Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Unexpected Day of Rest

I am currently relaxing in a clean house while my children play or nap quietly in their room.  It is Wednesday afternoon. Snow day, you ask? Nope. It’s a balmy 60 degrees outside. In fact, I have a date with two boys to jump on the trampoline sans baby. The phone call I received at 6 a.m. (when I should have been in the shower but was instead indulging in a third snooze period--oh happy day!) claimed we were out today due to a lack of electricity, but I know better. No, we’re out today because of the Biblical promise I have been clinging to this year that the Lord will not give me more than I can handle. 

He must think I can handle a lot. And, being omniscient and all, I really can’t argue with him, but WOW! I’ve been teaching 11 years now, and this is the hardest year of my career. Largest class ever. Largest ratio of class clowns to followers. High number of so-smart-I’m-bored kids, but just enough struggling-enough-that-I-need-you-to-slow-down kiddos sprinkled in to really challenge my pacing and differentiating skills. Throw in major technology problems, new curriculum writing requirements, new state standards (well, federal standards basically forced on the states, but I won’t get into politics...), one son having a rough year himself, and another entering the terrible twos with a vengeance, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a lot to handle. 

I’m sure last week has tainted my view of things. I was sick enough to be miserable, but not enough to go to the trouble of missing work. Max was about the same. I had kids missing school left and right, requiring gathering and explaining of make up work. All week, I basically whined and felt sorry for myself like I’m doing right now in this post. 

But a day of rest on Sunday had me rejuvenated for a new week. (I’m finding there’s a reason God COMMANDS that, though it SO goes against my nature to follow that command...) I gave myself a pep talk. Third quarter of the year always drags, but the 100th day of school has come and gone, so we’re already part way down the downhill slope. I’ve had a few tricks actually work to calm my crazy class. I will survive. And I will also use some of my personal days for “mental health days.” I didn’t want to waste one on a sick day last week. I couldn’t find a suitable day to leave for a sub this week (I’m fully aware that my control-freak tendencies are a large part of my problem. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving it. I’m still at step one.) But I had assured myself I would work in an easy day next week and take a day to get caught up and have a little me time. Hehehehehe, but look how today turned out! 

I have accomplished more in the last six hours than I do in a typical weekend AND I’ve been able to enjoy my boys, too. I’ve been using my sister’s “job strips” trick to keep me on task. I still have the rest of the day! And I will go back to only two days with my beloved little yayhoos tomorrow followed by a duty-light weekend with my truly beloveds. And summer is only 68 school days away. Life is good. God is great!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Creative Mopping Skills

This is my bathroom right now. 

Oh yes. 

And, why, you might ask, does it look like a bad episode of Hoarders up in here? Well, we’re really not sure. The whole time I was frantically trying to sop up water, I was no-no-ing Max, who took the fall when I asked who turned the water on. After all, he was the one who frantically ran to me saying, “Water comin’!” The music was up loud and I was in major cleaning mode (making up for a week and a half of being in major busy and/or lazy mode) so I just assured him that it was the washing machine and started to go about my business. Until he ran into the bathroom and I saw the sheet of water cascading onto the already-puddled floor. The lid was off of the Vaseline, which every forensic investigator knows will incriminate the almost-two year old.  So I asked him if he was responsible for the mess. He said yes. I launched into a lecture, told big bros to stop laughing and get me some towels, and proceeded to survey the damage. Brilliance struck and I revised my request to one for dirty laundry. Plenty of that around here tonight! You woulda thought I invented a new game. Who knew it could be so fun to drag dirty clothes out of the hamper and throw it in puddles? Underwear got an extra big laugh. And pants legs that accidentally got thrown in the toilet. Mama wasn’t laughing. Not at the water seeping behind the still-not nailed in baseboards (let’s pretend the bathroom redo was a recent affair, shall we?) Not at the the water caught in the trashcan mostly full of shaving clippings and Q-tips. And certainly not at the puddles that had made their way into three drawers, including the uber messy random make-up products collection. 

Fast forward through the cleanup, the constant squalling by kids hyped up on dirty-undie humor and a lack of adult supervision, three time-outs (all served by one offender), a broken baseboard (they don’t make great slipper slides, ftr), mom’s demon-possessed voice sending one to bed an hour and a half early and another to somewhere where I “don’t see or hear you the rest of the night,” and we arrive to the scene of my epiphany. Max had wandered into the bathroom (against his better judgement - he still hasn’t learned to read moods...) and stood by the sink. Something clicked. “Max? Can you show Mommy how you turned on the water?” I asked. “Ok...UHHH!.... UHHH!.... I can’t reachit, Mommy.” Yes, I see... So I called in the other suspects. One immediately shook his head no. The other sucked quietly on  his jammies, then submitted, “Well, I did turn the water on, but I think  I turned it off...” 

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Bedtime Routine + a "Pribilege" = Genius

 I knew I married Ryan for a reason. Our teamwork is amazing. The other night I added a new toy-picking up trick to our arsenal. Then Ryan created the ultimate getting-ready-for-bed incentive. The trick was to pick out six magnets, one for each room they have to clean. They choose one magnet, clean that room, then return to make their next choice. When they’ve tackled three rooms, they’re done.  Daddy’s  incentive was that the bedtime routine was to be a contest. They had to clean their three rooms, take their shower, put on their jammies, and have us brush their teeth. The winner got to have their daily Nintendo DS turn first. What a difference a contest makes. Here’s the break down:

Typical night:

7:00 Begin the circus. Yell a lot. Spank a little. Threaten more.
8:00 (on a good night) Read stories, kiss, allow a few minutes of reading time.
8:30 Lights out. Mischievousness. Tattles. Moves to top bunk. Spankins. “If I have to come in there one more time…” threats.
9:00 (maybe) Boys finally give it up

Contest night:

7:00 Start the contest. Boys run around like maniacs
7:06 Routine finished. (Well, all but story time, but seriously!)

Seriously. I even sniff-checked hair to make sure it was washed. I can confirm that it at least touched shampoo. Good enough for me!

The next night we got similar results. 6:57 to 7:05, baby! We bragged on the boys hard-core, then daddy came up with a new privilege to reward them for their great job. Any night they were ready for bed by 8:00, they could have bonus play time in their room  until 8:30. He said, “BONUS PLAY TIME” in an excited voice and was rewarded with squeals and jumping up and down. We didn’t mention that they usually are still reading and playing until 8:30 and 9 anyway.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


We started tackling our Christmas (and, I’ll admit, Reed’s birthday) thank you cards this week. I was sort of dreading it until a moment of brilliance struck. I gathered supplies, broke the task into small manageable bits, and motivated with enthusiasm. Plus, I bribed the pants off ‘em! But it worked. We have only three thank-yous left to go and the whole process has been painless - and maybe even fun. Here’s how we did it.

  • Write all gift givers on a slip of paper and stick in a cup. Each boy draws a name.
  • Each boy writes to all three of the names drawn. 
  • Actual cards are only used for Mommy and Daddy’s thank-yous. The boys have their own sheet of card-sized blank paper. That way, they don’t have to take turns, Calvin doesn’t write his huge name on top of Reed’s, and Max can scribble wherever he wants to. (Learned that the hard way last year)
  • When they finish, they get a piece of candy.
  • Set timer for 30 minutes after last card-writer finishes and repeat when the timer dings. 
  • Continue on the next day if necessary.

Each boy did something slightly different. First, I would remind them what they got from each person (we have a notebook listing gifts/givers that dates back to my bridal showers). This was even fun, as the kids relived and remembered forgotten toys--almost like they were opening them again. Then they would draw a picture of the toy. Reed would add his own note “Thank you for the pulese set.” Calvin would dictate to me (favs below), and I would ask Max if he wanted to say thank you to whoever. I wrote what the two littles said verbatim. Cracked me up! Max’s mostly said, “Cank you Grandma Grandpa,” or whoever, but he must’ve been listening to Calvin, because his last thank you was, “Cank you Mih Pam...uh heh uh (he does this cute grunting thing when he’s trying to think of a word) heh...Chri-mas...uh heh...Cank you Mih Pam...Cank you Mih Pam...Cank you Mih Pam.” I guess he really liked the dump truck from Mrs. Pam! 

We’ve had three sessions and they’ve all been great. I did have to give Max his bribe early once. Probably not the best idea. Mimi and Papa will be getting a thank you that is more sticky “Tarburs” juice than drawing. Oh well. The boys have been cheery and grateful (sorta the whole point, right?) instead of whiny and in a hurry.  Reed, my meticulous one who had to thank for a birthday and a Christmas gift from most of the people, took for-e-ver, but didn’t seem to mind a bit. Calvin even begged to do a bonus fourth card once. And he got more and more charismatic with each thank you. Here are my two favorite:

“Thank you for the toy, Miss Pam. I love you very much. Have safe travels.”

“Thank you, Brother Micah, for the two dollar bill. I love you very much. Have a good church when it’s a church day. It’s good that you preach to a lot of not-Christians to be Christians.” 

I was seriously thinking about taking pics of the kids playing with their toys and e-mailing thank yous this year, but dial up internet stopped me. I guarantee I won’t ever say this again, but I’m glad we have obsolete technology! (Though I make no promises for Christmas 2014 thank yous...) My only problem now is getting the fifth member of our family to add his notes. Somehow, I don’t think a box of markers, mysterious slips of paper, and Starburst are going to cut it.