Monday, June 12, 2017

Teaching Individuality in a World of Conformity

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Middle school is rough. It's where kids are testing boundaries. They have hormones racing thru them. It's where the jocks and band nerds and cool kids and geeks all start finding out they don't have to be nice to each other. Middle school is when schools get bigger, classroom sizes are bigger and you lose the continuity of having one teacher to watch over your class. Everyone is shifting and growing. Not always going to good places.

All the kids just want to fit in. For those that don't find a place to shine, they just want to stay under the radar. They want to be normal, to fit in. So these kids are just all trying to sit in the middle rows of their classrooms. They are trying to keep as little attention on themselves as they can. God forbid that anything negative happens to them at school. To have an embarrassment at school is to be labeled that shame forever. 

My boys hold up a mirror to themselves to see what might be sticking out so they can tap it back down. Lest anyone use their quirks as weapons against them. 

 A lot of times, a kid has been labeled as something by the time they get to middle school. Either a good kid, or a smart kid. Maybe they are talented or athletic. Maybe a kid get's called a nerd or shows an affinity for drama. It's in middle school that we start to carve out the first steps towards what will propel us to adulthood. 

Middle school can be a battle ground for the unique. For the non-conformist, middle school is hell. 

Seeing my kids struggle thru middle school brings out all my shame and struggles during that time. My first instinct as a parent is not to let my kids shine, but to tell them to be cautious. To maybe hold back a little of who they are so that they won't get made fun of. I want my kids to be accepted by their peers. Do I desire that more than my boys happiness? Am I stunting their talents and skills because I don't want them to be mocked? 

Am I teaching my kids that another's opinion of them is more important than letting themselves be who God made them to be? 

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I am confessing that I have. I have tried to tamper with my kids personalities in the name of making life easier for them. It's not right and I am taking steps to help them learn their true selves. I had to go on that path for myself. I want my kids to know that their is only regret and pain in trying to be someone they are not for the sake of others.

I hope I can show my kids that it's okay to be unique. That conformity is not the answer. Yes, middle school is rough. There will be teasing and mocking. There will be kids that look for the weak to prey upon. But I want my boys to know that at home, we have their backs. That I will always go to bat for them. That I was wrong to try and show them the easier path. The harder path is to be themselves and I am there to help them along.

It is never to late to change how we parent.

We can always adjust our parenting to help our kids. As I gain new information, I have more tools to draw from in my parenting. 

Let us all help our kids get to a place where they can be themselves. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fitting Summer In

     Last time, I wrote about summer. How it has a mixed bag of gifts and no thanks. We have this

Or are there?

This summer is both our shortest and our busiest. We are on what's called a balanced calendar. So instead of a twelve week spread of endless summer days, we have eight weeks. The other four are spread throughout the school year with two weeks in the fall, winter and spring. Along with a variety of days off sprinkled thru the year.

We don't do sports, but I did sign the older two up for a day camp three days a week. They are doing all the cool things I always hope we can get to, but never seem to. So those two are filling up on laser tag, water balloons and all kinds of things coming in the next few weeks. And I don't have to pay for or clean up after any of it. Also, its about three hours when I don't have to hear, "Is it time for screen time?"
unique time as kids to be free and easy with our time. There are no responsibilities like school work or study hall. There are few organized activities to sign up for.

We also implemented the structure of school but way pared back. They have a list of about ten fifteen items. Some are hygiene based so they become more regular habits. Cause we all know that kids will take any opportunity to be lacks on this point. Also, there are some enrichment type of activities. Like a summer reading program to score local swag. I'm also making them do a language app called Duolingo. The world is only getting smaller and I want to make sure my kids have at least that advantage.

We still have relaxed evenings and family fun. The big kids are staying up past their normal bed times while we enjoy some Harry Potter. The little one is stretching theirs out with endless hugs and complaints about sunlight.

The idyllic summer of my youth is not what my kids are experiencing, but they are having fun where it can be found during their summer break.

Where do you land? Structured, total lack of schedule or somewhere in between? 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Summer Summer Summer Time

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Just writing that post took me back to 1997. I was spending my last summer as a high school student. Me and my then best friend had jobs working at one of the city pools. We would take crumpled and wet dollars and coins in exchange for kids and families to spend some time at the concrete wrapped pools to try and stay cool amid the humidity and heat of a Michigan summer. It wasn't a glamorous job. Often it involved a lot of boredom and the burn of chlorine in my nostrils. But that summer is one that stands out in my mind. 

I've always had a love hate relationship with summer. I love the slower pace and later wake ups. But I loathe humidity and heat. I love the gentle whoosh of air conditioning, but hate the higher electricity bills. There is fun and joy to be found at water sources, but there will also be sun burns and the uncomfortable tug of goggles that need to be constantly adjusted.

Yes, summer has a unique blend of fun and frustration. I will say that the older our kids get, the more I enjoy summer. It has a lot to do with them being able to apply sunscreen on their own.
photo from the odyssey online

Some of the joy is just being in this stage of life with kids that are coming into their own. Also, seeing how fast it's all passing me by is making me nostalgic. Wishing I could get one of those time-turner devices they use in a Harry Potter novel. 

The brevity of summer is what makes it so bitter sweet. 

Having only six weeks of summer break means it's going to go fast. So this summer we are going to say yes to relationships, no to the things that cause division and heck yeah to trying out every ice cream spot we can find.
photo from stock photos

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

P is for Procrastination

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P is for Procrastinate. Even writing up this blog post required some serious procrastination. I had to go on a little trip. Then there were the three different levels of Candy Crush I had to defeat. Let's not forget the mountain of laundry I have to do today because we didn't get home until late from the trip already mentioned. There were snacks to eat and tea to brew. My kids needed to be told what to do. I had a book to read, and a million other things that needed to be done. All in the name of putting off what I needed to do here, on this blog.

Why is that?

Why do I put off that which I love to do?

It has been said that perfectionism is the mother of procrastination. That the fear of not doing something perfectly causes us to remember all the things that need to be done so we can avoid taking a risk doing something that could bring joy to us. 

Creating something is scary as all get out. I get that. I've been fighting the battle to create thru writing since I was in college. I've put off sharing truth and baring my soul in the name of busyness and productivity. All that delaying my souls calling and serving others was never enough to get to a place that the desire to write and share stories has gone away. It just left me feeling angry, depressed, unfulfilled and resentful of that which was necessary to do and those that might hinder my steps towards my calling. 

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Walking around the circle of procrastination just leaves me feeling dizzy and unfulfilled. Then I feel guilty about not doing what needs to be done. Then I feel resentful that all this stuff that needs to be done gets in the way of me doing the things I actually want to do. 


Because it's scary as all hell to get off of the wheel. 

Maybe, I need to think about all the ways it would be scary NOT to get off the wheel. What if answering the call to do my creative thing brings more fulfillment than just existing?
What if choosing to put aside Candy Crush brings more joy than defeating that next creepy candy creature?
What if, getting the necessary done and putting aside the distractions of media, movies, tv and brain-numbing pursuits brings more wonder, hope and kindness to the world? My own and the one we all get to be a part of? 

What if I put aside my fear of failure to choose instead, the possibility of purpose? 

Will you join me? 

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

F is for Forgetful

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         I forget things. It seems the older I get, the more I forget them. It is no longer a desire for cool pens and paper that has me keeping a notebook and pen in my purse. I no longer pretend I am the heroine in a sci-fi epic when using voice to text to add a memo to my notes app. No, it is very much a necessity, a mandatory one at that, that I have to write things down.

     Appointments are completely  missed. School functions are totally abandoned. Anniversaries, birthdays and non-federal holidays are all lost to the nether reaches of my mind if I don't write them down on a calendar.

     Oftentimes I need to write it down several places. I have a paper calendar, a digital one and also a notebook that has random notes and details of our lives in them. I also set reminders. The digital ones go off for me and my husband thanks to the shared awesomeness that is Cozi.

    Age and mothering has made me forgetful. But I'm handling it.

What are some ways you cope with forgetfulness? 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Change Sucks

Over the last few weeks, I started a few programs. One is called Easy Living and supposed to help me manage my responses to stress. Stress that is both small and large. It's very informative and has been somewhat helpful, but keeping up with the program has led me to feeling stressed out. Ironic, no?

Another change I've been making has to do with food. If you read this blog for any length of time, I will eventually confess my love for food. More likely I will talk about my struggles with food. Specifically, those of no longer having the metabolism of my younger self. It's all very hard and first-world problem type stuff.

The time has come, however to implement some change.

In the beginning, I am all for this. The excitement of a new challenge, breaking out of expectations, charting a new course is all very heady and I am full of enthusiasm.

Then I get to the middle. 

Which is the hard part. Because the enthusiasm has run out. There is no new ground. I am mired in the ugly, wasteland of the work part in change. All the butterflies and rainbows have been replaced with a repetitive scene filled with signs saying discipline, labor on and keep at it. The middle sucks.

The results of the change haven't begun to kick in either, so it feels like I'm that guy from Greek mythology who just kept rolling his rock up the hill. With no end in sight for himself. But if he stops, lives are in the balance. I'm not saying I have lives in the balance here, but I certainly understand the repetitive feeling of doing a task without the reward of an ending.

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So why change? 
Why move away from what is comfortable?

Because somewhere in me, there was a desire for something different. A desire to make a way to a new destination. Start the next chapter in my life book. I got to the place that where I had been, was not worth sacrificing what could be. Or maybe I read one to many memes about not just living the same year 90 times and then dying. 

Whatever the reason, I made the step to change. I committed to upheaval in my existence. I told others about the steps I was taking and got accountability. So, when I wallow in how hard the change is, they can remind me what the impetus was to start and what the rewards will be when the changes have been fully implemented.

Yes, change is hard. The middle sucks. It's gonna be worth it. 

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Ten Reasons It's Awesome Having Older Kids

I have three kids. Two are close in age, the third drags behind five years. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses.

I'll be the first to admit that I had a hard, read extremely difficult, when my first two were in their formative years. There was depression, a lot of upheaval, change and the general chaos of having a set of boys that were just shy of two years apart. Pair that with a mom who had NOT A CLUE how to be a parent, and it was a recipe for disaster.

My third kid has the fortune of being five years behind her brothers. All the mistakes and whoopsies made the first two times have been corrected. The hubs and I have figured out what really matters to us. Manners, yes. Limiting screen time, depends on the day.

Now that they are all thru their first year of school, here's a list of why it's awesome having kids out of the preschool stage.

10. They can do things for themselves. A lot of things. From turning on their shows thru our Wii U to making a sandwich, I don't have to do ninety percent of what I did back in the day.

9. They can do chores. There's whole websites dedicated to letting you know what's age appropriate for your child. Laundry, the dishes, sweeping, dusting and so on. The list is endless. As creative as you want to be, there is a chore your kids can do. Just let go of your perfectionist tendencies to fix what your kid has done.

8. They ask interesting questions. Your kids hit school and all of a sudden they are exposed to SO MANY different opinions. Teachers, other students, aides, secretaries and principals, each one has a different idea about the world. Your kid is going to ask you about it. That opens up doors to all kinds of great conversations. Just practice that non-threatening non-judgmental face to keep the questions coming.

7. They know the house rules. You've spent the first six years of your kids life reminding them about each step of their day. Putting on shoes, getting ready for bed, meal time expectations. One day, it all clicks in their sweet little brains. Trust me, you will eat a meal that doesn't end in tears.

6. Your kids might outgrow being picky. This is not a guarantee. It also has a lot to do with what you have allowed up to that point as far as meals. We have an age=bites rule. That is, for however many years old they are, that's how many bites they have to take. I like weird food, so if you don't want to starve, eat what's expected. Usually their's a treat if they can do it without complaining.

5. You can leave the house and let them stay home. This is for the middle school crowd. Having to only get one kid out the door vs. three is amazing.

4. The movies/television shows get more interesting the older your kids get. Instead of vegging out during an episode of some Nickelodeon cartoon, you can sit up with interest for an episode of Young Justice.

2. Eating out gets more expensive, but also more enjoyable. Enjoy those kids meals while you can. Given how cheap they are it's okay that 3/4ths lands on the floor. Once your kids can eat a six ounce sirloin, baked potato and a veggie without complaint they can also do so without throwing it on the floor for kicks. Also, you can have a conversation with them that doesn't involve a bodily function. Usually.

1. CELEBRATE!! Every stage our kids go thru is another one that brings new challenges and triumphs. Yes, it's sad when our kids age out of Crocs being cute, nursery rhymes and blankies. But let's not sit just in the sadness of the last stage. We can rejoice at the new freedoms our kids have and also the ones we ourselves will experience!