Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grades & Update

So, it's been a little over a week with our new routines and chores and such. In honor of my kids' getting their grades yesterday, I thought I'd report on how we're doing by giving my family a letter grade for each day.

We've had:
4 days of A's & B's followed by
3 days of C's & D's followed by
1 F day (yesterday)

You know the interesting thing? The letter grades coorespond almost exactly to how much sleep I got the night before and whether I get a nap or not. Katie's still up a ton at night -- last night, it was every two hours like clockwork -- and I'm at a loss to know what to do about it. She goes to sleep fine with minimal fussing when she's tired. I just feed her and put her in her bed. She spends one to five minutes stretching and rolling around and then she's out. It's the "waking in the middle of the night and screaming at the top of her lungs until I feed her again" stuff that I shrug my shoulders about. The doctor at her check-up last week was absolutely amazed at how mobile she is, crawling around and scooting. I tend to think a brain that's wired to be moving all the time -- she's even kicking and squirming when she's nursing -- just isn't wired for consistent sleep. Katie's definitely a busy bee! (note to self: It is past time for that baby gate again.)

A friend called me yesterday morning asking how I was and I told her the truth: "I got two hours of sleep last night and I'm drowning, so I'm letting my kids watch videos and eat candy while I let the house fall down around me." It was pretty bad, though my kids weren't complaining. When lunchtime rolled around, I let them eat pumpkin muffins and apples. I got one 10-20 minute nap in the afternoon and then I did finally get the kitchen clean around 2:00 in the afternoon and the laundry started around 4:00, but that whole "Monday project" thing and "Inbox to empty" goal? It didn't happen. There have been other things that I've failed at this week, such as when the teacher emailed me and told me the twins came to school yesterday without coats on so she was giving them some from the lost and found (and guess what? One of the coats in the lost and found belonged to our family so Sarah got to wear it home! They thought that was so amazing.). And not only did the kids leave their bikes out the other day, they also left the garage door open all night, which I discovered the next day.

And yesterday morning, Michael informed me that his teacher says I have to grade all his math homework every night, not just sign that I've seen it and he's done it. No, wait, REALLY? I already spend an hour helping everyone -- especially the twins -- with their homework. Now I have to grade it too? I sent an email to the teacher asking for clarification. Cross your fingers for me and let's hope Michael misunderstood.

And up until tonight, I was convinced Lillian was going to have to go to school in a rag-tag Roman costume rather than the lovely things she's been looking at on the internet that cost way too much. It's frustrating to me that the fact I buy stuff on sale a year in advance and have three huge bins of Halloween costumes isn't enough -- the school only lets the kids wear "curriculum-based" costumes, so until the teachers inform me a few weeks in advance, I have no idea if we have something they can use. So I feel like either I make a heroic effort to find something affordable, we make some ugly thing at home (I'm SO not crafty), or my kids go without and I feel like a failure for letting my kids down. But good news! I was near KMart tonight and figured I'd run in as fast as I could and do a quick search. Back behind tons of ghosts, witches and goblins, I found the very last Roman dress. It wasn't even on a hanger, but it was more than reasonably priced. Lillian was absolutely thrilled to pieces -- "You went in there just for me? You are the best!" -- and she tried it on and wore it for an hour tonight.

Things like that remind me that prayers are answered.

And even though yesterday was an "F," today it was a little easier to pick up where I left off. I'd give myself a solid "B+". The foundation is mostly in place, so it's easier to dig through the surface mess and get things back in order. Even though I had some hours today of feeling like I'm drowning, I got just enough of a nap (20 minutes) to get me through the afternoon really well and enjoy my kids a bit more than I have been lately.

I about collapsed on the floor in shock when I came home from running errands with Michael (okay, and picking up pizza for dinner -- don't tell anyone I did that!) and the kids were cleaning the house! On their own, without being asked! "What are you doing?" I asked as my jaw dropped to the floor.

"We're just trying to get everything clean so we can watch Merry Madagascar together. We're almost done." Lillian replied.

Wow, what a tender mercy. Maybe they are learning something?

I have to hold on to moments like that because there are so many times when things are not going the way I want them to. Some of the chore assignment changes have met with lots of resistance and our Family Work Day last week was pretty much a disaster. One of my children and I are often butting heads over every little task and I've felt profoundly discouraged about knowing how to raise this strong-willed person who yells at me. And yet . . . there are signs that good things are happening and that I just need to be patient. Case in point? This same child gave an absolutely amazing prayer on Sunday morning, including as part of it, "Heavenly Father, we're thankful for our family and we're glad there are so many people in it. Thank you for all the things Daddy and Mommy do to help our family by working and keeping the house clean . . ." Wow. Just wow.

The dinner helper job is the change that's been most embraced by the family. Michael was thrilled to learn how to make pasta last Monday, Sarah was really cute helping with hot dogs on Tuesday, and Allison gloated over her homemade pizza on Wednesday (gotta start simple!). Last night, we had a family party at Pirate Island Pizza to celebrate Joey and Eliza's birthdays (10 and 4 this week!), so Michael came up to me this morning and said, "Mommy, since I didn't get my dinner helper job last night, can I do it tonight?" It really is neat to see that the younger kids see cooking as fun. I remember doing a lot with Joey and Lillian when they were younger, teaching them how to cook hamburger and cookies and such, so I guess it's time the others had their turn.

I'd like to think it's those early lessons that have turned Lillian into such a good cook, though more likely it's the fact that she's got her daddy's mommy's genes -- that family is legendary for their cooking. My mother-in-law told me once that she never feels too tired to cook. Too tired to clean up, maybe, but never too tired to cook. Hmmmm . . . wish I had gotten some of those genes!

Lillian got this "Ghoulish Goodies" cookbook in the mail from her Grandparents last week and I've been shaking my head all week at how different we are.

If I'd gotten that book I would have flipped through it quickly, thought, "Oh, this is cute," then put it on the shelf thinking I'd get to some of the ideas "sometime." Lillian? She spent two hours poring over it's contents last Monday, pausing every so often to lift her head up and say something like, "She says she only uses semi-sweet chocolate chips in her recipes because they're more easily available," and "Did you know white chocolate isn't really chocolate?" Tuesday morning, I had a two-page list of every ingredient she wanted me to buy so she could make everything. Every other day or so since then, she's been making these amazing-looking treats for all of us to share.

Things like pumpkin crispies,

skeleton bones

and spider-web cookies

It's been delicious. I tell you, 11-year-old girls are wonderful. She's definitely an A+.


alligood said...

I cannot believe how old Lillian has gotten! She just sounds like such a lovely girl. :)
Perhaps an arranged marriage can be..... arranged between she and my Matthew. :)

Handsfullmom said...

Allison, you're the second person who has asked me about arrangin a marriage of their son to Lillian -- she is pretty great. =)

Jacki said...

I think YOU'RE an A+!! A for awesome and amazing!
BTW- your day yesterday doesn't deserve an F grade... for not having done your list? For letting your kids watch too much tv? For getting pizza?... sounds like a smart move on a tired day! Way to go!

Corine said...

The house may have gotten an F for a day... but that doesn't mean you deserve that grade!

I think the world grades based on the outcome compared to perfection... but I think it should grade based on effort.

Honestly, if a day is easy due to all going perfectly, does that mean a person actually did better than another person who had to get through really tough circumstances? ... naw! If you're doing your best to follow Christ and teach your children to do the same..., you get an A no matter how hard it is and no matter what the outcome! ;D Give yourself a pat on the back for hanging in there and doing great...


Handsfullmom said...

Aw, thanks, Jacki and Corine. I wasn't giving myself a grade, just grading how well we're following through with the new routine. If I was to do a real report card, I think I'd get an A for effort and a B for citizenship -- I'm actually pretty nice to my kids and family even when I'm tired. =)

Kacy said...

I HATE grading math homework. We shouldn't have to do that--that's why teachers get paid the big bucks.

Handsfullmom said...

Kacy, I know! I feel bad not wanting to do it when I know the teachers are busy too. I did suggest to the teacher that perhaps they could be sent home to some of the parent volunteers. Or if I'm supposed to grade it, at least give me an answer key!

Amber said...

I very much enjoyed this post. I very much relate. My house is about a C- most of the time. We have adopted the dinner helper idea and the kids are loving it. Thanks for the idea. If the teachers start asking too much -- just homeschool-- it might actually be less work for you and you'd get to pick your own curriculum!! It'salways nice to have choices!!

Angie said...

My sons' teachers employ the self grade method on math homework: if they turn in a paper with too much wrong, they get to take it home a second night to try again, in addition to the regular homework. It's become a great incentive for them to do their work carefully. We also have several "web work" days where the teachers put their assignments in the child's queue on the online textbook, that way the work is done, graded automatically and turned in to the teacher. It's wonderful, except when all 3 school aged kids have web work days at once and we only have two working computers.

Perhaps you can configure a "bad day bare minimum" so you have a go to menu and activities list for those drowned days so you don't feel like you're quite hanging on by your fingernails. One of the best things I learned from my mission president was that doing your "best" every day is a fluid thing and a prayerful inventory and making that inventory with the Lord, especially on a drowning day can help you see how much you really did.

famr_4evr said...

Nummy cookin'. So fun! Sorry for the not so great days. Glad to know I'm not alone. But you are an amazing woman. Thanks for sharing.


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