Sunday, April 23, 2017

I'm not trying not to be supportive

I am a natural-born skeptic.
The older I get, the more skeptical I become.
Whether you believe humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years or three thousand years, I suspect that if there was a simple answer to things, we would have already figured them out.

As Trump has discovered about health care and North Korea/China---it's all complicated.

Ultimately, I think people have to do what is right for them regardless of what I think.

But sometimes I find it difficult to support them in the things they do because I inherently disagree.

Like diets.

I do not "diet."

The word connotes a temporary, strict way of eating that in many cases cannot (and possibly should not) be applied to one's entire life.

I don't care what the "diet" is, but I am always suspect of diets that eliminate certain types of food unless there is a diagnosed medical condition under the guidance of a physician that makes such elimination necessary.

A diet that cuts out whole grains is suspect.
A diet that cuts out nuts is suspect.
A diet that cuts out legumes is suspect.
A diet that cuts out potatoes and carrots is suspect.
A diet that urges you to eat loads of one particular food group is suspect. The all-kale diet is a bad idea, even if kale is a superfood.

Diets often make us feel that foods are either good or bad, and mixing emotions and judgment with food choices is often a very dicey mix.

I am also not a proponent of out-and-out denial because that backfires, and I know this from experience.

When I was pregnant with N and developed gestational diabetes, I was put on a strict diet and I followed it to the letter.  I weighed my food. I did not eat anything with sugar, including cake at my own freakin' baby shower.  I walked 45 minutes every night on the treadmill from week 28-41.

Between my 28th week of pregnancy and my 41st, I lost 7 pounds of the 18 I had gained.  I should have been allowed to gain 20-25 lbs, but I only had 11 extra pounds of weight on me when I delivered.  N weighed 7.5.

My strict adherence to their "DO NOT EAT SUGAR" dictate resulted in me gorging on sweets for a very long time after delivery.  I stuffed so much sugar into my mouth it was ridiculous, and I don't see how that was healthy.

So what I learned from this experience is that for me, being an obsessive person, following a diet that restricts my food choices is a bad idea.  I really need to strive for a balance. Eat as much fruit, vegetables, healthful meat, whole grains, legumes and nuts as possible but don't freak out if I want a handful of chips.

I had a very poor experience with a "diet" and so it makes it difficult (if not impossible) for me to get on-board with friends and family who adopt "diets," especially if those diets are super strict or restrict certain food groups.

I support my friends and family in their efforts to be healthy, to reduce eating out, to exercise more, to eat as much whole foods as possible and cut back on processed foods.

But if your diet begins to rule your life or make you a little bonkers about food, then it probably isn't sustainable to your life and your mental health.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Adventures in subbing

I have been re-employed by the district for a year now as a substitute teacher.

What began as deep-set fear walking into a new school has become a more comfortable "I can probably handle today" feeling.

What began as a "how in the heck am I going to find jobs?" feeling is now a pretty consistent buzz of my phone with people asking me to sub.

I often hear remarks from teachers that I am a very good sub, which a part of me finds perplexing until I see other subs.

I have worked with subs who really should be retired or possibly in their graves (stroke victims who walk with canes and/or walkers and are basically seen as the lame impala to the hungry lions of middle school).  I have worked with subs who are young enough to be my child, who have never taught, who are ignored by the kids and who cry, which is like being the lame impala to the hungry lions of middle school.

Subbing has reminded me that middle schoolers are some of the biggest jerks on the planet. They are also some of the neediest, most fragile human beings on the planet.

Subbing has reminded me that middle school kids often take a day to warm up to you.  The first day subbing may be a bloodbath, but if they see you again on day two, they are suddenly more respectful.  Unfortunately, sometimes day one is so bad subs don't return for day two.

Subbing has reminded me that kids want you to engage with them, and if you do, they are more willing to offer up that respect on day two. That doesn't mean they are going to do exactly what you want on day two, but you will see more respect out of them.  As long as you engage.

And by engaging, I don't mean complimenting their clothes or hair.  I have seen subs do this, and I don't understand it.  I suspect it is an attempt to develop camaraderie with the kids, but I have only witnessed it fail miserably.  Kids can smell b.s. in adults from a mile out.

I am a big proponent of getting the lay of the land because nothing is going to get you attitude more than yelling at their regular teachers might...when you have been in the building all of 15 minutes.  I can't blame the kids. If someone walked into my house and started yelling at me about how to write my freelancing article, I'd get up in their face, too.

I have found that quiet and close gets me a lot further.
But not freakishly close.
Middle schoolers don't like that either.

I strive to be helpful in the classroom if I am in as a resource teacher, and that doesn't mean holding up the wall.  If a teacher begins to pass out papers, I go up and grab some to assist.  I walk around the classroom, peeking over shoulders, asking "Do you need help?"  If someone is losing focus, I quietly try to refocus them.  I do not do this because I want teachers to tell me what a great sub I am.  I do this because I could not sit there or stand there and do nothing the entire day.

If I have a classroom unto myself, I always introduce myself and apologize in advance for mispronouncing the students' names....noting that I understand getting a name mispronounced because of my own 3-syllable last name.  Students are often amazed that I get their names correct.  I don't know if this is a result of having taught before or being a linguistic phenom.

I then lay out the expectations and assignment, making note that I understand that having a sub in the room is not normal and generally sucks.  I get it.  They are usually given busy-work, and I hate busy-work myself so I can totally sympathize.

If I am in an elementary class, and sometimes middle if I have been with the students before, I try to work in my favorite game, Stump the Chumps, which is me asking them questions about what we read or discussed.  Listening to Car Talk frequently has been good for something.

I never, ever sit down when I sub, unless I'm in a resource capacity working with individual students.   I probably get 10,000 steps because I am on my feet the entire time, walking around, checking how they are, not giving them much of an opportunity to do anything ridiculous.

When I taught full-time, I really felt like I built a special rapport with my kids, and subbing has reminded me that I still "got it."

I mean, when I walk back into places I've subbed and middle schoolers I don't really know hug me.
That is some serious props.  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Another stage of the grieving

Last weekend we went to see Papaw's house again, for what will probably be the very last time.  My MIL and niece met us there.

It is all cleaned out and has a contract on it.

M took his "Papaw pillow."  If Papaw is with us in spirit, he goes considerably more places than he had been in the past 5 years.

My sensitive G boy....well, I think this picture pretty much summed up what it was like for him until after he'd had a good cry.

The kids needed it, and I think D probably needed it.  That is the longest residence he has ever known.  For his entire life, a grandparent lived in that house.

The kids sat in Papaw's truck for the first time ever.  G was still upset, and I was very proud of N for helping to comfort him.

We snapped some photos of the kids with the Papaw pillow---
and by this time, G had perked up a bit.

I really love this photo.

The kids on Papaw's front steps.

The kids on the inside steps.

The kids "skating" around in the upstairs bedroom.

Mamaw and her four grandkids on the screened in porch. 

We miss you Papaw.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A concert, an urge to write, sexuality, racism and raising children

I do not write every day.  Perhaps I should.
I write the way I attend church--when the spirit moves me.
If I don't feel the need or urge to go, I don't go.
If I don't feel the compelling urge to write, I don't write.
I have begun and deleted many, many, many things because I wasn't really feeling it, but I did it anyway, and it sucked.
I have gone to church many, many times when I didn't really want to be there, and that sucked, too.

Last weekend, N and I attended a Panic at the Disco concert (which was completely great, by the way). I really enjoy this part of her growing up--the fact that we can share music together and get in mom/daughter time.

On the way to the stadium, N and I walked past the law office of a gay couple I know.  Their son is in 3rd grade with G and has been in the same class before.  I also happen to have gone to college with one of the dads.

During the concert, one of the songs Panic performed was "Girls/Girls/Boys." I had never heard it before, and given my old lady ears, I didn't really understand what he was singing.  But the crowd broke out their phones with colored discs in front of them, and gay pride flags were unleashed.

And then on the drive home from music class last night, of all places, I guess everything congealed in my head, and I remembered a time when I felt attracted to another woman.

I'm not writing this because I think it is a big monumental deal on the order of making me question my sexuality.  It is not.
I didn't act on the attraction, and I don't know if it was shared.  But I felt it while married to D.
(I should add that I felt...and feel...attraction to plenty of other guys while married to D and didn't/don't act on those either.)

I'm not sure if sexuality is a continuum or categories or something far more complicated than we can ever imagine, but I think it is probably like most everything else--from religion to feelings about pizza.  People are all over the freaking map, and there is no one right answer for everyone.

Even if you like pepperoni and pineapple, not everyone else does.  What you find distasteful on pizza, someone else finds scrumptious.  Even if you predominantly like your pizza with pineapple and pepperoni, there may be an occasion when you really feel the hunger for a vegetarian pizza.  Whether you actually decide to order that pizza, I guess, depends on how strongly the feeling hits you.

Attraction to others is as unconscious and uncontrollable as hunger.  Sometimes from out of nowhere, I really feel like having tuna and tomato soup for lunch.  I don't intend to want it.  It isn't a conscious "decision" but that is what I really want to eat for lunch.  And I can eat something else that isn't tuna and tomato soup, but I still feel the desire to eat that combination of food.  The peanut butter sandwich might satisfy the physiological hunger pang, but it doesn't satisfy the desire.  And I could try to eat peanut butter all the time, but that desire for tuna/tomato soup keeps coming back so that eventually I eat it and it satisfies me.

I read an article recently about how racism hurts white people, a concept that doesn't get a whole lot of attention.  The basic premise is that racism keeps white people from developing contacts, relationships and experiences that might be wholly beneficial to them.  This really stuck with me because I was, more or less, forbidden to date black boys.

I don't know that I ever actually broached the topic, but the general premise at the time was that dating someone vastly different from me--skin tone and culturally--would be difficult because of other people's racism.  (Of course, not ever actually going to school with a black person until I was 14, living in an all-white neighborhood, and going to an all-female high school made my chances of actually dating a black boy pretty slim.)

Anyway, my impression was that the best thing to do was date a white, Catholic boy.  Which I mostly did.
And then I married a white man who is an atheist.
But I sometimes feel attraction to men who are black, like the boys' bus driver, who is a very fine-looking black man with great teeth as well as super friendly.
Just like that time I felt attraction to a woman.

I guess the whole point of this rambling is that as a parent, I really think it is valuable for my children that I not limit them (and myself) by imposing any kind of dictate of what they should and shouldn't do....beyond killing someone and doing drugs.  Just because I prefer pepperoni and pineapple doesn't mean they do.  I can eat the pizza I like, and they can eat the pizza they like, and ultimately the most important thing is that we sit down together and share a meal.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The not doing that motivates me to do

G began occupational therapy when he was six; he is now nine-and-a-half.

He was reevaluated in December and has made significant improvements over the years, but we are in the midst of another six months to see if we can make headway in some specific areas.  With him, there is often overlap between what is sensory and what is OCD, and it is often difficult to parse out which is which.  He could take OT for the rest of his life, but it really wouldn't make a dent in what is OCD.

He is also unbelievably stubborn.  There are probably many things he can actually achieve but he just doesn't care that much to do them, and so he doesn't work very hard.

There is also the role of simple development---he might make great leaps in OT but that might have more to do with him hitting growth spurts than anything actually accomplished in OT.

Finally, there is the likelihood that some things he will never be at an appropriate age-level.  He scores lowest in terms of balance/coordination, and that has a lot to do with his vestibular system.  I am coordinated but have a shit vestibular system---I get motion sick swinging on a porch swing.  I feel pretty certain that I would fail the vestibular portion of the testing he undergoes in OT.

I'm really very done with OT.  I would have liked to quit a year ago.  Every week for three-and-a-half years is a long time.  Paying $85 a week for three-and-a-half years is a lot of money (let's go low and say $10,000).

I have refused to quit, though, because I have watched other parents quit intervention for their children and pay what I think is a heavy price.

I know of parents who stopped OT because it was inconvenient---which it totally is.
I know of parents who stopped intervention because one parent was on board and the other parent didn't think their kid had a "real" problem.
I know of parents who blamed the school system and moved to other counties for a different school system, and yet the child and her problems remained the same.

Over time, the child's situation usually worsens without intervention. Parents are often very poor judges of whether their kid is "normal" or not.  Some err on the side of "my kid is definitely not normal" (this is where I land) and fail to realize how normal their child actually is.  Some err on the side of "my kid is normal" and fail to realize how abnormal their child actually is.  Parents really want to believe that a lot of things are "just a stage" and will resolve on their own.

G's issues are, in the great realm of things, really mild.  Friends who don't know he does OT are often surprised when I say he does OT and has sensory issues.  He is friendly and well-mannered and plays nicely with their kids and doesn't give off glaringly "odd-ball" behaviors.

There are other families whose children have much more severe issues, who have spent far more time and far more money, in helping their children.  This is not my pity party. Those other families are tired of everything related to OT and intervention that I am tired of.

But it is the situations I've seen in which intervention stopped that have motivated me the most to just suck it up and keep going until the professionals tell me we've reached a good stopping point.

Monday, April 3, 2017

How grief can manifest in the littles

When Papaw died in December, M did not cry.

At Papaw's wake, M refused to look at him in the casket.

During the funeral, when G and N stood at the casket crying, M bopped past and returned to his seat.  He was lost in imaginary play immediately afterward in the lobby, while G went around hugging everyone to help ease his own sorrow.

My mother-in-law used some of Papaw's old flannel shirts to make everyone in the family a Papaw pillow.  I contacted a graphic designer on Etsy to make cotton tags for the pillows using an image I scanned from one of Papaw's many birthday cards where he had signed his usual--"Love you, Papaw."

They turned out really nice.

Mine was made from a shirt I bought Papaw for his 89th birthday.

Ever since M got his Papaw pillow he has been sleeping with it every night, bringing it downstairs every morning when he wakes up, and sitting with it when he's on his Kindle.

M's Papaw pillow

He has also been taking it places with him.  Today he brought it to the clinic for N's well visit and to get our allergy shots.  He took the pillow into Panera where we had lunch.  The pillow went into Meijer and the pet store.

When I said something like, "You are taking your Papaw pillow everywhere, aren't you?" M replied by saying, "I'm never going to see Papaw again."

And it dawned on me that this pillow is helping M grieve in his own way.  For whatever reason....shock, embarrassment, fear....he didn't process Papaw dying in December when it happened, but with the pillow he is.  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

My other oddities (travel-related) since so many people are posting Spring Break photos

  • I do not post photos of my feet at the pool or beach.  I'm not sure why people do this.  Perhaps  to prove the point that they are really and truly at the pool or beach.   I totally believe that you are where you say you are.  Feet, even the most massaged and pedicured, are weird. Mine happen to be pretty janky, and I don't want to subject anyone to photos of them.
  • We don't go on Spring Break trips.  On fall break, we usually go on little 2- or 3-day trips, but never on Spring Break.  With fall, you have the heat of summer at your back, so it might get warmer than you expect but in October it isn't cold.  And October tends to be a dry month. With Spring Break, you have the cool of winter at your back and almost certainly rain, and I don't really like cold and wet on my vacations.  
  • I like to go to southern beaches when it is HOT.  We went to Gulf Shores in mid-May one year, and it was far too cool for my liking.  We wore windbreakers and jeans a couple days, which is just like being where we live in May. The idea of going to Florida in the first week of April just gives me the shivers.
  • I don't mind going someplace cool if I know that it is supposed to be cool. I expected Iceland to be cool, and when it was, I was totally fine with that.  When I went to Ireland, I expected the Atlantic to be cold, and it was (I was also 19 and far less sensitive to coldness than I am now).  I expected Michigan to be on the cooler side, and it was.  All is well when my expectations meet reality.  
  • With Spring Break, I know we only have a week, and then must get back into the drudgery of routine.  To cram a full-on vacation into those 7 days feels overwhelming.  I like being able to gradually build up to the trip and know that I have time afterwards for the kids and I to just hang without having to launch back into real life.  I might be spoiled by summer flexibility.  
  • I will not wear tennis shoes when sightseeing outside of the country.  Nothing screams, "I am an American" more than white tennis shoes, jeans/shorts and a baseball cap.  D and I will be going out of the country for our 20th anniversary trip, and I have been researching "comfortable travel shoes" since I'm not sure my well-loved Merrells will see me through.  I am a firm believer of "When in Rome," and I also don't like to stick out like a sore thumb.  
  • If we travel outside of the country, I try very hard to learn some common phrases in the language.  I have found that making even the slightest effort to use their language makes people eager to help.  Nothing is more assholish than expecting people in other countries to speak your language just because it is English.  It might be the lingua franca but given how much Americans expect everyone who comes here to speak English, people in other countries expect Americans to make that same effort.  
  • If I travel to a place that has a lighthouse, it is imperative that I visit it. I don't need to go inside it, but I want to see it up close.  I sorta love lighthouses. 
  • I am not satisfied to just to the beach and do nothing but the beach for a week.  There has to be one day in which we go someplace nearby that is of non-beach interest.  When we went to Edisto Island, we drove in to Charleston.  When we went to Virginia Beach, we drove to Chincoteague to see the horses and colonial Williamsburg.  I had thought we might drive down to Savannah, GA when we visit Hilton Head this summer, but I have since decided against it.  D and I had a wonderful time in Savannah before children, and I think the kids would ruin those memories with their "We're tired of walking" bullsh*t.  I think we might take the ferry over to Daufuskie Island, which would satisfy my need to see someplace "extra" without walking around a city.  
  • I'm not a huge fan of art museums unless the museum has something really amazing or is highly associated with the place I'm visiting. For example, D and I visited the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy to see Michelangelo's David.  We would have been complete dummies to be in Florence and not see David.  When I was in London, I visited a lot of museums in part because of their historical significance to the city the Tate and the Victoria and Albert.  But I won't make a special point of visiting an art museum in all cities because I would rather see other things that are more intrinsic to that place.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Travel philosophies (and other quirky philosophies)

I'm working on an article about bucket lists, and most of the people I've interviewed for it have traveled. A LOT.

The other day, I was able to look through a lady's photo album of her journey to 19 cities in Spain.  That was fun.  What was intended as a 20-minute interview became an hour-long perusal of her photos and a discussion of all-things Basque region. I would have stayed longer, but I had to pick up middle schoolers from school.

I am the type of person who generally does not want to go back to a place I've been (unless it has been 20+ years and I no longer remember much of what I saw or I'm traveling there with someone I didn't travel with initially or there is a major site there that I failed to see the first time I visited.)

For example, I would totally go back to England and Ireland because I first went in 1993.  I have forgotten a great deal, and I would go with D instead of a group of college classmates.  This time, instead of following in the tracks of Thomas Hardy and James Joyce, I would follow in the tracks of the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen.

And I would return to Charleston, SC because we didn't visit Fort Sumter when we went, and I would like to see that.

The world is vast, and I would find it a little stifling to go back year after year after year to the same places, especially beaches.  I love going to the beach, but I don't want to return to the same slice of beach every summer for 20 years.

I keep hoping that I will visit a place and feel a tremendous pull to return there.  It would certainly be easier for planning purposes, and it would make D happy (he would love to not have to figure out new places all the time).

My breakfast philosophy is a lot like my travel philosophy.  I do not want to eat the same thing for breakfast every day.  Sometimes it is an English muffin with peanut butter.  Some days I have warm Grape Nuts with blueberries and pecans.  Sometimes it is a waffle with peanut butter on top.  D eats the same breakfast every day for a decade.  It takes him 10 full years to get sick of the same breakfast.

On the occasions when I do return to a place I've been, I have to switch things up in some way. Stay in a different condo.  See different things I've haven't seen.

We did go to Gulf Shores twice--once in 2005 when N was 18 months, and once in 2009 when I was pregnant with M.  We stayed in different condos at different ends of the beach and visited different places (when it came to restaurants, though, we did do Lambert's and Lulu's both times).

In college, I did go to NYC 3 times over the course of a 9-month period.  Once in the fall with a guy I was dating to visit his sister in Soho.  Once in the spring for an economics conference with a professor and classmates.  The final time was on a graduation trip with my mom where we saw a couple Broadway shows.  Although I went back to the same general place, I stayed in different hotels, went with different people and didn't see the same things over again.

And we did take the family 3 times to Disney World---when N was 3, when G was 3, and when M was 5.  It will be a cold day in Hades before I go back (although in Dante's hell that wouldn't actually be too long).  On every visit, it was imperative that we not redo every single thing we did the first go round.  Except the People Mover.  My kids thought that was the best ride ever.  Weirdos.

My travel philosophy, "Thou shall not go to the same place repeatedly in most cases" has extended itself to concerts.  I used to see the same performers over and over and eventually determined that the first show was always, always the best.  The shows that followed always left me feeling let down.  So I stopped going.  I'm a "one and done" person when it comes to shows.

Even if I fell into a great vat of money, I cannot ever see myself owning a home in another location and returning there again and again.  Even if it were France.  That is too much responsibility and takes away the aura of "vacation."  Ownership is a lot of work and expense, and I am not interested in either.  When I go away, I want to get away.

One time D asked me if I would ever want to own a boat, and I have basically been laughing on the inside ever since he asked some years ago.  Owning a boat is like owning another vehicle, and I hate owning vehicles.  They break and depreciate and require housing and insurance.  If my city had a light rail system I would be ever so happy.

Another philosophy of mine is to not post pictures of myself while on vacation.  If I am traveling, you will not know about it until I am safely ensconced back on my couch.  (I dislike it when other people tag me in photos during an outside-of-my-home event.  I do not want the world to know what I'm doing as I'm doing it.  Tag me all you want after it is over.)

This is both a privacy and a safety issue.  It doesn't bother me if other people post pictures of themselves while traveling, but I don't do it myself.

Kinda like wearing khakis or doing duck-face sexy photos.  If other people engage in such things, I don't care.  But you will not see me engaging in such things.

This year we are going to a new-to-us beach, Hilton Head.  We loved Michigan last year, and we loved that it didn't take 12 hours to drive there, but the water was really freaking cold.  Our main priority when planning this year's trip was "under 10 hours" and "a beach we haven't seen."

My tentative plan for next year was to go out to Utah with the kids and see Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, but then G asked to visit Atlantis in the Bahamas.  He had seen a commercial or something.  I did look it up, and it is RIDONCULOUSLY expensive to stay there.  Like $15,000 for the 5 of us.

But his interest did inspire me to think of the possibility of doing a 3- or 4-day cruise and visiting Atlantis as a day excursion.  This will take some planning and saving, but I hope that we'll be able to do it in 2018.  It feels luxurious, the idea of doing a cruise, but I really want to encourage G's interest in finding new places.