Monday, August 31, 2015

Conjunction Junction, what's your function?

It's been a hectic week for me, getting everything we need for school plus a few other things taken over to the new place and organized. But I did it. I might have eaten nothing more than Dr. Pepper and Jalapeno chips this week, but I did it. We were ready to start school this morning, right on schedule.

We started our day off right, with a breakfast of champions, sure to sustain us to lunchtime.
After we finished eating, we hurried out the door. We didn't want to miss the bus on our very first day. What a disaster that would be! We took the obligatory pictures lined up for the bus. Naturally.
Then I hopped into the driver's seat, and we drove from the old house to the new. We excitedly entered the classroom and even tried to take pictures at the desk with the teacher.
We may need to work on our photography skills this year. Oh well. They were just excited that they each got a turn with my good camera, something they are rarely allowed to touch.

We finished our beloved FIAR at the end of last year, so we are launching headlong into new curriculum. Previously, I had loved the freedom and flexibility FIAR allowed us to have. I loved the fact that it was all based off of great children's books. I was able to really tailor or days to what we were interested in. However, after over 2 years of year-round school, I was growing weary. 

What I really wanted was for somebody to just tell me what to do each day. 

But I wanted it to be challenging.

And I still wanted some control.

And I wanted to be able to have the same core for two different grade levels.

And I didn't want to have to locate things every week at the library.

And I wanted to be able to do it in a 4-day week.

And I wanted to be able to custom fit math and reading levels for each child.

And I wanted to use real books.

And...

And...

So we settled on Sonlight. I was giddy the day EVERY book I would need for the entire year arrived in the mail. I was also a little intimidated. Second grade for the big boys, baby. Intro to World History. This stuff just got real.

It's too early to say how much (or whether) we love the new routine. Day 1 was a success, though, and I can say that I am looking forward to teaching my crazy, curious little men this year.

These boys are getting so very big. They amaze me every day.

Today we had some great conversations.

Some of those conversations were about Star Wars and whether Mace Windu should have been able to defeat Chancellor Palpatine. Or whether Luke would have stood a chance against Darth Maul's double light saber.

We also chatted about what they would like to be when they grow up. You know, typical first-day-of-school stuff.

Mr. N wants to be a zoologist in charge of his own zoo/aquarium. He was very specific about the "in charge" bit. He wants absolute control over every aspect.
Mr. W wants to be a firefighter and a lifeguard. He basically wants to be a superhero. To save people. And perhaps swim while doing it. He almost kind of still wants to be a zoologist. But he thinks he'll just visit with the animals every day after work.
Little Mr. L has been unwavering in his desire to be an artist and illustrator for many years. He actually would like to be a Caldecott-winning illustrator. But...since that's not entirely within his control, he didn't add that to his sign. He's in "catapult" kindergarten this year (as opposed to "cuckoo" last year) because he's being launched into elementary school.
Then there's me. My life goal is to one day become a beach bum. I really just want my hiney in the sand and a pina colada in my hand.
Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Real Life is Calling

We just got back from a week's vacation. We left the kids at Grands Camp. The hubs and I headed for the ocean. It was glorious.
A week from today we will head back to school. Things 1 & 2 are headed to second grade. Shorty will be in kindergarten. It is our third year on this homeschool adventure.

What are we doing to celebrate our last week of summer break? Hitting the pool everyday? Going on hikes and adventures? Lounging around in our PJs watching the tele? Those all sound like brilliant ideas.

But we are not doing any of that.

We are purging, packing, hauling, unloading, reorganizing.
We are moving.

Just across town, which is unusual for us, but we are moving nonetheless. We are trading our duplex on a soul-crushing street of other duplexes waaay out on the edge of town for a tidy little apartment a bit closer in to civilization. 

On the bright side, we will have year-round access to a pool (insert loud cheers from the children) in exchange for a fenced yard and attached garage. 

Giving in to the dark side, I have a sneaking suspicion that when the handsome husband throws around comments like "I'm looking forward to downsizing," he's mostly talking about my stuff and the kids' rather than his own.

This week I do not plan to come up for air. I am in beast mode. I have seven days. Seven short days which are also full of things like laundry, meal prep, soccer practice, and speech therapy. Just seven days to convert chaos into a classroom.
I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I sure do have some handsome little helpers who are also eager to get the job done. Or so they say...
www.jillheupel.com
Anyway. We are taking it in stride. Learning to be content in any circumstance. Even less-than-ideal, week-before-homeschool-starts, I'd-rather-be-poring-over-lesson-plans kinds of circumstances.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Just Not Pinterested

During this, the week after Mother's Day, I'm finally getting around to something I've been sitting on for a while. I can't really think of a better time to say say it than now, though, as we have just finished celebrating what it means to be a mom.

A few weeks back, I needed a solution for some of our clutter. Specifically, I needed to reclaim some space for their clothes. It seems that, as they keep getting bigger, so do their pants and shoes. Go figure. I decided on wall hooks for hoodies and backpacks and lofting Shorty's bed to add drawers or shelf space. I didn't want to spend a fortune doing it, either.

It didn't seem too daunting at first.

One trip to the thrift store.

Two crafty little projects.

And, as it turned out, a whole lot of stewing, frustration, and mom guilt.

You see, we live in the Pinterest generation.

One quick internet search for DIY coat hooks, and you are bombarded with images of beautiful designs carefully painted and distressed to perfectly compliment any decor.
And check out a few of the DIY kid's loft bed suggestions.
It seems we have added a whole new dimension of competition and judgey-ness to motherhood.

As if it weren't bad enough already, comparing children's behavior, activities, and accomplishments with each other, we now have social media dedicated to making us feel like our furniture, parties, decorations just don't stack up to the standard. It is no longer enough to buy a bed frame and a set of Holly Hobbie sheets for your kid's room, and use an old dresser to store their clothes (as was the case with my childhood room). Now you must find a free wooden pallet or two and transform them into a personalized headboard. If you are lucky enough to have that hand-me-down dresser, you've just saved yourself days searching thrift shops for the perfect item. However, you can't just use it as is. You must sand it and paint it. Then distress it, because it can't look new. You need to put new hardware on it, too. Maybe even decoupage something on the drawers to add some interest or texture.

We have bought into this idea that we are somehow less successful as a wife or a mother if our house isn't some wonderland of perfectly coordinated DIY items.

So my little plan to add more space and organization began to feel oppressive to me.

Between cleaning the house, doing laundry for 5, cooking 3 meals a day, homeschooling 3 bright and active boys, and finding time for the hubby, I barely had time to shower. How was I going to find time to create these amazing pieces to add to the boys' room?

Could I skip a shower for a month, cut out some of my play time with the kids and quality couple time to get it done?

NO.

I drew a line in the sand.

Just, no.

I let the boys paint the coat hook any way they wanted while I figured out how to get some storage out of Shorty's bed.


It's so crazy, but it's so them. They owned it, and it makes them happy. Plus they got some great bonding in while they collaborated on the design. You aren't going to find this on any idea boards or in any design magazines, but I don't care. Why does everything have to coordinate, anyway?

And for the loft bed design, I found a bench, an end table, some shelves, and some small craft pallets (from the store, NOT repurposed -- gasp) to help with extra height where needed. I got some spray paint when I was still thinking about making it look Pinterest-worthy, but I haven't used it. 
The boys begged me to leave a "doorway" so they could have a secret hideout under the bed. It's their favorite feature...and I didn't even have to make it look like a real door or clubhouse. There's a hole where you can peek out through one of the pallets, and they call it their "mailbox." They don't want me to change what the internet would consider a design flaw.

I was able to get it all done while they painted the coat hooks. It was so fast...and imperfect...and not coordinated with the rest of their bedroom.

And not once have they asked me to change it so that it is.

Come to think of it, they haven't asked me why their dresser is the same color it was when it was part of my granny's bedroom suite. They haven't asked me to give their room some sort of theme. They don't feel like their lives are lacking anything because I didn't even bother to take the labels off the jelly jars that hold their craft supplies or why their toys and supplies sit on plastic storage shelves instead of cute painted and papered ones. They actually kind of like the fact that their marker bucket is just a free plastic container left over from a few Halloweens ago and there is an old green and pink Easter basket holding the glitter glue.
In fact, they have never once asked me to spend more time sanding and painting, coordinating and decorating their room so that we can post some pictures to Facebook and see how many "likes" we get or how many people compliment us on our decorating skills.

What they HAVE asked me to do is to spend more time with them. To play games. To run races. To cuddle up and read a book. To have a family movie night. To go bowling. To look them in the eye and give them my full attention.

So if you want to spend your time searching for your next project on social media, executing it, and then posting the results to social media...you go right ahead.

As for me, I'm just not interested.

I'm going to go play soccer.









Saturday, March 28, 2015

Like a Girl

Today at Shorty's soccer match, the hubs overheard some stellar parent yelling at his 5-year-old little boy that he was "running like a girl."

What was happening at that moment was wrong on so many levels. 

First, rather than offer his child encouragement, this father thought it better to shout what he considered to be insults at his little boy. I'm all for acknowledging our children's shortcomings, but admonishing them to do the best they can and try their hardest is a far cry from belittling them.

Second, if you do see a problem with the way your child is running (or doing anything, really), please offer him constructive advice. To scream at your child  that he is running "like a girl" actually communicates nothing to him about what he is actually doing wrong. That 5 year old had no idea what his father was talking about. Was he going slowly? Was he pigeon toed? Were his arms waving above his head? All he really knew was that his father was disappointed in him. Words were made to communicate. Please choose them carefully so that they can.

Third, although the expression "like a girl" didn't communicate anything to the little boy about his own performance, it spoke volumes about the performance of girls everywhere. It clearly indicated that girls are inferior and that they don't run correctly. It communicated an attitude about the value and place of girls in our society. It trained that boy to view girls as less. 

I wanted to show this father this video and to say to him, "Do you mean running like this? Because that's pretty freaking amazing. I want to run like a girl more often!:
Hearing this ignorant man using his words the way he did made me sigh in relief. I was relieved that I was not trying to raise daughters to believe in their own value and strength in the midst of a world that often does not.

I am disgusted by this man's attitude and what he is raising his young man to believe. I am determined to raise a different caliber of men.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

You could really be a Beau Brummell, baby

(or Lessons learned from letting go...just a little bit)

A little while back I came across a blog post which detailed the adventures of a mommy who let her toddler son dress her for a week. I thought it was hilarious and adorable all at the same time, so I challenged my lovely sister-in-law to allow her little man to dress her for a day. She accepted the challenge and sent me a picture of herself looking perfectly beautiful in mismatched clothes and with her hair styled like Elsa (who happens to be my nephew's girlfriend).

She then aimed the challenge back at me.

It was not something I had really planned to do.

You see, my guys are not toddlers anymore. While that might be an advantage in some ways (they aren't going to forget to pick pants for me), they are each very opinionated about fashion. And their styles are quite...unique...at times.
I don't always let them branch out on their own with their clothing choices. I like to have a little influence...er...control...over what they put on. I don't force them into a dozen layers of "coolness," but I do like to make sure they match.

Perhaps they wouldn't even be interested, I thought. Maybe, just maybe, bigger boys have no desire to dress their mommy. Pleeeeaase don't let them want to dress their mommy.

They wanted to dress their mommy.

I could feel the butterflies in my stomach as I knew I had no control over what I had just set into motion.

Mr. W got to go first. This boy is a fan of the graphic tee. If available, he likes pants with patterns, and he always likes his socks to show...even over the top of his high tops. He has also been known to attempt to style his hair with some gel to look more like Superman.
He knew exactly what shirt he wanted me in. I don't have a lot of graphic t-shirts, and he particularly likes the one with circus elephants. He paired it with a floral skirt, tall mismatched socks and my chucks. He insisted that my hair be down and straightened and added a scarf and the watch his daddy gave me for our engagement. He weighed his options before choosing a colorful messenger bag and glasses, not contacts.

This outfit was fun and super comfy. I kind of felt like a quirky high school student as I was out and about. He was really proud of what he selected, and it was nice to see him smile at me when I wore it.

The next day was Mr. L's turn. Little Mr. L has a unique style. He doesn't follow anybody's rules but his own.
He sorted through every piece in my closet, declaring each of them "pretty" or "bleh." I noticed pretty quickly that he gravitated toward color and pattern. When he paired up a huge multi-colored sweater with a bright, busy skirt he was so excited that it made it easy not to cringe at the choices. He wanted my brightest shoes and socks with tiny kitties had to be visible. My hair, he wanted me to just brush and then leave the way it turned out. A fan of accessorizing, he wanted glasses, my "special" watch, and he chose my sparkliest bracelet as well as a bracelet he had created for me with ribbon and fake flowers. I think he would have chosen a necklace or two, too, but I managed to distract him with bags before he settled on one. It should come as no surprise that he chose the messenger bag to compliment this ensemble.
I have to admit, I felt a bit silly wearing all of this at the same time. I was even tempted to specifically NOT leave the house. However, I had promised that I would take them to a pizzeria for dinner. I felt better about myself when I glanced at the table next to us and saw a lady confidently wearing head to toe sequins, faux fur, and animal prints. She clearly felt fabulous. I did, too, when I saw the proud look on Shorty's face.

Last, but certainly not least was Mr. N. He likes to wear items which are his favorite color or which have a favorite animal on them. He would wear the same shirt every day if I let him. He also loves to "look handsome" and to add bling. He doesn't just put on one button, he wears all of the ones he can find, plus his watch, and also a necklace.
At first, he was a bit insecure choosing my clothes, but once he found my orange tunic he was full of ideas. Leggings, leg warmers, and high heeled boots, as well as my big yellow handbag. My hair should be curled and I needed glasses. He put a watch and a bangle on each wrist and two necklaces around my neck (one was also a watch). 
He was so proud. He said it was the best I had every looked. This was definitely the most high-maintenance outfit of the 3, but it was also the one closest to something I would have chosen for myself. I felt pretty "normal" as we ran errands.

Things I learned from this little experiment:



  1.  My boys crave control, and it is healthy for me to relinquish some of mine so they can have a bit more.
  2. No matter how strange you think you look, people are not going to ask you about your outfit. They just aren't. They may snicker once you have walked away, but who cares?
  3. If you act confident, you will feel confident.
  4. If you feel fabulous in a floral skirt and fuchsia sneakers (or sequins and fur), you are fabulous. There is power in holding your head up high.
  5. There is nothing wrong with planning an entire outfit around a favorite piece. Or two.
  6. Mixing and matching is liberating.
  7. Color is your friend. Don't hide from it.
  8. Sparkles and bangles and bling make you feel pretty. Remember going overboard in the play jewelry as a kid? Yeah, that.
  9. Fashion truly can communicate who you are, how you feel, and what you value.
  10. There is nothing, NOTHING, that I wouldn't do to see my little men beam like they did when they looked with pride on their mama out on the town wearing what THEY had picked out. We will likely be doing this again next month.
What do you think? Are you up to the challenge?
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