Tuesday, July 31, 2007

So let's talk...clutter

I'm officially opposed to it.

I'm not sure if I have declared this yet, but the Cakes house is the House of ADD. Both Chowder and I, and of course Skaterboy have been diagnosed at one point or another and I guarantee that there is at least one more in the group (my money is on Jellybean). There is only one surefire way that I have found to combat clutter in my house and that is to eliminate it all together. Being a pastor's family and having a great bunch of neighbors, we could have guests at anytime. While I love this! I cannot bring members of the congregation (especially gossipy old church ladies. YIKES!) or other visitors into a messy house. I insist on the public areas of the house being clean. The upstairs is a whole other monster!

I have done away with virtually all knick-knacky things. I still have a couple of things laying around because I don't want the house to be completely barren. But, if I had my druthers there would not be a single thing on any surfaces in my house. I am not exaggerating. I was looking at the bookshelves in my family room and I almost packed up all of my books into boxes because the shelves looked too cluttered and I am a book addict! There is this bizarre force of nature where clutter attracts more clutter. If we lay down our mail on the hall table, suddenly a backpack will appear, and then a magazine and toy and a pile of stuff that needs to go upstairs etc. etc. Once I have given permission for one thing to be on the surface it's like opening the floodgates. And, I'm hopefully training my children to put things away instead of just "down."

I am a clutter tyrant. It could all unravel at any moment so, I have to be vigilant.

I use the cupboards of my sideboard for storage. On the right are baby things. Carriers, diapers, etc. On the left is my storage. Magazines and catalogs I want to look at, stationary etc. The top drawer is my silver and table linens. The bottom drawer is miscellaneous. I keep our household binder in there. The household binder completely tames the crazy paper that comes in and out of my family's life.

On the opposite wall of the living room is another cabinet that holds the stereo. The top drawer of this cabinet is Chowder's drawer. When I run across anything of Chowder's I throw it in this drawer. His iPod, keys, papers, mail etc.

I hate counter top appliances. I have four. a coffeemaker, a toaster oven, a stand mixer and a bread machine. The coffeemaker is the only one allowed on the counter because it is used almost daily. The toaster oven is kept under the sink, and the mixer and bread machine are in the pantry. (I know the stove is disgusting. I have a major psychological block against cleaning it.) oh and if you have kids. Don't buy stainless steel appliances! I have to wipe off the fingerprints constantly! I HATE THEM! Buy black if you want to go modern.

This bench contains sweatshirts, the kids' little backpacks (I hate carrying big diaper bags so at two years old I made them start carrying their own supplies around! They loved it! So, they each had a change of clothes, a diaper (until they were potty trained then it was just an extra pair of pants), a drink and a snack. and I got my cute little purse back. Ladybug needs to start walking!

Under the bench are three crates. The first one has all the kids' shoes, the second one has the kids' socks, and the third one is big people shoes (we each can put one pair in there). I love having them all together and all at the front door. Makes getting out of the house much, much easier. And no one is looking for shoes.

There are no toys kept in the kids' room. We are fortunate to have a room for a playroom. They're bedroom is for sleeping and getting dressed. OK and basketball. There are a few books for bedtime stories on the windowsill. Every morning the kids get dressed, make their beds and brush their teeth. It has become such habit at this point that I hardly fight them on it at all.

It felt too weird to post a picture of my bedroom. Ladybug is in there for right now, but we are making adjustments to move her out soon.

I didn't post pictures of our playroom or our family room. Both of those rooms are in transition (rearranging rooms to accommodate Fiona moving into our office room until she's big enough to share with the kids). Though the playroom has a place for all the toys and I do make sure it is cleaned up (practically) every night, it's a playroom. It's cluttered.

At the end of the day, before I sit down to the computer, I force myself to go through the house and make sure everything is clear. It really only takes 10-15 minutes tops, but I still have to push myself to do it. But, the payoff is worth it. Now if I could get someone to wash my floors and scrub my bathrooms, we'd be in business!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Options for Skaterboy...

We have come up with several options for Skaterboy regarding his education. None of them are pretty. None of them are ideal. But, hey! This is where we are and we have to deal with reality. right?

  1. Forget high school all together. Go to GED classes, take the test, get the GED. Then, he can go to Junior College and take classes there. Any classes he takes will be college credit and he can transfer to a 4 year college to finish his degree. If that dream world doesn't pan out, at minimum he has his GED.
  2. Sign over Guardianship and he lives with my mom while attending public school. (Not going to happen!)
  3. He does one semester of C or higher in the school district's Virtual School and then after he has proven he is serious about his education, enroll him in private school.
  4. Do full on homeschooling. No holds barred.
I discussed these options with him. To the adults in his life option #1 makes the best sense to us. But, we want what makes the best sense to Skaterboy. So, when we presented him with the options he reiterated that he wants to go to high school. He doesn't want to just skip over it. That leaves us then with option #3.

I have to admit, I hate this option. To me, it is the worst of both worlds. It is the boring textbook rote memorization crap of public school mixed with the isolation (real or apparent) of homeschooling. I think this will be a disaster. But, I can't let on to Skaterboy that I feel that way because I don't want to set him up for failure. I was tempted to say, "Ok. Let's just enroll him again in private school. This self-guided virtual school will only play to all of his weaknesses and will never work out." But, I caught myself. He has to prove himself. Both to Chowder and I, and to himself. We all need to know he's serious.

To help with this mountain, our valiant family counselor, Dr. Steve, is going to help hook us up with a "Life Coach" of sorts. Someone completely objective (and clearly not me), to keep him on task and on schedule. To help him plan out a schedule and set up goals and to guide him through the process of meeting those goals. I figure it accomplishes several things. First, it means I'm not the bad guy that he can pin the responsibility on, not the nag, not the disappointed mother. Second, it teaches him some valuable life skills. Third, it hopefully will get him through, already!! And in the end, if option #3 doesn't work out, there is still option #1.

What I am having a hard time understanding is that every time I come up with a worst-case-scenario in my mind for Skaterboy's education, we end up in that scenario and I create and even worse worst-case-scenario and then suddenly there we are. So, am I somehow making these scenarios come true like self-fulfilling prophesies? Who are these the worst-case-scenarios for? him or me? Am I just continuing to lower the standards? Should I just forget all the scenarios and drop the "worse better" language? Do I really have any control over how this ends? Should I have control?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

There it goes...time flying by

So, the very observant among you might have noticed that over on my sidebar, Meatball and Jellybean's age has changed. (those who noticed can email and collect your prize) That's right. We had a birthday this week. 5 years old is a big birthday psychologically, at least for me. 5 is...well, 5. I mean, it's school age isn't it? On the one hand, it's so amazing to watch them as they become more and more themselves. But on the other, of course is the growing up. the growing away.

The older I get, the faster I get older.

But, this job of motherhood...I'm good at it. I don't mean that in an arrogant kind of way. I mean it the way anyone means it when they talk about what they do and what they really feel called to. Sure, I have good days and bad days. relaxing days and overwhelming days. days when I feel like Mom-of-the-Year and days when I hope Department of Family Services doesn't come by. I have spent days snuggling my kids and days spent yelling at them. But at the end of all those days, I thank God for my life, for my family, and for the strength I get from my faith.

and dammit. It's just fun.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Phew! Done with Harry.

So...about our vacation.

We spent another week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We have been going there for over 10 years. We have always gone up north near Corolla, but this year for reasons I'm not privy to, we went south. to Nags Head. It was nice and convenient, but I think I like the North part of 12 better.

The water was freezing for most of the week, but our house had a pool so the kids we able to swim even if they could only wade into the ocean. The kids have been looking forward to the beach for months now, and already they are counting down to next year. But, I don't know if we'll be able to go next year because my one and only brother is getting married next year! YAY!

So, here is a picture of most of my cousins and some of their spouses/significant others. That's Granny in the chair and me on the floor next to her.

This a pic of the babies in our group. That's Colby (9mos), Taylor (6mos), and Ladybug (10mos) Next year we will have at least two new babies including a baby brother for Colby! YAY!

This is a pic of me and some of my cousins. I'm on the right in the blue Tshirt.

This is Chowder and Chris, my cousin's husband. Otherwise know as "The Boyfriends" or "The Annoying Twins." When they may or may not have been drinking, Chowder challenged him to a footrace at about 1:00am. Sadly, Chowder lost. But, this inspired other "overserved" cousins to strap on their running shoes and vie for the title of "Fastest Drunken Man."

This is my cousin Lauren holding Ladybug.

And this is Skaterboy with my brother teaching him to dive. He is a certified Master Blackbelt Scuba Guide Instructor Guy. (among his other titles.) I'm still waiting for the underwater pics he took. I'll post them when I get them. They are pretty cool. Skaterboy loved it! He wants to look into scuba lessons here in town, but says he is way too chicken to ever dive in the ocean. We'll see about that.

These are my favorite pics of the kids...I just can't get enough of the little white butts! I can't help it! They are so damn cute! Yes, they will kill me when they are teenagers and I pull this picture out to show their prom dates.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

We're Home!!

Hiya! Just got back from our vacation! I'll post more about it later. I'm on page 307 of The Deathly Hollows. You understand, of course.

...unlike some people, I'm starting at the beginning and reading to the end.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Reality? What Reality?

I love self-development books. Not self-help, so to speak, but development. I love to read books to better my organization, to better my handling of finances, to better my parenting, housekeeping, prayer life, etc. love them. Because, each one offers new hope on how I can finally change my ridiculous behaviors and become...well, let's face it, a grownup. I'm constantly telling Chowder, "Seriously, we're in our mid to late thirties, we have 5 kids, a nice house, a good job, an education. It is time to start acting like grownups!" and we do. for a little while and then we digress into children again.

We blame ADD, we think we just haven't found the right "system" (I love the promises of a good "system"), we try to will and force ourselves to get a grip on it all. but, we always end up failing. It can be so frustrating and so disheartening. And then, I find a new book, with a new promise.

Well, lately I've been reading an old book. with an old promise. The Rule of St. Benedict. I like to read this off and on. I love the amazing insight that it gives on the way to live in a community, which is what every family is. This time around what I got hung up on was the idea of murmuring and how this was among one of the greatest offenses in the monastery (punishable by excommunication). I encourage you to take some time with Nicholas Buxton's sermon that I linked, it really illuminates the separation that murmuring brings about, both between ourselves and God and between ourselves and each other. I was pondering how to stamp murmuring out in my house, meaning in my children, until a light was shown on my heart making me see all too clearly how much murmuring was all about me.

So, I turned to Joan Chittister (a former Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters) and her book Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, in hopes of finding more insight into this act of murmuring. What I found instead, was nothing short of an epiphany. A full 180 degree turn around on the way I view my own "self-development." Sr. Joan includes an ancient monastic story:

One day the Teacher said, "It is so much easier to travel than to stop."
"Why?" the disciples demanded to know.
"Because," the Teacher said, "as long as you travel to a goal you can hold on to a dream. When you stop, you must face reality."
"But how shall we ever change if we have no goals or dreams?" the disciples asked.
"Change that is real is change that is not willed. Face reality and unwilled change will happen."

When I read this, I literally gasped.
dramatic, no?

I put the book down and just lay there with this wisdom that is so ridiculously obvious, but so amazingly obscured. Face reality and unwilled change will happen. If I looked on finances in reality, and not slip into denial, then I would change the way I handle them. If I looked at the reality of caring for my family, and not become a silly, pouty girl, then I would just do the work and get on with my day (sans murmuring even!). It's not about finding the right "system," the right expert, the latest tips. It's about living in reality. It goes back to pledging myself to the walls. And while some of these books can provide some very practical advice, my core behavior will not change until my perspective does. Living this life. now.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Do I need to tell you how this ends?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I know a thing or two about choice...revisited

"revisited?" you say.
yes. sadly. revisited.

If you aren't familiar with the story of Skaterboy, you might want to catch up a little bit. It's not that you won't be able to follow along, it's just that I think the history is what is playing so hard on my heart.

It had never been my intention to home school through high school. I know alot of it has to do with the fact that I loved my high school years. I went to a private college prep all girl Catholic school and I absolutely adored it. Skaterboy started his freshman year last year at a private college prep all boy Catholic school. He loved it. We loved it. It was small and warm. Working class families that we felt completely at home with. You could tell how much they cared about those boys. We were excited to be a part of that community.

But, Skaterboy just wouldn't put in the work. Yes, he has ADD. Yes, they worked with him one on one. We could never fault the school. They really did everything they could (and were willing to do more). At the end of the day, though, it was Skaterboy's choice to accept the help and do the work...or not to. He failed every class his first semester. We couldn't justify continuing to spend the money and have absolutely nothing come out of it. It clearly was not working for him. So, at the end of the first semester of his freshman year, we pulled him out in hopes of home schooling him just long enough to salvage his freshman year. It didn't work.

We live in a inner city neighborhood, with a school district that has just lost accreditation and has been taken over by the state. Academically? it's a shambles. Socially? it's not exactly the environment you want your child trying to learn in. Especially if he has ADD. According to plan, the other area school districts were supposed to accept city students. So, with a heavy heart we hatched a plan to have Skaterboy stay with my mom (in the county) during the week and attend school out there. We have now learned that the area school districts have decided to honor the city school district's request to not accept the students.

I called the office about a residency waiver. I was told that our case was not a "hardship" case so they couldn't issue the waiver. No, sadly our son is well cared for and loved. If he was abused or neglected, he could attend. There is also a "Voluntary Transportation" program that brings city students out to the county, but we are the wrong race. So, we are stuck.

The only way that Skaterboy could move in with my mom and attend this other school is if I gave up guardianship. Here I am 16 years later and I once again have to make this freakin' decision. I know to outsiders it does not seem like the same thing, but once you have been faced with The Choice no matter what you chose, there is always second guessing. Maybe not regularly or often, but the waves definitely come. And though I would not be giving up custody, and though in 2 years he will no longer be a minor, and though my mom would never abuse this situation...I am suddenly back in 1991 trying to decide if keeping my son is the best thing for him.

I wish I could adequately describe this weight on my heart. The depth of the anxiety surrounding this for me. My first reaction was, "No, hell no." But, then that leaves me having to say "Yes" to something and I've got...nothing. He doesn't want to home school. He wants to go back to high school. I only have a few more years with him and don't want to spend it in constant battle over school work.

*heavy sigh* If ever I needed God to guide us, it's now. So, I'm going to stand at the mouth of the cave and wait for an answer.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Taking a trip with the Cakes family...

In the near future we will be going to a family reunion at the beach. Since we live in the midwest, any and every beach is a far, far haul. Our trip is 17 hours. minimum. I have been making this drive since I was 13 years old. We do it every summer. I love it. I love my cousins and I love getting to meet my cousins' kids and see my aunts and uncles etc. It is a blast.

So, how does one prepare for a 17 hour (minimum) car trip with 5 kids? Well, actually 4 because Skaterboy didn't want my mom to drive by herself (she refused to ride with us. imagine?). So a 17 hour car trip with 4 kids, ages 4 and under? I have no idea. But, here's what I have going on right now. I'll post next about how we outfit the car for long drives.

Cakes' To Do List:

  1. Steering recall on the van. (have it checked out)
  2. Dog groomed
  3. Netflix 3 movies for kids
  4. Go to $1 store for occasional diversions
  5. Sunscreen (and lots of it)
  6. Arrange book swap with sister (her daughter is almost 4 and making the same drive)
  7. Make sure we have all the cords for dvd players
  8. Bake and freeze choc chip cookies and peanut butter cookies for drive
  9. Bake and freeze granola bars for drive
  10. Find and clean potty chair for car emergencies
  11. Make list of groceries to buy ahead of time. (cereal etc.)
  12. Pick up Chowder's prescriptions (call in his anti-depressants)
  13. Print out cut and paste activity sheets from internet
  14. Download new stories from Storynory
  15. Get a key to Sr. Jeanne for walking Fargo
  16. Put together "mixes" for cookies, granola bars, and brownies to take with us
  17. Buy a couple packages of disposable diapers
  18. Look up beach crafts on internet
  19. Put together activity bags for the kids
  20. Batteries Batteries Batteries
This list is of course being added to hourly. It doesn't matter. However I plan and think I have thought of it all, I have forgotten several very important things. The best Cakes tip for roadtrips: Go with the flow. You'll get there when you get there.