January 12, 2014

no school, hold the toothpaste

Part of me was sad to see Laddie go off to school.  Thanks to his summer birthday, he seemed too young for 3 year old preschool.  I waited for the 4 year old program to start him.  But school screwed up my freedom.  The advent of school meant the end of our mom and tot adventures.  I used to keep the kids up late to see Coach, who worked long days as a Physical Therapist.  Naps were late, bedtime was at 9 pm, mornings were leisurely, and bath time took place after breakfast.  Days were spent visiting the zoo, exploring children's museums, inviting friends over, walking to the park, attending library story time, or stocking up at the grocery store all before our late-by-design nap time.  There were plenty of days devoted to relaxing at home reading books, playing toys, cleaning house, and maybe baking.  Never-mind there were also occasions when I was too tired to think straight. 

Enter more kids into the picture, and my schedule-free lifestyle spun out of focus.  In the blink of an eye there were attitudes, mischief, and opposition.  School became a welcome friend.  While the older kids were being educated, the tots and I managed to still explore our immediate world.  I recall sweating on several occasions as I prayed that I would beat the half day kindergarten bus to my driveway by 11:20.  It was hard to squeeze in a grocery run between breakfast and bus drop off.  I would be flashing the lights of my blue minivan as I raced down the street toward the bus begging the driver to allow my kid to get off the bus mid block.  An unscheduled stop broke basic bus bylaws.  Even afternoon adventures became a stretch.  The arrival of a few babies who refused to sleep past six a.m. forced siesta time to commence right after lunch.  Late nap times came to an alarming halt, and the earlier nap replacement time interfered with prolonged morning fun.   Like it or not, my ideal schedule ceased to exist.

As the temps warmed up each Spring, I anticipated our summer fun.  Of course the older and more challenging the kids became the more eager I was by mid August to greet the first day of school with open arms.  

More change.  Curly marched off with the rest of the clan for school in the fall.  No more half day kindergarten.  My daily routine now includes a part time job at a distant school while my kids are attending our local school each day.  Now I look forward to breaks from school as much as the kids do.  I race the clock on the weekends to catch up on laundry, run errands, prepare meals, review homework, and accomplish a bit of housework.  After-school-hours are devoted to the kids' activities.  Multiple sports, Irish dancing, art club, music lessons, chess club, and hopefully sufficient time for homework.  While I don't purchase fast food, I prepare food as fast as I can.  I make it portable:  wrap it, cover it, or paper plate it and toss it in someone's direction.  "Shovel it in, we have to go!"  If all else fails, I reheat it.  If the first helping wasn't sufficient, I end up repeating the process once home in hopes that homework time isn't compromised.  Organized chaos.

No surprise that I was desperate for Christmas break's arrival this year.  Only high school swim team still conducted practices over break, but no meets.  Everyone relaxed.  My last minute shopping and baking wasn't punctuated with pick ups and drop offs at practices.  The kids' commentaries referring to how siblings chose to relax, whose space they entered, what they touched, whose feelings might have been hurt, and what poor choices were made - well, anyone living under our roof was briefed on these issues constantly.  Even with Santa watching.

Just after Christmas Curly asked me if eating toothpaste can make you sick.  While 'no' was my first response, I realized this sounded like a loaded question.  Initially I assumed that she accidentally swallowed while rinsing her teeth.  I didn't want to alarm her.  Then part of me wondered if this was a result of a brother's dare.  'Why?' I asked.  She hesitated.  I promised not to be upset while secretly hoping to not walk into the bathroom and find five empty toothpaste tubes strewn across the floor.  After some heavy sighs, she confessed.  'I want to be sick, so I don't have to go back to school.  I want to stay home with you.'  Didn't see that coming.  Long road ahead if she's already dreading kindergarten.

While the first five attended 1/2 day kindergarten at a parochial school, Curly is our first all-day kindergartener.  Catholic school, which didn't make family budget cuts a few years ago, drained our finances for years - thus my reluctant re-entrance into the work place.  The older kids experienced the ideal kindergarten teacher, but I fear Curly's teacher is feeling the pressure to turn these little ones into reading mathematicians by May.  It's been my experience that today's five year olds are learning what was being spoon fed to most of us in 1st or even 2nd grade in the 70's.  Even with an all day schedule, its hard to squeeze in warm and fuzzy time.   

Curly insisted that it wasn't that she didn't like school.  She would just rather be home with me.  Easy solution.  'Mommy isn't home while you are at school.'  Case closed.  'Well, you can just leave the TV on for me when you leave,' she replied.  Wow, so more time with Mommy was less of a factor in this equation than initially thought.  I explained how this would never be a legit option.  I put a positive spin on things by pointing out that Mommy doesn't work in the summer, aren't we lucky there?  We'll be together all summer.  She wasn't sold.  Realizing there was no quick solution, I moved on to details.  How much toothpaste had she eaten?  If the quarter inch she displayed with her finger and thumb was accurate, no worries there. 

When I briefed Coach on the 'wishing to be sick' issue, we both felt like we'd each swallowed a mushy handful of Crest.  After some thought, I decided that Curly wasn't really disliking school - she's basking in the nonexistent schedule that has left us all feeling free over the two week break.  She may not be overly committed when it comes to after school activities, but she still gets dragged to lots of other practices, games, and lessons.  Whenever possible, she stays home with an older sibling or Daddy, so she can at least hang out at home and go to bed on time.  Those easy going early years that the other kids enjoyed are unfamiliar to her.  Unfair.  Visits to the museum, zoo, park, and friends houses happen less frequently in her world then they did for the rest of the gang.  Hard to believe that back in the day I refused to sign Laddie up for Boy Scouts because I couldn't imagine attending anything after school.  The thought of disturbing naps or needlessly squeezing toddlers into winter gear and stuffing them into car seats didn't appeal to me.  So part of my New Year's Resolution is to somehow carve out more relaxing down time when we are home.  It will be challenging not to throw dinner on the table and bark out orders to study, clean up, practice music, and bathe Curly before bolting out the door with a kid in tow, undoubtedly late for something. 

No toothpaste necessary.  Curly's wish came true, and toothpaste wasn't even part of the equation.  The record breaking low temperatures - or the polar vortex if you want to be technical, accomplished everything a 1/2 a teaspoon of toothpaste couldn't.  School was cancelled on Monday and Tuesday thus extending Christmas break an additional two days.  Hooray!  Since I'm only part time, I won't get paid for those days, but I had to rejoice anyway.  The kids' behavior was less than desirable thanks in large part to the arrival of an Xbox that Santa brought (look for an expanded explanation in a later post . . . I hate video games).  Still, I prefer to be confined to my cozy home and update photo albums or organize some out-of-control corner of the house.  I carved out time to read to the younger set, played a family game, and braved the cold in response to their friends' requests for a play date. 

All in all, it was a good week to stop sucking down minty, fresh toothpaste.

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