Family

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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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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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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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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What’s in Your Purse?

When I was a very young girl, apparently I was very fond for purses.  I really don’t recall, but my mother tells stories of how I would beg my daddy for a new purse, and not being able to tell his baby girl no, he would buy it for me.  Mom would get a bit miffed because I would often have toy purses which cost more than hers.  As an adult, I am no longer a collector of cute handbags.  I don’t care if my handbag matches my shoes.  My preference is function over form and I use a purse until it falls apart.

What spurred this trip down memory lane? The other night, my own little girl came into my room with a purse she got for her birthday and eagerly wanted to show me everything that was in it.  I’m not sure if this impromptu show-and-tell was initiated by a true, deep desire for her to bond with me as mother and daughter, or woman to woman, or if it was merely a 7-year old’s tactic of stalling at bedtime, but I let her empty her purse on my bed.

Katherine's purse

As I sat and listened to her pull out her treasures one-by-one, I couldn’t help but reminisce that these were the same types of objects that I found of value at her age.

Katherine's stuff

If you look closely, you will find:

  • little keys
  • a crown charm
  • a heart-shaped pencil sharpener
  • a toy seal
  • lip gloss
  • a smiley-face eraser
  • hand lotion
  • a shoe string
  • a bouncy ball
  • a marble
  • notecards with envelopes
  • a yellow eraser
  • a hair tie
  • a hair clip
  • an owl pin
  • two plastic flower leis
  • a die

Oh, how times have changed!  Instead of being happy about Abe Lincoln’s image on a coin, I prefer it on a bill.  I don’t have a marble in my purse.  I lost all my marbles long ago.  The precious little do-dads of childhood have now been replaced by the needs of a (somewhat) mature, responsible 45-year old woman.

Mom's stuff

I thought it would be interesting to compare the contents of the Princess’s purse and my purse.  My purse contains:

  • hand lotion from a hotel
  • feminine hygiene products
  • a wallet
  • hair ties and bobby pins
  • lipstick
  • a nail file
  • a tag ripped from some article of clothing
  • a souvenir magnet from our summer vacation
  • breath mints
  • back-to-school lists (school started about 6 weeks ago)
  • miscellaneous crumpled receipts
  • an empty prescription bottle
  • spare change
  • a container of cuticle cream (I’ve been looking for that!)
  • a rosary
  • ink pens
  • bandages
  • keys
  • appointment cards
  • a used, waded up tissue (I’m not even sure who used it)

Her stuff is fun.  Mine is practical (mostly).  I suppose that’s the way its supposed to be.  If a kid comes to me with a boo-boo, it’s better to be able to offer a bandage than an eraser.  I can’t pay for groceries with plastic leis (although I have never tried).  The keys in her purse won’t work in my van.

Thank you, Princess, for the trip down memory lane.  Enjoy this season of your life while your purse contents are whimsical and carefree.  Boring wallets and appointment cards will be here before you know it.

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Mommy vs. the Toilet

It was an ordinary day of cleaning in my attempt to get to house under control.  Things were going as expected:  I was working hard, the children, not so much.  But there was a sense of accomplishment in the air.  Dirt and germs were under attack and I was winning the war, baby.

Until I started cleaning the toilet.

I have cleaned this toilet many, many times and never had a problem.  Until now.  It started as a normal, toilet-cleaning experience.  Blue clingy stuff was squirted and sliding down the inside of the bowl.  The toilet brush was in hand, ready for action.  I attacked.  Scrub, scrub, scrub.  Swish, swish, swish.  But there was some stubborn staining on the very bottom, right where the water flushes out.  Toilet-cleaning had been passed on to the kids lately and this area apparently hadn’t received as much attention as it should have.  This, I thought, needed some extra toughness and scrubbing.

I launched at the aforementioned trouble spot with a vengeance.  This toilet was going get clean.  Maybe I was putting a bit too much elbow grease into it.  Maybe it was the awkward angle of scrubbing.  Maybe it was the poor quality of the toilet brush construction.  Whatever the cause, whatever the reason, the bristle head of the toilet bowl brush lodged in the hole and the handle broke off.

My mood was already a bit grumpy due to lack of enthusiasm from the kids about participating in this cleaning day.  Now, to see part of the toilet brush stuck in the toilet really pissed me off (excuse the pun).

Even though I had mostly cleaned the toilet and flushed it a time or two, there was still the ick-factor at the thought of sticking my hand in the toilet.  I shoved those thoughts aside and plunged my hand into the clear water to retrieve the head of the toilet bowl brush.  Or, should I say, to ATTEMPT to retrieve the head of the toilet bowl brush.  That sucker was stuck in there and not budging.  Still holding the empty handle in my other hand, I decided to use it to pry the stuck object .  I only succeeded in pushing it further into the drain.  In fact, I pushed it so far down that I could no long see the blue and white bristles.

The head of the toilet bowl brush was lodged so far into the toilet, it couldn't be see.

The head of the toilet bowl brush was lodged so far into the toilet, it couldn’t be seen.

CRAP!  (Yes, pun intended again.)  Now I started to panic.  How was I going to get this thing out?  Would I have to hire a plumber to fix this?

Closing the bathroom door behind me, I sternly announce to the children to NOT, under any circumstances use the toilet.  Being a one-bathroom household, I feared someone going in there, doing his/her business, and not being able to flush the contents down, making this task even less pleasant (to say the least).

I went to the kitchen then returned to bathroom with something I hoped would help me extract the stuck toilet bowl brush from the toilet:  grill tongs.  Frankly, I couldn’t remember the last time we actually used them so I didn’t mind so much sticking them in the toilet.  Surely, I thought, this would do the trick. The long handle, the pinching action of the tongs… I was already congratulating myself for this brilliant idea before I even walked through the bathroom door.  The premature celebration turned sour as soon as the tongs touched the toilet water.  The handle was too long and I couldn’t maneuver the tongs through the turn at the bottom of the toilet bowl.

The grill tongs failed at retrieving the toilet brush head.

The grill tongs failed at retrieving the toilet brush head.

Grrrrrr…..

OK, time for a new plan.  Again, I left the bathroom and sternly announced to the children to NOT use the toilet.  They could tell by looking at me that I was serious.  My face was sweaty and flushed (yep, I had to put in another pun) and my eyes were wild with frustration and anger.  The tone I my voice told them I meant business.

After a trip to the garage to fetch some pliers from my husband’s toolbox, I went back to the toilet with a new resolve.  Surely, this HAD to work.  And it did!  Not as easily as I expected, as it took several tries to dislodge the stuck toilet bowl brush.  Oh, what a triumphant moment when I pulled those dripping wet bristles from the water!  Once again, I congratulated myself, this time it was well-earned.  The best part about the ordeal?  The toilet bowl got really clean, even in those hard to reach places!

Success!

Success!

 

The pliers taking a sanitizing alcohol bath after unclogging the toilet.

The pliers taking a sanitizing alcohol bath after unclogging the toilet.

 

Several hours later, I was relaxing, telling my husband about my toilet war.  I was proud of myself for not giving up when the problem arose.  I kept working at it, solved the problem, and now had a nice, clean, toilet.  The sense of satisfaction I felt for seeing the job through to completion was broken when the Princess came in to see me.

“Mom…” she said timidly with legs crossed.  “Can I use the bathroom now?”  Oops.  I guess I forgot to tell the kids the bathroom was back in business.

The Evil Toilet Brush in its two parts.

The Evil Toilet Brush in its two parts.

 

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Come Back, Summer!

y kids have been back in school for a week.  Their first day was August 5.  That is waaaayyy too early, in my opinionand the opinions of many others)  It seems like they just got out for the summer, yet, here they go again.

I know the perception of summer vacation being too short is not new, especially among students (and teachers)  We didn’t get to do this and that!  We didn’t get to go there!  We won’t be able to sleep in anymore.  Etc., etc., etc.

This year in particular, I am sad to see the kids go back to school.  Why?  BECAUSE THEY ALL GOT ALONG!  Yes, for some odd, yet welcome reason that I cannot explain, my children got along very well this summer.  Fighting, bickering, and yelling were kept to a minimum.  They did things with each other both in the house and out of the house.  They went to see movies together.  VOLUNTARILY!  I dared not speak aloud of this curious turn of events for fear I would jinx the calmness and serenity that had come over our home.  Not every moment was peaceful, but overall I was pleasantly surprised.

However, school has started.  The early morning rush and fight for the one-and-only bathroom in our house has taken its toll and tempers have risen, along with voices.  Fingers have been pointed and blame has been placed followed by retaliating words and glares.  Hopefully, we can work through this within the next few weeks and get back to the harmonious days of summer.  At least before all the extra-curriculars start.

 

 

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