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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

A while back, I posted about the Joy Project, finding and recording things that brought me joy, things to focus on that help to offset the craziness in the world in order to center and not let the bad things get me down. There have been a lot of things bothering me lately: a huge lack of manners in people, the government, work issues, the government, rude teenagers in public places, the government, serious world issues… you get the idea. And while these things deserve attention, if I let them take up all of my thoughts and time, I’d forget why I’m here in the first place. You have to step back sometimes and find the joy because life can’t be all about gloom and doom.

I haven’t been very good at writing down my joys, which was the original intent, but I have been doing a better job at looking for the little joys every day. Still, now that it’s summer and I have a couple of weeks off, I’m going to try to get back into the habit again, starting now. These are a few of the joys I’ve had in my life lately, big and small:

Free time. I usually love being busy, I love feeling useful, and relaxing usually makes me feel guilty. This summer, I am consciously, selfishly, enjoying the time I have off.

Middle Child graduated. Few things compare to seeing your child in a cap and gown. It’s a very concrete ending to childhood and a proud moment for us.

Dates/quality time with my husband. We’re so busy during the school year that it’s hard to find time for us, but lately, we’ve made spending time together more of a priority. It’s a very good thing.

My teenage boys. I know, it sounds contradictory, but as my boys get older, I enjoy them more every day. It’s a different level of parenting now. I loved having squishy babies and snuggly toddlers, but seeing my boys mature into adults is amazing. Conversations can definitely get interesting.

Writing. Editing a completed novel, beginning a new one, and not too worried about balancing the time involved.

A new tattoo. I’ve been wanting to cover up an old (ugly) one for a long time now and took the plunge to trust an artist and get a little color. Still very fresh at less than two days old, but happy to have it done.

Hedgie snuggles. Allegra wasn’t around when I started this project. but she is definitely one of my big joys. My little ball of prickles is quite the cuddler and an endless source of entertainment.

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Little black squirrels. The first time I saw a little black squirrel, I thought it was the cutest thing ever and wished that they lived in my yard. They’ve been slowly spreading out ever since, getting closer to my house, and just a few days ago, I SAW ONE IN MY YARD!!! Definitely a joy.

Travel + family. A couple of months ago, I was able to join my cousin and her kids in South Carolina. (See my earlier post for more on that.) This was a double joy, going somewhere new and beautiful and getting to catch up with far-flung loved ones.

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Theater. I’ve done a lot more of it this year and while that has definitely contributed to time crunches, it has also helped me grow in a lot of ways, including my self-confidence. I’ve gotten braver, both on stage and off, thanks in part to a super-supportive theater community who makes me feel loved.

I’ll leave it there for now. This is a good start for my list and I’ll catch it up as time goes on.

I’d love to know what the joys are in your life. Feel free to comment and spread it around. We could all use a little more joy in our lives.

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Middle Child leaves for Europe this week. It’s the same kind of trip that Oldest Child took two years ago, a few days in France, a few days in Spain, but Middle Child will be going to different cities than his brother did. The same teacher is heading up the group and it’s a good, responsible, group of kids, so I’m not worried about logistics or crazy behavior. Of course, I am very jealous because I am a ridiculous Europhile, but I am genuinely glad that he’s getting this opportunity, the same as his brother did.

I had my first out-of-the-country experience when I was sixteen. Of course, I’d been to Canada several times before that, but as it is for any Detroiter, going to Canada was so not a big deal. No, I had the opportunity to go to Australia and Hawaii with the Michigan Lions All-State Band and it was a fabulous time. I’ve written about it before, so I won’t go on about it too much, but that trip was a pivotal time in my life. It was on that trip that he realization sunk in that the U.S. was not the only place in the world, that there were other realities for other people, and that the places where they lived were just as important to them as mine was to me. Granted, Australia isn’t shockingly different from the U.S., and Hawaii, while culturally different, is a state, but it was just enough to give me a hunger to see what else is out there, not just in my own backyard. This isn’t discounting anything that is here in the U.S., there are some pretty amazing places in my own country, but I think for people to have a balanced view of the world, they should see more of it with an open mind, not with the expectation that everyone should be like us.

That is what I hope Middle Child takes away from his experience. His first trip overseas will be different than mine, however, because it will be to two countries where English isn’t the first language, and he’s in for a real eye-opener. Even if you take the time beforehand to study the language, using the words around native speakers for the first time is a scary thing. Of course, in the big cities, many people do speak English because there are so many tourists, but I found out that even a little effort to try the native language is appreciated by most people. Middle Child hasn’t done a lot of studying, so he may be in for some surprises.

I said that I wasn’t worried, and I’m not, but there is that part of me that is nervous about letting my baby go for an extended period of time over the ocean without me. It has nothing to do with the threat of terrorism, that’s a risk that we take anywhere we are today, unfortunately, but more of the I’ve-taught-you-everything-I-can-now-you’re-on-your-own kind of thing. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a smart kid and he’s going to be just fine, but I think every mother would feel the same, at the least the first time. When Oldest Child went back to Europe this last summer for work study, I wasn’t concerned at all because he did so well when he went to France and Spain.

All in all, it’s another sign that my kids are growing up. They are moving on to make their own wonderful memories, and that’s a very, very, good thing. Middle Child leaves in just a few days and it’s taking a lot for me not to jump on that plane with him. Maybe sometime in the future, one of them will let me tag along.

 

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As many of you may recall, I posted a (lengthy) post about a year ago on why I was leaving teaching, and one not too long ago about how I have used this past year to rest my mind and to figure things out.

Long story short: I’m teaching again. I wasn’t exactly looking for this opportunity, it fell into my lap with a message from a friend. When I read the description, I was intrigued and one thing led to another. I will hastily add, however, that I am not teaching in a traditional classroom. My students come from some pretty bad situations. They have a lot of issues and are not living with their parents for one reason or another, so they live at our facility until they can go home or into foster care. Sometimes they’re with us for weeks, sometimes for years and the people who work with them, my new coworkers, are some of the toughest, most caring individuals I have ever met in the short time I’ve been there.

I’m not looking at my new situation with rose-colored glasses, I know that there are going to be some grueling days ahead, but where I am, I can teach for the child, not for the parents or for a test. My job is to nurture and to teach these boys what they need, not push them to impress the state or to please an overbearing parent. My job is to help them trust, to provide boundaries, and a soft place to fall when they need it in addition to their academic lessons. Don’t other teachers do these same things? Absolutely, of course they do! There are teachers I know who have the biggest hearts for their kids, going above and beyond what’s required of them, but they also have those other pressures to deal with that I found unbearable.

There are tradeoffs where I am, though, too. We deal with daily behaviors that are cause for suspension at other schools, but somehow, I’m finding those a little easier on my psyche than the dread of sending home report cards or math tests.

Did I make the right choice? I think so. I’ve given up on thinking that my path through life is supposed to be a straight line. I’m starting to believe that I am put where I’m needed, where I can do some good for whatever length of time, and I hope that’s the case here. My goal is to make a positive difference in these boys’ lives, to be a safe person for them.

In the meantime, send some good thoughts and prayers to land on the boys and the workers who love and care for them, would you? They can always use a little more.

 

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I’m finding it difficult to get in the Christmas spirit this year. Actually, it’s been this way for the past few years, so I don’t blame any particular event of 2016. I still find the story beautiful and meaningful, the lights pretty, the cards welcome. I’ve done all the shopping, all of the wrapping (almost), and made a respectable amount of cookies. I’ve sung the songs and felt my heart stir with the beauty of the melodies and lyrics, but yet… I don’t feel it. The magic hasn’t been there.

I will love spending time with my family on Christmas Day, chaotic as it can be. I want to see my nieces and nephews in their joy, and even their eventual crankiness, with all of the excitement. I want to see my brothers and sisters (including the brother- and sister-cousins), parents, aunts, and in-laws that I don’t spend nearly enough time with. I will grumble when making dinner, as I always do, but it will be good-natured. I will drink too much wine, laugh too much, and get all of the dishes done Christmas night because I don’t want to wake up to a mess. I’ll crash into bed around midnight and sleep in the next day until 8:00 or so. (My younger self would have thought that pathetic, but she didn’t have kids.)

I know a lot of people feel the Christmas magic every year, but the last time I remember having the “magic” was sometime when my kids were smaller. I have such fabulous memories of dancing with Oldest and Middle Child around the living room to Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, watching them rock out over and over again in their Pull-Ups as Clarence Clemons belted out the saxophone part. They will disown me for sharing this memory, by the way, but it’s worth it. I miss the astonishment on Youngest Child’s face when Santa KNEW HIS NAME!!! I miss the looks of awe of all three of their faces when it was finally time to go downstairs and see what Santa had left on Christmas morning. I miss the absolute reverence of them putting Baby Jesus in the manger. They still do take turns putting him in, but that sweetness has left with their baby chubbiness. Decorating the tree was a BIG DEAL when they were small, now they’re doing me a favor. Their excitement fueled my own and as they got older, it’s still lovely, but not quite the same.

I don’t know if it’s “normal” to feel this way or not, but I don’t like it. I miss the magic. I want that feeling back. I don’t know if you have to be a kid or have a kid who believes for that to happen, but I want to feel Christmas again. Is it lack of time? Is it extreme busyness? Have I grown up too much, God forbid? Maybe it will come back when I don’t have so much to do, when I can focus on the mystery of the season. I told Mr. Marty Man that one year, I wanted to spend Christmas in Europe, just visiting ancient cathedrals, participating in local traditions, soaking in the feels. He’s not on board yet, but I’m working on it.

In the meantime, even without the magic, I will enjoy the next few days. I hope that all of my readers have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy New Year, or whatever it is that you celebrate. I wish you love and a prosperous 2017. Thanks for reading.

Salute.

 

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We told Oldest Child back to college today after spending a really nice, but short, summer with him. His first year was wildly successful, he adjusted very well and did a lot of exciting things, like being able to attend a dinner where Bill Clinton was speaking. Early on this summer, he got to spend five weeks in the UK as a kind of class, boosting his credits up and making him a junior after one year of college. I’m proud of him to the point of bursting, so forgive me for bragging just a little.

In many ways, dropping him off today was remarkably similar to how it was last year, except that we brought Middle Child and Youngest Child along. It poured down rain again while we unloaded the cars, but with five of us, it went pretty quickly. The rain cut our planned walk around campus short, although we did all go out to lunch together and visited a wonderful old book shop that Marty Man used to frequent when he was a student there. All around, soggy students and their families were busy unloading, visiting, and saying their goodbyes, just like us.

But when it was time to leave, it was much more casual than it was last year. There were no tears, yet, anyway. Will I miss him as much? Yes, absolutely. I miss him already. We had a really good summer and I enjoy his company immensely. I love seeing this independent person getting himself up and out the door for work in the morning, doing his own laundry, taking charge of his own life. At this point, Marty Man and I are pretty much bystanders who help when we’re needed, but he doesn’t need us to do much for him anymore. He will be just fine.

Anyway, today has made me think of my job as a mother now as opposed to, oh, say, ten to fifteen years ago. Things have definitely changed. As a parent of young children, there is so much physical work that needs to be done: diapers, feedings, baths, carrying, dressing, car seats. Little by little, it gets easier physically, but it gets more difficult in terms of setting limits and guiding them through the process of growing-up. There are difficult ages. I’ve blogged in the past about the age of eleven at our house, but there are hurdles at any stage. Grades, girlfriends, friends, chores, and family relations can all be sticky topics. There are days that any frustrated parent can be tempted to walk out the door, but you don’t because you’re the adult, you’re the parent, and raising these kids is the most important job in the whole world, because you are their whole world. Then, the crisis is over and the tears have stopped, emotions calm down. There’s talking, there’s hugging, there’s love, and you start all over. It’s always a new day with kids and thankfully, they can be more forgiving than we are.

Our job isn’t done once they’re grown-up, of course, we’ll always be parents, but the job description is constantly changing. Someday, they won’t need us to provide for any of their physical needs, even money (please, let them eventually stop needing money.), but hopefully they’ll still want to come around just to talk and to spend some time with their parents. And not just on holidays.

There are things from when they were very small that I miss dreadfully, so much that it hurts: the baby smell (oh, that smell!), the sweet, sloppy, whole-mouth kisses, rocking them in my arms until their long lashes droop closed, kissing boo-boos, squishy little hands and feet, kissable cheeks, talking attempts, and my absolute favorite, the belly laugh. You know, the one that comes right up from their toes? It’s the best thing in the whole world and if you can’t at least grin at one of those laughs, you’re not human. These things are gone forever with my boys.

But there are things that I love about them as big kids/young adults that won’t disappear with time. Things like their sense of humor. All of them. They are just a weird as I am and we laugh at the same things. They can hold all sorts of fabulous conversations on any topic: current events, politics, sports (ugh), introspective, technology, and strange things. They are such interesting people and I love hearing their perspectives. They’re all bigger than I am now and the older ones are protective of their mama. While I think I handle myself pretty well, it’s nice to see that they have my back, just in case. My boys are turning into amazing young men and I love them so much, more than they can ever know.

Are they perfect children? Oy, no. We fight and argue over curfews and appropriate movies; they can say ugly, hurtful, things to each other and sometimes to us, like any other teenagers, but in the end, we still love each other. We’re a family, and we know that no matter what happens, someone will apologize and life will go on because that’s what we do. It’s all a part of them growing up.

We dropped off Oldest Child at college again today. Let the parenting adventure continue.

 

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I am blessed. Unequivocally, undoubtedly, blessed. It’s easy to forget, sometimes. It’s easy to let the problems of the universe sink in, to let the daily annoyances pile up and inspire resentment, but that’s when we have to take a few steps back and get a new perspective. We need to let those unimportant things go and either make a new plan or let it be. Here are some of my blessings:

  1. My husband. I am married to a man (for almost twenty years!) who has seen me at my best and most definitely at my worst. He has loved me through four pregnancies, three kids, job loss, financial crises, a depression/anxiety diagnosis, and my frustration with keeping up an older house and no money to do it. Oh, and did I mention that he has to put up with me trying to convince him to move to London?
  2. My kids. My boyos: Oldest Child, Middle Child, and Youngest Child. All different, all amazingly wonderful. I never imagined being the mother of all boys, but God works in wonderful ways and even with all of the ways they are different from me, they are my heart.
  3. My family. My family is huge, mixed-up, made up of many components, a wee bit dysfunctional, but most important, loving. I wouldn’t trade my family for anything in the world.
  4. My friends. Like everyone, I have different groups of friends in different places and from different times in my life. I am deeply thankful for each one of them.
  5. I live in a country where I’m free, not only as a person, but as a woman. In many places in the world, even today, I would have no rights to anything. The U.S. isn’t perfect by any means, but I can wear what I want, marry who I want, drive, go anywhere I like without a chaperone, and criticize the government without worrying about being thrown in prison, or worse. There’s much work to do, but things are moving in the right direction.
  6. My hedgie. She’s amazing, cranky and cuddly at the same time and I love her.
  7. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to several countries. I have the wanderlust. Bad. I believe that seeing how other people live in other parts of the world is essential. How can we work together if we live in ignorance and all we know of others is what fear mongers tell us? Granted, I haven’t visited any war-torn nations, but the places that I have been have given me a greater appreciation for the world as a whole. Now, I just have to figure out how to travel more frequently. (Rick Steves, have you looked at my résumé yet?)
  8. I’m a published author. Not a New York Times bestselling author, but I was able to get published by a company. Let’s see if it can happen again. (Slightly greedy, I know.)
  9. Facebook. This was a toughie, because Facebook is most definitely a colossal time-waster. But it has also allowed me to keep in touch with people who I may have otherwise lost contact with. In most cases, that is a blessing.
  10. Creature comforts. There’s an old hymn that says, “There’s a roof up above me, I’ve a good place to sleep. There’s food on my table and shoes on my feet. You gave me your love, Lord, and a fine family. Thank you, Lord, for you blessings on me.” It’s one of the truest songs I know. I don’t need, or want, a huge house, expensive cars, or designer clothes. Most of the world doesn’t have what I have: Enough.

Reminding myself of how much I actually have when I want something may not stop the desire, but it does make me appreciate my blessings. I wish the same for you.

A presto.

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Oldest Child is home on Spring Break. It’s not the first time he’s been home to visit, nor is it the longest that he’s been home since school started. Over Christmas, he was home for three weeks in between semesters. Each time he comes home, it’s a little bit different. And a learning experience.

The dynamics of our family life have changed. For instance, I’m a creature of habit. I like routine, for the most part. I like to know when I’m waking up, when I’m going to bed, what the schedule is for the day. Having an adult child come home for days or weeks changes all of that. He is no longer accustomed to the routine of the house. He likes to be up late, to sleep in later. His dinner schedule is erratic, I never know if he’ll be here or not and he often doesn’t either. His plans are up in the air and he likes it that way, things that would drive me crazy.

We argue some, too. His idea of a reasonable time to be home is different from mine. I need to know that all of my chicks are safe and sound before I go to sleep and when he’s out late, I lose sleep. It’s a totally selfish thing, to be sure, but all sorts of horrors go through my head as to what could be happening to him and I shudder to think that I could sleep right through it. To be fair, ninety-nine percent of the time he is home at the time we agree on and he is a level-headed kid, but things happen, especially late at night. Rationally, I know that he keeps this schedule at school all the time and that he doesn’t answer to any type of parental figure there. I really don’t worry about it much when he’s at school, but when he’s home, I like to know where he is. He doesn’t need to ask permission at his age, just clue me in.

Before you get the idea that I’m a totally suffocating mother, hear me out. Yes, I’m a wee bit overprotective. Marty Man balances me out on this. We’re a good team. He gives the kids a lot of leeway while I’m the one to tighten the reins on curfews and where they are going. I don’t think my kids have been stifled in any way because of it. I’m not the kind of mother that hovers over their teachers or coaches. They deal with those issues on their own, just like they deal with friend issues on their own. I’m here to listen and offer advice if they want it, but they need to make their own choices about how to handle their lives. I am a stickler, though, for where they’re going, what time they’ll me home, who they are with, and making sure that I know the parents. Again, I don’t think that they were adversely affected by my “meddling” ways. In fact, I think it was, and is, a good thing. My kids know that their parents care about them, as irritating as I can be sometimes.

But the fact remains that I have to let him go. I can’t always keep tabs on him. Oldest Child is legally an adult and I need to remember what it felt like when I went through the same thing. How can he possibly understand that I haven’t always been the way I am now, but that I was eighteen once, too? I also resented my mother’s rules, even though they were very fair, but I wanted to make my own. I used to stay out late most nights, not coming home until the early morning hours, and would sleep until eleven o’clock on Saturdays, my mother sighing over my laziness. My hours were also erratic, but I got myself to school and work on time (I always had one or two, sometimes three, jobs at once) and made my own schedule, even if it meant getting by on three or four hours of sleep. I could do that then. What he doesn’t know, what he hasn’t experienced yet, are the changes that happen when one becomes a spouse and a parent, the things that have turned me into this creature of habit. When I was eighteen, nineteen, twenty, I didn’t have anyone who depended on me to wake them up, get them dressed and off to school on time and then get myself ready for work. I didn’t run my own household, didn’t pay many bills. It was a wonderful, free time, as it should be. It won’t last forever, and I wouldn’t go back to those wonderful, yet confusing, days. I know myself now, much more than I did back then, hence, my preference for a routine rather than spontaneity. He is in that process, but he can’t see the future just yet.

It’s a bit surreal to watch him go through it himself, silently cheering his accomplishments and biting my tongue at some of what he does because he has to figure it out, not me. It’s amazing what hindsight does for you. Some of the decisions that I made at that age perplex me now, as they will him when he’s forty-something, but that’s all part of it. It’s what is supposed to happen. My job now is to be a support, not a keeper. It is taking some getting used to. We have hit snags in the road, to be sure, and we will again but, as I said, he’s a level-headed kid. Just as an example, he’s not spending Spring Break drinking himself stupid on some Florida beach. He’s a great kid, respectful (for the most part), loving, and personable. I have no doubt that he is going to be just fine. We’re learning together, him and me. It’s all good.

Hugs.

 

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