Friday, January 30, 2015

Just Remembered

One of the more memorable trips to my husband's alma mater for a home football game was when my younger was a baby and the older was three. I had the five month old in a sling for ease walking around campus and doing all the pre-football game activities including tailgating with my husband's college friends. We had been going to home games since the first months we dated and we were not going to let having children in tow change our plans much.

I remember it well as it was Labor Day and 103 degrees.  Older son was tired and my husband wound up walking him miles across campus with our son on his shoulders. Son said he was hot and tired. He had eaten a huge Amish breakfast. He slumped and slept during the beginning of the show. The baby was easy compared to managing the older. It was so hot sitting in the noontime sun, unbearable!

I think it was just after Half Time that the turned an barfed all over the guy in front of us' back. The guy was wearing a new souvenir shirt and he peeled it off immediately and revealed another team shirt underneath (!) which amazingly was perfectly clean. We apologized profusely and exited quickly: I to the ladies room to clean the barf off our son and husband to the souvenir stand to buy the guy a new shirt. We gave him the shirt, sat down, then decided to just leave. As we exited we saw all the ambulances taking spectators out due to heat stroke and passing out due to dehydration or heat exhaustion.

We walked to the hotel and husband went to the lobby to watch the game. I nursed the baby who fell asleep in the freezing cold hotel room. Older son napped. When he woke I realized he was still hot. I made husband go to the store to buy a thermometer after the game ended and son had a 102 temperature. I sent him back out to buy Children's Tylenol. What a weekend. We were flying home the next morning.

(Amazingly that game was against Texas A&M, who I had never heard of before, and who knew we'd be living down here now surrounded by Aggies? Life is weird sometimes.)

Anyway today I just remembered a memory I had on that day. Home games at that college are legendary and that is often a game that the parents visit and attend due to it being a holiday weekend. I am a people watcher and it's always interesting. I noted the sizes, shapes, and looks of the parents. They seemed so old to me. Double chins, big bellies, wrinkled faces, balding heads, "old people" conservative clothes.

I started to wonder what it would be like when our kids went to college. Dropping my freshman off. Helping them move into their dorm. Where would our sons go? Far away or close to home? I was certain the would live on campus and far away. I wish I'd had that chance. My husband's priority was to stay within an hour of home. He did not want to be far away. He wanted his family within close reach.

This week more news of my son's homeschooled friends rolled in about where they were accepted. I think this is hitting my son hard. He seems mostly conflicted recently over not knowing what he wants to study for a major. His passion is computers: hardware. However he worries it's too much math for the major. He is struggling with a combination of learning struggles due to documented learning disabilities and lack of motivation to learn subjects he is not curious about or care about. It makes him uneasy to not have a solid plan. It's not too late to apply to some colleges. He was firm about wanting to do one year commuting to the community college but now I think he feels left out and different. It is hard to see your kid struggle or suffering I wish the situation was easier here. For some reason looking at other's lives some seem to have it oh so easy. Maybe it's just a misperception, maybe everyone struggles but to the outsier it looks easy. What's that they say about the grass?


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why Keep Things?

I was sorting papers a couple of months ago and was surprised to come across the receipt for the purchase of our mattress. I knew that was important to have as we have a warranty. I had no recollection of seeing this receipt before. My husband bought it without me and I never saw the thing. In that time I had gone through papers in my husband's office looking for something that we needed urgently. I had also gone through my own papers.

My back and hips are hurting lately and the chiropractor and massage therapist say I am out of alignment. The pain is worst and begins in the morning so the chiro said it may be my mattress. This Tempurpedic is not supposed to get those concave shapes from your body impression. I laid down and realized due to the dip down it hurt to lay in certain positions as it was hyperextending my hip. 

I decided to activate the warranty since I knew we had the receipt. The problem was where was it? The website said I needed that receipt in order to activate the warranty. 

I spent two hours today going through every nook and cranny of my husband's office. No receipt. 

I then spent three hours going through paperwork I have kept over the years. About half is unfiled and just waiting to be dealt with. I went through half of the unsorted stuff and put about a third to be recycled (trashed). I sorted out all the medical records and medical bills. 

In going through this stuff, even just seeing some of the medical bills and Lyme Disease blood test results and sentimental things and obituary notices and prayer cards, I got verklempt. It probably does not help that I got my period today. And my hormones are all off, due to aging, and I'm getting cycles ranging from every 14 days to every 21 to every 28. 

I have gotten better since the move, trust me, about not saving too much crap. 

Sorting through these papers I can't help but think what is the point of saving all this if we never really want to see most of it again and when some of it upsets us? 

We should live our days in gratitude and taking advantage of our time to do what makes us happy or what fulfills us or what needs doing for living for ourselves, our family and our community. Sitting and looking over paperwork that is a record of what we did that is not adding positive value to our life serves what purpose?

Some of this is necessary: car repair history, household repairs, bills, paperwork required for tax filings, homeschool papers that will be used for writing transcripts, medical records. I never did find the lab reports that showed my biopsy for Celiac Disease, I wanted to see how many samples they took since I now know that you should get at least three. 

All day every day before I buy things and when mail comes into my house and when people give me things I ask myself if I need it, what will I do with it, is this adding value to my life, before I decide whether to keep it or to toss it. It saves time if you get rid of stuff as soon as possible before it turns into stuff you need to manage and organize. And it is so frustrating when you know you own a thing but it cannot be found. So what good is having kept that thing? 

I am so annoyed I could scream!


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Younger Son Needs Glasses

In December 2011 younger son went to the optometrist who also handles eye tracking and other developmental and visual processing issues. He, like older, has "slow focus" which takes more eye muscle effort to focus. This tires the eyes out while reading and doing close work. He was given a mild prescription for reading eyeglasses.

He then refused to use them.

He, like older son, had tapered off reading books for fun or for school work. He resisted reading at all costs. He uses the computer a lot for reading articles, video gaming, social networking, watching YouTube and watching TV shows and movies via streaming (ie Netflix). He also uses an iPodTouch and iPhone. Lots of close work in other words.

In the last month he has been complaining of trouble reading. When he was to read The Count of Monte Cristo he was reading slowly. I thought he was goofing around so I timed him. I sat next to him reading my own book and caught him closing his eyes and trying to go to sleep, for example. The teacher was fired and that book was dropped, thank goodness, as he was behind.

The other day he put on his brother's new prescription eyeglasses for distance and he said he didn't know the world was supposed to be that sharply in focus.

I made an appointment for him for later this week.

In the meantime I got the audio CD of his current book from the library so he could "read" it without problem.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lost and Found Book Review by ChristineMM




Title: Lost and Found

Author: Brooke Davis

Genre: Fiction, Adult

Summary Statement: Fun and Heart-Warming Escape Read

I wanted an escape read and this was it! Told in three interesting character's voices Davis has woven a fun and heart-warming tale. The three main characters are all wrestling with grief as they process the death of loved ones. Each feels left behind, abandoned, isolated and unwanted. They have an adventure together with various antics that somehow all come across as possible and not-far-fetched. I was swept into this story and my heart ached for the feelings of sadness each felt. In learning to process feelings of loss they all open their hearts to love.

I couldn't stop imagining this as a movie, I hope it can translate to film and is made into a movie.

It's a book of adult fiction that is suitable for teens and is better and cleaner than some of the young adult genre out there.

I rate this 5 stars = I Love It.


Disclosure: I received one unit to review from Amazon.com's Vine program to review it on that site. I was not under obligation to review it favorably nor to blog it. I was not paid to review this.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Listen To Your Mother Book Review by ChristineMM



Summary Statement: Wide Range of Very Short Stories About Mothering By Ordinary People Who Write Well

My Star Rating: 5 stars = I Love It

This book is a collection of short essays written by ordinary Americans, most being about three pages after white space is removed representing stories from or about mothering of all types. It elicits tears of empathy, a chuckle or laugh, or nods of agreement due to association.

Imig began a mommy blog (Ann's Rants) and wrote her stories and found community in the blogosphere. I can relate to her feeling that today's woman who choose to be a mother-at-home feels isolated within the walls of our own home and lacking multi-generational living that was formerly common but the Internet allows connections, sharing stories and learning from each other. Imig encourages all mothers to write. The next step was to bring the stories being read aloud to live production on the stage, called Listen To Your Mother. This show opened in 2014 and auditions are open for 39 different live shows around the country in 2015.

I enjoyed reading these stories which have varied voices. The live show is for stories that can be read aloud in 3-5 minutes and although I have not read out and timed these they seem about that long to me. This makes for easy reading in waiting rooms or while sitting waiting to pick your kid up someplace (so long as you don't mind the risk of tearing up). The stories are well edited and I applaud the writer's abilities to write succinctly and to have dug deep to find one important store or point of view to represent. Next month will be my ten year anniversary of my Mommy Blog and I am not sure which one story from the blog or what never published story I would choose to submit. Too bad the show near my home conflicts with a very important event for one of my sons. Such is the typical conundrum a mother faces all the time: putting her kids ahead of herself, or at least putting her own desires at the back burner for a time. Anyhow, I do enjoy memoir and I have enjoyed a few mom memoirs but Listen To Your Mother brings a wide range of well written stories into one volume.

I rate this book 5 stars = I Love It.

Disclosure: I received a review copy from Amazon.com's Vine program to review it on that site. I was not under obligation to review it favorably nor to blog it. I was not paid to review it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Communicating With Teens For Low Conflict

We raised our sons with a parenting style called attachment parenting (AP). Since they were never in daycare or preschool they had no large separation so the principals of AP naturally continued. With homeschooling the lifestyle is different and connection with Mom is inevitable. My husband worked long hours (about 70 a week) then had some underemployment that was a more typical 9-5 hour schedule. During unemployment times he spent the day at a friend's office job hunting so he was not underfoot a lot, I was there more. Anyhow my point is that the AP style has a heart of open communication and of close bonds with children.

Gentle discipline as I learned in La Leche League influenced us as well. We followed our hearts which happened to jive with both AP and gentle discipline. We also used some elements of non-violent communication although some of that book was a bit too much feel good hippie mumbo jumbo to me. The ideas in the book How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen And How To Listen So Your Kids Will Talk played some part but some of it was patronizing. I had training through my former career in Active Listening and modified that to parenting. As I have blogged in the past I think a lot of emotions including anger are based in fear so if you can get to the bottom of what the fear is then it helps resolve it. "I hear you saying you are mad that your teacher gave you only one day to write the essay. Are you afraid you won't have enough time to get it done seeing as how you are tired and have a head cold and feel crappy right now?" The issue there is fear and fear of failure not that the teacher is a jerk.

We have always had a heavy emphasis here on on talking. I talked to my kids a lot while doing things and doing errands. In the car it was, "Look at that crane it is helping build a building." Then each day as we passed we looked at the progress and the process until the building was finished. Talking a lot about what you are doing teaches kids. This actually was one of the big points in a book about unschooling, darn, what is that title? I can't remember, sorry. I read it after my kids were older and had already done that by instinct.

A lot of the talking is about emotions and coping and life and problems and things that I am told many parents do not discuss with their kids. Because the kids will not open up and discuss these things. The open communication from day one I feel has helped my kids not shut down too much. Yes at times in the 14-17 range older son has gotten more quiet. The most closed off was the year of the girlfriend when she was the one getting the info and hearing of the emotions. (Biting my tongue.) As soon as that was over son opened up to us again emotionally.

Anyhow we are more the type to talk about natural consequences and what did you learn and what will you do next time yada, yada, yada rather than dole out a punishment for a poor choice made such as "no TV for the rest of the day".

A  problem with consequences (punishments) that are not natural is they just don't always work. The fear of living with a punishment is supposedly supposed to change behavior before the behavior happens. Those who feel this fear is not effective may choose to not bother with those methods. After our older son got his speeding ticket at age 16 we realized we had never set up a rule to say if you get a speeding ticket you will be grounded for a month or something like that. We don't feel it would have stopped it to be honest. He was either going to speed or he was going to choose to do the speed limit. After the ticket was issued (a story I have chosen to not blog up until now and could make a long story) the punishment given by the DA in court was to do community service. No points were put on the license so there was no insurance rate change (we had said if it happened he would pay that difference). We did not give him a punishment for the ticket as we felt there was no point; he did his community service. There was no fine to pay in the end, we were going to make him pay for that if there was one, we had said. We did more talking, multiple times, about speeding and safety and yada yada yada. We did realize that we should have talked about those things before a bad thing happened. So now we have said if you get into an accident and it is your fault and you total the car you are the one buying yourself a new one. (Presently he drives a 14 year old embarrassing vehicle that my husband used. So an accident is no temptation to be gifted some new shiny car in our family!)

The advice that the parenting experts give to talk about things does not always work. In some cases too much talking creates problems. This one case is what my focus was to be on with this post. I am unsure if this is a personality thing for older son more than younger of it this is all teens or what. I decided to share this here in case this helps someone. Please ponder on this and think about if this might help you.

The issue is at times it is not good at all to have a discussion. The counselor who was giving therapy to my son first told me this a couple of years ago. We were talking about our son handling anger and how sometimes he would work up into a rage. Sometimes that culminated in throwing something or slamming a door or kicking a hole through our wall. (He paid for the wall repair with his own money.) The advice given was to address or talk about whatever and then if it starts to ramp up to stop the conversation and say something like, "You are starting to yell and yelling is unacceptable in our family, and no one is yelling at you,  so we are going to stop talking and how about taking a break and then we will discuss again in ten minutes". When we first tried this it did not work. He was not willing to stop and calm down always because he wanted to be mad and to have his thoughts heard or have his wrath rain down on us. Sometimes when we tried to revisit he was not ready. Sometimes he needed an hour. Sometimes even when calmed down he would just ramp up again when we tried to talk about it again. This was discussed in family therapy multiple times. It is frustrating when someone gives advice that does not work and they just keep saying do this, do that, and they have no other ideas when you tell them it's not effective.

In some cases my son would calm down for a few hours and then before bed my husband would try to go talk it out but this went wrong nearly every time. It was easy to ramp back up and make a big fight but now it was midnight and everyone was exhausted. In these cases the therapist told my husband to no do that. I told him to not do that. Yet he did not listen to us and did it and that resulted in rages sometimes. Over and over I had to pull my husband back and get him to realize he was making it worse. My husband's need for closure before bed made him make a bad decision when he already knew that late night talks were the worst time of day to address things with that son. When tired he can get angry fast or upset quickly or feel despair or have doomsday thinking. My husband finally gets it.

In the last year or so I have noticed a certain thing our son does. He will say something to get a rise out of me or my husband and right there at the start I realized to not take the bait. He sometimes makes proclamations that I now realize are meant to tick me off. If in a bad mood he may just out of the blue say something like, "I am not getting my Eagle rank in Boy Scouts because I am just done with Scouting!"  I just pretend I did not hear it and just walked away or kept doing whatever I was doing then let it go. When I did take the bait and the conversation started to ramp up I would back off earlier than ever before and just move on. In these cases there is no raised voice or fight or major blow up. Later when it is clear the mood is great I sometimes bring up the topic and then it is said that all is fine and well.

Another thing is that I have realized for the first hour or so my son is really groggy after waking up. He needs a slow wake up process and has on his own, started a two alarm method that he came up with himself. The combination of later college classes (11:30am or noon) with waking to two alarms is working for him. This procedure he made up all by himself and he likes it. This is a major accomplishment toward independent living! Well anyhow another big issue is if I try to talk to him about something in this groggy morning time or if I bring up a problem then all hell breaks loose. So I have learned to let him be alone and do his thing in the morning when he is groggy and not fully awake and to address issues or to say anything with negativity in it in the afternoon.

I've been thinking about this issue of talking things out and of open communication. Some parents say to raise girls is very different than boys. I have two boys so I don't know how different genders are to parent. What I do know is that sometimes all the advise to have lots of communication is not always good. What is working with both of my teen boys now is to not discuss hot button issues when they just woke up and are groggy, to not bring it up when they are overtired or already bothered by some stress in their life, or when they are feeling sick. When discussing something if it starts to escalate to stop the talk and pick it up later (but not necessarily using the ten minute wait and regroup method, sometimes it should be left for an hour or more or until the next day). Both of my kids tend to be emotionally more vulnerable just before bed so bedtime is not the time to have big discussions about problems or about philosophical things or existential troublesome talks. And when teens try to bait you with emotionally charged statements don't take their bait, they may just be looking for a fight. I come from a family who likes to debate or to argue about things when they are in a bad mood as a way to blow off stress I think.  It is not healthy to take one's anger out on another person so if I'm mad about a bad driver that almost just killed me on the road I choose to not turn around and pick a fight with my husband or kids even though sometimes it would feel good to start to rant about food they spilled and left on the floor or milk they left on the counter all day or whatever. I am trying to be the adult and do the right thing and to lead by example. I guess the first step in respectful open communication and speaking with non-violence is to not take their bait or to know when to drop the discussion and table it for another time when they are not so emotionally charged.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Picking Our Battles

Younger son told me something in December about what a teacher allows to go on in class. I expressed my disapproval. I later brought this up with my husband then the three of us discussed it. When a teacher allows behavior to go on that is against school rules it puts students in a certain position. We parents say follow the school rules but when teachers usurp the authority of the administration it's an issue that kids are sometimes caught in the middle of.

The other issues happening more specifically with my son's learning or lack thereof and faltering grades were the primary issue for our family. It was not my problem if a teacher let something go on in class that is not allowed.

I am learning the politics of this school and the dynamic is even more incestuous than what we dealt with at homeschool co-ops. I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly with co-ops but was not quite surprised because none of it was much different than what goes on in American workplaces daily. At issue with the politics is the size of an organization. If the group is tiny it can work as more of a partnership or team but when it moves to a handful or a dozen the politics in in full swing.

Maybe we should have brought up the issue happening in that class back in December. Because now it is January and my son did what the teacher allows but this time another teacher overheard it and was not happy. Now in my son's file is a record of this incident which is the first indicator that he has the first strike against him with a behavior issue. I will add also that when the other teacher called this behavior out the teacher whose class it was said nothing, he did not defend my son nor say he agreed that it was a problem. Because to him it is not a problem it is daily allowed behavior. I note also that the teacher who allows that to go on has complimented my son's behavior and interactions withother students  and with him profusely and it's on his record for Term 1 in writing.

I don't think it's good to go to the administration with every farting issue and I believe in picking my battles. Perhaps now is the time to let the administrator know that the teacher is the one who has disregarded the rules of the school and let the kids run amok. There are other issues going on within that classroom and with that teacher but so far I have been told the teacher is "beloved by students and an asset to the school".

So far my husband and I have told our son that even if a person in authority allows activities that are stated to officially be against the rules he should refuse to participate even if every single other student in the class is doing it. This was not easy for a fourteen year old to hear. He is trying to hard to fit in and to be a normal kid which is a term he defines based on what he sees and perceives. He is influenced more by his peers and teachers than by what his father and mother say, feel, advise or dictate.

My son's tutor told him yesterday it's okay to break the rules so long as you do not get caught. That opens up another whole can of worms. My son saw the other teacher at the back of the room and he chose to not change his regular behavior or to act better when being possibly overheard or when being accidentally observed. That kind of crap about breaking a rule when adults are not looking is exactly what was going on when he was in fourth grade and getting physically bullied on the lacrosse team by the school kids. I hate that and we have never told our kids to do that. We say to be who you are and to follow the rules and act right even if one or more around you is doing a wrong thing. This advice has put my sons on the outside sometimes as mine have not joined in on verbal bullying, gossiping, character assassination and  other things that some kids they are with in sports or in Boy Scouts do.

I am not sure what my next step will be. It's complicated when in a small group and when there is an interdependent relationship between people. The school needs the tuition so they try to keep the parents happy. But the school cannot pay out high salaries so they don't have a large number of teachers banging down the doors to work there. Emotions are involved and the students who have been there longer and are known and loved by the administrators or by the repeating each year teachers have favoritism on their side.

There are a certain number of transgressions that should be overlooked and some things are not as important as others. I am trying not to be too rigid by holding everyone and everything in my life to a high standard. In the past this has only led to problems as no person is perfect and no organization is flawless. If we push out everyone and everything for not measuring up to our standards or for breaking rules or when we don't like their social political games we will be left alone.

In the end to us school is for learning so above all else the issue is whether our son is actually learning and if wha they are learning is of high quality. Years later all that will matter is what was learned and was the education of good quality and the interpersonal stuff and the politics will be done and gone. Some feel school is for socialization. Socialization within the class like learn when you are safe to break the rules and things like how favoritism exists and how to either use that to your advantage or to not be on the wrong side of it. The other kind of socialization is about friendships. If a kid is lucky they wind up having one or two best friends in their life and if those come from school then that's a good thing. If the friendships continue after graduation then that's nice.