Tell the Counselor, “Mommy Loved You”!
by Stephanie Pletka
Webster’s dictionary defines Crazy as deranged, insane, one with an impractical plan. It describes our family perfectly. I tell the kids, I’m doing the best I can. When you grow up and it’s time for you to leave the house, I’ll give you money to use at your discretion for Counseling or College. They just giggle, but I’m serious.
Like many of you…
my husband travels often. We deal with juggling schedules, what to make for dinner, handling homework assignments, driving kids to activities.
We decided to change it up. We wanted to live a life of adventure, and not wait until we were retired to see the world. After years of sending kids to public school, a place where they learned and thrived, we up and decided to homeschool, so we could travel with my husband to all the interesting places he flies to, monthly. I know, CRAZY!
I had a life. Finally all the kids were in school, I was playing tennis, writing my blog and frankly, free as a bird. Lunch with friends, run errands by myself; I could do whatever I wanted. Cartwheels in the living room, singing Bon Jovi on the back deck.
Why mess with a good thing? It was a hard earned “stretch of road” to cross the finish line. No more little people responsibilities, like wiping butts, installing car seats, carrying strollers, translating toddler talk. We had all graduated to independence.
For the first time, I had the house to MYSELF. But I wanted something different than just driving a 4 mile radius to the school, to the grocery store. I wanted to live outside my life for a change and go places I had never been and take the kids with us. When my husband gained a new client, he took the assignment and off we went.
I hoped for California, maybe New York. He came home and said: We’re moving to downtown Milwaukee. Where’s that? I remembered the intro of Laverne and Shirley skipping through Milwaukee, so I looked it up – 90 miles north of Chicago, on Lake Michigan. Awesome. I called every rental in the area and only one panned out: All you had to say was 4 kids and either the phone got disconnected or no one called back.
Our only option – a 30 story condo on the water, with no yard. This could be problematic. Only after moving in, did we realize most of the occupants were athletes from the Bucks and Brewers. Driving through the parking garage, it was like ALL sports cars and our double parked mini van. We would have to back up and do a 90 degree turn twice, just to get out of the parking spot.
The realtor would be showing a condo as our elevator doors opened with 3 carts full of groceries and 4 kids yelling – over who got to push the button. She would quickly distract the probable tenant with: “Oh, look over here, a big window.” With kids ducking and dodging, grapefruits rolling down the hallway, we were like a bull in a china shop.
Our adventure had begun. Without a professional background in education, only marketing communications, I guess I could teach them how colors affect people’s moods or why sex is used to sell toothpaste. The kids were in this sweet spot of an age, where they thought I was smart. They were just too young to know any better.
It was time to educate outside the box. We visited every water park, museum, wrote essays, took tests, got library cards, read books, made presentations, learned finance, compared grocery prices and threw in a lesson on how to pump gas. I was a 1st timer, “running the marathon as fast as I could”, sort of mom. The kids were eating it up. No more bus stop while the moon was still out, classes were over at 2pm. They were living the dream.
I had no idea there were 6 kinds of verbs; and since when did the planets not include Pluto? Sixth grade math needed dad’s intervention and now I’m suppose to teach someone how to dissect a pig? And I can only imagine what’s gonna happen with the ant farm.
I focused so much on the kids, I lost myself. I gain 15 lbs and burned out by October. My marathon had run out of steam somewhere around mile 19 and I hit a wall. The kids began to realize, maybe mama wasn’t joking about the Counselor. But by December I re-adjusted my curriculum, scheduled more activities with friends, better managed my health habits and before I knew it, we were back on track with a more sustainable pace.
I realized my gung-ho attitude wasn’t sustainable, for them or me. While adventure and vacations are great, that’s exactly what they are, feasible for like 2 weeks. No matter where you are, the real world follows, as if knocking on your door to say: life’s not a bowl full of cherries. Living poolside is awesome, sort of like spending your day with fun Uncle Joe, but not forever. Schedules have become our friend, no matter our location.
The kids have learned time management skills and pace, probably more so than book knowledge. They’ve learned to go with the flow and take life as it comes. And with our time spent in close proximity, they’ve actually learned to like each other. In the beginning, it was all fights, and every discussion was about “me” this and “I” that. Selfish behaviors took precedent over everything else. As we began to travel, something strange and awesome occurred. “Me” attitudes, became “we” attitudes. They began to form a team, have each other’s back and even slept in the same room on beds, sleeping bags, etc. just to hang out with one another.
Heart issues began to surface and before I knew it, they became friends and not just siblings who were forced into “suburbia “ captivity.
Life is fun and hard, pretty and ugly, organized and chaotic. But in the end, it’s the people we spend it with that matters most. No matter your lot or location in life, family is most important. Find the “sweet spot” that brings your family together: game night, a good bon fire, hiking. And like Laverne and Shirley, arm in arm, skipping through Milwaukee, remember to take life as it comes, go with the flow and remember Mommy Loved You!
About Stephanie: Living in Atlanta, GA with my husband and 4 kids, I know what it’s like to climb the “corporate ladder,” own my own business and work from home, all the while, raising kids. It’s not easy cooking dinner every night, juggling hectic schedules, helping kid’s with homework, soccer practice and ballet, all the while, developing happy, healthy children. Moms are often pressured to be perfect, to do it ALL and do it well, to choose sides “working mom vs. stay at home moms.” We’re not here to compete, we’re here to raise healthy, well adjusted children that will go into the world with confidence, knowledge, Godly character, a sense of sportsmanship and community, all the while, keeping our sanity and having fun along the way.
Check out Stephanie’s blog here: www.spitupandheels.com