Creative Ways to Connect With Your Kids: Love Languages

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Two weeks ago I posted about a special way I had discovered to use in communicating with my oldest child. (If you missed it, you can read here about the mom/daughter journal we started.)  Today I am continuing this series about connecting with your kids by writing about another child of mine.  This boy is the funniest kid and has amazing talents in a lot of areas.  If I give him video game time undisturbed, he is the happiest boy on the planet.  When you first meet him, you might mistakenly assume from his personality that he loves to be the center of attention.  While he can definitely be louder than life, my little man often disappears to get some quiet time and is most content when he is left alone.  He is my earliest riser, getting himself some cereal and curling up on the couch underneath a quilt to eat by himself.  It has been quite the challenge to find a way to connect with this solitary boy.

One day while casually scrolling through Facebook, I stopped at one of my favorite homeschooling pages, Simple Homeschool.  There was a picture of a red heart with the title “The Five Love Languages of Homeschooling”, and underneath Jamie had captioned it: “Have you discovered your child’s love language? It might just be the homeschooling break-through you need.”  Intrigued, I clicked through to the post on Jamie’s blog and began to read.  Many years ago, I had taken Dr. Chapman’s love language test and found that mine was words of affirmation.  I had never considered the love languages to be pertinent to kids, but the more I contemplated it, the more it made sense.  There are five general love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.  Jamie started off her post speaking about the love language of physical touch.  The first two sentences jumped out at me: “A child who best receives love through physical touch desperately needs hugs, kisses, and pats on the shoulder.  Not having enough can leave them feeling that they’ve done something wrong and that you are not pleased with them.”  Somehow I felt immediately that these sentences were describing my Mikey.  Physical touch?  Well, he had been a little cuddle bug when he was just a baby, always pleased to be in my lap with his head nestled near my heart.  But surely physical touch was not what he needed now.  If so, why did he always disappear and crave his alone time?  God’s voice persisted in my head.  “Yes, this is the key to your boy’s heart.”

I wasn’t so sure of this discovery.  I thought perhaps it was a wild guess, a shot in the dark in an absurd attempt to make a connection with my younger son.  So I prayed, and God said, “Do it!”  I decided to conduct it as an experiment of sorts.  Over the next several days, I would be very intentional in giving him high fives, hugs, fist bumps, back rubs, etc., and see how he received it.  I am by nature a very touchy-feely person anyway; so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for me, but I hoped it wouldn’t be off-putting to Mikey or push him even further into his solitude.  The first day, I gave him extra hugs as he came stumbling into the kitchen to make his breakfast.  I offered to sit and snuggle with him on the couch while he ate.  To my surprise, he accepted.  Throughout the school day, I made sure to pat his back, touch his hand encouragingly when he was struggling with a word, and invited him to sit on my lap while we did reading.  The next day went much the same way, except this time I could feel him leaning in as if asking for more.  By the third day, he was actually seeking ME out for hugs and kisses and “love you Mama”s with his face buried in my neck.  I was astonished at the change in my kid.  The more we physically connected throughout the day, by hugs, shoulder pats, etc., the more he opened up and the less he crept away to his room for quiet.  Even his grandma noticed this change in him.

Now that I know with certainty that physical touch is my son Mikey’s love language, I need to make sure that I am “speaking” to him often in that language.  It fills up his love cup and spills over to the others in his life.  He is kinder to his siblings, more thoughtful to others, more expressive of his thoughts and desires, and more open to God’s work in his life.  He was a fantastic kid before we started this experiment; now he is a fantastic kid that feels loved and connected to in all the right ways.

I encourage you to take the time to find out your child’s love language.  If your child is old enough, they can take this online quiz at Gary Chapman’s website to help you both figure it out.  The time spent evaluating and determining their love language and then implementing it will be paid back in dividends you can’t imagine.

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(Also, as it turns out, there is a love languages book just for kids.  I think this one is going to be added to the Foster family library!)

Creative Ways to Connect with Your Kids

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I have been doing this parenting thing now for nine years, but the complexity and differences of my children still never fail to amaze me.  There are four individuals who call me “Mom”, and although they definitely look alike, their personalities and character quirks could not be more diverse.  I have a child who is artistic and friendly, a people-pleaser and an overachiever.  Another child is class clown, the center of attention, loud and funny and yet introverted in his own way.  In discipline, what works for one child does not work for another.  In housework and other responsibilities, what motivates one child will not motivate another.  In school, what helps one child learn confuses another.  And, I have found, my relationships with each one of my children work in pretty much the same way.  The way I communicate and interact with each of my children varies based on their personality and also their age.

Gabi is my oldest.  She recently turned nine and is moving toward those preteen years faster than I would like to admit.  We named her well, as she loves to talk my ear off about cute kittens and puppies and Minecraft and her friends and books and cool science facts and, well, you get the idea.  Several months ago, as I was half-listening to her tell me about her latest issue of Kids National Geographic, I thought “When was the last time Gabi and I talked about something deeper than books or video games?”  The realization that it had been a long time motivated me to try harder.  I would purposefully bring up spiritual topics or body topics in an attempt to dig a little deeper and build my relationship even more with my oldest.  And while this did work, in a way, it felt forced, manipulated, and completely artificial.  There was nothing wrong with me bringing up these conversations, but it didn’t seem genuine and never led to more conversations on the same subject.  In other words, she was not coming to me to talk about these things.  I started praying for a better way to connect with my daughter.  I thought about the activities she liked the most – writing, drawing, creating, making things – and how I could incorporate those things into a more beneficial way to communicate with her.

That’s when I came up with the shared journal idea.  When I was Gabi’s age, I would keep old notebooks with doodles scrawled on the covers and in the margins.  I wrote things like “Today was a happy day” and “Rachel is my best friend always and forever” with lots of illustrations and stickers.  What if Gabi and I had a journal we would write together?  I could write her a note or a question, pass the book on to her, and she could write her answer and anything she wanted to ask me before passing it back to me.  From my own childhood experience I know that sometimes it’s easier to write about hard topics than it is to actually say them aloud.  I searched the local bookstores for the perfect journal and fancy pens to accompany it.

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As it turns out, someone else already had this idea.  At a small stationery store in the area, I found a journal written by a mother and daughter team called Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Moms. (by Meredith and Sofie Jacobs)  The concept of this journal is similar to what I had in mind, only better.  The journal is filled with writing prompts like “What I was like when I was a daughter your age/What I’d be like if I were a mom” and “How you and I are the same.”  There are lots of pages that have free space to write whatever you want.  With this journal and a new set of sparkly gel pens in hand, I sat my daughter down and explained to her how sharing a journal would work.  She was tremendously excited and couldn’t wait to get started.

At first, the things we shared in the journal were superficial and light, things like “Mom, you should make pancakes tomorrow for breakfast” and “My favorite color is still green, in case you wanted to know.”  She would write these things, dotting her i’s with hearts and surrounding her precious handwriting with smiley faces before leaving it on my nightstand so that I could write her back. I would try to write her back as soon as I could and leave my ribbon in the place I had written so she could find it.  Gradually, the topics in the journal got deeper and more personal.  One time in particular, we resolved an argument and misunderstanding by writing down our feelings in the journal.  I won’t share an exact situation since the journal is “just between us,” but it has become quite evident that both of us can express ourselves better in writing sometimes.

I bought this journal many months ago, and we are still using it faithfully.  Of course, it is not our only means of connecting with each other.  There are still long conversations in the car, Starbucks coffee dates, chat over folding laundry, etc. But we have this method for when it’s too hard to say it aloud or when it just really needs to be accentuated with lots of exclamation points and glittery hearts. Someday, my little girl will be all grown up, but I will always have this journal to remember our “conversations” when she was young.

Push or Pull?

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I glanced at the clock.  I had ten minutes before I had to be back at my station – plenty of time to find my kids at their respective tables, give them a hug, and make sure they were behaving. Michael was so engrossed in his friends and his sandwich that he barely gave me a high five.  Gabi squeezed me tight and rattled off a long list of all the things they had gotten to do already that day.  As I approached David’s table, I saw immediately that something was wrong.  His bright orange Beavers cap was pulled down over his face, and he was hunched up against the table.  I tapped his shoulder.  “David, hi buddy, are you having fun today?”  I saw the tears brimming in his eyes and immediately regretted my cheerful, nonchalant greeting.  “Oh honey, what’s wrong?”  I wrapped my arms around him and tilted his cap back.  The tears fell then, in torrents while he held my arms in clenched fists and begged for me to take him home.  I was taken aback when I saw the intensity of his emotions.  I tried to calm him, to give him a safe place to tell me what had gotten him in this state.  He said something about being a bad boy but the rest was too muddled for me to understand.  I glanced up at the young counselor seated across the table.  “Has he been having a rough morning?  Did anything happen?” I asked, desperate to figure it out and make it better.  “No, he’s been great.  He seemed like he was having a lot of fun with us.”  I looked back at David, whose inconsolable face broke me.  I started crying too, hurriedly trying to brush away the tears and angry that they had sprung up when I least needed them.  I was supposed to be the voice of reason, the one who could convince my kid that he was indeed “having fun.”  The older counselor for the group walked up to the table.  She listened to my concerns and said that David had been enjoying himself in his classes all morning and that she was quite sure he would continue to have a good day.  She was good at the reassuring part.  I wanted to tell her that I’m not one of those moms that hovers over my kids all the time and never lets them cry or have a sad moment, but with my own tear-stained face and shaking hands, I knew I would not be convincing.  David still wanted to go home.  I had to be back in my classroom soon.

This was my dilemma.  Do I encourage my child to step outside his comfort zone in the hopes that he will find it enjoyable and hence want to do it again, or do I identify that he has set a boundary for himself and this is literally as far as he is able to go today?  It certainly wasn’t the first time I had encountered this problem when we were in an overwhelming environment.  After all, having autism does not mean staying home all the time, never interacting with others, and only eating hot dogs.  We “regular” humans stretch ourselves frequently by trying a new food, attempting to make a new friend, experiencing a new class at the gym, conquering a fear, etc.  In the normal world, autistic people have to venture outside their comfort zone all the time.  It is exhausting for them, but it must be done if they are to function in our society.  Social situations, especially large groups, can drain the energy and good mood right out of David.  In fact, it’s one of the reasons we homeschool him.

All parents have this task of respecting their children while also pushing their children to greater things.  It is a delicate balance.  Whether your child is autistic or not, you have to decide what things to urge on and what things to respect and hold back.  If your child has stage fright, you may try to coax them to do the play anyway in hopes of conquering their stage fright.  Alternately, you may suggest another activity that doesn’t require them speaking on stage.

I looked David in the eye and said, in the most reassuring voice I could muster, “Buddy, I have to go back to my class now.  But your group is coming to my class very soon.  You’ll get to see me there.  And if you still want to go home then, I’ll get a replacement for my class and take you home.”  His hands still clutched my arms, but he gave me an almost imperceptible nod and sniffed loudly.  I reluctantly walked away from his table and returned to my classroom with an uneasy feeling that perhaps I hadn’t made the right choice.  I went through the motions of the next group’s class while watching the door, waiting for David’s group to arrive.  My head told me that he was okay, but my mama heart wasn’t sure.  When he came bounding through the door and nearly crashed into the table with his excitement, I sighed with relief.  He threw his arms around me in a big, little-boy hug and exclaimed that my class was going to be the best and did I see that there were army men on the tables and were we really going to get to eat snow cones?

The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur of homemade snow globes, melting ice experiments, and excited little children. I gathered up the kids and their armloads of crafts they had made and headed home.  He had done it!  He had managed to find a way over his impossibly high hurdle, and now he was done.  In celebration of his victory, I made the executive decision to skip karate class that evening.  That night, after baths and brushing teeth and bedtime stories, I talked to David about his day.  Now that he was out of the overwhelming environment with all the noise and activity, he was able to look at it much more objectively.  “Tell me the best part of your day,” I encouraged him.  He answered that it was definitely the snow cones.  “Now tell me the hardest part of your day.”  He looked defeated.  “Game time.” I realized that he had been caught in the trap of comparing himself to the other kids.  Even though he hadn’t been teased or bullied in any way, David was starting to notice the differences between him and his peers. I took this as an opportunity to lift up my son’s strengths instead of focusing on his struggles and was quick to tell him what made him so special to us.  “You’re getting really good at reading.  You are awesome at playing Megaman.  You build the coolest things with your legos.  You are such a good big brother.  You like to help people.”  I turned to Michael, who shares a room with David, and asked him to chime in.  “I like David because he’s really good at being funny.”  I saw David crack a smile.  It means ten times more when it comes from your little brother than from your mom – that I know.

We haven’t solved anything.  I don’t know what I’ll do next time this kind of situation pops up.  But taking the time to recognize what happened, why it happened, and where it happened even will help.  It’s in God’s hands, and I need to recognize my need to go to Him first before I google “autism helps in social situations” or even before I talk to my friends about it.

“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?  There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.  But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

Holey Socks!

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Today we left the land of no school, late bedtimes, way too much video game time, and too many sugary sweets to step back into normal routine and real life.  It was a challenge to get the kids back on schedule and motivated with their schoolwork.  Chores and projects needed to be started, and of course I threw in a trip to the library because nothing says “let’s really make it a Monday” like trying to drag four cranky, depressed-that-Christmas-was-over kids anywhere.  As homeschoolers, we love the library, but little Hosanna just had to put on a grand (and very loud) puppet show in there today.  Another child who shall remain nameless announced to the whole library that he had to poop.  All of them chanted and begged for donuts from the shop inside the library (I know!).  We got back from the library, ready to take another half-hearted swing at the housework, when I realized that it was karate day.  Once again I wanted to high five(in the face) the mom who had the brilliant idea to sign up her kids for karate at 5:00 pm on a Monday!  Genius – that’s me.

So began the hustle and bustle of hunting down the boys, giving them their gis to put on, reminding them seventeen times to please put socks and shoes on, and trying to get them out of the house at a reasonable time.  Getting my boys to stay on my time schedule is hard enough; getting my autistic kid to do anything without being told ten times is pretty much impossible.  I was so grateful to leave the house on time that I didn’t bother to check David’s socks and shoes.  I hoped he was wearing them but didn’t care at this point.  We got to the dojo with a few minutes to spare, and the boys scurried about taking off their shoes and talking to their buddies.   I sat down with the other parents and turned my phone off.  When I take Gabi to ballet, I can sit there and check Facebook on my phone or read a book.  At karate, parents are expected to sit quietly, watch the class, and sometimes even participate.  Class started, and I looked at David to make sure he was paying attention.  It was then that I noted the two different socks he was wearing.  One was actually his dad’s – a nice black dress sock with a gold toe.  The other was a white athletic sock that looked as if it had seen better days.  Nice, I thought to myself.  I hope the other moms don’t notice.  Of course, Sensei called David up to the front to lead the class in an exercise.  He chose to do a series of leg stretches that showed off each sock alternately as he switched from leg to leg.  Black sock, white sock, black sock, white sock. .wait, is that a giant hole in the bottom of the white sock??  I was completely embarrassed that I had brought my kid dressed like that to karate.  What must the other moms think?

Then a mom leaned over and asked me if David was my son.  Yes, I answered, slightly chagrined.  “Oh good,” she said, laughing a little.  ” It is so good to see that I am not the only one.  You would not believe how many times stuff like that happens to me.”  Relieved, I laughed with her and looked again at my son, who was proudly showing off his skills and was blissfully unaware that mismatched socks was a social taboo.  That moment reminded me that I was not alone in having these crazy days.  Someday, it will make a cute story to tell (hey, I just put it on the internet!).  Besides, that whole perfect mom thing is a myth anyway.  I’m only perfect 99% of the time. 😉

(Full confession here: I was a mean mom and made him throw out the holey sock when we got home.  He didn’t want to because he “got good air” when he was doing his kicks and stretches.  I reminded him that he could be doing karate barefoot, which would be the best air of all.)

(Also, I have worn mismatching socks from time to time when I was absolutely positive my pants legs would cover them.  I guess he comes by it honestly.)

Having a Tea Kettle Moment

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“How many times do I have to remind you to brush your hair every morning?” I said, yanking the brush through the thick tangles in her hair.  She cried, begging me to be gentler because it hurt.  “I wish I could be gentler, but I can’t! We have to leave in two minutes, and your hair isn’t done!  I would have had more time to do it nicely if you hadn’t fooled around getting ready this morning.  And really, if you were brushing it every day, like you’re supposed to, it wouldn’t be this tangled.  Come on, hold still.  Now I have to start it all over because you moved.  I really wish you had brushed it this morning so this would have been easier.  Please stop crying.  It’s not my fault we’re running late now is it?”  And on and on the words spilled out of my mouth, too quickly for me to hold them back.  I couldn’t let it go.  I continued to berate her about her shortcomings until her hair was done to my satisfaction and we were out the door.  I looked at the clock – we were on time, but at what cost?  The uncomfortable silence in the van spoke volumes.

How did I let this happen, again?  Everything in my world of parenting seems fine until I lose it, especially with my firstborn.  Instead of one quick reminder or admonition, I find myself hammering away at her, over and over again until my child’s confidence is in shreds and I feel like a crappy mom.

The more entrenched I get in this mom business, the more I see the wisdom of seeking out the advice and experience of the older women in my life.  Titus 2 talks about the older women living for the Lord and then urging the younger women to do the same.  On this day, when I felt this awful divide between my daughter and me, I went to my mother-in-law.  She listened to me sob out my frustrations at not being able to curb myself, not being able to stop the constant hammering away at my child, and not being able to be the mercy and grace of God to my kids that I so desperately I want to be.  She listened and listened, acknowledging the seriousness of my behavior but not judging or condemning.

Finally she offered up some sage insight on the matter.  First of all, it wasn’t my daughter.  It wasn’t that she was a particularly stubborn child that pushes boundaries or mom’s buttons: in fact, she is quite responsible and eager to do right most of the time.  It was me.  My mother-in-law pointed out that I don’t lose my temper all the time or hammer away at the kids all the time.  It only happens when I’m too full, like a tea kettle about to boil.  Full of homeschooling and home keeping and parenting and marriage and busy schedules and my relationship with God – these are all good things, all necessary things – but like that tea kettle, it’s going to boil over unless there’s a vent, a way to let some of the steam out.

So how do I vent?  I need to recognize the condition of my tea kettle and learn to catch myself before I even get close to that boiling point.  Together, my mother-in-law and I came up with some strategies to vent my tea kettle.

1) Pray. There is no one like God to calm a hurried and frazzled spirit.

2) Get away.  When I feel the pressures of life building up to a breaking point, I need to go to my bedroom or some other quiet place for five minutes or so and regroup.

3) Call.  Sometimes it’s needed to call a trusted friend and just let it all out.  I know I can call my mother-in-law and just say that I’m having a tea kettle moment!  She’ll understand and allow me to vent all my frustrations and feelings.  This is a lot better than me taking it out on my kids.

4) Recite.  I have a few scriptures that I keep saying so that they will come to mind when I most need them.  A few that have been very helpful lately are Proverbs 15:1, I Peter 4:8, Colossians 3:8, and Ephesians 4:31.

I don’t want to boil over.  I want my children to have a (mostly!) calm mother whose spirit and demeanor are steady no matter the day or the circumstances.  Taking time to vent so that my tea kettle doesn’t get all steamed up is helping me be that mom for them.

One Day in an Elevator

Motherhood is full of lessons in humility, isn’t it?  Just when I think I’ve got it in one area of parenting, something will pop up to serve as a reminder of my kid wrangling deficiencies.

Last Monday, I had a full day scheduled.  At co-op, I kept busy with teaching the Bible devotional, a soccer class, an art history class, and an elementary Spanish class.  I remembered to pack the kids’ lunches and homework assignments.  The kids were all having a stellar day, behavior-wise.  As they played in the gym with their friends after Monday school was finished, I thought that the whole day had gone incredibly well.  I may have had a thought or two of how exceptional my parenting skills were to have warranted such a good day with the kids.

So, I confidently assumed that it would be a great idea to take the kids to the mall on my own and get the spring clothes shopping done.  Normally, taking the kids to an extremely stimulating place like the mall by myself would never, ever be a good idea.  But with the events of the day so far unfolding so well, I ignored that cautionary voice in my head and proceeded to browse the racks at JCPenney, trying to find shorts and shirts that fit Gabi correctly.  Things spiraled out of control pretty quickly.  Hosanna didn’t want to sit in the stroller.  The boys kept taking things off the shelves and whining about when was it going to be their turn to pick out clothes.  I should have stopped the whole shopping trip then before it got worse, but I stubbornly was determined to finish the shopping. The air conditioning at the store was broken.  I was sweating as I tried to hurry along the clothing selection, and the kids kept asking if we could go buy something cold to drink.  Finally, I found most of the items we needed and purchased them.

I still needed some more shorts for the boys and decided to go out into the mall to another store.  First, we had to get to an elevator to get the right floor.  I maneuvered the stroller throughout the store, looking for the elevator.  Mikey found it, and as we entered the elevator, I realized that Gabi and David were missing.  I ducked out of the elevator to see them slurping to their hearts’ content at the water fountain.  “Hey!  Get over here, guys!  The elevator’s here!”  I called, and then turned to see the elevator’s doors close.  My heart sank.  My 5-year-old and my 2-year-old, strapped into a stroller, were on an elevator by themselves.  I grabbed my older two kids and frantically pushed the elevator button.  As soon as the next elevator came, we rushed down to the first floor.  No Mikey, no Hosanna.  I hit the elevator button again.  There was a ding, the doors opened, and there was Hosanna, all alone in her stroller in the elevator, looking confused.  Where was Mikey??  I left Hosanna with her older siblings with strict instructions to stay right by the elevator and watch for their brother.  Once again, I boarded the elevator and headed back upstairs to find Mikey.  As soon as the doors opened, I could hear sobbing.  Poor little man – he had done the right thing and gone directly to a store worker to get help.  I comforted him, and we headed downstairs together.  By some miracle, the other three were still there, waiting by the doors.  Amid a chorus of “you left him all alone, Mom” and other guilt-trip-inducing comments, we made it out to the next store where I made outrageous promises for milkshakes before dinner if they would just cooperate long enough for me to get the boys their shorts.  Just as I was at the register to pay for my items, I got a text from a friend.  “How did the fitting go?” I read.  Oh, snap! I had completely forgotten about Gabi’s fitting for an American Girl fashion show she is going to be in next month.  I had twenty minutes to get there.  I hustled the kids out of the mall and into the van, promising over and over again that we would get milkshakes just as soon as the fitting was done.

We got to the fitting in the nick of time.  A friend happened to be there at the same time and gloriously offered to watch the boys while I took the girls inside.  I warned him to keep them away from elevators and happily took him up on his offer.  A stop for milkshakes a little later and I was never so glad to finally be home.

Every day, the Lord sends me plenty of moments to humble me and to remind me that I am dependent on Him.  It’s just that every once in a while, He allows me to fail in a spectacular way to reveal that I don’t have it all together.

I mean, sometimes I leave my children on elevators!

Summer and Schedules

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“Mom, please can I play my video games now?”  my younger son whined.  It was 8:00.  In the morning!   Apparently, summer had hit us fast and hit us hard, and I was not prepared.  Without the structure of a typical homeschooling day, the kids were fighting and complaining and driving me crazy.  And that particular day, I’ll admit, I caved.  The part of me that wanted to get a lot of work done around the house without being bothered by the kids said, “Sure!  You can play your video games.  Just turn the sound down, please.”  And he (and the other kids) proceeded to play their games for THREE HOURS STRAIGHT.  Their rooms weren’t clean, and their chores weren’t done.  They hadn’t touched a book in days, and their creative spirits had jumped out the window a while ago.  I’m not proud of that, folks, but it happened.  Imagine then whose children were ungrateful little demons for the rest of the day?  To make matters worse, they were being all sorts of terrible when it came time for bed. With the sun still shining brightly outside (thanks a lot, long summer days!), they jumped out of bed and on their beds and teased each other and got entirely too many “visits” from Mom or Dad to help them get back in bed.  A change was definitely needed.

I missed the homeschool routine.  However, I am not by nature a very organized person.  I was always the teacher with the messiest desk (hangs head in shame).  I love to do things but don’t always have a good plan about how to do them.  Still, it was abundantly clear that we needed a summer schedule to make it through these days.  I talked to my husband about the bedtime issue.  We both were very tired of dealing with kids-who-just-won’t-go-to-sleep-no-matter-what.  He suggested that we wake them up earlier in the morning so that they would be more tired at bedtime.  Six am was the decided-upon time. (because we are both such morning people, ha!) Then I sat down to write out some sort of schedule for the first day on this new plan of super organization.  I doodled all over the page and made a ridiculously detailed, down-to-the-minute schedule.  It said things like, “Get the kids started on cleaning their rooms while I take a shower after working out – 7:30 to 8:00 am.”  I wrote in some school practice time (sorry, kids!) and some outside exercise time, as well as lots of fun things like chores and library trips.  I glanced at the clock and realized that it was already 10:30 pm.  If I were going to be getting up at the ungodly hour of six am, I had better be getting myself to bed.

Well, I lay there for a good hour and a half, trying to will my body to go to sleep.  The night owl in me fought against this obnoxiously early bedtime.  When that alarm clanged out at precisely 6:00 am, I was in no mood to better my life with organization.  I hauled myself out of bed and prepared to awaken the kids.  The girls, it seemed, had already gotten the memo and were bouncing around the living room, waiting for breakfast.  The boys were a different story.  David grudgingly got out of bed, but Mikey was determined to stay asleep in his bed.  I finally coaxed him  into the living room, where he grumpily climbed onto the recliner and went right back to sleep.  “Well, day one,” I thought.  “You’re certainly starting off with a bang.”   Breakfast took longer than I planned.  Hello, mom of four?  Did you not remember how long it can take to get the hordes gathered at the table, agree on a breakfast choice, make the breakfast, serve it up, and eat it?  Because surely then you would have scheduled more than a half-hour for such an effort.  Hosanna kept interrupting my workout, stepping squarely in front of me and crying as she clung to my leg.  Okay, so the shower wasn’t going to happen until 8:30 am, but I could still recover the rest of my day, right?

Wrong.  The kids took the “clean your rooms” command and internalized it as a “let’s take all day to move stuff around our rooms” idea.  Frustrated, I tried to sneak in some laundry and dishes time while they all whined about how hard I work my “slave labor”.  Sigh.  But school practice was going to happen.  I managed to get through the devotional time and a couple of math worksheets before the complaining started again.  Handwriting practice, naturally.  The clock said noon, but I had planned lunch at 11:30 am.  How could we be falling so far behind?  The day dragged on.  I doggedly continued to abide by my written-out schedule and tried in vain to make it work.  I felt tired after dinner, as if the whole day had been in vain.  Then came bedtime.  Blessed, blessed bedtime.  Baths, teeth brushing, hair brushing, stories, and prayers – and then sleep.  Every child was asleep within minutes of going to bed.  Hallelujah!

So we hit some snafus in my “perfect” schedule.  And maybe the kids were a little slow to warm up to the idea of having a super organized day.  And perhaps I am reading a book or two about organization right now before I go to bed.  But, with that small victory, I just might be encouraged to get up again tomorrow.

At 6 am.  Girl, get to bed already!