Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

Nobody Said This Was Going To Be Easy March 15, 2013

I am incredibly overwhelmed.

I put off my coursework to care for my kids.

I do my housework since I’m not doing coursework.

I put off my housework to do my coursework.

While doing my coursework my kids wreck the house.

The baby will not let me put her down.

I am constantly nursing, changing diapers, leaking milk, burping, soothing, being spit up on, peed on, pooped on.

I am constantly serving meals, washing dishes, pre-washing cloth diapers, grooming my children, educating my children, feeling guilty that I cannot find the time for educating myself, running errands, running myself into the ground.

I want to cry like my baby. Her cry is so committed, wholeheartedly unabashed.

I want someone to hold me, to rock me, to love me, to shhhhhhhh in my ear while I cry.

I want so badly for things to be alright.

 

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Back to Homeschool February 18, 2013

At Circle Time we discuss the date (and talk about holidays or special events), observe and chart the weather, then read and analyze a poem.

At Circle Time we discuss the date (and talk about holidays or special events), observe and chart the weather, then read and analyze a poem.

The girls are back to being homeschooled for the time being. I never wanted to put them in the private facility they attended while I was in school last semester, but I didn’t have many other options. After my marriage ended abruptly in May, and I found out that I was pregnant with Baby #3 two weeks later, I needed to make some big decisions right away. I was already finished with my first year of graduate school, and after much debate, figured it best to stay put in New England instead of moving back to my home in Illinois.

My Education Station - from flash cards to phonics, from body books to experiments in a box. The white container holds our most frequently used craft supplies. The tray atop is my schoolwork.

My Education Station – from flash cards to phonics, from body books to experiments in a box. The white container holds our most frequently used craft supplies.

For one thing, I was broke, and staying in school would give me loan money. It’s major debt, I know it, but I didn’t have a job, I’m still not getting child support, and with another baby on the way it seemed implausible to move back across the country expecting someone to find me a desirable employee.

There were a lot of other factors weighing into my decision to stay in New England, stay in school, and send my girls to the private preschool and private kindergarten they attended while I took classes, but more on that in another post. The school was decent enough. I loved the teachers and the way they went about teaching the kids, but it was no Montessori. My oldest, Amara, mostly got a safe place to socialize out of her time there. Terra learned to better identify her numbers and letters, and got a lot better at her drawings; the social aspect didn’t appeal to her as much, but she enjoyed the activities.

Typical weekday schedule. The girls painted the cardboard backing and helped choose the activities.

The girls’ typical weekday schedule. The girls painted the backing and helped to choose the activities.

This semester, as I was due with Baby #3 one week ago today (I am still pregnant. I don’t know when she’ll decide to come out), I opted to create a Directed Study course so that I could stay home with my girls. It’s only one class (you can follow my progress of exploring eMarketing here), but I’m able to continue getting loan money and my assignments are due on a much more flexible schedule.

The only problem with this set-up was that until a week ago the girls and I didn’t really have a set schedule. Having so much to do with little organization was getting the better of me, but we’ve finally solidified our routine.

Now, instead of simply knowing that I have to do umpteen chores, feed and bathe the girls, take them to various appointments and lessons, prep for Baby’s arrival, and between the insomnia and worry and whatnot do my homework as well, I have a schedule.

Our Job Chart. As with the schedule, I forgot to put pictures next to the words. I'm adding those today because I want Terra to feel more independent.

As with the girls’ schedule, I forgot to put pictures next to the words. I’m adding those today because I want Terra to feel more independent.

The girls have a schedule too, and they love it. I’d been working toward being this organized for quite some time, but between last semester ending, my nesting, and everything else consuming my attention, I couldn’t get around to really implementing the plan until recently.

I’d been keeping up with the girls’ homeschooling, but between teaching them and my other responsibilities I couldn’t find the time for doing my schoolwork. Creating a set schedule allowed me to find the gaps of space and time between the girls’ many activities where I could clean and work on my assignments and do some blogging. We’re so much more efficient now. Things are running smoothly, the girls feel a better sense of control over their day, and I am finally finding the time to complete everything.

There are numerous things that don’t go on their typical weekday schedule, like bath time and play dates and shopping and therapy; I made extra tabs for those things so they can be switched out with other activities when they need to go on our schedule. I love Velcro! Of course, Baby #3 will change things slightly, but I’m fairly certain she’ll quickly learn to go with the flow.

Planning their lessons ahead of time is going to be crucial to keeping our schedule on track.

Planning their lessons ahead of time is going to be crucial to keeping our schedule on track.

I also purchased a file folder thingy on clearance at Michael’s to plan out the girls’ weekly lessons. It’s perfect, it holds ten folders so I can work ahead to schedule their activities for M-F and put workbook pages and whatnot inside so that I’m not lagging when they’re due to have “learning” time.

I’m so excited to be educating my girls, and so happy that I finally have a better system for planning their activities, keeping track of their progress, and feeling capable of taking care of my household and continuing my education as well.

There are so many things I cannot determine with what will become of my life. This time next year I might not be in New England anymore. I will more than likely have to return to work directly after finishing graduate grad school. I don’t know how I will be financially capable of continuing to homeschool. But I’m trying to look at the bright side and live in the now.

For now we’ve got a good thing going. We’re at home. We’re organized. We’re learning. We’re safe. It may be a tough load to carry and difficult to balance on a daily basis, but when I really consider how much worse things could be I shouldn’t complain.

 

One of those days January 28, 2013

Everything went right for a change.

The girls and I went to pick up my loan check from my school, then made our way to the bank in the bitter Boston cold to deposit it. We’d taken the commuter rail to get to the city from our town, then walked a total of ten blocks and took two T’s (subways) before we made it to the Boston Children’s Museum.

I could’ve just shuttled them to my school and back, but for all the effort (and expense) it takes traveling to Boston with two small children I figured we may as well make a day of it at one of their favorite places. We’ve been to the Boston Children’s Museum countless times since moving to Massachusetts, but the girls always enjoy themselves there.

We’d decided against the Museum of Science this time because we chose it the last few times and it’s not as easy for me to sit down while the girls explore there. The children’s museum was perfect for such a cold day, energetic children, and a mother waddling around two weeks away from having a baby. I wish we could’ve stayed even longer than we did, but we had to save some energy for the trip home. I’m happy to report there were no tears, feuds, or long periods of fussing. After arriving home we played our routine games of Uno and the girls feel asleep easily.

Two or three weeks from now everything will be different for my family, what with the new baby coming soon. But this was one of those days were everything just falls into place. I’ll take it.

 

 

The perfect blend of discovery and exercise

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They chased one another up and around this structure for ten minutes!

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The girls love the Peep’s World Exhibit and spent a lot of time playing in the water.

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Even though they were surrounded by huge exhibits and amazing things they spent about twenty minutes playing with these semi-soft animals.

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I bought them these awesome new headphones for only $5 at TJ Maxx so that they could listen to music on my phone together. The ear pieces have a super soft center, but they’re not buds, and the band adjusts to fit each ear perfectly. This is the look I got when I tried to take a picture of them enjoying the music (Disney’s Tangled Soundtrack). I didn’t know that I couldn’t take pictures and have them hear the music at the same time. Oops!

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The Museum has a new exhibit sponsored by the Blue Man Group. It’s pretty awesome. It deals with sound and sound waves and teaches children how they can distort sounds and use noises creatively. The girls are hardcore Blue Man Group fans now and request YouTube videos of them constantly.

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“I wish we lived across the street from the Children’s Museum,” Amara told me as we were leaving. So do I.

 

Deliver Me January 14, 2013

I am 36 weeks along today. Full term in one week with Baby #3.  I keep thinking that maybe if I say it enough, maybe if it’s written, maybe if it’s published it will seem more believable.

But this still feels like a dream. At times it has been a nightmare.

Somehow it was nearly eight full months ago that The Big Incident occurred. I found out that I was pregnant just over two weeks later. Being pregnant throughout this transition has made all the difference in the world.

The pregnancy has given me the strength to focus on something other than my feelings for him. Through it all, I still love him. I still miss the parts of him that weren’t abusive. I still wish there was some way it could have worked. Especially now, four weeks away from the birth of our third baby.

Every other pregnancy brought me back to him, but I knew that I could not allow myself to submit this time. I knew that I could not go through another pregnancy praying that this baby might help him to treat me better. Maybe if the baby were a boy? Maybe then he would think I was worthy?

The pregnancy kept me from going into a stupor. I could not let myself slip away. I could not bury my feelings in alcohol or illegal substances. I’ve had to face my situation without anything to numb the pain. I’ve had to continue eating, although I wanted to mentally and physically fade away.

This pregnancy has kept me focused. I remember vividly the feelings that I carried throughout my previous pregnancies. The constant wishing that we would be more unified by the baby. The contrasting resentment over being pregnant, being trapped with him again, because I knew deep down that things weren’t ever going to change.

Every pregnancy made me want more, but every baby born or lost led to worse treatment.

Had I not gone to the police the night of The Big Incident…had I gone through another honeymoon phase and allowed myself to be wooed again…the cycle would have certainly continued. I was so afraid. How could I leave him? How would I manage three children? How would I finish school? How could I reach my goals if I let him go?

This time the debate wasn’t as difficult. This time he was already gone when the pregnancy was confirmed. This time I could look at my restraining order instead of listening to his voice. This time I had vivid nightmares to remind me of The Big Incident, and a healing body to match the memories. In the weeks after The Big Incident I had no time to brood over everything I missed about him. I had to figure out how I was going to feed my daughters, pay our rent, stay in Massachusetts to finish my education. How could I possibly manage everything? How could I keep us safe from his vengeance?

Being pregnant has made me want to go back to him; I feel so dependent on our family unit when I’m carrying his seed. But how could I take him back after The Big Incident? How could I ignore the history of what occurred during and after my other pregnancies? In the end I knew that allowing him to return after The Big Incident would be allowing him to control me forever.

I had to do things differently this time. I would not allow another child to go through what my other two have already been through. I would not continue to raise them under his reign, trying to be the buffer between his rage and their safety. I would not allow them to grow up thinking that love was supposed to look that way. Things had to change. I did not have the strength to be apologetic to another baby for bringing her into the hell that was our household while he was in it.

Soon I will give birth to my third baby, but I cannot keep from feeling as though she has helped to deliver me.

 

Farm Day October 15, 2012

All homework and housework makes Mama a dull lady. The other day I decided to take a break from the broom, and the brooding over assignments undone. I took the girls to a couple of farms in the area. It was a lot more fun than folding laundry!

It was about 30 degrees out, so we got bundled up for our trip!

Farm #1 had this fun golf ball game. Terra was better at it than Amara and I.

Walking along the field towards the pumpkin patch

I love COWS!

The apple orchard was on the other side of Farm #1, so we chose to wait for a hayride.

The girls really enjoyed the hayride…It was a little bumpy for me!

It didn’t take long for Terra to pick her “perfect apple”

It took Amara about thirty minutes to pick her “perfect apple”

I wanted to rest beside them, but we had one more farm to go!

One of the cows at Farm #2 really liked me!

The girls needed to pick unique pumpkins and gourds to take to school. Farm #2 had a beautiful (and feasible) selection.

The girls were thoroughly entertained when the goats started fighting about which of them would get our food.

Farm #2 had an awesome playground. This airplane was a see-saw!

The airplane also rocked from side to side! I totally want one of these 🙂

 

[Insert popular lyrics from classic rock song about school here] September 17, 2012

Lately I wonder if sending them to school is actually more consuming than keeping them home. I no longer have the option to keep them home, as life goes, but I think now about all of the people with the financial stability to stay at home, but still choose to send their little ones off to school. True, it gives you a few hours to tidy up the house and prep for dinner. You may even be able to get some shopping done, or blogging, or have the chance to contact that long forgotten friend, exercise!

Still. I hold tight to the pride of educating my children, I miss homeschooling them (and I sincerely miss sleeping in)!

Getting ready for school entails:

Having the girls bathed, hair braided, and in bed by no later than 10pm: I wish I could get them to bed by 8pm, but that just doesn’t happen around here yet. I have to be awake by 5am and I typically wait until 6am to wake them. Back when we stayed at home they’d sleep a good 10-12 hours straight, but those were the old days. I have to braid their hair because if I fail to we all suffer in the mornings. The girls do not like having their curls detangled and I don’t like the hassle. If it has been braided I simply have to undo the braids and give them a headband or redo the braids with hair ties and barrettes.

Having their lunches packed (and sometimes breakfast, and sometimes snack – depending on what their school is serving): My daughters don’t have allergies, but they’ve been on a fairly strict diet since they were babies and I don’t intend to let their school attendance ruin that. Every week the chef makes me a copy of the upcoming week’s lunch schedule. I look it over and decide which items they will be allowed to eat and which items I will be substituting. I try not to be too picky, but we do not eat much gluten, we limit sugar, and we stay away from nitrates in our home. We eat organic and local foods whenever possible, and I don’t want school to become associated with juice boxes, high fructose corn syrup, and starchy noodles.

I cannot simply plan their breakfast, lunch, and snack, but I have to prepare for dinner as well. If I’m allowing them to have gluten for breakfast that means they will not be having it for lunch or snack or dinner. I do this with my own packed school lunch as well. It is consuming, but I am satisfied in knowing that I’m sending them to school with healthy choices.

Having their homework done: Don’t teachers know that sending a three and five year old home with an assignment means the parents are being given an assignment? As if I don’t have enough homework of my own to do. I know, I know, it’s teaching them responsibility, and goodness forbid we don’t get a sticker on the homework chart!

Having their backpacks packed: Packing backpacks is simple enough, but I have to make sure to wash the linen every weekend so that their washed fitted sheets and blankets are ready to be taken (in labeled, plastic storage bags, of course). I put their backpacks in the trunk before waking them.

Having their clothes picked out: It’s bad enough that one of them is going to scream and cry no matter what reassurances I give her about possible upcoming enjoyment. If clothes are not laid out on the couch in the correct order of wearing (underwear, shirt, pants, socks, accessories) we are going to be late and I am going to miss my train to MY school. So far so good. I have the girls pick out their school clothes right after they brush their teeth the night before we need them. If they refuse to do so then I get to choose everything they’re wearing the next day, and they aren’t allowed to complain.

Having a mother who has had enough sleep to get up in the morning and make the magic happen again: We’re working on that…good night!

 

Learning Lessons September 12, 2012

I had a meeting in Boston today, for the graduate student organization of which I am currently president. I figured that it wouldn’t be too horrible to take the girls along to the meeting, and that beforehand we could spend some time at the Boston Children’s Museum. The girls absolutely love it there and we get in for free with our ASTC passport from back home.

We had a really good time at the museum. There’s so much to do and see and touch and learn. Even though we have been to the museum at least fifteen times in the past year, it has a never-ending amount of awesome. The girls did all of their favorite things:

The Climbing Area

Wet Sand in Peep’s World

Terra Seeing What Floats

Moving “Kid Power” sign, powered by kids

More Climbing

Kid Powered Windmill/Fan

Chair Lifts (the seated person lifts)

We saw an ocean creature fossil show!

I figured that after encouraging them to expend so much energy between our train ride to Boston and our train ride home they would see my meeting as a much needed respite. Unfortunately, it seemed that doing so much moving all day only made them even antsier when I asked that they sit still, eat their food, and color awhile.

Lesson learned.