As M gets older he seems to be getting more easily "stuck" on things. Most of the things he gets stuck on are little things, when we eat lunch, when he does school (and who does school first!), but sometimes his getting stuck leaves the rest of us stuck in a mind numbing routine that's hard to find a way out of... at least without rocking M's boat to the point of causing real problems - which does break up the monotony but can lead to the kind of excitement I'd rather live without.
Late afternoon and evenings have been a rough time for awhile now. M was always tired and unsettled by late afternoon, and I needed to get dinner on and couldn't always give him much attention them. (The crockpot is great, but there are limits to how many times a week you want to eat a crock pot dinner!) After several years of working on it, and much drama and frustration (on both our parts) M has finally settled into a late afternoon "reading time" routine that is working VERY well. It's such a relief to have him settled during a time that has been rough for so long.
Because we don't watch TV in the afternoon/evenings, except very occasionally, it's been hard to figure out what to do with the evenings. I always have a read aloud going and usually read a chapter to two to the kids each evening right before bed, but there is still a lot of time to fill... especially with the longer days lately. M is not able to just go entertain himself with something, except sometimes with Gameboy, and every evening he wanted to play board games. I really like playing board games... I do... but it was feeling like we were all trapped in some weird time warp with each evening being an exact repeat of the previous one, right down to the words M used to ask us to play a game with him.
So now I'm structuring the evenings too. Sundays, for years, have been "Mom's TV night" where we all settle in front of the TV to watch my favorite show, and the only one I'm wiling to turn the TV on in the evenings to watch (Extreme Home Makeover :) )... so I only had six evenings left to figure out. I turned Monday into "game night"... I make a fun dinner (this week I made big plates of healthy nachos) and we pull out a longish game and we play the game during dinner and sometimes straight through 'til bedtime. Lately we've been enjoying Parcheesi for our game night... R likes it and it able to play it (she often has a hard time with games) so it's our current favorite. Wednesday I turned into "soup night", and if the weather is good enough we take a walk after dinner. Friday is "movie night", we pick a movie for us all to watch together and eat dinner in the family room.
That still leaves three unstructured evenings a week, but that's a lot easier to deal with than seven!
Last night, (unstructured) Tuesday, M was at loose ends... he didn't know what to do with himself and things seemed to be heading downhill quickly... so I told him to run into the classroom and grab his math book... we'd get a lesson done. At first he said no (looking at me like I'd suddenly sprouted horns!) but then the thought of doing his math when Joe was around to watch (and be impressed!) motivated him to get his book out. R wandered in to the room (also looking for something to do, I'm sure) and I sent her for her math book also. The kids spent 30/45 minutes or so working on the math lessons we hadn't gotten to earlier in the day. M worked happily along, much more settled again with the little bit of structure and R went along because she had no choice... but from the way she watched the clock I'm pretty sure she would have much happier to just go to bed early.
After the kids went to bed I thought briefly of turning one night a week into "math night"... we could all sit around the dining room table doing math... but honestly, that seems really weird... even for me. There is a limit to how far I'm willing to go to structure our days and I think math night might be a ways beyond that limit...
Soup night tonight... M should be more settled today knowing what we are doing this evening.