“A Day” for a hard-working Mom

In the beginning of the movie “Shrek 4-ever”, Shrek was in a rut.  He needed “a day” for himself, away from his normal routine and everyday cares and chores.  He cut a deal with Rumplestiltskin where he could have a day all to himself to do whatever he wanted and be the old ogre he was, without any other cares in the world.

We all need that sometimes.  Even SuperMoms.

Last week Robyn got one of those days as a Christmas gift, which was nice since she could schedule it ahead of time and we all could prepare for it.  She ‘disappeared’ for a day, taking her Bible and her laptop with her, and we managed as if she were away on a business trip.

The kids did remarkably well.  Realizing Dad was at the helm, and it was ‘crunch time’, they buckled down and we did splendidly.  We started out waking up–check.  After that it went sort of like so:

  • Get your body out of bed and get down stairs
  • Eat breakfast
  • Get dressed
  • Brush your teeth if you’ve got em.
  • Four teams were made with one ‘big one’ and one ‘little one’ on each (and little Nick was a bonus helper for a team).  Each team had to clean one easy room (warm up), one challenging room, and one bathroom.  I am not sure how many bathrooms actually were touched but that was the plan.  The teams were carefully crafted by Dad based on personality mixes, and the rooms were in ship shape in no time.
  • Go down to the basement with school books.  We cleaned a little, did a little schoolwork.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  About a hundred times until all the Barbie stuff, LEGOs and various random implements of destruction were picked up and put away.  All homework was completed and Dad checked it over (which is an amazing feat in itself).  It helped that no one was able to go upstairs until it was all done.  And mercifully, we have a bathroom in the basement.

We had a break at about 12:30 – 2 PM for lunch.  Leftovers and pizza rolls are a blessing for Dads.

Afternoon was broken up for different groups:

  • big kids got computer time from 2-4:30PM,
  • medium and little guys got to play board games with Daddy,
  • help fold laundry (we were Mommy’s Laundry Fairies and blasted through 5 or 6 loads throughout the day***see my blog regarding “Thoughts on Laundry” coming up soon),
  • watched TV a while
  • Daddy had a 15 minute nap to recharge his batteries, accompanied by his littlest daughter.
Christmas Kids_a Moms Day away

Christmas Kids_a Moms Day away

Then it was up for dinner, then kitchen chores, and “1-2-3”, which means “jammies on, brush teeth, and use the potty”.  Finally Daddy read some stories to the little ones, we said prayers and they went to bed.

Mommy came home to a spotless house, sleeping children, and one tired but appreciative husband.



Traveling with Children: Managing Expectations

(Blog post by Dave)

I tend to be a typical engineering-type, detail oriented person when it comes to traveling, while Robyn and her family are more laid back about plans.  This includes times, dates, places, etc.  They are much more flexible and last-minute in their social planning.

Type A plannerFor several years, this bothered me, with my New-England upbringing.  I was used to calling ahead, planning ahead, etc.  It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I tried a new approach that has saved me much internal anguish.  When it comes to planning the part of the trip where we visit Robyn’s home town and meet her friends and relatives, I don’t ask for the itinerary or for any details.  I let Robyn do the planning and take it all as a surprise as it comes.

This way I don’t stress about getting to what I would have considered ‘appointments’, and if a time or place changes, or if we wind up not meeting up with someone she had originally planned to meet I am not upset.

This point was driven home to me on this trip when Robyn had mentioned ahead of time might meet up with some cousins, but their plans had changed, so we couldn’t meet them.  My oldest son, with a somewhat driven personality similar to mine, was very upset that we didn’t get to see them because it failed to meet his expectations of what was going to happen.

It helped me to verbalize my own situation and coping mechanism to him, so both of us could solidify how we should avoid building expectations based on tentative plans.  We both are learning to roll with the changes.

At the same time, I pointed out to him to notice his own reaction and think of how to apply that to business.  Wouldn’t he think a customer would be upset if he created an expectation in that person and then failed to meet or exceed that expectation..

Travel With Children…On the road again: 7 states + DC, 9 children, 2 adults one van, 27 days!

We are embarking on a major journey with our children that will last 27 days.  We will be visiting family and friends, as well as visiting many historic sites along the Eastern US as a culmination of studying 2 years of American History with the children.Travel with children-in the van

We will pack 9 children and 2 adults, with enough clothing, supplies, and provisions for 4 weeks into our “Connestoga wagon”:  an 11-passenger Ford E-350 XLT extended conversion van.

We will be starting from Charlotte, NC and traveling North.  Many stops have historic significance, and several are significant for visiting family.  Our itinerary will include the follow ing:

Virginia:  Richmond, Jamestown, Gloucester (birthplace of Pocahontas; Robyn’s hometown)

Pennsylvania:  Gettysburg, Mount Joy (staying on a working farm) and Amish Country

Massachusettes:  Old Sturbridge Village, Boston, Lexington and Concord, North Andover, Plymouth

Connecticut:  New Haven, Trumbull (Dave’s hometown)

New York:  New York City, Scarsdale, Blauvelt

Maryland/Washington DC:  DC, Owen Mills

back to Virginia:  Fredericksburg, Richmond, Gloucester

return to Charlotte, NC.

There is no guarantee we’ll be able to make all those sites, but that is our game plan.  If things get rough we’ll scale back a bit.

We will keep you all posted of our progress.  Our blog will not be real-time, however, in order to give us time to be with family and not have to stress about publishing in too timely a fashion.  Who knows, by the time these get published we may be home already..

Traveling with kids: Planning our Road Trip

Washington_Crossing_Deleware-public domain imageI love to travel.  I like visiting with friends and family, meeting new people, seeing new things and just the general thrill of doing something different – broadening my horizons.  I even like traveling with the kids.  Yes, it is a lot of work, but you know…it is a lot of work at home too!  At least when I travel, I get to visit lots of cool places while I work!

We are currently on a BIG road trip.  We are traveling in our van for a month long sojourn along the East Coast.  We are visiting family and friends and lots of American History sites.  Homeschooling gives us the great advantage of being able to travel like this – what a cool ending to our two years of American History studies. Paine_Thomas-public domain image

I will be posting more about how we do it, how I pack for a month long trip, how we travel with 9 children, how we visit major sites, what we do and how it works with so many little ones.   This post is about the planning.

I probably started mentally preparing and planning the trip about 2 months in advance.  Thinking about the people that we wanted to see and the main sites that I didn’t want to miss.  I did not do anything formal, just started putting things together in my mind (while I was doing the laundry!). Jefferson_Thomas public domain image

I was thinking about the ages of the kids, especially Nicholas, and what capabilities and sleeping patterns they would be at.  These are critical points to consider for how the trip would go.  How would each child be sleeping, how much walking could they do (especially the 2 -4 year olds), and how would everyone be eating.  Again, most of the concerns would involve the baby and the littlest ones. Washington_portrait_on_horseback-public domain image

 Based on those thoughts, I decided to make sure that we did not encourage Nicholas (9months old now) to crawl, that I should start him on bits of table foods (so he could “last a little longer” on a drive or busy day), and that I would not get him overly settled into a daily nap routine.    A quick note about crawling babies: if avoidable, you do not want to travel with a crawling baby, you never know what is on the floors you will be visiting and a crawling baby has a taste for self mobility that really makes him/her intolerant of inactivity.   So, if I could keep Nicholas from learning to crawl and get him feeding himself crackers or biter biscuits (and hopefully taking a sippy cup) all would be golden for him and the timing of the trip.Bunker_Hill public domain image

My thoughts and plans then lingered to the smaller children, how would things look for them and what could I do to make anything better.  Main thing – put off potty training…diapers are great for trips!  I would even consider putting my 3 year old back into diapers, actually all of them back into diapers!  There is nothing that can fluster me faster than everyone or some of them having to go to the potty at a bad time! Gettysburg_Address public domain image

We then started working on drinking from a regular cup and sitting in regular chairs (for those times that we would be visiting with people that did not have “toddler friendly” ware.  Of course, I also planned to bring some travel sippy cups, but I like to be ready for anything! 

For all the kids, I started working hard on manners and general obediance.  I tell the kids often that if they want to do fun stuff, they have to obey.  We can’t go places and do things if they are not able to do what we tell them to do.  I can’t even imagine how awful it would be if they all were routinely disobediant and didn’t follow our requests.  We would definitely not be able to safely go places.General_Stonewall_Jackson public domain image

I also started talking to the kids about eating different foods and how to avoid some embarrassing situations (topics, questions, etc.)

About a month before the trip, I really started looking at the dates and pulling the schedule together.  We started notifying friends and family and figuring out who would be available for visiting.Robert_Edward_Lee public domain image

To be continued…..

That’s Hilarious: The Cranked up Kid’s Schedule

Well, we cranked up the schedule thing this week.

Monday morning, with much enthusiasm, the three older kids made out their new schedule.  Lines were carefully drawn, spaces were calculated, days were inscribed and the layouts were completed.

To-Do ListThen came the fill-in-the-blanks!  I had to quickly pull in the reins and pop a few bubbles as I sequestered a few of those potential-filled spaces.  I mean, really, life for a 7, 8 & 10 year old is not meant to be all free space – there are rules, guidelines and pre-scheduled events that only a dutiful mommy has dominion to control!

So, they filled in the “required” slots and then went gleefully on – filling their daily lives with all the stuff that they love to do (plus the things that I had on the list of must-have events!)  The whole process took them about two hours, with the youngest finally opting to fill in the final spaces of his day as each day came along this week.

I have to say that this 2 hour process totally interrupted MY schedule for our Monday!  I had to work hard to maintain my smile and my perspective on the significance of the project.

I wish I could say that the rest of the day and the 2 days to follow were beautifully orchestrated, but alas…not the case at all!

This is what I have heard bellowed and with much trepidation

”But, that is not on my schedule!”…

”I can’t do THAT now, it is not on my list!”…

”No, I did not get that done, it is not on my schedule until after I do ‘something else’”.

I feel like I am living with 3 Toads from Frog & Toad (The List story!)

Arnold Lobel's "Frog and Toad"The ultimate schedule conflict revealed itself when the babysitter walked in the door at 10:30am and my son said “Miss Katie – you need to fix our lunch now”  (I wish that I could write that he said “Could you please fix our lunch now”, because that is how we have taught him 8000 times to say things!!! Aagh!)

Again, it was 10:30am, and being bombarded with the idea of feeding our crew as soon as you walk in the door is not a happy thought.  It is often said around here that if we just didn’t have to feed them, it would be a lot easier to take care of them!

Miss Katie calmly tried to assure my son that it was too early for lunch, to which he insistently replied that it WAS lunch time…because….that was the next thing on his schedule!  And, truth be told, he wanted to get on to the next event that came after lunch, which was his favorite computer game time.  He was totally working his schedule and had a plan to follow!

Needless to say, we have had to regroup a few times and explain that these schedules are meant to be tweaked – that is why we used the pencils not the pretty markers or pens.  So, this week, we will continue with the schedules as they are written, flushing out the stuff that doesn’t work and tweaking what does.

And maybe, in another few weeks, I will have the mental capacity to add the medium children into the mix…and the little ones, well maybe by the time I have the “capacity”, they will be medium ones!

NOTE: Sorry that I have not had many pictures with my blogs lately (I know that it is a sort-of blog faux pas), it has something to do with technical difficulties and the timing of the day (11pm to 1am) that I find to blog!  I am hoping to just post a bunch of pictures at the end of this week!  You can choose which ones work best with which blogs!.

How I Do It…Our Current Daily Schedule.

As I mentioned yesterday, my current schedule is fairly simple and easy for us to follow.  There is enough “fluff” in there to allow for the many interruptions and alterations that occur everyday.  There is also not too many specifics, unmet expectations are just too depressing!  As we get more used to our daily schedule, I will add more variety and specific activities for free play and work.  The kids are also chomping at the bit to make their own schedules.  When that happens, they get to flex any of the activities that do not involve the whole family or my teaching.  They really enjoy putting in all the extra stuff that I just bundle into free time.

With that said…here it is!

Mom up (6 or 6:30)& get ready, feed baby, devotions, check various messages

Kids up (7 or 7:30), eat, dress, brush teeth / Bible

School – Grammar, ABC’s, Reading


School- Spelling  / Mom – laundry (while reading out spelling words, kids sit on laundry floor)

Free Play / Mom work

School – History, Reading

12:00ish Lunch / Check emails

Naps / School – math / Mom – research, blog, work

School – writing / Mom – work, phone calls

Practice Piano

Finish extra/unfinished schoolwork

Free play / Mom – work


General house pick-up / Finalize Mom work

Free play / Dinner prep / baths

6:00pm (ish) Dinner


7:30pm Little ones to bed / Big ones reading

8:30pm All kid’s lights out

To Do List, courtesy of pdphoto.org

In the evenings, I usually catch up on personal emails, more work, time with my husband, and then I turn into the fairy that does the laundry and other various house tasks!

Note:  Photo courtesy of pdphoto.org.