Sunday, May 31, 2009

Seeing a Light...

at the end of the tunnel. I love what a friend of mine posted on Facebook the other day. Is that the light at the end of the tunnel (as in the end of school) or is it an inbound train? hmmm, I am not sure...

Sorry I haven't posted. I am also behind on reading/commenting on blogs which I love to do.

Last night I crashed around 10:30...very early for me.

This morning I got up early (unusual for me on a Saturday), and I went to a school fundraiser at Applebee's. I worked in the back, passing out syrup and butter. It was my first attempt at food service. :) I think I will stick with teaching.

Afterwards I spent about six hours in my classroom just packing things up, taking things off the wall, putting some last minute things together for Monday which is our last day of school (with kids). I enjoyed the time. I pumped up a Michael W. Smith CD and sang away. (Thankfully nobody else was really there to hear me :)

When I got home, we worked on putting the trampoline back together. (If you have read for a while, you may remember the night several months ago we had a big storm that carried our trampoline up and over the fence into our neighbor's yard.) It was so nice out (a little warm but a nice treat after our cold temps Thursday). Our trampoline is put together but it is a bit warped. So I sat on one side (so glad my weight is good for something) and Mark held down the other. We let the kids just jump around hoping it would stretch it a little so it would sit flat. It isn't all the way back to normal but it doesn't look like a Pringle anymore.

Let's see...Child 3 had her last day of preschool on Friday. She loved school but she was actually very excited to be done. The youngest had his last day of daycare with Ms. Amanda. She isn't going to keep him next year (I am afraid he may have worn out his welcome :), so it was a big goodbye for him. Well, as big as it gets with two year olds who have no concept of time. And it was Mark's last day with one company; Monday he starts his new job.

I do have some proud Mommy moments to share (is that bragging to share them?) but I am going to get to bed for now. I am trying to finish up a slideshow to send home with my kiddos on Monday so I will either write again later or Monday night...

And if I haven't visited your blog lately, know that I miss you! I will be catching up this week.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Have You Hugged a Teacher Today?

You probably can spot one a mile away...the glazed over eyes (lack of sleep), the slumped shoulders (trying to carry too many burdens at once), the worn fingers (paperwork, paperwork, paperwork), the tears on her face (saying good-bye to yet another group of kids)...

It is really hard to explain to anyone what this time of year is like for a teacher. Exhaustion, through and through. I can think of no other words. I can try but honestly if you are not in it personally, you truly cannot know. Even my sweet husband of 12 1/2 years just doesn't fully "get it".

I am not one to keep up with the countdown. Lots of times the end of schools surprises me more than the kids. I love what I do. However, when I get in that final stretch, I can see the finish line. I also see the hurdles ahead.

The end of school brings changed routine. We have more special days now than ever. Fun days of fun activities, but the change brings fatigue (at least for me). I am quickly gathering all of my students' saved work for little "portfolios" to send home to parents. I have been working on a slideshow of a couple hundred (plus) pictures that I have taken throughout the year to burn to CD's for the kiddos. I am writing some "memory notes" for kids who are moving on next year. I am writing out report cards and report card notes to let parents know where there child is and what they can do this summer to help next year be another good year of learning. I am gathering paperwork to pass on to first grade teachers. I am packing up the room, shelf by shelf, removing everything from the walls, everything from the ceiling. On top of all that, life does not stop at home. My own kids need me to handle their paperwork. They are bringing home stacks of things from their own classrooms that now need new homes. Baseball for one kiddo (both practices and games) are in full swing, as is the mood of the toddler on the go.

I am not saying all this for sympathy. It is a job I have chosen to do. And many of the things I am doing are things I have CHOSEN to do as gifts to my kids and their parents.

Just know if you see me out on the streets and I don't look quite as dapper or the circles are ever widening under my eyes, there is a reason. If you say something kind (or unkind for that matter :), tears may spring to my eyes quickly.

I am tired. Exhausted. Fatigue.

Yesterday, a group of high school kids who play sports at our nearby high school came to our school to read and talk with the students. They found their way to the lounge at one point where we had food (another task that happens this time of year...LOTS of potlucks). Two different students said, "Mrs. Cloud, do you remember me?" I just want to say that boys in high school look NOTHING like boys in kindergarten. I think they change alot. Throw in fatigue and the pressure of producing names, I panicked. I had to admit defeat. However, they said their names and then it was like my eyes were opened. I knew exactly who they were. I could tell you exactly what they were like in kindergarten. Now, they are in high school. They were models of education and literacy for our kids. And in one small way, I was part of it. And they remembered me.

That is why I do it...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Third Time's the Charm...

I have changed the title of this post three times. I have tried finishing it three times. I am not getting far. I have a lot of stuff to do for school just staring at me across the room. But I am determined that the third time will be the charm...

When you have your first child, you start saying your name "Mama" over and over while your child is at a very young age, just holding your breath in anticipation of that moment your baby will utter it back. Unfortunately, then you figure out that once Baby learns it, it can and will be used during the middle of the night, after a messy incident at home, or when the sun doesn't shine just right. So the next child that comes around, you practice saying "Dada" instead. :)

Our youngest was with one foster mother for almost eight months. He was just a week or so old when he went to live with her, and he remained there until we picked him up. I had read that when a child has a primary caregiver, the transition is usually fairly smooth after adoption. And it was. The first night or so our little guy had a "mourning" period for his foster mom. After that, he switched his allegiance over to me where it remains today. Now it took him a while to say "Mama" but I always just knew when he was talking to me whether he said it or not. When he finally did start, he learned it well. I hear it probably 200+ times a day, and I am not even with him much of the day during the week. It is a call I will hear if he is more than five feet away, and sometimes I think he says it just because he thinks it is fun. Many of conversations in the car consist of this child saying, "Mama!" in many different voices and volumes, with me answering his name in the same voice and volume. When he gets up in the morning, one of the first things I hear (Mark usually gets him up) is "Mama? Where's Mama?" Then in the evenings when I put him down for bed, he is in his bed calling out, "Mama? Mama?"

Last night I was trying to chill out. It was a long day at school...good but long. I was out in the sun a lot of the day which drains me of energy. Mark took the two big kids to Child 1's game. I took the easy way out. I really don't do it often. I put in a Thomas the Train movie. It kept Child 4 still for about...8 minutes. (Child 3 however was mesmerized the entire time) Then he started to get bored. I was trying to deal with some school paperwork which for some reason is an invitation to him to climb in my lap rendering the job almost impossible. This child is very touchy feely, and he spent some time just exploring my face as he yelled out the body part (picture a chubby finger in my eye as he is yelling "EYE!"). And just when I would feel a bit exasperated, he would get right in my face and say, "Mama". One of the sweeter moments was when he pointed to me and said, "Mama" then pointed to himself and attempted to say his own name. Last night as I put him down, he said, "Love you" first. He has said it to me for a while in response to me saying it first. That is the first time he said it on his own.

All this to say, I have no doubt where I fit into his life. I have no question about who I am to him. I am his mom. Pure and simple.

On the other hand, Child 3 was not in foster care. She was in a hogar (orphanage) from the time she was about six months old until we brought her home. As far as we could tell from our visits there, she was well cared for. However, a hogar setting is a bit different than a foster care setting. She had multiple caregivers. She had most of her physical needs met, but she was one of several children in that setting. I just cannot imagine that she had a lot of individual attention nor the love and affection of a family. (I am not saying that her caregivers didn't care for her...I just cannot imagine that situation/setting would allow for a lot of personal attention)

If you have followed our story at all, you will know that the transition was not an easy one when we brought her home. For at least two weeks, this child would have NOTHING to do with Mark. Now, I see that it wasn't that long, but at the time it seemed like an eternity. And she did come to me...I think she saw me as her one road to survival. I cannot say we "bonded" right away nor even developed much of a relationship for some time. In fact, it was one of the most difficult times in my life. I am not blaming her for any of that. And of the few regrets I have in life, one would be that I wish I could go back and handle a lot of the transition differently. I still have to remind myself that I did what I could with what I knew. It was a really hard time for so many reasons. Yet I cannot lie and say that I don't feel like I failed in so many ways to meet her where she needed me to. All I can hope is that in those moments, God filled the gaps where I missed.

Anyway, Child 3 took a while to say "Mama" too and even when she did, I am not sure she completely understood who or what that was. It has taken some time for our relationship to evolve as she has learned what having a mom means and I have learned how to be a mom to someone who didn't have that for the first 26 months of her life. I cannot say we have completely fulfilled our respective roles. And some periods are still difficult. But slowly and surely our love has developed. Not too long ago, this child started using the word "love", not in a routine or habit kind of way but in a true heartfelt way. And now we are very likely to hear it just out of the blue. She is still coming to grasp with the idea of love and what it means. It is not necessarily a comfortable thing for her yet. But she is opening her heart to truly feel it, I think, for the first time.

The other day I went to pick the little ones up at the park. I had taken Child 2 to gymnastics. Child 1 had baseball practice (unexpected I might add...that seems to happen alot). So Mark took the kids to the park next to the ballfield. I drove out to pick them up so I could get them home for dinner and bed. It took me a bit to figure out where to park. Even so, I ended up parking a little bit away from where they were playing. So they started the short walk to me. I was watching Mark hang Child 4 upside down as he squealed with delight. Then in a blink of an eye, Child 3 ran up, threw her arms around me, and yelled "Mama" like we hadn't seen each other in days. And in that moment, I thought, "We have arrived." She knows who I am, pure and simple.

Later that night as I pondered all of this, I was flipping through the tv channels. I like to have background noise as I do things on the computer. I happened upon an episode of True Life on MTV. I am not typically an MTV watcher, but for some reason this show captured my attention. For those who don't know, True Life is like a little reality show. There is usually a theme (some more serious and others a bit bizarre). Cameramen follow three different people as they face certain situations.

This theme was "I'm Looking For My Sibling". One person in particular caught my eye. It was a dark haired young girl meeting with her birthfamily for the first time. I caught only the end (and hope to find the whole episode soon) of it, but basically this young lady had been adopted from Guatemala early in life. She had a twin sister living in Guatemala who she had searched for. The moment I caught though she was meeting her birthmother for the first time. And her birthmother stood there and cried, telling the girl that she wanted her to know that she just hadn't been able to care for both girls, that she was not playing favorites, and that she did what she felt she had to do. The girl responded (via translator) that she harbored no ill feelings, that she was thankful for the life her birthmother had given her because she had a good life. In the background...the girl's American adoptive mom. And of course I cried.

I forget sometimes about the whole adoption thing. Our kids are just part of us. Yet there is a chance that someday I will be the lady in the background watching as our daughter embraces her own birthmother (I have contemplated searching for her but am on the fence about that). I don't know if she will thank her birthmother or feel resentment toward me for bringing her here. I just don't know. I just pray that either way, I will have the right words to say and that I will just continue to love her for who she is. I hope the same for our son (who actually has a half brother also adopted living in the US).

I don't really know why I felt I had to share that, it has just been running through my mind. I know adoption is scary for a lot of people. And I never expected to be an advocate for it. Five years ago this was not even a seed in my heart. But for whatever reason, God brought us here. With it comes more joy than I can ever share. They are our children and bring joy to our lives in new ways every day. And with it comes some fear...fear of the unknown. Will they one day resent us? Will they feel like something is missing from their lives? I don't know the answers. I just know I am thankful for the lessons I have learned and have yet to learn. And I am thankful...I am thankful I am the Mom. Pure and simple.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Gift of Time

One time I told Mark that one of the best gifts I could have would be a week to myself at kids. (Really, having him here would be a gift too but there aren't many people lining up to keep four kids for us :)

A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, Mark asked if I wanted the kids with me on Mother's Day. I asked him where they would be. He mentioned that he thought he might take them somewhere for the weekend unless I really wanted them home. I assured him that I would be fine. Deep down, I was doing cartwheels in my mind...eager with excitement!

Now I want to preface all of this with the comment that I LOVE my kids. We spend a LOT of time together. And obviously I love being a mom because I have chosen to do it four times, the last two more of a choice than ever. But there are a couple of things you should know. One thing is that there are times I REALLY like being alone. In college, when I lived in the dorm (the second college), I had a private room. I loved it. I could socialize and hang out with friends, but then I could go back to my room and just enjoy the quiet. I know, kind of ironic, since I have chosen teaching and motherhood as professions. Not quiet. But I still enjoy it. I am not saying I would want to live alone all of the time. But sometimes it is just nice to have. I type this at the same time as a little boy having a major temper tantrum next to me.

The other thing is the state of the house. It is not what I would want it to be. I remember my mom telling me once to use the time (pre-kids) to organize because it would be difficult once we had children. And I should have heeded that. Of course, it is because we have children that life became chaos. Clothes, toys, school papers...and nobody ever puts things back where they go. I like organized. I really do. I know if you saw my house you would find that hard to believe. I truly want things organized. It gives me a sense of peace and calm. Unfortunately, with kids, I rarely get to do things like organize. I mean, the youngest alone is like a tornado. If I tried to empty a closet, he would find "new toys" and have them all over the house. And most days, after teaching and mothering, I am tired by the time everyone is in bed and have no energy to do anything else.

One day this week, when Mark was gone, he teasingly mentioned on Facebook that maybe this wasn't the best weekend since I missed him so much. And at times I wondered. I was so tired from staying up later while he was gone, from the wear and tear of being a single mom, and from school. Maybe it wasn't the best weekend. But in the end, I decided to go for it.

So Friday afternoon, as soon as he was able, Mark came home. He packed up the kids (with a little help from me). I tried really hard to not smile when one sweet child said, "Mom, you are going to be so sad. We are all going to be gone and nobody will be here with you." I just bit my tongue. :) A little later, I heard the oldest talking to his friend from across the street. I heard him saying, "Sorry, I can't play. We are going to a hotel so Mom can have some peace and quiet this weekend. "

One of the funny things was the reaction I got from others. Some said it sounded neat. A couple friends told me I shouldn't do anything "work" but only fun stuff. I assured them I WANTED to work, that was the whole point. Otherwise I would be the one to check into a hotel if I just wanted to do fun stuff with no kids. :) And someone said that by Saturday I would be ready for everyone to come home. I realize I may just be weird...I do love my family but I knew I would NOT be ready at that point. In fact, at first Mark had talked about coming home Saturday night and I assured him that it would be even better if he waited another day. :)

Anyway, finally Mark and the crew loaded up and headed a town away to a hotel. I will admit, for a little bit, I did nothing; I just enjoyed being home by myself. Then I ventured out to Target and enjoyed just wandering and shopping. I then picked up some dinner from Shoguns (I am hooked on their Shrimp Tempura rolls), and went home to eat. I just read the paper while I ate and enjoyed the quiet. I really did. It was a treat to have nobody demanding their milk or dinner, not answering a single question, not playing the "What If?" game, etc.

After I ate, I turned on the music and got to work. I tackled several bags I had been "stuffing" stuff in every time our house was going to be cleaned. It was mainly paperwork. Receipts, magazines, old mail. A lot of stuff that just needed a home. I had piles all over the place and was beginning to wonder if I was cleaning or doing more damage. :) I was determined to find homes though for everything. One of the hardest parts for me is that I tend to be a bit ADD when I am cleaning. I go to another room to put something away, see something that really needs to be done, and before long I have forgotten what I was doing originally. I finally had to just tell myself, if it was an area I had cleaned, then I would put whatever it was away. If it wasn't, I would just drop off whatever I had for that room and leave it for when I could get to it. Does that make sense? I did tell myself that if I found something easy to fix in a room, I could do that. :) And yes, I occasionally have conversations with myself. I also managed to exercise. I finally drifted off to sleep around 2:30. I know, crazy, but it is actually more my body rhythm. Even better, I woke up at 9:30 on my own...nobody woke me up before I was ready. :)

Saturday I started off a little slow but quickly picked up the pace. I had so many projects I wanted to do but finally had in mind a plan. I had to come to the point that I knew that I wouldn't get to do all I wanted. But if I could at least get a few things done, maybe it would help keep me motivated throughout the summer to do things when I could. I also kept a list going of little things I saw so later when I think, "What can I do?" (not that it happens often), I would know.

I started with the laundry room. It tends to be a "catch all" since it is right by the garage. We come in and drop off nonessentials there. It is also not a big room so it doesn't take much to make it look cluttered. I started off just trying to clear out some of the bags that had collected. However, when I peeked inside the cabinets, I decided, "I really should deal with those too." I wish I had taken before/after pictures, but Mark had the camera. Plus, I think I would have been embarrassed to show the "befores". I will say that the after is a remarkable difference. The room looks much bigger to me now. And I am happy knowing that the cabinets are more organized. Usually if I can get something to a state of organized, we will work harder to keep it that way. I cannot account for the kids, but they really don't go in there much anyway. I even vacuumed ON TOP of the cabinets. They were sure dusty! The laundry room alone ended up taking me about two hours!

Next, I tackled the kitchen. I decided that a lot of my shelf liners needed to be cleaned. I can never understand how they get so dirty when they are inside cabinets. It isn't like we put dirty dishes back in the cabinet. It is a mystery to me. Anyway, so to clean the shelf liners, I had to take everything out of the cabinets. The counters were overflowing with silverware, dishes, pots, etc. Again, I was beginning to think I was making more of a mess than helping. :) I got the liners of the major shelves in need and threw them in the washing machine. Oh, and I took a long bath with a fun magazine in the meantime...I didn't say I wouldn't allow myself ANY relaxing. :)

Afterwards, I decided to venture out. I went to Kohls to do a little clothes shopping. As usual, I tried on a lot of things but only found a few (very few) that really appealed to me. Clothes shopping is so hard for me. I really want some new things. I wear the same clothes for years. But between my body (not liking it), my height (hard to find something for short people), and my modesty (I really do have a desire for modesty, believe it or not :), it is really tough. I did find a few things though.

After Kohls, I went by a local restaurant and picked up some lettuce wraps and a little dessert. While I ate dinner, I had a phone call from a friend. It was a treat to talk to someone without the constant interruptions I get during most phone conversations. Also, at one point, Mark stopped by to pick up a few things he needed. I left them by the door for him, but when he showed up, I ran to the door to give him a little kiss. I really hadn't seen much of him in a week. I was missing him. :)

Afterwards, I got back to putting the kitchen back together. I cleared out a thing or two we don't really use anymore. Even better, I finally found a home for the large electric griddle I had gotten Mark for V-Day. It has been sitting on our counter this whole time. It takes up a lot of room, so finding a spot for it was no easy task. I then cleared out a bit of the pantry, did a quick sweep of the toy room, and vacuumed here and there. I also organized the entertainment center (DVD's, games) which was not in my plan. We are getting our new furniture for our Panasonic Living In HD goodies this week, so I planned on waiting. However, I went to do a little Wii Fit for my exercise and could not find it anywhere. I used the elliptical to get my time in, then went back to organize. It was much needed. All in all, it was 3:30 before I went to bed. I wasn't even truly tired then but knew I needed some sleep. And I did. I didn't wake up until 11:00ish.

After a light breakfast, I took a little time to organize Joshua's room. I also started the dining room (which for now is the current home of winter clothes that need to go SOMEWHERE) and just for fun, goofed on the computer for a while. I didn't get a whole lot accomplished today. At one point, I just kind of gave up. I knew my crew would be coming home for afternoon naps and most projects would take longer than the time I had available.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. I really did enjoy the peace and quiet and even more, just the opportunity to get some things taken care of. I don't feel quite as overwhelmed with life (at least not at this moment) nor like I am drowning in "stuff". It was one of the greatest gifts Mark has given me...the gift of time.


Friday, May 8, 2009

He's Back...

I have a lot to share but I must get some sleep. I am a walking zombie. So I will share tomorrow. But I did want to share...he is back! Apparently we were racing to see who could have the most difficult day. It is a toss up; we will let you decide. :)

As for Mark, he got to the airport and faced delays. Finally the delays turned into a cancelled flight. Now some guys might have said, "Woo hoo, another night in New York City on my own!" Some moms might have said that too had they been able to take off work to go. :) But not my guy. He explored several possibilities for getting home TONIGHT. And he did. And I am grateful. And blessed.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

It's A Hard Knock Life...

(I started this post last night but lost all my oomph before I could finish here it is, finished. I know you will sleep much better tonight knowing this :)

Okay, not really THAT bad (as the title). But it was quite a day! The one thing about bad days is that it gives me a lot of fodder to blog about later. :)

Oh, and just to add a little fun, I am going to include the word "buckle" to indicate every time I had to buckle or unbuckle a carseat (one for each child requiring help)...I know, I know, I am a wild woman. :)

The morning started off fine. Well, the first few minutes. We got up at the same time as we had the last couple of days. I thought we left in plenty of time. But then we didn't. And we hit every red light I think. I successfully dropped off the little ones and got to my school as quickly as I could. I hopped out of the van and promptly heard the bell ring as I stood in the parking lot. I was about thirty seconds "late"...first time this year. I felt terrible. I am not the earliest bird. It just isn't possible. But I do NOT want to be late. I feel like it sets a bad example for my interns, for my own kids, for my students. The funny thing was I was telling my co-workers in the hallway just as our assistant principal came down the hallway. So I was not only late but tattled on myself. :) (She laughed...I hope she knows that is NOT who I am :)

The day itself wasn't terrible. This time of year life gets interesting. And even more so right now because our weather has been so very wacky. Students who are normally quiet suddenly seem to come out of their shell. Students who are hard workers suddenly rush to finish, with little attention paid to quality of work. And the arguing typically happens...I think they need a break from school and each other. :) It can be emotionally exhausting handling all of the upsets, hurt feelings, etc that happen this time of year...

After school, I needed to pick up a plant for Child 3's preschool teacher. I thought I would run there right after school. However, we had a gathering after school with our interns for next year. I don't yet know who will be an intern in my room (should I even be blessed enough to have one). But I wanted to meet them and have a chance to get to know some of them. So I went to the gathering, telling myself that when Mark got home around 6, I could just run to the store. After the meet and greet time, I went back to my room to pack up so we could go pick up Child 4. I glanced at my phone and noticed Mark had called. Not a good sign since he was supposed to be on an airplane. Oh, boy. His flight was cancelled. (Ironically later when I checked messages at home on our answering machine, we had a message from the airline letting us know that the flight had been cancelled :) The message was to let me know he was determined to get home and was catching a flight to Dallas and then on home but it would be much later. Bummer.

When I showed up to pick up Child 4, I found my little daredevil had just gone through a mud puddle. His whole "seat" was dirty and wet. The joys of boys! There wasn't much time, so I took a little towel with me to keep his seat from getting dirty. Buckle.

Next we ran to Child 3's school to pick her up. Buckle. Then we headed to the grocery store which I had so hoped to NOT go to with kids. Buckle. Buckle. We made a dash, grabbed a few things, paid, and headed outside. Oh, I have to mention that in the meantime, Child 4 doesn't think ANY trip to the grocery store is complete without screaming "NO" in his loudest possible voice. I think he does it on purpose because he knows there is little I can do to stop him there. Maybe I should try a time out in the tomatoes or something... And to add to the fun, Child 3 is in a really fun stage where she states anything and everything on her mind about anyone, no matter where they are. For instance, maybe a long haired guy got into our line. And maybe she took one look at him and said, "Mom, look at that guy! He has long hair. That is funny." Yep, gotta love those honest moments. Some days I look at her in amazement. Other days, I think "What was our hurry in having her talk? :)

As we walked out of the store, I was holding Child 4's hand (wouldn't carry him because he was so dirty) and juggling a bag or two. The kids (other than the youngest) were all helping me carry the bags. Suddenly one child started squawking...things were falling out of the bag. (I am still unclear as to WHY) Then I got complaints about how heavy the bags were. I let go of Child 4's hand for a brief minute to help with the falling items. That child saw a chance at freedom and took off for the parking lot which was RIGHT there. I am glad that my mother's instinct did kick in (it doesn't always)...I dropped the bag of Mtn. Dew cans to grab him. I must have looked pathetic. A young man immediately walked up and offered to help. Anyway, the squawking continued. I had to chuckle when another child grabbed the bag and carried it without complaint. We made a quick tour through the "greenhouse" in search of the perfect plant. No luck. Just whiny kids and a toddler who was determined to go out on his own.

We hopped in the car (buckle, buckle) and headed for home. We got home with 15 minutes to go before Child 2's gymnastics. (buckle, buckle) Of course, the little ones thought they were starving the whole time, so I had to get a snack for them. Child 2 quickly changed clothes while I checked the answering machine. I got nervous when I saw the flashing light...I was afraid Mark was stuck somewhere else. No, he wasn't, but I still about fainted when I heard the message. An impromptu baseball practice was scheduled for that night, in less than one hour!

Now is the time when I interrupt my own moaning and groaning to thank my mother for all she does. Ironically, I had been on the phone with her minutes before heading home. My mom had asked me if I needed any help, about Child 1's baseball schedule, etc. When I heard the message, I called and asked if she would go. She agreed. I am thankful...and blessed. So is Child 1. Otherwise he would have just missed the practice.

After our brief stint at home, we hopped back in the van (buckle, buckle) and got the gymnast to gymnastics about two minutes late. I really hated to just drop her off, but there was just no choice. We then drove over to my mom's house (thankfully, this is all within just miles of home) and dropped the baseball player off. Then we headed to Lowe's to check out their greenhouse (buckle, buckle). Child 3 was just amazed at all of the plants and materials, as well as the idea that we were "at a store" but still "outside". We finally settled on a plant and headed to the checkout. My little "speak her mind" child struck up a conversation with the complete stranger in front of us in the checkout line after she proclaimed LOUDLY, "Look at that, Mom...there is a LOT in there!" pointing to his cart.

We went back to the van (buckle, buckle), and ran by the ATM machine to grab a little cash. We then went back home (buckle, buckle) and ran in the house to stick our dinner in the oven (which thankfully I had assembled the night before). I turned the alarm off and went to the kitchen to turn on the oven when all of a sudden there was a HIGH pitched sound. The alarm was going off. I ran over and tried to turn it off. It didn't stop. It just kept going and going and going. And it sounded terrible. I finally called the company (their first step with the alarm is to call Mark...well, his phone was off since he was on an airplane). She walked me through it and it finally went off. I am pretty sure I had put in the wrong number the first time. I had other numbers on my mind...

After we got the food in the oven, we dashed back to the car (buckle, buckle). As I was buckling Child 3 in, she innocently asked, "Mom, why are moms always so busy?" It wasn't a complaint, a was just an honest question. She then said, "Is it because she has to take care of the kids?" Gotta love that!

We got to the gymnastics center about two minutes late. Seemed to be the story of my day. I thankfully got a parking spot in front of the building and ran up to the door to let Child 2 know I was there. She was just sitting and waiting. For some reason that hurt my heart... I wanted to be there when she came out. :(

We then ran back home (buckle, buckle) and enjoyed our dinner. And by that time, I was wiped out. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when Mark walked in the door around 11:15 last night.

So, maybe I will change the title to "Tomorrow, tomorrow, there's always tomorrow..." :)


Fading Fast

I did another "Day in the Life..." entry; it is the entry before this one I think.

Anyway, I am just checking in. I am fading fast. So tired, so very tired. But every time I lay down to sleep, I remember something that "needs" to be done. Thus why I am still awake!

This morning was a rougher morning than usual. I cannot tell you why. The kids were in good moods, everyone got up without complaint (too much :), etc. I even had less to do than yesterday morning. However, this morning, it was like the clock kept speeding up. So we got to where we wanted to go but it took longer than usual. And by the time I got there, I was a bit panicked. I am hoping tomorrow goes a bit smoother.

While I moan and complain a bit about Mark being gone, I do have a few things to be thankful for:
As I was emptying the dishwasher AGAIN, I started to grumble and complain. But then I remember how thankful I am to have a dishwasher.

I am thankful for our security system.

I am thankful that it didn't rain today. I am even more thankful that we saw the sun today.

I am thankful for cell phones and e-mail so I can "talk" to Mark most anytime I want to.

I am thankful it is Teacher Appreciation Week which means we have had food in our lounge throughout the week...yum!

I am thankful for my kids' teachers (and babysitter).

I am thankful it is May which means June is just around the corner. That means that the beach is just around that corner.

I am thankful for friends who offer encouragement and offers to help. I am thankful for my parents who help us in so many ways (like baseball practice and laundry).

I am thankful I finally finished up the last standardized testing form.

I am thankful our youngest's babysitter let me deliver him today with pj's on. Otherwise I would have been late.

I am thankful I was able to take a walk this afternoon in our neighborhood which goes by much faster than just "walking" on the elliptical.

I am thankful for blogs which help me remember what I am thankful for...


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Day in the Life...Part II

I started this yesterday but ran out of time. I am really running out of time tonight, but I am determined to share some more of my day. Even if no one is reading, it is a good record for me. :) And one day I can show my kids, "See, this is what your mom does all day!" :)

I think at last stop, it was about 9 or 9:15. After we shared about our weekend, we gathered on the rug for "calendar" time. Calendar time is a time of looking at the calendar (yes, really, in case you didn't figure that out :), talking about the day, looking at our schedule, counting the days of school, graphing the weather, etc. It can get a bit monotonous. We do it every single day. And at this point in the year, some kids have had their fill of the calendar. But it also has so many instructional points throughout the activity, it is a keeper. We do try to get up and move during calendar time by counting out to 100 with exercises or putting on some movement songs. And I try to involve the kids as much as possible by having them help write the date, fill in our weather graph, give me a "thumbs up/thumbs down" for questions, singing songs, etc.

Around 9:30, we read a book about Arkansas. That is our theme for the week. Usually we have a two week theme (recent themes include ponds, farm, insects, and plants). However, for Arkansas, we just spend one week. I try to tie most lessons to our theme. I pulled down the map in our room. As I read the story, I pointed out where some of the places we were reading about were. It is funny to hear the kids say, "Hey, I live in Arkansas..."

Mondays are not typical days. Every other day of the week, we have "learning stations". I set up eight different activities (many related to our theme) that will help the students in different areas. For example this week, I have the students exploring and creating with play dough (good for the hand muscles), assembling puzzles of Arkansas as well as the United States, writing about homes, finding words they can read in the newspaper, and comparing the number of letters in their name to the number of letters in their classmates' names. Anyway, Monday is a bit different. It is called "Catch Up Day". On that day, I pick up the work that the students finished last week during learning stations (they have a folder they keep it in). It can be kind of time consuming and requires lists for me of who needs to finish what. At the same time, I am trying to teach students responsibility (keeping up with their work) and work ethic (finishing what you start). Anyway, those students who are finished can go to a "free choice center" like computers, games/puzzles, math manipulatives, or housekeeping/drama. This is one of the more chaotic (or rather looks like chaos...I know what is going on :) times of the week. I have students exploring in free choice, while I am running around to make a copy for this child, open the glue for that child, check my list for this child on what still needs to be done. And at one time, I can have five people screaming my name.

A bit crazy, I know. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Okay, maybe minus the screaming. :)

More tomorrow...


Grand Central Station

Mark called at one point tonight (after attending a Yankees game) and told me he was at Grand Central Station. I just chuckled. I am pretty sure I LIVE in Grand Central Station.

This will be short. I must get at least an hour more of sleep than last night. I have big plans this weekend but I am afraid I may collapse from exhaustion instead. Part of it is Mark being gone. The other part is that sometimes I underestimate how long it is going to take me to make or do things. And sometimes I bite off more than I can chew!

Are you appreciating your teachers this week?

The morning went fairly well. There were a couple of minor kinks, like the youngest telling me he didn't want to get up out of bed. :) Don't toddlers have any sense of urgency? But we all got to our respective places in a timely manner. Teacher gifts were delivered. And everyone was dressed and fed. I think that is a success, don't you?

Just in case you are not in Arkansas, we are on day 5 of rain. I am getting kind of weary of that pitter patter on the window. We really want some warm sunny days. I have children who really need to move.

I am so disappointed. Not one suggestion on what to do with an argumentative (with me) child? Surely someone out there has dealt with this? or maybe nobody is reading?

I knew I forgot something on my random thoughts. We thought the Panasonic guy was going to come next week to set us up with our Living in HD products. Unfortunately, Mark called the other day to check in on our TV stand. It was supposed to be delivered last week. We were then informed (after WE called) that it will be another three weeks. So we have a delay. :( Mark is in New York right now. I told him to run by Panasonic and see if they will at least give us one of the digital cameras so he can take pictures of New York. Our oldest would be in awe!

Before I go, I just have to give a little thanks for Child 2. She was a HUGE help tonight. I was trying to get dinner ready, take care of a teacher gift, clean up, etc. She was right there, ready to pour milk, ready to tend to her little brother, etc. I enjoy watching her with him. She is a natural "mommy". She can carry him on her hip, put him in his chair, get his toothbrush ready for me. I just don't think I say it enough, how much I appreciate her!

I would love to sit and chat some more, but I must get some sleep. It will be morning before I know it...if we don't float away before then!
PS I started a part 2 for a "Day in the Life" but got sidetracked with some chores. I will continue tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New York, New York

That is where Mark is. :( He is there for a Light Fair which is important for his job. I would love to join him sometime. I just cannot take off three days. Plus we do have these kids and all...

I know, I know, I just posted another entry. I really am heading to bed. I just wanted to check in.

We had a good night. The kids are trying SO hard to help me out. They are brainstorming ways to help me with their little brother. They "entertain" him so I can get things done. It is very sweet.

Tonight we had "Make Your Own Pizza" night. It is so simple (jarred sauce, cheese, turkey pepperoni) but for whatever reason, the kids love it! It was pretty yummy...

Quick sweet note: Child 1 is so worried about Mark getting Swine Flu while in New York. He knows just enough about current events to be really dangerous. :) So for this week, his prayer is to keep Mark healthy.

I am wiped out. I better go. It was a really hectic night and I still have more I could do. But instead I will sleep.


PS I would still LOVE suggestions on what to do with an arguing child. (See yesterday's post)

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Day in the Life...Part 1

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. I am so very thankful for the teachers of my children, whether at school or at church...anyone who is teaching them. Last year for Teacher's Appreciation Week, I tried to chronicle a "Day in the Life..." of a kindergarten teacher. It was such a daunting task and I ended up only writing about part of it. I am going to attempt it again, but this time break it into small quantities of time. To protect and not embarrass anyone (myself included), I am going to give more general details of things that have happened, not necessarily today (though a lot did happen today). And of course, no names will be used. :)

7:35 We arrive at school, ten minutes to go. Every afternoon I get everything I can ready for the next day because it is so hard for us to get to school much earlier than we do in the mornings. Tomorrow we have the added kink of no daddy since he is out of town. That means getting up and leaving extra early to get the little ones to their designated places before getting ourselves to school...

7:45 I have delivered my lunch to the teacher's lounge. Along the way I bumped into a parent and had a small chat. At 7:45, the bell rings and children begin filtering into the classroom. My students take a large ziplock bag home daily with papers and notes, then they return it in the morning. That way I can tell at a glance if anyone has homework sheets, lunch money, transportation notes, etc. This time of year they are full. As I dug through them as the children read (and talked) at their desks, I found picture money, lunch money, papers that hadn't been taken out yet from last week, money for our upcoming Literacy Day, reading books, old homework sheets, permission slips for an upcoming field trip, etc. Sometimes I feel like a banker and secretary when I sort through it all...just part of the job!

8:00 The bell rings. I give the students a few more "reading" (and socializing) minutes while we wait for announcements. I take care of attendance, put away snacks, and oversee behavior.

8:20 Announcements have ended. The last few weeks of school we write every day about the leader of the day. I always demonstrate exactly how it should be done (picture on top, words on the bottom, words written with a pencil). We observe the leader, noting eye and hair color as well as clothing style/color to make our illustrations as life-like as possible. We then brainstorm some "compliments" we can give the leader when we write. I gather them daily and make them into a class book that I will send home at the end of the year. For the next thirty minutes, the students color, illustrate, and write. I conference with them individually as they finish. Sometimes I have the students go back and write again with a little guidance from me. Other times I remind them to add background to their pictures or to include their own name on the page. As students finish and I gather papers, they sign their names on the board. Each day we have a "question of the day" with a "yes"/"no" question. We use it later during calendar time. Then they go to the rug area to read some class books we have made or read throughout the year. This writing time we do for the leader is very time-consuming. It ends up cutting our morning a bit short. However, I usually see more growth during this time than any other time. If I make a big deal about someone writing several sentences rather than just one, the next day I will have five more kids writing several sentences. Students who were once writing random letters that made no sense (at least to my eye) are not writing using beginning sounds...big progress. So, it is time-consuming but worthwhile!

During this time of the morning, our kindergarten aide comes to my room for a while. She is WONDERFUL. She works with students who need a little extra help. She reads with small groups (her environment is much more conducive than a busy learning environment). She also stays with the class when needed. Like today. I started looking for my lunch cards and realized they were missing. I had gone to a presentation by one of my former interns on Friday and a sub took the cards but didn't put them back. So while our aide monitored the class, I raced down to grab a standardized test I am working on for our ESL (English as a Second Language) students. I threw a jacket in lost and found, then did a beeline to the cafeteria where I found my cards waiting for me.

When I return, we finish up the writing process, then gather around the rug. On Mondays, we say "good morning" to each classmate. Then students get to share one thing about their weekends. It is always interesting to hear what the kids do when away from school. It is also a good practice for my ESL students. They are using conversation and English in a non-threatening manner. It is one of my favorite parts of the week!

Well, so far it is only 9:00 (in the classroom as part of this post :), but for me it is very late. I will write more tomorrow!


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Marley and Me

I am totally procrastinating. I need to exercise. I need to clean up. I need to make a grocery list. Instead, I am goofing on here...

Typical rainy day Saturday here. The kids woke up before I was ready for them to. The youngest was raring to go at 8. Of course, he thinks he is starving when he wakes up while the rest of us would much rather eat a late breakfast and just lounge. Child 2 has such strong maternal instincts. She jumped in and took charge, getting little brother some breakfast with only a few questions for me. (Of course, when everyone else had pancakes later, he ate again...)

From the moment we woke up, we could hear the rain pounding the window. Cabin fever began immediately. Child 2, who always wants to be doing something, started in right away. "I am bored. I want to do something. Let's go bowling." After last night's excursion, I wasn't going anywhere! Thankfully, she realized that her hopes were dashed and started inventing games to play with Child 4 who is sometimes a willing participant. Depends on his mood.

Later in the morning, Mark moved the vehicles outside, and we tackled the garage. Unfortunately, the garage becomes a dumping ground. When I need to clean out the car, I throw it in the garage. When we have things that need to go up in the attic, they go to the garage. And when it is winter, it gets worse because it is so cold, I don't want to be IN the garage. Well, today was a good day. The kids love the empty (well, no vehicles) garage and have a ball riding scooters, riding bikes, etc. We tackled the mess and did a pretty good job cleaning up. I wish I had taken before/after pictures except I would be too embarrassed to show anyone the before pics I think. We still need to get a small storage unit for the backyard to store a few of the big items. But for now, it is nice and neat. I hope we will be inspired to keep it that way!

Lunch, then naps. I did get a good nap today (compared to last week). A well rested mom is a happy mom!

Since we were stuck inside, we had a family movie night. We picked up Shake's, popped some popcorn in the air popper (with butter and cheese seasoning of course), and had a "picnic" in the living room. We watched "Marley and Me". I had been warned it had some rough parts. There were a few words I think the movie would have been fine without. Thankfully those go over the kids' heads for the most part. Out of all the words, the one Child 1 did pick up on was "he..", as in "not heaven". Other than that, it was a good movie.

There was something ironic about watching this movie about an unruly dog. As I am watching it, our own "Marley" was dumping out the basket of books, running around the house with a flashlight (giggling all the way), climbing on and over me about fifty times, and throwing napkins around the room. I didn't have to watch "Marley and Me". I live it. Daily! He is a sweet "Marley" but so very busy. He sure wasn't happy about picking up all of those books he dumped out though! However, no books picked up, no bath and bed. He loves those too much. :)

I do have a quick prayer request. I don't really want to go into details. I will just say that one of the kids has been a bit extra challenging recently. We need wisdom and patience in handling that situation and child. It isn't all day or every day. But it is still fairly frequent and emotionally draining. Thanks!

Okay, I am getting sleepy. Oh, I did get up and exercise. I am trying to get back into that routine. I haven't done so well with it the last few weeks. This week I did a little better...I think I got four days of exercise in. I have high school reunions this summer. I have to keep at it!

Really going now.

Friday, May 1, 2009

And the Rains Came Down While the Floods Came Up...

Whew! What a night of weather it was!

This evening, Mark took the two young ones to the church. The two oldest went to the school for the Read In. We had to carry in blankets, pillows, books, etc for the adventure. As we were leaving, we noticed a storm moving into the area. There were some big lightning strikes near our house. On the way to the school, the heavens opened up and the rains came down. Really hard I might add.

By the time I got to the school (which is about three minutes from our house), it was pouring sheets of water. We grabbed umbrellas and ran as fast as we could inside. Unfortunately the water was standing in the parking lot, so I was soaked up to my knees. And when I went back to the van, it was raining even harder.

As I drove to the restaurant to meet up with Mark, I listened to the weatherman on the radio explaining where possible tornadoes were...such as just a few miles from where I was. As I drove, the weather calmed down just as the weatherman said, "It is always calm before the storm moves in. Stay away from windows." Our restaurant has pretty much wall to wall windows on one side. However, date nights are a rare treat...we pressed on.

Mark later told me that when he was dropping the kids off at the church, the tornado sirens were going off. The kids were in the hallway. Boy, was Child 4 happy to be dropped off in that environment. :) I asked Mark if he felt the slightest bit guilty leaving the kids in that situation. He reminded me he was from Mississippi and that the sirens don't really faze him at all.

When we met up at the restaurant, there was a lull in the rain. We ran inside and were seated immediately. We ate at Shogun's, so it wasn't an intimate dinner really. We ended up with two young couples at our "island". It was kind of fun listening to them. They were either finishing up high school or early in college. All I know is that they made me feel old. :) Mark was amused that the girls hardly ate anything (even though I think they really wanted to) while me, much older, ate everything I wanted plus some.

The food was delicious. Mark got some sushi (tempura shrimp) to start with. I have had it before and not really cared for it though it is everything I love. So I told him I would just have one. For some reason it tasted really good to me. I had two but apparently Mark took me at my word and ate the rest. I ended up ordering another order before we left. Our cook/entertainer seemed to be a bit new but was still fun. Even more entertaining than the smoking onion or the flying eggs was the party that sat the island adjoining us...a bunch of junior high (if that) boys and girls. Just watching them try to figure out where to sit was amusing.

When we were ready to leave, the rains started pouring. And I was just drying out from the last bout. We were in separate cars, so I jumped in mine and went shopping (Teacher's Appreciation next week) while Mark went to pick up the little ones.

So I didn't say it was going to be a LONG date. :)

When I got to Target, I went running in and enjoyed some browsing time. At one point, I looked down at my cell phone to see the time. I thought, "Oh, I better hurry. I wonder what time they are closing." A few minutes later, I got that wide-eyed panic. I looked at my phone again and realized I needed to pick up the big kids in about twenty minutes. I threw a few extra items in the cart and went to the checkout. For some reason, I tend to choose the slower checkouts. I glanced outside and thought, "It isn't too bad out there." By the time I had all my bags and had paid, it was pouring. I ran to the car and made the trek back to school. A few times I could barely see the road because of the rain. I called in to check on e-mail messages. I couldn't hear them because the rain was so loud on the windows. Thankfully by the time I got to the school, it had slowed down a bit.

Now it is a few hours later. The rains keep coming down. I am sure there is a river in our garage. So much for any fun stuff outside tomorrow.

So that is our date night. I know, I know, more excitement than you can imagine. :) It was quite a night! Not exactly what I planned but it is the joys of life during storm season.

On another note, Child 4 is feeling better. He is still congested but has been happy and go-lucky. On another note, Child 2 came home complaining about a headache which is rare for her. I questioned her on what she ate. She had visited a friend's house after school. She had some food that may (probably) had MSG in it. When I looked up MSG sensitivity, the main symptom was a throbbing headache. Something else to add to her list of possible sensitivities. She keeps life interesting.

I better get to bed. I will want to sleep in but I am almost positive nobody else will!