Tell me you’re torn too.

In less than 3 weeks, school is out.  Children will be home full-time for the summer.  I can’t figure out if I’m thrilled or terrified.

No more frantically getting children out the door to the bus in the morning.

No more papers to sign and return or send emails about when I lose them.

No more volunteering at the school and putting books in to ziploc bags for two and half hours straight.

No more packing lunches.

No more backpacks and their contents scattered on my kitchen floor.

versus:

No more one-on-one time with the kids when their staggered school schedules send them out and bring them home at different times.

No more quiet, alone time for 6 blessed hours a week when they were actually all in school and preschool at the same time.

No more leaving my children’s education and daily schedule up to some one else.

No more dealing with them in shifts.  It’s all three, all day, every day.

Yah, it’s a tough one.  I acknowledge this makes me a total mom wimp.  I had all three at home all day for several years and a few summers after that, but you know how it is.  Once you’ve tasted the sweet flavor of freedom, it’s hard to go back.  I admit there’s parts about it I enjoy, but I’m determined to have a plan.  I  need a routine in place or we will all drive each other absolutely nuts. “Mom, I’m bored. What can I do?” I’ll be able to face that first week they’re back home if I know how the summer will go.  Here are my ideas so far:

  • 30 minutes a day of summer reading
  • 30 minutes a day of workbook pages or writing exercises
  • daily chores
  • Some kind of scheduled activity each day of the week, probably mid-day, some spilling into the afternoon.  Ideas for now:  1.  Library and lunch (picnic or eating out),  2. Creative Projects (art, crafts, sewing, gardening, etc.), 3.  Meal planning and grocery shopping (I’m going to let each child choose one dinner recipe a week and buy all the ingredients for it at the store.  Then the day we eat it, they can help me make it.), 4.  Service (I’m looking for some kind of formal volunteer opportunity we can all do together.  Hoping for Meals on Wheels.),  and 5. Outings (preferably free.  Parks, canyons, walks, …. any suggestions here?)
  • Free time and play time in the afternoons.  Hopefully lots of sunny days for swimming and outside play.
  • Quiet time (ha! I’m really going to try) while I’m fixing dinner.  Kids in own rooms doing reading, listening to books or music, quiet play, etc.
  • I’ve been tossing around the idea of teaching them some Spanish this summer.  I was a darn good Spanish teacher in my pre-kids life and I’ve got all the materials I need.  I should do it.
  • We’ll do one family camping trip a month.  It’s hard work, but we love it.
  • I also thought about making a “bored box” with ideas in it that they have to pick out and do if they ever tell me they’re bored.

Some people will think all that’s just craziness, but it helps me a lot to have a blueprint to work with.  There will be lots of flexibility.  Plans will change on any given day due to weather, sickness, laziness, holidays, calendar events, or children spending half the day in time-out (I’m a realist.).

What are some of your summer plans and strategies?  I’d love to hear them.  Are you excited?  Worried?  Seriously, are you torn too?

My son thinks I’m a murderer of the Earth.

Just in case you didn’t already know this, first grade turns you into genius.  During the course of your first year in elementary school, you will in fact become an expert on many topics, thereby learning that your parents are idiots.

(The subtitle of this post is:  Why I want to kick Grant’s science teacher in the knees.)

Thanks to Grant’s science teacher, our first-grader has become an environmental vigilante.  Never mind that we already have a fairly well-coordinated recycling program in place.  My recycling garbage can is always at least as full as my actual-garbage garbage can, we trade in our printer cartridges for refills, use rechargeable batteries, and replaced all our lightbulbs with those twirly-whirly- save-lots-of-money lightbulbs that I can’t remember the name of.  If the tree-huggers could look past my compulsive paper towel use and occasional paper plate use, I think they might be kind of proud of us.

I do not know if Mr. Science Man has a program in place where he bribes small children with treasures untold if they can confiscate half of their family’s belongings and bring them directly to him to be disposed of properly, but I have my theories.  Several times, Grant has tried to grab all our printer cartridges and convince us that he needs to take them to his science teacher, along with all our batteries.  That same self-proclaimed genius cannot seem to comprehend that I will recharge and refill them on. my. own. (thank you?) and thereby save our family some money.  “But Mr. Science Man says we have to bring them to him!”   No matter how I try to make him understand that his teacher’s intention is to keep those items from being thrown away, and we are NOT throwing them away, he still thinks I’m ruining his life as an activist.

Today he came from school and enjoyed his after-school snack for a few seconds before he jolted, quickly remembering that he is a man on a mission.

“Mom!  Do we have milk cartons or boxes or things that we can use to make other things?”

“They’re in the recycling bin, Grant.”

“No, mom!  We’re not supposed to throw them away.  That’s a waste!  We can use them.”

“Grant, when they are recycled, that means they can be melted down and use them again.  We are not wasting them.”

He began digging through my garbage.  I began picturing his science teacher in that torture machine from The Princess Bride.

He grabbed a ziploc bag and held it above his head, victorious.  “Do not throw these away, mom!  That is a waste.”

I rolled my eyes, “What?  Do you want to wash them out?”  “Yes!”  “Fine, you can do it.”

He kept digging.  “I need a bottle or something for my agates (small rocks designed to make your mother curse when she does the laundry).”

“Grant, the bottles are in the recycling bin which means they are going to be re- … never mind.”  I give up.

Anyway, I think educating our children is severely overrated. I offered him this box from the garbage to carry the rock collection he’s accumulating so he can impress Mr. Science Man.  I’m sure he’ll be thrilled when he sees how resourceful we are in our family.


 

This too shall (come to) pass.

I want to talk about stages of life.

Since early 2003, concepts like “personal space,” “alone time,” and “R&R” have only been dreamed about.  Fantasized, even.  Small children are parasites.  They cling on you, suck the life out of you, and basically consume you– blood, sweat and tears.  Of course, they’re also darling little bundles of spirit and light that shape our souls like nothing else, but that’s not the point of this post.  Mothering small children is hard.

Today was the first day of school in my neck of the woods.  Early this morning, Grant got up and excitedly got ready for his first day of first grade.  He gathered all his stuff (and made a weird face when he was supposed to say cheese).

DSCF0081We all went outside and waited at the neighborhood bus stop with a gaggle of school-goers and their siblings.

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Then we went back inside and began loading up Clark’s backpack with all the goods he would need for his first day of kindergarten, half day in the afternoon.  He and Natalie played nicely together for most of the morning and we had a little lunch and readied him for his big moment.

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He was the most excited about finally riding the bus.

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And he was off.  Natalie and I walked inside and she was ready to begin “Mommy School.”

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We hopped in the car, went to the store, purchased cupcake ingredients, zipped back home, and made pumpkin cupcakes for the boys’ first day after-school snack.

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She finished dumping the batter into cupcake liners, washed her hands, and I put her down for her afternoon nap.

The house was quiet.  I paid bills.  I made phone calls.  I signed up the boys for swimming lessons.  I checked email.  Fifteen minutes before the afternoon bus returned my boys, Natalie woke up from her two-hour nap.  We frosted the cupcakes and went outside to wait for her brothers.

They arrived, happy and excited.

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Natalie proudly shared her surprise.

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They told me about their day, called grandparents and repeated themselves several times, and we took a trip to the library.  Now they’re all in bed, asleep.

It. Was. Awesome.

Ladies and gentlemen, I did it.  I graduated to a new stage.  A stage I thought would never come.  I now have some free time every day.  I have quiet.  I have personal space.  I could take a nap!!

So, I just wanted to bear my testimony that the stages in life you long for really do come. Did I feel a twinge of regret about the things I probably should have done with them, the things I should have taught them better, all those years while they were practically surgically attached to me twenty-four hours a day?  Yes, I won’t lie.  But mostly, I got an unexpected lesson about my stewardship, and realized that with this new stage comes a new level of accountability.  All those important things that have been left undone for years because “there’s just no way” need to become part of my new reality.  Either that, or I’m a hypocrite.  I need to be responsible with the time I’ve been gifted and use it in ways that make me proud and still bless my family.  My “calling” as a mother is still the same, and I need to hold tight to my priorities now more than ever.  I don’t want to waste my new-found freedom.

And some day when I hit other stages, like all my kids at school all day, or they’re off to college, or Matt’s finally retired, my responsibilities will rise to the occasion.  A few scriptures come to mind, including, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, ” and “It is not requisite that a [woman] run faster than [she] has strength, … therefore, all things must be done in order.

So, this is basically a rally-cry to all you Stage One moms:  Stage Two really will come! And to all you Stage Two moms:  Let’s do this right! And to all you Stage Three and Four and Five moms:  I hate you. Just kidding.

The stuff we suffer will pass.  The stuff we hope for will come to pass.  Stages in life are good.  They are tangible markers of the progress of our souls.  I hope I leave a good mark.

“Hopefully you will find joy in your womanhood during all stages of your life.”  — James E. Faust

“The challenges you face, the growth experiences you encounter, are intended to be temporary scenes played out on the stage of a life of continuing peace and happiness. It is your understanding and application of the laws of God that will give your life glorious purpose as you ascend and conquer the difficulties of life.”  — Richard G. Scott

The “art” of smiling through gritted teeth

sc0037caacWhen you send a child to kindergarten, you simply have to accept that a once-private life has now gone public.  Anything the child says or does may now be held against you (and filed away in a a kindergarten teacher’s mind, probably to judge you for the rest of your life).

President Spencer W. Kimball said: “When children go off to school or to play with their friends, parents cannot be totally sure of what the children are learning. But if parents take time at home each evening to explain the gospel program to their children, it will replace the negative things they may learn during the day.”

Let me set the scene for you.  Today at the dinner table, Grant proudly showed Matt and me the drawings he did this week at his art-center table at school.

artwork1Me:  “Um, wow, Grant.  Is that you covering your ears when Natalie’s crying?”

Grant:  “Nope.  Not Natalie.  It’s my friend Josh.  He drawed a picture of me going pee-pee and I hated it.”

Me:  “Okay….?”

Matt piped up, “That looks like me right now with Clark.”  (Imagine in the background the wails of Clark in time-out.”

Me:  “What else did you draw?”

artwork2Grant smiles.

Me:  “Uh, are those guns?”

Grant: “Nope, they’re swords.”

Matt:  “I don’t think mom likes that one, Grant.”

Me:  “Remember scriptures this week where we read about the 10 commandments and one of them is Thou shalt not kill?”

Grant: (sheepishly)  “Oh yeah, sorry about that.  Here, this one will cheer you up.”

artwork3Me:  “Yep, that sure is cheery.”  (looking at Matt with raised eyebrows.)

Grant:  “Yeah, it’s me running away from a leopard.”

Curtain closes as Grant grins proudly and mom shakes head silently and plans next family home evening in her mind.

——-

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