Escuela and the Very Bad Morning.

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Day 12 was the first day of school. Not for me, of course, but for my growing-up-too-fast kids. I knew this day was going to be tough on several levels, but the most important was getting my kid with social anxiety through it. Oy Vey. It wasn’t pretty, that first morning. Awake by 5:30, bus pick up before 7, a school where the social language isn’t a language they’re fluent in, along with the transition to “traditional school” and all that that comes with. Transition Is Hard. It’s been our motto for years, but this year we’re really wearing that motto out. I’m thinking of changing it to Eff This Ish, I don’t even care that it’s not kid friendly.

To dumb down our first day of school morning: R didn’t make the bus. And G had to ride the bus alone, on her first day. And I had to watch a kid suffer through a panic attack. And TGILW had to deal with all of us AND the traffic to drive R to school.

I learned that 2 minutes is the amount of hang time the bus gives us to get onto the bus. I also learned 2 minutes is not enough hang time to talk someone through anxiety. Nor is it enough time to properly deal with a situation. Transition is hard. Anxiety is hard. Change is hard. Life is hard.

I’m not going to delve into the goings on with R and her anxiety, it’s not my story to tell and also it’s not the end of the world. She’s acclimating, albeit a bit slower; but life isn’t going to stop because of it. She’s a trooper, and she has come so far already.I am incredibly proud of her.

But I will let this lead me into why I homeschooled for two years. And yes, anxiety was one of the major reasons.

Funny sidenote: I was hosting a meet up for our region. A woman I didn’t know struck up a conversation about some issues her kids were having and how hard it was for her to find a local therapist (psychologist). I chimed in that I had the number of a therapist that we loved, and I guess that opened up the invitation for a barrage of questions. Did I mention I didn’t know this lady? People, don’t talk about your kids/husbands/dogs/gardners “issues” as if that person isn’t a person; As If that person doesn’t have a right to their own stories or issues, there own success and failure. It drives me bonkers when (especially) parents don’t treat their kids as human people. But, I digress… when the woman pressed the issue of what kind of therapy I needed, I finally caved and told her that I had a child with anxiety. Her immediate response to me was -and I shit you not: “She just needs a good Christian role model to spend some one on one time with her, maybe invite her to play volleyball with a church group, or to teach her a skill”.

O-Kay…

Anxiety – one of the reasons we homeschooled. I have heard the comment from so many people that homeschooled kids are “awkward”, or “socially immature” or “weird”. I find that not be be the case 98% of the time. I think that 2% has more to do with how a child is raised than it does with homeschooling in general. And sometimes, kids are homeschooled BECAUSE they are awkward, socially immature, weird.  Or because they have anxiety.

Educational Gaps- We move around a bit. State requirements are different. Many public school systems teach a test. If you spent most of your school years in Washington State, and take a state test in Virginia, you might fail the history portion of your test, which occurred 3 months into the school year. If your state has to pass the English portion of a state test, you might not learn your multiplication facts in third grade, but be expected to have mastered those facts and to be moving on to division and fractions in 4th grade.

Teaching:Overworked/Overcrowded and Underpaid , and some real stinkers. – Look, I am no teacher. I have immense respect for what those who chose teaching as a profession do. I think teachers should be paid like athletes and athletes as teachers. 32 kids in a classroom?? I do not think I can do a better job. Teacher friends – you mean the world to the children to help. You will leave a lasting impression on so many, and they will take that knowledge and experience into their future. It’s amazing, YOU are amazing. What you do for so many, with so little. But sometimes, there is that one. You all know exactly who I mean. We had a really bad ONE, and it changed my perspective on things. If you no longer LOVE what you do, don’t do it anymore.

The integration of Special Needs children – Now hear me out. I know I will catch shit for this. but I have a story here. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue. When I was a PTA vice, I spent quite a bit of time at the school and days that I found myself without fires to put out, I volunteered in a classroom. Sometimes I made copies, or organized folders. Sometimes I helped the teacher with an unruly kid. One of these times, I was able to encourage a kid who refused to read or participate positively in a book assignment to read the whole book (to include catching up) all within a few weeks. The first few days were tough, but I kept coming back and sitting with him twice  a week.On the days I wasn’t in class, but in school, I would ask him about the book if I saw him in the hall or cafeteria. He read the book, participated in discussion and got a good grade on the testing. He was so proud. And I’m not going to lie, I was proud too! And then I met his mother. She came up to me one day in the hall. I thought she was going to introduce herself and tell me how pleased she was with her kids small improvement. Nope. She tore me a new one. Why was I sitting with her kid during class!?( ummm, because he was super disruptive and a little violent; throwing your book isn’t OK). I was NOT qualified to teach her kid (he knew how to read, I wasn’t teaching him anything. I was basically babysitting a kid who needed more attention than the teacher could provide). I had zero special needs training (true, but I wasn’t 100% positive that all the “special”on this kids IEP was a true representation of what he wasn’t capable of AND he had zero violent outburst the weeks I was helping, even when I wasn’t in the classroom ). Because of my lack of certifications, etc, she refused to have him do the at home project. OK, what? This kid might have needed meds and to see a specialist, but what he also needed was a parent who encouraged him, spent time with him, made HIM  (not his issues) a priority. She requested that I no longer have contact with him. This meant that I could only volunteer in the classroom when he wasn’t there (like when we went to see his specialists). This also meant that I couldn’t spend the whole day with MY kid anymore. For three more years, this kid waved at me in the halls, and chatted me up when he got popcorn, He even asked once why I didn’t help out in the classroom anymore. When my husband would ask me why i spend so much time (and money) in a super stressful volunteer position (THE PTA!!!), I would say ” I do it for the kids that don’t get a hug. The kids that don’t have a parent that shows up”.

What does this have to do with integration of Special Needs kids?  Not all scenarios will make for successful integration. I think that so many children do very well in most cases. Both the child with and the children without gain so much.  But, sometimes the child needs more than what the school can give, and sometimes those situation can be dangerous for the child and those around him. Sometimes the child doesn’t need more from the school and a parent who doesn’t want to deal with it makes it an impossible situation for everyone. Like the kid who bullied my child, but was allowed to do it because of her special needs. When a child is acting out in  a manner that is violent (hitting, yanking hair,) that child is not thriving. We ALL want what is best for our children. Hopefully, we all want what is best for everyone’s children.

School Shootings – I don’t even have to explain myself.

The Chance To Reconnect – it’s true. Our lives were so busy. Either we were getting through life while TGILW was deployed or we were moving or we were gearing up for either. I was feeling disconnected from my kids. I wanted to slow time, get to know them better. I was noticing these real life teachable moments that we didn’t have time for because of homework/catching up/etc. I was noticing the self esteem changes. The stress. Life was becoming really complicated. We needed a timeout.

The two years I spent with my kids at home was HARD. But it was good for all of us.

And on day 14 when everyone got on the bus, and I was closing the front door, I absolutely threw my fist in the air and said “freedom!!” to no one in particular. On day 15, I missed them both.

 

 

 

A Lesson in Laundry

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not my monkeysOn Monday I did laundry. On Tuesday morning I asked the kids who live in my house to fold the laundry in the over flowing basket (even though it’s on the chore list). Tuesday evening, I had to remind them and tell them to make sure to check the dryer. Some clothes got folded and have sat in a basket in my living room all week, the dryer remained full, as did the washing machine. I patiently waited for someone to see the error and fix it. The hampers got full and now runneth over. No clean towels in the kids bathroom. No clean dish towels (because they sat in the washer all week and had to be washed twice, by me) and clearly no clean kids jeans. I have purposely put the FULL OF CLEAN STUFF baskets on the living room couch, as to notify those taking a Netflix break to finish their chore. All week, I refrained from nagging. All week I let my kids make their own choice. And then a few minutes ago my youngest came through the living room looking for clean clothes.
“What’s in the washer” she grumpily beckons.
“I don’t know, I’m not washing clothes” I reply, irritation growing in my face.
“Well, I don’t know where my clothes are” she says through pursed lips.
“That sounds like a YOU problem”, I happily smile at her.
Immature? Mean? Condescending? Probably.
Liberating? Abso-effing-lutely.

I’m Thankful to be This Mom

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This clip found it’s way into my  Facebook newsfeed this week: Upworthy: Moms reaction to kids description

It really got to me. Seriously. I was crying like a little biotch. I’ve watched it several times, and every time I got teary. That’s really quite impressive for me, as I like to keep my feeling pushed deep down until I drink too much or for family gatherings. But seeing as how it’s Thanksgiving time, I wanted to express how very THANKFUL I am for my kids. And for being a mom.

20 years ago I became a mom. Twenty. Years. Ago. Two decades. Over half of my life. And it has, since that day, been my lifes work.

20 years ago I became a mom, but 13 years ago, roughly, I became a (dun dun dun) stay at home mom. You know, a SAHM. I put my professional goals on the backburner, by choice, to raise my kids. I am not about to get into a pissing contest as to who has it harder, the “working” mom of the “homemaker”. This post isn’t about that. And we all know, that those titles are complete bullshit anyways. No, this post is about how LUCKY and BLESSED I am to be a mom. And how thankful I am that I have had the ability to make it my full time job.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve struggled. We’ve gone without. There have been plenty of times that I pulled in a part time job or two to stay home with the kids during the day. Plenty of times the The Guy I Live With did the same. But, It was important to me for us to raise our kids. To be parents, not just a mom and a dad.

So, 20 years ago I became a mom. At a pretty young age. I was a statistic. But, something amazing happened to me in those years of being a kid with a kid. I became a better person. Sure, there were some hits and misses. But through the years, I evolved. I figured things out. And I was fierce when it came to my kiddo.

Then came baby two, and a few years later kiddo #3. I devoted myself to being a mother. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to give my kids more than what I had. But in doing this, I set myself up for failure. Because no one is perfect. Perfect is a fucking joke. Perfect is what glossy magazines full of chic baby clothes ads want you to obsess about. Perfect is how the booming baby goods industries grab your money. And your self esteem.

I was on a parents chat site (trolling, and looking for a used baby gate) the other day, and I ran acrossed a thread that read like Mean Girls for moms. These ladies were brutal to each other. It started out super passive aggressive, and by the time I realized I had been sucked into a real-time soap opera, it had gotten kinda violent.

The accusations of child abuse because Coolmomz22 fed her baby jarred (organic and local) food over making fresh purees or that mom4lyfe GASP stopped breastfeeding at 14 months. But when some lady told another mom that she was going to give her baby irreversible emotional damage because she worked part time, didn’t co-sleep and used some discount baby carrier vs. the hemp and fair trade coffee bean/quinoa blend baby sling from some obscure super hipster Etsy shop made me consider calling the cops on these little cyber terrorists.

“you’re an idiot” ” you don’t deserve to be a mother” “you are poisoning your child”.  ALL quotes from this conversation.

Holy ballz, moms, get your shit together.

Being a mom is like the hardest job on the planet. No, not because of the hours and little pay, or the sleepless nights. Not because it’s thankless and expensive. Not even because no matter how much you educate yourself on parenting, practice is always harder that theory.

No, it’s because we go in with so much self-doubt, and then we are bombarded with criticism from every angle. It’s because we love another human being so much it hurts, and we can’t shelter them from the world forever. It’s because when you become a mom, that tiny creature steals a piece of your soul and you are forever connected and  you spend so much energy for the rest of your life trying to  keep  all of your self doubt and lack of confidence and everything you hate about yourself from transferring to them. And you know that it’s a futile battle.

I question my ability to be a good parent daily. I know that I am impatient and harsh and quick to yell. I know I don’t spend enough time with my kids individually. I know that time is so short. I only have them in my reach for a few million minutes of their lives. And it’s so scary. Because being a parent is my lifes work.

But then, in a moment, you see redemption. Your almost teenager wants to hang out with you at the pool and you spend an hour laughing at how clever and funny she has become. Your youngest has the self confidence to make friends in the first 48 hours of a new move, again and again, move after move. Your oldest, who’s out on her own, learns from her mistakes and also admits she wants to snuggle with mom when shes sick.

And I realize, I AM doing a good job. I will make mistakes. I still have some moments as a parent I won’t be proud of, and I’ll store those in my lessons learned file. But I can cut myself a little break. I don’t need to be perfect.

 

worldsokayestmom

 I’m OK with being this mom. And I am so proud of the kids I’m raising. And I’m thankful.

P,R and G, I am THANKFUL to be your mom.

My kids are homeschooled nerds – officially

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AHHHGGGGG!!!! <—— that is a weird virtual scream of frustration-slash-relief-slash-excitement. Slash-skepticism, if i’m being totally honest.

So the guy I live with and I decided, for a slew of reasons, that we (ME) were going to homeschool our kids this year, and potentially for the next several years.  I did a butt-load of research, talked to other homeschoolers and chose a fancy schmancy  curriculum.  I actually put together a twice weekly program for them over the summer to kind of gauge their learning styles, where they might need some help, and where they were strong. It was a hodge-podge of workbooks, reading, internet and apps.  But mostly, this twice weekly gig was to see if I could handle it. Well, and if they could handle it.  We all did pretty good. I only lost my shit a few times. And they agreed that those stupid noises they make in protest when I ask them to do something aren’t worth messing up the sweet gig they have going of doing “dumb essays” in their pajamas.

Well, all plans always have a few bumps in the road. I traded my first choice curriculum for an option that the guy I live with and I thought would work better for our situation. After three weeks of utter frustration and paperwork and unanswered questions and waaaaaiiiiting  (not hearing back from them even after the “school year” had started) I finally decided that this “other choice” just wasn’t going to work. So I panicked. I had a mini nervous breakdown. I replayed the countless hours of research already put into finding good curriculum over and over again in my mind. I no longer had the money for the fancy schmancy stuff. I did a good 30 minutes of WTF AM I GONNA DO!!!!

And then I took a few breaths. I realized how capable I am and how smart my kid are. I put my big girl panties on, made another cup of coffee and formulated a plan.  Then I declared ” Field trip!!” and took the kids to a local thrift shop where I hit the motherload of homeschool crud.

It’s like it was meant to be. There, squished among some “… for Dummies” books where two sets of  homeschool history kits, both completely usable for the grades I needed. My spirits were immediately lifted. As I searched through more teaching aids and some archaic computer programming guides I found two Literature textbooks. I then found a teachers guide for science, another social studies textbook and a curriculum guide by grade. And if that wasn’t excellent enough, ALL the books were $2.99. Even better (as if it can get better)? Most of these books were like super popular curriculum.  I had zero remorse for buying 11 books.

Ok – for those of you still following this total snoozefest of information, let me just tell you that what I found at the local ARC saved my day, my week, my month, my next 6 weeks. Think: finding a 20 spot in your jeans on the 29th of the month, or money left on your Starbucks gift card or finding chocolate in the house everyone else forgot about. My point is this find was amazeballs. It was a sign from the universe that I was doing the right thing.

After lugging our treasure trove to the car, we jetted home and somehow I managed to find all the missing pieces to what we needed on the internet, either through Ebay or Amazon, to round out our first 6 weeks, and beyond. And I did it all under $200.  I am one stoked momma.

I’m sure, to most of you, this is like totally dull. I don’t expect anyone to understand the epic sense of accomplishment I have at turning a huge clustereff into a kickass success. But to get a taste, Google homeschool curriculum, and peruse the pages on pages of whatnot there is out there. Then check out some of the pricing. Then slowly sip your coffee and admire my skillz. Yes, with a “Z”.

There are several things I learned from this experience and they go like this:

 

Epiphany 1 – trust your gut. and your kids gut. – after a few years of the traditional route,  the system just wasn’t working for us anymore. I’m not saying its good or bad.  I’m saying my kids were struggling with things. It was time for a change.

Epiphany 2 – people home school for many MANY different reasons. Don’t  assume people have the same beliefs or issues as you do simply because they choose this style of schooling. Example? Don’t talk my ear off about lazy teachers. I know many and not any of them are lazy.

Epiphany 3 – telling people you are looking for secular curriculum will get you a few lectures and at least 1 less Facebook friend. Seriously people. MY preference isn’t a commentary on YOUR beliefs. Or mine for that matter. Calm down.

Epiphany 4 – I don’t have to justify my decision to anyone. Period. Unless it’s to prove some jag wrong. Then I’ll explain until I’m blue in the face.

Epiphany 5 – people have pretty strong opinions of homeschoolers. Be nice, non-homeschoolers. And the same goes for you homeschool moms who judge everyone else.

Epiphany 6 – It isn’t so bad, being with your kids allll daaaaay long. I’m pretty sure I’ll be running more. And drinking more.

Epiphany 7 – asking a stupid questions is never stupid. It took me quite a while to admit defeat and ask for help, and when I did I was surrounded by a community of moms in the know who were more than happy to help me out. And save me from a $80 wrong choice.

Epiphany 8  – I can do this. We can do this. We as in me and my family. Because it’s in our hearts. And because I took a trip to the thrift store instead of having a stroke. And also because I know you don’t spell “skillz” with a “z”.

But you do spell kickass with m-a-n-i-c-m-i-l-w-i-f-e!

 

 

The Elephant in the Room

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I’m about to hit the peak of deployment homecomings very soon. My Facebook has been blowing up about it, all my volunteer work will be influenced by it and most of the emails I send out are about it. Everyone is happy and excited and counting down the weeks and days until their soldier is home. And that’s all awesome. It really is. I don’t want to be the asshole here, and sound like I’m not excited too, because I am. But there is this elephant in the room. This thing we don’t talk about when we talk about homecomings. We ignore that homecomings are hard. And to be honest, the last few weeks of a deployment are a double edged sword of bitter and sweet for me.

Why? Is it because I’m a total bitch? Maybe. Or maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last (insert length of any of the 4 deployments I’ve been through here) months, adjusting to just being a ME. Because truth be told I like my independance. Because I’ve learned not to rely on my husband. Because It’s hard to give up control… over the kids, over the house, over the dogs, over the bed. Over my life.

That’s not to say that the hubby is controlling in any way. If the question is asked, I will come up the winner of control freak-ism hands down. But when he’s gone, I have no second opinion to involve myself with. My schedule is my own, aside from Skype dates. What I make for dinner and the the amount of effort I put into it is of my choosing. I don’t have to suffer bitter disappointment when my stew comes out perfect, and then I watch the hubs douse it with hot sauce, or shovel it into his face while watching American Pickers.

But when he’s home… thats a different animal. I want to make him feel like he belongs. I want him to participate. I want to do this together. So now a grocery list becomes more involved and more expensive. My schedule starts to revolve around him. The TV is always on. There’s no way I can get away with a veggie tray for dinner.

All the things that annoyed me before still annoy me. All the issues we had are still there.

And let’s talk sex. We’re all waiting for it, right? It’s one of the top 1 things that are going to happen when you finally get him alone. But intimacy can be awkward. Maybe not the first time you bang one out in the parking garage at SeaTac… but it does get a little weird.  I’ve spent the last (insert length of any of the 4 deployments I’ve been through here) turning that part of me off. Or trying to. If you haven’t seen a naked man in several months, and then there is one standing in your bathroom… it’s odd. I usually get really embarrassed and maybe a little uncomfortable. It’s not that I don’t want to see that, it’s just… that sort of thing isn’t a switch that you turn  on or off for a particular person or scenario. The same goes for touching. I crave holding hands, an arm around my waist, but it takes a little bit to get used to it, because I went without it for so long. So  as soon as the initial “lets just hump each other” phase is over, it’s a tough transition into regular sex. You have to rebuild intimacy and trust. And sometimes you have to relearn what the other person likes and dislikes. And that’s tough, too. No one wants to deflate anyone else’s ego this early in the game. But suffering in silence isn’t so great either.

That brings me to resentment. Yes, it happens, even it you don’t let it affect your daily lives, it’s still there; a little from each of us. I was home with the kids experiencing their lives, every day he missed that. Lost teeth, tough gymnastics practice, A’s on a paper, holidays, vacations, just sitting on the couch. And just because he’s home, it doesn’t mean the kids all of a sudden remember him as a parent. It takes MONTHS for the kids to ask him for help. I can be juggling knives, bleach and a blowtorch and the kids will still ask me for help even if he’s standing next to me. And he rarely  thinks to offer the help, because it’s not something he’s used to doing.

Just because he’s home doesn’t mean I get a vacation. He doesn’t take over parenting, volunteering, cooking,cleaning, shopping. As a matter of fact, for the first few week, I basically have another kid, while he’s trying to readjust to the life he left behind. Where are the spoons again? Where’s the extra toilet paper? Where does all my shit go? <—- ALL direct quotes.

In his defense, it’s hard to reintegrate back into the role of daddy/ husband. That’s another switch that doesn’t just turn on. You don’t go from “war mode” to “family mode” in the length of a flight back to the states. While he missed us desperately for (insert length of any of the 4 deployments he’s been through here), when the kids are all up in his kool-aid the second he walks in the door, or they talk non-stop the entire way to gymnastics or I expect his undivided attention, it’s overwhelming. He doesn’t have the ability to tell his 1SGT to take care of the kids being sassy, he can’t hole up in his room, with his own space, as he can when he’s deployed.

I AM looking forward to him coming home. There is no better feeling than someone you love returning safely from war. I’m looking forward to date-nites and sex, even if it’s awkward, and lazy Sundays and trail runs and family time as a whole family again. I absolutely am.

Transitions are hard. For everyone. And this time, I finally had the nards to speak up about it. So let my experience be a lesson for any of you who have some feelings of trepidation  but feel like an asshat for feeling this way. The elephant only stays in the room if you let it. If you communicate your feelings and have an open discussion about these things, there is nothing looming in the room to ignore. You won’t solve all of lifes problems, but you’ll be less likely to be disappointed when you finally do have that long awaited reunion.

Did I mention naked hugs? I’d give up some independence for naked hugs. Hands down.