It was a day of firsts. The first day of school. And the first day to have two in school at the same time.
I homeschool, which means I have the flexibility to choose our curriculum and also our schedule. We start the day after Labor Day and all my teacher friends are jealous.
This will be my third year teaching as Nathan started 2nd grade and Josiah began Kindergarten. My blunder is that I ordered our new material while on vacation and didn’t consider the shipping times! The boxes are due to arrive in the mail sometime today (only three days late).
I wasn’t so worked up about teaching new concepts this week as working on old ones. I planned on spending our first few days focusing on creating schedules and establishing routines, as children (and mothers) thrive from them.
And routines are necessary in our home right now since we’ve been on vacation for the last two weeks. Not to mention that the month of August was our summer break and we spent it camping at three different campgrounds, in two different states, for a total of four weeks.
Yes, my children could stand to have a little “wash, rinse, and repeat” in their life once again.
Tuesday morning I woke up at dawn to run three miles and thaw out a batch of Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls. I thought what better way to celebrate a first day than with their foolproof “Thaw, Rise & Bake” ooey-gooey goodness!
The children were pleasantly surprised when I called them down for breakfast to find warm cinnamon rolls and “Jadon’s chocolate milk” (which is what we call AE's brand in our house).
After breakfast I ended up deep-cleaning our camper. I’m talking bathroom, kitchen, sweeping, mopping, dusting, vacuuming, and scrubbing the couches and carpet with Resolve.
We had packed up our campsite the day before in between two big rainstorms, so everything was either wet, muddy, or both. That “everything” simply implied that I had a whole lot of work to do on the other side of our R&R. I was genuinely excited to take on the challenge.
I’ve lost count of the loads of laundry I’ve done from the afternoon we arrived safely home until now. I believe it’s in the low 20's… I’ve found great comfort and accomplishment in the whir of my machines.
After my deep-cleaning party in the camper, I gave the school boys fresh haircuts and baths. And boy, did they clean up nice!
Realistically, I knew that we probably wouldn’t be getting through an entire lesson as excitement was high and attention spans were low.
Public schools have these things called “Half Days” and there was no reason why we couldn't have one as well.
I decided that first days should be fun and set out to make it just that. I wanted to channel their excitement they had for the entire year and capitalize on it for Day One. I had them re-write their names for their seats and draw a “First Day” sign so I could take their picture. We re-established our rules and Rule #1 still stands: ”No stealing candy when Mom is out getting you a snack.”
We were off to a beautiful start and then I had this brilliant idea to put Titus (my two-year-old) in padded underwear to aid him (and me) in his potty-training. We had been working on it all vacation and were to the point where he could tell me when he needed to go.
About an hour later of being in his big boy underwear (and two attempts to go potty in “toyette”), I found him driving a toy car between two mysterious puddles of what looked a whole lot like apple juice. The kicker is that I was nearly out of groceries, apple juice being one of them.
I asked him if he had gone potty on the ground and he just looked at me. Blankly. Like two-year-olds do when they know they are busted. When I checked his pants and found them wet, I was dismayed that perhaps he wasn’t quite ready.
The truth is, I wasn’t quite ready, because when I slipped off his wet shorts and underwear, something fell onto the ground that needed its own kind of resolve.
When someone says that they “set the bar low,” it denotes that their expectation of achievement was also low. It’s generally mediocre input accompanied by mediocre output.
And it’s a terrible way of explaining what I did on Tuesday.
I’d like to word it a little differently. I’d like to say that I was simply “realistic with my reality.” And because I was realistic with my reality, I knew that I wasn’t going to (most likely) have a lights-out-home-run-PR-kind of first day. (I’ve found those to come in sporadic waves in order to keep me grounded as well as motivated and inspired.)
Instead, I was going to roll with it. I was going to get my run in, make cinnamon rolls, keep the washer and dryer running, and do as much school with the boys that a four-year-old and two-year-old also in the mix would allow, before my husband returned home and we needed to leave for a church service that evening.
So after Titus’ unfortunate “accident” and a forfeited nap later, you can laugh with me when I decided it was better to do that than to cry.
Yes, sometimes we get up at dawn and get the cinnamon rolls out of the oven before they burn, but then accidentally let the pasta boil over and cook it a little too long because the tree guy came to the door right when we needed to be keeping an eye on the stove.
Sometimes we want to get through the entire lesson but are just thrilled that our oldest didn’t forget to read or write in the short summer that we gave him and our newest was able to sit still long enough to listen to the rules.
Sometimes we want to get to church 30 minutes early so we can catch up with all the family and friends that we haven’t seen in what feels like months, but instead three minutes was the only margin we were able to muster.
Sometimes our good intentions are merely the mess that falls onto the ground.
And in those moments, just enjoy it. Don’t forget to laugh and extend grace — to yourself and to those around you.
There is a first for everything, and the beauty of firsts is that the next time will be the next time and you’ll be all the wiser.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says,
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:”
There is a even a time for humbling, memorable first days when we collapse into bed at the end of it with bodies worn, but souls well.
Lamentations 3:22-23 says,
“The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning."
So, here’s to my next 147 school mornings! May I keep my resolve and remember to be realistic with my reality.
And may you be as well.