Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back to School!

I seriously wanted to shoot a video of them getting onto the school bus, and then, when it started to pull away from the curb, have the "Hallelujah Chorus" start playing.  Man, were we ever ready for summer vacation to be over this time!  The kids have been chomping at the bit for school to start, and yesterday their school had their Open Houses, so they all got to meet their new teachers, and it was an exercise in impossibility to keep them calm afterwards.  Excited kids!

(Please excuse the quality of the photos...my camera is really having a hard time lately!)

Mr. Monkeyboy is going into the first grade this year, and he is so ready for it.  He was pretty miffed last year that Kindergarten lasted only half a day, and so this summer really wore on him while he waited for "all day long" school to finally start.

His teacher seems very nice, and last night he told me, "I really like my teacher.  I think she's going to be good."  Alright then!

She sent him home with a little bag that said to open it before he went to bed last night, and when we did open it, it was filled with confetti and a cute little poem about sprinkling the confetti under his pillow so it could magically help him sleep well and be ready for his first day of school.

I checked under his pillow as I was tucking him in, and he had sprinkled his confetti.  Oh my goodness, the cuteness of it all.  This morning when I woke him up for breakfast I asked if the confetti helped him sleep, and he stretched and groaned and said, "I think it helped me sleep TOO well.  It's hard to get up."  Hee hee.

Miss Junebug is not that excited about returning to school, but she was pretty happy about wearing her new clothes.  AND her classroom is decorated with Pete the Cat, Bad Kitty, If You Give a Dog a Doughnut, and all sorts of cute little animals.  She's very excited about all that.

Miss Penguin is happy to go to school again.  Her teacher seems like a sunshine-y ball of energy, so I think Penguin will enjoy her school year.

Her teacher is on the short side, just barely taller than her fifth grade students, and last night as Monkeyboy was talking about school he randomly exclaimed, "And Penguin's teacher is just so cute I can hardly stand it!"  Oh, how I laughed.

And little Miss Bluebird starts JUNIOR HIGH this year, which means she heads out to catch the bus fifty minutes before the rest of the Brookelets.

Today is actually her second day of school, as yesterday was "Seventh Grade Day," where all the incoming seventh graders come in for half a day in order to learn how to work their lockers and get a feel for changing classrooms without all the extra commotion of having the eighth and ninth graders in the hallways.

I think she's going to have a good year, just as long as she stays on top of her homework.  In addition to getting into Honors Science ("It's almost ALL BOYS in there!"), she also was placed in Honors Math.  Proud of my girl.


They're getting so big, so fast!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It's Double Digits for Penguin!

I love you so much, my sweet girl.  I love how diligent and consistent you are in getting stuff done, how gentle you can be with your younger siblings, and how thoughtful you are towards me on my bad back days.  You're going to go far in this world with that amazing combination of determination and consideration.  I tell people that "I don't have to worry about you," because I know you'll do the things you've been asked to do, simply because you've been asked to do them.  (I say this, but don't worry--I am very much aware of you and I keep track of you just in case you do need a helping hand.)

Your tenth year was a pretty mellow year.  You showed up to the things you were supposed to show up to, you did the work, and then you'd go home.  You advanced in your piano lessons, you sang in the Opening Ceremony Choir for your new elementary school, you were invited to join Mathletes, you earned straight A's all school year, and you learned how to bake cupcakes (which we've all really enjoyed!).

You signed up to help with the school play, helping with the sets and sound effects.  You were really bummed out afterwards, and you told me that it just wasn't as fun as you thought it was going to be.  Perhaps theater isn't in the cards for you?  We'll see.

You came back for your second year of softball, and the season started kind of slow for you because you kept getting hit by pitches.  Over and over, every game--we had to ice a few of them, too.  It became the team joke--when you'd walk up to the plate, all us parents would glance around at each other in apprehension, and then sigh when you'd inevitably get beaned yet again.

BUT...you kept showing up, the pitchers improved their aim as the season went on, and you stopped getting hit by the ball.  It took another couple of weeks for you to stop protecting yourself and get back into the mindset of believing you'd hit the ball, and then you did pretty well!  Your team was completely undefeated, and you made an amazing play at third base during the State Championship game.

It's been a good year for you!

So what's next, my dear girl?

You've decided to switch instruments this year, and you're excited for your first flute lesson!  I love the look in your eyes when you open up your flute case and just gaze at that shiny silver instrument.  You are rather smitten--I hope the breathing technique comes easily to you!  You're on the fence about joining the school's orchestra, but I'm doing my best to gently nudge you towards participation because, hey, extra practice and extra performances will do nothing but good things for you.

You tried out and earned a spot on an accelerated softball team, and I'm absolutely thrilled for you!  Of course, I have no idea what this is going to ask of us, schedule-wise, but we'll make it work for you.  We're so proud of you.

I hope fifth grade is enjoyable for you, and I hope you get that fifth grade growth spurt that you're looking forward to...you overheard me talking about the phenomenon and latched onto the idea of showing up Bluebird in the height category this year.  We'll see...

My sweet girl, keep doing what you're doing, because you're doing a fabulous job!  Your dad and I love you so much, and we're so thankful that Heavenly Father sent you to us.  You are one of our greatest blessings.  Happy, happy birthday, my big ten year old!

May all your wishes come true...

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Seven "C's" of Homemaking

While I was in Australia and figuring out how to structure my days after sending the kids to school, I came up with what I like to call "The Seven 'C's' of Homemaking."  What can I say?  I like having a schedule, and I like having days designated for specific types of things.  It works for me.  With the beginning of my "Homemaking Highlights" posts starting this week, I figured that I should explain my categories, as I'll be using them in my HH posts.

#1: Cooking, or feeding everyone.  When I sat down to figure out what my highest priorities each day should be, I ended up deciding that food was number one.  There's not a whole lot you can do if you haven't eaten, because eventually you'll die of starvation.  Also, kids are freakin' MONSTERS if they're not eating healthy and balanced meals, so scheduling out adequate time for preparing good food is crucial to a happy home life.

You wouldn't go to all the work of painting and cleaning your vehicle, only to not fill the gas tank, would you?  Same principle for our bodies.  We need fuel to function.  Period.

#2: Clothing.  Once you've got food in your belly, you don't want to run around naked.  Laundry, mending, ironing, wardrobe planning--if these things are done efficiently, you can look pretty darn good for not that much money.

#3: Cleaning.  It's number three because you can answer the door and check the mail if your floors aren't mopped, but you really shouldn't do those things if you're naked.  Cleaning is so important!  I despise that cleaning is so important, but it's at the front of the line in maintaining your family's health.  Germs cause sickness.  Sickness costs money, time, and energy, all of which I'd rather put to use elsewhere.  Cleaning kills germs.  Plus, it makes your house look and smell nice.  'Nuf said.

#4: Caring.  This is kind of a catch-all category, combining office work, planning, and relationships--you know, those "little details" that make others' lives nice.  Keeping us organized and putting a little extra effort into relationships make a world of difference in the "feeling" of our home.  (One of my kids loves it when I make their bed up all fresh and clean for them.  It's a simple thing, but it means a lot to them.  I try to find things like that to do for each member of my family.)  This category also serves as a "service" category--if all's well in our family, then I cast my eye around for a friend, neighbor, or extended family member to show a little extra TLC.

#5: Creating/Hobbies.  I've tried to bump this down the list, I really have, but through trial and error I have had to concede that my personal make-up demands regular creative time or I get seriously depressed.  So, #5.  We all need a little play once our work is done.

#6: Celebrations/Special Events.  Whatever's up next on the calendar, it usually means some sort of advanced preparation.  If I'm always including time in my week for ahead-of-time preparations, all those stressful celebrations lose a lot of their stressfulness.  When I realized that most of my kids' memories revolved around celebrations, I decided to make sure that I was prepared for said celebrations.  Some years I've been too overwhelmed, or too under-prepared, and I'm trying to avoid that from now on.

#7:  Church (or "Community" if religion isn't your thing).  I struggled with placing this last, but it's a good fit for us.  I believe that I shouldn't be extending myself to the Church if I first don't have my home under control.  Emergencies pop up in the ward or neighborhood that cancel out my "home first" list, but they're rare.  (Part of the definition of "emergency," isn't it?)  And I don't want to be that mom who never has time for her family because she's too busy with her calling or volunteer work.  So, #7.

Now, of course, this list comes into play after I've put my own oxygen mask on each day.  One thing that my back injury has taught me is the importance of self-care, and that you pay for your health in basically one of two ways:  #1:  Time, money and effort to be healthy (ie. working out, gym memberships, sweating, going to the dentist and doctor for regular check-ups, eating right, etc.); or #2:  Time, money and effort to be UNhealthy (ie. being sick and/or injured, medical bills, feeling tired, emergency repair work and their associated fees, paying through the nose for take-out because you're too sick or injured to cook, etc.).  Option #1 gives you a lot of control, and Option #2 is a relentless slavedriver that takes over your life without your permission.  Take your pick.

So, my own personal physical, emotional, and spiritual health comes first each day.  And that's not selfish at all--how good of a wife and mom can I be if I'm sick, injured, upset, or ungrounded?  Not that great.  In fact, my UNhealthiness takes over my family's days when they have to do my work, and drive me to appointments.  Their day kind of sucks when I'm moody or irritable, and their faith suffers when I don't do my part to help feed it with helping them get to church or doing our regular scripture studies and Family Home Evenings.  My family is leaps and bounds healthier when I am healthier.  End of story.

I have to do my health stuff first thing in the day or I get too busy to do it later.  I'm also a morning person, and I do my best work in the morning.  By late afternoon I'm pretty much useless, and exercising is totally not happening by that point.  Just nope!

Sooooo, that's my mental list of how to order my days.  I also like to assign each category to one day a week, and use that day to really accomplish everything I can in that category.  Like, on "Clothing" day, despite doing a few loads of laundry every day, I try really hard to get every piece of dirty clothing washed and put away, and also get through the ironing and mending as best I can.  I also try to assign each day to a different family member for "caring" for them--a day to really think about them and find little things to do for them, from making up their bed nice, to maybe doing one of their chores that they really don't like, or making a treat or meal (or just a side dish to go with our scheduled meal) that they especially like.  Even if I can't get to doing something tangible for them, at least I was thinking about them all day, and I feel like the love I have for them grows, which is a good thing for us both.

Aaaand, if I manage to get through the entire list in a day, I then start over, but with my extended family, friends, neighbors, and/or community in mind.  The list is literally endless.  If we just took care of each other, we'd have no poor among us.  Do my siblings' families have enough food?  Do my children's friends have clothing in well repair?  Does my pregnant neighbor need a hand with some housework?  Would a friend appreciate a handwritten letter?  Could I do a crafty de-stash and take it to the senior center?  Do I know of a fellow parent with a kid getting baptized or married soon that I could volunteer to bring a platter of food, or fold programs, or run errands for them?  Does my ward, stake, or area need some of my extra time?  I want to be that person.

But, for now, I'm busy with the highest priority of raising my own children, so...I don't get to look outside my home too terribly often during this chapter of my life.  But when my children are grown up and have flown the nest, it will have been good to practice growing a service-oriented mindset as best as I could during these years.  It's the best I can do for right now, and I feel good about it.

So, there it is!  Just another woman's way of keeping her homelife in check.  It works well for us.  :)