People often ask me questions such as, "How do you homeschool with a baby and a toddler?" Or "How do you keep up with a home business?" I've even heard comments such as, "You seem so sane!" "You look so calm!" And, my favorite: "You must be very patient!"
Well, my friends, I am here to tell you it's all an illusion. Any semblance of goodness, order, and accomplishment in our family comes as a result not of my feeble efforts, but by God's grace alone.
Take today for example. Here are some snippets of "highlights" from the day.
6:30 a.m. Kenna wakes up. Sigh. She's been waking early and will NOT go back to sleep. If I don't get her up immediately, she wakes Charis and Lucan, who nurses anywhere from 5 - 5:30ish, usually after I get up to pump around 4:30. (Not by choice, I assure you, but when your body tells you it's time to feed, you have to do something!) Since I prefer to feed Lucan again around 8 or 8:30, I most certainly do not want Kenna waking him at this hour.
6:33 I am changing Kenna's wet diaper and telling her that it's still nighttime. It's dark outside, so I hope she will fall for this and go back to sleep. It has happened on rare occasions, but I'm not optimistic that it will work today. Still, a shower is very much in order, since I have been running in the warm, sticky outside air. Besides, I just sat down to do my quiet time and got no further than about 2 verses in Matthew 13.
6:35 I am at the kitchen table doing my quiet time so as to not have the lamp on in the living room, thereby keeping the illusion that "it's nighttime" since Kenna's door is open and overlooks the area where I usually read my Bible in the early mornings.
6:55 If I'm to shower, now's the time...Kenna is still quiet, so I'm hoping she did go back to sleep. A short quiet time is better than none, right?
7:15 Kenna greets me as I open my bedroom door. Apparently Charis unzipped the crib tent so she could get some peace and quiet--I don't blame her. Having just prayed for supernatural patience, I take Kenna's hand and lead her to the kitchen to feed her. She is not a happy Kenna if she is hungry. She opts for oatmeal, so I fix an instant packet for her and we pray and eat. Then she asks for another bowl of oatmeal. This is not unusual--Kenna's MO is to eat 2 1/2 bites of dinner and make up for it by eating 30 pounds of breakfast food the next morning. I prepare another bowl of oatmeal and set it down in front of her, only to have her tell me that she is "full" and "wants cereal." This is probably because she sees me eating cereal. I tell her that she asked for oatmeal, and when she finishes her oatmeal, she may have cereal.
7:35 Kenna is screaming at the top of her lungs that she wants cereal. I am determined not to give it to her, because I hate seeing parents give a child what she wants just to make her stop whining or crying. I will not allow my daughter to "learn" that she can get what she wants eventually if she simply perseveres in a tantrum. I calmly exit the kitchen, deciding that it's better not to give Kenna an audience and figuring it will be easier not to cave in if I'm out of the room.
8:00 Other kids are starting to wake, so we move on with breakfast. I learn that Arden has a sore spot on his foot, and it looks like a splinter, but I can't tell because his foot is dirty. (I thought he showered last night?!) I get a bowl of warm, soapy water for him to soak his foot in while he eats cereal. Kenna, having been distracted for awhile, returns to her seat at the breakfast table, and decides she is starving for oatmeal. She eats it all as if she had not been vehemently resisting it for the better part of an hour. Toddlers!
It's during this time, when the kids are eating breakfast, that I usually like to review our Bible memory verses, the current character quality we're working on, pray, and sometimes listen to CD tracks of the memory verses and geography songs. This week we have 2 new geography songs to learn, so we're trying to review past songs plus listen the the new ones.
So today, in the midst of trying to review verses and listen to songs, Lucan is waking and wanting to be fed. My multi-tasking skills are stretched to the limit here, and I'm thankful that Charis can work the CD player. At one point during breakfast, Lucan is screaming, I'm frantically mixing up his cereal, Arden and Kenna are fighting over the bowl of water because Kenna has decided her foot hurts, too, and she needs to soak it in the water, and a happy voice on the CD is chirping something about Scandanavia. We pause the CD, dry Arden's feet and let Kenna stand in the bowl of water, then resume the music. Not two minutes pass and Arden is screaming--Kenna bit him on the leg. (What in the world?!) We stop the CD again, discuss appropriate ways to use our teeth, pull Kenna out of the water bowl, and continue listening to the CD. In the middle of Greenland Kenna decides she wants cereal, and since she has finally finished her second bowl of oatmeal, I pour her some cereal hoping to buy a few more minutes of peace so I can finish feeding Lucan, who is now yowling because his breakfast has been interrupted.
8:45ish So much for training in godliness at the breakfast table. I am more than ready to move on to our next bit of schooling, which consists of math, language arts, and various notebook/seatwork type activities, with some "fun-velopes" sprinkled in to keep things interesting. (Today's funvelopes include a drawing assignment using an Usborne I Can Draw Animals book, a book about Rosh Hashanah from the library to read as an introduction to Jewish holidays, something I had hoped to cover this year but am already behind on seeing as how the Jewish New Year was last Friday, a coloring assignment in their geography books, and instructions to write a letter to our nursing home friend Mr. Mel from Las Vegas.)
9:00 I go down to the basement to pick some toys for Kenna to play with during room time, then take them and her up to the girls' room. After scouring the room for writing utensils and reviewing with Kenna House Rule #78--no marking on the walls, which she broke yesterday when she found a pencil and proceeded to scribble all over the wall next to her crib--I leave her happily playing in her room and go to get Arden's bedding to wash. It smells faintly of pee, though he hasn't had an accident per se. He is still wearing pull-ups at night because he is rather inconsistent, but despite the pull-ups, we still seem to get pee smell on the sheets and blankets far more often than one would think.
Back downstairs to start laundry and move Lucan to another location, since he is now thoroughly unhappy in his feeding chair. The next hour passes in a blur as I clean up the kitchen, mind the baby, and prepare some envelopes to mail in between helping kids with assignments, checking their work, and offering correction and encouragement as needed.
10:00ish Arden continues reading aloud to me while I change Lucan's poopy diaper, and then I head back upstairs to put Lucan down for his morning nap. He should definitely be ready to sleep now. I open the door to check on Kenna, who also has a poopy diaper. We clean her up, and she announces she wants to come downstairs. I decide that trying to lock her back in her room for more room time is not a good idea with Lucan trying to nap next door, so I supervise the cleaning of the toys and we go back downstairs.
11:00ish Where is the time going?! The kids are working hard on their checklists, and we are making lots of progress. I am proud of them all for doing so well in math--Charis is on the very last lesson of her Gamma book; Arden is wrapping up his Alpha book; and Tobin just has a few more lessons in Beta. I hand out tickets for 100%s for the math practice pages they did--we've been trying a new reward system to encourage good behavior, diligence in schoolwork, and initiative with chores. Charis has a great attitude during her writing assignment and even gets excited about what she ends up typing. Whew--this has often been a struggle, and I am pleased not to have to butt heads with her today in this subject.
11:30 I begin to work on lunch--I've had multiple requests for snacks, so I know the troops are getting hungry. They are wrapping up their morning activities, so I quickly put together grilled cheese sandwiches from our leftover sourdough bread and some tomato soup. Kenna decides she wants to "help" and ends up flinging tomato soup drips all over the stove, then screams when I move the pan to the back burner to begin cooking the soup safely away from her stirring efforts. The phone rings during her fit of rage. Normally I would let it go to voice mail, since technically we are still doing school, but I see that it's someone from Stampin' Up! calling. I answer the phone only to be asked which stamp set I want for free--apparently I get a free stamp set for presenting a Workshop Wow at the Regional Seminar recently! I somehow was never told this, possibly because I was a last-minute fill-in for someone else who cancelled. I ask the lady for 10 minutes, then scramble to look through the catalog while telling Kenna she most certainly may NOT stir the soup anymore and hollering for the other kids to clear off the table so we can eat.
12:00 Somehow the soup and sandwiches are ready, and I am getting the kids to sit down as the phone rings again. I've picked a set from the holiday mini-catalog, and I'm glad to finish the conversation before any chaos erupts again. I move back to the stove after we pray so I can make myself a sandwich and find the monitor showing that Lucan is awake and crying. Sigh. I bring him down and hold him on my lap while eating my 3/4 of a sandwich--we only had 3 half slices of bread left.
12:30 The kids disappear for some free time while I nurse Lucan and feed him cereal.
1:00 Time to start herding Kenna in the direction of naptime. She's poopy again. So we take care of that and I tell her to go pick out her stories. I call for Charis, who has escaped to the craft room in the basement, to come and take her shower since we forgot to have her do it in the morning, telling her that Kenna will be in the room for naptime before long. I send the boys to gather their supplies for AWANA. I'm determined that this week we will not have a mad scramble in the evening to get to church!
1:20 I read Kenna's stories to her and try to enjoy our brief time of cuddling. Our afternoon is ticking away, and the big kids and I still have history, geography, and science reading to do. Kenna informs me she needs to go potty, so we go to the bathroom and wait for her to perform. She asks for M&Ms when she's finished, but I tell her flatly that she no longer gets M&Ms unless she poops in the potty. The news doesn't seem to phase her, thankfully, as I have no energy for any more tantrums.
1:30 Kenna is in bed!!
1:35 Lucan is poopy again.
1:40 We are on the couch, ready to begin Sonlight reading. Lucan is in Charis's lap because she wanted to hold him during reading time. I take a hold of the first book and prepare to read. Lucan begins kicking and screaming.
1:45 Lucan and I go upstairs for his naptime.
1:50 I return to the couch to find Tobin reading a magazine and Arden pretending to stab himself with a toy knife. Charis is waiting dutifully for reading to begin.
1:51 Tobin announces that he needs his glasses and runs upstairs.
1:52 Tobin is back on the couch.
1:53 Tobin needs to use the bathroom.
1:55 Arden needs to use the bathroom.
1:58 I wonder why the older children can't use the bathroom during the times I am dealing with the little ones.
2:00 We finally start working our way through the pile of books on the couch. Brief arguing over who gets to sit by Mom ends when Arden decides to sit on my lap. Ooof.
2:40 We are finished with Sonlight reading.
2:45 I apparently fall asleep on the couch.
3:00 I wake up to hear the boys play fighting loudly (Star Wars, you know) and send them to the basement so they don't wake up the napping kiddos.
There you have it, my friends, a typical school day with our family. Five poopy diapers, numerous sibling spats, more trips up and down stairs than I can count, and lots more little incidents and interruptions than I can possibly remember. Would I trade all this for the "peace and quiet" I could get if I sent my children to school? Definitely not. Our school schedule may leave some things to be desired, but I know we're following God's direction for our family. The privilege of shepherding my children's hearts as I keep them here at home far outweighs the temporal cravings for "me time" that I admit creep up in my heart on occasion. I can let myself get discouraged and frustrated by the interruptions and the messes, or I can embrace the opportunity to let the Spirit bear fruit in me so I can be a godly example for my kids. How can I teach them about self-control if I lose my temper over spilled milk? How can I teach them to be patient if I respond impatiently to a toddler's demands? How can I teach them to persevere in doing good if I act like I want to quit when things get tough?
No, today has not been an ideal day, but I want to hold onto the good things and believe that He who has begun a good work in me--AND in my children--is being faithful to carry it on to completion. Someday we'll stand before Him in heaven, and I can't wait to see Him smile at each of us and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
Now, if you'll excuse me, I just remembered that I have laundry that needs attending to...