21Apr

A Cure For My Twitchy Eye

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I have literally developed a twitch. It’s on my left eyelid. If my heart rate picks up even the slightest, it starts to jump around. I know when it developed…

Back in November, I was burned out on homeschooling. I was worn out by noon and discouraged when I was still working through math at 6 pm – a time I wanted to just be “Mom.”

I found the balance between teacher and Mommy had become so lop-sided that nobody wanted to live with me any more, including me. My relationship with my kids was suffering because I always had my teacher hat on and could never take it off long enough in a day to wear the 50 other hats I cart around.

Andrew and I analyzed this issue for awhile without answers until, quite by accident, he handled a day of homeschooling on his own.

Now, he can do that job. He’s done it before. But I guess it had been awhile since I had given him a full day’s work to get through. He looked me in the eye and said, “Nobody can do this and stay sane.”

“This is what I’m saying,” I said with a finger pressed to my jumpy eyelid.

Here’s the thing: I love teaching. I especially love teaching my own kids because of all the potential for big conversations. (Plus, they are my favorite people on the planet.)  I’m still utterly convinced that homeschooling is a good fit for our family. So what’s a girl to do when the lifestyle she loves and believes in becomes a chore?

Andrew talked me through the homeschool day and we agreed there were two things wearing me down:

1. Sheer Volume of Interruptions. I’m pretty good about not blowing my top every time a kid interrupts (usually) because a mother of seven must develop some skills. But if seven people interrupt me only once every half hour with a totally legitimate need, I will never finish a thought. And that’s what was happening. The sheer volume of needs and questions among our brood, while most of them not being out of the range of what’s acceptable for an interruption, all added up to way more than one human being can cater to and still accomplish anything resembling education.

2. Phonics. I had three kids in full-blown phonics training and two more in pre-phonics training. Just getting through five kids and their phonetical needs would not only kill a good three hours but it will make a woman’s ears bleed. I had no time to devote to my older boys who didn’t need phonics but needed me for discussion of the tough stuff.

So we scrunched the budget a little and I put a plea out on facebook: I need a phonics tutor.

Sometimes I could kiss the internet. 

A Facebook friend led us to Mrs. Jennifer. She comes three mornings a week and handles the preschool and phonics. And, because God knew I would need help for more than an eye twitch, we recently discovered some learning challenges among our kids that need extra special attention. Enter: Mrs. Jennifer.

She covers all the individual one-on-one reading stuff while I handle math, latin, handwriting, and social studies. This means that Sam and Ian aren’t stuck getting my exhausted left-overs at the end of a long morning. I’ve got built in time to have those really deep, juicy discussions about the Roman empire that we like.

Jennifer helps me with the grading of workbooks and the caliber of everyone’s work has improved now that they know for certain someone who isn’t sobbing into her coffee will be holding them accountable for their handwriting.

We’ve worked out a routine of sorts to make sure that we each get time with the kids who need our attention. Finn asks for her every day. “Is Miz Jenn-fuh comin’ today, Mama?”

And she’s taught the kids some things I’ve missed, like the days of the week and the months of the year.

*hangs head in shame* I know, ok? I was busy gestating and forgot.

Our school days are a lot more regular if we know someone’s coming over to help us do school. It means I can’t punt in favor of the next emergency. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s limiting (like when something fun comes up), but I know that what is best for my people is to “stay regular” and educate them.

Jennifer is sweet to roll with it when my day runs away from me. I try really hard to respect what I hired her for and not turn her into a glorified baby-sitter. Or, if I need that kind of help, I try to warn her in advance. But some days when an interruption becomes Important, like today when some money went missing from a bank account and I had to go hunt it down, I could point at the table and ask Jennifer to “Just keep them alive for fifteen minutes.”

And every homeschool mama coveted just a little.

We thought this was  a temporary solution for us to get us through the school year until I could find an appropriate boarding school or an insane asylum for me and my twitchy eye. Instead, we’ve found peace and productivity with Mrs. Jennifer in our home. She’s agreed to keep working with us and our method of insanity and, even though my eye still twitches, it doesn’t twitch as much about the schooling. I can still answer the interruptions that come my way without fretting that the fifty phonics lessons on my plate won’t get done.

With Mira’s leg length surgery looming ahead this fall, I’m going to need someone to help me keep the school train moving in between doctor visits and physical therapy. Mrs. Jennifer is, blessedly, that someone. I didn’t realize until recently what this surgery would entail, but I see now that God was being so gracious, even in my seeming Insanity, to provide for us in advance of the time when we really will be in over our eyeballs.

It’s a luxury, I know, and I treat it as such. Mrs. Jennifer will get her fill and move on, I’m sure. But for right now, I’m just so grateful to have her in our lives. It’s nice to have a fellow soldier in the trenches with me on those long homeschool mornings. At the very least, pretty soon I’ll have somebody around with a matching twitch…

 

 

 

 

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Does It Get Easier?

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I’ve mentioned a time or eighty that Andrew and I are still adjusting to this “new” season of life. This season where we’re mostly done with babies. We’re figuring out what to do with a “Mid-dul Skool-er” and some people actually look at us like seasoned veterans of parenting.

*insert maniacal laughter*

In one sense, it’s true. Gone are the days when my one trip to the grocery store with four kids 3 and under was my week’s victory. Gone are the days when we could still eat out for under 50 bucks.

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We had a family over the other night with babies and I realized: Gone is my baby gear. I couldn’t even find a spare sippy cup!

So I love on these mamas with babies and I pat them on the shoulder and I promise them, “Hang in there, honey. It gets easier.”

And it does. Kind of.

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I wear less food and snot on my clothing.

People learn to wipe their own butts.

My house is no cleaner. But I have lots of hands to help me clean it now.

Yet parenting seems to stay just one step short of “easier,” no matter the season.

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Last week, one of the boys had to pay us back for something he broke. This meant he had no money to blow on Legos when we made the monthly trip to Wal-Mart with the kids and their allowances. Consequences, right? But then, his brothers got together and decided to buy him a gift out of sympathy for his plight. Compassion! Yay!

To encourage this behavior, I told them to buy a slightly nicer gift (that wouldn’t break in twenty seconds) and I would chip in the extra two bucks. Reinforcement! Hoorah!

Then we got to the van and discovered that the generous brothers didn’t actually have the extra money to spare on a gift for their brother and somehow, because I put the whole purchase on a card and expected them to pay me, I’d just bought the consequenced brother a gift all by myself. #parentfail

Parenting quandary: What do you do with the compassionate brothers for wanting to do something nice but forgetting about the laws of arithmetic?

That’s the sort of question that will leave you stumped in the middle of the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Middle schoolers, man.

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My friend Lisa is blogging again and she says teen-agers aren’t any easier:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” 
Wikipedia explains that this poem is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian, and its most common association is with the Alcoholics Anonymous program. 

But as a mom of teenaged sons, I’m inclined to think that a mom on her knees with carpet fuzz in her nose hairs cried it out in the closet one dark night of the soul while interceding for the soul of her son.

She’s just the epitome of a pick-me-up, right?

So what do we do? The truth is, parenting isn’t really going to get easier. Sure, I’m not terrified of sitting in a pew alone with my 7 kids, holding the 3 year old in a half-nelson during church. But ask me about teaching decimals and I’m in a corner sucking my thumb. And don’t even mention talks about curfews and cell phones…

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We learn early as mamas that we can’t make them sleep through the night, love long division, or go the speed limit when they get their license. I don’t think we get any stronger to handle that knowledge as our babies age. But maybe we get braver.

We get brave enough to let them ride without training wheels, brave enough to let them earn their Legos back by swapping out their winter and summer clothes all by themselves (whimper), brave enough to drop them off at the mall and drive away (oh, but, NOT YET)….

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We don’t get braver because we learn to rely on ourselves. Rather, we get Mama Brave because we are better at leaning into Him, at feeling our weakness and accepting Who is strongest.

We still scratch our heads over what to do, we cry out when we think these people will break our hearts or our spirits, we lose our cool and yell, then lose our minds and stay up late making balloon surprises or birthday cakes shaped like pirate ships.

Mothering isn’t about having the right answers. It’s about being brave when you don’t. It’s about being smart enough to admit you’re not sure what to do but you’re sure about Who put those people in your family. It’s believing that He will be strong and wise when you are weak and hiding in the bathroom with chocolate.

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So be brave, Mamas. This parenting gig is bigger than us, but so is our God. Have the courage to rest in Him who conquers sin, death, and things that go bump in the night. Keep storming heaven for your sons and daughters, keep admitting when you’re wrong, and keep showing your kids where you place your trust – especially when it comes to them.

He is faithful. And He makes us Brave.

 

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