Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Its The Most Cozy Time of Year

No time of the year is the passing of time more prevalent the late fall when the leaves have turned to brilliant shades of orange and red, and have turned the world into a beautiful snowglobe of nature.  Halloween passes, and soon our thoughts are turned to Thanksgiving and the approaching holidays and we start to reflect on the year past and the new year to come. 

So it was in the midst of all this fanfare that this guy turned seven:

Which I am feeling pretty down about.  Of all the birthdays in the house (and by that I mean the kid's birthdays, I have all but forgotten that Jason and I have birthdays at all.), Teague's birthday always seem to fall at the most inconvenient of times.   Just days after the epic fiasco that is ALWAYS Halloween, and even fewer days after All Saints Day (a HUGE day of parties and room parenting madness when one's kids attend a Catholic school) and RIGHT when Nutcracker insanity has kicked into full swing.   It seems like I am always trying to schedule something for Teague's birthday AROUND the rest of the schedule, and on absolutely zero energy or motivation -- and this year was no different.   Thank God that Teague's greatest gift seems to be his positive outlook.  Teague is the kid who can play on a team with his ball hog brother and watch him score ten goals in a quarter.  Then run excitedly off the field and announce "Mom did you see Samuel?  My brother is the best player on the team!"   Teague never fails to see the good.  

We actually had a long talk about gifts the other day on one  of our many scenic drives to and from the studio.  Molly was proud that her director had called her "determined" in class, and Sam was inquiring as to whether that was a good thing and what it meant.  Upon hearing my explanation that yes, Molly was determined.  (In fact she is the single most driven human being I have ever met, in my life.)  and that that meant she was the kind of person, who once they made their minds up to do something, or get something, they did not stop until they made it happen, Samuel agreed that Molly IS determined.  He asked if he was determined too, and I Told him yes, though perhaps not quite as much as Molly.  

At which point we talked about how everyone has special gifts,  Molly and I explaining to Samuel that we think his gift is that he is incredibly empathetic. He really feels for other people, tries to understand their feelings.  He has a good heart.  

All of this brought with it a discussion about what whether I had any gifts.  When asked directly I just laughed and told the kids that I used to think I had some, but these days I just wasn't sure what they were anymore.  The kids seemed content with that answer and we drove along,  silently taking in the beauty of our rural route home, lulled to the quiet beauty of NPR classical radio when Molly finally piped up from the very back of the van "You're pretty good at keeping a schedule Mom."  

So there you have it, I'm a master scheduler.  And it's a good thing too because I fear some major changes are coming our way, some of them largely driven by finances and I'm just praying and hoping that we're doing what's right. 

Because at the end of the day, I now pass this sign in the hallway on the way to bed:

After all , it's easy to get caught up in the mundane, the stressful, the things we can't change.  To forget that at the end of the day, I get to pull down this street 

and cal it HOME.

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Hallow's Eve

Trick or Treat!  

There was a time when Halloween was my favorite holiday.  I love the all, the crunching of leaves underfoot on a cool, dark night -- the magic in the air as witches, and goblins, and princesses run amok.  (And yes that was a Hocus Pocus reference.  Best Halloween movie of all time, no offense intended It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown)

Notice I said "used to be?"  Yeah that was before I had to buy five costumes, and fight the "why is every female halloween costume from age 3 and up skanky.

Before last night when it rained.  A LOT.  

In the end, despite my best attempts to bribe my kids not to go we went anyway, though the end of an era - for the first time ever we did not all go together.  

Both Luke and Molly opted to go with friends, and though I felt the sting of it no longer being a "family thing", I got it.  I think I went with friends for the first time in fifth.  Of course this was in a time when kids could do that.  Go with no friends, go alone, walk the streets and fear nothing but the leftover candy cane and the old lady who gave out those chewy hard candies.  They went supervised, but with friends none the less. 

The littles and I went alone.  (Jason was at work, of course.)  We did a few houses and decided to head over to our old church's indoor event.  I have to say - it was the most well run thing of it's nature,  I've ever been too.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

The one where I dump all the IPhone pics

I have a serious love/hate relationship with my iPhone camera.  I love that it's always there, and I hate that it makes me lazy and less likely to carry my real camera. 

But it does enable me to capture more every day moments.  

And I love have prints made of my Instagram pics.  

That and people who would object to a real camera manage to pose for my phone.  Maybe or feels more casual? 

What about you?  Do you love the convenience or hate the cheap cop out? 

Of course it does also give us moments like these: 

I mean before my phone had a camera I would have needed to describe this "Amazing"  sweater to the fabulous Kim . You know what they say?  A picture is worth a thousand words -- and also it's much easier to speak them that way when you're all alone in Target laughing do hard your crying down a back aisle. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Truth. Sometimes the Universe Just Knows.

Today was my favorite day of any given month -- cupcake day at the world's greatest wedding cake shop.  A truly remarkable (homeschooling mother of six) I am beyond blessed to know is also the world's greatest baker.  And every couple of months or so they do a CUPCAKE DAY.  One day when you can pre-order select flavors of cupcakes rather then having to hold a whole other wedding just to get your hands on some of Kristen's fantastic creations.  An idea I have  certainly not considered.  One does not have weddings to eat cake.  (must remember to repeat to myself in the middle of the night.)

Those little babies might just save  my life today.  Okay, maybe not.  But they did keep the following from containing a whole lot more superlatives. 

'I love you all dearly but you're all an overflowing trash can and a stray sock in the hallway from driving your mother into a looney bin. While the idea of a clean, sterile, quiet vacation doesn't sound too bad, our craptastic insurance will certainly never pay for such nonsense.  You don't want Mommy spending the Christmas money on valium and yoga therapy now do you ?!  That's what I thought, so listen up:

1. If by some chance you "accidently"  PEE on something you own.  Hiding it behind the bathroom door and in front of the HEATING VENT is a sure fire way to get Mom to hunt you down.  No joke. 

2. The hallway is a common area of a home which you travel to get to other areas of the home.  It is not otherwise known as a "storage facility"  - make note.

3. The time to ask me to sign all 147,893  papers for school is NOT as the bell is ringing and we are just squealing into the lot and trying to throw you all out the still forward lurching van so as to avoid a tardy slip.    Moving forward I will not be carrying pens in my purse, if you need a paper signed and have failed to get it signed before leaving the house I Will NOT BE SIGNING IT.  If I do I will use a sparkle crayon and sign it "Beevis and Butthead" -- you do not know who this is but your teachers will.  They will NOT be amused. 

4. I am NOT a dancer.  I do not wear tights, or leotards, nor am I required to wear my hair in a bun six days out of seven.  If you ARE - I would highly recommend making certain that you have the things you need to do this.   If I have to continue to follow up on you, and carry your extra items in my purse I will start to charge you for my services as a PERFORMING ARTS MANAGER.  Personal assistants do NOT come cheap.  Lucky for you you were born with two of your own -- you call them LEFT AND RIGHT - use them. 

and finally.....

5.  If you think you are being crafty in your attempts to STEAL unauthorized snacks from the cupboard think again - a lock has been purchased and remember - when you hide your FOOD behind the bathroom door - SEE offense #1. 

The Management.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Societal Norms", apple cider, and what now.

Against all my better judgement, we got home from church today and piled all the kids into the van for our annual trek to  a local pumpkin patch turned crazed "drop your money like it's a casino" fall harvest themed three ring circus.    No really -- it's a pumpkin patch, and an apple orchard, and a winery.  I am SOOO not kidding.  Maybe they figure after the $4 pony rides, and the carriage rides, and the corn maze, and the petting farm, and the "an oversized gourd costs HOW much?" cash register sticker shock,  you may actually NEED the hard cider tasting.   (NOTE: There is a reason these places don't post the prices anywhere, once your kid has painstakingly picked out just the right pumpkin, and waited in the 15-20 minute line - you're buying the pumpkin. They can charge you whatever they want, and half the time - I'm sure they do!) 

So as we headed out,   I tried to zone out of the constant bickering going on in the backseat I remembered the days when I enjoyed the pumpkin patch.  In years past I've gotten the kids all dressed in their coordinating "harvest" themed clothes, and planned on doing pictures so wonderful I framed them afterward.  Today I got Charlotte dressed in something she and I could both agree on and hoped the rest had managed not to look homeless.  This is a daily battle with Luke.   It all turned out okay.  In the end that's how they actually look -- might as well remember it for what it is.

The kids found friends from school, petted bunnies that were "only $15 dead OR alive",  munched on fresh picked apples, and stood in line with Jason for some insanely overpriced, and insanely delicious apple cider.  After last fall when the summer droughts and early springs left our area with no apples to be had we were all thrilled to see the overflowing gallons and the cider mill running in the back.  

And then of course there are the donuts -- OH. MY. GOD.  the donuts.  There is no better donut then a cider mill donut.  Period.  Ever.  Still hot and they only come in two flavors - sugar or plain.  I could eat a dozen -- and speaking of that -- I plea the fifth. ;)

By the time we piled back into the  clown car  van and headed home, we smelled of campfire, and our lips were still smacking the cider sweetness.  My fingers still covered in donut sugar, I texted fabulous friend,  a picture of our new gourds with the caption:

"Bought a pumpkin.  I have no use for a pumpkin other then I got caught up in the donut haze, and societal norms demand I buy one every fall."  

So there you have it -- we indulged in a Michigan fall, and we're the proud owners of a handful of jolly, orange pumpkins.   What we'll do with them, I have yet to figure out.   But the donuts -- oh the donuts were worth it. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When did it stop being fun?

When Samuel was in preschool we were blessed to find this really, awesome, amazing little church preschool.  Where the teachers really, truly LOVE all the kids, and were destined to be preschool teachers because the sheer volume of love and care they pout into those kids is almost something you can touch.   You can feel it so much you expect to be able to see it -- like a magic, sparkly fog floating in the air.    And not only are they loved, but the learn.  One of the more important lessons they learn is HOW to love learning.  They learn that learning is fun, and imaginative, and satisfies their natural curiosity and teaches them all kinds of things to be proud of.   They learn that effort is rewarded, and progress is championed. No on in preschool is stressing out about who knows what letters, or if they counted the bears fast enough.  Instead they spend their time focused on building up their confidence in the bears they can count, and encouraging them to keep trying on the letters they missed.  In preschool -- it seems they WANT to learn, and the goal is to learn how to do that -- how to learn.

Somewhere between preschool and the third grade it would appear that things change, and that is where we find ourselves now.  Samuel's tiny little hand-print may still be on the wall in gym (where all the graduating four year olds leave their mark forever on their final day of school) but the real Samuel is in third grade, where it appears any fostering of wanting kids to love to learn and be relaxed about it dies.  

Second grade was not like this and on back to school night we were warned "Third grade is hard" - and lot's of warnings about how they learn to be "sneaky", and "it's all so much work".  I'll be honest -- I wondered about it then.  Sure, each year the work gets a little bit harder, but in my mind if you've done well the year before, and were on target it should only get marginally harder.  After all -- we don't toss you into a 400 level class as son as you finish a 100 level class even in college.  How bad can it be?  Sure they'll be a little more homework, a little more academics in the day, and so on and so forth every year from hear on out.  That's the reality.  Right?  Yeah.... boy was I wrong. 

It seems that third grade IS like throwing you into a 400 course as soon as you've completed the first 100 level course.    Last year there was daily homework and a planner that came home so your parents could help you stay on top, make sure everything is being done, and tests studied for.   This year there is daily homework, more tests then your 30 some year old mother can keep track of, and all kinds of other assignments that aren't in the planner, but are somehow late all the time, or incomplete, and there is seemingly NEVER enough time to get anything actually finished in class.   To top all that off nothing that is completed seems to be able to keep up with the standard, ever.  Handwriting that was given good marks last year is barely a C this year, and everything is graded on it. (or so it feels like)  Third grade IS hard.   And I've had more tears about school this year from a frustrated, stressed out little boy then I have ever had all the other years combined.  

Here's the part where it seems maybe I don't think like I am supposed too.  Because I think I am supposed to see this and think "well we need to do better to make sure we are doing better, studying harder, etc etc.  But what I actually think is more like "what is the freaking hurry?"  WHY are we upping the ante so much so soon?  We're talking about 8 and 9 year old children here.  Yes, they need to be learning things and yes they need to be studying, and yes they are at a point where school is not always fun and sometimes its hard to learn the material.  But maybe the focus should be on encouraging them to actually learn it.  Not learn it fast, or with excellent handwriting if the test is on spelling, or perhaps - not even to learn it to "perfection" just yet.  Have you ever watched a roomful of third graders attempt to take timed tests?  There is a good number of them who are visibly so stressed out that even if they know the materials they are never getting it all done fast enough.  They're freezing up.  And those are't the ones second guessing every answer because are they are so desperate to not get it wrong.  Maybe the point of education shouldn't be to teach our kids it's not okay to get it wrong, but to teach them that they WILL get things wrong, and it's okay to to do so.  It's okay to need to take your time, and most importantly it is NOT okay to squash out a natural inquisitive nature, or the natural reward of knowledge that comes from relaxing enough to actually enjoy learning.  

What I do know is that I have a third grader who has loved school every single day of his life, since the first time his curly headed mop walked through the doors of Noah's Ark Preschool, and now cries nearly daily about it, gives himself stomach aches, and migraine headaches.  A third grader with a mom, who has shed more then a tear over school work, spends precious time trying to calm the worries of a kid far to young to dread school.   

There is such a thing as too much too soon, and if third grade is somehow the new threshold of when its acceptable to teach kids that school is something you stress out over maybe we need to rethink the way education works. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Go ahead... make a wish. 
 You know you want to. 
 Wouldn't it be great if life were that easy?  Find an old dandelion, close your eyes, make a wish -- wait for it to be granted.  But life doesn't work that way, "fair" is where you get cotton candy - and wishes?  They're better worked for anyway. 

I'm not even sure where to start other then to say -- welcome to the new blog!  After almost a year away, I found that I really missed having a place to find my "voice", to commemorate all the special moments, to share my ideas, and sometimes to vent them.  I had intended all along to go back to the old blog - it served me well for five years.  In the end I decided that it was filled with too many hurts.  There was too much sadness there, and since we're trying to focus on the good -- what we needed was a fresh start, a clean slate.  Thus, this little blog was born.  

The kids are growing up, faster then you would ever think possible.  Back to school this year brought with it the onslaught of September scheduling that can make your head spin after a lazy summer of spur of the moment living.  But before we knew it October was in the air, and the near constant running was starting to feel normal.  

For records sake - we have two sixth graders, one third grader and a first grader at our small Catholic School this fall.  The baby started preschool and after a LOT of tears, and a night full of denial, and begging to scrap the whole idea until next year -- I finally was willing to drop her off. 

We both survived, and I have found that a few hours to myself are really incredible in regard to the amount I am suddenly able to get done.  September may have had us running all over - between gymnastics, and dance, and football, and dance, and school, and dance, and fall baseball, and dance, cub scouts, and dance, and youth choir, and dance, and alter server training, and dance.  Oh yes and there was dance.  But things are settling in now and I can't wait to see the good that can be in found in that.