Saturday, August 30, 2014

Battle on the Homework Front

Parent's battle with homeworkAs millions of children head back to school, they, along with their parents, face the dreaded homework battles. In fact, I'm convinced that homework is just a means of torturing kids and parents alike.  Nothing wipes the smiles off my sons' faces faster than me asking, "Have any homework tonight?"  At the mere mention of THAT word they turn into Gremlins.  Not the cute, furry kind. The nasty, biting, obnoxious ones.

My oldest manages his own time fairly well, but it is still not uncommon for him to enter into a complete hissy-fit over an assignment.  He is the master of bitching for two hours over homework that ends up taking 10 minutes to complete.  My younger one wins the procrastination award so I'm still on time-management duty with him. Homework will turn this sweet, easy-going kid into the Tasmanian devil.

In general, my husband and I have chalked this behavior up to laziness and complete lack of motivation.  But maybe it's something more.  Are their brains just completely fried by the time they get home?  Is the school day simply too long?  My sons have had 6-7 hours of school everyday since they were 5.  No wonder they're burned out.

I never gave my mother grief when it came time for me to do my homework (yes, she has vouched for this!) Why do my sons take their homework blues out on me? I sure didn't assign it and, honestly, probably hate it more than they do.  But every night without fail, the hurricanes roll in and despite years of preparation, I'm never ready for them.

As a kindergarten teacher I gave very little homework and only because it was required by my administration. In addition to 5-10 minutes of nightly reading, written work was limited to something that students should have been able to complete by themselves in 5 minutes.  I can't tell you how many parents over the years asked for more homework.  I told them what I'm about to tell you - "Your child is only 5 once. They have many more years of homework ahead of them.  Let them enjoy being kids for now."

Obviously, other parents and educators feel the same way as we see a shift toward more schools assigning less homework and others adopting a "no homework policy."  This August one of these schools opened in my county and parents flocked to it stating that was one of the benefits.  Thankfully, the school both my boys attend now doesn't give what I'd consider an excessive amount of homework.  Even projects are either partially or entirely completed IN class.  It's a glorious thing and has provided me with the validation that the quantity of homework does not determine the quality of education your child is receiving.

Clip from The Middle

As I write this the homework has been tackled for the evening and I'm happily watching, out of the corner of one eye, my oldest son outside swinging from a rope the neighbor's have tied to a tree.  And, although this is giving me slight heart palpitations, I thank goodness we've made it through another week of homework assignments unscathed and have three days to recuperate before it starts all over again.  In my ideal world, students should have the following nightly assignments: to read, complete two math problems dealing with concepts taught that day, exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes, and help mom and dad with the dishes. Who's with me?

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What ME Time?

Where is all this ME time I was anticipating?  Why is it I had visions of relaxing while my sons were at school?  When am I going to just sit and read a book, sip some tea, or perhaps get caught up on some favorite television shows I never got to watch when I was working?

The last two days have been a whirlwind of errands, phone calls handling personal business matters, doctor appointments and let's not forget housework.  I was caught up on laundry yesterday, so why is there another full load in my washer machine right now?  Where did all the dirty clothes come from?

This morning I woke at 6:00 a.m. in order to get to my sons' school to volunteer in car line.  My oldest was still comfortable in bed when I left and I had to resist the urge to throw a bucket of ice water on him out of pure jealousy. Isn't that the "in" thing right now? UGH! Don't get me wrong, I actually consider myself a morning person.  But to me morning begins when the sun is up.  If it's dark, it's NOT morning.

I'm beginning to wonder how these things ever got done when I was also working outside the home.

Yesterday was even worse.  It was noon before I even stopped to pee and grabbed a quick shower around 2:00 p.m. before heading out to pick up my sons.  When they got home it was snack, homework, and an abbreviated dinner before heading to soccer practice.  In between all this I made TWO, not one, trips to Barnes & Noble for school books.  I did manage to get a quick workout in  - but not until 7:45 p.m.!

So many other moms have told me that the days are going to fly by, that I won't believe how much stuff there is to get done.  I'll admit, I didn't really believe them.  I'm hoping in the next few weeks I can gain some balance between the dreaded chores and much-needed personal time.  Meanwhile, I just scheduled a lunch date for later today with a friend, and even though I'm in the mood to chill at home, I'm going to count it as me time!!

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Faceless Bullies

When did hate and haters take over and become mainstream?  I am appalled on a regular basis by how cruelly people treat other people.  As a former elementary school teacher, I can assure you, this behavior starts YOUNG!

I'm sure you've all heard the horror stories of online bullying among our youth.  News segments often cover stories in which children and teens are bullied so badly online by peers that they suffer depression, anxiety, and in some extreme cases, even commit suicide. However, with the explosion of social media platforms, the number of incidences of people bullying total strangers is growing as well.  For some reason, people feel that being rude and disrespectful while hiding behind a computer screen or pseudonym is acceptable.

I have this weird policy of not posting photos of my children where their faces are visible. Friends find that odd.  Maybe with a background in criminal prosecution, I'm just a little more cautious of exposing my children to the fray of the worldwide web. However, the other day I tweeted a picture of my son (and in sticking with my policy, no face) in a sports jersey of his favorite hockey player.  While the photo received the attention from the represented team and countless others who found it endearing, I did experience for the first time online bullying - directed at my son!

What makes total strangers feel they can attack a 12 year old boy because they disagree with his choice of sports heroes?  This was not friendly banter between rival sports fans, this was full blown verbal attacks.  And, by attacks, I mean actually name calling such as "loser" "lost cause" "bandwagoner" and "crospussy."  Really?  Do these individuals feel that badly about themselves that they have to degrade a kid?  Maybe they do.  Are you all really this classless - the kid is 12!!  This behavior is beyond sad commentary on the state of our society.

Then, more hateful exchanges developed between the initiators and those defending my son's position.  It was insane! Thankfully, my son is not on Twitter and, he doesn't even know I posted the picture.  So these vicious comments never reached his ears.  But as a parent of two young boys who are on the cusp of entering the age of becoming active on social media, I have, yet another reason, to fear for their emotional safety.  This was a great reminder to me that when they do start opening up social media accounts, I will stick to my convictions on monitoring and privacy settings.  

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Oh, the Possibilities

I'm actually one of those people that loves change.  I embrace it, I really do.  So this is not the first time in my life I've up and left a job for something completely new and different.  But, this is the first time I don't quite have specific plans in mind.

The first time was just before my 30th birthday.  I was a supervisor at the state prosecutor's office.  Admittedly, it was a good, secure career.  However, I reached a point where my professional growth and opportunity for advancement became stagnant.  I achieved and accomplished as much as I was going to there, unless I went to law school and become an attorney myself.  The lifers (employees there for the long haul) thought I was INSANE for leaving, one even declaring I would be back! Ah, FYI it's been 15 years, probably not going back.

I recall being scared out of my mind despite having my new job already lined up. The risk of leaving a stable job for a position in a small, privately-run business didn't seem to make sense.  This company just couldn't offer me the job security the government job did. But, turns out it was the best move I ever made.  I loved this job - P.R. work for an international tradeshow management company.  It was exciting, challenging, and professionally satisfying.  I was able to travel and meet and work with people from all over the world.  It was fantastic. 

But, motherhood found me willingly closing the chapter on that position.  Ironically, the company closed their doors just one year later.  Like I said, not the most stable of businesses.  

Now, here I am at 45 going through yet another metamorphosis.  After nearly a decade in education, I felt it was time to once again embrace change.  Older and wiser (and more financially secure) it hasn't been as scary as when I was 30 and single.  The bigger challenge has come from the fear of aging looming over me - the fear of time running out before I get to accomplish all I want to in my life.

As I write this, I'm staring at my wall calendar with the phrase "Your future is waiting around the corner" written on it.  And, while I have had an amazing 45 years of life, I want the next 45 years to be even better. Curious to see what's around that corner!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

I'm Geriatric!!

Geriatric?  Well, maybe not quite yet.  However, I do see the same doctor as my 80 year old parents. How's that for a rude awakening!

Had my annual physical today with the same doctor I've been going to forEVER.  In fact, she actually came back out of her office while I was settling my bill and said, "Do you realize you've been coming here since 1995!  We've grown up together, and now we're growing old together!" 

Yes, thank you for THAT reminder, doc!  Now, I must tell you that she is a geriatric specialist which didn't matter much 20 or so years ago when I first started seeing her.  But, now I suppose it will come in handy.  More handy than I will want to admit.  On a positive note, in an era where insurance companies and providers change so frequently, this 19 year relationship is quite a feat.

Ok, I know what you're going to say.  "Nik, calm down, you're only 45."  And, although that number isn't too daunting, when your doctor starts talking to you about arthritis and colonoscopies you begin to think of your own aging process, especially while sitting in a waiting room filled with patients using walkers.

She even referred to my recent job status as "retirement."  No, doctor, NOT retirement, just a sabbatical - of sorts.  A hiatus, yes, let's call it that.  I, unlike her pension-receiving patients, realize I eventually, perhaps sooner rather than later, need to - no WANT to - return to work.  Let's get one thing straight, I am not ready to be retired.  I just need a little "me time" to decide how I want to spend my last two decades of employment.  Twenty more years of employment - now THAT'S a daunting number! 

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Final Goodbye

A high school friend of mine died recently.  On July 13, to be exact, a date I'll never forget.  It was a sudden and unexpected departure from our world and certainly one that hit all of us that knew him hard.  Classmates from 25+ years ago are having a memorial for him this coming Friday, and while it is out of state and I will not be in attendance, I was asked to write something that could be read at the service.

I put it off, and, frankly, wasn't planning on submitting anything.  I mean, don't misunderstand, the deceased was a dear friend of mine in those high school years, but my pain, my grief, is a very intimate feeling and, honestly, in the back of my mind, I fear what those hearing my words will think. 

Will my thoughts make sense? Will they be "deep" enough, whatever that means?  And, heaven forbid - will my words offend anyone? 

So, I figured I'd keep it short and simple.  Right?  I won't say what I really feel because what I really feel is deep anger.  Anger that one of the most vibrant, positive people I have ever known was taken from us too soon.  I'm angry that his disease wasn't caught sooner and that, with a 98% recovery rate, his went wrong.  Mainly, I'm angry because it could have been me.  There, I said it.  It could have been me.  I wonder if I would be as brave as he was.  If there would be an outpouring of emotions from those I know.  Have I done enough in my life to have that kind of impact on people?  I wonder.....

Therefore, my vow to myself in his memory is to live a more optimistic life, to get out there and try new things, to meet as many people as I can and to influence their lives positively.  And, maybe, just maybe he'll be watching over me and encouraging me like he did back in high school.

The following was read on my behalf last night at the memorial.  Love you, Eddie!

Eddie was truly a light in this ever dimming world. He would often make me batty in high school with his high energy and optimism.  But, yet, who didn't love him and his enthusiasm?
In his final days, people were saying how brave Eddie was and how he has taught us how to die, on one's own terms and completely surrounded by those that loved and cared for us.  But, I'd like to think that Eddie taught us much more than that - he taught us how to live.
Eddie, thanks for being my friend and for encouraging me during our high school days.  I am grateful that we were able to re-connect in recent years. Sing on, my friend!  I know the angels will appreciate your song. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Not just passing the hours......

UGH! Did I just stand in the driveway and wave goodbye to my husband and two children? So, here I am drinking coffee and missing them already, in a very - quiet - house.

Not that I don't have a full day ahead of me.  I am waiting for a contractor to arrive between the hours of this and that, then have to take my car for new tires and a battery, lunch with my husband (ok, so that's going to be a wonderful perk to not working), run to the store to pick up a new charger for my NOOK (which, by the way is NOT compatible with the dozen other android chargers I have in the house), and by then it will be time to pick up my boys.  Phew, and then day two will be over. 

But, wait, this can't be about simply passing the time before my children come home.  This is a rare time in my life when I can do nearly anything I want to (as long as I'm in carline by 3pm!)  I am truly blessed to have been able to say adios to a job that was no longer fulfilling (more on that another time.)  I'm just proud that I actually started this blog.  Goal #1 completed!  I mean, that's a step, right??

Monday, August 18, 2014

Day One: My New Adventure Begins

They say that at my age, I should have life goals established. In essence I should know what I want to be when I grow up.  But at 45, I find myself sitting at home for the first time in my life without children present and without a job to go to.  My middle-school aged sons went off to school this morning and for the first time, EVER, I am in an empty, dreadfully quiet home for an entire day.  Don't get me wrong, this is kind of nice, but it is just my first day.  Will I feel the same in a week, a month, six months?

I invite you to follow me on this journey of self-discovery over the course of the next several months as I decide what to do with the rest of my life.  First on my list of things to do, is to pick up a second volunteer shift at the local animal rescue where I've been going most Sundays for over a year.  Then, I need to find an outlet. Photography? Sure, maybe I'll take a class.  Exercise? No excuse for not having the time now. Reading- definitely! Mediation - which I promised I would begin a few years ago - yes, that seems to be on the list. 

This blog will without a doubt touch on my struggles and successes as a new stay-at-home-mom, one with older children. It will also explore the mid-life stage of womanhood that so often goes unnoticed, or at least not often discussed.  I'm sure I'll write about things I know and enjoy; education, parenting, travel, books.  But, I hope as my journey progresses, I'll also tap into new arenas and will write about my new experiences.

But, for now, I have to go pick up my kids.  DAY ONE - down!  Phew!