Aug 022012

Throughout the month of August, our authors will be sharing ‘A Day in the Life’ – each from their unique perspective. Our posts will join with others in iHomeschool Network’s Not Back-to-School Blog Hop.

I’m hoping this post will eliminate some of the “wow, you really have it all together” comments that I occasionally hear.

Here is a typical Monday at our house:

6:00 – Husband wakes up and gets ready for work.
6:20 – I stumble out of bed and get his breakfast ready (nothing spectacular, usually a couple pieces of toast or some grits in the microwave) and then see him off to work.
6:30 – I start the coffee and unload the dishwasher and then sit in my favorite chair for some quiet time.
7:00 – 5 year old creeps down the stairs and starts asking questions. I tell him to work on some puzzles while I try to finish my quiet time.
7:30 – I hear the 9 and 11 year olds thumping around upstairs, half playing and half doing chores.
8:00 – 5 year old and 9 year old start making breakfast (usually Pop Tarts, cereal, waffles, or toast). I get the little guy (almost 2) out of bed, change diaper, then into his chair for breakfast, then I head to the shower while the guys eat.
8:15-8:30 – 11 year old is finally finished with chores and ready for breakfast.
8:45 – I’m out of the shower and dressed. I make my bed, start the laundry. The guys are either arguing, rowdying, or cleaning up something that was spilled while they were rowdying). I send them off to brush their teeth while I make more coffee and start the bread in the bread machine. Almost 2 year old is somewhere getting into something.
9:00-10:00 – 9 and 11 year olds start the school subjects they can do on their own – Handwriting, Reading, English and Math. I tell them to sit down and be quiet probably about 42 times in that first hour. 5 year old and almost 2 year old are chasing each other around the house, squealing and making car noises. I work on the laundry, check email, etc… Then the ready-to-check schoolwork starts to pile up on my desk.

“Guys please sit still long enough for me to take one picture!”

10:00-11:30 – 5 year old starts some school. We do some letter sounds, beginning reading and writing. We work in some of his workbooks and read some books and play some games. 2 year old is crying because he wants my attention. He’s up and down from my lap about 25 times in 10 minutes. 9 and 11 year olds are still working, schoolwork is still piling up on my desk. Bread dough is overflowing the bread machine because it beeped an hour ago.


11:30 Everybody is asking about lunch. I say, “as soon as I finish checking all this work.” Then I start checking the work. Almost 2 year old is somewhere getting into something.

“Who made this mess?”

12:00 or so – I give up on checking work and we have lunch. I send everyone outside with their sandwiches because the table is stacked with books and really, I need some peace and quiet. They chase each other around the yard and catch a toad or two. I enjoy the quiet and finish checking everything.

“Mom, this one is missing a foot!”

1:00 – I call everyone back in. Little one goes down for his nap. 5 year old has some quiet time on the couch. Big guys start correcting the work I checked. They get started with History and Science (getting out books and notebooks, writing words). I do some more laundry and clean up lunch.
1:30-3:00 – We listen to our History lesson while the guys read along in the book. They write definitions, answer questions, etc.. Then we start Science. I planned to do some fun activity, but by this point I’m too tired for anything fun and we just read the lesson and answer questions. I check the rest of the day’s work and send the guys back outside or to their rooms for quiet time depending on the weather.
3:00 – More coffee. Check some e-mail, Facebook, browse through a bunch of yummy stuff on Pinterest & plan next week’s menu.
4:00 – The guys start asking about playing Wii. Ok, anything for a little more peace and quiet. I finish up the laundry, work some more on the menu. Little guy wakes up from his nap.
5:00 – Chores time for the guys. I start dinner. Little guy is tugging on my pants asking for milk. I’m counting the minutes ’til Daddy gets home. I’m asked at least 6 times, “what is for dinner?” Which is always interesting to me because I only have 4 kids. I might just start answering, “something from Pinterest,” because that is almost always true.
5:30 – Garage door opener announces that Daddy is home. Cheers all around. Everybody thunders down the stairs. Let the rough-housing begin. I think the house might come apart at the seams, but I remind myself that these guys need that time with their daddy and try to hold the bear cub image in my mind.
6:00 – Dinner. 9 year old scarfs it down. 11 year old studies it and asks questions about it, but eats it anyway. 5 year old picks at it. Almost 2 year old throws it on the floor.
6:30 – 11 year old cleans the kitchen. 9 and 5 year olds brush teeth and get ready for bed. Mom and Dad referee. Almost 2 year old is somewhere getting into something.
7:00 – Everybody heads downstairs for a movie.
8:00 – Bedtime. Sweet, precious bedtime. Dad tucks in the big guys while I tuck in the littles. Somebody needs to go to the bathroom one more time. One more is thirsty. Then Dad goes for a run while I sit on the porch and watch.
9:00 – 11:00 – We enjoy the quiet, watch some TV, and get ready to start all over again tomorrow.

~ By Kendra, Frogs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tales

Jul 052012

All of the things I have shared have definitely helped to tone down the chaos in our home. But the reality is that it is not possible for my house to be as quiet and clean as I would like. Even if I spent every minute of the day cleaning, people live here. Precious boys and their pets live here. And you can see the evidence of it everywhere you look! But for my own sanity, I needed one space that was clean. One space that I could go to escape the clutter and the noise and the toys and the pets.

A couple months ago I mentioned that I was working on a master bedroom makeover with several ideas I found on Pinterest. I decided to do it as a surprise for my husband. He works from home in our bedroom twice a week and I knew the chaos and clutter were getting to him too. I tried to keep everything a secret over several months. I worked on the projects during the times he was out of town and I put it all together one day while he was at work. I went as all out as I could on our budget. Even bought a new (used) canopy bed on Craigslist.

Now it is complete, and like so many other parts of our family life, it has rules. No clutter allowed. No rowdying allowed. No toys allowed. Quiet, calm, still boys with no toys are absolutely welcome. In fact, our bedroom is the only room in our house with a VCR, so we occasionally have a family night with all of us snuggling under that canopy watching some of our old Veggie Tales & Thomas the Tank Engine videos.

Don’t have room in the budget for a makeover? No problem! Just instituting a few of these boundaries will go a long way toward creating a sanctuary in your home. And most of the Pinterest projects were fairly cheap. One of the cheapest & easiest things I did that really makes our bedroom my favorite place in the house was filling every surface in the room with pictures of us and places we’ve been. Old and new. Years of memories pulled out of a box and tucked in frames.

The last thing that really helps to make it a sanctuary is keeping it clean. I know that I can’t possibly keep the whole house as clean as I would like. But I can handle one room! The bed is made first thing every morning. I dust at least once a week (if only that room) and keep it vacuumed and clutter-free.

So summer is here and school is out. Now is the perfect time to create a sanctuary of your own!

Surviving Life with Boys Series:

~ By Kendra, Frogs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tales

Jun 042012

On Good Friday evening, I sat with my husband and our four boys in one of the farther back rows in church, and noticed something amazing. There was a row of sweet girls sitting in front of us, sitting still and quiet, and the lone boy in the row was kicking his feet and bouncing up and down. Quietly bouncing, but bouncing still. And then I looked at my boys. Also bouncing. And kicking feet. And fidgeting. And rocking back and forth. Mouths closed, but constantly moving some other part of their bodies. I looked around the room and observed the same phenomenon in row after row. Still, quiet girls. Bouncing boys. Life with boys is never still or quiet. And the more boys, the less quiet. I’m learning to appreciate that difference. I know that our Heavenly Father built that restlessness into these boys for some noble purpose.  I’ve quit trying to change it and started trying to manage it. To find some way to have the peace and serenity I so desperately need in this house full of bouncing boys.

If I’ve learned anything in these last 11 years of boy-raising, it is that the noise is inevitable. Instead of trying to force the noise out of them, I started by eliminating some of the other noises in the house.

Ditch the electric pencil sharpener. Even in our relatively small home school, it seemed like our pencil sharpener was constantly sharpening. Then one day it broke. Wouldn’t sharpen another pencil. And we were forced to switch to good old-fashioned hand sharpening. After living like that for a week, I couldn’t believe how much quieter our home had become. So, much to my children’s dismay, I refused to get another electric one. We tried several sharpening options and finally ended up with good mechanical pencils and an Amazon-sized supply of replacement lead. They are happy. Mama is happy.

Ditch the home phone. We now have two cell phones and no home phone. And with the ability to reject calls and block numbers, no more constantly ringing telemarketers. Sometime in the near future, I know we’ll have to add another cell phone for when kids are home alone, kids’ friends calls, etc… But we’re not there quite yet.

Ditch the TV. Ok, we didn’t get rid of the TV completely. We actually have two. But none in the main living area of the house. One in our bedroom and one in the basement. So when the kids are playing Wii or watching Ninjago, I don’t have to hear it. Of course there are rules that go along with having the TV in a room away from me, but that is another post entirely.

Ditch the kids. Just kidding. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Afternoons = quiet time. This came about because of the little one in the house that needs an afternoon nap, but I enjoy it just as much as he does. For the older boys, the quiet time can be a nap, reading, or playing outside (and possibly screen time). If they don’t like their options, then I get to choose. If they’ve been really good and really quiet, it can also transition into quiet playing in room time. Alone. Because brothers = noise, always. And to keep it fun for them, the amount of time they spend outside = the amount of screen time they can have for the day. It sounds like that could turn into a lot of screen time, but with about 4 hours between the end of school and the beginning of dinner, if they spend 2 hours outside and earn 2 hours of screen time divided by 3 boys, that isn’t bad. Tricia has also written a series about the benefits and how-tos of afternoon quiet time. If you haven’t seen her ideas yet, don’t miss them!

May 012012

boy, n. a noise with dirt on it

The first time I saw that quote was in an Uppercase Living catalog a few years ago. Then it cropped up on Pinterest and just last week I saw it on Facebook. Isn’t it so true? Buried somewhere beneath the noise and dirt lies an endless supply of hugs and love and sweetness. But if I am ever going to uncover all that sweetness, I need to find a way to live with the rest of what makes up a boy. Or four boys.

Any of these things could be just as useful in a house full of girls. Several children = chaos, no matter what the gender ratio. I just think that with boys, the chaos is magnified a bit.

Managing the Toys. This was our home, all day, every day just a few months ago: “Whose Legos are these? Please pick up the Legos.” 15 minutes later the Legos are still there. “Didn’t I say pick up the Legos??” 3 hours later, “PICK UP THE BLASTED LEGOS!!!” At bedtime, I’m picking up Legos and muttering to myself about how irresponsible my boys are. NO MORE. Now, we have a box we call the treasure chest. It is in the living room where I find the majority of the forgotten messes.  If I see something lying around, I ask that it be put away one time. If it is still there in 10 minutes, I put it in the treasure chest. Anything left out at bedtime goes in the chest. If they want it back, they have to do a chore for me. Washing windows, dusting, wiping baseboards… whatever I may see that needs doing. And there is plenty that needs doing at our house. I think it would be brilliant to have a big clear container to use for this, like maybe one of those giant cheese puff containers from Sam’s Club. That way all the treasures are easy to see and tempting to get back.

The doing chores for me idea is working so well that I’m starting to find other ways to use it. If they do one of their chores halfway, or forget to do it, I’ll do it. And then they can do one of my chores. To do this well, I think I need a ready list of jobs that need to be done.

Managing the Laundry. A while back I wrote about our laundry system. It has worked very well for us until recently. My bedroom is the only place in our house that is big enough for laundry folding. When the pile of laundry became so big that my queen size bed couldn’t hold it all, I decided it was time to move on to phase two. My oldest two (9 and 11) are doing their own laundry now. One of them is the type that will wear 3 shirts in one day and put them all in the laundry, dirty or not. The other is the type that will wear the same shirt for 3 days and call it clean. Both were driving me crazy! I decided to stop trying to change them and let them handle their own clothing habits. After a few days of basic washing instruction, they were able to handle it completely on their own. There are 3 rules. They only get to wash on Tuesdays and Fridays (the days I don’t wash). They must put the clothes away on the day they were washed. They must have something clean, decent, and unwrinkled to wear to church. Now I know very well that if I went to their room right now I would find inside-out shirts hanging on hangars, drawers not organized, clothes not folded. But this is where I have to pick my battles, be grateful that the shirts are hung up at all, and not venture in their room too often. My 5 year old is still sorting his own laundry for me to wash on my laundry days. Then I fold, and he puts them away.

Managing the Bathroom.  They are responsible for tidying up their bathroom every night. I keep a tub of baby wipes in the cabinet for them to use. The boy assigned to the job that day starts by wiping the faucet, then the counter and sink, then the toilet handle, then the toilet seat and rim. Then the wipe goes in the trash. Now, I know very well that their bathroom is not Martha Stewart clean after that. And I do clean it thoroughly now and then. But it is clean enough that when I do clean it, I don’t have to wear a gas mask. And if the occasion arises that I (or a guest) have to use that bathroom, it is tolerable.

Next month I’ll post about how we manage the noise.