At least weekly someone says to me "I don't know how you do it." I know what they mean, and for once it doesn't refer to how many kids I have. Four has become almost mundane - thank you, Duggars.
Anyway, what they mean is having four kids in four different schools in two different cities. And going through evaluation for special needs at the same time. And letting the kids participate in extra curriculars under our previously determined rule (one activity per kid per season, unless it's something involved with school and I don't have to transport anyone). I knew this year would be rough, I just think I underestimated how rough.
I spend about three hours a day in the car, much more on activity days. That's more than my husband's commute to and from work IN A DIFFERENT STATE, in typical DC traffic. Then I spend around 2 hours supervising homework, because our house is too small to send them to different rooms to do homework and heaven forbid they might actually sit in the same room and work on their own homework without interfering with someone else's, I mean, geez, Mom, that's just asking way too much. So they do it in shifts. This is one of the reasons I know without a doubt I could not homeschool more than one of my kids at a time.
I tend not to be a rigid, absolute schedule kind of person, but I've had to develop routines to get us through this season of our lives. And they're great.
Until something deviates. Someone gets sick. Someone misses a bus. One small thing has a domino effect on everything else. We just do the best we can.
The day's routine goes something like this:
Alarm goes off at 6:15. I hit the snooze alarm unconsciously until my brain fog is penetrated enough for me to open an eye and look at the clock. I usually stagger up between 6:40 and 7. I hit the bathroom then wander down the hall to make sure Trout got up with her alarm. She usually doesn't.
We aren't morning people around here. Well, except for Nemo.
After I rouse Trout I go back to my room to wash up quickly and throw some clothes on. I head downstairs to help Trout focus on getting ready for school rather than tormenting her siblings and wake up any kids that Trout didn't manage to wake up already by whining about her pants or the fact that she doesn't have her own room and her sister had the audacity to look at her. On Nemo's school days, I grab his clothes.
Once downstairs I issue 437 reminders to Trout to put her shoes on, find her cell phone and inhaler, make sure the phone's off, put everything in her backpack, stop pestering her brother. No, you can't watch tv. Did you eat something? Breakfast is usually granola bars and milk or juice, sometimes cold cereal, but we just don't have the time or energy for anything else. No, cookies or marshmallows are not okay for breakfast. Ditto pie. Leftover chicken or spaghetti? Go for it! I make sure Trout has her water or gatorade so she doesn't pass out at school, break up four more fights, remind Trout life isn't fair. Her carpool picks up at 7:30 and I kiss and hug her over her protests (actually under her protests is more accurate - she's taller than me now) and send her out the door.
The decibel level in the house drops by 55%.
I then turn my focus to Sunny and Little Man, who are much better about independently brushing hair and teeth, packing their school lunches, putting on their shoes, finding books and backpacks, and eating breakfast. I just have to have a discussion every other day about Using Nice Words because these two? Oil and water, baby. And I can't take the verbal nastiness. I'm thinking about instituting their teacher's Kindness Reward system at home. Fining them for calling each other Stupid Idiot didn't seem to bother them enough to make them stop doing it.
On Nemo school days, I pack his lunch and help him get dressed and remind him he cannot watch tv or play wii or DS or on anyone's iPod. On non-school days, I just leave him in his pjs and change him later. When I get around to it. Or, not. Whatever, I'm forced to be laid back about it. We find his shoes and get his breakfast. I break up 52 fights since the boys can't seem to walk past each other without punching each other. Or, I should say, NEMO can't walk past anyone without touching them in some way - whether it's to pet their hair or punch them totally depends on planetary alignment. (Why, yes, we DO suspect ADHD, why do you ask?)
At 8:00 I drive Little Man to the neighborhood elementary school to catch his bus. On days when BigDaddyFish is still in the house getting dressed I leave the littles behind, but sometimes they come with me. Fortunately it's just around the corner so round trip is usually only around 10 minutes. It takes longer to make Nemo sit in his car seat and buckle up than it does to drive there.
Then I kill two birds with one stone by walking Sunny to her bus stop in our neighborhood while walking the dog. This bus is going to the same school where I just dropped Little Man off, but of course the buses are not coordinated. We could sit around in the school parking lot for 30 minutes until I am allowed to drop Sunny off, but we need those precious minutes for tasks at home. I'd either need to walk the dog beforehand which would mean less sleep, or wait until after all the dropoff is over, which would likely mean cleaning up pee. I'd rather sleep and not clean up pee, thankyouverymuch.
Finally, if I'm lucky, BDF takes Nemo and drops him off at his preschool in the next town on his way to work. Unfortunately he's usually running late so I pick whether it's more important for Nemo to be on time or for me to not drive down there and we proceed accordingly. If I drive him it's about a 40 minute round trip.
On those school days, I have three precious hours to do what needs to be done. Eat breakfast. Housework. Take a shower. Doctor's appointments. Evaluation meetings that need to be done without the child. Go to the store without a hinderer helper. Stare off into space and marvel at the quiet. Read a book. Write a blog post.
It's not enough time. I'm tired. The house is a mess. I've gained back a lot of weight I worked so hard to lose. I rarely get out of the house to do my own thing.
Then the afternoon routine stretches out. Nemo at 1. Drive Trout's carpool at 2:30. Get Sunny at 3:10, Little Man between 3:40 and 4. Homework shifts. Send them outside to make all that noise somewhere other than here. Chores. Ballet two days a week, youth group for one. Dinner, shower/baths, settling down for bed. Laundry and dishes intertwined. Second shift dinner when BDF gets home late. I start going cross-eyed with fatigue around 10, though usually can't make it to bed until 11-12 sometime.
On the days Nemo doesn't have school, I try to get done what little housework I can in between raising my son. We play trains. Take the dog on a long walk. Go to the playground. Watch movies. Build with legos and blocks. Play Wii. I try to get him to do mazes or write or color or anything else I can think of that will work his fine motor issues and he tries to resist. I try to make sure we both don't end up in tears. On days when the trees are not pollinating, we go outside and he rides his bike all over. He "watches" tv sometimes, but it's only watching in the sense that the tv is on and he surprisingly absorbs what's on it; more often he's also playing with trains or cars or trying to figure out how to overpower me and get his brother's nerf guns off the top of the refrigerator. He loves when Sunny comes home because she'll play with him better than I do. He'd fire me if he could.
On weekends I sleep in as much as I can. Sometimes I nap, too. We don't go to church before 11. Even then, we're usually late.
But it's a season. This will pass. I will have my kids in a minimum of two different schools for the next eleven years and the two minimum won't happen for seven years. There will only be one year when I have all my school kids at the same school: Sunny's senior year. At least by then, the kids can help with transportation.
I'd be daunted, but I survived the early years. They passed. No one's in diapers anymore, I'm not nursing any babies. The small messy toys will be outgrown, passed on. One day in the future I won't have to worry about the slightest breeze knocking down my house of cards. The house will be quiet, my time my own. Then I'll miss the noise, the chaos. I probably won't miss the mess, though.
So that's how I do it - I just. do. it. I endure. Because I'm doing what I believe is right for my kids. Just like those with fewer kids, in fewer schools, in the same town. Just like you do.