Return to School, Return to Homework

first day of school 2016

One of my favorite TV commercials of all time shows a father dancing and pushing a shopping cart full of school supplies through a store with his children trudging along behind him, downcast, while the Christmas song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” plays in the background.  Dad is happy, no, ecstatic that school is starting while the kids mourn the end of summer and the return to homework.

Last week, our kids returned to school.  They were actually excited to get back.  As a parent, I was looking forward to the routine of school and the alone time in the day so I could get things done (like blogging).  One thing I am not excited about is homework, and I had a lot of it that first week.

Yes, you read that right my husband and I had homework.  The first day or so of school, teachers seldom give out homework to the students.  They spend that time acclimating students to their new classes and protocol.  And (I think) the teachers try to win the kids over before they sock it to them.  In class, they go over the rules, expectations, etc.  That same info is then sent home for the parents, as homework.  We responsible adults must read all of this information and sign a form stating that we did, which the students return to the teachers the next day.  While that might not seem like much, it adds up when you have five children.  Two of the children are in elementary school and have one primary teacher, so it isn’t too bad.  The teens, however, have seven teachers each.  While each teacher doesn’t have a form required to be signed and returned, there are enough to make one sigh, heavily.

This year, in this increasingly technological society, I had something new.  I needed to download an app, and/or sign up via text to a service which the teacher will use to communicate homework, messages, etc.  I also need to update my contact lists with the new teachers’ phone numbers and email addresses, just in case.  My parents never had to deal with this stuff!

Another “homework” for parents those first few days of school is more shopping.  The elementary kids were easy.  We got a list and bought everything before the first day of school.  The big kids, however, not so lucky.  Such magical lists are not available before the start of school.  Instead, they come home and say, “By the way, I need…” and often this comes at 9:00 P.M.  Off to Stuff Mart to purchase those extra materials that they just HAVE to have the next day.  The same materials which were left behind on the kitchen table in the morning.

The last bit of homework for parents (and a part I struggle with) is to file all of this information so you can find it and reference it when needed, because at this point it is all blended together in your mushy mind.  And you will need it.  What is the Social Studies teacher’s policy on make-up work?  What per cent of the final grade are Math quizzes worth?  Is that Choir performance mandatory or extra credit?  Also, don’t forget to synchronize all the school and family calendars, make sure there is money in the school lunch accounts, fill out the forms required for a parking permit, make sure the school uniforms are clean, and get to bed before midnight.

My homework is done for now (except for the filing of info part).  Sorry, kids, but now it’s your turn for homework.  Bwahahahaha!!!!

 

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Hidden Danger

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For the first time in the twenty years that we have lived in our home, we have a mole problem.  I mean the small furry mammal, not the skin kind. There are little soft mound of dirt throughout the yard and in some of the flower beds.  I have researched on Pinterest how to deal with the problem, I just haven’t taken any steps yet.

Now, I’m not an avid gardener, nor do I dote on my flowers.  I always have good intentions, but very little follow-through.  If I remember, I might water the plants.  Fertilizer?  I bought some once, but I don’t think we ever used it.  I only pull weeds once or twice during the entire summer.  For the most part, the plants are on their own.

Today just happened to be one of those rare weed-pulling days.

I worked on one area, pulling at dandelions, clover, and renegade grass, snapping them off at the ground level.  Even with the help of a trowel, I seldom managed to get the roots.  Oh well.  At least it looks a bit better right now.

I stepped over weed piles and crossed to the other side of the house to work on another flower bed.  I noticed a couple of mole hills there.  No big deal, I thought, as I settled down to attack the weeds that had invaded the space.  Again, I pulled on dead foliage, snapped off my dandelion roots, and yanked at the wild grapevine that had wrapped itself into a hosta.  All the while I had this funny feeling someone was watching me.  I avoided getting close to the mole holes.  Is there something or someone in there?  I stared at a small hole in the dirt.  They don’t attack humans, do they?  I mean, if there was a mole in there and he felt threatened, what would he do to defend himself?  All I could think of was there is no way I could get my fat ass off of the ground quick enough to escape a savage mole attack.  I could imagine the ER personnel laughing behind my back.  I clenched the trowel tightly in my hand, just in case.  In case of what?  a two-pound ground rodent decided to go for my jugular?

In light of the distressing proximity of the mole hills, I gave up weeding and went inside and did what any sane person would do in the same situation.  I had a bowl of Fruit Loops and blogged about it.

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A New Teenager

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Last week was the Curly Girl’s 13th birthday.  Although I have already thought of her as a teenager (she will be entering 8th grade in the fall), now it is official.  As I did with my other kids, I would like to share some of my favorite things about her.  Here are 13 reasons I love my Curly Girt!

  1. Her hair.  I love those curls!  I like to take ahold of the end of one of her curls, stretch it out, and let it go and watch it snap back into place, while I say, “BOING!”  She tolerates it when I do it, but hates it if anyone else does!
  2. She is artistic.  I don’t know where she gets it from, but she loves to draw and she is good at it!  I am always in awe at her talent.
  3. She has a lovely singing voice.  She was voted top 7th grade soprano by her peers.  Although, after going to an amusement park and screaming on roller coasters all day, she sounds more like a baritone at the moment.
  4. Her big heart.  She is kind, caring, and compassionate.
  5. She has faith.  She has questions, but seeks the answers and learns and grows.  It is an ongoing process for us all.
  6. Her willingness to serve.  Sometimes it takes some prodding, but she likes to help others.
  7. She’s a smart kid.  She has finally come to realize it!  Not in a conceited way, but she no longer thinks of herself as stupid.
  8. I think she is very pretty.  Sure, you are probably thinking I’m biased because she’s my daughter, but I’m telling the truth.  I think she’s beautiful.
  9. She loves to write.  Her preferred genre is fantasy (elves, magic, etc.) but she isn’t bound by that.  I read an email she sent one of her teachers and I was in awe at the maturity and thought process that went into that brief note.
  10. She is comfortable with who she is. She is a self-proclaimed nerd and she embraces it.  Whether out on the dance floor alone at a school dance, or refusing to give into the latest fashion, she is who she is.
  11. I love her smile!  it’s actually more of a grin.  It’s warm, friendly, and authentic.
  12. Her ability to fall asleep anywhere.  O.K., this may seem odd, but I am envious of it.  If she needs some zzz’s, she will get them.  Luckily, it doesn’t happen in school…at least I don’t think so.
  13. She’s my mini-me!  We are often told we look alike, and I see a lot of similarities in our personalities.  Despite that, she is definitely her own person and has a lot to offer the world!

I love you, Curly Girl!!!  Happy belated birthday!

 

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There’s a Woman I Know Called Mom

Mothers Day Breakfast in Bed - 2008 A smiley face with baby carrot eyes, a jelly packet with a strawberry on it for a nose, and a Twizzlers mouth, served with Pop Tarts on a cookie sheet.

Mothers Day Breakfast in Bed – 2008
A smiley face with baby carrot eyes, a jelly packet with a strawberry on it for a nose, and a Twizzlers mouth, served with Pop Tarts on a cookie sheet.

 

There’s a woman I know called Mom.  She is facing some major life changes.  Her oldest daughter will be walking down the aisle soon in a beautiful white gown.  Her youngest daughter will soon be wearing a gown with a cap and tassel, as she graduates high school, then moving on to college.  Right now, this mom’s life is a blur of preparation and excitement.  But soon her house will be quiet as a new chapter of her life begins.

There’s a women I know called Mom.  She is pregnant, expecting her fourth child.  However, she knows very well that giving birth isn’t the only way for a family to grow.  Her oldest daughter was adopted.  Already expecting a baby when this little girl entered their lives, this mom has a great capacity to love, and opened her heart and home.  Love defines motherhood, not DNA.

There’s a woman I know called Mom.  She is married and has five children.  She also has cancer.  Fear and worry loom nearby as she ponders her future.  But she is a fighter.  Prayer and medicine are her weapons as she wages the war inside of her.  Family and friends, from far and near, support her, cheer her, and pray for her.  This is Love in action.

There’s a woman I know called Mom.  Her own children are grown and out of the house, but she is raising her granddaughter.  A shaken baby as an infant, the girl is now a teenager and has special needs.  This faith-filled mom drives to multiple therapy appointments each week, changes diapers, and does whatever it takes, and does it with love.

There’s a woman I know not called Mom.  After years of hope and disappointment, she had to face the reality that she would never have a child of her own.  The dreams of motherhood never came true.  But she has still touched the lives of children.  She is a Super Aunt, sharing her love, caring, humor, and faith with her nieces and nephews.  Cheering them on at their games, taking them on special trips, or going to a restaurant, these children, big and small, know how blessed they are to have her and what a special role she plays in their lives.

There’s a woman I met called Mom.  I only spoke to her briefly, but her story touched my heart.  She was sitting on the floor of a public restroom, crying, because she missed her kids.  They were in foster care because she didn’t have a place to live.  She lost her full-time job because she didn’t have a permanent address.  When I talked to her, she was facing a difficult decision.  She was working at the fair and was offered a position traveling with her employer.  She would have a paycheck, and a place to stay, but under questionable circumstances with questionable people.  This job would take her farther away from her children whom she desperately missed.  Or she could stay where she was, without a job, without a home.  I don’t know where fate led her, and I probably won’t ever know, but I pray for her, and the many other women with similar stories.

There’s a woman I know called Mom.  She is also called Grandma, however, she is not the grandma she expected to be.  Life has changed her plans.  Her grandchildren don’t live close enough to visit often.  Health issues with her and her husband prevent them from traveling much.  Homebound, she waits for phone calls and the occasional visits, wishing they were more frequent.  She is understanding, though, as she now watches her daughter tackle all the stresses and strategies of being a mother.

There’s a woman I know called Mom.  She blogs after midnight when her family is asleep.  The nighttime offers peace and quiet and no competition for the computer.  However, it’s time for her to go to bed as she suspects there might be some Mothers Day surprises waiting for her in the morning.

Happy Mothers Day to all mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, friends, and all who touch the lives of others!

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The Great Eight

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Eight at last!  Also, the last eight.  Today is my youngest child’s eighth birthday.  The Princess!  Although her favorite princess has changed from Cinderella to Princess Leia, she’s still, and will always be, my baby girl.

In honor of her birthday, here are eight great things about the Princess:

  1. Her imagination.  Even if her daydreams have shifted from tiara’s to light sabers, she still has a great imagination.
  2. She is creative.  She loves to develop new games, stories, dances, etc.  This girl is full of ideas.
  3. My girl is smart.  She is a straight A student and loves to learn.
  4. She is compassionate.  Whenever we are driving and pass an ambulance or emergency vehicle, she says a prayer.  If anyone in the house is sick, she checks on them and brings a handmade card.
  5. This girl has energy!  If she isn’t doing cartwheels in the front yard, she is dancing in the kitchen.  Or flipping around the bars of the swingset.  Or playing with her brother.
  6. Her smile.  She is a beautiful girl inside and out and her smile always brightens my day!
  7. I love the way she loves her family.  Her siblings hold a special place in her heart.  Sometimes all the love and affection can be interpreted as just an annoying little sister, but I know she means well.  The Princess loves to cuddle and often climbs in bed with Daddy and me.  I know she loves me more than the world (she has told me) but her Daddy is her hero.
  8. She loves God.  She made her First Holy Communion last month and for months leading up to it, she was so excited and so eager!  She likes hearing stories of the Saints, and I pray that she follows His will and will one day be a saint, too.

When Mr. Dude was only five months old, we were surprised to find out we were expecting another child.  Two children, only 14 months apart…I admit, it took me some time to get used to that.  Even though she was unexpected, she is a great blessing!  I love her and my life wouldn’t be complete without her!

Happy birthday, my Princess!

 

 

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Conversation with a 9 Year Old Boy

Mom:  “You should take a shower.”

Boy:  “Nah.”

Mom:  “Why not?”

Boy:  “Reason and logic.”

Whatever.

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Ouch!

Today was one of those days when my husband and I were feeling a bit goofy.  Even more so than usual, and that caused trouble.

We were running some errands sans kids and enjoying ourselves.  It had been awhile since we had any time out alone and we were making the most of it.  After a stressful week, we practically bolted to the front door to escape the house and our parenting responsibilities for a short time.  Relaxation set in almost immediately as we pulled out of the driveway with our favorite 80’s station blaring on the radio.  I can’t quite recall what started it, but we soon found ourselves laughing at everything.  You know, one of those giddy moods that can make even the most routine, mundane things suddenly seem hilarious.  This was the type of laughter that made other people stare at you and wonder what you were on.

As we drove through the parking lot of our first destination, Stuff Mart, we waited patiently as an elderly man crossed our path in one of the store’s loaner electric scooters as he made his way to his car.  We parked and walked toward the doors of the store.  As we passed the car where the man with the scooter was, he was just finishing moving from the scooter to the driver’s seat.  He called out to us and asked if we would be kind enough to return the scooter to the store lobby for him, and we agreed.

Now, you need to keep in mind our immature, goofy, drunk-like mood when I describe what happened next.  I’m not even sure who’s idea it was (I say it was my husband’s, he says it was mine) but one of us said it would be fun to use these scooters.  Well, that quickly escalated into “Let’s race these scooters” and caution was thrown to the wind.  Luckily, the Stuff Mart Greeter had momentarily stepped away from his position so it was easy to get started.  After agreeing on one lap around the store, we were off.

Yes, we were sober.  But even sober people do dumb things sometime.

We started off neck and neck as we passed a long cardboard display of potato chips.  Unfortunately, I was distracted by a cart of clearance items and slowed down to browse.  My husband’s laughter brought me back to reality and I turned my attention back to the race.  Luckily, the scooter I was using had a full battery and I was able to catch up to Jayson.  Perturbed by my advancement, he took a shortcut through the girls’ clothing department, narrowly missing one of my daughter’s classmates who was shopping with her mother.  A flash of embarrassment shot through me, but I kept on going.

As we approached the craft department, two ladies from our church stepped into the aisle, right into my path.  The look of astonishment on their faces was priceless.  I said the only thing that could have been said at a moment like this.  “HONK!  HONK!”  They stepped, rather, stumbled, back as I rounded the corner, Jayson hot on my tail.

I have never know my husband to be a NASCAR fan, but he surely has been studying some races because he started to try some fancy maneuvers, complete with vroom-vroom sounds.  He bumped my scooter and let out a maniacal laugh, which sent shivers down my spine.  It was in that moment that I finally questioned the sanity of what we were doing and had second thoughts.  But letting my mind wander like that led to my downfall.

As my attention was scolding myself for acting so foolishly, my husband made his big move.  Consumed with a passion to win this electric scooter race through Stuff Mart, he cut me off.  Trying to swerve to avoid him caused me to flip my scooter.  As I fell, my head crashed into a tall, wire-framed cage full of bouncy balls.  My head hit the floor, and my knee somehow twisted and was trapped under the weight of the scooter.  Blood ran down my face from the scratches on my cheek from the wire cage.  Intense pain shot through my knee.  The whole moment felt it was in slow-motion.  Balls from the display danced around me as I tried to make sense of what had happened.

And my husband kept going.

Don’t think badly of my husband.  He did come back to check on me eventually (and announce his victory).  He followed the paramedics after they arrived.  By that time, a small crowd had gathered.  I tried not to make eye contact with anyone, fearing I would see someone I knew.  Humiliated, I was treated at the scene but refused to be transported to the hospital.  I am now home, with a bandaged face and frozen peas on my knee, which is the size of a cantaloupe, and a very bruised ego.

This was probably the most embarrassing moment of my life.  I can read the headlines tomorrow:  “Local Woman Writes Blog for April Fools Day”.

 

 

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Palm Sunday

20160320_191000Today is Palm Sunday.  The beginning of Holy Week!  The end of Lent is near!  This day marks a time when Christians should focus on the Passion of our Lord.  His suffering endured, the torture, the death of a cross…all for us, so that we may one day return to our Creator, our Heavenly Father.

Today is Palm Sunday.  For parents, it is one of the most dreaded Sundays of the Church year.  Yes, we should have all of our attention turned toward our Lord, praying and meditating, and getting all holy-like, but it is impossible when you have children.  You love your children and strive to teach them good church etiquette, but that any progress made goes out the window on Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday Mass is really beautiful, but it is LONG.  If you’re lucky, your kids can handle one hour in church.  At the 61st minute, however, they turn into little creatures of unknown origin determined to make you scream and get the attention of the whole congregation turned on you, including the priest.  You know they were baptized.  Shoot, you even splashed holy water on them as you entered the church, but that doesn’t stop kids’ behavior from becoming hellish when you expect them to be little saints.  And that’s on a good day.

Also on Palm Sunday, our parish, as many others, start Mass outside, and process in, waving palms, reminding us of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey.  This is a very lovely, beautiful display of our faith, but it doesn’t work well with kids.  You see, when you are in the church, your child is more or less confined to the length of your pew, unless you have children with a tendency for spelunking and they crawl under the pews as if exploring a cave.  Even if the kids escapes your pew, there are walls to keep him/her inside.  But when you’re outside, the boundaries are endless, and the little ones love to explore God’s creation and take off running.  Sometimes into the parking lot.  Or picking the beautiful flowers in the church landscaping that the ladies of the parish so tenderly care for.

What would Palm Sunday be without palms?  Easier.  Much easier for parents.  When handed a palm, a child suddenly has a weapon.  A sword or whip.  Oh, look, little Johnny and little Bobby are having a light sabre battle with palms.  How angelic!  Palms can also be used as a tickling tool.  Have you ever had your head bent, deep in prayer, only to feel a light, wispy feeling on the back of your neck.  Sorry.  That’s not the Holy Spirit touching you.  It’s little ornery Susie behind you, seeking revenge for the time you shushed her seven weeks ago.  Oh, yes, she can make it look like an accidental, random act, but behind that sweet little smile is a well-calculated maneuver designed to make you shiver from head to toe.

Even though my children are (mostly) beyond this point, the memories are still fresh and the embarrassment is still raw that I strongly sympathize with my fellow parents.  Palm Sunday Mass is a wonderful celebration, and a great opportunity to share our faith with our families and learn and grow.  Parents are just thankful it happens only once a year.

Have a blessed Holy Week!

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Nerds

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First Day of Dance

 

Some people might call our family a bunch of nerds.  We seem to fit the profile.  Our interests and activities may be considered, by some standards, nerdy.   Choir, band, dance, academic teams, Boy Scouts, video games, Legos, etc., etc.  We take nature walks and visit historic sites.  We like to watch Dr. Who, Star Wars, and documentaries.  Our sport of choice is cup stacking.

Cub Scout Knife Safety

Cub Scout Knife Safety

If these things classify us as nerds…so be it!

Being a nerd in this day and age is not like it used to be.  Back when I was a kid, the term “nerd”  was definitely an insult.  But not so anymore, thanks in part to the computer revolution and technological advances.  The nerds of the past became the movers and shakers of today.  And the future needs more nerds!  I think we can all agree that technology is becoming a bigger part of our lives every day, and we need the mathaholics, scientists, and computer geeks.

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Gold for Vocal Solo

 

Entertainment has changed the perceptions of the stereotypical nerd-types, too.  Let’s face it, National Treasure is a nerd movie.  BUT IT’S SO COOL!  The contestants on Survivor could definitely use some Boy Scout skills.  And there would be no Pentatonix if it weren’t for high school choir?

So nerds of the world, hold your heads up high!  Be proud!  Celebrate!  Go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the sixth time!  Remember, the world needs you!

 

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Number 9

Mr. Dude with his Star Wars Death Star birthday cake

 

Last week, Mr. Dude, my youngest son, turned 9.  In honor of him and his awesomeness, I am going to list nine things I love about him.

  1. The cuddle-factor.  Despite his manly, mature age, he is a super-duper cuddler.
  2. The way he talks.  He can be rather tight-lipped at times, but when he’s talking about a subject he is passionate about (Star Wars, Mario, etc.), he can give in-depth detail and dialog with the best of them.  There is something about his tone and vocabulary that make me think he will be a lawyer someday.
  3. He does things on his terms.  This can be good or bad.  Good in that he doesn’t give in to peer pressure.  Bad when you are trying to get him to do things, like when he was potty training.
  4. He loves God.  He seems not to be attentive in church, or even well-behaved sometimes.  But he has the love.  I can see it in the little things he does.
  5. His imagination.  From the time he was little, he never played much with toys, but he played with stuff.  Lately, he has been busy playing with snow shovels.  We have no snow now, but I haven’t put them away for the season because he is busy using them for….some kind of play that I don’t understand.
  6. He is a curious child.  He wants to see how things work.  Maybe a future engineer?
  7. Legos are his thing.  He has told me numerous times that he wants to be a Lego creator.  Even when he has a kit, he doesn’t necessarily follow the directions, but makes it the way he wants.  And each creation comes with a story.
  8. Mr. Dude is one smart dude!
  9. I love him because of the beautiful creation that God made him to be, full of love, full of wonder, full of joy.

 

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