Keeping It Simple–Kid Memories

Hi all. My weekend was busy; good thing it was long! It included a trip to the ER with my mom, two shorter reports for work and a wake on Sunday afternoon. And….the November paperwork from school keeps piling up. (Bleh. I HATE paperwork.)

All this also means the blog will be VERY simple this week.

Fall at Lenape pond 2014 Took this on Columbus Day–gives me a quick serenity fix in a pinch. 

One huge shout-out: Heartfelt gratitude goes out to our veterans. I could thank you to the limits of the Milky Way and back and still not thank each of you enough for your sacrifice. And active-duty military personnel? Ditto.

Okay: Favorite kid memory (or when you knew your child was a genius—every parent thinks so, right? 😉 ):

Older Son was about 12 months and sitting in his high chair. With a water-based marker, I drew a smiley-face on the chair’s tray, figuring I’d do the eyes, ears, mouth, etc thing. I was capping the marker when he looked at my sketch and said, “Hi.” What are the odds he was way ahead of me, lol?

Doodle by Nic or Kev I’m pretty sure Older Son is the artist. I referred to this a few posts ago: the kid-art on the louver door in the bathroom I will NEVER paint over. If this sketch is an inch big, I’m overestimating, lol.  

Of course I could go on and on, but I’ll share one episode that really had me flumgubbered. Same kid was anywhere from three to four years old. I was getting him into his car seat and noticed the container of wipes I normally kept in the car was face down, flip-lid open and flat on the carpet. I picked it up and was pleased to note (and comment) that the wipes hadn’t dried out.

Older Son didn’t miss a beat. “That’s because no air got under there.”

What???

Somehow, he’s always gotten how things relate to one another.

Your turn, and yes, you may share about any child (niece, neighbor, student, etc) who has left you slack-jawed with their ability to infer!

Have a great day, everyone!

Joanna

When You Take That Step Back…

A solution often shows.

Hi all and welcome to the next-to-last Monday of June. We are six months into 2014. How does time keep going faster?

Wimbledon is underway today. All the best to Andy Murray, defending champion, and all the players competing, especially the qualifiers. This is the professional tennis world’s biggie tournament, especially when it comes to prestige.

Ma n Kev  Mamma and YS (18 months)

Younger Son is a great kid, but definitely a work-in-progress. Although not diagnosed, my inner occupational therapist notes a touch of each of the following: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD); anxiety; cognitive inflexibility and decreased frustration tolerance. (Translation for the latter two terms: being able to conjure a Plan A, B, C, etc and staying cool when the going gets tough. Neither skill is among this 15.5-year-old’s strong points. He’s also true to his ADD in that if something isn’t of high interest or motivation, he probably won’t be bothered with it.)

Did I mention when he gets an idea in his head—as in, my-Xbox-isn’t-working-at-9PM-Friday-night-so-we-have-to-go-buy-one-now—redirecting him is next to impossible?

A little background: The kid loves football. He played in a recreational league at age 10 (?) and maybe picked up an allergy to commitment sometime after that. He quit after a second season. During middle school, he came home with papers for wrestling and decided last minute he wasn’t joining. Talked about football too, but never took active steps to join his school’s team or any league, for that matter.

Aside: He finally agreed to join me on the tennis court this past weekend. If he practices and gets a feel for the court, his serve and winners have potential to take my head off. (Must be all that weight-lifting turning him into a power hitter.)

Back to the post: This past November, he asked me, “If I join a Saturday basketball league, do you think I’ll commit to football?”

Awesome question! (Showed insight into his issue.) “My suggestion: try and see where that takes you.”

That small commitment has so far resulted in having joined—and stuck to—training for football for the upcoming school year.

Hubby and I constantly express praise for how committed he has been to his decision.

He’s come up short in one place: commitment to his grades in school.

I’ll tell you true, folks, the boy is no stellar student. Not that I expect him to be, but a little effort here and there would be nice, especially when it comes time to studying for quizzes and tests, and especially since he gets a decent return when he takes a whole 15 or 20 minutes to look over his study guide nightly a few days before a test. (Homework isn’t an issue. He gets that done, usually w/o a hitch and w/o help, reminders, etc.)

Kevin kindergarten school pic Kindergarten

Long story short, I had to bite the bullet and step back when it came to freshman algebra. He was in danger of failing—and not having the necessary credits to play football come fall. I gave frequent reminders to pull out the material, do five measly practice problems a night, employ his older brother/math whiz for help as needed, go to teacher for extra help, etc.

The result? Viva la resistance. The only time he studied is when I hid the X-box controller. (Remember the high interest and motivation I talked about before? The grand irony: only the controller he liked went missing. He couldn’t be bothered playing with either of the other two sitting near his unit. “But I didn’t do anything!” he usually wails when he notices its absence. “Exactly,” Mom says. Then he’ll pull out his notes and come back, pleased as punch to claim an 82 on his Social Studies test. See what I mean?)

Anyway, I finally decided to stop “necking,” as he tends to say. In other words, if he failed algebra, he failed algebra. He wasn’t taking direction from me or his dad, and life lessons tend to stick better anyway, or so says MHO. (Besides, as a freshman, he has three years to make it up–he needs it to graduate. I figured if he loved the class so much the first time, why not sit through it another year? Or, better yet: rather than sleep late during vacation, he can get up every morning for summer school then go to football practice. 0:-).

photo (49)  One of my favorite pics, when YS played with the rec league. 

I also checked with his guidance counselor to find out if he has the credits to play next year. Somehow, I wound up getting a call from the supervisor of the phys-ed and athletics department.

I gave her some background on my guy and his lack of commitment to studying.

God (Universe, Higher Power, etc) provided the EXACT answer and direction I needed. The supervisor advised me to direct Younger Son to her office the following week. “In cases like this, I have the kids bring me their work on a weekly basis. If grades aren’t up to par, they’re not allowed to play.”

Woot! Younger Son will have to be accountable to someone other than his ma, his pa and himself. He enjoys pleasing teachers, coaches, etc, he likes (as long as the effort he has to put in isn’t overwhelming).

Being able to play and not be benched or not allowed on the team might be just the carrot that needs to be dangled in front of him to get him to commit to his schoolwork a tad more.

And mamma doesn’t have to be the studying enforcer.

Sometimes, you have to take a step back and be open to different ways a situation can work itself out. You might be pleasantly surprised at how life jumps in and gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

What are your thoughts on this matter? Do you get out of the way, let life take over and see where it takes you? Have you ever gotten what you need exactly when you need it?

Have a great day everyone!

Joanna

 

Discipline V. Control (Part 4): An Opportunity to Learn

Happy Tuesday! To those of you who returning for more of this series, I do thank you. For those just tuning in, here are links to parts one, two and three–in case you want to catch up!

One more illustration on discipline, control and the idea of giving a kid the opportunity to learn, then I promise I’ll let this subject go—after one more post. (If y’all want to deal in it more, feel free to let me know in the comments, via email or on Facebook.)

This example is fresh in my mind, as it took place the week I was getting together this monster of a post, lol. My younger guy—the thirteen year-old I’m giving up for Lent—can be a little inflexible in his thinking and difficult to redirect once he has an idea in his head. I can also tell you, he’s typically not nice when he doesn’t get his way.

Like his mother, he likes order and visually pleasing spaces. One evening, he wanted to hang a curtain in the doorway between the laundry room and the semi-finished area of the basement where he hangs out to play video games. I hung the brackets for a rod there about 8:30PM and gave him an idea of how to thread the curtain onto a rod. (He got one from my bedroom closet about an hour later.)

I’d just sat down  to check email (circa 10PM) when he started calling for help with the curtain rod, which he didn’t know how to get onto the brackets. Long story short, he started throwing a typical fit when I told him I’d help him the next day. Rather than react—a.k.a. yell (and please don’t ask me where I get this stuff)—I told him he was putting me in the position of being a ‘bad parent’ if I went down to help him when he was behaving in such a manner. He blustered some more then all got quiet downstairs. Next thing I know, he came up, gave me a hug and said, “I figured it out.” (Maybe I’ll give him up for only part of Lent.)

See? This post is even shorter. (I think. ;)) Back to your experiences. What’s worked for you? What hasn’t?

Next time, I’ll take this one step further: regrouping and starting your day over after you’ve really lost it with your kids–probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do.

Okay, my new mantra of a request: if you like what you read here, would you kindly take a second and click the Facebook, Twitter or any of the share buttons below? (Any others you like that I may not be represented here works as well!) Reblogging is nice too, and helps get word out to others in cyberspace. By working together, we can each get our content and our names out to that many more people. Mega-thanks!

Have an awesome day,

Joanna

More Thoughts on Angels: Tribute to One in Particular

I’ve written about angels before. (Faith and Angels: Parts One and Two.) I truly believe they exist, taking on all kinds of forms. They touch our lives and sometimes alter a given person’s life trajectory. At times we’re aware of their presence or the forces/events they evoke. Sometimes, we’re angels to others and may or may not know about it until ages later—possibly never.  (BTW, knowing is a humbling experience, but a blessing too. Just another reason I have to believe.)

Doesn’t matter whether we’re aware or not; kind of like that tree in the forest falling and making a sound. Sound waves happened. Just because ears weren’t around to perceive the noise doesn’t mean there was none.

Quick disclaimer: I speak only for myself, from MHO and my experiences. Take what you like and leave the rest.

Sigh. Almost three years ago, I was assigned to a child who received home instruction and related services (i.e., occupational therapy) due to a combination of significant medical conditions incurred when he was a little under two years old. Until I entered the home the first time, I didn’t realize he was my neighbor too. He was pretty-much wheelchair-bound, and I had already seen him being wheeled around by his nurse on many occasions in my neighborhood. One more thing: this guy was roughly my younger son’s age.

That day I showed to meet him, his dad told me to expect the boy to cry. He did not. We shared our first session, engaged in a couple of activities and set our schedule.

I saw him once weekly for a full school year and during our extended school year summer program. I’ll never be sure how much he looked forward to me in particular coming (I really believe he preferred my colleague who also saw him once/week), but we hung in there just the same.

During many of our sessions he did cry. But during others, he tolerated me doing things hand-over-hand. He put up with me getting him up to dance to my favorite on his I-pod, The Jackson Five’s Rockin’ Robin. (On one occasion, I hit REPEAT so many times, the boy’s dad came in, wondering if something was wrong with the device, lol.) We practiced dressing, getting out of bed with as little help as possible, then wheeling into his adapted bathroom to do grooming and hygiene tasks (i.e., washing face, brushing teeth, combing hair—you know, getting handsome.)

He didn’t speak but signed for me here and there: mostly yes/no via clapping (or not) to indicate whether he wanted to do a given activity. He never verbalized directly to me but loved one nurse in particular and engaged in “conversation” with her. She’d say words and he’d repeat them—always immediately after my session, while I prepared to leave. He also talked to his dad. (I didn’t get to see too many interactions with his mom, but he always cried when she left for the day. She works a day job while his dad stayed home as primary caregiver.)

I didn’t know then that his condition was already deteriorating. By last January, his oxygen levels had already started declining and he often looked very blue. I spoke to his dad about this; he stated the doctors were very aware of the condition and that only so much could be done to stabilize and/or improve it. (For confidentiality purposes, I’m not at liberty to disclose more details.)

My student hung in there and we switched more to activities and tasks I hoped he found fun. Although I believe he enjoyed at least some our sessions, he still cried often, so this past September I asked my colleague if she’d be willing to take on the second session. He rarely cried when she was there. (The running joke was I did the show tunes; my colleague went by Mary Poppins.) Since she’d become his all-time favorite kid, she went twice weekly and always stayed longer than the scheduled time. He wasn’t work.

This boy didn’t have functional speech. He had physical challenges and was cortically blind. His ability to use his hands and walk was very limited and he was dependent in nearly all aspects of self-care. Yet, he was very aware of those around him, knew what he wanted and how to communicate that in his unique way.

He loved music and signed for it. He preferred kiddy tunes but his dad slowly transitioned him to more age appropriate, contemporary hits. As per my colleague, he’d tug at his hair to be told how handsome he looked. He did a Stevie Wonder impression and indicated his desire to engage in his favorites of the activities my colleague brought to their sessions. I’d tease him about ‘defecting’ to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ camp (from my newly beloved NY Giants) after one of his nurses’ sons joined the former NFL organization. (I’m thinking he was big on Elmo too. The floral arrangement pictured here is the only image I could find to give an idea of the full-body one made of red-dyed spider mums (?)—it was amazing!

 www.babiesgottahaveit.com

Here are some of my colleagues thoughts on their interactions: “He loved his routine and would start signing or pull on his hair if I went out of order, or forgot his favorite activity.  He knew. He had the most beautiful smile I ever saw. As you mentioned he had a great sense of humor.  If I laughed with favorite nurse or his father he would join in.  I believe he sometimes understood what we were laughing about. Wanted his music on immediately and his water ready. Could be stubborn as well, when I was ready to leave and asked if he would miss me he always refused to sign.  I could go on and on.”

His parents obviously adored him and dedicated their lives to making his the best they believed they could. I’m thinking he was their angel and vice versa. Recently he took on the abstract form we associate with those spiritual beings. He took a very bad turn after a recent medical procedure and passed away. (He turned my younger son’s age a little over a month ago.)

At his wake, I met the physical therapist who’d worked with him longer than any of us. She gave me more background on how many things this boy had been able to do before his health started its downward decline. I marveled at how much I’d missed coming into this boy’s story late as I did. From what I understand, he had a pretty cool sense of humor. (Think he showed it to my colleague more.)

Why am I writing this? I attended his funeral the day before and found myself tremendously listless the rest of the day. I’m still can’t stop thinking about him today. He crossed my mind every time I passed his street and will do so even more in future days. I think of his parents and how they handled their trip to Holland when they believed themselves Italy-bound. I’m looking to write a tribute to give to his parents and hope the best words come as I explore my thoughts and feelings. I won’t tell you he didn’t touch me before. These past two days I realize just how much and very deeply affected I am with his passing.

I’ve worked in my current school district (where I reside, too) for a very long time. I’m sure other children have passed away during my stretch-in-progress, but any who may have weren’t my students, so I wasn’t aware. In the past fifteen months, five have gone on to become angels. Four of those five were mine in some shape or form.

Makes me sad.

Makes me think.

Teaches me to see this particular population of earthly angels in a completely new way.

Thank you for taking time to read this.

Joanna

Finally! That New Series I Promised: Discipline V. Control

Discipline or Control?

I’m dedicating this one to my sweet friend Indi—from whose wisdom I gain so much, and who was kind enough to let me know she’d be looking forward to this post! (Has she been patient, too. Little did either of us know a single page of thoughts would morph into…ten?)

Yep. This one will be a series, friends and followers. One that will probably cover a minimum of five posts. Please feel free to chime in as often as you like. All thoughts welcome!

As many of you who read my musings regularly know, my boys are now teens. The older is fifteen, the younger thirteen. On almost any given day you’ll find as few as one and as many as seven of his friends in my home. During Christmas vacation, nine of them dropped in for an early afternoon ‘breakfast.’ One had come in from another state for the holiday, and was staying with a cousin where a total of eleven kids were hanging out for the week. (Two of those guys didn’t want to leave their video games. Off track as usual—sorry! Point is, I get to know these kids, and they start feeling like my own.)

As a mom, I often ask myself Am I raising them right? From the day my guys were born, my biggest struggle has always been finding a balance between disciplining them vs. being controlling. Just maybe, I’m starting to see the fruits of all these years of (frequently) agonizing over which one I am in any given situation that calls for me—or hubby—to step in and exercise parental authority.

Please bear with me through this disjointed trip, set to be delivered in a minuimum of five posts. (I know I get long-winded. Being someone who gets excited when I happen onto a short post elsewhere, I’m trying to do the same in my own blog home. And yes, seems I’ve fallen short again…)

Let’s start with definitions.

According to Dictionary.com, discipline has several definitions; among those training, punishment and instruction to a disciple (i.e., student).

Control, on the other hand, is to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command. (This one can give me the heebie-jeebies when I see it in action, or how its negative effects can manifest themselves.)

Real-life story illustration: On the Saturday before Christmas, we’d just gotten home around 8:30 PM from a get together at my sister’s-in-law. Within the hour, I’m hearing kids’ voices outside calling out to my older son. I figured they were coming from another friend’s, who lives three doors down from me. They came in for a minute then headed back out.

One of the girls often complains about how strict her parents are, especially her father. After they left, hubby asked if that particular dad knew his daughter was out walking around at that hour. I had no clue.

Didn’t think much about it until the next day, when one of those who was out the night before was over with her mom, and I made mention of my husband’s comment. This girl’s mom went off a bit on her daughter, after she realized her daughter and the other friends wandering around the night before had essentially been stranded at a neighborhood restaurant (which amounts to a 25-30-minute walk from my house). Sounds like a disagreement between the kids at the restaurant resulted in their ride being cancelled by the boy whose dad was supposed to provide it.

My immediate thought was: my kids would never have thought twice about calling me to pick them up. The girl whose father is strict may have been afraid to call. My son’s ‘girlfriend’ stated, “We didn’t want to bother you,” and the boy with them rarely asks for a ride from his parents. (His stepdad watches his toddler brother and his mother works on Saturday nights. His father lives about a half-hour away.)

The situation made me feel really good about my relationship with my kids so far. When they were really small, I found it very tough and often terribly frustrating to manage (a.k.a. control)  busy boy behaviors. Seems like then it was all about them getting to do what I wanted or expected, and I often felt resentful those times they did not. (Sometimes I still feel that way, lol.)

Too many times, I grappled with whether I was being permissive or letting them make choices out of respect for them as people, especially after I’d set a boundary then found myself discussing/negotiating it (a supposed no-no in the way of effective parenting, or so I’ve heard here and there).  Maybe what appeared to be negotiating then was my way of thinking aloud and making sense of the process as I lived it. (I still do that and my poor kids have to listen to it, lol. Good thing that older one is patient!)

Respect for my children—and for children and teens in general—is something that helps guide me in this process. We’ll talk more about this in the subsequent post. In the meantime, please go ahead and add your thoughts and experiences on this subject. Not an easy one, but one that is manageable with a shift in mindset.

One final request: if you like what you read here, would you kindly take a second and click the  Facebook, Twitter or any of the share buttons below? Reblogging is nice too, and helps get word out to others in cyberspace. By working together, we can each get our content and our names out to that many more people. As always, I thank you!

Until next time,

Joanna