Ahhh, School. Long Time, No See. You’re Looking Positively Awesome.

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.

See? How’s that for positive?

 

The Final Countdown!

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.

Yep, that’s about how I feel right now.

Why Didn’t I Think of This Sooner?

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.

School Project Wars—Turning Our House into the Hatfields and McCoys

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?

Oh Happy Day!

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?”

I’ll cope, sweetheart…somehow, I’ll cope.

Learning How the Heathens Learn, Especially When They Are Polar Opposites

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.