Juggling, what to do when the balls start falling.

Dietrich comes up to my leg while I sit at the computer preparing to write this blog and wipes his snotty nose on my jeans. Then he looks up at me and says “dodo,” which seems to mean, “Can you please get me a tissue and wipe my nose?” My translation must be accurate because after I’ve done this, he happily walks off to stare out the window at the mower next door.

These are my days recently. Constant interruption. Keeping up with housework and homeschooling three kiddos, all with a toddler underfoot who is down to one nap a day, is like juggling. All. Day. Long. I’d like to say that I do it with grace and supernatural patience, that I’m the epitome of “supermom.” But there are days, days like today, when I feel like the balls are crashing down.

Don’t get me wrong. I love homeschooling. I wake up each morning excited about the day because we get to do school. But somehow in the day to day struggle to complete three separate educational to do lists, things never look like I imagine them. It’s in those moments, when I’m reading louder and LOUDER, so that I can be heard over the screaming baby who is just tired, because he’s in that stage where he needs exactly 1.3 naps, that sometimes I lose my cool. This morning it was in the middle of morning prayer time where I reached over and slapped my squirmy middle son when he interrupted. How ironic is that? I can’t even focus and react correctly when I’m praying.

I know that my failed reactions are not due to a single instance, but rather are an accumulated frustration that I can no longer hold inside. I’t fairly obvious that my life is prone to frustration. I’m a stay at home mom with four kids of varying ages, all needing my attention and time. But that is my life right now, so just saying that my life is a great big frustration is not very helpful.

Balance is what I need. A juggler can’t juggle very well if they are only standing on one foot . . . on a tight rope. Well maybe they can, but I can’t. Technically I can’t even juggle, but let’s pretend I can. 🙂 I need both feet on solid ground to juggle. Life needs to be a balance of rest and work, aloneness and togetherness, spirituality and practicality.

I started this blog in a week that seemed to be going from bad to worse. Every time John asked me how I was doing, my answer was “I just need a break.” I was tired of concentrating on dinner and school and baby and future plans and church and housework. I wanted a chance to be able to sit down and just think of one thing without interruption for an extended period of time. But somehow as I pick up this blog to finish it, I find myself in a week that is going so much better. I’ve been a bit more patient, school has gone fairly smoothly, and the house is clean. And I hadn’t even had that break that I thought I needed so badly.

The only very big difference in my week that could explain my renewed energy and more positive attitude is a small group get together on Monday night. I hosted, which meant I piled almost all the housework into one day. I still fit in school too, so that day was pretty full of preparation, but the rest of the week has been much smoother. I haven’t really accomplished much more than I did last week, but my attitude has been energized by the interaction with people (something I need on a regular basis) and my day starts so much better as I come downstairs to an already clean house, kept clean with just a short pickup and sweep each day. The deeper cleaning will all wait until next Monday when we’ll do it all again. I also feel more fulfilled because I now have something in my week that is a concrete step towards my goal of building community into my everyday life, a goal that I was feeling little progress towards despite how passionate I feel about it. Not only do we have a weekly meeting set up, but I feel much more ready and able to have other people into my house any other day of the week as well.

Somehow I made a step towards that balance this week. And ironically it happened not by doing “less,” but by doing “more.” It was just that that more was exactly the sort of thing that I needed to do. I hope that my choices this next week will continue to lead me towards balance, because I really do want to be full of joy in these busy days.

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P.S. I started this blog about two weeks ago. I wrote the end one week ago. For some reason I never got around to posting it, so I feel like I should update that this week has gone somewhere in the middle of those last two weeks. Not as horribly bad as that first week, but not as exhilaratingly good as the second. But that is sort of what balance is about, right?

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Elise.


Well, since I shared a post about Will recently, I thought I better do one of each of the kids. This one is about my beautiful talented daughter Elise. She gets more and more pretty each year. I can only imagine how beautiful she’ll be as an adult. I hope and pray that she will be even more beautiful on the inside.

Elise is the only one so far that I am officially schooling. I do some preschool with Will, but it is very minimal this year. Elise is in second grade, so her school each day is more official. We have some issues enjoying math, but she is actually quite good at it. She is doing a 3rd grade math book and acing most of her tests. Today we learned how to add more than 2 single digit numbers together. I thought this lesson would be hard, but she breezed through it quite easily. I have found that the secret to getting her to enjoy something is to make it feel more like a project to her. One day we took a paragraph from a book and practiced tallying data by counting how many times each letter was used. She didn’t say anything about it at the time, but later she told someone that “we did something really fun in math today.”

Science is more Elise’s cup of tea. Especially if it has to do with animals. This year we are studying astronomy, which doesn’t have any animals in it, but she still enjoys it. I am making an effort to actually follow through on the experiments, as again, this is what she enjoys. When we learned about the sun, we used a magnifying glass to burn holes in leaves as a demonstration as to why you shouldn’t look at the sun directly. This was so much fun, it drew in our neighbor as well.

Literature is also a strong point for Elise. She has a list of books to read herself this year and a list that I am reading to her. She reads really well now, and seems to retain the information just as well. When we started out the year I was a little concerned about her spelling. I had asked her to write something on her own and she said she wouldn’t know how to spell the words. I told her to do her best, thinking she would do better than she expected. I was discouraged to find that I could barely read what she brought back to me as the words were all garbled as she guessed at the right spelling. She was also very slow at writing, so that I would often finish her spelling words for her as she spelled them out loud because we ran out of time for her to write them. Both of these issues has improved greatly. She writes much faster now, yet still retains her great handwriting (something that also has improved as we’ve concentrated on that this year). She is also finding the right spelling for her words on her own more easily now. Today she had to spell “picked.” She wrote “piked,” took a look at it and said, “That is piked (pronounced with a long i) isn’t it?” I guess the spelling rules we’ve been going over have helped. Though she didn’t know how to fix it, she recognized that it needed something else in order to make the short i sound.

Because she is now getting through her spelling words much quicker, I am able to have her do more of her extra assignments that require great writing skills. Poems is what we’ve been doing lately. I’ve scanned one in because I was impressed with both her handwriting and her choice of words. She had a framework to work off of and I helped her sometimes find the right wording, but really a lot of Elise is in this poem. Cloud, by the way, is a real wild mustang that we have watched a PBS Nature series on.

There is obviously more to Elise than just her school skills, but this is what is at the forefront of my brain right now. Perhaps I will write another blog post about her personality and other characteristics. This is all part of my new goal, by the way, of spending time thinking and praying about each of my kids in a more planned out manner. I want to really consider where they have grown lately, where they need more growth, and what I can do to work alongside God as he works in their lives.

The adventure that is school.

I really do love school. I really do. But this first week of school this fall is threatening to kill me. I’m hoping we’ll adjust and things will fall into a good routine. If they don’t I may have to arm myself with some pretty dangerous weapons to fight my way through this year.

Right now, I am taking a break in my day. Not because I’ve reached a point where I finished my to do list and have plenty of time for a break, but rather because I have come to the place where if I don’t take a break, I will probably regret it later. I actually meant to take a nap today, but that didn’t happen. I meant to have all the bills written and the sewing done by now, but that didn’t happen either. As a matter of fact not many things are happening these days. School has taken over and is eating all the time, and my energy as well.

I think the subjects are going well. I am enjoying the time I am spending with Elise, but I do admit it seems like it would be much more rewarding if I didn’t have the boys clamoring for attention as well. Monday started off okay, though even then I realized how hard the year will be. John was home since it was labor day and he took the boys for the morning so I could concentrate on school with no distractions. Even with the boys gone, it took us all the way until lunch time to finish our scheduled school (well, most of it, we had to put off some reading). That was when I realized that the time I had allotted for the school work was not going to be enough.

On Tuesday, my sister showed up and I was surprised to see her even though I know she always comes Tuesday mornings to watch the kids. I thought I’d accomplish great things while she was there for 2 hours, but instead ended up using most of the time to just sort out car and insurance issues. Later that day John called needing some paperwork from me. I was less than gracious as I stepped over the timeline which refused to stick to the wall, answered the phone holding a book I was reading aloud to Elise in one hand, and tried to talk over the piano the boys were playing. It seems like the only time I wasn’t trying to read over the boys’ noise that morning was when they had wandered off quite quietly to cover themselves with the last remains of my make-up, including mascara. I guess I won’t be wearing makeup again anytime soon. As I talked to John I realized it was already 12:30 and I had not even began to plan lunch. Sigh. The rest of the afternoon wasn’t much better. Once the kids went down for nap, I had to find the paperwork for John and start cleaning off my desk. I had great hopes of writing the bills and doing some sewing, but before I knew it we were headed off to dance. While I was at dance, I realized that I had left my uneaten lunch warming in the oven. It was basically a piece of charcoal when we returned home, and I was noticeably hungry. I had planned a craft project for when we returned home from dance. But of course, after chatting away to friends, dropping a friend off, going to the grocery store to get some things for supper, and finally heading home, I really wasn’t interested in trying to squeeze a craft in before supper. Besides, I still had all my to do list to start on. That evening I spent pretty much my whole time finishing up a custom blanket, which was wonderful to get off my list, but which meant I still had bills, other sewing, and misc things to do.

Today, I hoped things would go better. Because of the rain, John took the car, so I was stuck here. Surely, I though, we will get so much done and be done quickly. But again, despite our starting fairly early, we worked almost until lunchtime yet again. It didn’t help that I had several interruptions to take Will to the bathroom (who is working really hard on finishing potty-training, but is now having issues with knowing when he really needs to go), clean up broken glass from the snack bowl that got left on the table, change a diaper when Will didn’t make it to the bathroom, comfort Seth whenever he thought he just needed some extra attention, and answer Will’s persistent arguments about a broken toy. He has decided that the words “But I don’t want to,” hold some sway in an argument and will use them as his only defense against something I’ve instructed him to do. Amazing how long of an argument he can sustain on those 5 words. I had a new potential seamstress drop by at 12, and I think I made sense as I struggled to instruct her on what she needed to do while feeling like my brain was beginning to slip away. In the background several geography songs were playing on repeat while the kids colored pictures. You might hear me humming these as they are beginning to play over and over again in my head. But on the plus side, I can now name the countries of Western Europe. Hopefully they’ll work as well on Elise as they are on me.

I now have so many things to do on my to do list, that I don’t know where to start. Right this moment I think I am supposed to be making an Italian dessert with Elise as part of our Italian study. Will should probably be wearing pants instead of just a diaper. And I should have all my embroidery done for the day. But instead, I am taking a break. Elise and Will are playing happily outside in the rain, something Elise says she “NEVER” gets to do and has been begging to do every time it sprinkles. Seth has just finished his snack and is sitting contentedly beside me. I think I will try to enjoy this moment before it gets crazy again.

There are many reasons why I home-school, and I guess after a post like this, I might get asked for some of those reasons, but I will save those for another time. Right now, I will just say, that despite all the craziness, the stress, and the undone chores, I would not trade my chance to teach my children at home for anything.

Terra Studios.

We had a great time today visiting Terra Studios. I’ve never been before, and I have to say it is a great place to spend an afternoon with your kids. Complete with studios for glass sculpture and pottery, many of the items that are made there are displayed throughout the grounds.

We arrived at noon and enjoyed a picnic lunch in the picnic area. Seth was still tired from staying up for fireworks last night, but Brennan (who had apparently had a good morning nap) was able to get him laughing.

Trash trolls kept guard over the grounds and encouraged you to discard your trash by feeding them. Seth was a little nervous, but the other kids were excited about depositing their trash from lunch into the wide open troll’s mouths.

After wandering through the woods, discovering creatively placed sculptures, the kids all took a run through the labryinth. We were there with some friends, so all the kids made quite a group. Pottery observation started at 1:00, which excited Elise. She said after the day was done that that was her favorite part. The lady making bowls had a great time joking with her audience of kids. She got them all laughing and even shared some clay with each of them. Most of the girls decided against keeping the clay once they felt how slimy it was. But Will had a great time creating different things with his piece and carried it around with him for the rest of the time we were there. After the pottery, we explored some more of the creatively decorated buildings and watched the glass craftsman making the bluebirds of happiness.

Fire Station Tour

This last Friday we went to the Fire Station here in town to do a tour with our Mothering Matters group. Our group does this every year and this is the first year that we have actually made it. Will was so excited that morning. I really didn’t think he knew where we were going until he ran upstairs and came back down with his fire truck toy. “Woo-woo,” he said. OK, I guess he is a smart kid. He just fools us all by not talking.

Our half of the group toured the upstairs of the fire station first. We saw the firemen’s living area, kitchen, and screened in porch for barbecue. Unfortunately when they do use it for cooking, they often get 911 calls from people afraid that the fire station is on fire because of the smoke. Our paramedic tour guide explained to us how the 24 hour shifts worked and how they really get to know the men they work with since they spend every 3rd day with them. Many of the things in the fire station come in threes, one for each shift. This even includes the refrigerators, which get locked when it is not their shift. Apparently firemen are protective of their own food. He then showed us the work out room, the bedrooms, and the pole.

We didn’t get to go down the pole, which disappointed Will, but we did get to watch a firefighter come down while we stood below in the red-lighted gear room. If I understood the explanation right, they use red lighting to keep it from breaking down their reflective gear.

Then we headed out and took a look at the ambulance, the rescue truck, the ladder truck, and the firetruck that carries a huge tank of water. The paramedic showed them all sorts of equipment, explained lots of stuff and demonstrated their new air-powered stretcher. Most of it went over the kids heads. I learned why when my parents had someone set their hay on fire three different fire stations sent trucks. He said that it was routine on any out of town fire calls to send three of the tanker trucks so that they’d have enough water. All Will really wanted to do was climb in the truck, which he did get to do.

Seth perked up at this point too. He’d been looking pretty tired and was content to let me carry him around. But once everyone started climbing and touching the trucks, he decided he needed to be included as well. He climbed through the ladder truck just like the other kids and then checked out the huge tires.

The paramedic was finally able to grab everyone’s attention when he showed them how he would get ready for a fire. As he pulled on his protective clothing, all the way up to his air mask and helmet, the kids all watched speechless. He then explained to the kids that if they saw someone dressed like that when they needed help in a fire, not to be scared, but to come to them. After seeing what they look like, I can see why many kids would be scared to death, thinking some weird monster was coming after them out of the smoke and flames. He then demonstrated the alarm that goes off if a firefighter stays still too long to let his team-mates know he needs help. This made an impression on Elise, who asked several questions about it later.

After that, everyone got a free fireman hat and we headed home. It was a fun day. I really should think about what other field trips we could do this year in homeschooling.