Always Crazy, Always Fun, Always Love

Ray Romano once compared life with twins to living in a frat house. As he put it, "no one sleeps, there is a lot of noise and a lot of throwing up." I find this very true with 4 young children, including twins. However, though things are always crazy, we always try to have fun and, most certainly, always love each other.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Substitute Me

Something I have been thinking about...

Tonight I have been preparing to leave in the morning. I will be going as an adult chaperone for Kenny's 4th grade camp. That is one neat thing about his school- all grades go to an outdoor science camp. Kindergarten is just a day long day camp, but 1st-3rd grade is one night over night. Now that he is in 4th grade, he gets to go for two nights! He is so very excited!!! Knowing that it can be difficult to find chaperones for two nights and wanting to help out with the school, I have been planning for two months to be able to go on this trip with him.

It is amazing how many people it has affected and that it takes for me to go somewhere for 3 days. My mom will come early in the morning tomorrow to drop us off at school (so she can have the van to transport my kids the rest of the day...) and then she will come back here to watch my girls all day. She will have to pick up Jacob from school, help him do homework and get them all ready for Aaron to take them for Jacob's flag football practice by 5:30. (Did I mention my mom is AWESOME?!)

Thursday and Friday, I have a different friend each day watching my girls during the day (thank you Amy and Katie!!!!!!). They will have to deal with taking my two crazy girls along while they transport kids to school.

Aaron had to adjust his work schedule this week. Normally he has Monday off and works 10 hour shifts Tues- Fri. This week, he works 10 hour shifts Mon-Wed so he can work 2- 5 hour shifts Thursday and Friday so the girls wouldn't have to spend 10+ hours at someone's house as well as having no idea how Jacob would get to school and back otherwise. So, this of course affects his office as well.

I babysit for a community choir on Wednesday morning and have another person covering for me there.

Aaron will be doing trick or treat by himself Thursday night, which means no passing out candy since I won't be here-normally I walk around with the kids and he passes out candy. (yes- us weird Ohioans rarely do trick or treat ON Halloween... this was an unintentional oversight by the school. When they planned the camp, they thought trick or treat was Friday night so the kids would be back in time. To make up for it, they said kids could pack their costumes and they will have a Halloween party at camp. Kenny is fine with this as long as his siblings collect some candy for him! I think he is too excited about camp to care to much!)

I have also spent the last to days cramming in laundry to get it done, packing, cleaning (though not near as much as I wanted/needed to- but the house will no doubt be destroyed when I come home anyway....) and making lists for Aaron with what he needs to remember.

It just makes me wish I could hire a "substitute me" for the three days. Someone who could just come in and do everything I do (well....maybe not "every" thing....;)) without inconveniencing so many people! It never fails to amaze me how many people it takes to cover for me if I need to go somewhere.

Yet, if my husband goes out of town- be it for work or pleasure- nothing really changes. Of course we miss him terribly, but otherwise, things seem to go on as pretty well normal.

Anyway, just an observation. That being said, I am REALLY looking forward to going! Despite the fact I will be in charge of a cabin full of 4th grade boys, I am excited to be able to help out and spend some one on one time with Kenny. He is such a good kid and I feel like I don't get to spend the amount of time with him that I should. These camps are always a blast (I went with both boys when they were in first grade) and it will be a great few days!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Room Full of Chocolate!!!!

.....wouldn't that be nice?

But I like this room almost as much! (more on that soon.....) Until a week ago, we had a gross icky basement playroom. When we first moved in to our house 9 1/2 years ago, the only carpet in the whole house was in the kitchen, the bathrooms and the semi-finished basement rec room. The rest of the house was hard wood floors. Weird, huh? Over the years we have gradually eliminated all the carpet except for the basement. After 9 1/2 years of kids, pets and dirt tracking all over the carpet, it was just down right nasty down there. It was really beginning to bother me that my children were playing down there. I didn't get a before picture of the whole room before we started tearing it up, but here is a corner of the room:
I called it semi finished because it had a drywall ceiling, painted cement block walls and Berber carpet over the floor. You can see the drab walls and heavily stained carpet. It smelled awful.
I knew we needed to do something about it but we really didn't have much extra money to do it. So, my mom gave me the idea of tearing up the carpet, painting the concrete floor and putting down a large area rug! I loved the idea! Simple right??

Sure.... famous last words...

I thought it would be as simple as tearing up a layer of carpet and then cleaning and painting the floor. Well, we discovered a THICK goopy layer of glue under the carpet, and black linoleum tile underneath that. We only got a few feet of carpet up and we were stuck- having no idea how to get it all up- the carpet was so heavily glued. We called a friend from church who rescued us and came over with an amazing tool to help us get the carpet and tile up all at once. With a little slave labor, it went pretty quick! Here is what was under the floor (you can see the nasty pink trim in the rest of the basement here. Look close to compare to the after pictures):
(The boys were LOVING helping!!!!)

So, as you can see, under the black linoleum tile was black grout used to glue down the tile. Seriously??? Did the people who put down the tile and then the carpet ever think that someday people might not like the decor and want to change it?! After trying a few different tools, the grout was not coming up- it would have been a bigger more expensive job involving professionals and money we didn't have. Much of the grout was flat so we figured we would just paint over it and it would only look a little textured and we would put down a rug anyway. So, we scrubbed it clean and got to work! It was very stressful for me and took longer and cost more than expected. I don't enjoy home repairs and could never move into a "fixer upper" because I would probably go crazy. But, in the end, it feels soooo good to have it done!

So, why did I refer to a chocolate room?? Because it just worked out that all of the shades of paint we chose were some form of chocolate!

Wall paint- "Hot cocoa"
Trim paint- "Belgian Chocolate"
Floor paint- "Soul Chocolate"
Even the molding around the bottom (which was supposed to be cheap easy fast and self adhesive....ha- ya right- the biggest pain ever!!!) is called chocolate!

So, all of that together with new light fixtures and a big rug from Old Time Pottery and toys rearranged, and this is what we got- a whole new room that I am no longer embarrassed for people to see!

Maybe not a perfectly done professionally finished room, but a room that is soooooooo way better than before and is now livable and enjoyable! And, the kids LOVE it! They feel like they have a whole new room and new toys because it is all set up differently then before. In fact, they couldn't wait to do this:
A camp out on the new rug! Fun fun!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Are American Children Getting "Stupider"?

This is, admittedly, simply the rantings of someone "uneducated" (no pun intended....) on the topic. I don't necessarily know all the arguments behind this, but I felt compelled to speak my mind. (and everyone knows that while I am often relatively quiet, if I do get very opinionated on out!)

The reason for this post is that it seems more and more I am hearing all of these news reports and seeing newspaper/internet articles about how America's children are getting dumber with each generation. As I hear about this more frequently in recent days, it really gets on my nerves because I just don't understand- this in not what I see personally.

What I see is this-

- Kindergarten used to be when children first learned about going to school. It was here that they would spend a couple hours a day learning their shapes, letters and numbers. It was mostly about play and easing them into the world of education. Now, children are considered to be behind if they do not know all these things before entering school. I feel pressured to make sure my 3 year olds know their letters and their sounds before they turn 4. I feel that I have become a minority in that I do not plan to send my two 3 year olds to preschool. (Seriously- if people want to send their children to preschool, great-it is not a bad thing at all- I personally do not have the $250/ month to send two kids for a few hours a week when I can teach them the same things myself- which I am doing!)

Now, Kindergarten is often full day (as it is in our district). There are expectations for what they know before coming to school-preschool has become the rule rather than the exception. There is homework and assessments. I know several who have felt the need to make sure their children could read BEFORE kindergarten! Certainly our children can't be dumber with that kind of pressure put on parents!

- Kids are pushed to do more sooner I believe. I realize this is probably somewhat necessary as we become more technologically advanced. I suppose maybe somethings need to be learned sooner to make room to learn more advanced technologies. But, does this come at a price? Some children may not be able to learn at such a pace and will fall behind- not because they aren't being educated or because they are dumb- they are being pushed into a new subject before they mastered the first. My 4th grader does algebra almost daily- and I think it was first introduced to him in 1st or 2nd grade!!! Algebra is tough for a highschooler!

- College enrollments increase every year. Colleges admission processes are becoming more difficult due to high numbers of applicants. How can colleges have increasing enrollment if children are dumber?

I realize there are problems with our education system- I know it isn't perfect. You do have people who slip through the cracks and get promoted to the next grade or even graduate while being unable to read. Things like this are a problem for sure. But that doesn't mean children as a whole are dumber. It is offensive to parents and teachers who work hard to educate those in their charge to be told we aren't doing well. There was an incident when Kenny's teacher (4th grade) realized that the children were not easily able to differentiate between which state/country/city they lived. (for example, when asked what state they lived in, some said the United States...) So, what did she do? Taught a unit on it. She saw what was missing and educated them. She is an excellent teacher. I am sure she would be offended at the implication she isn't doing enough.

So, why do people make this claim that children are getting dumber? I figure it could be a few reasons:

1) It does seem that test scores fall behind sometimes and in some districts. But, as I said, maybe we are pushing kids too fast to learn tough concepts. So, when they are tested, they fail, but there is no time to reteach it so teachers are forced to move on. Test scores may be lower than they were 10 or 20 or more years ago, but they are also learning so much more that they are tested on. There is definitely a longer list of required knowledge then there was 10 or 20 years ago! Maybe they aren't dumber- maybe they are being pushed too hard too fast?

2) Maybe it is political to an extent? Politicians love to talk about failing education and how they will "fix" it. It is easy to throw the blame around to promote your own agenda.

3) Sometimes people will blame the "system" even though they did nothing to help their own children. Some believe it is solely the schools job to educate children. If children are not properly educated, you certainly can't blame just the education system or even the government. Parents have a responsibility to be sure their children are educated. Parents who watch over their childrens' education and teach them of the importance of it will have successful children. That is why even a child in an inner city school can go on to be a doctor while someone who goes to a suburban or private school can end up going no where. It isn't just the school. It is the influence of those who raise them.

So- again, I am not saying "the system" is perfect. There are unfortunately kids that get lost on the way and are not always found. No child should ever get lost- so yes, there are things that need fixing. But certainly, we are doing the rising generation a disservice by calling them stupid before they even have a chance to get going! I walk through my children's elementary school (which is, by the way, an urban school....) and do not see any dumb children there!