Sunday, March 18, 2018

Scenes From the Hospital II

The circumstance of a hospital birth an hour away from home means that all the old babies have trouble getting up to the hospital to visit the new baby. The day after Ella was born was much the same. The logistics of getting them into town meant the children did not arrive to visit until 1:45 in the afternoon. This was a fine schedule for us. Everyone had already eaten lunch and we had most the afternoon to visit.

After they had been there about 15 minutes, all of a sudden an announcement was made over the PA system. I had been in my room for 20 hours and this was the first PA announcement of my visit. A woman with a thick Southern accent explained for us that it was Cuddle Time.
It's Cuddle Time. Cuddle Time gives mom, dad, and baby time to be together and rest without interruption. Cuddle Time is from 2 until 4. We ask that all visitors make their way to the waiting room until 4pm. Once again, it's Cuddle Time.  
Do what? I had never heard of Cuddle Time until this very moment. I had never once been told there was a limit on visiting hours. Dave and I looked at each other and blinked. I had a minor panic attack until I indignantly announced to no one in particular the children were not going anywhere. "Shush, children. You aren't supposed to be here." I figured as long as they were quiet and didn't bother anyone else, it didn't matter if they were in my room. And they were quiet enough. No one complained, anyway.

It was time for them to leave and I needed my next dose of pain medication.* We told the children they needed to be extremely quiet in the hallway on their way out because, after all, it was still Cuddle Time. Dave walked them out to the car, and I hit the call button to get my Motrin. A few minutes after the kids left, my nurse comes into my room.

Now this nurse earlier in the day had fancied herself a parenting expert and decided I was in need of her wisdom so she passed on several bon mots such as I need to interrupt nursing and burp the baby several times a feeding and don't let the baby stay latched too long lest she think I am a pacifier. I wasn't really looking for parenting advice so our rapport was established.

As she typed up my medication on her computer, I asked if she had seen the parade leaving. She said she hadn't.

"You didn't see all the children?"

"Oh you mean all the kids who just left? I guess I did notice them out of the corner of my eye. I was working on something at my desk. Were they your nieces and nephews?"

"No. Those were my children."

"You're what?!? All of them? How many children do you have?"

"The baby makes five."

"Five kids?!"


"How old are they?"

"12, 9.5, 7, 4, and baby."

"And that man staying with you is your husband?"


"Does he have five kids too?"



So at this juncture, I am not sure if the nurse thinks we have five kids together or five kids each. I am sure she fancied herself very clever in ascertaining that all the children have the same father. At least the unsolicited parenting advice ceased. Maybe next time she'll read her patient charts.

*Did I tell you the hospital policy required that I request every single dose of pain medicine? I can't remember if I mentioned that or not. Even though all I was taking was an alternating Tylenol/Motrin combo, nothing came automatically. Because I am going to get addicted to ibuprofen over three days after giving birth? I am still annoyed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Scenes from the Hospital I

Since it took several eons to get the birth story post up, these are old stories from the hospital stay that I mean to write back in October. You see how that worked out. But they amused me at the time and I still want to share.


The morning after Ella was born, a med tech rolls in bright and early with a hearing screening machine. This girl looks to be 20 years old. Her mouth is full of orthodontia and I can barely understand her.

I question why she is here because the guidelines suggest waiting until 24 hours after birth. Sam failed his initial newborn hearing screening because he was tested too soon and had to do it again so I know about these things. She laughs and says it doesn't matter, they do it this early all the time. And so this question seems to open the window for small talk.

She asks me if this is my first. How I adore this question. No, my fifth.



40? No way. 40! Really? You don't look forty. 40?! You are old enough to be my mother.


40? I can't believe it! You really don't look forty. You really are old enough to be my mother!

<blink, blink>

Wow! 40. Huh. 40. You look so young. I'll bet you're the cool mom!


Friends, I assure you. I am not the cool mom. And Ella passed her screening.

(Yes. I really am forty. Yes, dear, I am old enough to be your mother. You can stop now.)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Angst in the Homeschooling Season

I am starting this post in the most cliched month of February, but it probably won't be published until March. Who knows? Everyone knows that February is the month that homeschoolers shake their collective fists at the universe and yell, "WHY?" But this isn't really about the February blues. Or maybe it is? We spent most of February sick. We lost most of the month, especially since I was horizontal with two separate illnesses for nearly two weeks. Now we begin again.

So how's the homeschooling these days? Angsty. I feel pulled in about five different directions. And I have five children! Coincidence?

The major source of my angst is the inability for the group of my children to complete the work I intend for them to complete. I see my primary jobs in regards to school as follows: I decide the curriculum, I set out a daily checklist of tasks, I work directly with the subliterate child to complete his work, I do readalouds, I offer assistance as necessary to the older ones, I check to make sure the independent work is complete and correct.

What actually happens is that I decide the curriculum except there is always some piece I never get around to implementing. I intend to start slow and add pieces through a series of weeks. I actually start slow, add a thing, and then get bogged down without adding the rest. I feel like they have gaps in what they should be doing, but I rarely get the headspace to figure out how to get the other parts in. Music Theory, Art, Latin, and French all fall in this hole.

I spend two or three hours making the weekly checklists on the weekend. Usually. Except when I have to pay bills or am not home or some other obligation gets in the way. Carving out weekly planning time is hard. When I make the checklists, they are lost, disregarded, and used occasionally and also ignored. Multiple times a day the checklists have to be relocated. When I don't make them, no one knows what to do, even if the math column would be just the next five lessons. Without the piece of paper giving the directions, my verbal instructions fall on deaf ears. With the piece of paper giving directions, I have to make them read it.

I do work with Sam almost every day. We need to work on his cheerful response to my direction, cough cough, but I feel really good about where he and I are in his school work and where we are going. I think he has an appropriate amount of work and makes good progress. Because it is my job to directly do his work with him, it actually gets done. This leads to the backwards scenario where the child with the most time and leeway to lag behind is actually the one right where he belongs. Sam is a win for me.

The readalouds are going okay. Because of outside commitments, we generally only get three days a week, sometimes only two. The main problem here is that I have more that I want to cover than we actually have time for. My materials lend themselves to a four day schedule instead of a three day schedule. Aside from that little issue, the readalouds themselves usually go fine, even though they hates the botany/tree identification.

My assistance with the older girls is fraught. They don't want assistance. They already know how to do it all even when all the answers are wrong. I call them downstairs over and over again. I nag. I nag. I nag. Is this done? Is this done? Is this done? What are you doing? You said you were starting math an hour ago. Come back. What are you doing? Answer me. COME. BACK. DOWN. STAIRS. I make corrections to their work. They cry. I try to show a better way. They don't want to hear it. The moment my attention is diverted from them, they disappear. My attention gets diverted a thousand times a day. I set a start time in the morning. Getting them to start is nigh impossible. They are never dressed. They forgot to eat breakfast. "I know, but..." Sighs. Crying. Grumbling.

In spite of assigning them a reasonable amount of work in any given week, they usually only do about half of it. We have a 'Come to Jesus' meeting. I get a day or two of improvement then it's right back to the old habits. If I give them something they don't want to do, they just don't. Refuse. Sullen staring into the middle distance. That can will be kicked down the road until it is obsolete. What should have been a year's worth of history reading has been stretched into its fourth semester with no guarantees it will even be finished this year either. The semester long science book is going to last the whole year.

In the middle of all this, I have a baby who, while usually a very good and happy baby, is still a young baby with demands that must be met by me. Then there is Marian. Marian is a vivacious child who Does. Not. Ever. Stop. Talking. I tell her to stop talking a thousand times a day. She interrupts every lesson with every child. She extroverts all over me all day long. When she isn't talking, she is touching me, draped on me, using me as a security blanket. It isn't unusual for me to have Ella in my arms, Marian across my shoulders, and Sam next to me in the chair while I holler up the stairs desperately trying to get a big girl to respond. Marian really is delightful, but managing her energy has been a struggle for me from the beginning.

It is obvious the big girls need a lot more handholding and structure than I have been able to give them recently. Perhaps my expectations for independent work are unreasonable? Or if not unreasonable, not working for my particular children. I suppose the answer is to insist they stay downstairs to work. I am not thrilled with this answer. We don't have a lot of room to spread out. This is the public space downstairs:

The younger ones are legitimately distracting. The depth of the above picture is only 11 feet from the camera to the table. (Yes, I measured because the picture makes the room look big.) I can't send M upstairs by herself because of destruction and also Dave is usually working up there. I cannot trust them to work out of my sight because they have proven they generally don't. Enforcing a required work area will be loud and ugly and probably involve mutiny. Other solutions include putting Sam's work on hold until I can establish acceptable work habits in the girls. I could also put the hammer down on activities. I don't really like any of these solutions. How 'bout they just do their work without me sitting on their heads.

I feel pretty unhappy about this whole mess. I feel like I have failed in my duty to establish my authority and to walk them through their work. Grace wants to go to high school, which makes me panicky about these horrible work habits. I don't want to send her back to school with 'homeschool disaster' stamped on her forehead. I know she is capable of so much, but I am afraid my inability to overcome her resistance to instruction from me, her mother, has handicapped her.

I wonder if I just bit off more than I could chew. My homemaker skills are still woeful and the pregnancy set me back almost to zero. Maybe it was foolhardy to expect so much independence almost immediately because *I* needed her to be independent. We needed to work on basic obedience because of reasons, and I tried to skip ahead. I feel fairly confident that as the younger ones age, I will grow into their needs, but I have felt like I have been in crisis mode with G for so long. I feel the urgency. She definitely does not.

In more positive news, Grace has really become enthusiastic about her flute. She practices it every day. She works hard at it, wants to improve, and strives to be the best she can be. I am proud of her effort. She also is adept at Minecraft. Ha! And can also give long, in-depth talks about Harry Potter. It's not all bad, by any stretch. I know, intellectually, this is a season that will pass, especially as the baby gets older. I am just angsty and frustrated by the level of resistance I encounter on a daily basis and am afraid of the long term consequences of my distracted attention.