I (Jody) wrote this to include in our 1994 Christmas letter. Every day is different, of course, but this is pretty typical of our lives 18 years ago. I only did this once–it was a LOT of work. Now, of course, I wish I had done it every year–it’s such a fascinating slice of life. It’s very long, but I hope it helps you know us better. FYI, here are the kids’ ages: Vjera, 13; Luke, almost 12; Hope, almost 8; Thad, almost 6; Simon, 3.
6:20 a.m. My alarm goes off; I wake up Vjera and Luke for jogging and start water heating for hot cereal. I go outside for some firewood to keep the stove going; it’s cold out! I get dressed, add Cream of Wheat to boiling water and then turn off the burner (Scott will finish cooking it when he gets up).
6:40 a.m. We drive about ½ mile to Moffitt School, then walk or jog 1 ½ or 2 miles. There’s a beautiful sunrise and a good prayer time for me as I walk & jog. The puddles at the track are covered with ice.
7:30 a.m. Back home, I take a shower, make the bed, and carry the laundry basket (at least 20 lbs.) to kitchen. The kids bring out their dirty clothes, and I sort them all. I do laundry on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; it looks like four loads of clothes today, plus another of diapers.
8:00 a.m. Scott leaves for work, after kissing and hugging the little kids. The first load of laundry is in the washer, and I grab some breakfast. Everyone else has eaten and read the newspaper ( a major educational activity).
The little kids are playing (whispering about birthday presents), and the big kids have started their math. Vjera’s lying on the floor in front of the wood stove, but on warmer days she sits in the playroom where she can look out the window to see any birds landing on her bird feeders.
8:30 a.m. Sit down at dining room table with Hope and Thad for 30 minutes of math. It goes fairly well today, thankfully.
9:00 a.m. Time for Shining Time Station; the little kids head upstairs. This is my half hour of quiet, kid-less time each morning. I move the laundry, and sit down at the computer to make my “To Do” list for the week.
9:30 a.m. I go upstairs to watch Let’s Learn Japanese with the kids. (I’ve taped many of OPB’s educational videos that they broadcast in the predawn hours for schools to record.) The kids are sitting on the floor making paper chains, a project which Vjera started last night after dinner as a treat for Hope and Thad. As I search for the video tape, Simon says, “Mom, I make paper trains too?” I hesitate, and Vjera says, “I really don’t think he should, mom.” Hope says, “You’re too young.” Simon says, “I not young, I little.” Then as the video starts he crawls up on the couch beside me, stands up and says, “I not little, I big!” At the moment he is taller than anyone else in the room, so technically he is right. But no paper “trains” for Simon. (Telephone call: Do I have a donation of clothing for the Veterans?)
10:00 a.m. We watch an episode of World of Nature about the problem Australia has with rabbits. (They were introduced by British sportsmen, but lacking natural predators in Australia, they have multiplied beyond belief. Efforts to introduce predators have led to the near extinction of native animals which are slower than the rabbits.) The video is both fascinating and depressing, as the problem has no easy solution. Who would have thought a few rabbits would cause such a problem?…Hope and Thad do not like the scenes of mass butchering of rabbits (“Why can’t they just let the cute bunnies alone? Why do they have to kill them?”). After about the fourth explanation that there are too many bunnies, I give up answering. Vjera comments on what a mistake it was to bring rabbits to Australia at all. We’re all impressed with how easy it is to mess things up when people don’t think ahead.
10:15 a.m. Just for fun we watch an Art Chest Hope wants to watch fingerpainting, Vjera wants to watch a more difficult lesson, and Simon wants something “with a brush.” Hope asked first, so she wins. (I never know how to make these decisions, and my life is full of them.) Mr. Mihuta creates marvelous works of art while fingerpainting, and I try not to get depressed at how easy he makes it look. Also I realize we have no fingerpainting paper, and I have an errand to run before lunch.
10:30 a.m. Put in third load of laundry. Make morning snack. Friend calls: am I busy that afternoon? Could I go to an important meeting with her from 1:30-3:00? I hate saying no to people, but I tell her I just don’t see how I can. Make phone call about a set of encyclopedias being held at the library book sale shelf.
11:00 a.m. Vjera and Thad are cleaning out his drawer (his storage area for things he wants to save). Luke’s making Lego spaceships. Simon and I take a roll of film (which I hope has a good picture of all the kids to enclose in Christmas letters) to the grocery store to be developed, putting gas in the car on the way. Both going and coming Simon reminds me that we forgot to fingerpaint. I tactfully don’t answer.
11:30 a.m. Put in fourth load of laundry. Start lunch. One of our boarders comes home and fixes her lunch too. Phone call from a lady who had our telephone number recorded on her caller i.d. machine. (“Is this the Arnold Forrest residence?”) She wants to know who we are, why we called, and why we didn’t leave a message on her answering machine. I’ve never heard of her and neither has our boarder, so I tell her I don’t know who called her. (This is still a mystery–Scott didn’t know her either.)
12:15 p.m. Luke has the table set and lunch is ready, but Scott’s not home (His office is a five-minute walk from home). Sit down to type this journal; we’ll give him until 12:30 before we start.
12:35 p.m. Time to eat. Luke rings the dinner bell, and we get the food on. Scott walks in just as we’re sitting down. During lunch Simon dumps out his milk on his tray and puts salad dressing on his squash. Scott and I discuss the wood stove: is the catalytic converter working? We take a look at the stove, and I put in a piece of wood, jamming a large splinter deep into my finger in the process. I try to pull it out, and we finish lunch. Thad clears off the table and Vjera puts the food away.
1:00 p.m. Thad, Simon, and I get ready to take Scott to an auto shop to pick up our second car, but my finger doesn’t feel right. Scott uses a needle and tweezers to pull more splinter from my finger. Hope says, “Don’t make too big a hole in mom’s hand!”
1:20 p.m. To the auto shop and back. On the way back Thad points to a factory or plant and asks what it is. I don’t know, so we drive a few blocks out of the way to see. It’s a resin plant; I’ve never heard of it and it is big, covering several blocks. Why haven’t I ever noticed it before? Back at home. Vjera and Hope have cleaned out Hope’s drawer.
1:40 p.m. Put in fifth load (diapers), change Simon, read to him and get him down for nap.
2:00 p.m. I read a Boxcar Children book, The Yellow House Mystery, to Hope and Thad. Luke finishes lunch dishes and he and Vjera fold clothes while I read several chapters. Usually I split naptime reading between two books (little kids and big kids) but have just finished the big kids’ book and haven’t gotten another yet from the library.
2:45 p.m. Simon gets up. I’m craving cookies, so I mix up some dough and start afternoon snack while kids put their clothes away.
3:00 p.m. Call doctor to reschedule annual exam. Kids eat afternoon snack. I bake cookies while putting clothes away (ours and Simon’s). Luke moves the diapers to the dryer for me.
3:30 p.m. Kids go upstairs to watch recording of Deep Space Nine (they can watch one episode a week). I hang up the plastic pants, and sit down to type some more on this journal.
4:15 p.m. Realize I need to start dinner (Shepherd’s Pie). Start peeling potatoes, but have to go upstairs to deal with Simon. Get him set up on the upstairs computer, and finish peeling my potatoes and put them on to boil. Mail comes, I glance at it. Vjera’s new “teenage girl” magazine has come from Focus on the Family. I’m not sure I’m ready for this; I need to read this (later) to see what it is.
4:30 p.m. Kids come downstairs and entertain themselves. I type some more, and work more on dinner. One of my big burners got a plastic lid melted on it on Saturday, and I’m dreading using it because it is really going to stink. I tried to clean it off, but there’s still plastic there. Can I cook dinner using just one burner?
4:45 p.m. Help Hope take out compost and garbage. Continue working on dinner. Kids getting tired, more fighting. Simon’s cheeks are bright red; is he getting sick?
5:30 p.m. Vjera sets the table, and Thad folds and puts away the diapers. A neighbor stops by to get the key she leaves in our garage; she’s locked out of her house. I walk her out to the garage and talk a few minutes. Scott comes home and holds Simon and plays with him; I wash up pre-dinner dishes.
6:00 p.m. Dinnertime. Fun discussion about the different bedrooms the kids have had in our house, and some memories they have of them. Vjera & Luke remember watching from their bunk beds when I was in labor with Thad. Thad remembers getting to get up after bedtime to see a fire across the alley, and Hope remembers laying in her crib and watching Vjera and Luke scramble into bed just as the clock struck.
6:30 p.m. Dishes and cleanup. Hope clears the table and Vjera puts the food away. Simon is crying, his cheeks are getting brighter; one of our boarders reads him a story. I call Julie, our gymnastics teacher, and leave a message for her to call.
6:45 p.m. My mom calls. My niece Alesa had a baby yesterday, making me a great-aunt, and Mother tells me the details.
7:00 p.m. Scott sticks Simon in the bathtub, then Thad. I take a few minutes to look at Vjera’s magazine. It’s not too bad. They have an incredible letter from an 11-year-old worried that she is pregnant, but the response is really very good. Vjera’s comment when I ask to read the magazine is, “If that’s about normal teenagers, then I’m not normal.” I agree; she’s probably not normal, and I’m glad! Rock music, makeup, and dating are not big issues to her. (But give Hope a few years, and that will be a different story!)
7:15 p.m. Carol (who lived with us two or three months this summer) drops by with two preschoolers that she babysits.
7:30 p.m. I visit with Carol, Simon plays with Jacob & Jason, and Scott takes the four older kids upstairs for bible study.
7:45 p.m. Carol and boys leave; Simon and I read a couple of books.
8:00 p.m. Simon goes to bed. Scott and kids come downstairs, and Scott puts Thad to bed. (Hope stays up until 8:30, Luke until 9:00, and Vjera until 9:30.) Scott and I go upstairs to watch last week’s Deep Space Nine, which was hilariously funny but unfortunately not appropriate for kids.
9:00 p.m. Scott goes running (“I hope it’s above freezing out there.”). Vjera is painting a Nativity Scene she made at camp this year. I sit down again to write this, and print out my first draft.
9:30 p.m. I play a game of Super Tetris; I can’t play more than one game a day or the little pieces float down in front of my eyes when I try to go to sleep (or when I bow my head to say grace!). On my way to bed I notice paper chains hanging all over the house.
10:00 p.m. Scott gets back from running. The gymnastics teacher calls back, and we decide to not continue Simon’s lessons in December, although Vjera and Thad will continue. Each child gets one season of lessons per year (Hope’s in a small dance class, and Luke plays basketball), but I’m going to cut Simon’s short because he is so young and is goofing around a lot in class. But you should see him do a cartwheel! She has taught him a lot.
10:30 p.m. I write in my journal, read my Bible, and go to sleep. Just another day!
Some of you are probably saying, “Where’s the schooling? Do they just make paper chains and lego spaceships? Are they learning anything?” In fact, when I first read this I wondered if I wanted to show it to anyone.
Yes, they are learning things. They are bright, inquisitive, and thoughtful kids. In general we don’t do a lot of school work, but they do fine on their achievement tests. The three older kids do a lot of reading of all kinds of books, and I read to Thad and Simon. We watch a good amount of educational TV, take some field trips, and talk about things a lot. I follow up on Hope and Thad’s questions with the books from the library.
Scott and I try to remember that “Education is not filling a bottle, but rather lighting a fire.” Our goal is to develop self-motivated learners, and we’re seeking the best ways to do that.
Here are some more photos from the year: