Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Explaining Financial Hardship to a 4-Year-Old

My husband is both a full-time high school biology teacher and a part-time college biology professor. During the summer, we're out almost $1000 a month while he is on break from the local college. Given that neither of us are fabulous budgeters, summertime expenditures are practically nil and that means explaining some harsh realities to our son.

At the end of the school year, I sat him down and explained to him that we don't have much money in the summertime. He knows that Dada doesn't have to work two jobs for a little bit, but he also knows Dada is still going to work every day (and for far too long, considering his 100 mile round-trip daily commute), so things were still a bit foggy for him. I explained that the extra things that we usually get to do and buy won't be happening for a couple months. Instead of going to the "dinosaur museum," we'll go see the free puppet show at the library. Instead of hitting the "craft store" once a week, we'll hit the library for their free craft day. We won't be able to buy movies on iTunes, we won't have pizza on Friday night, we won't be able to go here or there. We'll still have fun, it just won't be all the same fun and maybe not as much of the bigger excursions or buys.

His reaction? "OK." That was it. I was honest with him. I was real with him. He was OK with that.

He forgets sometimes. He's four. I remind him and he goes right back to being OK with it. "Oh, ya, I forgot," as he scurries off to find another way to entertain himself.

The point? Just be forthright with kids. They can handle it. They get it. They aren't as selfish as we make them out to be. In fact, they're pretty cool.

I'd write more, but my son has just started building a "tall, tall tower" out of the couch cushions (for free) and, according to him, he needs help stabilizing it. Free fun, learning, and bonding, comin' up!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Book Review: The Tiny Book of Patience

I'm a bad, bad friend. I cannot even tell you how long ago my friend Sam Vickery of Love Parenting asked me to take a look at her book, The Tiny Book of Patience. Suffice it to say it was looooong ago. I sheepishly admit that I even forgot about it. I finished another book last night and was looking through my Kindle Cloud drive to find another when up popped Sam's. Ya, I should've read it eons ago, but I finally did last night and am better off for it.

This is the second book of Sam's that I've had the pleasure of reading. You can read my first review HERE. As with Trust Me, I'm a Toddler, she writes in the familiar, which brings me a sense of peace. I am immediately put at ease, knowing that I'm being talked "with" (as it were) instead of to. This is one of my favorite things about Sam's writing. She doesn't write as if she knows all, as if she were better than the rest of us, as if she is an expert we should all revere. Sam is a mom just like us - fallible, real, trying her best every day.

Ironically, The Tiny Book of Patience is perfect for the truly impatient, like myself. There is no fluff here. She pulls no punches, wastes no time, beats around no bushes. She knows parents are busy, so she gives us only what we need to take care of both ourselves and our kids. At only 36 pages, even the least patient of us can get through this book in no time and come out at the other end with a greater understanding of our and our kids' needs and how to meet them. Does it get much better?

We're going to mess up. We're going to lose ourselves from time to time. Recognizing that in ourselves and reminding ourselves to do better next time, forgiving ourselves for what can only be described as our humanity is what mindfulness is all about. Sam doesn't shame us for that humanity. She's that parent, too. She's one of us. She's a friend who gets it in 36 short, but powerful pages. I'm grateful for her. Thanks, Sam.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Public Schools Charging for Education

I was a high school teacher. My only dealings in elementary education were when I did a semester of semi-student teaching in college at an elementary school that was K-8. (That schools are K-8 is another problem for me, but one that will have to be addressed in another blog, so I don't digress too much.) So, when a friend of mine said that a public charter school here in our state (Arizona) was trying to shake parents down for $350 a month per child for full-day kindergarten, I was appalled. Swear words abounded, but I calmed myself for long enough to reach out to a former student of mine who is a kindergarten (soon-to-be second grade) teacher at a nearby district. She informed me that it is, in fact, legal, and also agreed with me that it's completely unethical and just, quite frankly, grody.

Evidently, they can get away with charging for public education, because (here, at least) kindergarten is not "required." So, it's a privilege? Education is a privilege? Ah. No. And those who are privileged enough to afford said privilege (again, we're talking about the privilege of education - PUBLIC education), can pay for their children to get it. The rest of us, piss off. Get your PUBLIC "world class" education elsewhere. OUR education is a privilege reserved only for the wealthy.

Way to teach kids to know their places right from the get-go, foul bunch of privileged and privilege-propagating asshats.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Son is a Quitter...and I Respect and Appreciate That

My son has never been Mr. Outgoing. He's not the one who'll jump straight into the fray in and amongst strangers just looking for a good time. He and I are introverts and he's quite a cautious one. This is who he is and I both respect and appreciate that.

He's done soccer twice now. This last soccer season, he started off not going on the field during practice or games without me holding his hand. That's what he needed, that's what he got. By the end of the season, he was on the field by himself, running around like a maniac (still dodging the ball when it came to him, but he was dodging it all by himself!). He grew and he enjoyed doing it. I respect and appreciate that.

During that time, he blossomed socially. He made friends. He even took "buddy pictures" with his friend Bella, so he can remember her always. He spends at least a couple days a week with his coach's daughter and new favorite chum, Georgia. He's still my cautious introvert, but he's a changing cautious introvert. Most importantly, he's changing of his own accord and at his own pace. I respect and appreciate that.

Yesterday, he went to his first basketball practice. He got his own ball with his name on it, his own 80s-style sweatbands (so rad!), pumped himself up with his jams on the way there, and was the first one to arrive. He was stoked. He even got me to be the assistant coach. (Poor kids!) Unfortunately, basketballs are hard and noses are bustable. Mid-practice he got a ball passed to the middle of his face, which resulted in a bloody nose and a little shiner. "Basketball hurts" according to him. I can't argue. He doesn't want to do it anymore. It's his body and his life. I respect and appreciate that.

After several talks, he decided he'd rather do soccer again. Yes, there's something to be said for learning not to quit when things get hard, but that's a lesson we're teaching through modeling and without creating miserable experiences that will sour him for life. He's four. He has plenty of time to try any number of sports, activities, and hobbies...or not. It's up to him. Maybe he'll try basketball again later. Maybe he won't. Maybe he'll play soccer for years to come. Maybe he won't. Maybe he'll do another sport or not. Maybe he'll spend every afternoon reading in the hammock in the backyard. Maybe he'll do ballet or gymnastics or krav maga, maybe he'll really dig the Baden-Powell Service Association that he's starting this fall and he'll stick with that, maybe he'll want voice lessons and spend his weekends doing karaoke on the Wii. I don't care what he does or doesn't do as long as he does what makes him happy as opposed to what he thinks will make me happy. I respect and appreciate him.



Monday, May 4, 2015

Colossal Failure Turned Try #2

There are still four days and $14,000 left until the Kickstarter for the book ends. Call me cynical, but I'm thinking it may not work. Instead of taking my ball and going home, hiding in shame, and letting the book go by the wayside, the book that so many wonderful people have worked so hard on, I'm working on plan B. Said plan includes a crowdfunding site that is not all-or-nothing, no fundraising deadline, and a far more manageable goal. I'll get this book published if I have to work all the way through the alphabet!

You can help get Zen Parenting: The Book out there by donating HERE and sharing liberally. Ask your friends and family to do the same. We cannot continue to allow What to Expect to be the standard in pregnancy and parenting books. We cannot. Parents and children alike deserve infinitely more than that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Weaning off Anti-Depressants - Day 1

Postpartum depression brought about a few years of Zoloft. (You can read more about that HERE.) I have no complaints. It's been a gift. I needed it, I've been taking it, it's been terrifically helpful, and now I'm ready to go off it. It's a weaning process, though, so I figured I'd do a little updating as I work through it.

Day 1:

Sucks.

I mean, do you want more detail than that?

Fine, but my writing will likely feel peevish, because I feel peevish.


I went to the doctor yesterday and discussed, among other things, weaning off my meds. He put me on half the dose I had been taking before and I started that this morning.

Now, in fairness, everyone could just be extra irritating today. People and pets can be jackasses. Chances are slim that they do it in unison, though, so I think it's probable that I'm the issue.

So far today, I've threatened to rip off the dogs limbs and beat her with them, I'm on the verge of sending her to the pound for digging up the tree I just planted this afternoon then adding insult to injury by traipsing through the house (including on my furniture) with her muddy paws; I've called my husband at work requesting a stiff drink when he gets home (I don't drink "stiff" and very rarely drink at all); I feel so tense my body is literally vibrating and my jaws are clenched tighter than usual; and my 4-year-old son has twice given me advice on how to destress - "Maybe you need sprinkles. Sprinkles always make me feel better when I'm grumpy" and "Try to think of happy things like rainbows and ponies and happy robots."

To recap...

Day 1:

Sucks.

Monday, April 20, 2015

I Probably Don't Love You Unconditionally

I may love you a LOT, I may love you more than most, but unless you are my son or my nephews, I don't love you unconditionally. It's true. Go ahead. Pick your jaw up off the floor, sweep up the pieces of your shattered heart, and read on.

I think this idea of "unconditional" love is bandied about willy-nilly without much thought as to what it really means. Think about it. Unconditional. There are absolutely NO circumstances, no conditions under which you'll no longer love that person. I'm too logical, too realistic to say that about most anyone.

I love my husband terribly. (This is quite the Happy Anniversary blog, huh, honey?) There are precious few conditions that could crop up that would cause the love to disappear, but they are there. If he were to hurt my son (I mean hurt my son, not accidentally hit him in the face with a ball while playing a raucous game of catch in the backyard), the love would surely die.

I love some of my friends I've known for a long time and some I've known for a short time, but have wheedled their way into my heart, but I don't love them unconditionally. They surely get more chances than most others get, they're given a greater berth for hurtful screw ups, but there is a limit to what I'll put up with. It's a large limit, but it's there, to be sure.

If one repeatedly proves to me that I am of little importance to them, I will gracefully bow out of the relationship. The process will hurt, but the love will eventually fade. It just will. If one hurts my son or someone else I love, I'll swiftly run from the relationship. The process will hurt, but the love will fade (probably just as swiftly as my sprint from the person). That's really the litmus test for me. If a person hurts my son, will I still love them? If not, then I can't honestly say I love that person unconditionally, because that is, of course, a condition.

This really bothers some people. I'm not entirely sure why, though, other than it's a bruise to their egos. I can think of precious few people who love me unconditionally. I know I am loved by several, but only unconditionally by a scant few. Love is wonderful, beautiful, magical even. It is not, for the most part, unconditional.