Mission Statement

One of my 3in30 goals for this month was to write a personal mission statement. I’ve felt, for a while, that having a touchstone of sorts that I can look to would help me better prioritize my days, my work, and my life. I used Mission Statements for Moms to help guide my process. I found her questions very logical and it helped me to get the ideas shaped up. Granted, this is a draft and it will likely change, but I came up with this as my mission statement:

I am a mother who creates a healthy, nurturing, fun environment for my children. I help them become their best selves and achieve their dreams.

I am a woman who strives to strengthen my relationship, who shares freely with others, and who works consistently to achieve my dreams and goals.

I am a wife who helps, encourages, and loves my husband. I remember our perspectives and experiences are different and appreciate those differences. I show love and affection for him daily.

I am a teacher who empowers my students to take charge of their own learning. I encourage students to do their best work and help them to succeed.

So, what do you think? Constructive feedback, observations, etc., are welcome. If you’re going to call me an idiot for doing this, just move along please.

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Planning is the Word

It’s getting to be that time of year when all good adjunctmoms start thinking about heading back to school. Homeschool has started. All of my teacher friends are either currently teaching or about to be, but because I take the second summer term off, I don’t have to be back until September 22nd. This is a good thing because it gives me time to decompress from a year of work and then start thinking about how to make the next year go more smoothly. This is where I am now: the planning stage.

Planning has gotten a lot trickier now that Katie is starting to do activities of her own and some of those activities compete with Ben’s. Add in the dogs, the parents, the family, the church, the students, and things that I might like to do myself. Every year, I set off with a super-ambitious schedule and every year I end up floundering by week 2 and finding myself wondering why I spent all that time setting up something that was doomed to failure. Why do plans fail?

  1. I am terrible at estimating how long it takes to do something. For example, we started a science activity for Ben’s bible study about a half hour before creative time starts. According to the parameters I read, that should have worked out just fine. Unfortunately, those parameters didn’t include the set up time of about 20 minutes. So, the science activity is in his room where he can watch it during creative time (and where, undoubtedly, I will be cleaning yeast and water off the walls in about an hour).
  2. I allow myself to believe that I can work faster than I really can. This is not the same thing as the first one, even though it sounds like it. I know that it takes me between 20 and 30 minutes to do a close read on a student paper. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, so at this point, I know. I have to allow roughly 30 minutes a paper in order to do a thorough job. Every year, though, I convince myself that I can shave that down to fifteen minutes. And every year, I prove that I can’t do that.
  3. I rarely factor in the planning/prep/routine things when I’m considering what needs to be done. For example, I’m making dinner tonight because P isn’t feeling well. The recipe plainly lists a  prep and cook time of 20 minutes for the main dish and 30 minutes for the side dish. So, theoretically, I start at 5:30p, I should have dinner on the table at 6p, right? Well, maybe. They also note that the potatoes for the side dish are peeled and cut into chunks, prior to starting the dish. So that adds time.
  4. I rarely remember to gather all of the required elements for a project before I start it or even the night before. So, back to the science activity. We had to find a water bottle for it, find a balloon and a rubber band for it, and so on and so forth.

And for the record, this goes just as badly with academic things. I have lists of topics that I want to introduce in a specific sequence in each course that I teach. Half the time I can’t remember where those items are or how to find them or, sometimes, why I wanted to use them in the first place.

So, I’m trying something new and actually old. I have printed out Tell Your Time and am planning to spend this week working through the exercises in it. Because really that’s not enough for me, I’ve added Mission Statements for Moms, Maximize Your Mornings, Create Your Perfect Cleaning Schedule, AND One Bite at a Time. I’m hoping that the combination of inspiration from these sources will help me figure out how to plan a life that is more balanced and more conducive to maintaining my health.

Next week I’ll talk about how the planning thing is going and my search for the “one true planner” which I think has turned into three planners, sort of. Monday posts are going to tend to cluster around the academic/personal spheres of my life with only tangential discussion of homeschool as it relates to the other parts of my life.

Three Things I’m Struggling With

It turns out that homeschooling and parenting have brought out three things that I really struggle with and are forcing me to confront them head on for the sake of my kids.

  1. Math — I really struggled with math as a child and well into college. My father is a math genius and lost patience easily when I didn’t grasp the concepts that I was being taught. I find myself panicking about Ben’s math education all the time. I can’t tell what is normal development and whether he needs a different way to learn. I’ve switched math programs twice now, but I’m convinced that I have to stay the course with what we’re doing and just be patient. I don’t want him to be afraid of math or dislike math the way that I did and do. And it’s so hard not to convey my fears about it to him when I’m trying to teach him. It’s not that I don’t understand first grade math. I do. But I’m afraid of what comes in the future. I just need to breathe deeply and try not to worry so much about it. And I need to know that he’s going to be fine even if he’s still counting on his fingers for some of the things that should eventually be mental math. He’s five. It’s okay.
  2. Art — There are two reasons that art education is so incredibly hard for me. First, my parents were not art people. Crayons were available, but we rarely had paints or chalk or any other art implements in the house. I remember having a stamp pad when I was four or maybe five. We had just had wallpaper put in the hall that ran from my room to the living room. I was wanting to show my parents something that I’d done, but I dropped the stamp and pad getting the ink on the carpet and on the wallpaper. What I remember is how upset everyone was and how much I didn’t want that kind of upset again. Then, when I was in second or third grade, we were doing art and the teacher informed me that left-handed people are not meant to be artists and that I was not good at it and I never would be good at it. I have not voluntarily drawn something again, but now Ben wants to learn to draw and learn how to do art and it’s so incredibly painful for me to do it. I literally ache inside when I pull out the paints. I wanted to use MaryAnn Kohl’s books to guide our art program, but I’m not equipped to do that. I don’t understand how to do the things she says. So, we switched to Artistic Pursuits. I believe I can do this with him as long as we stay focused on the process, not the product. In the meantime, I’m heading back to Ed Emberley and I’m going to use Mark Kistler and I’m going to learn how to draw — finally. I’m doing it for me because I just don’t believe a left handed person can’t do it. I don’t. What I believe is that the art teacher who said that to me didn’t know how to teach a left handed person and took the easy way out rather than trying to figure out how to do it.
  3. Dance — Katie loves to dance. She LOVES it. She wants to dance all the time and she wants to learn more about it, so we’ve decided to sign her up for classes starting at the end of August. I started dance classes when I was five. I did it because I was pigeon-toed and wore corrective shoes. My doctors told my parents dance classes or braces. Thank God they chose the dance classes, honestly. At five or six I was in a tap class and a ballet class. But then we moved and the only dance offered where we moved was ballet, so I took ballet until I was in eighth grade. At that point I was told, not too politely, that I was never going to be able to progress any further and that I needed to stop. And I did. Not only have I not danced since then, it’s a struggle for me to dance in any kind of class setting. Zumba, step classes, they fill me with terror because, in my heart, I believe I can’t dance. It makes me so nervous to put Katie in classes. I have to wonder if we’re doing the right thing. I mean it’s no pressure. If she doesn’t like it or doesn’t want to do it, she can stop. I don’t expect her to become a great dancer or anything, but I’m so afraid that someone is going to tell her she can’t do something and she’ll believe it like I did.

They say that children make you confront your fears, and I guess mine are doing just that. I just hope that they have better experiences and better memories than I do of these things. I hope that they soar, find things they love, and learn to face down their fears instead of getting locked up in them the way that I did. I guess that’s what I’m struggling with the most: showing my kids that they can do whatever they want to do means I have to do the things I want to do even as I’m hearing the voices from the past telling me that I can’t.

Spring Reading Thing 2011 — May Update

I heard about this at No Ordinary Moments and thought that this sounded like just the thing to get me reading a bit more and dodging a bit less. This was the line my initial blog post on this subject started with and, for the most part, I was right. I find myself reading more. The problem is I got hooked on a couple of series books while I was on break and ended up reading whole series that have nothing to do with my intended reading list. I’ve noticed that I dodge the religious books and the relationship books pretty seriously. Not sure what to make of that. I’m adding one book to the religious list and removing one and we’ll see how that works out. Anyway, this is the original list with any deletions/additions noted.

Fiction

The Sherlockian finished

Already Home finished

These Things Hidden

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – A Love Story finished

Work

How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching(almost half-way on this one)

Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom

Parenting

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity

Honey, I Wrecked the Kids: When Yelling, Screaming, Threats, Bribes, Time-outs, Sticker Charts and Removing Privileges All Don’t Work abandoned

Connected Parenting: Transform Your Challenging Child and Build Loving Bonds for Life finished

Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable confident young people

The Happiest Mom (Parenting Magazine): 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood Finished

Religious

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict  abandoned (for now)

The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ’s Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children (reading for GoodMorningGirls book club)

Self-Improvement

Organizing Your Day: Time Management Techniques That Will Work for You finished

Reluctant Entertainer, The: Every Woman’s Guide to Simple and Gracious Hospitality (more than half-way on this one)

Clutter Rehab: 101 Tips and Tricks to Become an Organization Junkie and Love It!

Relationships

Every Day Love: The Delicate Art of Caring for Each Other

ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer

Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes

Hobbies

Out of the Box: Unleash Your Creativity Through Quilts (That Patchwork Place)finished

Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart (about a 1/3 in on this one)

Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting: Modern Piecing & Embellishing Techniques for Joyful Stitching finished

This is the link to Spring Reading Thing 2011 if you’re interested in doing this, too. There’s still time to join in if you want to. One thing I may do is eliminate all reading from my kindle that isn’t on this list. I can always put it back later.

*All links on this post are Amazon Associate links. I make virtually nothing doing this, but it makes a small dent in my amazon habit, which is clearly quite large.

Spring Reading Thing 2011

I heard about this at No Ordinary Moments and thought that this sounded like just the thing to get me reading a bit more and dodging a bit less. Except for the hobby books (and Meagan Francis’ book), these are all Kindle books. I’m reading by category this time around so, here’s my plan:

Fiction

The Sherlockian

Already Home finished

These Things Hidden

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – A Love Story

Work

How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching

Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom

Parenting

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity

Honey, I Wrecked the Kids: When Yelling, Screaming, Threats, Bribes, Time-outs, Sticker Charts and Removing Privileges All Don’t Work abandoned

Connected Parenting: Transform Your Challenging Child and Build Loving Bonds for Life

Raising Able: how chores cultivate capable confident young people

The Happiest Mom (Parenting Magazine): 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood Finished

Religious

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict

Self-Improvement

Organizing Your Day: Time Management Techniques That Will Work for You

Reluctant Entertainer, The: Every Woman’s Guide to Simple and Gracious Hospitality

Clutter Rehab: 101 Tips and Tricks to Become an Organization Junkie and Love It!

Relationships

Every Day Love: The Delicate Art of Caring for Each Other

ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer

Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes

Hobbies

Out of the Box: Unleash Your Creativity Through Quilts (That Patchwork Place)

Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart

Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting: Modern Piecing & Embellishing Techniques for Joyful Stitching

This is the link to Spring Reading Thing 2011 if you’re interested in doing this, too.

*All links on this post are Amazon Associate links. I make virtually nothing doing this, but it makes a small dent in my amazon habit, which is clearly quite large.

First Week Back

Imagine me taking a deep breath before writing this. Got that image? Good.

The first week back at work has been way tougher than I ever imagined it would be. I’m not sure how things conspired to make this so tough, but tough it is. Instead of the normal balance of two kids, two dogs, homeschool, and a job. I’m trying to balance all of those with an ongoing eye problem (I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I? More blog fodder, I guess), Peyton’s recurring nasty ear infection, and Sam BURNING herself on the power supply for my laptop. The only excuse for the last one is that she’s old and she sleeps like the dead. It’s the only thing that is shaped correctly, so it has to be how she did it and my only guess is that she laid down on it and then fell asleep. It clearly hurts like heck and we have no idea how many hair follicles were permanently destroyed by this little folly, but it requires twice a day medicine plus a cream in the evenings. So, more meds. Lovely.

School is actually going reasonably well for Ben. He is mostly willing to do his work and mostly willing to try even when he feels a little overwhelmed by the skills he’s learning. His handwriting is a little scary, but you can mostly figure out what he’s saying. We’re focused almost entirely on language arts right now (reading, writing, spelling, language development). We do science twice a week, but even that is stressful if there’s too much writing involved. He is getting better though and I’m proud of how far his handwriting has come since we started working on it.

But trying to balance all of that plus Katie, plus work? It’s getting a little frantic up in here. It never helps that after I’ve put a full day in with the kids, my husband will look at me and say, they seem to want some mom time tonight. Um, yeah. I’ll get right on that. So then I don’t even start work until 9p and work until 1 am to be awakened by my darling son at 7am. And we wonder why my fuse is already short.

Part of it is trying to get back into a rhythm. Now, one could argue (and I surely would) that while they’re engrossed in the movie that they’re watching, I should be doing some work rather than writing a blog post complaining about how overwhelmed I am. But the thing is if I don’t let off a little steam right now, I’m going to explode, so blogging wins in order to help me keep my sanity.

Deep breathing. That’s what I need to do. Deep breathing. How do you cope when it all gets to be too much? I really want to know.

Four is Hard

Before I had kids, I was not fond of the baby stage. I didn’t like the idea of caring for a being who could not communicate with me and tell me what s/he was thinking. I was desperate for Ben to start talking when he was a baby. Desperate for him to walk. I wanted him to have that autonomy and the ability to tell me what he’s thinking, what he wants. But you know what? This shit is HARD.

Now, part of this is likely that the genetic soup that Ben comes from contains P’s volatile temper, my volatile temper, my father’s volatile temper, and P’s father’s volatile temper. And yes, I typed that four times because, let’s consider this for a second, that’s a hell of a lot of temper for one small child, and Ben has ALL OF IT.

He has what can only be called “perfect storm” style tantrums when things aren’t going the way that he wants. If I were a seriously old-school Catholic, I might consider the possibility of demonic possession because, man, he is tough when he gets going. He starts with screaming. Since one of our less than admirable parenting tactics has been to yell, he seems to have concluded that he who yells the loudest, wins. Yeah, we’re working on that.

Once it’s clear that the yelling/crying/screaming isn’t working, he moves to grabbing hold of something and holding on with all his might. He’s four. It’s not a lot of might, but he tries. And, he’s getting bigger, which means the might is getting bigger, too. All the while, he’s screaming at the top of his lungs.

When I reach my breaking point for yelling, I pick him up and take him where I want him to be. I usually get kicked or hit in the process. This is part of four, I think. It’s not a great part, but it’s a part and we’re learning to deal with it.

Once he’s where he’s supposed to be there’s more yelling, more crying. If I can, I’ll sit and hold him until he calms down, but this isn’t always a workable solution. Alternatives are not pretty. We instituted a thing where he has to tell us why he got into trouble in the first place, but usually by the time all the crying and ranting have subsided, he doesn’t remember. More frustration. We’re working on this. I swear. I can’t deal with the yelling, the screaming, the kicking (all him), or the loss of control (at different times, all of us).

He has weird food quirks that I can’t explain. He used to love chili, now he hates it. He’ll eat cheese on a tortilla today, but gag at the thought tomorrow. He wants to eat ALL THE TIME, but then doesn’t actually eat what he’s given (even when it’s the thing he asked for).

And the whine. Oh my god, the whine. Also known as the “whyne.” When he’s asked to do something, he asks “why” and he will follow up that why with another why and another one and another one. Really? Torture experts should videotape him. They’d break the will of anyone with that “why.” I swear they would.

But see, just when you’re at that point where giving him away starts to make sense, he does something so sweet that it breaks your heart. I was working really, really hard a couple of days ago. He danced into the room where I was working, slipped up to me, gave me a hug, and danced back out. We tell him that his godfather isn’t feeling well, and he draws pictures to make him feel better. He spends hours and hours making cards for all the people he cares about because he “doesn’t like” the store ones. He saves his most special sticker, the one I’ve told him he can keep for his very own, and, instead he puts it on a card for me.

*** Post interrupted for clean up on aisle 4. Broken milk glass and contents all over the floor. Half an hour later glass and milk cleaned up & I’m reminded how insanely dirtly most of my floors are ***

Ben and I were just talking about what makes him super-special. He said it was pretending to be a pirate and liking dinosaurs. I disagree. What makes him super-special is his imagination and his kind heart. For all the tantrums (and man, they suck), he has a huge heart and always wants to help people and make them feel better.

This is a hard age to navigate. I can never figure out what is truly age appropriate and what is outside the bounds of acceptability. We have Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful and it does help. I have to remind P that the value of this book, and the ones like it isn’t the discipline information but the generalizations about ages and stages. What is “normal” for four and what is cause for concern?

I’m convinced that Ben is a normal, active four year old. I’m also convinced that his parents are works in progress who have a way to go with their parenting in order not accidentally extinguish his energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity.

Some days are better than others.