A Chance to be the Fly

Last Friday morning at 6am I sat straight up in bed.  Sam had just left for work.  The soothing aroma of freshly brewed coffee was wafting into the bedroom, but that wasn't what jarred me awake.  I'd had a semi-conscious realization.  As we are now halfway through our fourth year of homeschooling, and time seems more fleeting than ever, I pondered to myself, "How old will the rest of the kids be when Ben is a senior in high school (six years from now)?"

The resulting answer is what brought me to an alarmed state of consciousness.

Assuming we continue to homeschool all of our children all the way through and don't add any more children to the herd, when Ben is in 12th grade, I will have...

A kindergartner
A 2nd grader
A 4th grader
A 7th grader
A 9th grader
A 12th grader.

Literally, K through 12.

I did what every reasonable person would do and I sent my husband a message at work.

"Do you realize this!?"

He was naturally unconcerned, and responded the way he does so well, with a calm, calculated comment to defuse the entire situation.  Aside from the fact that it's (ahem) six years away, we'll get through it the same way we get through our current circumstances - one day at a time with adjustments along the way.

A lot of people probably wonder, and many people have asked me what it's like to teach a first, third, and sixth grader with a baby, two year old, and three year old running around.  It's just life for us, and I don't feel like we're doing anything exceptional or extraordinary.  I'm praying that's what it will feel like six years down the road.  I'm not saying it's easy, and I'm not saying I'm particularly good at it.  It's just life, and we do it.

So, I figure it might be fun to run through a typical day at the Sheppard household.  Here's your chance to be a fly on the wall.

7am:  Noah wakes up and plays with the two toys he insisted on taking to his crib with him the night before.  He calls, not so quietly, for Daddy to come get him.  That means Mommy.  We're working on it.

7:30am:  I get in the shower with my cup of coffee.  (Yes, I take it in there with me.)  I tell myself I should get up before my kids because that's what the internet says good moms do.  Vow to do it tomorrow knowing full well that no matter how early I get up, I will be accompanied by miniature people who lie in wait for the slightest movement and interpret that as permission to start their days.

8:15am:  Fix breakfast and/or entertain the option of delegating breakfast prep to one of the older kids.  On those days anticipate breakfast running a little later and making a larger mess.  It's okay.  (I tell myself it's okay a lot.  It's a coping mechanism.)

8:45am:  Call everyone to breakfast table where I intend to cover one of our three read-aloud-together subjects.  Listen as each kid lobbies for a different one.  Wait as everyone remembers a condiment, beverage, or utensil not already available on the table, and get approximately two sentences in before Noah finishes chugging and starts thrusting his cup into everyone's face "politely" yelling, "MORE JUICE PLEASE!"  Meanwhile, 3 year old Leah babbles on about how she "already knows" all two sentences of what I just read and walks off leaving her breakfast untouched.  Two more sentences into the lesson, Sarah falls off the kitchen bench, Abby stands up and begins attempting a standing split or pirouetting, and Ben makes a comment like, "The Danish King?  What's he in charge of?  Cheese danish?" And then laughs at himself because he's his mother's son.  We muddle through the remaining pages of the chapter while Leah and Noah provoke each other to wrath in the playroom and Abby continuously asks how much longer until she can go play outside.

9:15am:  I realize it's a gorgeous day outside and it would be better for everyone involved if the kids got some much-needed wiggle time in the form of fresh backyard air.  I happily clean up jelly and syrup puddles if it means I get to rest my ears for 3 and a half uninterrupted minutes.

9:18am:  Leah returns from the backyard and has to change her entire outfit for the second time since breakfast (where she didn't eat anything, but somehow got syrup all over her body) because she voluntarily played in a wheelbarrow full of rainwater and got a splash of wetness on the knee of her pants.

9:30am:  I attempt various chores because, let's face it, I'm behind on every single one of them.  Halfway through starting the washing machine, Noah needs a diaper change.  Halfway through stripping beds, Hannah needs to eat.  Halfway through everything, someone else requires something.  I decide to call and pay a few bills which means I lock myself in my master bedroom closet where two doors away, at least two children are knocking and crying to let them in.  My phone drops the call 3 times because, well, I'm calling from a closet.  I decide to try again another day.

10:30am:  After a solid hour of playtime, I call a child to the kitchen table to "knock something out before lunch."  Both girls sit and complete their math lessons at the same time because Sarah likes taking her time test at the same time as Abby in the name of friendly competition.  Abby cries foul and I launch into an explanation of how it's not really unfair because their time tests are based on their respective abilities.  No one cares.  Noah poops for the sixth time that day.

11:45am:  Ben, who has been reading in his room for the entire morning, emerges ready for lunch.  I remind him that he has yet to complete any actual schoolwork so he does a logic puzzle then goes out back to torment a sister or two.

12:30pm:  While the frozen pizza cooks (don't judge me), Ben and I sit down to discuss grammar.  He laughs out loud that anyone would ever confuse "Let" and "Leave" or "Sit" and "Set" with each other  like the good little grammar snob that he is.

1pm:  I attempt another read aloud subject at lunch.  While everyone has food in their mouth, I speed through a lesson on the digestive system from our anatomy book.  Somehow, no one loses their lunch despite graphic descriptions of what exactly is going on inside their bodies even as they chew.  Noah insists on wearing his shoes while he naps, and despite the fact that it flies in the face of everything I believe in, I allow it.  Because we're behind on everything and I can't fight ALL OF THE BATTLES.

2:00pm:  Hannah sits in her high chair with six kids worth of baby toys on the tray while I complete a grammar and writing lesson with alternating first and third graders.  Ben sits at one end of the table making snide remarks and casually taking two hours to complete a single math lesson, not because it's difficult but because he procrastinates like a BOSS.

3:00pm:  I realize we've only done half of the subjects on our charts.  I make a cup of coffee and turn on Phonics videos for a three year old who is determined to do school like her big brother and big sisters despite my pleas to wait another couple of years and just play.  Ben realizes he has a lot to do before he's awarded screentime and gets angry because he's not finished yet like Abby and Sarah who have so much less work than him.  I mumble something about age and responsibility, and being expected to perform according to your abilities.  Then I sneak peanut m&m's in the pantry because no one saved me any pizza and I'm just now realizing I never ate lunch.

5:00pm:  I kick everyone outside redirect everyone to the backyard where they can grab a few more moments of vitamin D while I pick up the pieces and reflect on another day in the Sheppard homeschool.  I lament the fact that we skipped Latin and Art again.  I smile at the ridiculously hilarious things each and every child said throughout the day.  I shake my head over the attitudes that arose and blame myself for all of the negative qualities I see in my children.  I consider that even on our worst days, we are incredibly blessed to have each other, however imperfect.  And I rejoice that we created memories.

Lately, I've found myself grumbling about silly things here and there.  Some of them were (home)school related and some were just general life and people related.  Then I think to myself "if this is all I have to worry about, I'm doing alright."

I hope that's what the fly would say.

Lady, you're doing alright, in spite of yourself.

Then we'd share some pantry chocolate.

One day at a time, right?

"Ten" Pieces of Unsolicited Advice from my Corner of the Internet

It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that I'm getting old.  I recently realized that most professional athletes are now younger than me, even quarterbacks.  I watched a football game and as the wide receiver jumped four feet off the ground in the end-zone to snag a ball and came down and landed on his shoulder only to pop right back up to do a celebratory touchdown dance, my first thought was, "Oh!  I'd totally break something if I did that!"  I graduated from high school 15 years ago.  I'm on the cusp of raising a teenager when it feels like just yesterday I was 12 myself.

All of that, but mostly, technology makes me cranky.

Maybe it's not so much technology but the grip it has on all of us.  I find myself frustrated and indifferent to newer technology because I remember a time when we all so easily coped and, yes, even thrived without it.  It's a great, distant memory - those days when I woke up, drank a cup of coffee, and did something productive like, took a shower.  These days, most of the time I roll out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and check my phone.  What's so important on there?  Not much, I tell you.  But good gracious, I can't seem to fathom the possibility of missing something like reading ANOTHER BLOG POST regarding "Ten Things not to Say to...Large Families/Small Families/Single Folks/Your Grandmother/Your Postman/Children with Questionable Fashion Sense/Babies with Ears."

I'm guilty of writing a few of those posts myself.  I seem to think people care about ALL OF THE OPINIONS floating around in my head.  That's not so bad, I guess, so long as I'd be willing to say these things to people's faces.  But it seems like we're not allowed to say anything to anyone anymore.  I mean, pretty much every opinion piece on the internet tells me Ten Things Not to Say to someone.  Heaven forbid we cause someone else to be even remotely uncomfortable.  Heaven forbid we take our faces out of our phones and actually converse with someone in real life.

I'm an introvert and it's taken me a very long time to learn how to chit chat and make eye contact and all of those normal social behaviors.  I've still got a long way to go, but I'm a work in progress.  For example, I am now capable of ordering take out over the phone without an anxiety attack.  I'm now able to sit in a waiting room and crack awkward jokes with strangers to pass the time.  I am now functional enough in new social settings to introduce myself to others and attempt small talk.

Only...now I feel like I probably shouldn't.  What if one of those Ten Things Not to Say comes out my mouth?  What if I offend someone?

I honestly don't want to do that.

So here's what I decided.  It starts with me.  I've decided to give a pass to anyone who says any of these "Ten Offensive Things" because I don't want to be the person who's offended by chit chat.  I want to be the person who welcomes a real life conversation with someone who's not staring a phone.  I want to teach my children that sometimes platitudes are just that.  When someone sees my large family in the grocery store, it's not actually offensive for someone to look at us and say, "Wow, your hands are full!"  It's true.  My hands are full.  And I do look tired.  And there are enough of them for a basketball team plus a sub.  Maybe I really like basketball and that was my plan all along - to birth a coed, multi-age basketball team so we can play pick-up games all across the country on our travels.  (Or not.)

I don't want to live life walking on eggshells.  I want to hear the "offensive things" and learn to respond gracefully.  I want to say the things I don't even realize are offensive and have a real life conversation with the person I just inadvertently offended so they can tell me why they are upset by it.  I want to mess up, face-to-face, and learn how to overcome it.  I don't want to be soft.  I don't want to be thin-skinned.  I want to hear other people's stories and learn why they think and feel the way they do.  I want to make eye contact.

Will you join me?  Let's give each other a pass.  Let's do our best to be nice and apologize when we aren't.  Let's let it roll off.  Life's too short to take the little things so seriously.  I have better ways to spend my numbers days here.  We all do.

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