Project Week

Ben's project week diorama Ben's project week diorama

Project week in my older children’s school is a week where they make you homeschool.

The week after Christmas break, the kids have another week off, where each grade has a specific and HUGE assignment that they need to complete that week, and they need to log their hours worked on it so that we can justify it as a school week.  It meant that instead of getting my house in order after Christmas, we made multiple library trips and had to monitor their activities every second so they would get even close to done.

Posy had to work up a 10 minute (minimum) presentation on Charles deGaulle. That was pure torture.  Ben had to create a diorama of and animal habitat, write an outline, and give a 5 minute (maximum) presentation on his animal. He had to have 5 sources. Unfortunately he didn’t pick an animal with easy to find sources on like penguins, hummingbirds, or kangaroos. No, he picked a North African Jerboa, which has about a half a paragraph saying the same thing in about 3 books in the world.   Of course building the diorama was the fun part.  The outline and research? Notsomuch.

And in case you are wondering, when I took that first picture, I got, “Really mom?!?”  Then he sat down and gave me a nice smile.  That stuff on the plate is paint.

Kids update, Early 2011

And now to catch you up with the rest of the family!

Paisley and James are navigating early adulthood’s bumpy waters, neither one took us seriously when we told them we weren’t paying for college or a car and now they have to figure those out on their own.  But they are around a lot and still love to be with the little ones and spend time with the family.  So for all their mistakes, they seem to have the basics of family love figured out.  Paisley lives about 5 miles away and is over often.

Posy (15) has been paying attention to how things have played out with P&J and is working very hard in school and hoping to get scholarships.  She is even saving for a car.  She works hard with the youth group (and has a bit of fun there too), sings in the choir for the evening Mass, and is planning to go on a mission trip to Mexico in February.

Ben (13) is a comedian, we switched his school this year and it was perfect for him.  Praise God!  He is blooming in his new environment.  He has great friends, good teachers, and is smarter than is good for him.

Tessa (8) is a sweetheart.  Every week several people come up to me and tell me how she went out of her way to brighten their day or say something nice.  She really knows how to lift people’s spirits.  Around the house, though, she can be a bossy little know-it-all.  But it really is just because she wants things done properly in the best way for everyone.  We’re working on more diplomacy around here.

Max (6) lives on his own little musical planet.  He has learned most of the beatles songs inside and out, he figures out songs on the piano, and he loves to play video games.  We have to limit his screen time because he gets very emotional when he has had too much.

Lily (3) is a firecracker and a half.  She is outgoing when she wants to be, never plays with toys, is always in my face about something and is FINALLY weaned.  She was recently diagnosed with asthma as well and is finally not coughing at night.  She and Molly are inseparable.

Molly (1) my fussiest baby by far.  She has been a bit of a puzzle medically, with allergies, reflux and asthma, all sorted out except the asthma.  She seems to be verbally delayed, but has very good receptive language skills and excellent sign language.  So for now she tested out of services.  She also won’t eat solid foods.  She is smart as a whip, and stubborn as a mule.  She is a serious baby, and saves her smiles for when she really means it.

This crew keeps me hopping every day, running people here and there takes up most of my time, and laundry and cooking take up the rest of it.  But we have a great family and James was recently quoted by our priest in a homily about large families.  He said something to the effect of there is always enough love to go around, and even if they don’t have the stuff they might want, the love multiplies and keeps everyone happy.

Our older kids like to be around the younger ones and will spend time with me and my husband on purpose.

So I have a feeling that somehow, we will all make it through this alright.  🙂

Zoo Week in Review

This past week was a busy one – but then most weeks are – this just had a different flavor of busyness.  There was a storm that blew through the city and dropped a little rain, leaving the air with a cooler feel and the skies darker.  Around here, things just felt stormy as well.

A few tidbits:
There is almost $4000 damage to our van from the recent hailstorm here, but everyone has their car in the shops already so we are waiting a week or two to send ours in.  At least it wasn’t totaled.  Some of our friends found themselves car shopping once the insurance had a gander at their cars.  For now we are just a big gray golfball, hurling through the city.

We endured a fair bit of drama from Ben’s school this week. It seems that my jokester son and a couple of his friends had tried to reach out and include a child they judged as lonely, which can aparently get a person in trouble for “Bullying”.  The school conceded that it was probably more like “Pestering”, which, knowing my son, is not so far out of his league.  To me, Bullying encompasses threats, fear, and physical harm.  Pestering, on the other hand has more to do with unwanted fart noises and other 13 year old boy jokes.  So after many hours of discussions, phone calls, written accounts, emails, and commiserating with other parents, the issue is declared DONE and we can all move on.  But it sure ate up a lot of my week.

My birthday was this week!  (I’m not 40 yet.  That’s all I’ll say!)  A few years ago I managed to finally give up my childish idea that my birthday should be a national holiday and just came to expect a normal day with a few nice surprises in it.  And so it was.  Mostly.  A friend brought me chocolate, my mother in law gave me a little money to spend on myself, and Paisley stopped by with a chai latte and flowers.  Jay took me to lunch and got me more flowers and a card.  (Lest you think that was all he did, he also schlepped all around my favorite mall with me last Saturday and got me a nice pair of shoes.)  So my day was going along swimmingly until I opened my email.

In my email was a notice from the older kids school (yes, the one I was already having issues with this week) informing the families that they had selected a new campus.  Yay for them, Boo for me.  This new campus is two and a half times further from us than the current one.  I already spend 2.5 hours per day just in getting my kids to and from schools and the thought of extending that…  Ugh.  How can I look at my younger children, learning about the world and developing their bodies and tell them that they have to spend 3-4 hours per day strapped down in the car?

For this and other reasons, this just would not be a feasible arrangement for us.  So I proceeded to freak out entirely. (Which involved crying for about 2 days.)

Since then I have calmed down quite a bit, and all is not settled with this move for this school.  There is still quite a bit of time before I will really need to panic (or otherwise figure out what to do) and I am resolved once again to let the future be the future.

In other news around here, Molly has added in several baby signs.  She signs: nurse, eat, drink, dog, thank you, cat, bird, more, shoes, and I think she has done all done and blanket at least a couple times too.  She has grasped this concept that she can communicate with us so readily that she wants to be able to tell us more.  She will fling her arms around trying to tell us something, but she can’t figure out which sign to use.  Then there was grocery shopping. Because she can tell us what she wants now, she is more likely to get it, so she got so frustrated when we walked through an aisle with lots of cups and she couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t give her a drink when she signed it over and and over!

She also really likes baths and was on a mission to get one today.  She fell into the (empty) tub once, and then later managed to remove her diaper and try to climb into the toilet while Posy was in the bathroom curling her hair.

Molly also experienced her first oreo cookie today.  I hoped she would get all chocolated and gross, but she was a pretty dainty eater.  She first removed the top cookie, proving she is a genius, and licked at the filling a little.
 Molly's First Oreo

She decided she didn’t like that a whole lot, so she scraped that off the bottom cookie and just worked on eating that part.

Molly's First Oreo

Finally, she got to the cookie part.  She made a little slobbery mess with it, but not too bad.  I guess the real mess with have to wait for her First Birthday Cake.  (Two more weeks!)

Molly's First Oreo
In other news Max and Tessa got rave reviews at their teacher conferences, although Max’s teacher said he has a hard time remembering not to sing all the time.

Jay hurt his back again, and has been hobbling around in pain all week.

And I managed to mess up the garage a little more in and effort to clean the garage.  Which I know sounds counter-intuitive, but is really progress.  I have to dig out all the clutter-infection to clean the wound so to speak.

And that, if you can believe it, is just a small sampling of what went on around here this week.

I can’t make this stuff up.

This morning I got to sleep in. I got nearly 20 minutes of extra shut-eye and it is a good thing because I needed every single minute of it to get me through my morning.

Lily woke up around 6:45 and I changed her into a new bumGenius and put her jammies back on. A few moments later my 11 year old came up to me and pulled up his shirt, revealing a lovely speckled rash. Hmm… that is a trip to the doctor for sure. I already was keeping my six year old home, she needed a chance to sleep in because she had been up coughing much of the night.

I took some of the remaining kids to their respective schools and returned home in time to grab a slice of banana bread while I waited on hold for the doctor’s office. When I finally got through, they gave me an appointment for both sickies, but I had to be there in 15 minutes. Only enough time to brush my teeth and grab kids and go. I should have changed Lily’s diaper then, but it had only been a little over an hour at this point. Hindsight is 20/20.

I didn’t bring my diaper bag, just my purse. My diaper bag was under a box (don’t ask why) and with my hands full and running out the door… aren’t those famous last words?

So we wait in the doctors office. And wait. There is some problem with my health insurance that takes a while to unravel, but eventually it is smoothed over. And as a pungent scent hits me I realize I am going to regret not having my diaper bag with me.

Normally I would have stashed a diaper, a wet bag, and some wipes in my car, But as luck would have it, I cleaned out my car yesterday and removed everything so that my son could vacuum it out.

My 11 year old is diagnosed with strep and the 6 year old is treated for asthma, which is a new thing in and of itself, and then the 6 year old realizes that this is a Very Special Day at school and she should not miss it. (She missed the last Very Special Day like this.) However she is still in her jammies, not in a school uniform. So I call my mother in law, who goes to my house and gets her uniform. I drop Tessa off at her class – in her red and white striped pants, orange baseball shirt and flip flops and leave to take the rest of the kids home. My MIL bring Tessa her uniform and shoes and Tessa gets to participate in her Very Special Day in spite of being a little tired.

I drop off prescriptions, only adding about 5 minutes to the total morning and head for home and a clean diaper, finally. Lily is changed and asleep in no time.

Then the phone rings. The shoes we left for Tessa to change into are too small. So I have to make yet one more trip to the school to bring Tessa her correct shoes. But Lily is finally asleep! Surely Tessa can live with the shoes she has (the school secretary says she is back in her flip flops since the other ones were so small) until Lily wakes up from her nap.

About 20 minutes later, Lily wakes up and we head out the door – again – to take Tessa her shoes. As I walk towards Tessa across the playground after lunchtime, I realize that I did not send Tessa with either a lunch or lunch money. I totally forgot since she wasn’t going to go to school that day until we decided on it later. So I guess I owe the school the price of a lunch now.

And all of that was before noon.

I need a nap. Seriously.

Family Picture, Christmas 2007

Christmas Greetings from the Groft Zoo! Things are crazy around here as always, but here is a brief update about what we have been up to.

Paisley – A senior at Bourgade this year, she is looking forward to turning 18 in March and moving out to begin living the college life. She is working two jobs right now as well as keeping her grades up. She directs two children’s choirs and is working at a skateboarding shop. In her free time she shops and hangs out with her friends.

James – 15 now and itching to be 16 and drive! He is active in the youth group and continues to make trips a few times a year to help build houses for the poor in Mexico. He plays bass, guitar, and piano as much as he can, and has been performing monthly at an Art Walk downtown.

Posy – Nearly a teenager! She will be 13 in February. Posy loves to help people, she is always at her Nana’s helping her out, and she is invaluable around here. She works very hard in school to keep up her grades. She loves to read and hang out with her friends. She is involved in two choirs, one with her Grandpa and one at our parish.

Ben – 10 years old and always has his nose in a book! He has a wonderful imagination and way with words. He is always a joy to be around. He started band in school this year and is playing the trombone.

Tessa – started Kindergarten this year! She is so grown up and is definitely all Girl! She loves to play dolls and house and has discovered arts & crafts. Her favorite activity right now is coloring. She loves to give her creations to anyone she cares for. She recently began violin lessons.

Max – turns 3 on Christmas Eve. He loves to talk, although his lisp makes him hard to understand sometimes. He is very loving and very much a little homebody. He also began violin lessons with Tessa. We were blessed to find a lovely teacher who is working patiently with both kids.

Lily – the newest Groftling. Lily is now 3 months old, she was born on September 14, delivered by her daddy because the midwife hadn’t yet arrived! Thankfully the midwife arrived only a few moments later. She is a beautiful baby who loves to be swaddled and snuggled. Her siblings all adore her.

Jay & Jenni – Jay is working hard testing tanks and every spare moment Is taken up by singing. He is putting together a CD and hopes to have it out early in 2008! Jenni stays home with the kids and tries to keep the peace and keep the house from being condemned. She sews, scrapbooks, and reads when she can but those times come seldom with a tiny baby in the house.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you! May you be blessed and safe in the coming months!

Away in a Groft House (Our Christmas Card to You)

Away in a Groft house the littles are in bed.
The family’s all home and the kitten’s been fed.
The older kids fight over internet time
But all must be turned off by the ten o’clock chime.

Jay loves to sing and can be seen on TV,
Cantoring masses for homebound to see.
Testing underground tanks, he works hard outside,
We think he’s the best dad to be found worldwide!

Jenni makes rosaries and sells them online
Check out her website when you have the time!
She drives back and forth, lots of time in the van,
But she’ll snuggle down with a book when she can.

Paisley’s a junior and now she can drive
We pray every day that she gets home alive.
She’s super involved both at church and at school
She directs a kids’ choir, they all think she’s a jewel!

James is a freshman and doing so well,
Always wants to arrive long before the first bell.
He works on his music most every day,
Piano bass and guitar he is learning to play.

Posy’s in sixth grade; she’s getting so tall,
Childcare and housework – she helps with it all!
She loves shopping and movies and fashion and crafts,
Her quick wit and smile always bring us all laughs.

Ben is in third and he’s always outside
He walks and he skates or goes for a bike ride.
He likes to play game boy but still loves to read,
His mind and his body are growing like weeds!

Tessa is four and she sings in the choir,
She loves to dress up in her princess attire.
She talks all the time or at least so it seems,
She fills up our days with her bright, warm sunbeams.

Max will turn two on this Christmas Eve
‘tween tempers and climbing he may not see three.
His blue eyes, they twinkle, his pink cheeks, they shine,
Climbs in bed with a passy with nary a whine.

Our hope is that Christmas brings with it much cheer,
Our prayer is for good health and happiness next year.
Remember the season’s about Jesus’ birth,
And we are the reason he came down to earth.

Just Another Day in Paradise

Ben is reacting to Amoxicillin. The kids told me on the way to school that he was covered with a rash. So I took him in to the nurse who wasn’t there. I decided to take him home since he might be uncomfortable and I wanted to get some benadryl into him.

I got home, called the Dr office who told me NOT to give him the benadryl just yet, but to bring him in and let them check the rash. No point in putting him down as having a allergy if it is something else, right? Still, that makes for an 18 mile round trip (yes, I counted it out!) at $3.15 per gallon (in our gas guzzling, 11 mile-per-gallon van) for them to tell me what I already know: penicillin allergy. And poor Ben. He has to miss Buck-a-Jean-Day for this. (He doesn’t seem terribly distraught; he settled right down into watching Dragon Tales without a lick of complaint.)

Max, that precious, happy, jabbering, baby-signing toddler, is standing on my last nerve when it comes to night time and sleep. Last night he resumed his Head-Butt-of-Love routine, giving me a bloody lip in the middle of the night. I think he blasted Jay too, but I am not sure since I was trying REALLY hard to pretend to be asleep so Jay could deal with him for a bit. (Not that he ever shirks that duty, he shares it pretty equally. But hey, I was injured, right? Don’t I get to sit on the bench for a little while for an injury?) So I consider again the idea of sleep training. But to be honest with myself, I can’t give up the rocking and nursing to sleep. It is such a peaceful, cozy, cuddly time. Except when it’s not and Max decides that even though he is drop dead tired he will fend off sleep until either his last drop of energy is spent or mine is. Then it is not so fun.

Paisley has decided that barring any formal, planned family activity, she has no use for being home, except maybe to do her laundry and dump some papers on the table. Is it really in the Teenager’s Bill of Rights that they should be allowed to go out any time there is not special family time planned? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Some kind of limit needs to be set. Especially since the rides are still coming from us. Jay and I will have to discuss this one. I think we might have some time to sit down and do that in August. Maybe. In the mean time, surly, fit-throwing teenagers don’t get rides anywhere. At least not until their attitude changes and they do some chores. Lots of chores.

James was offended that he didn’t get TWO full days off of chores and school work for his birthday. When I informed him that he was luck he got ONE full day off he exclaimed that I just didn’t understand. You betcha I don’t. I don’t claim to understand any of this anymore. Was I really this difficult? (Oh yes and then some!) But he has cleaned up his attitude a bit since then. Removing all privileges does that to a kid. Then add in the carrot of getting to spend the day with Nana (who will probably buy you lunch) and it’s all good again.

Let’s see, who have I not updated on yet? Tessa and Posy! Tessa is so very FOUR and spends all her time playing doll house and begging me to play it with her. But when I play doll house with her it is really just me playing doll house for her entertainment. I have to do all the talking and figure out what the characters are doing. She just sets up the scenes and tells me when it is morning and night. I worry that I am misshaping her idea of play by my doing this, but what is a mom to do? Never play? There is just always some way to worry about them and some new way to wreck their lives and send them into permanent therapy later.

Posy is busy and getting more grown up every day. She is 11 now, and if I remember correctly it will be sometime this year that I will look at her and she will have changed from a little girl to a young lady overnight. For now, I just cherish these last few moments of being smarter than she is and of her being willing to play and do childlike things. The hourglass is running out on childhood for her.

Me, I have just been trying to get enough done around the house to justify sitting down to some scrapbooking or rosary making. neither has happened in forever. This past week has been a gathering up of all my homeschool books and getting ready to sell them. I have no idea where the funding for catholic school will come from for next year, but even if that doesn’t work out I don’t think I am going to homeschool any more. It just became too much for me and I wasn’t doing a good job. I am NOT of the mindset that poor homeschooling is better than public schools. Homeschooling was good for our family while it lasted and then it just wasn’t going to work any more. Selling the books is my way of letting go. Mostly I feel good about it but there is still that panicky feeling of burning that bridge behind me.

Poor, hard working Jay. Summer has set in here with our first official 100 degree day. Since he works outside the first couple of weeks are always the hardest for him. 100 degrees doesn’t actually describe the conditions he works in, since the official temps are taken in the shade over grass. Jay actually works in the sun over concrete or asphalt. It is so much hotter for him. We have stocked up on Power Ade during that last sale but that is small comfort to him, I’m sure. But still he will suffer outside every single day so that our family can eat and live in comfort. Thank God for his sacrifice!