Amanda Skelte is the photographer behind Gingersnap Photographs; wife to E.J., a senior data migration and integration consultant; and stay-at-home mom to five girls.: Aidan, 9; Sawyer, 8; Reese, 6; Miller, 4; and Corbin, 2. Reese has a pilomyxoid astrocytoma (a pediatric brain tumor), and Sawyer has ADHD and sensory processing disorder. The family lives in McKinney.
6:15AM The alarm goes off. I forgot to prepare lunches last night, so no snooze for me. Instead, off to the kitchen I go to make five lunches. There is at least one kid in our bed and another who sneaked in among the blankets on the floor, so I sing a wakeup song that annoys them enough to shuffle out of slumber. I start my first pot of coffee for the day.
6:30AM I wake up the older kids, help pick out their outfits and feed breakfast to the littles. They have about 45 minutes before we are out the door, so it is an assembly line of breakfast, clothes, teeth and hair until everyone has shoes and backpacks on. We braid, bun and pigtail everyone, get snacks for school that I may have forgotten, and someone lets the dogs in and out. It is an organized chaos, but everyone knows their jobs and schedule and what needs to be done. I double-check that everyone’s taken their daily medicine and snap a before-school pic.
7:15AM We pack up the car and head to school for today’s club meetings. Compassion club, green team, safety patrol … got to be there early!
7:45AM I am at the grocery store to get everything done before preschool drop-offs. If I can get in and out of the store early, the entire rest of my day will be easier. I try to go only 1–2 times a week and bring a list of meal supplies so that I have dinners ready to go, but most of my cart is filled with school lunch items.
9AM I drop Miller and Corbin off at preschool. They go to the same amazing school that is integrated with gymnastics.
9:30AM It’s time for yoga with friends. I stopped going to the gym for a while after not being able to find a great one close to me, but recently I started back up. It is a nice, relaxing time between morning craziness and the rest of the day. Also, this is my favorite time of the day to be able to talk to my friends without someone pulling on me and hollering “Mom? MOM?!” over and over.
11AM I sit down at the computer to edit recent sessions. My turnaround time is about two weeks, but the fall is so packed with family sessions that I need to stay on top of them constantly. Insert next pot of coffee here.
1PM I spend the day at home catching up on work, emails, laundry and cooking dinner. If I do not make dinner by 1pm, whether it be putting something in the Crock-Pot or pulling out a frozen pre-cooked dinner that I made the weekend before, we won’t have anything planned for later.
2PM I pick up Miller and Corbin and listen to a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old tell me about all their crafts and best friends and accomplishments for the day. I also take note of which school papers they definitely want me to keep “forever.”
3PM I pick up Aidan, Sawyer and Reese. That hour or so in between picking up the preschoolers and the big kids is spent with my planner. I am a pen-and-paper planner person and need to visually see everything written out. So I sit in the car while the littles nap or watch a movie and make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything important.
3:30PM Today we have chemo after school for Reese. Reese has had a brain tumor for four years. Since diagnosis, she has had two surgeries, a shunt placed and three ports, and she is now on her third chemo protocol. She has lost and regained her ability to walk, been adorably bald and fought sepsis and encephalitis, but has only had a break in chemo (in 2014) for seven months before her tumor began to grow. If her port is working well, the six of us can be in and out in no time. We pass the time at Children’s sneaking snacks, laughing with nurses and trying to keep the noise level of five girls down. For the girls, this is just a normal part of our week, and they know their middle sister is Super Woman for how well she handles all her chemo.
4:30PM Dance time! All my girls dance, and two of them are on the Dancer Strong competition company team up here in McKinney. Ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, acro, hip hop … oh my! Classes tonight end at 8:30pm, but I will duck out with the three who are done by 6:30pm.
7PM I head home and make dinner for the youngest three and then get them ready for bed. We do baths, PJs and a quick book and silly song or two before they settle down, and I get ready for the big two to get home. We also FaceTime E.J., who is out of town working. Technology is so amazing — my kids being able to see and chat with their daddy before bed, no matter where he is working, is such a blessing.
9PM Aidan and Sawyer get home thanks to my amazing tribe of friends that help us out with rides while E.J. travels. The oldest girls do some leftover homework and get on PJs while I make their dinner. I get them up to bed and we chat about our days, and then I head back downstairs and make tomorrow’s lunches.
9:30PM I send at least three children back up to their rooms after they have wandered down because they are hungry, or they can’t sleep, or it’s too quiet, or “I don’t like these pajamas,” or they forgot to do something huge that is due the next day, or to give me a hug and a kiss.
10PM Quiet time (hopefully!). I sneak into bed before anyone heads down and takes up space on my side. I spend 30 minutes playing on my phone, writing notes on things to do tomorrow and making sure I remembered nighttime meds, but finally, I drift off into sleep … right before someone comes in to cuddle.