It’s the Most Modest Time of the Year

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. The holidays were simple. Great! But, simple. My mom and dad always did their best, and we always had good gifts.

It wasn’t just Christmastime that it was like that. We ate simply, and I argued with my mom every single year when it was time to get back-to-school clothes. But, the hot pink dress flats! All the girls in my class will have them!

We have a lot more money than my parents did. But, I want to raise my sons to know there’s more to life than possessions. I feel like I grew up with an appreciation for things. With the ability to wait and save up for things I really wanted. How to tell the difference between something I wanted and something I needed. I know the value of a dollar.

In today’s world, this is an all but forgotten concept. Especially in the United States, kids are raised to think they can have anything they want, and be surrounded with stuff. Hardly anyone tries to raise their kids to be happy with what they have, and to be happy with less.

We keep the toy box half empty. They don’t need every single toy they see on TV. And they don’t need 1,000 different things to keep them happy. A set of blocks, a few Matchbox cars, a train set, some art supplies. This fosters creativity, and a true appreciation when we do introduce a new toy. After a while of getting all the toys they want all the time, receiving a gift begins to lose its meaning.

It’s not that I don’t want to shower them with a ton of gifts. I love my children with all my heart, and want them to have more than I did when I was younger. But, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a balance. Good, nice gifts, but not every toy on the shelf. More presents than I got as a kid, but not a gigantic pile under the tree.

What’s your philosophy? Do you get your kids new stuff all the time? If you can’t afford to do that, are you sad that you can’t get more? How do you talk to your kids about money/consumerism?

“Worry is literally betting against yourself.”

Before I even had children, I was worried about how I would pay for their college education.

I’m serious.

I’ve always been a worrier. I worry about pretty much everything. Like, all the time. And, despite helpful tidbits of advice from non-worriers, such as “just stop worrying!” I still do. I can’t help it.

I’ve received a lot of help over the years for my worrying, really my anxiety, but I still tend to worry. A lot.

When I did have my first child, I was told by someone, or I read somewhere, that as a mother, “It’s your job to worry.”

But, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. It’s your job to enjoy their childhood before it’s gone. It’s your job to feed and clothe them, and provide for them. It’s your job to provide them with emotional support. But, it is not your job to worry. If you don’t worry, you’re not being a bad mother (or parent). You’re just a heck of a lot better at dealing with reality than us worriers.

Where did we get it in our heads that it was not only our responsibility to worry, but our job?! As if we were getting paid to be worried. If that were true, I’d be the richest woman on planet earth.

This is where helicopter parenting comes from: worry. Worry that they will fall down and get hurt. Even though when we fell down as children, our parents were like, “Are you bleeding? Don’t get it on the carpet.” Kids get hurt, it just happens. No amount of worrying will prevent it.

And we worry they won’t do well in school. When in reality, all kids do well in some subjects, and not so well in others, and it’s up to us to find the weaknesses and help our children in those areas. Not to accost the teacher and demand that they raise our child’s grades just because. We can help our children, but we cannot learn for them, and no amount of worrying will help us in that area either.

We worry about their health. But this too is pretty pointless. All we can do is take the proper precautionary methods, and the rest is up to the environment. We can try to shield them from germs, inoculate them against diseases, get regular check ups, watch for early signs of trouble. But, they will still get sick, regardless of our worry.

And of course we worry about providing for them. In a world where resources are growing scarce, and money isn’t always there when we need it, we worry that we can’t get what we need. But, there are resources if we really fall into trouble. All we can do is get through one day at a time, making sure we have what we need, and hoping for the best tomorrow.

Me telling someone not to worry is the very definition of the pot calling the kettle black. But I’m going to tell you anyway: stop the madness, stop worrying yourself sick. We can’t sit back and enjoy their babyhood and childhood while it’s here if we’re busy looking at what might or might not happen to them in the future. And we worry ourselves into a tailspin of negative emotions. We get so caught up in fear and worry that we start to be worried for other people’s kids too. And then it’s just too much.

Don’t let fear take over your life, especially not where your kids are concerned. Your job is to love them. That’s it, really.

worry

Remember Them

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. A time I like to write a little something, because, if you did not know, I myself suffered a miscarriage in April 2011. Every year when the date passes, or when we reach this month, I am always shocked at how much time has passed yet how sad it still makes me feel.

There’s a saying that there are some things you never, ever get over, you just get past them and find a new normal. And the death of a child, at whatever stage in their life, is certainly one of those things.

I like to write and talk about my miscarriage, not to make people sad or to hold my own pity party, but to bring awareness. When I had my miscarriage, I was so misinformed and ignorant about the whole thing. I wish I had been more aware of the possibility. I wish I had known how very many other women suffered the same thing. I wish I had known how valid my feelings of sadness, loss and anger were. So, I write and I talk, so that other women won’t feel the way that I did.

I encourage you, too, to open up and talk about your experience. You could make a real difference for a woman suffering in silence. And let’s remember our children that are gone, and never forget them, keep them in our hearts always.

Here are some of my posts from the past about my experience:

Loss

One Year

I am the Face

What’s the Haps

Hi all. Now that it’s fall, and the kids are back in school, and everyone is back from whatever fabulous summer adventure they went on, I get asked a lot, “What’s new?” My answer is long and rambly, because there’s a lot of little random new things with me. Thought I’d share it with my bloggy friends too.

1. I got a nose ring. Not really big news. But, new. A modest tiny shiny stone of some sort. Most people don’t even notice it, even people I’ve known for years. When I point it out they say it “just fits your personality.” Which I don’t know how to take, I guess. But, it’s fun, and it’s one of those things I always wanted to do. Actually, when I got my eyebrow pierced 15 years ago (I’ve since taken that one out) I had regrets that I didn’t do the nose instead. So, another one checked off the bucket list. And I love it.

2. I am in school! I’m in an online program with Penn Foster for a vet tech degree. It’s like a nurse but for animals. I’m so excited, and can’t wait to be done and get a fun job. I have always had a love for animals, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how intensely I love them and I want to work with them. I think it’s a combo of losing my 19 year old kitty recently, and through the magic of the Internet, seeing that there are so many animals that need help. Pets get surrendered at shelters and rescue organizations for the dumbest things, like “he pooped too much.” And all the abused and neglected animals, it just breaks my heart. With my degree I’d like to work with the SPCA or a shelter or rescue organization. It will feel so wonderful to get to work with animals every day, and make a difference in their lives.

3. Speaking of animals, we recently got two pet rats. Their names are Laverne and Shirley, after the show, which was a childhood favorite of mine. (The vet called to confirm “Shirley and Laverne’s check up” and I was like wut. Somebody doesn’t know their 80s TV shows.) They are sweet and gentle and wonderful. I was worried that our cat would torment them and stalk their cage. She has a history. But, she seems like she couldn’t care less. They, of course, are terrified of her, but that’s easily solved. They really are a great pet for kids. Better than a hamster or gerbil because they can be easily handled, and smaller than a bunny or guinea pig for keeping in your house. And I have not been bitten once, not even a nip, they’re very gentle. Two more members of the family.

thegirls

4. Ferris turned three! I really should be dedicating an entire post to that, but who has the time? H’s really forming his little personality, and it’s so fun.  He asks for water all the time now. It’s only so he can fake belch, but whatever, he’s drinking water. Favorite phrases: “No.” “I hate it.” “I love it.” “Two minutes.” (As in, I’ll do it in two minutes, a phrase picked up from mommy and daddy.) He absolutely loves miniature people and furniture and animals, so we got him a dollhouse for his birthday. Big hit. And he’s hit the picky eating stage. He used to be my great eater, I bragged about it all the time. No more. In case you were wondering if a kid could survive and grow on milk and white bread, I’m here to tell you yes, it’s possible.

5. Bowie started second grade. His teacher this year is amazing. We are over the moon for her. She was immediately so much more supportive of his classroom needs and tolerant of his issues. I couldn’t be happier. There’s only been one major incident with another child, and even that was mild. This time last year, we’d already had two classroom meetings and a meeting with the principal, and he was back in OT. He’s now not currently in OT and we’ve not had a single call from school. I’m so happy. For me, but so much more for him. He’s figuring it out. I am so glad to see him growing and maturing in this way.

So, there you have it. Lots going on. But life is good. What’s the haps with you?

I Don’t Think I Know What I’m Doing Anymore

Bowie’s different than most kids.

He’s super emotional and sensitive and he’s like that most of the time. And he’s been that way for most of his life.

His response in a fight or flight situation is always to fight.

We’ve been told over the years that it’s his SPD. He is much more easily annoyed by things that you and I can deal with, or just plain don’t notice. A breeze. An itchy underwear tag. The hum of a truck parked outside of his classroom. Bright lights. A ticking clock.

One of the things that really gets him going is when another overly energetic kid gets too close to him. Makes too much noise around him. Pokes at him in some way. And continues to do that after Bowie has asked them to stop, which we’ve fought so hard to tell him to do over the years.

Yesterday he hit a kid on the head with his lunchbox (which is metal, btw) for following him around the schoolyard after Bowie had asked him to leave him alone. He told us he didn’t see an adult that could help him, and in his own kid words he told us he did what he had to do.

To add insult to injury, this is a kid that is not in his class this year, but was in his Kindergarten class and his first grade class. A kid that he has a love-hate relationship with. Most of the time they’re buddies and get along great, but when this kid, one of the “overly energetic” types I mentioned, does something Bowie doesn’t like, Bowie responds violently.

He is the roughest with those he loves the most, but how do I explain that to this kid’s parents? And now, after two full years of explaining the whole SPD situation to them, and apologizing profusely after every incident, and doing my best damage control and sucking up to them and planning afterschool playdates so they can “learn to get along better”, it has happened AGAIN. More violent behavior.

There comes a time when sympathy for Bowie’s situation runs dry, and he’s just The Kid That Hurts Other Kids. It’s easy for us to tell him 100 times a day to think before he acts, but not so easy for him to actually do that.

He’s rough with us at home too. All three of us. And we take it, over and over again, because we are so familiar with how hard it is for him to navigate life. We’ve seen him at his most tender times, we know how sweet and loving he can be when he’s got the energy for it. But, most of the time, we generally just don’t like being around him. He feels the safest around us, so he lets all of his emotions run wild in front of us. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Unfortunately, those are the emotions he goes to first.

So, I’m starting to wonder, when is a kid just a difficult kid, and when do more drastic measures need to be taken?

He’s been in and out of occupational therapy for his SPD for years. And it helps him, it really does. But maybe he needs talk therapy. Maybe all those years of the adults in his life punishing him for just being himself has done some damage. Maybe it makes him depressed that there are kids at his school that are too afraid to play with him. Maybe he’s starting to turn some hatred inward because he’s so out of control of his own impulses.

All I know, is I remember the first time I laid eyes on him, and he lay in my arms so peacefully, just staring at my face as I cooed at him. So calm. I want to rewind and start over. Do it differently this time. Because surely it’s my fault that he’s like this now.

My sweet, quiet, calm boy is still there. I still see glimpses of it once in a while. But life has really got him down lately. And I don’t know what to do.

Bowieatbeach

Happy New Year

second grade

I have a second grader, you guys. A SECOND GRADER. Parenthood is the wildest of wild rides, and the absurdly fast rate at which your children grow is part of that wildness. It’s SERIOUSLY like you give birth, and then you blink your eyes and they are feeding themselves, totally potty trained, reading books, losing teeth, riding bikes, and all the other surprises that lie ahead.

Yesterday was the first day of second grade, and it started off with a bang. Well, a shake. There was a pretty sizable earthquake across the bay, and we felt a little rumble out here at the beach. I was sitting on the couch, trying to enjoy my cup of tea, and I felt the room rumble. I got prepared to yell at my kids to get back to eating their breakfast, and looked at them to find them eating their Fruit Loops like perfect angels.

The day seemed to go pretty well. He was also in an after school program for the first time ever, which has him in school until 6pm, which I worried would be too long of a day for him. But, all things considered, he held up pretty well.

I spoke today with his teacher about his SPD and all of his quirks, and she seemed really positive, and eager to help. So, I’m feeling really optimistic about this year. As you might recall, last year was a total drag and he had a really hard time. We’re hoping things are much smoother in second grade.

SECOND GRADE. You guys.

My Favorite Day

“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.” 
― A.A. Milne

I have been through the wringer lately, a story I will share with you another time. But, the experience has taught me to truly treasure the present moment. To open my eyes and take in every little detail I can, and recognize that once a moment is gone, it’s gone forever.

I tended to live in the past and the future a lot. I would constantly agonize or chastise myself over past events. I’d go over and over the event in my head, making a list of what I did wrong, what I could have done, what I could have said, how a different outcome could have affected my present day life.

And I’d do what’s known as “future tripping.” I agonize over what will happen to me and to my loved ones 10 years from now, 5 years from now, 1 year from now, in the next hour, whatever. And I was always in Worst Case Scenario mode. So, one moment I’m signing a permission slip for my older son to go to the museum, and the next, I’m imagining him having an untimely and grisly death in a giant bus crash. Ridiculous, I know. But, this is how my mind, namely my anxious personality, works.

I’ve learned how to deal a little better with all of that. To tell myself to just CTFD and sit with my feelings as I am having them, here and now. And to enjoy the precious time I have with my boys while they are young. I can already see that portions of Bowie’s “babyness” have gone away for good. He is maturing. Slowly now, but it will pick up pace. I can almost imagine him as a teenager now.

And as my boys have been on summer vacation, I’ve found myself wanting to flit and fly here and there with them, and just experience everything we can. Do what we want, when we want to. The moments are even more precious, now that I’m working part time. It’s only a few shifts a week, but that’s 3 or 4 bedtimes I’m missing, chances to wish them happy dreams and tell them I love them before they drift off.

I’ve learned outings with them don’t have to be huge productions. Full days at the museum, complete with dropping a small fortune on lunch there, and making sure to see every single exhibit.

These days, I’m content to sit and watch them run along the beach. Or go to the museum, see one thing, and when Bowie says he wants to leave, I say okay. Or we hit up the park with friends from school. Or we sit on the couch and read books together. This simple stuff fills my cup as much as any grandiose and overly complicated planned-out day.

And I’ve realized that it’s ok if they get dirty. If their clothes get dirty. If they have ice cream too close to supper time. If they fall asleep in my arms late in the day and I know bedtime will be a bitch, I let them snooze anyway. I soak up that beautiful moment and bank it away. I’d rather have memories of them laughing and having fun and being kids, than having to be the “don’t play in the mud”, “no sugary treats before dinner”, “it’s 7:oo, you should already be sleeping” mom.

A lot of people, especially older people, will tell you to “enjoy every minute” with your kids because “it goes by so fast.” Well, duh. But, this is about more than just my kids. It’s about enjoying moments with my husband. Sitting next to each other on the couch, making fun of Naked and Afraid contestants, sharing ice cream from the pint. This isn’t “special”, really, but I know in 20 years it sure will be.

And it’s about me too. Personal fulfillment. Not acting like a new day is something to be endured, but instead something to be enjoyed, and filled with purpose. I got a part time job. I have met new people. I enrolled in school to become a Vet Tech. I am reaching out to family more. I am making something of each day, and at the end of the day, I feel accomplished and satisfied. I used to feel like I was crawling to bed every night, and I didn’t know how I could get through yet another day. I read something somewhere (I can’t accurately give credit) that said basically that the phrase “tomorrow is another day” to a person with depression or anxiety is not a promise, but rather a threat. And I know that was true for me.

But, with the help of therapy, medication, supportive loved ones, and my will to carry on, I’m enjoying today. I’m not listening to yesterday and I’m not afraid of tomorrow.

my favorite day

 

Kids on a Plane

In a few weeks, we’re going on a family vacation that involves us getting on an airplane. WITH CHILDREN. Not something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in the past. And after someone with my level of social anxiety having to experience a woman yelling “shut up kid,” at my whiny 15 month old on a 6 a.m. flight bound for home, I had pretty well written off flying with my kids ever again.

But, it’s a short-ish flight, the kids are older, I’ll take my anti-anxiety meds before takeoff, and by golly, LET’S DO THIS.

So in the spirit of this adventure, I thought I’d share my tips for flying with kids, both as a refresher for myself and a PSA for any of you who’ve not yet had the pleasure.

1. Snacks. I mean, TONS of snacks. All their favorite stuff. Snacks they haven’t seen before. Snacks they’ve never even dreamed of. And this is not the time to be quinoa-and-flax-milk mom. No, this is the time for F-it-give-me-artificial-colors-and-all-the-sugar mom. Nothing gets an uppity kid to sit like an angel quite like the phrase, “want some fruit snacks?” For take off and landing, our particular favorite is gummy candy. They’re getting candy and they’re popping their ears. Win-win.

2. Toys. But not just the old standby toys. Bring their absolute favorite toys. And bring new toys that their eyes have not seen yet. You know how they get a new toy and play with it for hours and are so rapt in it that you get to watch an entire episode of a sitcom on Netflix, uninterrupted? That’s what you’re going for here.

3. Electronics. Again, this isn’t the time to be the martyr mom. Sure, it’s not the best thing for them to sit in front of a screen for too long, but trust me on this one. Download some good, entertaining, even educational games. Download some movies. And get those tots some headphones. Even one of your old smartphones you haven’t tossed out yet will get the job done. If you’re completely against this, I hear you. That’s fine. Bring books, lots of good books, preferably new ones they haven’t seen before.

4. Be SUPER nice to the flight attendants. Sickeningly sweet. Have your kids say hi to them with their cutest cherub faces on as you board. Yes of course you want a pair of wings for them to wear. Then, when your little one starts acting up, pretend like, this is the first tantrum little Johnny has ever thrown! He’s usually so quiet! It must be the air pressure on his ears! I don’t know what to do! Then when the people around you start complaining, you’ll have someone in uniform on your side.

5. Do not be fooled when they say families with small children can board first. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, get on that plane early. You want to be the last people on that flight if at all possible. The longer your kids sit in their seat with the plane just sitting there, the more antsy and bored they will get. The window of time between you boarding and the plane taking off should be very small.

6. Trips to the bathroom. Generally speaking, they don’t like it when you let your kids run up and down the aisles, but getting them up and out of their seats to walk around is a great way to kill time with them. Just take a lot of trips to the toilet, and take your time. Take your time walking back there. Pretend you don’t know how the door works. Stretch out that time as much as possible.

7. Drug them. I’M KIDDING. Don’t drug your kids. Because then you’ll just have to carry them. KIDDING! Mostly.

8. Don’t forget to put diapers and wipes in your carry on. This is a complete duh, but I actually forgot once. And it weren’t pretty.

And just don’t forget that haters gonna hate, and keep your sense of humor. Guaranteed, there will be at least one person who rolls their eyes and huffs their best huff when they see you get on board. These kinds of people used to make me feel like such crap about myself. Who am I? How dare I bring my children on a plane? I’m disrupting people’s lives here! But the truth is, those people are snobby, entitled and clearly have no children of their own, so they just flat out don’t get it. And you need to ignore them. No need to pass out goodie bags to your fellow passengers. Kids are humans too, and have as much right to fly on that plane as Very Important Business Man and Rich Lady Going to the Desert Spa.

When a baby starts crying on your flight, and it’s not yours, soak up that moment. It feels magical. Better than any drug out there. Then, of course, help them out if you can.

Safe travels. Drop your favorite tips in the comments section. And wish us luck.

Time Marches On

At the beginning of the last school year, a month or so after classes started, there was a new kid in Bowie’s class. I’ll call him C. He was put in the desk next to Bowie, and the two hit it off immediately. So much so, that C was moved to another desk entirely by the end of the day.

They were in cahoots right away. They were partners in crime. Allies. Joined at the hip. A duo unified against the outside world. From the moment they met.

Their energies are very similar, their interests almost identical. They played together every recess. There were playdates upon playdates. And as they grew to become the best of friends, we became close with C’s parents as well. And they actually helped us through a very difficult time this past spring.

The thing that keeps this from being perfect is that C’s family was here for C’s mom’s job, and were only here for the year. Meaning, they go back home on Friday. And home is Canada.

We have been promised a warm welcome if we ever find ourselves there, and we will probably plan a visit at some point. But for Bowie, it won’t be the same. His best friend will be thousands of miles away, not sitting across from him at the lunch table.

Bowie struggles to make friends. The combination of his sensitivity and emotional extremes and shyness make for a hard nut to crack. Most kids give up pretty quickly. C was an exception. He wanted to hang out with Bowie, and he accepted Bowie as he is.

We’ve told him that C is moving away. But, I don’t think he understands the real facts of the situation. And I’m really afraid of the day that it does all sink in. Especially since it will be the beginning of a new school year, and last year was, well, not awesome.

Have any of you had to handle this sort of situation before? With the age 7-ish crowd? When I was a kid, I was the one that was always the one moving away, so while I know what it’s like to have to leave a friend, I think watching a friend go might be a different sort of experience. I think he’s too old for me to get a book on the subject too, he’d probably just roll his eyes at me, and I’d seem insincere in my empathy.

I know we can’t protect them from everything. But, I’d like to, you know, soften the blow.

Help, Intertubes!