Monday, September 24, 2012

A Long Post About A Short Phone Call

Let me set the scene. Mikey and Gavin are gone with Dennis to a scout engagement with a hockey game to follow, Sean is sleeping and Ethan is happily entertained in the house. It's a pretty unique moment in time.

Although I usually go to every stinkin' things the boys do spectate most activities, I decided that I would stay home, clean out my garden, do some work in the yard, etc. So, with this knowledge I start to plan the next several hours. I should have known better. 

The phone rings and it's Dennis with a very simple request, 'can you please bring Mikey's hockey pants here, he forgot them.' Even as I type it, it sounds so simple. Almost nothing around here is simple. I ask what time it is and what time he needs the pants. I have 45 minutes to get hockey pants 5 minutes away.

Here's why it's not easy. 

Sean is asleep and waking him results in at least 20 minutes of truly pathetic crying and I pray that he will magically wake up before I have to resort to waking him.

I realize that if I drive Sean and Ethan to the park where the scouting event is, they will figure out it is an Ice Cream Social and will want stay and have ice cream - understandably. But I now have a dirt-streaked face and arms, pants that are cruddy, and my hands and nails look like I am a heavy machine operator. My hair is greasy and I stink. I know that I will have to get out of the car and know that I am going to have to clean myself up.

I inform Ethan that we need to bring Mikey his hockey pants and he informs me that he does not want to go by throwing a couple of empty DS Game boxes at me. Remember, one of Ethan's super-powers is his unrelenting negativity. I told him to quit the crap informed him that it was totally unacceptable to do that and to go get ready. He said no. 

Thank God, Sean woke up, but was no happier to hear that we were leaving the house as I had vehemently promised that he could play Wii as soon as he woke up. He screamed at me that I had lied to him let me know how disappointed he was. Please, Sean, get a shirt and some shoes. He said no.

Time is ticking and we are now down to 20 minutes. I raise my voice and plead with them to just get in the car. Then I realize that I have not yet located the pants and I could have just as easily left without them. Then, I turn to bribery. I told the two of them that if they would just get in the car, there would be ice cream. It had only a modest effect on them. But as I was putting the finishing touches on covering up just how dirty I was and locating the pants, I realized that they were waiting for me in the car. As I grab my keys and walk out the door I see that Sean is running around the back of our rental car (remember, we don't have our van) because his car seat as been relocated to Dennis' truck for my use. SH%&, D*&M, CR*P. Uh-oh. 

I call Dennis to tell him I don't have a car seat for Sean and he says, 'well, then, never mind, I'll try to get there.' I tell Ethan and Sean that we don't need to go after all and they both throw their own particular brand of temper tantrum in response to having their ice cream bribe rescinded. Clock is still ticking. 

I quickly form a plan to beg a car seat off of my neighbor and it works! I put the car seat in and away we go. I back out, make a left and proceed down our street. Then I call Dennis and ask him where the ice cream social is being held! Armed with all the info I need, and even the pants, I make it to our destination. Ethan had no socks (and that is just a bad look for him) Sean had no shoes and I was not pulling of my pseudo-clean routine too well.

Because I was already at the venue where the hockey game was, I had got to stay for that too. So much for my plans and so much for 'easy'.
“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.
The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

— Winston Churchill

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Autumnal Equinox

I concede. I give. I acknowledge that it is officially the first day of fall.
I know it's fall, because I emptied my 'leave-for-the-beach-in-a-minute-bag'. I pack it mid-June with all the necessities to make a 9 a.m. decision to leave for the hook with the boys. The usual fare is sunscreen, wipes, extra contacts, stashed money, goggles and sunglasses. As I cleaned it today, I found a packs of 1/2 eaten cookies, a processed package of 'Queso' dip, shells of various sizes, about a pound of sand, lots of plastic utensils and an empty bottle of sunscreen.
I know it's fall because the morning air is crisp, and although comfortable, it does not hold the promise of a hot, sun filled day that forces us to float in cool bodies of water - which I prefer to comfortable.
I know it's fall because classes, clubs and teams that we are involved with start up again and my calendar is busting with scribbles that send our family rushing in several different directions. Although the activities we pick are carefully selected for their value to our lives, they bring an abupt end to the question 'what should we do today?' 
I'll admit that fall is a pretty season. But, it still heralds winter and for that I will always hold it responsible. I will redeem this time wisely and use the seasonal weather as a backdrop to those scribbles on the calendar.
Fall will be fine.    
"Our fear of death is like our fear that summer will be short,
but when we have had our swing of pleasure, our fill of fruit,
and our swelter of heat, we say we have had our day."
- John Donne, 1620

Monday, September 17, 2012

Otherwise Known As Ethan Crashes The Car

Like accidents do, it happened quickly and unexpectedly. I was the first to hear the impact. I knew immediately it was the sickening smack of a car. I heard the scraping and crunching of plastic and glass. I was standing and running when I heard more smashing and crashing. In my mind, I was rushing to render aid in what sounded to me to be a bad car accident just outside a relative's house. I took a route through the house calling attention to what was happening outside.

As I pulled the front door opened, I could make out that it was my car settled on the the lawn and smashed deeply into and onto a family members beauitful new car. The engine was revving as if someone continued to press down on the accelerator. Somebody was, and that somebody was Ethan.

I knew it in an instant, but I froze. Dennis pushed past me and ran toward the car. Ethan continued to rev the engine and Dennis was furiously pounding on the window in an attempt to get him to stop.  I could hear Dennis yelling. I waited inside, assuming that there were family members helping Dennis. As Dennis tells it, Ethan finally took his foot off the gas, put the car into 'park' and unlocked the doors. I remember wanting to make sure that our other boys did not go out of the house, as I was not sure in what condition Ethan would exit the car. My heart was racing and I could not catch my breath. I began praying to God that he was ok -- I almost got on my knees in that instant -- but ended up pacing and hyperventilating (and praying) instead.

Ethan emerged shaking and crying and completely terrified. He was pale and hung his head low. I don't know if I hugged him or touched him or what I did, but I know that seeing him sitting whole and unscathed on the couch was more than I could process in the moment. I think this was my first experinece with true shock. I could not stop crying and absorbing exactly what had just transpired in a matter or moments was hard.
There were explanations to the police officer and phone calls to the tow truck, more pacing and the asking of 'what-if'. What if the pristine Mercedes Benz did not stop him in his tracks? What if he made it onto the busy, main road ahead? What if someone had been walking down the road? What if....but he was safe and sound and so was everyone else. The thought completely overwhelmed me. It made the details of the police report, insurance phone calls and monetary expenses seem positively trivial. We could have been planning very different details. But we weren't.
We are so grateful for our family that helped us during this scary event. Ethan knew he had made a really bad choice, that his actions resulted in something serious. I believe that he is still processing what he did. We'll all work through it together.
As one of Dennis' aunts was sweeping up debris at the accident scene, she found something among the shards of broken glass. She walked toward me with a closed fist telling me to look at what she had found - a stirling silver, four leaf clover charm - a typical symbol of 'luck'. It did not belong to anyone we knew and there it was lying with the broken pieces. I don't believe in luck, but I do believe in signs. I can't say that I know all the messages delivered by this event - but I am thankful for what God did for us and still listening to what message He has in store for our family. I am listening.

This could have been a tragedy, instead it is an inconvenience. We've developed new skills and more wisdom - you're kids have to be alive for you to want to kill them! We woke this morning grateful to hear Ethan's laughing at his shows.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


There is an unofficial tradition in some homeschooling circles- at least the homeschoolers I know. The week or two (or three if you're very liberal - which I am) after local school starts, we start celebrating 'Not-Back-To-School' days. How exactly do we celebrate this blessed time of year? I can only speak for myself, but feel free to share what you do with me. There are programs that mark this juncture officially like this and this.
The Beach - The best beach days of the year are in September. The water is warm, I mean positively balmy. The premium sand space is sparsley scattered with people and we have often had a beach practically to ourselves. The drives are easy with no traffic, so if the weather is right, that's where we will be. If you want to plan more than a day trip, the prices for staying are fantastic - I know many people availing themselves of that now!

The Parks - The summer camps and recreation programs have all ceased and that leaves the parks barren and silent. Sure there are the occassional preschoolers, but we mostly have the places to ourselves. I have been to 3 'homeschool park days' this NBTS season and I am sure there will be more unofficial ones to follow. We do get strange looks from the walkers and joggers who wonder what we are doing out of school - but I love it.

The Museums - Yup, empty. September is not a popular time for teachers to plan field trips, so we are free to browse as if we had reserved the space just for us. We hold several memberships this year and will be using them frequently, but now is the best time to launch our own personal field trips. If you have not had the good fortune of being in a near-empty museum, give it a try.

Zoos - The zoos are great in the next few weeks. I believe the less oppressive weather makes the animals happier and more active. We always see more antics from the animals in the cooler weather - we've been to zoos on rainy and snowy days too. They are certianly quiet during those times. 
You get my point - most places frequented by children are fairly desolate once school starts. I keep a running list of places I want to take the kids - things we both want to see and do. As summer is creeping to an end, (remember, I maintain that the 22nd is the official 'end') I began moving a couple of my sticky notes into their own catagory. "Things-I-want-to-do-when-school-begins-but-the-weather-is-still-beautiful". Currently topping that list are Bowman Tower and their Wild Flower Preserve, The Philadelphia Zoo, New Jersey Botanical Gardens, Children's Museum of Manhattan and The Grounds for Sculpture
We do have academics that we like to tackle and structured lessons to complete and we spend time doing that too. But I know after 7 years of homeschooling, we can focus on these things more intensely when the sunny 70 and 80-somethings aren't beckoning us to soak up as much sun and fun as we can - before the dingy days of late fall and winter
If you're kids go to school, pull them out and enjoy some of this too - you will have a great day and earn 'Super-Awesome-Mom-Points'. God knows I am ALWAYS in need of those. Aren't you? 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Bevy of Boys

At a party this weekend I met a mom who introduced her three, young boys to me. She rolled her eyes and told me what I handful they were. 'I imagine that they are', I said, 'I have four of my own.' Then came the expected response - 'You have 4 boys!?' Funny, coming from a mom of 3 boys.

I personally know several families with more boys than me - one with 5 under 9 years old and a family with 7 beautiful boys with their 8th child being an angelic little girl! Sure, my boys are pretty unique - but they've got more!
The mom went on to tell me that lots of people ask her if she will try for a girl, to which she responds absolutely not - not worth the risk of ending up 4 boys ~ oh the horror! I experienced this conversation often when I was pregnant with Sean.

People often assumed that my pregnancy with Sean was an attempt to gain bit of pink in our sea of blue, as if my pregnancy with Sean was attempted ;) People would ask if I was hoping for a girl and then would quickly say, 'well, it doesn't really matter, as long as it's healthy.' 'Oh no, we bring them all home', I would reply. Talk about uncomfortable silence.

I was, in fact, hoping that Sean would be a girl. So much so that I cried at the ultrasound. The young, childless technician that did my ultrasound was appalled. I asked her if other people didn't also cry when the gender of their baby was not what they expected. She adamantly answered 'no'. Oh well, chalk another point up on my "Mother-of-the-Year" score card. 
But my wishing for a girl goes way back, back to even Ethan. I thought for sure he was a girl until while driving to the hospital holding my own medical records (in an emergency situation) I saw a line highlighted that said 'male gender noted'. When I was pregnant with Gavin, I just assumed that because I already had a boy, now I'd have a girl. I do know that it doesn't work that way, but remember, I was just hoping. Then I knew what to do - I called Social Services and told them that we would like to foster and adopt a little girl. I informed them that we already had two boys, so please bring a girl. Mom plans - God laughs - and blesses us with one more boy.

The boys also thought it would be nice to add a girl to our family. They also thought it was funny that he turned out to be yet another 'he'.  They told us how when he got older they would tell him that we hoped he was a girl. What a surprise when I told them that they could tell him, but the joke was really on them - because I had hoped that each of them would be a girl! They like this story and how they've showed up one by one and happily outnumbered me.

I am, indeed, happily outnumbered. I love having boys. It makes so much :) I really can't imagine it any other way. I must be an adrenaline junkie - the noise, the chaos, the dirt and the broken stuff - they are all in my skill set thanks to a bunch of Y chromosomes.

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me,
but I think she enjoyed it.
-- Mark Twain

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September Starts

September, for us, does not hold the same foreboding that it did when I was a kid or that it does for many families. Fortunately, ours is a little more relaxed. If you don't happen to find September daunting, hurray for you!
End of the Summer golf/boardwalk/rides/pizza night!
We are so grateful that The Midland School exists and provides exactly what Ethan needs and wants. He looks forward to going. He thrives on the structure and opportunities provided to him there. He likes his friends and likes his day to fall neatly into the boxes on his schedule. He wants his routine to be enjoyable - and to Ethan, that means predictable. Thank God Midland has a 'No Homework' policy - because our family does too!
Ethan's new 'LunchBlox' System - love it!
So we said 'goodbye' to Ethan on Wednesday as he happily ran to his bus!
Although the other boys are homeschooled, we continue to have a strong connection to the September 'start'. Their hockey league starts practices and scouts begins meeting again. Our homeschool playdate and cooperative start up again, as do classes at The Circus Place.
This year, we think they boys need a little more structure and a tighter routine for their day. Our boys have serious focus 'issues' - oh, where did they get that from?! Gavin, in particular was able to articulate that he often does not get done what he hopes to in a given day. Who hasn't experienced that? I wouldn't function without a list. We sat with the boys and talked about some things that they are interested in accomplishing. We discussed interests and desires, and how busy they want to be. We looked at what was 'scheduled', like existing classes, and started plugging in some blocks of time for them to accomplish other tasks.
This preschool has a 'shirts optional' policy - heck, it has a 'clothes optional' policy!
I expected some of their requests - like time for computer games and juggling, continuing on Khan Academy and time to read. Some things surprised me - like Mikey's request to learn about the United States and cursive. I was surprised that Gavin decided to take over teaching himself from The Story of World.  When Dennis and I presented them with lists and routines on paper I thought they might balk at first (turned out only I did), even though we were sensing they needed a little more support in their days. "Looks good!", they said. Hmmmmm, I guess there is a season for everything.
So here we are in September, with a new season about to emerge, in more ways than one.  I am not fond of fall or change or lots of structure. I am hoping we can find just the right balance for the season we are in.
"Not-Back-To-School-Day at Turtleback Zoo


Saturday, September 1, 2012

24 Hour Reprieve

Just Jewelry Girl and I have been friends for about 14 years. We have so many opposing personality traits that we often ponder how we remain friends. It's just the way we like it. We used to be neighbors and we are fellow homeschoolers. As much as I wish we were still neighbors, we've managed the years and miles just fine.
Gavin holding a birthday girl
impromptu jam session
looking for the chickens
I recently went out for 24 hours. I don't enjoy making the 2-4 hour trek (depending on traffic) to Long Island, NY and back in one day. Ethan is able to stay home with Dennis and the two of them can handle thier schedules while I take a little jaunt off with the other three. You weren't under the impression that Ethan likes roadtrips or changes in scenery, were you?

don't worry - there were no flames
Sean smiles

doctoring a friend (we had to ask them to mop up the hydrogen peroxide
that covered the floor when this was done)

This was a nice trip for me. I can get sucked into my routines and at the moment, the house is begging for all types of attention - cleaning out of closets and organizing of 'stuff". I can do it all day if no one stops me - but this visit stoppped me. I just needed a reminder of how nice it is to take a break.

real flames for these two
rope swinging
chasing chickens
birthday present testing
The kids ranged in age from 13 down to 2. It is always interesting to see the pairing and then re-pairing of playmates.

shirt fighting?!

petting the pets

chicken pal

Just Jewelry Girl is a good cook, has great playlists on her ipod and has a quiet, dark, and cool guest room. Why don't I go here more often?!

"I get by with a little help from my friends." - John Lennon