Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The #1 Thing I Believe About Education

It was so difficult to write and publish something with a title containing "the #1 thing I believe". It could have just been about making a bed ["The #1 Thing I Believe About Making a Bed"], and I would have felt myself winded from the effort of asserting my opinions on bed-making which start and stop at-- make them as often as you can. Also, the post turned out just about as dry as that leftover pizza I heated up and then forgot about in the toaster oven for about thirty minutes yesterday while I was distracted by diapers on the verge, a 4 year old terrorizing us with his ninjabatman skills, and the kids in general coming at me like a herd of drunk alley cats. Yes, this post is as dry or dryer than that piece of pizza. I tried to slip in a joke about a rabbit, but it didn't work. With all that said, please read on. I would love that very much.

We are considering home-school for Thomas, but it has little to do with a decision against other forms of schooling and everything to do with the natural progression of things in motion. However, Paul and I have a foundational understanding of our role as parents that helps us embrace homeschooling just as much as it would help us abandon it in the future if/when needed.

We see ourselves as the primary teachers to our children for as long as they are in our care. We are very aware of the great influence we have in their lives and know this to be a noble responsibility as well as a true joy.

Paul and I were both raised by intentional parents who cultivated a love of learning, and a path to that, well before the force of the classroom. Reading was widely encouraged. Kids were expected to handle weighty responsibilities. Independence was earned and respect to authority was given. There were dinner table conversations of weight. No meant no. Hard work offered no shortcuts. T.V. was generously limited.  Not too dissimilar, I imagine, from the home you were either raised in or are now day-by-day cultivating.

I've always felt incredibly grateful for my public school education. To me, it was more than adequate.  And yet, as I get older the picture come to focus a bit differently.  While I wouldn't subtract praise from some truly great teachers I had, I also see now that those things I was gleaning from school largely stuck because of the foundation I received at home. 

I saw how true it is that parents are the primary teachers in the six years that I taught in public schools.  It was the young adults already equipped with values like a sense of purpose, integrity, and a healthy self-esteem (from what I imagine was a good mix of hard work and lots of love at home) who most effectively absorbed the information and opportunities in my classroom. 

As a bonus, some kids arrived in my classroom with experiences. They happily shared that their parents talked to them one-on-one or that they had been to a play or to another state or had visited a battleground. These kids really experienced a rich boost in learning. They had the exposure and were ready to run!  

Parents provide those hooks with which their kids can hang that knowledge coming at them.  Parents are the first to show and show and show what this world is about and how a child should carry herself in it. It is my belief that particular school programs make much less difference in a student's knowledge base than that frame of reference provided to them at home. 

I also experienced such sadness for kids who were starved for attention, words, experiences, or simply just love, and came to school each day actively looking around for a substitute for that void.  These kids are found in any classroom setting distracting themselves from learning because they've got other pressing needs that has them all but gnawing on wood.

So it is like this.  Deciding on where our kids attend school matters. However, I don't think it matters nearly as much as the effort, thoughtfulness, dedication, and love put forth in a home.  If parents are sending their kids off for a teacher's magical touch, for this thing they can't possibly do themselves, well, they might be a little bit wrong.  If parents are sending their kids off for a teacher to teach ALL the things, then, yes, they're mistaken.

Tremendous praise is due to the wise parents who entrusted their kid to me in the classroom, and yet never let their kid's physical distance be a reflection of a total release of that very special and also important role they earned when the stick turned blue (or two plus signs appeared or said pregnant or whatever it was that it did.)

If Paul and I go forward with homeschooling Thomas, it is because we are so convicted that parents are already educators that our hearts were found open to it.  And if we don't home-school, it will be because we know there is no system, school, or teacher who has enough power to completely overthrow all that brainwashing we've been doing this whole time.  [See, I did try one joke.]

We don't see any form of schooling as a hill worth dying on whether that be public, private, or home-school. There can be so much tension clouding the conversation of educational choices. Parents are twitching with anxiety in comparison, guilt, doubt, or financial burden. Maybe it's best we rest a bit with our choices. We do what is right for our families with the resources we have. We try our best. We change course when needed. Children are much more flexible and adaptable than we give them credit.

Moreover, we know this: no matter where our children put pencil to paper, it is the untold hours of discipline, training, teaching, conversation, and love that we have poured into them each day that they bring to that desk. There will be other things at that desk too. To start with, likely a spicy word carved in with only the flare boredom can muster. But it is my observation that these less savory bits of education, inevitable in every single possible setting we sniff out, matter a great deal less to a child sent with a heart and mind already stuffed.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bloglovin' Add

I just started reading blogs via Bloglovin'. I'm not sure what took so long. Let's add each other! :)

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Son Won't Be Going to Preschool

My 1st classroom was in small town Sparta, MO, not far from where I live today. At my arrival, it held an enormous wooden teacher desk, student desks, textbooks stacked on the heating unit, and not a single bookcase (until I later begged, borrowed, or stole from elsewhere in the building). The room was large and the south wall was comprised of tall windows offering a view of Bradford pear trees. The space was a blank slate, especially if I ignored the clumps and clumps of chewing tobacco which had been spat on the windows from the outside for what I imagined a declaration of summer's commencement or some measure of the success which had preceded me.

I was 22 and poor. I eventually pieced together resources to house in room 34, but it was slow going.  One of the first things I did that summer was cut out a blown up quote to glue onto bright paper and hang above my white board.  It took up space & allowed a few students to think twice in a moment (or hour) of boredom.

"I never let my schooling interfere with my education." 
~Mark Twain

It's a seven year leap from that 1st classroom to today, and now I've found myself in the home piecing together my own child's education, his schooling, and the blank slate filling in with color.  Paul and I have been bouncing ideas, concerns, and questions about homeschooling. My friend, Elaine, also has a 4 year old boy and so we've been feasting on homeschooling ideas and concerns together, unpacking our honest feelings for discussion. And as always, I'm reading lots about how kids learn. And all of this is important in taking our next steps as a family in the direction that is right for us and for Thomas, but it's not as notable as the magic in front of me each day.  

Thomas is constantly learning throughout the day at home. Usually, it is on his own time and turf. Making his own connect-the-dot pictures or mazes, cutting out stars for pretend boomerangs, painting, studying something and figuring out how it works (and sometimes driving up by blood pressure as a by-product). We devote a good chunk of time to reading before his nap and spend other times throughout the day spontaneously listening to and looking at words. He picks up information throughout the day in the formal sense (how many legs a spider has) but also in the informal as well ("no, a mommy usually just nurses her own babies, so Aunt Andrea won't be nursing your brothers").  And I definitely don't limit our understanding of education to amassing information or bolstering intelligence. I do what I can to give him life skills, teach him his manners & morals, foster virtues, and ignite his passions.  When those things stick, I feel it's a miracle, but it definitely is not random. 

The longer I'm at home, the more I see preschool for what it is--an excellent experience for children in an outside-the-home child care environment. It gives women who juggle full time jobs or other pressing priorities along with being a mom the gift of knowing their child isn't missing out on exploratory activities and learning experiences.  This is all fine and good until the mother at home internalizes her working friend's kid's attendance at preschool as a reflection of something she must make happen as well. A mom who listens and cares for her kids will intuitively arrange activities or encourage learning or teach skills with hardly a second thought. The pressure to invite formality, I feel, is an unnecessary one. 

I've made a conscious choice to not put Thomas in preschool at home or anywhere else.  I'm not purchasing curriculum or planning activities or pushing us through a series of hoops.  I'll share in another post what I will be doing this upcoming year with him but for now I'll sum it up as this: I will do enough to prepare him with the necessities should he land himself a seat in a formal classroom, but primarily I will be focusing on those things I'm already doing: giving him space & tools to explore, learn, read, and grow. It's pretty simple. 

A gun will shoot this fall at the race to start the school season. My stomach will lurch just as it did last year when my Facebook feed was filled with [am I seeing this right?] photo after photo after photo of "1st day of preschool" sign-holding cuties.  Somehow, in the 25 years since I went to half-day kindergarten, we've grown to assume preschool the norm and often regardless of the economic or working situation of parents sending those kids.  You're sending him in the fall, right?

I don't see anything wrong with parents sending kids to preschool. I just don't feel we (and that's we as in the Anderson family) need to, and I've also felt for a while now that, in answering untold women in public asking me if he will be going this fall or confirming that he's already there (even after we've discussed I stay at home), it's a lot just to say "no, he's just staying home with me."  So I thought I would share that with you just in case you felt or feel it too. 

I always loved that Mark Twain quote hanging bright in my classroom because it applies to all of us. Public schooled. Private schooled. Schooled by your momma. Or, if you're my husband-- a taste tester of many forms of schools & in different places. We all have the capacity to refocus and remember to be lifelong learners and break the confines of the classroom or our degree. However, the easiest way at the age of 4 for my son (and in our situation mind you) to not have his schooling interfere with his education is to not have schooling at all.  

And now your thoughts: What has been your experience with giving your kid/s the preschool experience, in or out of the house? Do you homeschool your kids? If so, when did you "start"? 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Oh Boy/s

A couple tears roll down my cheek and I wipe them away in the dark. It’s the winter of 2009 and I’ve just been told the baby inside me is a boy. The prominent display of his man bits laugh at my quiet sadness.  A mother to a boy? What does that look like?

Flashes of rowdy, loud boys devouring claimed contents from my fridge and simultaneously throwing balls and emitting farts (one butt cheek lifted for effect) keyed up in my mind, I let the disappointment sit for a moment in my heart before I took a deep breath, looked over to my happy husband, and booted the negativity for some maybe, hopefully yet-to-be-known positives that are sure to show up with our….son. Wow, a son!

Little did I know. God had big boy-plans for me. Tap, tap yet-to-be-mommy, Ashley. Psst. You’re gonna have 3 boys---in a row...or I guess more like a triangle….but there’s gonna be THREE!!
Alistair found and enjoyed an uncapped marker and also, do girls play-bite shoes?

If it is a physical object, it has been in Thomas’s mouth. His crib looks like it wasn’t a baby who took up residence within but rather a beaver. For the first two years of his life, my stance insisted I was practicing for a quarterback position. Last week, he announced to me through the back screen door, “Mom, I had to go to the bathroom but I just peed right there in my puddle instead, so I’m good!”

Thomas is non-stop either physically or mentally and his strong will and persistent curiosity has me either moving, thinking, watching, teaching, or managing at all moments of the day. Then there’s the twins. Sure, they’re just about the easiest going babies I’ve ever met, but there’s two and they’re buddies and they will surely follow in Thomas’s path of turning carrots into guns and sticks into swords and wrestling/shouting/battle-crying/climbing/exploring their way into a madness with me on the edge, one eyebrow lifted for effect.

It was last Easter season during a car trip home to his parents’ that I spilled my emotions for our family of 4 guys and me. Would it always be that? Will I get overrun by all the guys? How do I raise the opposite sex? Will we ever have nice things? And seriously, I swear I can. not. take. farting so please help me out with this!

Before my feel-y self melted, my husband turned my thought process around and reminded me that we are not victim to our circumstances. As parents, we have the great privilege of nurturing our unique family dynamic. Ours happens to be three sons, so what are we to make of that? The possibilities are endless.  

It’s been a year now since that conversation in the car where Paul pumped me up for doling out project orders to my guy crew and putting trash duty on everyone’s shoulders but mine. I’m surprised what a difference a year can make for the heart. I cherish every day with my kids and the desire I may have had for a girl over 4 years ago has been trumped entirely by living a rich life with the gifts I have been given (even if that means being horrified by the state of the bathroom at least 3 times a week).

A great shift has occurred in my thoughts and I'm very grateful for this change. Instead of thinking about my life with three boys, I’m dreaming up and figuring out what I can do for them. It didn’t seem like I had much to offer at first-- My sword fight quickly dissolves into a dance party--but I’m a woman and I know how wonderful it is when men protect, provide, honor and respect me …. and also know how to cook a meal, iron a shirt, or run the vacuum without a second thought (I’m married to one!)

When I discipline Thomas now, a herd of invisible young women are at my back. Future classmates, crushes, a shadow-silhouette of a wife, an eager daughter.  I assert his responsibility to do right or the need to respect others and I think of how it is my job to help mold his character so he can see a woman's worth, a person’s worth, his worth, and treat all accordingly. It’s so messy most days but more and more I remember what my role is all about.

The humility and purpose in fostering their independence has helped shake me from silly things like fretting the inevitable ER trips up ahead or wishing I could use my spare time perusing Etsy for pink bows.   Being a mom is not about me. I love it. I really, really do and I would love it in any form.  I love tickle fights and building puzzles and adventures outside, but those are really just the perks. They're footnote blossoms to the more important thing-- those deep roots being formed within my gentlemen-in-training:  To seek truth. To know goodness. And to please, for the love of all things and your mother, only do “that” in a field, a bathroom, or on your way taking out the trash.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday, Alistair and Emerick!

Pop pop. Bang bang. The big day is here. My little guys turn one today! 

Ya know, I envisioned this celebratory event a lot a year ago when I was looking like this:

Oh wait, that's my sister, Andrea, showing up for the party we threw for Alistair & Emerick last Saturday. You know she's carrying identical twin boys now too, right? And I'm being the super annoying anxious big sister sending her hourly texts about the boys' impending arrival....which is any day now!

Now here's me a year and two weeks ago thinking that the 1st birthday of my twins seemed a far, far way away.

But now we're here with one year old littles!! And it's wonderful!

I'll be reading their birth story later and probably cry. 

Things that took me by surprise: 
* how easy the twins are (ridiculously easy!) 
* how difficult transition to 3 kids was (to be fair, even transition to 2 would have been difficult for me)
* that I'm still nursing
* that I've been converted on babies. I've always liked small people once they can talk. I was pretty convinced babies were boring. But two babies! Who are aren't my first go round! And who play with each other! Give me some more! 
* what it feels to love two souls completely and entirely their own and yet also have this collective love for identical twins who operate as one unit 75% of the time --- it's crazy y'all & not easy to describe 
* how family members can, with some accuracy, tell them apart but each with their own clues...
               Paul - temporary differences (pimples, scratches, a tooth that hasn't broken through yet)
               Andrea - claims Emerick has crazy eyebrows 
               Amanda - shape of heads & eyes
               Thomas - [interviewed yesterday] "Alistair is crabby & Emerick laughs at my jokes" which is not entirely true but is a little because Alistair probably wanted my attention at that second and Emerick is at ultimate joy when Thomas is doing boy things with him....or....just around. 
               Me - uh, everything! facial expressions! eyes! all the things! 
* that so many people still can't tell them apart
* the number of times I would ask "so they do look identical to you?" because the boys just look like brothers to me. Maybe .5% of the time, I will look over and catch a moment where they look pretty similar but that's weird. 
* how much I loved cloth diapers
* how much I hated cloth diapers theverysecond the babies started eating food
* how many diapers I've changed

The things that were tough:
* month 3 when all the lack of sleep caught up to me 
* transitioning & balancing the needs of 3 kids (after being a working mom with 1 kid for over 3 years)
* SENSORY OVERLOAD on the daily. still.
* realizing my fertility is trying to kill me & so far doing exceedingly well
* discovering that even if I exclusively nurse twins for 7 months it may or may not help my cycle to return later than it would have if I had laid steaks and water bowls at their feet since birth. clue: didn't help.

Names we give them:  (and the ones that sound really dumb are from me)
* the babies
* this one
* that one
* that baby over there
* the one by you
* the twins
* my little viddles 
* Oots Koots
* nuggets
* these guys
* bubs [singular]
* bubsies [plural] 

The differences [that I tentatively present because they change often]: 

Emerick - the most laid back in all the land, content to entertain himself but loves his brothers so much, very happy, laughs easily & just learned how to stand unsupported 
Alistair - leader, interested in all things digital or mechanic, loves interaction with others, easily excited and is such a cute little talker! oh, and just learned how to clap yesterday which means he's right on time to clap for cake & all of us surviving a year! 

 And to top it off, a little nod to the year ahead.  I think part of the reason I enjoyed this past year so very much was because I braced myself for the hard and made mental space (and physical space for those of you who know and have seen the glory that is "the cage") for enjoying ALL the boys. ;)

So here are some things I'm looking forward to this year: Woohoo!!
* Words
* Walking
*  More cousins & playing with those cousins!
* Seeing their personalities shine & unfold & forge ahead!
* That feeling you get when your family is not us + baby/ies but just "us". The Anderson 5! As weird as it sounds, this might be what I'm most looking forward to--that sense of 5.
* Even more sleep forever and ever amen!

And this year wouldn't have been what it was without the huge support of family, friends, and my online community of mommas. I can't thank all of you enough for showing up & being there with us! 

Studio photos done by Delores Albers Photography!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Risk (and Gain) of My 1st Year as SAHM

It was this time last year I walked away from my job as a teacher. I grabbed the last few items from my classroom: my portfolio bag, a fake magenta flower arrangement, and a few thank you notes I scrawled last minute to people I hated to leave. I turned in my keys and cried like I was some super hormonal woman overstuffed with babies. Because I was.

If there is something I want to write more about, it’s about being a woman.  If there are things I’ve been avoiding writing about, it’s some things about being a woman. Being a mom. Working. Or “working”. Gender differences. Wanting more kids. Not wanting more kids. Dressing for stretch marks and love handles.. And despite so many of us aware it doesn’t have to be a versus situation with all those priorities most important (schooling, feeding, working, etc.), it still feels like it.

I’ve been at home a year and I’ve found a few great mommy friends that aren’t scared enough by my methods of motherhood (which recently did not exclude hosing down my 4 year old’s naked butt in the backyard with my guests an earshot away) to stop coming over. I love them. I’m so glad to have them for companionship. Sometimes, though, I think of how I don’t quite fit. It wasn’t long ago I was giving them the raised eyebrow. Not them exactly….just all women working (in bunny ears)( and maybe even literally in bunny ears since I've now come to find myself in a host of ridiculous get-ups to buy time) at home.

To my stay-at-home-mom friends, I’m happy to extol the virtue of extended breastfeeding (or what I’ve come to intimately appreciate as lazy parenting) and the tenets of classical education.

To my working friends, I’m happy to pretend that my absence from teaching is akin to stepping out to get some air. In this case, air defined as an unprecedented amount of yelling and crying. Me, not the kids.

A litmus test for my personality is in digesting this statement I will now make on leaving the workforce:

It was, and continues to be, the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

Oh, I know, I know. You’re thinking, wow, that’s pretty lame. And I totally agree, but hear me out.

After you look at my cuties for one teensy second...

1st, there was a loss of half of 100,000, give or take several thousand (but definitely take). And I would care about that being private information except that’s it’s not because I was a public school teacher and I know people would look it up anyway, so I thought I would save them the trouble. Just kidding. You would all just guess that I made crap.  But it wouldn’t matter how well you are off or how much you love the home or your kids, if you aren’t freaked out by losing that kind of money, I just can’t understand. Because I’m evil or something? Moving on.

2nd, there was parenting.  As a working mom, it was easy for me to divert my attention away from my faults as a mom.  I know multitudes of wonderful mothers who are clearly in the captain’s seat despite being away for their 40 (or 50 or 60) hours. I was not one of them.  I rode on the coattails of the daytime care givers. He learned to use a fork? Awesome. You taught him to say thank you? Great! On most days you would have found me in a quiet school (because other mothers had already flung their door shut to snatch up their littles and not miss one more minute) hunched over my desk grading essays like my life depended on one. more. comment. Every one of my teacher evaluations deemed me competent. Almost every one of my experiences disciplining my firstborn deemed me either a. incompetent or b. in a catatonic state.

After a few months at home and some time after the twins were born, I found there was even more to fear.  How a home is ten layers of quiet that is normally okay or great to think in but can cut deep on a bad day.  How my heart shouldn’t rise and fall on my husband’s praise, but it often does because the rest of my conversations bob between comical and illogical musings of a 4 year old.  How it feels to get no more than two consecutive hours of sleep for three months and yet work in close proximity to three beds, two couches, and a dining table that would do just fine. How doing what you believe in is sometimes no fun at all and instead of it being no fun at all with a laughing co-worker, it’s just no fun at all. How not showering in 72 hours feels like you haven’t died of stench and wow, showering after 3 days feels like I just visited a spa...maybe I’ll try this again but not admit that to anyone!. How I’m watering my irrelevancy every time I snuggle up to Thomas and giggle over a few chapters about Ralph S. Mouse or Annie and Jack or Danny and Josh or Christopher Robin or Charlie because my comrades have been reduced to:

a.) People small enough I’m in charge of wiping their butts
b.) Characters in children’s novels
c.) Stay at home moms who have yet to figure out that I’m an imposter

A couple months ago, I went out for a birthday party for a friend I worked with last year. There was some “work talk” at the table. A lot of it. There were also drinks at the table. This combination, in excess (and maybe just the drink part), later culminated to something of a horror scene where I shot up in bed at 3 am to a baby crying in the other room and me with eyes wide open and internally yelling, as if shocked awake from some nightmare, “OH MY GOSH. I’M JOBLESS!!!”

See, even if I was the best mom (hahahahaha, that’s ripe) and we were filthy rich (Richie Rich times three, to be exact), I would still be pretty much freaked out about being off the grid.

One of the cornerstones of my personality is that I’m terrified of risk.  Absolutely terrified. I have to quell panic attacks when people share photos of a tattoo they just got because I’m thinking, Are you sure about that? Oh my gosh, you are sure. Of course you’re sure; you just got it. This is real and already there so I should say something and stop staring. Am I smiling?  Did I say something? Oh wait, I'm staring at Facebook... I’m so terrified of risk that when other people take risks I put on the burden of being terrified for them which is probably good because a lot of you look just fine, if not downright joyful, about the risks you take.  

Leaving the workforce was completely uncharacterisic of me. The only thing as uncharacteristic would be me being a mom...which I am...to three.  So, leaving the workforce to be nothing but mom served up what should have been epic disaster. Oh, and it did. But not like what I mean. There’s been so much nursing and so little showering---that kind of stinky disaster--yes!. But not the identity struggle I anticipated.

Me before the black hole of jumping to SAHMing it:

Outgoing? Nope.
Visionary? Woah. NO. No. No.
Extrovert? Nope.
Leader? Hahahahahahaha.
Nurturing? Hell no. Never been.
Selfless? <silence>
Risk-taker? You’re drunk. Go home.

Here I am, at home, being very much different than what I thought I was.  I’m assertive, decisive, and quick to act. I’m drawing boundaries (aka saying no) with others and teaching my son to respect me and his dad. I’m actively searching for and nurturing friendships. I’m laughing more as I loosen my grip and need for control.  I’m feeling good about being a mom (and I didn’t for a very long time which makes me very sad for time lost feeling crappy). And I’m falling in love all over again with Paul because that’s vulnerability which is risky and I know risky because I quit my job to just be a mom.

I’m so grateful for this past year. Just like any other job, I’ve learned a lot the hard way--that’s H as in hell, heckling, hurl, and hurt. I don’t know how long I get to stay at home or what’s ahead to discover this year. For now, my take away, other than a home and family pretty happy and healthy, is that I loved diving into something scary and finding I’m so much more than the labels I saw as absolutes.  There is no price to put on the freedom of breaking those illusions. 

But if there was a price, I would say it would be half of 100,000 give or take several thousand (but definitely take).

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Day in the Life

When I was working full-time, I carried around a curiosity for what those stay-at-home moms were doing.  Really, I didn't hold an altogether respectful attitude about those on the other side of the fence.  Call it jealousy or ignorance, I wondered why it was the mommy bloggers all too often seemed ungrateful or bored or lazy. Can't they just pull it together and get more done? I mean, c'mon, I'm working AND doing all the things.

And there was a smidgen of nice curiosity too. That kind of daydreaming wistfulness that takes you away from the day job. I wondered what it felt like to be full mommy full on all the time.  A naked wonderment at the women brave enough to stay put. I still wonder the exact same thing even though I'm doing it.  It has taken months of tweaking our rhythm and uncovering tricks, but those are mine--what about everyone else? Even my close mommy friends, the ones I visit with and discipline alongside and send my dramatic texts to, I wonder what their days look like. Not a cleaned up, perfected version.  Just the mundane & beautiful & ordinary all mingled together.

So, without further ado, a real honest-to-goodness boring and uncut look at my life at home (on a pretty typical day). 

Oh, and this version is a wee different than others I've seen. This is ordered by one photo and some related notes per hour. If I included all the things I do in a day around here (or the things I hear or see or think, my goodness), well, we just wouldn't ever escape this post. It would have all of us dribbling boredom out of the side of our mouths.

My day starts at 6:00 with nursing, diaper changes & feeding all the people in general, but I didn't think to do this until...


Breakfast dishes. Laundry started. Tidying things up. To do list written for the day. Twins happily playing on their own. And Thomas and I attempt to put new handles in the master bedroom (that I'm slowly, slowly and with a lot of help from my friend, Natahle, redoing). Despite a great deal of morning person enthusiasm on our parts and a competent Youtube video, the ordeal ends in Paul's handle halfway done and mine about a quarter of the way.  So both not done is what I'm saying.


Alistair & Emerick are so attached to each other, this is what it looks like when I'm feeding them their breakfast. The other watches and waits (and smiles!).  We've been up for two hours with me primarily working around the house and feeding people, so this is when I give the kids some attention. Supervising Thomas play with his brothers. Tickle the babies. Read some books. Daydream about the days of getting a shower without fear of child destruction and/or destruction of child.


The babies are down for their morning nap so Thomas and I step outside.  After a short mommy & son sword fight, because I'm the best influence, I grab all my gear and start thinning through the plants on the east side of the house.  Thomas waters plants, hides behind our Asian maple pretending to be a ninja, and talks to the neighbor so much the neighbor has to excuse himself from conversation (of which I was absolutely zero part of because I'm pulling out more dead excess mass from our plants than there are plants). He also pulls a dead flower behind his back and tells me he will kiss me and I will fall in love with him. Then he will use his magic flower to turn me invisible.


I'm sweaty and exhausted from yard work. This, plus a generous amount of humidity rolling into out area, has my hair looking like I lost a fight with a cat whose sole attack strategy revolved around perching on my head. I'm also exhausted by the prospect of managing clothing and bodily function removal for three boys before going to the store and myself looking just like this. This entire hour is spent nursing, changing diapers and clothes & gathering people into and out of the car for the grocery store. 


Because I would rather poke my eyes out than go grocery shopping in my "free time" (haha, like I have any of that), I sport around the kids in this fashion.  The twins are super easy. I talk to Thomas a lot about all the food, the meals we are going to make, etc while I point to my grocery list and have him cross words off and sometimes help bag or place foods in the cart. The kid is like that plant in Little Shop of Horrors. He needs your blood (attention & educational fodder) at all times. He did tell me when I pulled into the parking lot spot that he would just stay in the car while I shopped. I definitely considered. 


We eat a quick lunch. And here's one of my favorite anchors to our day. Thomas and I cuddle in my bed and read his chapter book. Today, it's Winnie the Pooh. I laugh at the nuance and Thomas laughs because his mom is laughing and because he is vaguely aware Pooh is adorably daft. No matter how our morning has gone, we always read about twenty minutes after his lunch and I let the babies play with each other in their sunroom cage as pictured below. Then, I nurse each baby and read a book to each separately and tuck them into bed as well.  Every day I think I'm going to do some sort of freedom dance by this point (all kids curled into balls and smushed up faces on sheets) but all I can manage is to turn on my warrior woman internal voice who says to not sit down or you will slip into hibernation and surface in three weeks.


Put away groceries, clean kitchen, and tidy up the house, and picking up my sanity one minute of podcast at a time. And since doing all those things are just about as boring and un-photogenic as you can surely imagine, I present here a random photo of this watercolor beauty I managed earlier this week complemented with, of course, a unicorn Thomas made two days ago. 


I think one of the things you learn once you've breached the more-than-one-kid zone of parenthood is this: you make food well before you need food. Hunger makes for an oil spill of all kinds of nasty emotions, and that's just when I don't get fed. If we're all hungry at the same time (6:00 am on a lot of days), it's a nuthouse of quakery and crazed lunatics out for some protein, dangit. So, I make roasted corn salsa and clean up the kitchen againagainagainagainagainagain. I mean, what?


It's so quiet in the house and it's raining outside. This time of day, during the twins' 2nd nap and during Thomas's nap, is when I make calls, go through mail, send emails, write, etc. I will sometimes take a 20 minute power nap but this is becoming more rare now that I'm getting ample sleep at night. Here I am typing this post about what I was doing yesterday at this time. Get it? I'm typing right now just like I would be typing yesterday. Hey, I never said this was going to be interesting.


Hey, look! The kids are up and adoring each other.  Routine at this time looks the same way every day: 1. Thomas wakes  2. Snack  3. Thomas plays until he asks for screen time  4. Thomas is given his list of chores for the day and he does them at his own will and supervision (It's ingenius, I tell you--do this if you need space at 4:00 because you are completely spent. Kids have an innate way of navigating a wayward course toward chores which means they become sparse real quick.). I tidy up. Vacuum. Finish a project I started earlier.


This is a photo of beer. Because discipline. And four year olds. And a traveling husband who is on his way home but will be on a call when he arrives and maybe leave again next week. Judge me, but I won't feel bad at all. Walk a mile. Stay a week. ;) *and the wee black item is a Lego helmet


The kids adore their dad. I adore their dad. Paul is almost home from a week in D.C. after a week previous in D.C. and this kid, who can be found at any moment of any day moving his mouth or moving his feet but probably both, perched himself on the couch and wouldn't move for ten minutes because he didn't want to miss the moment Paul pulled up. Heart = puddle. 

Welp, friends, that's a day in the life here at the Anderson ranch.  I couldn't quite figure out how to get photos of how stunning I looked doing it all, but I'm sure you can use your imagination.