Operation Get Back The Weekend

So apparently I’m not the only one who regularly ends up spending weekends in a way other than they were intended.  Operation Get Back the Weekend won the most votes in my poll, so here we are.

Chica has a slight obsession with the days of the weeks.  She always asks what day it is and then proceeds to tell you the special event that occurs on that day.  Today is Wednesday, so she happily exclaimed this morning, “It’s choir day!”  Many months back we started referring to Saturday as Family Day, trying to explain to her the reason that we didn’t go to school.  The interesting thing is that Saturday has seemed to morph into Sit And Watch Movies All Day Day because Mommy has so much school work to do.

I’m over that.  Really over it.

So I decided for about the 59th time in my career as a teacher that I was going to try to tackle my grading a little at a time each night instead of saving it all for the weekend.  I realized this weekend that my new assignment as a math and science teacher makes this much more doable than my gig last year as a reading and social studies teacher.  The grading is considerably faster, and there are less project-ish types of assignments that take all week to complete.  Also, it’s super helpful to find on Monday that a kid is having a problem with a specific math skill instead of waiting until Saturday or Sunday to discover they’ve practiced it wrong all week.

So I’m three nights in.

Monday:  No problem.  There was no homework to check through, so I think I was done in 30 minutes or so.  I plopped down on the couch after I was all finished just oh-so-proud of myself.  I think I probably bragged to Jay three or four times in the ten minutes before I fell asleep, “Oh man….I’m so excited.  I got all my papers graded.   Oh man.  This was such a great idea.”  He’s a good sport.

Tuesday:  I did it, but it wasn’t pretty.  There was an assignment that we had been taking an eternity to finish. I decided that I would grade it as-is and then give it back to them to finish and correct….and I told them that.  So, I had to follow through with grading those plus the regular stuff.  I decided at about 10:30 when I was falling asleep with the checking pen in hand that it was time to call it a night.  I did finish them today in a few spare moments at school.  Two days in a row with all papers graded.  That is totally some kind of record.  I’m not even kidding.

Wednesday:  I haven’t started.  But I so want this to work, and I so want to spend my weekend with my family instead of my grade book, so I’m headed to the dining room table next, pep talking myself the whole way there.

This self discipline thing is funny.  I was thinking today that if I was a researcher, I would try to prove that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of creativity and the amount of self discipline that people have.  I just think that creativity gets in the way of self discipline AND self discipline can get in the way of creativity.  (Woah…that was deep for 10:02…and I hadn’t even planned that one ahead of time.)

I am really good at coming up with ideas of how to make something work better in my life.  And more times than not, that better solution involves me doing work regularly instead of all at once when it’s way too late.   But I almost never stick to my fantastic plan, and I end up right back where I started, plus just a little more frustrated with myself.  Here’s to hoping that papers every night….or even most nights….might become part of my routine and not just a wish.  I keep coming back to dishes and bath time.  I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit it, but a year ago dishes and a bath for Chica were not part of our nightly routine.  They happened when they happened….which usually was every two or three nights.  When Bubba came along, though, Jay and I decided together that this “whenever” plan wasn’t really going to work.  We did it.  We came up with a new plan, and we actually stuck to it.  Now the dishwasher runs every school night.  Every. Single. Night.  I realize that’s truly no big deal for most families.  Fine.  But that was big stuff for us.   And it gives me hope that my newest plan could actually go somewhere.

So I promised in my last post a few tips on how to appreciate your child’s teacher.  It’s related.  Stick with me.

Last weekend when I was actually managing to enjoy a little family time before the grading marathon began, I ran into one of my students and his family.  His mom, who works at another school in the city, thanked me for the effort that I put into giving feedback on their papers.  Be still my heart.  (Sheesh…am I actually tearing up recalling this moment?)  Sometimes I feel guilty for spending so much time on school work away from my family, and at the same time I manage to feel guilty for not doing enough as a teacher.  Ridiculous.  Her comment pushed all those feelings aside.  Instead I felt relief and appreciated.

So if your kid has a teacher that is doing something right…anything…will you tell her?  If you don’t get a chance to see her, maybe you could jot it in a note.  This week I got a, “I have to leave early to go to the dentist” note from a dad that started with a super eloquent sentence of thanks.  Just awesome.  If you don’t have time for that, how about one just okay sentence on the back of an old receipt?  Anything…anything…I tell you is worth it to a teacher.

Ok…I’m off my soap box now.  On to the papers.

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Undone

So I took a few tiny steps towards rearranging today.  I was feeling hesitant to record them here.   At the same time that I was worried about tooting my own horn, I also worried that the steps would seem too small and insignificant.  How is it even possible to worry about those things at the same time?  Yet here I am, hoping that my moments may resonate with someone else in the same big ocean liner.  (Thanks, Hope.)

This morning Bubba woke up at 4:30 a.m., and Chica wasn’t far behind.   Needless to say, we were ready to go way before I could actually drop Bubba off at school.  Chica was busy giving some kind of animal a bath in a Frisbee, and Bubba was doing what nine month olds do best—dumping every single toy out of the nearest basket.  With three minutes remaining before the time to head out the door, I sat down to read something…anything.  I landed on this.  I prayed for my day to be calmed in the same way.  (Since I’m letting it all hang out, though, I must add that Chica interrupted my attempted moment of calming at least five times.  “Moooooom.  I need…..”  Argh.  There was an awful lot of huffing and puffing and head buried in my hands for a supposedly calm moment.)

I left school today at 4:45.  See, when you write a blog and then share it with your friends, you can’t hide anymore.   About 4:15 a school friend lets on that she read my early morning thoughts.  “I read your post.  Go home and be with your family.”  Thanks for the reminder, friend.  I managed to leave a clean room at a reasonable time….30 minutes before I am usually rushing out the door.  The most interesting part is that I don’t think I accomplished any less after school than the days that I stay until 5:15.  How does that work?

I’m realizing in this new arrangement that I’m going to have to accept a greater degree of undone in my days.  I want to learn to be okay with that.  Why not start now?  I’m going to leave this post undone…without a perfect ending… in exchange for a few minutes to hang out with Jay.  Night.

Rearrange

This is the order of my life:  Job, Kids, House, Jay, God.

This is the order in which I spend my time and brain power.  My best goes to school each day, and what’s left over is spread out over the rest of the list.

I’m thinking this should be the order of my life:  God, Jay, Kids, Job & House.

My stomach is turning just writing this.  I’ve known I’ve needed to write this (and do this) for a while now, but I keep putting it off out of fear.  Fear of how life might look different if I actually make a change.  Or fear that I might write it and still fail big time for everyone to see.

I know I can’t flip something upside down in a day or a week that took seven or eight years (or more) to arrange.  But I decided this morning that I can make just one change today.  I can find one moment where my brain fools me about what is important and spend my time on something more towards the top of the list.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Chica and Bubba’s Mom

I have hit the inevitable point in adulthood where I am no longer Mrs. Somebody but Somebody’s Mom.  When I pick Chica up from school, this is how her friends (and even teachers, sometimes) refer to me.  I expected to find this annoying, but I think I actually like it these days.

This summer I sat out to fall whole-heartedly into the role of Chica and Bubba’s mom.  I purposely passed up lots of super-fun sounding professional development type opportunities in order to develop the relationship with my kids and sharpen my mommying skills.  Many thanks to Jay who politely forbid me to take on any more projects ’round about April.  He had seen the toll that six semesters of masters classes in a row had taken on our family and my sanity.  His ban on anything extracurricular definitely made it easier to say no each time.

The first few days of my new role as a short-term SAHM were quite messy.  There was little napping, fair amounts of yelling, and lots of self-pitying.  About halfway through, though, I began to get into the tiniest bit of a rhythm and routine.  (When I say tiny, I mean like finally found a time to take a shower.)  When I was tempted to whine and construct all sorts of negative Facebook statuses in my head, I tried to remind myself just how blessed I am to have the time to spend at home.  Having to beg a four-year old for the hundredth time to eat her lunch does in fact trump even the best lunch duty with 150. I’ve spent the last few weeks fully focused on being Mom and learning to love it.  There have been lots of cool moments…


One afternoon she played happily for a good hour with just a bucket of beans and some egg crates.  Who needs expensive toys?


Another evening she experimented with sinking and floating objects.  We’ve been talking about these ideas ever since.

Well, then life happened.  A huge unexpected windstorm came through our city and knocked out the power on Friday night.  We had a big limb fall in our yard and knock the phone and cable lines off of the house.  We relocated to Nana and Papa’s house because I’m not sure my kids would have survived my grumpiness in an un-airconditioned house paired with 100 degree weather.  Yesterday was day four of no power, but it has thankfully now been restored.


Dad cut, I hauled the big stuff, Chica carried the little limbs, and Bubba watched from his pack-n-play.  Thankfully we had very little to clean up…plenty of families had much worse!

While at Nana’s house I had a welcomed chance to step back from the role of All Mommy-All the Time.  I spent time making greeting cards in Nana’s basement for a friend’s fund-raising raffle.  I stayed up WAY too late working on this project, but it was SO worth it.  I have such a great feeling of accomplishment when I take time of my own to create.  Being a mom is so fulfilling, but this night reminded me that I must carve out time for myself too.

I set out this summer to be a better mom to Chica and Bubba.  Among plenty of other things, I want both of them to grow up to be creative people who use their gifts for both work and fun.  If I want that for them, then I must of course model it.

This mom thing takes an incredible amount of balance, and I don’t expect anyone can ever get it completely right.  But here’s to hoping this summer affords me time to find balance in even the tiniest form.