Apr 21 2014

{GHF Blog Hop} Holistic medicine and my 2e kid

Holistic medicine and my 2e kidI almost hesitate to write this, even though it’s the perfect post for today’s GHF Blog Hop on health and wellness with gifted kids. As a lifelong Cubs fan, I have a healthy dose of superstition topped with hard-won experience a la mode. It tastes like an old shoe, the one ready to drop. I’m sure you know that flavor. It’s not one you’re going to find at the local ice cream shop.

A turned 13 last week, and with that milestone Tom and I officially hit nine years of “what the hell?” When he was four we started down that rocky road of “What the hell?” as we tried to figure out…anything. Why the intense meltdowns? Why didn’t he sleep? Why does he have such stomach problems? Why was he always on the move? Why did he fight transitions so intensely? Why did he require such immense detail for bedtime stories about the solar system? Why did it always feel like I was talking through static to get to him? Was it normal that he never asked “why?” but “how’s it work?” instead? Was it normal that he totally understood plate tectonics in preschool? Was it normal that he solved a brand new floor puzzle in 15 minutes? With the image facing the floor? When he was three? Why can’t the school help him? Why isn’t he gaining weight and growing? Why is he nothing like any other kid his age? Why why why?

“What the hell?

It’s been a very long nine years.

When I do talks and roundtables about twice-exceptional kids, the conversation nearly always shifts to what we can do to help our G2e kids. And it hits me hard every single time when I recount what we’ve done to help A. You name it, we probably did it. Gifted evaluation, occupational therapy, vision therapy, listening therapy, therapy therapy, homeopathy, chiropractic, ear filter for central auditory processing disorder, tutors, sleep studies, tonsillectomy, weighted blankets and lap pads, dietary changes, several different ADHD medications, the IEP evaluation from hell that we eventually halted, four different GI specialists, an endocrinologist, many sucky tests in hospitals, and finally homeschooling. The partridge in a pear tree has been on backorder forever.

Rarely any answers, rarely any lasting improvements. Too many evaluations with the final result of “there’s something going on, but we can’t figure it out because it doesn’t really fit into any of our boxes, so good luck.” And always the whispering mom gut feeling that all of it was connected in some way, that there was nothing really “wrong” with him per se, but that something was off with his sensitive system and if we could find…it? something? the Golden Ticket?…then he would heal, everything would fall into place, and he would be the “him” I could feel was in there trying to break out and shine. This whole time being cried at, “Quit trying to fix me! I’m not broken! I like the way I am!”

The strain of it all has not done us any favors. My stress has been pinned in the red zone for so long that it started to seem normal to be juuuust on the edge of an anxiety attack every day. Always waiting for the next disaster, for the next problem, for the hidden and scary and expensive. I’m sure you can imagine just how awesome I am to live with at that level of high-alert.

But things may have turned a corner.

In January I started a new part time job at a holistic health care center. I love my job and the people I work with. Everything is focused on helping people become their best selves. It is a place of peace, of hope, of healing.

Two months ago I started taking A there, after yet another round of expensive tests once again ended with the result of “there’s something going on, but we can’t figure it out because it doesn’t really fit into any of our boxes, so good luck.” (This is eerily similar to my journey to the acupuncturist six years ago; after western medicine said there was nothing wrong with me that healthy food and a good sleep couldn’t cure, acupuncture brought me back from the adrenal fatigue dead). He’s been working with my boss, a skilled chiropractor/holistic physician who also does energy work.

Believing that I live in a benevolent and supportive universe I will now say it, and know that the other shoe won’t drop.

A’s improvement has been nothing short of stunning. Jaw-dropping. Tom and I look at each other every single day in amazement, afraid to speak of it aloud.

This is a child who didn’t gain a single damn pound in four years. Not one, in four long years. Want to know helpless fear? Watch your tween be outgrown by not only his peers, but his three years younger brother, and doctors didn’t know why. He fell off the weight segment of the growth chart two years ago. Not long after he started working with my boss he had two long-scheduled doctors appointments a week apart; he had gained three pounds in a week.

He is calmer, he is more centered. We took him off his ADHD medications, and have seen no increase in hyperactivity or inattention. He is more engaging, he is more present. He is more relaxed, he is more flexible. He is more affectionate, he is more considerate. On Friday morning we drove to Iowa for Easter; before we left he stumbled into my bedroom apologizing because he thought his slowness was preventing us from leaving on time. He hadn’t slept well the night before and was dragging hard. Recognizing that his behavior and/or reactions were affecting others? That is big, just huge. His sense of humor is through the roof, even when the humor is directed at him; he’s able to laugh at himself better, and play along more. His posture has improved; instead of being hunched into himself, as though he was trying to hide, he is standing more confidently, and occasionally asks if he’s standing up straight. He has taken ownership of his diet, and is strictly following the dietary recommendations of the doctor: no gluten, no dairy, no corn, very very low refined sugar, lots of water. At a recent maker event, he went to the guy leading it, asked a few more questions, then shook his hand and thanked him for his time.

He is more himself than he ever has been.

My parents and brother cannot believe the transformation, and have commented on it several times recently. It’s as though a clouded window has had a corner scrubbed clean and suddenly some light has escaped to shine on everyone, including A himself. When the entire window is sparkling and transparent? That kid is going to blind us all with the light that has been struggling so long and so hard to escape.

The last few weeks Tom and I have started to feel ourselves relax. Just a little; it took 13 years to get to this point, it’s going to take awhile to bring it all the way down. But I’ll tell you…we’re enjoying parenting a lot more lately. Our challenging kid is suddenly fun.

I don’t know what the tipping point was, I really don’t. I just know that by mid-February we had tried everything and were getting nowhere fast. I strongly believe that my kid, with his particular set of issues, desperately needed the kind of holistic medicine and energy work he is getting now. A is doing so well that I’m starting to feel more hopeful about his future, for the first time maybe ever. He still has a long ways to go, mainly because he was being held back by his own system for so long, but he is improving daily.

I know I may get skeptical comments about holistic medicine and energy work, but I don’t give a damn. You don’t have to understand it or believe it, but I have seen the results with my son…and with myself…and with Tom…and I am so very grateful. It works for us.

Eighteen months ago I wrote about my deep passion for finding a rainbow-farting unicorn:

For me, a rainbow-farting unicorn is a fluid metaphor for what I want and need for twice-exceptional kids. Things like societal recognition and acceptance (this includes the education system), accommodations for challenges in addition to deeper work for the intelligence, and (ohhh, the Holy Grail) a 2e kid with executive function skills that, you know, function. Things like that. Things that, if they suddenly appeared, would ride in on the back of a large unicorn, followed by a glittery rainbow emanating from the hindquarters of the aforementioned mythical creature. Just because I haven’t seen any of these with my own eyes doesn’t mean they don’t exist, so I continue to believe in rainbow-farting unicorns and can’t wait to see one of my own.

I still don’t have my rainbow-farting unicorn, and may likely never have one. Today I’m more okay with that than I ever have been. But I will tell you, for the first time, I smell glitter.

It smells a lot like hope.

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10247459_10153120318643475_5264957476469534633_nToday’s post was part of April’s Gifted Homeschoolers Forum blog hop, on the topic of health and wellness in gifted and twice-exceptional children. Please go check out other blog hop participants!

Apr 14 2014

And suddenly…13

and suddenly...13“OH MY GOD THERE’S A TEENAGER IN THE HOUSE!”

Is how I was awakened on my birthday in 1986.

Hang on, there’s something I have to go do at the top of my lungs. BRB…

A is 13 today, a day he has quite literally been counting down to for 18 months. I swear, the first thing he’s probably going to do is join Twitter so he can follow Neil deGrasse Tyson. I am not kidding. He’s like that kid in The Breakfast Club, owning a fake ID so he can vote. Joining Twitter and Facebook so he can follow astrophysicists and share pictures of cats. Note to self: figure out how to hide Facebook statuses so he can’t see them. Kid doesn’t need to see mom being a smartass all of the time, he gets enough of that at home. 

I’m struggling with this, much more than I thought I would, in ways I didn’t expect. How the hell do I have a teenager? Aren’t I still in my teens myself? When did this happen? Isn’t it still 1990 (which, by the way, was only a decade ago, right)? And didn’t I just start this blog, when he was not-quite-five?

These are the days of our lives, sunrise sunset, la-la how the life goes on.

Part of why I’m struggling so is that I feel that he just left the Terrible Twos a year ago; it’s like we missed an entire life stage. From age 15 months to 12 years parenting him was one circle of hell struggle after another. Thanks 2e, you so awesome <sarcasm font>! I may joke that it’s a miracle he’s not an only child, or that he’s lucky I let him live to see age five, or that he threw us into advanced parenting and skipped the pre-req, but in every bit of humor is more than a nugget of truth. It’s been a rough baker’s dozen of years. While I have friends with 2e boys who swear that things evened out and got easier once the teen years hit, I won’t believe it till I live it. I look behind me and see a haggard landscape, littered with blast zones and still smoking in spots, amazed that hardy flowers still grow and thrive, a zigzagging path from the horizon to where I stand now. I look ahead and see fresh, fragrant, wide open spaces full of possibilities and pray that the hidden mines (and they are there, I guarandamntee it) are smaller and less damaging than those we encountered in the past. If nothing else, our experience has given us more tools and thicker skin than others who have not walked this path. That said, I think Tom and I have earned an easy adolescence with this kid; we’ve paid our dues several times over.

I’m curious and excited to see where the next decade will go. Ten years after that early morning wakeup shout in 1986 I was a newlywed. Where will A be in ten years? What will he be doing and who will he be? Will he (and we) be scarred from the teen years or stronger because of them? Will I be writing a “how the hell am I a mother of the groom?” post? <need.paper.bag.hyperventilating.>

Happy birthday, A. I think your best years are ahead, and I am so honored to hike this zigzagging path alongside you. You are an amazing young man and I can’t believe you’re ours. You’re going to do great things, kid, even though it’s hard for so many to see now.

Just…dude…

No adolescent blast zones. That’s all I ask. Have pity on me.

Love you A, all that you are.

Mar 27 2014

Is your kid dedicated or obsessed?

Is your kid dedicated or obsessedTwo students. Two similar scenarios.

Student one: Young, talented musician. Plays the cello, piano, and oboe. Listens to music constantly, on the radio, streamed on the internet, live. Composes in every clef with ease. Is homeschooled so has the flexible schedule to dive deep into the musical interest of the moment. Can create beauty from nothing. Doesn’t play in many ensembles but is open to it and probably will in the future. Talks music incessantly to anyone who will listen (or masks the glazed eyes well). Has in-depth conversations with adult musicians, not only impressing them with knowledge but with the eagerness to learn more from them. Needs to be guided and mentored, but not necessarily taught. Easily spends hours attached to an instrument, to the point of ignoring everything else in life, including eating, sleeping, and physical activity. Reads and rereads books and magazines and websites about music and composition and performance. Has musical heroes, both dead and alive. Geeks out over musical progressions, new compositions, the Picardy Third. For gifts, nothing makes this young person happier than receiving music, instruments, concert tickets, and new musical experiences. Music is this young student’s life and passion.

Student two: Young, talented tech innovator. Can work with ease in Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Follows advances in technology through podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs. Programs in several languages with ease. Is homeschooled so has the flexible schedule to dive deep into the tech interest of the moment. Can rebuild a computer from nothing. Isn’t involved in any robotics clubs or programming meetups but is open to it and probably will in the future. Talks tech incessantly to anyone who will listen (or masks the glazed eyes well). Has in-depth conversations with adult programmers and white hat hackers, not only impressing them with knowledge but with the eagerness to learn more from them. Needs to be guided and mentored, but not necessarily taught. Easily spends hours attached to a computer, to the point of ignoring everything else in life, including eating, sleeping, and physical activity. Reads and rereads books and magazines and websites about tech and electronics and programming. Has tech heroes, both dead and alive. Geeks out over tech advances, new inventions, Pi. For gifts, nothing makes this young person happier than receiving geek T-shirts, computer components, online memberships, and new maker experiences. Tech is this young student’s life and passion.

Which one is the dedicated student of the craft, and which one is obsessed?

When you see a young student of 12 or 13 spending hours upon hours on their passion of choice, what do you see?

Do you see a child driven to express oneself musically?

Do you see a child addicted to technology?

Do you see the double standard?

Mar 19 2014

Momastery, yours is an incomplete truth

Momastery Incomplete TruthSeveral hundred years ago, the truth was that the Earth was the center of the universe. Society knew this, it was the truth.

When I was a child, the truth was that Pluto was a planet. Society knew this, it was the truth.

Today, the truth is that every child is gifted, just waiting to open his or her packages. Society knows this, it is a load of horse shit.

I have seen at least two “all kids are gifted” posts in the last ten days. Both of them have aimed to cut down the tall poppies. Every child is gifted. No, every child is most certainly not gifted.

Let me spell it out very clearly.

 

 

 

EVERY CHILD IS A GIFT.
EVERY CHILD HAS TALENTS.
BUT NOT EVERY CHILD HAS THE NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL WIRING THAT IS THE PRIMARY CHARACTERISTIC OF A GIFTED CHILD.

Linda Silverman, director of the Gifted Development Center in Denver, wrote in her book Giftedness 101:

While all children are a gift to the world, saying “all children are gifted,” robs the term of any meaning. It would be equally absurd to say, “We believe all our children are developmentally disabled.”

and

All children are special, but all children do not qualify for special education. Children who are significantly below the mean intellectually are entitled by law to special provisions. Children who are significantly above the mean intellectually need to be recognized as having special needs, too.

and

“All parents think their children are gifted.” This overworked saw completely discredits parents as a legitimate source of information about their children and it is untrue. It would be unthinkable to be this dismissive to a parent of a disabled child. (emphasis mine)

Dr. Silverman is also a member of The Columbus Group, which defines giftedness thusly:

“Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching, and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” 

Continuing to spread the myth of “every child is gifted” insults and hurts the families of gifted children. It’s that simple. We are the ones doing the heavy lifting with these amazing kids, day in and day out. Momastery’s post today discredits that. With one post she cut down the tall poppies and made our job as parents and advocates harder. For a woman and writer who has made a name for herself on inclusion and love, she threw parents of gifted children under the bus today.

I’m tired of this fight. So, so tired. But, like parenting, I can’t give up and I will not give up. There are too many parents out there who are fighting for their amazing kids, thinking they are alone in their struggles because someone ignorantly told them “we think ALL kids are gifted.” But I burn with frustration every time this comes up, either online or in real life. If you are not raising a gifted child or not intimately familiar with the internal wiring that is giftedness, you do NOT get to define it. Period. Full stop.

I have a twice-exceptional son. Two, probably. And goddamn it is hard. As much as I love my sons for who they are and will always be, as much as I fight for them, as much as advocate and scream to the world for my astonishing boys, I envy parents who do not have gifted children. That is not easy to admit, but it is true. We’re the outliers here, why wouldn’t I envy the norm? I once had the mom of a developmentally disabled son pull me aside and confess that she thought I had it harder than she did. Pretty telling, that.

Glennon, you are wrong. You don’t know what you don’t know. Your truth, such as it is, is incomplete. You say you feel deep down in your bones that every child is gifted, but unless you’ve gotten down on those bones under your desk and sobbed because your child’s inborn, god-given wiring is misunderstood and shunned by teachers, peers, and society, you do not know what gifted is. You do not get to define it. Your post today hurt mothers, mothers who are fighting for the souls of their children against a world that believes that “every child is gifted and therefore yours needs no additional support,” when those children simply have different needs because of their particular wiring and makeup.

I hope your truth changes with time and understanding of what gifted really is. And I hope you tell the world when it does.

 

Mar 17 2014

{GHF Blog Hop} No one told me I’d need these five things to homeschool a twice-exceptional teenager

{GHF blog hop} Five things to homeschool a G2e teenagerIn under a month I will be the mom of a teenager.

I’m going to sit here and reread that sentence a couple thousand times and use the deep, controlled breathing I last used during childbirth.

In under a month. I. Will be. The mom. Of. A. Teenager.

In…out…in…out…ommmmmmmmm….

In under a month I will be homeschooling a teenager.

Sweetbabyjesusonacircuspony. Screw the breathing, I need a drink. Several. Very stiff. Skip the glass and bring me a straw.

I’m not ready for this. I’m not ready for any of it. I’m still reeling from the last dozen years and in this marathon of parenting and homeschooling a twice-exceptional kid the most difficult miles are still ahead; they’re uphill, into a strong wind, and my shoelaces are tied together. I know it can be done and I know it has to be done, but damn…how?

So I’ve been brainstorming to figure out what I need to homeschool the next handful of years and exit the other side with some measure of sanity and self-esteem still intact. Never mind the fact that I really don’t have much sanity and self-esteem now.

1. I need an assistant. Call the person an intern, a minion, my life-manager, whatever. Am I actually going to get one? No, but I need one. I need an intern to help me manage the minutiae of my life. Job responsibilities include, but are not limited to: filing the stack of papers on my desk that is plotting a violent coup; endlessly researching curriculum for a visual-spatial twice-exceptional tech wizard with ADHD; interviewing contractors for housing repairs; planning (and preparing!) meals for a family of four that has one gluten-free adult who is convinced zucchini once tried to kill her, one picky child, one gluten/dairy/corn-free teen, and one adult who will eat almost anything; staying on top of the papers that come home from the school for the 4th grader; cleaning my house so the health department doesn’t pay a surprise visit and arrest me for child endangerment. I can pay internship wages (um, nothing), but the experience is worth it, right? I’m sure it’ll also convince any personal assistant to be her neighborhood’s crazy cat lady rather than procreate.

2. Thick, thick, thick skin. You know how when you bring a baby home from the hospital, they’re all nice and light and easy to carry? And as they get heavier you get stronger? I’ve long thought that raising a G2e kid is like that, but on the psyche. I can deal with crap now that would have knocked me on my ass several years ago. It’s almost like developing a callous on your emotions. It’s not that you are callous, you just have a higher tolerance for certain things. You have to start over and develop new callouses when you start homeschooling; I wasn’t prepared for that. So my emotions and psyche are a little tender and raw at times. Lather, rinse, repeat.

3. An enormous sense of humor and an utter lack of embarrassment. Look, I knew there would be The Talk and continuing sex ed that I couldn’t hand off to the school, but if my kid makes another crack about my his parents’ sex life… I just figured that at this point of his life he’d have buddies to joke with. God help us if/when a young female enters the picture.

4. Backup, support, a net. Whatever. Call it what you will, I’m going to need a lot of help over the next few years. In no particular order: a mentor for A so he has someone to talk tech with/learn from (and so my eyes don’t permanently glaze over); a group or club of some sort for the boys to join where I do not have to stay and they will be there for several hours and it is not a battle to the death of wills to get them out the door to go there (seriously, this is a huge problem and why I am so drained; A has only Boy Scouts and you’d think we were water-boarding him); other families who live close by and have complex, out-of-the-box kids with whom we get along; a community where we are welcomed and don’t feel like “those strange people” for a change; grownup friends for me and Tom (we’d really like to go out with friends once in awhile).

5. A soundproofed room of my own, with a door and a lock. If I’m going to make it through this marathon at a sprint’s pace, I need to embrace my introversion and set up some strong boundaries. While writing this post I asked the boys to leave me alone for 45 minutes to work; I’ve been interrupted no fewer than five times with arguments, questions, attitude, and general crap, so something that should have been a quick fun task became an endless slog of refocusing myself. My desk is in the corner of the living room and no matter how I set things up, it’s just an open invitation to interrupt me. Tom could be standing in the middle of the floor with a sign on him that reads “Nothing to do…open for questions…I’ll pay you to bug me” and the boys would walk around him to get to me. This is why my brain hates everything sometimes.

Bonus needs: unlimited funds, a yearly solo vacation somewhere warm in February (I’m convinced this winter is really trying to kill me), and good quality wine. I ask not much.

The teen years are ahead and I really am worried. They’re rough on the most resilient teenager and the most functional family. I have no idea what’s coming up and how hard it will hit. I know I’ll get through it, I always do, but dang. After the past twelve years I am really hoping for a calmer parenting experience for the next twelve.

One month and there will be a teenager in the house. A homeschooled teenager.

In…out…in…out…ommmmmmmmmm…..

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1488295_10203375701498854_760557203_nThis post is part of March’s Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop. This month’s topic is “Homeschooling (and parenting) Gifted/2e kids into their teens and beyond.” Go check out the other participants!

Mar 10 2014

Get in the parade

get in the paradeWhen I was in middle school, about A’s age, my band director shared a piece of advice that has stayed with me ever since.

“Get in the parade. Don’t let life pass you by.”

It really is a brilliant little tidbit. By keeping it in mind I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone more often than I would have otherwise. It’s how, while in high school, I found myself in the lip-synching finals as the lead “singer” doing Leader of the Pack with some friends. True story. Somewhere there is a video of that, and I have yet to see it twenty-five years later. It’s why I pushed myself into blogging eight years ago, and why I said yes to a book contract and then a second book contract. And it’s why I said a huge YES instead of crawling under my desk last fall when the Huffington Post asked if they could repost something I’d written for a GHF blog hop (however my own Impostor Syndrome has made it impossible for me to write another one for HuffPo, despite the fact that I could and should and eventually will, once I throw the Impostor Syndrome into a sack and “take it to a farm to live out its life.”).

My willingness to get into the parade has also backfired on me.  It’s why I’m overwhelmed every single day, it’s why I can’t allow myself to just sit and read a book, it’s why mindfulness and being present are nearly impossible. I’m in too many parades, I’m leading too many parades, and some of them had better end soon or I’m just going to plop down in the middle of the road and call it done. Cross your fingers I’m ahead of the horses, and not behind.

So while I have a string of parades in my past and several going on right now….A seems to think that getting into a parade would cause irreparable harm; damage to life and limb, so to say. He doesn’t so much have a comfort zone as a comfort planetary system. He marches to the beat of his own drummer, and has for years, so it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise that he’s not all that interested in getting into a parade. There are none that can handle his rhythm and tempo. And if we insist on him getting into a parade, any parade, we end up having to drag him along kicking and screaming.

I think he and I could learn from each other. I don’t need to get into every parade that interests me, and he could surely stretch himself to join one every so often, just because sometimes it’s good to be part of something larger than yourself. I suspect a lot of our current problems would ease if he got involved in something (preferably out of the house, away from me, and around other kids like him) and I pulled out of some of my commitments.

This summer? I’m turning in my shako and handing over my baton; there are a few parades I just can no longer do. I’m going to sit and be mindful instead, and take my sons to the parades that interest them. It’s just time.

I’m not letting life pass me by, I’m just gonna sit awhile and enjoy the sights for a change.

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Yes, that really is me in that photo above, with the ginormous white sunglasses trying to eat my face. And yes, I was a drum major (or, in our band program, student conductor). That picture was taken in 1988, the summer after my freshman year in high school. Our band wasn’t going to march in the town’s 4th of July parade, so a friend and I (with the director’s blessing) organized it ourselves. We got the musicians (including incoming freshmen), we ran the rehearsals, we got the application in, we designed and ordered T-shirts as uniforms (and may I add that this was in the dark days before emails and texts; we did it all by phone, as we were badasses).

I was 14.

Feb 28 2014

Living in the ten day forecast

Tomorrow is March 1, my very favorite day of the year. It’s the furthest I will be from February for an entire twelve months, and even just thinking about it I instantly get a tiny little spring in my step. It’s as though I’ve been freed from the solitary confinement of winter and am being released into the hopeful potential of spring. A loving embrace, if you will.

Not this year.

I’ve worked very hard to stay positive this winter, and for the most part I’ve been successful. Instead of slogging through the days I’ve been able to cope well enough that it shouldn’t take me half the summer to recover. Using spring and summer days to haul your ass out of winter depression is a poor use of spring and summer days. I speak from experience here. But this winter, this endless winter, is doing its damnedest to pull me down.

Trying to muster up a bit of hope I’ve been living in the long term forecast.

It’s not working. Instead of finally seeing a tiny glimmer of hopeful warmth, I see this:

living in the ten day forecast

Dafuq? March? You’re letting me down here! You’re harshing my mellow, stomping on my dreams, peeing in my Cheerios. I know the whole “In Like a Lion, Out Like A Lamb” thing, but let me tell you…if I don’t see a prancing little lamb here pretty damn soon I’m firing up the grill for some lion kabobs. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I do not condone the grilling of The King of Beasts. I also do not have propane for the aforementioned grill, and my entire yard is buried under…well, it’s safe to say that’s no longer snow. It’s some berky fusion of Formerly Known As Light and Fluffy Frozen Precipitation, ice, dirt, pet safe ice-melt, and broken dreams.  And dog poop.

I’m ready to sweat. I want to bitch and moan about the heat index for a change. I gotta know just how much skin this 40 year old mother of two can expose before people go blind and/or call the authorities. I’m itching to beat hell out of mosquitos, fired up to soothe sunburn, and am foaming at the mouth to play the “from what new and socially unacceptable body part and/or crevice will I perspire today?” game.

There are margaritas to consume, toes to paint, animal flesh to grill to perfection (but not lion), cars to drive with the a/c blasting and the windows down. There are gardens to plant, walks to take, outdoor concerts to attend (and perform).

Winter, you’ve had a good run. You’ve made your point, several times over. Trust me, we got it with the first polar vortex, you didn’t need to send it to us twice more. And dropping several inches of snow on us the first weekend of March is just sadistic. WE GET IT:

We get it winter!

Move along now, winter. The southern hemisphere is waiting; I understand they had one hell of a hot summer season and are awaiting you with great glee and open arms. I’d help you pack, but yeah, I don’t like you so please expect to find your shit out on the lawn.

Under this weekend’s fresh blanket of snow.

Feb 21 2014

The Life Organizer and self-care

the life organizerI am no fan of February, not by a long shot. Crap tends to happen to me in that month, from the merely irritating to the sob-producing to the life-altering. March 1 is my favorite day of the year, simply because it is the furthest from February I will be for an entire year. This year, however, I actually made it all the way to yesterday before I hit my limit and had my “eff February and the three-legged horse it hobbled in on may it set itself on fire and run into a fireworks factory” moment. That was twenty days later than previous years, so I call that a win.

Because my word of the year for 2014 is story, I’m more aware now of the importance of self-care and how it affects the story I tell myself about the life I live. I’m not so good at self-care (read: I really, really suck at self-care). The month of February brings that to the fore every year without fail. This year I was offered the chance to read, review, and promote Jennifer Louden‘s The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year, and said yes please thank you. A book on self-care? While I’m focused on improving that in my life? Works for me!

Throughout the book there are stories from women and their experiences with mindfulness and self-care. There was a line in one of those stories that rang so true to me that it was all I could see on the page, and I knew it was the right time for me to hear it. “I can give so much more to the world when I give to myself first.”

Enjoy this excerpt from The Life Organizer. I hope you’re able to find your minimal requirements and add them to your life, just as I’m trying to do. With all the craziness we have in our lives, with complex kids and homeschooling and intensities and one-thing-after-another, we can give so much more when we give to ourselves first.

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Minimum Self-Care Requirements

An Excerpt from The Life Organizer by Jennifer Louden

 Between surviving and leading a fully humming creative life lies the middle ground of determining your minimum requirements for self-care, a duded-up way of saying what you absolutely must have to stay in touch with your center. Basic needs, or minimum requirements, are different for each woman, although getting enough sleep, moving our bodies, eating fresh food, being touched, and connecting to something larger than ourselves show up pretty consistently on women’s lists — but again, not on everybody’s. It can be easy to discount the importance of these basics, because getting enough alone time or napping when you are tired just doesn’t sound as sexy as realizing some fabulous dream. Yet without these basics, the dreams don’t come true, or you can’t sustain them when they do, or, most tragically, it turns out that you are following not your dreams but rather a script about what you should do. But when you reach a certain stage of commitment to yourself, you find that you are willing to give the amount of attention and energy needed to these basics, because without them, it isn’t your life. You discover that you have less leeway to stray from what is essential.

Give yourself time to find your minimum requirements. Allow yourself to notice and adjust them. You may start out with ten things and find that all you really need is to get seven hours of sleep, to remember to breathe and listen, and to touch living things.

Of course, minimum requirements change over time and with your situation. When my dad died, my minimums shrank to taking my vitamins and herbs, drinking water, and taking care of my daughter.

I knew I would reevaluate what I needed after I grieved. The paradox here is your personalized list may be your treasure map home to your center, and sometimes you don’t want or can’t use it. But you can always find where you buried it. As Laraine said to me a few months after attending a Kripalu retreat with me,

Making conscious what makes me feel good helps me recover more quickly from periods when I am denied these basics and helps me not having them because I know when they will resume. The list is a good reminder to eat breakfast on the screened porch looking at the birds rather than in the dark kitchen listening to news on the radio or to reach out to friends for help and in the process find out they need help from me. The daily minimum requirements are a reminder of my strengths and individuality, my right to enjoy life, and the awareness that I am a better person doing what I want. 

By writing down your minimum requirements and then paying attention to your list — perhaps posting it where you can see it — you become aware of what you are already doing to maintain your connection to self. You will also see what trips you up, and you can decide if you want to do anything about it. If you have a fear of self-care — that it will make you a pampered, selfish bitch, for instance — this sort of noticing moves you toward resiliency and taking more responsibility for your life. If you focus only on the big vision or on all you want to do, you can forget the basics; this focus on the ideal can keep you from getting where you want to go or from having enough energy to enjoy it once you get there. Are you resisting declaring minimum requirements out of fear that by not thinking big you limit your life’s purpose? Then you may want to notice how keeping the channel to your wisdom open by tending to your basics beautifully influences your well-being — for the good of all.

 

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rsz_jenniferlouden2_cJennifer Louden helped start the self-care movement with her first best-selling book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s written 5 more books including The Life Organizer, just out in paperback. Visit JenniferLouden.com/lifeorganizer to get your free app and four more super useful gifts.

Excerpted from the new paperback edition of The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year © 2013 by Jennifer Louden. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com

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I was sent a copy of The Life Organizer for review and promotion. I received no other compensation.

Feb 17 2014

Our homeschool motivation is just out of reach…because reasons

homeschool motivationBecause reasons.

Because reasons is now my go-to explanation for when life goes pear-shaped sideways and things don’t get done. It’s shorthand for “I am in so far over my head that it would take a couple hours plus at least one bottle of wine to even give you the backstory and frankly I am sick of myself and any kind of explanation would either sound like whining or pathetically weak excuses and more than likely I had a stress-induced memory brain fart so yeah let’s just go with…because reasons.”

Because reasons is why I have a post for today’s GHF blog hop on staying motivated while homeschooling but am actually not participating in it. Please see the “stress-induced memory brain fart” portion of the above definition. The irony is that Tom and I are in the thick of trying to figure out homeschooling here at the House of Chaos, mainly because motivation is lacking in the main teacher and student. While I’m sure a lot of the motivation dip has to do with the Winter That Just Won’t Quit, there are other issues at play here as well.

We’ve just begun our third year of homeschooling. Year One could have been described as I Can’t Believe We’re Doing This. Year Two’s description was easily WooHoo We’re Actually Doing This! And that leaves Year Three as What The Hell Were We Smoking Thinking We Could Do This? A is struggling with getting lessons done, I’m struggling with getting him to do lessons (as well as balancing a new part-time job and flute teaching and writing and household running and parenting and volunteering and yes I know it’s too much and I’m working on that), and we’re all just a bit miserable. Add in some health issues and behavioral concerns and the pit of vipers that is puberty and we’re at the edge of a Vortex of Fucking Doom that will make the previous ten years look like a tea party. Finger sandwiches optional.

What we’re doing isn’t working, and so yet again I have to shake things up. I know the only constant in life is change, but if things could just stay the same for awhile I’d rejoice in ways big and small, with much singing and dancing and tearful speechmaking be much appreciative. Grimly marching through the day is not what we wanted when we made the decision to homeschool The Most Complex Child on the Planet™. We had enough of that when he was struggling in school.

Analogy time. Last winter, in a misguided attempt to just get through the season I grimly marched through the days, doing my best to ignore how cold and miserable I was. For my efforts I earned a severe flare-up of TMJ and cracked teeth, not to mention a seriously depressed personality. This year I’m wearing layers upon layers and focusing on anything and everything positive about this winter, the worst I’ve seen since I was a child. Jaw is good, no new cracked teeth (that I know of), and while I may bitch about this winter I am a metric crapton happier this year. If we continue to grimly march through our homeschool days as we have been it’s going to be a lot worse than the inability to move a major joint and some expensive dental work. The fallout is a lot larger.

So Tom and I are taking a step back and giving a good, hard look at what we want homeschooling to be for our family. We are finally, finally, coming to grips with the fact that we have an unusual family and thus need an unusual homeschooling setup. One of those “to hell with the rest of the world” realizations. I have no idea what it’s going to be or how it’s going to look or how we’ll make it work, I just hope it motivates a certain tween in this house. The current situation is just not sustainable for any of us.

Because reasons.

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1016245_10203173576045844_622541423_nI may not be participating in today’s GHF blog hop, but I recommend checking out the other writers who are. They have much more to say about staying motivated while homeschooling.

Feb 13 2014

From tinkerer to engineer with DiscoverE

tinkerer to engineerFrom about age two, A’s questions were not “why?,” but “how’s it work?” He would never accept a throw-off answer, but only an in-depth, well-researched answer with as much detail as possible. When he was three I thought I would need a PhD in astrophysics to tell him bedtime stories. I never knew what “how’s it work?” question would come out of his mouth next, usually while I was driving and unable to look up the answer. There was a lot of panicked “uhhhhhh…..” on my part then. Sadly, there’s still a lot of that now.

One of the best benefits of homeschooling for him is that he can continue to ask those questions and now has the time to dive into searching for the answer. I love that he’s old enough to research on his own and then teach me. I also love that I don’t have to make up an answer to just shut him up for five freaking minutes for the love of all things holy and green pacify him until I can look it up.

We’ve always known that he has an engineer’s mind. A has wanted to be an inventor forever, only now he calls it hacker or maker, and the house his room looks like an electronics graveyard. He’s tinkered with everything from Legos to Snapcircuits to VEX robotics to the MakeyMakey to his beloved Raspberry Pi. I just do what I can to keep up and hope the FBI doesn’t appear on my doorstep one day.

As a homeschooler, A is lucky to have the time to focus on his passion like this. My job is to encourage that passion-driven learning, and build on it in hopes of expanding what he thinks he knows. He knows he loves to tinker and hack and create, he just hasn’t quite made the connection that that’s what engineers do. The kid has so many inventor’s notebooks that he has started to catalog them. Engineering is his calling.

Enter DiscoverE. DiscoverE, formerly the National Engineers Week Foundation, is a resource for teachers and parents looking for information on educational options, careers, and fun activities in the field of engineering. It’s a coalition of hundreds of organizations and volunteers who work with schools and community groups to help students understand how engineering works in their lives. Digging around in the site I immediately discovered that my son’s two loves, programming and tinkering, are perfectly aligned with computer science and electrical engineering as careers. I will most certainly encourage those, for the career outlook is bright and the potential salary will ensure that I get the high quality nursing home (with daily massage and sommelier on call) I will have certainly earned by raising this child.

The site has activities and field trip suggestions for locations around the country, which is great for road trips with kids. We’ve already hit most of the Illinois destinations on the list, and the ones in Wisconsin may be day trips for the summer. In the meantime, the activities are basic but solid introductions to engineering principles. They are easily filtered by age, interest, and the amount of time you have available. These are mostly for groups, so A won’t experience the teamwork aspect of the projects, but I’ve already printed out a few to try with him later in the week. I’ve been mulling how to change up our homeschool lessons now that I’m working, and I think project based homeschooling might be the next step. Projects such as these are a great resource.

One of the main programs with DiscoverE is the Future City competition. Future City is a national, project-based learning program for middle school students to design and build cities of the future. It’s the ideal cross-curricular educational project, truly giving tweens a taste of what engineering is and how it affects everything in their lives. The National finals are this weekend, and I plan to check back to see the winning project. I’m also wondering how I could coerce convince my child into joining a team of homeschoolers; surely there’s a team around here somewhere.

My kid has engineering blood, something we’ve known since the very first “how’s it work?” I can see him someday working as a volunteer mentor with DiscoverE, introducing a new generation of students to his favorite question. In the meantime, we’ll use these resources to teach me more about engineering so I’m ready for his questions strengthen his knowledge base in preparation for an eventual career.

That fancy-pants nursing home I’ve earned won’t be cheap.
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You can follow DiscoverE on Facebook, and catch the results of the Future City competition on their Facebook page.  And join in on Twitter for a #GirlDay2014 #STEMchat on February 19 at 9pm EST in honor of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.

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This was a sponsored post for DiscoverE. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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