Friday, January 29, 2016

A Parent's Midnight Thoughts

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When was the last time I washed her hair?
How long have the Legos been stored in the closet?
What to do with this basket of small socks?

Where are your favorite zigzag scissors?
Do we still have construction paper and glue?
How long has it been since he needed me?
When did you start walking down the street alone?
How do we know when it will be the last time?

When did I stop tucking in at night?
When did we stop reading together in bed?

When did I stop pouring the milk, cutting the meat,
Tidying up the room, hanging up the towels,
Waking her up with a whisper, Waking him up with a kiss?
When did I last put away your favorite cup?
Where are the small, plastic snack bowls?
Where are the music discs that were so beloved
and when did they last get played?
When did I last carry sleeping you to your bed?
When did I last trace your cheek with my hair?
How do we know when it will be the last time?

When did I last pour the bubbles into the sink for play?
When was the last visit to the park?

Who was our final play date?
When did you get yourself out of the car?
Where are the little pink galoshes?
Which closet now houses the wooden puzzles?
How long have the toys been in their bins?
When did you last fall asleep in my arms?
When did you drop my hand as you walked up the stairs?
When was the last time he needed me to zip his coat?
How do we know when it will be the last time?

Friday, January 15, 2016

TOTAL Confidence

I have absolute confidence that my kids will make their decisions, live with and learn from the consequences of those decisions, and become better people as they live their lives.
I love them so much.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Simple Pleasures to Bring in the New Year: 2016

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It's the new year already: 2016.
Happy New Year!

As the new year came in I started to wonder what, if anything, I could do to initiate in this next year 2016 here on my blog. I would love to have taken on the task/pleasure of making of list of exceptional books that I want to read this year. But in all honesty I don't have the brain cells to do a great deal of research right now. But if you want to post an excellent book in the comments, you are welcome!

Instead I started to think about how beautiful my life is. The reasons for all of this beauty are the simple things that come with having a family, good friends, and a peaceful household. Boring, maybe. But I've had enough stress, drama, and BS for three life times. So grab your nearest coffee or tea mug and join me for a look at the simple pleasure and a lifetime of peace and joy.

Please, add your simple pleasures in the comments.

  • The clip art on Pinterest with the most beautiful words in English and other languages.
  • Bohemian-style decor, so comfortable and accepting of a normal amount of clutter and dirt
  • When my child looks into my hand, stops me from walking by, and pulls me into their arms or into their moment
  •  Tidying up the junk drawer
  • When someone on Facebook links something really sweet to your profile
  • Large, fluffy snow flakes
  • Tea and lemon biscotti
  • Reading a random book and discovering that you've discovered poetic beauty on its pages
  • Conversations with deep meaning and belly laughs, tears and laughter
  • Brand new crayons
  • That moment when the words are so beautiful you have to close the book, close your eyes, and saturate yourself in them
  • Time lost in a book store
  • That moment when you find that someone you really like is secretly also an atheist
  • When they hit the high note
  • A perfectly brown grilled cheese sandwich
  • When the kids start opening up in the car as we drive and I get the gift of hearing their innermost thoughts
  • Crunchy leaves
  • Overhearing someone say something really nice about you to someone else
  • Walking in the quiet of a place that is usually bustling with people
  • The uniqueness of each and every sunset
  • That thing where when you do things for someone else, you feel better
  • Listening to the music that your parents loved
  • Writing with your favorite pen
  • Finding lost notes hidden in books
  • Crepuscular rays
  • A good report at the dentist
  • Having my friends' kids friend me on Facebook so that I can keep up with them. 
  • In that vein, removing drama by simply unfriending on Facebook
  • Whispery conversations at the end of the day
  • Super clean teeth after brushing
  • Deep cleaning, vacuuming corners and air ducts, dusting knick knacks and blinds, cleaning under the cushions
  • Driving with the windows down
  • Revisiting old personal CDs full of music
  • The smell of lilac
  • Making lunch plans with friends
  • Finishing the last load of laundry
  • Picking up a new book, flipping through the pages, reading the back and the front, sliding down on the couch, and tucking in
  • Getting a great bargain
  • Watching a new meme or piece of clip art get posted hundreds of times on Pinterest

Forgive all of the cleaning references,
I've been tidying up after the holidays.
And I'm a mom. 

Other posts you might enjoy:
We Came, We Saw, We Concurred
My First Recap of 2013
Not Just for the New Year

Monday, January 4, 2016

Should We Homeschool?

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When my daughter was in kindergarten I was so excited to be a room mother, to be a part of the PTA, to spend time helping the teacher, and to help contribute to the school community in other ways. It was a thing that I looked forward to from the very moment I became a parent, even before that. From the very start I wanted to do my part in participating in the local elementary school as a family.

I imagined myself bringing cupcakes, planning Valentine's Day parties, pouring the juice. I would have been that go-to parent whenever a teacher needed a hand during field trips or on photocopy day. I could envision my kids at their desks waving proudly as I peeked in from outside of their classroom door.

Elizabeth loved kindergarten. She loved her work, loved learning, and she truly loved her excellent kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Wilson was such a great kindie teacher. She was extra sweet, super pretty (as all kindie teachers should be), and most importantly, she excelled at her job. She had double master's degrees in education. She was brilliant and dedicated and she loved her class and I was super impressed with her.

Elizabeth was in school and I did volunteer in her classroom every week on Thursday afternoons. I loved being in the classroom and I felt like I was learning so much about schooling and learning and teaching and about what it meant to be knowledgeable. Elizabeth did wave at me proudly across the room.

At the same time, my best friend was homeschooling her children. Lara had two kids at that time who were my own kids' ages; we were one big happy group of best friends. I watched her too and learned everything I could about homeschooling. I admired how I saw her family moving through the world and I longed for the natural lifestyle that homeschooling seemed to offer.

I watched Elizabeth feeling proud of herself in the classroom, pleasing Mrs. Wilson, participating in daily routines each afternoon, and being a part of those kids and their lives each day. And still, for four months I read and researched homeschool, public school, learning styles, teaching theory...everything I could get my hands on.

One afternoon I was in the classroom with Mrs. Wilson alone while the kids were in the library. I was working on some paper sorting or packet binding or some other activity when I decided to talk to her about homeschooling. We spent about an hour talking about the homeschool vs. public school lifestyle, methods, advantages and disadvantages of each. She had so much to say about how bright and motivated Elizabeth was and how optimistic she was about the prospect of homeschool for Elizabeth. She even said that she was planning on homeschooling her own children one day.

The decision to homeschool was not an easy one to make. School was really working for Elizabeth. Making the decision to homeschool was absolutely not about rejecting school as much as it was about embracing the lifestyle of homeschool. I have had many days where I doubted the entire enterprise and many more days where I have been confident that we were doing the right thing. But I never stop thinking about it; even now I continue to revisit the decision, now for John. 

John and I recently sat down and discussed his educational goals for this year and next. At this time next year he will be starting attending the local community college as a dually-enrolled homeschooler. And he's happy.

When I think of those earliest days when my husband and I were debating and researching and struggling on how to proceed educationally for our kids, I still remember the gnawing, desperate desire to make the right decision.

I'm still convinced.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Part Four: Some Call them Whiners: Bottom Line

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Bottom line, if you are the mom of a challenging child, as I am, learn to respond to your child's extra-large emotions in a way that might seem counter intuitive. While it may seem the parental thing to do to help your child become a positive and optimistic human being, engaging in a tactic of this nature will absolutely backfire on you.

Instead of seeking to change your child, accept him or her. Instead of expecting a reasonable response, allow your child to express themselves without the slightest bit of criticism or disapproval. Don't fear. The storm will wind down, eventually. Do the thing that seems anomalous; do the thing that your mother will not understand; do the thing that others will call indulging and spoiling. Relax, remain calm, listen, stay close, love and accept your child through the hurricane of their emotional storm. Let them know that you are there. Be aware that it is not possible to change temperaments.
A reminder, though, that your own needs are super important, as if safety of all involved. If you need to take a break, if you need distance, if you need privacy, then take it! It is always the right thing to model self care. Not letting someone cut you down. Not allowing someone to shout into your face or injure you. Model the fact that it is always the right thing to expect to be treated appropriately. For example, if your challenging child is taking their frustrations out on you you are absolutely correct to remind them of your expectations for how to talk to you and to remove yourself if you are being abused. You may not talk to me in that manner because I will not stay in this room if you do. This is modeling appropriate behavior and it is taking care of yourself.
Then and Now
It will take awhile, but eventually your child will see your acceptance of, your acknowledgement of, your validation of their struggle and difficulty when it comes to handling such large emotions. Eventually your child will stop feeling the need to express all of that intrapsychic energy. Your child may lose the feeling that fighting is the only way to get support. He or she may stop feeling the need to make it dramatic to show how painful. And your child may finally stop feeling the need to be defensive of how overwhelming and lonely the conflict feels.

As parents, our goal is not to change our child into the sunny child we know would be happier and easier, though so many people struggle with this one for many years. I struggled and got stuck here for many years because I just knew she could be happier if she would only set aside the negativity and embraced the joys of life. I learned over time that a person's temperament is not a choice that they are making. It is a part of who they are.

With time, love, acknowledgement, respect, and patience, my daughter has evened out quite a bit. Today her explosions are waaaay shorter, less frequent, and very often they end with her expressing her understanding and seeing how to improve her choices. Today she is better able to avoid the drama altogether.
Empathy. That's the key.

I hope this series of blog posts was helpful.
I welcome your question and comments.
This is a work in progress!
Addendum, February 11, 2016
I just ran across this article from Huffington Post on highly-sensitive people and this one from a blog called The Simply Luxurious Life. I hope you read them!