Thursday, December 19, 2013
When I looked at this candid shot, the seventeenth in line during our second attempt at a family picture, clinging to dear hope that we might just be able to get something, anything, nice enough to send with our Christmas card, it struck me: Self Portrait. Mother of Four.
So many boys. Surrounded by action. Slinging a baby. Body aligned with the trunk of a tree, arms outstretched and mirroring its many limbs, showing me to myself, seeing the multitude of "what I do", weighty and important, often mundane, but always there, needing to be done.
But of course, it wasn't that at all. Self portraits? Who has time for that? The camera was on a tripod after taking sixteen pictures together in the freezing cold, as our previous attempt had flopped hard (with someone looking doofy in every. last. picture). Seventeen pictures and oh, the irony . . . we ended up deciding on the very first shot. And actually, I should define things even further: I decided on it, as Blaine was ready to go with whatever ring-a-ling-a-ding-dong picture we had. I am the family archivist, not him.
So what it really was is this: in the 10 seconds after hitting the auto-timer, I knew we had all had it and stood in front, giggling, as some kind of shield, while Blaine started walking toward his skis and the boys dashed after him. No "deep thoughts" or purposeful intent whatsoever.
Nevertheless, it gave me pause for a few moments for self-reflection. And perhaps that is what candids are best at: showing us to ourselves.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
I defer to ye olde list-post yet again....
- We bought Jamie cross-country skis when we were in the Twin Cities over Thanksgiving. They are the cutest little things and he was so very excited about them. "My skis!" he kept saying, over and over again. It was a main topic of conversation for him both before and after the trip.
- It snowed last week, so all my fellas were able to hit the snow together this past weekend. Blaine said that Jamie was a complete natural, much better than his brudders were last year their first time out. He was strong and had a good sense of things.
- They went up our driveway and all along the trails that Blaine made in the grove last summer. A long way for such a little guy. He'll be three in a few weeks.
- I wasn't able to go out, as it was 5 degrees F and too cold for the baby. Though I needed to be inside anyway . . . Baby Eliah needed to nap and I had a disaster in the kitchen waiting to be subdued.
- Oh well. Next time. It actually felt good to be able to work in the quiet. And honestly . . . it just isn't fun to spend "leisure" time doing what I want to do when there is such a load of work waiting for me. Sometimes it is better to just work; it becomes "what I want to do" because that evening or the next day or coming week will be easier because of it.
- I must be maturing.
- Life right now feels like it is always on the brink of breakdown. I feel very tender and susceptible to panic and the "Now what??" syndrome. I'm sick of kids breaking things. I'm tired of breaking up fights. I exhausted from trying to keep this place together. The noise level is driving me bonks.
- Furthermore, I'm very tired of always, always having to be on top of things. If I let anything, and I mean anything, slide, there is hell to pay. Kids bounce off the walls and an entire room is torn apart. Kids bounce off the walls and one or two come screaming to me with yet another injury. That kind of thing. There is no rest.
- All that being said, I have to stand back and look at everything and realize that things are fine. Just fine. I am stretched thin and the feelings of stress are very near the surface, but it just "is". I am working at keeping things as sane as possible.
- Quiet Time is a MUST. It only works some (maybe most?) of the time, but that hour is vital. I need a break from the demands.
- I have also finally normalized daily pick-up. I've been working at this for quite some time, but it has finally clicked within the last few weeks. I'm not sure why.
- I have the fellas pick up the entire downstairs twice a day: before lunch and before Blaine comes home for the night. What a difference it is making! Oh my goodness, what a difference. This place is less of a pit. And my stress levels are down because of it.
- We have also banished two-thirds of our toy mess to boxes upstairs. It is unfortunately not in any order like I would have liked, but beggars can't be choosers. Blaine boxed up the first round and the boys bagged (then Blaine boxed) up the second round in a fit of inspiration.
- The play table and toy boxes underneath it have been severely neglected for the past 7 months. I've realized how much of a handle I actually had on it (though I always felt like it was spiraling in chaos before this whole fiasco).
- I kept order to the table by insisting the boys store toys in the boxes below, then hitting it hard every few months . . . sorting out the trash and recycling (I know, I know), snack cups, stray socks and underwear, you name it, and organizing the toys by like kind.
- But I haven't had the ability to do that since before the babe was born. And my, but did it show. The play table turned into a literal DUMPSTER with toys piled up so high that nobody knew what-was-where or could even play with the toys or the use the table itself. It was sick.
- Things are much better now. Eventually I'll sort through the bagged stuff upstairs and reabsorb it into the main play area, but for now . . . I'm enjoying the sweet bliss of a clear play table. It is much easier to get a handle on the mess without a mountain-heap of trash (ahem, toys) weighing everyone down.
But don't think about that . . . think about this
- Baby Eliah is SIX MONTHS OLD. Actually, I think he's six and a half months old. Ay. Time. It doesn't quit.
- He's the sweetest little guy. Everyone is just wild about him. He has an entire family of adoring fans. We all love making him laugh and there are regular conversations between him and any one of us, ggggw'ing and ah-goooing. He lights up and wiggles with any kind of interaction. It's the cutest.
- Diego regularly mourns, "I wish he could be a baby forever!" He says he's going to miss him when he's not a baby anymore. I know how he feels (my tender mama's heart).
- Though . . . how is this for some perspective . . . while bemoaning the fact that Truen was turning six this past October, and saying, "My baby is six!", my dad responded, "I know! My baby is thirty-six."
The boys with their Great-Grands
- How is THAT for some perspective? Blaine's grandparents are now 98 and 91, living at home, taking care of themselves, making their weekly trip to McDonalds, and his grandpa still hauls, splits, stacks, and burns firewood for their wood furnace. Wow. I have so much affection and admiration for these two.
- Switching gears . . . . to homeschooling.
- It is going great. I finally feel like we've normalized our schedule. I'm in the swing of things.
- I make sure to do the morning board before we eat in the morning, or it is like trying to lasso wild bison gone bezerk to get it done after breakfast. They hit the ground running and play hard.
- I do a little bit of our reading or table work in the mornings after they've played a bit, then in the afternoons (after Quiet Time), we read more and do math or reading activities. I'm so pleased with how it has turned out.
- Though I will say . . . the next thing I need to work on is balancing housework with schoolwork. Picking up twice a day helps. But I still need to gain my footing in weekly chores like vacuuming, folding laundry, and cleaning the bathroom. I have them help with all of these to some extent, but in between free play, schoolwork, kitchen prep and clean-up, etc., it seems like there isn't much time left.
- We are really enjoying our reading material. The boys seem to enjoy The Burgess Animal Book (science), Tree in the Trail (geography), The Story of the World (history), and Bible stories the most.
- Though now that I think about it, I've noticed they've really enjoyed the Shakespeare stories we've read as well (we're working on Romeo and Juliet right now).
- Another book we're reading, called Understood Betsy, has been less enjoyed by all. We are getting towards the middle-end and they are finally interested enough to ask to read more, but it was quite unpleasant at the beginning. I find reading it aloud tedious. It was written as if someone were explaining the story to you and over-explaining it at that. I've appreciated the story, but feel bogged down and displeased by the writing.
- Diego has started learning to read (and I was right . . . he took to it lickety-split) and Truen is starting to work on letter recognition, letter sounds, number recognition and counting. It has been fun to see their progress in each area.
- Blaine started working with Diego on reading after I thrifted a copy of Margaret Hillert's The Yellow Boat last month. Diego literally started reading it right off the bat, not unlike my earlier description of "hitting the ground running". There was no confusion, it just happened. We're still going slow, but he's conquered The Yellow Boat and we've moved on to The Magic Beans. I remember to work on it a few times a week and I would imagine he'll be reading totally on his own in due time. Yay!
Jamie painting exuberantly
Truby-ruby counting out buttons
The biggest and littlest brudders snuggling
Just look at these fellas. I can hardly believe I've got four of 'em. I can hardly believe I've had an entire two hours to sort through pictures and post on my blog. So it DOES happen . . . I need to remember that the other 90% of the time. The youngest two have been sleeping this entire time and the older two are playing the Leapster in the sunroom, giving me an extended and blissful Quiet Time. Awesome. I feel so relieved.
I think I'm posting every couple weeks now, so . . . see yeh in a few.
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