"A Christian should be an Alleluia from head to foot." - St. Augustine
I'm about 12% Alleluia on any given day, but I'm working on it.

Seven Quick Takes: Airing My Laundry

“Fine,” I told myself. “If I go check my blog, and the last post is more than four weeks ago, I will post something.” Plus, it was getting awkward leaving CommentLuv comments all over the place that linked back to “Yes, I Worry About Socialization.” I mean, I do worry. But not that much.

Thus:

— 1 —

Like our hostess, I, too, am taken with Harvard Homemaker’s site. I really like that she is up front about her level of education and looks at it as preparation for the vocation of motherhood.

I also like all of the tips, although…I can’t read too many tips. I have to limit myself. The needle is quick to flip from “this might be a helpful modification to the way I do things” to “I CANNOT LIVE INDEPENDENTLY WITHOUT INTERNET IDEAS SO I MIGHT AS WELL JOIN THE CIRCUS OF BROKEN TOYS.” I probably need to check in with my imaginary life coach about some of these issues.

— 2 —

So, I read Harvard Homemaker’s post about laundry and was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only do I already understand laundry, but I also do something that was not on the list. I thought “hey, I should write about that. Need something to blog about.”

Then I thought “well, hey, what should I call this tip. It could be ‘Lazy Mom’s Guide to Laundry with Kids.’”

Then I got real mad. Reallllll mad. Hey, self, and hypothetical Internet judgy types who might happen upon my blog if they ever actually existed: look. I am not lazy. I should not have to characterize myself as lazy just because I am not that focused on household maintenance.

I can do it, but I frequently forget OR decide something else is a priority.

What is with me? Why is that my first thought, that I should present myself as lazy/inept instead of just being all, “hey, here’s a laundry thing.”

GOSH.

— 3 —

Is it just me? It’s not just me, right? I feel like there’s a dichotomy in how we  gals are supposed to present ourselves on the Internet, if we’re talking about family life:

  • Wacky, madcap adventures in juggling life with kids and dirty dishes and never getting things quite right but we ain’t we got fun! Gosh, I wish I could get it together! – OR
  • Lifestyle expertise from the queen of systems, she who shall be a light to the nations

SPOILERS: I frequently feel this way about how moms talk about themselves in real life. You know, we can’t take a compliment without saying “this old thing?” or pointing out the opportunity cost – “oh, but I’m terrible at such-and-such” as though it’s somehow related to being good at so-and-so.

Am I being too vague? Too grumpy? This is why I should blog more often so I’ll be less scattered.

— 4 —

Well. Anyway: here’s my exciting tip that has no picture because my laundry room is cramped and non-photogenic.

I have a set of shelves in the laundry room and a basket for each family member, along with one for linens. I let the kids make labels for their baskets to add an element of “fun” that lasted for 47 seconds. (Remember, kids: Mom believes that work IS fun!)

When I take a load of laundry out of the dryer, I put each item into the appropriate person’s basket. I do not fold the items.

Once a day, each child is supposed to put away his/her clothes from said basket and return the empty basket to the shelf.

— 5 —

“How do I handle folding the kids’ clothes?”

Gentle Reader: I do not care.

Why do I need to care if my daughter has folded her shirts in the most efficient manner possible?

Okay, I guess I could care. You could argue that I should leave the children an inheritance of understanding how to make the best use of storage space so that they will not buy  bigger furniture than they need someday, all because they don’t know how to fold their shirts. You could say that the clothes will last longer if they are folded perpendicular to the Equator in groups of three instead of folded however-they-want. You could say Flylady (NEVER SAY FLYLADY TO ME) and make vague prononuncements about how it would be even better if our morning routine included Mom inspecting the contents of the dresser to see if the clothes are sorted and stored correctly. You could point out that The Container Store offers various plastic items to assist in folding (the only argument on this list that would convince me.)

And I would say: your world, and you are welcome to it. I choose to occasionally look the child straight in the eyes, intone “DID YOU PUT YOUR CLOTHES AWAY CORRECTLY WHERE THEY GO?” and be done with it, after a cursory consideration of microexpressions that might indicate said child is straight-up lying to me and those clothes are in a pile in the back of the closet instead of somehow organized in the drawers.

— 6 —

Now. The system does break down in times of Mom Distraction or Mom Stress. Mom decides to be all freeeeee and in the wiiiind, and to do ten loads of laundry with nary a thought to its ultimate destination. Mom cannibalizes the baskets. “I’ll just fill up all eight baskets with random clean laundry and stick them in my room for now. Just for a minute.” And then, after about two weeks of We Can’t Use Our Baskets Mom Well Hey Go Look In My Room I Know You Have Socks In One of the Baskets We Are Already Late, I dump the entire pile onto the bed, cue up Netflix, and re-sort everything into the appropriate baskets. Still without folding the children’s laundry. It is already wrinkled (see: two weeks of W.C.U.O.B.M.W.H.G.L.I.M.R.I.K.Y.H.S.I.O.O.T.B.W.A.A.L.) and they are just going to wear it and put it in the hamper so I can start fresh. Besides, they are so grateful for clothing by that point that they fold each item as though it were the precious lost handkerchief of Imhotep the Ninth.

— 7 —

WAIT I JUST THOUGHT OF ANOTHER TIP. My beloved, already-mentioned Container Store has color-coded mesh laundry bags. I mostly just use white mesh bags to line our hampers but this has made it easier: I bought a black one and a red one for the set of hampers that the kids use. Now it’s easy to tell which hamper  is for darks, which is for reds and burnt orange (hook’em), and which one is for light colors.

SEE? Look at that. A whole housekeeping-related post with almost no self-deprecation.

Just don’t ask me how our schoolroom looks. (foreshadowing music) (of doom) (srsly it is bad u guyz)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Yes, I Worry About Socialization

I am going to violate the sacred, unspoken trust that exists among all homeschoolers, everywhere, at least the imaginary ones who populate my Internet. I am going to admit to something so profoundly unsettling that it will rock homeschool-vs.-not-homeschool dialogue to its core. I am risking it ALL, man. This is RAW HONEST BLOGGING.

I am just going to SAY IT.

I’m just…I’m just gonna PUT IT OUT THERE, okay. Just LAY MY CARDS DOWN.

Just TELL IT LIKE IT IS.

(breathes)

(stretches)

(enjoys medicinal brownie)

YES, I WORRY ABOUT SOCIALIZATION oh, wait, I guess I already said that in the title.

Okay, well – yeah. I do. I worry about socialization. We homeschool, and we occasionally ask ourselves, “are the kids learning how to interact with other people? And can we send them places to go learn more about it? For at least an afternoon, once a week? Do we have to sign up or can we just send them? Do we need to prepare a healthy snack, or will there be treats provided? Is there curbside pickup? Do we have to schedule this ahead of time? Is a car wash extra?”

We socialize well with our imaginary friends

Recess for the Socially Awkward.
Photo credit: gracey from morguefile.com

Now, I think the answer I am supposed to give, when asked The S Question, is as follows.

Gosh, no! Why would I ever worry about that, when there are opportunities to socialize outside of artificially created peer groups by age, which isn’t realistic, right, I mean, are all your friends the same age as you, of course not, so why do we have this expectation of our children, and also socializing can mean socializing with bullies, or mean girls, or drug dealers, and besides, we are constantly socializing when we go to museums, and performances, and science demonstrations, and church, which isn’t to say there aren’t secular homeschoolers, you’d be amazed at how diverse the homeschooling world has become, in fact I think my children interact with a MORE diverse slate of people BECAUSE we homeschool, it’s amazing ANYONE thinks we would EVER worry about THIS! Let me tell you about our latest spelling bee scores!”

In reality, not only do I worry about socialization, but I also don’t think it’s a horrible, ignorant question to ask of a homeschooler. Maybe it’s because I grew up Catholic in a part of the country without a whole lot of Catholics, but I’m used to people thinking my lifestyle/beliefs/decisions are kind of…off. Not necessarily bad, but – what’s up with that? Why do I do things the way I do?

This parrot photo has nothing to do with homeschooling.

I worry my children won’t understand how to blend in with the crowd in social settings.
Photo credit: xandert from morguefile.com

So, as long as the person isn’t being completely rude about it, I don’t take offense when asked about socialization. I also, truth be told, have the perfect “out” for any questions about the weirdness of homeschooling. I say, “well, I was a teacher, so…” and then scootch away from the actual question. It gets me out of a lot of jams, the former-classroom-teacher thing. Sometimes people read too much into that and think I’m saying “…I saw all of the problems and got the heck outta Dodge.” Really, that’s not why we homeschool (more about just having more time, in general, to do the things we want to do.)

Anyway. But I worry. For those of you who do not worry about socialization, I applaud you. As a member of the Fear-Based Community, I do worry. Of course, then I tell myself I’d worry no matter how perfect the school setting:

  • If they went to Earth Blessings Hopeful Montessori school, I’d worry they wouldn’t be equipped for our high-tech society.
  • If they went to Phaser Stun Technology, Science, and Magnetism Magnet School, I’d worry that they would lack appreciation for the natural world and the generations who came before them.
  • If they went to Every Class Is Pre-Ap Preschool Prep, I’d worry they saw themselves as an intellectual elite and couldn’t relate to “regular” kids.
  • If they went to Regular Kiddos, Regular Classes – a Holistic Learning Environment, I’d worry they weren’t being challenged enough.
  • If they went to Serious Reform-Based Agenda Charter School An Hour From Our House, I’d worry that they’d make no friends in our neighborhood.
  • If they went to Global Visions International Academy for the Study of Languages and Unusual Foods, I’d worry that they’d move halfway around the world after graduation and never come home to visit.
  • If they went to La Sorbonne du Houston Ecole des Beaux Arts That’s French-ish for Art, I’d worry that they would never be able to make small talk about sports.
  • If they went to Super Sports Slammin’ Jammin’ Rammin’ School, I’d worry about head injuries.

I believe I have made my point, and these are not even my top-tier worries when it comes to my children. I just came up with this off the top of my head. Imagine how profoundly worried I could be if you gave me a good six months to work up a proper anxiety complex. I mean, does anyone seriously think there’s an option available to you for educating your children that is 100% without drawbacks?

So yes, I am concerned about socialization, and I’m not even going to say it’s been an easy thing to navigate. We have accepted that this particular concern is a potential downside of the way we currently choose to educate our children, and we have taken measures to overcome this.

At times, it’s meant signing up the kids for things they didn’t necessarily want to be signed up for. That’s fun. Being asked The Socialization Question while your child lurks on the sidelines, glaring at you, muttering about not knowing anybody. And then, after a few weeks, the child does know people, and it gets better, and we’ve overcome that hurdle for the time being.

I watch the child who glares, who hates being signed up, and I remember exactly how that felt. New to the group, didn’t know what I was doing, having to make friends. Feeling like I would rather be swallowed up inside the earth than try to fit in.

And I wasn’t homeschooled. I was just kind of this intense, talks-better-to-grownups kid. But you know, every once in a while, my parents threw me into the deep end – signed me up for summer camp, sent me off to visit my grandmother in another state for a few weeks, made me talk to the saleslady when buying clothes*. And I got better. It was not the end of the world.

You can find things to worry about no matter what decisions you’ve made. And the worrying doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision. So join me  in answering The Socialization Question not with “NO, that is ridiculous!” but rather with “yeah, sometimes, but we do (insert strategy) and I feel happy with how the kids are doing. I mean, nobody’s perfect.”

Then, if they keep badgering you, whip out “Well, I was a teacher, so…”

* (I still get nervous talking to salesladies.)

Feeling a little less share-y

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately that start with “where are you, you seem really busy” and that makes me feel bad, but it’s also true. Like, right now, I feel a little guilty about posting anything, because I have people waiting on me to finish up stuff. And those people might notice I just spent 14 minutes writing this maudlin blog post.

Still, I’m vaguely committed to Jennifer’s Epic Seven Days of Blogging Challenge so I figure I should post something.

I have some pictures from our June beach trip that I really love and I thought about posting them, because of course my children are bursts of freckled joy, but then I think – I dunno. I dunno about all this sharing.

The kids are getting a little older and it feels more like an invasion of their privacy to be telling the Internet about the funny things they’ve said or the things weighing on my heart. I remember I always hated hearing my mom tell stories about me to her friends. She never got the details right, I thought, or painted me in the most flattering light.

I now realize that telling stories about your children is a genetic condition that presents itself in adulthood upon bearing said children, and you are powerless to avoid it. Still, when my daughter gives me a bit of side-eye as I spin another story about her, I think: maybe I shouldn’t be doing that so much.

Or maybe that’s just what moms do, I don’t know. (I’m pretty sure my mom had me sized up pretty accurately, in hindsight, and still does.)

I’ve mostly quit Facebook, as well, for many of the same reasons that Rachel touches on in her recent post. I tried deleting my account entirely, but of course that broke some stuff I’d done for clients (long, boring, technical story and yes, I tried that, and yeah, I need to try that other thing). So now I just check in every couple of weeks, sprinkle a round of “likes,” feel bad about losing touch with people, get irritated by a conversation, and get on my merry way.

Having said ALL of that, I do have things I’ve been pondering and it does seem to help me figure out what I actually think when I blog about them. Very much rethinking our approach to homeschooling and wanting to write more candidly about the challenges involved in this way of educating my children.

I mean, every way of educating a child has advantages and disadvantages. Homeschooling is no different. So that will probably be some of this week’s posting discussion. Thinking a lot about children and competition – athletic, academic, artistic, who-gives-the-loudest-zerberts-ic. And socialization, and – well, more to come. I hope. (Spoiler alert: if you are one of those homeschool proponents with a speech at the ready about how ridiculous it is to worry about socialization and a list of all the ways in which your children are better at socializing because of homeschooling, perhaps you should find a different place to set up your soapbox.)

I also had a vision from on high that I should never again announce I am launching a series or a linkup or a regular weekly feature because I will always. forget. to follow through.

Anyway, thanks for reading, n’stuff. I’m outta here, but hope to be back tomorrow with something more useful to say.

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Theme Thursday: BOYS

There is no free time in Speedville; it is baseball season.

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And if we did have free time, we’d just spend it in our pajamas, collecting rocks in the back yard.

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Visit Clan Donaldson for more Theme Thursday fun!

Habemus Papam!

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Theme Thursday: Hats or Scarves. Or Helmets.

Sneaking in under the wire for the latest Clan Donaldson photography link-up, the theme being “Hats or Scarves.”

I know that many a snowbound reader will shake frostbitten fists at the screen upon seeing this picture of 70-degree weather, but trust me – we will have several months of Texas fireweather starting soon. We have to seize these days before the sun begins to actively fry our hides when we step outside.

So, here’s Little League tryouts:

Tryouts---Christopher-batting

I am proud of this photo for two reasons.

1. My son has never played baseball before, and in fact hasn’t played a team sport since Pee Wee soccer as a three-year-old. He didn’t exactly ask to play this year, so much as grudgingly assent to his parents’ semi-forcing him to try it.

I don’t like to write about my children that much once they get older – it feels invasive to try to get inside their heads and then share that with the world. (I also want to hedge my bets for when they all someday get book deals to write about their harridan mother.) So I guess all I’ll say is that I completely recognized his nervousness about trying out, the fear not so much of failure as of not knowing what to do, and I was really proud of him for overcoming that.

In hindsight, I wish we’d had him try a sport a couple of years ago, because he’s almost at the age where the real standouts start to leave the rest of the kids in the dust. But we spent this week going to the batting cages and emailing the coach to make sure we had all of the gear, doing everything we could to be ready. And he did just fine. The coaches knew he hadn’t played before and it wasn’t a big deal. He was beaming and telling all sorts of corny jokes at dinner, which is how I know he was proud of himself.

They find out next week which teams they’re on.

2. I took this picture in manual mode and lived to tell the tale. I think I need something up from the kit lens to be doing sports photos at night, but that ain’t happening anytime soon. I downloaded a copy of my camera’s manual to my phone, so I could quickly search through to find the right settings for taking these photos. Not that this is some great picture, but it’s way better than the ones I took where I was just randomly trying different settings.

Stop by Cari’s to see more great photos, including an amazing shot of her husband, who appears to be the barrister scion of England’s oldest family, ready to do what it takes to hold the financial industry accountable for what it has done. I may be projecting.