Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Finding the balance in bitching

I am ALL FOR a good venting.  It's at least 75% of the reason I continue to write this blog (since my medication generally keeps me from being an at-complete-loose-ends mood-disordered mama).

But sometimes, even though I am pro-vent, I just tire of public venting.  My own included.  Even this, what I'm typing, is a vent.

A sad, tired vent.

What I have on my mind today is not the rainy forecast for Halloween which is setting people off like I cannot believe.  Those who are FOR switching trick-or-treating day.  Those who are AGAINST it.  I'm reading Team of Rivals about the arguments for and against abolishing slavery in 1854, so anything that is not this intense seems pretty darn childish and fairly surreal.

What I have on my mind is breast cancer, another topic that has gotten all sorts of "debate."  People who lambast all the pink colors of October and "Save the Ta-Tas" talk.

I'm certainly no huge fan of pink October since it brings to mind my nervous breakdown of 2004 when I thought nipple eczema from nursing (and complicated by undiagnosed anxiety) was inflammatory breast cancer that ended up with me seeing a surgeon and having a breast ultrasound.

Pink October also brings to mind my own mother's bout with breast cancer and what a scary time that was for my family.

And today, when all I'm hearing and reading is a near-constant bitch-fest over trick-or-treating, a sweet friend of mine attended the funeral for a sweet friend of hers who died this past weekend from metastatic breast cancer.

I hate people who try to give me rational perspective when I'm disgruntled about something.  Who try to talk me down from whatever it is I'm going off about.  Because sometimes I just need to vent.  We all do.

But today, and possibly tomorrow, I'm not going to bitch about much of anything because I bet the kids of the mom who passed this weekend would love nothing more than to trick-or-treat with her in a thunderstorm.  I'm not going to bitch about the nerve pain in my shoulder caused by sleeping in a twin bed with my 6-year-old because it pales in comparison to the pain of chemo and radiation and stem cell transplants.

I'm going to be the voice of my own rational perspective.  For at least another day.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sorta like "Shit my dad says"

Except this is called, "Shit I do for my kid that is COMPLETELY absurd."

I will not let the kids use our camera, so when N told me she wanted to have a fall photo shoot for her 18" doll, I agreed.  Very reluctantly.

But I did it anyway.
(Isn't this the chant of parents everywhere?)

And do you know what is even more absurd than doing a fall photo shoot for a doll when one is not an executive for Journey Girls or American Girl or American Doll or Our Generation?

It is taking a photo of the doll in the tree......

Not being happy with the way the light creates a shadow on the doll's face, and moving the doll around to take a better picture without shadow.

Work it, girl!!!  The camera loves you!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Need to remember to take my own prescription

This post is not about my Lexapro, which is my lifeblood that I never forget to take.

This post is about remembering to heed what I tell my mom friends who start to freak out about which school her child will or will not attend.

The local district is in the thick of middle/high school Open Houses and tours, and I considered starting to research schools and make visits, but I have decided against it for numerous reasons.

1. N is only in the 4th grade.
2. I've got enough sh*t on my plate without adding school tours to the list especially if I don't absolutely HAVE to.
3. Even though N is in AP classes, she just retook the test to see if she can improve her score.  It makes more sense to wait to see how she did before I go tramping all over the city.

As much as I like the idea of choice, I do not like the reality of it.  I feel about school selection the way I feel when I'm in the frozen section of the grocery attempting to decide which flavor of ice cream I want to purchase.  I am paralyzed with questions.....

What flavor do I want now?  Is this the flavor I will want on the weekend when I typically eat ice cream?  What flavor do I think D will like?  Should I just get vanilla and add chocolate sauce to it?  Maybe I should instead get a novelty treat (like fudge bars) for a change of pace?  

The worst of it is that I am attempting to read the future for someone who is not me.  I think I know who N is right now, but I'm not a mind-reader nor do I have Cassandra-like skills.  I like the idea of her attending a certain downtown middle school, but would she be better as a "big fish in a small pond" of our local neighborhood school?

Ultimately, I have to go back to that prescription I give my mom friends when they start to hyperventilate. Your child will do fine wherever he/she goes because you, as the parent, are focused on education and value it.  You read to him/her.  You go to conferences and are involved at school and do everything you can to ensure that education is a priority.

Now quit fretting.
And perhaps take an extra half-dose of your Lexapro. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It gets easier, and it doesn't

I once thought having an infant was difficult, but now I realize that when I had an infant I didn't expect very much from myself.  I slept instead of staying up to read.  I napped when the baby napped.  Despite having a 6-year-old who wakes me like a baby, I don't give myself permission to be a tired momma who does nothing and doesn't feel like a sad sack of stuff because of it.

I once thought having two little boys age 2 and under was exhausting, but now I realize that having a 6-year-old and 4-year-old is more tiring because some tissue paper and measuring cups isn't fascinating to them anymore.  They need to be "entertained" in a way they didn't when they were smaller, and that requires more effort on my part (or more guilt if I just let them vegetate in front of the tv for awhile).

I once thought being with my children all day long, 13+ hours, listening to them fight, having all 3 of them talk to me at once would be easier once I only had one to deal with most of the day.  I thought that my energy reserve from not being with all three of them would allow me to function more gracefully in the 6 hours of the day that I am with them.  But I now realize that having 3 children with me, who fight with each other and all talk to me or need things from me at the same time, is just plain tiring, whether it is 12+ hours or half of that.

(Sometimes I think the daily "break of one child" is a curse because I forget the chaos of morning only to remember it when afternoon chaos commences.)

I once thought (because I'd heard some urban legend) that parenting gets easier as kids get older, but I haven't found that to be the case with kids 9, 6 and 4 years old.

It simply gets different.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year (for me)

I love fall.

Always have.

Sixteen years ago, before fall was all the rage for getting married, D and I chose this time of year to exchange vows.

As a kid, I remember walking up my street at dusk, hearing the leaves in the trees, feeling the cool breeze and watching birds congregate as they prepared for their long journeys south.  It was magical.

Purple, brown, orange....these are the colors that speak to me.  Not the pastel and pretty of spring.  Or the greens and reds of winter/Christmas.

And now, with children, I especially love the fall.  It brings the routine of school back into my life.  It brings lots of fun activities that don't involve spending loads of money or filling stockings or shopping.

I've always felt a bit of an old soul, and maybe this explains, in part, why I have always enjoyed the fall, a time of reflection on what has passed and what is to come; a time of cooling with a hint of warmth still at your back.

Trick or treating at our local zoo

G's kindergarten field trip to a nearby farm

Our family pumpkin-picking excursion yesterday

Annual fun playing in the leaves at Mamaw's house

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why an old, used notebook is genius

We have an abundance of old notebooks.  N loves to draw so my neighbor has passed along half-used notebooks from when her children were in high school and college.

With G learning to read and write, it occurred to me that he would probably like a notebook of his own for writing letters and words.  This became especially clear once I started getting notes from him on my desk and bed.

And so I told him that he was getting his own notebook, just like N.

Wowee-Wow!  Talk about an excited kid.

This is what has been happening.

I started by asking him to help me think of words that rhyme with hug.

Then I told him I was going to write him a note, to which he replied:

Last night he nearly threw a fit because I told him we couldn't do rhyming words since it was so close to bedtime.

Today he did this on his own---thinking of words that rhyme with jump.

This is waiting for him on his bed (after I noticed him reading some of his Brand New Reader books to himself).

I forgot how completely cool it is when one's child becomes literate.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The shine came off it

The shine is off the teaching gig.  (Just like it is off marriage and child-rearing and every other thing in life.)

I am still enjoying myself tremendously, but a parent complained to my boss about the books I had chosen which made me doubt myself in the classroom and my literature choices and everything about taking this position.

It's been nearly a decade since I've taught, so I had been able to put a nice rose-colored patina on my time in the classroom, forgetting how many times parents weren't always and in every case 100% happy with what I did.

My skin is thin after all these years.

It has taken almost two weeks for me to stop thinking every phone call is a potential parent complaint, that every email is going to be a parent with concerns.

I know I am a good teacher.  I know because there have been numerous times when my students have said, "Well, I never thought about it like that" or "I didn't pay any attention to that" with their eyes agog with realization.  Because I was able to say last week to my high school students, "I wonder what someone would think if they walked in here and tried to decipher this stuff on the whiteboard:  Atticus Finch, Aslan, Jesus, Batman (not the hero they want, but the hero they need)."

I know because in all this work I am doing and have done to prepare to discuss these novels, I am learning so much, and if I am learning (having read these books at least a couple times and at age 40 with life experience under my belt) then I know these young people under my wings have to be learning too.

This is my story, and I'm sticking with it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Stumbling into cool learning tools

Theft is my shtick.

I'm not creative enough to have great ideas of my own very often, so I've learned the fine arts of discovery and mimicry.

But there are occasions when I stumble onto ideas or activities or books that prove to be great tools in helping my kids learn or be more active or improve their awesomeness.

One of these recent stumbles is the book The Deep Blue Sea by Audrey Wood.  It is a perfect book to read to a preschooler and a kindergartener because they can both read aloud.  The color words are actually colored, so when we get to those M can chime in with "purple" or "blue" because he sees the color.  But the other words are simple and repetitive enough that G can read them (with occasional help from mom).  Talk about two little dudes who feel immensely proud of themselves for reading a book together!

The other stumble is making sidewalk obstacle courses for the kids, which even N enjoys.  Each square of sidewalk gets a different path route.  One square might be small rectangles that wind around the perimeter before ending at the start of the next square.  The adjoining sidewalk square consists of small circles with a break in between where I have made squiggly blue lines for water marks (so the kids have to jump over the ocean).  The next two sidewalk squares are white puffy clouds that the kids have to leap to, with the sun or other planets in between so they must leap over these obstacles to get to another cloud.  I've even done some circles with numbers or letters in them.  The kids can only jump onto the first letter of their first name or their age.

These chalk obstacle courses run from our driveway almost to our neighbors, which is a good 20+ squares.  In just a couple weeks I've used up a bucket of chalk that I've had sitting in the garage for years.

So four, so good

Dear M,

This week you turned 4-years-old, and while you are doing so many wonderful big-boy things, like peeing on the potty all by yourself and going to preschool two days a week, your growth and development are bittersweet to me.  Although you will always be my youngest child, you are most certainly not my baby anymore.

At four years, you are a very chatty little dude.  While it takes a bit for you to warm up, once you feel comfortable around someone you don't stop talking.  Ever.  Your mind is so full of things you wish to share that your mouth has a hard time keeping up.  If you aren't tripping over your own words, you are saying, "Hey.  Hey.  HEY!!!" to keep people's attention so they will

Although you still defer to G in most everything, you have been known to tackle him if he takes things too far.  When he tackles you back, you keep at him until both of you come crying to me.  As much as I dislike seeing you two fight, I can't help but get tickled at seeing you give him what for.  For the most part, though, you and G are partners in crime and very, very good buddies.  Every morning at the bus stop, you give each other sweet, cuddly hugs, and when my ears are not available for twiddling, you often seek out G's ears for comfort.

You are also very sweet on N, or "Wa" as you call her.  She tells you quite often that if you give her a kiss she will give you candy.  You have given her zillions of kisses but haven't quite picked up on the fact that you have yet to receive any sort of treat.

One of your favorite activities is being pushed on the swing, and you also enjoy running along the chalk obstacle courses I make on the front sidewalk.

You sing all the time.  One of my favorites is "Da wules.  Da wules.  Da wules of da classwoom."  Each week you come home from school with a new repertoire of music in your vast mental collection.  For a preschooler, you have pretty good rhythm (better than your siblings but don't tell them I said so; they take after Daddy in this regard).  It is fun to watch you imitate Jake and Finn from Adventure Time and some of their herky-jerky dances.

Even though you are my baby, I tend to think of you as my in-between child because your personality seems a blend of N and G and things were this way even when you were in utero.  I kept thinking if I have gestational diabetes, it's a girl, and if I don't, then it's a boy.  With you, I failed the first gestational diabetes test and passed the second.  And my pregnancy sickness with you was dry heaves, an in-between of the nausea I had with N and the chronic puking I had with G.

You were the puzzle piece that completed our family, the child who brought an end to that  yearning that things weren't quite done.  Adding you to the mix made the picture perfectly clear.

I love you sweet boy,


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Inaneness and childrearing

Sometimes I really, really wish I could be a fly on the wall in other people's houses so I could either see that everyone else's kids do some of the loud, obnoxious, annoying and stupid crap mine do or have definitive proof that I am simply not cut out for this mothering children business because I can't handle much of the loud, obnoxious, annoying and stupid crap.

Like as much as can be had in two hours worth of errands with all 3 kids.

Here are two things that drive me immensely crazy about my children:

Random, meaningless noise--
Today in the car, N started chanting "majunga" (which is an actual city in Madagascar although I don't think N knows this).  Over and over and over.
"Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  Pause.  "Majunga."
"Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  Pause.  "Majunga."
"Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  Pause.  "Majunga."
"Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  Pause.  "Majunga."
"Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  Pause.  "Majunga."
"Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  Pause.  "Majunga."
"Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  Pause.  "Majunga."
"Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  "Majunga."  Pause.  "Majunga."

See, that shit is irritating just looking at it.  Forget listening to it in the car.  For two hours.  More or less.

Watch me!--
I have no problem if my child wants to show me something she/he has never done before.  Or if the child is doing something really well.

But children, I've found, or at least mine, also want me to watch them do things that are either 1. completely mundane or 2. something at which they actually suck but they think they are great at it.  Either way, not only do I not want to watch, it is all I can do to muster a bored, "Meh" in the child's direction.

"Mom, watch me.....kick my legs towards the back (as if I'm a graceful ballerina) when really I look like a gangly giraffe trying to shake a turd off the back of my rear."

"Mom, watch me...pull my hands up into my sleeves and then try to pick up a toy and scream in utter frustration because with my limited fine-motor skills it is basically impossible."

I could probably think of other examples but they are so damn inane that I can't even bring them to mind.

(Note: The kids are on fall break, and I am reminded of why I felt so strung out by the end of summer.  One can only take so much of this junk.)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Being so "old school"

Reminder:  I reserve the right to change my mind about anything I say I will or won't do on this blog.  

I am all for diversity and variety, but diversity and variety can make it a complete pain in the ass to parent my kids the way I think is best.  If other parents do things too differently (read: cooler or more awesome than me), it just makes an already hard job harder.  That's the rub.

Some parents get all weirded out by the prospect of their kids going to school with kids who are of different races or are poor/come from the ghetto.

I get weirded out by parents who buy their kids lots of stuff.   And then I get pissed when I hear the parents who do this bitch about their kids always using said stuff or wanting more stuff all the time.

We don't have cable/satellite television.  We have two tvs in our home (which is one too many in my opinion), and none of them are in bedrooms.  The kids do not have cell phones or DSs.  They never had Tag systems or Leap pads or any of that other stuff for "teaching your children how to read."  We don't have an in-car dvd player (and the portable ones we do have only come out for rides longer than 2 hours).  The kids get toys on birthdays and at Christmas, and if they want anything beyond that they must pay for it themselves.

N will hit the decade mark next year, and it pains me to even think about her turning 13 (and not because of hormones).  Around these parts, turning 13 seems to be associated with "getting a cell phone," which I think is hugely ridiculous unless said 13-year-old has a regular babysitting gig and enough money to pay for his/her phone and monthly service.

Of course, we also have a landline because I don't want my kids talking on a cell phone.  Basically, I'm living in 1981.

I try my darnedest to keep my children thankful for what they do have and cognizant that stuff doesn't make a person happy (or doesn't make them happy for very long). This second part is a very, very difficult concept to instill in children when it seems like everyone else has more and better than what they have (in terms of toys and other superficial stuff).

Branching out in many directions

I feel like I'm having a personal renaissance of sorts.  

I.  Personal
For awhile now, I've been tinkering with the idea of starting to paint pictures.  Not take classes (although that is definitely a possibility in the future), but just seeing what I can do on my own.  I've done a few of those "wine & paint" activities, and it seems to me that many of the paintings I could really probably do on my own.  I'm not saying they don't require skill, but the skill level they require is pretty basic.  

I love fall/Halloween, and decorate accordingly, but I don't have anything to hang over my mantel so I thought I would find a picture online and attempt to recreate it on my own, in my dining room.  Without wine, even.  

And this is what I made:

When D came home and I showed him, he said, "What did you do with M while you and your mom did that?"  (My mom and I are attending a "wine & paint" event tomorrow, which he had seen on the Ical.)  

I said, "We didn't.  I painted that here."  He said something like, "In our house?," which I interpreted as, "Damn, girl--you are so freaking talented and awesome I cannot believe my luck in marrying you."  

II. Professional
I am certified to teach grades 5-9.  When I went to school for my MAT at age 24, I didn't want to teach high schoolers for two reasons:  1.  I knew they might be significantly bigger than me and 2. I thought they might be smarter than me.  I emotionally always felt like a middle schooler, so I thought it would be a good fit.  And it was.  

In my part-time teaching gig now, I am teaching middle- and high-schoolers, and I enjoy both tremendously.  But I must admit that being able to read deeper literature and talk about deeper topics with my high schoolers is awesome.  

Now that I've got some life behind me, I know that even if they are really, really bright, they haven't lived 40 years, and that counts for a lot.  I'm older, wiser, and on medication so my anxiety about teaching high schoolers is far, far diminished.  

Which makes me think that when I take classes in 2014 to re-renew my certificate, I will put them towards getting high school certified.  

Branching out in these ways feel really freeing, like this new act of my life is full of all kinds of possibility.