How is a Finicky Lawnmower a Metaphor for my Work life?

Here’s our current lawnmower. We haven’t had a very good relationship.

Yesterday we had a gap in the spring rains. The lawn was tall and needed to be cut before the rain fell again today. I had an hour to spare between work and baseball, so I decided that I was going to mow the lawn. I’m a capable person in this household. I am fully capable to cut the grass, especially since my husband wouldn’t be home until after dark. He works hard, cares for all of us, and has little leisure time. I’ll be a helper!

Here I am at fifteen months, trying to be a helper.

The lawnmower and I have a rocky relationship. When the lawnmower and I were younger, in my late twenties and thirties, I was usually able to get it started with lots of priming and pulling. But for the last few years? Our relationship has gotten more and more hostile. I primed 25 times. Pull, pull, pull, pull, pull! Nothing. 25 more times. Pull, pull……. you get the idea. Maybe it’s because I’m short and don’t have good leverage. Maybe the lawnmower likes frustrating me. I don’t know what it is, but even though I want to help, I can’t. I’m blocked by that stupid lawnmower.

“Why not just get a new one? One of those battery operated ones?” you may ask. Well, I’ve asked Daniel about that. It still works, so why replace it. Last summer the pullcord snapped. “Oh boy!!! We’ll get a new lawnmower!!!” I thought with hope. Nope. He just purchased a new pullcord and it was running again. Daniel was so pleased.

Well, after my last fail, I was SO FRUSTRATED!!! I just wanted to help! I saw a need. I was a capable, able bodied member of this household with an hour to spare. I wanted to mow the lawn before the rain so that my husband wouldn’t have to. I just wanted to be a helper!

Well, after I yell-typed a text to Daniel about how much I hate the lawnmower, I realized that the lawnmower is a metaphor for my work life.

I’ve been the Children’s Ministries Director for my church, a terrific mid-sized church in a DC suburb, for the last eleven years. Through that time, my ministry has grown in leaps and bounds. The number of families has blossomed, and my responsibilities have increased. The Senior Pastor has seen my capabilities and, from time to time, has suggested other areas of my ministry to explore, like teaching and encouraging the parents, so I did! Like my desire to mow the lawn, I had a desire to be a helpful, hard worker. When I saw a need, I went to work.

One of my favorite pictures of VBS

Over the years, the scope and span of Children’s Ministries went unnoticed by the leaders. Not once did I meet with the Elders to share what was going on. Because there was never a crisis, it was off their radar. Even meeting with the Senior Pastor didn’t take place unless I felt the need to talk with him about a problem. It was just his style of leadership. I, and Children’s Ministries, were neglected because we were both thriving. (Or so they thought) Daniel can always start the lawnmower; there’s nothing wrong with it. But, maybe we should have been servicing the lawnmower regularly, and that would have helped it to start for me. Maybe I should have initiated more meetings, but I didn’t feel like that was a wanted thing. Actually, I knew that it wasn’t a wanted thing.

Children’s Ministries has had lots of highs, and it’s had some lows as well. Most people didn’t see the lows, or don’t remember them, because it didn’t cause them to have sleepless nights and lots of tears. Seven years ago I wanted to quit. I was burned out. “You can’t quit. There’s no one else that can do what you do,” is what I heard. What I needed was to be invested in, to be encouraged. I had seen pastoral interns come and go and they were embraced, taught, encouraged, made part of the pastoral team and they went to Elders’ meetings. They had instant access and instant relationships. Meanwhile, I was pretty much forgotten about. Even though I expressed to the Senior Pastor that I was burned out, the solution was, “You should create a team. Who can you recruit to be part of your team?” I couldn’t think of anyone. At this stage in my church, there were TONS of babies and toddlers. The young moms didn’t have anything extra to give. The older moms had already done Children’s Ministries and had moved on. I was already recruiting the volunteers for Nursery, Preschool, Sunday School, Kids’ Worship, and other extra events. Asking me to recruit volunteers to be on a Children’s Ministries Team was just work that seemed impossible. I can’t believe that my body language didn’t scream “I need help! I need someone to encourage me!” I still remember being almost doubled over in my chair in despair. Daniel has seen how frustrated I’ve been with the stupid lawnmower. But, even though I’ve asked for a new lawnmower, we haven’t gotten one. The grass was still getting cut eventually, so everything seemed fine…

Well, after years of working hard, doing a great job, yet still being siloed, COVID hit. I’m not going to talk about the details, but I found myself needing to share my knowledge and expertise with the pastors and Elders multiple times. I had a perspective that they didn’t, but they didn’t want to hear it. They didn’t realize that they didn’t see the big picture. I wanted to be a helper. It is my job, afterall. But instead I was rejected over and over again. Just like my pleas for a new lawnmower so that I could help, I was rejected time and time again. I just want to help!

Well, Daniel finally got the hint, I think because I yelled loudly enough, and I linked it to how frustrated I have been/continue to be at work. (I think that he might have been even more furious than I was, about my work situation.) So, he did some research and has picked out our new lawnmower. As for work, well, there’s been considerable progress, but there’s a long way to go. I, and my ministry have been slighted for so many years, that it’s not going to be an overnight fix, but I’m hopeful. And I’m also hopeful that with a new lawnmower I’ll be able to mow the lawn. I just want to help.

The Covid Finally Got Us!

Do you know what those two pink lines mean? It means something a little different for everyone. Here’s my family’s Covid story:

On Monday, December 6th, after hosting a little birthday party for my eldest son, I started to have a scratchy throat. But, what kind of wimp would cancel running for a scratchy throat, right? So, my friend Laurie and I, along with Lizzie the Dog, went for a fun Christmas lights run.

Tuesday was a day that we all had been looking forward to. Daniel and I were scheduled to get our booster shots, the older boys were going to have their first band concert since Covid, and I was going to have my first meeting of the class that I will be attending. Woo hoo! I felt a little achy and had a little case of the chills, but that’s common for me when I have a cold, so off I went to get my booster, and we had a terrific day and evening. We even hosted a little reception for Caleb and Isaac with their grandparents and aunt. It was a wonderful day.

That brings us to Wednesday. I still felt achy, had chills, and some cold symptoms, but it certainly wasn’t the worst cold that I’ve had, just a little weird, so the show must go on! Besides, maybe the booster plus a little cold meant some residual aches. So, after school, I took the boys to swim and also went to the grocery store in between practices. I was so productive and pleased with myself.

Thursday! I felt sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo tired, like the cold medicine that I took to help me sleep the night before (because I had such a deep ache from my lower back to my knees) was still working. How long does that stuff last? I only took one Benadryl! But, I needed to go to work for a bit, so I got myself going.

Ironically, took a picture of myself on my way out the door and texted it to Daniel with the caption “Fake it till I make it”. Well, as you can see by the picture beside it, I didn’t last long at work. When I got home, Daniel told me about someone that we had dinner with last Saturday that tested positive for Covid. Is that what I have??? Daniel’s work party is tomorrow. I better check just to be sure, before I infect the whole restaurant. Well, thanks to the local library, I got two tests, and before you know it, I was second guessing the results. What? Positive for Covid? Surely that’s not what those two pink lines mean… I texted Daniel, and when he got home, he tested positive too. Shocker.

Where did we get it??? We hosted a dinner party on Saturday night… One of the wives tested positive, Daniel and I are now positive… Who brought Covid unknowingly to our house? How many other people will get sick? After being pretty cautious since March 2020, did I just host a super spreader event??? How many people did I expose?

When I looked back at the week, I had symptoms since Monday. Oh dear…

We all stayed home on Friday. Daniel and I stayed in our “Covid Quarters”. The boys’ learned skills during our 2020 quarantining came in handy. They decided to do a “Schuttinga Diner” for our breakfast. Nathan acted as waiter, and Isaac cooked our breakfast. It was so sweet, and a little undercooked. Then they set about doing asynchronous work while I did the paperwork to get them back into school next week.

We felt pretty good, but I got wiped out doing ordinary things, and oh my goodness did my muscles ache.

We were all set to send Caleb and Isaac back to school on Monday, but on Sunday Isaac complained of a headache and cold. Well, he resulted in the third positive test. We tested Caleb, and he was negative. Send Isaac up to the Covid Quarters! And I guess Caleb can still go to school. More 2020 skills: Zoom supper!

What in the world is Isaac going to do all day in one space? Learn a new skill: Cribbage!

On Monday I filled out the paperwork for Nathan to return to school, since that was the day that he was fully vaccinated. But… because he was exposed before he was fully vaccinated, it would be a much longer process that we wouldn’t be able to do, since we were in Covid Jail. Oh well! He got a three week Christmas Break with some homeschooling. The worst part was that he had to stay downstairs while we were isolating upstairs. It got lonely.

Does this look familiar?

Caleb’s school still had him marked absent. When they realized that he was in school, there was a bit of a panic. But, we followed the protocols, and he stayed in school for the whole week.

In the evenings we took walks to see the Christmas lights. The “Covids” stayed in the back and the “NonCovids” stayed up front and yelled “Unclean” to keep people away. Just kidding. But not really.

This is our house. Beautiful, huh?

I had to make it very public that I had Covid because I was planning on having an open house with the moms from church on the following Wednesday for breakfast. Making it public was not my favorite thing, but the result was good! Two women from church made supper for us, and others offered to bring groceries, etc… Our neighbors and Daniel’s mom also took good care of us in the food department. Thank you!!!

Too bad Daniel couldn’t smell the delicious food that was brought.

Covid Jail lasts for ten days. Daniel and I would be out on December 17th. Isaac would be out on the 22nd, so pretty much we were in Jail for two weeks. But wait… Nathan’s nose started to run… Covid!!! That would take us until December 24th. Stinker! But… the silver lining was that we could all hang out while Caleb was at school.

Now that we were all together, we tackled this puzzle. It was not easy.

On Friday after school, we told Caleb, who oddly enough never caught Covid from us, that we were officially throwing in the towel and that we would be together again.

So back to the question of where did we get it???

We think that Caleb gave it to us and the other family.

Why do we think that?

Here’s the evidence:

Caleb had a very small cold on December 2nd and 3rd. Very small. We sent him to school, of course. You go to school with a cold, right? Isaac and Nathan were more recently vaccinated, so they took longer to catch it. They needed to be exposed for a longer period of time. They all sleep in the same room, so that says a lot about the potency of the vaccine!

Now that Omicron is spreading like wildfire, we feel pretty good about our chances of staying healthy since we got our booster AND Covid at the same time.

Since I had blogged about our life during Covid so much in 2020, I thought that it was fitting to blog about having it! I’m so thankful for vaccines, friends, and the skills that my boys had learned in 2020. They definitely made having Covid a lot easier!

Learning to Live with Our New Normal: September 2020-September 2021

We’re all a little reluctant to say that living with Coronavirus rising and falling, giving us hope and then dashing it again, is our new normal, but… it is. (For now, at least…)

This blog post is going to begin and end with pictures of butterflies. It’s hopeful that we can, with God’s grace, emerge as creatures that are more beautiful than before each time we need to tighten up, wear masks everywhere, look at the numbers soaring, and deal with lots of people’s thoughts and ideas. This is definitely a “refined by fire” kind of situation. We are in need of a lot of God’s grace and wisdom!

The 2020/2021 school year was unusual. Fairfax County Public Schools offered virtual-only instruction for much of the year. I homeschooled Isaac and Nathan. Caleb did his school over computer. It was okay.

The best part of the weird school year was that Caleb’s Mondays were asynchronous, which meant that he pretty much didn’t have school every Monday. So, we took advantage of that and did some adventures. Caleb, Isaac, and Nathan also rounded up some neighborhood boys to play football at the turf fields a mile away. That was terrific. (Who’s that cute blondie? That’s my nephew, Quincy.)

Baseball was a consistent thing in our lives, as well as going to church every Sunday. Sunday School began in-person in October. It was a crazy hybrid approach, but with a lot of work and a lot of players, it happened. We gained a lot of new families through the year because we were meeting and teaching in person.

Nathan played AA in the fall and then was drafted to AAA in the spring! Go Nate Dog!

Christmas rolled around, and I introduced something new to Cornerstone. “The Maker Fair” was held on December 6th. Since we didn’t have VBS in 2020, we weren’t able to do our usual fundraiser for The Cornerstone’s Children’s Home. I came up with a bit of a half-baked idea that was a huge success and was wildly popular. Daniel kept teasing me that it was going to be a “super spreader event” when we saw the crowd, but we were as responsible as we could be, and God was gracious.

Another new thing that happened in the Schuttinga house is that we entered the teen years.

Happy birthday to my sweet-hearted Caleb!

March 12th, 2021, was the end of virtual-only school for Caleb. It was an entire year of being at home. FCPS started out small, only sending kids two days a week, then allowed all who wanted to return in-person to do so 4 days a week. Caleb got back on his bike and happily went to school. So what if you have to wear a mask all day? At least you get to learn from a real live teacher with real live peers. School is infinitely better when you’re in the building.

Spring brings… Easter! We celebrated with the kids at church by making a Resurrection Garden. It’s no surprise that we had a record turnout for this event. People want to celebrate!

Spring also brings Spring Break, and we have been vacationing near Clemson, SC, these last few years. On our way to Clemson, we did the Virginia Creeper Trail, which is in southwest VA. My college roommate lives an hour away in Tennessee, so we thought that we would spend the night with her family, bike the trail, and then continue driving to Clemson. The weather was iffy, so we left a day early to beat the rain, and stayed with Catherine and her family for two nights. Well, we didn’t beat the rain…

There was thunder… there was lightning… there was torrential rain… there was hail… there was yelling… “This is the WORST!!! I have mud in my eyes!!! This is a nightmare!!!” But what a story we had to share! We used a hose to spray down our clothes at Catherine’s house before putting them in the washing machine. Thankfully her husband Ryan had a big powerful fan to dry out our sneakers. We were a MESS!

When we returned to Virginia, we had big news! The vaccine was available for our age group! I went to “The Chic Fil A” of vaccination centers. It was incredibly impressive. They vaccinated thousands of people each day, and the line constantly moved.

Getting the vaccination to whoever wanted it was a HUGE leap for joy. The Coronavirus numbers plummeted. It was like Covid was gone. Had we really beaten it? We were taking our masks off, smiling at people, we did it!!! Mask up, vax up… it worked!!!

Bring on the Brood X Cicadas!!! And the house renovations!!! And the pool opening like normal!!! And swim team!!! And summer vacation!!!

Okay, okay, one thing at a time… Let’s talk about the Brood X Cicadas. They are a once every 17 year phenomenon. My neighborhood really gets them. As you can see by the pictures, our yard was coated with cicadas. The noise was deafening. It was terrific. 17 years ago, one of the coolest, most fun, wisest men that I know cooked them for his boys. When I found that out I thought, “I’m going to do that when they come back.” So… I did!

Cicadafest #1 was okay. They were sauteed in too much butter.

My childhood friend, Vivian, was so intrigued by the cicadas, that she flew here for Cicadafest #2! It was so much fun to get reacquainted with Vivian! We hadn’t seen each other since 1995! And, Cicadafest #2 was much better. I prepared Popcorn Cicadas, which is just like Popcorn Shrimp. Yum!

We also took Viv on an evening bike ride through DC. It was one of the best nights of the summer.

Bring on the house renovations! We have been thinking about doing this renovation for 18 years. We thought, “Hey! The price of lumber and all materials are scarce and incredibly high. It’s the perfect time! Let’s do it!” We love it. It’s perfect.

The pool opened in all its glory. Right before our last Board meeting before opening, the governor lifted all restrictions. We kept on reminding ourselves “All restrictions are lifted,” and took a sigh of relief! Swim Team, Raven Camp, cookouts, Fledglings, Movie Nights, you name it, we did it! We love our neighborhood pool.

Vacation in Minnesota… 5 Stars.

Also this summer, 2 more Schuttingas got vaccinated!

When we got back from vacation, we learned that Covid had a new variant, Delta. It was spreading like wildfire. The numbers in Fairfax County were almost as high as ever! What did this mean for school? Work? Church? Masks?

I’m proud to say that Fairfax County Public Schools stayed firm and pressed on with 5 days a week in-person learning. It was the right thing to do. Sure, there are cases every week, but with vaccinations and masking, they have been pretty minimal. Last night Daniel and I attended Back to School Night at Lake Braddock Secondary School (the largest school in Virginia). It was a JOY. We were so impressed with all of the teachers. They were so excited to be back. Other than everyone wearing masks, it’s just like normal school! When we went to the band room, there was talk of the upcoming concerts! The energy and enthusiasm was awesome. I’m so happy for my boys, and all of the kids.

I’m not going to lie, it has been a bumpy reentry into “Covid life” again. We thought that we had it licked. I’m hoping and praying that God will continue to sanctify me and all Christians so that we can bring glory to God in all that we say and do.

Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time. Daniel 11:35

Summer 2020 Recap

There’s so much to tell about our almost like-normal summer, but first I need to begin where I left off!

We finished online Ravensworth, online Keene Mill, and Schuttinga School on June 12th, 2020. Caleb was promoted from the 6th Grade and will enter secondary school (7th-12th Grade) at Lake Braddock in just a few days. Caleb finished elementary school with a bang. We are so proud of him. Not only did he bike over 1,500 miles to and from school, which was cut short because of Covid, of course, but he also worked very hard at academics. He was awarded The Principal’s Award, which is a high honor.

Here he is by the bike racks with The Biker Gang:

We had to celebrate somehow, so the boys took one last ride home from Keene Mill together and when they arrived at our house, they played on the Slip n’ Slide and had a cookout. It was a great way to celebrate the end of elementary school.

We were pleasantly surprised that our pool opened this summer. We were able to have professional swim teams rent our pool, which helped us to break even. Around the 4th of July the Governor moved us into Phase 3, which allowed free swim with restrictions. The boys did a greatly modified swim team season which helped to give some structure to three of the days during the week. As the Activities Director, I did drive-in movie nights as well as lined up food trucks to visit the pool parking lot.

The wonderful Board of Annandale North Springfield Little League (ANSLL) created a “Summer Blitz” league for the 12 year olds since their spring season was cancelled. Caleb played in the HEAT of July for 3 weeks. His team won the championship and then he played in the All Star game. It brought joy to so many people to see the kids playing again. Under normal circumstances, it would have been nice, but this past summer, after the isolated, shutdown spring that we had, this was like the heaviness was lifted a little bit off of the community. We had something to cheer for. Something happy. Something that didn’t have the stink of sickness or politics on it. Just baseball.

As soon as “Swim Team” and baseball ended, it was time to go to Northern Minnesota for two weeks. We bought our plane tickets when Covid broke and the airline tickets were very cheap. Thankfully Delta didn’t go out of business, we were able to leave Virginia and enter Minnesota, and we all stayed healthy! It’s always a great time away.

Swimming, water skiing, fishing, speed boating, biking, kayaking, grandparents, aunts, cousins, birthdays, dating, how could you not have fun?

When we returned I continued to prepare for the fall, which means Children’s Ministries and school. What? Yes. I will spare you the infuriating details of the decision that the Superintendent made. Let’s just say that I thought that my younger two sons would receive the most consistent education from being homeschooled.

At church, we began holding Kids’ Worship for the elementary aged kids outside. In case of inclement weather, the chairs have been set up and socially distanced. My friend April and her girls helped me and my boys scrub down the preschool room to prepare it for whenever they can return. I also took most of the toys out of the preschool and nursery rooms. I don’t think that they will miss them.

I love a good plan book. However, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s will that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

Another big deal this summer was Backyard Bible Clubs. VBS was canceled, of course, so 4 moms (myself included) hosted a Bible Club one week during the summer in our backyard. It was a great way to reach out to our neighbors. Here’s a picture of my “Girls Only” BYBC:

Here are my 8 girls! It was a sweet week.

And finally, to end the summer, we are caterpillar crazy! For a couple of years, I have been growing milkweed to attract monarch butterflies in hopes not only to see these beauties, but also to help the monarch population. It is so much fun to raise monarchs! So far we’ve collected 17 caterpillars and have also given 8 to one of our neighbors who also will be homeschooling this year. The transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly is absolutely amazing. Last week in Kids’ Worship we talked about God being incomprehensible. The intricacies of this little creature is an example of that attribute.

Job 38:4-7 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”

I feel like monarchs could be listed in God’s reply to Job. “Did you design the chrysalis to be inside of the caterpillar? Do you watch over the beating heart and pile of liquid intestines to make sure that a totally new creature is formed?”

Summer 2020. You were different, but you were mostly good.

Coronavirus Homeschool Week 10 in Review

Caleb’s math
He does 7th Grade math. It’s beyond me. He’s hoping to be taking Algebra next year when he’s in 7th Grade.
Nathan’s math
He has a “morning meeting” at the beginning of each lesson.
Isaac’s math
I’m having fun using the board. It brings me back…

You might say that math was a big focus of the week. This was the first week that I started teaching 6th Grade math. Ever. It starts out small, and I hope that I’ll be able to understand it by the end! I’m sure that I will. Saxon Math is amazing.

Caleb, my math nerd, had a little funny math story this week. He was really working hard on his math quiz. It took him over an hour, and he wondered the whole time if he was able to use a calculator. Well, he got 9/10. I encouraged him to email his teacher after he submitted his quiz to ask if he could have used a calculator. Well, not only was he supposed to use a calculator, but a formula sheet as well! So, he took it again, it took 15 minutes, and he got a perfect score. It must be nice to be an ace at math…

Caleb doing online school
Nathan’s work laid out
Isaac feverishly completing his math facts sheet
Nathan spelling in rice
Nathan spelling with playdough

Have I told you how terrible Nathan is at spelling? I mean, he doesn’t have a clue. And for a person who has always been good at spelling, I just don’t understand. I bought a phonics book for him around Thanksgiving, but until the Stay at Home Order, we didn’t do much with it. Now it’s become a daily focus. He does a week’s worth of work in a day and then I quiz him on the concept. Whatever words he doesn’t know how to spell become his spelling words for the week.

Now. The kid HATES to write. If I require him to write the words 10 times, or write a sentence for each word, I would just hear a lot of moaning, crying, griping, yelling… I made letter tiles for him, but he was going to need to practice these words all week. What else could I do???

Ah ha! I’ll use the rice from Isaac’s cursive lesson and playdough! Worked like a charm.

On Friday we worked until lunch, and then…

Happy 74th Birthday, Papa Touchdown!

Okay. Confession time. We were invited to celebrate my dad’s birthday. There were 11 people. And we’re not even in Phase 1 yet!

This was the first time in 10 weeks that we have gone into someone’s house as a family. It felt strange but normal at the same time.

If we get sick, I’m blaming it on the delicious birthday cake that Quincy and Papa blew on.

We had a blast. Caleb said that it was the best day that he’s had in a long time. And isn’t it so nice that the best day involved family and badmitton? I’m hoping that this summer will be filled with simple days like this one.

All Dressed up and No Where to Go

Zoom broke on Sunday, the most important day for Zoom to work in my life, so at home I stayed instead of going into church to teach Sunday School. We’ll just use what we prepared next week.

The Schuttingas did a family devotional about the attributes of God and watched Mrphiltv. Thankfully Zoom was working in the evening, so we were able to do our scheduled all church prayer meeting. We were able to get into small groups to pray, so that information helps me to plan as much as I can for upcoming Sunday School. At some point we’ll need to break up children’s Sunday School into smaller groups so in can be more interactive.

Technology is great. When it works.

Week 9 of the Schuttinga’s Coronavirus Homeschool in Review

Some new adventures we have begun in Schuttinga Homeschool.

But first, I had a great Mother’s Day. I usually like Mother’s Day to be like a normal Sunday – nothing flashy. This year the boys weren’t in school, obviously, so they had to make their Mother’s Day cards at home. They were pretty cute. The boys also made chocolate chip waffles for Sunday brunch. Mmmmm… We also had a nerf battle in the backyard, which was super fun.

I almost never have my picture taken with just me and my boys. I think this should become an annual tradition.

On the garden front…

Peonies picked on Monday
This is what they’re looking like on Thursday
I’ve wanted to do this for years…
… and since I don’t want Lizzie drinking from the bird bath…
… I planted succulents in the bird bath! (You can also see swamp iris and my boys on the patio)

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that I purchased the Saxon Math curriculum for Nathan, and we’re going through the lessons quickly. It’s amazing how fast you can teach only one kid. I’ve heard rumors, that sound very likely, about the kids not going back to school until at least January. Caleb is doing very well with online learning. His teachers are able to give him a good amount of work. I’m thankful that I’ve been teaching Isaac how to write since March, and I’m currently teaching math, reading, writing, spelling, and phonics to Nathan. I’m going to buy a math curriculum for Isaac, now that it’s likely that he’ll be home until at least January.

Daniel has learned a new skill – how to dye his wife’s hair! Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful… (Do you remember those commercials?)

The haircut cape now has a new look. Hairdye!
Looking more brunette

And finally, Isaac is a very funny person. His one-liners crack me up, so it made my blog. He’s “Momma’s Man” this week. I said that he could help me wash the bathrooms. He replied, “I don’t do bathrooms”. Well…

Today’s Blog is Brought to you by the Letter G

The first “G” is for capital cursive G. Isaac had a 5 alarm freak out about writing “capital G” in cursive. Frustration, yelling, retreating to his bed, etc… So, I pulled out a play in the teacher’s handbook that I picked up somewhere years and years ago. If your kid is struggling with a fine motor skill, practice it with their gross motor skills first. Make it tactile. Rice in a cookie sheet did the trick for turning his blood pressure, attitude, and abilities around.

The second “G” stands for Mrs. Gross, Nathan’s teacher. Mrs. Gross read the book Flat Stanley to the kids over the computer this week and the assignment was to print a “Flat Mrs. Gross” and take her around with them on their adventures. Papa Jim needed some help with yardwork this week. Nathan helped him out and brought Mrs. Gross along to help too.

Nathan and Mrs. Gross planting periwinkle at Papa Jim’s house
Nathan and Mrs. Gross helping Mom plant the new plants in the container garden.

And the third “G” is for gardening. I love working in my yard. I love digging in the dirt and getting dirty. I love trying new plants. I love rearranging things. And I love how fresh everything looks in the spring.

One area of my yard that has been a problem for me pretty much the entire time I’ve lived here (16 years) is in front of the bay window. We have mature trees in our front yard which provide lots and lots of shade as well as choke things out with their spidery shallow roots. (They also have deep roots too, don’t worry!)

A few years ago, I gave up trying to plant shrubs in that spot, covered the dirt with pea stone, and plopped down a bench. People tend to congregate in my front yard, so the bench is well used. But, it looked drab. It needed life. So, this is what Nathan and I did on Tuesday and Wednesday:

Picture Key: Top Left: The improved area. I have high hopes and low expectations.

Top Right: Close-up of the large container: Hydrangea with white flowers, Hosta, Coral Bells. I will probably add some Creeping Jenny from my backyard too.

Bottom Left: Astilbe in the smallest pot.

Bottom Middle: Hosta, Japanese Fern, Deadnettle in the medium sized pot.

Bottom Right: A close-up of the Japanese Fern. It’s supposed to grow to be 18″.

Teacher Appreciation Week

This is Teacher Appreciation Week. Typically, we send in an allium to add a fun flower to the bouquet for the teachers, write notes, bake treats, etc… Now that my kids aren’t seeing their teachers in person, Teacher Appreciation Week is much different. Nathan drew a thank you card for his teacher and showed it to her during “Lunch Bunch without lunch” today. I’ll have the big boys email their thanks this week as well.

However, I’ve decided that this teacher, who has been devoting quite a few hours teaching her kids (especially Nathan) needs a Teacher Appreciation Week as well. And that’s really just my excuse to push them to clean up after themselves. Do you see that beautiful island? I feel like all day long I’m reminding the kids to clear their places, put things away, etc… They’re certainly old enough to do that, and to even notice that they need to do that. So! That’s what Teacher Appreciation Week looks like over here. CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF!!!

I also got a present in the mail today, in the form of more work. I’m a sucker for educating my kids, I guess. My last year teaching at Trinity, we switched the math curriculum to Saxon Math. When the representative came to talk with us about it the spring prior, I was skeptical about this approach, because it was different than the “normal” math curriculum. It would be difficult to explain over a blog. However, it’s back to the basics, solid, and awesome. Kids that normally would struggle in math didn’t, because it was so grounded in simple math facts. It was organized so well that concepts that would usually bring tears and frustration to some kids was like a walk in the park to them. It truly is superior to what they are teaching in public school. So! Since I’ve raved about it for years, I decided (and I’m a little sad that I didn’t do this 2 months earlier!) to buy the 3rd Grade curriculum for Nathan. I know we won’t finish it before June 12th, of course, but I’m determined to complete it with Nathan. We’ll have to have a Saxon Math party when he’s done.

And finally, I’m so proud of how shiny and clear this butter drawer is, so I have to share it with you. On Monday, the emptiest day of the fridge’s life, I took out the remaining food (not much!) and gave the fridge a BIG clean while I quizzed Nathan on his spelling words. Multitasking at its finest.