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Posts tagged ‘home’

Spread Thin

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I would have written this post days ago were it not for Ruzzle, that addictive word game that has become my go-to mental break.

Work was on fire the past two weeks. I gave away hours of personal and family time in the evenings and weekends to keep up with the demands. I went to bed exhausted and woke up groggy and still exhausted.

Mae went back to therapy and social skills training last week, after a break of over one year. Overall, the school year has been great compared to past years. This is still a critical time. She’s made some friends and she seems to have a lot of fun with them . . . until someone doesn’t want to play tag. Then, the crying begins and then the teasing about the crying begins. Last week, she decided to give an upper cut to some boy who wouldn’t stop mocking her crying. She told me that night that no one likes or wants her anymore because they won’t play tag with her.

It’s the self-degradation and the hitting that worry me. I’m afraid that her classmates will stop wanting to play with her at all because of how she reacts when they want to do something other than what she wants to do.

So, we’re continuing to work on how to play what others are playing or learn to move on and play with someone else, and how to handle disappointments and disagreements.

Before tonight’s appointment, Mae said, “Today is a perfect day to go to Dr. [M]. I have a bunch of stuff to talk about. Last time, she did most of the talking. This time, I think I should do most of the talking.” And talked, she did.

I was unsure that more one-on-one therapy would be beneficial, but I’m glad we went. I think it’s good in the long run that Mae has a practice of going to safe places and people when something is troubling her. Unfortunately, we have a scheduling issue. Our choices now are 5 pm or 8 pm appointments. So, we’ll have to postpone more sessions until the therapist has different openings or I can change my work schedule.

Mae thinks social skills training is fun because she gets to play with other kids. The group meets on Saturday mornings, so the scheduling is working for us right now. She is the only girl in the group, which sucks. She seems to have more trouble playing with girls, and I was hoping for some practice in that area.

In better news, Mae and I had an awesome time for her birthday in NYC. It was a fun-packed two days. We got to do everything on our list and we made a new list of things to do on the next trip. We’ve already made a photo book, which is a birthday tradition, for the trip. She asked to add the captions this time, which took some letting go on my part. I had to tell myself, “She’s nine. Let her tell her story in her own words (and edit it before ordering :))”.

I started a 4-week cake decorating class. I didn’t do too bad on my first cake. The kids recognized it right away as an Angry Bird, and that’s all the validation I need. I thought it was much better than the “my family” foursome of mini cakes I made for Mae’s birthday. I thought Jay should have been easily recognizable with his two missing teeth and Mohawk. Hubby said that his cake should have had hair although he doesn’t wear any in real life. Oh well, I’m learning.

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She’s 9. This Changes Everything.

20130325-213045.jpgIt’s not often that I feel my age. Having “young children” has helped tremendously. But, as Mae and Jay become older and more independent, especially Mae, I feel my “young parent” vibe slipping away.

Mae turned 9 today.  I gave her a bathrobe and a book about girls’ bodies for her birthday.  She requested a robe because she’s now self-conscious about leaving the bathroom undressed after a shower or bath.  I told her that the book will serve as a reference as she notices changes in her body.  We talked about menses and what she should expect when her cycle begins.  It wasn’t my intention, but I freaked her out a little.  She imagined walking through the school hallway leaving a trail of blood behind her and kids slipping in the blood.  She said, “Mom, you’re scaring me!”  Heck, it’s scary for me, too!  In a different way.  I assured her that all of this stuff is normal and there are lots of women at her school who can help her.

Last week, my mom sent Mae two birthday outfits that I thought were a little mature, including a pair of jeans with studs down the side of the legs and another with bold, glittery swirls down the side. Mae loved the outfits. She told me that she would wear one to skate night because she most definitely could not wear her school uniform. She used to care so little about clothes (other than refusing adamantly to wear dresses and skirts).

I’ve avoided certain styles (curse skinny jeans!) because I think children should dress and look like children, not mini adults. But, I said nothing about the new clothes, just looked and listened helplessly.  Hubby takes her side on this issue, putting me in the minority. He’s the one who took her and Jay skating and she told him she wants to begin buying her own clothes. He told me that she’s not a little girl anymore and her clothing and hair should reflect as much. Today, he gave her a Target gift card for her birthday and told her she could go clothes shopping.  I guess she can’t wear jeans with embroidered butterflies and flowers forever.

I knew this phase was coming and something about this number 9 makes it more real for me.  There are nothing but double digits after this and more stuff to get scared about.  Waaaa!

Life after Kids

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I filleted a fish for the first time! It was a lot easier than I expected.

I have a friend who is four months pregnant with her first child. She’s past whatever is that golden age for pregnancy, meaning increased risk for complications for her and the baby. I called her today to see how things are going (well, thank goodness). When I called her, I was on my way home from a cooking class and I told her that I plan to use what I’d learned when I next host supper club. She started lamenting that she’ll “never get a chance to do stuff like that.” I asked, “Stuff like what?” She said take a cooking class or be in a supper club. She asked herself out loud why she and her husband had started so late.

What a funny thought. I reminded her that I started supper club after I became a mother. And I told her this was my first cooking class ever. Heck, I didn’t even take home ec in high school.

Mind you, my friend tends toward the melodramatic plus her hormones are out of wack.  Still, I felt very lucky all of a sudden while I was talking to her. There I was giving her a pep talk about how she’ll be able to do fun stuff after the baby comes, maybe not right away but eventually.

I reached out to friends about starting a supper club when my second was still an infant, precisely because I wanted to have a life beyond wife, milk bag, diaper changer, booger picker, etc. I’m having that life. Of course, I don’t get to have or do everything I want, but I have some plans, some goals, some dreams. Some are frivolous, some not. Maybe I’ll accomplish all of them, maybe not.

One thing is for sure: Talking to Preggers was a good reminder that it’s my responsibility for making myself a full, rich life.

Coming soon, a cake decorating class.

Fade to Black

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As 2012 fades to black, I think back on how blessed we have been this year and in previous years. Life hasn’t been perfect or stress-free. All-in-all, though, it’s been darn good.

I had a glorious time in SC with my immediate and extended families during our short winter vacation. We had a Christmas party on the Saturday before the holiday. The food was good, the games were fun, and spirits were high. One of the things I love most about my big (my mother is one of eleven), crazy family is that we manage to consistently have a genuinely good time, without the drama that is typically associated with big gatherings and without the help of alcohol (LOL).

Mae and Jay got to see all of their first cousins. They played well together, and I’m especially proud of Mae. I think she managed to avoid falling out with her big cousin, who is just 9 months older, even once. Usually, Mae whines or has a meltdown about not being able to play with her cousin’s things or something along those lines. No meltdowns at all on the trip. Growth is a beautiful thing, and she’s been doing plenty of it physically and otherwise.  Lately, she’s been asking questions on topics like periods and the N-word.  She’s becoming less and less of a “little girl,” a term she now detests.

Last week, Mae told me that she wonders if she should tell her friends that she has Asperger’s.  She said, “I don’t know what they’ll think of me.”  I told Mae that she can tell her friends if she feels comfortable, and that it’s more important to focus on what she wants her friends to understand about her and show them who she is without using a label.  I told her that the doctor said she’s barely on the spectrum, so Asperger’s may not be the best way to explain who she is.   Her question is an interesting question given recent media coverage of Asperger’s in relation to the Newtown tragedy.  Mae is aware of the tragedy because her school principal made an announcement the next school day.  She’s unaware of the media coverage and how some have attributed the shooter’s behavior to Asperger’s.  We’re not much of a news-watching household, and that’s a good thing.

After we returned home from SC, we buckled down to Mae’s homework.  She actually completed some of it while we were in SC, bless her heart, with little resistance. She has had so much homework over the past few weeks, more than I could have ever imagined for a 3rd grader.  We spent hours each day last Thursday through Sunday working on a book about the planets. There is a required 15-page minimum with limited use of illustrations, which Mae had to create herself. (Thank you, Microsoft, for Insert>Shapes.)

Last night, as Mae put the finishing touches on the book,  she told me that she enjoyed working on it, that she had looked forward to it.  She’s really had a good attitude about this homework business.  Hubby and I have been the ones grumbling for weeks.  I’ve been trying to think of a way to complain to the school, but I don’t know if it’s me or them that’s being unreasonable.  I wanted an accelerated and advanced curriculum, so maybe I should keep my mouth shut. What I didn’t know was that we’d be trading loads of personal time and family time, weekends and holidays included.

Mae worked so hard on her planets book and still needs to make progress on her science fair project, so much so that I can’t even bring myself to ask her to write thank-you notes for Christmas gifts.  That’s normally one of our projects over the winter break.  I may saddle Jay with writing for both of them, if I can get him to be still long enough. He has been a ball of energy, literally running in circles around the house, for no apparent reason.  He’ll go round and round the kitchen table.  He’s in constant motion, still at five and a half.  I don’t remember his sister being this way.

Yesterday, I surprised him when I told him that I like candy cereal too, but I don’t eat it.   He said, slowly, “That’s strange.”  Then, he added, “If you like something, you should just eat it.”  Oh, my dear boy, I have fillings in the double digits and a pouch to prove that I have done plenty of that.

I’ve got to work on my “just eat it” problem in 2013.  I’m not big on resolutions, but I do need to create a new exercise plan and cut back on sugar.  This year was not good for me in terms of healthy living.  I tried to eat healthy (though the green smoothie project didn’t work for me; I decided that eating should involve chewing.  I like chewing.) and exercise (I quit yoga after one session because one full hour of yoga is just too much).  I got off track, mostly due to exhaustion in the evenings from hard, long days at the job I started in March, and then curtailing weeknight gym visits to help with homework in the evenings.  On too many evenings, I ate salty or sweet snacks for dinner instead of a proper meal.

Despite exercising less and eating more than I should have, I’m ending 2012 with a pat on the back for myself.  I’ve already ordered our photo album for 2012, a year’s worth of pictures bound in a hard cover book.   It’s an annual project that I sometimes don’t get to until the spring.  And, I’ve ordered our Happy New Year photo cards to send to family and friends.  I think our 2012 cards went out in February last year.  I feel like I was more organized in 2012.  Also, I spent more time with the kids, making more of an effort to do fun stuff on the weekends whenever we could.  House and yardwork suffered, but I have no regrets about that.

So, I’m good.  We’re good.  2013 will be good.

Swayed by Feng Shui

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Mae came to me this evening with her National Geographic Kids Almanac 2013 in hand, all serious, as usual. “Mom, mom. I need you to help me move the furniture around in my room.”

My first thought, probably before she finished speaking was, “No.”

I asked “Why?”

Mae showed me the page she was reading.  Across the top:  “How to Feng Shui Your Room.”  I asked why she wanted to Feng Shui her room.  Mae pointed to and read aloud the opening words of the article, “Want to make more friends? Get better grades?”  She said, “Only 3 of my friends are in my class and I want 5.”

Alrighty then.  I told Mae that 3 is a good number of friends and I pointed out a disclaimer in tiny print in a box on the page: “If Feng Shui doesn’t work for you, that’s ok. This story is just for fun.”  I have to intently manage this one’s expectations.

Years ago, when I first heard of Feng Shui, I gave a “whatever” shrug and went on with my life.  But, I wanted to be open-minded and supportive.  So, while Mae took her shower, I started working on the 12 suggestions in the article.  It was simpler than I expected and we had most of the materials needed.

I took a mobile from the kids’ play room and hung it from Mae’s bedroom ceiling.  One of the kids’ aunties brought it for them from India.  Mae believes that “it’s magic,” and the magazine says that a mobile keeps positive chi moving.

I hung a jingle bell on each side of her door knob, which gives positive thoughts and inspire good luck and happiness.  Putting the bells to use helped me feel less guilty about having put them in the garage a few hours before.  The bells came with a holiday decoration kit that I tried to use as little as possible of when the kids and I dressed our little Christmas tree today.  They wanted to put on it every shiny bauble within reach.  I sneaked things back into the box when they weren’t looking because I swear there is a fine line between tasteful and tacky when it comes to Christmas decorations.

Mae has a bulletin board where some pictures of her and former classmates were pinned.  I added a picture of Jay and arranged the photos into a triangle.  This may help her get along better with family and friends.  Threes and triangles are important in Feng Shui.  I wonder if I should find a picture of me and Hubby and substitute it for one of the pictures of her friends?  From her perspective, Mae would probably say that the relationships with her friends are more important.  She had a tough day last Wednesday because she’d gotten into a pushing match with her friend-non-friend Gigi, a girl who seems to not like Mae and still insists on being around her.  It’s a strange relationship.  Even Mae said last week, “I kind of like not liking her.”  Go figure.

Fortunately, Mae’s bookcase is already to the left of her door (for better grades) and her bed is against her wall and gives her a clear view of her door (for better sleep).  So, we didn’t need to move any furniture after all.

I added two pillows to the one on Mae’s bed plus a stuffed monkey, the animal of her birth-year according to the Chinese zodiac.  These might bring more fun with friends and extra luck, respectively.  Mae has a cactus plant that I moved from the play room to the desk in her bedroom; which might bring more time with family and friends.

The article said that a quartz crystal on her desk can help with concentration, which Mae sure could use.  We don’t have a quartz crystal in the house, but my sister has one at her place.  I called her and she promised to bring it by tomorrow.

We don’t have a light green or purple bowl, which could help Mae save money if she puts a coin in a bowl as she leaves or enters her room.  And I’m going to risk not moving her bulletin board to the wall opposite her door, which could help generate positive thoughts as she enters the room.  We’ll take our chances on those two because they would require too much effort.

Mae handled the last item from the list on her own.  She drew a picture of something she wished for and placed it under her pillow to make the wish come true.  I fully expected her to hold up a drawing of, perhaps, her and a friend holding hands.  Instead, it was a picture of a book.  With Feng Shui written across the cover.  She wants a book on Feng Shui.

Dang it.  This is worse than Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy combined.  If I get the book it means Feng Shui works, or at least it says something about the power of positive thinking.  But then, she’ll come up with all kinds of new Feng Shui ideas and maybe even turn this whole house upside down.  Or, she might start putting slips of paper under her pillow every night for ever more ambitious stuff.

What now?

Toughen Up

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Jay gave his sister a big hug after she received her belt and certificate.

Mae tested for her first belt in Tae Kwon Do this week. She was so proud of herself for passing. I am too.

It was a bit scary to watch.  The instructors are hard on the kids.  As the students sat waiting for the testing to begin, the Master Teacher called out some students by name to ask where were their parents.  One little girl, maybe six years old, said, “I think my mom and dad forgot or maybe they’re at work.” Why make children answer for their parents?  The kids had probably already noticed that their parents were missing from the audience and felt some kind of way about it.

Then, one little boy didn’t break a board with his foot after a few tries. Master.Teacher.was.not.happy. He told the kid to get serious and take the smile off of his face. The smile was probably more from nerves than playfulness. The boy still didn’t break the board after a few more tries. Master Teacher told him he’d failed the test, made him do 50 push ups, and sent him to the side! The boy started to cry. Master Teacher asked him his age, and he said six. Master Teacher told him that he’s not a baby anymore. What does a six-year-old do when he’s told to stop crying? Cry some more.  At the end, the little guy was given another chance and he chopped the board and earned his belt and got a mini-lecture from Master Teacher.

An older kid was not so lucky and he failed his test, even after Master Teacher gave him a final try at the end. As a teenager, he cried as hard as the six-year-old.  I can imagine that if my child had failed, we probably would have needed a straight jacket and a stretcher.

I didn’t grow up in a sports or martial arts family, nor a Tiger Mom or military family or any of the environments where discipline and competition thicken the skin.  I’m learning that that makes me quite a wuss when it comes to watching my kids participate in activities that involve physical contact and competition. Tonight, when I picked up Mae, there were kids sparring and – my goodness! – they were kicking and hitting each other HARD. I thought they were supposed to just sort of simulate martial arts.

Soccer season has ended and that wasn’t so bad because at the kindergarten level, the emphasis was on having fun and learning the rules and skills of the game. Jay really enjoyed himself.

Mae is lukewarm about fencing and doesn’t want to continue beyond this beginner’s class. (I’m somewhat relieved because I lost interest in it after the first lesson I watched.) She says she wants to do more Tae Kwon Do instead.  I’ll have to work on my ability to watch without wincing and learn how to handle failing or losing, if it comes to that.

Hubby, of course, is like, “ah, no big deal.  It’s life.”  Except, he quickly backtracked this week on canceling our Netflix subscription.  Mae and Jay are hooked on the service for their favorite TV shows.  When Hubby told me last night that he’d canceled, I said, “I don’t want to be in the house when you tell the kids.”  This morning, he told me that he re-activated the service after I went to bed.  We both laughed.  So, he’s not so tough all the time either.

The Next 20 Years

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Yesterday was my 41st birthday. I wanted so badly to stay in bed, but I’ve been trying to take the kids to Dharma on a regular basis, every other Sunday, so that they develop a spiritual foundation and practice. The Dharma lessons emphasize kindness, compassion, sharing and other principles that decent human beings follow. The kids get to practice being still and mindful, and it’s another opportunity for Mae to practice social skills.

So, I made myself get up and we got ourselves to Dharma. Lo and behold, the lesson for adults, who study in a separate room, was making life more meaningful by developing a spiritual practice and doing so right now.

To paraphrase, the Teacher said that we spend the first 20 years of life having fun. It’s the rare individual who is focused on building a spiritual life in their first 20 years. Then, we spend the next 20 years building a family and career and say that we don’t have time for a spiritual life. We tell ourselves that we’ll make time later.

Now, there were people in that room who looked to be well under and well over 40. It seemed that the lesson was for me. That’s what I’d been doing . . . waiting until I have more time . . . time to fix up our piddly home shrine; meditate at home with the kids, which we hadn’t done in months; become a dues-paying member of the meditation center; and volunteer in the community on a regular basis.

The Teacher said listening to and reading Dharma are important and necessary; however, there is no substitute for practice. No substitute for regular meditation and engaging in activities that make us beneficial to others. She said helping family doesn’t count. Animals take care of their families, and if we limit our “benefiting others” to family, we’re not much better than animals. Ouch. Our lives are more meaningful when we consciously behave in a way that benefits our community and the world.

As the Teacher said, worldly activities never cease and everybody is busy. The next 20 years could pass and then we’d look back and ask, “What happened?” She said of the present, “You either make time or you don’t.”

As we walked away from the center, I told the kids that we’re going to work on making our lives more meaningful and beneficial to others. Before I could say how we can do so, Jay asked why we haven’t meditated at our shrine in a long time. I told him we’d start there.

As I begin my next 20 years, I know what I want to do and why and how. I know what I want my kids to see and learn. I just have to do it. Starting now.

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