# Family Life

Life with a Husband in School

Life With a Husband in School - TheEngineersKids

When my husband started law school, I came up with an analogy for the differences in our family life between attending law school versus an engineering graduate program. I compared our life in graduate school to a long distance run, maybe a 10K or something. Things started off slow, but throughout the semester Scott had more and more schoolwork, and thus I had more evenings and Saturdays on my own with the kids. At the end there was a definite sprint to the finish line, and then a dead stop. Scott was home. We had no commitments. We could play all day.

In law school we just began at a dead run. What type of race would that be? An 800 meter maybe, where it’s short enough that you never really pace yourself, you just sprint the whole time? Except that the length of semester didn’t get shorter. So a dead run right out of the gates (to mix metaphors a bit), and then a full, very hard sprint through finals. And dead stop. It was harder than graduate school, but there was still a finish line when the semester ended.

That’s the awesome thing about having a husband in school. There is always a dead stop between semesters.

Now that Scott has been working as an attorney for a few years I have a new metaphor for our life. We are running. That never stops, we never slow down, we just keep a fast clip going, just take that as the assumption. We keep this fast pace going, but to make any progress on anything, to get any points in this game, you have to jump up and hit multi-colored balls. There’s the cook a healthy dinner ball, the write a blog post ball, the Jules and Mal have special reports at school this week ball, laundry ball, help Finn with reading ball, take kids to soccer practice ball, by new T-shirts for myself (since the rest have holes) ball, etc.

Every ball I hit gets me one step closer to the goal of that category. See, we just have so many different areas of life going right now. It’s not bad, it’s fun, it’s motivating to have goals in so many areas, and I’m not really overwhelmed by it, but if I have a glazed look in my eye at 4pm some days, it’s just that too many of those balls were hit when I probably should have been sleeping.

But, here’s to reaching some of those goals. We are improving in so many areas, even if we have to be satisfied with continual progress rather than getting to graduate from something in the end.

How about you? Am I the only one who thinks up silly ways to describe my life?

# This Week We Played...

This Week We Played – Week 2

This week we played - TheEngineersKids

We’re starting a new weekly series, where The Engineer’s Kids give you a peek at all the fun things we play. Maybe you’ll get a sense of how truly amazing, and fun, and chaotic our life of five kids under 8 really is. The kids are learning so much. Also, man are they ever messy. I can’t keep up with them.

I love my mornings with the two littlest guys. That’s all about to change though, since we only have 4 days left of school!


Everything is so low-key for the first few hours of the day. Leto always wants to play trains, and Eva has finally stopped destroying the tracks as soon as I get them set up.


And the littles love getting to jump on the trampoline without getting hurt by the big kids. The Little Tikes one we have makes our super small backyard so much more fun. Oh, and I have another fun activity for small backyards that I will be posting shortly. Stay tuned.


The big kids made our whole backyard into a mudpit, which was fun, but it takes forever for the ground to dry out there. I’ve had to keep Eva inside a lot, so she wouldn’t get too muddy, and she doesn’t like it. Leto took advantage of making some mud castles though.


One afternoon the big kids wanted to build a jungle gym in the house out of rope. Deciding that wouldn’t work, we headed over to a playground with lots of climbing structures.


The kids played a bunch of rounds of “Dead girl.” Does anyone else’s kids play that. It’s sort of like blind-man’s bluff. They are funny to watch, because they all peek. Finn deliberately runs into things, so you won’t know he’s peeking.


Jules set up an awesome doctor’s office complete with eye chart. She’s always get a store or library or doctor’s office going.


Here she is diligently taking Malena’s height.

Fun stuff. I ended up getting sick towards the end of the week, which wasn’t fun at all, but I’m on the mend, and the weekend is just beginning.

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This week we played - TheEngineersKids
# This Week We Played...

This Week We Played…(week 1)

We’re starting a new weekly series, where The Engineer’s Kids give you a peek at all the fun things we play. Maybe you’ll get a sense of how truly amazing, and fun, and chaotic our life of five kids under 8 really is. The kids are learning so much. Also, man are they ever messy. I can’t keep up with them.

So, without further ado, I give you This Week We Played…

Measure with a Balance - TheEngineersKids

Here’s Leto measuring popsicle sticks and trash in a balance. The kids keep wanting to measure liquid in this thing, which you totally could. I just don’t want that much water being poured into things inside the house.

You can see our sight word flash cards in the background. I was trying a new system of moving them around on the wall in random ways every few days. I thought it might attract the kids’ attention and make them read them more frequently. I’m not sure it worked.

TheEngineerKids build a house with TRIO blocks

We love TRIO blocks at our house. They are the perfect bridge between Mega Blocks and LEGOs. Plus they come with cool instructions (you can see one behind Leto) to build all kinds of things: lots of boats and planes, a crab and a dinosaur, and tons of houses.

TheEngineersKids saved their own money for these

The kids asked if we could check the balance on their family bank accounts, so they could buy some stuff at Knott’s Berry Farm when we went the other day.

TheEngineersKids learned a lesson in finances, when one didn't have enough money to buy something at the souvenir shop

Finn didn’t get to buy anything, because he only has 50 cents to his name. Poor guy. I think he spent it all when we bought the seals.

TheEngineersKids break the ice

Our next door neighbors were cleaning out some closets and brought over a few toys. They are grandparents, and wanted to get rid of all the noisy toys. I accepted the noisy toys with not a little apprehension. Despite the noise, Don’t Break the Ice has been really fun. Even little Eva can break out the ice chunks with her hammer and has a lot of fun.

TheEngineersKids make a jacaranda flower sand cake

The twinners made this awesome flower, sand cake. Take a bite!

That was our week in toys and playing. Until next time on This Week We Played…


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Letting Kids Make Financial Mistakes - TheEngineersKids
# Family Life

Letting Kids Make Financial Mistakes

Last week, I posted about our trip to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, during the trip we purchased three stuffed seals named Shiny, Arrt-Arrt, and Sealy from the gift shop. Up until this trip the kids had been amassing a large stash of birthday and Christmas money. I don’t really like shopping with the kids, so they have to really beg for me to take them to spend their money. Previous to said trip to see the seals, I made them list a few things they were thinking of buying, which did not include stuffed seals.

They all insisted on buying a stuffed seal, even after I reminded them of the cowgirls dress-up clothes and rollerblades they had on their shopping lists at home. And I try really hard not to dictate what they purchase with their money, so I said, “Hey, it’s your money,” and off we went with three over-priced seals. I should have known not to go to a gift shop…lesson learned.

A good conversation and lesson arose from the experience though. The kids seemed to be convinced that you should be able to return an item to a store at any time for a full refund. Otherwise, the store was stealing your money, because you no longer wanted the item, so you shouldn’t be obligated to pay for it. Sometimes it surprises me how they think the world works.

After a thousand “why” questions about how stores do in fact have to make a profit, buyers are giving up rights to return an item when they use it, and that stores will accept some returns if they can sell that item to a new customer, they began to understand shopping a bit more. I don’t think I persuaded them to believe in the philosophy of return policies, but I did convince them that no store was going to take back their dirty old toys five years down the road.

At least one child is already regretting her hasty seal purchase. I told her we would review her finances and come up with a plan for her to earn the money she needs to get her cowgirl dress-up clothes.

I love a lesson learned young. Better to regret buying a stuffed seal, than a fancy sports car or too-big house. For many years now, my husband has benefitted financially from a My Pal 2 he regretted buying in the 80s.

What financial lessons are you glad your kids learned while young? What did you buy as a kid that taught you a lesson?

# Family Life

Bloom Where You Are Planted

bloom where planted

A few years ago, I was at the swimming pool with the kids. We were just enjoying the kiddie pool and being refreshed from the humidity. It was a relaxing day, not a day you expect to learn something that you think about on a regular basis for the next five years.

A friend of mine had joined us at the pool, as well as my friend’s sister. I commented that each of us had four kids. Then my friend casually mentioned that her sister had to have a hysterectomy when her fourth was born, so she was done having kids. I think because we were all in similar situations in life, this one difference stuck with me. I thought, “well, now she doesn’t have to make the decision of when to be done having kids,” she can just accept her four kids, and make her family into an awesome four-kid family. But I realized that my friend’s sister might not see it that way. She might have been sad or angry that she couldn’t have more kids.

The whole thing sort of made me step back and wonder what in my life should I just accept and do the best with. I had another friends who had one child and was struggling to have more. I could easily imagine just having fun with one child, enrolling them in whatever activity they wanted, giving them your full attention, or going to work once they were in school. That other friend was really just focused on having a second child though.

And this isn’t just about the number of kids one has. It can apply to all aspects of our lives: whether we work or stay at home (or work from home), whether our husbands work a lot, whether we live in an interesting place, whether we live close to family, whether it snows half the year, etc.

So I thought, how frequently do I fail to bloom where I am planted? How frequently do I fail to see the awesome things I could be doing with my life? It takes real introspection, or maybe analyzing how others see you, to recognize the advantages you have in your unique situation.

If I had five kids under eight, lived in Southern California, enjoyed sports, had a husband who worked long hours, had a husband who also loves to play with the kids, live in a beautiful and diverse community, speak Spanish, and lived near family, what should I be doing with the advantages I have? How can I bloom where I am planted?

As a corollary, I spend a lot of time thinking about the things that I can’t change right now, but that with a considerable effort, I will be able to change them eventually. For example, I would like to have more than three bedrooms to house my husband, myself, and five kids. I can’t attain that goal yet, but I will eventually, so I work hard to attain it sooner rather than later. But the lack of larger house does occupy my thoughts too much, and I think it keeps me from seeing that the kids have amazing friends where we live now, we live close to their school, we can go for family bike rides, we don’t have yard work, and I don’t have as big a house to keep clean.

Let’s open this up to each other. If someone else saw you in your unique situation, what would they consider your advantages or things you are missing out on? How can you make those advantages a larger part of your life?

Pre- and Post-Dinner Chore Chart - TheEngineersKids
# Around the House, Family Life

Pre- and Post-Dinner Chore Chart

My general philosophy on chores is that in a family you will always be changing your chore systems. Whether the kids have grown older and can take on more complicated chores, you want to change up the allowance or reward system, or you move to a house with a bigger yard, there will always be something that makes you change chore systems.

The kids are now 7, 5, 5, 3 and 1, and I have stumbled upon a chore system for dinner time that is working magically. Without this system, it was me trying to finish up the cooking, while putting away the crafts and homework, while also setting the table, and keeping Eva supplied with Cheerios.

There are two main components that make this system work (for now):

  1. Division of labor.
  2. A monthly rotation of jobs.

My kids enjoy chores a lot more fight and whine a lot less, when they each have their own job. This avoids the “I’m not starting until he starts” argument as well as the feeling that they will never be done. Once their chore is done, that’s it.

Rotating jobs daily, if we skip a day we never know whether to do the jobs from the previous day or move on to the next rotation, and someone is mad about it either way. Rotating jobs weekly, they don’t quite really understand their job before it’s time to switch and I still have trouble remembering who is doing what. Rotating monthly though, that hits the sweet spot. Everyone knows who is doing what, but if they don’t like their current job, they know it will eventually change.

I have been loving knowing which two kids to call first (the toys off floor kid, and the craft/homework supplies off table kid). I don’t have to check the chart each time. The first two come, they clean, they leave. I call the second two in (the dishes kid, and the waters kid). They come, they prep the table, we eat.

After dinner the assignments are sweep by Eva’s chair, put away any food, put away any serving dishes, and wash off the table. Can I just say how much having a once-a-day sweeping of the baby area has been?! I tried to sweep up at least once a day before, but with trying to clean up everything on my own, and rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher, it was not happening, and Cheerios were getting tracked all around the house. Plus, that one is their favorite chore!

Here’s the link again to the chore chart. You’ll notice breakfast and lunch chores on there too. We haven’t fully implemented that yet.

How does dinnertime work at your house? What works with older kids, like pre-teens and teenagers?

# Family Life

Don’t Plan a Lesson. Just Learn.

Science-Graphic-Chemical-atlas-1855-1 small

I am a planner by nature, and with the advent of pinterest, I once found myself planning a year-long curriculum of preschool. Our lesson on the moon, for example, involved reading a book, talking about the dust and rocks on the moon, and bouncing on the trampoline to simulate moon gravity. We followed that plan for quite a while, but we didn’t really need it.

The kids have strong interests, and while I might like planning out a lesson on the moon minute by minute, the kids don’t like me telling them what to do. In fact they were ornery and uninterested in my lesson, I was frustrated with their lack of participation and enthusiasm (I mean, come on, I just want to educate you about this fascinating object that inhabits the night sky, just sit down and listen!), and we gave up on the whole preschool thing after a couple of months.

I’ve kind of learned my lesson. Now, I try to just ask them, “What are you interested in learning?” Then we go learn about that thing. I give them my time, and I let them fill it with ideas. The other night we played with a candle and talked about why fire needs oxygen, that it is the wax that is burning to create the fire, that you can relight a candle by touching a flame to smoke, and how wax is solid at room temperature, but liquid at higher temperatures. Just a warning: you have to be prepared to hear “why” a lot, but that’s the fun of it!

Planning was stopping me from really learning with my kids…not the lack of planning, but the planning itself.

What about you? What stops you from learning with your kids? What interests your kids?

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