Saturday, October 13, 2018

Keeping it Nice

Madison commented the other day that we have a lot of new in our house, and she noticed that Adam and I are making plans for more. In the past year, we've gotten new furniture, a new carpet, a new car, and new light fixtures. We have plans to replace some more flooring, to paint the interior, and install new cabinets and bathroom fixtures. We've been in the house for almost fifteen years, and it's time for a face lift.

I've written before about how much I like new. I love how fresh and clean everything looks.

And I am PARANOID about when it becomes messed up, lived in, and cluttered again.

I've become that person with the new car. I'm not quite so delusional to think that we'll never eat in it - frankly, we're on the go too much for that to even be a possibility - but I'm so afraid of having ground in spills and food smells that won't go away. I see a coffee drip or a bagel crumb and I start to worry that it's all downhill from here.

I've become that person that makes the girls completely clean out of the car every time they get out of it. They have a trash can that I harp on them about emptying, and I refuse to let them keep anything in the car that could clutter it up. Once a week - at least - we take the car to the car wash. We don't always get the car washed (it's been rainy), but we vacuum it TWICE, clean all the mats and interior, and even go through the door jambs to get rid of ANY build up. I use a car oil diffuser to make sure that any, say, stinky dance feet smell disappears as soon as the dancers are out of the car.

I'm that person with the furniture. It's not really "new" anymore, since we've had it for a year, but they still haven't eaten so much as a crumb on it. I make them sit on the floor. The flooring is "new" too, but we have these fabulous oversized trays from IKEA, and the girls are happy enough to lounge on the floor and use the trays.

I bought Reagan a sticker album entirely because I don't want there to be a shred of temptation for her to put stickers on ANY surface.

I have a new winter bag that I clean out obsessively, because it's my NEW bag, and I want to keep it nice.

If it's old, or stained, or in any way worn, I seem to be ok with letting it be a mess. I mean, who cares if I spill coffee on that old rug? It has 100 stains already and by next week I won't be able to pick out the new one. Yes, the girls got toothpaste all over their sink again, but that laminate is already covered in faint pink and blue toothpaste stains.

New, though? I'm totally paranoid about keeping it nice, and show off worthy, so I clean and I make sure we're all careful. And so far, at least with the couch and the carpet and the car, it's working.

So I suppose, the (admittedly expensive) solution, is to continue to upgrade. We know we can - and will - treat our investments well, and pretty soon, everything will be kept nice all the time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Tales of a Not Soccer Mom

I am a darn good dance mom.

I am the one that teachers know they can come to at competitions, because I WILL have hairspray, or a safety pin, or bobby pins, or an extra lipstick. My kids have all their shoes and costume pieces impeccably organized in color coded, thoroughly labeled bags, that detail everything from earring color to tight color to every accessory involved. I have the programs, with all our studio's dances highlighted. I know exactly how long my girls have between dances, and we always know when to go watch the other dances from our studio. We are EARLY, not even on time, and I'm the one people go to with questions. I don't do gossip or drama. I get along with pretty much everyone, and my girls are (usually) calm and prepared and always, ALWAYS the ones who can be counted on.

I am a GOOD dance mom. Maybe even a great dance mom. I'm proud of who I am as a dance mom. I know it's important to my girls, and since I can't help them with any of the actual dance, I can certainly help them become more organized and make sure that they're ready.

I'm a decent homeschooling mom. I like to teach, so that part comes naturally. I WANT to be organized, so I really try. And I do want to reap the benefits of homeschooling, so I care. I get us involved in co-ops and on field trips and into classes, getting opportunities. I encourage the girls and cheer at their successes. I give them breaks when they need it. I'm tough when they need that too. I try to find fun things, to let them try things. I'm nowhere near the Instagram or Pinterest worthy homeschool moms, but my effort is good and my kids are learning, so I'll say I'm doing ok - most days anyway.

But now I've had to start the role of soccer mom, and so far, this is not where I shine.

First of all, I am so clueless that I didn't even know what I didn't know. I mean, I bought what was on the list, and I brought Reagan to the right field at the right time. But I didn't know that we were supposed to bring chairs. I didn't even know where any camping style chairs were in our house. I sent Reagan with a water bottle, of course, but I didn't know what to do when she guzzled that water in the first fifteen minutes of an hour long practice, because it was a warm day and she was running. I didn't know how to pack the car to be a soccer mom.

And I don't know how to react as a soccer mom. Reagan is really aggressive, but she's also brand new to the sport. And although she's a pretty decent dancer (I think?), she's all legs and growing quickly, so she falls a lot. A lot. I mean, on her team, she's pretty much the only one who spends that much time sprawled on the ground. Should I be concerned? Should I be worried? Is this hyper aggressive, or is this an issue? Should I be jumping in and being concerned when she tumbles and cries, or should I be calling to her that 'she's fine? Am I being too tough or too coddling? HOW DO MOMS DO THIS?

Do I individually bag up the orange slices when it's my turn to provide the halftime snack? Or is that an over the top thing. Some moms do, some don't. Do people prefer one over the other? Am I horribly wasteful or preventing germs?

Am I wearing the right thing? Do moms go to games in jeans? Sweats? Team colors? Are we cheering for everybody? How do I do this sideline thing?

I remind myself that I wasn't a prize winning dance mom my first year either. And it looks like I'm going to get some time to practice - Reagan has already decided she wants to keep playing! Maybe I'll transform from a not soccer mom, to a good soccer mom, by next season!

Friday, October 5, 2018

And In With the New

Saying goodbye might be melancholy, but when you're moving toward something better, it's not hard to get over. I may have gotten misty as I cleaned out that old car for the last time, but I really didn't stress about it for too long. I was too excited, and too ready for a car that didn't smell like ten years of mess.

There's something so NICE about new, isn't there? Yeah, a car is a big one, and that morning we spent at the dealership picking it up had me all smiles, but it doesn't take a huge, 60 month financing decision to do that.

I love the feel of a new notebook or journal. All the pages are crisp and unblemished. No coffee drips, no weird folds from being stuffed into a bag. Just pages and pages to imagine myself as an organized, thoughtful person who has lists and time and is ready to doodle or write.

I love a new bag. No crumbs or pen stains, no receipts crumpled at the bottom or scuff marks on the letter. I get a new bag and place things in it so carefully, making sure not to overstuff it, but making sure it has everything I'll need in an easy to locate way.

New clothes. Unstained, unstretched, and perfect for whatever I purchased them for. Fresh looks, good fits, and I look put together.

New. No stains or spots or blemishes. Clean. Fresh. Shiny. Crisp. Full of possibility of who I really am, who I can be. A good housekeeper, an organized woman, someone who looks put together. This person doesn't have starchy pasta water spots on her stove from overboiling. She doesn't have coffee stains on her jeans. She doesn't have crumbs in her purse, or papers exploding from an overstuffed bag. She doesn't misplace things or clean frantically when someone calls to say they're "popping over to borrow something".

She has a clean bathroom to relax in with a fresh book that she'll finish before the cover is bent. She has crisp coloring books, because the meditative relaxation that comes with coloring is important to her, and much better for her psyche than playing endless games of Yahtzee on her phone.

So what is new to me? It's the girl I mean to be.

And for that little bit, while it still looks new, that I AM that girl that I mean to be.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Out With the Old

I've had the new car for a couple of weeks (and according to Adam, way too many miles) and I can't express how amazing it feels to have a new car to spend so much time in.

It's funny though. As I got the car cleaned out and ready to leave forever at the dealership as a trade in, a mere bargaining piece, I did have some emotional moments.

I didn't know that I would. I mean, that car was NOT running well. The noises and issues that car had were an endless source of stress for MONTHS. I worried about the engine, and the tires, and the oil leak, and the broken suspension, and the fact that I KNEW the car needed brakes badly. Plus, it was a mess and it was never going to look nice again. The leather was cracking and discoloring. Paint was chipping off parts of the interior. The ceiling was irrevocably stained. In fact, the backseat, no matter what I did, felt like it would always look like it had been through something terrible. There were stains and crumbs and sticker residue and old candy glued to parts. There were scratched and dings on the exterior. And it was small, so small for our family of four to travel in for any amount of distance. I was not planning on missing this car.

However, this was the first car Adam and I bought as a married couple.

It was the car that drove us to the hospital to have the babies, and home with those babies.

It was the car that Madison and I spent hours in together when I was working and my commute was 45 minutes each way.

It drove us to every vacation we took as a family of four.

It took us through every stage of car seat, through the years that the DVD player saved my sanity, through the years where I was toting around portable potties and changes of clothes and extra towels and diapers and snacks.

It was the car of my babies, and my toddlers. It looked like it had been through something terrible, because it WAS the car that was going to deal with those exhausting years of baby and toddler hood, and there is a lot about those years that is messy and exhausting and overwhelming. You come out of those years messy and tired and changed. Yes, you're definitely ready to have nice things again. But those messy years get you there.

So I WAS a little sad as I prepared to say goodbye, and it turned out the girls were too. It was, really, the only car they ever knew. They'd been just as excited as I was to get that new car...but change can be hard, even when it's the right choice. Sometimes, even when it definitely time for out with the old, it's ok to get a little teary when you think of goodbye.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

I Know It! Math Supplement Review

My girls are so hot and cold with math. When something clicks and they are feeling confident, it's like we can't get enough. When they're learning a new concept and we're in the "tedious practice" stage, they whine and moan and tell me how much they hate math. When we first started homeschooling, that first math slump and attitude change from Madison really freaked me out - what did I do???? Did I break the child??? - but now, I know that math ebbs and flows and they'll come back around. However, I also don't need to make everything tedious when attitude is already questionable. So when it's new concept time, I try to do some more app and website use for practice. We have been using I Know It to add some supplementary online math lessons to our daily schedule, and so far, it's helping keep the attitudes MOSTLY good!

I Know It Interactive Math Lessons K - 5 grade

The program is designed for elementary level math students, kindergarten through fifth grade, so between the two girls, we can potentially use this for a while. The parent can log in and make assignments based on what needs practice, or even a favorite topic. Both girls love when something clicks, and it's fun to let them reinforce those skills, and then they're much more willing to practice what's unfamiliar. I set up what I want them to do, and then see how they did. Sometimes I'll assign practice because I think they're struggling, but they'll fly through it and it turns out that all they needed was a new format to help things click. Or sometimes I'll see that they're really not getting it, and I need to slow down. I love a program that really shows the parent what's happening, and I love the flexibility to skip around and assign specific topics, rather than a general "third grade math".

Because this program is geared toward both parents and teachers, it is common core aligned. This doesn't really bother us, but I know that some people have very strong feelings when it comes to common core, especially in math. For some, it's a plus (if they someday need to attend a public school they'll be on track!), for others, a huge drawback (that's the reason we LEFT public school!). My suggestion is to play around with the site and see if it works with your personal math philosophy.

I Know It Interactive Math Lessons K - 5 grade

What the girls love is that this isn't just a drill site. Reagan HATES when she just gets an "angry buzzer" and the right answer highlighted, and I kind of get that. What's the point? That's the equivalent of a red pen. This program allows students to get hints, and once they answer, if they're wrong, they get feedback on what they may have done and how to fix it. It really did feel like having a tutor!

We have a family account, which allows for a parents and up to four kids (obviously we're only using two). The parent sets things up, then creates sub accounts with logins for the students. I did select a grade for each child, but you're free to assign work either above or below that grade level. It's very easy to set up in a short amount of time.

This is a GREAT supplement and something the girls love rotating into our computer time!

Interactive Math Lessons K - 5 grade {I Know It Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, September 24, 2018

Fitting the Puzzle Pieces

We've been doing our fall schedule for about three weeks now. We've started dance, and acro lessons, and cooking class, and homeschool co-op, and soccer (and school of course!). And I'm having my typical adjustment period as I try to fit all these puzzle pieces together.

 Yes, our summers are busy too, but they're a different sort of busy. Everything centers around the golf club for the most part, and I can juggle swim team, lessons, tennis and golf without ever needing to get in the car. 

There's one day - FRIDAY of all days - that is just unbearable in how it came together. It did fit, and it does work, so I'd feel guilty if I didn't stick with it. But it's also so insane that I can't believe I'm actually doing it.

Madison is in LOVE with cooking class at a particular local cooking school. It's the one non-dance, non-dance adjacent activity that she actually begs to do. I love that she's passionate about dance, and she IS willing to try other things (see: swim, tennis, golf), but if I told her we couldn't fit those in, she'd be fine with it. Dance is her number one, everything else is a distant second, unless it helps her with dance...except this cooking class. So even though this cooking class is actually a bear to fit in, because there are very few classes and most of them clash horribly with the unmovable dance, we try hard to make it work.

The problem is that Madison was assigned her private lesson for her solo on Fridays. And Reagan, who actually showed a huge interest in soccer, has soccer practice on Fridays (as well as HER private lesson). So we have three unmovable things on one night.

So I drop Madison off at cooking, kill 30 minutes or so with Reagan, drop Reagan off at her private lesson at the dance studio, drive back to cooking to pick Madison up (10 minutes late) and drive her to the dance studio, getting back just in time to record the end of Reagan's lesson so she can practice. Then Madison goes back for HER lesson, I have Reagan throw soccer clothes over her leotard, and I race her over to the field. Once I make eye contact with her coaches and assure them I'll be RIGHT BACK (parents are supposed to stay), I race BACK to dance, record the end of Madison's lesson, and zip back to the soccer field with Madison in tow to watch the end of practice, until the sun sets and we can go home.

I'm tired just typing that, and I need to keep this schedule up for the next SEVEN Friday nights. I was so hoping that it wouldn't work after the first week, so I could let everyone know that decisions had to be made. But nope, it works JUST well enough where the teachers are impressed with our dedication.


The GOOD news is that, thanks to the fact that my long wait is over and I FINALLY have my new car, I can finally crack into that carpool group, and I've got some help the rest of the week. The first day I had that car I sat down with a few of my friends and we worked things out to save some sanity as we cross town multiple times a week to get to the dance studio.

And somehow, SOMEHOW, it's all fitting together. All those scheduling and driving and timing issues have all clicked, and the girls are well settled into their new fall routine, and loving each and every activity they're in...which somehow, somehow, makes it all worth it.

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