Friday, September 10, 2021

Welcome to KTU (I guess we're homeschoolers now.)

I wonder when the morning buses going by will stop making me sad.

You know what the kicker is? My kids never rode them. Aside from the occasional field trip, they just weren't bus kids. First because I was neurotic and couldn't believe that my car-seat sitting Kindergarteners were just supposed to slide into big benches on a long tin can with wheels. But then it was because I saw how long it took for the buses to reach our unfortunate "last stop before the depot" location. Rather than have them take a daily tour of our town while their homework sat undone in their backpacks, I picked my boys up each day so we could spend that time burning energy on the playground. It was also my chance to speak to other adults for five minutes.

Homeschooling Mom thoughts.I didn't particularly like being my own sort of bus driver - my day bookended by trips through annoying car lines, interrupting whatever project I had going on at home. But I did like to toss them a final "I love you" at the last possible second before they started their day. And I loved to see their excited, smiling faces as they raced towards me at dismissal. 

And maybe it's those things I'm really missing when the buses whiz by. The buses were always there while I did my taxiing, of course. I guess they've become big, diesel-scented, banana hued reminders of all that my kids are missing out on.

There's always this moment on the last day of school where the buses drive around in a loop in the parking lot, honking their horns, little hands waving out of all of the open windows as all the teachers and staff and parents stand on the sidewalk and cheer, blow bubbles, and say goodbye to the kids for the Summer. It's stupidly emotional, and I've stood there and watched it with my kids every year. 

The year my oldest left elementary school was a particularly emotional one. It was 2019. I stood there next to the school attendance clerk (who knew us well because of said oldest son's health complications), and she looked down to my littlest who would soon be a Kindergartener and said, "this will be for you next year, right?" I have it on video because I was recording the whole ordeal. 

Turns out, it didn't happen for him the next year - because it was 2020. And it didn't happen the June after that, either. And this school year, when it happens in 2022, he won't be there to see it.

And it's stupid, and inconsequential, and I highly doubt that when my boys have grown into men and are looking back 20, 30, 40 years into their childhood - it's not going to be the last day of school bus parade that their memories land on. It's ME that those moments are special for. It's ME who is sad that such a sweet little spectacle was stolen from their school experience. But understanding that doesn't take the sadness out of the situation. Or the mild anger I have over the way life lately has just endlessly plucked this thing and that thing away from my boys' lives. 

It's only mild anger because (if I do say so myself), I'm pretty fantastic at making the proverbial lemonade. I love getting creative and making sure my kids get a memorable, celebratory experience for every holiday and milestone at our disposal. In fact, while they were certainly different and a little lonely, last year's Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were some of my favorite holidays on record. I'm not sure if my kids feel the same? But I do know they were still smiling and making memories and given everything I could possibly give them while still keeping them safe. 

I guess I just never thought that school itself would be totally removed from their lives.

I mean, okay...they still have school. Just, very different school. They now have taught-by-mom-at-the-kitchen-table school. They're not getting up early and groaning while they get their hair combed before being stuffed into coats and then cars before rushing off to greet their friends and incredible teachers. Taking the road less traveled with school. They're not a part of the community in the way they once were. They're not growing their friendships through unique daily interactions. And yeah - there are pros and cons to all of that! From the tiny bits (like not having to wear a mask all day) to the big bits (like missing out on the school events and clubs). It's just...taking a while to come to terms with it on all sides. I think more for me than for them.

Maybe because I went through the entire institution. It feels odd to me as an adult who spent ages 4-21 in classrooms Monday through Friday, navigating life as it was laid out for me. But before cracking a single book this school year, my kids were already used to swerving. They did the whole asynchronous thing at the end of 2020. Then they did the full days on a chromebook virtual thing last year. They're used to swerving. It's ME that's struggling.

My youngest told me that while he remembers what school looks like inside, he doesn't remember what it's like to do a school day. And it's the things like that that worry me. What happens if he's ready go back next year and he starts third grade with the school adjustment capabilities of a mid-year Kindergartener? What happens when my middle son jumps into middle school a year after his classmates already figured out how the whole middle school thing works? What happens to my oldest when he's gearing up for High School with friends that have moved on without him? Those are the things that keep me up at night.

But I made the homeschool decision anyway. 

My therapist reminds me that even though it was a choice, it wasn't just a "because I wanted to" thing. My hand was forced by covid. And I'm trying to see it that way, as though it really wasn't my choice, but it's hard when most parents around me scoff at the very idea of homeschool. So, so many community parents have weighed the options and the risks and came out in favor of traditional school, and at times that makes me feel crazy. Like, why didn't my calculations come out like theirs? What am I not seeing?

As a sort of meeting-in-the-middle result, I had hoped that the district would change its mind and offer a virtual program again this year. I guess I mostly wanted that so they'd stay on track with their curriculums and classmates and still get to interact with teachers in their schools. But if I'm being honest, despite our wonderful teachers, virtual school was kind of terrible. Helping my kids navigate three separate but congruent schedules was like spinning plates and juggling at the same time. And they certainly hated sitting still and staring at a screen for hours every day. Kitchen Table University In actual execution, homeschool wins over virtual school in most areas. And so far, my kids have been motivated and waking up with smiles on their faces as their bodies rather than their clocks tell them what time to stop sleeping. I've watched them taking interest in things and learning things as we explore and study and create. When I set my sadness down for a minute, I often see that this is kind of amazing.

It's just that I'm a mom. And so I want everything, all of it, every last bit for my kids. I want them to have their cake AND eat it. I want to spin plates and juggle for them. I want them to have everything they need, plus everything they want, with sprinkles on top.

So while I wait for my mind to take its sweet time with acceptance, the buses make me sad. 

I sat near the window with my coffee this morning thinking that the first day I smile and think, "suckers!" as the morning buses go by will be the day I've gotten over it. Which will still be a coping mechanism, naturally, because a part of me will always be second-hand jealous for my kids. There's no off switch for that regardless of the subject. (Believe me, I've been looking for it for nearly 13 years.)

It all is what it is, and here we are. 

We named our homeschool Kitchen Table University (KTU for short), for obvious reasons. We declared that we are the "east campus," because my best friend of nearly 30 years is also homeschooling with her kids this year and they are just a few towns to the west. Having their family take the same unbeaten path as ours has been a comfort, for sure. 

So. I guess we're homeschoolers now.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Just Weepy Virgo Birthday Things.

Today's my last day being 36.

And as I tip pretty hard into the later-part of my 30's, I can't help but think back to a conversation I had with my husband - I guess about 7 years ago now.

It was the eve of my 30th birthday, and the first day of school was looming shortly after. My oldest son was set to start Kindergarten, and my middle son was off to preschool. It felt like a lot of change and milestones all at once, and I don't know...maybe it's the Virgo or the type 4 in me, but I usually already have some sort of sad wistfulness about my birthday. There are always birthday tears. I'm not even sure why? Sentimentality? Nostalgia? Regret? I don't even know. But it was set ablaze that year.

Matt reassured me by saying, "Don't worry - I really think your 30's are going to be your favorite."

I was skeptical. It wasn't even being 30 that concerned me. It was that we'd done so much in our 20's and I just couldn't see how the rest of life could top them. We'd gotten engaged and married, had three babies, bought two houses, adopted a dog and a cat, built our family traditions and established us as being US. It was all so exciting and...big. How could anything else be my favorite?

To which he said, "Well, think about it. All of that was exciting, but it was also really hard. In your 30's you'll have everything established with all of your boys under your roof and we get to make all the memories that they'll look back on as their childhood experience."

I hadn't thought of that. In my 40's, I'll be slowly saying goodbye to them as they become adults. My oldest when I'm 42, my middle when I'm 44, and my youngest when I'm 47. I'm likely to be an empty nester by 48. Yeesh, we'll cross that bridge later.

Except, I see it coming as I round the bend here at 37. And I'm realizing it won't be very long before I have a whole set of new things to get weepy about it.

Sigh. Birthdays are such a drag, man.

Just kidding. I'm excited for the day, truly. My men excel at making me feel special and loved. I'm just over here thinking all the things and getting ready to let my birthday tears a Virgo does.

I mean, there are some other things that have been up lately - and why my posts have ghosted recently.

For example:

  • I started therapy for the first time as an adult. I used to go all the time after my parents' divorces, but I haven't hit the point of really and truly needing to reach out on my own until now. It was the frequency and intensity of panic attacks that pushed me to do it. So I'm now working with an incredibly well-paired professional on my extreme anxiety, and I hope to eventually get around to figuring out what type of neurodivergent I am. I have my suspicions.

  • We're homeschooling. Yeah...that's a big nugget. It's a whole thing. I have so much to say in another post so I'll save it, but I'll just say that I didn't exactly see this coming and I have a lot (a lot a lot a lot) of mixed feelings. Therapyyyy.

I'm over here acting like there's lots to share but those have literally been the only two things going on in my life currently. They're big ones, though. Very consuming ones. So it's all just...a lot.

Anyway, I'll be back with more on the other side of 37. Hopefully I'll be less stereotypically maudlin by then. Happy Virgo season.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A Mostly Bookish Birthday Wishlist

I know, this is frivolous, but I love making lists. 

Of anything and everything. I'm a Virgo and half of an enneagram 5, so...I literally can't help it. ;)

So even though I am an actual fully grown adult, I still like to make wishlists. And this is some of the stuff I wouldn't mind getting for my Birthday later this month!

A Book Stamp!
I don't know why it never occurred to me that this is a bookish tool I need?! I have so, so many books and I'm sometimes hesitant to lend them out in fear that I'll never get them back! At least with a stamp I can make sure my books' home will never be forgotten...and I also nerdily kind of like the idea of being my own personal librarian. I really like this one from Stamp By Me Studio on Etsy - it's a cute design, and even reminds the borrower to return the book!

An RGB Bookmark
I recently discovered Gigi and Bo on Etsy and ordered some of their Schitt's Creek bookmarks. (They just shipped yesterday, I can't wait to get them!) I really love the green bookmark - that quote has always stood out to me for obvious reasons, and I love Ruth! 

Introvert Sweatshirt
Books and introversion go together like pb & j, and I LOVE this sweatshirt! I love the off the shoulder style, I love the bird and flowers (two of my favorite things!) and the saying is so, so perfect. I just love everything about it - including that it comes from a small business with an appreciation for humor! The company is called Boredwalk and they have so many great pieces - I want so many of them!!!

Hair Pearls
I'm not sure what occasions I'd even wear these for, but I just picture them twisted into a cute bun or some braids and I think they'd be soooo cute! I live for girly little details like this, and I have no daughters so I have to play with things like this myself! haha This set of twelve is $9 on Amazon.

Hair Claw Clips
This would not be my first round with these beasts - they were all the rage when I was a teenager! I wore them pretty religiously because they were so insanely easy and I was so wildly lazy, lol. Do I want them again for the same reason? Youuuu bet. I like these neutral colors - these 4 are $10 on Amazon. 

My Book Wishlist
I want a lot of books....endlessly. I sent this list to my husband so he can pick whatever he wants for me (sometimes the surprise is the best part!), but I am really hoping to get this Autumn poems book! It just sounds like such a lovely start the day with a sweet fall poem with my morning coffee. I found it here, on Amazon. (And here is my whole book list!)

Starbucks Syrups
Ya know, the fall vibes are on their way, and I love the idea of making my own yummy drinks at home. I love a trip to Starbucks, but sometimes it's nice to just stay home and cozy (on those rainy or snowy days). I wish I could get my hands on their peppermint mocha situation (whether it's syrups or sauce...I'm not really sure), but this set would give me some good options! It's $20 on Amazon, and you can also get a pack of 4 in one flavor. 

I love a good puzzle, especially in the fall and winter. I found a lot of good ones and while I think I want the one above more than anything (don't you just want to be in that exact situation right now??) I really kind of want them all, haha. This super cozy reading puzzle is $18.50 on Amazon. Here's some of the others I'd really love to get:

Barn Dance: $18 on Amazon

Floral Map: $13.50 on Amazon

Fall Gazebo: $14 on Amazon

Christmas Carolers: $17 on Amazon

Bird Portraits: $17 on Amazon

I also have a set of stemless wineglasses on my list (my set of 4 has broken its way down to 1!) and some fall-inspired soy candles (the Opalhouse ones at Target are my favorite), but they don't seem to have them listed just yet. I love the appley and outdoorsy scents.

Have any other bookish or introverty ideas to share with me?

This post contains a few Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you! That means if you click through the things I shared from Amazon and shop, I may make a small commission. It's teeny tiny, but every little bit helps support my blog, and I am so grateful! xo

Monday, August 9, 2021

Last Minute Monday - Pt. 6

Sometimes I wish I could just shut everything out.

As a parent, though, I can't. I need to be informed and up-to-date to be able to make the best decisions for my kids. Because if we want to do better, we need to know better (and vice versa). Until they are old enough to make their own decisions and carve their own paths, I cannot bury my head in the sand. I can't ignorantly go on living my life as though nothing is amiss. (That's how we got HERE.)

But it's been really, really hard to be aware, lately.

I can't explain why things feel harder now than they did even a year ago. Maybe that's not a fair comparison - we always feel things with the most clarity in the moment, so I don't want to discredit the emotions I felt in all of 2020. I just think that...because I waited for my turn to get vaccinated, and gleefully celebrated my son with underlying health conditions getting his, and we've shared a mostly normal Summer with our family - current events are hurting extra-hard.

I was ready to send my kids back to school in September. I was ready to make holiday plans that were impossible last year. And instead, I've spent the last week emailing school board members and talking to other parents and keeping our distance outdoors "just in case". 

And I'm sad. Really sad.

I've been sad for a bit, but it really struck me yesterday.

Two weeks ago, we went swimming at my mom's house. It was like a small party. There were 11 us in and out of the pool, playing together, sharing snacks, taking pictures of the kids being kids. We even set a self-timer to take a group picture of all of us together. Yesterday, we took the boys back to my mom's to swim, and when we got there - everyone fled the pool like a bomb went off. We were alone. And I know it was for safety as the delta variant has made cases climb in our area. I know it was a smart move. But it was sad, and lonely, and a reminder of all that was stolen from us last year. 

If my younger kids (and my sister's kids) were old enough to get vaccinated, we wouldn't have to keep our distance. And I know that based on the studies and approvals, we should only be about 2-6 months away from having that rectified. That's such a short span of time compared to everything we've waited through already. But it still sucks.

It sucks to finally feel safe letting your kids hug their grandparents, and then cringe and wonder if you need to tell them not to do that anymore. (At least for now.)

And as the school year approaches and our governor is too wrapped up in scandal to provide guidance to our schools, I'm yet again at a loss for what to do with my kids. I wanted them to get back to their lives this school year. I wanted to have time for myself and my passions and projects. I wanted my dining room to stop doubling as a school room while we drown in papers and craft supplies. But with the data about delta emerging and reports from schools in the south coming out (example: a school district in Garland, TX has 31 staff members and 244 students testing positive for Covid after one week of school. 244 students!!! ONE WEEK!), I feel like I am starting at square one.

My district, as of this writing, isn't offering families anything other than traditional, in-person, 5 days a week school. We'd all love that in a perfect world, but that seems asinine to me in this climate. I can't believe that someone in power has yet to admit that in an uncontrolled pandemic world, education needs to take a back seat for a minute. Kids can catch up on nearly everything - if they're alive. 

On top of that, masks are in question?!

The only thing that has changed from the start of last school year until now is that the delta variant has made covid more contagious and dangerous to children. Why would we not do AT LEAST what we did last year? Why would our district take masks and virtual learning away when that's true?! This is not repeating last year or "winding back the clock" - delta is a brand new ball game that requires brand new mitigation efforts. They keep saying..."kids do better with in-person learning". DUH! But they also do better staying alive when they aren't stuffed in an overcrowded classroom full of their unvaccinated peers.

I am just...exasperated.

And look. This is my blog, so this is my space to vent about how I feel. And while I am always open for discussion, I won't entertain any thoughts that aren't following the science. So if you found your way here and don't trust the CDC, pediatricians, epidemiologists, or the covid vaccines, please take your thoughts elsewhere. They're not welcome in this space.

Friday, August 6, 2021

My Summer Morning Routine 2021

I'm not a fan of schedules, but without trying very hard I find that I end up creating routines in my days. They tend to change with the seasons, and if I try to organize them into an actual schedule - forget it, it's over. Won't do it. (I'm infuriating.)

I find it so interesting to both remember phases of life by documenting things like this, and to see how other people organize their days. I love reading posts and watching videos about this kind of thing, so I thought I'd share what my morning routine looks like this summer!

6:30 - 7:30am:
Wake Up
I don't really sleep in a ton these days, so I'm nearly always awake before 8am. However, when my cat has anything to say about it, it's more like 5:30am (ugh) or when I can hear my family doing things around the house, I can't sleep through it. So this is a fairly typical Summer wakeup time for me.


I step into some slippers (these are my Summer pair). It's the little things like this that kind of romanticise the day, ya know? I spend a few minutes opening curtains, greeting pets, and making the bed before I make my way to the bathroom.

I always either brush my hair (if it's down), or shake it out and put it back up if I'd slept with it up. Then I brush my teeth, wipe my face with micellar water, and use my little rose quartz roller. 

My husband is kind of the greatest, and he always makes my coffee for me in the morning. This is mostly because he's always up before me in the Summer - there are phases of our year where I always make the coffee, too. He usually goes for a walk very early in the morning (often with one or more of our boys) before work, so he sets up the coffee pot for me so all I have to do is hit brew. If he knows I'm about to get up though, he hits brew for me. Either way...I step out of the bathroom to yummy hot coffee and it's one of the best parts of my day. 

7 - 7:30ish: Coffee/Journaling/Instagram
Next, I find a comfy spot to check in with my day. This usually happens outside on my patio swing, but if it's below 60 in the morning I usually pick the recliner. Sometimes I start with journaling, then I work in my notebooks where I keep track of appointments and plans we have, plus my blog and Instagram plans and notes, as well as my TBR lists.

With a sense of what I need to get done for the day, I hop on my Bookstagram. I start by catching up with anything I missed, then writing my post for the day, then sharing my new post and whatever else I feel like sharing to my stories. I scroll a little bit and like and comment on some of the other book accounts I follow, and generally invest some time into growing my account. I've had a goal to hit 1,000 followers before our Fall readathon, and as of this writing I have 927. You can see by the phone it grew quickly this day!! I bet by the time you're reading this, I'm already there! (fingers crossed!)

8 - 8:30ish: Reading (+ still Coffee)
If I haven't gotten time outdoors yet, I head there now to do my reading - unless of course it's raining. I need some outdoorsiness in my daily life!! I usually sit on my patio swing, but the sun has been kind of harsh there for reading lately, so I sat in one of our fire pit chairs on this day. I read non-fiction in the morning (usually spiritual, inspirational, self-help, human nature, psychology, creativity...things of that nature). And yeah, I'm still drinking my coffee at this point! I usually drink a lot at first, but then I savor the rest. I don't chug my coffee, and it's the only cup I have all day so I like to make it last!

I usually end up with a buddy wherever I end up reading. She follows me around all day!


9ish: Book Photos
If there are book photos I need to take for a blog or Instagram post I have planned in the next week or two, I like to do them in batches and early in the day. Partially because the lighting isn't too harsh, but also because if it's a nice morning, I can't trust that it'll stay that way all day. This is Buffalo and really anything goes weather wise! So I sorted through some of my boxes of books and carried a big stack outside to take pictures. The backdrop I like to use is feet away from my neighbors and I always think they must think I'm nuts!

9:30ish: Dishes/Kitchen
By now, my kitchen has been abused by three messy boys making breakfast and needs a little assistance. I'm not 100% diligent about it, but I also like to try and get dishes moving along in the morning. I do another round of them before I start making dinner. If I don't do dishes a minimum of twice a day, they spiral completely out of control. So I usually watch a show or listen to a podcast while I do the dishes to get them moving - this was my choice on this day, and it was a good one!

At this point in the morning, I switch to ice water and get ready to cook myself breakfast. We all pretty much fend for ourselves for breakfast, except for maybe one weekend day. I prefer it because I eat differently than my family for most of the day, and this helps me stay on track with my goals. I also prefer to eat around 10/10:30 (they all like to eat as soon as they get up) so the timing works out. And some days I just have a banana, but I often like to make eggs.

10:30ish: Breakfast
On this day, I made scrambled eggs with peppers, tomatoes, fat free cheddar, and mustard. (Adding mustard to my eggs has been the best food move I've made in a long time!! Try it!) I also had some turkey bacon, and a piece of low carb toast with my Dad's homemade black raspberry jam. 

10:30 - 11ish: Blogging
Finally, I get to sit down to do some blogging! I sometimes eat my breakfast while I get to work, and about twice a week I paint my nails as I get started. I always find they dry the easiest without bumping them into anything when I'm busy typing! I try to get 1.5 - 2 posts done each time I sit down to blog. I usually work at it until lunch, which is also usually when I get ready for the day or do things like go pickup groceries, do laundry, or whatever else needs to get done around the house.

So, this is an example of a day when I either have nowhere to be or my plans aren't until the afternoon. On days when we have plans, this looks a lot different, of course! My morning routine looked so much different during the (virtual) school year, and obviously different during normal school years! I'm looking forward to seeing how my mornings unfold as we hit Fall this year!