Author Archives: beyondmartha

His Daddy’s Son

 

Jude

 

My littlest man hates for his father to leave.

Every day, regardless of the the time of day, he slumps forlornly as his Daddy gives him good-bye love.

Every day, he follows us out to Daddy’s big green work van, reluctantly.

Every day, he makes up excuse after three year old excuse for his Daddy to stay just a few more minutes.

As we all walk back into the carport for Daddy to leave, he gets brushed past while the other children make a mad, hungry dash for the breakfast table. He stands as far out as I will let him, frantically waving bye-bye while he screams at the top of his lungs, “Bye Daddy! I love you! Be careful! Come home soon, Daddy, please!”

Every day, Daddy waves and shouts out the window, “I love you more, son! I’ll be home as soon as I can!”

And Daddy drives away.

Every day, my littlest makes a desperate sprint on his chubby little legs across the front yard, still screaming at the top of his lungs, “Daddy, I love you most!”

He runs and runs until he reaches the RV, his own boundary for being in the front yard, and leans as far as he can past it, desperately fighting the internal battle to follow his Daddy or to break his Daddy’s rule.

Every day, he makes the long walk back, slowly, almost painfully. His head hangs sadly on his chest. His arms swing despondently at his sides.

He sighs when he reaches me, standing there waiting with my arms out to sweep him into a hug.

“Momma,” he says, fighting back tears, “Daddy said he’d be back soon. When is soon?”

“Not too long, baby. He’ll be home before supper.”

My littlest man goes about his day, doing three year old things, and everything is to be like Daddy.

“I ate all my oatmeal, so I can grow and be big like my Daddy.”

“I built a house, just like my Daddy.”

“I want to do school and get smart like my Daddy.”

Through the lenses of his big, bright blue three year old eyes, his Daddy is  his hero, the greatest man on the whole face of this gigantic blue planet.

He has his Daddy’s eyes.

Every day, his world stops spinning as he groggily rubs his eyes after his nap. He stands, longer than should be possible for a three year old, his little button nose glued to the picture window. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, nothing in the world matters so much as this moment.

His Daddy’s come home!

Advertisements

The Old Oak Tree

Photo Credit

 

We seem to be establishing a pattern here recently. It looks a little something like this:

Wake up, coffee for me, cereal or oatmeal for the kids.

(I don’t cook breakfast during the week… I’m terrible, I know!)

Throw on some play clothes.

Pretend to do chores, while not accomplishing anything.

Pretend to do school while not accomplishing anything.

Run outside the first chance we get.

Stay there until supper time.

Today, the children have discovered the joys of climbing trees. Not that they haven’t climbed trees before, but there is a huge oak tree sitting in the middle of the field in front of an old cattle barn behind our house and I’ve given them permission to go to it.

The six of them have been in that tree or directly under it for the last three hours. The two youngest have been steadily riding their bikes or chasing butterflies while the others brave the tree heights. They don’t need much to occupy them, do they?

 

Just 50 years of tree growth.  Smile

 

Isn’t that just the way things go? Someone, sometime left that little seedling to grow in the middle of a cattle field, not knowing how much joy it would one day bring these six little children who are lucky enough to live near it.

Someone, sometime decided that it was perfectly placed in front of the old cattle barn… perfect enough to leave it and it’s given this exhausted momma have a couple of hours to relax thanks to it’s presence.

Sometimes, we just have to remember these little decisions, the smallest moments of passing compassion will reach far beyond what we could ever imagine.

It was probably more trouble then it was worth for whoever let it grow.

He’d have to mow around it.

It blocks any hope of a straight-shot to the barn doors with a vehicle.

I have no idea who he was or what he thought about it, or why he left it there.

But I’m grateful. 

Things I’ve Learned as a Mom

 

  • Pink oatmeal tastes better than blue oatmeal every day but Thursday. On Thursday, oatmeal must be orange.
  • Go Fish should be an Olympic sport.
  • Transformer Band-aid are the only kind of Band-aid that makes boo-boo’s better… unless it’s Bob the Builder Band-aids, or unless they happen to be neon green.
  • Playing on Leapster Explorers should count as schoolwork.
  • The Princess and the Frog never gets old.
  • One can always recognize a bayou when they actually see one because Tiana was a frog in one, NOT because of your carefully laid out and perfectly executed lesson plans on habitats.
  • Never give a child an ‘impossible’ chore to keep them from doing something you don’t want them to do: that chore will become their new favorite thing, not only to do, but to barter with and you will get stuck letting them do what you didn’t want them to do in the first place.
  • Never tell a child you can’t do something for them because you haven’t had your coffee this morning: they will promptly answer you the next time you need them to do something early in the morning with “I can’t. I haven’t had my orange juice yet.”
  • Never pull rank for the television when Tom and Jerry is on: Your child will promptly explain that the television has picture-in-picture (yeah, but who can work the darn thing?!?) and proceed to use it… with your program in the little box. (Oh right- the kids can!)
  • Sketchers are the ONLY brand of shoes. There are no other shoes in the entire world. Seriouslylisten carefully now… if they don’t say Sketchers on the side they are absolutely not shoes and you are wasting your money.
  • Putting a bow in your hair constitutes getting dressed in the morning, even if you’re running around in your underwear.
  • If you have children, your bedtime is their bedtime. Do not, under any circumstances, try to stay up and get things accomplished after they’re asleep. They will wake up promptly after 9 hours of sleep, even if you’ve only had 4 and it’s 6am in the morning. You will live to regret it for days.
  • Never tell the children “We’ll go outside later”- two minutes constitutes ‘later’ for a child and they will make you insane until your ‘later’ get here.

 

Hop on over to MamaKat’s Losin It where the inspiration for this post came from!

A Phonics Program that Works

We’ve been homeschooling now since my oldest, who is now 8, was 4. In that time, we’ve used *ahem* a lot of different curriculum and resources, some we adored and some that are, thus far, a big fat waste of money.

One of my absolute FAVORITE resources is for phonics, and we actually just discovered these a few weeks ago: Explode the Code!

I absolutely adore these- not because they are flashy or make outrageous claims. (“Teach your child to read at a 3rd grade level in just 12 weeks.” … nothing but hogwash!)

I love these because they are methodical, require the child to actually read in order to complete the workbook pages, and are simple and straight-forward enough for them to do on their own. The child is not distracted by flashy pictures (especially important with my children) and can’t really fake their way through.

Of course, they don’t want to! These books have become the absolute favorite thing in my house… my reluctant readers even beg to do phonics in them every day!

My children are a little under half way finished with their respective books (right now they are on 1, 2, and 4, respectively) and each one’s reading has jumped by leaps and bounds!

Also, at about $6 a book, they are perfectly priced for consumables in my opinion. They are well, well worth more than that, though! 

A Visit to the Therapist

If you were a fly on the wall in my house right now, what would you see?

You’d see my living room being turned into a wrestling ring.

You’d see three kids piled up on the couch playing Go Fish with my ‘Gin’ cards.

And you’d see me sitting here laughing at all of them!

I’m sitting here because I’ve had a very long day today, even though I feel like I wasted a whole bunch of it sitting in this chair. Ninny and Bubby had appointments this morning at 8:30 and 9:30 with their therapist. The Nephew also took his evaluation and pretest for his GED at 9:00. (Which, I hear, he did very well at!)

I was very glad to be able to give their therapist some good news: about the children making such huge strides in their reading in the last two weeks, and about Bubby being so selfless whenever his twin had sunburn.

She worked with Ninny on ways to cope with her stress level, and keep from panicking and with Bubby on ways to concentrate.

We had a discussion about some strategies to use both during school time and then at the rest of the time.

Some of it is things that we already do, such as:

*Making expectations clear.

*Rewarding good behavior.

(We have family meetings twice a week: one where we plan and outline for our week, and one where we discuss our week with it’s successes and failures. That kind of covers both of those.)

*Letting small things go and focusing on things that matter.

This is always hard, especially after a long day, but it’s the goal everyday.

*Stopping an activity at the first sign of frustrations.

Some of the things we are going to work at over the next two weeks until their next appointment are:

*Getting their dad to lower his volume to help keep their stress level down.

I love him, but he’s LOUD! It stresses me out (I’m a very quiet person by nature) so I’m not surprised this was at the top of the list to work on!

*Implementing a timer for the children to work on self-regulating.

Making them responsible for their own time-table; getting chores and assignments done in a reasonable time-frame.

*Buying each child an agenda and teaching them to use it.

Another part of teaching them to self-regulate. Hopefully, this will help them be more responsible for their own school work so it’s no longer a potential battle whenever they have to do an assignment.

 

My overall school related goal for them in the next two weeks is to lessen the time it takes them to get through each of their subjects so we can have a more normal school day. We are very bare-bones right now: Language Arts, Phonics, Math, etc. and I want to get them back to doing the more ‘fun’ subjects (that are also very important!) of Science, History, Geography, etc.

I also want to continue to build their confidence about their reading skills. This is SUCH a huge issue to me that it will always be first and foremost until they are ‘natural’ readers.

 

Behavior-wise, my goal is to put in place an ‘escape’ for their anger. I hate to see them losing their temper over minor things, and although I don’t specifically know exactly what we’re going to do- I am going to research this heavily and see what we can work out.

 

I am also working up my courage to invite their therapist to do a visit here. (That’s one of the services that she offers.) I think that it would help her in designing a ‘plan of attack’ for the children, to be able to see the children in their natural environment and maybe help her understand what ‘homeschool’ means in our house. (She’s not very familiar with the entire concept of homeschooling.) I also think it would probably make it easier on me to explain what goes on, and how they interact, and what our day looks like, etc. I honestly see only good things from a visit but… 

The working up of the courage, however, comes from the fact that we do have six children here- it’s a little much for the average person who’s used to one child at a time! Also, I have to admit that I’m scared of being judged, that I’m terrified that she will come here and say that I’m doing everything wrong and am ruining my children! How can I not be?

I’m scared of not being good enough.

Anyway, it’s just a thought rumbling through my head. We shall see!

A Full Time Job… Wait! What?

Did you ever experience that awkward moment whenever someone you just met asks you where do you work?

“At home.”

The reactions always tickle me. People don’t know exactly how to respond… you can almost tell that they’re wondering if you actually work from home or if that’s your clever ‘Mom-speak’ for cleaning the house while watching a Supernanny marathon and sipping coffee.

*ahem*

For me, the response is usually something along the lines of, “I bet being mom to six children IS a full time job!”

*rolls my eyes*

I am actually starting a new job working from home as a customer service representative tomorrow. Not necessarily by choice, though because I have to tell you my schedule is jammed packed without it. But circumstances being what they are, it’s the best thing for our family right now.

That does not negate the fact that being a homeschooling mother is any less of a full-time job. Since my oldest started school, almost four years ago, I’ve worked full-time. Many times, it takes me several weeks of 8-10 hour days to prepare, layout, and record the children’s progress. That’s not including times spent being Mommy or Wife, or Daughter.

What’s more, I don’t have a school board outlining appropriate curriculum, setting working hours, or a paycheck from it. Teachers in the public school system are awesome, and what they do is simply amazing, but that doesn’t devalue the role of a Home Educator.

I thought of this because I had to give references for my job history over the past four years. I laughed when I received the email- I’d be glad to give the phone to my children and let them tell them what I spend my time doing. Or pass it off to my husband and let him tell them how crazy I make him as I figure out this world of homeschooling.

Luckily, I have been involved in several ‘actual’ work experiences and environments so I could give them references but the notion I’ve not worked full time in four years still amuses me!

A Refreshing Breeze

Photo Credit

It smells wonderful here.

Aren’t you jealous? You just don’t know. Imagine you’re walking down that little path, the sky getting darker, the rain clouds about to burst. The wind teasing the ends of your hair. Can you smell it yet?

It’s fantastic!

I always love the rain. It’s so simple, so pure.

I always use the rain outside as an excuse to be lazy inside. That may be part of the reason I love it so much. But, in my house, rain is an excuse to relax, sleep, rest, and refresh.

Living as the mother of a big family is never what you’d call easy. Much less so by whenever your house is under remodeling and your schedule is thrown for a loop.

Which around here is every day!

I used to beat myself up about days like these. Yeah, I enjoyed them, but I’d spend the next several days trying to play catch up with this imaginary deadline that I’d have to meet. Of course, that deadline was always just out of reach.

Then I’d push it closer.

Call me a glutton for punishment, but I really did that to myself! I don’t know why… I had to keep up with all these imaginary perfect people in my head. Failure to do so was a complete violation of my …. everything. I actually lived with the motto “Fake it ‘till you make it” for years.

I can’t say that I’m all better, because I’m not. I still stress out about little things like we didn’t do all the pages I assigned or I didn’t get to cleaning out the refrigerator (again- I hate cleaning out the refrigerator!) But I’ve learned I will eventually get to it. We’ll eventually cover that dreaded spelling lesson. I’ll eventually clean out the fridge before it’s entirely gross. I’ll eventually wake up and make my bed before 9 am. (maybe).

But I have learned that it’s alright to focus and do things right. It’s alright that we spend entire weeks working on nothing but phonics and writing. We’ll get to the other stuff. It’s alright to call off school for the day to go outside and smell the flowers and learn to ride a bicycle with no training wheels. It’s alright if we abandon the books for a day to loaf around at the train museum. It’s alright to sleep until noon on Saturdays.

But it’s a requirement to sit outside and enjoy the breeze before the rain.

What makes it worth it.

In the grand scheme of this thing I call life, I often find myself dwelling on the negative things. For instance, as I write this post, I’m sitting in my recliner (that I stole from my husband because the nephew broke the footrest on mine) surfing blogs, angrily, while out the window the weather reflects my mood. (There’s a thunderstorm going on right now.)

Why?

(And before you ask: Yes, yes, you can surf angrily. I can give you lessons if you’d like.. I tend to do this more often then I’d like to admit.)

Because my children have been fighting, arguing, bickering, crying, and screaming all day. It’s been a Waterloo around here and I’m Napoleon.

And.now.they.won’t.lay.down.and.take.a.nap.

(My husband snickered at me when he got home! “So nothing new, then?” he says!)

That’s why I was so thrilled when I read Angie’s challenge on The Homeschool Classroom. Well, ‘thrilled’ is probably too strong of a word- ‘challenged’ would probably be better.

So here it is:

My sweet Bubby is the funniest, most creative little monster boy you’d ever meet. He has a heart of gold, and even shows it sometimes. But schoolwork is a nightmare.

N.I.G.H.T.M.A.R.E.

I started him like I did my girls (one of whom is his twin) with basic phonics at 4 year old. He STILL fights and struggles with even simple things like remembering the alphabet, and putting the sounds together … it’s a constant minefield.

Whenever the new year started I had him help me pick out all the curriculum I purchased to give him a sense of ownership. We’ve slowly but surely worked our way through his phonics books, sound by painful, bone-wrenching sound. I try to be encouraging and push hard enough while not pushing too hard and frustrating him.

It’s a delicate balance that I often lose.

And he still doesn’t understand.

On Tuesday, it was time for his phonics and I was busy helping his twin sister work on a new set of blends for her phonics. It comes natural to her and I’ve always tried to separate the times they work on similar subjects to keep him from comparing himself to her. But it was just one of those days I was running behind. It felt like a disaster waiting to happen.

He brought his book to the table and set down with his little pencil. I looked over about ten minutes later and he had completed an entire page!

Shocked, I asked him, “Did you do that?”

“Yep.”

“Did you look back in the book for the answers?”

(They’re allowed to do that on practice pages)

Nope.”

“Sooooo…. you read it?”

“Yep”

“Can you read it to me, now?”

“Yep.”

And he read to me.

My heart fluttered.

My face flushed.

I picked him up and twirled him around the room, smothering him with kisses, while his sisters danced at our feet, cheering for him.

That’s one of the moments that make it all worth it.

And that’s my best recent moment.

Friday Night Lights

Sissy at football practice- Fall 2012

It seems to me that summer is coming early this year. Starting on Leap Day 2012, the weather around here has been ferocious. We’ve gone from hot, sunny days to fierce spring storms, back to hot, sunny days.

I’m not gonna lie, the children may or may not have played outside too long yesterday and gotten a little bit of a sunburn. And I may or may not have stayed awake half the night fretting over the ‘rebellious nephew problem’ coupled with the sunburn problem and seriously regretted it this morning.

Maybe.

It got me thinking about a “simpler time”- last fall. Of course, that’s entirely a matter of perspective because even then we had Little Miss’ problems (cerebral palsy), and the baby’s problems (a multicystic dysplastic kidney and severe lactose intolerance) to worry about. It seemed simpler, and that’s what mattered.

The girls were cheering and the boys were playing football. We were at practice three times a week and spent our weekends at the football stadium. That, coupled with our regular schedule, meant a huge scale back on the workload during school time.

There was a lot of relaxing, a lot of down time, and a lot of just plain fun.

My stress level was so low! I almost can’t remember what it felt like to be that chilled!

Not that it’s the children’s fault; It’s the natural course of life, things change and change is difficult.

That doesn’t mean that I can’t wish it came easier.

My children have begun to ease into a new routine with new expectations since we’ve been regulars at LifeSkills. Bubby’s reading is improving by leaps and bounds. He actually spent the evening taking care of his twin because she (may or may not have) gotten sunburned yesterday. Ninny is developing confidence in her abilities as a student. They’ve both seriously lessened their angry outbursts. (Even though they are still way more frequent than I’d like.) Sissy continues to amaze me with her lack of a real need for me to instruct her at: that child is a sponge! The Littles are the Littles, and as long as I can keep the two monkeys from jumping off the roof (while the other one eggs it on), I feel accomplished.

My stress right now comes from an older source: my nephew. I have come so very close to telling him this week he has to move out… I feel like it’s on a continuous track in my head. He’s 19 and I don’t feel like I should be having to fight the battles that I’m fight on a daily basis: he insists on jumping from girl to girl, cheating on the girl he has pregnant, in front of my children. He breaks all the rules I lay down. He’s disrespectful to my husband and myself. He came here because his mother couldn’t stand his attitude and actions any more and I didn’t want to see him on the street.

I’m almost past that point.

He and my husband almost came to blows last night. He went with them to the YMCA, supposedly to cheer on the kids as they took their swim test, and ended up sneaking off the property with his latest flame. I’ve been telling him for three weeks that I didn’t want her anywhere near my children and I didn’t want him using our membership at the Y for a free date with her. Then he brought her to our van and kissed her in front of the kids. When they got home, Ninny almost immediately asked me why he was kissing that girl when she’s not his fiancé.

How do you explain that to an eight year old?!?

Oh sweetie, he’s just a man-whore. Stay away from that kind of man!”  That’s the truthful explanation but it’s not the one a child needs to hear.

When my husband confronted him about it, he threw the equivalent of an adult fit: he sulked up, started cussing, and telling the hubs to get out of his f-n face before he beat it in.

(First of all, they were outside away from the children and the windows in the dark when all this happened, lucky for him because I don’t tolerate that behavior or language around the children. Secondly, I’m not too worried about him actually trying to hit my husband: he’s pretty well versed in Jujitsu, mixed martial arts, and boxing and he’s in darn good shape and the nephew has admitted many times to me that he’s terrified of actually following through with any of those threats. Thirdly, the hubs wasn’t in his face until the nephew started trying to push him.)

My husband was mostly upset about him not acting like an adult and not being willing to sit down and talk like a man. I was mostly upset because it’s just one more night that my husband has had to devote away from me and the children to deal with the drama, and it’s the second of these blow-ups we’ve had in less than a week.

Part of me wants to say that my nephew needs it. He’s been shuffled back and forth between his parents who couldn’t be worse examples if they tried. They were too worried about their own selfish pursuits to focus on what was best for their children. I want to help him.

The growing majority of me is just fed up and wants him out.

I don’t know what is the right thing to do. If he leaves here, he literally has no where to go and no one who will take him in. I just don’t know if that would be an entirely bad thing; make him make his own way, so to speak. If he leaves here, he loses his job (he works for my husband) too because he doesn’t have his own vehicle to make it back and forth to work.

I don’t know that there is a right or wrong answer to this one. The stress is killing me though. I’m just wishing for simple days of school, practice, games, and doctor appointments…

Define ‘Character’

I am always hesitant to describe what a typical day in our household looks like. With six children, they are bound to be a little chaotic at any rate. When you add in two ADHD children, and ADHD teenage nephew, a child with cerebral palsy, and three hyperactive toddlers, the recipe looks like disaster!

For years, I’ve struggled with this. It’s not easy. I look at my friends’ and families’ lives and they look like beacons of peace. I know, in my head, that they feel like they don’t have control over a lot of things, that their days almost never go as planned. That doesn’t help in my heart when I just feel like locking myself in a closet to cry because I’ve lost all control over everything and feel like I can’t breathe.

Their lives look like perfection.

I put my head in my heads and wail “Why, God?! Why can’t we be normal? Why do I have to deal with all of this by myself?”

“It’s not fair!”

Then, of course, the tap-tap-tapping starts at the door and I dry my eyes and soldier on.

When I was a teenager, my youth group did a very intensive study on what makes up character. Character, by definition, is the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.

It’s everything that makes us who we are.

It defines us.

My youth pastor had a better definition though. He said, “Character is what you do when no one is looking.”

That puts it into perspective, doesn’t it? What am I doing when no one is around? Am I sitting around feeling sorry for myself because my life is challenging? Am I holding pity parties for myself because because everything is not easy? Am I whining and complaining because I used my time to feel sorry for myself instead of cleaning the house or tending to the children?

That’s not a character to be proud of.

It’s not one you want to be remembered for.

Instead, when life gets difficult, I should look out instead of in. I’m not doing anyone a bit of good by dwelling on things that I cannot change. This is the hand I’ve been dealt. I should work to make it a better experience, to get more joy out of precious moments.

I can’t control many aspects of this crazy life that I lead, but I can control the small things. I can smile more, laugh more, love more. I can spend my free time bettering myself instead of dwelling on how ‘rough’ I have it.

I can control more than I realize.

And I can start with myself.