Tag Archives: children

Celebrate What’s Right

A priest monk who lives in a Greek Orthodox Monastery tucked away in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, sent me a YouTube link last night. We had talked several times, and he knew my heart was heavily burdened. There were no words with the link, but there was no need. The message was in the title of the video and the video itself: “Celebrate What’s Right with the World!”

I encourage everyone to save this video and watch it often. Especially now when the world may seem hopeless and confusion about what’s really going on is high.

In my own celebration of what’s right and beautiful, I share the following recent pictures:

Hikes among the flowers
Comic book making
Sweet smelling flowers

Homeschooling During Stay-at-Home Orders

If you have followed me for awhile, you know that I homeschooled my kiddos for 8, wonderful years. Sadly, due to life changes, homeschooling came to an end 3 years ago. Ironically, many parents around the country are now lamenting the opposite: forced to educate their children at home who would otherwise be in a public or private school setting. Teachers, parents and kiddos suddenly found themselves forced into a situation of continuing with educating while forced to stay at home. The teachers have done an amazing job setting up online assignments and being available for virtual tutorials and class discussions. Students and parents, for the most part, have tried to take advantage of the time together and navigate through learning at home. However, I have also read many reports of frustrated parents and children saying it was simply too much to take on. This is valid: the situation we find ourselves in is not truly homeschooling.

Homeschooling is the result of a choice. That choice allows for flexibility because the parent chooses the subjects and publishers of each, arranges for play dates, co-ops, field trips, daily “classroom” schedules, e.t.c. The parents of public and private school children now forced to educate their children at home are not privileged to the same. There are no play dates, co-ops, homeschool groups and choice in lessons and curriculum. They are trying to understand what the teachers would be presenting themselves, and in turn, relay that to their frustrated children, already used to a classroom setting.

Let me explain it this way: Mom and Dad plan a weekend away. They hire a babysitter, or relative, and write out a list for the care of their children while they’re away. Chores, rules, permitted TV/screen time, dietary needs and/or restrictions, bedtimes, e.t.c. It’s just a weekend with someone else’s kids following someone else’s rules for those kids, while getting paid on top of that. There might be little hiccups and frustrations from staying in their house; Mom and Dad might get a phone call or two asking questions or needing backup, but for the most part, things run smoothly and there’s an end in sight.

Our current situation is so much different and the “end” or outcome is unclear. Throw in job loss, little or no social interaction, stiffness and fear when leaving the house for necessary items, and trying to carry on months of school for potentially several children at a time during a global crisis. I truly applaud everyone doing their best with their families during this period. There’s no clear idea of how grades and attendance will be determined, and would-be graduates face serious uncertainty of how their high school to college transition will play out.

As a former homeschooler of my 7 kiddos, I found myself also in a unique position of educating again at home, but using a public school platform. I was grateful to the availability of teachers to help understand the online program and expectations. I also gently assured my kids that they are not failing!

Social Studies project with my 4th grader
Business as usual for my 6th grader who was the only kiddo still homeschooling previously

Lego the Legos

There’s no nice way to say this, so I’ll just go for it: I hate Legos.

I do not discriminate. I hate superhero collections, Lord of the Rings collections, fairies and dragons and princesses and Lego characters pretending to be um, Lego characters. Point being, if it’s a Lego, cute kitty or cutthroat pirate, I hate it.

I used to think Legos were a great alternative for our children’s couch potato generation. It gets them away from the screen and forces, at the very least, the following of directions. It doesn’t push them outside and on their bikes, but at least they’re not zombies in front of mindless YouTube videos by Jesse and Mike.

But that’s where the good things end.

One Lego set that your kid wants will run you, if you’re lucky, $49 before tax. But that’s not the cool set they want, which is actually between $75 – $150. Yes, there are little $10 and $20 “sets” available, but those are just starters for toddlers who are just beginning their Lego addiction.

When you buy Johnny his supersized Lego set he HAD to have for Christmas/Easter/Memorial Day/birthday/just because, there is about a one minute moment of bliss. They admire the box and what they will create, and you feel a sense of pride for once again getting them the best Lego set ever (since last month’s release). They get to work creating their fire-breathing dragon, castle and drawbridge, and position their damsel in distress…

That’s it.

30 minutes later and it’s done. The stocking and Easter basket lasts longer. And now guess what? You need a place to put it! But when the dresser and night stand and every other level surface in the house is covered with Lego creations, Where do you put them all? And if you think you can throw away the box after said creation is complete, guess again. You can’t. They need it. Like I need the tossed away wrapping paper with several year’s worth of scribbled names.

With all the kids I have, I figure I’ll need multiple spare bedrooms for their completed sets and accompanying boxes… if I’m to continue down this dreaded path.

And despite a kid’s attempt (read: my attempt) to keep Legos organized or intact, these tiny pieces of madness end up EVERY. WHERE. In my pillow cases, the washing machine, the dog’s mouth, under beds, and in every nook and cranny in the house and car… I must confess that I have recently quit saving the pieces “rescued” by my broom and now daydream about the day they’re all swept away…


Spelling

My autistic 7 year old has been surprising all of us lately with his perfect handwriting and the spelling and reading of really big words – especially for a kiddo his age who just became fully potty-trained two weeks ago.  Here’s a sample:

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Sorry about the quality, but you can see his perfect, tiny letters.  I don’t know adults who can write that well!

His favorite game is to write words on paper after paper, then ask, “What does (fill in the blank) start with?”  He already knows, but if you know about autism, you probably also know that a lot of questions are ones to which they already know the answer.  It’s a form of mimicking a behavior that is safe, if that makes sense?  Anyway, the “game” evolves into, “how do you spell (fill in the blank).”

The funny thing is, this game does not usually work in reverse.  Meaning, if I go up to him and ask him to spell a word, more often than not, he will tell me no.  Or, he won’t answer the question, but will instead throw one back of his own.

Last week during dinner, his nearly 17 year old stepsister asked, “Isaac, how do you spell Isaac?”

Isaac, “Um…. no.”

Stepsister, “Isaac, how do you spell Isaac?”

Isaac, “No.”

Stepsister, “Isaac, how do you spell Isaac?”

Isaac, “How do you spell no?”

Of course, we were roaring with laughter.  And he was not even trying to be funny, making these games of his that much more entertaining.

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Discreet and Repeat

As a mom of 7 kids, I’ve pretty much heard everything. Sweet, anger inducing, cute, witty and then the “why isn’t it acceptable to cover his/her mouth in public” comments.

Hubby took me and the littlest two to Chipotle for lunch today, which I always appreciate (desperate housewife, ya’ll). We stood in the line patiently, right behind a police officer. My 3 year old, also named “honey badger.” For the explanation on that one, please refer to this video. But I get easily off track…

So Honey Badger sees the officer standing THISCLOSE to us and says as loudly as possible and with much excitement, “A GUN!!! He has a gun! Look! A gun!!!” She was not alarmed or frightened. In fact, I was surprised she didn’t try to grab it and stuff it in her tiny purse. I just smiled and apologized.

Hubby chimed in, “She’s not very discreet!” The cop just nodded and chocked it up to her age. Hubby then turned to me and asked if I was getting the tofu. I told him I wasn’t and asked if he was. “No, man! I have to go back to work and no one wants to smell that!” Yes, loud enough for everyone to hear.

Add that to whatever number in the thousands of reasons Mommy needs her wine.


Teaching Gratitude to Children – a Crash Course

Babies are born 100% selfish. This is not mean, or the ravings of a disgruntled parent, but simply a fact. They come into this world with traits and genetic predispositions, but otherwise, as other psychologists have said, babies are a “blank book.” It is our job to raise them and teach them.

And I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but selflessness and gratitude are NOT one of the traits with which kiddos are born.

Having said that, how do we teach our beloved ingrates to be grateful? First, by example. Always thank your children and teach them to be thankful regardless of how they feel.

For example: I hate a meal a host fed me after inviting me for dinner. If I were a “typical” 2 or 3 year old, I might shuffle things around on my plate, my face contorted so as to properly show my disgust. I might even groan, or shove my plate or say how much I hate broccoli. But I’m an adult and I’ve learned manners. I’ll stomach the dinner and smile and thank my host graciously.

Are opinions bad? No. They’re normal. We’re not robots. We have feelings and tastes that aren’t the same as everyone else’s. As a parent, that’s annoying. As an adult, get used to it.

So, here I am: a mother of seven, beautiful, wonderful blessings. Seven children who also happen to be suffering from a serious case of complaining and ingratitude. And I, as their insufferable mother, am now suffering from a serious case of FED UP.

I wake up at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday to shower and make my sweethearts breakfast. I then get them up, pack 5 lunches, and send them off to school (OMG I miss homeschooling). Then, in the evenings, I make a healthy dinner. At this point, “thank yous” are whatever. But not complaining?! I would pay any amount for that! But ain’t no one paying me. Let alone, thanking me.

Enter my crash course (with a follow- up to be included in seven days’ time):

The rules are really simple: I’m not making s**** for a week. I bought all the ingredients for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Do the rest yourself. I even bought cereal (as a rule, I think cereal is garbage, with no nutritional value whatsoever)! If you make dinner, make it for your younger siblings also. If one of the older 4 doesn’t like it, make your own. I will make breakfast and lunch for my youngest 3 (6 year old, autistic, 4 and 3).

Here’s the catchy part: I didn’t tell them this is punishment, or that I’m sick of their complaining, wastefulness, ingratitude, etc. I announced it Sunday evening with excitement and anticipation. “It’s a learning and personal growth week!” I said. It is, actually. But it is also very much a fed up mommy wanting her kiddos to appreciate what they have.

As I write this, I close in on Day 1. Not huge, I know. But for this mommy, it’s everything:

They chose cereal in the morning because waking up and cooking? Who does that?! *Hand slapping face*

After eating and dressing, they packed their own lunches. One kid microwaved bacon, packed cheerios, applesauce, made a sandwich, and a drink!

When they came home, they relaxed a bit. Then the 14 year old browned some ground beef and made nachos for all his siblings.

Normal dish duty ensued.

Day One? SUCCESS!

I’ll update soon 😁


Angry Mom Rant Part II

While listening to the self-help book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, I’m simultaneously failing, or at least having my new found life methods put to the test, by a never-ending need to vent about the public school system. In my defense, they are helping me right along by supplying me daily with new things to give a **** about – as hard as I’m trying not to (read the book and you’ll get what I’m saying).

If you read my previous post, you will recall my great frustration over the excessive nature of the school supply lists and the insane cost of these supplies.

Day one of the new school year came, and so did their backpacks – stuffed with more papers to sign, forms to fill out, and requests for money everywhere.

The district is completely online. All enrollment forms are done online; schedules and test grades are posted online; and class news and teacher communications are also online. Yet, each teacher wants the parents to fill out information packets on their children again. Yeah, I just spent a week doing it, running back and forth from three different schools for residency verification because the online system wasn’t working (enter eyeroll here). But now I get to hand write it all out again for each of the teacher’s files. Maybe they don’t communicate with the office and the online system in that capacity. Whatever. I’ll let that one slide.

But now there’s more and more stuff to buy, things to volunteer and sign up for, and more supplies to buy. I’m seeing red now. It’s only the THIRD DAY!

My middle schooler is in Art. While I already bought supplies for this free, public school-provided class, I must send him with a $25 check for Art class by the end of the week for a grade! So he’ll fail if I can’t pay? What if I can’t? He has to pick another elective?

On the way to school this morning, the 5th grader started haggling me for $5 for a “mandatory” student planner. Funny, the middle school gives them out for free. That must be where the art fee comes in – to offset the cost of these “free planners.”

I lost it. I said, “No way. I don’t believe it. They can provide that. Tell them your mom can’t afford it. Tell them I went broke buying school supplies for the rest of the grade!” And by the way, I’d rather go to Office Max and spend $50 on a fancy planner for her than buy their branded ones they are using as fund raising.

Schools are good at convincing our impressionable youth of a few things, many of which deserve their own post. But right now, let’s focus on how the child must buy everything thrown at them, or be made to feel left out. After all, what’s $5 for a planner? Don’t I want my kids to keep track of their assignments? Don’t I care?! So right now, that’s the measurement: the parent who can volunteer for everything, buy every piece of spirit wear, planner, and contribute to each fundraiser and donation request, cares the most. More than me. I’m not personally in competition with Mommy Do It All. I’m pissed that my pockets are expected to be bottomless or my child probably isn’t loved enough and will fail in life.

Oh! Did I mention their tennis shoes aren’t allowed in P.E. unless they tie. Yeah, I got a demand for new shoes from two of the kids (the third, autistic, I was emailed about). My kiddos run around all day in their tennis shoes just fine. But now they’re not good enough for 30 minutes of jump rope and situps.

I’m sure there’s a life lesson that my children and I can learn from all this non-education related nonsense. So far, they don’t appreciate me singing The Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need!


Understanding Death

A few weeks ago, our precious dog passed away. What makes her passing even harder for us all was the fact that we were away and so was she when it happened. The kids were visiting relatives, and I was out of town. Our dog traveled with us often, but considering the amount of travel we had been doing, we decided to leave her with a friend for the last few weeks.

She was an old dog, adopted about 8 years ago when she was already a little over a year old. My best friend agreed to keep her, and updated us regularly on how sweet and easy going she was. And oh was she sweet. In fact, I blogged many times with pictures of my children loving on her. However, after the second week, her health took a sudden turn. Within a few days, our dog was gone.

I wasn’t with her for her last days. My children weren’t with her. The heartache of suffering with her and preparing for her after life care was put on the shoulders of my friend. I grieved from another state, choosing to delay telling the kids until after my son’s 14th birthday.

The older 4 (out of 7) understood what the death of their dog meant: they would not be returning to her in a week and she would not be returning to them. As for the younger 3, the understanding of death is not something they can truly grasp, especially without seeing her sick. The last they knew of their dog was walks through Mount Lemmon.

My very busy, smart and chatty 3 year old has come up to me nonchalantly a few times and said, “Nala is dead.” My 6 year old, who is verbal but autistic, asked where Nala was yesterday. I told him, but he had left the conversation before hearing my reply.

My 4 year old loves dogs. He hugs every dog he sees. It’s been so hard losing our precious family member and she will be missed forever.

But I am going to wrap up children’s understanding of death with something sweet, funny and curious:

Yesterday, the friend who was watching Nala when she passed, stopped by the house. The 4 year old said,

“I want my dog back!”

She crouched down and said very sweetly, but with much sadness, “oh baby, your dog went to be with Jesus.”

The four year old demanded, “why did Jesus take my dog?!”


Sigh… And Cry…

As I begin to write this, I am sitting in the car with my 5 year old autistic son. It’s the 4th of July, which means fireworks and panic for this sweet boy. Three of my boys are with their dad, or who knows… the heartache of divorce… 

I’m okay sitting in the car with my little boy.

I’m coming to terms with a failed marriage (twice attempted, twice failed, with the same person).

What should matter is my children, my relationship with them and moving forward. And what should not matter is the negative flurry of slander, hate and anger behind me. 

But it does. 

It hurts. It hurts real bad. And I hate giving power to that pain by acknowledging it… But I guess healing comes with acceptance of pain and failure. 

I have seven children. Two of my boys are autistic, my 16 and 5 year old. The oldest has grown to be such a delightful young man. He is smart, humble, quiet, gentle and kind. My 5 year old is still struggling through his emotions and anxieties, and this is also a great struggle for me. It’s hard to reach him at times and even harder to calm him in the midst of his “moments.”

What’s also hard is the backlash I have received from those closest to me.  My family seems to only be able to tolerate the older children in doses, and the youngest three scarcely at all. They are quick to point out my short comings as a parent… even quicker to jump on the backs of these three for simply being children. 

And then there is my ex husband’s side of the family… although only his parents have ever come to visit – and no more than a week a year, at most – there certainly wasn’t a shortage of pure evil, hateful messages from the siblings (who have NEVER visited in 16 years and never met the younger FIVE children). Thankfully, I’ve been able to keep a mostly loving and positive communication with his parents. As for the others, I should be strong enough to dismiss their unfounded judgment and just focus on the beautiful, innocent faces in front of me. 

But it’s hard. Real hard. 

I wonder… do my parents, his parents, [some of] my siblings and his siblings, random acquaintances, etc, ever stop to remove the log from their own eyes? Do they really think that through their actions they are lifting up a woman and her children? Or worse, are they trying to bring her to her breaking point?

I may be weak. They may hurt me a lot. But they will not break me. Let me be clear on that. They can block my messages and not make eye contact in church. They may say all manner of things behind my back – deserved or undeserved. They may try to turn my own children against me with their poison. Yes, they can do all this and more, while pretending to be righteous, saying their morning and evening prayers daily…

Meanwhile, I struggle to pray, struggle to bring my children to church. I wake up daily and make my kids food adherent to a diet for those on the spectrum. I cry and work through the tantrums of the little ones. I struggled for 8 years to home educate because I felt it was best for my kids. I try to help a very moody and emotional, freshly-minted teenager navigate through his complex emotions and new life changes. All the while, trying very hard not to let myself succumb to the negativity and hatred from those I love the most, outside my children.

Sigh… And cry…

Life is always a struggle. One beautiful struggle after another. And if I can come out of one, I trust that God will carry me and mine through the next battle. 

And when I cannot pray because in that moment my faith is lost, I hope that God sees me through those moments as well. 

And when I want to hate in return those who have hurt me over and over again, I beg that God give me the patience and love not to do so. 

After all, none of us are in any place to judge another. My struggles may be unbearable for many, but for sure, there are so many families in the world who face much worse. 

We are all broken. And those of us brave enough to admit that are just trying to find our footing each day. 

At the moment, it’s sitting in the car with my sweet boy so he feels safe with me from the noise of the fireworks… tomorrow I don’t know. 


Happy Valentine’s Day!

From our chocolate covered faces to yours 💕 YAY FOR CHOCOLATE!