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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Day In The Life

After Dad has had his shower and headed out for the day, the fight for the bathroom ensues. Sarabelle gets the most mirror time, Grice has to be forced in there at some point in between her grumbling and stumbling up and down the hall, and Elle must have her shower. She developed this habit when, after too many days with a horribly cranky baby, Jorge magically discovered sitting her under the water for a few minutes seemed to wash all the cranky right off. Her day always starts with a shower and one of these days she will probably ask for a cup of coffee too, just like her father, who as a toddler was famous for beginning his day with a request for "a fresh shirt and a cup of coffee, please." The soundtrack to all this is Sarabelle's morning radio with its annoying pop songs and inane DJ chatter, adding elevated noise levels to our general chaos.

Loose ends are rounded up, books, bookbags, instruments, hair brushes, and lunch, and then the fight for the front seat begins. The rule is that whoever gets the front seat, on a first-come, first-served basis must also be the one to do the gate. Then off we go.

In the car at the elementary school during the twenty minutes between Sarabelle catching her bus and Grice being allowed into the schoolyard, we usually read, either aloud from Elle's current book or independently from whatever books hold our interests at the moment. Sometimes it’s just an old issue of National Geographic rediscovered under a seat.

We arrive back home, and after a little hemming and hawing and washing breakfast dishes and repeated requests to please, please, PLEASE watch her kids’ shows, and my flat refusal, Elle is instructed to pull out her books. She usually chooses Latin first.

Morning tea time, and Elle needs to burn off some energy, so she either takes off outside on her bike at full speed trying to outrun the dog or stays indoors and practices her aikido rolls down the hallway looking and sounding like a square bowling ball. I try to check email and blogs at this time or make my international calls to family and when she is finally done with her physical outburst she'll sit down and begin an art project of some kind. This is my cue to get going and pull out the next subject or find a few household tasks for her to help me with.

Back to the books. Her math program is a disaster, so if we cannot find a page that looks reasonable in either of the two remaining workbooks, we printout a drill sheet and she gets busy trying to shave some time off her last effort. Then she usually begs me to print off a couple more worksheets, ones she considers fun. I never argue. Sometimes she sorts and counts coins from her dad’s change jar hoping to find enough for an ice cream if we are headed into town.

Lunch is a non-event. She makes herself something when she feels like it. It’s not neglect, it’s character building. Sometimes we’ll actually have a cup of tea, and while that’s going on I work in our grammar lessons, have her recite poems she has memorized, and do some more reading.

(If this had been one of those days where a steady stream of requests from my husband or prior commitments demanded more time be spent in the car, we would have orally reviewed whatever Latin vocabulary we could recall trying to stump each other and yelling out miscellaneous phrases like Quo vadis? or Veni, vidi, vici! whenever possible, or gone over past grammar lessons and poems. Identifying road kills is another option. Elle is a motor-mouth, the radio in the car does not work, and a trip anywhere is long, so there is plenty of time for good conversation and the answering of many, many questions. This is a trait, incidentally, she inherited from both her mother, called "Chatty Cathy" as a child and her father, who on long family drives was often swapped between cars to save the drivers' sanity.)

After lunch she’s off again tearing around on her bike chasing kangaroos or trying to catch geckos or befriending magpies or digging into a termite mound or building a fort or making and playing a didgeridoo. Before we go to pick up her sisters she sometimes gets to take the car out for a spin on the runway. She’s very good about using her turn signals.

Depending on the day, there are either tennis or aikido lessons, or tennis practice after school hours and by the time we finally make it back to the house, Dad is usually home and dinner started. In the meantime, squabbling over computer time occurrs until 6:00 PM when the girls get to watch their one and only TV show, The Simpsons, and the remainder of the activities center on getting everybody ready to do it all over again the next morning. Sarabelle puts herself to bed and is sound asleep by 8:00 PM, Grice pushes the boundaries of good parenting by being allowed to stay up and read way later than she should (probably the cause of much morning grumbling and stumbling) then loudly requests I drag my poor tired self out of bed to turn off her light, and Elle snuggles in with me. There is always time for one more read-aloud before bedtime.

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