First, this lunch bag
I bought the first one off of Lands End on clearance and it works great. When the little one comes home at the end of her full day the freezer pack is still ice cold. Not the case for the older two when they unpack their lunch bags. So, if you are shopping around, try a Land's End lunch bag. Find it here.
Second, it is a part time job to be invested in the educational lives of the three kids. Ben said it last week and I can say it now. Yes, this is like taking on a whole new position. We've been doing it for years now, but this year has some elements about it that make the work of it all seem more like, well, like work. Like a job. Like I am literally at a job from the hours of 4:30 - 8:30 five days a week.
I do a day care in my home three days a week. This month I have realized the impact of it in a more real way. My "kid energy" is tapped out by the time my own kids get home. I am "on" as a mom and caregiver from about 6:45 am - 8:30 pm or later. I love my children and those I care for in my home. They are absolutely delightful. They are a joy to watch and engage with. In many ways I love the challenge of managing our days to make them go well. I enjoy the little, simple things they do. They grow and change daily. But its work. Its life giving and it is also draining. Any parent and caregiver knows this. For me it is new just with the number of kids and the fact that all mine are in school with new challenges at the same time. They are at a particular school whose curriculum demands a high level of commitment. It involves careful attention in class, homework in every subject, and the expectation to keep up with a rigorous pace. Each one of the girls has to work very hard to learn the material well and manage her own mastery of it when at home. I am amazed at the number of hours they give and give and give to this adventure called learning.
The critical hours with my own kids (4:30 - 8:30, when they are so tired they can't see straight) are yet to run smoothly. We are working on it. There are tears; groans; questions I can't answer; pre-algebra problems I intuitively understand but can't articulate well; Latin translations to plod through one case and conjugation at a time; states and capitols to memorize; poems to recite, etc. Oh, and dinner to get on the table, stuff to put away, uniforms to hang back up (difficult when you can't reach the hanging rod in the closet), chores to do, snacks to eat, showers to take, etc. Again, it is like taking on a new job. One of us parents is also gone for the evening usually three of the five nights - just to complicate matters.
And, we just have deeper, more personal things going on that further exhaust the emotional and mental life from us.
I have made some adaptations and adjustments over the last couple weeks. I see that these are helpful and I will be continuing to seek wisdom and grace from God to do all this well. The joy of learning and family and life under one roof should be sought after vigorously, I am convinced. It takes some time and a lot of good down to earth communicating with all parties involved. Oh, and a shout out to God on a regular basis to pour out his grace and mercy and fill you up to be able to keep going . And to be able to truly enjoy the treasure of these unique and amazing little people he has given you.
This is what I have done so far:
- I get up at the same time every morning and get things done that I can't do well when the kids are up. I am usually ahead of the 6:00 alarm. 5:45 is more like it.
- I use some of the precious early morning minutes to drink a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. This reminds me that there is a whole world out there outside of my own. I offer up a prayer for the day and then get moving.
- I take it to Amy. Amy, whom I have mentioned before, comes over with her two kids on Monday evenings for dinner. She is full of wisdom, non judgmental, has great and creative ideas, and most importantly, she really gets me and my kids. She has insights into them that help me understand them. This helps with empathy and compassion when things get tough. She says things like, "I tell myself to just look my kid in the eye. Just once each day. If this is all the undivided attention he/she gets from me today, its something. Or, I do a small act of service for them like help them into the car with their heavy backpack." She also is a Math teacher by trade and can step in when that skill is needed. She brings a calm and peace to our home.
- I take every opportunity, even when I am brushing my teeth or so exhausted I can't see straight, to talk and listen to Ben. We need to take all the moments we can to get on the same page and be a united front in leading this family. Multi tasking all day long has never been easy for me. But the effort at just talking things through pays off even if another task gets short-changed.
- I use my free Monday to meal plan, grocery shop and make our dinners for Monday, Tuesday (which we share with our hub) and Wednesday. I literally chop, mix, measure and assemble three meals so that I can use my time and energy during the next two days to care for the kids. This takes most of the day, but it is an uninterrupted and productive time. I also make sure there are handy and nutritious options available for kids' lunches and snacks. I really believe in spending the time to keep health and nutrition a priority in our family's diet.
- I use my free Friday to work in the alumni office. It is a different kind of work, a break from home and supported by some amazing women who share the same passion for Trinity School that I do. I like the productivity and creativity of the job. For lunch, I meet Ben just to touch base. Then, more errands and spending a few minutes to bring order back to the home before I pick up the kids.
- I now greet Bruce, the milk man, each week at our door with a check and that week's empty milk bottles. For health and convenience's sake, this works well. I was relieved the other day when in the grocery store that I did not have to haul gallons of milk with me out to the car and into the house. It was a small sense of relief, but important at this time in my life.
- I can't keep the same cleaning schedule during the week. I've shifted some chores to Saturday so the kids can help. I now fold a load of laundry about every other night in my just-before-bed stupor. It is a mindless job that can be saved for the end of the day. No more marathon laundry day.
- We, as parents, are cutting back on some of our outside-the-home responsibilities. This is just a season of life when we have to say no to anything extra and ask to be relieved of some things we have been involved in.
- Along those lines, I have tabled the process of starting grad school. Really tabled it. One might say "You put it on the back burner." But I think that could imply there is still a small amount of attention given to it. I would say that there are times to take desires off the stove. If I give any attention to it, I will feed the desire and resentment could grow because I am not able to do that thing now - why would I want to live like that? So, gradually, with the effort put towards that desire directed elsewhere (to my main priorities, Ben and the kids), I can be more at peace with the knowledge that grad school will always be there. My kids won't. Plus, when one is looking at shelling out $5,881 in the next year for one set of braces it makes one pause - hmmmmm, an advanced degree or straight teeth? Lots to think about there. And then think about it again the following year with the second set of crooked teeth.
- One role I have kept is being an assistant teacher at my second daughter's faith formation class on Sunday mornings. It is 1.25 hours of time in her presence and it is a way I can connect with her and her growth in her faith. For now, this is how it is. Thankfully, I do not have to lesson plan or teach as I did last year. I can just show up and assist. This is an example of combining desires for efficiencies' sake. Time with her, growth in her knowledge of God and the church.
- I keep a running list of everything that pops into my head that I need to do or remember to do on the fridge. It is not organized or broken down into sections, it is just there so that I can deal with it later. I have been forgetting the most basic things lately. This general list helps.
- I drink a half glass of wine at the end of the day and read things like "Good Husband, Great Marriage." This reminds me that I am a wife first.
Who knows what October will bring?
Probably more insights into which school gear holds up the best. And, hopefully, more insights into how to be purposeful and open to all the change the vocation of homemaker offers.