Do Your Kids Have Too Much Homework? 5 Tips on How to Tell and What to Do

October 3, 2013 in But Seriously, Family, Special Needs by Beth Woolsey

I hate homework more than my children hate homework, and I hope you understand I’m not maligning my kids’ Homework-Hating Potential by telling you so.

I mean, sure, not all my kids are consistent about hating homework, especially my deliriously enthusiastic, trend-bucking 1st graders who seem for now to actually enjoy it, but I like to think even they carry some sort of latent homework-hating potential, if only from my side of the gene pool.

I tell you all of this to expose my bias before we begin lest you think I’m trying to give homework a fair shake, which I’m, well, not. But perhaps it’s best if I tell you why I hate homework so you don’t think I completely reject all forms of standard education. Because I actually love our local education district, and particularly the fact that my children are subjected to it. I LOVE SCHOOL is what I’m saying, and especially that MY CHILDREN GO THERE to sit at the feet of RAD TEACHERS who – get this – TEACH THEM THINGS. These people and their systems are not perfect, nor do they magically have the answer to every educational dilemma our family faces (damn it), but they still make me unreasonably happy because they work with us and are dedicated to their craft and make a difference in our world; I’m grateful for them every day.

Homework, though?

Well, not to be dramatic, but I support the death penalty for homework and, after it’s executed, I will volunteer to drag its carcass from the building, dig its unmarked grave, and bury it so I can be the first to spit on it.

The reason I hate homework is this: homework seems to benefit only one type of child from one type of family; a type that becomes more and more rare as time goes on. Homework is designed for families with a maximum of 2 children from a 2-parent home wherein one parent is a full-time, stay-at-home caregiver and also has some kind of formal training in education. For example, my high schooler, who I would argue needs some homework so she can learn college study skills and time management, also needs a parent who can teach effective study techniques; something her father and I patently fail at doing, not because we don’t have study techniques, but because we are truly terrible at imparting our knowledge in a way that makes sense to our children. In other words, we just suck at helping with homework.

Also, for homework to be effective, the children shouldn’t have any learning disabilities and should be at least somewhat self-directed and intrinsically motivated to learn.

Also-also, the children shouldn’t have more than one extracurricular activity or siblings with any.

Also-also-also, the children shouldn’t have any medical disabilities or other issues that require after-school care or treatment.

Also-also-also-also… well, you get the idea.

Last week, I lost my homework poo in a great, big homework poo explosion.

We were three weeks into school, and I just completely lost it because Greg came home in the early evening, assessed the volume of homework facing us and casually mentioned that Aden, our 6th grader, had several hours ahead of her.

“Hey, Beth,” Greg said, holding a stack of teacher blog printouts and poor test scores and science worksheets and math problems, “Aden has hours of homework tonight.”

And I said, “No.”

And Greg the Rule Follower said, “What?”

And I felt my eyes go wide and crazy as I said, “No.”

And Greg said, “What?” which meant I don’t think you can just say No here, Beth.

And I said, “No. No. Just NO. I can’t… We’re not… It’s just… NO.”

And Greg looked at me like I’d lost my mind, so I took a deep breath and explained, “She went to school from 7:45-2:20 today. She went to homework club after school from 2:20-3:45. She rode the bus from 3:45-4:30. She just got home 45 minutes ago. She does that every day. That’s 39 hours of school she’s already doing every week. She’s 11, and school is her full time job. She has diagnosed developmental delays and communication disorders. She loves school right now, Greg. She loves reading. She’s progressing and learning in all subjects, even though it’s slower than the charts say she should be. She sneaks books into bed at night. She’s amazing. I just can’t make her do more. No matter what common core dictates about retaking all these tests, I can’t do it in good conscience. I can’t kill her love of learning by giving her more school work after she’s put in a full day. So no. NO. No, no, no. No homework tonight. Homework can’t help her right now.” 

And Greg held the stack out to me and said, “Then what do we do?”

Which is the question, isn’t it?

If homework’s not working, then what do we do?

How do we know? What do we do? What can we do? And how do we do it?

ID-10067330Because, of course, as I was hyperventilating about Aden’s homework, I had other things running through my mind, too. Like 4 other kids’ homework, and dinner to get on the table, and a kid to run to dance class, and allergy shots to schedule, and a kid with a fever, and youth group permission slips to complete, and picture day forms, and 1st grade sharing to find, and a grocery list to create, and dear God, I’ve had to pee for 4 hours now.

Homework doesn’t happen in isolation, after all; it has to work for the whole family.

We’ve had kids in school for 30 cumulative years, though, and we’ve learned a thing or two in that time, mostly from teachers who pulled us aside as we were busy Powering Through and Not Giving Up and BLINDERS ON, KID! FULL SPEED AHEAD! They saw us flailing, tossed a figurative arm around our shoulders and said, “Psst… did you know it doesn’t have to be like this?” or “Psst… did you know there are other options?” or “Psst… why didn’t you tell us you were drowning sooner? We’re here to help you.

So I’ve polled a few of my favorite teachers about this conundrum – what do we do when homework is just too much? – and, just in case you’re at the end of your homework rope, too, here’s what the teachers had to say.

5 Tips on
How to Tell When Your Kid Has Too Much Homework

and What to Do About It

1. Know WHY Your Kid Has Homework: Teachers should be able to identify the purpose (learning target) for everything they assign. Homework should reinforce ideas and allow for the opportunity to finish odds and ends not completed in class. There is a ton of research that supports the fact the amount of homework given has no positive impact on student mastery of skills and could possibly have a detrimental effect. Homework should not be busy work or the time for new learning. If asked (and parents should ask if it’s unclear), a teacher should be able to articulate the purpose behind a homework assignment.

2. Know HOW MUCH Homework is Expected: “I’ve heard a formula of about 10 minutes per grade level per day. However, my early teaching years were in a working class neighborhood in Chicago. You could not count on the kids being able to do homework, and even now I’m not a fan. Some kids and families will obsess about it and others won’t or can’t.” Ask your child’s teachers how much homework is expected and when to call it quits even if they haven’t finished. For middle schoolers, for example, more than 60-90 minutes total is ridiculous, and 90 minutes every night is too much. Any more and it’s either busy work or they don’t get it.

3. Trust Your Gut and Honor Your Kid’s Experience: Homework isn’t always fun, and that’s OK. Some of the skills a child should learn from homework are time management, finishing projects, asking for help, working through frustration, and being responsible. Some learning comes from struggling through a process and triumphing over it, but perpetual struggle can crush your kid’s spirit; it’s your job to recognize when that’s happening and to guard against it. A teacher cannot and should not be responsible for knowing how it’s going at home. If a child is consistently frustrated or discouraged or angry, or if you’ve wondered for some time why homework isn’t working, trust your gut and honor your kid’s experience; ask for help. If the child gets stuck, including emotionally, it’s better to stop and send the teacher a quick note that the child plans to ask the teacher for help the next day.

4. Communicate Kindly and Clearly With Teachers: Teachers are friends, not food. (Name that movie.) No, but really. The vast majority of teachers are there because they want to be effective at helping your kid learn. They’re partners, not enemies, and should be treated as essential members of your team. Your goals are the same – growth and learning. Just like all growth, sometimes it’s painful. That’s OK; just be gentle with each other.

Don’t start a conversation with, ‘I don’t think my kid should have so much homework.’ Instead, ask about learning targets. Tell the teacher your kid is having a hard time. Tell the teacher how you feel. Ask what the teacher has noticed. Ask what the teacher recommends. Ask how the teacher has accommodated other students with challenges.

“As a teacher, I appreciate open honest conversation with parents. If a parent treats me as a partner in the kid’s learning process, I’ll bend over backwards to find what will work best. The best meeting I ever had, the parent scheduled in advance, brought me coffee and then grilled me to explain why their kid didn’t have an A+++. All teachers want to be respected. Good teachers welcome insight into their students. Who better than their parents to provide it?”

And if a teacher can’t help you, ask the administration who can.

5. Ask for Alternatives and Then Keep Communicating: There are often different ways a child can show mastery without epic amounts of homework. Ask the teacher if they have hours available during lunch or before or after school to assist kids who need extra help; schedule your child regularly with the teacher if necessary. If your child needs testing for learning disabilities or to be on an Individualized Education Plan, keep asking; check in weekly with your school to find out where your child is in that process. It takes longer than anyone likes to get kids special accommodations. That’s just part of it. Most importantly, don’t give up! Asking for alternatives and advocating for your child with a teacher are not one-time events or one-time fixes. A partnership with a teacher can and should continue throughout the year. Email. Check in. Ask how it’s going. And let the teacher know you appreciate his time.

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So, parents, how’re you doing with homework these days? Holding your poo together? Or not so much? If you have stories or additional tips, I’m all ears.

And P.S. I’m on the fabulous and funny Dadsaster podcast this week as they tackle parental involvement in schools. I might – *ahem* – confess to be just slightly less involved than the PTA president… and I might list all the things I’m supposed to be doing that I don’t, um, actually do. In other words, I did all my own stunts in the podcast so none of the stars would be harmed in the shoot. I give and I give. Give it a listen here.

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Stressed School Boy photo credit David Castillo Dominici via freedigitalimages.net

Back-to-School Photo Fails (and Funnies and Fabs!)

September 12, 2013 in Funny by Beth Woolsey

Last week, I asked you to send me your Back-to-School Photo Fails. Maybe because our pics were less like the First Day of School and more like the First Day of the Zombie Apocalypse.

photo 2 (72)

Mm hm. I’ll be framing that one and nailing it to my entry way hall next to this self-portrait by my daughter. The one where she was supposed to replicate the other side of her real face.

AdenWolf

That’s right. I’m putting these in a place of prominence so people coming into our house will know what they’re getting themselves into. It just feels right, you know?

And now, for your viewing pleasure, I proudly present…

 

Back to School Photo Fails and Funnies
by YOU

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From Lara Risser: 5 years old. I begged her to smile.

LaraRisser

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From Gina Sampaio of Sister Serendip: 4 out of 5 headed to school. Preschooler pissed that she didn’t get to go yet and refused to participate. Dog is hoping someone spills their lunch.

GinaSampaio

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From Serenity Dillaway: This is my husband, wearing a reindeer hat (not sure why), holding our twins, trying to explain to my new preschooler what to do.  She’s holding two signs – one I made with her age, and another she made, which says the same thing, apparently.  She refused to smile, even while I stood in the front yard yelling, “You can’t go to preschool unless you smile for a picture first!”

SerenityDillaway

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From Colleen Stout of Mommie Daze: I posted this picture of my husband on Facebook after I saw all these super-organized moms (I am so NOT one of them) posting adorable first day pictures of their kids holding up signs saying what grade they were in today.

ColleenStout

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From Jo Wagner: My oldest (almost 11 year old) hates having his pictures taken.  I told him to smile.  I threatened him.  I finally gave up…

JoWagner

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From Aimee Stephens: My three smiling cherubs!  My 6 month old was just as happy that morning.

Aimee Stephens

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From Jenn Goodwin: Clearly, my oldest is the studious type, while his sister is considering whether she will in fact acknowledge that he is her brother once they approach the playground.

Jenn Goodwin

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From Jaclyn Butz: “It’s the first day of school. How do you feel about that?”

JaclynButz

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From Jacoba Alderink of A Yankee Mom in Texas: This was my version of “We can’t coordinate smiles to save our lives, so we’ll do the next best thing” that I made for Rob. Mastering the Art of Smile Timing…

Jacoba Alderink

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From Carmen McAlister: These are a friend’s kids. They’re going into 6th and 8th grade and he was having a pity party for himself. They’re too cool for a regular picture with dad but this was ok…

Carmen.png

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From Carlie Nichols: My kids are reliable goofballs, and I’ve learned to just accept it.  We may not have photogenic milestones, but oh well!  I skip the dressy first day attire and am pleased if they are wearing not-too-obviously-stained clothing that they’ll easily be able to get on and off by themselves when using the bathroom.

CarlieNichols

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From Ruth Davis: No way I’ll ever get a sensible photo out of these 2…

Ruth Davis

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From Helen Abbott:

HelenAbbott

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From Terri Sweetland: 

TerriSweetland

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From Reinhard Hillefeld: Off they go! Ethan starting Third Grade, James in Fourth Grade, and Paige… apparently getting mugged.

ReinhardHillefeld

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From Carrie Cariello, author of What Color is Monday: This one looks decent….but don’t be fooled…check out Henry’s face all the way to the right.

CarrieCariello1

and…

Check out this picture we took at the beach.  That’s me, jumping for who only knows why.

CarrieCariello2

(I bet I know why, Carrie! SCHOOL’S STARTING AGAIN. YIPPEE!)

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And, finally, this one, which isn’t a fail or a funny but is incredibly joyful and heartwarming and fabulous…

From Heather of Team AidanThere’s nothing better than driving when waiting for your driver!

Aidan

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 So. Is school back in session for you? If yes, how’s it going? I ask because I care. And also because it’s kicking me in the teeth. HARD. So if it’s going super great for you, then hooray! YAY! Tell me all about it so I can live vicariously through you, please. And if it’s not, or if it is but you’re still oh-so-tired, then pull up a piece of mud, friend, and let’s sit here a while together.

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How to Take Back-to-School Photos: A Problem-Solving Scenario

September 3, 2013 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

Yes, there are a lot of ideas out there for Back-to-School photos.

Yes, most of them involve some sort of picture frame. And great lighting. And doing more for outfits than saying, “I don’t care what you wear as long as it’s clean. You have the rest of the year to wear dirty, ripped clothes to school. Today is not that day.”

And yes, I suck at these things.

NEVERTHELESS. Here’s a tutorial for How to Take Back-to-School Photos. Because sometimes, despite my best efforts, I have something to offer. WOOHOO!

How to Take Back-to-School Photos
(When Your Brother Tries to Wreck Them) :
A Hypothetical Problem-Solving Scenario for Kids

OK, kids. Here we go.

Let’s say your mom makes you sit on the front porch on the morning of the first day of school because she wants to take your picture. AGAIN.

And then let’s say she casually mentions that you are not getting out of that chair until you give her a smile that approximates something sincere.

photo 4 (33)

And then let’s say your brother, who thinks he’s funny but SO TOTALLY ISN’T keeps butting in on your picture and prolonging it and, therefore, prolonging your suffering.

photo 3 (53)

And then let’s say — again, hypothetically — you have a giant stick.

photo (76)

What would you do?

Now, I’m not looking to solve this for you. And there are clearly lots of answers to this scenario. You know, like using your words to kindly ask your brother to stop. Or, if he won’t listen, asking a grown-up to intervene. But you might want to consider this possibility:

HIT HIM

photo 2 (73)

REALLY HARD

which will have the obvious result of

photo (78)

cracking you both up and giving your mom the kind of smiles she was hoping for all along, albeit not facing the camera or in focus, but whatever.

 I mean, sure, sincere smiles are never as good as the classic Pose Any Way You Want photo

photo 3 (52)

or the Zombie Apocolypse Photo

photo 2 (72)

but smiles make your mom happy, so nice work, man. Way to problem-solve.

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Your turn! If you have any Back-to-School Photo Fails — or funny ones — send them to me at FiveKidsIsALotOfKids@gmail.com by 10am Pacific Time, Wednesday, September 4th. I’ll put a few favorites online for our collective enjoyment.

Please only send photos to which you own the rights. Optional: include your name, a caption/explanation, and a link to your blog or business or Facebook page or whatever for photo credit.

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I’m Ecstatic School’s Starting! (Except When I’m Not.)

September 2, 2013 in Beth, But Seriously, Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

My house looks like a tornado hit it from the inside and there’s no way – no way – we can get it put back together before school starts tomorrow. Or before the year 2015, really. Although why I feel the pressure to have it clean by tomorrow is a mystery since it hasn’t truly been organized for 11 years. There’s just something about the start of school, though, that screams DUCKS IN A ROW, BETH; get your crap in order and get it in order STATLike the neat pencil boxes and pristine crayons and unopened glue sticks are getting their superior Judgy McJudgerpants on, saying, “We’re neither sticky nor broken, Beth; now what’s up with your floor?”

Our 13-year-old has been arguing with us since… well, since 2008… but most recently since Friday because oh my GOSH, MOM and GEEZ! and Breathy Voice, Long Low Back Unrounded Vowel With Advanced Tongue Root, but also because school’s starting Tuesday and that always freaks him out — CHANGE IS COMING! EVERYONE PANIC! He makes me want to shake him and tell him to knock it off and also hug him and tell him it’s going to be OK, baby, I promise promise promise; now, BREATHE.

The 6-year-olds, on the other hand, are bouncing off the walls and each other because SCHOOL IS SO AWESOME, and WE CAN’T WAIT, and WHY CAN’T IT START RIGHT NOW? And they’re begging to wear their new school shoes to unreasonable and exotic locations like our backyard sandbox while I say, “NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT. Save them for school” for reasons even I don’t understand, because what? Having immaculate shoes for a whole extra week is going to make all the difference to their education? I mean, really; wreck ’em now or wreck ’em later, as long as school starts soon, why do I care?

It’s clear, I’ll bet, that I’m done with summer. Done done. Done ditty done done done.

Don’t get me wrong; I loved every single minute of summer with my kids except for all the minutes I was at the end of my rope and exhausted and wrung out and worn thin. But in general I loved every single minute of it, and, as we’ve learned before, in general is what counts in the end.

I loved riding bikes and rafting rivers and playing in the sand and sleeping under the stars. I loved hugging the cousins and hanging with the grandparents and eating ice cream and not bathing my kids. I loved that my uncle Mike pours way too much liquor in my margaritas, and I loved wasting batteries to read trashy vampire novels by headlamp in the tent by the cliff on Marrowstone Island. I loved singing opera to irritate my kids, and I loved getting too much sun. I loved summer. Loved it to pieces. Loved it to death. And now I’m done, glad for the end of the Go Go Go and grateful for the start of a more reliable routine. Grateful for teachers. Grateful for schools. Where my kids will go. AWAY.

HOORAY!

It’s just…

The problem is…

I’m sad summer’s over.

And, GAH! I know. Now we’re all confused. ‘Cause which kind of mother am I, anyway?

See, I’ve seen the posts from mamas who are ECSTATIC that school is starting again, and I’ve seen the posts from mamas lamenting the loss of their kids to school. I’ve read both kinds and thought, Oh, yes! THIS. Exactly.

I’ve seen the posts from mamas who are angry at one type or the other, too; the ones who are angry at the excited mamas for thinking so little of their kids that they celebrate their absence, and the ones who are angry at the sad mamas for clinging so tightly and being so enmeshed that they lose part of themselves when their kids are away.

It’s just… these different types of mamas? They’re me. Me, too. I’m both. I’m some of each. I’m option C: all of the above.

I’ve examined my heart on this one, trying to pick a side. Trying on one mantle. Trying on the other. And I’ve found I’m ECSTATIC school is starting again… relieved… overjoyed… and I’m grieving the start of another year. Another milestone. Another symbol that my kids are growing up and won’t always sit on my lap, or beg for another book, or run to me with abandon, or slam their heads into my gut, or beat my butt like bongos, or need me when they’re sick, or sneak treats they’re not supposed to have, or wipe their noses on my shirt, or destroy my house, or hug me too tight, or say, “Mom? I love you” for no reason at all.

I’m done with summer. I am. I’m positive.

And I’m ecstatic school’s starting again. Truly.

Except when I’m not.

Except when I’m sad.

Because that’s who I am. A Both/And mom.

So I’m sending this today to those of you who might also be Both/And-ers. Those of you who’ve tried on the mantles. Those of you who haven’t found a fit.

And I’m also sending this to those of you who know exactly where you land. The Either/Or’s. The HOORAY’s and the DON’T GO’s!

Because I want you to know you’re OK.

You’re OK. And you’re not alone.

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And just in case you don’t know how you’ll do it — how you’ll let them go this year or how you’ll survive another summer — I wanted to share this little story with you, one I shared on Facebook this weekend. It goes like this:

“Pick any shoes you like,” I said.

He picked pink and purple.

I said, “Absolutely,” and then I wondered if I was doing him a disservice, so I sighed and gently told my 1st grader, “Some kids may tease you, though.”

He pulled my face down to his level with his hands on my cheeks, looked me seriously in the eye, and said, “BRING IT.” And then he said, “All of the colors are for all of the people, Mom.” And that is as true a truth as I know.

pinkshoes-001

It’s Back-to-School time again. Everywhere across the country, kids are taking deep breaths and parents are taking deep breaths and we are all being very, very brave. So here’s to all the kids and all of the bravery and all of the colors and all of the people. In the words of one wise 6-year-old, BRING IT.

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And you? How do you feel about the start of school? How are you doing? Either/Or’s and Both/And’s welcome. Always. Always always.

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UPDATED: Thoughts on Hope (and a giveaway)

March 14, 2013 in Beth, But Seriously, Special Needs by Beth Woolsey

I’m headed out to my kid’s Individualized Education Plan meeting today. Or maybe the “I” in I.E.P. stands for something else…. Independent? Industrial-strength? In-which-we-all-work-hard-but-also-say-lots-of-Hail-Marys? I can’t ever quite remember the right term, even though we’ve been in the special education game for years now, and for today I’m not going to look it up and check my work. I’m just going to write to you, friend to friend, and tell you I’m quite tired. In all the ways. And just a little bit fragile as I prepare to put on hope and optimism and heave ho! and full speed ahead!

Look, I’m not gonna lie. Navigating the world of kids with special powers is hard. Slow. Grueling. Grief-laden. Exhausting. Constant. I find myself often in the dark wondering what’s next for my son. I want a crystal ball to see the future, but only if the future is bright, and sometimes I’m secretly afraid I haven’t been given a crystal ball because the future is not to be trusted. It’s a strange place, this in-between that is the present. I’m never sure whether we’re about to experience stunning success or fall off a cliff, and sometimes it gets to me.

Sometimes it gets to me, but not always.

Hope is like that, isn’t it? Not the constant flood of light I’d like it to be. More like pinpricks in the dark. Flickering stars in the night sky. One foot in front of the other. And then another foot. And another. Which leads me now and then to another ragamuffin survivor on the path who will walk with me for a while. Even if we’re headed for the cliff. Wheeee!

For today, this is enough. And we ragamuffin survivors are worthy of celebration.

So I’ll go put on hope. And button up my optimism. And ready my heave ho! And find my pants. I’ve got a kid who needs me. Full speed ahead.

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Also, a giveaway today!

My friend, Courtney, makes stuff. She asked a while ago if I want to give some of it to you. In case you need a little pick-me-up. A little reminder of love. A little good thing. I said, Absolutely! And I thought now… now when I’m writing about fragility and hope… is the perfect time.

Handmade Peppermint Trio
by The Charis Babe

Peppermint Trio Gift Set

Trio includes: peppermint lip balm, peppermint lotion, and peppermint sugar scrub.

We get to give away five (5) sets!

And the winners are:

  1. Brooke Bradley: “I’m doing well. My youngest of 5 (and my very last baby) just learned to walk. I guess I should be happy. She’s my baby though. WWWWHHHHAAAAAAA……
  2. Christine N.: “I had a sucky day on top of a sucky week. The baby screamed for an hour this afternoon after he had his shots this morning, none of my big kids did their chores and they only did about half their school, and it was the second (or third or maybe more) day in a row that I yelled at them. I’ve been on those adoptive blogs where someone is asking for sympathy about their current kids and mentions adding more via another adoption and someone always says they should wait, so my mom guilt adds up and up because we’re going to be 5 very soon, and I feel strongly about not waiting (we’re bringing home a sibling of the foster baby we have). Peppermint anything sounds awesome.
  3. Barb: “Oh how our hearts can ache for our children – no matter how old. My twin daughters are just entering the world that is motherhood. Grace joined us a month ago and her sweet mama is just plain tired! Brody is due in 2 months and his soon-to-be mama has so many questions. If only I could provide the rest for one and the answers for the other. The best I can do is bring them and theirs to the feet of God. Offering prayers for them and for all of you. It is quite a journey… exhausting and invigorating, thrilling and tedious, satisyfing and exasperating… all at the same time. What an honor for all of us!
  4. Lauren: “I’m tired today. Really really tired. I went to your blog because I knew you’d cheer me up a bit, and I am never disappointed. Thank you! Your honesty and sweet spirit give me a little hope when I need it.
  5. Amy: “Pick me! Pick me! I enjoy reading about IEP’s from your perspective. I’m always on the other side of the table. I love the “special powers” lingo you use too!

Winners: Please send your mailing address to me at FiveKidsIsALotOfKids at gmail dot com. I’ll notify you by e-mail eventually, too, but I’m the helper in my boys’ kindergarten class today, and, well, I’m outta time. 🙂 Story of my life. Story of every mama’s life. We sure do mean well, don’t we? Yes. Yes, we do.

This giveaway is now closed.

To Enter This Giveaway:

Leave a comment on this blog post (say hi or tell us how you’re doing today) by 8:00am (Pacific Time) on Saturday, March 16th. One entry per person, please. Winners will be selected using a random number generator and posted on Saturday.

This giveaway is open to international participants, although I just got back the book I tried to mail to Thailand (ROBIN, IT WILL COME SOMEDAY, I SWEAR!), so, you know, I’m not exactly running a timely ship here.

Disclaimer: Neither Courtney nor The Charis Babe is affiliated with this blog. I get no kick-backs or blah blah blah for doing this. Courtney offered to pay for shipping, but I’m not going to let her… that just seems fair. Her products, my shipping expense. Win/win. Right? Right. You can like the Charis Babe on Facebook.

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Bloody Noses, Wet Beds, Bad Dreams: I’m Leaving the Country

February 12, 2013 in Beth, Funny by Beth Woolsey

Greg turned 40 last week. 4 to the OH oh oh!

Happy Birthday, Baby!

(Psst… I never call Greg baby. It just felt right this time. Let’s go with it.)

To celebrate, my dad and I are taking Greg on a trip to see friends and museums and live the high life for 4 days. ‘Cause that’s the way we roll when we have a gift of air tickets, a free place to stay, and grandparents who are taking the whole slew of kiddos, minus the teenage daughter who’s embedded at a friend’s house, deep undercover, posing as a child from a normal home. Our kids’ mission this week is to discover exactly how families with clean bathrooms work. They’re writing an exposé, folks, and it’s going to be epic.

Yesterday, I ran around town doing all the last minute running-around-town stuff one does before a trip. You know, like pestering doctors for prescriptions and notifying 100 schools of our absence. As I dropped by one of the schools, a teacher stopped me to chat about our trip. How nice!, I thought. 

When are you leaving? she asked.

Oh, I said, we have to leave town at 3:00AM tomorrow. And I must have grimaced just a little because she expressed her sympathy.

But I don’t want to be that person, you know? The person who whines about leaving at 3:00AM instead of being grateful I get to go on a trip at all? 

So I said, No, it’s FINE, Mrs. Teacher. It’s really FINE. I mean, let’s be honest. I’m often up at 3:00AM anyway, right? ‘Cause KIDS. They WAKE UP. For ALL KINDS OF THINGS

And then I meant to tell her about those things. From one mama to another. I meant to say, You know all the things. Bloody noses and wet beds and bad dreams. They never end. And she was already with me with her knowing nods and murmurs of understanding. We were of one mind as I pressed on toward my goal.

You know all the things, I said. You know, Mrs. Teacher. I’m often up at 3:00AM anyway, cleaning up after all the bloody noses and wet dreams.

That’s what I said.

Instead of saying what I meant to say.

Bloody noses and wet dreams.

And then my brain froze, friends, stuck in a loop of bloody noses and wet dreams. Because I… it was… I didn’t know what to…

And I didn’t explain that I meant to say bloody noses, wet beds, and bad dreams. Nope. Sure didn’t. I didn’t explain anything at all. I just stopped awkwardly for 3 seconds or 300 minutes or all of eternity before saying more things in a hurried attempt to cover it all up. Way, way, way too late.

So.

That happened yesterday, and it was far worse than the time I imagined having to explain Tricky Dick and Nixonian politics to an entire kindergarten.

In conclusion, I’m leaving the country. I’ll be gone until my ego recovers or our babysitting expires, whichever comes first.

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P.S. Since we’re out of town this week, posting may be spotty, friends. OR, since we’re traveling without children, I may magically find TONS of time and posting will be off the charts. It’s impossible to say for sure.

Sometimes people ask me how I manage to write at all with kids in the mix.

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I honestly have no idea. Your guess is as good as mine.

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P.P.S. Did I mention that Greg and I are traveling this week? Without kids? TRUE STORY. Guess what we’re doing? No, don’t guess. You’ll never guess. It’s too, too bizarre to guess. I’ll just tell you.

We’re headed to Holland for 2 days. Plus an additional 2 days of travel.

To Holland. For 2 days. Like we’re young, and we don’t know better.

Wait, though. It gets better.

We’re headed to Holland for 2 days to meet a friend I met online through this blog.

OK, OK. I’m sure you think we’re nuts. Off our rockers. And about to be murdered in Amsterdam. But I’ve met friends of this blog before — one of them in the basement of a parking garage in Vegas (hi, Kristi!) — and I will tell you, we are all far too exhausted from parenting (and, apparently, from cleaning up after late night bloody noses and wet dreams) to successfully execute a grisly murder. Honestly, sometimes we can’t even manage to bathe ourselves, so murder’s right out. Plus, the mess, right? And handling yet another person’s body fluids? Yeah, no. Not if we can avoid it.

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So, friends. There you have it. What I very much hope is this week’s most embarrassing moment. Since I’m about to get on a plane, though, and that didn’t go so well last time, who knows? In keeping with the theme of this place and the loving, rad people who hang out here making mamas feel less alone, please feel free to share your own embarrassing moment below. Because — *ahem* –I wouldn’t hate hearing if you’re sometimes a giant dork, too.

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Tricky Dick: Not a Story About Nixon

February 5, 2013 in BEGIN READING WITH THESE FAVORITES, Family, Funny, Twins by Beth Woolsey

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When we were kids, we used to sit cross-legged at school and call it Indian Style. No one calls it that anymore for all the right reasons. Hooray for cultural sensitivity and change!

Now kids sit Crisscross at school. Except no one calls it just Crisscross, because ho hum, right? How boring. Now when you sit cross-legged, you have to call it Crisscross Applesauce. Frankly, I don’t know what applesauce has to do with anything, but there it is, an essential suffix. Woe betide the mama who thinks she’s tight enough with Crisscross to only use his first name. Those kindergartners, man, they will school you. It’s Crisscross Applesauce, Mom, they will say and then they will look at you like you are equal parts dumb as bricks and to be pitied. Kind of how I look at banana muffins that are missing chocolate chips. Like, it was sweet of you to try so hard, but this is incomplete.

So, OK. You know what? Fine. Crisscross Applesauce. Got it.

However.

It has recently been brought to my attention that, although I am not allowed to mess with Criss’s name, my children are welcome to call him whatever they like. For example, last night they decided the very best name for Criss is to drop Applesauce entirely and call him Crisscross Tricky Dick.

I just…

I don’t even…

I can’t…

Crisscross Tricky Dick? I clarified. Sure enough. That is, in fact, correct.

What is a dick anyway? I asked. It’s nothing, I discovered. It’s just a silly word, they said. OhpraiseJesusandallthesaints, I replied.

You know, Tricky Dick doesn’t even rhyme with Crisscross, I argued, hoping to appeal to their rhyming sympathies. But their hearts were hard, y’all — stone — and they were not moved.

I let it go because I’ve learned to do that sometimes. Which is a total lie. I let it go because I have no idea what to do with Crisscross Tricky Dick. Tell them to stop? Ignore it and hope it goes away? I DON’T KNOW. Also, SOMEONE HELP ME.

I sent my boys to school today. I think I deserve a badge for bravery. I’m supposed to pick them up in a half hour, and I’m nervous. When I’m nervous, I talk too much. God only knows what I might say.

Pardon me, Nice Kindergarten Teachers, but did my sons by any chance mention Tricky Dick today? Perhaps during circle time on the reading rug? If they did, you should know we are big history buffs at our house. Huge. And we’ve been talking Nixonian politics a lot lately. ‘Cause Watergate? Cannot. Get. Enough. Amirite?

This is just like that time Abby was 2 and thought Clifford the Big Red Dog was pronounced bullshit. And she said Clifford a lot. And at high volume. And in the food court at the mall. And in front of her grandmother. The one who doesn’t swear.

In conclusion, I just…

I don’t even…

I can’t…

………

P.S. If you have a story to share about something your kid has said, I’m not opposed to hearing it. Just saying.

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image credit “Sillouette Child Doing Meditation” by sattva at freedigitalimages.net