Is It October 12th Yet?

Yesterday one of the first grade teachers was absent. Since they don’t schedule substitues, the teacher gave us a list of assignments to complete. There was a few activities for math, a reading and writing activity, word study activity, plus their special and their intervention services. I have to say, it was the best day we’ve had BY FAR. There were smiles, hugs, cuddles, and no whining. No tantrums. No heartbreaking looks from my babies. See, there is one child who is most against virtual learning. Learning in general, but virtual learning is especially tortuous for him. Brody has said all along that he’d rather be homeschooled by me than do virtual learning. Funny, because he gave me the most problems back in the spring. But he was so happy yesterday and finished all his work by 10am, and that was taking our time and taking breaks. He did an amazing job and we all had a great day.

This morning when he woke up, Brody asked me if his teacher was absent again. I told him that she’d be back, so he’d go back to virtual learning. He was so upset and asked if I could just teach him like we did yesterday. Unfortunately, I don’t have the assignments and that’s just not how it works I told him. The school says we have to do it this way. Needless to say, today has been rough. Brody has been pouting, refusing to work, throwing things, turning off his sound, and just generally not listening to his teacher today. I gave him a bit of leeway on his behavior chart (I can post about that later or tomorrow) but I ended up having to move the clothespin to “Make Better Choices” because he just kept carrying on and then started to be disrespectful towards me.

Still, it breaks my heart. I keep telling him, “I know, buddy. I know this is hard but you can do it. I had fun yesterday too, but this is how we are learning today.” And I hate doing that.

Our district is moving to hybrid on October 12th, which can’t come soon enough. Seeing my kids over the moon happy at their sports practices, interacting in person with their teammates, is all the proof I need that they need to be around their friends. They need to be in class, and I really hope, though I’m not terribly optimistic, that we will get to full-time in school this school year. Anything less is just not enough. And if that’s the case, I am seriously considering pulling them and teaching them on my own until we do get back full time. Trying to give it a chance, but bottom line is this is too much screen time and it just plain isn’t working.

It’s a Good Thing

I wanted to share a neat thing I found that really helps us stay organized for virtual learning. With five children all home, space is at a premium. And with each kid needing a pile of stuff including workbooks, journals, pencils, dry erase materials, etc. there’s a lot of STUFF. So I went on Amazon and searched up “homework caddy” but really wasn’t finding anything that would hold the workbooks well. On the internet, I zeroed in on a picture of a caddy that seemed perfect, and it turned out it was! I ordered these caddies from http://www.discountschoolsupply.com and I was so excited when I opened the boxes. They are made of heavy duty plastic that even withstood being knocked off the table.

Each kid has their own, and it has a handle so they can move it to whichever work table they were going to be at that day. The taller compartment holds their workbooks, journals, papers and their white boards. They can also hang their headphones over the side. On the other side are 3 smaller compartments that hold their dry erasers and markers, pencils and erasers, file cards and blue light glasses. I just taped the notecard with their name on it and it’s perfect!! The only complaint is that it’s heavy for them, but really it just moves to a table and stays there for the duration of the school day, so that’s not a big deal. Now, their stuff stays in one spot, and is not getting all mixed up together all over the table.

My nerdy self really goes crazy over sweet organization, and I was over the moon happy after I had set these up. Made my day!

Side tip: I bought each kid their own color pencils, and they use them for school only. You have no idea how fast they lose pencils around here, and this way, there is no fighting over pencils!!

I also shut the door to the school room after the school day and they are not allowed back in. It’s amazing how fast they can trash a place! This way the room is all set for the next morning. We’re lucky to have this space!

Feel free to comment and share anything that’s made your life easier during virtual learning!

Little Things

So I’m not a morning person. Never have been. Ask my mom. And these days of Covid and virtual learning, it’s even harder to get out of bed, and you can forget bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!

This morning, though, Brian was already out of the house so I was flying solo, trying to have my smoothie and scroll through my phone in peace before “school” started. But Brody said the dreaded words. “Mom, will you play a game with me?” I racked my brain for a good reason not to, but I had nothing. So he ran off and came back with Trouble, and we played with Deacon.

It seemed to take FOREVER. I don’t mind the game, but inevitably someone gets upset they are losing, someone tries to cheat, someone skips someone’s turn…makes for a less enjoyable game. But we finished, and we cleaned it up.

I went in to the kitchen to make coffee, because…coffee. Deacon came in, hugged me, and said, “mom, you’re the best mom ever because you played a game with us.” And just walked away, not seeing the tears in his mom’s eyes. It’s the little things, isn’t it? They matter so much.

I’m trying to keep this in mind. I’m having a hard time with virtual learning, but so are my kids. Finding these little moments and focusing on the happiness they bring is so important! It doesn’t take much to make someone smile, and we all need to remember that, especially when things are tough.

Expectations vs. Reality of Virtual Learning

So this virtual schooling has surprised me.  In the spring, and in summer (yes, I made my kids do summer school!) there was more independent work.  Teachers posted video lessons, and then there were assignments to complete.  I was guiding my kids through their list of tasks each day.  They had projects, worksheets I printed to complete, practice using apps and websites, youtube videos, online stories, indendent reading.  And when the kids had trouble paying attention to a 15-20 minute video lesson, I taught them myself.  The kids didn’t want to learn from me though, and some days were downright ugly.  I knew it wasn’t working, but everyone was just suddenly thrust into it with no preparation.  The circumstances sucked, and I hate to say it, but the outcome sucked too.

Now, they are on Google Meets for almost the entire time.  8:30am until 1pm.  There are some breaks built in, thank goodness, but otherwise the kids are expected to sit at a desk or table in front of their Chromebook.  They listen to their teacher present for most of that time, and they also have one or two specials each day.  We have gone to the polar opposite of spring virtual learning it feels like.  After spring, many parents were asking for more live instruction.  Now, we have ALL live instruction.  It’s too much.  There’s no balance.  There’s definitely pieces missing.  It’s not what I was expecting.

I will give you some (ok just one) positives though because I really feel like a Debby Downer lately.  So for me, I am able to get more done around the house.  Whereas before, I was actively engaged in moving my children from activity to activity throughout the school morning, now they are pretty independent at navigating themselves between their classes and taking their breaktimes.  Which has left me more time to be able to fold laundry and (gasp) actually put it away, to vacuum (ok start the iRobot) and mop the kitchen floor and also just walk around with my coffee mug and supervise.

I’ve been moved to a more managerial position, which is kinda nice.  However – and here’s where I get negative again – with elementary-aged children, being a manager involves encouraging them to keep going when they are just DONE being on the computer, giving them hugs when they feel too sad to continue, making them go back to their computer when they just walk off because their brains hurt, and smiling back at them when they look at me with sad puppy dog faces.

Each of my tasks breaks my heart a little bit more.  I feel like I have to work overtime after school is over to build them back up again.  To take away their sadness and depression, and replace it with smiles and happiness.

And then the next morning comes, and poor little Deacon asks, “We have to do those meetings again?”  “Yes, honey, that’s school now.” And then I die a little inside when his face crumbles and his eyes fill with tears.

Reflections on the first day of virtual learning

My heart is breaking. I’m watching my kids, each on their own chromebooks with their headphones on, completely miserable in front of a screen. I want to cry for them. I’m trying to be positive and set the tone for them, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to put a smile on my face. This is the first day of school, and there’s little excitement. There’s no “I can’t wait to see my teacher!” “I can’t wait to make new friends!”

You can just tell from these faces. There are two out of five smiling. And these two are my generally happy, look on the bright side kids. But even now, not quite one hour into the day, I’m hearing sighs from that classroom as they shift positions.

This is just sucking the life out of them, like it’s doing for me. School should be exciting and engaging. My kids should complain about getting up and ready for school, but then be so happy to get on the bus, and go see their teachers and their friends. They should be having snack and lunch with their friends, and running around on the playground at recess. They should be actually moving for gym class. They should be painting in art class. They should be playing instruments in music class. They should actually be using pencils and paper for f%$@’s sake. This is hard to watch.

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The teachers really are trying. I feel bad for them.  This is Brody’s self portrait he shared with his class today.  That’s him holding his Chromebook with a big frowny face.  He said he feels sad.  Easton told his teacher he feels mad and sad.  I overheard another student saying they were bored.  It really is just so disheartening as a parent to hear these answers, as it must be for teachers too.

All I can say is that I hope this gets better.  And I hope we do go back to hybrid October 12th.  Also not ideal, but definitely a step in the right direction.

Sorry I meant to post this last night, but I was busy downing glasses of wine.

On the eve of the new school year…

I have so many thoughts going through my head.  And very few of them don’t involve curse words.  I’m not happy that we are starting (and most likely continuing) the school year virtually.  I don’t believe it’s in the best interest of the students, even given the COVID-19 climate that we are living in.  But I don’t want to dwell on my anger, disappointment and despair, and the disservice done to children who want to be in school.

Right now I’m trying to focus on preparing.  Physically and mentally.  Which is difficult, considering what little we have to work with.  The kids are good to go with their text books, new pencils and erasers.  They have their chromebooks and headphones.  I have yet to properly organize them, hesitating to purchase any organizers until I see how this is gonna go.  I have a schedule for one of my children, which is great, though it does increase my fear of them staring at a screen for 4 1/2 hours a day.  I did purchase blue light glasses for each kid, but who knows if they work, and how much the kids will actually want to wear them.  For you people out there like me, you want to know what this is going to look like.  You want to have your color-coded schedule typed out and posted, looking ever so pretty and organized, and you want that schedule to be set in stone.  You want to be able to know what your week will look like.  You want to attempt to memorize who will be in which class at what time, even though you will probably fail at that with 5 children.  You want to be able to figure out when YOUR time will fit into this schedule.  When you will be able to get in your Beachbody workout, or {dare I be so greedy} a run or walk with a friend.  Because you’ll need that.  You’ll need to walk off your frustrations and vent them to your friend.  You’ll need to bounce ideas off eachother and brainstorm better ways to make this work.

But I don’t have that at this point.  I don’t know what in the hell these days are going to look like.  I hope that after the first day of school, I’ll have all of that information, but who knows.  I hope we’ll figure out a good routine for after 1pm, when school officially ends.  Lunch first, of course, and then maybe some social time.  Maybe some video game or tv show time and then meeting up with friends.  Because they desperately need that time with friends.

Obviously, I’m all over the place and my head is spinning with overwhelm at what this will all look like and how this all will go.  I feel like we’re about to step off a cliff.  But here’s hoping…(raising my glass of wine because there’s gonna be A LOT of that in the coming months!)

We can’t catch a break around here!!

We got a cold at the end of our Disney trip, and were sick around Thanksgiving. Brian got the flu and most of the kids had colds for Christmas, which dragged on through New Year’s. Last week, 3 of the kids got a stomach bug. (Shockingly, not on a holiday!) Then this weekend, 5 of my family members had a stomach bug for Super Bowl Sunday. (Technically not a holiday, but we’ll go with it.)

The 4 sick kids…the biggest kid was camera shy

Easton at lax practice – luckily he didn’t get it either!

I must have a good immune system because all I got was the first cold. But that leaves me as caregiver to all the sick people. And a stomach bug is no joke to clean up after. Rugs, sheets, blankets, mattresses, pillows, clothes, floors, doors, toilets, furniture, bodies. You name it, I’ve cleaned and sanitized it. Good times!!

I really, really need a vacation like ASAP, but I’ll settle for the next month to be illness-free. Fingers crossed!

Here’s my top 10 tips for when the stomach bug hits:

10. Everyone gets a bucket and their own water bottle.

9. Girls hair stays tied back at all times.

8. Toilets remain open with the seat up.

7. Bleach spray, paper towels and garbage bags at the ready.

6. Resolve upholstery and carpet cleaner and a srub brush close at hand.

5. Sickies stay on the couch and don’t touch anything.

4. Stock up on bread, plain waffles and crackers.

3. Even when you think they are better, do not attempt regular foods.

2. If you hear a cough, sprint towards the sound, yelling “Get to the toilet!”

  1. Keep wine on hand for you.

My Super Bowl Sunday snack

All learned the hard way. You’re welcome.

Still here…

Ok, it’s been forever since I’ve posted, I know. I’ve felt guilty about that during my whole hiatus. Enough to write about 15 drafts and never hit “publish”.

I’ve been in a place. I’ve been grieving the loss of my father, going through things on the homefront, going through things personally…pretty much just trying to catch my breath for months and months. Bouncing from one commitment to the next, one project to the next, one unexpected illness to the next, one drama to the next. Every time I think, “ok i just need like two weeks where I don’t get slapped in the face,” here comes another load of crap to deal with. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME????” I’d be on a month-long well-deserved vacation at Atlantis right now.

So, basically, it’s been chaos and craziness, but we are all still here…plugging away. Working for better days ahead.

The kids, however, are mostly untouched by all the behind-the-scenes drama. All they know is they get to see their friends at school every day and at sports every week, they got to go to Disney World for the first time and are just living their best lives. Even a stomach bug can’t bring them down for too long (which we are currently on our 4th case of).

And I guess that’s parenthood right there: making sure the kids are ok.

Here’s some highlights…

School Pictures – Fall ’19

Brody – K Deacon – K Easton – 2 Emerson – K Hayden – K

Disney World – November ’19

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We absolutely loved Galaxy’s Edge!!

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The six cousins

My little Jedi’s got to train and then fight Darth Vader!

Honestly, I don’t know how we’ll ever top that trip, but I guess we’ll try 😉

Christmas Morning

New Year’s Eve

Easton’s 1st Pinewood Derby

Basketball for the Quads

Just relaxing

Until next time…

KonMari-ing the Husband

I keep forgetting to post updates, but I finally took an afternoon to get through Brian’s things and it’s mostly done!

I didn’t actually make him hold everything and decide if it sparked joy, but it’s done and the veterans are getting another 4 lawn and leaf bags!

There’s obviously still some work to be done, but it’s like a decluttering snowball… I’m in the zone, just wishing I had more time to work!

Konmari (kind of): Clothing

Ok so I scheduled a babysitter for the afternoon today now that our California Closet is complete and the master floors are in!

After reading The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I was dying to get going!

I’m realistic about the amount of clothing I own, so I really thought I’d get to tops only today. Maybe start bottoms. However, once I got going, I flew through almost all of it!

To set the stage, I wore comfy clothes and running shoes, instead of finery like Marie does. I also opted for the 90s music channel instead of silence or classical music. I’m not ashamed to say Wilson Phillips gets me going!

So I bopped, sang and rapped my way through maybe 3 1/2 hours of sorting, purging and organizing. I kept things that made me happy, that I wear. Not the things that I’ve held on to “just in case” or because someone gave it to me as a gift. Let’s face it, I have my favorites, my go-to pieces, and I tend to ignore all else.

The end result was 5 lawn and leaf bags chock full for poor Brian to lug downstairs so I can donate them. I’m left with only things that make me happy and that I’ll actually wear.

I love my closet!

The one section of hanging space was unfortunately too short for my tops to hang, so I’ll have to ask California Closets to come raise that shelf for me, but otherwise I must have purged the magic number because everything has a place. I can tell at a glance everything I own! And I don’t have any off- season clothes stored away! The only clothes I have elsewhere are my fancy dresses in the basement closet. I’m ok with that!

I even Konmari folded the clothes in my drawers!

Brian’s first statement was “yeah that’ll be like that for a day.” But I’m like, “no way! Do you understand how happy this makes me?”

I can’t wait to cart out the bags of donations and the empty bins and start on the next category: books!