BAM Family

BAM Family

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I don't need to be Intimidated by what you're good at

Intimidate:
1. To overawe through the force of superior talent
2. To force someone into action by inducing fear
As I scrolled through my Facebook feed this morning, I felt that familiar sinking feeling. Pictures of First Day of School decorations and celebrations from the kitchens of friends far and near seemed to mock me.

I inwardly sighed. I'm no good at that stuff. I suck at decorating and celebrations. And I know I'd be a terrible homeschool mom...

In this Pintrest-Perfect, Post-it-to-Facebook world we live in, it is easy to feel like we don't measure up.
...Wow! She's training for a marathon? Does running after a toddler count as exercise?
...They are always doing such creative projects.  I never think of things like that.
...She always looks so nice. Maybe I should change my yoga pants. 

Of course, we all know that most people only present their best selves on social media, and it really is fun to see the amazing things our friends are doing.

But instead of feeling bad about all the things I am NOT doing or am NOT good at, I need to realize this truth: I don't need to be intimidated by what my friends are good at.

Just because someone else is good at her life doesn't mean that I'm bad at everything.

I mean, I am bad at a lot of things:

Keeping up with housework (and laundry...)
Doing my hair and make up (Can you say "2nd day hair messy bun"?)
Exercise (Sweat and I are not on good terms)
Feeding my pets (poor bird and guinea pig!)
Decorating cakes (seriously. They look like they were run over by a lawn mower by the time I am done)
Listening to my kids read (if ever there was an activity that needed the patience of a saint...)

But I'm good at lots of things too!

Sewing stuffed animals and gifts
Cooking meals my family and friends love
Answering emails quickly
Tickling fights
Sticking to an organized schedule
Doing research
Being a public school mom (I hope!)

And lots of other things too (which I can't think of...apparently "Thinking of things I am good at" is not one of things I am good at)!

You don't need to be afraid that you am not a good person/mother/human just because you are impressed with another person's unique gifts.

So keep sharing your First Day of School Pictures, mama, and your beautifully decorated cakes, and your amazing homeschool projects.

Instead of being intimidated, I am going to put my own insecurities aside and give you a cyber high five (or click "like"!) and celebrate the amazing gifts that make you you! 
  
Do other people's gifts intimidate you?
What are you good at? 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

If you think something is wrong, trust your gut

This is our story of discovering how to parent and educate our son in the best way possible. It is scary to write about this topic because it is intensely personal and it concerns my child, whom I always want to treat with respect. However, my goal in writing down our story is to give other families hope and direction. If you need hope and direction in your parenting journey, welcome. I share our story for you. 

I remember conversations I had with my husband last summer, 2014.

"He's really struggling. I tried having him read to me today. It was miserable. He has to sound each word out, even if we just read it two seconds ago. Or he keeps starting with the middle sound or the end sound. He gets so angry."

"Is he still doing the reversals?"

"Yeah."

"I noticed that too, but when we were doing some number stuff last night."

"Do you think I should say something to his new teacher?"

"I don't know. Maybe."

I didn't really know what to do. I knew that lots of Kindergarten, and even 1st grade, students have trouble with reading and reversals at times. But I had that little niggling feeling.

And this time, I decided not to ignore it.

I say "this time" because I have had that feeling about my son in the past, a feeling that made me knit my brows and say "hmm...I wonder..." Other times I would throw up my hands in frustration and wonder which one of us was riding the crazy train (probably both).

 Even when Benji was two years old, my husband said, "There's just something...I don't know. That kid's unique."

We talked about how Benji lived in his own little world. We described him as "quirky," "zany," and "his own person." We joked with him: "Which planet are you on today, Benji?" And he would answer us--in great detail! Oh, his little sense of humor!

But I struggled to understand him.

I can't tell you how many times I've covertly googled "Autism symptoms," "Learning disabilities," and "Dyslexia." I've scrolled through dozens of lists, articles, stories  but have always come up short: "No. He doesn't fit that list...not quite. We fine. He's fine. Besides, if something was really wrong, someone will say something."

I mean, he was in day care and preschool off and on from age 2-4. Someone would say something if something was really wrong.

Right?

We chalked his struggles and behavior issues up to his age:
Well, he's only 3.
His teacher will say something if there is something going on.
LOTS of preschoolers act like that!
Well, he IS a boy! 
He's so young.
Lots of kindergarten students do that.

And suddenly, he was almost 7 and I was running out of excuses.
Yet...not one of his teachers or caregivers ever said anything to me.

And that meant nothing was wrong. Right?

I placed so much of my trust in other people's professional opinions that I stifled the growth of my "mother's intuition."

Sure, I had learned to trust intuition in the past--and it had been right. But my intuition had been about physical, medical problems.

This...this had no name. It was something I couldn't see, couldn't put my finger on. It changed, morphed, disappeared, and then violently resurfaced. Some days we were fine.

Other days, we were...not fine.

So I decided to stop ignoring my gut.

I sat down with Benji's first grade teacher at the Back to School night in early September and told her of some of our concerns. I asked her to keep an eye out for some issues we were seeing.

When our conversation was over, I was glad I talked to her...but I didn't feel any better.
Did she believe me?
Did she think I was being "that parent," the hovering, over-indulgent, coddling type?
Did she even take me seriously?
Would she see what we, as parents, saw?
Of course she would! She was a professional educator. As a professional, she would be able to tell us if something was wrong.

Right?

I didn't get any answers that night; in fact, taking my concerns out of my head and talking about them just added more questions and worries to the situation.

But, that night, something important happened: I stopped ignoring my gut, even if my intuituion was about something that I couldn't see, or quantify, or even describe very well.

Something was going on with my son, and I was going to discover what it was.

To be continued....
_____________________________________________________________

Are you ignoring or listening to your gut? 

Following your intuition often leaves you with more questions than answers. But if you think something is wrong with your child, trust yourself. You know your child better than anyone. No "professional" can ever know or love your child as well as you do.

Friday, August 7, 2015

When you can't do it all...ask for help

"I don't know how you do it."

I hear this phrase a lot--from my mom, mother-in-law, friends, colleagues--and inwardly cringe every time. I don't know how to answer this phrase. Is it a compliment? A warning of impending insanity?

Usually say, "Me neither."

I do a lot of things, but so do lots of women. And like lots of women, I usually keep all the balls I juggle in the air.

I have four children: school aged twins, a toddler, and baby, all of whom are constantly hungry
I have a house that never stays picked up, let alone clean
I work from home as an adjunct English professor and freelance editor
I have a husband whom I love dearly (oops! Can't forget about him!)
But this summer, stuff got real. Stuff hit the fan.
This summer, I felt like Life was holding a whip to my back, screaming at me: "DO IT, WOMAN! DO ALL THE THINGS! DO ALL THE THINGS AND BE AMAZING TOO!"

And this summer, I've to confront my Life, the task-master of my own creation, and whisper, "I can't."
So I've had to say four words that I have stubbornly, foolishly resisted-with-all-my-being to say in the past.

No
and
I need help 
This is how I WAHM (work at home mom)
In order to say "yes" to my basic Life responsibilities, I've had to be honest with myself and say, "My life is not working right now. I am stressed out of my mind. Something needs to change." So...

I gave up a volunteer position I loved.

I cut short a summer book club I started.

Because I have 55 students in my current 8 week term (a course load I used to handle with ease), I scheduled babysitters to watch the kids a few times a week so I can go to Panera and frantically grade papers for a few hours without distractions.

I enrolled my 2 year old in two-day preschool this fall.

I want to do it all. But I just can't.

And that's ok. Because none of us can do it all, all the time. Sometimes we have to ask for help.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Read with your child in 48 [Hard] steps!

For some kids, learning to read is not as easy as 1-2-3! It's more like climbing a very hard, tall, rocky, frustrating mountain.

Maybe you've climbed this mountain too.

The 48 Steps to reading with your (struggling) reader:

1. Call child. Tell him that it is time to read.
2. Call child again when he refuses to come.
3. Give yourself mental pep-talk (you can do this!!)
4. Let child choose book.
5. Child chooses book.
6. Child throws book after getting stuck on the third word.
7. Child chooses 2nd book. 
8. Child starts screaming at you after you tell him to "sound out" 7th word.

10. Tell child to calm down.
11. Child runs out of the room
12. Tell child to come back.
13. Child refuses.
14. You realize that child needs to "reset brain." Insist your child run around the house.
15. Child screams at you and refuses.
16. Suggest Jumping Jacks.
17. Repeat steps 14 and 15.

18. Take a break to nurse the baby.

19. Go find your child. Fight anxiety that your child has actually run away instead of running around the house.
20. Find child in the backyard. Breathe a sigh of relief.
21. Chat calmly with child about how he needs to work through his "brain funk" by moving his body.
22. Child decides to "move his body."
23. Give enthusiastic praise as child spins on swing, jumps on trampline in a a circle, and hangs from the top of the swingset like a monkey.
24. Child feels better.
25. Go back inside.
26. Child chooses 3rd book, one that he has read before.
27. Open book. Realize that there is an "Instructions for Early Readers" page.
28. Read page quickly to yourself and realize you have been doing everything "wrong" with your early reader.
29. Feel lots of guilt.

30. Child starts reading.
31. Resist urge to correct.
32. Resist urge to say "sound it out" every 2. 5 words.
33. Say GREAT JOB!!! every time you finish a page.
34. Give high fives!
35. Laugh with child at the funny parts.
36. Say "that's a bossy 'e'"
37. Say "sound it out."

38. Wait calmly and silently while child screams at you and then buries head in the couch.
39. Wait some more.
40. When child resurfaces, repeat steps 36-39 twice.
41. Say, "You're doing great!"
42. Say, "Only 2 more pages!"
43. Turn the page. Realize you lied.

44. Repeat steps 41-42.
45. Repeat steps 38-39.

46. Finish book.
47. Give high five!
48. Take five deep breaths and make yourself a cup of coffee.

Helping your struggling reader is no joke. Hang in there, mama. I'm right there with you.

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