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Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Space Between

I am not a helicopter parent when it comes to homework or school.

There are certain things I make abundantly clear to my children regarding schoolwork, two of which are:

If you need help, ask for it. I will help you or help you find another source of help.
There is no excuse for zeroes, ever.

Time has helped me to relax, as well as learning to de-emphasize grades and allow more of the organic process of learning (and learning from one's mistakes) to take place.

The benefit of that has been that my kids tend to be quite autonomous with their schoolwork; they feel responsible for their own work and take responsibility for their own grades, which includes pride in a job well down and ownership of sloppy work and poor effort.

I also have come to see middle school as a great opportunity for kids to make errors and learn from them with no long lasting penalty involved.

This was brought to light the other day when Trey brought home his first little term paper.

He had a list of things he was to do and the points for each section.
Overall he did fairly well but there were some areas that needed improvement, as you would expect from a first term paper. Learning is the whole point.

I was surprised, though, at one thing. He got two points off for not having double spaced.

"Trey?" I called, "come over here!"
When he came, I asked "Why didn't you double space? I thought you did. I remember you saying you were going to go back and do that!"
"But I did double space!" he protested.

We looked at his paper. It was clearly not double spaced- at least not to my eyes.

"But honey," I said gently but firmly, "this is not double spaced."
Confused, he looked at me, then reached out his finger and pointed at the space between two words.
"Yes, it is!" he insisted, "I put two spaces between each word. See?"

Bless his heart, he really did. That sweet boy used the space bar and put two spaces between each word on his little term paper. My heart grew ten sizes as I hugged him tightly.

"Yes, you did. You did and you put forth a great effort. I am proud of you for that."

Then I explained to him about double spacing, and font size.
We went over the value of having a sibling and two parents to ask when you aren't sure about something, as well as teachers to help.
We also talked about effort and what a great effort he had made in his first term paper!

He will never forget what it means to double space or use the correct font again.
I'm sure there are people who will read this and be aghast that it wasn't being checked over and corrected before he turned it in. And that's okay. We each do things in our own way. For my family, I find that the kids do much better when they are able to own their work and ask for help when needed, as opposed to having each item picked over and corrected before it makes it to school. :)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I'm sitting here in my bedroom, in a faded blue rocking chair. Stains from three babies spitting up over my shoulder persistantly remain, despite a certain amount of scrubbing. Maybe, deep down, I don't really want them to go away. They tell the tale of incalculable hours of rocking, patting, singing and nursing.

As I sit here obstensibly reading, I find myself instead listening to the pows, grunts, faux yells and sneak-attack sounds emanating from the bathroom. My youngest came home restless and it seemed the perfect day for a luxurious oil bath. I love that he still carries two buckets full of "guys" in to the bathroom in preparation. I love that he creates elaborate storylines. He will sit in there even after the water has grown cold in order for his "story" to reach its full and proper conclusion.

There are days when I can literally feel time slipping through my fingers. My youngest is already twelve. In less than a year, I will have three teenagers. A year after that, my first child will turn twenty.

So I sit with my book in my lap and instead of reading, I listen. I may whine later that I don't have enough time to read, but my book will keep.

Kids won't.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The One in the Middle

My middle child, Chris, is pretty perfect.

Obviously, I say that in the way of all mothers, who think their preshus leetle snowflakes are the most precious things ever created.
I know he has flaws and I could name them, but I won't.
What I will do, though, is share some of the many things about him that I love and that make him pretty perfect to me.

Chris is interesting. He has gotten to the age where he is developing passions and interests that go beyond the boyhood things like Beyblades and Disney Channel.
Now he is interested in things like History and World War II. Biology and mutations of DNA.
He talks about things like being a history professor or a weapons historian. I didn't even know weapons historians existed. I had to look it up.
He talks about strands of DNA and cellular levels and what can go right or wrong. He talks about DNA research. I nod and think "did I really grow this boy?"

Chris smells good and looks handsome. People who say high school boys (and even middle school boys) stink hasn't met this boy. He dresses nicely, smells good, is athletic, smart and polite. If I had a daughter and he wasn't my son, I would totally be talking this kid up at the dinner table. Is that creepy? ;)

He reads all kinds of stuff. Fiction, non-fiction. Sports and history. His favorite tattered books from his youth (Millions, the baseball series like "Babe and Me" by Dan Gutman, Hatchet etc) will be alongside Band of Brothers and a huge encyclopedia about WWII. He reads Mad magazine and then Sports Illustrated. My personal favorite is that he loves Readers Digest. We get the totally geeky Large Print Readers Digest and the kid reads it. Not only that, but he often learns little things, remembers them, and tells them to me later. He's a handy fellow to keep around if you want to learn the 50 Secrets of Supermarkets! I found this out in the car yesterday.

Chris is persistent. He wants to work at a local snowball stand and has been relentless  persistent in following through with the shop owner for a year now. She may end up hiring him just to make him happy. ;)  He has also applied to another job as well. He talks about saving money and wanting to earn enough to begin to have his own investments. At his age and even a decade older, I didn't even know what an investment was! He gets frustrated and knocked down, but after a very brief sulk, he gets back up and tries again with his trademark positive attitude.

Best of all, he shows his love for his family. He supports his sister, is kind to his brother and loves his parents. He will still hug me in front of his peers, seemingly without batting an eye. He's even up for a nighttime tuck in now and again.

The middle spot can sometimes be a challenging place and I admire the way he handles his position with ease. I love my one in the middle!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nine Years Ago

Nine years ago, Rob and I chose to move our family from our "McMansion" neighborhood to a more established "older" neighborhood.

I was the impetus for the move.

We had such fun choosing the lot and model of the house we wanted only three years before we left it.
We chose the interior textiles, bought furniture and a big TV for our very first "family room."
We planted a red maple tree and a couple of Leyland cypress trees.
I loved just about everything about the floor plan and we had nice neighbors.

What we didn't have was space, and privacy, and mature trees.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I desperately needed more land and space, even if it meant less house. Not a lot of land, mind you, just enough that I couldn't raise the window of my bedroom and spit onto my neighbor's house.. not that I did!

What was hard, bordering on heartbreaking, was moving the two older kids. Both of them were VERY close friends with our next door neighbors. We moved them to a neighborhood where there were very few kids at all. There was one child Chris's age and three girls Kate's age. However, the girls had been friends for many years and it quickly became clear that for a myriad of reasons Kate was not a good fit for their group.

I felt so guilty. My kids were used to running out and playing with their neighbors every single day and now, there was no one for them to play with.

In retrospect, I can see that the lack of proximity to peers led Trey and Chris to have an extraordinarily close bond. They are still very close although they fight like brothers do. They seek each other out for entertainment and companionship. They share the same interests for the most part. Had we remained in our old neighborhood, Chris and Trey would surely not be as close because Chris would have turned to his friends for that companionship instead.

The last several days, when we arrive home, Trey sets out on his bike to go hang out with kids in the neighborhood. We are going through a new transition now. Chris is in high school and has baseball practice every day until 5:45. He comes home ravenous, has dinner and then has to start his homework.
Trey has adapted to this quite well and I'm happy for that.

I feel a twinge as I realize that change is taking place again. Chris is hoping to land a summer job. He'll be busy over the summer and Trey will have to adapt to his brother moving having his own life with less time to share and play. I know from watching Kate's experience that 10th grade brings a lot of schoolwork and an increase in pressure.

I'm glad that we moved here and the boys had their season of growing such a deep friendship. I hope it carries them through their adolescence and they remember the many good times they shared when they are adults. I hope they foster a relationship like this amongst their sons if they are blessed to have them.

I wish that Kate had had neighbors nearby that she had been able to connect with as well. She did develop close relationships with a few other girls from school and really, especially when it comes to girls, a few close relationships are worth their weight in gold.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Choice is good.

Having choices helps to alleviate monotony.
It allows for discovery, allows personality and preference to shine through.

Sometimes, though, choices lead to feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed.

I mean, think about it!

Rice used to be rice.
Maybe you could choose between Minute Rice, Uncle Ben's converted, or long grain.
You could walk on the wild side with a little wild rice.

Then jasmine rice came about. It was interesting and quite delicious. You felt adventurous just making some to serve alongside your dinner.
Then the guilt of eating white rice-- NO! You should eat brown. White rice is Baaaaaaad.

Now dear God there are a million kinds of rice- jasmine, purple, BLACK!! Even the types of jasmine rice has become confusing.
Meanwhile, you are faced with bulgur, barley, quinoa, cous cous, farro and a million other types of grains.

Do you want regular barley or pearl barley? Whole wheat, brown?

It's fun and exciting to try new things but change is coming faster than my little brain can comprehend.

I realized this was true when someone on Facebook posted a link that is a Guide to Choosing Lightbulbs.
And I clicked on it.
Because I need to know what the different types of lightbulbs ARE and when to use them.
CFL? LED? Halogen?
Not to mention you have to DISPOSE of them properly.

I wonder if this is a sign of aging, being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choice and new information.

Back "in the day" information dribbled in slowly. Change happened in one part of the country and slowly, casually (insidiously?) made its way across the nation.

Now, surely helped by the internet and the world literally being at our fingertips, new things from around the world simply appear seemingly overnight.

Does anyone else sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the choices available to you?