Archive for April 2012

7 Quick Takes (v. 61)

April 28, 2012

I know that it’s Saturday, but…

1.  This is one of my rare brilliant ideas that was completely inspired by my more common bouts of laziness.

We spend a large portion of our days in the house, especially in the winter.  As a result the kids and I spend most of our days barefoot.  (Sorry, FlyLady!)  But in the evening there will be errands, appointments, and activities which require socks and shoes.  Now we also spend a large portion of our day on the middle floor of our three-story town home, and it’s hard enough to get everyone out the door without walking up and down the steep steps to the top floor fifteen times trying to get matching socks in all of the right sizes.

So, about a year ago, I brought all of the socks (except my husband’s) to the living room.  In that year, I’ve tried various storage bins and boxes, but recently I relocated these Sterilite drawers downstairs.  As you can see, I labeled one drawer for each person’s socks, so that it is very clear whose is whose.  In the bottom right drawer I keep diapers and extra packages of diaper wipes, and the top left drawer will eventually be filled with some clothes and supplies for the new baby.

There have been a few other bonuses from this:  1) I was also able to also keep panties handy for my potty-training preschooler, 2) said preschooler has been learning to write her name and her sister’s names by copying the labels, and 3) the socks can go straight from the dryer to the drawer instead of being lost in laundry basket limbo with the rest of the clean clothes.

2.  Have I mentioned that I also keep a basket for dirty laundry on top of the dryer because I am lazy?  It’s really nice to have some place to throw dirty socks, training panties, spill towels, and other clothing that would otherwise just collect indefinitely all over the living room and kitchen until I got around to carrying them upstairs.

3.  I’ve been getting homeschooling supplies delivered for the summer and fall semester.  Except for putting together my modern history outline, I have the other subjects all prepped (vocabulary, literature, math, typing, and grammar/Latin).  I decided to do the Family Formation program for religion next year, but since they won’t send me the first packet until August, there’s not anything I can really do there.  I’m just a little nervous about how close my due date is to the beginning of the semester, but I know it will all work out somehow.

4.  I’m currently at 25 weeks, and I’m starting to slightly panic in general.  Our wall calendar for the May and June is quickly filling up as I try to get everything done before my due date.  In addition to already-scheduled swim classes and dental visits, I had to schedule Katie’s 4-year check-up, Sabrina’s 2-year check-up, my Level 2 ultrasound, and long overdue eye exams for myself and the three older girls.  Then there are my regular midwife visits (including the glucose test).  I still need to schedule a routine hearing test for Piper (something I do when each kid is in first grade), and then I’m trying to get the van as up-to-date on all of its maintenance as we can afford.  Oh, and I have to go to the DMV and get a new driver’s license made before the current one expires!

5.  Back in September my mother-in-law and I rented a small storage unit in preparation for her moving in with us.  It gave us both a place to get some things out of the way while we re-arranged the house.  This month we completely cleared the unit out.  We both ended up donating some things to Goodwill, and now that things have settled we found some spare storage space in the house for the rest.  After hearing horror stories about people who end up paying for these units for years and years after moving, I was kind of proud of us for getting it cleared out as soon as we did.  And we both appreciate dropping that monthly payment.

6.  Piper (6) is technically in kindergarten, but she’s already over half-way through first grade math.  (We use Singapore Primary Mathematics U.S. Edition.)  This time around I bought the Home Instruction Guide for set 1B.  While I obviously understood how to do first grade math in general, it was nice to know which concepts were meant to just be introductory and which ones were meant to be mastered in preparation for the next level.  Right now we are at a point where Piper needs to have her addition  and subtraction facts to and from 10 pretty much down before we can move on to the next unit in her book.

As I expected, she has the addition ones pretty much down, but she was struggling with her subtraction facts.  It made me think that  I should share the two online math resources that I use most often for extra math practice.  If I just want basic worksheets, I go to math-drills.com.  They have an extensive collection of free printable worksheets about a wide variety of math topics for various grade levels.  For a little more fun, I have the kids play at Fun 4 the Brain.   I especially recommend Cone Crazy for addition or subtraction facts and Minko’s Milkshake Shoppe for multiplication and division facts.

7.  Leila at Little Catholic Bubble has added a new section to her blog called “Little Teachings” .  These are a variety of posts about Catholic teachings that might be of interest to Catholic and non-Catholic friends alike.  She has a great way of explaining things, especially topics that are often misunderstood by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  I’m looking forward to reading through them all myself.

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7 Quick Takes (v. 60): Parental Visit Edition

April 20, 2012

1.  Well, I gave up reading blogs for Lent, so I also didn’t participate in 7 Quick Takes, either.  And on my first eligible week to do so, I was just too busy.  My parents came in from Kentucky for a visit, and no matter how comfortable you are with your company it is always hectic when you have some.

2.  We usually eat out a lot when my parents are in, and I really have become aware of how outrageously large restaurant portions are.  By the last evening of their visit we all just ended up eating leftovers for dinner since we had so many stacking up in the fridge.  The kids and I were still eating leftovers for a day or two after they left.

3.  We went to the Museum of Science and Industry last Friday.  It was the first time we had been there in eight years.  For as close as we live to Chicago, we have rarely gone down there for anything other than sporting events.  It just seems less over-whelming when we have extra eyes and hands to deal with all of the kids.  My husband and I are thinking, though, that we might try to take the kids to more of the museums this summer instead of the zoo.

4.  We debated for awhile between the MSI and the Field Museum.  The Field Museum obviously has Sue, the T-Rex, and other dinosaur bones in its favor, but the MSI seemed like it might have more interactive activities for all of the kids.  We did the 20-minute presentation on the Zephyr train.  We also paid extra to take the U-boat tour. (The presentation was a bit too scary for the 6, 3, and 22-month old, and I had to keep leading them ahead and away of the rest of the tour group).  But all four of them had a blast at the Idea Factory.  (Note to self:  I need to take them back to the DuPage Children’s Museum.)  We obviously did not have the time or energy to hit every exhibit, but we tried to hit the ones we thought that everyone would enjoy the most.

5.  One of the big things the kids look forward to when Memaw and Papaw visit is going swimming at the indoor pool at their hotel.  I dug out my maternity swim bottoms and threw on a t-shirt to cover my belly where my swim top no longer will.  Sabrina (22 months) spent most of the time happily sitting on the steps and splashing away.  Katie (almost 4) spent a lot of time on the steps, too, but I took her around on an inner tube a few times.  I wasn’t sure we were ever going to get Piper (6) out of the pool, but she has always been my little fish.  And Bailey (9) was big enough to walk to the deep end (4ft) without sinking under the water.  It really pumped the older three up for their swim lessons that started the day after Memaw and Papaw left.

6.  My mom and I were able to sneak out for a little while for some girl talk.  We went to the local library, so that I could pick up some books for the kids.  Then we grabbed some chocolate bars and milk from the library cafe and sat down at one of the tables.  My mom and I usually talk for about an hour per week on the phone, but it was nice to do it without the constant distraction of food requests, preschooler potty problems, or sibling bickering in the background.

7.  Normally my parents’ visits coincide with one kid’s birthday.  They were actually not supposed to visit until Sabrina’s 2nd birthday in June.  However, we decided to change the plans when we found out that #5 is on the way.  The next time they come back will be when #5 makes his or her arrival in early August.  Before I head to the hospital I’ll give them a call, and they’ll start making their way up here.  There won’t be any big activity trips or swimming or eating out at restaurants;  that visit will be hectic in a completely different way.  So, it was pretty nice to be able to do all of those things this time.

A Day in the Life….for Now

April 6, 2012

Sometimes when people find out that I have four kids with one on the way and homeschool, they think that I am some sort of super woman or super-organized or something.  The truth is that I am not Super Woman.  In some areas of my life I am very organized, and in others I’m a total mess.  Most of the time I am just surviving by the grace of God.

Just like everyone else, I have ebbs and flows of competency in the main three aspects of my vocation (housework, homeschooling, and childcare).  There are periods (sometimes long ones) when I am so tired from being pregnant, dealing with a newborn, or just the physical/emotional weariness that comes from caring for young children that if the basic school work gets done, we have a few clean clothes and a few clean dishes, and nothing growing on the floors and walls then that is bloody good enough.  Then there are other ,more productive, periods when the house stays relatively clean, we can do more interest-led learning studies, and I even have time to do special activities with the younger kids.

Since Lent began, we’ve developed a pretty good groove.  It helps that I am going through a period of not being especially tired, and my Lenten sacrifices have given me more discipline to do the things I should.  I thought I would share a little window into a day of my life…at least as it is right now.  The following pretty much describes the flow of my week days.

I usually hear Bailey’s alarm go off at 9:00.  Some mornings I continue to lie in bed until 9:15 unless Piper comes in to get me.  (The kids aren’t allowed to go downstairs in the morning until an adult deactivates the home alarm system.)  Then I go to the bathroom and brush my teeth.  I go into the girls’ room, turn off both of the fans, unplug the nightlight, and either pull the curtains back or turn on the light.  Then I remind Bailey to be downstairs by 10:00 and take the other girls on down.

When I get downstairs, I usually turn on the television for Sabrina and both of the computers in the kitchen/office area.  Then I put on my coffee water to boil, supervise Katie to the potty, and get chocolate milk for Piper, Katie, and Sabrina.  While I wait for my tea pot to whistle, I unload the dishwasher and/or switch out laundry.  Then I sit down with my coffee and do my morning devotions (morning prayers from Magnificat magazine and the daily meditation from Amy Welborn’s A Catholic Woman’s Book of Days) and make a list of my chore priorities for the day.

Once I’m done with my prayers and to-do list, I start setting out the girls’ schoolwork and working my way through the priority list.  If some of the chores on it need to be done upstairs then I save those for later in the day.  Once my priority list is mostly done, I go to my daily and weekly chore lists.  At 10:00 (or as close as possible) I kick everyone off the computers and switch the television to the classical music channel.  With the exception of schoolwork, it is screen-free time until at least noon.

Bailey normally has six subjects a day, and I expect her to take about an hour and a half to get through them.  There are several that she can do on her own, and I only need to be around to answer questions.  I usually have her do those first, and then we save things like spelling and anything that is discussion-based (such as history and religion) for last.

While Bailey is working on her assignments, I assist Piper with her kindergarten work, which I plan to only take fifteen to thirty minutes (math or reading lessons).  On a really good day I even have time to sit down and do about fifteen minutes of preschool work with Katie (learning to read and write her uppercase letters).

I know that sounds very organized on paper, but it is usually more like organized chaos.  For an hour and a half, I’m running around like crazy answering this question for Bailey, changing Sabrina’s diaper, getting a snack or puzzle or something for Katie, helping Piper when she is stuck on her reading computer program, switching out laundry, cleaning up a mess, dealing with a tantrum/attitude problem/frustration/arguing, going through my chore lists, making business calls, running upstairs to get dressed, and dealing with other unexpected issues.

Once Bailey is done with her schoolwork, then we have a group chore or lunch followed by group chores.  Usually this is something related to the Fly Ladies weekly Zones.  I have a list of chores for each zone with markings of what each kid is capable of doing to help.  Wiping down walls is a much needed thing that the kids normally enjoy doing.  They would rather scrub walls than the general kitchen/living room clean-up that we do on other days.

I wish I could say that lunch was some family-oriented affair where we all sit around the table eating some meal that I had pre-planned and prepared while discussing educational issues.  I tried that a few times, but it just does not work in my household.  I basically short-order cook for anyone who hasn’t already eaten something in the previous hour, and I throw something in the toaster oven for myself.

Usually by this time, it is past noon and screen-free time is over.  Then I start portioning out the television time and computer time (about 30-60 minutes at a time).  Sometimes the kids will play or watch something together.  At other times the odd person out will go play by herself or with Sabrina or look through books until her turn comes around.  Once everyone has had a fair shot at computer/television time then we take another screen break for a couple of hours.  I’ll freely admit that regulating the kids screen time is something I constantly struggle with, especially during the cold weather.

Other than to balance the checkbook or deal with some other business issue, most days I don’t get on the computer at all until my lunch time.  Sometimes I’ll check Facebook or my e-mail really quickly if I do have to balance the checkbook, but my no-comment-policy for Lent really keeps me from getting sucked in very much.  At lunch, I limit myself to about an hour at most to eat and play on the internet/watch television, then I get back to working on chores until it’s time to put Sabrina down for a nap around 2:00.  Sometimes I lay down with her the whole time.  Sometimes I come down after she’s asleep and take a snack and recreation break.  Sometimes I get back to doing chores.

After that point, though, things are fairly up in the air depending on what else we have going on, if I end up taking the kids outside, or how everyone is feeling.  We usually have dinner around 5:00, and then things get pretty up in the air again depending on who has an outside activity, if we do a family activity, or if we each just chill out doing our own things.  At 9:00 we start with bedtime snacks and getting ready for bed.  I take the older girls up to bed at 10:00 and leave them around 10:30 to read or talk quietly until they fall asleep.  Then I take the younger girls to the family bed with me.

Lest you think that I do everything all by myself, I should be clear that it helps that two of my kids are over the age of five.  They are able to do quite a few things for their selves and their younger sisters (even if they don’t always want to).  At the age of nine, Bailey is really a big help, especially when I need to go upstairs for a nap or shower.  For all of the times we butt heads over schoolwork, my days would really be a lot harder in some ways if she were away at school.

While my husband is not usually around for the majority of our schooling and chore time, he fully trusts and supports my educational efforts with the kids, and he stops to help with minor issues as he’s getting ready to head out the door for work.  In the evenings he is often taking care of some of the kids while I am running errands or taking another kid to a practice or class.  He stays downstairs with the younger two girls (often answering student e-mails or other work issues on the computer) while I put the older ones to bed, and a few nights a week he does the older girls’ routine.

And since October, I’ve also had my mother-in-law living with us.  She works full-time and is gone most of the day.  But there has been many a time when I’ve come back from an errand or appointment or nap to find that the living room or kitchen has been straightened up or the dishwasher loaded/unloaded or laundry switched out.  On her days off she often cooks me and the kids a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, and gravy.  She also lets me borrow her car and watches some of the kids while I go run errands or just have some time to myself.

Like I said, this is a day in my life for now.  Our family is constantly changing as new babies are added, the other children get bigger and each go through their own developmental quirks, or the weather changes.  We just try roll with the punches that life throws at us.

With Lent ending this weekend I will have to determine if/how I am going to re-implement reading and commenting on blogs again without losing sight of my true priorities.  Warm weather is coming, which means adjusting for more trips outside for the kids to play with their friends (cutting into my chore and relaxation time).  And of course, all bets are off once baby #5 arrives in August.  🙂