Monthly Archives: May 2015

Breathe…

Also posted on my other site: Homeschooling the Minds of Tomorrow

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I sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office today with my 38 week belly, my five, three and one year old. A little boy and his brother sat at the coloring table where my five and three year old took a seat also. The little boy was the same age: three and a half, and his little brother was maybe six months older than my 16 month old. The little boy chatted politely to my three year old, asking him questions, etc. He asked his little brother if he could have a crayon, and the little tot nodded.  I wished so badly at that moment that my little boy could respond to his peer, or to his siblings or me. I felt a pain in me as he suddenly jumped up from the table and began to wander about, seemingly oblivious to anyone else in the room. The other little boy seemed upset that my son wasn’t responding, so I just said to him,  “You talk so well and you’re so sweet with your little brother!” After a long day of tantrums and meltdowns, I sat at the table to color. I needed to just breathe and unwind. Little boy sat quietly with me, as though he needed the same.

My three year old can be very sweet and gentle at times. He sleeps snuggled up against me almost every night. He tries so hard to communicate in his own complicated babble. He repeats the only thing he knows we both understand: his alphabet. He can say a few phrases, but letters, and to a lesser degree, numbers, is what he feels is his connection with us. But he gets frustrated very fast. He throws things, throws himself, screams, head butts and hits me. And it doesn’t matter what I say or do at that point…

I was telling a family member about how sweet he is and yet how difficult it can be, and that nearly every day I have to keep myself from bursting into tears. He asked if it was because he drove me  crazy and made me happy all at the same time. I said, “No.  Because I can’t reach him and he can’t reach me.”

Sometimes I let him play an alphabet game on my iPad. I have to be watchful and careful because he can easily get upset and throw it. But today I heard the craziest thing! He sat looking at a book and saw the letter “A.” He said to himself “A, a, a.” Then made the short a sound three times. Followed by, “Apple, alligator, ant.  An alligator has an apple. An ant eats the apple.” Word for word, from the alphabet app on my iPad. I had never heard him say this many coherent words together before. He had memorized many of the letter ditties from the game and sat saying them to himself.

I have a relative with a non verbal autistic 9 year old who uses an iPad like device to communicate with her parents and care givers. I also have come across others who use them for their children as well. However, they are all much older than mine. I would give anything to be able to communicate with my son and ease his frustrations. My only concern is, would such a device at this age hinder him from learning to speak?

I know my son is very smart. I can see the gears turning in his head. I cannot imagine how frustrating it is to not be understood, except I know how frustrating it is as the parent to not be able to reach your child.

I would love to hear from others who have experience with these devices!

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Since We Don’t Have a Boat…

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Texas has received an enviable amount of rain these past however many looooong weeks. I’ve exhausted all the movie – watching I think we can handle, colored until my hands cramped and elbows ached, read books to the kids a hundred times over, and, well you get the idea.

The youngest three and I did get out a few weeks ago to the park for an unplanned adventure. But for the most part, we’ve been stuck indoors due to rain or playgrounds turned swamp grounds.

But after that last trek, I swore it would be the last of its kind. Well, I should know better than to swear off mud and rain puddles, or rain-made rivers and lakes, especially with a herd that’s 5/6 boys!

For the five year old, it only served to increase his appetite for frog catching. And the two beneath him, if they could talk, would have been equally as eager to get back and splash around in the rain water again.

So after school today, we all went to the park. The bigger four were frog catching while I tried, once again unsuccessfully, to keep the little two out of the water. It didn’t take long before I gave up and let them splash and run to their hearts’ content.

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This time I was at least prepared with extra diapers, a frog catching bucket, and no where to rush to!

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They have been happily playing with their new pets for the past few hours 🙂


Coloring

It’s been raining pretty much non stop for weeks now. I wish I could say the forecast foresees an end, but that is not the case. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the lush, brilliant colors brought out by all the rain. But it would also be nice to get out without either being poured on or stepping in water and mud puddles up to my knees.

So it seemed the perfect opportunity to pull out the coloring books for my daughter, my sister and myself. We enjoyed coloring in my daughter’s books for awhile before moving on to the “adult” coloring book.

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The beautiful pictures in this book are so intricate, coloring can only happen in either pieces or while little ones sleep.

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Two hours later, we finished our coloring and are now icing our elbows.


Special Words

Also posted on my other site: Homeschooling the Minds of Tomorrow

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My sweet, babbling, mostly non – verbal three year old…. I love him so much. I feel we’ve had a difficult few weeks. Perhaps all the rain and lack of adequate outdoor time has stressed him out. Perhaps his inability to communicate effectively is frustrating him more lately. Regardless, he has had many melt downs that have brought us both to tears. I admit I’ve dreaded going places with him because it has seemed a melt down was inevitable. Yet in between, he is gentle and loving and sweet.

Tonight, he called from upstairs, “Mom!” Usually when he calls for me and I answer, he babbles something in his little language and I make up a reply. But tonight when I answered, he said the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard from him: “I love you!”

He has only said it one other time. After three and a half years of tucking him in and telling him I love him, once he repeated me. It was very special. But tonight, it was completely on his own. I ran up to him, scooped him into my arms and held him.


Making Memories aka Bad Planning

It’s been raining cats and dogs for a few weeks now. When the rain has stopped, it’s been so wet everywhere that I haven’t had the desire to take the little ones to the park. Of course, at my very late stage in pregnancy, I haven’t had the desire for a whole lot of activity period. But that’s not really the point.

My three year old was definitely showing signs of cabin fever. My fridge and pantry were void of most staple items. And all the five year old has wanted to do is zone out in front of the TV. Fortunately, baby has been happy just toddling around.

Yesterday I sat on the couch looking for indoor play areas nearby. I discussed joining the local Y with the hubby in case, you know, it never stopped raining. But finally today… sunshine! What began as a trip to Sonic to get gross food for the kids (don’t judge – I already said I had no real food), became an adventure for which I was not adequately prepared.

“Can we go to the park?” asked the five year old as we left Sonic.

“No, it’s a swamp. Maybe later.”

“Pleeeeeease. There’s probably lots of frogs,” he persisted.

“Oh I’m sure of that,” I agreed.  But I decided to at least check it out. “If it’s muddy and wet, we’re leaving,” I warned.

Of course it was both of these things. The little ditches were now rapidly flowing creeks. The boy was in heaven! The three year old and baby were happy to stay on the playscape for a hot five minutes until they discovered the lakes and rivers surrounding them. By this time, the five year old had reached the construction area where there was a huge lake with a concrete runoff, feeding into the ditches/rivers. He was finding tons of tadpoles!

At first I tried to walk around with the little two, careful not to get wet or muddy. But that didn’t last long. Then I tried to keep them at least mostly dry. That also didn’t last long. Then I tried to let baby just dip his little toes into the water. But pretty soon he was sitting in it.

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Up above the creek, the other two had attracted some other kids (whose mommies probably weren’t too pleased). They were happily running on the narrow strip of concrete between the runoff and the lake, kicking up water and having the [wettest] time of their lives. After awhile, I took baby up top to better keep the three year old in arm’s reach. They were rolling in the water! Splashing, running, giggling with the kind of pure joy only a child has.

I let this continue for quite some time for two reasons: first, it was really adorable, and second, I couldn’t decide how we would get back into the car now that all three were soaked.

At last I had the brilliant idea to leave the car and walk home, change into dry clothes and walk back to the car, then quickly get to the school to pick up the ten and seven year old.

Yes. Brilliant.

I put baby into the little umbrella stroller, grabbed my purse, the three year old’s hand and walked the half mile home. On the way back, I’d walk them in the double jogger. Brilliant plan.

Never mind that the walk and heat were nearly labor inducing. We arrived home and I realized the double jogger was actually in my car. Nice.

Changed quickly. 20 minutes until school got out. Threw baby back into the stroller and tried to walk back the half mile to the car. Except the three year old, now very tired, would not walk. If you’ve ever had a three year old, you know that’s almost impossible to deal with. Especially with a nine month belly and a stroller that needs to be pushed. Sooooo I had no choice but to carry him. And my belly. Thank God for a helpful five year old who actually likes to push a stroller!  He pushed, and I walked as fast as I could with the child on my back (who strangely gained 20 pounds during the trek).

Long story short, we made it to the car and school in time. I didn’t go into labor, but the night’s still young and I’m not fully recovered from the adventure…


The Lost Lesson of Responsibility

Also posted on my other site: Homeschooling the Minds of Tomorrow

Laura age 4-2

Recently, I had a conversation with someone close in age to myself about our childhoods.  I recalled my Saturday responsibilities growing up: raking and bagging leaves when I was younger, and mowing the lawn when I was a bit older. I had some kitchen clean up job every night of the week, except for my birthday, from as far back as I can remember (the above picture is me, age four).

When my grandparents needed help with things like cleaning out their garage or doing yard work, to their house I went.  I did get an allowance, but I was not paid to do these things.  I did them because I was a member of the house and as such, I was expected to pitched in.  When I did want extra money, my mom was always ready with a list of serious jobs.

There also wasn’t the constant badgering of “do you have homework” from my parents.  If I had it, I was expected to do it.  If I failed, that was on me.  And I was going to be in trouble for it.

As a mommy of a basketball team plus one and a half subs, I have a huge responsibility to teach them, well, responsibility.  I must say, I feel like I’m failing miserably.  Once upon a time we had chore day, which was in addition to the daily chores of kitchen clean up and nightly toy pick up.  But getting kids to do these things is hard. It takes a substantial amount of effort on the parents’ part to assign jobs, oversee them, etc. Not to mention, staying sane when they complain and whine every minute of the process.  I blogged about it a few years back 🙂

Then there is the teaching of responsibility with school work and helping with younger siblings.  It was actually much easier to know what was done and what was not done when my kids were all being homeschooled together.  Some work we did together.  The independent assignments took as long as they took.  There was no lying or cheating about it – I simply had to come in and glance at their paper to know how much was completed.  Now that three are in school, at least one has homework on a fairly regular basis.  I don’t usually ask, and he doesn’t usually come home eager to do it (understandable as it may be after being at school for seven hours).  It’s not until bedtime that he may panic and say he has work.  At this point, my reply is, “why didn’t you do it instead of _____?”  So a lot of his work goes back as incomplete.

Now I must confess that I am a helicopter mom by nature.  I like knowing what’s going on at all times with all my kids.  I usually err on the side of doing too much for them, yet getting upset when they don’t do something for themselves.  This is where I feel like I am doing them a great disservice in the lesson of responsibility.  Since they have been in school, I have let a lot of things slide.  Chores are a thing of the past.  I don’t have the energy at the end of the day to deal with the arguments.  Similarly, they now believe that chores are just a little too much on top of a long public school day.  So it is usually me who, after getting six kids ready and into bed, drags my tired self into the kitchen to clean up the mess. I clean the house. I do the laundry.  And when they are out of socks or underwear or their favorite pair of jeans has yet to be washed, they are upset with me for not having done it.  My first thought is why don’t YOU start doing your own laundry?! Yet how could I expect such a thing when I have never given them the opportunity of that responsibility?

It seems the more and more we do for our kids in an effort to “help” them, the more we are creating a helpless generation.  Does the idea of them ruining a whole load of laundry bother me?  Absolutely!!  Am I afraid that if I let them pack their own lunches, they will not get a balanced meal?  You bet!  But what am I really teaching them by simply doing it all for them, day after day?  If it can be measured by their constant ingratitude and complaining, I am teaching them nothing. And in the process, I am getting more and more exhausted and bitter.  Also, NOT HELPFUL.

I know that I need to take a few steps back and allow them to take responsibility for more.  I believe they would actually be grateful for this.  It’s a battle with myself, as well.  I found the following list from sheknows.com to be helpful for me as I try to begin this process:

mother and daughter doing dishes

1. Assign some accountability

Age-appropriate chores are a simple way to teach your child responsibility. Add in a little financial incentive and your darling will begin learning how to manage finances, too.

2. Let her make decisions

Letting your child make some of her own choices will teach her accountability and help her to gain independence. Younger children should be offered limited options, but give her the chance to choose from them.

3. Foster independence

The only way to master any skill is through practice. By letting her tackle age-appropriate tasks, like getting herself dressed, she will also become more self-reliant.

4. Set a good example

Taking your own responsibilities seriously sets a good example for your kiddo’s watchful eyes. “Whether we promote it or not, children always learn by example”, says Thomas S. Greenspon, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Keeping your promises or being on time are ways you can lead by example.

5. Pick up a book

Stories pack a lot of punch, so when it comes to reading time, select books that illustrate responsibility. Interesting characters and situations she can identify with will hold her attention. Even better, she won’t tune you out because she isn’t being lectured!

6. Talk her through difficult situations

Although your first instinct is to direct and protect your adolescent, instead of automatically telling her what she should do, guide her through the process of coming to a conclusion on her own. Ask questions and encourage her to think it through with your support.

7. Show them the bigger picture

The ultimate goal is for your sweetheart act responsibly because she wants to, not just because she’s told to. Explaining to your child how doing her part is helping the family as a whole can sometimes help young children understand how their actions affect others.

Teaching your child responsibility helps build character and makes her a more independent, self-reliant person. As she grows, remember to let her responsibilities evolve. Finally, don’t forget to give her plenty for praise for a job well done!

Here is a list of Age-appropriate chores.


A book I read several years back, which I found invaluable at the time and seriously need to re-read a few more times, was Have a New Kid by Friday, by Dr. Kevin Leman.  He takes a very simple, yet no-nonsense approach to parenting, discipline, and teaching responsibility and accountability.


The Real World

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The Real World – A term we’ve all grown up hearing and using probably for as long as we can remember.  However, it seems I’ve been hearing it a lot lately.  At the very least, I’ve been noticing it more.  And it’s getting on my nerves.  So I started thinking during a night’s wrestle with insomnia, what the heck does it mean?

I’m sure at this point you’re saying, “Duh, it’s when you get kicked out or flee the nest, get a job and start paying your own bills.” Hey, that’s pretty much how I’ve always viewed it: life outside the safe haven walls of Mom and Dad’s house.

But I’m going to be obnoxious for a moment and enter a few definitions:

relevant or practical in terms of everyday life
synonyms: practical · actual · everyday · real · real-life · true
– EncartaDictionaries

Real Life
– Merriam-Webster

the realm of practical or actual experience, as opposed to the abstract, theoretical,
or idealized sphere of the classroom, laboratory, etc.
– Dictionary.com

1. Noun – The real world is the place in which one actually must live and the
circumstances with which one actually must deal.
2. Adjective – The realm of human experience comprising physical objects,
and excluding theoretical constructs, hypotheses, artificial environments and
“virtual” worlds such as the Internet, computer simulations, or the imagination.
– YourDictionary.com

You may notice that none of these definitions mention anything about being an adult.  So it’s safe to say, unless we are all living in the Matrix, the real world begins at the point of existence.  For the baby taking his first breath of oxygen after birth, that’s his whole world: his real world.  For the two year old throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store over a candy bar, that’s his whole world: his real world. For the fifth grader about to take a test, yep, that’s his real world, too.  The businessman.  The couple walking down the aisle.  The grandma on her death bed.  From existence until death, our life and its events are real and thus, part of the real world.
These definitions also do not hinge upon employment or education.  So why, then, does everyone seem to follow the notion that the real world is something that magically begins at the age of 18? School is not the real world, but the second after graduation is.  Life certainly counts and matters before those events!  And most assuredly, we are capable of making decisions that have very real consequences.  I don’t care if we are at an age of reasoning or not.  My 15 month old climbed onto the bed this morning and promptly fell off.  My 7 year old decided to make a game of “run into the bed at full speed and slide across.”  It didn’t go so well either. Both were very real consequences of their actions.  My ten year old son is being bullied in school and told that he needs to learn proper coping skills so that, and I quote [the school counselor], “so he will know how to handle these situations when he goes into the real world.”  She had me up until that last part.  Yes, learn coping skills.  But to deal with NOW.  Every day.  Not some abstract point in the far reaches of the future.  The real world is every day for every person.  Regardless of age, event or location, we are all a part of it.
In fact, I’ve heard this lame future point of reference term so much lately as an excuse as to why we must put up with this that and the other, or why we must do something NOW, that I might just jump out of my skin the next time I hear someone mention THE REAL WORLD. Is it a cop-out?  Are we simply in some sort of training simulation until our entrance into this point of our lives?
I’ve been told so many times that children who are homeschooled are denied the experiences that properly prepare them for, yes, you guessed it: the real world. Who came up with that dumb idea?  My kids learning in their home is not as real as kids learning in a classroom?  My kids not being picked on by a bunch of their classmates is somehow denying them the privilege of coping with the office jerk they’ll meet in their adult future?  Maybe.  After all, one of my kids now in public school is at a loss as to what to do when he gets bullied.  Hey, maybe if he had always been in real school, he would know how to be mean back.  Or, he’d have learned something more effective than telling the kid he doesn’t like what is being said to him (his current “coping skill” method).  But at the moment, I’m leaning towards the beginning of John Mayer’s song “No Such Thing:”

“Welcome to the real world,” she said to me
Condescendingly…

I want to run through the halls of my high school
I want to scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above.

Perhaps, we are actually denying our children something even more important by separating their lives this way.  I am not saying there is not a difference between the child dependent on his mother and father for all needs and the mother and father meeting those needs.  To be certain, they are very different positions.  The parents have different responsibilities than that of their dependents.  But I think that to diminish a child’s life experiences as merely a foreshadowing of what’s to come (“you think that’s bad, just wait until you’re in the REAL WORLD!”), we are denying them coping skills.  A child’s responsibility is VERY great!  They are who the future will depend on, and so on!  Their lessons in class are vital!  The way they handle themselves and their relationships with everyone around them are just as important, if not more so, NOW as they will be when they are adults.  Our children must understand that everything they do matters.  Now, in a few years from now, and for the rest of their lives.  The here and now IS the real world!