Misty Morning and School

This morning is so beautiful, so fall, so misty and so golden.

I have had more struggles at the end of this summer with feeling low, sad, and motivationless, which I’ve mentioned, and I’ve pursued some help with that.

Meanwhile, I reintroduced my favorite fermented cod liver oil (actually, skate this time) and added in an herbal formula safe for lactating women which is supposed to help with hormones. Whether this is a temporary boost or not, I’ve felt considerably better after being more careful to nourish my body with nutrients rather than skate by on corndogs and ice cream.

I have a feeling our minds are more affected by the fuels we give them than by some mysterious ether or whatever we kind of put their vagaries down to. Actually, it’s more than a feeling—neurotransmitters are made by amino acids which come from protein. Pretty simple. Not to say a piece of chicken will solve all my problems, but corn dogs and Pepsi and Sunchips certainly won’t. (They’re not my biggest downfall; that’s reserved for my beloved ice cream.)

Anyway.

Also, school is huge for me. I realized that I was lolling around in August like someone who’s been laid off from their job and is depressed to be sitting on the couch at home.

need the mental stimulation, the challenge, the hours filled with meaningful and productive work other than the cooking, cleaning, and decorating, which are also meaningful but which aren’t really enough to fill an entire day with. You know? I mean, technically I could, and then I’d have an awesome house, but it’s just not that important to me to have perfection when it’s going to be undone the next second. Literally.

Now in the mornings I’m not groaning to see my kids, because I’m in the kitchen getting ready for their breakfast and school and I’m like, “Hey, Tabi! Isn’t it cool that we’re the only ones up?” It is. She’s being really cute and writing “skin” and “smell” and “spied” assiduously and well in her phonics book.

It is such a pleasure to teach girls who listen. I know I’ve said this before, but my boys haven’t historically been that excited to listen to mom yammer on about stuff. They’re like, “I need to know what to do but I don’t want to hear a bunch of junk. Just tell me in the simplest terms and for the love of Pete don’t pull out that whiteboard and any songs or anything.” (In their heads.) It’s been hard. I love lecturing and finding “fun” ways to teach a concept and I was always being thwarted by near eye-rolls and such. (They’re mostly respectful boys, but I’m so attuned to my kids’ moods that I pick up on the slightest disinterest.) This has been one refining trial in my life, the way homeschool hasn’t gone exactly as I’ve planned. I am forced to let go a lot more than I wanted to.

(In their defense, aside from not wanting too much information or lecturing from Mom, my boys have been paragons of motivation and getting school done, motivated by tablet time. Sure, Lachlan often goes over to ask Abel something and gets distracted watching Abel play his game and then I have to call him back to Math or dishes and subtract five minutes from his own eventual tablet time, but usually, they’re responsibly working through what they have to do.)

But Tabi. She will actually listen!! For instance, she asked me if “Combs and brushes” was a “complete thought” for her Language book.

Oh! She’s learning about full sentences! I thought to myself. I don’t think the boys even know about full sentences, I also thought. Oh, crud. I thought. She will be like them and not listen to me try to explain them. Story of my life.

But, no. I was like, “Okay, so. Picture that I run up to you and I’m panting like crazy and when I can finally talk, I say to you, ‘Combs and brushes!’ Will you know what I’m saying?”

She chuckles. “No!”

“So it’s not a complete thought. What about if I said, ‘Combs and brushes are taking over the world!!’ Would that be a complete thought?”

She laughs again, as does Lachlan, who is nearby.

“So complete sentences have something which is doing or being something, not just a thing but you don’t know what it’s doing. Does that make sense?”

She nods, with comprehension in her eyes.

For the rest of the worksheet, I hear her breathlessly reading aloud the sentence fragments and full sentences and quickly determining which express a complete thought and which do not. Victory!

However! I should’ve asterisked the boys not wanting to listen to me teach, because this year I have sensed a completely different attitude in them. I was almost a little panicky about starting school since I felt like I wasn’t as mentally or emotionally strong this year, and wasn’t feeling up to any battles with anyone and they have consistently kept up their morale and their work and have been really sweet.

In fact, during Happy Hour the first day, as I read aloud from our Anatomy and Physiology book as they took (surprisingly great) notes in a notebook, Abel looked up and said with some surprise, “I was going to say that you’re actually kind of a good teacher. And then I realized that you used to be a teacher at that one school!”

And then I grinned at him wryly (majorly rejoicing in my head) and said, “And I’ve been teaching you for like six years….” and he grinned because he’d kind of forgotten this fact. Lol.

So now I’m getting to experience the pleasure of pulling the boys out of Quiet Time after two hours on the oven timer and doing a lesson in Science or History, where I read aloud from the textbook and we talk about it and write notes and answer questions and do experiments and projects. And it’s a feeling of mutuality, of minds meeting for discourse, which is SO what I’ve been going for and trudging through the years!!! Rhetoric, here we come, after this Dialectic stage!

Yesterday we started Institute for Excellence in Writing, which is an awesome program and which has been a little mind-blowing in a good way on perpectives on teaching writing, but which just isn’t intuitively set up for me so which was kind of filling me with a little panic. However, I popped in the first student teaching DVD into the computer and we three watched Andrew Pudewa (he’s one of those guys I’ll probably always refer to by both names because he’s awesome) lecture a classroom of students engagingly and humorously.

We also wrote our first Key Word Outlines and I did a lot of pausing, discussing, the boys underlined things and wrote things, and we spent an enjoyable and mentally-taxing two hours (somehow!) figuring out how to do everything. (Abel, “The problem with ‘Happy Hour’ is that it turns into ‘Happy Two Hours’!” lol.) Then we didn’t have time to do History because the kids’ friends were coming, which was a good thing because I was done. Brain fried.

So, like I think I put it last year, so far our first week of school has been a good hard, like a lung-bursting, exhilarating, and tough hike which floods you with endorphins at the top. Which is pretty durned awesome.

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First Day of the 2015-2016 School Year!

I’m a little worried that the occasional raised voices I hear from the direction of the boys’ room will lead to an argument which completely destroys Quiet Time and wakes up my napping baby.

In other words, this afternoon is perched precariously between lovely and horrendous, depending upon a pair of boys remembering that their sister is sleeping in the next room. What are the chances this will end well?

School this morning went awesomely.

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The kids were cute, I was not a jerk.

This is amazing.

I kept in mind that I sometimes build special occasions up into something which causes us all anxiety and stress and then there’s a spillover of anger when things, inevitably, are not perfect—which is so silly to expect when you have kids involves. Or any humans. (I’m what you might call an unconscious special occasion saboteur, and I’m not sure why.)

I also recently realized that I don’t like to appear soft, sweet, or simple in front of my kids, or, really, anyone. (Newsflash: I’m a Mom. Moms kind of should be soft.) So today I tried to fight my authoritarian hard-nosed instincts and tried to just be a nice person. Smiled. Had fewer expectations. Was more personal. Drew hearts and smiley faces on the whiteboard.

I’m still in disbelief that I never realized how much I’d been okay with my lack of motherliness because I figured I was just a mom “with a lot of personality”, a euphemism for “with a temper and some serious lack of self control” if I’ve ever heard one.

Oh, kids. I hope you forget nearly everything and forgive the rest!

My big, helpful, responsible, good-attituded fifth grader.

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(His Math being on the computer is a big plus this year.) :)

My loquacious jokester fourth grader, always being stretched by being included in chores and school subjects with a brother sixteen months older and doing it surprisingly well.

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Before school started, a nice good attitude.

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Shortly after completing school, he requested to include this thought, even more cutely. :)

My complicated second grader, who flowers unexpectedly under judiciously-applied discipline and goes from reluctant and recalcitrant to sweet and amused at my disbelief at her handwriting skills.

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Who maybe shares my desire not to appear too soft or out-of-control.

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(I just went with the thing she wanted to say and figured that maybe things would change in a while.)

And they did! She wanted to retake the picture with this new message about a half hour later.

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:)

My sweet-hearted Kindergartener, who thinks school is fun and who can’t bear to be in trouble, always immediately bursting into tears and apologizing to make the relationship close again.

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You sweetheart. You made my day with your sweet attitude and beautiful smile.

My mischievous troublemaker, who crawls around picking up illicit items and who “eats” a pear by tasting, throwing, picking it apart, and sitting upon it and who wails piteously for her mama after she’s been neglected for far too long.

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I forgot to ask her what she was thinking this first day! (We all would’ve loved to have voiced her purported thoughts in the high pitch we reserve for speaking as our baby girl.)

Even these cutepunks learn something at the Helmeschool from time to time.

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We worked our way down the Tuesday list of things to do, me constantly reprinting the charts about forty times as I kept refining and fixing my plan and schedule.

The kids do so well with this flow chart system and I have fewer questions to address! This leaves me with a mere seven hundred questions about time-telling and spelling and cursive and the date and all the other stuff I’m there to teach them.

But I kind of love that stuff, if it’s not all coming at me from fifty-nine directions at once.

I’ve got some non-interrruption policies to put into place and I’m trying to start things out with clear expectations and consequences and rewards but man.

It’s nice to be back to school.

When it is good, it is so very good.

Now Quiet Time, then Happy Hour (our History and Science and reading time in the living room together), then the gym, then Grammy’s. Talk about a fun first day of school!

School Prepping

Apparently, I’ve exceeded the memory available to me on a free WordPress blog! I remember years ago looking at the laughably small amount of memory I’d used up and thinking it was basically infinite and today, I’m all full up. This means that all of the pictures I took after the ones in this post are not able to be uploaded, which means I have to figure out what to do! 

I feel a thousand percent better about school today than I did two days ago, all because of a little change in how I saw my newly-installed coffee bar/hutch.

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before

Instead of being solely for fancy dishes, table cloths, paper products, and other entertaining items, it has become my school station! (Wasn’t this totally obvious, now that you think of it?!? So weird that I hadn’t pursued this usage in the first place.)

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I put that “Be Kind for Everyone Is Fighting a Hard Battle” (or whatever it says) sign everywhere as an attempt to be more understanding and empathetic to my kids. I don’t know that it works, but that’s the hope. ;)

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Since we can’t afford to buy a large sheet of formica right now, Jarret painted the top of the base cabinet with some chalkboard paint we had leftover from the chalkboards hanging on the wall to the left of the cabinet. This should be relatively durable, as long as we don’t put any liquids on it or treat it too badly.

The drawers are for storage of writing utensils, paper, and flashcards, as well as Spelling, Science, History, and Writing books and the two flanking cabinet doors have a spot for each kids’ books and supplies.

I’m in love.

We can hardly wait for Monday!

I bought some prints from an Etsy shop today (which I can’t upload to show you!) and taped them into some frames which have been knocking around for some time. I am hoping that I can keep my mind on a) the importance of modeling the behavior I want to teach my kids—because I do so many stupid, immature, sinful things in front of them—knowing that my life is more powerful than my words, b) that I would remember that my job is to inspire the passion that God has put in them as humans for learning and growing and pursuing their gifts rather than just trying to cram facts into their heads and c) good habits make a good life; little things make all the difference.

Argh. You should see the signs. They’re awesome.

I was reading some posts from back in the day, and kind of cracking up at how cute we were:

September 2009.

September 2010.

September 2011.

September 2012.

September 2013.

September 2014.

How long have I been doing this!? Am I any better? Not really. But I know myself and my kids better…that’s something, anyway!

This is our last non-school weekday today. The boys are supposedly going to clean their room so that that cesspool will be easy to tidy each morning for morning routine. What are the chances that I won’t have to get in with hip waders and garbage cans? Low. Very low.

September

So, ladies, it’s September.

You probably know that better than I.

You’ve probably gotten your kids off to school or maybe they’re gathered around your little round table looking angelic as they write earnestly in workbooks.

And me?

I feel like a hot mess.

I am absolutely unprepared to start school.

Also? Unprepared for this raininess. I was looking forward to it, but there were some things I still wanted to do which necessitated some sun for drying things off, like washing out the glass recycling bin and bringing in mousy items from the cabin which would need a pit stop in the front yard to be sanitized before being brought into the house!

And I am just not completely healthy. Physically, not that bad aside from ice-cream induced inches. My hormones! I’ve been talking about them for, you know, forever, but I’ve felt a little stymied about how to address them while having a nursing baby. Not to mention they take rather a long time to test and, now that I finally dragged myself to a naturopath, I have to wait until all of my test results come in, while enduring mood swings and irrational patches of completely rational-seeming anger and frustration and low moods.

It’s not every day and it’s not every hour, but it is not fun, guys. Not fun for anyone.

*Stops and takes some fermented skate liver oil because I remember why I’m feeling negative.*

Interestingly, every single time I take a dose of fermented cod liver oil (or skate oil, this batch), I feel better. Remember how I swore by that stuff when I was pregnant? Money worries had us slacking off on the supplements at night and about a week ago I began taking fermented cod liver oil twice daily and it helps to me pull out of that nosedive. The content of this stuff is so far superior to fish oils—there is vitamin d and a and k2 in addition to the omega 3s and I feel like my brain is currently starving for all that dha and epa and that maybe Toni is getting all of mine and no wonder I feel like I’m depleted!

Another good thing is my monthly freezer crock pot meal plan, from the five dollar meal plan site. For five dollars, I got ten recipes, a wonderful grocery list, and tons of instructions and tips. The kids and I have already filled twenty-four bags with chicken and peppers and onions and tomatoes and sausages and broth and black beans or whatever the six recipes have called for and I have four recipes, sixteen bags, left to fill. I am seriously excited about returning to grabbing a ziplock out of the freezer and popping it into the crockpot for an instant awesome dinner. Always worth the mess and the up-front work. And this time, I didn’t have to make it up myself with my own meager brainpower!

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The kids were a great help, slicing and dicing peppers and onions and crying along with me with the extreme fumes. Toni liked eating and throwing food scraps all over the floor.

Lachlan cut himself and it was Nurse Noria to the rescue. (She is hilariously a pro at getting out the hydrogen peroxide and pouring a little gently over the cut and then dabbing the cut dry and applying a bandaid. I love it.)

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She is also an expert pepper dicer.

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Yes, that is an onion on the floor. The floors suffer so much.

I am suddenly feeling motivated to figure out next week’s Back to School stuff. Maybe Jarret and I can use our date night tonight to scheme some fun things to start the school year off right! My cod liver oil is kicking in and now I just want to go and buy school supplies. Tons of school supplies.

Completely unrelated situation here: Auntie Mary, Reidun, and Cheryl: I canNOT send out email! I wrote each of you chatty replies to your emails (long ago) from my email app on my laptop and every time I try to send them, or any other email, I get a delivery status failure message. My phone refuses to sign in on all of my email addresses and I cannot figure out why! I have not been deliberately ignoring you!

For.The.Love.

This was me at eight o’clock yesterday evening:

If I have to hear another stanza of Yankee Doodle being sounded out on the piano, if I have to see another toy basket being pulled out, if I have to house another person on my lap while trying to write—if I have to hear another fight or another cry of Toni’s for me, I will.go.crazy.

Actually, done.

I am officially crazy.

It started this morning, as Jarret and I went about our morning business getting coffee and breakfast and snacks and lunch into his lunchbox and trying to be as quiet as possible.

The boys’ room door cracked open, and two eyes peered out. Two legs walked out.

Then two more legs from down the hall.

I stared at the kids, already up, and thought to myself, “Why exactly do I force myself out of bed early if not to have the house to myself for a few minutes? Just a few minutes of quietude and peace and a good start to my day? Do they really have to be awake already!?!!?!?!?!?!?”

And basically I felt like crying.

So that’s how it’s gone.

The errands to the chiropractor and Costco and all that, they were fine.

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I like the socializing, the getting out. Sure, all of the getting in and out of the vehicle and finding carts and Costco cards and bathrooms and buckles is stressful, exhausting, and I’m always arbitrating a few fights (but nothing like usual, thank God, because I packed books for each kid), and the grocery haul was so confusing with the kid snack list and the us snack list and the month’s-worth of meals list and the lunch list and then the two carts’ worth was humongous and insanity to bring in and put away and basically didn’t fit in Jarret’s vehicle, but we did it and we felt proud.

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And then there was dinner and after dinner and dinner dishes, they’ re supposedly helping Jarret vacuum the car while I get a little quiet time to do a little blog housekeeping for fun, but no. They’re all oozing back inside when Jarret’s back is turned and Toni is needing me, even though I fed her a mere half hour ago, and they’re fighting over the piano and asking me for our address because they want an American Girl magazine and they’re pulling out toys and they’re crawling on me and I am done.

I can’t take it any more!!

After I banged that out on my keyboard and announced to everyone that I was done, I went into my room with some chocolate and then, for the first time that day, I had less than five people surrounding me and not one person was talking to me while I was trying to think about something else.

It was nice.

I feel very sorry for myself when I get very little sleep the night before.

Coping skills go out the window.

But last nights’ sleep was good, so I’m a little more resilient.

I don’t know; maybe I shouldn’t bring them all while grocery shopping, but often they’re a lot of help. And the fact is, if I don’t train the kids to do something because it’s temporarily hard in the training phase, they’ll never learn to do it! So I’m always working towards them being really helpful with the food buying and stuff—and they are, I’m not complaining about that stuff—I just needed to make sure I very clearly stated the quiet time rules and kept them in their rooms for an hour or two afterward so that my (and their) mind could recover from the chaos.

When I get home from a full day like that, I need to do a little mental picking-up and reorganizing of all of the thoughts about all of the things which are in my purview.

It’s like Kim John Payne says in The Soul of Discipline, that a kid who is acting out is often working from a place of disorientation, of having not had the down time to recenter him or herself (by having downtime to read or play with toys or imagine or be out in nature—you know, kid stuff), and so they’re pushing back out of their depleted resources.

I just made it sound new-agey and dumb, but it is sincerely one of the best books on parenting with authority and understanding and I cannot recommend it highly enough. (Not a Christian book, so read wisely knowing that.)

Anyway, I was the kid who’d been rushed around from place to place and buffeted with some pretty confusing (a new meal plan) and stressful (five kids for six hours on the go) things and I just needed some quiet time so I could function again.

And now two tousle-haired girls have come into the living room carrying their special blankies and their stuffed animals and interrupted my quiet and introspective morning and I will be cool instead of lame and complainy and negative and finish this up and then embrace the fact that they still want to sit on my lap. It’ll be a good morning.

The One With the No Pretty Pictures

Whenever I Craigslist something I have this dread that I’ll oversell the item and that when the buyer arrives she will be disappointed at the condition of the item and leave and I’ll feel terrible. So I always try to make sure that people know all the flaws ahead of time just to avoid this awkward situation altogether.
Same with my house. I have the bad habit of using my phone strategically to see my house with all the junky cropped out and the pretty filtered just so, just so that I don’t collapse in despair at the condition of the slovenly hovel.

But then. What if people come over?!! They’ll find out the truth!!

Apparently I need to be a recluse if I’m going to try to act like my house is ever clean or organized.

The reality of a house full of kids with a mom who isn’t often filled with energy to spring clean and repair the items that are declining rapidly with age is this:

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Marker marks, everywhere. On the other bathroom door there is hair dye from me. Whoops. I have cleaned markers from walls for ten years and I’m slowly losing the desire to even bother.

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Water spillage from showers and baths that destroy baseboards. Also, we are probably dying from toxic mold exposure.

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More water damage. And dings and dents.

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The stain on cabinet edges beginning to wear and show the light wood beneath and more chips and dings.

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Concrete floors with cracks and holes (which hide dried lentils) which could be so pretty if I could find the best method of cleaning it and scraping the playdoh off which has happily adhered to it for months. Also if I could eradicate the scrapes, paint tracks, and scuffs from my constant furniture moving.

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Ah, stainless steel. Not ever clean.

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Every baseboard dinged and damaged and corners coming apart and paint chipping and dirt, everywhere.

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Outdoor, grass uneven and weedy and dead and an ac unit and blackberries—the whole reason we poured concrete— coming up right where they always were against the house.

Oh, and cobwebs. Everywhere. I cannot even imagine what it’s like behind the stove and the dryer. The kids’ bedrooms!!

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Not to mention incredibly creative, classy and creative “atm machines”.

Lol.

It’s all good; job security, right? Maybe I’ll do a fall cleaning series to motivate me to get all this stuff repaired!