Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Day in the Life Of...

I had this grand notion on Monday that I was going to keep a record of our day just because we were at home all day and I am sometimes rather curious at the end of the day about what I've actually accomplished.  I loved, years ago, reading the book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and I always thought that was a cool idea.

Usually I finish school with the kids in the morning, but the boys were so busy building k'nex and lego projects that I left them to it for a couple of hours while I worked with Lizzie on baking cinnamon buns, cutting up fruit, and doing some school work.  In the early afternoon, I started some school work with the boys, but again, we didn't get as much done as I would have liked, thanks to some spectacular-in-length-and-volume meltdowns that occurred by boys who shall remain nameless.  We had accomplished a bit of Bible, Matthew a bunch of copywork and piano and reading out loud and an English lesson (continuation from last week on adverbs), and Seth has worked on his counting to 30 and math (addition up to 15).

By the time I remembered to start making notes on my day to see what I actually do, it was three in the afternoon; and I gave up less than two hours later.

But here's a glimpse into part of our Monday afternoon:

At 3:00, with some school done, I tell the kids to take a break from school b/c I'm going to start supper.  They run off to build train track systems across the sunroom floor, dress miniscule dolls in even tinier clothing, and eventually find their way towards each other...which doesn't always bode well.

I spend 20 min chopping onions, carrots, celery, while starting off the pastured beef in the soup pot.  I mix them all together and let them start to cook.  Meanwhile I cube potatoes, twice leaving my work area to mediate a fight between the boys (the fact that I was still brandishing my big chopping knife while helping to settle the second fight seemed, actually, to help things along).  The boys settle briefly into a racing competition about who can go faster on some strange racing route around the house and, with the beef now browned, I add the potatoes and stock and various herbs; I leave it to come to a simmer.  Lizzie is sitting on the counter beside me, watching every move I make and requiring an embrace about every other minute.  I am mostly happy to oblige.

I begin making a roux on the stove top, which will be my soup thickener.  I pull the milk out of the fridge to measure some out for the roux and discover I'm a cup short.  So I put Lizzie on the floor and run to the other fridge where I know more milk is waiting and, on the way back with the milk, I see in the laundry room that I've forgotten to transfer this morning's load to the drier.  I stop to make the transfer and barely remember to grab the milk again from where I had let it rest on the drier.  I hear my name being called and footsteps coming on a run, and Matthew bursts into the laundry room door that I was on the way through, too, and we have a quick body bump.  He tells me about some atrocity that Seth had just committed.  I put the milk back onto the drier lid and hold him while he weeps and gnashes his teeth.  Four or five minutes later, the tears seem to dry up and so I head back to the kitchen, doubling back once to grab the forgotten milk from the drier.

In the kitchen, I discover that Lizzie has unloaded two large boxes of ABC magnets onto the floor.  When she sees me looking, she quickly states that she told me that she wanted to do more school and that if I can't manage that then she'll do it herself.  I smile inside and simply suggest to her that when she's done she clean up the magnet mess.  I leave her working her way across the kitchen floor putting magnets into alphabet order. 

I measure out the milk while listening to Seth tell me that Matthew had too many turns sliding down the  stairs and he suggests forcefully that I should really speak to Matthew about this.  While opening the microwave door to heat 2 cups of milk, I call Matthew over to hear his perspective.  Meanwhile, I discover this morning's full cup of chai tea still in the microwave, now cold.  I reheat the tea while helping the boys figure out their dilemma, then put the milk for the roux in to heat.

The phone rings and it's Geoff.  I glance at the clock - 3:30 now.  We chat for a few minutes while I stir the soup. Then I have to hang up in a rush because Seth's elbow just found Lizzie's nose - hard - while all three were wrestling in the library.

Once the tears are comforted, I remind Lizzie to clean up the magnets from the floor seeing as how she's moved on to doing different things; I stop the boys from doing laps (literally) around the house and tell them that we're going to have a 20 minute quiet time today.  There are tears of anguish from the oldest, grumblings from the middle and a reminder that we haven't had a quiet time in a long time and we shouldn't have to today, and a "but Mommy-" from the youngest, who is sort of picking up magnets and putting them back into boxes.  Seth pleads to go outside but I say 'not yet' because it's quiet time now and we haven't finished school yet.  I feel guilty for saying no to an outdoor activity but know full well that our day's done if I let them go outside to play on their toboggan hill.

Everyone is mollified by the notion of quiet time when I say that of course they may listen to their audio books, and the boys want to listen to one together and I say ok but not, Matthew, the audio book that is too old for Seth (a Rick Riordin book).  They go upstairs fairly readily. I sigh.

I head to the kitchen and run for my cooling tea and open the microwave door to put it back in for another quick reheat because I hate lukewarm tea.  I see the heated milk for the roux sitting in the microwave, which reminds me that my roux is still stovetop and it's probably burnt to a crisp by now.  I grab the milk and run for the stove and thank goodness I had remembered to turn the element off before answering the phonecall half an hour ago.  So I turn the element back on and go back to the microwave for my chai tea.

I finish making the roux, a creamy, silky mass, and stir the soup on the neighbouring element.  The smells are beginning to permeate the house.  The potatoes are tender, and so I add the milky roux to the soup - it's starting to come together.

I remember that I didn't take bread out of the freezer so I head to the deep freeze, grabbing the phone along the way because it's ringing.  It's 3:40 and it's Geoff on the phone.  He says that he's going to leave work a little early today and my first thoguht is that he's been fired because it's (extremely) rare that he'd leave work early but then he adds that he wants to make sure we're both ok because we had a fight yesterday and neither of us like to leave things hanging and because both of our days are affected by stuff like that.  He says he should be home shortly after 5 and I say no problem because dinner will actually be ready early today anyway.

I start emptying the dishwasher and then realize that the 20 minute quiet time is up.  I call the kids down.  Lizzie unpacks the cutlery and the boys argue over who is going to put away the cups and who will put away the pots.  It's 3:55.

I tell the boys that in ten minutes we're going to continue with school.  They both moan.  I work fast to load up the dishwasher with the days' dishes, and the baking pans and bowls.  I scape the counter free of flour from the morning's cinnamon bun rollout and, fifteen minutes after it was emptied, I press 'start' to run the dishwasher again.

I call the boys to the table to finish school.  They come, but reluctantly.  Lizzie asks if she can work on her abc dot-to-dot book and I'm relieved that I don't have to find something for her to do so I heartily say "yes."  I start Seth on writing his ABCs out, and I ask that he try to do it without any help from me.  Thankfully, and miracle or miracles, he is mostly able to do this now (yay!) and so I begin a curriculum Math lesson with Matthew.  This is an easy lesson for him, thank goodness, and he's done in twenty minutes, but like usual, he can't seem to do it without my being there; so I grab my chai tea and sip in a moment of relative relaxation and help Matthew with the instructions and keep him at the table instead of jumping up to do some other thing that he'd rather do.  "This is easy," he declares about his Math and it was for him (about directions and planning routes from one place to the next) and I congratulate myself silently for choosing an easy lesson for him today.

I hear Lizzie moaning and see that her head is on the table and I ask what's up.  She says that she doesn't know what letter comes after "Q" on her dot-to-dot page and so I help her sing through the ABCs until she screeches that it's an "R."  She throws her head back and laughs in the way that only Lizzie can:  Full-bodied; joyful.  Then she looks at her paper and frowns and says that she can't see the uppercase R and I tell her that's because the book is all about lowercase letters (just like the last twenty or thirty pages she has completed, but I don't say that).  Seth looks like he's about to offer his help to find the 'r' for her and so I clamp my hand over his mouth  and smile at him in the eye and whisper that she'll be ok finding the 'r' by herself.  He licks my palm and then laughs when I jump back!  Lizzie doesn't hear what's going on and just says 'oh' as if the book being all in lowercase letters is entirely new information.  She starts looking for the lowercase 'r.'

I'm holding Matthew on my knee to keep him at the table while I finish talking with Lizzie and Matt's singing "I'm so awesome" over and over in a high register until Seth gets annoyed and tells him to stop! because he can't do his work with so much noise.  I kiss Matthew's neck and tell him that I totally know he's awesome and that he can perhaps stop the song now and apply his awesomeness to the 2x table.  Seth asks "what about me?" and I assure him that he's awesome, too, and yes, Lizzie, you're awesome, too, and I say that because I can see her opening her mouth to ask the same.

I pull out a page I prepped this morning with the 2 Times table on it; I ask Matthew to fill in the blanks:  2 x 2 = ____ and so on.  He tells me that this is easy because it's just like adding by twos.  I tell him that he's exactly right and he wonders out loud why I've never told him this before because if I had he would have learned the pattern a long time ago.  I casually mention that this has been noted to him on many previous occasions but that sometimes it just takes one's brain to be ready for information before one really gets it.  He continues on, and writes down answers to all of the 2 Times table, up to 12.  Then I tell him that this week we're going to start to memorize that part of the Times table.  He shrieks with unfeigned horror and says that he won't be able to.  I tell him that surely he will be able to and that we have a whole week to work on it.  Lizzie offers that she could, in fact, do the 2x table and Matthew stops crying long enough to tell her that he understands multiplication because he's in grade 3 and that she will have to learn it eventually, too, but that she doesn't get it.  Now Lizzie looks horrified at me and asks if this is true; I assure her that she'll learn it only when she's ready and that I will teach her only then.  She says "whew" and resumes her dot-to-dot, happy again.

Seth asks me to look at his finished ABCs and I sing through it with him, noting with praise that there are only two letters mixed up - can he figure out which two?  He grumbles and Matthew is still demanding that I not force him to do the 2x table.  I tell Matthew that he's to run around the house two times singing "2x2 is 4, and 2x3 is 6" and he takes off, all of the sudden happy again.  Seth throws himself on the floor, crying, and yells that he can't figure out the two letters that are wrong and I tell him that I know it's hard and he's doing so well even though he's frustrated.  He climbs up into my lap and tearfully asks if I can help him and I tell him that of course I can.

Matthew's back from two laps and I tell him ok, now do three laps and sing "2x4 is 8, and 2x5 is 10" and he's loving it because he loves to run and he loves to make noise and if he can do them together, all the better.  He decides that clapping along with his multiplication song makes perfect sense, even though Lizzie claims that he's being too loud when he runs by the table.

Seth is annoyed because I interrupted the work I was to be helping him with by moving Matthew along, and so I quickly turn my attention to the ABCs, him still on my lap.  We sing through the song again, while pointing to the letters on the table, and we stop at the letter "K" because it's a "V" and even though he can't remember the name of the "V" Seth realizes that it's a mix-up.  "Ahh-hah" he shouts and grabs the K.  Lizzie interrupts to inform Seth that she knows the letter "V" and the letter "K" and that she could help him.  She has just a hint of a smirk in her eye.  Seth sticks his lip out and says to her "that doesn't feel good" and I distract him by suggesting that we continue with his ABC work and that I will help him.  I  wink at Lizzie and put my finger to my lip in the universal 'be quiet' sign so that she won't continue to offer her 'help.'  Seth and I resume singing through the song until we arrive at V and he sees a K sitting in its place.  Problem solved just as Matthew arrives back from his latest rendition of the 2x times table.

For the next fifteen minutes, I continue schooling the kids until everything on my day's school agenda is done for both boys.  It's 4:45 and I feel that, despite the day's chaos, we've made progress.  I ask Matthew out of the blue what 2x4 is and he immediately answers 8.  I ask Seth what sound the letter "V" makes and he promptly answers "vvvvvv."  Yes, progress.  I ask the kids to put away their pencils and papers and I go to the stove to turn the soup back on to reheat.

I ship all three outside to play on the toboggan hill for a half hour while I finish up dinner, tidy the rest of the kitchen, and sip at my again-cold chai (which I never finish).  At 5:15 Geoff arrives home early and we sink into a hug co-mingled with apologies, and as we call the kids in for dinner I know there are only a few hours left of the chaos before I can breathe.


  1. Oh my stars, I never thought I'd want you to write less, but following your account of your afternoon, I just might! I was tired just reading about it, a full day would be exhausting. I'm just not sure how you get through a day, let alone a week. That being said, I am just teasing, write away. You write so well and I find it fascinating. So many moments taken with each child amoungst getting through the daily stuff. That's pretty impressive. I did feel badly about your re-heated tea though. I'm not sure where you would have squeezed in tea time, but I'll consider penning a support plan for you that works this in. :) Social Workers think everything can be fixed with a plan. Thankfully, I'm blessed with a good quotient of reality though. May tea time eventually become a reality for you!

  2. I came by to say hi and must say I can relate to this, minus the official homeschooling... but other activities of homework, piano practicing, etc. And I was absolutely sure you were going to announce you had burned the soup... Amazing how we actually survive and even thrive hey?!

  3. Well, I never did finish Monday's tea, Charity, but I'm hoping to have some this afternoon...we'll see!

    Ramona, I laughed about the burnt soup comment...wouldn't have surprised me either!

    Yes, surviving and (usually) even thriving!



  4. I howled as I read this blog as I can completely relate. This might become a must read for all husbands who wonder why we seem to get so little done during the day. But- really what does get done is so much more important :)
    I am currently sipping on my COLD coffee from this morning that I just found abandoned upstairs...oh, and I DID burn our soup last night (which coincidentally was "Ruth's Salmon Chowder")
    Thanks for the chuckle :)

  5. Glad I could amuse you! My hubbie never reads my blog (well, he'll read a post about once a month if I tell him it's required!!) but I think this is one that I'll make him read.

    Yuck on the cold coffee, and too funny re: Ruth's Salmon Chowder (which probably tastes delicious - I also have a salmon chowder recipe and we all love it).

    Thanks for the return chuckle!


  6. My "Ruth's Salmon Chowder" is in fact YOUR recipe that I got from our mom's group ages ago. Named in honour of you! :)

  7. OK, seriously Kristin!??? That is hilarious...I'm, like, out loud laughing!!

    But, here's the thing...I'm pretty sure the recipe didn't call for it to be burnt!

    Thanks for posting, friend.