Saturday, May 26, 2018

Summer is Here

We made it to summer.
We are 2 days in. And the first day involved dentist appointments for the older 2 so this felt like the first real day of summer.
Today was the long awaited day in which the boys got to go on one last trip to Toys R Us and spend the allowance money they have been saving all year. Aquaman got an electric scooter, which was deeply discounted thanks to toys r us closing, and all the appropriate pads. The Dude got a huge lego coast guard set and a small art kit. Greystoke had his heart set on a particular Ninjago lego set and it was gone from Toys R Us, so we got to take an extra trip to Target. He also got Monopoly Jr because the one we got last year is falling apart and missing pieces. He and The Dude are getting ready to play it now.
Luckily Aquaman's scooter has to charge for 12 hours before he can use it, since he has to help everyone assemble their Lego sets.
Scarlett took a 15 minute nap in the car on the way home from all of the shopping, after screaming her head off in the aisles of Toys R Us while the boys made their final decisions.
She is now in bed for the first time today (at 3:45 pm), and I probably better not let her stay there very long or she will be up all night running around and getting into everything.
We also bought another baby gate today.
Aquaman particularly, who you would think would be used to this by now, is driven crazy by Scarlett's wildness. Admittedly, she is pretty exhausting. She wrecks all the Legos. She occasionally bites. She grabs their skin with her fingernails and grins when they shriek.
But, just turning 13 months old yesterday, there is still not a lot that can be done other than showing her how to be gentle and then picking her up and moving elsewhere, and that drives Aquaman crazy. Which drives me crazy. He longs for justice, he longs to see her suffer.
She is a good lesson for him in learning grace. A frequent conversation we have in our house, usually in conflict between him and The Dude: "Do you ever make mistakes? And do you want to be offered grace when you do? Give grace to others."
Aquaman listens. I absolutely love age 9. He can finally be reasoned with. He really does want to do the right thing. And he needs grace too.
He doesn't stay mad at her for long. How could anyone?

She will make you cry just so she can shower you in back pats and hugs and kisses.
She often reminds me of the The Dude at that age, with her insatiable curiosity and unending energy. But she is her own person too. She can have a long attention span when she is interested in something. She picks up books and backs into my lap for a story. She loves to sit at the Lego blanket and put tiny Legos into a cup or a plastic easter egg or the facemask for The Dude's aerochamber.
She doesn't climb much yet, thank goodness. She is very persistent when she wants something, but doesn't get frustrated when she is told no. She just tries again. And eventually moves on with a smile.
She was sleeping better for a while, albeit in our bed, but the past few days has been so restless that I have had to move back to her bed with her so I can leave her for a little while at a time and get a break. Another tooth is about to break through and she has another cold. It is always something.

I am struggling to get through this. The boys have been cooped up all day participating in activities that require a lot of concentration and they are starting to unravel. The Dude was cheating in Monopoly Jr so Greystoke started screaming and threw his remaining money in his face. They cleaned up the game and then The Dude started touching Greystoke's brand new  lego Mech Dragon and Greystoke started screaming and while I was trying to intervene Aquaman got The Dude in a headlock because Aquaman doesn't think that I can be a parent apparently. Which resulted in me losing my cool and him thundering up the stairs which woke up Scarlett.
I put her back to sleep. The boys calmed down. I apologized to Aquaman. He went out to tighten the handlebars on his scooter. I probably better wrap this up in a few minutes and get everyone to the park for a little while and try again here later.
Part of my problem is that I have way too many things in my head that I am going to accomplish each day, each season, each year.

I have a lot of high hopes for this summer.
We have a bucket list that includes Sebastian Inlet, Blue Springs, many trips to see Dad at Jetty Park, the Science Center, the local public pool with a water slide, and one in the next county down with a couple of water slides. On top of that, with 4 hours less of work and my stress level to worry about, I have resolved to start working out again. And somehow take a weekly nap.

And don't forget finishing The Dude's reading curriculum that we started last October. And starting to teach Greystoke to read because he is trying to learn.
I also really need to go through a couple closets and get them organized.
And most of all I just want to be there, be available. Smile and laugh with kids. Enjoy them. Play games. Enter their world.
And all of that stuff ends up being a pretty tall order when you factor in that I am still working 20 hours a week, and that there are still all those never ending chores in each day like the loads and loads of laundry, the constant preparing (and buying!) food, and the current worst: the dishes. Because our dishwasher broke a couple of weeks ago and Lowes determined that it was not worth it to repair it for the 15th time in 4.5 years and since we still have a 5 year warranty they are sending us a gift card for a full refund for the dishwasher. Which is awesome, but it can take 10 business days and meanwhile our tiny kitchen feels even more claustrophobic when 4 kids and all those dishes are piling up in it all the time.

Some days it's hard to get up off that kitchen floor where I am lingering for just a few more minutes with my Bible before the demands of the day begin.

Some days the solace of it, the peace of it, the theory of it feels so far from everyday life and I long to integrate it somehow more slowly.

It is not always pretty. But the peace stays there, somewhere deep, and it comes back faster.
I have been stuck on Romans 12 lately, just those first two verses.
"Do not be conformed any longer to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what the will of God is: His good, pleasing and perfect will."
Romans 12:1-2

For weeks leading up to this one my mind has been consumed with the responsibility I have decided to take on in homeschooling Aquaman next year. I have been reading books with different theories. Ordering curriculum. Most of it has come in the mail and the first day it came I was so overwhelmed I didn't want to look at it. But then I got one of the books out while I was putting Scarlett to sleep and started looking at it.
And I have been getting excited about it.
I love that I will know what he is learning, that I get to be a part of choosing what he is learning.
After a school year in which his reading level actually went DOWN from fall to spring because his teacher basically handed him his spelling list and sat and looked at her phone most of the day, I am not that worried about whether I can teach him adequately. There is no one in the world who has a more vested interest in what he learns than I do.
 Like my summer time plans, I am sure I am not going to be able to do everything with him that I have planned next year.  But really, ultimately, it isn't any more pressure teaching him at home than it would be sending him to school. Ultimately, raising Aquaman is JT and I's responsibility. That means that his education is our responsibility no matter where it is that he receives it.

Culturally it feels like a lot more pressure to home school because the culturally acceptable thing to do is let the "experts" do it. So every now and then I get a little anxiety about it. But usually that is when I am worried about pleasing people and not when I am concerning myself with pleasing God.

But people are never really pleased anyway.

I have read books about the "Charlotte Mason" method, the "Classical method". I like aspects of both. I think it is incredibly important for all people, but especially kids to spend time in nature as Charlotte Mason does. I think the soul needs to be educated as much as the mind. I like the more rigorous aspects of classical method. I don't want to sell Aquaman short. It doesn't matter at all to me what college he goes to, or what he ends up doing for a living as long as he is following Jesus. But I want him to be prepared to do whatever it is God calls him to do. And I don't think that child led schooling is the answer because kids pick candy over vegetables every time. It makes no sense.
But ultimately, the only book I ever agree with completely is the Bible. There are as many methods in the world as people, and that is my very favorite thing about homeschooling.
I am not of the opinion that children learn excellent social skills at school. There is no other situation in life in which they will be thrown into a large group of people their exact same age, and it ends up being a weird Lord of the Flies situation at school. I actually think that is part of the reason for all the mental illness in high school and college. I was miserable those years and could not believe how much easier life was when I was able to go to work and interact with a variety of ages. Social skills are best learned at home, and certainly out in the world, but in more varied groups.
I do think kids are "socialized" to our culture in public school, but that's for better or for worse. I am not sure how much our competitive, materialistic, superficial culture I actually want my kids to be absorbing.
But the fact is, I don't drink the homeschool Koolaid either. As in all things, there are angry camps in both directions and it sort of drives me crazy trying to navigate it. It reminds me of the stay at home vs working moms debates. So many people are so defensive about their choices that they can't accept that there is more than one way to do something. Not every child should go to public school, and not every child should be homeschooled either. Can't we all get along? Probably not. And that is part of what drives me crazy about our culture. It is absolutely important to stand for truth, but it can be hard to distinguish between absolute truth and personal calling. I suppose that is more human nature than culture because I struggle with it too.

In public school news, The Dude finished his 2nd kindergarten year out reading at a 2nd grade level, better than 87% of his peers and with a vocabulary better than 99% of them! This made all those minutes of working on our All About Reading curriculum, all the gray hairs from trying to get him to focus while the chaos of our house swirled around him, worth it.

They also noted that he is able to concentrate when he is working individually but not really at all in a group setting. I suspect 1st grade may bring out more of these concerns but I am hopeful he is growing out of some of it. Yesterday he spent a straight hour building with Legos, showing a shocking ability to concentrate and follow through.
While he was doing that, I spent 15 minutes working out, and it is surprisingly difficult trying to concentrate on doing that with 4 kids at home. Scarlett becomes very focused on nursing when I try to work out for some reason. So I end up having to hold her during lunges and squats. She cries during the pushups and planks. But she loves jumping jacks and tries to do them too. The Dude gives me hugs every 5 minutes because that is what The Dude does. Greystoke drinks my water every time I get a small rest period. And occasionally offers me a sip before it is all gone. Aquaman stands off to the side and offers constructive criticism: "Are you sure that is the right way? That doesn't even look hard" as I grunt and pour sweat. He does not attempt to try it himself.

It is Saturday morning now. I gave up yesterday when Greystoke and The Dude got in another fight and started rolling around on the floor. We ate an early dinner and rode our bikes to the park. I have a seat on my bike and a trailer behind now so it is hard work but fun.

JT is at swim practice now. Scarlett is climbing the stairs. The boys are playing an imaginative game with a coast guard boat and a dragon. JT has another whole weekend off, and we don't have any plans yet so I should probably make some.

I am way too backed up on pictures.

Hugging Aunt K on her last day here. We had so much fun with her as always, and with baby L.

A serious game of pool.

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the "twins"

Scarlett loves her spaghetti, and she loves to get messy

Feeding the fish and birds at the park

We bait the fish with bread and the Heron tries to catch them. He got one but then dropped it.

Daddy and Scarlett at the mall for the "real superheroes" expo

Greystoke and I got a massage at the "sosh chairs" as he calls them. He sat the full 15 minutes and enjoyed himself.

Scarlett won't remember our last trip to Toys R Us. She loves babies so much.

My princess

She tries to bring towels in the ocean. I think she is trying to clean up the mess.
Aquaman's last day of 3rd grade. They watched a movie. Which incidentally is what they did for the last 15 days in a row at school....

All 3 asleep in the same bed even though they have their own. See, we don't need a bigger house (yet).