Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gotta Love Michigan Winter

Nope, no big heavy post this time.

Sunday night. Noah is heading back to school tomorrow morning after five days off due to strep. He was kind enough to share his affliction with me, but thanks to modern medicine, we are both on the mend and tomorrow should be back to normal.

We got all of his homework from three days off school done this weekend. We also finished his God and Me program work and he is ready for the ceremony on Saturday (which we still don't know what time it is or if it will conflict with solo and ensemble that I'm playing for on Saturday as well.

We took the boys ice skating Saturday. It was Aaron's first time skating and after a little bit, he was able to inch his way around without help. By the time one of the little helping stands became available, he didn't even need it anymore. Although timid, he got back up each time he fell, even after a couple of hard falls on the head :( Noah was skating like a pro after a couple of minutes, even though it was only his second time on ice skates.

Steve had been gone on another singing gig on Saturday morning and on his way home spotted an amazing two tiered sledding hill. So Sunday after church and lunch, we bundled up once again to try out the new hill. I gotta say it was the best sledding hill we've gone to as a family. Once again, I left the camera at home, but I wished I had because the smiles on my two little boys' faces were indeed priceless. There were bumps in the hills and after a couple trips down, I had to stop when I was feeling pangs in my back but it was more fun watching all the wipe outs from the bottom anyway. A very fun afternoon.


So this weekend was definitely one of those weekends that make you glad to live in a cold weather climate during half of the year. Especially when forecasters are predicting a major snow storm for this coming Wednesday so it is very likely that we will finally get our first snow day of the year this week.

It's times like this that make Winter in Michigan the best season of all!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

All Moms Are Omniscent

A mom just knows. That's all there is to it.

I didn't know this or believe in it when I was little. Probably because my mother wasn't really very capable of being a mom when I was growing up.

But in my adult life, I've learned it both as a daughter and as a mommy myself.

A mother doesn't have to be biological to be a mom. A MOM is the person who can tell that something isn't quite right, even without the words. I learned this as I finally was allowed to develop a relationship with the woman whom I now think of as my REAL mom; the one to whom my father has been happily married to for a quarter of a century. She is the one who will give a strong word to put me in my place when I need it, but will also be on my side no matter what if I need that too. And sometimes she will even show up without warning with a two year supply of aluminum foil and tampons (among other things) from Sam's Club, just because she loves me :)

And this lesson was again clear to me as I took my own son to the doctor today for a throat swab. As a medical professional, you would see us as a mother with an eight year old who has NO fever, NO aches of any sort, and is acting perfectly normal. And you'd take one look at the mom bringing him in and say she is off her rocker for insisting on a throat swab.

But Mama knows! Mama knows that when her child runs a tiny fever for even a short time with bunches of other symptoms the previous day, he has strep. How? Because mama knows the circumstances leading up to the symptomatic day, and Mama knows her baby, even when her "baby" is no longer an infant. So when the strep test came back positive today, the doctor was in shock. But I wasn't. Mamas know when something's just not right.

I was so relieved that I went with my instincts to take him in, even though he was acting fine. I would have run the risk re-infecting the third grade classroom that has had one or two kids out with strep EVERY SINGLE DAY since Christmas vacation ended (and actually even before).

I went in to let Noah's teacher know that he would be out with strep and to also get his homework for the rest of the week. It was kind of cute because his teacher is a brand new mama, with a six month old baby, and I could see in her eyes that she too, already knows her own precious one.

Yup, a mom always knows.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Weekend Top Five (a day late)

Yes, it's Tuesday and the Weekend was over more than 24 hours ago. But hopefully at this time next week my employment registration will have gone through and Tuesdays will be my only day off so it is more than likely that Weekend Reports will come on Tuesday from here on.

It was a very COLD weekend here in Western Michigan. The boys were so excited that they had to have indoor recess on Friday because of sub-zero wind chills. I had hoped to take them ice skating on Saturday but it was so cold that I changed my mind. This IS what we ended up doing.

5. Daddy On A Mission

Saturday morning after Steve got home from work he headed right out again with the van. Our brakes had been metal on metal for weeks because the pads and rotors were completely run down. Steve found a guy at work that said he would do the labor for us if we got the parts. But we still couldn't find the money for the parts. Well, last weekend when we were pulling up the carpet, I began my wife nagging about not wanting the carpet to sit in the driveway for six months so to appease me, Steve was willing to put the carpet in the truck and take it to work to dump. WHILE he was cleaning out his truck, lo and behold, he found brand new unopened brake pads that he bought WHO KNOWS WHEN for the van. So we figured it was a sign and instead of paying a bill that was long overdue, he got the rotors for the van and spent ALL DAY on Saturday at his friends' doing the work. So there will be no trash collection this morning, but I will be safe driving four kids home from school everyday.

4. Scout Home Work

Those of you who have boy (or cub) scouts will relate to this. Cub Scouts is WORK. It's not just going to meetings and having fun with friends. With the boys, you have a book of achievements that have to be met. And in order. We love this new pack, but joining in the middle of the year has put us at a small disadvantage. We found out rather quickly that the old pack was supposed to be handing out achievements a lot more readily than they were and that the boys were a little behind. One of the tenants of scouts is religion. And there is a God And Me program that all scouts should get at some point in their scouting experience, be it cubs or boys. We found out that the "ceremony" for this year's program is going to be the first Saturday on February. Noah really needed to get this before he moves into the new level next year so we had to get going on it. It is a booklet in four sections, with lots of hands on work, bible stories and at the end of each section, Noah is expected to make a game for his gamebox. We spent Friday afternoon, most of the day Saturday, and a little bit on Sunday night working on his program. It was actually really fun and I think both of us learned a few things. I was amazed at some of Noah's insightful answers to some of the questions and actually surprised at how much he already knew.

Little Brother had some problems with jealousy during this. It always amazes me that BOTH boys sometimes complain when I am working with them on homework. But at the same time, whenever I am working with one of the them, the other one ALWAYS is by my side trying to get my attention on something else. And that was indeed the case with Aaron, especially since Steve was gone with the car. So I went and got HIS scout book to see of there were any achievements we could knock off while Noah and I were working. We found one about primary and secondary colors. He was supposed to do some kind of experiment to make secondary colors. I pulled out the playdough and got out red, yellow, and blue. I had him make predictions of the new colors and gave him two colors at a time to mix. Neither he NOR Noah thought that they would blend completely. It was not only really good for Aaron's fine motor skills which are still a little delayed, but also it was fun listening to him exclaim each time a new color emerged.

3. Saturday playing
Even though it was freezing (literally) outside, we did bundle up and get out for a short time. I started clearing our driveway when Noah begged for a slide. So we piled up snow on the front steps and crated a slide for them to sled down. It was small, but very much appreciated and the boys had fun. Then we ventured into the back yard and I brought Lily out to romp in the snow. It was way over her head but she had so much fun and was so cute. Even though she was shivering, she didn't want to come in. But I think a six pound short haired dog should only endure so much before her little body can't handle any more. Maybe we'll do more again soon. Noah kept telling em to take pictures but I was having fun and decided that we would just experience the fun this time.

3. Game Night

Related to Noah's God and Me work, we used Saturday night game night to play the games that Noah had made so far. There was a memory game that he made of twelve things that God created. Some of the pictures he drew were so cute. I think I will do a post about this program after his final event in February. The other game was kind of a guessing game based on the characters of the Christmas story. We altered it and turned it into a game of Charades. We were ALL cracking up when I gave Steve the characters such as "camel", "sheep", and "shepherd". Props were flying and we all had a good laugh.

2. Sunday Church

Have I mentioned how happy we ware at this new church? Well, I'm going to again. As much as I didn't want to get up when the weather person declared a -16 wind chill out, we did it anyway. The service was all about Cultivating Joy and it was a good message when we are finding ourselves so frustrated about finances. I am hoping to start subbing next week but the month of January made every single thing fall back behind and even when we did taxes discovered that our refund will not even make a dent in it all. So when we had a message about Cultivating Joy in the stress of our lives, it spoke to me. That is what I am focusing on this week.

1. Visit to my Parents

My parents are leaving to go down south soon and I wanted to make sure we got a visit in before they left. Usually we would have packed winter clothes and sleds, but with the it being SO bitter out, we opted against it this time. My step mom surprised me with a trip to Younkers for a few teaching outfits since I only owned "mommy clothes" and it was not only nice to get a few things that made me feel pretty, but just being out shopping together brought me a lot of joy. I keep smiling thinking about it.

Monday and Subbing registration
So Monday morning I had an enrollment meeting for subbing and it was a test run of sorts as to how things will go when I am working every morning. It wasn't terrible but it is clear that we need to work on procedures a little bit. The funny thing was that I ran into a teacher that I taught with seven years ago at my last full time teaching job. She is just getting back into it again too and it was fun to be the only certified (expired) teachers in the room. It gave me some reassurance that I am definitely ready for this. Now I am just frustrated that I have to wait another week or two until I'm in the system. It's killing me that I didn't do this before. We could avoided all of this nightmare and been secure a long time ago if I had just done this earlier. This waiting two more weeks is causing stress in the marriage as well as the household. I just want to start NOW.

So that was our weekend. Time to go clean the house. Have a good day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

2 Days Left

Stay At Home Mom
What a Dream Job!

I kind of sort of had that job for the last five years. Only sort of though. Ever since Aaron's first birthday when my teaching license expired and I had failed to find the money or motivation to take the required college credits to renew it, I became a mom. I never got to FULLY embrace the role since the minute Steve got home from work every day I've had to rush out the door to go spend my evenings teaching piano lessons. Unfortunately economy doesn't allow one to make a full income teaching piano and so as a result for the last five years we have struggled constantly to make ends meet.

I always said that after my kids were finally in school, it would be time to go back into the work place. That time arrived this past fall and it was not so easy to just "hop" back into working. I tried EVERYTHING to find a day job and nothing worked. I, who used to get called for an interview for EVERY job I applied for before kids, never got called for a single one since I started job hunting in September.

Then came building up to Christmas and panic set in, not only because we came so stinking close to losing the house, but also the reality of having NOTHING for the kids for Christmas. So in desperation one day, I found myself trolling the mall in a major depressed state. And wandering into Kohl's and applying for a job night stocking.

After several weeks of waiting I did indeed get hired. And as you all know, I worked like crazy, got sicker than I ever thought I could be, and did indeed provide a nice Christmas for the boys.

Then a week after Christmas, when I found out that I was no longer going to be working as a seasonal employee, it became clear that that money I had made during that six weeks was absolutely necessary. So began the struggle again.

But it also seemed pretty stupid that I was looking at minimum wage jobs when I had a college degree. So, after putting up with my mother in law's endless nagging and scolding as well as some loving nudges from my own parents, I finally faced the fact that it was finally time to head down the road to substitute teaching. So I filled out the paperwork, paid the ridiculously high cost of fingerprinting, did all of the online training and unburied my expired teaching license.

And as of Monday morning after an introductory two hour meeting, I will be an employee of the company that provides subs to the majority of schools in the area.

And I'm terrified!!!!!!!

What if I can't control a classroom anymore? How do I handle a class that I have no connection with? What if they play all the stupid tricks on me that kids do to subs? Will I be able to control my temper enough when I get frustrated?

OR.......

What if I find that I love being back in a classroom again? What if I find that I want to renew my license and be a teacher again?

I sit here on my second to last day of being a "stay at home mom". I could work on my subbing "bag of tricks" to get ready. I could go to goodwill to find some"teacher clothes" since I literally have nothing to wear in a classroom right now since I've had a mommy wardrobe for the last five years.

But right now, I'm kind of emotionally stuck. Did five years really go by that quickly? Wow.

I really hope that this becomes a good thing for me personally as well as us financially. It needs to. It really is our last hope.

I hope I can do it. How can everyone else be so certain that I'll do a great job when I have no confidence in it whatsoever?

I'm so scared...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More House Tear Ups

I should have known that 2011 was going to be the year of house repairs when we spent New Year's Day drilling a big hold in the floor (for a laundry chute). It's now been three weeks into the year and we have already attacked another room.

When we bought the house 8 and a half years ago, we had hard wood floors throughout. I was largely pregnant so I was unable to do a lot but Steve and his dad rented a big sander and sanded all of the floors and also re covered them with polyurethane. The floors looked pretty nice but we then had a baby who was going to be learning to walk and I worried about the hard wood floors. Plus, the floor was loud from old wood boards and sound vibrations. For these reasons, that first tax refund in this house was spent on putting carpet in our living room. Being a clueless new home owner, I picked a light tan color for the floor.

Eight years, two potty trained kids and a potty trained, flea ridden puppy later, our carpet is disgusting. I was a proponent of the "let your kid run naked to potty train" method, which I still believe was the very best route to go. It was so easy. But it did bring some unexpected surprises once in awhile. And of course, the puppy was just a plain nightmare when she was training, not to mention that every time she got fleas (which is more often than I think is normal), we had to treat the carpet and furniture and I was never quite sure that I got every inch, which may have been why the stupid little bugs keep coming back.

And then add to that the fact that we use the front door for entry during the winter. We started that since our side door has a very small landing on the top of a stairwell and I always had the fear of someone falling down the stairs while taking off various winter weather in that small area. When we started using the front entry, the inevitable boot stains resulted. There was a strip of nasty dirt, mud and another stains that made a streak directly across the floor from the front entry to the hallway.

So while we were sitting on the floor playing a game a few weeks ago, I got grossed out. We vacuum every week but it was still just plain gross. So I pondered aloud what it would look like of we pulled up the carpet. Steve started into his typical list of twenty problems that could arise if we pulled it up. I had pulled up carpet in a house when I was a teenager and remember it not being too much work. We talked about needing to repaint the living room anyway and maybe someday replacing the carpet too.

But last Sunday, we were sitting around doing pretty much nothing and I once again found a flea on the dog. I thought we were finally rid of them and I had had it. So I started crawling on the floor, looking for a place that the carpet might be peeling. Steve caught me and actually agreed to just do it. So, we put a movie on for the kids (Pippi Longstocking) and went to work.

It took a few minutes to figure out our strategy. Once we got going, it was kind of fun. Steve worked on cutting up pieces of carpeting to get it out of the room while I attacked the board strips along the edges. The kids were a little taken aback because we had to keep moving them to different chairs while we were moving things around. But they took it pretty well.

I couldn't help snapping a few pictures of how gross the back of the carpet was. I knew it was going to be necessary when I started having some regret over what we were doing (which I have).

There were a few moments when we did think it was important to get the boys involved. We have a hutch full of breakable glass items that needed to be moved. I had a small injury in my arm left over from the job at Kohls that still causes me pain every day so we asked the boys to help with the moving of all of the items and after a small amount of hemming and hawing, we had a nice assembly line going. The nice thing was that Noah then asked if he could do something else. Steve immediately told him no but then I didn't see ant reason why he couldn't. So I set him to work pulling up the staples in the floor from the pad. Noah usually avoids doing any work more than what he has to, yet he set into this full force and even asked if there was more when he was done with that first strip of staples. He went slower than we would have, but he did such a great job and he loves to say that he helped with the carpet.

As we were pulling it up, I did notice not only how much louder the room is, but also that it is a little colder in our already drafty old (uninsulated) house. But the floor looks really nice. Instead of the somersaults and cartwheels that Aaron did in our carpeted living room, it is now a full fledged skating rink for them. I guess boys will be boys, no matter what the environment.

I am not so sure about it. I will probably want carpet back in here again if we can afford it at some point. But the boys love the room. I like being able to come into the room to take off my boots and not worry about the carpet. I liked giving Lily her latest flea treatment with hopes that the war we've waged on the bugs possibly being successful this time. Hopefully we will have a few dollars left of our tax refund this year to get at least a rug for the middle of the room.

There are so many "real" improvements that this house needs. But they all take money. This was a small thing we could do to the house to make a huge difference and it is a nice change for now.

I'm not sure if this trend will continue this year. I'm hopefully going to be subbing next week and finally bringing in money to try to get this household where a household with children should be. And who knows? Maybe 2011 will be the year to add a second toilet to this house of ours. I know THAT improvement would make this house a much happier place :)

Wordless Wednesday: My 3rd Baby

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On Contentment

About two hours ago I sent my boys out the door to school and then sat down to write a post about our morning discussion (for lack of a more grumpy word) about contentment. About 45 minutes later, I had a very detailed post about all of the events leading up to this morning's discussion. It was well written and hit on the head all of the points I wanted to make, but for some reason I didn't hit the "post" button.

Instead, I walked away and ate breakfast. As I was eating breakfast, I pondered the post that I had just written. I wondered if it really said what I wanted to say, or if it was part whining, part defending, and part describing.

So I sat back down to the computer, I deleted the entire thing. And started again.

What do I want my boys to learn about contentment? I think of contentment as not only being happy with what you have, but BEING happy that you have what you NEED. Contentment comes from knowing that you will have what you need when you need it, not wanting what everyone else already has. Not believing that "if I just have this one more thing THEN I will be happy."

NEEDS vs. WANTS

It can be a difficult concept.

When Steve and I were first married, we heard something once (I don't remember where now but I bet Steve does) that before you buy anything, you should ask yourself three questions...
Do I need it?
Do I want it?
Can I live without it?

The answers to these three questions help you to determine if the purchase is a wise one. And through the years we have used these three questions with different answers depending on the purchase.

Does this mean that they are not allowed to want things? I guess that depends on how you handle that desire. The kids often see other kids who have bigger something or more of something or something that we will not allow them to have. And both of them speak up about it. I know that they don't have a lot of things because of less than wise financial decisions that I made for our family. But the question also comes, would I get all of the things they want, even if I financially could? I'm not sure. We all want our kids to be happy and the modern world tries to convince us that kids need STUFF to be happy.

What I learned over the last six months was that our needs really are very few. We need food to eat. This has been in varying degrees met but the boys have never gone hungry, even if they do eat way too many processed foods since they're less expensive. They need clothing that fits. It doesn't mean they need the newest trends. When Noah recently grew out of pretty much every piece of clothing he had, his needs were met by a trip to the clearance racks at the mall. It may not have been the shirts he wanted, but he has the clothes he needs. We need a home. We came so incredibly close a few months ago to NOT having that shelter anymore that my wants and needs are now the same. I want to keep the house that we need. They are one in the same. I really don't want anything else. I want to meet my children's needs. I want a job in order to meet my family's needs.

I am working so hard to meet my children's needs right now that when the morning started with a wanting tantrum, I became very disheartened. We sat down with our devotional to discuss contentment and by the time the car pool mom pulled into the driveway, there were apologies, tears, and extra hugs before the boys headed out the door.

But now I sit here reading through my second version of my contentment post this morning and I wonder if I am displaying contentment enough to my kids. If I am, why would my kids still feel discontent? Am I showing enough appreciation that our needs are met or am I displaying unnecessary wants in front of them?

Is it normal for kids to want what other kids have? I suppose so. But I want to help them to be content with their needs being met. And as they get older I can encourage them to make smarter choices as they enter adulthood than I did. Then they won't have to go through this with their own children. They'll be able to make their own decisions about what they feel are wants vs. needs for their own families.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chicago Math and Mulitplication

I was first introduced to Chicago Math (Everyday Mathmatics) in 1996 when I was student teaching in a first grade classroom. I thought it was a great program and was fun. I didn't understand why so many kids struggled with it. But at the same time, I am a true GEEK who has always loved math. But I just saw how it encouraged higher order thinking rather than straight regurgitation of facts and always loved that.

Fast forward a few years (okay, more than a few) to Noah starting school. His school uses Chicago Math and I was amazed at some of the things he was bringing home in kindergarten that they were doing. And I was even MORE amazed that he was understanding them. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it is a math program that uses lots of manipulatives, but also out of the box thinking. Where most math programs are pretty much straight "Learn the facts, memorize them and repeat them back", Chicago Math makes you apply the facts to problems in different contexts and encourages thinking beyond fact recollection.

As the years went on, he came home in first grade learning fractions and second grade doing geometry. As amazed as I was, he was able to do it and I figured that it was better that they learn it now before they realize it is hard.

Now that he is in third grade, I am finding my first "concern" about Chicago Math. It is in the form of multiplication. I completely understand the reason that they are teaching it this way. They are teaching math families of multiplication and division together. Completely reasonable and totally makes sense. The only problem is, it doesn't seem that Noah is learning multiplication tables. He stops to "figure out' the answer when I ask him a problem, rather than memorizing the facts.

The child does not seem to believe me that EVERY adult he knows had to spend time at his age memorizing these facts. When I say, "let's work on memorizing your times tables", I am met with full fledged temper tantrums.

I must pause here to say that the child has straight A's in every subject this year and with the semester ending next week, it looks as if he will have a straight A semester. So in all actuality, I have no basis for complaint whatsoever. The teachers are doing a remarkable job and he is learning at a very fast pace.

But still...

He brings home these "Mad Minutes" which are the equivalent of the timed multiplication tests that we had as kids. And he has pretty much the same 3 or 4 problems wrong every week.

So I decided that I would wage war on multiplication and figure out ways to have him learn his multiplication tables. I bought flashcards and told him that we were going to spend a meager five minutes every night practicing a few. He still threw a fit.

So then I decided to try another idea. Each day he has a perfect behavior day at school, we will NOT do multiplication. I figured since he generally flips his card at least two or three days a week, it was a simple way to MAKE him practice.

Instead, the stinker is in his second perfect week of behavior at school. I am not sure if it's because he is determined to NOT practice multiplication or because he's growing up (or a combination of the two) but I found it was time for drastic measures.

So this morning as I was making breakfast I had an idea. I know everyone else probably has nice kids who get along in the morning but not here in the Wheelz home. I am not sure why but the breakfast table is a battle between the boys every morning. So I have started putting boxes of cereal between them in the morning. It stops the "Mommy, he's making a face at me" fights. Yes, I know it is sad that I have to do that, but anything for a peaceful morning. And I have lots of memories of my brother and me doing the same thing as we were growing up. We even played alphabet games while we were eating. (Of course, he ALWAYS won, but that's a different story)

So today I got another idea. I went to the computer and typed up several problems that he seems to consistently get wrong. I printed them out and taped them to one of his boxes. Am I really dense enough to think that he's actually learning them? No, of course not. But you never know.



As for Aaron, Chicago Math will be a challenge. But that is a story for another day. But I do have to say, that the few problems that I HAVE managed to teach Noah, little brother has learned them too and is shouting the answers right along with him. Memorizing is Aaron's strength.

Does anyone else have fun ideas for memorizing multiplication tables? I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

First Week and Weekend of 2011

Monday morning again. We've had one week back into life again after Christmas vacation. Christmas vacation brought illness galore, weariness beyond belief, and bickering amongst the entire Wheelz Crew. I wondered how things would go this first week back to school. And life. For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised.

School last week
It was an interesting week. Noah had lost his DS because of behavior about a month before school got out for Christmas. I told him he could have it back when he had a perfect week of behavior at school. And I continued to remind him that he would probably get DS games for Christmas and not be able to play them if he didn't get his act together. Needless to say, that's exactly what happened. He got a new game he wanted and was unable to play it. So the first week back to school for Noah was a lesson in good behavior. He worked SO hard. He got his act together even with things other than PB&J for breakfast. And he did indeed have a perfect week. Now that he knows he can do it, I hope that means he will continue. I have faith in him. He's been so helpful and cheerful and it is nice to have my nice little boy back for awhile.

The first week back with Aaron was kind of another story. He is not getting in trouble for behavior. But he is starting to show more signs of the same learning disability type of issues that Steve had when he was growing up in school. I will not go into details here. I need to state again how incredibly wonderful his teacher is. I love her so much and if we have another year with her next year, it will only be to Aaron's benefit. She has been so good about sharing her thoughts and listening to mine. I am confident that Aaron is in the best place for him at this time. Meanwhile, the little smarty pants has been lurking while I have been testing Noah on his multiplication problems and has managed to learn them quicker than his older brother. Therefore, Noah is working harder to memorize him ion order to not be shown up by his six year old brother. Pretty funny.

Scouts Again
We started our new scout pack last week. The boys have different dens in different locations at the same time on Tuesday nights. I managed to get my piano teaching schedule rearranged so that Steve and I can both be with a child every week during den meetings. I think this alone will solve some of the frustration that Noah had from the old pack. Aaron is SO excited to be a scout now that he wears his Tiger hat constantly and wants to do scouts every day. I am not sure how I am going to finance this endeavor yet but I will have to figure it out.

The kids were in a pretty good mood all weekend which was nice. They had a babysitter first thing Saturday morning since I had an audition to play for and Steve was working. My kids LOVE babysitters. It was not the one they had expected since there was an unexpected death in our old church on Friday that kind of threw a lot of people for a loop, including myself. So our planned sitter was busy but her sister came and the kids had a blast. By the time I got home, Aaron was begging me to leave again so M could stay. When Steve got home, we headed out to a new sledding hill and we had a great time. That evening we settled in for movie night. We loved Nanny McPhee.

Sunday was the first time that I made it back to church with the family since I started the evil 3rd shift job in November (other than Christmas Eve). During those weeks, Steve took the boys to church each Sunday morning while I was sleeping after working every single Saturday night. It was so nice to finally get back. I love to see how happy the boys are each week when they come out of class. And Noah got to take his new bible and was thrilled when the teacher picked HIS bible to read the story.

The afternoon was lazy. We had planned to go over to Deb's to go sledding on their hill, but we just never seemed to get our act together and did pretty much nothing. In the hopes of trying to spend less, we dumped our cable and started Netflix so the evening was spent watching yet another family movie. This one was pretty funny because Aaron has been begging for Willie Wonka (the old one) forever even though Steve and I both thought it was one of the weirdest movies we have ever seen. What Steve didn't know though was just how well I knew this movie. I didn't realize it either. Each time a song came on, even though it's been three decades at least since I saw this movie, I found myself singing along each of the songs. It was pretty amusing. Noah enjoyed it because his class just finished reading the book.

It is my second week of not working the second job and financially it is already starting to take its toll. This waiting to start working is so difficult, but at the same time, after having another relaxed morning getting the kids off to school, rather than an over tired, nasty mom trying to push the kids to get ready makes me glad that that my job was not extended. It is definitely a win/lose situation. And as much as I am worried about subbing, I wish I was starting sooner in order to start contributing my share to this household and not panic if I have to go buy cat food on a Sunday night.

The Week Ahead
This week is going to be about squeezing blood from a lemon. I need to find money for scout enrollment for both boys, scout uniform for Aaron, fingerprinting for subbing, and a vet visit for numerous Lily issues. UGH!! At least I have symphony chorus starting back up tonight, which I love. Two hours for myself is very nice.

It's so very cold outside, which makes me want to curl up under a blanket until Spring. But yesterday's message at church was all about Discipline and it spoke to my heart, so I will go take the dog out, do some Wii exercise, take my shower, and then start my "chores" for the day. As a matter of fact, I plan to write a post about this new series at church soon. One of the things Pastor Brad spoke about yesterday was being accountable to someone about your discipline. Even if no one reads this blog, I still feel that I will be more accountable if I put it in writing. At least I'm gonna try. THIS is my year to better myself.

Have a good week :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tackle It Tuesday: Laundry Chute

The kids have a new toy. It's not something that was given to them wrapped in pretty paper Christmas morning.

It's a hole.

In the floor.

Yup, they're favorite entertainment.

We have been in our house for eight and a half years, and struggled with very little space since. We struggle for closet space, floor space, storage space...you name it.

When the boys were babies or toddlers, their clothes were small and took up very little space. Which meant that small laundry hampers in each room worked just fine. But as the bodies grew, so did their clothes. And the heaps of clothes. And the mixture of clean vs. dirty clothes. And in the last six months, the battles have become "What is clean and what is sort of clean and what is almost dirty and what is disgusting."

I put a hamper in Noah's room but the clothes would tower over the hamper and Noah would never take the hamper downstairs to the washer. And when I took the hamper away, he just continued to throw the clothes on the floor where the hamper USED TO be. He claimed that it was MY FAULT for taking the hamper out of his room.

So the solution became, "throw your clothes down the stairs when they're dirty." At least then they would be downstairs and I could wash them as I got a chance.

New problem...Anyone who walks into the house would see gobs and gobs of dirty clothes when they walked into the house. Nice greeting huh? And also, the boys would often miss and their clothes would be scattered across the entire stairwell and hanging on hooks along the wall. Lovely to see underwear hanging next to the coats and snow pants. It's killing me that I didn't take a BEFORE picture of the underwear hanging from the hooks. It was an every day occurrence, I guarantee you.

So I started wishing out loud for a laundry chute in our house. And Steve started plotting.

This discussion had lasted over a year. Steve would keep coming up with strange ideas and want to discuss them. But honestly, I never believed he would actually act on it so I kept just blowing off the discussion.

Then a few weeks ago, he got out his trusty drill (his ONLY power tool until last weekend) and started drilling holes in the floor. After discussions with people he knew, he decided that he was going to drill a hole in the bathroom for the chute. Our very very very very very tiny bathroom. I continued to try to veto the idea but he was convinced. When I tried to negate it again, he started investigating the hallway closet. I pretty much shot that one down too, since we already have virtually NO storage in this house and he finally gave that one up.

Anyone who walks into our house knows that the kitchen in our house is HUGE in proportion to the rest of the house. So I was thrilled when Steve woke up New Year's morning and declared the exact spot in the kitchen where he decided THAT VERY DAY that he was going make a hole.

Problem...no tools. Now, my hubby is an almost 40 something man who desires to do lots of "manly" projects but lacks the tools. He has complained many many times over the years that he should have power tools and doesn't. So I wasn't too surprised when he said he was going to go to the store to "investigate laundry chute costs" and came home with a reciprocating saw that he found on sale. He actually has said that the reason he hasn't done more around the house is lack of tools. I guess I know what every present for the next few years will have to be. Then maybe the room that was sort of re-done upstairs four years ago may get finished at some point.

He had decided that he was going to drill a hole in the floor and then BUILD something up around it. I tried to come up with an alternative. My suggestion was to buy some kind of cheap-ish pre-made cabinet and just cut out the bottom. I was very happy when he came home from his "investigation" trip with a perfect sized cabinet.

Now, New Years Day was supposed to be a fun family day watching Michigan play at the Gator Bowl and eating lots of yummy snacks. As Steve was drilling his first hole, Michigan proceeded to get its first TD very quickly. As I reported this first TD, Steve was fighting with his saw and Noah was parked in the hallway in observance of Daddy drilling into the floor.



As the game progressed, things were looking more and more bleak and by halftime, I gave up and set the boys up with their snack trays in the living room and let them watch a movie. (I guess the only reassurance was that MSU was getting their bottoms kicked on another station at the same time...yeah, just a little bit of rivalry here in Michigan)




By that point, the hole had been achieved and the next step came. How in the world are we going to attach this cabinet to the floor/wall to ensure safety for children and animals? Luckily, by this time, Steve was actually listening to my ideas as well as sharing his own. I felt like we were finally working together to figure this project out.

We came up with the idea of plywood to guide it down. And Steve really did a very good job following through with the ideas we came up with together. I am really glad that he got fed up enough with clothes on the stairs to declare that it was time to do something about it. I'm even glad he got himself another tool to build his collection. Every man needs tools!

I think the actual construction only took around three hours. No question, the investigation and planning was much more lengthy than the actual construction. I still need to stain the inside to ensure waterproof protection from wet laundry and stain the the outside to match the kitchen. But the chute is absolutely functional.

And the boys (all three of them) were thrilled to present the new hole in the floor.

And guess what? There are NO dirty clothes on anyone's floor.

Not even mine.

A tackle well worth it!

Happy New Year!

I struggled with whether to share our New Year's Day activities today as a new year's post or tomorrow as a Tackle It Tuesday. Tomorrow wins so stay tuned tomorrow for the adventures of drilling holes in our floor.

But for today, I will just say that it is the third day of the new year. I am feeling hopeful for this year. It's about four hours after I sent two boys back to school, neither of whom was happy to be going unfortunately. I also have a few lingering Christmas decorations lying around. I have laundry piled up (although not at the bottom of the stairs anymore (see tomorrow), and so many other things that have been neglected during my stint as a third shifter.

And I am surprisingly content. Oh, there are plenty of reason to NOT be. I have no job now and no way to pay bills, but that will hopefully change at the end of the month when I start subbing. I have a ton of things that need to purchased with very little money to do so. But I know after last year that I will get by getting what I need when I need to. I am amazed at how much more relaxed I was this weekend knowing that I didn't have to go into work each night. I didn't realize how stressful that had become until it was no longer there.

As for New Year's Eve, we did nothing. It seems as if most of my FB friends allowed their kids to stay up (or try to stay up) until midnight. It makes me look like a pretty big heel that our boys still went to bed at normal time. But unlike past years, Steve and I actually made it to midnight. And we decided that next year will be the year to try it with the boys.

But we still got annoying noisemakers and hats for the kids. We watched Pirates Who Don't Do Anything and the kids rocked it out with the Rock Monster at the end.

And then yesterday, we did our ONLY family activity of the entire Christmas vacation and went to Kalamazoo for a visit to the public museum that the boys like. Afterward, we drove around our alma mater and showed the boys numerous places where Steve and I had lived, where we worked, where we met and "fell in love" and even the church where we got married. We were amazed to see how much the campus has changed and then we realized that it has been 14 years since we were last students there. Afterward, we had dinner at Noodles and came home.

So sending the boys off to school today was interesting, They actually did okay mood-wise and they both have intentions of being well behaved today (I guess we'll see) and I am sitting here, still in pajamas, figuring out which of my list to tackle today.

Or maybe I won't tackle anything. I have three weeks left of nothingness. Maybe I'll start getting things done tomorrow.

Either way, Happy 2011, a year that holds possibilities beyond my imagination.