Whelp, we limped across the virtual schooling finish line, not with a bang but a whimper. No rocking out to Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out for Summer” in the carpool line as is our tradition, but rather a heavy sigh that this chapter is hopefully, maybe, possibly, better-be-or-my-liver-can’t-handle-it closed. My two youngest kids have not been in the classroom since March 13th of 2020, and while they made virtual school work and received excellent grades, I think we can all agree that no one wants to experience a repeat of this academic year. It’s weird to think that a few years from now, some doctoral candidate will publish a study on just how this pandemic turned a generation of learning on its head.
Now that 80 percent of our household is vaccinated, life is returning damn-near normal. After school concluded, I called my friend who is also a travel agent and had her throw together a quick, impromptu vacation for us. We ended up in Jamaica! This was our first family trip outside of the states, and it was both fun and educational. I learned so much along the way, while also realizing how much I need to learn.
We swam with dolphins and went snorkeling, tubing, and deep sea fishing. After all of the missed milestone celebrations last year, this trip was a blessing and the perfect summer vacation for the family. The voyage back to Louisiana had its hiccups, but after the past year, well, perspective has become something we strive to maintain.
While we still have a lot more summer to go, it’s difficult not to think ahead of how much our days will change when the Heathens are back in the classroom this fall. We will be back to carpool lines, school lunches, routines, and socializing, but I’m not naïve enough to believe that we will all make the transition seamlessly. I’m mentally preparing myself for how tired they will be resuming full schedules and being more active. Also, Bean’s virtual learning only took up about 4 hours of the day, so she is used to large sections of free time between lessons. Will they be ostracized from their old friends and peers after being home for the year? We shall see, I suppose.
Meanwhile, I’ll be over here canning and counting down the days.
PSA–pssssst. The Halloween décor is hitting the shelves at places like At Home. If you know, you know.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of milestones, big decisions, and long discussions about what the future holds.
But first and foremost, G-Man graduated Magna Cum Laude for high school! I cannot believe that he is no longer my fussy, difficult, colicky baby, or my sweet little boy building train tracks across the living room floor. Though he missed out on all of the trappings and traditions of senior year, he did not let disappointment ruin his outlook on his accomplishments. He will be moving into his dorm in a few short weeks, and I confess that the reality of that fact weighs heavy on me. I know every parent deals with the sense of loss that comes from realizing your day-to-day family life will never be quite the same, but I also know he is close enough to come home when he wants. I’ll bribe him with home cooking if I have to. I draw the line at laundry, though, that’s all on him.
Though we are letting G-Man head off to campus with some trepidation (assuming the ‘Rona doesn’t keep f&%king everything up), we made the difficult decision to keep Bear and Bean home this quarter and utilize the virtual learning option. Though the schools in our area are going to do their best, we just don’t feel comfortable putting them in close quarters right now (Bean would still have 25 students in a classroom). Yeah, I know, “kids are resilient, blah, blah, blah.” It’s not just about the kids, but everyone else in our bubble, like me with severe asthma, our elderly neighbor who we check on, our neighbors who are essential workers, and more. We will re-evaluate after the first quarter, but for now, I get to dive back into the hell otherwise known as homeschooling. Some people are talented, passionate, incredible homeschoolers. I envy them deeply, as I am impatient, lazy, and not teacher-material whatsoever. All the margaritas in the world can’t fix that fact.
Meanwhile, I had my worst allergic reaction yet, and it landed me back in the hospital. I am going to write a post about that at a later date, because it was the first time I had to use my EpiPen, and my fear and second-guessing myself almost killed me. The only bright side of that event is that I will not hesitate next time.
If all of this was not stressful enough, Husband made the very difficult decision to leave his position at a company he has been with for nearly 20 years. It’s the right call, for many reasons, but mostly, he needs to focus on finding life balance and reclaiming his health. I have no idea what the future holds, and what other changes await, but it will be good to take a breath at a time when life just keeps getting more insane. 2020 needs to just cut the crap already, don’t ya think?
In the midst of all of this chaos, I am getting back to some basics, which I’ll be sharing soon. But in the meantime, if you are still feeling like 2020 needs be junk-punched, I suggest surfing the web for Halloween inspiration. If you say it’s too soon, I don’t think we can be friends right now. Zombie gnomes make everything better.
It’s been a hot minute since I last posted, because we have been trying to enjoy this unusual summer as best we can. I tell ya, if ever there was a time to build a pool, or for my sister to build a lake house, we clearly picked the right time. Since they have been finished, both have been been a life-saver as far as family entertainment. Now, I can’t say I’m loving the treadmill in my living room (purchased once we realized going to the gym won’t happen for many more months), but it will move to G-Mans room when he leaves for college. Mostly, our days have been meanderingly unstructured.
Bean finally celebrated her First Communion, and has been plowing through a collection of Baby-Sitters’ Club books, with an occasional Nancy Drew thrown in. Meanwhile, Bear has been baking cheesecakes, and G-Man and his girlfriend eagerly plan for the start of college.
On their most recent visit to campus, they brought back a ton of peaches for me, so I canned Bourbon Peach Jam and Peach Jalapeno preserves. I really wish I could go to the local farmer’s market, but I’m not willing to risk the crowds. Since we did not get our garden built in time, it will be a while before I’m back to salsa and candied jalapenos.
We have also been cooking up a storm, while trying to support our local restaurants. It’s been incredibly depressing to see so many established, family-run restaurants close their doors permanently.
Overall, however, it’s been an uneasy countdown to fall, and wondering what school is going to look like for all of my kids. Will they go back? Will it last? Is it safe? Bean hated online learning, and right now, her school is giving us the option to go back full time or stay home for online class. Bear’s school offered an option to go back 2 days a week, with the others being at home, or all at home. It was easy to decide for Bear to stay home. He’s pretty much self-sufficient and adapted well to at-home learning. But I feel like, if this spring was any indication, Bean will not get much out of it. But, do we really take the chance of sending her? Don’t even get me started on the anxiety of sending G-Man to college. I know parents everywhere are facing these decisions, and I feel like there is no right answer. However, whatever it is, it will be an adjustment to return to days of structure. With so many big changes on the horizon, maybe these lazy days are what we need to prepare for what’s ahead.
The oldest Heathens are back in school (woo hoo!), and we are still adjusting to early wake-ups and the time-sucking waste otherwise known as the carpool line. However, the fact that the boys are engaged in something other than 12 straight hours of arguing with each other is oh-so-wonderful for a summer-weary mom. I’m glad to see the last of the not-so-fun summer, but I have to admit, we did have some fun times.
So yeah, we did have some good times, and it’s always nice to remind yourself to count your blessings and focus on the positive. For example, carpool gives me time to read because Bean is restrained in her car seat, and therefore unable to terrorize local villagers.
It’s our last week of summer, and while the Heathens are in mourning, I’m trying not to let my abject glee become a little too obvious. Meanwhile, I’ve been knitting (including this cute dishtowel), unpacking books, avoiding the scale, eating too much, and generally trying to keep the peace among three kids who clearly don’t have enough to do. While I’m not looking forward to carpool lines and school projects, I think a break from the endless cries of, “He’s touching meeeeeee!” will be a welcome change. I completed the hell that is otherwise known as school supply shopping, so now I begin the process of acclimating my children back onto a reasonable sleep schedule. I still need to plan for some fun activities to ease the sting of this final week, but overall, I am ready to put this summer behind us. While it wasn’t as bad as last summer, it still kind of sucked big time.
Despite my vow to avoid G-Man’s social studies project like the plague, I did agree to accompany the guys to a local historic cemetery yesterday (which is quite literally crumbling) and take the pictures he needed for his project. What seemed like a boring errand turned into a fascinating little field trip. I don’t know if they were engaged by the mysterious creepy factor, or all the elaborate monuments, but the Heathens really got into exploring and reading…that is reading what was still legible. We even saw a crypt that had degraded so much, the metal coffin from the 1800s peeked through. Talk about eeking some kids out!
Despite the semi-scary atmosphere, I got 45 full minutes of kids that were reading, exploring and learning a little something about local history, rather than playing/discussing/obsessing about video games. When boredom hits this summer, I now have another outside-the-box idea to get them up, out of the house and exercising both their bodies and their little brain cells.
We’ll just avoid that whole coffin thing; there’s only so much ick-factor I can handle, and three guys sharing a bathroom already fulfills my limit.
I will eventually post my homemade Christmas gift round-up, but we still have family to see in the next couple of weeks, and I can’t spoil the surprises yet. In the meantime, I am engaged in a Mexican standoff with my husband and G-Man, and it will be interesting to see who prevails. To understand the meaning behind our good-natured feud, you first have to understand a little something about G-Man.
G-Man is an exceptionally smart kid, so much so that he almost has it too easy in life. 99% of the time, G-Man brings home no homework, because he finishes it all in class. On the very rare occasion he does have homework, he has the assignment completed in 10 minutes or less. This may sound like heaven for a frazzled mom, because I never have to micromanage him. I can’t remember the last time I even checked his assignments. He just excels, without any help from me.
However, G-Man’s life of ease creates an unfortunate side effect; anytime he has to expend more than 10 minutes of effort, such as on a book report or science project, he transforms into a stubborn, mouthy, bull-headed, teary, long-suffering victim who is just oh so put-upon! To end his torture, he will rush through projects with sloppy effort, and then dissolve into a tantrum when I make him go back and do it better.
Before you think it’s just a G-Man problem, I have a confession to make. As a pseudo-OCD person who tends to be more than a little Type-A, working on a school project with me is probably a lot like a scene from The Great Santini. I want to done, I want it done right the first time, and I expect a good grade on it. End of discussion. As a result, I turn into a harpy, helicopter parent who gives way too much direction, and G-Man and I end up waging war at the dinner table. It doesn’t help matters that so many of his peers’ projects have clearly too much parental involvement, and I fear that if I don’t direct G-Man, his efforts will be compared to those of an impressive project (one we all know deep down no 5th grade child could have done), and found lacking. I am always struggling with trying to find the balance between helping him and doing too much for him. I’ve grown to hate school projects with the fire of a thousand suns.
So, this equation is volatile enough, but then you throw my husband into the mix…also known as the peanut gallery. As a stay-at-home mom, I manage all school stuff and rightly so. That’s in the job description. On any given day, my husband couldn’t tell you what the kids are working on, what their homework is or what projects are on the horizon. Even when he does see us working on a project, he doesn’t know the first thing about the requirements, but more specifically, he has no idea the amount of work I have to do in helping the kids, like picking topics, shuttling them to and from the library and operating the glue gun for yet another wildlife habitat diorama. And let’s not forget all those trips to Hobby Lobby for modeling clay, fake moss and poster board.
What my husband does have, however, is an uncanny ability to walk into the room just as G-Man and I are descending into hysterics. At that point, he dispenses his backseat driver commentary without actually sitting down to take a tour through Project Hell with us.
That’s the way I see it, at least. He sees it as me being Attila the Hun with G-Man, and that my drill sergeant-esque approach is unnecessary and unproductive. I say I get the job done and he has no clue what it takes; he says I make everyone neurotic. I think maybe we’re both half right.
But, after the last project was another arduous gauntlet that ended in me feeling like it was Mom versus the rest of the house, I threw my hands up. I announced to the entire brood that I was DONE. Done-da-da-da-da-DONE!! You know that huge social studies project coming up? The one that requires a report, a visual display and an oral presentation? The one that has a full packet of instructions and guidelines, rules and regulations? Well, peeps, I wash my hands of that. Ya’ll think it’s so easy, and I’m just soooo mean, you can figure it out for yourselves. I told my husband that this project is between him and G-Man. They can do it together, and he will get a dose of how much work these things really are. If G-Man fails, it’s not on me. If you think it’s so easy Jack, have at it.
But here’s the thing…as much as I had hoped to seethe in my self-righteous indignation, a deeper part of me believes that we will all learn something from this experience. For my husband and G-Man, I hope that they learn and appreciate that these projects take extensive time and effort, regardless of which parent is helping, and that my making him do it is not “being mean,” that it’s just freaking life, guys (wishful thinking, I know). I want my husband to see that our struggles are not just a “me” problem, and that managing the kids’ school work isn’t as easy as it looks. I want G-Man to see that trading out parental supervisors won’t yield a quick and effortless project; the work will still be there no matter which parent helps him.
To be completely honest, I also grudgingly admit that I hope my husband is successful in getting G-Man to put together a project that reflects his true efforts, and not my helicopter tendencies and strict directions. Even if I do “get the job done,” I admit that I don’t think I’m teaching G-Man to be independent and self-motivated to succeed. If anything, I may be doing him a great disservice and enabling him.
In the coming weeks, we’ll see how it plays out, but in the meantime, I may choke to death from biting my tongue and keeping my mouth shut. When I do feel the need to open my mouth, I’ll pour a glass of wine and go find something brain-rotting to watch on TV instead. Seems like I win, either way, don’t ya think?
Yep, it’s every stay-at-home mom’s favorite day of the year!
Today was the Heathens’ first day of school, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. If you’re one of those moms who just loooove summer vacation, more power to you. I bet you don’t live in Louisiana, where it’s been hotter than Hades for months. Our parks and playgrounds sit deserted, because the equipment is so hot, it’s too dangerous for kids to play. Our pools are mostly empty, because the water temperature is warmer than most people’s bath water. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: boys + boredom= disaster.
I know I’m trading the relative freedom of summer for the demands of homework, school projects, and PTA meetings, but I’ll do so gladly if it means I’ll have kids who are active, engaged, and not picking fights with one another just to have something to do. The boys were good sports about their first day, though G-Man did ask me this morning, “Mom, how will you get everything done without us here to help?”
It’s been quite a journey in adapting to the personality differences between my boys, especially when it comes to their education.
G-man pretty much breezes through school. I never have to check his calendar or assignments, because he is so freaking independent. We don’t have to tell him to do his homework, or harass him to turn it in. He always knows when tests are coming up, and tells me his study schedule after he’s already planned it out. If anything, his school experience has made me a somewhat lazy parent, because I take for granted that he’s got everything covered. I confess that I haven’t checked his homework calendar in months…he just does it all without us having to worry about it. However, as independent as my oldest child is, school project time dang near kills us both. He is so used to moving quickly and effortlessly through his day-to-day assignments that he has little patience for the lengthy process of planning and executing a book report. I really, really hate school project time, because he gets so frustrated when his aptitude of a subject doesn’t particularly decrease the time and effort a school project will take. We are still recovering from the social studies fair fiasco.
Bear, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. From the time he could toddle around the living room, he has always had the ability to focus intensely on whatever “project” captures his imagination, often to the exclusion of everything around him. Whether it is three-plus hours of Lego sorting, or convoluted maze drawing, his has my tendency to obsessively focus on something to the point of distraction, even if that something is not necessarily high on the priority list. I can watch him spend hours rearranging Jenga blocks, only to later tear my hair out when I can’t get him to focus on his homework for five minutes. Without fail, he will tell me daily that he has no homework, which I will quickly learn to be false when I check his teacher’s website. Is he lying? Not at all. He just has this amazing tendency to selectively focus on something until everything else around him becomes white noise. I have no doubt that the teacher tells the class their assignments, but by the time I ask Bear about them that evening, his brain had discarded that information to make room for whatever has since captured his attention. I’ve learned that I have to check and recheck when it comes to his schoolwork. He still breezes through the actual content; it’s just that we have to make sure he remembers to do the assignments in the first place.
So basically, I’ve got one kid who can keep track of everything under the sun, but struggles with his attention span for long projects, and another kid who can devote hours to a single task, but has the unfortunate tendency to ignore everything else. It’s always an adventure adapting to their differences, and they continue to surprise us daily.
Last week, Bear asked his father to use the laptop because he wanted to “write a book.” My husband loaded up Microsoft Word, and let him have at it. I figured this was probably just an excuse to play with the computer, so I didn’t think much of it at the time.
Bear spent the next several days working on “his book.” He played with the formatting until it looked like what he envisioned a book to be, meticulous typed the text, separated the content into pages, and left space for his planned illustrations. What fascinated us was that he wasn’t just idly playing around to avoid boredom; he really DID have a story in his head already laid out. Finally, he printed the pages of his book, drew the pictures, hijacked my stapler and presented us with the finished project. Though I wasn’t surprised that he could give a single project such obsessive focus, he impressed us with his careful planning and execution over the course of several days. And I have to say, it’s a really cute book.
Unbeknownst to us, Bear then took his book to school and presented it with pride to his teacher and his class. The only reason we found out was that he was featured in the school newsletter. I may be tearing my hair out that he can’t tell me his homework assignment for tonight, but seeing Bear have such confidence in his work makes me think that we must be doing something right.