. I wound up buying neither. My youngest insisted that fruit snacks are stupid. It was not a pleasant scene and he took off to go find the fruit rollup aisle when I was in the checkout line. Fortunately, I made it through my whole transaction without panicking and then right before I was going to abandon the cart and go looking, he came back around and told me he couldn't find the fruit rollups. This goes on and on, ending with me jollying him into putting his seat belt on in order to go home and watch a show with the Bigs and Grandma (there was a point that it was so bad I was just considering putting the child locks on with him flailing around the back of the car like a shrieking octopus...I had frozen food that needed to find its way back to a freezer sooner rather than later). Grandma's help enabled me to work until 10:30 p.m. (with some time out to tuck my one very tired youngest son into bed at 8:30, and the cheerful Bigs at 9:30 (who even brushed without asking.) And now I sit in bed with my laptop watching "Sex and the City!" Some night out. But at least I am not obsessed about my corporate to do list...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pasta Night

Pasta Night is every Wednesday. We invite friends to share a meal.Every Wednesday we have Pasta Night. This is a tradition I started a while back based on Prince Spaghetti Day. We invite our friends and on any given night, we may have about six adults and 8-10 kids, depending on whether the neighbors send their kids over.

Every Wednesday we gather with other families for Pasta NightIt's a lot of work but I enjoy doing it because otherwise my social life would be incomplete. My kids enjoy running around in a pack with other kids, much the same way I did as a child (go outside and don't come back 'til the street lights come on). We live in the center of town on a busy street so they can't just go out and play in the neighborhood.

Today, fortunately, I do not need to shop for anything. I have pasta, sauce, bread, salad. My friends will show up with appetizers and drinks (and hopefully dessert, or I'll have to whip up cookies or a pie, which I have been meaning to do since we went apple picking the weekend before last).

Today, unfortunately, I have laundry all over the dining room table, and our trash and recycling is still sitting out by the curb because apparently the trash guy forgot to drive down our street yesterday (maybe thrown off by the holiday?), and things need to be put away. There are bakugan and DS games all over the small kitchen table, and I am midway through a soap-making project on the side counter.

Currently, I am drinking a cold cup of coffee. I wanted to start my day with the small indulgence of a cup of coffee in bed before I rush around making lunches and packing my kids off to school. I am now on borrowed time because my middle son tip toed in to tell me, " we made our beds." (which is something I told them they MUST do after having unmade them to make their sleeping nest on the floor last night). I had also wanted them to finish up the homework that will be due tomorrow (doing it ahead since they can't seem to figure out how to do it at extended day and we'll be busy tonight).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A typical school night

We had scouts tonight, which meant I raced from the car dealership (where my car was for the third time in eight days) to get my youngest, to McDonald's, to get the Bigs at extended day. They tailgated with their food and then I ushered them quickly through homework and/or bath (younger two). Oldest offered his daily nagging for me to look at his book order and commit to buying him the DS game he reallywants. I told him his timing was bad and that he ought to consider asking me to spend money on things he wants (and doesn't need) sometime when I haven't forked over a day's pay for car repairs.

We walked to the meeting since it was at the elementary school (I am all for squeezing in some extra exercise!). I thank God that my middle son, whose scout meeting it was, was being an exemplary scout (he even wore dress pants instead of his usual athletic pants), because my oldest was griping about the homework he brought and my youngest decided he wanted his lovey after he fell off the cafeteria stool. I said, "well, where is it?" but I knew. It was at home. And yes, I did think of this when we were rushing out the door, but we were late so I decided to risk it. I wound up consoling him for half an hour until it was time for snack, when he made a big deal about getting his own cupcake (they were fabulously decorated like howling wolves), off of which he proceeded to eat the M&M eyes (what a horrible waste, but I didn't want to bat clean up on that). Then he ran around with his brothers and the other scouts while the parents cleaned up. We jogged home with me admonishing the boys about appropriate flashlight manners (i.e., not shining it in oncoming traffic).

Getting them to bed took more than half an hour! I can't even begin to say what went on for all that time. It involved potty, brushing, changing (and hauling the clothes that had only been worn for two hours back out of the hamper), putting laundry away that had been at one time stacked neatly on their beds, organizing and reorganizing their beds, choosing a book (each), a short love treatment (lotion rubbed on their backs) (each), and arguing over the body pillows (we have three, but one of my boys thought he needed two). I couldn't take it anymore at that point and excused myself from their room to let them work it out. The solution: the Bigs are sleeping on the floor in between their two beds.

I took yesterday off for the Columbus Day holiday -- we spent the day at the camp on the lake where the kids are all summer...there was a small festival (for which I had baked over the weekend). I can't seem to actually take a whole day off, though. I wound up checking in a couple of times. It was a good breather for me to be able to write some press releases (for the Christmas anthology I'm in, Christmas Through a Child's Eyes, and also submitting a short (half length) column for the publishing company I write for. They have a column on hand (which I submitted six weeks ago and has not been published), but I think they are constrained for space and I really like this venue, so I am looking for a win-win solution.

Okay, so I just ate a bunch of Keebler cookies and got my second wind and now maybe I can write, or at least think about writing, the church column that is due tomorrow (which will be based on the recent blog post about kids at church).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Are those my kids?

Just a quick note about our trip to the supermarket -- after church, I decided to go for it, even though it was a risk given the behavior at church, but we really needed food.

I split up the list and assigned items to the Bigs, with one of them assigned to be the buddy to the youngest.

I maneuvered the mothership around the store while the kids ventured forth on their missions (or the rest room) and returned with their items. Some of them needed to be returned and re-chosen (to ensure the best value -- much to the boys' excitement, sometimes a brand name item was a better value than the store brand), but for the most part this method worked. If one of the Bigs couldn't find something, we went as a team to scout for it.

It was only necessary to issue a few warnings about being "unrewarded" for "inappropriate supermarket behavior." I agreed to buy them some fruit snacks (this would be the reward) and ultimately let them each shoose a Sponge Bob cartoon book, since they are on sale for $1.25 each.

When we got to the checkout line, I sent them through with their books first and pointed to a bench next to the newspaper stand, as I checked out with our $165 worth of groceries (I am sure I could save on my grocery bill if I grew and canned my own food and didn't have to buy lunchbox items, but the fact of the matter is I would not save enough to afford me to quit my full time job and homeschool the kids so I didn't have to pack lunch).

As I was wheeling the mothership out of the checkout lane, I saw a couple of friends from church choosing a newspaper. They didn't recognize my children, who were sitting still on the bench in order of youngest to oldest (yes, they organize themselves that way), with their books opened on their laps. I almost didn't recognize them!

It is times like that when I feel like I have it all together, that I am the luckiest mom in the world -- as opposed to wondering "how did I get here?" which is something I ask sometimes when I find myself sitting at soccer practice in a station wagon, or in one of my sons' classrooms surrounded by 23 of his classmates and him, or even at church on a pew taken up by my entire family.

Remind me why I go to church?

Today we got to church and were only six minutes late for Sunday School, which is not late for class, since there's this singalong thing in the beginning. The reason we were late at all is because my middle son had wanted to bring the artwork he had begun creating so he'd have something to do during the church service before he left for "Jr. Church." Well, in all the pandemonium of getting out the door, which results from my kids ignoring my twenty-minute warning and my ten-minute warning, and trying to cram their tooth-brushing, shoes-on, hair plastered to their heads (because they refuse to maintain their buzzcuts and are now dealing with the resulting bedhead), and accessory gathering into two minutes after I issued their final warning -- he lost the pencil he was using.

I ushered my other two out to the car and prepared to deal with my middle son who had thrown himself face down on the couch. His day was "ruined."

Another pencil would not do, it had to be THAT pencil.

I don't remember how I got him into the car, but I made sure he was in the wayback, far away from the other two.

Once we arrived, I had to pull him out. Lo and behold, didn't I spy THAT pencil, sticking out of his pocket. That didn't stop him from flopping himself face down on the couch in the fellowship hall rather than participating in the singalong, he had shifted into morose mode. My oldest was apparently too cool for that now (at age 8) and parked himself on a bench next to Grandma, who teaches fifth-grade Sunday School. My youngest headed into the unattended nursery.

I spent the hour between 9:00 and 10:00 arguing with my youngest about going to class. He didn't want to go. He wanted to play in the nursery. I told him the nursery is for babies and there were no grownups in it anyway; he'd have to wait until after class and then he could go. He told me he wanted to be a baby, he wanted to wear diapers again, and he wanted his lovey (which he assured me as we were leaving the house, could stay behind, he'd be all set with just his dog. I should know better). He insisted we go home. I told him "sure, we'll go home after church." (How was I going to fit that trip to the supermarket in?)

He cried for about ten minutes, as I held him and rocked him. I sent the Bigs up to church to sit with Grandma. My oldest had a red balloon that he was inflating and deflating repeatedly (annoying but fortunately silent). My middle was happy to be working on his drawing again. How his attitude transformation occurred I do not know, I am just grateful it did.

When my youngest took my advice to put his thumb in his mouth, we went upstairs to the sanctuary. I can't say now what was the theme of church or what the sermon was about. I know we talked about a world mission offering and Jesus washing his disciples feet. I remember one of the hymns. Mostly I sat there wondering why I even bother to take my kids to church?

But I know the answer. It's what we do on Sundays. It's so that when they get older they will know how to take communion and why we do it. It's so they will know there's a place they can go where people know their names, where they are loved. It's so they'll know the songs we sing and the stories in the Bible.

I can't imagine that one day when they are ten and up I'd start bringing them to church and expect them to sit still for an hour or two and like it, or have any clue about what's going on, or want to be there more than their Sunday morning football practice (the reason we don't play football is that they practice and play on Sundays).

Thankfully, our religious education director always seems to find a way to put it in perspective for me. She's "been there, done that" and nothing surprises her. She makes me feel normal. She understands me. Even if the only reason I went to church was to have that cup of coffee and conversation with her, it was worth it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The three ibuprofen headache

Grandma and I decided to bag King Richard's Faire, which felt heroic (the drive with three boys in the back of the car and the expense) and go to a local pumpkin festival today. Or I should say quasi-local -- it actually took about 45 minutes to get there when I wound up driving through the quaint little New England downtown area where the festival was being held and getting majorly held up in traffic by multiple policemen. Then we circled back around a huge circumference to find a place to park (thinking ahead for easy getaway, at least).

We were only a few minutes into the drive when the first "when are we gonna get there" erupted. The stroller was in the wayback of the car so all three boys were lined up side by side in the back. There was much jostling, arguing, touching, and a noisy electronic game. Grandma and I both commented numerous times that we were glad to make the shorter trip today!

After walking around for 15 minutes, I could not deny that I had a headache. Often times, on work days, I try to make it to noon without taking any pharmaceuticals. Sadly though, either because of the stressful nature of my j.o.b., or maybe it's that I stare at a computer screen for most of the day, I rarely make it through a day without ibuprofen. Today was a three-pill day.

A woman overheard me saying I had a headache and came up to me, grabbed my hand and pressed the pressure point between my thumb and first finger, telling me it was "natural headache relief." The man standing beside me at the pumpkin catapult said, "oh, a traveling healer." I giggled. Ultimately, my headache subsided, but today I do not know if it was my continued pressure on this spot or the drugs. The friendly man suggested trying the natural remedy prior to taking any drugs next time around. Check.


My youngest was the pumpkin catapult hero -- his pumpkin hit one of the targets in the pond -- the crowd clapped, horns blew, and he impressed his little friends that he had run into from school. He also got a prize. I may write a column about this since it was a sore spot with his two older brothers, whose pumpkins, while still making big splashes, fell short of the innertube-scarecrow marks. They both groused about how "everyone likes him better than us" and "he never shares" since of course he was relishing his prize (a mini-monster truck) for the first five minutes after he chose it. My older two sulked like miniature teenagers up until the time we saw the stunt bike demonstration when even they were impressed, at which point my youngest was clearly ready for a nap (after having had a tantrum over the fried oreos not really being oreos as he knows them) -- he needed to be held in my arms for the duration of the show. So we left.

Youngest fell asleep on the way home, and I managed to carry him in and tuck him into bed without waking him, where he stayed for most of the afternoon. The Bigs went to our backyard neighbors' house and jumped on their trampoline for hours. I tried to take a nap but a friend called and I decided to have a cup of coffee instead.

Now I am exhausted, but thankfully do not have a headache, and had enough of a mental break that I am not counting down the time until bedtime...not really, anyway...

The (butt)crack of dawn

Why? Do my kids get up so early on weekends?

I was awakened pre-7 a.m. to the sound of scuffling, giggling, and then arguing, "Get offa me!" My middle son has a habit of draping himself in other people's space.

I am in my office, trying to finish my second cup of now-cold coffee in peace, after having migrated all of the kids out of their bedroom, one through shower and getting dressed, two through breakfeast (oddly it was my youngest who was self-sufficient in this regard)...

My oldest said to me when I poured him his cereal earlier, "C'mon Mom! What kind of bowl is that!?" (I glared at him and said calmly, "How dare you talk to me like that?" And then I stood in front of him so he could not see the TV until he thanked me.)

I hear banging, crashing, "I was there first!", tapping, squeaky springs (from someone bouncing on the compromised section of the couch), cabinets slamming, laughing...

I am sure I will be greeted by a big mess when I emerge...oh, well, the price of a few moments of (relative) peace...

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...