November Twenty Sixteen

The struggle. That about describes November. Not a fun month. I was in a funk and struggled with just about everything: parenting, homeschooling, life, sleep… and, three IKEA trips. Let me bitch a little about each:

Parenting. My kids are driving me insane. I can’t count the number of mornings Brian asked if I was going to make it before he left for work. I basically took most of November off from parenting. Rather, involved parenting. They were fed and are still alive, but I didn’t play mom most days. Well, I was the no mom that I don’t like to be, “No, you can’t this. No, don’t do that. I said NO. No, you can’t have a cookie for breakfast. Did you not hear me say no? No, we can’t go there. No, you can’t have that. Saige, NOOOO!” Except that one day when I said do whatever, and they did have cookies for breakfast. NOvember. Now it makes sense (I just made that up, haha).

No one kiddo is difficult, it’s all four combined (well, three, Vaile’s cake now). I guess a benefit that came out of November was all the added iPad time… last week I asked Saige if she could count the strawberries she was cutting and without a pause, she counted, “One, two, three, four, five, six.” Brian and I looked at one another, surprised. I have no idea when the others counted or if she should be already but we were impressed. Thanks, YouTube Kids. And to credit the big kiddos, they dealt with the month well. Thankfully they have each other and have vivid imaginations. They played well together most days, making up elaborate forts and scenarios for hours. Blaise is my guy, “Mom, I have an idea. You go nap and take the day off, and dad can stay home and do everything you always do.”

I’m pretty sure I’m in the phase of life where I’m going to look back in 10 years and wish they were young again, not remembering all the bad times. Now, the bad times stick out like a sore thumb.

Homeschooling. Three months in and I’m still in love and obsessed with the idea of homeschooling. I don’t like the concept of traditional school; I don’t think it’s set up with kiddos’ best interest at heart. And especially after seeing all the nonsense and bureaucracy that happens in school districts… my mom retired from the district office after over 20 years working there. My number one reason for rejecting traditional schooling is because I want my kiddos to love learning. That’s is now my main focus, no matter how we go about educating them. Including outsourcing.

Tuesdays they attend a reading and writing class for 2.5 hours, and a physics class for 2.5 hours. Thursdays they attend a three-hour outdoor science class. Once-a-month on Fridays they attend a four-hour wilderness awareness class, mixed with survival skills. We supplement at home with math, art, science, and reading. We walk up to the library and talk about various subjects that interest them. We have a homeschool science club where we get together with friends and experiment. There are ample YouTube videos out there for anything and everything. It’s fun. Flexibility. The best part of homeschooling. We’re flexible on what and when they want to learn things, and we’re flexible on taking days off to do whatever we want.

Okay then, the homeschooling love fest is about to get real… I’m struggling with a certain five-year-old who thinks it’s hysterical to be silly all.the.time. Unless it’s her idea, trying to get her to focus on anything is like pulling teeth. I get frustrated, she gets frustrated. It ends bad. And it’s hard because the golden child sets up high expectations for me and then when she shatters them, she sees how annoyed I get with her. And, well, this is not a good thing. I already struggle with her (we butt heads often) and then her seeing me get frustrated with her and not him, makes for a bad experience. She’s five I have to remind myself. Five. That’s young. Art is her thing. That’s where we click and get on well. I should add that it isn’t all bad… there are days when things fall into place and homeschooling with her is great. Those days just don’t happen that often.

I’m struggling with time also. Rather, desire?! I’m up early—usually after a bad night of sleep—and then the daily routine to maintain the house and juggle four kiddos with different needs and wants, all while trying to maintain my friendships and take care of myself. More struggle. I’m not one who can overlook a messy kitchen in lieu of doing math. Maybe my priorities are wrong but this is me. And then, toss in everyday life stuff (that never ends), vet appointments, holiday shopping, laundry (effing laundry), grocery shopping (even online takes time), hell, shaving my legs every few days takes time… days fly by where we end up doing little or no schooling. I’ve learned I’m much better at organizing and planning than following through. I’m am so overly organized for homeschooling. The implementing, that’s the hard part for me.

I knew it would be hard going into homeschooling. That’s why we outsource some days. Some days is changing to most days

Starting next week, they will now have a packed week. Between them driving me nuts and my homeschooling struggle, and their desire for more classroom time (they LOVE their Tuesday classes and asked for more), they will be attending school part-time. Monday and Wednesday mornings from 9:15am-12:40pm (next year until 3:20pm). And bonus, it’s right up the street. It’s not even a five minute drive or a 10 minute walk. The program is a partnership between the school district and parents who homeschool. I knew about it before moving to Carnation, and wasn’t in love with the idea of being tied to a school district. Too many rules and regulations. After touring the learning center and meeting with the principal, I feel good about things. They’re excited, we’re excited… on paper it all sounds perfect. Here’s hoping it really is perfect. And the even more perfect part… since they’ll be gone Monday mornings, I signed up Saige (and Vaile by default) for the parent/child Tiny Treks class I used to go to with Blaise (and Laine by default). It’s where we were first introduced to the program, long before their outdoor preschool started that Blaise and Laine attended for two years (and now attend Outdoor Explorers through). Saige will start outdoor preschool next fall; Mondays will be a nice introduction for her.

Life. Even at 38, when a younger me thought life would be simple and smooth, here I sit struggling. Life is generally good. I’m not starving, I have shelter, my kiddos are amazing (even when they are annoying me), Brian is by far the best husband I could ever ask for (last week, encouraging me to go vacation to Mexico for a week to get a break), I rarely go without any needs or wants. Life is good. And yet, poor me still kicks in. I don’t get enough sleep, I can’t find time to run as much as I’d like, I want to see friends more, I wish I had time to work on personal projects more, I only get one massage a month, it’s 4-5 weeks between pedicures (okay, so those last two things are just me being a spoiled brat)… really, all things I find excuses for instead of getting up and doing them. It’s always easier to complain about not doing things than it is to suck it up and do them. My November funk was me spending time being moody about not doing things. Lame. I’ve moved on. I’m back in the let’s do this mode.

Okay, I just realized while reading before I post that I’m not 38. I’m 37.

Sleep. I NEED SLEEP. There’s a reason Brian has always been the main night feeder for babies. I need sleep. He needs less sleep. He’s in a major deficit so I’ve been trying to help out a little. Saige went through weeks of waking in the night for hours. I don’t want to relive it so I’ll pass on details. It was a major struggle. We’re back to being in a good place with all kiddos sleeping at night. For now.

Lack of sleep explains most of my funk. When I’m tired, I’m moody. When I’m moody, I’m short-fused with parenting. When I’m short-fused with parenting, I’m easily frustrated while homeschooling. When I’m moody and frustrated, I feel like I’m failing at life. And when I’m failing at life, I waste time sitting in a funk instead of going to bed. Full-circle.

Speaking of sleep, we made a guest room out of the ever-changing fifth bedroom. It’s become my sleeping space. And I sleep well in there. Brian and I start out sleeping together but he snores. Loudly. I’m a light sleeper. I leave… to the best room in the house. Let’s start my monthly picture recap with the guest room (my room, haha):

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Pumpkin smash. Our annual tradition, smash all the Halloween pumpkins with hammers. We invited some of the neighborhood kiddos to join us. It was a fun mess. Pumpkin guts everywhere. I imagine we’ll have some pumpkin plants growing in our front side yard next spring.

Park play. We had been meeting up with other homeschoolers at the park on different Fridays. Blaise asked me to take his picture while he was hanging.

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Pup walk. We pup sat Indy, a super sweet nine-month-old lab puppy, while her family was on vacation for a little over a week. Melvin had a blast having an energetic pup around. They walked together and played almost non-stop. He was exhausted after she left.

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Equestria Girls (and Blaise). Blaise is obsessed with My Little Pony and everything associated. In fairness, Saige is obsessed, too. Laine’s on board with their obsessions. They were at dance a few weeks back and another little dancer was talking with her mom about My Little Pony and Blaise chimed in, “Fluttershy is my favorite. She is so beautiful!” One of their friends is into Equestria Girls and had a small themed party. What a fun idea. Take a theme and make a small party, basically a glorified play date. There were some small snacks and pizza, good times. We’re stealing their idea for the future (we also stole their Remlinger Farms birthday party idea… they have great ideas!).

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Three IKEA trips. IKEA isn’t horrible. It’s finding the time (and desire) to get there. After the carpet was replaced, we switched things up. Blaise wanted a desk in his room. He decided on a loft bed. The bunk beds from Blaise’s room were moved to Laine’s room, with the intention of her and Saige sharing. We moved Laine’s full-size bed into Saige’s room, planning on making it a guest room until Vaile moves out of our room. We had a daybed and crib in Saige’s room… the crib is now in our room and the daybed we gave to the neighbor. Well, Laine didn’t want to sleep on the top bunk and Saige was having sleep issues. Saige slept on the full-size bed in her room, which left no place for guests (and we knew Brian’s dad and step-mom were coming). We decided to keep each kiddo in their own room and turn the fifth bedroom into the guest room (which was the workout room). Since we were taking the full-size bed from Saige’s room, we decided to get bunk beds for her room. That way kiddos can eventually sleep wherever they want. Musical beds. So, three IKEA trips. #1: Loft bed. #2: Bunk beds for Saige’s room. #3: Large dresser for Saige’s room (we moved the one that was in there to the guest room, and that one is smaller anyway). The third trip we took everyone—all six of us—on a rainy night. The kiddos and Brian stayed in the van while I ran in and bought the dresser. Then came the loading part. Out went the big kid seats, down went the van seats, in went the dresser boxes, up when the van seats, Laine had to go to the restroom, in went the big kid seats, Blaise had to use the restroom… the car in front of us that was trying to shove a queen-size mattress into their hatchback looked less ambitious after we were loaded up.

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Art-ists. What else would you do with bunk bed cardboard?! They took to painting it off-and-on for a few days. I finally recycled it after a few weeks sitting out back. Indy helped.

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White was boring. In our last place, I painted the back of our front and house garage doors. It wasn’t much less boring than white, an earthtone, but it added some color to the white stairwell down to the front and house garage doors. In this house, the downstairs walls are rounded (which I’m not a fan of) so there really isn’t a great spot where paint can end. I’m not a fan of the straight line down a curved wall edge. It looks funny. So to break up the monotonous entry way, I wanted color. At IKEA, I bought a teal plant pot for my next victim (I’m on to the second victim now, sorry first plant), and I’m in love with the color. A vibrant teal. That’s what color I wanted the front door. I didn’t know this until I brought the pot home. I emailed our fabulous painter that day and by the following week, he painted the back of our front door and downstairs bathroom that teal. I LOVE how they both turned out.

Laine Bug and Bob. Laine is into the name Bob these days. I’m not really sure why. She made this all on her own and asked me to take a picture. Which is rare, she’s not a big picture person.

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Bath time. Indy desperately wanted to jump in with the little ones.

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Doctor Blaise?! I’m not really sure what he has going on here. He ran into our room in the middle of playing with Laine and asked me to take his picture.

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Pick-up fail. Thankfully they had their Outdoor Explorer class at Tolt this day because it was a major fail on our part. The day before Lisa was here and Brian took the day off, so we did a dump run. Brian took out all the kiddo car seats and the two van captain chairs so we could load the van for the dump. Brian dropped the kiddos off at class on his way to work. When I went to load the little ones up to leave and get the big kiddos, there was the van. Void of any van seats or car seats. I had 15 minutes. Having absolutely no idea how to get the captain chairs in or even having enough time to install four car seats, I decided it would be best to walk up there. I’m sure I could have figured it out if there was more time. I called a mom friend and asked if she’d sign out the kiddos and I’d walk as fast as I could to get there. And of course, it was the one day in November that was over 70 degrees (which is hot for this Native Californian, haha). I made it up there in about 20 minutes. We had to walk back so we stopped at the playground for a bit before walking home. The kiddos convinced me to stop at Carnation Cafe for lemonade. Fair enough. I was making them walk home in wet boots, a thermal base layer, fleece base layer, and their waterproof pants. Lemonade sounded good.

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Scuba cat. Everyone needs scuba cat. I discovered Society6 back when I was shopping for iPhone 4 cases. Since then, I’ve ordered all sorts of stuff from them. Mostly animals dressed up. I had a the goat and another cat as throw pillows in our last place. This time I decided to order wall art. The pillows get worn. I ordered the same goat and cat I had as pillows. I decided to order a few more prints. I was raised in a nicely decorated home, but what I would consider pretty boring. At least it was contemporary and not super traditional (traditional is nice, for others). There wasn’t much color and my parents had your standard wall art… some Picasso and Kandinsky prints, The Kiss, etc. At least the art had color. I want fun. And ridiculous. Scuba cat checks both those boxes off. It makes me smile every day.

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SAMouflage. Sammy was asleep in the blanket. We almost didn’t see him.

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First lost tooth! We have a toothless smile. He was super excited since this means he’s getting bigger. I think it’s funny kids want to get bigger and older. Life is so good as a kid… not that I want to be a kid again. But to not have do do laundry and have it magically appear clean in my room, that would be amazing. The Tooth Fairy (aka mom and dad, our kiddos know) left a $2 bill under his pillow. I’m a sucker for family traditions.

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“I’m a dog person.” Blaise had decided he’s a dog person and Laine a cat person. I’m not really sure why or if they really have a preference other than one likes dogs so then the other should like cats? Either way, the dogs and Blaise are pals. Here, watching something together.

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Passed out. My goal was to keep her awake until we left to pick up the big kiddos from their Tuesday class. We had 20 minutes to go… she didn’t make it. Spoon in hand and all.

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Science. Homeschool science at our friend’s house. Simple machines.

David Sedaris. I went to see David Sedaris for the second time with a few friends. He’s hilarious. I joined the picture taking crowd and snapped a few before the show started. Being downtown always takes me back to my working days. Good times.

Trolls. I’m never, ever going to a regular movie theater again. Granted, I’m not a big movie person and this was the third time I’ve gone to the movies since Blaise was born (Brian usually takes them). This is the way to do movies. Comfy, reclining chairs. Blankets. Popcorn served to you in your seat, with free refills. A friend asked us if we wanted to see Trolls and suggested going to iPic (she’d already seen the light). Weekend tickets were a bit steep at $25 a pop but weekday tickets were more reasonable at $15, including popcorn. We ate at MOD Pizza before the movie and grabbed Starbucks hot chocolate after. A complete date. Well, in fairness, the hot chocolate was because I totally forgot to bring jackets or sweaters for the kiddos and it was freezing. I figured hot chocolate would warm them up. The movie was pretty lame plot-wise but the music was fun. The overall experience was a great time.

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A boy and his dog. Snuggle time.

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Morning Melvin walk. I love this area. As if I haven’t said this before. I take Melvin on a three-mile walk regularly. We have a set route we usually take. This time we walked past the campground and down to the Snoqualmie River. I love our early morning walks. We almost have the trails to ourselves. And they set the day up to be great. There’s something about being active and outside first thing.

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Someone is starting to have opinions. We were all packed up and ready to roll, the older three were already buckled in the van. Vaile was protesting not having socks and shoes on. She walks now. She had to pick out her socks and shoes (that are Saige’s too big for her). She rocked this outfit at Red Robin.

Eating out at Red Robin makes me think of the morning before… we never eat out anymore. It’s not a pleasant experience for Brian or me. We used to all the time before kids (all.the.time) and even with Blaise and Laine, we ate out quite a bit. With four, it’s not fun. Logistically we always need a bigger table, it takes bit longer, it’s more expensive… all a hassle. Brian’s SUV was having issues so the kiddos and I drove him into work. We decided to grab breakfast first. The kiddos picked Family Pancake House. While we were reminded why we don’t like to eat out, several older folks stopped over and complimented our family. This isn’t uncommon. I think older folks see younger families and remember their good times. Maybe? This day we had more compliments than usual in one outing. And they were especially appreciated after being frustrated with more than one kiddo. Brian took the little ones to the van while I waited for the check. Our server stopped by and said someone had paid our bill. I am not an emotionally moved person—I didn’t even cry when any of the four were born—but I was so moved, even almost to tears. How incredibly kind. We’ll pay it forward for sure.

Thanksgiving. I don’t have any pictures from Thanksgiving. It was good. This year we remembered to thaw the turkey. Last year we had just moved in and totally forgot. Mike and Katherine came over and we had a mini-feast. The kiddos are getting to the age where they will remember traditions so we went all out with the food. The last few years—since Mike became a vegetarian—we’ve only made a turkey roast with white meat. Mike would eat the dark meat. We ate and then played a few games with the kiddos before they hit the hay. It was a nice, low-key holiday. My favorite way to spend them.

Hiking. To help myself get out of my funk, I committed myself to going on a post-Thanksgiving hike. My goal was Poo Poo Point. Last time I hiked up there, I had just had Saige and had to stop a few times along the way. This time, I didn’t need to stop. Mel and I hit the trail at 8am and hiked up before the crowds (it was busy when we left). I’m going to start hiking regularly, alone or with friends (always with Melvin). I love being outside.

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Gingerbread house event. Another annual tradition, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. KidsQuest puts on a gingerbread house making event. The houses are pre-built and they have candy bars where you grab what you want to decorate with. There is no frustration building the thing, and there is no mess to clean up. It is well worth the cost. Our friends joined us this year and they decorated four houses together. Always a good time!

More homeschool science. Dissolving candy canes. That was fun. I found it interesting. Aside from some of the kiddos asking for candy canes and not being able to keep their paws off of them before we started, it was a fun time. We put candy canes in hot water, cold water, oil, and vinegar. We made predictions about what might happen and then watched. And then they ate candy canes. We tossed a few sugar cubes in each jar also, and a few in each mouth.

That was November. We’re on December 8 today, as I write this, and I’m almost out of my funk. We are having a major Christmas movie day… why not, homeschooling flexibility.

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