Homeschool update

It has been a long time since I posted something about our homeschooling efforts. Our approach has changed a few times, and frankly, due to time limitations and my exhaustion from the recent pregnancy, our homeschooling has been far less structured this year. A few updates: We joined a fantastic homeschool cooperative for preschoolers. Each month, we study a different theme, such as safety, or the ocean. It has been a wonderful opportunity for all of the kids, especially Josephine, who is three years old, to bond with a small group of peers and learn skills with them. We also have special outdoor adventure days, which gives the kids the chance to have some free play in a natural setting. Charlotte began to take gifted enrichment classes each week at our local public elementary school. She was tested last fall and qualified as a gifted student, and the guidance counselor and the classroom teacher were able to work out an education plan for her. This class has a focus on science, math, and technology education, so the kids do experiments and learn how science and technology connect. Charlotte is the youngest student in the class; she already had friends from our neighborhood there, and the kids made her feel very welcome. We are excited to begin again in the fall! We chose to do our annual homeschool assessment - required by state law - as a standardized test, rather than through a certified teacher. Charlotte took the Iowa Basic Skills Test at the school and had a good experience with it.


Some Truths, According to Melinda

[This should be subtitled: "Things That Change When You Have Four Young Children, One of Whom Is a Newborn, in the House" or something like that.]

Greetings, readers!  Since I last updated this blog, we have added a new person to our household: Thomas John, a precious baby boy.  He was born by a relatively uneventful scheduled C-section.  I promise to post his birth story here sometime, but with that, I would need to also post the very late birth stories of our other children, to be fair.  (For the record, my oldest thinks that they all should be nicknamed: Lottie, 6, Josie, 3, Jimmy, 21 months, and Tommy, 5 days.  Stubborn mama still calls them all either by their full first names, or by "sweetie" or "love" or some other term of endearment.)

In the interest of saving time on this rare, quiet morning (big kids with their father, baby asleep), I will launch into my new post of observations.  These are not Truths, but rather, Melinda's Truths.  In other words, these are strictly my opinions, of course.

1. Recovering from a C-section sucks.  

To be fair, my recovery is actually going well.  I was released from the hospital after two days, and I started to walk around as soon as possible.  (My aunt, a rehabilitation nurse, advises this.)  This week's experience has been much better than my last C-section, which was also my first surgery ever.  At that time, I was thrown for a loop about what "surgery" meant for my body (ouch), and I ended up needing a blood transfusion.  I foolishly didn't take any pain medication afterwards last time, and I don't know what I was thinking!  (I wasn't trying to be a hero; I think I was worried that the pain meds would negatively affect the baby.)  This time, I was prepared about what to expect, and things have gone more smoothly. 

I am taking Ibuprofen on schedule, and that really takes the edge off the pain.  The heavy, prescription pain medications like Percocet make me feel loopy, nauseous, and constantly sleepy.  I guess that would be okay if all I needed to do was sleep, but with children in the house, I can't really afford to sleep all the time.  I took a nap on my first day back from the hospital, and none since.  I foresee another nap in my future maybe in 3-5 years. (Insert laughter here.)  I just need a drug that will make me feel well enough to move around and not hurt, so Ibuprofen, with its anti-inflammatory properties, does the trick.

I guess my point, though, is to compare a vaginal birth experience with a C-section experience.  A vaginal birth has its downsides (bad contractions, unknown duration, soreness in the nether region, et cetera), but the recovery is a breeze compared to recovery from surgery, at least in my limited experience.  With my vaginal births, I actually went on the subway - and hiked around a lake, for crying out loud - within the first 3 days.  Perhaps those were taking things a bit too far, but it shows the difference.  With surgery, I feel like I've been hit by a truck when I wake up.  My incision hurts badly.  My abdomen is sore.  I have trouble bending, rising, and walking.  I feel delicate all over. 

But this too shall pass.  I made the decision, and things are going as well as can be expected.  I'll deal.

2. My husband is my parenting partner first, and my romantic partner second.

I know: we should make my marriage a top priority.  I covered that subject in the last blog post.  However, my husband and I - technically, with five kids that share our last name, and five birth experiences total - are wise enough now to know that romantic "couple time" will come eventually.  Right now, we're in survival mode.  My football-wise friends have compared it to us playing one-on-one with two kids to playing zone defense with four kids at home. 

Basically, we have to take turns with everything.  I am on baby duty all night, and that is understood.  This is because I have all of the nursing equipment.  He is on big-kid duty all night, and that is understood. This is because he can easily get up to help them, and it currently takes me about five minutes to hoist myself out of bed, and that is only if the baby is still asleep.  I have our big, cushy bed, and my husband has the living room couch.  (With six people and three bedrooms, there is no "spare" room in the house.) 

Just in case you think that I have the harder job, I will tell you this: I nurse the baby and fall right back to sleep every time.  Baby is happy, and I get a full night's sleep.  However, my husband never knows when our toddler might wake up for hours on end (yikes), as has been the case during this transitional week, or when our preschooler might cry out during the night.  On top of everything, my husband is a light sleeper and always has trouble getting back to sleep.  So really, I have the easier job, at least for the time being.

In a sense though, this whole experience is kind of romantic. It's a dance, and we take turns leading.  During quiet moments, we both coo over the baby, or we share a funny story about the kids.  During loud moments (most of the time), we see what needs to be done, and we do it.  If one of us snaps at the other, it's understood: this is a stressful job.  It's okay.  We still love each other.  It would be a bad sign, I think, if one of us were to completely disengage from the process and not understand what the other is going through.  So for all the time that I complain that my husband doesn't do as much as I want him to do (or more aptly, exactly how I want him to do it), I must admit, he's a wonderful dad, and he's great with the dance.  He also makes a mean cup of coffee.

3. Bringing home a younger sibling is a different experience than bringing home one's first baby.

Obviously, by the time you have more than one child, you are more experienced, and you might tend to be a more relaxed parent.  But there are other, more subtle differences.  You have more than just a baby to worry about.  You also have to consider the physical and emotional needs of the older children, and how their need for attention actually increases during this time.  So, while you are exhausted from being the parents of a newborn, you have the daily demands of other child(ren) at home.  They still need to be fed, read to, taken places, seen, heard, and loved.  Children are the cure for laziness, even deserved laziness.  In short, I don't know how the Duggars manage to handle everything.  I am exhausted just thinking about it.

You also know how to distinguish the good advice from the bad.  You also know that it is impossible to completely spoil the children, because they all want all of your attention, and you simply can't accommodate that, so they need to be content and happy with what they can get from you, and from each other.  But that's the exciting part: they do get a lot from each other!  Older siblings have a way of growing up and becoming excellent helpers.  In fact, I think that's the best course of action: make older siblings feel special and wanted by having them know how needed they are.  You are the baby's parent, but you could never take the place of a sibling.  (P.S. The children are also far more likely to copy an older sibling than to listen to what a parent says, so keep this in mind for future reference.)

You also learn that most of the parenting magazines, while interesting reads, are mostly marketing tools for baby products that you don't need.  There, I said it.  They also follow a strict line about what the writers think should be normal, and they are geared toward a sort of average, mass appeal.  So in other words, don't worry if you don't have that piece of equipment that every parent is supposed to have.  Seriously, if you haven't used it, you probably will never need it.  Keep it simple. 

We've never had a crib.  We've used the same baby car seat for all of our kids, plus our two young nephews!  We reuse clothes, even between genders, and get almost everything secondhand.  Some of the baby equipment we had with the first baby - thinking that we might need it - has long been passed on to other homes.  Keep it simple.

4. Priorities really do change.

Sometime around the birth of my previous child, I decided that while my physical health was important, my physical appearance was way down on my list of priorities.  Yes, I will bathe and smile and try to dress myself, but I don't care about looking fashionable.  Heck, if I had time for that, then my house should also be cleaner, my kids should be happier, I should be having more sex, and I should have caught up with all of my correspondence.  We make time for the things that are most important to us.

Maybe in a few years, I'll look cool again.  Right now, I don't, and I am perfectly fine with that.  My husband is understanding, and he isn't going anywhere.  If anyone else makes fun of my socks or my lack of hairstyle or my bad skin, so be it.

I also don't understand the "I am bored" thing.  There is too much work to do to get bored!  Maybe I'm just getting old, but I think that we have enough free entertainment.  There is also not enough money.  We can raise four children on an adjusted annual income equal to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level - with no government or family assistance - because we try not to spend money on stuff that we don't need.  It's not quite as simple as that, but saving vs. spending really does help, and it makes life less complicated when it works.  Emergencies will always come up, and spending money on a whim never feels as good as being able to pay for an emergency without going further into debt. Just my two cents, so to speak.

Well, I could go on about my opinions on controversial topics, or the fact that all newborns look like my late grandfather, but I will let this be.  Many thanks for the gift of a healthy baby and a happy family.