Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Hearing Aid Fund

Sometimes, my young charges do not receive, with joy and thankfulness, the academic bounty I labor to set before them.

About 2 weeks ago, struggling with a head cold, I explained to E8 the instructions for his language arts assignment. He was to rewrite a passage, adding descriptive adjectives to make the passage more interesting. While I was explaining the assignment to him, he was grumbling, “I know! Do you think I’m stupid?!” When he returned, having copied the passage verbatim without adding any adjectives, I had the audacity to insist that he redo it correctly. At this point, he roared directly into my ears. My ears did not stop ringing for over an hour. This resulted in the creation of the hearing aid fund.

A mason jar now sits atop our microwave bearing the label, “Hearing Aid Fund.” Every time someone uses their voice as a weapon, yelling loudly enough to potentially damage someone’s hearing, the guilty party is to put a dollar into the hearing aid fund, to cover a (very small) portion of our future hearing aid expenses. This was all well and good. After 3 or 4 more explosions, E8 has done a much better job of controlling his voice, if not his heart attitude. Then came the time I had to put a dollar in.

I had a pretty good reason. H2, who is in the throes of potty training, was wearing a pull-up diaper that morning. While I was finishing our morning lessons, he suddenly entered the kitchen, stark naked, and threw the diaper, now wet, onto the kitchen table. I looked him right in the eyes, and screamed at him. Just like E8 had done to me earlier that week. Wow. I don’t like it when that kind of ugliness comes out of my kids, but I like it even less when it comes out of me.

I have had other lapses. There was the afternoon when H2 reddened my bedroom. While I thought he was napping, he found a red permanent marker atop a box in my room and proceeded to decorate the bedspread, pillowslip, wood floor, walls, boxes, and plastic drawers. He also found a test tube from a fish tank water test kit, broke it, cut his finger with it, but kept quiet because he knew I’d come and spoil his fun if he made a noise. My first inkling of the mess upstairs was discovering the broken glass on the steps after he’d already come down. There were bloody fingerprints on a few objects, though I only noticed them after I’d spent some time untangling the thread from my sewing machine that he’d wrapped around various objects in the room, tidying up the curriculum items I’d taken out to show a friend that he'd strewn on the floor, and vacuuming up the broken glass. That time I yelled to keep him (and everyone else) downstairs while I tried to diminish the hazardous nature of our bedroom floor. When I started finding the bloody fingerprints, I stopped seeing red and was able to speak gently to him to ask about the injury (it wasn’t serious). But I had to think: before I knew he was hurt, why was I unable to speak kindly to him, to gently request the other children to help keep him out of the way, instead of resorting to a default of increasing the volume – and then, so suddenly, to change to a much more kind, effective approach when I found the blood? Wasn’t my anger like broken glass in its own way, cutting up the atmosphere of peace in our home and hurting my children?

Yesterday, I didn’t yell at H2. I roared at the world, though, when I got up from doing some necessary school planning at the computer and saw the mess in the living room. My deduction of the train of events is that H2 had removed a clean towel from the basket of unfolded laundry, placed it in the toilet until it was sodden, and then dragged it back into the living room and set it on the couch, where the water seeped in for however long it took for me to find it. I was still fuming at him (and snapping at everyone else on the slightest provocation) until church this morning. Perhaps it was just the opportunity to sit still for a few minutes, but suddenly this phrase came into my mind:

A cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.”

I’d read this quote from Amy Carmichael many months ago. The full quote is, “If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love. For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.”

I know nothing of Calvary love.

Calvary love is the love of the one who had all the rights and privileges of being God, but willingly emptied himself, took the form of a servant, and humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. If I am unwilling to clean up a mess, even a disgusting mess, without yelling or grumbling, what do I know of the love that gave up even his own life to serve and save me?

Calvary love is patient and kind; it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. Love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

I’ve heard these passages before (Philippians 2, 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 4:7-8). I’ve memorized them. “God, I know! Do you think I’m stupid?!” But when I lose my temper and yell, or complain at the sudden jolts and jars that reveal the true state of my heart, I know I have a long way yet to go before I know anything of Calvary love. Am I so focused on the minor irritations of this life that I am unable to listen to Jesus? Have I been spiritually deaf?

O Lord, sometimes, I do not receive, with joy and thankfulness, the lessons in love you labor to set before me.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Making It Work

When people hear that I have 5 children and homeschool, they often ask how I do it. Although in casual conversation it is easiest and most truthful just to say, “By the grace of God,” there are details that you, dear reader, may find interesting, enlightening, or helpful, so I venture to share some of them here.

We started our new school year this past Monday. I spent most of the summer preparing for school in one way or another, from de-cluttering the house (so we can move around, and find things), to pre-reading P10 and E8’s readers, to obsessively scheduling how to fit in everything I want to do with each child and still have time to cook dinner. So planning is one of the more significant of my strategies for “making it work”.

I have discovered that if I want to maintain my sanity on a day-to-day basis, I must get up before the kids. At this point Baby E is sleeping well. He sleeps next to me, but I can usually transfer him to his pack ‘n play when I wake up at 6am and have him stay asleep, which gives me 45 minutes to an hour before the other kids wake up. I use the time to exercise, shower, read the Bible, and pray. That way I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually ready for the onslaught by the time little H2 comes downstairs and demands attention. That’s the ideal; I’m not always done by the time he appears and I can be irritable if I feel that he’s too early! But a commitment to prayer has made dramatic changes in my ability to respond gently to the children throughout the day; I really can’t do without it.

Something we started doing last year, which has helped our mornings before school to run smoothly, is chore packs. I got the idea from the Duggars’ book 20 and Counting which I checked out shortly after H2 was born with the thought, “If they can handle 18 kids, I’m sure they’ll have insights I can glean with only (at the time) 4.” I came up with a list of the chores that P10, E8, and B4 need to do before starting school.  These include self-care items (dressing, brushing teeth), homemaking tasks (cleaning the bathroom, sweeping, putting away toys, feeding and watering the chickens), and some independent academic work (practicing instruments, reviewing memory verses, working on math facts). The Duggars suggested placing a card for each chore in a pouch around each child’s neck, but my children took off their pouches and forgot about them, leaving them in mysterious locations on a daily basis, so our “chore packs” have morphed into a more chart-like format. Each chore is depicted on a card which is attached to a chart with Velcro, and as the child does each chore s/he turns it over. The chore pack is combined with the children’s allowance: if everything is done properly before 9am, P10 and E8 earn a quarter and B4 earns a dime (because he has fewer responsibilities). Personality differences show up here: P10 is usually done by 8:10 or so and she retreats to her own room to read, E8 dawdles and plays until about 8:40 when he begins a mad rush that sometimes, but not always, results in his being done by 9, and B4 spends an hour over breakfast staring into his oatmeal, insists on finishing reading his book before venturing to start his chores, and hasn’t yet earned a dime this school year. But for the older 2, having them diligently at work with physical reminders of everything that needs to happen has greatly reduced my morning workload and frees me up to care for the little ones.

Something I did just this school year that has already helped a lot with making the school day run more smoothly is to post a schedule in a clearly visible location. At some point I mean to extend the chore pack concept to include school task cards, but for now just posting the outline of what I’d like to have happen academically on the average day has already clarified my expectations. This is where my summer planning pays off! I used to think I just wasn’t a “scheduled” sort of person, and that working from a strict schedule would cramp my style. But my children really thrive with predictability, and it frees up mental energy to actually do our scheduled tasks when we aren’t trying to decide what those tasks ought to be. Our schedule alternates between activities where P10 and E8 can work independently and those where they need my help. That way, when they’re working independently, I can pay attention to my middle boys, H2 and B4. B4 is reading at an early second-grade level, so I’m doing some formal reading, handwriting, and spelling instruction with him as he shows interest (and reminding myself that he’s only four when he doesn’t), as well as providing math games and toys for him during P10 and E8’s independent math work time. I also am using Sonlight’s P4/5 preschool curriculum with him, reading to him for 15-30 minutes before attempting to read history or literature to P10 and E8. As for H2, I’ve been using the “learning poster” concept from Letter of the Week’s 2-year-old program: one day each week, we place a new shape, color, letter, number, or nursery rhyme on his very own learning poster. He loves having his own poster prominently displayed in the kitchen, he loves getting to do his own school, and if he doesn’t remember any of it next week, it’ll at least sound more familiar to him the next time he encounters it. I also read to him during moments when his 3 older siblings are all occupied with independent work or play, using Sonlight’s P3/4 books among others. He is still at the phase where he has one or two favorite books, which must be repeated ad nauseam by anyone who is willing and able to read to him. Would you like me to recite Go, Dog, Go to you from memory? Baby E is still at the delightful phase where, if he is awake, he is happy to be in my arms while I explain a new math concept or read a story, and I can usually direct operations while nursing him. Once he becomes mobile, I know it will change the entire game!

To be honest, though, the most important answer to the question of “how do you do it?” is still by the grace of God. God has given me the specific children I have, with their personalities. He has given me the health and strength to keep track of these children, he has provided Ari with a job that pays enough for us to live on so that I can stay home with them and educate them, and he has worked in my life to bring me to a point of being able to care for others as well as myself. I realize I am coming from a position of having so many blessings poured out on me, I don’t even know what all of them are and I take them for granted. So, when people say, “I could never homeschool my kids,” I recognize that may be true. But I’d like to encourage you that, if you feel it’s something you would like to try, the same God who has given me what I need right now to do what I’m doing will enable you too. Just ask him!

If you homeschool, what are some strategies you’ve found that help you “make it work” or “get things done”?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Baby E's birth story

Like his brother H2, Baby E has the gift of perfect timing. My mom was due to arrive in the afternoon on Sunday April 27 and leave on May 7, so our desire was for the baby to be born early in the time she was here. The previous weekend was Easter, and my brother and sister-in-law spent the long weekend with us. (Canada, where they live, has the civilized custom of Good Friday being a public holiday). I was still feeling pretty good, though large, and was really able to enjoy their visit. On Monday, after they left, I started having a killer backache. Every step I took hurt, and only sitting, lying down, or kneeling on all fours on the floor brought relief. On Monday night Ari and I watched a DVD, and I was having contractions every 10 minutes throughout the movie, but when we went to bed they stopped. Although I wanted my mom to be there for the birth, the backache just didn’t go away. I wondered how much more pain I could stand and thought it really wouldn’t be terrible if the baby came first. Nonetheless, the big kids and I got through an entire week’s worth of school. At my Saturday afternoon appointment, Julie, the midwife, said she thought I’d be in labor within the next day or two – the baby had really dropped. Saturday night, I woke up around 2:30am with painful contractions, and got up thinking this was it, but as soon as I was sitting up the contractions stopped, and I went back to bed at 4:00 and slept soundly. I was glad I could go to church on Sunday, but we spent some effort asking people if they would be able to pick up my mom from the airport if I did go into labor before it was time for us to leave. However, by 2:30 Sunday afternoon there wasn’t any change in the 2-3 contractions an hour I’d been having – mostly painless, none seeming to mean business – so Ari took the 3 boys and collected my mom from La Guardia Airport (about a 3 ½ hour round trip). P9 stayed with me, being the child most able to be helpful if I did suddenly start active labor before they got back. But nothing happened, and my mom arrived before the baby did, as we’d been praying.

On Monday, when I woke up, I was having contractions about 10 minutes apart, and they weren’t slowing down when I changed activities. They weren’t painful, for the most part, so I told Ari to go ahead and take the car to work, so he could quickly drive back if I needed him. My mom and I spent the morning cleaning and organizing the kids’ room, which I’d meant to get to but my backache had given me an excuse to procrastinate. Just after we were done with that task, I went to use the bathroom but when I turned on the tap to wash my hands, no water came out. A quick check confirmed that our water had been shut off. I got angry. Shortly before Thanksgiving last year, the gas company drilled through our water pipeline. Our water was shut off for several hours, but once they got it turned on again, it took about 3 days to run clear. 3 or 4 times after that during the winter, our water would suddenly turn brown again and stay that way for at least a full day, sometimes 2. The brown would remain in the water for longer if there had been a water shutoff preceding it. We would call the water people, who would invariably wait just long enough that the water was running clear again before coming over, tell us that we had no problem, and suggest that we call sooner next time. So when I saw that the water had been shut off, I just knew we wouldn’t have clean water for a couple of days, and that the baby would be born into a house where we had nothing with which to wash him unless we’d bought it – let alone having my hoped-for water birth. I sent out text messages to family and updated Facebook with a prayer request for clean, running water, and prayed myself, declaring aloud that God is more powerful than dirty water pipes. I was going to walk down the road to see if the gas company was there and ask them what the story was, but my mom offered to go instead. She took all the kids except E8 and found, as I expected, that the gas people were working on a busted water pipe at the bottom of the road. She calmly asked them if it would be long before the water came back, and they told her it would be at least two hours. She then told them that her daughter was in labor and planning a home birth. This resulted in a satisfying change in facial expression on the gas people, so Mom headed back uphill, concluding that her work was done. I’m sure she was more effective than I would have been, because I might not have kept my temper (particularly since even walking 10 feet was painful enough with my backache, let alone all the way down the hill). It took 4 hours, but the water was turned on. It was brown and muddy – once it drained from the bathtub there was muddy residue in the tub. After a while it was only slightly less brown, the color I had seen it remain for days many times before. I tried to resign myself to no warm water for pain relief during labor. My mom took all 4 kids to the playground after H2’s nap was over, and I called Julie to let her know she’d probably be seeing me sometime in the next 12 hours or so, and whined about the water. She suggested I just let it keep running and see if it cleared. I thought, “Well, we tried that several times before earlier this year and it didn’t work, but no harm trying.” And it started clearing! I was amazed! By the time Ari got back from work, the water was as perfectly clear as it ever is. I instinctively started looking for purely natural explanations for why we had so much trouble so many times when no-one was praying, but now that everyone was praying the water ran clear. I haven’t come up with any yet that beat the simple conclusion that God answers prayer.

My contractions were still 7-10 minutes apart when we were done eating our dinner, and Ari told the kids they needed to go to bed. P9 was very upset by this, and we promised to wake her up if things started speeding up. By 10 pm they were still only 7 minutes apart, and I decided to get some sleep if I could. I slept from 10:00 to 11:30, lay awake for half an hour, and then slept again from 12:00 to 1:15. By 2:00 the contractions were about a minute long and 5-6 minutes apart, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be going back to sleep again. Since Julie was a 45-minute drive away, I decided to call her sooner rather than later. Once she arrived, around 3 am, we woke P9 as promised. Because of my backache, I wasn’t walking very much, and things seemed to be going very slowly. By about 5 am, Julie suggested just walking around the house to see if things would speed up. After just one lap (and our house is NOT large) I had a strong contraction, and continued having strong contractions every 2-3 laps around the house (probably only about 20-30 feet per lap). Finally the contractions were getting painful enough and hard enough to cope with that I knew it wouldn’t be much longer. E8 woke up about 6am and, hearing voices downstairs, came and joined us. I only did a few more laps around the house between E8 waking up and it finally being time to get into the birth tub, which was full of perfectly clear, warm water.

I felt the baby moving down as I climbed into the birth pool. I don’t think there were more than 2 or 3 more contractions in the tub before it was time to push. Ari ran upstairs and got B4, who had also been promised the chance to watch the birth. B4 is in the difficult position of being too small and emotionally immature to be consistently included with “the big kids”, but being extremely intelligent and resentful of being treated as a little kid, so we felt that although he’s so young it was important for him to be included with P9 and E8 in watching the birth. We felt no obligation to include H2, though. With Ari, all 3 big kids, and my mom watching, I began to push. I don’t think it took more than 3 pushing contractions before baby E was born. The amniotic sac bulged out and I put my hand on it for the last couple of pushes, which helped me feel connected to what I was doing. I remember feeling, for the split second after his head was out, that I was just too tired to push any more, but curiosity about whether we had a boy or a girl motivated me to give another push, and he was out. His amniotic sac remained intact all the way until he was out of the water and on my chest. According to Wikipedia (which knows everything), less than 1 in 80,000 babies are born “en-caul”, so baby E is unusual and amazing (which I could have told Wikipedia). And unlike his brother H2, Baby E started breathing right away, which we'd also been praying about. 
At this point, I'm going to switch over to let pictures be worth thousands of words.
Notice how clear the water in the birth tub is! It stayed perfectly clear until after the placenta was born, which didn't happen with my other 3 water births. When God answers prayer, he does it thoroughly!
Showing B4 the amniotic sac as P9 crawls past for a better view.  
Thanks to Julie for all her care and support!
As you see, P9 is heartbroken not to have a sister. As she said when she found out H2 was a boy, "Oh, well. Baby boys are cute, too."
E8 contemplates the fact that he has 3 younger brothers who will follow his example...

Sweet dreams...
H2 isn't certain about the new arrival, but E8 is!

B4 is much happier about baby E than he was about H2... he's realized younger brothers are worth the trouble.
 Addendum: my back kept on aching horribly for the first week after baby E was born, so I asked Julie for a physical therapist recommendation. Unfortunately, my insurance wasn't going to cover the physical therapy, so I prayed, suggesting God choose between two options: miraculously healing my back or dropping a sack of money on our heads. His immediate answer was, "I have a better idea." Within half an hour of my praying, a friend came over and suggested that I see her chiropractor, who has really helped her with her back problems. She then went over and personally talked to the chiropractor, who is charging a generously affordable rate and was able to see me the same day. At this point, several weeks later, my back is almost back to normal. Thanks be to God!

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's guessing time!

It's time to solicit guesses for Baby Number Five. Comment to enter your prediction for the baby's gender, birth weight, and birth date. Here is some relevant information.

I calculated the due date at May 8th. My midwife calculated it at April 27th, and my measurements have been consistent with her calculation, but hers was based on LMP and mine on ovulation, so I'm more inclined to trust mine. Past history: baby 1 came 2 days early, baby 2 was 8 days early, baby 3 was 7 days early (all relative to dates I had calculated based on ovulation), and baby 4 was 5 days early (relative to my calculation) or 8 days early (relative to my midwife's calculation).

Previous babies have weighed in at 9 lb 11 oz (I gained about 40 lb with her), 8 lb 2 oz (I gained roughly 25 lb), 9 lb 7 oz (I gained 35ish), and 8 lb 3 oz (I gained 25-30). So far I've gained about 25 lb with this one.

Gender: we have one girl and 3 boys. I have one brother and no sisters; Ari has two brothers and no sisters. P has been praying for a sister for many years, and has gotten a brother twice since she started praying for a sister. We tried to find out the gender at the 20-week ultrasound, but Baby kept knees together and all we got was a non-significant non-detection (if the ultrasound tech had to guess, she would say girl, but she really didn't have enough information to go on). I'm carrying what looks like a basketball strapped to my front, from behind you can't tell I'm pregnant. Many strangers are convinced this means that Baby is a boy. Many more are convinced it means Baby is a girl. Baby's heart rate has been 120-140 beats per minute pretty consistently, which my midwife thinks makes Baby more likely to be a boy, though I asked Google and there's no study showing any correlation.

So go ahead and throw out your guesses! I don't have any nifty prizes for the winner, just public recognition here and on my Facebook page.

For the record, here's what I'm hoping for, which will count as my guess - we'll see how reality corresponds: girl, 8 lb 2 oz, April 28 (my mom is flying in on April 27 and leaving May 8).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

E's 8th birthday: Whale Shark Cake!

I enjoy a challenge, so as soon as my children are old enough to speak their minds clearly, I allow them to request what kind of cake they want for their birthdays. This doesn't just involve flavors, but shape or theme. For E's 8th birthday, he was thinking aloud: "I really like sharks. And whales. So my cake should be a whale. Or a shark. Or... I know!" So there was the challenge: could I make a whale shark birthday cake? I checked out books on whale sharks from the library, and tossed ideas around in my head for a while, and finally came up with a solution.

I used 2 loaf pans. The front of the whale shark's head required no shaping, being somewhat square anyway. I tapered the back of the first cake and cut off a lot of the second cake to form the body, which left me with numerous small pieces that I used as tail and fins. I hadn't known how I would make the icing properly grey, but the combination of cocoa powder and blue food color in the icing resulted in a perfect whale shark hue. I had saved some of the plain white icing to use for spots (probably the most time consuming part of the whole project), and then used melted chocolate for eyes and mouth as well as the all-important name and age. As you can see, the birthday boy was quite satisfied.

One of the joys of this sort of project is that, as long as the cake is delicious and looks vaguely like the desired object, the child is usually thrilled - I haven't had a failure yet, from the child's perspective, though I'm not always completely satisfied with the aesthetics of the cake. B and H had their birthdays while we were in Canada (because everyone knows late January and early February are the best time to visit Canada). Our hosts let me take over their kitchen in exchange for a share of the bounty, so I was able to continue the tradition. B had requested a duck cake. When I used Google images to gather ideas, he was incensed at the number of yellow "rubber ducky" cakes - that would NOT do. It had to look like a REAL duck. I'm not sure this one would work well as a decoy, but B was quite pleased with it. I molded the duck out of Rice Krispie treats. B enjoyed eating the head.

For his second birthday, H was not yet able to express an opinion on the form of his cake, which meant I got to pick. I decided that "simple" was the name of the game: a teddy bear, made of 2 circular cakes, with paws, eyes, ears, and nose of Oreo cookies. H thought the candles were the best part; he was able to blow them out with gusto, whereas older brother B had had to try repeatedly to get his to go out.

Now I'm curious: what will P request for her upcoming 10th birthday?

A "Typical" Homeschool Day

I've completely ignored this blog for almost 2 years, but I'd like to try to start it up again. I thought I'd start with an activity our homeschool group did last month: journaling a randomly chosen homeschool day. To refresh your memory on the cast of characters, P is 9 and our only girl, E just turned 8 (he was still 7 when I journaled this day), B is 4 and H is 2.

Feb 25, 2014

My watch is misbehaving itself. When I got up at 6:30, it read 6:15, so I reset it. After breakfast it read 9:00, which astonished me – how is it possible that we took that long? But it was really 8:45 (still showing that we dawdled… oh, well). I still need to dress H and work on breakfast dishes, but after that we can start school. It’s 9:15 now. Really.

9:45. We still haven’t started school. I discovered that E had been dawdling upstairs instead of doing his morning chores. H fought me tooth and nail as I attempted to dress him, which took 20 minutes instead of 5. He’s been weepy and clingy all morning, which makes everything drag on and take twice as long. I read a book to B and H to attempt to cheer H up and give myself some chance of not having to hold him continually. It worked somewhat; finding a new ball for him to play with has also helped. E keeps on stopping to chat, instead of doing his chores. I’m going to start P on school, since she’s been extremely diligent and helpful (as usual) and deserves to be done sooner than E.

10:00. Finally ready to start school with both kids. E threw a fit when I told P she could start (and be done) before him.

11:15. Khan Academy was down, so E couldn’t do that part of his math assignment. As a result, he and P are back on the same schedule now. E has been furious much of the morning. The chicken turd in the bathtub didn’t help. (If we only had an outdoor faucet, E’s chore of changing the chickens’ drinking water wouldn’t have to involve the indoors at all, but at least no one is washing hands in the bathtub. I’ve talked several times about the advantages of dumping all you can in the toilet before moving the waterer to the bathtub; perhaps this will convince him: if you make a mess, you have to clean it up). And he likes Khan Academy, so it being broken was infuriating for him. When I tried to set up a movie for the little guys, the computer had decided not to work, so I had to restart it while also trying to listen to E’s reading. Now it’s back, so hopefully they’ll be out of our hair for a little while.

1:15. E’s writing assignment was easy for him, which helped his mood considerably. Despite multiple interruptions from the little boys (who kept touching the computer and stopping the DVD) I finished reading aloud our poetry and literature selections, started lunch at 12:00, and now am ready to put H down for a nap. P informs me at lunch that she dislikes school. Further questioning reveals that she likes most of it, but dislikes challenging word problems and exercise. E informs us that those are his 2 favorite parts of school. Khan Academy is back up, so E can do his math assignment while P and B play and I convince H that sleep is the best strategy.

3:05. I massively blew a fuse at H. While I was writing the above, he found the oats that I had soaking in a pot on the stove, took a dirty bowl from lunch, and scooped out a bowlful. This is not the eighteenth time he has caused messes by interfering with things on the stove – not just annoying, but dangerous. So I hauled him into the kitchen and spanked him while holding the evidence in front of him. Unfortunately, like his head, his little behind is made of construction-grade steel and concrete, so he barely seemed to notice. AAAAAAAH! What do I DO with this kid? Well, put him down for a nap, obviously, and then sing a bit with the other kids to try to lift my spirits (this week’s memory verse happens to be part of one of my favorite songs), and then do spelling. I set the timer for 15 minutes for each kid’s lesson while the others do art in the kitchen. B is big enough to want his own spelling lesson, plus his own reading lesson, so spelling plus B’s reading takes a full hour. Usually H sleeps long enough, but this time he didn’t. Having him awake during spelling is a disaster because of the large number of tiny magnet tiles our spelling program uses, so I hurried through most of P’s lesson while holding H in my arms. I’d still like to get through history and science, plus a new Latin lesson for both kids. They start getting antsy to play with friends at 4pm, but they can deal. So there.

4:57. We’re done! As I wander around the living room and kitchen, I come upon E’s drawing notebook. He has made a beautiful freehand copy of North America from the map on our table – I could barely do better myself. I did not tell him to do this, though I had actually been thinking it might be profitable to suggest they copy maps occasionally during their drawing time. Both little boys seem to make school drag on for such a long time – only about a third of my time is spent teaching, and two thirds is spent either cleaning up the mess H just made (he found a box of birthday candles and dumped them on the kitchen floor, and was trying to get into the sugar), or interacting with B (No, I will not stop what I’m doing to search online for a decent dot-to-dot whale because the one I found on my first try printed badly, and no, we will not have a long, involved conversation on 3 different topics that have nothing to do with the Reformation, Vietnam, the 15 1st magnitude stars that are visible from the Northern Hemisphere, or Latin vocabulary and grammar).  Both P and E have made their Latin flashcards for the week, and E did not throw a huge fit when I made him correct his spelling of “sorpin” to “scorpion”. The living room didn’t take that long for P and me to clean up while E was finishing his flashcards, and now the little boys are happily playing with Legos and the big kids have gone looking for their friends. I can smell dinner in the crockpot. Ahhh…